Monday, April 30, 2012

Graphic Novel - Take 2

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg


Noted young adult novelist Cecil Castellucci and artist Jim Rugg launch Minx with the Plain Janes, a story about four girls named Jane. When transfer student Jane is forced to move from the confines of Metro City to Suburbia, she thinks her life is over. But there is the lunch room at the reject table she finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. Main Jane encourages them to form a secret art gang and paint the town P.L.A.I.N. - People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. But can art attacks really save the hell that is high school?

Graphic novel, take 2.

So I am probably never going to jump up and down squealing “the newest graphic novel just came in!” but I will admit that I liked this one far more than the first graphic novel I read. I actually liked it enough to contemplate checking out the rest of the series to see what happens.

In a confusing start, Jane (Main Jane) is injured in a bomb explosion in Metro City. Her parents freak out and move her to Suburbia. Jane’s time in Metro City before they moved (but after the explosion) was spent sitting at the bedside of a man who was injured next to her in the bombing. She has no idea who he is but he had a sketchbook. His art made Jane aware of how art affects people.

When Jane moves to Suburbia she meets the rest of the Janes, all “misfits” but she is clearly drawn to them. They begin creating art in common places, basically guerilla art attacks. The goal of P.L.A.I.N is to encourage the people of Suburbia to look at beauty in all things. In creating, Jane begins to heal. Jane convinces a boy from school to drive her to Metro City so she can go see her John Doe at the hospital. He is gone, but a nurse sees Jane, recognizes her and tells her the man’s name and that he has flown back to Poland, his home country.

Will Jane fly to Poland to see him? Will she finally have a boyfriend? Will P.L.A.I.N. continue or will the police find and shut them down? Well, I guess I will have to read the rest of the series to find out!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Do twins begin in the womb? Or in a better place?

"Do twins begin in the womb? Or in a better place? 

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple. As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family -- on the surface. Behind the facade each sister has her own dark secret, and that's where their differences begin. For Kaeleigh, she's the misplaced focus of Daddy's love, intended for a mother whose presence on the campaign trail means absence at home. All that Raeanne sees is Daddy playing a game of favorites -- and she is losing. If she has to lose, she will do it on her own terms, so she chooses drugs, alcohol, and sex. Secrets like the ones the twins are harboring are not meant to be kept -- from each other or anyone else. Pretty soon it's obvious that neither sister can handle it alone, and one sister must step up to save the other, but the question is -- who?"

Identical is the story of Kaeleigh and Raeanne, mirror image identical twins. It deals with incest/sexual abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, cutting and mental illness. It also has a surprising twist and a hopeful ending.

Kaeleigh deals with her issues by trying to be a "good girl". Making others happy, acquiescing to the needs of others, not saying NO. Raeanne becomes the "bad girl". Turning to drugs, alcohol and sex, rarely saying NO (even when she should).

It is well written enough that I started it at noon and didn't put it down until I finished it at 6:30pm (well, I did make lunch in there and I might have taken a wee nap). While the subject matter is intense, it is not gratuitously graphic.

As a survivor of several of the subject matters discussed, I can honestly say that Ms. Hopkins deals with them honestly. Many may not like the issues (and, no doubt, she is or will be often challenged in libraries) the emotions and language are genuine. I can hear much of myself in her words.

I am looking forward to reading more of her books.

Identical Excerpt

Mirror, Mirror
When I look into a
it is her face I see.
Her right is my left, double
moles, dimple and all.

We are exact 
Kaeleigh and me.
Mirror-image identical
twins. One egg, one sperm,
one zygote, divided,
sharing one complete
set of genetic markers.

On the outside
we are the same. But not
inside. I think
she is the egg, so
much like our mother
it makes me want to scream.


That makes me the sperm,
I guess. I take completely
after our father.

All Daddy, that’s me.

Good, bad. Left, right.
            Kaeleigh and Raeanne.
One egg, one sperm.
One being, split in two.

And how many

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Enter The Arena!

For more information and a different perspective on this program, check out my friend and fellow blogger Jessica Haight's blog.

Dawn and Jess

For those keeping score, I am in grad school to be a librarian - specifically a YA Librarian! For 2 of my classes, I have needed to create a program for teens. Last semester I decided to create one based upon The Hunger Games and timed to be presented just after the release of the movie.

Once created, I turned to my friend and mentor (and head of Children's and Teen Services at my local library) Geri. I sent her the program to see what she thought of it and she asked if I would do it at our library. So much goes into creating and implementing a program for grades 6-12!!! I wanted it to be engaging, interesting and fun. From there we designed the posters:

Geri enlisted her Teen Advisory Group (TAG) to come in costume and help out. They were fantastic!

Here are the training stations:

Katniss' Archery:

Lesson learned: Those little arrows can really FLY! We had to make sure we had an adult there (or a TAG member) in order to keep the arrows pointed at the target on the door, not at other people!

Peeta's Cookie/Graham Cracker Decorating:

Lesson learned: Vanilla Wafers and Graham Crackers are JUST as much fun (if not more) to decorate as large cookies! Plus, you can make a bunch and not feel as though you are wasting stuff. Note to self, pink icing turns your tongue pink...but pink tongue looks AWESOME with blue hair! Oh, and the graham cracker above shows this tribute's vision of The Girl On Fire dress!! Isn't it awesome?????

Camouflage Face Painting:

Lesson learned: Sometimes you have to put camouflage face paint into the microwave in order to get it to spread. This was the real deal so I am not sure how the military gets this stuff to work! Oh, and a pie server makes an awesome trowel...

And Haymitch's Knot Tying: 

(photo to be added as soon as I get them from the library! Sorry!!)

Lesson learned: Trust that amazing TAG members will make your event awesome! One of the members happens to be an Eagle Scout. We asked him to play Haymitch and teach knot tying...he took it from there! He stayed in character for the ENTIRE event (even I couldn't swing that). He was fantastic!

We played a Cornucopia Challenge game and Hunger Games Trivia.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS have extra "stuff" to do in case you run short!!! Thanks to Geri who reminded me that because the trivia was on the Jeopardy Labs website, I could look up other Hunger Games Jeopardy boards and play longer.

Members of the Teen Advisory Group came dressed as members of the Capitol and were a HUGE help and a HUGE hit! They were awesome, staying in character and helping everything go smoothly.

A good time was had by ALL!

Monday, April 16, 2012

My First Blog Tour!

When I came across the opportunity to participate in a Blog Tour for author Kate Evangelista, I was thrilled! I  will also have an interview with Kate in May so be sure to check back!

This post includes an excerpt from Taste as well as a video trailer for the book. Be sure to read all the way through and then rush to get this amazing new book available in May 2012!

At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn't realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

Author Website:
Twitter: @KateEvangelista
Crescent Moon Press page for Taste:

And now for a taste of Taste... here is an excerpt:

I sat up and followed Calixta’s gaze upward. I rubbed my eyes. I didn’t know what I was seeing at first. A statue? ­My brain refused to snap together coherent thoughts.  I didn’t realize I’d fallen so close to one of the garden benches until I stared up at the boy that sat on one. He was strikingly beautiful. His tumble of blonde hair curled just above his sculpted cheekbones. He wore a silk shirt and a loosened cravat, like he’d become bored while dressing and decided to leave himself in disarray. His ivory skin and frozen position was what had me mistaking him for something carved from marble by Michelangelo. Then he sighed—a lonely, breathy proof of life. If I had to imagine what Lucifer looked like before he fell from heaven, the boy on the bench would certainly fulfill that image. My brain told me I had to look away, but I couldn’t.
“Luka,” Calixta said again, her voice unsure, almost nervous. It no longer contained the steel and bite she had threatened me with, which made me wonder who the boy was.
He leaned on his hands and crossed his legs, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on the night sky. His movements spoke of elegance and control. I’d encountered many people with breeding before, but his took on the air of arrogance and self-assuredness of someone used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.
I only realized I’d been holding my breath when my lungs protested. I exhaled. My heart sputtered and restarted with a vengeance. Luka tore his gaze away from the stars and settled it on me. I’d expected pitch-black irises, like the other Night Students, but blue ice stared back at me.
“Human,” he whispered.
He reached out, and with a finger, followed an invisible trail down my cheek. I stiffened. His touch, cooler than Demitri’s, caused warm sparks to blossom on my face. He lifted his finger to his lips and licked its tip. He might as well have licked me from the way my body shivered.
Luka’s curious gaze held mine. “Leave us,” he said, but not to me.
“But—” Calixta protested like a spoiled child.
He spoke in a language I hadn’t heard before, remaining calm yet firm. The words had a rolling cadence I couldn’t quite follow, like rumbling thunder in the distance. They contained a harsh sensuality. The consonants were hard and the vowels were long and lilting.
Footsteps retreated behind me.
Luka reached out again.
It took me a minute to realize he wanted to help me up. I hesitated. He smiled. I smiled back timidly and took his hand, completely dazzled. Even with my uniform soaked from melted snow, I didn’t feel cold—all my attention was on him and the way his callused hand felt on mine. Without moving much from his seated position, he helped me stand.
“What’s your name?” he asked. He had a voice like a familiar lullaby. It filled my heart to the brim with comfort.
I swallowed and tried to stop gawking. “Phoenix.”
“The bird that rose from the ashes.” Luka bent his head and kissed the back of my hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
My cheeks warmed. My head reeled, not knowing what to think. I couldn't understand why I felt drawn to him. And the strange connection frightened me.
From behind, someone gripped my arms and yanked me away before I could sort out the feelings Luka inspired in me. I found myself behind a towering figure yet again. Recognizing the blue-black silk for hair tied at the nape, relief washed over me. Calixta hadn’t come back to finish me off.
Demitri’s large hand wrapped around my wrist. Unlike the night before, no calm existed in his demeanor. He trembled like a junky in need of a fix. The coiled power in his tense muscles vibrated into me.
“What are you doing here?” Demitri asked.
I didn’t know he’d spoken to me until I saw his expressionless profile. I sighed.
I flinched. The ruthless way he said my name punched all the air out of me. “You owe me answers,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster.
“I owe you nothing.” He glared. “In fact, you owe me your life.”
“I don’t think so.”
Ignoring my indignation, he faced Luka, who’d remained seated on the bench during my exchange with Demitri. “Why is she with you, Luka?”
“I wasn’t going to taste her, if that’s what you’re implying,” Luka said. “Although, she is simply delicious. I wouldn’t mind if you left us alone.”
There it was again. Taste. The word that kept coming up between these Night Students and I was connected to it in an increasingly uncomfortable way. To taste meant to sample, but what? My flesh? They had to be joking because the alternative wasn’t funny.
“The sins of the father …” Demitri left his sentence unfinished.
Luka’s smile shifted into a snarl. “Obey my command.” His chin lifted. “Kneel.”
Demitri’s stance went rigid. His grip tightened around my wrist.
Okay, weird just got weirder. Why would Luka want Demitri to kneel before him? I thought back to Eli and the others bowing to Demitri when he questioned them, but they didn't kneel. Seriously? Were they all living on a different planet or something?
Kneel.” Luka’s detestable smirk made his features sinister rather than angelic. The real Lucifer: a fallen angel.
Without letting go of my wrist, Demitri knelt down on one knee and bowed his head, his free hand flat at the center of his chest. “Your command has been obeyed,” he said formally.
Luka nodded once.
Demitri stood up and pulled me toward the school without telling me where we were going. Not having the time to thank Luka for saving me from Calixta, I risked a glance back. Luka smiled at me. His smile spoke of whispers, secrets, and promises to be shared on a later date.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Graphic Novels a First Try...

Avalon High: Coronation Volume I: The Merlin Prophecy
Created and Written by Meg Cabot, Illustrated by Jinky Coronado

“Being a new student at Avalon High has been exciting for Ellie, to say the least--she's an honor student, a star on the track team, and, oh yeah, dating the super-hot class president, Will. Who also happens to be the alleged reincarnation of King Arthur.
 Ellie couldn't be happier to have Will in her life, but she's also worried that his estrangement from his parents is tearing him apart. To make matters worse, Will's doubt that he really is King Arthur could prevent the Merlin Prophecy--an age of enlightenment--from occurring.
Can Ellie convince Will to believe in something that even she isn't sure about? And more importantly, can she get him to give his parents another chance?
With all the mythology and mysticism of avalon high, Meg Cabot's very first manga is indeed a tale for the ages.”
I grew up reading comics. I read them as a child and I collected them as an adult. I currently own 2 huge storage boxes filled with classics such as Ghost Rider, The Incredible Hulk, She Hulk, Wolverine, Sandman, Watchmen and more. For an MLS class, I needed to read two graphic novels. I thought to myself, ok, I can do this! I love comics, I love novels, what’s better than the two of those combined?

This graphic novel was based upon Meg Cabot’s book Avalon High. Avalon High is a retelling/update of the Arthurian legend. This graphic novel, the first in a series of three, starts with a recap of Avalon High and then continues with Elaine being nominated for homecoming queen and trying to get Will (her boyfriend and the next Arthur) to believe that he is the reincarnated king and to reunite with his parents.

Ok, I am a huge Meg Cabot fan. I am not ashamed to admit that I have read all the Princess Diaries books, all the Mediator books, all of everything she has written actually. I was not a huge fan of Avalon High but since I am treading on new ground with graphic novels, I thought I would pick one where I was at least a little familiar with the characters. Wow, I really hate this medium.

First thing I hated: The “book” is about 109 pages long. If the words were strung together on pages instead of snipped together with graphics, I would be shocked if they filled 20 pages.

Second thing I hated: The text and illustrations were choppy. I had a hard time finding the words on the page, the graphics overwhelmed the words at times and I found the whole reading process extremely unsatisfying.

Third thing I hated: The story just ended... in the middle of a plot point. If I wanted a cliff hanger, I would watch television! I expect books with a sequel to have an ending which leaves me wanting more. I do not expect them to stop in the middle of a scene.

It turns out I am not the ideal audience for this medium. I would recommend this to a reluctant reader or to a comic book reader looking for just a little more. I would warn them that it ends too quickly and suggest that they check out more than the first one if they think they might like it, that way they could keep going and not break stride.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Subways, Sweltering Summers and Serial Killers Oh My!

Acceleration by Graham McNamee


“It’s a hot, hot summer, and in the depths of the Toronto Transit Authority’s Lost and Found, 17-year-old Duncan is cataloging lost things and sifting through accumulated junk. And between Jacob, the cranky old man who runs the place, and the endless dusty boxes overflowing with stuff no one will ever claim, Duncan’s just about had enough. Then he finds a little leather book. It’s a diary filled with the dark and dirty secrets of a twisted mind, a serial killer stalking his prey in the subway. And Duncan can’t make himself stop reading.

What would you do with a book like that? How far would you go to catch a madman?

And what if time was running out. . . .

Duncan is an average kid living an average life in a blue collar section of Toronto. He takes a summer job working in the lost and found (aka “The Morgue”) of the subway. There he finds a diary and decides to read it.

Once he realizes it is the diary of a serial killer in training Duncan doesn’t know what to do. He tries to take it to the police, who ignore him. He decides to try to find out who “Roach” (the nickname he gives the diary’s author) is and what is his next move. He enlists first the help of his friend Vinnie. Vinnie is smart and soon figures out where “Roach” feels most comfortable. That is where he is likely to strike, or so Vinnie believes because of all the books he has read.

Wayne is Duncan’s oldest friend. They grew up in “the jungle” (the nickname of the housing complex where all three live) together. Wayne is a petty criminal and is working at a fast food place for the summer. Wayne and Vinnie don’t get along so Duncan ends up working first with Vinnie and then with Wayne to solve this mystery.

It isn’t the most realistic mystery ever. How many teenage boys would actually stalk a serial killer, and then break into his house (with his deaf grandmother in the living room)? It is a compelling story though. I wanted Duncan to catch “Roach”.

Each character had his good qualities and his flaws. Vinnie has a deformed arm and hand and is super sensitive about it. He is smart but cautious. Wayne is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but he is street savvy and that comes in handy when Duncan decides to break into “Roach’s” house. Duncan is plagued by a drowning death he witnessed and was unable to save the girl. He is looking for some sort of redemption.

I listened to the audio CD of this book. The reader did an excellent job of setting the tone and the mood. I would recommend this book to teen boys but I think girls will enjoy it too. It is, as many mysteries are, fairly predictable but an entertaining read.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Faction Before Blood!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

“In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.
Faction before blood, that is the watchword these days. Amity, Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless and Candor - each of these factions has its place in the order of things after the war.

Abnegation, with their selfless acts, runs the government because if the government is selfless then all prosper. Candor believes in honesty in ALL things and, therefore, has the position of being the law - courts, judges, etc.. Erudite, with their focus on knowledge and learning, provides teachers and professors. Amity provides caretakers and counselors. And then there is Dauntless. Dauntless guards the perimeter fence. At one time they also patrolled the factionless area of the city.

Beatrice (who changes her name to Tris) tries to fit in as an Abnegation child but does not. She was born into Abnegation but when she turns 16 she will have the opportunity to join whichever of the five factions she chooses. There are very few “transfers” at each Choosing Ceremony. Most stay with their own faction.
The day before the Choosing Ceremony, each candidate is given an aptitude test in order to help them make their decision. The test is designed only to help them, not make the choice for them. Tris has some issues with the test, not the least of which is that she is told, in a whisper, that she is Divergent. She is also told to NEVER tell anyone about this. The test says she could be Erudite, Abnegation or Dauntless. Tris has to decide where she feels most pulled to.

Both Tris and her twin brother Caleb transfer factions; Caleb to Erudite and Tris to Dauntless. There was little surprise that Tris chose Dauntless. There is a scene where she describes watching the Dauntless kids at her school arrive for class by jumping from a moving train. She is clearly enamored of them.

As Tris tries to make it through Initiation, she finds herself learning more and more about herself. She falls in love with Four, an instructor for the Dauntless initiates. Through a series of events, she begins to suspect that Four may be Divergent as well.

Tris learns that the Erudite leader is planning to take over and she is using Dauntless to help. Tris and Four join Caleb, Tris’ parents, Four’s father and others and begin the resistance. This is a set up for the 2nd in this trilogy.

Ms. Roth has done an exquisite job of explaining these factions. She shows us that when there is just one way of looking at something, at being, there are issues. Like Four, Tris starts to believe that being Divergent is the key, believing that there are characteristics in all five factions which would help to make the world better.

Themes of growing up, friendship, loyalty, coming of age, government policy, intrusive laws, stereotyping and more are abundant in this novel. Male and female YA’s alike will appreciate this first book in the series. More than a few adults will love it too! Personally, I am looking forward to Insurgent, the second book which is due out in May 2012.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Compliance is Mandatory!

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

“New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren't always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it's hard for her to forget that people weren't always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It's hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.”

I am currently very interested in dystopian fiction and I won this book in a blog hop (contest). This was a thrilling story to read.

Due to a recent change in the Moral Statutes, Ember’s mom is arrested for being an unwed mother. Even though Ember is 17 the statute is retroactive. Upon being arrested and sent to a girl’s reformatory and rehabilitation center, Ember fights tooth and nail to get to where she thinks her mom is in hiding.

Aided by one soldier in love and one soldier she once loved, Ember escapes and the real adventure begins.

The theme of theocracy (or, more to the point, moral superiority) and its effect on society was present throughout. During their run, Ember and Chase steal wedding rings so that, if stopped, no one will arrest them for being together and unmarried. Girls are taught to submit to their husbands. The morality of the few is forced upon the many.

Ms. Simmons kept the action moving and made me care about the characters. I wanted Chase and Em to succeed. I wanted them to be in love. I wanted good to triumph. This book is a clear setup for a sequel and, I hope, even more!

Monday, April 2, 2012

History and Mythology Spun into a Fantastic Story

Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney

I was loaned this book on tape (yes, tape!) by a friend. She thought I might like the book. I listened to the first half of the first tape and thought, why am I still listening...??? I kept going and that was the last time I had that thought.

Caroline Cooney spins an amazing tale about ancient Greece and Troy. She starts when Anaxandra is a six year old hostage from a siege on her home island. She is taken to live with King Nicander to be a playmate for the Princess Callisto, a crippled girl near her age. Anaxandra survives when a band of pirates attack and kill Nicander and most of the residents of the island. She buries Nicander and as she is standing guard over his grave, a fleet of ships lead by Menelaus picks up Anaxandra. She survives by telling them she is the Princess Callisto.

Menelaus introduces her to his wife, Helen. Helen is part goddess, her father is Zeus and her mother was Lida. Helen sees through the disguise and knows that she is no princess. Anaxandra is sure the gods are punishing her for stealing another’s birthright. She becomes friends with Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen and takes care of Pleisthenes, their youngest son (just an infant).

When Paris of Troy arrives everything changes. Helen leaves Menelaus and plans to sail to Troy with Paris. When Hermione realizes that her mother is planning to run away she is furious and decides to kill her. She is stopped by her nurse and Anaxandra. Anaxandra is disguised as Hermione and leaves with Pleisthenes in order to save the life of Hermione. When she arrives it doesn’t take long for Helen to realize that she has been deceived. Anaxandra spends the rest of the book trying to make sure that Paris doesn’t kill Pleisthenes.

Cooney shows a great deal of attention to detail in this great book. She mixes fiction with history (and the writings of Homer and others) to create a delightful story. Themes of self-sufficiency, coming of age, family and identity abound. What starts off slowly grows into a beautifully woven tale of life in ancient times.