Monday, November 3, 2014

The Broken Hearted by Amelia Kahaney

HarperCollins, 2013

Anthem Fleet has it all.  She lives in a penthouse overlooking the city of Bedlam where her father is a premier real estate investor.  She is on the prestigious ballet corps as one of the prima ballerinas, and she goes to Cathedral Day School, a private school for the wealthy.  Her boyfriend, Will, is the best-looking guy in school and Zahra, her best friend, absolutely despises him.  And whereever she needs to go, Serge will take her there in her family's private car, a beautiful and expensive Seraph.  But one event will change her life and make her see the city she loves a completely different way.

Anthem has always colored between the lines but one night she and Zahra go to the Southside to party.  Never having been there before, Anthem is filled with anxiety until she meets Gavin.  He's beautiful,attentive protective.  Anthem loves the way he treats her as a normal person, like casually going by school to pick her up on his motorcycle to take her to secluded and beautiful spots on an otherwise ugly Southside.  They are in love...then Alicia Roach comes calling.

In an instant, Gavin is abducted and Anthem has a few days to come up with a ransom for his release or he dies. She's desperate and devastated and while crossing the Bridge of Sighs, she get thrown into the bubbly chemical-ridden river and dies...only to wake up in a makeshift hospital with stitches running down her chest...

With days lost and a chimeric mechanical heart keeping her alive, Anthem has to beat the clock to save Gavin from the Syndic8 before it's too late.  Or is it already?  The city has gotten derelict and dangerous since The Hope disappeared.  No one knows why he did, but they're ready for a hero comeback..someone to take the city to expose the darkness and bring it to light.  But who will it be and how is Anthem, a beautiful rich girl from the city, involved in all of it?

Kahaney writes a beautifully descriptive steampunk novel that will draw the reader in with imagery, the societies within Bedlam and the dark underbelly of crime.  With street names like Hemlock, Catechism and Oleander and places like Morass Bluffs, Fleet Tower and Hades, the reader will feel like a comic book went rogue and became a  novel based on the grandiose world, characters and plots Kahaney weaves. The citizens of Bedlam can read everything going on through the Daily Dilemma or feed their addiction with drugs like Dreamazine, rollies, and Zenithin.  It doesn't matter which side of the Bridge to Nowhere you live, most lives are the same - duplicitous, carefully covered over and never what they seem.

Best of all?  JUST picked up the sequel this past weekend!  Highly recommended for upper junior high and high school.




Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creating Beautiful Chalkboard Posters for FREE!

oh yeah....I'm all into this (right now. I'm sure I'll find something else later in the week to play with)

I LOVE posting pics of cool quotes on Twitter so I went to Google images to find one and I saw this AUDACIOUS chalkboard poster.

When I went to the site, of course they were for sale on Etsy, and I thought, "No way!  I'll learn how to do it on my own!"

So I cheated a little and found some hints and tricks from other sites and blogs and then just played around with it for awhile and waa-lah!  You too, can makes these fabulous posters from scratch to share, tweet, blog, or post on your website.  All you need are a couple of great quotes (there are billions online) and start creating!;

First, you have to find a chalkboard background.  If using a Creative Commons website, make sure you add the attribution at the bottom of the background.  Here's one from Alice Keeler on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicegop/13318243535/in/photolist-4U2LU1-6WB15Q-4nnLFX-6WwZF2-6WB16f-6WwZEv-64jkeP-iezaRh-7Nwmv-6SRSMe-9jQxWq-mhTtNx-mhVm7A-8H4sE5-8H4sNq

There are other ways to create chalkboards as well.  If you want a simple black background, create one in powerpoint and save it as a .jpg  My favorite is going to www.picmonkey.com   Go to design, then click on textures and there's are two chalkboard backgrounds you can use.  Canva canva.com has a background as well.

Second, it's time to start looking for some fonts you can use.  I really like dafont.com  There are several that would work including Sketchblock, Blackboard, or Chalk Hand Lettering.  You can also just choose which ones tickle your fancy.  Another MUST font to download would be Dingbats. These will be used for decorating your chalkboard.

Third, find the platform you want to use. I use Powerpoint, but if you know of something else, you can do that as well.  You can absolutely design it completely in PicMonkey (which I did with this one) and use your own fonts.  You can also use Canva, but the fonts are set on it.  Whatever you choose, you're going to have fun!

Fourth, Think outside the box.  The one I created above is pretty simple, but think about the different colors you could use for text, more elaborate shapes you could use as well as the massive amount of other sites out there.

And that's it.  Setting the entire thing up will be the longest part, but after that, the sky's the limit! Have fun and chalk to your heart's content.  Best part of it all?  You don't have to slap the erasers on a tree outside and get chalkdust up your nose, in your clothes, drying out your skin...ahhhhh school days!



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good Things Come in Threes: Three Tech Tools For the Classroom, part 2

At an academy I went to not quite so long ago, someone said something that resonated with me deep inside.  What was basically said was that in the past, it was easy to keep up with the newest and shiniest tech tools online.  Now, it simply can't be done.  There is too much out there In today's edutech world, we now work at reinventing the tools we know and spend more time doing that than finding the latest and greatest (with different shelf lives to boot).
I'll always be a tech hound, sniffing out some really useful tools and sharing them on this blog, but I also believe in small portions that's more palatable.  So, here are three cool tools you may like:



1. Snapguide:  www.snapguide.com
This is a website or an app and is a great way to create those "how to" guides with text, images, links and most of all...imagination!  Snapguide is great in the classroom or with educators to help make navigation easier.  If nothing else, check out this website - SO many possibilities!!! Simple sign-in and start procedure.  Here's an example of one:
https://snapguide.com/guides/turn-an-old-book-into-tablet-case/


2. Cacoo:  www.cacoo.com
This site allows users to create diagrams, flowcharts and mindmaps from scratch or via a template.  Yes, there are others like that out there, but Cacoo goes one step further by allowing users to create them in real-time and chat with them while working.  You can open them to the public or keep them private and even export them as a pdf or png There are premium versions, and the free one allows 1 shared folders with up to 15 users at the same time and a .png download.  SO many possibilities and works well with all types of curricula.


3. Showbie: www.showbie.com
This is both a site and an app and is pretty cool!  I test drove this as a student AND teacher.  Okay...what happens is a teacher creates an assignment/class and gives students the code.  Students log in and upload their work. The advantage is the simplicity of the interface, the different types of products students can submit, and being to check and grade on your iPad OR laptop.


And as a side note, www.canva.com is a GREAT poster/infographic/presentation creator, is now an app, making it the first infographic tool that I know of you can use to create with iPad.  THANK YOU!! :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Not So Horror(ible) YA Books




There are a lot of great horror, but I have a group of students who want to read the genre, but don't care to get scared.  And with that, the birth of this list began.  This is a collaborative list, and I am so thankful to the librarians who helped are out there. Some I've read, some I haven't, but with collective expertise, this could be a helpful list for humorous horror :)






DEVILS AND DEMONS:

Soul Enchilada by David Maccinis Gill

Prom Dates from Hell Rosemary Clement-Moore

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Croak by Gina Damico




 









MONSTERS:


Killer Pizza Greg Taylor


Cold Cereal trilogy by Adam Rex





ZOMBIES:

Warm Bodies Isaac Marion

 Eat Brains Love Jeff Hart

 Bad Taste in Boys Carrie Harris

The Infects Sean Beaudoin
Gil’s All Fright Diner by Martinez
















WITCHERY AND MAGIC

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer Lish McBride

Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand











VAMPIRES:

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side Beth Fantasky

 Thirsty by MT Anderson

Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Reform Vampire Support Group by Jinks
















GHOSTS:

School Spirit by Rachel Hawkins

Intertwined by Gena Showalter

The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs



















Other:

The Savages by Matt Whyman
















Tuesday, October 21, 2014

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

2013, Penguin Group




Judith…Worm…unwanted.  That wasn’t the case before.  She was a happy child with parents and a little brother.  She loved to sing and learn, listen and speak.  She had friends.  She had a crush on a boy named Lucas.  But this all disappeared the year she turned 16.  Now after two years gone, she has returned with her tongue cut out…silent to the past and what happened to her. 


Now she is part of the background.  Her father is gone, having died while she was gone.  Her mother doesn’t even speak her name, much less acknowledge her presence because Judith is the one who brought misery upon her household.  Her brother, now head of the household, is trying hard to be a man in a boy’s body.  As a pariah, she has no one who wants to be her friend, and worst of all, Lucas is to be married.  All of her thoughts about him during her two years of captivity are now turned to dust.  She can’t help but still love him, even if he doesn’t return it, but she’s used to that.  No one loves her…she is a silent and odd sentinel, alone with just her thoughts and the rumors that swirl around her.


But then trouble comes.  Homelanders are coming to exact vengeance and destroy the village.  While Lucas, Darrel and others leave to defend their town, Judith knows they won’t win.  What she knows is she must revisit her nightmare and convince him to help, whatever the cost.  If she disappears again, no one will notice nor care.  She’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves who don’t love her back.


But when the truth finally speaks for itself, the entire town is rocked to its very core.  Who is telling lies and who is keeping them?  Sometimes those that speak quietly are heard the loudest…


Julie Berry writes an OUTSTANDING historical fiction novel that drew me in with the first chapter read.  There are two things that make this book stand out…well, make that three.  First, is the fact that it’s written in first person only, which is a rarity with young adult novels.  The reader sees through the eyes of Judith and without omniscience of the good, bad and ugly.  The second is the fact that while not telling the reader the setting, I was drawn to the parallels between modern society and historical society where not much about human nature has changed.  The setting came out slowly and put an emphasis on who and what people do, which is the crux of the book.  And lastly, the emotional pull between reader and Judith is powerful.  She is a character you hurt for, love when no one else does, and hope for.  No wonder it’s on the YALSA Top Teen 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults 2014.  HIGHLY recommended JH/HS

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Great places to keep up with YA and Children's Books!

So, what are the newest books out there?  How can I find book-alikes?  What about series books? As Mighty Mouse said, "Here I come to save the day!"Here are a few sites I'd like to share with you that were previously shared with me. I absolutely LOVE networking!! Another great network is #yalove, which is all about YA books from all publishers, genres, and librarian read-aholics from around the nation! http://www.yalovechat.wikispaces.com

NEW BOOKS


YA LIT:  http://yalit.com
With a simple interface, this is my go-to to find the newest releases for YA books.  This is an independent site created and updated by a librarian, Keri Adams and web developer Stefan Hayden.
The site opens to upcoming books being released as well as the release dates, but has a list of published books by month, from newest to oldest.

YALSA BOOKLISTS: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklistsawards/booklistsbook
From the definitive machine on children's and young adult literature, go to this site not only to find out the most current lists, but also to look at the nominations lists to consider future titles you may want to purchase.  I always try to pick at least 10 winners on the nominations list from a personal POV :)

STATE BOOK LISTS: http://www.txla.org/groups/yart  and  http://www.txla.org/groups/CRT-awards
Call me biased, but I absolutely love the Texas Library Association's booklists for young adults.  Not only is the annotated current list available, but also the current nominations.  The different lists include Lonestar: middle/junior high schools; Maverick: graphic novels for YA; TAYSHAS: high school readers; and the Spirit of Texas book awards, celebrating the best authors from the state.  Texas also has booklists for children: the 2x2 for children aged two years old to second grade; and the Bluebonnet list: elementary school booklist.

A BOOK AND A HUG: http://www.abookandahug.com/index.php
I wasn't really sure where to put this site because it does SO MUCH!!  Created and updated by Barb Langridge, the site contains book reviews, What's New, searches by category, searching by reading levels and more - all for children's and young adult books.

WHAT TO READ NEXT


BOOK SEER: http://www.bookseer.com
This is a very simple fill in the blank question: I just finished ______________ by __________.What should I read next?  That's it...once you type in your book, it gives recommendations based on amazon recommendations.  Some of the recommendations may be skewed (Michael Northrop's newest book, Surrounded by Sharks and Diary of a Wimpy Kid??  Really?)  but it's fun nonetheless and does come up with some solid recommendations.

WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT: http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com
Similar to Book Seer, you type in the title of a book or name of an author and the site gives you similar recommendations.  What is different about this one is that every book listed also has subjects as well, which could make searching the recommended list easier.  The info button takes you to....you got it... Amazon.  You can also join and create lists that you can add or delete from and also have the option to share your lists....hmmmmm....I like that!!

YOUR NEXT READ: http://www.yournextread.com
Ohhhhh....this is my dream site!  The front page takes you to featured booklists, but also has tabs, including children's books, a leaderboard of top readers, and a "My Map" tab that will simply blow your mind as they create an awesome map of recommendations and how they all tie in.  This site is affiliated with goodreads.com.  You can create your own sign in and get even more personalized (although this took awhile to get a confirmation email so be patient)




SERIES FINDERS


MID CONTINENT PUBLIC LIBRARY SERIES FINDER: http://www.mymcpl.org/books-movies-music/juvenile-series
Updated by real librarians, these is a VERY large collection of series titles and which books are in that particular series.  You can view four different ways: series title, subject, book title, and author.  I did a quick search of one of the newer series out there (Darren Shan's Zom-b series) and didn't find it on their database, but that doesn't mean I'm going to rule out this audacious series finder, which are few and far to come by!

MANGA PANDA: http://www.mangapanda.com/alphabetical
I admit defeat...there is NO way I could possibly keep up with this genre and I freely admit it.  So with that said, a student told me about this website and I'm so thankful!!  I'll never have to worry I have the latest or which ones are out - this list makes it EASY PEASY!


OLD SCHOOL IT

There are also others out there and you can go old-school by asking a friend or librarian.  In fact, that may be the best way yet because not only do you get great recommendations, but you also create relationships in a face-to-face environment, which we need more of.
All of these sites will satisfy any reader's thirst for more of the newest, brightest, best so stay thirsty, my friends :)





Thursday, October 2, 2014

I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand

Sourcebooks, 2014. 
When you stumble on a great comedy novel for teens, it should be one you have in the library because really, there isn't that much out there.  And this is a GEM!

Henry is admittedly a geek, but he's a superstar geek.  His story is on the big screen, he has a beautiful girl by his side and he survived Strongwoods Survival Camp.  This is how it happened....

Henry's dad, after seeing a video on Youtube featuring Max (think screaming sergeant from any war movie you've ever seen) telling him he could make a man out of your son, tries to convince his son it would be a GREAT experience.  Henry's not so much into it, until his nerdy friend Randy says he WANTS to go...it'll be great!  So after spending the next 48 hours in gaming mode (to keep his reserves up) off they go.

Strongwoods Survival Camp looks as mean as Max does.  Five boys meet for the first time and are
1. stripped away of all electronic devices
2. given barely edible and non-recognizable food to eat
3. given an outhouse, which may or may not contain a creature in the hole

It's going to be the longest two weeks of Henry's life.  But even among those loooong days, some good things happen.  He meets a girl in the woods.  He actually shoots his arrow and makes a target, and he survives sleeping outside for the first time in his 16 years. 

But then Mr. Grand shows up, and he wants to balance his fiscal statement from a sketchy deal made with the co-owner of Strongwoods Survival.  Henry's game (as well as Randy's, Erik's, Jackie's and Stu's) just got real.  Henry can no longer think like Katniss Everdeen, but needs to start thinking like a true hero - perhaps like Splat-Tastic, his favorite video game hero?

I'll admit, when reading this book, kids would give me the weirdest stares but I could NOT help but laugh all the way through this book!  Strand captures the character of Henry so well, all the way from his video gaming fingers to his attempts at nerd bravery.  And then you get to the Wilderness survival tips at the end of each chapter.  Example: "In case of an avalanche, don't despair.  You're doomed, but c'mon, how many people get to say they died in an avalanche?!?  That's wicked cool."  One of many tips you'll chuckle about along with the fishing expedition, catching wild game for food, and building shelters with whatever you can find in a forest.  This book should be given to any reader, but has special appeal for guy readers and best of all?  PERFECT for junior high to high school! 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Online Jeopardy Tool + YA Books and Authors Game

I love Kahoot! ( www.getkahoot.com ) because it's interactive, kids love to play it, it's quick to make and easy to reuse.  But as with all things, I like having a variety and some options, so I started looking online for a jeopardy game.  The first one I went to I couldn't get into, and then I stumbled on this website:
http://www.jeopardylabs.com

So easy to use!!  So I went to play with it, and created a jeopardy game based on YA authors and novels.  Here's the link:
jeopardylabs.com/play/ya-books-and-authors

Please use it with small groups, during lunches, with book clubs...however you'd like.  And if you create one, please share it as well!!

One other thing - You can create an account, but it'll cost 20.00 for a LIFETIME membership, which isn't much.  It will allow you to save your games & other bells and whistles.  If not, you need to remember the URL of the games you created and the URL for the edits, which can be tedious.

So, have fun and quiz on!! 



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good Things Come in Threes: three great tech tools!

There are tons and tons and TONS of websites out there so look at and use, but it can become very overwhelming. I have gone there and it seems like the first day of school is those times my mind and list grow and become frenetic. So, after I've sifted through everything, here are three of my favorite sites this year:

 1. Photosnyth: https://photosynth.net/ Using your phone and the Photosynth app, take multiple pictures to create a 360 image. After saving it, go to the website to edit, publish and save. Think of the many things you can use with this app, including a tour of the facilities, posting where you are (famous places are great!), as a virtual field trip for those who couldn't go or to take a class with you.

2. Easel.ly: http://www.easel.ly/ I've always loved Piktochart, but sometimes it can get a little cumbersome.  I also love Smore, but it can be too elementary.  Easely is the perfect balance of the two!  It's definitely more of an infographic than a poster, but has the ease of use without all the bells and whistles you may need to know with Piktochart.  Easy to teach, it creates great infographics students and educators can share!

3.Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/ Want to learn a new language without having to spend a lot of money on a program? Why not try this site? You choose the amount of time you'd like to spend with Duolingo and the further you go, the more difficult it becomes. Contains 8 different languages. There's an app for that too


Okay, I'm stopping with the ones I've used (for now) and love!  Try one or all of them out - I recommend them for K-12. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes—From Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy and Hallie Fryd

Zest Books, 2014

I'm going to admit something I've done since I was a teenager and still do today.  It helped not only take the monotony out of the monotone voice of my history teacher in high school, but also made non-fiction seem way more interesting....so here's what I do:
I scope out pictures in history books and look at who's hot and who's not.
And THAT is the reason I picked up this book.  It hooked me from the cover and entranced me between the pages.  Kelly Murphy did an excellent job of choosing some of the hottest historical figures in the world, with some of them that matched my personal hottie list! 

The book is chronological and begins with Cleopatra and ends with Benazir Bhutto.  Each historical figure is a short chapter which is divided into:
Life Story
The Story of His/Her Sex Life (and no...it doesn't get into details, more about marriages, trysts, and orientation)
Why He/She Matters
Best Feature
Heat Factor

The book also has these features:
a full page picture of the person
a short but interesting history
small pictures that collate with the subject
a box with an interesting side fact about the era, person, inventions etc
ends with quotes about the person or from the person him/herself.

I'll admit, I didn't know who each person was (12 out of 50..is that bad?) but this book propelled my knowledge forward, making the ones I didn't know interesting and those I did even more interesting. 

Overall, this is one of the more fascinating non-fiction books I've read this year.  It was "chunked" up enough to satisfy not only the voracious reader, but the reluctant one as well and the pictures really pull a reader in.  I had to go back and really look at the person to judge him/her after I read the chapter to either agree or disagree with the heat factor.  I also liked the fact Murphy didn't shy away from the bad boys and girls too....we all know there is that deadly attraction to them.  We all love the good guys, and we love to hate the bad guys.  This has both without detracting from historical fact.

If there were any flaws for me as a reader, it would be two things.  The first is the section entitled "The Story of His/Her Sex Life."  From a book reviewer standpoint, I felt like another word or phrase could have been used that would have been just as good without using the word "sex."  Although the paragraph does NOT convey illicit sexual scenes, I'm worried this may be a decision maker for some librarians. 

The second is more personal, and Murphy and Fryd did an EXCELLENT job of choosing the subject.  It's just that I know some hotties I thought were missing...anyone know who the sexy Manfred von Richthofen is?  He was my first historical crush :) 

Great book I would recommend in JH/HS library collections.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Viking Childrens, 2014


There is no stronger bond than....what?  Daisy isn't sure about her life anymore.  She remembers her family and the memories they shared, the little brother that came into her life, the music, her parents' laughter.  Although those same memories exist today, it's a completely different dynamic, especially when the entire family's loyalties are put to the ultimate test.

Daisy has friends, and she has a boyfriend.  She's musically gifted (more like a prodigy) and has been asked to attend prestigious schools and academies.  Her grades are good and her parents allow her to go out, but it's all dictated by her little brother Steven, who is autistic.  While their mother takes care of him most of the time, she also needs time away.  Their father works long hours and comes home worn out, taking on the night time rituals, including the wrestling match that is more common than showers now. They all walk on eggshells, afraid to make any sudden moves, noises, or modifying a different routine that will spiral Steven into an outburst.  No longer a child, Steven has gotten stronger and while his autism was more controlled when he was little, it has now become dangerous.  When Daisy comes home one day, she sees what Steven's unintentional outbursts did to her mother. It wasn't an easy decision and one that wracked her parents longer than Daisy knew, but it's now come to a point where her mother doesn't feel strong enough to help Steven.  Something had to give, and Steven will be leaving soon. 

A part of Daisy wants to be happy.  She can have her freedom back.  This could mean sleepovers at her house, going out on dates without such stringent time limits, going to music camps, playing her trumpet in the house instead of the basement.  But Daisy is also struggling with the change.  How could her parents want to do this to their only son?  How could she have helped more to prevent this?  What could her parents do more of so Steven can stay home?  It's an emotional battle that only Daisy can fight, and it will be the most difficult one she's ever had to.  Can the family survive this huge change in their lives when Steven has been in their lives creating the familiar habits they are now accustomed to, or will they fall apart over this controversial decision that will make each one of them re-evaluate what their roles in life and family are?

Stasia Ward Kehoe writes a beautiful novel in verse about a topic that seems to only capture lurid headlines without looking at the entire situation a family goes through.  Daisy is the character in limbo throughout the story by trying to have as normal a teen life as possible while also holding the reins of responsibility of taking care of a teenage boy whose autism is creating an unsafe situation he isn't even aware of.  Kehoe writes about this emotional stage of life from all perspectives while being able to fluidly create a centrifugal force that isn't Steven, but is Daisy's life, before, during and after. This is a novel unlike any other and one that should be on YA shelves.  Recommended.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Virtual Tour of Northwest High School Library

Come see what Northwest High School Library offers!  I created this video using a mash-up of the Lapse It! and Photosynth apps, Screencast-o-matic, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11 (you can use video creator to create it).  I put in a dash of Digital Juice music and my own voice and voila! A tour every teacher and student has access to!

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Word for the Year: AUDACIOUS!

Either you're already back at school or about to do what you love most.  Professionalism is like relationships - it can be a love/hate (or strong dislike) one.  But also along the same lines, it's something you have to work on constantly in order to make sure you and professionalism stay zen with each other.

Remember the day you decided to be a teacher/librarian/administrator/educator?  Why was that? I hope it wasn't because of the holidays and summers (although that is a most fantastic side benefit!).  I'm willing to guess it was because you either excelled at a certain subject and wanted to share it or you just had that passion to be in the classroom to emulate a role model.  Perhaps it was because you wanted to change the world.  Hopefully, it was something awesome and audacious that made you want to not only pass on knowledge but to learn as well.

Oh, but let's not forget the bumps along the roads that can slow you down. Sometimes we land somewhere at the wrong time and it left a bad taste in your mouth.  It could have been the responsibility may have been too heavy.  More often than not, it's the change that's the biggest bump.  Changes come gradually or be all up in your face, but change itself is a fact of life.  We go through it everyday, so really it shouldn't be a surprise.

What's the most worrisome is slowly but surely, the lack of enthusiasm or even passion begins to wane.  People become entrenched, set in their ways and don't want to conform because they'd rather stand in than stand out.  It could also be the same old same old day in and out that slowly chips away at the passion.  If neither of these fit, it may just be the passage of time.  Whatever it could be, the energy runs low.

I know... I keep saying "you" but really, this is also the story of me too.  I've come against the monsters, bumps, and deficits.  I've been somewhere at the wrong time and have hit the wall full-on to change.  But what I DIDN'T do was refuse to give up.  I am not only the sum of my personal life, but my professional one as well and I wanted to be audacious.  But more than that all is the curiosity I had making me wonder the two biggest words that changed my professional life..."What if"...

Everyday I still face the giants of responsibility, change, and my profession.  But it's also those same days that I continue to work on my audaciousness, my what-if worlds of possibilities, and my wonder to see what's around the corner.  And all of this comes from learning from those I am in awe of, teaching something new that has so much potential, and making my environment (the library!  YES!!!!) as fresh and alive as possible.

I don't think anyone really wants to live in a dark, windowless room.  We didn't start out that way.  So if there is such a thing in your life that is affecting your professionalism, the best place to start is the very first day you fell in love with your job.  Slowly, those dirty panes will slough away, but guess what?  You're the only one that can make that happen.

Let's make it an audacious year, day by day!!  Happy 2014-2015 school year!!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

High school...it can a time filled with memory or horror.  These two books really hit home about teens navigating through the shark infested waters of high school trying to find a lifeboat to help them.  Alice and Leonard are clinging to hope, but don't think these two characters aren't tough as nails either.  They are fighters but in their own ways.  These novels have a dark slice of life outlook but  couple it with variations of redemption, and the novels become powerful...

It's Leonard's birthday, and no one knows it. So today, he has some presents he's giving away to everyone who's made an impact on his life. One is to Linda, his mother, who is never home and takes care of her life more than her son's. Another is for Walt, an elderly neighbor in love with cigarettes and Humphrey Bogart and quite possibly is Leonard's best friend.
He also has a present for the most brilliant violinist Leonard's ever heard, an Iranian student named Baback, who allows Leonard in when he practices. He plans on giving one to Lauren, the girl who stole his heart while handing out religious tracts near the subway.
Herr Silverman, Leonard's favorite teacher who stymies him with the reason why he dresses the way he does and is the one encourager in his life, will also get a present But it's Asher Beal, Leonard's once best friend, who will get the biggest and baddest present...he deserves it for how he treats Leonard every day at school. It's what's in those presents, both bad and good, reflecting why Leonard is making this his last day on earth.
Matthew Quick writes a powerful novel of the conflicting mind of
teenager with brilliance, bringing into light his main character's life through various literary devices, including verse, letters from a dystopian future, and footnotes giving insight into  Leonard's psyche which runs deeper than anyone could possibly imagine.  This is a MUST read!  Highly recommended for high school.  Hatchette, 2013 (on YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults; TAYSHAS list, 2014)


"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  This can be farther than the truth for Alice, especially after a party she attends.  Elaine begins the story, telling everyone who will listen to her what she KNOWS Alice did in a bedroom that night.  And once the news gets out, it goes viral, sending Alice from someone everyone knew and liked to the pariah of high school.  Kelsie also tells her story about her move from Michigan and how she became best friends with Alice but is now conflicted between defending Alice's reputation or being part of the machine.  Josh is dealing with how he became a part of this ugly situation the night his best friend Brandon died.  He knows the truth, and it's eating him up from the inside out.  Then there's Kurt, who is highly intelligent but lacks social graces.  He sees Alice crying on the bleachers and slowly and tentatively reaches out to her, but with all that has happened, is he being true or wanting what others have talked about her doing? 
Jennifer Mathieu does two things in the novel creating a powerful story.  Not only does she weave four voices to paint a picture with different perspectives, but she also subtly inserts Alice into the entire story, showing her strengths and weaknesses and how this entire thing affects her life.  You can't get any closer to a real life scenario about high school and how ugly it can be than you can with this book which shows how words can make or break a teen.  Highly recommended for high school Roaring Brook Press, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Clockwork Scarab and Half Bad: Book Reviews

Victorian England is experiencing some strange coincidences.  Two young women from society have disappeared and one has turned up dead in the museum. In turn, two other young women from famous lineage are asked to help solve this murder and the disappearance of the other in the name of the crown, and this is how Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker meet each other.  Mina is methodical and perspicacious like her uncle Sherlock.  She also loves the new gadgetry being invented, such as a steam gun and other mechanical devices.  Evaline, on the other hand jumps right into the situation.  She possesses athletic abilities beyond mere humanity and recognizes her abilities to discern the whereabouts of the undead are a part of her, which her broth Bram writes about.  In another coincidence of pairs, two young men hiding their true identity are slowly becoming a part of the mystery as well.  Who is the killer?  Egyptology and secret societies are only part of the screen veiling the truth.
Colleen Gleason writes an intriguing novel that is the perfect blend of historical fiction and steampunk that will hook readers into this series.  You can't help but love the main characters and how their entire personality works so well with their famous families.  YA steampunk is hard to find, and this is definitely one to purchase! 2013 Chronicle Books


In the world of White and Black Witches, Nathan doesn't quite fit into either.  His mother, a white witch, was known for her kindness and her amazing healing powers.  His father, a black witch, was known to cut out of the hearts of white witches and steal their powers.  Nathan tries his hardest to be what others want him to, but can't seem to get a break.  With orders coming down from the Council, his life is closely monitored.  His grandmother loves him beyond doubt and tries to shield him, while his birth sister blames him for the death of their mother and wants to kill him.  It doesn't get easier either. Picked on at school for his small stature and inability to read and write, Nathan's life becomes painful socially and physically. The older Nathan becomes, the more curious his life becomes.  He now cannot stand to be indoors or he becomes deathly ill, a trait of a black witch.  Now, locked up in a cage, he must find a way to have a family member bestow his two gifts onto him, or his life will end. His only hope is to find Mercury, another black witch, who could harm him or help him, but is her help only another painful disguise?
Green creates a dark and ugly side of magic that weaves itself together with the dark and ugly side of bullying, prejudice, and conformity to society.  Although I found it slow to start, the story line picked up and quickly wound itself around me to keep me turning the pages to find out what would ultimately happen to Nathan. Viking, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Bevy of YA Books!

Along with other things this summer, I have been reading and what I want even more is to write a full review for each one, but I read more than I can chew.  So, this time, I'm giving my "booktalk" version, two books at a time...quick, simple and hopefully addictive.  So here goes:


 Elizabeth lives on the East Coast and can't wait to get away from her annoying mother and loser boyfriend (who just broke up with her).  As an only child, she's ready for an adventure!
Lauren lives on the West Coast and can't wait to get away either.  She wants to escape the stress and noise of a houseful of brothers and sisters and find peace and calm.  She's never had a boyfriend, but little does she know romance is blossoming.
Elizabeth and Lauren will be roomies and their email exchange begins.  But as people say, you can't read emotions in text, you can only assume, which is what happens to these two girls.  Miles apart and out of context, they aren't sure if they're the perfect roomies or frenemies.  Their lives are so different, and while each girl peels away the layers, they sometimes find something they don't exactly agree on.
And when they finally arrive on campus...
What a great story about two teens' lives after high school!  They're in that transition period between high school graduation and college move-in day, and Sara Zarr captures those emotions perfectly!  The two voices blend together but are distinctly different not only in life, but in emails, which makes this novel not only endearing, but hitting that unknown so many teens are facing this summer.  Little Brown, 2013


Amy Gumm doesn't have many friends.  Living in the state of Kansas in a trailer park, she navigates through high school as best as she can, which includes taking care of herself when her mother's on a bender.  But that's all about to change...
A tornado blows into town and Amy's trailer is lifted out of Kansas and plunked down in the middle of Oz.  And when Amy opens the door, she doesn't even recognize the place.  Everything looks faded and dead.  The only thing vibrant is the yellow brick road, but it's not a road anyone travels on much anymore...it's too dangerous.
Finally when finding friends, she discovers the true reason Oz is so faded and lifeless.  Dorothy's stealing as much magic as she can to feed her addiction to it.  Every life is in jeopardy, but how does Amy stop it?
With the help of the witches from almost all points on the compass, Amy goes into full-on magical battle training so she can face not only Dorothy, but the bloodthirsty lion and the mechanized and mutilated Tin Woodsmen (you'll have to read it to find out about the scarecrow.
Urban fantasy meets classic fantasy with a twist that is both imaginative and unique. Danielle Paige takes the reader further into Oz and the horror that's happened from the flying monkeys to the munchkins.  HarperCollins, 2014