Book Review: Shadowlands

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Great! Solid book with little or minimal issues)

Shadowlands is the thrilling first installment in the brand new series by bestselling author Kate Brian. After reading the synopsis, I was immediately hooked because of the unique plot involving a serial killer which was definitely a selling point for me.  I recently read another young adult serial killer book by Robert Cormier called Tenderness. The book puts the reader into the mind of the killer and allows the reader a glimpse into the complex mind.  If serial killers in literature interest you, I highly recommend checking out Tenderness at your local library.

On the other hand, Shadowlands only glimpses very briefly into the mind of a serial killer with the story being told primarily from the victim’s point of view. I’ve seen more and more young adult books with serial killers and it is a trend that I welcome.  Okay, now on to the review!

The Set Up

While walking home from school, teenager Rory Miller is attacked by brutal and seasoned serial killer Steven Nell.  Rory survives the attack and is forced into witness protection with her father and sister Darcy.  This trauma triggers visions and flashes brought on by post traumatic stress that she previously experienced when dealing with her mother’s death. The post traumatic episodes continue even when the family is safely established in Juniper Landing, a picturesque island vacation town far away from the brutal past events in Rory’s life. Rory and Darcy make friends immediately with the island’s local teens where surfing and a low-key lifestyle is the priority. Life at Juniper Landing seems perfect, but Rory is still plagued by the memory of Steven Nell.  Rory begins to notice unusual signs and events leading her to believe that Nell has found her.  However, no one seems to believe her due to her post traumatic illness and the strong possibility that she is seeing something that isn’t there. Rory’s worries and theories are confirmed when one of her new friends goes missing and it is only a matter of time before she must face her worse nightmare.

My Thoughts: The twist is both shocking and disappointing

Okay, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it only took me a few hours to read. The opening chapter told from the serial killer’s mind sucked me right into the story and never let me go. The book has a good balance between realistic and stock young adult plot lines.  There are of course hot guys and love triangles; however, the murder plot and intensity of the serial killer cut right through those flimsy plot lines and provide a complex story.

There were points in this book where I was questioning the validity, but this is a fiction title and didn’t dwell on it.  When the FBI gives Rory and her family new identities, a car, and a secure location to drive without police escort or cell phone, I remember I laughed. With a killer as clever and elusive as Nell, why did the FBI think it was okay for them to leave from their house where anyone could have followed. When the house was surrounded by police under constant supervision, Nell found a way to get inside and leave a note on Rory’s bed. That should have been a clear indicator that this guy isn’t the run of the mill psycho. I understand why Brian had to write the situation this way (it leads to the big twist) but it perhaps could have been written more realistically.

I won’t go into detail and will stay spoiler free, but there is a large twist to the book you will read in the last sentence. Fortunately, this is book one in the series and book two, Hereafter, comes out October 1, 2013 which I will be reserving as soon as possible at my library. I was shocked in a good way; however, disappointed when I finished the book.  The end was slightly confusing and I went back into the book to see exactly what happened and what I missed. Even though I was confused, I didn’t mind the disorientation. I really enjoyed reading the book and would like to reread to really understand the events leading to the end. I recommend this book for people who enjoy mystery, suspense, murder, and young adult fiction (of course!).

Check it out at your local library and don’t forget about the sequel coming out this October!

Page Monster Bookmarks *Update*

In an earlier post, I wrote about the page monster bookmark craft I was hosting at my library. The program was a complete success and some participants stayed for over two hours! The bookmarks created went above and beyond and were extremely creative. It was amazing to see how many variations could be generated from one simple template. Here are pictures of some of the bookmarks created that day, enjoy! I especially love the one with the eyelashes and bonnet 🙂

Book Review: Neferet’s Curse

Rating: 5 out of 5 (Perfection! Everyone should read this!)

Neferet's CurseNeferet’s Curse by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast is the latest edition to the House of Night novella series. This novella is a spin-off from the House of Night series explaining the origin of the High Priestess Neferet. If you love to read fantasy, historical fiction, or paranormal young adult fiction this book is for you!  Before this book, I never read any of the House of Night series even though I have seen them in the library. I was drawn to the story and intrigued by the setting and time period of this book.

The Skinny

The year of 1893 marks a violent event that is even worse than death. When sixteen year old Emily Wheiler’s mother dies her whole world is turned upside down. On her deathbed, Emily’s mother imparts her final motherly advice telling her to think before getting married and not to rush into a proposal. Emily isn’t sure what she means by these words; however, she soon begins to understand her mother’s motivations. Before her mother’s death, her father never went out of his way to acknowledge Emily and never took part in her upbringing.  Now with her mother dead, her father looks to Emily to become the Lady of the House and takes an active interest in her life. Emily reluctantly takes the role her mother once held where she must fulfill the roles of hostess, charitable volunteer, and companion to her father. At first, Emily is pleased and excited to have her father paying special attention to her; however, she soon realizes that this affection is unsettling and uncomfortable as her father seems to have replaced his wife with his young daughter. The advice Emily’s mother gave her begins to make sense and she realizes that her mother was trapped in a marriage with a terrifying man. In addition to her father’s heavy drinking and strange behavior, he becomes extremely possessive and controlling of Emily and she is now, just like her mother, locked in a nightmare that she wants to escape as soon as possible. The escape she desires comes in the form of Arthur, a handsome young suitor determined to take Emily away from all the evil in her house. Arthur represents the happiness she so desperately wants, but will he be the escape that saves her from the nightmare? Meanwhile Emily’s father becomes increasingly dangerous and threatens to take away everything she holds dear.

My Thoughts: Everyone Loves an Underdog

Let me first say that I finished this book within a few hours. Unfortunately this book is only 146 pages, and I wished it was 500! I loved every minute from beginning to end, and I was completely engaged and enthralled with the story of sixteen year old Emily Wheiler. The character development for Emily is impressive considering the shortness of the story. She is a relevant and relatable character even though the time period is set in 1893. I became attached to her at the end of this book and wished I could have kept reading about her new adventure in the House of Night. Her rise from naïve girl to powerful priestess was well written and developed brilliantly for the length of the story. It is interesting to note that in the House of Night series, Emily, now known as Neferet, is a villain. This novella provides readers with an in-depth look into a character that is written as one-dimensional in the series.

Check with your local library for availability and happy reading!

Calling All Artists!

Jack & Sally SketchHere is my in-progress sketch of the iconic scene from Disney’s Nightmare Before Christmas. I am using oil pastel for the background and I’m not sure what to use for the characters. Oil pastel may not be detailed enough to define the characters, so I’m thinking colored pencil, then outlining in marker. I want the characters to stand out from the background and love to implement mixed media. Artists, what do you think? I started this before I moved to California and I would love some suggestions for the direction I should go in.

Reading Opens Doors

Reading Opens Doors

This simple yet descriptive comic perfectly explains why reading is so beneficial, especially to children. Reading opens doors to the world be providing access to new cultures, ways of life and thinking, and exposure to alternative beliefs. At an early age, children need exposure to diverse cultures, people, and ways of life in order for them to grow up with open minds. Reading is an important activity that should be instilled at an early age in order to promote the activity later in life. If you have little ones, try your local library to participate in baby or toddler storytimes. They are very beneficial to children and introduce children to the library at an early age.

Reading is not only important in children, but remains important the rest of our lives. Continuing to educate ourselves is very important to be able to transition and grow and I plan on learning till I’m old and grey!

What are you reading? Do you continue to educate yourself, and how?

 

Annoying Gym Gripes

Okay so I feel the need to vent about my experiences at the gym and how strange, inconsiderate, and nasty people are (no sugar-coating here). Let me first say that I am originally from a very small town and there was only one gym.  Going to the gym was like a high school and elementary school reunion every time you stepped foot through the door.  Due to the fact that you know everyone, there weren’t people just walking around in the locker room buck naked with their business hanging out, because chances are that could be your first grade teacher. Okay so now that you have a visual, needless to say I came into my California gym experience with a narrow view and was shocked by what I have seen that has me chuckling every time I exit.

I have learned that:

1. Everyone loves to be naked in the locker room.  I get it, it’s a locker room with showers and provides a place to change.  All that aside, I don’t feel it’s necessary to be rubbing lotion all over your naked body in front of everyone in the locker room.  Sorry, you can call me conservative. but that is way past acceptable in front of strangers.  Seeing a flashes of body parts while you are putting your clothes on and off I understand, but when I see a completely naked woman weighing herself by the exit of the locker room it’s too much.   Unfortunately, I learned the hard way after many an eyeful of flesh. I now walk into the locker room with my head down and hope for the best.

Let’s go bouncing on the moon

2. Astronauts like to work out too. I have seen the metallic suits only in spoofs or as a joke on TV, but at my gym it’s common to find these space explorers. Yes they do make you sweat more and “lose weight,” but come on.  You are losing water weight that can easily be gained back after the workout.  Are you a boxer, jockey, or wrestler and need to “make-weight” before your competition? If not, then why would you wear that ridiculous outfit.

It’s “run Forest run,” not walk.

3. If you want to run on the treadmill you first have to wait for the walkers to get off. Yes, building your endurance up to running by walking is the best way to avoid injury and warm your body up. However, when there are no open treadmills and everyone is walking there needs to be an emergency stop button to get these walkers off.  There are many available ellipticals for the walkers to use that would be more beneficial for their health because of the varying resistance.  If you are only going to walk, please be courteous and use the elliptical when there are little to no treadmills available. I know this will never happen, but when I want to run and I am confined to the elliptical it really ticks me off.

4. If you don’t clean the machine before you use it, chances are you will be enjoying the last person’s sweat. I’ve observed that the majority of people do not clean the machine after they use it. It is especially gross on the treadmills or ellipticals where the sweat pours off bodies in buckets (If I see the ground wet around your machine chances are that I won’t use the machine anywhere near you, ewww).  I congratulate the person who just sprinted 3 miles, but would it kill you to pick a paper towel, antibacterial, and wipe the machine you just gave a bath. It’s the little things here people.

I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders (no pun intended). Thanks for listening to my rant which I hope you found enlightening. Have you ever experienced any of these annoyances at the gym? Enjoy the comic I figured it applied here!

Pig Comic

Page Monster Bookmarks

Are you a ravenous reader? Do you have an old ragged bookmark that needs replacing? If you are looking for a personalized and fun way to decorate your book, I found this great page corner bookmark template from Tally’s Treasury while researching for a craft to implement at the library where I work.  I will be hosting the program for all ages in May and it is really simple to make.

This bookmark is easy to construct and a cute way to save your page while reading.  For instructions, materials, and a step-by-step tutorial, check out the main page!  You will need card stock, decorative scrapbooking paper, glue sticks, and a few more items to make these little monsters. You can personalize them anyway you wish by adding googly eyes or use stickers!  This is a great way to encourage reading and be crafty!

Page Corner Bookmarks

 

Book Review: Ozma of Oz

Rating: 5 out of 5 (Perfection!)

Ozma of OzBeware the Wheelers! However, you shouldn’t beware of this whimsical and wonderful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s third Oz classic novel. Ozma of Oz, written by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young, is a graphic novel written for the young adult audience and everyone who enjoys anything related to the Wizard of Oz. This is the third installment in Marvel’s Oz series. I was quite excited to find this graphic novel due to an assignment for one of my classes in library school.  I love anything Wizard of Oz (except the “King of the Forest” song…I fast forward that part of the movie, so annoying) and the idea of making this into a graphic novel sparked my intrigue.

The Skinny

Making their way to Australia on the high seas, Dorothy and Uncle Henry must survive a tumultuous storm that threatens to send them overboard. Dorothy finds herself separated from Uncle Henry and while searching for him she is swept off deck into the stormy sea.  She finds a chicken coop to use as a makeshift boat and falls asleep to pass the time.  When she wakes, she meets a talking hen named Billina and finally reaches the Land of Ev. Convinced she is “not in Kansas anymore” (considering this hen can talk and only in magical lands can animals talk), she embarks on a journey through this mysterious land to try to find her way back home once again.

My Thoughts: Don’t Mess with Dorothy

Deep blues and purples make the moon almost glow from the page

The glowing moon jumps off the page.

This was my first time reading a graphic novel and I have to say I see why they are appealing and addicting.  The first thing that caught my eye was the amazing artwork. The illustrations are Tim Burton-esqe invoking an edgy and dark tone, but still colorful and eye pleasing.  Due to some of the dark themes and content, such as murder, beheading, and war, the artwork complements the plot providing a seamless and blended reading experience.  Graphic novels are mostly artwork and illustration so it is extremely important ensure a continuity between that and the story.  This artwork inspired me to create something based on these illustrations which I will begin to work on soon!

The story itself is fun, interesting, and engaging. The quick pace of the story keeps the reader engulfed into the story and allows the reader to finish the book within an hour easily. This is what makes graphic novels so appealing to young adults, because they can be finished quickly and do not need a large time commitment.  This graphic novel is great to use to attract reluctant readers and provide them a fun and entertaining story to sink their teeth into. Another great thing about this graphic novel is the character of Dorothy.  In the movie, she is polite, proper, and cheery which the graphic novel expands and makes Dorothy a more complex character. In the beginning of the novel, she is scared and dependent upon others; however, she makes a great transformation into an independent and fierce female by the end of the book.

I love this story because it reminds me of the Disney movie, Return to Oz, which is very similar to the plot of Ozma of Oz.  The movie  translates the dark and sometimes creepy images and themes to life.  Return to Oz features most of the characters in Ozma of Oz with addition to characters that are featured in the other Marvel Oz series.  Let me just say that this movie is not a typical Disney movie.  To a kid, it will be terrifying, especially the characters of the Wheelers.  Check out the trailer and see for yourself!

Overall, I really enjoyed this graphic novel and found it to be a well done adaptation of a literary classic.  I highly recommend this book for people who love Oz, artwork, comic books, and graphic novels.   Be sure to check out the other books in this series from your local library: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Book 1), The Marvelous Land of Oz (Book 2), and Dorothy & the Wizard of Oz (Book 4).  Reading them in order is not necessary because each story stands on its own. There’s no place like home!

California Beaches vs. Jersey Beaches

If I say I’m going to the shore in Jersey, it means hot sun, bikinis, boardwalk, ice-cold drinks, and suntan lotion; however, in the San Francisco Bay area if you are going to the beach you better pack a sweat shirt, wet suit, warm drinks, and blankets.  Also when most people think of beaches in Jersey this is what they think…I promise you this is not the norm.  Yes there are people like this, but no the majority does not look or act this way.  I feel the need to clarify this common misconception!

Fist pumping their way down the shore

Fist pumping their way down the shore

This past weekend we decided to head over to the beach and get some salty ocean smells.  We ate at Sutro’s at the Cliff House, a great restaurant  on the cliffs of the San Francisco Pacific coast line.  After eating we journeyed down the cliffs and explored the caves and got a closer look at the Pacific Ocean.  There were a lot of interesting and beautiful views from this location that epitomize Northern California beaches.  I made this collage with InstaCollage for iPhone integrating all the pictures I took into one stamp/postcard.

Beach Stamp

On a side note, these pictures totally remind me of the movie, Goonies.  Especially the one with the three stones that the kids line up with the skull decoder.

Goonies

Trying to find the rich stuff…

Winter is Coming!

Are you ready?  Tonight is the premiere of the highly anticipated season 3 of Game of Thrones and I am extremely excited!  This season will be the most bloody yet and filled with shocking moments.  When we last saw the Stark’s, Lannister’s, and the rest of the gang, war broke out on all fronts across the land and the struggle of power came to a bloody confrontation.  The last scene we were left with finally unveiled the infamous and mysterious White Walkers (a cross between zombies and the cursed pirates from Pirates of the Caribbean when they are in the moonlight) that will sure to play a large role continuing forward.  Jog your memory by watching the last scene from season 2 below!

Opposites Attract

I was searching the web for interesting art related to Games of Thrones and I stumbled upon some gems that I thought you guys would enjoy.  Since I am such a Disney fan, I wanted to see if anyone created art mashing up Game of Thrones and Disney.  Even though Disney and Game of Thrones are pretty much polar opposites, it’s interesting to see how they go together.  I found some great ones, enjoy!

Pretty sure she would rule all other Disney Princesses

 

Here is Daenerys Targaryen as a Disney Princess and her Disney dragons including, Pete’s Dragon, Maleficent in dragon form, and the Epcot dragon Figment.  Mushu from Mulan would have been a good inclusion; however, there are only three dragons in the show so I understand his absence.

 

 

 

Poor Wendy has no idea...

Poor Wendy has no idea…

Can you guess the Disney characters and match them to their Game of Thrones’ counterparts?  My favorite here is Phil from Hercules as Tyrion Lannister (one of my favorite characters in the show and books).  I like how he is by himself calculating the situation and the scene captures his personality perfectly.  Who is your favorite character from the show and does it fit the Disney counterpart?

 

Don't mess with Scrooge McDuck

Don’t mess with Scrooge McDuck

 

Duck Tales takes a serious turn when Scrooge McDuck becomes insane with power and eliminates potential heirs that could threaten his throne.  This art isn’t for kids obviously, but I thought it was very creative and captured the brutal tone of Game of Thrones.  There is also humor with the tagline, what do you think of it?!

 

If you have never watched the show I highly recommend it, you will not be disappointed!  You can rent season 1 & 2  and check out the books from your local library!  Otherwise, if you are all caught up all you can do is wait a few short hours till winter comes!