If you’ve read YA books at all, you know that they all deal with some sort of teenage issue because teenagers are some of the most interesting people on the planet. I am, of course, biased as I have worked with them for most of my adult career. I started You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner because I like the idea of graffiti. It’s beautiful, complicated, defiant, unruly, emotional…just like most teens. There are a plethora of issues in this book and I was a bit worried that they would steal the focus but in the hands of a good writer, it was just a really good story!
The slur was nasty and Julia could not let that stand. Jordyn is her best (and only) friend so Julia paints over the ugliness with a beautiful mural on the school wall, late at night, without permission. Days later, she is kicked out of her nice, safe school for the deaf. Why? Because Jordyn snitched on her to the principal. Now, Julia is stuck in a regular public school with a t00-perky interpreter and the weight of her two mother’s disappointment. The only thing left to her is her art and she’s not about to give that up. In an effort to carve out her own space, she tags several locations only to find them changed the next day. Not just change but improved. She’s been called out and must answer but at what cost? With some unexpected allies, Julia finds herself in the middle of a graffiti war that touches more than just overpasses and water towers.
Deaf culture, prejudice, lesbian parents (one of whom is Indian-American), graffiti…seems like a lot to tackle in one book but Whitney Gardner expertly weaves them through the tale making it as vibrant and wild as the street art that may just be Julia’s true best friend.
I love to read. The thicker the book the better. A few summers ago, I indulged in the re-reading of the Outlander series…all 8 books. That’s close to 7,000 pages! I absolutely loved every second. Each turn of the page made me feel like I was meeting an old friend. Tears and terror, anger and pain, love and healing kept me up late or early, again. I did this because the television series was beginning the following fall and a new book was coming out. The television series was everything I hoped it would be. The T.V. Jamie was the same man I fell in love with in 1991 when I first read Outlander. The book, however, was a different story…literally.
I don’t like to read short stories. They are, well, short; TOO short. When I get to the end, I’m usually frustrated because I want more. I bought Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, though, because it’s by Diana Gabaldon and I love her books. Still, I wasn’t sure I could trust her to write the kind of stories that wouldn’t leave me hanging on the edge of a cliff by my fingernails during a rainstorm with lightning flashing all around me and nothing but jagged rocks to dash my body to bits waiting below. I shouldn’t have worried, though. She’s Diana Gabaldon, master storyteller and keeper of dreams (I’m still waiting to find my very own Jamie…).
Reading the stories was like savoring my favorite meal. The starter is just enough to whet the whistle for more goodness to come. The main course was full of flavor, complicated and spicy storylines and interesting twists to familiar favorites. Dessert was the perfect blend of sweet and savory with a dash of heat to finish things up. Has this book changed my mind about short stories? Probably not but at least they kept me entertained as I wait for the next REAL Outlander book, Go Tell the Bees I’m Gone. Hurry Up, Diana…we’re all waiting on the edge of that cliff I mentioned earlier!
I have been reviewing books for about 15 years. For the last 10 or so, I’ve used a combination of WordPress for the discussion and Wikipages for my archives. Well, I went to add some reviews the other day but low and behold…Wikipages is going away! Like, poof, leaving the Internet! So, I had to embark on a quest to find a new location for all those reviews. I was forced to use Google sites because it’s a very stripped-down site manager. I can’t even install a search box for people to use to find a specific book! I have to use that because my school system has BLOCKED EVERYTHING ELSE! I’m all for protecting our children from bad stuff on the internet but this county does not allow teachers to have Youtube channels. You can’t download ANYTHING onto your school computer. We, teachers, aren’t even allowed to know the wifi password for our other devices! Boy, I sure miss my days at Lovett or even Montross!
Venting done. I’m sorry that finding books on my site just got harder and I’m still going to search for a better solution for archiving my reviews but, until then, we are all stuck!
No matter how you deal with it, losing someone hurts. It leaves a them-shaped hole in your soul. In the book Words in Deep Blue, Rachel has pushed her grief deep inside. So deep, in fact, that she feels almost nothing at all. She has finished school, for now, and has moved back to where she grew up; back to where the boy who was her best friend and secret crush (who broke her heart) lives. No one there, save her aunt, knows about her brother’s death. They do know that something has changed the once-carefree girl into a quiet, sometimes cruel person. Her one refuge is the bookshop where she works but it is also a curse because “The Boy”, also known as Henry, works there, as well. As they work together, they find a comfortable rhythm. Her job is to catalog the stories in the Letter Library. It is the heart and soul of the bookstore where people have left notes to others, known and unknown, inside of books. His job is to help his slowly disintegrating family decide whether to sell their beloved bookshop or not. Together, they reveal themselves to each other and help heal the hurt that each one caused.
Cath Crowley’s poignant love story is powerful and sweet, painful and healing. The characters move through their own lives like feathers on the wind, coming to rest at odd places but always picking up bits and pieces along the way. Her “Letter Library” is a brilliant creation; one that every bookstore and library needs.
John Green has long been one of my favorite authors. His books are fabulous and he and his brother Hank, the Vlogbrothers, have the best videos around. They tackle all kinds of topics and issues with humor and insight. They also educate. Their history/civics videos, in particular, would spice up any high school classroom and help students understand our past.
John’s new book, Turtles All the Way Down, takes on an issue that is closer to him than most; mental illness, specifically, OCD. He speaks about it on his Youtube channel. With tenderness and humor, he gives us a glimpse into his world and what it feels like to be stuck in a spiral. In particular, the scene when Aza and Daisy are in the tunnel and Aza uses the situation to help Daisy understand a little of what she goes through each day is poignant and heartbreaking.
Spirals are cool looking figures. They seem to continue in an ever-tightening, infinite circle. Aza is not particularly fond of spirals, though. Her thoughts can sometimes corkscrew out of control and take her with them. It might start as a simple question, “Did you change your band-aid this morning?” Then, as fast as a machine gun, more questions, doubts, terror crowds out her world and all she knows is the spiral. Her best friend Daisy has stuck by her for most of their lives, no matter what. When the two girls decide to play detective and find the town’s missing millionaire who disappeared under suspicious circumstances, their road diverges into uncharted territory for Aza; boys, a particular boy named Davis Pickett who also happens to be the missing millionaire’s son. It’s a roller coaster ride for Aza as she figures out a way to navigate the budding relationship with Davis, maintain her friendship with Daisy, and also deal with her worsening OCD symptoms. It all comes to a head with a crash and Aza must learn to move forward even if it hurts.
I first discovered Mr. Anderson at a conference in Atlanta when I first started at The Lovett School. I was awed. He was articulate, funny, handsome, did I mention funny? Since then, I have read everything he’s written. I am still awed and he is still articulate, funny, handsome and really, freaking funny! I just finished his latest book, which is sci fi meets Pleasantville with a dash of Mean Girls thrown in for effect.
Adam is an aspiring artist with fantastic talent when the vuvv invaded. Was it really an invasion, though? The vuvv offered free advanced technology and the cure for every disease on Earth. As it turns out, yes, it was. There are very few jobs because vuvv tech has replaced human workers and completely decimated the Earth’s environment in the process. Those miraculous cures are impossibly expensive. Adam makes some creative sacrifices to help his family endure the impossible hardships but soon enough, he must decide how far he’s willing to go and what he’s willing to surrender for their survival.
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.
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 to do with her life. Unlike most girls, they don’t include marriage to the king! Rather, Cath wants to open a bakery with her best friends and fill all of Wonderland with fantastical confections. At the ball, the king was supposed to propose to her 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 that will bring pleasure, pain and, ultimately, grave danger to all of Wonderland. With her heart on the line, what path will Cath choose?
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!
I 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.
Maggie 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.
Maggie’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.
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 creature. You, 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 Beauty; I 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!!!