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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: young adult, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 2,026
1. Rumble – Book Recommendation and Giveaway

Title: Rumble Written by: Ellen Hopkins Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Sept. 2014 Ages: 14+ Novel in verse Themes: bullying, gay teens, faith, religion, forgiveness, hypocrisy, ptsd, suicide, gun management Reviewed from an ARC. All opinions are my own. Opening … Continue reading

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2. Sinner, by Maggie Stiefvater | Book Review

SINNER is the fourth book in the SHIVER series by Maggie Stiefvater. Fans of the series are treated to a beyond-the-ending look into what happens to two of their favorite characters after the original series ended.

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3. The Book of Three 50th Anniversary Blog Tour

Thanks to Macmillan for asking us to participate in the blog tour for the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Book of Three. Read on for Alethea's post about reading the book again, a list of other blog tour stops, and a giveaway!

About the book:

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers is proud to publish this 50th Anniversary Edition of Lloyd Alexander's classic The Book of Three, the first book in the Chronicles of Prydain, with a new introduction by Newbery Honor–winner Shannon Hale. This anniversary edition is filled with bonus materials, including an interview with Lloyd Alexander, a Prydain short story, the first chapter of the next Prydain book (The Black Cauldron, a Newbery Honor book), an author's note, and a pronunciation guide.

 

Begin at the Beginning

When I was twelve, I got my first public library card, and took my second trip to Prydain. I didn't know it at first, but I'd already been there. My grandfather took me to see The Black Cauldron a few years before I read the books, and I remember being riveted and a little scared, but mostly excited by the adventure.

We moved to New Jersey from the Philippines that year, and I swore I'd read every book in the Old Bridge Public Library from A to Z. (I moved to California two years later, having made hardly a dent in the alphabet.) Naturally, the first book that I found when I walked into the children's section was The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I picked it up and couldn't put it down. I read the rest of the series in quick succession.

The Book of Three isn't just the story of Taran, erstwhile and brave Assistant Pig-Keeper, funny and faithful Gurgi, the enchanting and spunky Eilonwy. It's not just the adventures of shaggy-haired hero Gwydion, of Flewddur Fflam Son of Godo--bard of the harp. It's not, the author Lloyd Alexander warns in his note, to be taken as a guide for tourists [to Wales]. Prydain was the door that opened onto other worlds: Lewis's Narnia, McCaffrey's Pern, Tolkien's Middle-Earth. It opened in me an unstoppable craving for new adventures in strange lands.

Reading this book again for the umpteenth time in the twenty-four years since I first read it, I'm not just taken back to Prydain, I'm taken back to my childhood, to a musty-smelling public library. I'm walking into the building, past the periodicals, straight to the children's wall, to A for Alexander. And in my imagination, my fingertips sizzle like Taran's did when he first tried to touch The Book of Three.

   

Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, September 22 - YA Bibliophile
Tuesday, September 23 - Maria’s Melange
Wednesday, September 24 - The Book Wars
Thursday, September 25 - Bunbury in the Stacks
Friday, September 26 - Manga Maniac Café
Monday, September 29 - Read Now Sleep Later
Tuesday, September 30
 - The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Wednesday, October 1
 - Word Spelunking
Thursday, October 2 - Proud Book Nerd
Friday, October 3 - Book Haven Extraordinaire

Giveaway Rules:

  1. Open to US and Canada residents only. Ends 10/06/2014. The prize is a hardcover 50th anniversary edition of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4. Monday Mishmash 9/29/14


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Into the Fire Hit 3 Amazon Best Seller Lists!  So, I'm still smiling over this one. Just look! And thank you a million times over to everyone who bought a copy of the book. This means so much to me.
  2. Just Kelly-New YouTube Video Series  I've decided that in addition to my usual videos with book teasers and such, I'm going to do a series called "Just Kelly" where I'll share things about myself. Here's video number one, which happens to be my useless talents. Enjoy!
  3. I joined Instagram  Okay, so I didn't realize that this is the place for YA readers to hang out, but that was recently shared with me. So I thought I'd give it a try. You can find me here.
  4. Linking Accounts  For a while I've been tossing around the idea of linking my social media accounts so when I post to one, it posts to multiple accounts for me. Well, it was a great idea until I forgot which account posted to which other account and wound up with multiple posts in the same place. *sigh* I think I've gotten it straightened out with the help of a cheat sheet. ;)
  5. The Darkness Within Cover  Guys, I got to see the finalized cover for The Darkness Within (the sequel to The Monster Within) and I'm so in love with it. I can't wait until this cover reveal!
That's it for me. What's on your mind today.

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5. A gorgeous lyrical tale


Singing Home the Whale by Mandy Hager (Random House)
Whenever a new Mandy Hager novel comes out I’m excited to read it – she never disappoints.  I also know my heart and soul is going to connect with whatever topic she is going to explore in her story. Like her journalist brother Nicky Hager, Mandy is a deep thinker and believes in standing up for issues that affect her; each book tackles a separate theme. In her latest Mandy has cleverly interlaced with an excellent story - about the relationship between a sensitive teenager called Will and Min, a young orphaned orca – with the plight of orca around the world.
Will and Min tell their story in their own voice, every second chapter. Will is learning to trust again in a small town after an incident that has left him scarred. While out sailing he sings an operatic song and is so shocked when a dorsal fin glides past his yacht that he trips and falls overboard. Two lonely beings look into each eyes and connect; a bond so strong it lasts one of their lifetime. When Min’s life is threatened by a greedy businessman, Will fights to save Min. He cannot do it alone though – to be successful he needs the help of his whanau and more. Can he put his past behind him, and be strong enough for Min?

I highly recommend you read it to find out.  Be warned that you’ll need tissues on hand; at times my eyes watered so much I could barely read the text. You’ll also thoroughly enjoy the beautiful lyrical language Min uses when telling his story. It’s stunning; with use of alliteration, imagery, metaphors – and it’ll have you bonding with the little orca too.  I now see orca in a different light. I have to confess I was a little afraid of orca – I’d heard stories of them attacking humans and after all they do eat cute seals and penguins. But after reading a story written in the point of view of an orca (every second chapter) it has you falling deeply in love with them (or is that just me). However, I won’t be jumping off a boat to swim with them in a hurry – the message that they are wild creatures and give them space is tactfully given too.
A great conservation story for High School students to read for enjoyment, as well as explore issues around endangered species and what one person (with the help of their whanau) can do to help them; it is also about: healing; acceptance; and being okay with who you are. Adults will thoroughly enjoy it too. If you like a little romance there's some of that too ...  An extraordinary tale that you will want to revisit again and again.


ISBN: 978-1-77553-657-4
RRP $19.99 also available as an e-book
352pp

Reviewed by Maria Gill

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6. David Rubín Expands the World of ‘Battling Boy’ with ‘The Rise of Aurora West’

Aurora Cov 300rgb 685x1028 David Rubín Expands the World of Battling Boy with The Rise of Aurora West

By Kyle Pinion and Harper Harris

In one week, First Second will be producing the prequel to Paul Pope’s critically lauded and Eisner Award winning Battling Boy entitled The Rise of Aurora West. This new tale, co-written by Pope and J.T. Petty, features art by David Rubín and centers on the journey of Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis’ pulp inspired hero: Haggard West, who seeks to uncover the mystery behind her mother’s death and to do so without her famous father discovering her mission. It’s a fascinating expansion on the mythos Pope laid out in the initial Battling Boy graphic novel, and we were fortunate enough to chat with Rubín regarding his work on this new title and what we can expect next from this rising talent.

Where did you get your start in the comics industry and was it based upon American comics or more of the European variety? Both?

I started to publish my work in 2001, first in some Spanish fanzines and magazines, and then with my first graphic novels, published in Spain by Astiberri editions. Astiberri works hard to sell my titles to other publishers in other countries, and now you can find my books in French, Italian, Czech, and soon in English too.

I like to mix the different traditions in my own work; American comics, European BD and Japanese manga. I like to read both, and both are reflected in my style.

What are your key influences as an artist?

From American comics: Jack Kirby (he’s my favorite author), Frank Miller, Alex Toth, Mike Sekowsky, John Romita Sr. & Jr., and Bob Oksner.

From European BD: JC Forest, Moebius, Peellaert, Blutch, and Hugo Pratt.

From Japanese Manga: Osamu Tezuka, Go Nagai, Shigero Mizuki, Shotaro Ishinomori, and Suehiro Maruo.

And some Spanish artists like Javier Olivares, Santiago Sequeiros, and Miguel A. Robledo.

But influences in my work aren’t provided only by comics; the music, the cinema, the painting, and other kinds of pop culture also influence my work.

David Rubin 198x300 David Rubín Expands the World of Battling Boy with The Rise of Aurora West

What were some of your earlier projects during the beginning phases of your career?

“Dónde nadie puede llegar” was my first long project.  It was a story of love, loss, and unhappy superheroes.  It’s included in my first graphic novel with Astiberri: “El Circo del Desaliento”. It was published in France and in Italy, too.

“La tetería del oso malayo” was my second graphic novel with Astiberri.  It’s a compendium of different short stories with a common link, the tearoom where those stories happen.  It’s a very emotional and sad book.

And the third graphic novel of my early work was called “Cuaderno de Tormentas” and was published in Spain by Planeta DeAgostini. It’s a bizarre book about the search for inspiration, about the torturous way of creativity – much more darker and experimental than my previous books. 

How did you end up getting your first works published, and who were you working with at the time?

In my early years as a cartoonist, I started the Polaqia collective with other artists.

At that time, none of us had published professionally, and the unique option for us was self publishing  our work.

Polaqia collective existed from 2001 to 2011, and we published a lot of great stuff by ourselves and other artists like Dylan Horrocks, Miguel B. Nuñez, Juan Berrio, and  a lot of artists from all over the world.

Several members of Polaqia are professional artists now, like the recently Eisner Awards nominated Emma Ríos (“Pretty Deadly,” Image) or José Domingo (“Adventures of a Japanese Businessman,” Nowbrow) and myself.  Polaqia was the beginning for us.

At what point did you become a part of The Rise of Aurora West team? Were you a fan of Paul Pope’s work?

Yeah, I like Paul’s work so much!  He’s one of the artists who influenced my work.

I remember that in the middle of 2013 – before Battling Boy came out — I’d received an e-mail from Paul in which he asked me if I’d want to collaborate with him and First Second in a spin-off of Battling Boy.

At that moment I was very busy working on my graphic novel Beowulf with Santiago García, but…Oh, Boy!…that kind of thing only happens once in a lifetime! And, of course, I said YES.

 David Rubín Expands the World of Battling Boy with The Rise of Aurora WestAurora ForSampler hires Page 1 216x300 David Rubín Expands the World of Battling Boy with The Rise of Aurora West

What was the working relationship like between yourself, Paul Pope and JT Petty? With whom were you in most constant contact during the development of the graphic novel?

We did some short but intense pre-production work at the beginning of the project. I made a lot of sketches of the characters, and they sent to me a lot of reference stuff like photos, old films and tv serials, etc…everything I needed for playing well with the new universe created by Paul.

But when I was starting to working on the pages, they gave me a lot of freedom. When I have a batch of pages, 20 or 30, in pencils, I sent it to JT, Paul and the staff of First Second.  Everything that was said to me is “Oh, GREAT!” “WOW!!”…so I think that I’m a lucky guy!

JT always shows those pencil pages to his little daughter.  She’s the real beta-tester of Aurora West’s books! And until this moment, everything I’ve sent works fine for her, haha!

With Paul Pope obviously being an artist himself, did the scripts already have pre-figured design concepts or did Pope and Petty give room for your own ideas?

It’s a team effort; I use some of Paul’s previous ideas in Aurora West and Paul used some of my ideas in Battling Boy 2.

Paul and JT’s script is very detailed, but they haven’t any problems with me including a lot of new ideas in it when I do the storytelling. They make my work easier!

Was this story always intended to be two volumes? Are you working on the second half already or will there be a significant break between the work on the two books?

Yes, Aurora West’s story was two volumes since the beginning.

And I’m already hard at work on the second volume. I’ve already finished more than 80 pages of penciled art.

I’ll be finished with book two for the end of January 2015…I think.

Will The Fall of the House of West dovetail with the plot of Battling Boy or will be it wholly separate?

“The Fall…” ends when Battling Boy begins, the four books –BB1&2 and AW1&2 – will make a single story, I think.

It’s not necessary for you to have already read Battling Boy to enjoy and understand the story of Aurora West, but if you already read Battling Boy, your experience like reader with The Rise of Aurora West is going to be more powerful.Aurora ForSampler hires Page 2 216x300 David Rubín Expands the World of Battling Boy with The Rise of Aurora West

What is your favorite aspect of being able to flesh out the world of Battling Boy? Do you have a particular addition of your own that you’re especially proud of? Is there a wrinkle or element that is very specifically “David Rubín”?

The Battling Boy universe is young and very unexplored as yet.

It’s a world that’s 100% Pope, yeah.  But at the same time, that world only has the two hundred pages of Battling Boy, and that gives me a lot of leeway to play in it — and to provide it some of my ideas.

Arcopolis, the city where the action happens in Battling Boy and The Rise of Aurora West, are darker in Aurora West than in Battling Boy.  It’s the same city, the same architecture, but it’s different.  There are also plenty of new characters that I designed for the Battling Boy universe, like Medula and her gang of catfishmidgers, Croward, and a number of new monsters and humans, who all appear for the first time in The Rise of Aurora West.

Anyone who has read some of my own books could find a lot of references and similarities, and this the case because the world created by Paul is very rich and full of possibilities.

How would you compare Aurora and Battling Boy as heroes? What makes Aurora stand apart?

They’re some similarities between Battling Boy and Aurora; both are learning to be heroes, and both have a lot of doubts about themselves and their own fate.

But Battling Boy came from a fantastic world full of gods and heroes, a world where everything is possible, while Aurora grew up in a world with only one hero; her father, in a city under siege, full of monsters and menace.

And that makes a big difference in the personality of both.

All of the sound effects are drawn into the art rather than photoshopped in, was that a conscious choice for stylistic purposes?

I like to draw all these elements — the sound effects, the balloons — by myself. I think it gives a more organic look to the pages, and helps to make the timing more fluid than if you put this elements in a page with a computer in a post-production process, or if someone else puts them in.

I try to make them by myself in every one of my books. I think that is the best way.

Why black and white instead of fully colored pages? Was that an economic choice or a storytelling one?

That was an editorial decision.  When I was asked to do this project, First Second had already decided that Aurora West’s book would have B&W final art.

But that editorial choice was good for my work, I think, because I had to go in different ways for my storytelling than if the book had been published in full color.

B&W requires much more of the artists. You must generate feelings in the reader with only one color ink, the same feelings that people feel in seeing full color art. To make that possible, you need to express more using storytelling.

What sort of challenAurora ForSampler hires Page 3 216x300 David Rubín Expands the World of Battling Boy with The Rise of Aurora Westges did you find in differentiating the various members of Sadisto’s gang?

Good question!! With color that is so easy; one blue, one red, one green…but in B&W, with these capes, everybody looks the same!

There are some tricks to make them distinguishable; if you look, each of them has different elements in their costumes.  In addition, the acting not is the same for them all; Sadisto is more theatrical, more broad than the others, Coil is more strong and purposeful, etc…

What are your primary artistic techniques when working on a book like this? What kind of materials do you use?

I drew the storyboard for the book on little pieces of paper, then I scan the story and print a blue version in A4 paper size of the story pages.  Then I make the final and draw over it, with a pencil.

When the pencil pages are done, I scan the result and print in blue in B4 size papers (a size between A4 and A3) and do my inks there, with a brushpen.

Inks done, I scan – again — the pages and includes the grey tones in Photoshop.  I add some other additional details of the inks digitally, like the splatter of ink in some panels, etc…

There are other ways to draw a comic page, better, for sure, but this one works well for me.  And you have two original pages of each page! One in pencils and one in inks!

You can see a graphic explication of my work process in Aurora West in my blog:

http://detripas.blogspot.com.es/2014/02/historia-de-una-pagina.html

The Rise of Aurora West has a very 1930’s Serial look, particularly in its Egyptian segments, but more or less throughout. Where does that come from? (as it signals a somewhat sharper turn from the Kirby-esque Battling Boy graphic novel)

Paul and JT wanted a 1930’s tv serial look for these sequences, a graphic atmosphere like Doc Savage or other pulp stories.

Paul sent me some chapters of 1930’s Flash Gordon serial, which is amazing, and I tried to get the tone of this type of work, old but fashionable, in the panel of these segments.

Those Egyptian sequences are flashbacks, which helps to that old fashioned-phantasmagoric atmosphere work just fine.

What was the most difficult segment of the script to illustrate? Additionally, what was the most fun part?

Both are the same part!! The long final sequence with the confrontation of Haggard and Aurora with Medula and Sadisto’s gang was my favorite.

It’s a long sequence, with a lot of action, a number of points of view, and mini sequences as well.

It has everything; tons of action and adventure, shootings, explosions, melee, hue-and-cry….and a lot of drama, surprises and emotional moments.

There were harder segments to illustrate, but, undoubtedly,  this was the most fun!

As for other upcoming work, you have an adaptation of Beowulf coming. What is about Beowulf that attracts you as an artist, particularly for such an oft-told story? And with the English language release of The Hero (a re-telling of Hercules) coming through Dark Horse, do you have a particular affinity for mythological heroes and why?

I’ve liked mythology since I was a child; the gods were the first superheroes ever!

When I created The Hero, I had wanted to recover the emotions that I lived when I first read SH comics as a child — this pure emotion, these “bigger-than-life” stories.

That book is my love letter to the genre of superheroes, especially to Jack Kirby’s work.

But if I didn’t make a graphic novel about the nostalgia for the old superhero comics and pop culture; I’d make a book about myths, heroes, monsters, but with everything packed in the sad, visceral and very emotional drama of a human being.

My approach to Beowulf was more a coincidence than something I sought out.

I was reading in Santiago Garcia’s blog that his project of a Beowulf graphic novel with Javier Olivares was cancelled.

I was really angry when I saw that notice – I really WANTED TO READ that graphic novel! – and I immediately called Santiago and said to him: “Hey man, Beowulf can’t fall in oblivion! I’m going to draw it and make it a reality!!!”

Santiago accepted my offering and the rebirth of Beowulf project began!

When can we expect to see Beowulf in stores and do you have any other projects that you’d like to share any news about?

The English version of our Beowulf arrives at stores in 2015, published by Image Comics.

And as for future projects…by the moment I’m making a new graphic novel with high concept Sci-Fi and a scathing critique of the current political and economic system, with the spanish writer Marcos Prior. I think that will be finished by the end of 2015.

And in the meantime, I’m drawing a four issues mini-series for Boom! Studios, a completely new and original series.

You can purchase Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West in stores on September 30th.

 

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7. Same theme, different level

It’s a new year with new kids! I’m working with the same population, but the way this school deals with the social and emotional components of learning is amazing. With that said, I have a group of 8th graders who are very low-level readers. It was a bit surprising because most of them are articulate and fluent, but it turns out that academically, their language level is quite low.

Right now, I am preparing my literature circles and have been looking through books that hit relevant topics, such as bullying, abuse, and coming of age. Unfortunately, it looks like the books I had last year are a bit too high for this year’s group. Last year, I had a few of my kids read Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life. Both the boys and the girls were understandably thrilled by the titles and read them avidly. It led to many interesting discussions.

flake skin 199x300 Same theme, different levelWith this year’s group, however, I am not certain about being able to introduce those books. Or at least, I’d have to wait until the end of the year. However, our interests were piqued by another book that addresses the same issue of bullying, but has a lower reading level: The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake. This book centers on Maleeka Madison, a middle-school girl who is the target of widespread bullying. Although the reading level is low, the subject matter is not, and Flake’s way of deftly introducing us to the key characters and issues is both satisfying and quick!

I know there are other books about bullying and peer pressure (many by Jerry Spinelli and Walter Dean Myers), but I think something about Maleeka really resonated with my students. Perhaps they are better able to relate to the context and issues that arise in The Skin I’m In than in the others. Regardless, my students and I are definitely huge fans!

share save 171 16 Same theme, different level

The post Same theme, different level appeared first on The Horn Book.

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8. Book Review: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, 2014)

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Candace Fleming is a master at writing narrative nonfiction that is entertaining as well as informative, and her newest book on the tragic and doomed Romanovs is a worthy successor to her last foray into nonfiction, the highly acclaimed Amelia Lost

Fleming expertly weaves together the intimate life of Russia's last czar and his family with the saga of the revolution brewing underneath their royal noses, beginning with workers' strikes in 1905 and leading up to Lenin's seizing power in 1917.  Interspersed with her compelling narrative are original documents from the time that tell the stories of ordinary men and women swept up in the dramatic events in Russia. 

Unlike many books for young people, which seem to romanticize the Romanovs, Fleming doesn't try to make the family into martyrs.  Indeed, it is hard to have a lot of sympathy for the Russian royal family after reading Fleming's account.  Fleming describes Nicholas as a young boy as "shy and gentle," unable to stand up to his "Russian bear of a father."  His wife, the Empress Alexandra, a German princess raised to be a proper Englishwoman under the wing of Queen Victoria, never felt comfortable with the excesses of the bejeweled, partying Russian aristocracy, and encouraged her husband to retreat to Tsarskoe Selo, a park 15 miles and a world apart from St. Petersburg.  Fleming brings us inside of their privileged--but also strangely spartan--life (for example the children were bathed with cold water in the mornings and slept on army cots in their palace!), one in which they had almost no contact with outsiders. 

Fleming manages to integrate her narrative history of the Romanov family with the larger history of the turbulent times in Russia, as the czar is forced to resign and he and his family are exiled to Siberia, fleeing in a train disguised as a "Japanese Red Cross Mission" so that the royal family would not be captured by angry peasants.  She skips back and forth from the family's saga to what is happening in the capital, with plenty of original documents such as an excerpt from journalist John Reed's first-hand account of the swarming of the Winter Palace as well as excerpts from many other diaries.

In my favorite quote in the book, Fleming discusses how Lenin nationalized the mansions and private homes throughout the country, while the owners were forced to live in the servants' quarters.  She quotes one ex-servant as saying:
"I've spent all my life in the stables while they live in their beautiful flats and lie on soft couches playing with their poodles...no more of that, I say!  It's my turn to play with poodles now."  

Whatever one's feelings about the Romanovs, one cannot help but be moved by the account of their cruel assassination in the basement of their quarters in Siberia.  Particularly ironic is the fate of the royal children, who did not die immediately because they were hiding the family jewels in their camisoles and other undergarments.  This layer of jewels unwittingly created a bullet proof vest that protected them initially, until they were finally murdered with bayonets and then with gunshots.  The bodies were immediately hidden in the woods, where the remains were not found until 1979 and then kept secret until the fall of communism in Russia.  Ironically, the Romanovs have since been canonized by the Orthodox Church in Russia.

The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs.  An extensive bibliography is included, as well as a discussion of primary and secondary sources.  Fleming also includes suggestions of websites on the Romanovs, as well as source notes for each chapter and an index.

Highly recommended for middle school and high school students.




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9. Strong Female Characters in Dystopian Worlds

I want to talk about strong female characters in dystopian worlds, but right off the bat, I’m going to be difficult and say, “Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. What do we mean by strong exactly?”

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10. Tabula Rasa Blog Tour

 Thanks to Egmont USA for asking us to host a stop on the Tabula Rasa blog tour! Check out info about this new YA thriller below, a Q&A with author Kristen Lippert-Martin, and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book. 

   

About the Book

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory, her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end. 

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.


Q&A with Kristen Lippert-Martin

 

RNSL: Did you have to do a lot of research for Tabula Rasa?

KLM: I guess I’d say I let the sci-fi stuff take precedent, but I definitely fact-checked the military-related elements. In other words, I didn’t let reality get in the way of the cool stuff at all. ;) But! One of my goals with the sci-fi elements in the story was to create a world and a scenario that felt like it could be real in the here and now.

Fortunately I have people in my life who can act as experts and give me advice. The scene in the opening where the helicopter arrives and starts shooting through the hospital windows—I had to fix that because I was told, “Oh, no way would a pilot get so close to the building. If a helicopter is going to fire a missile it’s got to back up and fire from a distance or else risk getting hit by the blowback and debris from the rockets it launches.” There were plenty of things like that I wanted to make sure were portrayed accurately.

 

RNSL: Tabula Rasa is your debut. How many books did you have to write before you got to this one, the one that sold? Do you write in a specific genre only, or in various genres?

KLM: I wrote two adult literary novels and two YA novels before selling Tabula Rasa. One of the YA novels was on submission for about a year and never sold.

 

RNSL: What were your biggest influences for coming up with this story?

KLM: A perhaps odd mix of things: an assortment of action movies and, believe it or not, Hamlet.

I loved the reboot of The Bourne Identity a few years back, and I thought that concept would be perfect for a YA novel. I thought the notion of “trying to figure out who you are while people are trying to kill you” a very apt metaphor for adolescence. ;)

As for Hamlet, I’m very much an over-thinker myself, and the idea of Hamlet as this character paralyzed by gloom and constantly mulling things over—yeah, that was something I was prone to doing as a teen. I wanted to create a character who was motivated to act, to save herself, as a way of snapping out of her apathy and indifference.

 

RNSL: Your bio says you like to rewrite endings to tv shows and books when you don't like the way they turn out. Can you give us an example? (I personally would have rewritten the ending of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so she ends up with Spike, though I admit that would have made for a much less compelling show.)

KLM: OMG! I would have done EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Spike was my favorite BtVS character. I was so rooting for the Buffy-Spike relationship… and uh, maybe we should get back to things!

See, this is what I’m talking about though. I think what I was doing as a kid, long before the internet, was what fans do now in writing fan fiction. You want to take this character you care about and create another dimension of reality for them. I was just a very sensitive kid, and I didn’t like seeing bad things happen, even to imaginary people, so I’d figure out ways for characters to get their happy endings. 

 

RNSL: Did you decide to write for teens and young people (and why), or is it one of those things where it just happened, and marketing placed your book in YA? 

KLM: For me it’s definitely case of “this is where I fit.” The kind of stories I write, the tone, the way I want my stories to end. I tell you, I’ve read enough books about bleak, middle-aged white guys unable to emotionally connect with the people in their lives to last the rest of my life. I know it’s not fair to say that’s what ALL adult literary fiction is but yikes, it sure takes in a lot of it.

I want to write action, sci-fi, humor, and romance—preferably all at once. And the place to do that, for me anyway, is YA. It just feels like home.

 

RNSL: When you were the age that your target audience is now, were you a reader? What were you reading?

I was an avid mystery reader—mostly Agatha Christie. But actually I think that happened when I was an older teen, say between 17-19. I’m embarrassed to say that I was not a big reader in high school. I mean, beyond what I had to read for school in English class. That might have been because the YA we know today just didn’t exist. It seemed like the whole of YA lit comprised two books: Catcher in the Rye, which I loved for the sarcasm but hated for the message (that growing up = tragedy), and A Separate Peace. I liked things about that story too, but I mean, come on. How many rich kid boarding school stories do we need?

 

RNSL: Cake or pie, or neither? What kind and why?

CAKE. I don’t even get pie. This is an argument that goes on in my household frequently. I find most pie to just be slimy fruit. My husband is a huge pie guy, but I’m like, “GANACHE, OK? When they make a pie with chocolate ganache, then we’ll talk!”

Cake preferences, depending on my mood: carrot, coconut, chocolate ganache, and lemon.

I spend weeks leading up to my birthday thinking about and planning for my cake. I am not screwing around with the cake, I tell you. ;)

 

About the Author

Kristen Lippert-Martin is a practicing geek. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her patronus is a platypus, and she prefers Star Trek to Star Wars. Do you really need to know more? I don't. (One of us! One of us!)

Tabula Rasa is her debut book. Her website is www.kristenlippertmartin.com and you can tweet her @KLipMart.


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11. Monday Mishmash 9/22/14


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Murderer on the Loose  The biggest thing on my mind is Eric Frein, a 31-year-old man who shot and killed a police officer in my area. He critically wounded another officer, and now, Frein is armed, dangerous, and hiding somewhere in the woods. I'm scared. I wish they'd catch him soon. It's frightening that Frein is evading 200 police officers searching for him. I don't feel safe in my own home.
  2. Campus Crush is now FREE!  To celebrate the releases of Into the Fire and Perfect For You, I've decided to make Campus Crush permanently free. You can get your free copy on Kindle or Nook.
  3. Into the Fire and Perfect For You Reviews  So far, I've been blown away by the reviews for both of these books. Seriously, some have made me cry because people are relating so much to my characters and the emotions in these books. I couldn't be a happier author right now.
  4. #IntotheFireChallenge  The Into the Fire Challenge is still going on. You have until October 10th to get your review of Into the Fire posted on Amazon and be entered for your chance to appear as a phoenix in the third book in the trilogy. You can also win signed copies of all three books in the series. Go enter now!
  5. YA Scavenger Hunt  I'm happy to announce I'll be participating in the fall YA Scavenger Hunt going on October 2-October 5. I'll be part of the Green Team with my Ashelyn Drake title Into the Fire. I'm so excited!
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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12. Heather Sappenfield's THE VIEW FROM WHO I WAS

A colleague, Trish, wrote to ask me if I'd seen Heather Sappenfield's The View From Who I Was. She said it is set at a place called American Indian Preparatory School, modeled on the Native American Preparatory School. Trish didn't know it, but that school means a lot to Native people.

I had not heard of the book, so looked it up and saw that an ARC (advance reading copy) was available at Net Galley (anyone can sign up to read ARC's via Net Galley). The View From Who I Was is due out in January. The description of the book is unsettling. Here's the first paragraph:

Sometimes the end is just the beginning At Crystal High's Winter Formal, Oona Antunes splits in two. Her disembodied spirit watches as her body leaves the dance and tries to freeze to death. Three days later, she wakes in the hospital missing fingers and toes, burdened with the realization of what she's done to her mother and father.

But it was the second paragraph that got my attention:

When her school counselor invites Oona to join him at a Native American school, she becomes immersed in a foreign world where witches, talking rocks, and minor deities are reality. Oona discovers that if she is to heal, her father must also heal. But are his problems more than they can handle?

NAPS was, and is, a special place to us. Located near Santa Fe (remember--I'm from Nambe Pueblo, which is near Santa Fe), it was designed to provide gifted Native high school students with a culturally supportive education from which they would go on to college. I know people who worked there, and I know students who went there, too. I started reading, making notes as I went.

Far too often, Native people--or some semblance of Native people--are used by people who care only for their romantic notions of who we are. Mascots, of course, are one example.

In the Acknowledgements, Sappenfield says she went to NAPS twice. Those visits weren't enough to give her a meaningful or grounded respect of who we are... In The View From Who I Was, there are a lot of romantic notions that ultimately serve as the turning point in the protagonist's life.

I hate that NAPS and kids there were used 
by Sappenfield for this book. 
It feels like a violation. The school and 
kids are only a magical device that 
serves the white protagonist. 

Soon after learning about the book, I learned that the description at Net Galley is an old one that no longer describes the book. Frankly, I was relieved. But when I read the book, the description at Net Galley (also at Amazon and GoodReads) struck me as accurate. There is stuff about witches, and there's a talking rock...

As indicated, I read an ARC (advanced reading copy), which--in theory--means that there is still time for the author to revise. However, I think the errors indicate a fundamental lack of understanding, knowledge, and respect that would prevent the book from being revised in such a way that it would be ok.

After reading the ARC, I talked with a former NAPS teacher and student. The student, in particular, was troubled by how the school and teachers are misrepresented. It was special to her. Since her time there, she said, there's been nothing written about it. She hates that this book, with these errors, might be the first thing about the school that people read.

Here's my notes on the parts of the books that are about Native people/culture, with my thoughts in italics. I've included comments from the student (C) and the teacher (A).

You'll see places where I use "Oona/Corpse" and "Hovering Oona" when I'm talking about the protagonist. It is a bit confusing overall. The protagonist's name is Oona. As the book opens, Oona's spirit splits in two. The part that stays in her body is called "Corpse" by the part that left her body and hovers nearby. The story is told to us by the part of her spirit that hovers. Hovering Oona has control over whether or not Oona/Corpse is going to express or act on emotions. Oona/Corpse isn't aware of the Hovering Oona.

p. 14
Murial (Oona's mom) likes to decorate their swanky home in Colorado using Native artifacts. There's a peace pipe, kachinas, moccasins. 

Wondering about the back story for these items. I wonder where Oona's mom got them? She could have gotten them online, but those would be fakes. I wonder if Oona's mom knows about the American Indian Arts and Crafts Act? (Note to readers: Do go read that act. It is important and protects consumers from fraud, and, it also protects Native artists for whom their art is their livelihood.) 

p. 16
Prior to the suicide attempt, Oona is with Mr. Handler (her school counselor) at a school leadership conference. They're at a session put on by Native students from the American Indian Preparatory School. The school counselor has spent time at the school prior to this. In the session, a Native guy with a crew cut introduces Dr. Benson, who is the school's "flute master." He plays the flute to open their session. 

It is plausible that there would be someone on flute opening a session, but not probable that the school would have a "flute master." Pop-culture tells us that when you have Indians, you gotta have flute music. They kind of go together in white peoples minds. Though many Native nations use flutes, they're over-used by outsiders who want to signal "Indian" to an audience. Invariably, it gives people goosebumps (as it does to Oona). Flutes used that way are even the butt of jokes amongst us. Having it open this conference presentation made me shake my head. It appears later, too, in a gathering at the school. I asked C (student) about it. She said they'd have morning openings each day where announcements were made. Someone would pray in their Native way, but no music. 

The row of Native students sits with bowed heads. 

Not clear if they were sitting that way when the flutist was playing (as though it is a prayer), or, if they are sitting that way as the Navajo girl is introduced and speaking. Bowed heads suggests a prayerful moment, but overall it doesn't sound right to me.  

p. 17
The Native guy with the crewcut introduces a Navajo student, Angel Davis, who is "of the Fort Defiance Navajo" and then Angel takes the stage and starts talking. 

Generally speaking, a Navajo person takes care (in presentations) to introduce themselves according to fairly standard protocols. See the first few minutes of this video for an example. At conferences, those first few minutes would be followed by a translation (into English) of what was just said. Angel doesn't use the protocol before moving into her very-Indian presentation. 

Angel's presentation is about five feathers she has with her on stage. She talks about how she got each one:
Angel's speech was slow, yet soft, lilting: "I hold in my hand five feathers." She held up her hand and out the sides of her fist were the ends of long feathers. "Gifts from my grandfather. From his headdress. An eagle feather for each good thing I've done." Angel read about each of those good things: graduating middle school, helping her brother when he had mono, attending the American Indian Preparatory School, far from home, completing a summer writing program, even farther away. She ended with reading at this conference. She didn't candy-coat things, she just described how each challenge she didn't want to do at first, and after, her grandfather would call her out behind their house, place his hand on her shoulder, tug a feather from his headdress, and give it to her.
There's a lot wrong with that passage. First, headdresses are not part of traditional Navajo attire. They are worn primarily by Plains tribes. As written, it sounds like Angel's grandfather wears it all the time, or, that he put it on to do this feather-giving-ceremony where he takes a feather out of his headdress. It doesn't work at all. When a Native person is given a feather to mark an accomplishment, it isn't taken from an existing headdress. And, when feathers are given, it (or how it is done) generally isn't something they talk about to outsiders in the way Angel does. It is possible, but not plausible. 

p. 18/19
Oona listens to the next speaker who talks about his "costume" with its "fringe, beads, and feathers" and how he goes to powwows, where he dances for his grandma and his ancestors. Oona thinks "Was he kidding? The guy wore a white Oxford shirt with short sleeves and a tie." 

It isn't likely that he would have said "costume" or "fringe, beads, and feathers." He would more likely have said "regalia." He does the powwow circuit, it sounds like. He dances for his grandma and ancestors. Dancing for his grandma and ancestors sounds right to me. Does Oona think he can't be legit because he's wearing a shirt and tie? Or, is she being snarky about who he dances for? Either way, there's also a feeling that these kids are richer than Oona, with all her material wealth, is.    

p. 93
Mr. Handler invites Oona/Corpse to go with him to the Native American school, where she can help juniors fill out college applications. (Later, we'll learn that her help is specific to navigating websites.) 

That sounded ok to me, but when I was talking with C about the book, she asked me what Oona was going to do at the school. I told her, and she laughed, saying they were tech savvy and didn't need help like that. 

p. 99
Murial says that she wanted to be anthropologist because she loves Indians. 

That love-of-Indians is pretty widespread and as such, is the subject of much writing amongst Native people. Three resources to read/listen to are Kate Shanley's article, "The Indians Americans Love to Love and Read" , Vine Deloria Jr.'s Custer Died For Your Sins--especially the chapter on anthropologists, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman's Here Come the Anthros, based on Deloria's chapter. 

p. 103/104
More flute music. It appears several times throughout the story. 

See comments about page 16.

p. 108
Oona/Corpse is with Mr. Handler. They're approaching the grounds at the Native school. Before they get there, she sees faded house trailers (one with plywood covering window) and rusted out cars.
Two Indian kids scampered around out front, one in just a diaper, the white of it against this world, against his skin, seemed unreal.
How does protag know those are Indian kids? The school is not on a reservation. The community by it is not Native either. That the two kids "scampered" also stands out. Animals scamper. Little kids, too, the dictionary says, but given the overwhelming associations of Indians-as-animal-like, seeing it here gives me pause.

p. 111
At the school, Oona/Corpse is greeted by Louise, who is "a stout, toffee-tinted woman in a purple broom skirt and a white blouse." She has ebony hair that she wears in a bun that is clasped with a beaded barrette. 

I didn't note what words Sappenfield used to describe skin tones of Oona's mother or Mr. Benson, or Ashley (her friend at school).  Later on, Angel is going to ask Oona if she is part Native (Angel says "an urban Indian") because Oona's skin tone is olive. Of late, there have been several discussions online about words used for skin tones, when and how they're used, and who is using them.

p. 112
Back in the car, Mr. Handler and Oona/Corpse drive to the part of campus where their rooms are. As they drive, she sees "a white woman in a blouse and jeans and an Indian man with a long braid...". 

How does she know the woman is white? Oona's assumption is that all Indians have darker skin and hair, so this woman must be white. That is an incorrect assumption. Later, Angel and Oona have a conversation about skin tones. 

p. 113
Mr. Handler tells Oona/Corpse he's there to help counsel the kids at the school:
They're the kids who want to go on to college. These are not your average Native American kids." 
He backs off from that statement, saying
"Scratch that. They're just kids. Trying to figure things out. Like you."
I'm glad he backed off but what did he back off from? Did he mean that an average Native kid doesn't want to go to college? I really don't know what to make of that exchange.  

They park the car and get out. A "flock" of Indian students approach. 

I can't recall what words author used to describe groups of kids at Oona's school in Colorado. Was flock used there, too? Problem with flock is similar to scamper.

p. 114
A boy greets Mr. Handler by calling him "Lone Ranger." And then:
"He no sabe," another one said, and they all laughed. 'No know,' I realized; Tonto had been disrespecting that white-masked man, and I'd never had a clue.
That doesn't make sense to me. The line Tonto uses is "kemo sabe" -- not 'he' or 'no'. Sappenfield wants us to think that Tonto was saying "he no sabe" and as such, was dissing the Lone Ranger. Does Sappenfield now know what Tonto said? Am I missing something myself?! 

That part aside, the banter between the kids and Mr. Handler is easy going and reflects relationships I've seen between Native kids and white teachers and staff who have established a warm relationship.

p. 119
Oona/Corpse and Mr. Handler go to dinner and sit with the staff and teachers. Oona/Corpse is introduced to Dr. Yazzie, the headmaster. He is the guy Oona/Corpse saw earlier--the one with the braid:
Now Corpse saw the symmetry of his forehead, cheeks, and chin, a honey-tinted movie-star face, smooth but for creases at his eyes.
Ok. A super handsome dude. Yazzie, by the way, is a Navajo name. 

As they eat, Dr. Yazzie tells Mr. Handler:
"You know the statistics, Perry. Half of them can't handle the college world and drop out."
Mr. Handler asks about students. Davina has done ok. Louise posits that Davina's aunt has been a good role model for her. That aunt is a sergeant on the Navajo police force. When Mr. Handler asks about Cindy, Louise replies:
"Her father died." Louise's mouth, which arced down naturally, stretched down in a real frown. "Her mother had to get a job, so Cindy went home to help out with the kids."
"Poor girl," Mr. Handler said. "She was so smart."
Louise nodded. "Yes, a waste. Her father's death was a waste too. Put his truck in the ditch. Drunk. Tried to walk home on a frigid night. They found him sitting, frozen, at the entrance to their driveway. Apparently neighbors were driving past, waving."
A laugh burst from Ms. Cole. "Sorry. I hadn't heard that last part."
I found that conversation troubling. It is plausible that Louise would think "waste" but it isn't plausible. The teachers and staff at NAPS were especially supportive of Native culture and values. That a Native kid would step up to help her family would not be characterized as a waste. That neighbors drove past and waved at the body of Cindy's dad... Is that plausible?! It strikes me as incredibly offensive to imagine, let alone share, or laugh at. Louise and Ms. Cole strike me as horrible people. When I told C (student) and teacher (A) about this, they both felt that this was a misrepresentation of the teachers and staff. It strikes me as a 'fit' with government boarding schools were the framework for them was "kill the Indian and save the man" but definitely does not fit with NAPS. A quick note about Louise's mouth, which "arced down naturally" -- Angel's does, too. Weird. 

Mr. Handler then asks about Roberta:
Louise laughed. "She skipped that summer internship you arranged at the hospital. Didn't even call to let them know."
Louise goes on to say that Roberta is 18 years old now, and
"She took a job as a stripper instead. Still goes back and works weekends. Calls herself Destiny."
Mr. Handler scans the cafeteria and sees Roberta. Oona/Corpse sees her "shapely back". The next line is Hovering Oona's voice:
I had an image of Roberta in a string bikini, slithering along a pole over an audience of salivating men, some hungrily waving dollar bills.
That is another very troubling part of the book. Why did Sappenfield create this particular characterization for Roberta?! 

Hovering Oona looks at the kids in the cafeteria and thinks
these weren't the people we'd imagined inhabiting that flute music. The ones who'd made us feel poor. Maybe the bullshit had been those conference readings.
Ok... so Roberta is meant to humanize Native people?! 

p. 122 
Closing out this scene in the story, Mr. Handler says that he's read statistics (about Native people), but that "the reality is a lot harder to swallow." 

So--the reality is one girl who has done well, one who has gone home, and one who is a stripper? 

Dr. Yazzie, studying Oona/Corpse, puts his hand in his pocket.

It seemed an odd detail at that moment. Later, we learn that he keeps a rock in that pocket. It talks to him. 

After dinner, Oona/Corpse and Mr. Handler head to their rooms. As he says goodnight to Oona, she sees him swallow and his Adam's apple goes up and down. Oona/Corpse wants to say she's sorry about those kids, but she doesn't, because Hovering Oona stops her. 

p. 124-129
Early morning, Oona/Corpse goes out on a trail where she'll get cell phone reception. She calls her boyfriend. After the call, Angel comes along the same trail. She tells Oona that she's "greeting the sun." As she goes on her way, she calls back "I dreamed of you three nights ago." 

p. 130
Angel asks Oona if she's "an urban Indian" who is "from the city" and that "maybe doesn't know traditions, Indian ways." Surprised, Oona asks Angel how she could be Indian (appearance-wise). Angel tells her there's "a lot of mixed-blood or northern Indians here that don't look Indian." 

That is an interesting passage. I'm glad to see appearance being addressed. 

p. 131 
Angel tells Oona/Corpse about photographers that want photos of kids who look Indian. She also talks about how people like to visit Indians to "feel like they've done a good deed or something."

Another interesting passage, and accurate. It is ironic, too. It demonstrates that Sappenfield is able to have her characters speak to outsider use of Native people for their own benefit, but, with the way she uses Native culture in her book, doesn't understand that she's doing precisely that with this book.

p. 132
As they talk, Angel looks at Hovering Oona on Corpse's shoulder. 

As the book progresses, we learn that Angel and Dr. Yazzie can see Hovering Oona. And, in a passage that returns to imagery of Roberta as a pole dancer, Roberta walks through Hovering Oona's spirit and has a reaction that tells us that she, too, has ability to sense Hovering Oona. That makes them mystical or magical. It might seem cool a lot of people, but it plays on stereotypes! Not ok. 

p. 137
Oona/Corpse goes up the trail behind the school and comes upon Angel, kneeling in a clearing. Oona gets behind a branch and watches Angel, who is chanting. She turns north, west, south, and east. She rises and calls out to Oona that she doesn't have to hide, and asks her if she's spying on her. Oona says that, in addition to wanting to know more about the dream, she wanted to see what greeting the sun was. Oona asks Angel why she does it, and Angel says it is "showing him I'm ready for the day. And worthy."

That is unsettling. I understand that curiosity, but honestly, it is creepy and voyeuristic. I'm curious about the back story for it. What is Sappenfield's source? Is that something a Navajo girl or person actually does? Is it accurate? Is her source the Navajo girl she named in the Acknowledgements at the back of the book? Did she see that girl praying? Did she ask that girl if she could join her? 

If yes, there's a huge power dynamic in that request, and it is entirely inappropriate. In universities, there are research protocols that do not allow vulnerable populations (youth) to give permissions like that because they don't have the experience/knowledge/wherewithal to say no. Increasingly, tribes are asking writers to go through similar tribally-based protocols when they are there for research purposes for stories. I'm pretty sure NAPS administrators would not have given the author permission to do this. 

p. 139
Angel and Oona talk for a while. Oona tells Angel that she had tried to kill herself. Angel nods, saying
"I thought you looked like you'd been dead."
This is another manifestation of the stereotypical mystical Indian who sees and knows things...  

p. 142
At breakfast Oona/Corpse asks Angel what she saw that made her think that Oona had been dead. Angel shrugs her shoulders and looks at Hovering Oona. Oona/Corpse says 
"If I'd said I was an urban Indian, would you tell me?"
Angel's face hardens and she gets ready to leave. Oona presses her, asking if she can join her to greet the sun. Angel sighs and asks "Do I have a choice?" Oona/Corpse seems to be developing an awareness of Hovering Oona.

With Oona's question, it seems to me that Sappenfield knows that there are things that are guarded. The way she handles all the spirituality in the story tells me that she doesn't care about anything that Angel or Native people might be guarded about. 

After Angel leaves, Oona overhears two white teachers talking. One says that teaching there has 
"been a wild ride, and I've never been able to forget, even for a minute, that I'm an outsider."
She goes on to talk about her first week at the school, when a girl went to her room (teachers live on campus): 
"...whimpering about witches in her room. It was the middle of the night, for God's sake, and I tried to calm her. I mean, witches? I eventually got her to sleep, she spent the night in my room, and in the morning she seemed fine. At lunch Yazzie took me aside. Apparently I'd handled it all wrong. Made a fool of myself. When a student has witches in her dorm room, you inform Yazzie immediately, and they call a medicine man to come purify it."
 Ah! There's the part about witches that the blurb on Net Galley refers to! 

The two teachers commiserate about feeling like outsiders.  

Similar to the question about Angel's prayer, I'm curious about the source for this part about witches and medicine men.

p. 145/146
The next morning, Oona/Corpse joins Angel in her greeting of the sun. Though she moves in the same ways that Angel does, she isn't listening to Angel. Her thoughts are about her parents, her suicide, and her dad, in particular. She whispers to Hovering Oona and seems to be gaining insights into her family dynamics and her own well-being.

Again: what is the author's source for the way that Angel is shown in her movements? Turning to N/S/W doesn't jibe with what I know of the greeting that Navajos do at dawn. Some nations do have a directional greeting. In this part of the story, readers assume the voyeuristic gaze that Corpse had earlier. As a Native woman, this part makes me uncomfortable. I don't think author imagined a Native reader, or Native views on exploitation of Native spirituality.

p. 150
Dr. Yazzie talks with Oona/Corpse, telling her that it looks like she's had a hard time. She says "Don't tell me you can see I've died."  He says that it isn't hard to see, and then nods towards her shoulder where Hovering Oona is perched. He tells her:
"I have a rock in my pocket. It speaks to me." 
And,
"It tells me you're a good person. That you're going to be ok." 
Clearly, Dr. Yazzie is a mystical Indian, too. This is the talking rock of the Net Galley blurb.

p. 154
Corpse goes to "Circle" which is a gathering that happens once a week. Mr. Handler sits beside her. She tells him about Dr. Yazzie's rock. They're seated in chairs arranged in a circle. Dr. Yazzie comes in and sits on the floor in the center of the circle. Dr. Benson (the flute master) rises from his chair and plays. All heads are bowed. Corpse gets goosebumps and then comes fully aware of Hovering Oona's view, and how Hovering Oona "constantly reasoned, doubted, judged" Oona. Oona/Corpse whispers to Hovering Oona that she has to stop. Oona/Corpse reaches to her chest, to the "slice" through which Hovering Oona had left at the start of the story. Hovering Oona darts down and enters but doesn't like it in there and takes off again. When the lights come back up, everyone is staring at Oona. 

Oona is definitely healing, and it is due in large part to these mystical Indians and their flute music. My guess it that people will dismiss my concerns. Overall, I can hear them say, this is a book about healing from suicide. How that happens, to them, doesn't matter. It reminds me of so many books. Cole in Touching Spirit Bear is healed thru similar Indian ways. In that story, he comes to terms with his bullying behavior. It is top of many lists about bullying. The stereotyping of Native people doesn't matter to people who are intent on using the book with bullies.  People are staring at Oona, we'll learn later, because they saw Hovering Oona.

p. 164
Another mealtime. Oona/Corpse is sitting with the kids, where they are talking about William's time at a summer camp at Harvard. People said to him "I didn't know Indians wore normal clothes." Oona says "Seriously? You believe they knew that little about Indians? That's impossible."

It is odd that Oona is incredulous. Recall she was wondering about the kid at the conference who was in a shirt and tie? That aside, her remark is interesting given what she says next about mascots.

The conversation moves to a discussion of the Washington DC pro football team mascot, the Cleveland Indians logo, and, the Chiefs. William says "Headdresses? Just feathers are religious for us." They laugh, and Corpse laughs with them but thinks to herself that it isn't funny at all, and wonders why she never noticed these things before. 

Not having noticed problems with mascots before sounds a lot like the person at Harvard who wondered about Indians wearing normal clothes. It is hard to know just what to make of the things that Oona thinks and says.   

p. 178
Oona/Corpse tells Angel there's no water there, but Oona tells her there is, under their feet. She goes on:
"In Navajo tradition, we have Tonenili. He's responsible for rain, sleet, and snow. He also causes thunder and lightning. Often at ceremonies he's there in a costume of spruce branches, playing the part of a clown. He sprinkles water around. Especially during night chants. Maybe he's been speaking to  you, trying to heal you."

This, I think is the "minor deity" of the Net Galley blurb.  I'm doubtful that Angel would have told Corpse that much detail about Tonenili, but as before, what is the source for this? That the word "costume" is used makes me think that the source might be an anthropology text written by an outsider. 

p. 183
At breakfast, Oona/Corpse is with Angel. Oona sees Dr. Yazzie with his hand in his pocket and starts wondering to herself about the rock. Angel says "What?" Oona says "nothing."

Does Angel's "what" to Corpse suggest that Angel can hear her thoughts? Maybe Oona was not wondering to herself. Maybe she was actually speaking her thoughts aloud. 

p. 185
Angel and Oona/Corpse go for a hike. Oona asks Angel about the girl who had a witch in her room and learns that the room she is in was that girl's room. Oona asks Angel:
"A medicine man cleansed my room?"
Angel nodded.
"Does that stuff linger? Like could his power cleanse me?"
Angel seemed to sort out her thoughts in the road ahead of them. "When you first came here, you scared me," She looked over her shoulder, right at me [Hovering Oona]. "I worried you might have the ghost sickness and you might take me with you."
"Me? Is a ghost like a witch? Is that what that girl saw? Is that why everyone was staring at me?
"It's complicated. It's not good to talk about these things. They have power."
"Do you think a medicine man could cure me? My hands and feet have been tingling since Circle."
Angel tells her that she doesn't think Oona needs a medicine man anymore because she's healing herself. 

I don't know where to start in analyzing that conversation. Angel shares information but also says it isn't good to talk about these things. She's right--Native peoples guard some things very carefully, but she chose to share some of it with Oona. Lucky for Oona! As before, I wonder about Sappenfield's source for this material. 

p. 185 
On their hike, Angel holds out an eagle feather to Oona and says:
"This is for all the things you've survived."
No! Angel can't legally give Oona an eagle feather. It is illegal for people who are not Native to have eagle feathers. Info here: http://www.fws.gov/eaglerepository/  This law is info 101 to Native people, and especially those who would be at NAPS.


-----

At that point, I stopped taking notes. I did read it, all the way to the end. Though the book goes on for another hundred-plus pages, the story location shifts when Mr. Handler and Oona leave the school. They were there for one week. Angel and William return at the very end, at Oona's graduation. 

There's more analysis to do--the depictions of Gabe (Oona's boyfriend) and the family maid (she's Mexican), and the use of Spanish in various places. Some of it doesn't sound quite right to me. I'll close this post with something I said earlier:

I hate that NAPS and kids there were used 
by Sappenfield for this book. 
It feels like a violation. The school and 
kids are only a magical device that 
serves the white protagonist. 


It isn't "just fiction" that Sappenfield, or any writer is doing, when they write a story. Some fictions affirm existing stereotypes. Some create new problems for Native people to deal with. It doesn't have to be that way. Writers---you can do better. Editors---so can you! 

Last: If something I've said is unclear (or if there are typos!), do let me know. I welcome your question, corrections, and comments.  

Editor's Note: The original post for this review had an error in the title. This is a reposting of the review with the correct title (the word 'where' was replaced with 'who'). 

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13. Heather Sappenfield's THE VIEW FROM WHERE I WAS

A colleague, Trish, wrote to ask me if I'd seen Heather Sappenfield's The View From Where I Was. She said it is set at a place called American Indian Preparatory School, modeled on the Native American Preparatory School. Trish didn't know it, but that school means a lot to Native people.

I had not heard of the book, so looked it up and saw that an ARC (advance reading copy) was available at Net Galley (anyone can sign up to read ARC's via Net Galley). The View From Where I Was is due out in January. The description of the book is unsettling. Here's the first paragraph:

Sometimes the end is just the beginning At Crystal High's Winter Formal, Oona Antunes splits in two. Her disembodied spirit watches as her body leaves the dance and tries to freeze to death. Three days later, she wakes in the hospital missing fingers and toes, burdened with the realization of what she's done to her mother and father.

But it was the second paragraph that got my attention:

When her school counselor invites Oona to join him at a Native American school, she becomes immersed in a foreign world where witches, talking rocks, and minor deities are reality. Oona discovers that if she is to heal, her father must also heal. But are his problems more than they can handle?

NAPS was, and is, a special place to us. Located near Santa Fe (remember--I'm from Nambe Pueblo, which is near Santa Fe), it was designed to provide gifted Native high school students with a culturally supportive education from which they would go on to college. I know people who worked there, and I know students who went there, too. I started reading, making notes as I went.

Far too often, Native people--or some semblance of Native people--are used by people who care only for their romantic notions of who we are. Mascots, of course, are one example.

In the Acknowledgements, Sappenfield says she went to NAPS twice. Those visits weren't enough to give her a meaningful or grounded respect of who we are... In The View From Where I Was, there are a lot of romantic notions that ultimately serve as the turning point in the protagonist's life.

I hate that NAPS and kids there were used 
by Sappenfield for this book. 
It feels like a violation. The school and 
kids are only a magical device that 
serves the white protagonist. 

Soon after learning about the book, I learned that the description at Net Galley is an old one that no longer describes the book. Frankly, I was relieved. But when I read the book, the description at Net Galley (also at Amazon and GoodReads) struck me as accurate. There is stuff about witches, and there's a talking rock...

As indicated, I read an ARC (advanced reading copy), which--in theory--means that there is still time for the author to revise. However, I think the errors indicate a fundamental lack of understanding, knowledge, and respect that would prevent the book from being revised in such a way that it would be ok.

After reading the ARC, I talked with a former NAPS teacher and student. The student, in particular, was troubled by how the school and teachers are misrepresented. It was special to her. Since her time there, she said, there's been nothing written about it. She hates that this book, with these errors, might be the first thing about the school that people read.

Here's my notes on the parts of the books that are about Native people/culture, with my thoughts in italics. I've included comments from the student (C) and the teacher (A).

You'll see places where I use "Oona/Corpse" and "Hovering Oona" when I'm talking about the protagonist. It is a bit confusing overall. The protagonist's name is Oona. As the book opens, Oona's spirit splits in two. The part that stays in her body is called "Corpse" by the part that left her body and hovers nearby. The story is told to us by the part of her spirit that hovers. Hovering Oona has control over whether or not Oona/Corpse is going to express or act on emotions. Oona/Corpse isn't aware of the Hovering Oona.

p. 14
Murial (Oona's mom) likes to decorate their swanky home in Colorado using Native artifacts. There's a peace pipe, kachinas, moccasins. 

Wondering about the back story for these items. I wonder where Oona's mom got them? She could have gotten them online, but those would be fakes. I wonder if Oona's mom knows about the American Indian Arts and Crafts Act? (Note to readers: Do go read that act. It is important and protects consumers from fraud, and, it also protects Native artists for whom their art is their livelihood.) 

p. 16
Prior to the suicide attempt, Oona is with Mr. Handler (her school counselor) at a school leadership conference. They're at a session put on by Native students from the American Indian Preparatory School. The school counselor has spent time at the school prior to this. In the session, a Native guy with a crew cut introduces Dr. Benson, who is the school's "flute master." He plays the flute to open their session. 

It is plausible that there would be someone on flute opening a session, but not probable that the school would have a "flute master." Pop-culture tells us that when you have Indians, you gotta have flute music. They kind of go together in white peoples minds. Though many Native nations use flutes, they're over-used by outsiders who want to signal "Indian" to an audience. Invariably, it gives people goosebumps (as it does to Oona). Flutes used that way are even the butt of jokes amongst us. Having it open this conference presentation made me shake my head. It appears later, too, in a gathering at the school. I asked C (student) about it. She said they'd have morning openings each day where announcements were made. Someone would pray in their Native way, but no music. 

The row of Native students sits with bowed heads. 

Not clear if they were sitting that way when the flutist was playing (as though it is a prayer), or, if they are sitting that way as the Navajo girl is introduced and speaking. Bowed heads suggests a prayerful moment, but overall it doesn't sound right to me.  

p. 17
The Native guy with the crewcut introduces a Navajo student, Angel Davis, who is "of the Fort Defiance Navajo" and then Angel takes the stage and starts talking. 

Generally speaking, a Navajo person takes care (in presentations) to introduce themselves according to fairly standard protocols. See the first few minutes of this video for an example. At conferences, those first few minutes would be followed by a translation (into English) of what was just said. Angel doesn't use the protocol before moving into her very-Indian presentation. 

Angel's presentation is about five feathers she has with her on stage. She talks about how she got each one:
Angel's speech was slow, yet soft, lilting: "I hold in my hand five feathers." She held up her hand and out the sides of her fist were the ends of long feathers. "Gifts from my grandfather. From his headdress. An eagle feather for each good thing I've done." Angel read about each of those good things: graduating middle school, helping her brother when he had mono, attending the American Indian Preparatory School, far from home, completing a summer writing program, even farther away. She ended with reading at this conference. She didn't candy-coat things, she just described how each challenge she didn't want to do at first, and after, her grandfather would call her out behind their house, place his hand on her shoulder, tug a feather from his headdress, and give it to her.
There's a lot wrong with that passage. First, headdresses are not part of traditional Navajo attire. They are worn primarily by Plains tribes. As written, it sounds like Angel's grandfather wears it all the time, or, that he put it on to do this feather-giving-ceremony where he takes a feather out of his headdress. It doesn't work at all. When a Native person is given a feather to mark an accomplishment, it isn't taken from an existing headdress. And, when feathers are given, it (or how it is done) generally isn't something they talk about to outsiders in the way Angel does. It is possible, but not plausible. 

p. 18/19
Oona listens to the next speaker who talks about his "costume" with its "fringe, beads, and feathers" and how he goes to powwows, where he dances for his grandma and his ancestors. Oona thinks "Was he kidding? The guy wore a white Oxford shit with short sleeves and a tie." 

It isn't likely that he would have said "costume" or "fringe, beads, and feathers." He would more likely have said "regalia." He does the powwow circuit, it sounds like. He dances for his grandma and ancestors. Dancing for his grandma and ancestors sounds right to me. Does Oona think he can't be legit because he's wearing a shirt and tie? Or, is she being snarky about who he dances for? Either way, there's also a feeling that these kids are richer than Oona, with all her material wealth, is.    

p. 93
Mr. Handler invites Oona/Corpse to go with him to the Native American school, where she can help juniors fill out college applications. (Later, we'll learn that her help is specific to navigating websites.) 

That sounded ok to me, but when I was talking with C about the book, she asked me what Oona was going to do at the school. I told her, and she laughed, saying they were tech savvy and didn't need help like that. 

p. 99
Murial says that she wanted to be anthropologist because she loves Indians. 

That love-of-Indians is pretty widespread and as such, is the subject of much writing amongst Native people. Three resources to read/listen to are Kate Shanley's article, "The Indians Americans Love to Love and Read" , Vine Deloria Jr.'s Custer Died For Your Sins--especially the chapter on anthropologists, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman's Here Come the Anthros, based on Deloria's chapter. 

p. 103/104
More flute music. It appears several times throughout the story. 

See comments about page 16.

p. 108
Oona/Corpse is with Mr. Handler. They're approaching the grounds at the Native school. Before they get there, she sees faded house trailers (one with plywood covering window) and rusted out cars.
Two Indian kids scampered around out front, one in just a diaper, the white of it against this world, against his skin, seemed unreal.
How does protag know those are Indian kids? The school is not on a reservation. The community by it is not Native either. That the two kids "scampered" also stands out. Animals scamper. Little kids, too, the dictionary says, but given the overwhelming associations of Indians-as-animal-like, seeing it here gives me pause.

p. 111
At the school, Oona/Corpse is greeted by Louise, who is "a stout, toffee-tinted woman in a purple broom skirt and a white blouse." She has ebony hair that she wears in a bun that is clasped with a beaded barrette. 

I didn't note what words Sappenfield used to describe skin tones of Oona's mother or Mr. Benson, or Ashley (her friend at school).  Later on, Angel is going to ask Oona if she is part Native (Angel says "an urban Indian") because Oona's skin tone is olive. Of late, there have been several discussions online about words used for skin tones, when and how they're used, and who is using them.

p. 112
Back in the car, Mr. Handler and Oona/Corpse drive to the part of campus where their rooms are. As they drive, she sees "a white woman in a blouse and jeans and an Indian man with a long braid...". 

How does she know the woman is white? Oona's assumption is that all Indians have darker skin and hair, so this woman must be white. That is an incorrect assumption. Later, Angel and Oona have a conversation about skin tones. 

p. 113
Mr. Handler tells Oona/Corpse he's there to help counsel the kids at the school:
They're the kids who want to go on to college. These are not your average Native American kids." 
He backs off from that statement, saying
"Scratch that. They're just kids. Trying to figure things out. Like you."
I'm glad he backed off but what did he back off from? Did he mean that an average Native kid doesn't want to go to college? I really don't know what to make of that exchange.  

They park the car and get out. A "flock" of Indian students approach. 

I can't recall what words author used to describe groups of kids at Oona's school in Colorado. Was flock used there, too? Problem with flock is similar to scamper.

p. 114
A boy greets Mr. Handler by calling him "Lone Ranger." And then:
"He no sabe," another one said, and they all laughed. 'No know,' I realized; Tonto had been disrespecting that white-masked man, and I'd never had a clue.
That doesn't make sense to me. The line Tonto uses is "kemo sabe" -- not 'he' or 'no'. Sappenfield wants us to think that Tonto was saying "he no sabe" and as such, was dissing the Lone Ranger. Does Sappenfield now know what Tonto said? Am I missing something myself?! 

That part aside, the banter between the kids and Mr. Handler is easy going and reflects relationships I've seen between Native kids and white teachers and staff who have established a warm relationship.

p. 119
Oona/Corpse and Mr. Handler go to dinner and sit with the staff and teachers. Oona/Corpse is introduced to Dr. Yazzie, the headmaster. He is the guy Oona/Corpse saw earlier--the one with the braid:
Now Corpse saw the symmetry of his forehead, cheeks, and chin, a honey-tinted movie-star face, smooth but for creases at his eyes.
Ok. A super handsome dude. Yazzie, by the way, is a Navajo name. 

As they eat, Dr. Yazzie tells Mr. Handler:
"You know the statistics, Perry. Half of them can't handle the college world and drop out."
Mr. Handler asks about students. Davina has done ok. Louise posits that Davina's aunt has been a good role model for her. That aunt is a sergeant on the Navajo police force. When Mr. Handler asks about Cindy, Louise replies:
"Her father died." Louise's mouth, which arced down naturally, stretched down in a real frown. "Her mother had to get a job, so Cindy went home to help out with the kids."
"Poor girl," Mr. Handler said. "She was so smart."
Louise nodded. "Yes, a waste. Her father's death was a waste too. Put his truck in the ditch. Drunk. Tried to walk home on a frigid night. They found him sitting, frozen, at the entrance to their driveway. Apparently neighbors were driving past, waving."
A laugh burst from Ms. Cole. "Sorry. I hadn't heard that last part."
I found that conversation troubling. It is plausible that Louise would think "waste" but it isn't plausible. The teachers and staff at NAPS were especially supportive of Native culture and values. That a Native kid would step up to help her family would not be characterized as a waste. That neighbors drove past and waved at the body of Cindy's dad... Is that plausible?! It strikes me as incredibly offensive to imagine, let alone share, or laugh at. Louise and Ms. Cole strike me as horrible people. When I told C (student) and teacher (A) about this, they both felt that this was a misrepresentation of the teachers and staff. It strikes me as a 'fit' with government boarding schools were the framework for them was "kill the Indian and save the man" but definitely does not fit with NAPS. A quick note about Louise's mouth, which "arced down naturally" -- Angel's does, too. Weird. 

Mr. Handler then asks about Roberta:
Louise laughed. "She skipped that summer internship you arranged at the hospital. Didn't even call to let them know."
Louise goes on to say that Roberta is 18 years old now, and
"She took a job as a stripper instead. Still goes back and works weekends. Calls herself Destiny."
Mr. Handler scans the cafeteria and sees Roberta. Oona/Corpse sees her "shapely back". The next line is Hovering Oona's voice:
I had an image of Roberta in a string bikini, slithering along a pole over an audience of salivating men, some hungrily waving dollar bills.
That is another very troubling part of the book. Why did Sappenfield create this particular characterization for Roberta?! 

Hovering Oona looks at the kids in the cafeteria and thinks
these weren't the people we'd imagined inhabiting that flute music. The ones who'd made us feel poor. Maybe the bullshit had been those conference readings.
Ok... so Roberta is meant to humanize Native people?! 

p. 122 
Closing out this scene in the story, Mr. Handler says that he's read statistics (about Native people), but that "the reality is a lot harder to swallow." 

So--the reality is one girl who has done well, one who has gone home, and one who is a stripper? 

Dr. Yazzie, studying Oona/Corpse, puts his hand in his pocket.

It seemed an odd detail at that moment. Later, we learn that he keeps a rock in that pocket. It talks to him. 

After dinner, Oona/Corpse and Mr. Handler head to their rooms. As he says goodnight to Oona, she sees him swallow and his Adam's apple goes up and down. Oona/Corpse wants to say she's sorry about those kids, but she doesn't, because Hovering Oona stops her. 

p. 124-129
Early morning, Oona/Corpse goes out on a trail where she'll get cell phone reception. She calls her boyfriend. After the call, Angel comes along the same trail. She tells Oona that she's "greeting the sun." As she goes on her way, she calls back "I dreamed of you three nights ago." 

p. 130
Angel asks Oona if she's "an urban Indian" who is "from the city" and that "maybe doesn't know traditions, Indian ways." Surprised, Oona asks Angel how she could be Indian (appearance-wise). Angel tells her there's "a lot of mixed-blood or northern Indians here that don't look Indian." 

That is an interesting passage. I'm glad to see appearance being addressed. 

p. 131 
Angel tells Oona/Corpse about photographers that want photos of kids who look Indian. She also talks about how people like to visit Indians to "feel like they've done a good deed or something."

Another interesting passage, and accurate. It is ironic, too. It demonstrates that Sappenfield is able to have her characters speak to outsider use of Native people for their own benefit, but, with the way she uses Native culture in her book, doesn't understand that she's doing precisely that with this book.

p. 132
As they talk, Angel looks at Hovering Oona on Corpse's shoulder. 

As the book progresses, we learn that Angel and Dr. Yazzie can see Hovering Oona. And, in a passage that returns to imagery of Roberta as a pole dancer, Roberta walks through Hovering Oona's spirit and has a reaction that tells us that she, too, has ability to sense Hovering Oona. That makes them mystical or magical. It might seem cool a lot of people, but it plays on stereotypes! Not ok. 

p. 137
Oona/Corpse goes up the trail behind the school and comes upon Angel, kneeling in a clearing. Oona gets behind a branch and watches Angel, who is chanting. She turns north, west, south, and east. She rises and calls out to Oona that she doesn't have to hide, and asks her if she's spying on her. Oona says that, in addition to wanting to know more about the dream, she wanted to see what greeting the sun was. Oona asks Angel why she does it, and Angel says it is "showing him I'm ready for the day. And worthy."

That is unsettling. I understand that curiosity, but honestly, it is creepy and voyeuristic. I'm curious about the back story for it. What is Sappenfield's source? Is that something a Navajo girl or person actually does? Is it accurate? Is her source the Navajo girl she named in the Acknowledgements at the back of the book? Did she see that girl praying? Did she ask that girl if she could join her? 

If yes, there's a huge power dynamic in that request, and it is entirely inappropriate. In universities, there are research protocols that do not allow vulnerable populations (youth) to give permissions like that because they don't have the experience/knowledge/wherewithal to say no. Increasingly, tribes are asking writers to go through similar tribally-based protocols when they are there for research purposes for stories. I'm pretty sure NAPS administrators would not have given the author permission to do this. 

p. 139
Angel and Oona talk for a while. Oona tells Angel that she had tried to kill herself. Angel nods, saying
"I thought you looked like you'd been dead."
This is another manifestation of the stereotypical mystical Indian who sees and knows things...  

p. 142
At breakfast Oona/Corpse asks Angel what she saw that made her think that Oona had been dead. Angel shrugs her shoulders and looks at Hovering Oona. Oona/Corpse says 
"If I'd said I was an urban Indian, would you tell me?"
Angel's face hardens and she gets ready to leave. Oona presses her, asking if she can join her to greet the sun. Angel sighs and asks "Do I have a choice?" Oona/Corpse seems to be developing an awareness of Hovering Oona.

With Oona's question, it seems to me that Sappenfield knows that there are things that are guarded. The way she handles all the spirituality in the story tells me that she doesn't care about anything that Angel or Native people might be guarded about. 

After Angel leaves, Oona overhears two white teachers talking. One says that teaching there has 
"been a wild ride, and I've never been able to forget, even for a minute, that I'm an outsider."
She goes on to talk about her first week at the school, when a girl went to her room (teachers live on campus): 
"...whimpering about witches in her room. It was the middle of the night, for God's sake, and I tried to calm her. I mean, witches? I eventually got her to sleep, she spent the night in my room, and in the morning she seemed fine. At lunch Yazzie took me aside. Apparently I'd handled it all wrong. Made a fool of myself. When a student has witches in her dorm room, you inform Yazzie immediately, and they call a medicine man to come purify it."
 Ah! There's the part about witches that the blurb on Net Galley refers to! 

The two teachers commiserate about feeling like outsiders.  

Similar to the question about Angel's prayer, I'm curious about the source for this part about witches and medicine men.

p. 145/146
The next morning, Oona/Corpse joins Angel in her greeting of the sun. Though she moves in the same ways that Angel does, she isn't listening to Angel. Her thoughts are about her parents, her suicide, and her dad, in particular. She whispers to Hovering Oona and seems to be gaining insights into her family dynamics and her own well-being.

Again: what is the author's source for the way that Angel is shown in her movements? Turning to N/S/W doesn't jibe with what I know of the greeting that Navajos do at dawn. Some nations do have a directional greeting. In this part of the story, readers assume the voyeuristic gaze that Corpse had earlier. As a Native woman, this part makes me uncomfortable. I don't think author imagined a Native reader, or Native views on exploitation of Native spirituality.

p. 150
Dr. Yazzie talks with Oona/Corpse, telling her that it looks like she's had a hard time. She says "Don't tell me you can see I've died."  He says that it isn't hard to see, and then nods towards her shoulder where Hovering Oona is perched. He tells her:
"I have a rock in my pocket. It speaks to me." 
And,
"It tells me you're a good person. That you're going to be ok." 
Clearly, Dr. Yazzie is a mystical Indian, too. This is the talking rock of the Net Galley blurb.

p. 154
Corpse goes to "Circle" which is a gathering that happens once a week. Mr. Handler sits beside her. She tells him about Dr. Yazzie's rock. They're seated in chairs arranged in a circle. Dr. Yazzie comes in and sits on the floor in the center of the circle. Dr. Benson (the flute master) rises from his chair and plays. All heads are bowed. Corpse gets goosebumps and then comes fully aware of Hovering Oona's view, and how Hovering Oona "constantly reasoned, doubted, judged" Oona. Oona/Corpse whispers to Hovering Oona that she has to stop. Oona/Corpse reaches to her chest, to the "slice" through which Hovering Oona had left at the start of the story. Hovering Oona darts down and enters but doesn't like it in there and takes off again. When the lights come back up, everyone is staring at Oona. 

Oona is definitely healing, and it is due in large part to these mystical Indians and their flute music. My guess it that people will dismiss my concerns. Overall, I can hear them say, this is a book about healing from suicide. How that happens, to them, doesn't matter. It reminds me of so many books. Cole in Touching Spirit Bear is healed thru similar Indian ways. In that story, he comes to terms with his bullying behavior. It is top of many lists about bullying. The stereotyping of Native people doesn't matter to people who are intent on using the book with bullies.  People are staring at Oona, we'll learn later, because they saw Hovering Oona.

p. 164
Another mealtime. Oona/Corpse is sitting with the kids, where they are talking about William's time at a summer camp at Harvard. People said to him "I didn't know Indians wore normal clothes." Oona says "Seriously? You believe they knew that little about Indians? That's impossible."

It is odd that Oona is incredulous. Recall she was wondering about the kid at the conference who was in a shirt and tie? That aside, her remark is interesting given what she says next about mascots.

The conversation moves to a discussion of the Washington DC pro football team mascot, the Cleveland Indians logo, and, the Chiefs. William says "Headdresses? Just feathers are religious for us." They laugh, and Corpse laughs with them but thinks to herself that it isn't funny at all, and wonders why she never noticed these things before. 

Not having noticed problems with mascots before sounds a lot like the person at Harvard who wondered about Indians wearing normal clothes. It is hard to know just what to make of the things that Oona thinks and says.   

p. 178
Oona/Corpse tells Angel there's no water there, but Oona tells her there is, under their feet. She goes on:
"In Navajo tradition, we have Tonenili. He's responsible for rain, sleet, and snow. He also causes thunder and lightning. Often at ceremonies he's there in a costume of spruce branches, playing the part of a clown. He sprinkles water around. Especially during night chants. Maybe he's been speaking to  you, trying to heal you."

This, I think is the "minor deity" of the Net Galley blurb.  I'm doubtful that Angel would have told Corpse that much detail about Tonenili, but as before, what is the source for this? That the word "costume" is used makes me think that the source might be an anthropology text written by an outsider. 

p. 183
At breakfast, Oona/Corpse is with Angel. Oona sees Dr. Yazzie with his hand in his pocket and starts wondering to herself about the rock. Angel says "What?" Oona says "nothing."

Does Angel's "what" to Corpse suggest that Angel can hear her thoughts? Maybe Oona was not wondering to herself. Maybe she was actually speaking her thoughts aloud. 

p. 185
Angel and Oona/Corpse go for a hike. Oona asks Angel about the girl who had a witch in her room and learns that the room she is in was that girl's room. Oona asks Angel:
"A medicine man cleansed my room?"
Angel nodded.
"Does that stuff linger? Like could his power cleanse me?"
Angel seemed to sort out her thoughts in the road ahead of them. "When you first came here, you scared me," She looked over her shoulder, right at me [Hovering Oona]. "I worried you might have the ghost sickness and you might take me with you."
"Me? Is a ghost like a witch? Is that what that girl saw? Is that why everyone was staring at me?
"It's complicated. It's not good to talk about these things. They have power."
"Do you think a medicine man could cure me? My hands and feet have been tingling since Circle."
Angel tells her that she doesn't think Oona needs a medicine man anymore because she's healing herself. 

I don't know where to start in analyzing that conversation. Angel shares information but also says it isn't good to talk about these things. She's right--Native peoples guard some things very carefully, but she chose to share some of it with Oona. Lucky for Oona! As before, I wonder about Sappenfield's source for this material. 

p. 185 
On their hike, Angel holds out an eagle feather to Oona and says:
"This is for all the things you've survived."
No! Angel can't legally give Oona an eagle feather. It is illegal for people who are not Native to have eagle feathers. Info here: http://www.fws.gov/eaglerepository/  This law is info 101 to Native people, and especially those who would be at NAPS.


-----

At that point, I stopped taking notes. I did read it, all the way to the end. Though the book goes on for another hundred-plus pages, the story location shifts when Mr. Handler and Oona leave the school. They were there for one week. Angel and William return at the very end, at Oona's graduation. 

There's more analysis to do--the depictions of Gabe (Oona's boyfriend) and the family maid (she's Mexican), and the use of Spanish in various places. Some of it doesn't sound quite right to me. I'll close this post with something I said earlier:

I hate that NAPS and kids there were used 
by Sappenfield for this book. 
It feels like a violation. The school and 
kids are only a magical device that 
serves the white protagonist. 


It isn't "just fiction" that Sappenfield, or any writer is doing, when they write a story. Some fictions affirm existing stereotypes. Some create new problems for Native people to deal with. It doesn't have to be that way. Writers---you can do better. Editors---so can you! 

Last: If something I've said is unclear (or if there are typos!), do let me know. I welcome your question, corrections, and comments.   

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14. The Thing About Being a Debut Author

JENNIFER LONGO holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University. She credits her lifelong flair for drama to parents who did things like buy the town graveyard and put their kids to work in it-because how hilarious would that be?

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15. Friday Feature: Who R U Really? Book Birthday & Elixir Bound Sale and Giveaway


It’s a BOOKBirthday!
The birth of a debut book is often a long labor of love, and Margo Kelly’s Who R U Really? is no exception. Margo finished the first draft of the manuscript in 2010! More than four years later, more than four title changes, and way-more-than four revisions … it has finally arrived! WAHOO!

*.-*.-**throws confetti**.-*.-*
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. And in the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon, he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

“Kelly has painted a realistic picture of how a smart girl can get caught up in something dangerous online. … Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps.” -- School Library Journal.  (http://www.bookverdict.com)

“Thea’s mistakes, while frustrating to encounter, are frighteningly plausible, and the relationships among characters are well–fleshed out, especially between mother and daughter. Kelly’s first novel is a suspenseful page-turner.” -- Kirkus Reviews (www.kirkusreviews.com)

Who R U Really? published in hardcover and e-book versions by Merit Press (F+W Media) on September 18, 2014.

Buy online:

You can also enter for a chance to win a copy in the Goodreads giveaway here.

*.-*.-**throws confetti**.-*.-*

Margo Kellyis a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margowelcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.

Follow her online:
Twitter: @MargoWKelly

Scheduled Appearances:
September 26, 2014 – 5pm – Book Signing at Hastings in Meridian, Idaho
September 27, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Hastings on Overland in Boise, Idaho
October 3, 2014 – 7pm – Book Launch Party at Hyde Park Books in Boise, Idaho
October 11, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Barnes & Noble in Boise, Idaho



That's not all! 



My fellow writer friend, Katie Carroll's YA fantasy, Elixir Bound, is on sale (ebook version) for only $.99 until September 27th. And there's a giveaway on Goodreads for a signed paper back. First, here's her book:




Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.

It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.




Ebook on sale for $.99 until September 27:

Prefer paperback? Enter the Goodreads giveaway here.

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16. The Sound

US and UK covers

US and UK covers

The Sound by Sarah Alderson

ISBN-10: 1442499338

ISBN-13: 978-1442499331

Publication date: 1 August 2014 by Simon Pulse

Category: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller

Keywords: Summer vacation, Realistic Fiction, Murder

Format: Hardcover, ebook

Source: Review copy provided by Author

17-year-old Londoner Ren Kingston flees a bad breakup for the summer by taking a job as a nanny for a young family vacationing on Nantucket Sound. At first, it seems like paradise: easy work, beautiful scenery, and unsupervised teenage parties. She even manages to attract the attention of handsome, wealthy Jeremy Thorne, which helps to soften the pain of her recent heartbreak. Affairs start to get complicated when she also starts befriending (and maybe falling for) local bad-boy Jesse Miller, but it's no big deal--she gets to go home at the end of the summer.

When bodies (of attractive young foreign au pairs) start turning up in the Sound (just like the summer before), Ren's mom threatens to pull the plug on her plans. Animosity flares up between Jeremy and Jesse--and Ren suspects it has nothing to do with her, and has rather more to do with the fact that Jesse nearly killed one of Jeremy's preppy buddies the previous year.

I really enjoyed this whodunit, though mostly because I found a lot to relate to among the characters. Ren and I have something in common--she's a blogger, though for music rather than books--which made me like her even more. She's funny and easy to care for, even if she seems to get dropped into too-good-to-be-true circumstances. I also really enjoyed the music she listens to (c'mon, Dry the River? I wanted to high-five my Kindle). That, and she gets a crush on a boy named Jesse Miller who just happens to play guitar in a band--dude, that was totally me when I was her age!

I'd really love to see Olivia Cooke play Ren in a film- or tv-movie-version, though I'm not sure who'd make a good Jeremy (and his twin brother, though i swear that doesn't play into the mystery portion of the story) or Jesse for that matter. I confess, in my mind Jesse was a slightly more serious Jake Wyler (as played by Chris Evans 13 years ago in Not Another Teen Movie), but maybe Sam Clafin (who starred with Cooke in The Quiet Ones) would work.

Ahem. Back to the topic at hand.

While I don't expect all other readers in the world to like Ren for those same reasons (I mean, what are the chances you are a funny blogger with a huge crush on Jesse Miller who plays guitar?) I think many readers will enjoy the summer romance, haves-versus-have-nots, slightly-predictable-but-creepy-nonetheless mystery. I thought that despite the Gossip-Girl-iness of it all (something the main character occasionally points out, so meta is she), the relationships felt believable, and Ren finds as many friends as she does foes. My only peeve: why did the US not get the cool UK cover art?

All in all, The Sound is a great summer read for when it's just too bloody hot to think (so basically all of Los Angeles needs to read this book right now).

I received this book for free from Sarah Alderson for review purposes.

 

Alethea

 

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17. Writer Wednesday:

I've been tagged by Vicki Leigh in the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Thanks, Vicki! So, today I'll be talking about the MC in Into the Fire. Well, one of them anyway. It's dual POV. Here we go!

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Cara Tillman is 100% fictional, though she feels completely real in my mind.

2. When and where is the story set?
The story is set in present day in a fictional town called Ashlan Falls.

3. What should we know about him/her?
Cara is a descendent of the mythical phoenix bird, and her first rebirth is only one month away.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Cara knows that when she's reborn, she's going to forget everyone from her first life. So when she imprints on the new guy in town, Logan, this spells disaster. It also makes her more of a target for Hunters, people who kill Phoenixes and steal their essence so they can live longer.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?
Cara is dying to find a way to hold on to her memories and Logan through her rebirth.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Into the Fire is a YA romantic fantasy. Here's the blurb:
In one month, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die. But until then, she plans to enjoy every look, touch and kiss with her boyfriend Logan, the new boy in Ashlan Falls. Cara is a descendant of the mythical Phoenix bird, and her rebirth is nearing. But first, she must die and forget all that she knew before, including Logan's face, his laugh, and the way he says her name. With precious little time left for the two of them, Cara does all she can to savor every moment, unwittingly drawing a Phoenix hunter to her doorstep with every move.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?
Into the Fire was published on September 9th! You can grab your copy today on Amazon or B&N, and take the #IntotheFireChallenge for a chance to become a phoenix in the final book of the series.

Now I'm tagging Stephanie Faris and Medeia Sharif.

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18. Tim Tingle's NO NAME

In Removing the Word "Reluctant" from Reluctant Reader, Stringer and Mollineaux write that there are many reasons why teen readers choose not to read (p. 71):

For some youth, reading difficulties may be intertwined with factors such as cultural background, language barriers, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, family disruptions, teenage pregnancy, fear of failure, and peer pressure. These problems may occur with other stressors such as school transitions, low self-esteem, poor time management, and depression.
In their work on the experience of Native youth in school, Tippeconnic and Fairchild write that over time, Native youth disengage from school. Among the reasons, Tippeconnic and Fairchild put forth is that Native youth don't see themselves in the materials they're asked to read.

Enter Tim Tingle's No Name. It is one of the new titles in the PathFinders series published by 7th Generation. Pitched for kids aged 12-16, it is about Bobby, a present-day Choctaw teen. His dad drinks. When drunk, he becomes abusive to his wife and Bobby. She leaves, and Bobby decides to run away. He doesn't go far, though, choosing to dig a hideout in his backyard.

People who are aware of the dysfunction of his home life help him and his dad find their way. One strength of No Name is that the way is real. Things don't get better overnight. That is a truth that children in similar homes know.

There are aspects of Choctaw life in the book, too. Tingle's story draws from a Choctaw story about No Name, a boy who also has a difficult relationship with his father. I especially like the parts of the story where Danny and his friend, Johnny, talk about the Choctaw Nation and water rights.

Danny and Johnny (who is Cherokee) play basketball. I think No Name has appeal to a wide range of readers. Those we might call reluctant, and those who are Native, especially Choctaw or Cherokee, and those who live in homes disrupted by alcoholism will be drawn to No Name.   

Earlier today I posted a bit of a rant over recent works of fantasy in which non-Native writers use Native culture as inspiration for a story that has little if anything to do with the lives of Native people today. Today's society knows so little about who we are! Works of fantasy just feed that lack of knowledge. Society embraces an abstract, disembodied notion of who we are, rather than us as people with a desire to be known and appreciated for who we are.

Gritty, real stories, of our daily lives in 2014 are too few and far between. We need more books like Tingle's No Name. Get a copy for your library. Choose your framework for sharing it: it is a basketball story; it is a realistic story of alcoholism; it is a story about the Choctaw people.   

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19. How to Motivate Readers to Keep Turning Pages | Writing Tips

It isn’t easy to tackle tension when writing a story, but keeping these things in mind can point you in the right direction.

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20. It's Release Day Times Two!

Today I have not one but TWO books releasing into the world! First up is my YA contemporary romance, Perfect For You.

Seventeen-year-old Meg Flannigan isn’t very self-confident, but what girl would be after her sophomore-year boyfriend dumped her by making out with another girl in front of her locker? 

Now a senior, Meg catches the eye of not one, but two gorgeous guys at school. Sounds good, right? What girl wouldn't want to be in Meg's shoes? One cute boy happens to be her boyfriend, and the other? Well, he wants to be. And Meg? She's torn between Ash, the boy she's been with for nearly five months, and Noah who is pretty irresistible. 

But Meg is playing with fire. Pitting two boys against one another, even if she doesn't intend to, could end badly if she isn't careful. PERFECT FOR YOU is a teen romance from bestselling author Ashelyn Drake, where one girl will risk everything to find her perfect match.

Check out the opening pages below:



Need to know what happens next? Click here to buy the book for only $2.99 on Amazon.

Up next is Into the Fire, a YA romantic fantasy.
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

Here's a video of me reading the opening pages:



You can get more of Cara and the other phoenixes for only $3.19 on Amazon or $3.49 on B&N.

Look for a SWAG and gift card giveaway this Friday! 

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21. Friday Feature: Into the Fire and Perfect For You Release Week SWAG Pack Giveaway!


I have two young adult novels that released on September 9th! Yes, two! They are both Ashelyn Drake titles. For those who don't know, Ashelyn Drake is my romance pen name. The first is a YA romantic fantasy called Into the Fire.
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble



The second is a young adult contemporary romance called Perfect For You.
Seventeen-year-old Meg Flannigan isn’t very self-confident, but what girl would be after her sophomore-year boyfriend dumped her by making out with another girl in front of her locker? 

Now a senior, Meg catches the eye of not one, but two gorgeous guys at school. Sounds good, right? What girl wouldn't want to be in Meg's shoes? One cute boy happens to be her boyfriend, and the other? Well, he wants to be. And Meg? She's torn between Ash, the boy she's been with for nearly five months, and Noah who is pretty irresistible. 

But Meg is playing with fire. Pitting two boys against one another, even if she doesn't intend to, could end badly if she isn't careful. 

Goodreads
Amazon



To celebrate the releases Ashelyn is giving away a SWAG pack that includes:
  • A flame pendant from Into the Fire
  • a phoenix button
  • a heart bracelet from Perfect For You
  • $5 Amazon Gift Card
You know you want to enter, so fill out the rafflecopter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to be a phoenix in the third and final installment of my Birth of the Phoenix series? Now you can be! Check out my Into the Fire challenge!

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22. Noggin: Review Haiku

Moves beyond its
tabloid premise (DEAD FROZEN HEAD!)
to find real meaning.

Noggin by John Corey Whaley. Atheneum, 2014, 352 pages.

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23. How a YA Author Pays Homage to Famous American Authors

Washington Irving, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and now Edgar Allan Poe. Paying homage to famous American authors has sort of become what I do.

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24. Monday Mishmash 9/15/14


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Scholastic Book Fair  I'm helping out with the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughter's school this week. That's always dangerous because I can't be around books and not spend a lot of money.
  2. Kiss of Death  I have a FREE Touch of Death prequel novella from Alex's POV. It's no secret I love Alex, so I had to tell his story. It's been in my head since I wrote Touch of Death. Check out the cover below, and download it FREE here.
  3. Into the Fire Challenge  Have you seen my #IntotheFire Challenge? If you review the book on Amazon before October 10, you'll be entered to win an awesome prize. You could become a phoenix in the Birth of the Phoenix series and get signed copies of all the books! Check out my video about the challenge here.
  4. FREE!  In celebration of the releases of Perfect For You and Into the Fire, I'm making Campus Crush permanently FREE. It's already free on Nook and I'm trying to get Amazon to price match. Hopefully soon.
  5. Milayna Cover Reveal  Michelle Pickett has a cover reveal today. Milayna releases March 17 through Clean Teen Publishing. Check it out. 
    It’s hard being good all the time. Everyone needs to be bad once in a while. But for seventeen-year-old Milayna, being good isn’t a choice. It’s a job requirement. And it’s a job she can’t quit. Born a demi-angel, Milayna steps in when danger and demons threaten the people around her, but being half angel isn’t all halos and happiness. Azazel, Hell’s demon, wants Milayna’s power and he’ll do anything to get it. But he only has until her eighteenth birthday, after which she becomes untouchable.

    With the help of other demi-angels, Milayna thwarts the trouble Azazel sends her way. Fighting by her side is Chay. He’s a demi-angel who’s sinfully gorgeous, and Milayna falls hard. But is Chay her true love… or her nemesis in disguise?

    When she learns of a traitor in her group, there’s no one she can trust… not even the one she loves.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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25. We Are the Goldens: Review Haiku

After-school special
material in the hands
of a prose master.

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt. Wendy Lamb/Random, 2014, 208 pages.

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