Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

For all you Austen-lovers out there here's a fun, quick read that is guaranteed to leave you with a smile.  In Austenland, Hale introduces readers to thirty-something Jane who cannot find her very own Mr. Darcy.  Jane knows that Darcy is not a real man, but Jane cannot help waiting for her dream man.  Then she inherits a dream vacation from an elderly great-aunt which sends her to England and straight into the ultimate Austen fantasy.  Can fantasy become reality?  Read to find out!

Fast-paced and witty, Hale has given readers a strong, intelligent heroine who refuses to settle for less than true love.

For readers of:
Jane Austen, Mary Robinette Kowal, Shanna Swendson, P.D. James

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Redemption of Ajax

I picked up The Mephisto Covenant: Redemption of Ajax by Trinity Faegen excited about the premise and looking forward to a new "favorite read".  Unfortunately, I had severe theological issues with Faegen's mythos that I couldn't get past enough to truly enjoy the novel.
All the elements are in place for a dark paranormal romance: tormented boy, nice girl, dark curse.  But for some reason it just did not work for me.  Jax is an interesting character if a bit hard to relate to since he lacks have any compassion, while Sasha seems very accepting of a complete change of her world.  But what really got to me what issues with the theology behind the premise.  According to the Mephisto Covenant, Eve had a daughter before she ate the apple {Issue 1} meaning that the daughter was "pure" of spirit a.k.a. without sin.  At some point this daughter leaves the Garden of Eden; the why she would leave when she was without sin is never answered; and ended up falling in love with and having sons by Mephistopheles, the angel who carries condemned souls to Hell.  These sons are apparently "of Hell" so God doesn't know about them {Issue 2} and doesn't hear their prayers.  In order for these sons to be redeemed they must find the female descendants of Eve's first daughter, the Anabo, who are also pure souls {Issue 3} and convince the girl to love them and become immortal.  The Anabo become immortal and redeem Mephistopheles's sons by giving up half of their "sinlessness" and taking on part of the darkness of the "sons of Hell" {Issue 4}.  The Anabo then becomes Mephisto (which is what M's sons are called) but somehow still Anabo and helps the Mephisto track down the followers of Eryx. (Eryx is looking to collect enough souls to overthrow Lucifer and plunge the world into chaos - even more so than it is now.
Basically, I REALLY wanted to like this book, but was unable to suspend my disbelief enough to become engrossed in the story.  However, Faegen is a good writer and I would give another of her books a read (although perhaps not one of the Mephisto Covenant series).
Writing: 4 Stars
Plot Details: 2 Stars

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Teen Events: Writing Contest

This May marks the fourth anniversary of my library's annual Teen Summer Writing Contest.  When we first started the competition we had no idea how popular it would become but were pleasantly surprised by the response this program garnered.
Last summer we received over 100 individual entries from teens around the country.  We have even received an entry from England!  Since our writing contest has been so popular I thought I'd share a quick "how to" for any library looking to host a Writing Contest.


  1. Judges
    • Have 3-5 judges who are qualified to evaluate entries. You want an odd number to break any ties.  
    • The academic background of our three judges contains two BAs in English, two MILSs and an MA in Creative Writing.
  2. Ages/Grades
    • Determine what ages/grades you will judge and how they will be divided.
    • Our contest accepts entries from students grades 6-12/ages 11-18 separated into two age groups "Middle School" and "High School".  "Middle School" is grades 6-8, ages 11-15, while "High School" is grades 9-12, ages 15-18.  If a student could qualify for both categories we allow them to choose which age group they which to enter.
  3. Type of Entry
    • Determine which types of entries you will accept.  Poetry? Short Story? Both?
    • We accept both poetry and short story.  For both poetry and short story entries you will want to set a world limit.  You will also need to determine before beginning the contest if short stories can be excerpts of larger pieces or fan fiction.  My library's competition does not accept either.
  4. Dates
    • You want to give students two to three months to work on their submissions so make sure to advertise early.
    • We start accepting submissions in May but choose a submission deadline of late July.
  5. Legal Stuff
    • In the entry form make sure to cover who has ownership of the material after it is submitted to the contest.  Also make sure to include a statement that must be initialed or signed certifying originality of the submitted work.
    • My library takes ownership of submissions so that we have the right to publish winners in bound manuscript.
  6. Announcing Winners
    • Give yourself enough time to read all the entries!  We learned the hard way that it is VERY difficult to read 100+ submissions in just two weeks.
    • Be prepared to make honorable mentions in categories with exceptional submissions.
    • Hold a ceremony to announce winners.
That's basically it.  Just make sure all of the information a teen needs is in the Entry Form.  Click here for a link to my library's Teen Summer Writing Contest entry form from Summer 2011.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Teen Event: Creepy Cute Softies

Pig from spider web patterned sock.
 I LOVE to get creative with my teens.  Watching them tap into their creative juices and work out the "how" of making something is one of the most rewarding points in working with teens.  One program that is always a big hit is a program that I call "Creepy Cute Softies" and is a wonderful creative outlet as well as a way to learn basic sewing skills.

Sock Ness Monster
Clean mismatched socks or felt squares [You can have a donation drive or look for sales in the dollar section of stores like Target.]
Cotton thread
Embroidery floss
Buttons/Sequins/Beads etc
Safety Pins
Pencils and Pens
Polyfill stuffing

What then?
Set out the supplies on a main table and let the teens choose which socks and supplies they want to use.  Use needle and cotton thread to stitch the basic creature together leaving a hole to stuff creature through.  Fill creature with polyfill.  NOTE: If using socks do not over fill the sock with stuffing as it becomes difficult to sew and not as attractive when finished.  Next use the embroidery floss to add findings such as buttons, beads or machine parts or to stitch on eyes and nose.  You should also have a decent supply of safety pins in stock so that teens who won't or can't sew can still do this craft.  Let your teens make whatever kind of creature they desire - you'll be amazed what they can come up with.

For inspiration put out a few books like Daniel's Stray Sock Sewing, Zombie Felties or Steampunk Softies by Nicola Tedman & Sarah Skeate.  You can also show the movie Coraline in the background to really get to the heart of how creepy dolls can be.

Cyberseams has some great basic instruction for hand stitching.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

T. Minus 50 Days!

Can you believe that TEENBOOKCON is so close?!


TeenBookCon is THE book convention for teens in the greater Houston area.  It is FREE to attend and you'll have the chance to attend panels with some of the hottest writers in the YA field.  Door prizes, book signings and other fun will be happening throughout the day, so plan to stay for a while.

Here's a TEASER of the book covers for just a few of the 20+ YA Authors at TEENBOOKCON!
Got to for full details.
You won't want to miss this!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

And you thought your teens were bad... Oresama Teacher Vol. 1-3

The Oresama Teacher manga series by Izumi Tsubaki is a highly entertaining manga that has both girl and guy appeal (no easy feat in the manga world).  Oresama follows Kurosaki Mafuyu, former teen delinquent, whose mother has sent her to a new high school where she is determined to reform herself into the picture of femininity and virtue.  But with a new friends like Hayasaka-kun and a homeroom teacher like Saeki Takaomi, Mafuyu's life is bound to be anything but ladylike.

Filled with unrequited love, fighting and a strange fascination for a person who is not what he seems, Oresama is a light read perfect for someone looking to escape everyday dull-dom for an hour.  The series is currently ongoing, so who knows how the threads will come together or who will end up together?
Recommended for readers of:
Hana Kimi, Zombie Loan, Nightschool, Otomen

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ultimate Teen Comic Swap

Trying to plan fun Teen Programs?  Short of staff and money?
Give this one a try:

Comics rock!
This is an easy program that's low on the prep. time and high on teen enjoyment.  All you need is a couple tables, plenty of promotion and an hour of time. 

Option 1:
Let your teens know which specific day and time the swap will occur and have them bring in comic in during library hours the week prior to the event.  For each gently used comic they bring in give the teen a "comic buck" or ticket that they will use to "purchase" comics during the swap.  On the day of the program set up the comics spread over the tables and then open to teens.  They can use their "comic bucks" to "purchase" gently used comics.

Option 2:
Advertise the event well in advance so the teens know to bring their comics to trade.  Open the trading site (couple tables in a room) and let the teens trade comics between themselves.  You probably want to stay in the room to mediate some of the trades, but this version is much less staff intensive. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Step Aside Winchester Brothers, There's a New Guy in Town

For some reason I've been on a horror kick recently and have read some truly disturbing YA novels.  The most chilling read I've had lately is:
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood has unusual skill.  Like his father before him, he kills the dead.

Since his father's death at the hands of a powerful spirit, Cas has taken up the family knife and carried on the tradition of ridding the world of malevolent ghosts.  Everything changes when Cas receives information about an unusual ghost, Anna Dressed in Blood, who has more kills to her name than any spirit Cas has come across.  Suddenly the past comes back to haunt Cas and he must rely on new friends if he plans to survive the fight with Anna.

Kendare Blake has created a world in which things that go bump in the night are very real and likely to kill you.  Cas is an interesting and wonderfully flawed hero, while Anna's character opens the story to new directions that the reader doesn't expect.  Secondary characters are just as important and well-developed and help bring Blake's world to life.  Anna Dressed in Blood perfectly balances horror, action and emotion to leave the reader anxiously waiting for the next volume.

Recommended for readers of:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gail Carriger: Steampunk for Teens and Adults

Dirigibles, Werewolves, Vampires, Secret Societies,
Mad Scientists, Adventure, True Love and More!

In Soulless, Gail Carriger introduced the world to Alexia Tarabotti a heroine who enthralls readers as well as the occasional werewolf with her wit and mystery solving abilities.  Victorian London is re-imagined to include vampires and werewolves in the highest echelons of government acting as advisers in the Queen's Shadow Council.  Humans vie to become immortal, but only those with enough soul are able to make the transition.  Very rarely a human is born with no soul, like Alexia, with the power to temporarily revert immortals to a mortal state.  But when Alexis becomes involved in the search for missing werewolves she comes to the attention of some rather unsavory characters and her life course is forever altered.  Wit, action and humor rule the novels of the Parasol Protectorate.
Recommended if you enjoy:
Releases February 28, 2012

Gail Carriger will be in
March 2, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Feeling fangless and a bit less-than-alive?

Vampires are so over.  So are the werewolves.*  But zombies and other fangless undead?  They seem to be sticking around and taking on fun new dimensions.  Here are some YA reads in the "Fangless Undead" genre you should totally check out:

Forest of Hands and Teeth Series by Carrie Ryan
Mary lives in a very restricted world.  The Village exists behind the safety of fences, chain link walls that keep out the Unconsecrated, reanimated dead who crave human flesh.  The Sisterhood rules with an iron first in order to keep the human race alive.  What happens when the walls come down?

This novel has been optioned for film. Congrats to Carrie Ryan!
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
In a post-Apocalypse future America zombies roam free and everyone must have a job by the time they turn fifteen.  Benny doesn't want to apprentice with his zom-hunting brother, but no one is asking what Benny wants.  Instead of a tedious job killing zombies for money Benny gets more than he could have imagined.

Dearly Departed by Lia Habel
This amazing first novel by Lia Habel takes all the steampunk and zombie stereotypes and turns them on their head.  Nora is a young New Victoria miss whose interests should be sewing and marriage, but who secretly loves to watch war documentaries.  Her ordered existence comes crashing down when she is attacked by a horde of seemingly animated dead only to be rescued by a military team of equally undead soldiers.  Nora’s attempted kidnapping reveals a military cover-up, biological secret and hidden agenda that threatens the very existence of the living.  Packed with action, thrills, chills and the right splash of romance ‘Dearly, Departed’ is one of the best YA novels I’ve read – can’t wait for the next volume.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
Sam LaCroix has always felt as though something was missing.  He doesn’t know what the something is, or why he knows it is gone, but this feeling has influenced his decisions.  After dropping out of college, Sam is drifting, working as a fry cook at a Seattle fast food restaurant and trying to figure out what he is supposed to do with his life.  Sam may be drifting but the forces around him are moving with purpose and lead to an encounter with the mysterious and sinister Mr. Douglas Montgomery.  Suddenly Sam is fighting for his life and the lives of his friends in a world populated by things that go bump in the night.  Lish McBride has penned a novel that perfectly balances elements of horror and humor that will enchant readers and leave them burning for more.

Which YA zombie book would YOU make into a movie?
*Just because the fad is over doesn't mean I'm stopping my fanged fantasy consumption!  I'm still reading them. : o )= <----- see?!  fangs!

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Am Not A Serial Killer (but I could be)

"I'm a good person...because I know what good people are supposed to act like, and I copy them.."

John Wayne Cleaver knows that he is different from his fellow teens - he enjoys assisting his mother and aunt with the family mortuary and is fascinated by the dead.  And thoughts of killing.  Despite his inclinations John doesn't want to be a bad person, so he lives by a set of rules he's developed to keep him from doing something wrong.

Don't focus on one person when people watching.
Don't mess with animals.
If you ever feel like hurting someone pay them a compliment instead.

Wells has crafted a young adult novel that stands apart from its literary peers.  The novel is told from John's perspective which puts the reader straight into the head of a budding sociopath, "It stinks pretty bad," I said. "She." "She stinks pretty bad," I said. Mom and Margaret were adamant that we be respectful to the deceased, but it seemed a little late at this stage. It wasn’t a person anymore, it was just a body. A thing...".  The reader should have trouble relating to a main character who is sometimes as disturbing as the villain of the story, but Wells manages to balance the creepiness with a fierce determination to be good.  Sometimes creepy, but always intriguing, this novel ponders the question: what makes a monster?

Recommended if you enjoy:
Kristin Cashore, Jonathan Maberry, Lish McBride, TV Show: Dexter

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Breathless Reads Tour 2.0

February has become a MONTH of FABULOUS SIGNINGS!

starts at 7:00pm

Featuring FOUR amazing YA Authors!


Cremer has reinvigorated the werewolf myth with strong characters and in intricately built world.  The LA Times calls Nightshade “A fantastical mash-up of religious warriors and witch hunts, of feminist will and societal oppression, "Nightshade" is historical fiction — with a modern, pop culture twist...".
Recommended for readers of:
Maggie Stiefvater, Kelly Armstrong, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kiersten White

Cate has vowed to her dying mother to protect her younger sisters but, with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, Cate uncovers a family secret that could destroy them all.  Spotswood has crafted a lush, detailed world where differences can mean death.  A fabulous debut novel from a bright new star in sky of YA authorship.
Recommended for readers of:
Rae Carson, Lauren Oliver, Lia Habel, Myra McEntire

Legend blends dystopia, mystery and romance into a compelling and unforgettable read.  In this dark future, a fifteen-year-old prodigy is sent to track and capture a famous young criminal.  But when their paths converge a truth is uncovered that will change everything.
Recommended for readers of:


BETH REVIS  {One of my FAVORITE new YA authors!}
In Across the Universe, Revis introduced the world to two of the most intriguing characters of the YA written world.  Three months have passed since the staggering events of Across the Universe, and Godspeed has been thrown into chaos.  Amy has learned to hid who she is and Elder struggles to be the leader he's always wanted to be, but as the ship slides further out of control one thing becomes clear - they must get off the ship.
Recommended for readers of:

*Can't attend the event but still want an author signed book?  Contact Blue Willow Bookshop - they love to work with readers!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dark Days Tour in Houston

HarperTeen's Dark Days tour makes a stop in Houston, TX!

starting at 4:00pm

Featuring FOUR awesome authors!

Publisher's Weekly gave Unearthly, Hand's debut novel, praise as " engaging and romantic tale...".  In Hallowed, Clara is still trying to understand her purpose, the unique destiny that each angel strives to fulfill.  But her purpose is not as clear or straightforward as she thought.

Recommended for readers of:
Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, Alexandra Adornetto, Maggie Stiefvater

Everneath is Ashton's debut novel that gives the Persephone myth a new and fascinating spin.  Becca Fitzpatrick calls Everneath “Enthralling and suspenseful, EVERNEATH is pure indulgent escapism!”

Recommended for readers of:
Aimee Carter, Alyson Noel, Melissa Marr, Carrie Jones

Range is a world of "old souls" where the population is reincarnated over and over while retaining all previous life memories.  Ana is new.  When she was born another soul disappeared and no one knows why.  Is Ana truly a "nosoul"? Is she an omen of dark things to come?  Or is she the promise of something new?  The first in a trilogy.

Recommended for readers of:
Beth Revis, Mary Lindsey, Michelle Hodkin, Brenna Yovanoff

If you love strong heroines this is a must read!  Ellie isn't your average 17-year-old, she slays her own monsters, sometimes with the aid of Will, her guardian angel, but mostly on her own.  However, the stakes have never been higher now that her identity is no longer secret and Hell has sent its strongest reapers.  Wings of the Wicked is the second book in the Angelfire Trilogy.

Recommended for readers of:
Cassandra Clare, Jennifer Estep, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Lia Habel

*Can't attend the event but still want a signed book? Contact BLUE WILLOW BOOKSHOP - they are awesome and love to work with readers.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be Part of 'The Butterfly Project'

1,500,000 children perished during the Holocaust.  In remembrance, the Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies to be used in a exhibit during 2014.

This is a perfect passive program for any library!

You will need:
1-2 Tables
Large box
Colored paper
Glue sticks
Markers/crayons/chalk/pens/pencils etc
Origami paper and butterfly folding instructions (optional)

Just set up a display table in your lobby with 'The Butterfly Project' signage and place the crafting supplies on the table.  Have the box labeled 'Completed Butterflies' for people to put their finished creations and so you don't end up with butterflies all over the library.  I am planning to run this program during the entire month of April at my branch and then take the box to the museum myself.  But you don't need to be near Houston to do this!  HMH will take mailed butterflies as well as those dropped off in person.  See the museum's website for details and rules regarding butterflies.

You could also display the following YA titles during this program:
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Once by Morris Gleitzman
Resistance: Book 1 by Carla Jablonski
Yossel by Joe Kubert
Mendel's Daughter by Martin Lemelman
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman
I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Hana Volavkova
Night by Elie Wiesel

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Bites - Teen Valentine's Program

If your library is anything like mine, finding programs that appeal to teens and will draw them in during the school year is rather difficult.  February is TAX SEASON at my branch, which means that the meeting room I use for Teen Programs is booked every Saturday through early April and I have to improvise on programming.  Usually I don't try to host programs during the week - the teens in my area are way over-programmed.  But I want to have at least one fun program in February, so here it is:

LOVE BITES: MOVIE & CHOCOLATE BAR - the perfect Valentine's Day event!

All you need is loads of chocolate and an appropriate movie.  I'm diverting from the actual "fanged" theme and going with an off-beat teen rom-com.  But you could really show anything as long as it isn't super sappy.

Chocolate Candy
Chocolate Spread
Chocolate Fountain (if you are feeling daring)
Fresh fruit in bite-sized pieces
Brownies... (You get the picture - CHOCOLATE!)
Movie & Place project film*

*Make sure you have the appropriate license to show the movie so you don't get in trouble with Big Brother.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Finished Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns yesterday.  Wow.  That is one complex book!  And I mean that in a positive way. :)

Elisa is Chosen.  For what she doesn't know, just that is it God's plan.  She soon discovers that destiny can knock in the most unexpected of ways and will not be denied.

Carson has crafted a world rife with all the social, religious and geopolitical intricacies one would find in a real place.  Characters are multifaceted and will surprise the reader more often than not.  Reader beware: surprises are not limited to character development and there are several twists in this novel that will have readers tensed and unable to put the book down.  Even with all the details in place Carson manages to create a novel of high fantasy that maintains a fast pace.  Looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Would I read more titles by this author? Yes
Recommended for: ANY reader looking for high fantasy.
You'll like this if you enjoyed: Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, or Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New in February

I am SUPER THRILLED about the following releases and can't wait to get my hands on these novels:

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Picks up where Delirium left off continuing Lena's quest for freedom in a world where love is forbidden.  Recommended for readers looking for adventure and romance.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Continues Rhine's story after she and Gabriel escape Vaughn's beautiful mansion and awful experiments.  But the outside world is far from safe, especially when everyone has an expiration date.  This series is highly recommended, but I recommend reading in order.

Cloaked by Alex Flinn
Fairy tales are turned on their heads once more by Alex Flinn's deft weaving of action and humor.  Johnny never set out to be a hero, just a decent cobbler; but when a princess in distress talks him into helping track down her missing brother, Johnny's life is changed forever.

Various Positions by Martha Schabas
Fourteen-year-old Georgia's world is falling apart and the only that distracts her from her parent's disintegrating marriage and the distance of her friends is ballet.  So when Georgia is accepted to Canada's premiere ballet academy she jumps at the chance to learn from the best.  Soon after arriving, Artistic Director Roderick Allen singles Georgia out as a dance with star potential and Georgia responds by becoming obsessed with becoming the perfect ballerina.  But when line between teacher and student blurs no one is prepared for the outcome. 

Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
This thriller centers around Lo's whose obsessions have controlled her life thus far.  But obsession takes a sinister turn when she finds a butterfly-shaped charm that belonged to a recently murdered girl.  Determined to uncover the truth, Lo is drawn into a dark world that may not let her go.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
In a world where the powerful Brotherhood sees magic as evil and witch hunting has been taken to a new level of horror, Cate must protect herself and her sisters by hiding their abilities.  But is power truly "wicked" if you are born with it?