Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein

Tonight is our Dear Cassie Twitter chat with author Lisa Burstein.  Join us on Twitter at 9:00 PM
Eastern and be sure and add the hashtag #TLTCassie to join in and follow along.  Dear Cassie is a companion novel to Pretty Amy.  Today we are re-running our review of Pretty Amy in preparation for tonight’s chat.  Tomorrow I will be reviewing Dear Cassie and doing a Tweet roundup of our discussion.
Amy and her two best friends sit wearing their prom dresses in a jail cell.  They’ve been stood up, kicked out, and now captured (for drug use, possession and intent to sell).  Their prom is definitely a night to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.

The next few weeks bring new forms of torture for Amy as she is forced to seek legal help, see a counselor, get a job, volunteer and more all in an attempt to keep Amy out of jail.  Jail, she is assured, is not the place she wants to be.  Angry, naive and petulant, Amy is finding it hard to participate in operation reform Amy – all she wants to do is kiss Aaron and hang out with Cassie and Lila, now forbidden.  Slowly Amy learns that the people in her life she looked up to the most were probably not looking out for her best interests, and that the very people she shunned may actually love her.  Sometimes the people we choose are our worst enemies and the people we left behind are still waiting there for us at the end of our journey.

Pretty Amy is anything but.  Amy can be really hard to like as she wallows in self-pity, makes bad decisions, and fumes below the surface at her parents for not talking to her without realizing that she is guilty of doing the same.  And yet, there are so many teens that are just like Amy.    Teens will love Amy because many of them are Amy.  As a reader you cringe because you can tell that these two friends that Amy is trying to find meaning in her life from – well, they certainly don’t feel that same.  She is the insecure third wheel who sits by and watches life happen without being an active participant, until she finally decides that maybe she should do something about it all.  Amy has frank and meaningful inner dialogue, with some well written phrases, that express her slow growing realization that she has lost herself.  Burstein writes the kind of self-revelations that teens write down in their journals and make art from (wait, that’s not just me, is it?)

Pretty Amy isn’t all angst; Burstein injects enough warmth and humor to keep the reader invested. Many of the adults in Amy’s life, including a hippie shrink and a gaseous attorney, are fun to visit.  Amy herself has a sarcastic wit.  And one of my favorite parts of this novel involves how the book gets its name.  The only one who really knows Amy is her bird, A J, who she has taught to say many things, including “pretty Amy.”  This bird has brilliant comic timing and can be counted on to interject some humor at just the right moments.

Pretty Amy is a biting, edgy contemporary novel that tells it like it is.  It is definitely for mature readers, remember this whole journey begins with a baggie of pot.  Like Deanna in Sara Zarr’s fabulous Story of a Girl, Amy slowly claws her way out of a suffocating life to take that big gulp of air that comes when we realize that we are often our own worst enemy and decide to do something about it.  Amy may hit rock bottom, but there is a cast of adult characters trying to help her find her way back up.  4 out of 5 stars.  Burstein captures the teenage voice and tells Amy’s story with a raw, aching honesty.

Book Review: The Collector by Victoria Scott

“As you know, it’ll be held in the gymnasium. We’ll be selling tickets during lunch all week. So don’t forget to buy yours or you’ll be left dateless like me.”

Charlie stops. Her smile falters, but she quickly recovers. “I would know…only ugly losers…” She stops reading the cue cards. Then she gazes right into the camera and freezes.
People in the classroom laugh nervously.

Taylor. She messed with the cue cards. I should have known. I should’ve known!

I bolt from my desk and run for the door.

Behind me, I hear the teacher yelling my name, but there’s no way I’m stopping this time. My sneakers thump against the floor as I run down the hallway, into the cafeteria, and down another longer corridor. I’m heading to the journalism room, but I stop suddenly when I hear the sound of quick footsteps coming from the closest bathroom. Somehow, I know it’s her.

The bathroom doesn’t have a door, just an entrance that turns sharply so you can’t see inside. I don’t even check to see if anyone’s watching. I just go halfway in, knock on the wall, and say, “Charlie? You in here?”

The footsteps stop briefly.

Yep. It’s gotta be her.

I go the rest of the way inside and find her pacing in front of the restroom stalls. Her back is to me as she says, “You can go, Dante. I’m fine.” But when she turns to pace in the opposite direction, I see the truth. Her face is pink and blotchy and her eyes hold so much pain, it rips something apart inside of my chest.

My hands curl and uncurl, and my breathing comes harder and faster. Who do these people think they’re messing with? This girl has been assigned to me. Boss Man wants her soul, which means anyone messing with her—is messing with me. And they’re about to find out exactly what that’s like.

I turn abruptly from Charlie and storm toward the hall.

“Dante,” she says. Her voice becomes urgent. “Dante, don’t.”

I head down the hallway, gaining speed, unstoppable.

As I round the corner, I see Taylor and one of her boy-toys laughing. They’re having a grand ol’ time mocking my girl. The guy sees me and his mouth turns up on one side. “Oh, here comes the boyfriend. Did you catch our show, boyfriend?”

I don’t stop. I keep moving. One second, Dick Head is standing upright and the next my fist slams into his jaw. He hits the floor with a hard thud. I jump on his chest and throw my fist over and over into his face. I’m a big guy, there’s no denying that, but what’s more—I’m a mother fucking demon. And now the guy below me knows what it’s like to piss one off. When the guy’s eyes roll back in his head, I stand up and wipe blood from my knuckles.

Then I look at Taylor.

Fear screams in her eyes. I approach her slowly. She backs up until her shoulder blades hit the lockers behind her. “Dante, I—”

I cover her mouth with my hand. “Shut up.”

I step so close I can practically feel her heart beating. The hand not covering her mouth flicks, and her soul light flips on. Just as I expected, she’s coated in sin seals.

What I don’t expect are the two sparkly, pink seals. What the hell? Did Charlie do this?
Right now, I don’t care. All I care about is delivering what this girl deserves. Usually, the size seal I can assign is based on the sin. But this time—just this once—I’m going to take a little liberty.

I close my eyes and pull as much as I can out of my core, then I let go. A seal the size of Canada attaches to her soul light. And oh, sweet mercy, I can tell Taylor feels it. Actually feels that I just took something sacred from her.

My mouth curls into a smile.

“Pow, bitch.”

Dante Walker is the personification of bad.  A collector of souls for the Bad Guy himself, set free to walk upon the Earth, Dante’s good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence have made him one of Hell’s best, and he knows it. Sealing souls isn’t personal- it’s just the job. Until Charlie, that is, because the Boss wants Charlie bad, and is willing to promote Dante if he can seal her soul in 10 days. Dante doesn’t know why the Boss Man wants her so bad. and doesn’t care; it’s a permanent ticket out of hell for him. However, Charlie becomes more than an assignment- and Dante discovers that he’s not as distant as he seems.

As the TOP collector of souls for the Devil, Dante has been working on passing judgement for the Boss Man since he died at the age of 17. Released on Earth only for short sprints to seal souls of sinners, Dante leaps at the chance to be promoted to head reaper, and the assignment seems simple- deliver the soul of Charlie Cooper in 10 days. Yet, Charlie is as innocent as they come, and her soul shines. She ends up making Dante believe in himself in ways he never believed he could, and as his heart changes, the stakes only rise. Can he save himself and Charlie before she’s cursed to Hell? 

Dante can be hit or miss with some readers, and his attitude can miss the mark at times and make a reader want to cringe. However, his change throughout the book is dramatic, as well as Charlie’s transformation, and through that he is redeemed (in more ways than one). The world Scott builds is very detailed (how they seal the souls, why they’re doing it, etc.) and the ideas build upon the next so that the reader is left waiting for the second in the series, The Liberator to know what happens in the struggle that is coming.  Very good paranormal romance, and alluring to readers that it’s in a guy’s voice.  I’m not sure that male readers will pick it up as much as female ones (with the *ewwww kissing* factor) but that remains to be seen.  3.5 stars.  Would pair it with books like Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian or Wendy Higgins Sweet Evil for the romance, or Kim Harrison’s Madison Avery series for the paranormal aspect.  Goodreads lists The Collector at 3.82 stars as of April 23, 2013.

Karen’s 2 Cents: I also read The Collector and seriously ended up enjoying it.  Dante is a bad boy, kind of a version of Spike-lite, and I loved his snark and wit and confidence.  I also loved the effect that Charlie had on all of the above (Yay for Charlie by the way!).  I was curious as to how it would work to write such a smug character and still get the reader to like him, but Scott epically pulls it off.  I also love the discussion of inner versus outer beauty.  In fact, although this could appear to be a fun, surface type of read, there is some real substance here and I really appreciated that.  Yes, it was a seriously fun read, but I think it also drives home some of my favorite life lessons in completely non-obvious, non-teachy ways: people are more than what they look like on the outside and people can be redeemed.  I really liked the characters and the dialogue, they are pitch perfect, and would give it 4 stars (maybe even 4.5).  This one could be (and should be) huge and popular. (edited 4/30/2013 so Karen could add her 2 cents)

Book Review: Prophecy Girl

“Oh, you think this is fun, Prophecy Boy?” I yelled, furious. “You think it’s cool that we’re swimming in other people’s feces?”
Brown water dripped down his smiling face as his gaze danced over me. I couldn’t put my finger on his expression. Bemusement. Possibly insanity.

“What are you grinning at?” I splashed a floating chunk of molded apple core at his head.

He dodged the chunk but kept smiling. “Nothing. It’s just… no girl has ever offered to feed my enemies’ fingernails to her cat before.”
“Lisa’s cat. And don’t flatter yourself. At the moment, I’m tempted to feed him your fingernails.”

I glanced at the high, circular opening we’d passed through. For some reason, it left me with the uncomfortable sensation that I’d been digested by the city. Directly above us, a series of large rectangular grates ran along the length of the drainage ditch where we’d landed. Moonlight flooded through them into the small enclosure, making Jack’s eyes glow silver. I held my breath as he waded toward me and lifted a hand to my cheek.

“You’ve got spaghetti on your face,” he said. “At least, I hope it’s spaghetti.”

I frowned, desperate not to think about it. “Yeah, well, you’ve got toilet paper on your chin. And you’re doomed. Pot.” I pointed at him, then back at myself. “Kettle. Can we move it along, please? I think I’m contracting hepatitis.”

He gave me that look again, the cocky half-smile. “Sure. We’re almost there.”

I followed him through the tunnel obediently, ducking my head every few seconds to avoid the concrete arches that supported the drainage structure. I didn’t bother asking where “there” was. Jack was about as forthcoming as a park bench and, frankly, I didn’t feel like wasting my breath. True to his word, it only took another few minutes before we came to a metal ladder with rungs embedded in the concrete. When Jack finally helped me out of the sewer, I almost cried with relief. Never had the beer/fish/vomit scents of the French Quarter smelled so fragrantly sweet. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of rushing water and steamboat horns rang out. 
Yup. Not Hell. Definitely still home.

My knees ground against the hard cobbles as I crawled to the side of the road, fully prepared to kiss the ground. The concrete was still warm from the heat of the day, so I flopped onto my back and gave a long sigh. Through my eyelids, I could see the full moon above.

“Jack, seriously,” I muttered. “No more surprises. No more prophetic caves, or haunted Graymason nests, or body-surfing sewage. If you want to commit suicide, let’s just go hunt some werewolves and be done with it, okay?”

I lay still as a dark silhouette came to hover over me, blocking out the brightness of the moon.
“Well, love, if you’re set on suicide, I daresay there’s something more dangerous than a werewolf.”
Every inch of me tensed. Not only was that not Jack’s voice, I could tell by the flawless musical quality and perfect British accent it wasn’t human, either. My eyes scanned over him, taking in the cliché. Tall, dark, and psychotically beautiful, with elegant cheekbones and the most arresting violet eyes I’d ever seen on a man. The perfect echo of every romantic hero I’d conjured in my head.
“Oh, hell,” I mumbled. “Who ordered a vampire?”

Amelie Bennett is a Guardian, born to slay Crossworld demons. From a legacy of angel bloodlines, during her senior year she needs to ace her combat finals and get a great testing score in order to get good matches for her Watcher options- for every Guardian must be bonded to a Watcher in order to stay sane while channeling the energies of the crossworld in order to defeat the demons. Yet Amelie hasn’t found anyone she could possibly stand, let alone be even attracted to…until Jackson Smith-Hailey shows up. A replacement for the former teacher, he’s young, unspeakably hot, and dangerous. And his fate is tied to Amelie’s in a way that neither one could expect, and both want to prevent.

Amelie’s biggest goals are to finish out school without failing her exams, and to try and get a decent Watcher- and so far, she’s definitely failing on the Watcher front. Still, she knows that she *has* to have a Watcher, it’s imperative in order for a Guardian to manipulate the crossworld energies. When Jackson shows up to replace one of the teachers who mysteriously died, Amelie knows that the power she feels from him is what she’s been waiting for- and can’t understand why Jackson keeps pushing her away when it’s obvious that they are meant to be bonded. Yet when the Council decides that Amelie is responsible for the rash of teacher deaths, and tries to execute her, Jackson and Amelie go on the run, to find the mysterious Graymason and to foil the prophecy of Amelie’s bloodlines and Jackson’s birth before it’s too late.

While the focus on bondmates and pairings, and the sudden twists at the end, can throw readers off, Amelie’s banter makes up for a lot of flaws, and Cecily White’s world of angelbloods is rich in detail and leaves readers wanting to know more. A very fun ride, however, and worth the read. I would pair it with books like Death and the Girl Next Door or Death, Doom and Detention by Darynda Jones (for the humor and kick-butt heroine), or those like the Fallen series (for immediate love attraction). 3.5 stars. Goodreads currently has Prophecy Girl at 3.84 stars as of April 28, 2013.

Entangled Teen: Fall 2013 Titles coming your way

This week is Entangled Teen week at TLT.  All week long we will be reviewing Entangled Teen titles and giving you multiple chances to enter and win a mini-collection of 2013 titles to add to your home or library collection.  We kick off the week with a look at some of the Fall 2013 titles that will be coming your way.

Hover by Melissa West, August 2013
On Earth, seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander was taught to never peek, but if she hopes to survive life on her new planet, Loge, her eyes must never shut. Because in this world, pleasure is everything, held up by a ruling  body that keeps their peopke in check by giving them what they want and closing their eyes to what’s really happening around them.  The only hope Loge has is to move its people to Earth, and they have a plan.

Thousands of humans crossed over to Loge after a poisonous neurotoxin released into Earth’s atmosphere, nearly killing them.  They sought refuse in hopes of finding a new life, but what they became were slaves, built to siege war against their home planet.  That is, unless Ari and Jackson can stop them.  But on Loge, nothing is as it seems . . . and no one can be trusted. 

Out of Play By Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry, August 2013

Rock star drummer Bishop Riley doesn’t have a problem. Celebrities—especially ones suffering from anxiety—deserve to party, right? Wrong. After taking a few too many pills, Bishop wakes up in the hospital facing an intervention. If he wants to stay in the band, he’ll  have to detox while under house arrest in Seldon, Alaska.

Hockey player Penny Jones can’t imagine a life outside of Seldon. Though she has tons of scholarship offers, the last thing she wants is to leave. Who’ll take care of her absent-minded gramps? Not her mother, who can’t even be bothered with the new tenants next door.

Penny’s too hung up on another guy to deal with Bishop’s crappy attitude, and Bishop’s too busy sneaking pills to care. Until he starts hanging out with Gramps. If Bishop wants a chance with the fiery girl next door, he’ll have to admit he has a problem and kick it. Too bad addiction is hard to kick…and Bishop’s about to run out of time.
Tale of Two Centuries by Rachel Harris, August 2013

When her time-traveling cousin Cat returns to the future, Alessandra D’Angeli is the only one in her family who remembers the truth. Haunted with ideas of the future, she’s unable to return to her quiet sixteenth-century life, and when the one she loves betrays her, she cries out for an adventures of her own. The stars hear her plea.

One mystical spell later, Alessandra appears on Cat’s Beverly Hills doorstep five hundred years in the future. Surrounded by confusing gadgets, scary transportation, and scandalous clothing, “Less” throws herself into the magical world of a twenty-first century teen, and then meets infuriating – and infurariatingly handsome – surfer Austin Michaels.  Ausin challenged everything she believes in . . . and introduces her to a world filled with possibility.

With the clock ticking, Alessandra knows she must return to the past and give up the future filled with opportunity and love. Although she longs to fight fate, it’s not possible to stay in the twenty-first…or is it?

Everlast (previously Fated) by Andria Buchanan, August/early Sept. 2013

Allie Munroe has only ever wanted to belong, maybe even be well liked. But even though she’s nice and smart and has a couple of friends, she’s still pretty much the invisible girl at
school. So when the chance to work with her friends and some of the popular kids on an English project comes up, Allie jumps at the chance to be noticed.
And her plan would have worked out just fine…if they hadn’t been sucked into a magical realm through a dusty old book of fairy tales in the middle of the library.
Now, Allie and her classmates are stuck in Nerissette, a world where karma rules and your social status is determined by what you deserve. Which makes a misfit like Allie the Crown
Princess, and her archrival the scullery maid. And the only way out is for Allie to rally and lead the people of Nerissette against the evil forces that threaten their very existence.

Relic by Renee Collins, September 2013

After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive best she can in the  Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined  and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries.
Working in a local saloon, Maggie befriends the spirited showgirl Adelaide and  falls for the roguish cowboy Landon. But when she proves to have a  particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to the glamorous hacienda of Álvar Castilla, the wealthy young relic baron who runs Burning Mesa. Though his intensions aren’s always clear, Alvar trains Maggie in the world of relic magic. But when the mysterious fires reappear in their neighboring towns, Maggie must discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it’s too late.

Relic is a thrilling adventure set in a wholly unique world, and a spell-binding story of love, trust, and the power of good.

The Liberator by Victoria Scott, Sept. 2013

Dante  has a shiny new cuff wrapped around his ankle, and he doesn’t like that  mess one bit. His new accessory comes straight from Big Guy himself and marks the former demon as a liberator. Despite his gritty past and bad boy ways, Dante Walker has been granted a second chance.

When Dante is given his first mission as a liberator to save the soul of seventeen-year-old Aspen, he knows he’s got this. But Aspen reminds him of the rebellious life he used to live and is making it difficult to resist sinful temptations. Though Dante is committed to living clean for his girlfriend Charlie, this dude’s been a playboy for far too long…and old demons die hard.
With Charlie becoming the girl she was never able to be pre-makeover and Aspen showing him how delicious it feels to embrace his inner beast, Dante will have to go somewhere he never thought he’d return to in order to accomplish the impossible: save the girl he’s been assigned to, and keep the girl he loves.

Made of Stars by Kelley York, October 2013

When 18-year-old Hunter Jackson and his half sister, Ashlin, return to their dad’s for the first winter in years, they expect everything to be just like the warmer months they’d spent there as kids. And it is – at first. But Chance, the charistmatic and adventurous boy who made their summers epic, is harboring deep secrets. Secrets that are quickly spiraing into something else entirely. The reason they’ve never met Chance’s parents or seen his home is becoming clearer.

And what the siblings used to think of as Chance’s quirks—the outrageous stories, his clinginess, his dangerous impulsiveness—are now warning signs that something is seriously off.
Then Chance’s mom turns up with a bullet to the head, and all eyes shift to Chance and his dad. Hunter and Ashlin know Chance is innocent…they just have to prove it. But how can they protect the boy they both love when they can’t trust a word Chance says?

Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes, November 2013


He tilts my chin up so my eyes meet his, his thumb brushing lightly across my lips. I close my eyes. I know Z is trouble. I know that being with him is going to get me into trouble. I
don’t care.

At least at this moment, I don’t care.

Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her sixteen years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite—break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv…

I can picture Liv’s face: wide-eyed, trusting. Her smooth lips that taste like strawberry Fanta. It was just a kiss. That’s all. She’s just like any other girl.
Except that she’s not.
Thanks to Z, Olivia’s about to get twisted.

Ink Is Thicker by Amy Spalding, December 2013

For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her
hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger
half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the
middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth
mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only
grows stronger.

But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had
a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s
totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a
good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.

It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.

Things I Didn’t Learn in Library School: Crafting Programs by Stephanie W.

We are excited to welcome the fabulous Stephanie Wilkes back to TLT after her maternity leave.  We have missed her.  Today she is sharing with you her first ever installment of Things I Never Learned in Library School.

How to do crafts. Or in my case, crapfts.  I completely suck at being an artsy fartsy person in so much as being able to do certain types of programming.  I am a master seamstress and I quilt but the few programs where I’ve tried to get teens interested in those things didn’t go so well and the cost per person wasn’t justifiable to administration.  So…for other types of crafts, I’m expected to just whip things up.  And let me tell you…at no time in my MLIS instruction did anyone teach me how to varnish, paint, make shrinky dinks out of plastic cups, braid lanyards, make Hunger Games parachute drops, or make duct tape (insert name of any object here).  

So, like any brave YA librarian, I started my programming career by Google-ing crafts.  Now, remember this was before the days of Pinterest and DIY blogging.  So, I would get random hits from Disney Family Fun and other websites where the crafts were primarily for children.  No bueno.  
You newbie librarians of today have NO IDEA how valuable the Internet has become in providing programming resources for crafts.  Pinterest alone has fueled all of my SRP programming and even made me a bit of an addict.  Late night feedings with my daughter turn into 3 hour Pinterest browsing…

Also, now there is a wealth of DIY blogging sites out there for you to not only copy their crafts but they even have tutorials, videos, and they give you the supply list and sometimes tell you where to go to buy the supplies…genius!!!!  I remember living in a small college town and trying to find a leather stamp for a leatherworks program and clear glycerin for a soap workshop.  NOT EASY.  
Also, you tend to overestimate the level of crafting that some teens have done.  I thought that my teens would immediately be able to use an exacto knife to cut things.  Negative.  Most teens have NEVER had an art class or are used to crafting.  At least most of mine…now that is a generalization and there are quite a few crafty teens in the world.  So, don’t think that your next program will produce budding Picassos or that they won’t need some serious one on one time.  Also, work that one on one time into your program planning time.  A craft that only takes you 45 minutes to an hour could take a group several hours to complete if you are the only person there to help.  Trust me.  Those paracord bracelets in a room full of 15 teens?  Took us 2.5 hours and half of them had to leave early.    

True Confessions of an Audio Book Virgin (an audio review of Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus and tips for highlighting audio books in your collection)

I am fairly new to audio books.  Not as a supporter, I have always understood their value and been a huge supporter of audio books.  I have just never personally been a listener.  In part, it was probably because I could take my kids to school and walk to work in my previous location – all within about 15 minutes.  There simply wasn’t time or a need.

Fast forward to now.  I have a 45 minute commute 3 times a week to my library. Sometimes I listen to NPR or music, but I have recently started listening to audio books on occasion.

It began with Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  It was one of the few YA titles my small branch library had, and as you know I became a huge fan of the series.  There were times when the Tween and I would want to just keep driving because we didn’t want to turn it off.

Next came book one in the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter, which my tween loved as well.  She has continued reading the books in the series on her own after having been introduced to it via audio.

And more recently, I listened to both Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus on audio.  This was an interesting experiment for me as it was the first time that I listened to books that I had already read and was a huge fan of.  I embraced this experiment with gusto because it gave me some real genuine grounds for comparison.  Listening to the books . . . it was such a different experience.

It helps that Rotters and Scowler both have a really great reader, Kirby Heyborne.  A good reader makes all the difference and Kirby Heyborne is truly awesome (and deservedly award winning).  Both Rotters and Scowler are about some very down on their luck teens; life has not been kind to either of them and Kirby (we’re on a first name basis now apparently) really brings that pathos to life.  When you read the words on the page, you tend to hear it in your voice, but hearing it in another voice – a voice more experienced at bringing nuance and performance to a story – there is new breath and life in these characters; there is heartache and terror in all the right moments in ways I couldn’t have even imagined in my head.

Scowler is the story of 19-year-old Ryan Burke and his father, who is a monster hiding behind the mask of a man.  Throughout the book his dad has a vocal tic, a tell if you will, that appears on the page as “Hmmmmm hm hm hmmmmm. Hmmmm hm hm hmmmm.”  When you read it on the page, it’s hard to imagine in your mind’s eye what is happenng.  But Heyborne hums this line over and over again with such a powerful, subtle menace that it suddenly clicks into place for you.  Marvin’s tell speaks of his arrogance and his power over others, and it is the subtle horror movie music that happens and lets you know that something sinister is on its way.  Hearing this element of the story put it in context and gave it a clarity that I did not fully comprehend reading it because I was unsure of how it should sound simply staring at the words.

Rotters and Scowler are both disturbing stories, and I mean that in a good way.  They also resonate because in the midst of being entertainingly horrific, they also remind of the human experience.  Rotters is unique in that Kraus sets up to like a character and then drags him to the depths hell and makes him almost completely despicable.  I have said it before, but it is such a bold storytelling device.  Plus there is the grave robbing angle, which I had never read before (although there is some grave robbing in The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey).  I felt sucked in so much more listening to the audio because Heyborne really gives Joey Crouch pathos and gravity.  And then the menace . . . so well done.

During Reluctant Reader week, we mentioned that listening to audio books is a good tool to use with reluctant readers.  I noticed that I listened more closely than I read and that I was tempted to skip some of the more descriptive elements, I was definitely more absorbed in the story and felt a heightened emotional connection with the main characters.  These two audio books would be great reads for struggling teens who like a little bit of terror in their books, think Stephen King.  I will say, they are definitely for more mature teens because of language and violence.  As I mentioned, the Rotters audio is the 2012 Odyessy Award Winner presented by the American Library Association.

5 Tips for Using Audio Books in Your Collection:

1. Create ways to do face out shelving with your audio books in the same way that you do with your print books.

2.  Do displays where you put the book and audio book on display together.

3.  Put together hand outs and electronic resources that educate parents and teens on the benefits of listening to audio books.  Here are some good starting places: Reading Rockets, Research and Articles on the Benefits of Audio Books for Young People

4.  When you are doing a craft program, have an audio book playing in the background.  Participants can listen as they craft.

5.  When doing general theme displays, don’t forget to include appropriate audio books.

A recent edition of Library Journal had a great article on highlighting audio books in your library. Check it out.

Rotters and Scowler, produced by Listening Library, an imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne. 
Rotters audio ISBN: 9780449014950
Scowler audio ISBN: 9780385368353

The tween and I are now listening to The Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks on audio. 

Book Review: Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones

I tapped the page with my fingertips. “And this is the page Mr. Davis was looking at. I remember. he’d circled a face with a -“

“Lorelei,” Brooklyn interrupted in a hushed whisper. Her finger slipped up to one of the photos bordering the main picture. In it, a crowd of students stood around the flagpole of the old high school. They were laughing  as though in disbelief, and I realized it was a shot of Mr. Davis’s brother. In what must have been some kind of prank, he and some friends had chained themselves to the pole and were holding a sign I couldn’t quite make out.

But they were laughing  too. Every student in the photo was laughing, except one. A boy. He was standing closer to the camera yet apart from the rest, his stance guarded, his expression void, and then I saw the unmistakable face of our newest student.

Jared Kovach.

I felt the world tip beneath me, my head spin as I stared unblinking.
“It can’t be him,” she said.

But there was no mistaking the wide shoulders, the solid build, the dark glint in Jared’s eyes.

“It can’t be him,” she repeated. 

He had the same mussed hair, the same T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the same arms, long and sculpted like swimmer’s  The only difference I could see in this picture was the tattoo. Two, actually. Wide bands of what looked like a row of ancient symbols encircled each of his biceps.

“It just can’t be, right, Lorelei?”

He was just as breathtaking  just as surreal. And somehow, it made perfect sense. I swallowed hard and asked, “What if it is him?”

“Lor,” Glitch said, shaking his head, “that’s impossible.”

“Maybe it’s his father, or even his grandfather.” Brooklyn glanced up. “Lots of kids look like their grandparents.”

“Think about it,” I said. “Think about all the things he can do.” I studied the photo again. The caption below it read, Taken the day we lost our beloved brother and friend.

“Wheat if it is him and hew as there the day Mr. Davis’s brother died.” I thought back to what Cameron’s father had said. “Cameron called him the reaper. Maybe he really is.”

“Is what?” Brooklyn asked, pulling away from me.

In hesitation, I pursed my lips. Then I said it, what we were all thinking. “What if he really is the grim reaper?”

Ten years ago, Lorelei’s parents disappeared without a trace, and she can’t remember anything about that day. She’s got her grandparents, her friend Brooklyn and Glitch, and starting sophomore year of high school, so things should be OK, right? Not when the school’s loner, Cameron, decides to start stalking her, and the new boy in school, Jared, seems to be instantly attracted to her of all people. When Jared changes the course of Lorelei’s fate, and with it his own, things start spiraling out of control fast. Can Cameron and Jared keep from killing each other long enough to protect Lorelei from an even bigger threat? And why is Lorelei the focus of it all?

Darynda Jones, bestselling author of the Charley Davidson series (First Grave on the Right, etc.) keeps to her paranormal roots in Death and the Girl Next Door.  Sixteen year old Lorelei has visions that she can’t control and keeps hidden from everyone- they aren’t all hearts and puppies, and the less strange she seems the better life is.  After all, she already lost her parents when she was 6, and that’s enough for anyone. All she wants is for high school to be semi-normal, and things to be OK. However, when super-tall Cameron starts stalking her day and night, and the unbelievably gorgeous Jared shows up at school interested in her, things start loosing their normalcy   And when Jared saves Lorelei’s life, he changes not only her destiny but his. Can Lorelei and her friends (both old and new) figure out who’s trying to kill her before it comes to pass?  Definitely alive with humor and wit, and readers of Jones’ adult series will recognize Lorelei’s banter and outlook. Sets up nicely for the next book, and keeps readers interested, although the instant attraction of Lorelei and Jared can turn some readers off. I’d pair it with books like the Hush, Hush series or Kim Harrison’s Madison Avery series (Once Dead, Twice Shy). 3.25 out of 5 stars.  As of March 22, Goodreads has Death and the Girl Next Door rated as 3.64 stars.

I really enjoyed this book, but I can see how some readers would be turned off within the first 50 pages (which is my threshold for staying with a book I’m not enjoying). Lorelei has definitely just turned sixteen, and her rambling viewpoint and conversations with Brooklyn fit right in with my sense of humor, but could be irritating to others (just as to me it’s irritating that the 9th Doctor gets no love what-so-ever, BTW). 

The instant attraction with Jared is something that is completely in character with a sixteen-year-old girl (hello, new hot boy in a small town), and unlike some other series that shall not be named *cough* sparkly vampires *cough* there is an actual relationship that seems to build. Jared learns that his actions have consequences that he didn’t think of, and learning to deal with the mortal realm takes time as well, while Lorelei is definitely standing up for herself, while trying to discover why she’s at the focal point of everything. Learning that Cameron is not entirely human only adds to the mix, and the surprises that her grandparents and others int he community have in store build up the importance of what Lorelei is, and the conflict that is coming. It sets up the next book and the series quite nicely.

I’m definitely interested to see where Jones is taking Lorelei and her crew.

Book Review: Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider

Please note: Apparently, the title of this book has been changed to The Beginning of Everything.  Goodreads also suggests that there is not currently a cover.  I reviewed a digital galley from Edelweiss.  The current release date is August 27th from Katherine Tegen.

Ezra Faulkner believes that everyone’s live is just waiting for just one good tragedy.  His occurs right before prom his junior year when he is in a massive car accident that ends his promising tennis career and takes away everything that made him who he was.  So he begins his senior year lost and adrift, only to reunite with his former best friend Toby.  Toby’s tragedy occurred in middle school at Disneyland when a severed head landed in his lap on one of the rides.  As far as openings – and tragedies – go, this one was pretty awesome.  Then Cassidy shows up and the two of them are trying to heal from their tragedies – although for a long time Cassidy’s is in fact unknown – and the two are falling in love, maybe.  It’s hard for Ezra to know because Cassidy is an enigma.

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a classic coming of age story full of pathos, with the first and third parts definitely holding your attention more strongly than the middle.  The thing that kept me reading was the characters: I definitely wanted to know what was happening with Ezra, Cassidy and Toby.

I really enjoyed Toby and Ezra’s friendship.  In fact, Toby is a pretty amazing character the way he reaches out to Ezra in his time of need even though he is the “Duckie” of our story.  Toby is strong, loyal and kind of all around awesome.  And the best part: here is a male character that it is hinted may be contemplating his sexuality and it doesn’t dominate the story, it is just a fact of Toby’s life and he is pretty okay with it. 

Ezra is at first your stereotypical popular jock who has everything taken away from him in an instant.  It is interesting to see him wrestle with his identity, his place in the school hierarchy and more as a result of this one moment in his life.  (As a total side note, I find it interesting that one of the trends in 2013 seems to be teens that come from a life of privilege given today’s current economic environment.  Ezra comes from privilege, as does the main male character in When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney and several other titles that I have recently read.)

In some ways Cassidy is a cliche, she is a championship debater who walks around quoting poetry and philosophy.  In ways reminiscent of a John Green character, Cassidy reminds us that there are wicked smart teens out there.  But Cassidy isn’t all that she initially appears to be and most readers will guess the reason for her pain, but it is none the less compelling.

There were some interesting tidbits here, but this is an optional purchase for smaller libraries I think.  Some readers may get bogged down in the middle, waiting for something besides talking to happen.  For others, this will remind them in ways of John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  No pat answers, just a real life look at falling in love, finding oneself and having your heart broken.  Please note: there is sex and drinking in this title, for mature teens.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Huge spoiler alert, because I know some people care: A beloved dog dies and you will cry.

A little humility goes a long way

Last night at TLA I was at a party hosted by Random House, Sourcebooks and more. I had a great time meeting a variety of fab authors, including the inspiring Jon Sciezka. He was very kind and gracious to talk to.  It is always amazing to meet the authors that my kids and I love.

I met and talked to a few new authors, including the authors of COLIN FISCHER. Zach Stentz shared with me that he has children on the Autism spectrum, which influenced the book that he co wrote with Ashley Edward Miller.  His goal was to have a teen on the ASD spectrum be a man character as opposed to a peripheral character.  As you know, Autism and Libraries is a huge focus of mine here at TLT so I am hoping that we will get to talk more with these authors. I just got the book in at my library and am looking forward to reading it.

Author PJ Hoover also introduced me to author Mari Mancusi, who gave me a dragon to promote her upcoming YA fantasy Scorched. I like dragons so I’ll be checking this title out.

I ran in to some librarians, like the ever fab Naomi Bates (from YA Books and More), Jen Bigheart (Director of the Austin Teen Book Festival) and Stacy Wells (from Girls in the Stacks). Then I met a few new librarians who were like, “I love your blog.” That’s always nice because I am not going to lie, it is nice to know people read and like what you are doing.

Then I came home and my children are always there to keep it all in perspective and keep me firmly grounded in reality. My 4-yr-old came into bed with me in the middle of the night claiming she missed me, and then she promptly peed all over us both. So much for living the glamorous life LOL.  Those kids will keep you humble every time.

Today begins day two of TLA and the exhibit hall opens. If you have never been the exhibit hall rocks because:

1) you learn about a lot of new products and services

2) there are so many books! It is truly glorious and you usually end up spending a ton of money. Or going back to your library and ordering a lot. Sometimes seeing and touching a book really helps.

3) You get to meet a variety of authors.

4) You get to talk to your fellow librarians and just soak up the dedication and inspiration.

And 5) You will walk away with at least a handful of good ideas to take back to your library.

I’ll try to Tweet as I can. And ignore any typos in this post as I just threw it up on the app on my phone, which is less than ideal.


For the remainder of this week, Christie and I will be at TLA.  Please do say hi if you see us there.
We will be Tweeting so if you are on Twitter follow us!
Karen @TLT16 
Christie @mz_christie
On Friday, April 26th, Christie will be presenting as part of a panel on GLBT YA Lit.
Out of the Closet & Onto the Shelves
Friday, 10:15 AM, 113B
Christie is representing the Rainbow List
Peter Coyl is representing the Stonewall List
Next Week is Entangled Teen Week
We will be highligthing 2013 Entangled Teen titles and doing a book giveaway.