Feature Fun Friday - Instructions by Neil Gaiman

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Art of Motion by Andy McKee.

To end National Poetry Month, I had to go with an all-time favorite of mine - Instructions by Neil Gaiman. And can you imagine to my delight (and squealing. Yes, there was very much squealing involved) when I found out that this poem was being turned into a picture book? And they made a video of it and had Neil Gaiman narrate it? I love that man's voice. That makes for a situation of win all around, and one awesome Feature Fun Friday. Have a great weekend everyone!

(And here is a wonderful and fascinating evolution of Charles Vess' sketches to Neil Gaiman's poem Instructions, from pencil to finished product).

Book Spine Poetry, Part 5.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Aragorn's Quest by Chris Bouchard [The Hunt For Gollum soundtrack].

A kiss in time,
the valley of secrets.
Breaking Dawn.

Heaven looks a lot like the mall.

Book Spine Poetry, Part 4.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Perfect Day by Hoku.

Worlds Apart
Reaching Out
Breaking Through

season of ice,
the silver kiss
outside beauty.

Book Spine Poetry, Part 3.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Within Tolerance by Slowblow [Screaming Masterpieces soundtrack].

The Walls have eyes,
always watching,

Girl, hero,
born for adventure.

Book Spine Poetry, Part 2.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Umlahi by Mediaeval Baebes.

If I knew then,
reaching out,
...would you?

Before I die -
How I live now,

Book Spine Poetry, Part 1.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Swing Life Away by Rise Against.

To celebrate National Poetry Month and a post-National Library Week, I thought I would squash the two together in a very cool mash-up of sorts. Has anyone heard of book spine poetry? Apparently it's a fairly new art form that is taking off and is pretty self-explanatory even if it isn't nearly as easy as it sounds. Simply put, you make poetry from the titles of book spines. Like magnetic poetry - sort of. It has some really cool (and sometimes bizarre) results. But dang is it fun. So this entire week, you get to see my early attempts of spine poetry in action. I did this all at my local library (had to tie them together, of course) and I got some really funny looks for it, too. :)

And if you decide to hop in on the fun, send me a link and I will post it back here.

The girls next door
always watching...
...Carter finally gets it.

After the moment,
One whole and perfect day---
Everything is fine.

Monday's Muse, 14th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Dry Your Tears, Afrika by John Williams [Amistad soundtrack].

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Second Sight by Gary Blackwood and James Hamilton.

Blackwood weaves an absorbing tale of espionage, conspiracy, and political intrigue. Set in Washington, DC, in 1864, the story focuses on Nicholas and Joseph Ehrlich, a father and son who develop a mind-reading act using a secret coded alphabet. They become successful performers who skillfully trick audiences into believing that they have extraordinary powers. Through their show-business career, they become acquainted with John Wilkes Booth and other political activists. Eventually Joseph meets Cassandra Quinn, a girl who seems to have true powers of clairvoyance. Through her second sight, she senses that something terrible is going to happen to President Lincoln, and Joseph becomes involved with her in trying to prevent a catastrophe. It is at this juncture that Blackwood begins to twist history with some surprising results. This is a well-researched, engrossing story grounded in historical detail. Many true historical figures interact with the fleshed-out fictional characters that move the story along. Overall, the narrator's conversational, candid asides are refreshing and entertaining, but at times they do interrupt the narrative flow. This is a minor drawback in an otherwise gripping tale that could be used as a springboard for some interesting class discussions.–Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

A Deadly Game of Magic by Joan Lowery Nixon.

Four teens who while on their way back from a competition are forced to pull over at a lonesome house after a rather bad storm arises. A flood occurs and although they would really rather leave, they are forced to stay in this house after their ride finds something unnerving in the dark room down the hall and leaves them stranded. Later, they realize they aren't alone in the house like they were led to believe in the beginning...

Ms. Nixon can make your skin crawl with fear with just the right amount of realism that makes a good mystery a great read. The house in the middle of nowhere, car trouble, a stormy night, a magician's house, the phone line going dead and the missing guillotine? What more could you ask for? The characters are very believable. You fear turning to the next page but the writing sweeps you into it out of shear terror as the story mounts to its climax. This is a must read for mystery readers of any age from 11 through adult. --review combo from Anonymous and MysteryLadyRA on bn.com.

Double or Nothing by Marc Talbert.

This tender and sensitive novel celebrates a boy's devotion, faith and wonder. Although Uncle Frank's death has left Sam with a tremendous sense of loss, grief becomes mingled with excitement when the nine-year-old receives a large collection of magic tricks--the tools of his uncle's trade. Already an amateur magician, Sam prepares a one-man show to commemorate his late uncle's birthday. During his debut, Sam discovers a new kind of magic that is produced by his captive audience. Even though the real star of this novel--Phantasmagoric Frank--is dead when the story begins, his whimsy and wisdom will be felt as his nephew recalls past events. While focusing on Sam's attempts to emulate his idol, Talbert ( Toby ; The Paper Knife ) expresses poetic, keenly perceptive ideas about people and their visions of the world.

A Trick of the Dark by Kenneth Lillington.

A darkly humorous and macabre story of obsession and revenge. Kate was eight when she first saw the elf, but nobody else could see it. The second time was ten years later, and this time it was real.

Kid-B by Linden Dalecki.

B-boying is the only thing seventeen-year-old Kid B has ever been any good at—but that’s nothin’ to floss about in his racially charged eastern Texas town in the rust belt. He’s been called “wigger” and “jigaboo,” but race doesn’t matter to Kid. Or his krew. What matters is that they represent at the upcoming Throw Down—one of the most cutthroat hip-hop dance competitions in the nation—and that they hold their own against rivals Magno Clique, the roughest gang of b-boyers in town.

Over a hot summer, friendly challenges between the two gangs turn bloody. And though he’s just trying to keep it together with his messed-up family, his friends, and his new girlfriend, Kid is forced to figure out the next steps in his life.

Feature Fun Friday - Mysterious Ticking Noise

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Dreams by The Cranberries.

This is a video that needs no introduction. Go. Watch. Enjoy.

Interview - Kristin Clark Venuti, author of Leaving the Bellweathers

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Shine by Ulrich Schnauss.

Today is a special treat because not only do we get to hear from the wonderful Kristin Clark Venuti (psst, come closer), she is also a fantastic interviewer. If you want more information and insight into the family of the Bellweathers, there is no better place to look than this author's own mouth.

Welcome, Kristin Clark Venuti!

I know this question is asked a lot, but this is the first time I've asked it because, well, I really need to know. This family is so eccentric. What inspired this story?

The family is indeed eccentric. My influences for this book were 1) Books by Roald Dahl 2) The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams and 3) as scary as this is, My Own Family. (along with a hearty helping of Attention Deficit Disorder. Really.)
The character of Spider came to me first because my oldest child shares Spider's viewpoint that vicious animals are really just misunderstood. We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains where rattlesnake sightings are not uncommon. My fear was always that this child of mine would attempt to domesticate one. He never did - but still, I was Very Relieved when his childhood passed without an experiment of that nature. Ninda is based on my niece. We are a very tight family and often travel together en masse and so I have spent countless hours in the company of someone who really does wish to right the wrongs of the world. She has a finely developed sense of right and wrong - as it applies to other people. As a child this sense almost never extended to herself or her actions, if that makes sense. The triplets are based on my two youngest and my nephew. As I said, we traveled together a lot when they were younger and man, were they LOUD. Unless they were Up To No Good. Then they were frighteningly quiet. And destructive. They didn't mean to be bad, but let's just say I learned the hard way not to leave the three of them, a VCR and a tube of toothpaste alone in a room if I wanted to get back the deposit I'd paid on the vacation home. I identify most with Benway. Not that I'd ever actually want to leave my family, but Cleaning up Other People's Messes is a wearisome thing indeed.

I think this answers part of question 2. The reason the kid's names are so odd is that those are nicknames they all chose for themselves on a family trip to Italy. (No coincidence that the book I'm working on now (the third) has the Bellweathers traveling to Italy.)

Who is your favorite character of the lot, and why?

I can't really cop to a favorite character - I love them all (except for Thaddeus Bohack and Wodehouse Smithers of course - although Wodehouse cracks me up, mostly cause he's such a bane to Benway). I have to say that I probably enjoy writing the triplets the most - I laugh out loud sometimes when I'm working on their scenes. This can be a little mortifying since I usually write in a coffee shop called The Blue Rock Shoot. The regulars have gotten used to it - but people that just happen in to the place must look at me and wonder if I escaped my keepers.

Will there be more books of this oddly engaging family? And will Benway join in their adventures?

SPOILER ALERT Yes - there are more adventures in store for this family - and of COURSE Benway stays. The Butler Gets a Break; A Bellweather Tale is even now getting set in galleys. It comes out next fall - and I'm at work on new, new one.

Pretty early on I decided that the characters would remain themselves and that there wouldn't be a lot of growth and development. Oh, maybe once in a while they'll experience a revelation that there's a different, less chaotic way to behave but it will never last too long, I think. The Bellweathers are just meant to be lighthearted fun. Before I met them, I wrote depressing short fiction for adults. After my godson was killed by a drunk driver I decided that there was enough sad stuff in the world. That said, I am also at work on a YA that deals with YAish kinds of things.

Through the process was there anything you ever had to cut out, editors or otherwise?

My editor is really wonderful. She's one to make suggestions, not demands. Still, I've definitely had to cut out things. Good things, bad things, things that I thought were fabulous but just didn't work. That's part of what revision is about. Of course I sometimes had to get rid of things that tickled me in order to have a stronger book. Remembering that as a goal makes certain decisions less painful.

And what is a favorite unknown book of yours that few know about?

I'm going to have to think about the last question. I read a lot - but I'm not sure if there's anything I've read recently that others might not have discovered on their own. Right now I'm crazy in love with 43 Old Cemetery Road by the Klise sisters, but it was a Junior Library Guild selection for 2009 so it's not exactly obscure.

Thanks so much for coming, Kristin!

Review - Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Eyes of Truth by Enigma.

My reviews are a bit different than most. My purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the regular radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself.

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will not review books before 2005 (with very rare exceptions).

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti
Published: September 22, 2009
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 256
Current Amazon Rank: #257,647
Author's Website: http://www.leavingthebellweathers.com/

The First Line:

The Journal of T. Benway

Why I Am Here and Should Not Be

July 7,
Glorious Liberation and Oath Abandonment Time (GLOAT) minus 8 weeks, 2 hours, and 27 minutes.

For many years now, I have served the family Bellweather in my loyal, dedicated, and hardworking fashion.

My Take: This is a fun book. This is a funny book. It is all about a very eccentric family (that is putting it mildly) and the poor butler who has served their family since they day he left butler academy because of an oath his ancestor made 200 years ago. Spider, the 14-year-old, loves animals, but only if they are exotic, deadly, and endangered. The triplets like to dig holes and cause general mayhem, and 13-year old Ninda is an *ahem* extreme advocate for human rights. Their father is a mad scientist (in every sense of the word) and their mother likes to paint. A lot.

Poor Benway. He never asked for any of this. But he is loyal and no matter what they've put him through (and it's a lot, trust me) he has stayed with them. But not so any longer. The oath is almost up and he dreams of a place on a warm beach in Far Far Away and a flower garden the triplets won't destroy. Then the kids get wind that their beloved butler might be wanting to leave them, and they decide to band together to show him just how much he is loved and needed.

This is a fun caper, and truly that - a caper. The characters are not particularly deep but they have their own eccentric personalities so that it is easy to understand them. This story is much more about their misadventures than anything, but you will come to find that you care for them, particularly the indomitable Benway (who ever thought you would be rooting for a butler as hero? It's awesome). Benway's diaries entries, in particular, were one of my favorite parts as we saw the world through his eyes and sympathized with him even more. Very lighthearted in nature, but that is exactly what it is meant to be. No deep thinking here, just a lot of easy going fun and adventures, and it succeeds in that quite well. You don't need steak for every meal.

The Final Word: Lighthearted, crazy and fun, this is definitely not a deep-thinker book, but it is a fast read, and enjoyable. A butler makes a great hero.

Other Takes:
Charlotte's Library
Book Nut
Becky's Book Reviews
Steph Su Reads
Garish and Tweed
Frenetic Reader

T-shirts are cool.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Follow You Follow Me by Genesis.

I'm a sucker for awesome tees, and I found some that are of particular literary merit. Thank you threadless. You rock my world.

And this one is one of my all-time favorites. I need it. Someone needs to write this.

Of sidewalk chalk and snow

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Rafter by Tulsa.

Since only ONE person replied about what my video should be about (thank you, Beth. You rock), it seems the voting has been unanimous. :) So I will be making a video

of a time lapse chalk art of a book cover.

Actually, I'm super excited about it.

No, really.

That idea just came to my head and after I thought that, I thought "wow, that was an awesome thought." (yes, that was supposed to make sense).

But the big question for me was which book to do? So many are these amazing photographs whose covers I do not want to desecrate with my horrible lack of mad chalk-drawing skillz. (Did I mention that I've never done this before?) So, alas, most of those are an automatic out. I need to dip my toes in gently so I won't be scared off from ever doing this again.

I wanted to do The Hunger Games, but

1). It's too simple.
2). I don't know where to find black sidewalk chalk.
3). I don't want to be a too obsessive fangirl about the series. :)

So, I was perusing amazon, trying to find a non-photograph cover that had a predominant pastel-colored theme (I'm seriously going to have to do my research to figure out where these guys get their chalk)

But then it hit me. It was so stinkin' obvious.

Not only is it an fantastic cover, I've heard the book itself is amazing (no, I haven't read it yet. Don't lynch me!) *runs and hides*

So yes. Hopefully soon I will be able to put this all together into a video of awesomeness for you. Oh, and just to show you I wasn't lying, here is a picture from last week.

So yes, it does indeed snow here in the middle of glorious spring weather. The latest I remember it snowing was in June. Granted it melted by midday, but still, it snowed, in June. I told you winter here lasted five-six months. Then of course, we are bombarded with temperatures in the triple digits through August. Kinda changes your whole perspective of a desert, eh? :)

Feature Fun Friday - Conan the Librarian

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Starlight by Muse.

I know of no better way to wrap up National Library Week than to feature a librarian of truly EPIC proportions. Move over Conan the Barbarian, you have a force you've never reckoned with on your hands! It's CONAN - the LIBRARIAN. Thank you, Mr. Yankovic for adding laughter to households and libraries everywhere. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Well now look what you've done...

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap.

This is another one of those moments where I spoke too soon. When I let you have free reign, you don't hesitate, do you? Though two of you sadistic people chose to let me try and read my entire TBR pile in 24 hours (you're sick. I want names and social security numbers) the clear-cut winner was of course... the YouTube video.

When will I ever learn?

*shakes my head while diving for consolatory chocolates*

So, now that you've decided, what do you want me to do?


Here are some ideas, so you hopefully don't get any worse ones in your heads:

Doing something absurd with words, or storytelling, like saying a poem while standing upside down
Singing something in Pig Latin (did I really just suggest that?!)
Draw a book cover with sidewalk chalk
Run through the sprinkles in the snow if it snows again (and there's a decent chance of that).

Now, the only stipulations to this are:

-Nothing derogatory, crude, or mean, or anything that can get me arrested.
-No swearing (it's just not me)
-It can't be anything longer than what I can edit down to a five minute video.

Oh my gosh, what have I done? I've unleashed a monster.

*starts hyperventilating*

It's okay, it's okay. Breathe. Breathe. BREATHE, stupid!

*passes out*

*shakes myself*

That's okay. I'm WRITERGIRL, dangit! I can take anything you dish out. I hope.

Do you worst.

(I'm kidding on that last part, by the way).

Place comments in here by Monday!

*if there is something radical that I haven't thought of, I can not use it at my discretion. Like dancing with zombie chickens.

What are YOU going to subject me to now?

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Invisible Touch by Genesis.

Best looking cupcakes ever. I want to go to
Dot's in San Fransisco now.

Can it really be? *glances at my sidebar* I can't believe it, but it's true. Today is my blog's very first birthday. I made it an entire year. Whew. And you know what? It's been a blast. I've had more fun than I thought possible doing this and connecting with so many people. And when life is this good, I like to celebrate (of course, I like celebrating in general). But instead of throwing a bash and telling you what's going to go down, I'm going to let you decide! You are the guests, after all.

So to celebrate being alive and kicking on here for an entire year, what should I do? And I will do whatever the majority picks *gives a slight shudder* So I leave it to your kind, gentle, and extremely loving hands. Click what you will. :)

What should I do to celebrate being alive and kicking on here for an entire year (and counting!)?
Introduce a new sidekick with whom I will share all of my capers (and photo ops)
Do something silly on camera and post it on YouTube - your pick (with minor stipulations)
Watch the insanity of me reading ALL of my tbr pile... in 24 hours - also caught on tape
A contest with a signed book by Laurie Halse Anderson
A new recipe (not recommended since I haven't finished the one for Poison Study yet)
pollcode.com free polls

P.S Incidentally, it is also the New Year in Thailand today, which I just thought was uber cool since I went there. Connections people, connections. :)

Change the World in a Week

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All Souls Night by Loreena McKennitt.

I recently just became aware of this. If you don't know Guys Lit Wire is fabulous blog aimed at raising reading awareness for boys, finding books for boys and proving that there are plenty of guys who still read. I love it. And last year, they did a project to bring books to kids in the LA Detention Center. Over 600 books were given. It was awesome. And they are at it again this year.

This year they've teamed up with Readergirlz, YALSA, and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything (a national reading club for Native Americans) to help bring books to kids at two reservation schools -- Ojo Encino Day School in the Navajo Nation and Alchesay High School on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

They say it much better than I can, so go over to their blog to check out all the details, but here is a quote from them that hit me with particular force:

Books are power - we are all book lovers and we know that; most of us learned it when we were kids. Books showed us worlds like our own, as well as places we could not imagine. They taught us how to cope, gave us big ideas to ponder and dared us to dream great futures.

And from Finding Wonderlad:

It's been an experience for Colleen (GLW) to create these wishlists. It sort of tears me up that she didn't get a lot of responses to her emails at first because the people at the schools didn't believe she was serious. Free books? SERIOUSLY? And then, the excitement, when the students realized that a wishlist means you can ask for anything.

"Books are still gold. The emails I have received in the past week or so from Alchesay as the kids realized they could ask for books to come their way have been great. And with their internet hookup (more reliable than Ojo Encino) they are going to check their wish list everyday to see what is coming. They are so excited - both schools are so incredibly excited. Yes, the ipad and kindle and whatever else are all wonderful and good but these are kids who do not own a book.

Think about that. Not one single book." - Colleen

All I know is that these kids need these books, and they have created the lists themselves. These books will not be wasted. As a girl masquerading as an undercover superhero, these things are so important to me. I know these things make a difference in people's lives. Books can change lives, and we are the instigators of that.

The wishlists are through Powell's website and it only takes a few scant minutes to complete. And what would we go without? A cup of coffee for a week? We could be opening entire worlds for these kids. I want to be a part of that. A few grains of sands can tip the scales of someone's life in a big way.

Here's how:

First, hit the Powell's site and on the upper right click on "wish list". From there you will be prompted for the email address of the list owner. Type in "guyslitwire@gmail.com". You will then be given the choice to select either Ojo Encino or Alchesay. Once you are looking at the lists (which contain hundreds of titles) you can make your selection of a new, used, or sale copy. After your done and ready to make your purchase you will be asked to confirm that you are buying books for a certain wishlist. Checking those boxes will keep the lists up to date and prevent books from appearing as unsold even after they were purchased. Now all you have to do is enter the mailing addresses, and here they are:

Mary Nickless
Ojo Encino Day School Librarian
HCR 79 Box 7
Cuba, NM 87013

Marilyn Hill
Alchesay High School
200 Falcon Way
Whiteriver, AZ 85941

CAUTION: Right now Powells is having trouble shifting from one wishlist to the next. So if you want to buy for each school then go all the way through one order and complete it and then start the next one fresh. I've sent an email and hopefully they will get this fixed quick.

And please, spread the news, spread it wide. There is only a week left to make it happen.

EPIC Contest for aspiring writers.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Harry and Hermione by Nicholas Hooper [Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince soundtrack].

I know a fair number of my fellow followers *waves* are also aspiring authors. And so in the thought of spreading goodwill, here is the contest of the year. The sweet Sarah Wylie has just had a book deal (rock on Sarah!) and it was just announced in Publisher's Marketplace. So in honor of that huge achievement, she is offering a prize pack of EPIC proportions. How does a query letter critique from Kathleen Ortiz, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, or Colleen Lindsay sound? Or a 30 page personal manuscript from her agent, Suzie Townsend? Or an honest-to-goodness private lunch with BOTH Janet Reid and Suzie Townsend? Oh dang. I want. Like, now. There is of course free books to give away. I haven't seen something like this in one place ever. And definitely follow her. She has a great blog.

Monday's Muse, 13th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Between by Vienna Teng.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
I did "Pirates" last time, so I just had to do Ninjas.

Blue Fingers: A Ninja's Tale by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel

An adventure set in 16th-century Japan. Because twins are believed to be bad luck, Kojiro and Taro's parents have always tried to conceal the fact that they have two sons, not one. After Taro saves the life of a master dye maker, the man wants to reward his rescuer with an apprenticeship. The boys' parents send Koji instead, hoping the dyer will not notice the difference, but the artisan soon grows impatient with Koji's clumsy ways and sends him home. Shamed, Koji runs away and is captured in the forest by people who call themselves "grass," but who are, as he soon realizes, ninja--a mysterious group with impressive skills who have set themselves up against the ruling samurai. Under the demanding tutorial of his captor, a boy only slightly older, and other instructors, Koji grows beyond his fears and self-pity, develops a more accurate vision of himself and his society as well as a strong body, and finally becomes the ninja Blue Fingers. The author throws light on Koji's sense of failure, as well as the historical roots of the ninja and their true--rather than pop culture--goals. The plot is filled with twists and turns involving hidden identity, warfare, and the ways in which a warlord's superstitions can be used against him. Both rousing and thoughtful, this novel opens an unfamiliar time to most readers and offers an accurate look at these secretive warriors.--Coop Renner, Fairmeadows Elementary, Duncanville, TX

Blood Ninja by Nick Lake

Lake deftly blends sixteenth-century Japanese samurai history with vampire mythology to concoct a gory and fast-paced adventure that will grab readers. Overwhelming interest in manga often extends to interest in Japanese history, and Lake’s focus on swordplay will carry along those who don’t relish the historical element. Teenage Taro, a misfit among the peasants of his fishing village, finds himself pursued by ninja mysteriously intent on killing him; is saved by a “good” ninja, who turns him into a vampire; and becomes a ninja himself. There’s plenty of decapitation and seppuku, light romance, and unsuspected royal lineage, but the main premise—that all ninjas are vampires—drives the story and works surprisingly well. Plucky female characters with martial-arts skills may not be historically accurate but are lots of fun. Lake has clearly studied Japanese history and mythology, and he offers a tangible appreciation of the culture. The cliff-hanger ending will leave readers clamoring for a sequel. --Debbie Carton (Booklist)

Mail Order Ninja, Vol. 1 by Joshua Elder

What could be better than having a ninja at your command? That's what little Timmy McAllister is about to find out. Timmy is considered a dork; he and best friend Herman Poindexter are tormented by the school bullies, and even Timmy's little sister joins forces with the bullies to make his life miserable. One day, when he comes home from school, he finds a catalog that offers a mail-order ninja. Unable to resist this, Timmy sends the mailer in. Two to three weeks later, ninja Yoshida Juro arrives and Timmy's life is instantly changed. With Yoshida in his corner, Timmy is emboldened to take on the bullies—and even his evil little sister! Laugh out loud funny and highly appealing, Elder's story is one that will charm many middle school students. Though a story about ninjas, the fighting is akin to that found on Saturday morning cartoons, and there is no blood or overly violence depictions portrayed. The manga-style illustrations will be an easy selling point for most kids—the high-action ninjas fighting, and the female characters reminiscent of popular Bratz dolls—that will make this volume fly off the shelves. Elder has created a highly likeable story—and after all, what kid wouldn't want his own ninja?

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith

Poor Elias. Secretly in love with one of his best friends, Honoria, he is constantly reminded that she likes Shohei, another seventh-grader at their Chicago magnet school. Shohei can't see it--he's too busy writing anonymous e-mail love letters to Honoria for Eli. Both boys are pushed by their parents into the science fair, which Honoria hopes to win by turning her pet piranhas into vegetarians. When Elias stumbles on the brilliant plan of reproducing one of his brother's award-winning experiments, Shohei begs to be his partner. The plan backfires and lands Elias in Student Court. Honoria's brilliant strategy for Eli's defense means a crisis of conscience for Shohei, who will have to admit that he has copied his experiment's results. Alternating first-person narratives make for a fast-paced, hilarious send-up of school life. Smith achieves just the right balance of intelligent wit and drama in his first novel. Louise Brueggeman (Booklist)

Firestorm: The Caretaker Trilogy: Book 1 by David Klass

Klass enters exciting and provocative new territory with this sci-fi thriller. Seventeen-year-old Jack Danielsons life has always been normal–except that his parents have encouraged him to blend in and not try too hard. But then he learns that he is different, that he has special powers and abilities, and that he is from the future and has been sent back to save the planet. Strangers kill his adoptive parents and come after him, and the teens only hope to survive is to trust in Gisco, a huge dog who speaks to him telepathically, and Eko, a ninja babe whose loyalties are ambiguous. The writing is fluid and graceful in places. The sobering events and tone are leavened with engaging humor, and the characters are multidimensional. The relentless pace, coupled with issues of ecology, time travel, self-identity, and sexual awakening, makes for a thrilling and memorable read. The cliff-hanger ending will make readers hope that Klasss work on book two of the trilogy is well under way.–Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN (School Library Journal)

Academy Days by Tyler Webster.

A fun book with little plot, no deep meaning, and no morals. It won't compel you to do anything but laugh until your sides hurt.

Academy Days is a non-epic saga of one boy's quest to master the martial arts, fit in at his new school, and find something in the cafeteria he can actually eat. Containing elements of fantasy, science fiction, humor, and more humor, Academy Days is one book that definitely must be read before death.

Naruto, Vol. 1 by Masashi Kishimoto

Naruto Uzumaki is a young boy who has the demon of the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed within him. Twelve years before, the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox attacked the ninja village Konoha, slaughtering many people. In response, the leader of Konoha (and its ninja military) – the Fourth Hokage – sacrificed his life to seal the demon inside Naruto when he was a baby. Konoha, however, regarded Naruto as if he were the demon fox itself and mistreated him throughout most of his childhood. A decree made by the Third Hokage, (who replaced the Fourth), forbade anyone mention the attack of the demon fox to anyone else. This included Naruto, who was not aware of the demon inside of him.

Years later, Naruto is tricked by a ninja Mizuki into stealing a forbidden scroll. The encounter leads Naruto to realize that he is the container of the demon fox.

Naruto is a plucky prankster whose ultimate goal is to be the world's greatest ninja. His teachers and classmates think he's a joke and a nuisance. And Naruto himself thinks he's going to be the best ninja that ever lived. Only he'll have to prove to everyone that he's more than what they see of him.

[My note: This is one of the most popular manga series in Japan and the US. If you are thinking of trying a hand and dipping into manga, this may be a good place to start. Hence its inclusion here. It's a series I really enjoy.]

Feature Fun Friday - National Library Week

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie.

Next week is National Library Week and that is something to celebrate, in my opinion. If you think about it, libraries are perhaps one of the most unique and amazing concepts ever conceived. You can go to a place with the potential for limitless information, and borrow pieces of it--for free. If I really stopped to think about it, it would probably blow my mind. (And I will let you in on a little secret. At the end of National Treasure when they found scrolls from the lost library of Alexandria, I shed tears. Literal tears. Yes, you may call me a baby. But knowledge is that important to me that the thought of having that kind of information again made me cry). So in honor of libraries everywhere, here are two videos with them as the focal point. By the way, LeVar Burton's song on libraries for Reading Rainbow? Best. 80's song. Ever. :) Have a great weekend everyone!

Percy Jackson recipe, part two.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): End Credits by Klaus Badelt [Pirates of the Carribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack].

Okay, so I didn't look when I starting my recipe inventing for Percy Jackson. I just plunged in. And while the result is awesomeness in a cup, it is not really accurate to the book. Rick Riordan's ambrosia is the munchable kind. So here is biteable ambrosia, but I must tell you that this is not my recipe. But it is by gosh darn the closest thing to ambrosia to exist in this world. It's on an old family recipe card (the kind where you have no idea where it came from), so to preserve this unknown gem, I am sharing it with all of you. Really, I could die eating this stuff and be perfectly happy about it. This is one recipe I will not tweak to even make it the slightest bit healthier. It is perfect as it is. Like I said, death by chocolate is okay by me.

Mint Fudge Brownies (Ambrosia)


1/2 C. Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 C. Flour
1 C. melted Margarine or Butter
4 Eggs (beaten)
2 C. Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Salt

Mix together, trying to make it as smooth as possible. I've found hand mixing is best (it won't be liquid, but it won't be stiff like cookie dough). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 min (use the toothpick test for doneness). And yes, the snitching is great too.

Mint Frosting

2 C. Powdered Sugar
4 tsp. melted Margarine or Butter
Canned Milk until the desired consistency
Peppermint Extract to taste
Green Food Coloring to desired color

Beat to a semi-thin consistency. Spread on cooled brownies and wait a few minutes before putting on the chocolate layer.

Chocolate Frosting

4 T. melted Margarine or Butter
4 C. Powdered Sugar
1/3 C. Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Canned Milk to desired consistency.

Beat until smooth. Spread over cooled layers. Devour.

Yield: 1 - 9x13 pan. Delish.

I will add photos to this the next time I make it.

Percy Jackson recipe!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): A Pirate's Life for Me (Disney) by Xavier Atencio And George Burns.

The Percy Jackson recipe is complete! Some of you guessed correctly. I invented a recipe for ambrosia, the food of the gods. Really, could I do anything else? So here it is, and after much experimenting, I must say, it is delicious.

Percy Jackson's Golden Ambrosia

1 part Mango Nectar
1 part Orange Juice
2 parts White Grape Peach juice (this is available at Walmart).
Drizzle of Caramel into each cup (optional)

This recipe is not in a standard form because I wanted it to be easily convertible to any size of gathering (I would love to try this thing at a book club, or anywhere, really). So "1 part" can be any form of measure you want, whether it be in cups, jugs, buckets or even those gravy boats that look like little cows, if that tickles your fancy.

But as a rough guide 1/4 Cup Mango Nectar and Orange Juice each, and 1/2 Cup White Grape Peach Juice gives one good-sized cup for one person, or 2 smaller portions. (And so you know, I think the caramel gives it a wonderful, rich and subtle flavor, but is by no means required, especially for those looking for a vegan form of the recipe).

I picked these juices because ambrosia is historically famous for having a golden color, like honey (some historians even think ancient ambrosia may have been honey in actuality). There are two famous versions of ambrosia - the drink, and the food food. I without thinking made the drink, because that one is more famous to me. But in the actual Percy Jackson books, it is the food. Go figure. So that recipe is coming up... now. :)


Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): In the Cold by Acceptance.

I've hijacked another computer to do this post. My internet is not working. Put better, my network has disappeared from any known universe (hence my serious lack of post-age this week). So if anyone has any suggestions on how to locate an MIA wireless network, I would be much obliged. But that also means that posting is rather... difficult at the moment. And I had such a good post planned for today too! Goodness. So please know I am working on the problem, but this may even be too big for a lone superhero. But, to foil the evil machinations set against me, here is an awesome video, completely unrelated to writing, but awesome nonetheless. It may perhaps be my favorite Star Wars video ever, and very difficult to find now. I present for your giggling amusement, Block Wars!

(Seriously, even if you don't like Star Wars, you'll likely laugh at this. Probably more, in fact).

Love Diana Wynne Jones or her books?

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): It's Not Easy (Superman) by Five For Fighting.

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite authors. Few have made me laugh and cry like she has. She apparently is in a bad time. She has lung cancer and is continuing to battle it. A comment over at the Sounis forums, one of her editors says she would really appreciate any notes sent her way. You can send it via her publisher and they will gladly forward it to her. However, there has been some mix-up about Greenwillow's address. It is not

Diana Wynne Jones
c/o Greenwillow Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10019 USA


Diana Wynne Jones
c/o Greenwillow Books
10 E. 53rd St.
New York, NY 10022

(this address was given by someone at Greenwillow on bookshelves of doom website in the comments). You can also email a letter to the wonderful woman who runs Diana's fansite. She will print them out and mail them to her about once a week (details here). I missed my chance with Madeline L'Engle and I still regret it to this day. You can bet I'm not missing out this time to tell such an incredible author how much her work has meant to me.

via Charlotte and bookshelves of doom.

Feature Fun Friday - Me. Fencing.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Symphonies by Dan Black.

I made a promise and I am a girl of my word. Back in January when I did my version of "research" :) I took a fencing class, just because it sounded like fun. What can I say? Swords are cool. I also said I would take video of it. So here it is at last, humbly presented before you. And yes, I did manage to fit bloopers in, just for you guys. Have a great weekend everyone!

Why Google maked me love April Fool's Day all over again.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Forbidden Friendship by John Powell [How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack].

Ah, April Fool's Day. The day of often mean-spirited practical jokes (the ones played on me at least). So over the years, I grew a bit jaded with the whole thing. That is, until Google came around and renewed my affection for the quasi-holiday.

Not only are they renaming their entire corporation to Topeka, they almost always have a problem with their email servers around this time of the year. They really should have their tech guys look into that.

They have had many good gags, but this year is a doozy. They've apparently been disemvowelled. Yes, they have lost all their vowels.

Here is the official report:

At 6:01 am Pacific Time, during routine maintenance at one of our datacenters, the frontend web servers in that particular datacenter started failing to render the letter 'a' for a subset of users. As error rates escalated, the strain spread to other datacenters. We worked quickly to avoid a cascading failure of the entire alphabet by implementing a stopgap solution that limited the damage to the letters 'a,' 'e,' 'i,' 'o,' and 'u.' As a result, we're experiencing Gmail’s first temporary vowel outage. (We’re still investigating whether the letter 'y' is impacted and will post an update here shortly.)

But they're pretty smart cookies over there. I'm sure they'll have a handle on it soon. ;)

My favorite line?

Having 80.8% of the alphabet available is significantly below the 99.9% full letter uptime reliability we strive for.

Update (7:30 am): We’ve determined that the letter 'y' is not impacted.

So here's to you Google, for making a formerly blech holiday something to make me smile at again. :)