Monday, June 30, 2014

In which I attempt to draw

I'm not really an artist. Sometimes I like to think that I can draw. That's how I end up with stuff like this.

This dragon may well be the best thing I've ever drawn. It took a shameful amount of time to complete
The hedgehog is sort of half drawn, half painted

And this one is meant to be an Orc
And the only conclusion I can come to is that I'm better off cartooning than attempting to draw anything real. To that end, I set myself a challenge. Every day for a year (I started in June), I'm drawing a cartoon llama. Why a llama? Not sure, except llamas are funny. Why a year? Yeah, I don't really know that either. A year seems like a good amount of time to learn something. I draw them with marker to keep myself from overthinking the process. So, here are some I've done so far.

This is the baseline llama, the drawing I made in May that stands as the model for the others.
I made this drawing mid-June. It's pretty representative of the drawings I've been making.
I'll probably do some updates as the year passes so you can see how my llamas change.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book review - Perfected

Title: Perfected
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
Genre: dystopia/alternate reality
Similar books: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M T Anderson
                     Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
Surprisingly good at first, but kind of a let down towards the end.

Summary: In Ella's world genetically modified humans, such as herself, are kept as pets by the rich and powerful. When Ella is purchased and brought to her opulent new home her life becomes more than she'd ever imagined. As time passes, though, the perfect mask begins to slip and Ella wonders if freedom is worth giving up the privilege that comes with her life.
My opinion: It is hard to imagine a society that would allow people to be kept as pets, making this a hard sell. We read with a healthy dose of skepticism. It accomplishes its goals fairly well. W see the dichotomy of the opulence that surrounds Ella, which is is almost a part of, with her role as a pet, sort of sub-human. Ella's self-discovery and growing longing for freedom are nicely paralleled by Penn and Ruby's own unhappiness and need for fulfillment beyond what their parents expect of them. The book isn't all perfect. Penn is highly idealized and the ending isn't particularly cohesive, but over all it's a strong read.
More information: Perfected releases July 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The TARDIS has landed

To kick off our teen summer reading program, we had an evening of Doctor Who related games and activities. I thought a lot about how I wanted to describe the program but I think I'll just let the photos speak for themselves. If you have any questions about details of what happened, just let me know.

Enter through the TARDIS door. It's bigger on the inside.
Assorted Doctor Who references. The clear box in front is the shadow box I've been working on.
The TARDIS console and book recommendations.
The snacks
Always take a banana to a party. Bananas are good.
Jelly babies (aka Sour Patch Kids) and crackers. Two hearts. Ha!
Jammie dodgers
 Actually, the Jammie dodgers do have a little story attached. I wanted to post this picture:
Nice, right?
 Then it would seem like I had made this big batch of almost perfect cookies. That picture is a lie. Only those two looked that good. Most of the cookies looked like this:
Broken, discolored, and weirdly shaped.

Tossing baby Adipose

Weeping angel red light, green light. Not really sure why he is karate chopping

Move the mini M&Ms with your plasmavore little straw

Flying the TARDIS

Stack up your Jelly Babies

The end of the monster name match-up game
We all loved these quotation speech bubble props


In case you can't read it, this one says "Would you like a jelly baby?"
Holding our Jello Ood brains
And, at last, me in my costume

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch
Ella is a genetically engineered teenager, raised to be a pet for a rich family. When she arrives at her new home, she quickly realizes that "perfect" isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've only just started this one but am really enjoying it so far. The atmosphere and what little characterization I've encountered is fantastic.
What did you recently finish reading?
Conversion by Katherine Howe
Colleen and her friends are completely wrapped up in their senior year at St. Joan's Academy. Their lives are wrapped up in AP classes, extracurriculars, college applications, and, occasionally, boys. Senior year seems perfect until a mysterious illness begins to strike down girls in the senior class. Characterized by tics, seizures, paralysis, baldness, or other, more bizarre, symptoms the illness causes panic throughout the school and community. As people search for an explanation, Colleen begins to suspect something sinister is happening at St. Joan's.
Interspersed with events from the Salem Witch Trials, Conversion keeps you guessing all the way to the end. A pretty compelling read.
What do you think you will read next?
The Dare by Hannah Jayne

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Guest review - Noggin

This is my second guest review and the first of a book I myself have reviewed. This is part of a project that I am undertaking with Abby, the Lupine Librarian. We hope to do a handful of these throughout the year.


What if death wasn't absolute? John Corey Whaley explores this idea in his latest novel, Noggin. Travis and his friends and family must deal with the harsh reality that his cancer is terminal, unless an experimental head transplant will miraculously save his life. Against all odds, Travis wakes up five years later. He's the same guy - with a new body. If you can wrap your head around this idea, noggin makes for a great, thought-provoking read. The main character's relationships with his best friend and girlfriend pre and post transplant are especially poignant.
I would say this book is thought-provoking.

And that's Abby's review. Check out my review of Noggin here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Doctor Who crafts

My Doctor Who program is just two days away. Here's where we stand.

The console and photo props - Done! Photos coming Thursday in the post about the program.
The fob watch - Done! (sorry for the blurry photos)

Circular Gallifreyan outside

Clock face inside
The shadow box - in progress

The poodle skirt - Done!

The loopy flight path

TARDIS detail

The complete outfit with my favorite high-tops
And because I'm a glutton for punishment (apparently) this is not my outfit for the program. No, I'll be wearing this tomorrow. I'm working at putting together a different costume for Wednesday. Here's my first piece.

re-banded for the occasion
 Kudos to anyone who can tell who I will be dressing as from this photo alone.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book review - The Shadow Hero

Title: The Shadow Hero
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Genre: Super hero/graphic novel
Similar books: The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
                     Hero Worship by Christopher Long
a super entertaining read

Summary: It's the 1930's in Chinatown. Hank Chu just wants to follow in his father's footsteps and run the family grocery store. His mother wants more. After being rescued by the Anchor of Justice, Mrs. Chu is determined to make her son into a superhero whether he likes it or not.
My opinion: A re-imagining of a short lived comic, The Shadow Hero really captures the essence of golden age comics. The characters are compelling and have varied motivations. The art is phenomenal and really supports the plot. There's this great sequence where Mrs. Chu tries to force super powers on Hank, going so far as to expose him to toxic waste. It's like all of those classic comics just with a little more nuance. A great addition to the world of superhero comics.
More information: The Shadow Hero releases July 15th.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Books on Screen

Fantastic Mr. Fox

This movie was pretty similar to the book, though less funny. The movie modernized the plot a touch and added a subplot about the son and a nephew, giving the movie a much more serious tone. The book has more of Dahl's classic ridiculous humor. Still, the movie is worth watching if only for the wonder that is stop motion animation. Also, the variation in the resolution is an interesting twist on the original.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
I Am the Mission by Allen Zadoff
The follow-up to I Am the Weapon, this one follows the life of a teenage assassin. Boy Nobody has just finished a difficult mission that is still weighing on him emotionally. While he tries to come to terms with what he's done, he must also take on a new mission while trying to learn more about the organization that employs him. The pacing is tight and keeps it moving.

What did you recently finish reading?
Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall
When a plague commonly known as the Pest killed most of the adults and the attempted cure has left others insane (almost like zombies), 15 year old Clare sets off on her own looking for a man who calls himself The Master, broadcasting on the radio with the promise of a real cure. Along the way to the Master's, Clare meets several other kids and begins to view the world differently. Think of this book like The Road for teens.
What do you think you will read next?
Mirror X by Karri Thompson
Time travel(ish), dystopia(ish), and romance story. I'm not sure what to expect from this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pick 6: Dystopia

I suspect this will not be the last dystopia list I'll be sharing on here. Ever since the popularity of The Hunger Games the teen book market has been flooded with dystopian stories and the trend shows no sign of stopping. So, for now, here are six recent novels.

6 dystopian novels
1. Paradigm by Ceri A Lowe

2. Hungry by H. A. Swain

3. Riot by Sarah Mussi

4. Deliver Me by Kate Jarvik Birch

5. Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

6. The Hit by Melvin Burgess

Monday, June 16, 2014

Projects in progress

It had been my intention today to post more decorations I've been working on for my Doctor Who program. The problem? I haven't finished any of it yet. So, here are some projects that I'm working on. Finished products coming soon.

TARDIS Poodle Skirt
I found the tutorial for this skirt here. I've had some problems with my version, enough to earn this one it's own post coming soon. Now it just needs the TARDIS part.

The Doctor's fob watch
This one is mostly done. Just needs the top detailing.

Slitheen and Cybermat
These little fellows are actually complete. They're meant to go in a shadow box. The box is what is unfinished.

I'm also working on a TARDIS console prop and some photo booth props, none of which I've managed to photograph yet. With the program just over a week away I'm down to the wire. Hopefully I have photos of the finished products for you next week

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book review - The Body in the Woods

Title: The Body in the Woods
Author: April Henry
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Similar books: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
                     Acceleration by Graham McNamee
King of the "ah-ha" moment

Summary: While searching the woods for a missing man, new Search and Rescue volunteers Alexis, Nick, and Ruby find the body of a teenage girl. The police think it was an isolated incident; she appears to have been homeless. The teens aren't so sure and they won't let it go. They'll keep digging until they find out the truth.
My Opinion: At face value, this is a pretty straightforward book. The mystery follows a logical progression. Each lead they follow has solid evidence backing it. What makes this book stand out, though, is the characters. Each of the three main characters has a different motivation for investigating. And the characters and their voices are distinct. When we are reading a chapter from Ruby's perspective, we know right away it's her. That's incredibly important when switching between characters. While not a really deep book, it was still an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book in the series.
More Information: The Body in the Woods releases June 17th.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Graphic Novel Spotlight: Usagi Yojimbo

Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai

This is a truly epic series, currently sitting at 28 volumes of collected issues. First published in 1987, Mr. Sakai is still writing new issues today. This series follows the adventures of a rabbit samurai, during turn of the 17th century Japan. Miyamoto Usagi has lost his master he wanders across Japan, serving honor, right, protecting the weak and innocent. There are a wide variety of storylines and the art work is an amazing blend of cartoony and amazingly detailed. We own about a dozen volumes at our library and while they aren't constantly off the shelves they go through cycles of popularity. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Thicker Than Water by Bruce Hale
Book 2 of the School SPIES series. Life is complicated for Max Segredo. His father, Simon, is on the run from rival spy organization LOTUS. Max's spy group, the Merry Sunshine Orphanage, is in trouble. LOTUS is trying to run them out of business while the Ministry of Health investigates reports of violations. And, as always, the spies are fighting amongst themselves. 
What did you recently finish reading?
Followers by Anna Davies
Briana's school is doing a production of Hamlet. When she doesn't get cast in the show, she takes a position as the social media director. She tweets about rehearsals, behind the scenes drama, etc. Then things take a dark turn. People are dying. And someone is tweeting about it, before it happens.
Ever seen one of those teen horror movies? That's pretty much this book in a nutshell. Decent number of twists, lots of guessing who the killer might be. The ending has some holes but still a decent read.

What do you think you will read next?
Loot by Jude Watson
A heist novel. Usually good for an entertaining read. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A last look at the 48 Hour Book Challenge

I've spent the 24 hours thinking about my experience this weekend. That and sleeping. I've done a lot of sleeping. I read a lot of cool books and checked out some blogs written by some pretty awesome readers and advocates of youth fiction. I've already mentioned my epiphany regarding audio books. Apart from that, these are the three books that stick with me the most from this weekend.

My all around favorite - Cress by Marissa Meyer
I've absolutely loved each book in the Lunar Chronicles and this was certainly no exception. Meyer has created an amazing, complex world peopled by dynamic characters. I can't wait for book 4 and the twists and new stories she'll integrate in that one.

The surprise - I Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
I didn't have very high hopes for this one so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. If Patterson's Middle School series is anything like this one I can see why our young patrons enjoy them so much.

The most thought provoking - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Talk about a book that wants you to think. Consider your place in the universe, it says. Find your place in your life and you'll understand everything. And it's got beautiful, almost pastoral, scenes.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Audio books

I have a confession to make - I don't like audio books. Even as a kid, as soon as my reading speed outpaced the speed of our Sesame Street book-and-tape sets (and one awesome Popeye book-and-record), I preferred to read things myself. 
In the past decade I've attempted maybe 8 audios. Some were absolute torture, like when I forced myself to sit through three incredibly dry tracks of The Fellowship of the Ring. Even dynamic audios (Hello Redwall and Junie B. Jones) didn't hold up against the dozens of distractions around me. If I just sat and listened I felt like I needed to be doing something with my hands. As soon as my hands started moving, though, I lost track of what was happening in the book. The only audio I managed to listen to in it's entirety was Love that Dog. The audio version of Love that Dog is 35 minutes long. And I almost didn't finish it. And I love Love that Dog
Then came the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I really wanted to participate and I wanted to put in as much time as I could even though I had to work and had other things that needed to get done. I figured I could maximize my time if I included an audio book in my stack. I took a gamble with the audio of Eleanor & Park, a book I had adored when I read it originally. So, this weekend, I made two discoveries*.
     1. If it's really important to me I can, in fact, focus on an audio book even when doing other things. I have to really try, but I can do it.
     2. When you listen to an audio book at night, in the dark, lying in bed, the audio becomes your whole world. It's fully immersing. It's like a friend whispering in your ear. 

Given the experience of this weekend, I think I need to give audios another chance.

*Also, discovery two and a half
It's really funny when your audio book develops a skip in the middle of the f-word so all you hear as you walk down the cereal aisle of the grocery store is "fu-fu-fu-fu-fu"

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Finish Line

This pretty much concludes my participation in the 48 hour reading challenge.

I read and reviewed a total of 13 books.

My completed stack
And the books I didn't get to
I read and reviewed for 35 hours and 31 minutes. 

I've really enjoyed this experience. I read stuff that I might otherwise have ignored and finally finished an audio book. What a great challenge!

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities is a twist on the classic superhero story. Think a variation on Captain Marvel. It's a case of superhero obsession paying off for Vincent, George, and Max, self-proclaimed experts in Captain Stupendous. While the plot mostly follows a predictable arc, complete with mad scientist, it's pretty entertaining and takes time to consider gender roles and our preconceived notions about heroes.

Eleanor and Park

Even though I've read Eleanor & Park before, I knew I wanted this one to be my audio book selection for this weekend. I'm not a huge fan of audio books (more on that tomorrow) but really enjoyed this one. Both readers are dynamic and add another dimension to the story. I especially loved Park's mother. I loved her when I read the book the first time but on the audio - man, I was cracking up at times. So, even if you've already read this one listen to the audio. It's well worth the time.