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Being the “Slayer” Every Other Day: Book Review of Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

“If I had a nickel for every time I almost died, I would have been driving to school in a Ferrari and flying off to Bora-Bora on the weekends.”

You all are seriously in trouble with me.  All those times I said, “What books should a Buffy fan read?” and not once did you say EVERY OTHER DAY by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  Well I am here to tell you because no one told me, go read Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes right now!

Here’s the premise: Every other day Kali D’Angelo is a  . . . um, well, she’s not exactly sure.  But Buffy fans might say she is this world’s version of a slayer.  A hunt lust comes over her and in a world where supernatural creatures are known to exist, and killing them is against the law, Kali’s hunt fever is kind of a problem.

For 24 hours she is a skilled, supernatural hunter.  The blood coursing through her veins changes and becomes a poison to the supernatural.  Her senses heighten. She is da bomb baby!

The problem is that there is always the next 24 hours, when she is a regular teen age girl.  It is on one of *those* days that she realizes the girl standing before her has been marked for death by a supernatural creature known as the chupacabra.  It’s like a tapeworm that gets inside you and eats you from the inside out.  Yummy.  But unfortunately, it’s happening on the wrong day.

Soon Kalie finds herself with a group of people (a psuedo Scooby gang if you will) being hunted down by a shady scientific organization (think The Initiative).  And – oh yeah – the Chupacabra inside her seems to be talking to her, which is not what they do at all to normal people.

“Well,” a female voice said. “What have we here?”

“Here,” Bethany said, responding to the woman’s rhetorical question, “we have a teenager. And she’s pissed.” (Bethany is Cordelia, but the later deeper Cordelia, not the early Cordelia.) 

Kali is a fun, well-developed, angsty, conflicted character with the perfect mix of heart (that she tries to keep hidden) and snark (a “slayer’s” preferred method of self protection):

“‘Well’, I said, smiling at the blade as I tore if from Thing 3’s throat, ‘let’s get this show on the road.’ The fact that I was talking to a knife probably said something revealing about my character and/or mental state, but the way I saw it, my weapon and I were in this together.” – p. 9

“Left with nothing but my own bloody fingertips, I let out a war cry of my own, raked my nails over its face, and fought like a girl.” 

Like Buffy, our Kali has family issues.  Her mother disappeared when she was 3, which is kind of an issue because she is probably the only one who can help explain to Kali what she is:

“Most of the time, it felt like my father and I were completely different species. Possibly literally, depending on the day and whether or not I actually qualified as human at the time.” 

As much as Every Other Day is a fun, entertaining, demon hunting save the world romp, it is also a book that explores self-identity, family dynamics, and there are even some scientific ethics issues that come up: Just because something is different does that mean we have a right to lock them in a cage and dissect them?  It seems easy to say yes if we’re talking about Hellhounds and Zombies, but we would probably feel differently if we were talking about you or someone you loved.

“My little sister snuck out of the house carrying a circular-saw blade and a can of Mace. I couldn’t exactly let her come alone.” 

So look, I love this book.  It was a fun read.  It was a fast read.  And although we won’t be sitting around years from now discussing the intellectual merits of Every Other Day and trying to present it as a piece of literary scholarship, it is not totally devoid of substance and it has subtle themes relatable to the teenage life.  I mean, what teen hasn’t sat in the back of a pep rally and tried to make themselves so small they hoped they could just fold up inside themselves and disappear because they realized that High School was some bizarre version of hell: “Sometimes, I felt like if I could just fold up into a small enough ball, my body would collapse on itself like a star, and I could supernova myself into a new existence.”  And to be clear, it is in fact well written and has some amazing descriptions and turns of phrases. Also, there is an ice dragon.  4 out of 5 stars and you should go read it now.  This will appeal to a lot of teens (and non teens, too).

One final note: There is a character named Skylar (important, well-developed, and often steals the show) who claims to be a psychic – which everyone says is impossible because psychics don’t exist.  I love that they live in a world where monsters are known and recognized but they find it hard to believe that someone could be psychic.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (EgmontUSA ISBN: 978-1-60684-169-3) is now tied with Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride as my favorite ever Buffy read-alike.  A nicer person would give away the signed copy that I just got on Saturday at the Austin Teen Book Festival, but I am not that nicer person.  But if I had known it was going to be so awesome I would have gotten every copy and sent it to all the libraries.  Be sure to check out our other The Sunnydale Project posts for more Buffy read-alikes.

Tell us your favorite Buffy read-alikes in the comments! Have you read Every Other Day? Tell us what you think.

Who watches the Watchers? (a guest post by Ashes author Ilsa J. Bick)

For the last two Saturdays, as part of The Sunnydale Project, I have shared with you some of my favorite Buffy read alikes.  Today, I share with you a guest blog post by an author of another amazing Buffy read alike, Ilsa J. Bick, author of both Ashes and ShadowsOne of the key characteristics of our girl Buffy is that she is a strong, independent, kick ass heroine.  And so is Alex, the main character in the Ashes trilogy.  Ashes is the story of “the changed” (the changed become zombie like in that they now eat human flesh, yummy) and Alex’s quest to survive in a new world.  The moment that the change occurs and Alex is spared marks a turning point for our heroine in much the same way that Buffy’s life is forever changed when she becomes The Chosen One, the slayer.  Like Buffy, Alex is reborn and must fight to hold back the darkness, both in the world and within herself.  You can read my review of Ashes (book 1) here and of Shadows (book 2) here.  Today, we’ll let author Ilsa J. Bick tell you why librarians, though probably not technically Watchers, rock!
The Changed will grow in numbers.  The Spared may not survive.
The Ashes trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick, published by EgmontUSA

True story: I’m on tour for ASHES, and I go to this school library in Michigan to talk to about two hundred kids.  They’re nice.  Most kids are.  So we’re talking, and they’re into it and so am I—when, all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see this big, hulking, football kid, call him Brandon, unfold from the depths of the couch where he’s been hiding.  (Really.  The kid was tucked up, head down, arms crossed, legs going in that please-God-get-me-out-of-here jiggle we all know because we’ve all done it.)  Now, Brandon is really huge, neck like a tree trunk, muscles large as cantaloupes, buzz cut.  The kind of boy a football coach would throw his grandmother under the bus to put on the team, know what I saying?  I’m not indulging in stereotypes, really, but given Brandon’s behavior, I know he’d rather have his tonsils taken out with a fork.  Except something snagged him, lured him out of hiding.

So Brandon makes this interesting circuit, walking the perimeter, scoping things out.  Counterclockwise.  (Yes, it’s the geek in me.)  Not quite making like a shark; more like a drone whose operator’s trying to decide if you’re worth the effort.  So I’m still talking, but I’m watching, see, keeping an eye on this kid, wondering what’s going on—when, from the very back, he shouts, “So, like, this book?  There’s survival stuff and an army guy and all that?  Like, and it’s not about vampires and boyfriends and in the future and crap?”   (He didn’t say “crap,” but this is a PG-13 blog.)

So, you know, I said that, no, my book was . . . blah, blah.  What I said really isn’t important.  Here’s what is: the minute Brandon said, “Dude, this is awesome,” and then marched up to sit in the front row.  (And, yes, you could see the heads turn and hear the buzz.)  Brandon even stayed after to talk until the librarian shooed him to his next class.

And here’s what else is important: when the librarian said, “Oh, this is marvelous. Brandon doesn’t read.  I’ve tried so hard to get him interested.  This is the first time I’ve seen him excited over a book.”  Thanked me for getting Brandon jazzed, and the way she said it?  Choked me up.

Now, was Brandon’s sudden interest a testament to my sparkling persona and great delivery style?  Only sort of; I’d like to think it’s the story because what this really speaks to is two-fold: a shared love for story, and a librarian’s commitment to her kids.  One almost never exists without the other because our librarians are often the ones who put the books we come to love in our hands in the first place.  That this woman knew this boy so well and tried so hard tells you, right off the bat, she cares not only about books but each kid.  She knows Brandon, and wants to share what she loves.

The best librarians are like that: people who turn an anonymous place into one where your name is known and you matter.  Where someone hands you a book and says, “I saw this and thought of you.”

Being nominated for a YALSA award is an honor and a thrill, all by itself.  Would I love for ASHES to make the Teen TopTen?  You bet.  But the nomination is also fabulous because it affirms what I truly believe.  What I write, I write out of great feeling and with care for my characters, my craft, the story.  That what I do is valued and becomes a gift?  What writer could fail to be honored?

Brandon . . . Dude, enjoy the read.

Ilsa J. Bick is a child psychiatrist, as well as a film scholar, surgeon wannabe, former Air Force major, and an award-winning author of dozens of short stories and novels, including the critically acclaimed Draw the Dark (Carolrhoda Lab, 2010); Drowning Instinct (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011); Ashes, the first book in her YA apocalyptic thriller trilogy (Egmont USA, 2011) and the just-released second volume, Shadows. Forthcoming is The Sin-Eater’s Confession (Carolrhoda Lab, 2013) and the last installment in the ASHES trilogy, Monsters (Egmont USA, 2013).  Ilsa lives with her family and other furry creatures near a Hebrew cemetery in rural Wisconsin.  One thing she loves about the neighbors: They’re very quiet and only come around for sugar once in a blue moon.
Visit her at www.ilsajbick.com.  Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @ilsajbick.
Slayer Scavenger Hunt

Did you notice some words written in red in this post? If not, go back and take a look. You’ll want to, I can reassure you. Why? Because we are having a Buffy themed scavenger hunt! How fun is that? To find out how to participate, read the details below. And I know you’ll want to participate because we are working on getting some GREAT prizes lined up for the winners!
  • Each week on our Slayer Saturday posts look for the words highlighted. There will be 3 sets of words each weekend, so make sure to visit all three blogs (Bookish Comforts, Patricia’s Particularity and Teen Librarian Toolbox).
  • Write down the words each week (Sept. 8 – Oct. 20), putting them in an order that makes sense. All together these words create a quote from Buffy.
  • During the last week a form will be made available on all three blogs where you can turn in the quote that you have pieced together.
  • On the last weekend of The Sunnydale Project, Oct. 27, the quote will be revealed! We will then draw a winner from those who have correctly completed the quote.
We really hope you have fun with this! We’re still finalizing the prize, but it’ll be worth participating for! An announcement will be made when all details have been finalized!

Top 10 Things I Learned From Buffy The Vampire Slayer by Christie G

10.  Librarians are freaking awesome.

Well, I knew this anyway, but Giles was the epitome of what I actually wanted a high school librarian to be.  A wealth of knowledge, a touchstone when you needed someone to listen, a father figure in your darkest hours, and he could definitely kick demon and vampire butt.  The fact that he knew magic and didn’t practice because he was scared of his own powers didn’t hinder, either.

9.  Hold on to love when you find it
One big thing that you can learn from Buffy (movie or TV series or graphic novels) is to treasure love when you find it.  The most gripping episode that hammers this home to me was Seeing Red in Season Six.  After all the twists and turns and ups and downs in their relationship, Willow and Tara finally get back together, things are wonderful, and then Tara is *killed*, a side-casualty.  True love, gone in an instant, by accident.  Proof that you need to take all the love you can, when you can, because you never know what’s going to happen.
8.  Bad things can come in unsuspecting packages
Buffy is fun because it loves to dress up “the bad” in different ways- and they’re not obvious.  This is wonderful, because in real life, bad things are NOT obvious.  They don’t wander around with big signs over their heads saying, HEY, I’M AWFUL, STAY AWAY FROM ME, I’M AN EMOTIONAL VAMPIRE AND GOING TO SUCK THE LIFE OUT OF YOU!  We learn this in Buffy through a variety of ways:  Faith, who starts good, then goes bad (then good again- see number 4); Drusilla, who is always bad; evil packaged as innocent looking children or beautiful humans; The Initiative; the list goes on and on.
7.  Be flexible, and use your imagination
No matter what villain they faced, or evil they fought down, Buffy and her gang were always creative in the way they went about it.  It wasn’t always the most direct approach, it wasn’t the easiest, but it was the way that it got done.  And it *got done*.  It may not have been pretty, but it was done.  You had demons that made the entire adult population regress to their teenage years, ones that made everyone believe that they were their Halloween costumes, and my personal favorite, one that had everyone *SINGING* their personal business.  And how did they defeat them?  Quick thinking and creative solutions which, by the way, are hallmarks of what makes excellent employees in today’s workplace.  That flexibility and creative thinking goes a long way in real life- thinking outside the box is cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason.

6.  Friends can be your family
I’m the first to admit that I have a Buffy addiction, as well as a Disney one.  And what do they have in common?  A distinct lack of parents.  Buffy’s dad is AWOL from the beginning, then her mom dies in season 5 (one of the episodes that has been described as one of the best television episodes ever broadcast, BTW (Kaveney, Roz (ed.) (2004). Reading the Vampire Slayer: The New, Updated, Unofficial Guide to Buffy and Angel, Tauris Parke Paperbacks. ISBN 1-4175-2192-9).  So who is Buffy’s support network?  HER FRIENDS.  If it weren’t for Willow and Xander, who are there from the beginning, Buffy wouldn’t have survived emotionallythroughout her struggles, let alone physically.  I have a wonderful family, but I’m lucky in that I have wonderful friends that have supported me as well, no matter what I’m doing or what I believe in.  Having moved four states away from any family right after being married, I know the importance of my friend-family in my life:  if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to face a lot of things that life has thrown my way.
5.  You can survive the big bad
Buffy has a lot in common with YA literature, in that it shows that no matter what happens, you can survive it.  Buffy, Willow and Xander go through the death of parents, of friends, of lovers, even Buffy (twice).  They fight werewolves, vampires, demons, curses, ghosts, possession, spells.  They fall in love and out of love, sometimes with each other, sometimes with others in their close group, sometimes with the enemy.  They lose themselves numerous times along the way.  However, at the end, they win out, and it shows that you can survive the big bad.  It’s an important message that needs to be given, and I don’t think that it’s being given enough.
4.  The geeks shall rule the Earth
If Joss Whedon isn’t geeky enough for you, and the fact that he created Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, directed the Avengers, and has a cult following that numbers in the billions world-wide, then consider this:  the characters that were the “geeks” in Buffy are the ones that have gone on to major stardom and continuing success.  Alyson Hannigan, who stars as Willow, has gone on to star in the blockbuster American Pie movie series, which just recently released American Reunion, and plays Lily Aldrin on How I Met Your Mother.  Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander, has made a career on the small screen, landing roles on Private Practice and Criminal Minds.  And Seth Green, who played Oz, went through the stratosphere, as Dr. Evil’s son in the Austin Powers movies, lending his voice in Family Guy and the video game series Mass Effect, and directing/producing and voice talent in the ongoing Robot Chicken TV series.  He’s so good he gives Sarah Michelle Geller jobs.  It’s good to be the geek, huh?
3.  Girls kick butt
If I had three wishes, the first one would be for Joss Whedon to have his own television station and film studio where he could make all the shows and movies his heart desires.  He consistently creates female characters who are intelligent, witty, and can kick ass with the guys- all of which should be considered normal in our society and isn’t.  There’s a wonderful quote from years ago where he was interviewed:

When asked in an interview years ago why he writes these strong female characters, he simply responded, “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Girls still need these strong female characters, in television, in film, and in books, because right now a lot of them are lost and no one is sure why.  It’s blamed on our instant culture, on television, on music videos, on rap, on the current fad of the moment, but no one really knows.  I feel that if they had more positive role models to look at, instead of shows that encourage them to fall down drunk every night and act stupid to attract attention, that it could not be a bad thing.
2.  Love knows no boundaries
Buffy shows us that it’s OK to love whomever we want, and that there shouldn’t be any judgment with it.  Buffy herself loved Angel (vampire with a soul), Rylie (military cyborg), and Spike (vampire first without a soul then with a soul).  Xander loved Willow, then Cordelia, then finally Anya (vengeance demon).  Willowcrushed on Xander, then Oz (werewolf), then Tara (female witch).  And you know what?  THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THEIR RELATIONSHIPS.  NOTHING.  And there were no judgment from their friends.  Which is the way it should be.  So love who you love because love is precious (see #9).
Finally, the best thing about Buffy is that anyone can be the hero of the story.  If that’s proven anywhere, with any character, it’s with Spike.  He goes from being evil vampire, to chipped with an anti-violent impulse device, to a rapist, to a vampire with a soul, to the sacrificial savior of Sunnydale and the world through seven seasons, all with peroxide blonde hair, a leather duster, and a wonderful British accent.  Would you have seen that coming?  He’s the most extreme case, but anyone can be the hero of their own story, they just need to believe that they can be.

Check out these awesome website for more of The Sunnydale Project
Bookish Comforts
Patricia’s Particularity

The Sunnydale Project is a look back on all things Buffy by fans.  Buffy and all that it entails is owned by Joss Whedon, who is awesome.

Slayer Scavenger Hunt
on Slayer Saturdays!

Did you notice some words written in red in this post? If not, go back and take a look. You’ll want to, I can reassure you. Why? Because we are having a Buffy themed scavenger hunt! How fun is that? To find out how to participate, read the details below. And I know you’ll want to participate because we are working on getting some GREAT prizes lined up for the winners!

  • Each week on our Slayer Saturday posts look for the words highlighted. There will be 3 sets of words each weekend, so make sure to visit all three blogs (Bookish Comforts, Patricia’s Particularity and Teen Librarian Toolbox).
  • Write down the words each week (Sept. 8 – Oct. 20), putting them in an order that makes sense. All together these words create a quote from Buffy.
  • During the last week a form will be made available on all three blogs where you can turn in the quote that you have pieced together.
  • On the last weekend of The Sunnydale Project, Oct. 27, the quote will be revealed! We will then draw a winner from those who have correctly completed the quote.
We really hope you have fun with this! We’re still finalizing the prize, but it’ll be worth participating for! An announcement will be made when all details have been finalized.

X Marks the Spot: Family in the Whedonverse (The Sunnydale Project)

One dark night I drove down an unknown road to watch the X-files with a friend. A big X in the window let me know that I had come to the right house. That night, a friendship was forged that opened my heart and changed my life. Two amazing souls walked into my heart and taught me more than I could ever hope to know about thinking and feeling and being . . . and about family.  It was here, while watching the X-files, Buffy and Angel, that I learned that we were doing the very thing that Joss Whedon wrote about in his shows: making a family.

And because life is fluid, and celebrities are vain, David Duchovny walked out of my life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked in. And in this ‘verse I learned a wonderful truth: family is not just those you were born into, but those you chose to love and share yourself with.

I was born into a family (and I love them), but over the years divorce and jobs had taken me all over the place. By the time I graduated with my Master’s in Library Science I had been to 5 elementary schools, 2 junior highs, 2 high schools and 4 colleges. My soul was weary and I just needed some roots. I wanted to have one friend in my life that I could sit around in old age and share those stories that start out, “remember that time . . .” I was tired of being a tumble weed, I wanted to be a tree.

I met “M” of the X fame at my very first library job; she was my mentor.  My friend M is an amazing librarian. I have spent much time talking with her about LIBRARIANSHIP and all that it entails. Sometimes we even disagree (there is an eyeball involved in this story). When I have a question, I call and ask her. When I have a complaint, I call her. When I write a blog post that I am wicked in love with, I e-mail it to her. Somewhere along the line I started calling her “mom”, mostly as a joke because she really never wanted to have kids. Then I had kids and they started calling her “grandma”. They love her like a grandma; to them she is without a doubt or hesitation their grandma. They are just blessed to have this wicked smart lady as an additional – a bonus – grandma if you will.  Joss Whedon would approve (and then he would probably kill her off in an amazing episode like The Body but we’ll just skip that part).

What does all of this have to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It was while watching Buffy that I learned that my family building was not unique to me. You see, one of the main themes of the Joss Whedon universe is that you build a family with the people in your life that you choose to love. I’m not making it up, someone even wrote a book about it (I recommend the book, it is interesting).

Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-2172-5
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-7864-8306-8

Buffy came from a broken home; but she built for herself an amazing family with her Watcher Giles, friends Xander and Willow, and some of the others that came in and out of their lives. Then when Angel went to L.A., he too build a family with Gunn, Cordelia, and eventually Fred, Wesley and Lorne. The gang on Firefly? Yep, they become a family. And like all families, there are issues, but what matters is how our merry band of world savers handle the issues. Somehow, they keep coming back together. They eventually talk, they forgive, and above all – they choose to love (or at least tolerate).  Whether you were a slayer or a vampire with a soul, a witch, a vengeance demon, gay or straight – you could find love in this “family”.

As someone who has worked with teens for so long, I think this is an important message. You see, many of our teens are hurting and looking for a family. The ones they have are sometimes so very broken. And that is the message of Joss Whedon: Hope. You may have some brokenness around the edges, but you can build for yourself a life – and a family – and find a way to thrive.  You too can save the world, or at least your world – a lot – if you allow yourself to continue to be open and receive help from those around you.

This is a really important message not only of the Whedonverse, but of the Potterverse.  Time and time again Buffy needs the various skills of her “family” to help discover what is happening and help rid Sunnydale of the season’s big bad.  And Harry Potter succeeded not on his own, but with the help of Ron and Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore and others.  In fact, Harry, the orphan boy in the cupboard under the stairs, also built for himself a family.  And maybe that is the real message of it all, when you allow yourself to be open to others – real magic can happen.

For 13 years now, M has been my Watcher, although we have only slayed metaphorical demons.  And I know that many of us that work with teens in the library, we have been one (often more) of those teen’s watchers.  It’s all good, Giles is a good librarian to emulate, except for the part where he is taking his teenage students out at night for life risking missions.  You’ll probably want to avoid that part.

I write more about Blood Relations and the chosen family in my review of How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr.

Here’s another paper on the topic called Friends are Family We Choose for Ourselves