Wednesday, December 28, 2016

End of 2016 - The Best Books of My Year

Ok all, since last post was the books I just couldn't even bring myself to finish, here are the best books I read this year, in no particular order:


1. Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen compiles some of the best offerings from my favorite web comic Sarah's Scribbles. I swear, Sarah is stalking me and writing about my life!



 

2. The At Somerton trilogy by Leela Rasheed. Downton Abbey for teenagers. Delicious and soapy and just plain good! 


3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Simply magical. 

Have a wonderful New Year everyone! See you in 2017 with a lot more reviews, tales from library land and stories to tell!





Monday, December 26, 2016

End of 2016 - The Worst Books of My Year

     Every year there are at least a couple of books that I file in my Goodreads "Crap I Could Not Even Finish Reading" shelf. These are MY personal opinions of what the worst books I have read are, and they will probably be unpopular opinions, but this is MY blog so I don't care.
    In 2016 only 3 things ended up on this list, so let's get started and I will tell you why they all sucked. These are only in order of me trying to read them, by the way, not in order of awfulness, because they are all uniquely awful in its own way.


1. Philip K Dick is a science-fiction LEGEND. His novels and short stories have been turned into some of the most iconic science-fiction movies of all time, and The Man in The High Castle has recently become one of my favorite TV series. It's an Amazon Prime exclusive and believe me when I say it is almost worth getting Prime JUST TO WATCH THIS SHOW.
     The premise is pretty simple: what would the United States be like if we had lost World War 2. The show is amazing. Well acted, well written, disturbing, imaginative and gripping. Naturally, being someone who firmly believes "the book is always better" I was dying to read the story that inspired it. 
     The book is SO NOT BETTER.
     It is one of the dullest, slowest, most pointless things I have ever read. It is VERY different from the show in that it lacks any real focus. The book jumps from character to character, spending way too much time exploring the thoughts of characters who make no real difference to the plot. 
     I got about halfway through when I got sick and tired of waiting for SOMETHING, ANYTHING to happen. 
     It got tossed back on the shelf and abandoned, and good riddance to it. 



2. Ooooh! Sacrilege! Oooooh! Bad librarian! How could I possibly not have loved a book that was a best seller, critically acclaimed, award winning and turned into a hit motion picture?
    Well, I will tell you how. The Book Thief was BORING. Dull. Lifeless. I found none of the characters interesting or compelling and the one and only thing I thought was interesting or original about it was that the narrator of the story is Death. 
    But, if I don't care about what happens to any of the characters, even knowing this is a book set in the Holocaust and that bad things are afoot, I can't do it. I just can't, There was not one character in this piece that I worried about, wondered about or cared for. Especially not Liesl, the main character, who I just wanted to smack really hard most of the time. 



3. Fun Home made this year's list of most banned and challenged books. Was it banned for being boring? Was it banned for being pretentious? Was it banned for being overblown, and full of itself? Nah, it was actually banned because the main character is a lesbian and *heavy dripping sarcasm* heaven forbid we dare to DRAW two women being intimate. 
    I gave up on Fun Home because it was sold as a story of a child coming to terms with her father's life and death. What it actually was, was an excuse for the author to talk about how crappy her parents were and blame them for all the things she didn't have the guts to tell them they sucked at in person while at the same time showing off how many high-brow books she reads. 
     The only redeeming thing about this book was the lovely artwork. Everything else was pointless. 



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: Saving Hamlet



     What a weird but ultimately interesting mish-mash of concepts Saving Hamlet turned out to be! The story is part teen coming of age novel, part historical fiction and part science-fiction.
     Emma is starting a brand new year and working on becoming a brand new person: she has just quite her high school's soccer team, where she was a big star, and is now a proud member of the school's theater production crew. She knows this is going to be a great year because this year they are staging Hamlet. Her best friend Lulu, a talented actress is pretty much counting on being the school's first female Prince of Denmark and her crush Brandon is going to be directing so Emma is psyched to get to spend all kinds of time with him.
     Then at auditions everything starts to go wrong.  Then, Lulu's parents find out she's gay and they do NOT take the news well. Then, Lulu gets cast as Ophelia because Emma's crush ends  refuses to have a girl play the lead. When Emma suggests giving the total acting noob who's been cast as Hamlet a chance Lulu stops speaking to her. And honestly, the play is turning out to be a complete and total disaster because Brandon may well be the worst director of all time. Emma is trying her hardest to keep everything together when she has a stage accident - she falls through a trap door and bonks her head. When she wakes up she is a the Globe Theater in London. During the Renaissance. And William Shakespeare is on the stage. Luckily for Emma she just got a pixie cut so all the actors in the company think she's a boy. In fact they assume she is the new director's assistant and give her a job.
     The story goes back and forth between the Globe and it's production of Hamlet and Emma's time and her production. Turns out that even on the greatest stage in the world, with the greatest playwright in the world, theater is a tough gig... so now Emma has TWO plays to save, a friendship to repair, and maybe even a second crush to pine over.
     The story is fast paced and fun, and call me a sucker but I do love pretty much anything Shakespearean, so I was pretty much sold on this one from go. There are some cheese-tastic moments, and it's not anything groudbreaking story wise, but it's definitely solid.

Final Review: 3/5 stars

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Emeralds and Ashes (At Somerton, Book 3)



     Leela Rasheed's Emeralds and Ashes is the final book in the At Somerton Series, which is often described as "Downton Abbey for teens." It is only available in e-book format, and there no plans to release it as a physical book.
     I am so sad this series is over. It really has been a favorite of mine this year, and I wish it could continue some more. Now, be warned.... there are

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

SPOILERS FOR ANYONE WHO HAS NOT READ CINDERS AND SAPPHIRES AND DIAMONDS AND DECEIT!

    Are you still here? Good. Isn't this series SO GOOD!!!!??? In this final chapter, World War 1 has officially broken out. Everyone at Somerton Court is being affected by it in some way - Rose and her new husband are trapped in Egypt with no way to get home to England. Lord Averly has enlisted in the service and has left the family.... and Sebastian is looking to the military as a way to escape the shame of being openly outed as a homosexual, which is not only frowned upon by society but actually illegal.
    Meanwhile, Ada's relationship with Ravi is still in limbo and even snooty and obnoxious Charlotte's life is in a state of flux as she seeks out her own path and tries to pull away from her mother's influence and meddling. 
    Suffice it to say, it's all SO good. Just SOOOO good. A total and complete page turner! I was sad to finish it but I could not put it down!

Final Review: 5/5 bookmarks because I enjoyed this series so much! Sad to see it go! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Heart and Brain - Gut Insticts



     Awkward Yeti is one of my favorite web comics. I swear, Heart and Brain are my boyfriend and I to a "T." Of course, he is sensible Brain and I am flighty Heart. Most of the time. So, of course I was excited to get hold of this compilation of some of the "guts" comics.
     Honestly, I ended up a little bit disappointed. The publishers could have picked MUCH better material, they certainly have a lot of great stuff to choose from, but they ended up picking some of my least favorite, and in my opinion, some of the least funny moments from the series. Also, it was way too short and barely scratches the surface of how good this comic really is, so it's sadly a poor introduction to the guts for people who may not be familiar with the web comic.

Final Rating 2/5 bookmarks, because it was so disappointing.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Sleeper and the Spindle


     The Sleeper and the Spindle by the wonderful Neil Gaiman is a retelling of both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty with a feminist spin. 
     It begins a few days before Snow White's wedding. She is now a Queen, not just a princess, and she is starting to have second thoughts about becoming someone's wife. That is when her friends the Dwarfs arrive to let her know about a problem - in the neighboring kingdom, a princess has been cursed with endless sleep. This curse was originally contained to the neighboring castle, but now it is spreading throughout the land, and there is a real possibility that it will eventually spread into Snow's kingdom. 
    Snow decides to take on the challenge of finding a way to wake the sleeper, in order to prevent her kingdom from coming under the curse, so she puts her wedding on hold and sets out on an adventure. 
   The story is short and sweet, and is written in language that is easy enough for both younger kids and adults to appreciate the story. There is enough of a twist ending here to make it one of the more original fairy tale re-tellings also. 

Final Rating: 3/5 bookmarks 


Monday, October 17, 2016

Diamonds & Deceit


SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

STOP reading if you have not read Cinders and Sapphires!

Ok, don't say I didn't warn you!

   It's disgusting how addicted I am to this series, it really is. I am SO happy I was able to find book 2 of the At Somerton series on Hoopla Digital (thanks to my library having it available to patrons for free! YAY!) because it's kind of hard to find this in print. (The 3rd book is not even available in PRINT as I have now realized, but more on that later!)
   Anyway, in case you don't know, Leela Rasheed's Diamond's and Deceit is book 2 in the At Somerton series, which I can best describe as Downton Abbey for teens. This is one of those books, where if you look at it closely, not much happens... and yet SO MUCH HAPPENS!
   Since the end of book 1 (which is called either Secrets and Sapphires or Cinders and Sapphires depending on whether you read it in the UK or in the USA) house maid Rose Cliffe has learned she is actually LADY Rose, illegitimate daughter of Lord Westlake. Lady Ada, her half sister, is torn between a man she respects, but doesn't love and the real love of her life, a young Indian man named Ravi, and they have both gone with their new step-mother and step-sister (the wretched Charlotte) to London for their first "out" season as proper young ladies.
   Meanwhile, back at Somerton, the girls step-brother Sebastian is sick with worry over his lover Oliver, who is being charged with a murder Sebastian committed.... not to mention all the drama being perpetrated "downstairs" by the staff and all THEIR secrets!

Final review 4/5 bookmarks, because I just could NOT put it down! And I hate myself for it in the best possible way.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

100 Days


   Agnes is a teenage girl who looks like 90 year old woman. She has Progeria, an aging disease that is making her old before her time. It also makes her abnormally tiny, and her bones are brittle, so it's very easy for her to get seriously hurt.
   Fortunately, Agnes has an amazing best friend, Moira, the tall Goth girl, who has been Agnes' self-assigned bodyguard for as long the two can remember. Unfortunately, Agnes and Moira don't know it, but Agnes only has 100 Days left to live.
   Enter Boone, a fellow student who was once friends with both girls, until a fateful day in gym class, when Boone did something stupid. Something that left Moira embarrassed and Agnes hurt. Now the three have been thrown back together, mostly against their will, and Boone has so many things to worry about already that he really doesn't need these two weird girls to worry about to: his dad is dead, his mom is basically a zombie and Boone's just trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table until she snaps out of it.
    Nicole McInnes has done a beautiful job with this book. The format is perfect: it's told in 100 chapters each covering one day of life, switching points of view between all 3 of our main characters. Somehow in that span, the author manages to touch on themes of love, death, illness, fear, insecurity, family and basically just all the chaos and horror and beauty and insanity of being a teenager, let alone with with a rare, incurable, 100% fatal disease.
   I won't lie, I cried, and you probably will too, but in the end the tears were not so much about the sadness of Anges' short life, but about the beauty of youth, friendship and love.

Final rating: 4/5 bookmarks. One of the best titles I have read this year. Very much recommended.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Killer In Me



     Nina Barrows can't sleep. Every time she does, she is haunted by dreams of a serial killer. Except Nina knows they are not dreams... what she is seeing is the real actions of a real person. A man she knows only as "the Thief." Nina knows that this man is real, and extremely dangerous, but she can't tell anyone because she has no explanation of how she knows that he has murdered several people... she would sound completely insane, especially since she is a teenage girl living in Vermont and the Thief is a grown MAN who lives in New Mexico.
    But now, Nina knows she has to act, because she has seen the Thief's next victims, and they live just a short drive from her own home. And not only does she need to stop him, she also really needs to find out why this is happening to HER of all people. Why can she think his thoughts, and see what he sees? Why does he only come to her in dreams? Is she crazy? Or is there some other connection with the killer she has missed?

    All of these questions are answered in The Killer in Me Margot Harrison to varying degrees of success. The book certainly has an unusual premise, and for me, it was a nice break from all the dystopia that has been flooding the teen book world for so many years. And of course, I do love a good serial killer story.
   The characters are well developed, for the most part, and I enjoyed the fact that even though the story is told from the point of view of different characters, the transitions are smooth and don't interfere with the overall tale.
   What I didn't like was the coincidences that seem to happen merely for the sake of moving the story along. There are just a few too many times where the reader has to trust that "fate" simply decided to shine down on a character or two at the exact perfect moment.

Final review: 3/5 bookmarks, because there are just TOO many coincidences here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The One


*****Spoilers Ahead*****

IF you have not Read The Elite or The Selection there will be SPOILERS AHEAD!!


    Fine, don't say I didn't warn you.

    The One is for all intents and purposes the final book in the Selection series. Though it is followed by The Heir and The Crown, this is where the original America Singer saga ends, since the next two books focus on her daughter, and this is where we see a resolution to the fates of all the girls who were in the original group. 
    Though I did enjoy the series as a whole, this volume treads on some dangerously sappy territory, and is only really salvaged by the escalating threat of attack from the Rebel forces and the brief breaks from the (at this point) gooey romance provided by the abject terror and violence our characters face. 
   Suffice it to say, not everyone's endings are happy. Some of the characters justifiably suffer, others have some pretty terrible things happen to them just as they are beginning to become decent people, but overall, the story is tied up with a neat bow, and so I decided that I will not be reading the next books. I was satisfied with this ending and anything else that comes by will likely only serve to make me wish I had stopped here. So I am stopping here. 

Final review: 3/5 bookmarks. It's over, and I'm glad it ended this way. 


Monday, October 3, 2016

Demon, Volume 1



     Wow. Ok..... um. Before this, my only exposure to Jason Shiga's work was the adorable children's book Meanwhile.

     This is not adorable.

     Nor is it a children's book.

    Demon, Volume 1 is actually one of the sickest, most twisted books I have ever read. And that is saying something.

   I think I can sum it all up by telling you the sentence "slit his throat with a cum knife" is used.

    Yeah. It's line that. Haha!

    Basic premise: Jimmy has lost his family and his will to live so we open to images of his suicide. But, when Jimmy inexplicably wakes up in bed the next morning, he is extremely confused. He continues attempting suicide in a variety of ways, each time waking up anew. And then stuff gets weird.

    Listen, I am not telling you anything else, if you want to know more, you will have to read it. You big sicko, you.

Not for the faint of heart, this book feels extremely gratuitous and just so very wrong. This compendium edition drops on October 4th. Read it at your own risk.

Final Rating: 2/5 bookmarks.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

I am baaaaack!

Oh MAN moving sucks.

It SUCKS I TELL YOU!

I have been in the process of setting up my new home for three weeks now, and it is finally at the point where it is mostly livable and not a jumble of cardboard and destruction, so the blog will OFFICIALLY be coming out of its hiatus next Monday, October 3rd with brand new book reviews, more tales of library programming and other fun things for you to laugh at!

Also, tales of setting up my home library. Oh the horror! THE HORROR!!!!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Elite


     The Selection series by Keira Cass is one of the least dystopian dystopian novel series for young adults that I have ever read. I have heard it referred to as "The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor" on several occasions, but this is not accurate - what it really is, what it merely is, is  The Bachelor set in the future, if the bachelor in question were a prince.
    So, if we think about the series as a reality show, the second book in the series, The Elite, would take place sometime in the middle of the season. Most of the girls have gone home, the home audience has chosen a favorite, and we can tell the bachelor in question is already starting to prefer a few girls over the others.
    At this stage in the game, America Singer, our protagonist, is one of just a few girls still in the game, but she still can't decide if she actually wants to be. She still has feeling for her childhood sweetheart, Aspen, who also happens to work in the palace. On top of that, America shockingly gets to see first hand the brutal punishment that can be handed down in her society to those who break the laws. It happens to someone very close to her heart and it makes her question everything she has ever believed, while at the same time turning her into public enemy #1, as far as Prince Maxon's father is concerned.
    At the same time, there are more attacks from the rebels, both Northern and Southern, and we learn a lot of secrets about how the country that was once the USA came to be in the state it is in in this vision of its future.
    Overall, not as interesting a chapter as the original, but it still kept me reading, and it did make me want to move on to the third book to see how this all wraps up.

Final rating: 3/5 bookmarks.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Evil Wives



     Have I told you all yet that one of my favorite shows of all time is Snapped?  Yeah, it seriously worries my boyfriend when I watch that, because for those of you who don't know, that show is 17 seasons and counting of true-crime stories about women who kill their boyfriends, husbands, dads, etc.
     So of course, I just had to read Evil Wives by John Marlowe, since this is basically that show, but in book form. Hardcore serial killer aficionados will not find much new in this compilation of short essays about some seriously messed up women from history. However, the short chapters and snappy writing makes a good primer for those who are interested in true crime tales and are looking for a place to start.
    The book does not delve deeply, it is merely a snack-sized intro to these women, many of whom have had several more in-depth tomes written about them in the years since they rose to infamy. It's pretty good as what it is: a gateway drug to the world of the criminally insane.

Final rating: 3/5 bookmarks.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Librarian Post True Tales of Library Programming #3: How to Host a Pokemon Go Gathering.



    Unless you have been living under a rock for the last two months or so, you have probably heard of the MASSIVELY popular Pokemon Go app which is available for both Iphones and Android devices. For those of you who are not too familiar with the game, the premise is simple - players can walk around their towns and capture cute little cartoon animals to try and collect all 150 different creatures. Certain landmarks in the community are "Pokestops" where players can collect supplies, or Gyms, where players can train their pets to make them stronger and claim bragging right for one of three in-game teams (Valor (red), Instinct (yellow) and Mystic (blue)). Since most libraries are either gyms or contain Pokestops, you should definitely consider offering some kind of Pokemon themed program.
   Do not assume this is a children's game. The vast majority of Pokemon Go players are adults in their 20's and 30's who grew up watching these cartoons. After all, they have been on air for 20 years now, and there is a great deal of nostalgia associated with this game for many of us. I in fact, am 36 and am, as of this writing, a level 15 member of team Mystic.

She totally looks exactly like me.

    As of this writing, my branch library has hosted 2 hugely successful Pokemon Go gatherings, so here is what we did to make the day special.

    First, my library contains 3 Pokestops, so we invested about $10 to buy enough Pokemon Coins in game to buy 6 "lures," modifications that actively attract a larger number of Pokemon to each stop. One lure lasts 30 minutes, so this gave us one hour of attraction time for each stop.
    Our first gathering was simply a social where people could meet and have fun. We made sure to have free bottles of cold water to hand out, because we are in Arizona and our typical summers are well into triple digit temperatures. (Luckily one of our 3 stops is actually inside the building). We also used our button maker to create team badges which were handed out on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone who asked for one. (If your library does not have a button maker, it is an AMAZING investment, you should try super hard to get one!)
   
Badges representing each team, and the unity team, for those who don't battle, or don't care to choose a team.
     For our second program, we chose to create a competition, to make it something a little bit different. We had 10 competition categories, which were:
1. Most number of Pokemon caught.
2. Highest CP catch (CP = combat points)
3. Highest HP catch (HP = hit points)
4. Largest Pokemon caught (for whomever caught the Pokemon with the highest weight)
5. Tiniest Rattata (lowest weight)
6. Fattest Pidgey (highest weight)
7. Most Geodudes
8. Most Pidgeys
9. Most Rattatas
10. Most Shandshrews
   We created small certificates and trophies for the winners.


 Here is what you need to make cool trophies of your own:

* Small white Styrofoam balls. You can buy these at any craft store in packs of 12. I made the mistake of using "rough" textured ones because I had them on hand already. They also come in a smooth texture that I think would have worked better. 
* Acrylic craft paint in red, white and black.
* Small paintbrushes (DO NOT use the foam kind, they will not work and make a huge mess).
* Gold spray paint.
*  Industrial glue, such as E6000.
For the bases, I used some empty spools from our register tape that we had laying around. 

My super neat and extremely carefully organized craft table. I know, you want to be me. 


First, I spray-painted the spools gold and let them dry thoroughly. 
Next, I painted one half of a ball red and let that dry. An ice cube tray works great for holding the balls and keeping them from rolling away while they dry.
Once the red is completely dry, paint a black line around the ball, and add a large black dot.
Make sure the black paint is COMPLETELY dry before adding a white dot in the center of the black dot. 
Once the balls are dry, glue them to the bases with E6000 and presto! Awesome trophies that people will love!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Librarian Post: Tue Tales of Library Programming #2 - Merry Grinchmas!

   Well, that was interesting. I never expected the post about my Clue program to be so darn popular, but I guess there are those out there interested in my goofy programs, so I think I will try to post one per month until you all get sick of them.
   So, that being said, and realizing it is still super hot out, I thought I would take everyone's mind off Summer Reading with a program for the holidays. This is a Way Back When program, as it was the first big themed program I ever did when I was a Library Assistant in Youth Services, so parts of my memories about it have become a little rusty. I will do my best to explain it as thoroughly as possible, and there will be cool pictures.
   Therefore, without further ado, I give you: "A Very Merry Grinchmas!" a holiday program based on themes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

   At the beginning of the program, when the bulk of the audience has assembled. I get the kids portioned off into groups or teams. 4 teams seems to be, for me, the best number and works well regardless of the size of the crowd. I always choose the teams myself, never let the kids pick, because if you let them pick, they will just end up with their families or friends and what's the fun in that? The teams are chosen by asking the kids to get in a line in order of their birthdays.
    This has the added benefit of being an ice breaker, since they have to talk to each other to figure out whose birthday is when. Once everyone is in line, they count off 1, 2, 3, 4 and then all the 1's get together, all the 2's, etc. When the teams are in place it's time to play the first game.

Grinch Cake Walk

   For our first game, which was actually ocurring throughout the whole party, I cut out large Ginchy footprints out of green paper. One footprint also had a red paper heart on it. I laminaed the footprints and set them out in a large circle. 
   A teen volunteer was given a CD player and a CD with "You're A Mean One, Mister Grinch" burned on it a bunch of times. The volunteer would then play the song for a while, stopping it whenever it struck his fancy. When the music stopped, whoever was standing on the spot with the heart would get a green-frosted "Grinch-cake" (cupcakes topped with some cool Dr. Seuss puffy stickers I found and stuck onto toothpicks). 
   Make sure to tell the volunteers to limit the kids to one cupcake per person.
   A second volunteer dressed up as the Grinch for us and helped hand out cupcakes and took pictures with the kids. He was a huge hit!


Grinchy footprints. Notice the one with a heart that grew 3 sizes. 

The Grinch hands out cupcakes in the Grinch Cakewalk game.

    Tree Undecorating

     The first game we played was inspired by the scene in which the Grinch steals all the ornaments off the Who's Christmas Trees. I created 4 cartoonishly rendered trees from green butcher paper and taped the same number of ornaments to each tree (12-15 ornaments works well). The game was played as a relay race in which each member of the team got to run up to the tree (which was taped to the wall) and ripped off one ornament. I timed the teams to see who could get all the ornaments and the tree down fastest.

Un-decorating the Christmas trees. 
Teen volunteers were a huge help in running the program, especially with staffing limitations. 


   When working in Youth, I always saved our craft for last, since it's a good way to calm everyone down after physical activity, and so the kids and parents don't have to be carrying the craft around with them while trying to play games.
   For this program, our craft was making a paper bag puppet of Max, the Grinch's faithful dog companion. Max is very simple to make. you need:
1. A small brown paper lunch bag.
2. A pair of googly eyes.
3. A small brown pom-pom for the nose.
4. Cut out two vaguely peanut-shaped shapes out of black paper for ears.
5. A brown pipe-cleaner for his horn. Because he is a reindeer-dog. Of course.
6. A red marker, to color in a collar.
7. A small yellow construction paper circle, for his dog tag.

This is the only picture that survived where you can see Max. Sorry it's not great:

You can't tell, but my shirt had a huge Grinch face on it. I enjoy dressing for the program theme. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Children of Icarus



     In the begging, there were Gods and there were Angels. The Gods were jealous of the beautiful Angels and so they tricked one young Angle, Icarus, by telling him that the sun was actually a gateway into the world of Gods. Icarus was horribly burned, but a woman, Daedala, took pity on him and buried him in the ground until such a time as his wounds could heal. To mark his grave she built a beautiful city of towers, and around this city, a labyrinth.
    This is the myth that kicks off Caighlan Smith's upcoming title, Children of Icarus.  The full story begins many, many years later, in the society that presumably now thrives in that very city. It is a city that each year, chooses several children, all under the age of 17, and sends them into the labyrinth, with the promise that when they reach the center of the maze, they will be greeted by Icarus and turned into Angels. I think you can all sense just exactly where this is going, can't you?
    Our major protagonist is almost 17, and incredibly relieved because after this year she never has to worry about going into the labyrinth, which she does not want to do, even though her society considers this a great honor, and most people, including her best friend Clara, desperately want to be chosen. Clara wants to go into the maze because years ago her brother Collin was chosen, and she wants to join him as an angel.
     Of COURSE, both girls are chosen, and HELLO... absolute hell breaks loose the SECOND they go inside the maze. Clara is almost instantly killed by giant, scary, angry bird things and our protagonist BARELY survives.
     Notice I keep calling her "the protagonist..." well, an interesting feature of this book is that we never learn the girl's name. She is also mute for almost the entire book, because even though she CAN talk, she is so horribly traumatized by the events of that first day that she very rarely says more than a few words.
    I don't want to give too much more away, but the gist is, she eventually becomes a member of a group called Fates, made up of other kids who manage to survive their first few days in the labyrinth... but then THAT goes horribly, horribly wrong.  Then there is a shadowy, possibly mythical figure known as "The Executioner,"  and a whole mess of nasty, horrible monsters, most of them modified from real Greek and Roman mythological beasts. There's blood, guts, death and horror, and amazingly, this was all written by a 20 year old!
   Caighlan Smith is TWENTY. Sheeeeeeeesh! I can't even.
    I was HOOKED on this book almost from the word go, and the ONLY reason it is not getting all 5 bookmarks is because the ending of it destroyed my mind-hole by leaving SO MUCH STUFF unanswered (in the best way possible though, I promise!) and forcing me to wait goodness knows how long for the sequel!
   The book is out August 1st and you can (and totally should) pre-order it from Amazon. I received the digital ARC from Netgalley in June, so I have to wait even LONGER than you guys to get my hands on a hard copy. Sigh.

Final Rating: 4/5 bookmarks for forcing me to wait for the next one to answer any of my billion questions!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Last Temptation


    Any time I see Nail Gaiman's name on anything, I have come to expect awesome. I was therefore very disappointed with The Last Temptation.
    The story sounds kind of awesome: a young boy gets a ticket to a creepy and rundown old theater, called The Theater of the Real, which promises to show him the truth and nothing but the truth. Of course, you know stuff is going to go very wrong when the person in charge of the theater is freaking Alice Cooper.
   Of course, visually, the graphic novel is stunning, I mean this is Michael Zulli illustrating, the man who worked on so many issues of Sandman so of course it looks amazing. My problem was that there was almost no story to this story. Everything about it felt rushed in the worst way, and it didn't help at all that the very British Neil Gaiman was trying to write dialogue for an American kid here. His use of language is adorably antiquated and not at all what an American kid would ever sound like in modern times.
    It was also almost impossible to tell how old this kid was supposed to be... at the start of the story you think maybe he's a teenager, but then Gaiman sort of ages him down to a tween, or maybe even younger... he sleeps with a teddy bear, for goodness sakes. And what kind of school makes their students do a town wide costume parade after about 1st grade anyway? (Because of COURSE this has to be set on Halloween, because oooooh, scaaaaaary.)
   Overall, what I thought would be awesome and creepy and frightening turned out to be a confusing yawn fest. Not cool, Neil. Super not cool. You too Alice.
    Final Review: 2/5 bookmarks for far too much wasted potential.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Selection



   Ok, so this is one that I totally judged by its cover. I thought The Selection by Keira Cass was going to be a boring story about a bunch of debutantes in pretty dresses being shallow at balls. Needless to say I was wrong, and was actually quite pleasantly surprised by this dystopian novel.
    The story takes place in the distant future, after World War 4 has come and gone. America was invaded by China, then Russia, and eventually became a country known as Illea which is now run by a royal family (for some inexplicable reason). Society is made up of 8 castes which are determined by the work they do, or rather, the work their ancestors did, because you are born into your caste and can only move up in the world in the rare event that someone from a higher caste marries you. 1's are, of course the royals and leaders while 8's are the homeless, drug addicts, orphans or various other "undesirables."
    Our main character, America Singer is a 5 - the caste of the artists. She is, as her name would imply, a singer, though her father and a couple of her siblings are painters, and her mom is a fellow musician. Despite the fact that her family doesn't have a lot of money, and food can sometimes be scarce, America is happy with her life and doesn't want anything more. In fact, she is secretly dating a 6 (the caste of service, comprised of maids, janitors, etc.) and hopes to marry him some day even though she knows her controlling mother would NOT approve.
   One day, however, a letter arrives for America, stating that any female ages 16-21 is being "encouraged" to enter into The Selection... a sort of reality show/competition that is tradition in Illea: any time there is a male heir to the throne and he comes of age, he invites 35 randomly chosen young women of the lower castes in hopes of finding a suitable bride. America's mother, who is kind of a gold digger, wants her to enter, and she does, assuming she will never be picked from among thousands of girls, but of course she DOES get picked and is forced to move to the castle, where she figures the stuffy prince will boot her out after a week or so.
    This book is sort of one of those Jane Asten/Dowton Abbey type stories where nothing much happens and yet you just can't put it down. It is the first book in a fairly lengthy series (if you count novellas and prequels) and it really only begins to set up the story, but not in a way that feels forced or obnoxious. Yes, it's a dystopian version of The Bachelor, but dammed if I didn't plow through it in less than a day and can't wait to get my hands on the second in the series The Elite. 

Final Review 3/5 bookmarks.

Monday, July 18, 2016

45 Pounds (More or Less)



    Before I begin discussing 45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson, I feel I should make a bit of a disclaimer/disclosure statement: I am the same clothing size as Ann, the protagonist of this book (though 2 inches shorter than she) and I have had this same body shape my entire post-pubescent life. However, though I am a short, overweight little woman, I don't share one very important personality trait with Ann: for her, her weight is a source of shame and trauma while for me, it has never been an issue that has caused me much stress.
    Of course, Ann has other pretty typical teen girl issues to deal with other than her weight. Her parents are divorced, have re-married and have had younger children with their new spouses. She has almost no contact with her dad and her stepmom and step sister are kind of awful. Her brother, who she used to be very close to has basically cut himself off from the entire family; and her best and really only friend is now going to a different school and involved in sports and new friends so they rarely see each other anymore. And her mom... well, we'll get to her mom in a bit.
    As the story begins, Ann is asked to be a bridesmaid in her aunt's wedding, which would be great news except that Ann is horrified at the idea of having to fit into a fancy dress (Juniors size 17) and stand along side her super thin, control-freak of a mother who monitors every morsel of food that goes into her or anyone else's mouth and appears to be in deep denial about how her constant whining about being fat (at a size 6) is affecting not only Ann, but her 4 year old sister as well.
    Having grown up with a control freak, yoga three times a week type mother myself, I can painfully relate to THAT part of Ann's life... but I think I am just too different of a person to empathize all that much. Even though I personally have always known I was "fat" I tend to suffer from what my mother refers to as "too much self esteem."
   Ann is a girl who is afraid to talk to people, afraid to dance or bike or do much of anything in public for fear that the world is watching and judging, while I have never let the number on the scale or on my clothing tag stop me from doing any dang thing I please up to and including talking to hot boys, wearing a bathing suit in total public, and being in every high school play we staged at good old Kofa High (home of the Kofa Kings! YEAH!).
    I realize this all makes me a weirdo freak... but here's the thing - that's so freaking SAD! It's so damn sad that the vast majority of overweight women in this country feel like Ann does: ashamed, disgusting, judged and ridiculed for something as stupid as a couple of flab rolls or cellulite on their bums. And ******spoiler alert***** it kind of pissed me off that Ann didn't start feeling like she was an ok person until 1) she lost 25 pounds and 2) a cute boy asked for her phone number.
    Yes, I know, it can be unhealthy to be overweight, and it is certainly a good message to give to girl that they need to eat well and get off the couch once in a while, I would like to give women like me all over the world my own message, which is: you are perfectly fine.
    Look in the mirror, and find something you like about yourselves that has NOTHING TO DO with your weight or clothing size and tell yourself you are beautiful because you are (I happen to have excellent skin, lovely hair and mad makeup application skillz, but that's just me tooting my horn). How you feel about yourself has nothing to do with your size! It has nothing to do with what some GUY tells you! Yes, eat well, exercise, lay off the "diet" food (because it's just making you fatter, people!!) and ENJOY YOUR LIFE. Like Ann, the only thing stopping you from being happy is YOU.

End of rant.
But seriously, you are freaking beautiful and I love you if you are a size 0 or a size 99!

Final review: 3/5 bookmarks, because it was a nice try at a positive message, but your self esteem should not be wrapped up in whether a boy thinks you are cute or not!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Librarian Post: True Tales of Library Programming #1 - CLUE Live!

    As some of you may know (if you are a librarian, a parent or have recently ventured into a public library) each year libraries around the country feature a themed, multi-week program called the Collaborative Summer Reading Program, sometimes referred to as SRP or CSRP. There is a theme each year, and this year's theme was sports and exercise....
   Well, it's not secret to anyone who has ever met me that I hate sports, so I decided to sort of blur the theme a little bit and create programs based around fun games, rather than sports. One of these programs was a live-action game of Clue. Several people have asked me to share what I did, so this post will cover that as best I can describe. Please feel free to post questions below and I will do my best to clear up anything that was confusing. 


Here we go.

First off, I modeled a lot of what I did on the original game, but I wanted to give it a literary twist. I chose 6 characters from books I personally enjoy, 3 males and 3 females. They were: Harry Potter, Hamlet, Bilbo Baggins, Katniss Everdeen, Arya Stark and Dorothy Gale. I also chose 6 weapons which would have been used by these characters: the elder wand, poison, Sting (Bilbo's sword), a bow and arrows, Needle (Arya's sword) and a bucket of water. The locations on the board were the lands or places each of the characters came from or were deeply associated with: Hogwarts, Elsinore, The Shire, Panem, Winterfell and the Emerald City. Each location had a portal (specifically assigned to one of the other lands) and two doors. The center location on the board was my branch library, which also contained a portal to any land the player chose. I also printed and laminated dozens of footprint tiles, so in the end the board looked like this, but larger:

Testing out the Clue board for SRP

I created my own detective's notes sheets, which looked like this:
Detective's note sheet I created for Clue Live! (Coutesy: Vanna Bells)

    I also made a set of game cards, each featuring a weapon, location and character from a half-sheet of laminated card stock paper.  These were our playing deck.
    On the day of the program, when patrons came in, they were given a piece of paper and a writing implement. I placed 2 jars on a table, labeled "male character" and "female character" and asked each patron to write their name on the piece of paper and put it in their preferred jar. I then picked 3 names from each jar and the patrons were able to pick their character in the order their names were drawn. Those who were not chosen to play characters were also given detectives notes sheets and were able to play along from the audience. In fact, 2 games were played, and in both cases, the winner was a member of the audience, not one of the live action charter roles.
    At the start of the program I read a short story I had written about the murder that had occurred. It was a simple, one page thing which only served as a background to the game we would play.

   The rules of the game were pretty basic, and somewhat modified from the original Clue game.

 1. Each character starts the game in his or her own space. No weapons or character pieces need to be placed on the board. Instead I made pockets from pieces of card stock paper which the players could wear around their necks. The pockets had each character's picture and profile on them and the pockets served as a place where they could hold their cards.
2. A volunteer from the audience chose 1 card from each stack of character, weapon and location cards, which were placed in the secret envelope. The rest of the cards were shuffled together and distributed around to the character players.
3. Each character player rolled a giant die and the one with the highest number gets to go first. Game play then proceeds clockwise around the board. It is important to remind the players to be mindful and try to remember which character they play after.
4. First player rolls the die and moves that number of spaces. When a character lands on a location spot on the board, they can either a) choose to teleport to another location, b) make a suggestion on the murderer, weapon and location or c) end their turn and pass to the next player.
5. If a player chooses to teleport, their turn ends, but they can make a suggestion at the start of their next turn.
6. To make a suggestion, a character will choose another player and say something like "Bilbo Baggins, I suggest to you that it was Harry Potter in Panem with a Bucket of water." If Bilbo has any of the 3 suggested cards in their hand, they show ONE of them to the room. If not they can say something like "that sounds like a fine suggestion," or "that suggestion might be true."
7. Play continues this way until someone is ready to make an accusation. The accusation can only be made from the center square, and if the accusation is wrong, that player forfeits their right to make any further accusations.
8. A member of the audience may make an accusation at any time, however, though if they are wrong, they also forfeit the right to make any further accusations.

   Additionally, I made sure to have prizes available for those who made correct accusations. I also prepared a small bag of candy for each of my 6 players. We ended up playing twice in one hour though, so I made extra candy bags just in case. Since my program was open to ages 8 and up, I made sure to have a mix of prizes that would appeal to tweens, teens and adults. I had a good mix of all age groups, including two complete families. Many of the prizes were ARCS, which were quite popular.

   So, that's all I can think of for now. Again, if you have any questions on this program please comment below and I will be happy to answer you as soon as possible. Below are some pictures of the program for you to enjoy. All photos courtesy Vanna Bells.