The Art (and FRUSTRATION) of the Cliffhanger

Every form of media uses them. We all know why…they want you to come back next season or buy the next book, right? And it works EVERY TIME because who doesn’t want to know what happens? Does your favorite character survive? If not, what impact will this have on the other characters and the story? Just how attached are you to him or her? Many authors are quite adept at the cliff hanger but none more than Cassandra Clare, author of the Immortal Instruments and the Infernal Instruments series. Her latest is the Dark Artifices series. The saga began with Lady Midnight and the young Shadowhunters of the Los Angeles Institute. When last we saw Julian, Emma and their passel of children (Julian’s younger siblings), they had lost more than most people do in a lifetime. They were healing, but that didn’t end the problems for the valiant young people. Julian had a full plate. He was basically running the Institute and raising his siblings since his older brother and sister were taken away from him. Still, they had allies, people they trusted to help. Unfortunately, there are few people whose betrayals hurt more than those we trust the most. When the worst happens, they land roughly on their feet and begin to pick up the pieces. In Lord of Shadows, Mark has returned to them, but he’s a bit at sea as to his role in a family that has grown up without him. With mounting pressure to find The Black Volume and what is causing the influx of sea demon attacks, Julian and Emma have to keep things together but keep themselves apart to keep their secret. Keeping secrets is what Julian is best at, making him calculating, sometimes vicious when there are threats against his family. Not everything is peaceful outside of Los Angeles either. A battle is brewing within the Shadowhunter community which threatens to tear apart their ancient bonds. The family is called to account for the nefarious activities of their institute when suddenly a dagger flashes and finds its mark; Thus ends the book!

I can tell you that I actually cried out, “No way!” A bit embarrassing as I was at Panera eating my breakfast. The worst part? I now have about a year to wait to find out what happens next!!!

With Cliffhangers, I have a love-hate relationship.

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How to Become a Fairy Tale Villain

We’ve all read the stories about Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Alice and their evil counterparts, Grimhilde (The Evil Queen), Mother Gothel (Disney version), Wicked Stepmother, and The Queen of hearts. Did you ever wonder how they came to be evil or wicked? There has been a spate of authors who have wondered and have stepped up to answer. Gregory McGuire tackled the Wicked Witch of the West in his book Wicked. Marissa Meyer took on Wicked Stepmother in her series The Lunar Chronicles (which had a steampunk bent…another of my favorite things). While not a step-by-step guide to becoming villainous, you can read between the lines. Will their back stories make them a little less evil? Maybe you will relate to their plight?

Marissa has stepped into the ring once again with her book Heartless, hoping that she doesn’t lose her head.

Cath is bright, energetic, happy girl living in the magical world of Wonderland. she is the only daughter of doting parents who want all the best for her. Like most girls, Cath has dreams about what she wants tod o with her life. Unlike most girls, they don’t include marriage to the king! Rather, Cath wants to open a bakery with her best firnds and fill all of Wonderland with fantastical confections. At the ball, the king was supposed to propose toher but her life took a side step when she met Jest, an exotic stranger who tugs mightily at Cath’s heartstrings. In secret, she and Jest enter into a courtship whtat will bring pleasure, pain and, ultimately, grave danger to all of Wonderland. With her heart onthe line, what path will Cath choose?

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Student Turned Author

I love being a librarian, specifically a school librarian. During my years at The Lovett School in Atlanta, GA, I had the privilege of working with some incredible students, many of whom I still chat with on a regular basis. I met them as 6th graders and got to watch them grow up and graduate. They have gone on to be professors, teachers, Disney Imagineers, actors, musicians, and so many more. Now, one of them has become one of my favorite kinds of people…an author!

maggieI met Maggie Thrash when she was a 7th grader and I was in charge of my first advisory group. Maggie was one of the most unique students I’ve ever had. Her confidence belied her age and my age, for that matter. That year I had students who were a bit intimidating to me but Maggie would show up and exude such spirit that I was able to draw on her strength and handle things like a pro (or at least to fake it till I actually had confidence of my own). When she got into high school, she came to me and asked if I’d be the faculty adviser for a club she wanted to start. I was taken aback but excited for the honor. FOGS (Fellowship of the Outer Galactic Sphere) lasted for seven fabulous years and remains one of my favorite memories.

honorgirlMaggie has written two books. Her first, Honor Girl, is a memoir. You might not think that a young woman in her late 20s would have much to memorialize. Not so for Maggie. Her seventeenth year brought change and confusion into her life. Every summer was spent at camp with most of the same girls. She’s never had a boyfriend or even kissed anyone before so she is unprepared for the turmoil the casual contact with Erin, her female camp counselor causes. A girl having a crush on another girl at a camp in the deep south just won’t do. Maggie has no one to talk to about the situation and is afraid to approach Erin for fear of rejection but, when it seems as though Erin might feel the same way, neither of the girls or the camp are ready or able to handle what happens next.

we knowMaggie’s second book is a fictional tale full of the angst that only teenagers can understand. It’s Friday night in the south; a night full of testosterone and scantily clad cheerleaders. As game time nears, Brittany, the Wild Cat Mascot, totters around the field on unsteady feet. No one really takes notice until she suddenly bolts from the field. Soon, the rest of the cheerleaders and other students give chase. The mood is merry right up until the Wild Cat reaches the middle bridge of the that spans the rushing Chattahoochee River and jumps! The crowd is stunned into silence for a moment but soon cries for help ring out. For days, the search goes on. When the matted, furry costume finally washes ashore, it isn’t Brittany’s body inside of it.

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Poetry Month

When I was young I was painfully shy…actually, I was whatever is beyond painfully shy.  I walked the halls of middle and most of high school looking at the floor.  I rarely tripped but I had many near misses with columns and basketball players.  As a card-carrying introvert, I poured out my feelings and thoughts into journals.  In middle school, my English teacher (who was young and handsome, if I remember correctly) did a unit on poetry and I fell in love with it.  I began to write it and it was very bad, but thinking in rhythms and rhymes eventually became second nature.  I wrote throughout college, as well, and even had some poems published in my college literary magazine.  When I moved to Atlanta and joined a new church, I discovered a whole new level of faith and my writing jumped back into high gear.  As I’ve gotten older and developed more of an out-going personality (well, any personality would have been an improvement), my writing has been left by the wayside, which is unfortunate.  I think back to those early poems and stories wistfully and hope to someday pick it up again.  I  have uploaded some of my (less embarrassing) poems into an “ebook”.  If you are interested in peeking into my sometimes strange mind, click on the link below.

Open Windows: Poetry and Stories

I do have some favorite poems and poets.  Rainer Maria Rilke has several poems that I love. This one doesn’t have a title but it’s about an imaginary creatureYou, Darkness is a hauntingly beautiful poem.  This is not a poem but rather a quote from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. As a tried and true fantasy lover, the imagery is lovely! Love has always been something I think about…probably because I would like to experience being in love some day.  Rilke captures what I’d like to imagine it feels like in his poem, Love Song.

Percy Bysshe Shelley is another great poet.  Here are some of my favorites: I Arise from dreams of thee; Eyes.

Shelley’s good friend Byron has a couple of poems I really like: Roll on Thou Deep and Dark Blue Ocean; She Walks in BeautyI Saw Thee Weep.

Wordsworth: Ode, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood; Composed on Westminster Bridge.

e.e. cummings: Somewhere I have Never Travelled.

Matthew Arnold: Longing.

And, of course, Shakespeare: 116th Sonnet; 29th Sonnet; My Mistress’ eyes are like the sun.

Many of these poems are from the sound track of a wonderful television series from the 90s, “Beauty and the Beast”.  Ron Pearlman played the beast and read poetry to his Catherine (the beauty).  His voice is just lovely!  You can listen to samples of the soundtrack at Amazon.

Happy Poetry Month!!!

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Sticks and Stones

We’ve all heard the adage, “Sticks and stone may break my bone but words will never harm me.” No saying has been a bigger lie than this one. Every kid who’s suffered a bully knows just how badly words hurt. They are flung out at us and burrow deep into our hearts like poisoned thorns. They permeate our very being until we believe them. Fatso, whale tale, faggot, stupid…these are just a few arrows that destroy lives. Kids today have it even worse than those of us who grew up pre-social media. Now, bullying takes on a whole, monstrous life of its own and for all the world to see. Suicide is one of the main causes of death in young adults. More than 4,000 per year die by their own hand. One study found that more than half of all teens who killed themselves were victims of bullying. Whether these children take their own lives, lash out at their tormentors or both, words can definitely do harm.

Bullying and Suicide

There are many young adult authors who have tackled this sensitive subject from every point of view. These books help readers to work through feelings of rage, loneliness, and pain. They also point out the devastating effects of a mere rumor. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu is one such book.

truthAlice is an average, popular high school girl, right up until IT happened. Everyone who was anyone was at the party and everyone heard all about it the next day and suddenly Alice is a slut. She slept with two boys, one right after the other. Day after day, the stories circulate and, like any good fishing tale, they get bigger and wilder as they go. A stall in the girls bathroom is dedicated to her shame. The four who “know” what happened tell the story but end up revealing as much about themselves and their motivations as they do about Alice. It all comes to a head the day that one of the boys she slept with is killed in a car crash and a tornado of innuendo is unleashed. But what is the truth? Does it really matter to anyone? What about Alice? Who is she, really? Slut? Murderer? Friend? Popular girl? If you really want to know, go ask her.

A short list of other books that deal with this issue are:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (should be required reading for all teenagers)

Inexcusable by Chris Crutcher (should also be required reading, in conjunction with Speak)

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Bystander by James Preller

Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

What Happened to Lani Garver and The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Blubber by Judy Blume

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

 

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Dystopia revisited

Anyone who knows me and my reading habits knows that I love dystopian fiction. It is quickly becoming my favorite genre, second only to Fantasy which holds firmly to number 1 in my heart. I’m not sure what it is that attracts me to these books but I do love the fact that many of them have a female main character who is smart, strong and can handle most anything that the new world throws her way. She thinks and feels deeply even if the characters she interacts with don’t know it. Her power comes from an innate knowledge that she knows who she is and what she believes. She is willing to fight for these things. I admire these young women for their strength of character and, if I’m honest, I want to be more like them. Sometimes I don’t know what I believe or just how to fight for it. I do have very strong opinions but not always the best way to express them. I am strong but don’t know how I’d survive something cataclysmic or even being jobless with a house to pay for. Anyway, the women in these dystopian stories have my undying admiration and I will continue to live vicariously through them, hoping that some of their wisdom and strength seeps into me. Below are the most recent titles I’ve read. Ivy is one amazing girl. You will fid yourself rooting for her!

ivyThe Book of Ivy by Amy Engle

The United States has been destroyed by a nuclear war. There is a pocket of survivors who have banded together for survival and to rebuild some semblance of society. All is not peaceful, however. The two founders disagreed on how to run the community and there was a brief but violent battle and the Lattimer family came out on top and the Westfalls moved to another side of town. In order to keep peace, the children of each side are married to one another each year, when they turn sixteen. This year, it’s Ivy Westfall’s turn and she is to marry Bishop Lattimer, the president’s son. She has been trained, these last few years, to be wife…and murderess. You see, she is going to kill her husband and help her father regain control of the community. What she doesn’t expect is to fall in love.

ivy2The Revolution of Ivy is the sequel and follows Ivy through the next chapter of her life. It’s not easy and learning to trust is still an issue for Ivy but lying may just cost her the one thing she loves most.

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Dragons, fairies and beasts, Oh My!

I have been on a reading bender the last couple of weeks. It’s been truly lovely to get back into the pages of good books. I discovered two new series. One is called Slayers by C.J. Hill. The other is a really cool take on the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. In this post, I offer a twofer.

Slayers_JKTYes, dragons are real, very, terrifyingly real, and they are out for blood.

Tori is a typical teenager; well, maybe not totally typical. Her father is in the running to be the next President of the United States! Summer stretches before her, and she talked her parents into letting her go to dragon camp to feed the obsession with the mythical creatures she’s had all of her life. They all think it’s a history camp where she will learn about Medieval history. They couldn’t be more wrong.

After only a day or two at camp, Tori’s world is rocked by the revelation that dragons are real, and she was born to slay them along with the rest of the advanced campers. Obviously, she has great difficulty adjusting to the news, but she has little time to digest the information because her new-found powers have revealed the existence of two dragon eggs in the possession of their enemy. Overdrake is a dragon lord and is descended from a line of knights that bonded themselves to dragons to control them for nefarious purposes. Worse yet, they are close to hatching! Training kicks into overdrive but distractions abound because, well, they are teenagers and very good looking ones!

Tori and her friends must find a way to learn to work together to defeat not only the dragons but a traitor they know nothing about…yet.

 

thornsrosesFeyre is a young woman who has taken responsibility for her family, just as she promised her mother she would do. Her family’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse, and they were forced from their lovely mansion into a hovel where they had to do their own everything…cooking, cleaning, etc. Feyre, the youngest of three girls, is tough and adapts to her new life easily. She hunts the woods with an ash bow and arrow she made for herself. The animals are scarce because they have fled the weather deep into the woods where she dares not go alone. One day she is out hunting and spots a doe eating the bark from a tree. In the same instant, she realizes that she’s not the only one who’s spotted a potential meal. A huge wolf creeps out of the underbrush, stalking the doe. Feyre knows that if she doesn’t do something, her family will starve so just as the wolf strikes down the doe, she lets loose her arrow wounding him. A second arrow through is eye finished him off and secured her family’s food for the rest of the winter.

A few days later, she had sold the pelt of both the doe and the wolf for a pretty penny. When she returned home, an unnatural sound came from the door and a beast shatters his way into her life. It turns out that the wolf was not just a wolf. He was one of the fae and he had been the beast’s friend. Feyre was a murderer in his eyes. He wants her life for the life of his friend. With a sinking heart, she realizes that there’s no way out of this and her family is not going to help her. O accepts her fate but soon finds it both more and less deadly than she thought.

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