Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: 'City in the Desert: The Monster Problem' by Moro Rogers

And from the mingled blood of man and the evil one, Iriaze raised a horde of monsters...
And from that time on, the world was full of monsters.

Monster hunter Irro and his assistant Hari have a pretty good life, all things considered; they get to hunt monsters. But they may be the only people in the city of Kevala who are making a decent living.  When a religious sect promising relief from the burden of worry comes to Kevala everything changes. Everyone is smiling and relaxed, but Irro knows there is something sinister afoot and he and Hari are determined to uncover the truth.

Graphic Novel newcomer Moro Rogers has crafted an intriguing story that draws readers into a strangely familiar world peopled with monsters and monster hunters. Irro comes from a long line of monster hunters but has come upon harder times as monster attacks increase and hunters are eliminated. The increase of attacks has isolated Irro's home base of Kevala; they have not had a caravan travel by in almost a year. The isolation is beautifully depicted by Rogers' sepia toned art.

One of The Monster Problem's biggest strengths is the relationship between Irro and Hari. Hari is something other than human - she has a tail and claws, but Irro treats her as a person. Rogers has done a wonderful job of crafting the relationship between these two characters using language as well as image. The humor of their dialogue gives readers a depth of character often lacking in graphic novel text. This playful tone is carried over into the art itself: a bored Irro walks through a character's speech balloon, preventing the reader for seeing all the text and visually illustrating Irro's lack of attention. Hari's facial expressions are spot on with her comments; rue, humor and confusion are beautifully depicted.

But not all is action and humor in the city of Kevala. There are some darker elements at work here: a spreading confusion among residents and lack of response to physical threats that allow the reader to become aware of the threat posed by the Way of Sacred Peace well before Irro and Hari. Hopefully, further development of these threats is something that readers can look forward to in City in the Desert's next installment.

This is a fun, well-crafted and beautifully illustrated graphic novel that I'll be encouraging my teens to try.

Reviewer: Rebecca
Book Source: Local Library

Recommended Ages: 15+
Recommended for Readers of:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind!

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the excellent blog The Broke and the Bookish. This week we were given the opportunity to revisit a past topic. The list is pretty extensive and, since I just started participating this year, I had quite a few exciting options. I chose to revisit the Top Ten Tuesday from October 11, 2011: Books I wish I could read again for the first time. Here goes!

1) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Am I right in assuming this needs no further explanation? I’m right.

2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – My absolute favorite book. I’ve read it so many times now, I could probably quote the whole thing. Years ago, when I read the book for the first time, I remember being completely taken aback by the twist at the end. I would love to experience it that way again.

3) The Giver by Lois Lowry – Another book that, when I first read it, changed my view of the world. I’ve read it so many times, but never with that same freshness and innocence.

4) The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – This was one of my favorite books as a child. I must have read it a dozen times, and spent many a night imagining what would happen to Kit and Nat later on. It’s been years since I last read this book, and part of me is afraid that, if I read it again, the magic would be gone.

5) Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I’ve mentioned before my extreme love for the Anne of Green Gables series. Well, before I loved those, my heart belonged to Little House. My copies of these books are falling apart, I read them so many times. They were a big part of my childhood and probably helped shape my love of reading

6) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I loved this book from the beginning, but I remember being completely blown away by the revelations in Maddie’s portion of the book. I would love to read this one again for the first time, not knowing what all of Verity’s ramblings mean.

7) The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop – A friend gave these books to me one summer during college, and I devoured them. It was my first real experience with adult fantasy novels, and there was just something about the world and the characters that blew me away. (Now I’m more likely to skip straight to the last book, Queen of the Darkness...)

8) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – This book is so full of twists and turns, that whenever you
think you’ve got it all figured out, something else comes along to prove you wrong. The perfect kind of book to experience again for the first time.

9) Lady Julia Gray novels by Deanna Raybourn/Mercy Thompson novels by Patricia Briggs – These books have nothing in common, really, but I’m combining them anyway. I discovered these series at about the same time and fell in love with each. I’ve since re-read both series, but I would love to start again with fresh eyes and watch the relationships unfold over the course of the books.

10) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – Before you judge, please give me a moment to explain myself. When I read this book the first time, it had recently come out and hadn’t really started becoming popular. I don’t even think the second book was out yet. I was in grad school and I read it for an assignment (something about the Lone Star list, I think). On the day I read it, I was supposed to be writing a paper and was using Twilight as a form of procrastination. I was so pulled into the story that I ended up skimming the whole thing, writing my paper (very quickly and very poorly), then re-reading the book from the beginning. It was that compelling. I immediately wrote Meyer an email about my reading experience – and she responded! To this day, I will defend the story of the first novel. Was it poorly written? Sure. Did the series get super creepy? Definitely. I almost didn’t put this book on the list, because it (deservedly) has such a bad reputation now. But if I could go back and read just Twilight for the first time, free from the terrible movies, the outrageous hype, and the crazy fandom, I would do it.

Bring on the amnesia! (Okay, not really.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Steampunk for Teens: Book Poster & Bookmark

These files are available to school & public librarians

Monday, February 17, 2014

Program FAIL. Now What?

One of the hardest parts of working with teens is coming to terms with failure.  Teens are fickle creatures and failing is familiar territory for anyone working with this age group. There are certainly ways to mitigate missteps but make no mistake; you will fail at times. And that's okay.

Some of the most valuable lessons you can teach your teens is adaptation and perseverance. Failure of a program or project is not necessarily a reflection on you.

Be flexible!
Adaptation is the name of the game when you work with teens. Willingness to scrap a program mid-execution can mean the difference between lukewarm reception and rave reviews. Similarly, planning programs over a wide range of subjects, styles and times can lead to program attendance you may have only dreamed about. I recommend trying a new program once a month. If your teens don't embrace it then move it to the back of your "Program Ideas List" and try it again in a year. Remember that working with teens means that you get a new "crop" every few years - your new teens may love a program that your current teens found 'meh'.

If you're looking for program inspiration Pinterest is your best friend. CAUTION: Pinterest can also be an enormous time-suck so make sure that you stay focused on what it is you are actually looking for! Many a librarian has lost hours at a time to the sweet siren call of pinning. But in all seriousness, there are tons of ideas on Pinterest and they tend to come with helpful pictures. Another source for ideas is YALSA's listserv (I highly recommend subscription) as well as individual YA Librarian's blogs. (There's a list of recommended blogs under the Resources tab.)

Keep on trying!
Programming is a tricky beast; a program that is wildly successful one month may flop horribly the next time you schedule it. Don't be discouraged if/when this happens. I often give a program two or three attempts before abandoning it completely. Teens don't always have control of their schedules and transportation and, frankly, attending a library program is low on the totem pole of school, sports, church and family obligations. It's hard not to feel personally attacked when something you've worked so hard on fails to have the expected outcome. But uneven attendance and program popularity are sometimes part of life when your working with teens. Often the teens that I am personally closest to, who I've promoted to and who have expressed excitement about a program are the ones who forget to attend. Keeping teens' attention is difficult, no matter how wonderful your presence, programming and library.

As I mentioned earlier, I often will give a program two or three attempts before dismissing the idea. And I might give it another shot in a year or two when I've got a different group of teens! One of the bittersweet aspects of YA Librarianship is that your teens move on and a new group of teens comes into play. Remember to try different programs with your teens.

So what was your biggest flop? What do you think you could do next time?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Guaranteed to Make Kimberly Swoon

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the excellent blog The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic of choice? Books that made me swoon. (Fitting for Valentine’s Day, which I will be celebrating with cookies and the movie Winter’s Tale, which is sure to make me weep.) I’m a romantic at heart, so that happens probably more than it should. Here are a few of the books that made my heart happy.

1)  Persuasion by Jane Austen – When I was a teenager and first reading Austen, it was all about Pride & Prejudice for me. Now that I’m older, Persuasion has become my favorite Austen novel. If you don’t swoon at Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne, you might be heartless.

2) North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell – Similarly, I thought I loved Mr. Darcy until I saw Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in the BBC version of this book. And then I read the book and Mr. Thornton was even more dreamy, if that’s even possible. The proposal scene, his feelings towards Margaret, his passionate defense of everything and everyone he loves… I just can’t handle his loveliness or his gut wrenching, beautiful interactions with Margaret.

3) Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – I’ve read many of Heyer’s novels and this is my absolute favorite. By turns clueless and astonishingly astute, Freddy is one of Heyer’s most endearing characters. I confess I have a bit of a crush on him! The ending scenes are, in my opinion, some of the best Heyer wrote.

4) He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters – Amelia Peabody and Emerson are my absolute favorite literary couple, and all their interactions make me grin happily. But in this book, it was the romance between Ramses and Nefret that really got to me. It was heartbreaking at times, but so emotionally fulfilling.

5) The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn – Lady Julia and Brisbane are my second favorite literary couple, and this book is my absolute favorite in the series. Their relationship is perfection in its believability and I can’t read this book without swooning.

6) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Perhaps an odd choice, since the love story is doomed and tragic, but I can’t help it. The book and the mini series are beautiful and swoon worthy. With both a landscape and a love story that are by turns sweeping and heartbreaking, it’s hard not to be swept up in the romance.

7) Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – In last week’s list of books that made me cry, I mentioned the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series. If that book made me cry, the rest of the series made me swoon. Anne and Gilbert’s love story was one of my favorites, and this book, where Anne finally realizes she loves Gilbert is the swooniest of all. (I used to re-imagine that scene in my head as a teenager. My first intro to fanfiction?)

8) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – I mention this book a lot on this blog, I’m well aware. But it’s because it’s probably the most perfect YA romance, and it just gets better each time I read it. It’s the ultimate feel good novel with a truly swoon-worthy love interest.

9) For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund – This book is amazing. Peterfreund somehow managed to make Persuasion (see #1 on this list) fit seamlessly into a post-apocalyptic world. The plot is full of intrigue and danger, yet loses none of the heart-melting scenes from the original.

10) Easy by Tammara Webber – This is a recent read (as in, I finished it yesterday) that I picked up purely to give New Adult a try. I wasn’t expecting much, but by the time I finished I was completely blown away by the novel. It has so much to say about a serious subject, yet manages to do so while also giving readers a completely swoony hero and some sizzling scenes.


Monday, February 10, 2014

BFYA 2014 Poster

From the YALSA website
YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee presents fiction titles published for young adults in the past 16 months that are recommended reading for ages 12 to 18. The purpose of the annual list it to provide librarians and library workers with a resource to use for collection development and reader’s advisory purposes.  

Below is the poster that I have created for my library featuring the titles of BFYA 2014.
Feel free to use this image for your own library; file is located here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones

Bound to an cruel man who uses Wild Boy's unusual appearance to attract a crowd, Wild Boy has spent years traveling London's circus route as a sideshow attraction. His one joy is watching fair-goers and deducing details about their lives from clues found on their person.  When a mysterious fairground attendee is found dead, Wild Boy finds himself framed for the murder. Now he must put his uncanny skills of observation to use to find the real murderer and clear his name.

Born with hypertrichosis, Wild Boy is a unique main character in that he is the epitome of outcast. In Victorian England those born with unusual or deformed bodies were regaled to lives in sanitariums or working the circus circuit as stars of "freak shows". Wild Boy is a kind soul who is curious about the world around him, despite his brutal upbringing, and amuses himself by observing details of the circus patrons to uncover their activities, occupations and secrets. (Who is really rich? Who is cheating on a spouse? Which patron took a carriage to the circus?) This acute desire to uncover the details of other people's lives illustrates the depth of Wild Boy's loneliness without belaboring the point for the reader. When Wild Boy is arrested for murder he receives unexpected help from the aerialist Clarissa, daughter of the very woman who stands as Wild Boy's accuser.

Clarissa, is a gunge-ho, take no prisoners female who doesn't wait for a boy to solve her problems (a refreshing change from the damsel-in-distress trope). She is fast to create a plan and makes quick, gut-based decisions that sometimes lead to unfavorable consequences. Both of the main characters come from broken, abusive backgrounds but retain a sweetness (often masked with manger) that makes them solid, if unlikely, partners in crime solving.

The central mystery is well-crafted, with a couple misdirections thrown in to lead the reader astray. Victorian London is, thankfully, not romanticized but rather described in all it's malodorous and dirty glory. The main characters of this novel live past the edges of polite society and there are no teas, or table manners, or etiquette to detract from the rollicking adventure and layered mystery. Writing is vivid and direct which speeds the pace of the novel and encourages the reader to finish this novel in one sitting.

Book Source: Candlewick Press
Reviewer: Rebecca

Recommended Ages: 10+
Recommended for Readers of:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Program: DIY Spa Day

This program is great for a Mother's Day program or just a Pamper Yourself day.  Supplies are easy to acquire and most of these activities are easy to complete in a short amount of time.

Sugar scrubs are a great alternative to salt scrubs and leave your skin feeling polished and indulgently soft. Scents can range from commonplace to exotic. To use a sugar scrub, first stir the mixture to redistribute the oil then scoop a small section into hands. Scrub together then wash off with running water. Pat dry.

8oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars
Oil (my preferences are safflower, olive or coconut oil)
Sugar (LOTS)
Essential Oil(s)
Fabric squares (I prefer the pre-cut quilt squares)
Wooden Taster Spoons (you can get these online for cheap)

The general rule is two parts sugar to one part oil. Place sugar and oil (2:1) in a mason jar and stir well. The mixture should be the consistency of wet sand. Add 4-6 drops of essential oil (depending on how fragrant you want the mixture to be). Put on the mason jar's cap (that flat circular bit) and place a quilt square over the cap. Slip a piece of twine about 6 inches long through the band (the part of the lid that screws on) and carefully screw the lid closed. Using that bit of twine tie a Taster Spoon onto the jar and finish off with a bow. Voila!

Toss one of these into a bath for the ultimate spa experience. Basically, you turn your entire tub into a pot of tea and soak away your troubles!

Large sealing tea bags (I get mine from Herb Affair)
Mixing bowls
Flat Iron (like used on hair) or an Iron or Ironing Board - I've found the flat iron easiest.
Resealable Plastic Bags (You can use lunch sacks, but I prefer the 4x6 clear plastic jewelry bags)
Epsom Salt
Dried Lavender (I get mine from Herb Affair)
Dried Chamomile
Dried Lemon Balm
Lavender Essential Oil

The ratio for this mix is: 1.5c Epsom Salt to 1c. Dried Lavender to 1/2c. Dried Chamomile to 3/4c. Dried Lemon Balm.  Quantities needed for this mix with depend on the number of teens attending.  Mix salt and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Open a tea pouch and fill three-quarters full. Use the flat iron to seal the open edge of the tea pouch.

Don't waste your money on those expensive faux sponges at the store! Slip your favorite bar of soap inside one of these for a sudsy good time.


Can be found here at One Good Thing by Jillee.

There are TONS of DIY Spa instructions online. Take a look and see what will work for you and your library/school.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Guaranteed to Make Kimberly Cry

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the excellent blog The Broke and the Bookish. Due to circumstances involving weather (fake ice days!), trips out of town (for Rebecca) and arbitrary deadlines (for Kimberly), I decided to give last week’s Top Ten Tuesday a miss. This week we are back with a vengeance. The topic? Ten books guaranteed to make me cry. I cry more during TV, movies and Hallmark commercials than I do while reading books, so this was a difficult list for me to put together. Here’s what I finally came up with. Beware spoilers!

1) Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix; Half-Blood Prince; Deathly Hallows): I have three younger brothers my mom wanted to engage, so we used these as read aloud novels. My mom read all seven books aloud to the four of us (and occasionally my Dad) as they came out. (I was fresh out of grad school when the seventh book came out, and still I went home for the weekend and listened to her read it aloud!) I think listening to my mom read aloud the deaths of the people Harry loved made them harder for me to handle.

2) A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer – This seems cliché. I mean, obviously, I cried reading this book. I would have to be heartless not to have cried. But this one sticks out to me because I read it in public – in the middle of the MSC Reading Room on the Texas A&M campus, to be exact. What was I thinking?

3) Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – I had to read this book in elementary school and I’m still emotionally scarred by it. I can never read this book again because I’ll just dissolve into a puddle of tears. (I have similar feelings about Rawls’ other book, Summer of the Monkeys.) {{{Rebecca seconds this emotional scarring; she is still furious that her teacher made her read it in elementary school and has blocked out large sections of the novel.}}}

4) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I cried at multiple points throughout this story, but never so hard as during the letter Verity’s mom writes Maddie at the end of the novel.

5) Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery – I loved L.M. Montgomery as a teen and must have read the entire Anne Shirley series half a dozen times. Oddly, this book, about Anne and Gilbert’s daughter, is my favorite in the series. I cried every single time I read Walter’s letter to Rilla, written the day before he was killed in World War I.

6) Wonder by R.J. Palacio – This was a hard book for me to read, but it was also uplifting. My tears were both happy and sad, which is more than I can say for the rest of the books on this list.

7) The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson – My Grandpa used to tell me this story whenever I spent the night at his house as a child. He had a particularly compelling way of telling it, but it’s such a depressing story that I now wonder what he was thinking. I have fond memories of the experience, but the story is definitely a tearjerker.

8) The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – The end of this book, after going through so much with Lyra and Will, was devastating to read. I should mention that I listened to this series while driving to work, so my tears were an issue. (The end of The Golden Compass also made me cry, but to a lesser degree.)

9) Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs – The end of this book was devastating to read. I appreciate Briggs’ willingness to give Mercy more emotional depth and it definitely worked well to strengthen characters and relationships in the series, but that didn’t make it any easier to read. {{{Voracious seconding by Rebecca!}}

10) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne РThe naivet̩ in this book was impressively done and made the end far more difficult to read. I will admit, however, that I only cried a little while reading the book, but I was sobbing while watching the movie. The visual, for me, was more emotionally draining than my imagination.

Now can someone please pass the tissues?