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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: murder, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 46
1. Gruesome Hollywood murder was foreshadowed in a graphic novel

Look for this one to be on the Oxygen channel before long: the suspect in a gruesome Hollywood murder with ties to everything from Mel Brooks to the Olympics is being called by some the “graphic novel murderer.” Director/author Blake Leibel was charged with murder, mayhem, aggravated mayhem and torture after the body of his […]

1 Comments on Gruesome Hollywood murder was foreshadowed in a graphic novel, last added: 6/3/2016
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2. The Blackthorn Key - an audiobook review

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Read by Ray Panthacki
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015
7.25 hrs
Grades 5-9

Christopher Rowe, is a lucky lad.  Plucked from the orphanage for his intellectual potential, Christopher is apprenticed to the kindly apothecary, Master Benedict Blackthorn. Despite his lowly upbringing, relayed by narrator Ray Panthacki's hint of a Cockney accent, Christopher receives training in Latin, astronomy, ciphers, potions, and other tools of the apothecary's trade. In the midst of a suspicious atmosphere following great political upheaval, a mysterious cult of murderers arises. Christopher will need all his skills and more to decode a series of clues to a dangerous plot that threatens to upset the balance of world power. Panthacki clearly defines each of The Blackthorn Key's large cast of characters, creating distinctive voices that reflect their standing in British society.  Christopher's best friend is Tom, an apprentice baker.  Like Harry Potter and Ron, they are a memorable pair, and their dialogue sounds honest and warm.   Whether in terror, danger, or mere horseplay, the listener feels the emotion in and between the characters.  The only thing that slows the pace of adventure in this gripping mystery is the occasional reading of lengthy ciphers. Print readers may well try their hand at decoding them, but for listeners, they're primarily a drag on the action. The setting is as rich as the plot in this mid-17th century adventure brought to life by veteran actor Ray Panthacki.


My review copy was provided by AudioFile MagazineMy review of The Blackthorn Key for AudioFile Magazine (along with an audio excerpt) appears here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/107274/]

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3. Whodunnit?! A List of YA Murder Mysteries

There’s nothing like a good, solid murder mystery to curl up with in the evening. After — you know — you’ve double checked all your doors are locked and armed yourself with with a deathly looking lampshade and a fearsome whisk for protection. (Sometimes books feel real, okay?!) And if you like the Young Adult […]

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4. Space Case - an audiobook review

Below is my review of the audiobook Space Case by Stuart Gibbs, read by Gibson Frazier, as it appeared in the December 2014, issue of School Library Journal.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

GIBBS, Stuart. Space Case. 6 CDs. 6:28 hrs. S. & S. Audio.
2014. $29.99. ISBN 9781442376397. digital download.

Gr 3–7— The year is 2040. Dash, his sister, and their scientist parents are inaugural inhabitants of Moon Base Alpha (MBA), Earth's extraterrestrial colony. Housing only a few dozen people and governed by a strict commander, MBA is not exactly a barrel of laughs for a 12-year-old boy. However, when one of MBA's scientists dies suspiciously and a supply ship brings new residents (including a girl his age), life in space becomes much more intriguing. Though the story has many humorous moments—especially involving the insufferable wealthy space tourists—it also has some plausible science. Each chapter is preceded by a reading from "The Official Residents' Guide to Moon Base Alpha," NASA's part propaganda/part instruction manual, containing such riveting topics as "Exercise" and "Food." Narrator Gibson Frazier keeps the story moving at a good pace, conveying suspense without melodrama. Rather than create pitched character voices, he relies on intonation to differentiate among the large cast. His own voice is deep and clear but boyish enough to suit Dash. The narration flows smoothly, broken only by the humorously intended commercial quality of the "Official Resident's Guide." Space Case should appeal to a broad range of listeners but especially space enthusiasts.

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

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5. How do you process a horrific crime scene with mass casualties?

I was horrified to learn that some of the bodies at the Aurora shooting stayed in place for what sounded like overnight. Why didn't they bring them out and let their loved ones have them?

Then I read this post from a crime scene investigator who worked the Columbine shooting. The post seems to have been taken down now. Maybe it was too sensitive, even years later, to talk about that day.

But he said:

"One of the only criticisms from processing Columbine was that we left the victim's bodies in the school overnight. It wasn't an easy decision I can assure you. But we believed strongly that the case would eventually go to court (either civil or criminal) despite the fact that the killers were deceased. Truthfully, you can't afford to think otherwise. So it's not as simple as just walking in a putting the victims in body bags. We can't levitate them out of the scene. People have to walk in there to get them and those people could possibly damage or destroy evidence if they aren't careful. The bodies have to be carefully photographed, videotaped, and measured with precision. The CSIs may have to collect trace evidence from their bodies or clothing. Adjacent objects that may be disturbed also have to be fully documented before a path can be cleared. You can't just kick a piece of evidence out of the way. So all of this process takes time. We don't like it either but we have to do everything we can to make sure the evidence can be presented in court."

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6. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage

I made a discovery during my committee tenure last year about books I love.  There are books with chops where I delight in the use of language, setting, characterization et cetera, and then there are heartsong books.  You know, those books that you wax poetic about...the ones that speak to you? And every so often, these two things collide into a book that you know will remain a favourite for all of your days.

This is what Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is to me.

"Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt." (p. 1)  Tupelo landing is where Moses (Mo) LoBeau ended up after her mother strapped her to a make shift raft during a hurricane.  She came to stay with Miss Lana and the Colonel and helped them run their cafe.  When local oldie Mr. Jesse turns up dead, Tupelo Landing turns upside down, with Mo and bestfriend Dale  smack in the middle of everything, due to a little bit of borrowing of Jesse's rowboat.

Turnage has managed to pack an awful lot of goodness into this one including a twisty turny mystery, unforgetable characters, family heart-ache, strong girl-boy friendship and memorable turns of phrase.  It is a book that will have readers laughing, wondering and feeling sad in turn.

I was lucky enough to meet Sheila Turnage at ALA in Anaheim and she said that Mo just kept talking to her.  She wanted her story told.  I'm awfully glad Turnage listened to her!

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7. The Little Woods - Review

Publication date: 10 July 2012 by Schwartz & Wade
ISBN 10/13: 0375869433 | 9780375869433

Category: Young Adult Fiction
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Keywords: Camp, Murder, Mystery

Kimberly's synopsis:

Calista Wood arrives at St. Bede's Academy half way through the year. She's been granted a free ride, but there's more than school on her mind. Ten years ago, her sister and another girl mysteriously vanished outside this school. Now Calista is back, searching for answers to her sister's disappearance.

Kimberly's review:

I'm sorry to say I didn't care for this book. While the opening chapter hooked me in, I felt pretty lost through the beginning half of the novel. Callie enters the boarding school with hope that this prestigious school will help her get into a better college. Within the first few chapters, many different characters are introduced, none of them very memorable.

I liked Callie's spunk and the dialogue was fast and fun at times. But for all of that, when confronted with her peers, Callie didn't feel complete to me. The story starts moving about half way when a body is found in the woods behind the school. It's not her sister's, but it starts a chain reaction that leads Callie to investigate everyone around her.

Her boyfriend Alex, is bland. The other boy she's interested in, Jack, is a little richer, but the relationship is so lukewarm for so much of the book, it's hard to see him as a romantic lead by the time it does come around. Everyone else, including Queen Bee Helen and the mean girl groupies, were really hard to visualize.

I had a real problem with a lot of the relationships in the book. None of them seemed healthy, and by the end when everything is revealed, it's so distasteful, I imagine this prep school is run by Jersey Shore grads. For me, all of that took away from the overall mystery of the sister's disappearance. I really wanted to like this book, but the mystery left me flat and the school politics were cold.

You can find the author at www.mccormicktempleman.com.

Find more reviews by Kimberly at The Windy Pages.

8 Comments on The Little Woods - Review, last added: 9/8/2012
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8. Burlesque in New York: The writing of Gypsy Rose Lee

By Noralee Frankel

In celebration of the anniversary of the first burlesque show in New York City on 12 September 1866, I reread a fun murder mystery, The G-String Murders, by Gypsy Rose Lee. “Finding dead bodies scattered all over a burlesque theater isn’t the sort of thing you’re likely to forget. Not quickly, anyway,” begins the story.

The editors at Simon & Schuster liked the setting in a burlesque theater and appreciated Gypsy’s natural style, with its unpretentious and casual tone. Her knowledge of burlesque enabled her to intrigue readers, who were as interested in life within a burlesque theater as in the mystery. Providing vivid local color, the novel describes comedic sketches, strip routines, costumes, and the happenings backstage. In a typical scene in the book, Gypsy muses about her strip act: “The theater had been full of men, slouched down in their seats. Their cigarettes glowed in the dark and a spotlight pierced through the smoke, following me as I walked back and forth.” Describing her band with precision, she wrote, “Musicians in their shirt sleeves, with racing forms in their pockets, played Sophisticated Lady while I flicked my pins in the tuba and dropped my garter belt into the pit.”

Gypsy worked as hard on her writing as her stripping, and The G-String Murders became a best seller. “People think that just because you’re a stripper you don’t have much else except a body. They don’t credit you with intelligence,” Gypsy later complained. “Maybe that’s why I write.”

Gypsy Rose Lee, 1956

Gypsy Rose Lee, full-length portrait, seated at typewriter, facing slightly right, 1956. Photo by Fred Palumbo of the World Telegram & Sun. Public rights given to Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The G-String Murders briefly describes Gypsy’s career as a burlesque queen at a fictitious theater, based on those owned by the Minsky family, in New York City. In the book someone strangles a stripper, La Verne, with her G-string. The police turn up an abundance of suspects, including Louie, La Verne’s gangster boyfriend; Gypsy; and Gypsy’s boyfriend, Biff Brannigan, a comic working in the club. After someone tries to frame Biff by placing the lethal G-string in his pocket, he aids the police in solving the crime. He’s also concerned that the police suspect Gypsy and he wants to clear her by finding the actual murderer. After deducing the identity of the murderer, Biff proves his theory by suggesting that Gypsy act as bait and remains in the theater alone to tempt the murderer to strike again.

More than just a page-turner, Gypsy’s novel stresses the camaraderie among the women. Sharing a dressing room, they throw parties with everyone contributing to buy drinks and food. The women joke, drink together, and confide in each other. The women also sympathize with each other over man problems and working conditions. Gypsy describes the strippers’ dressing room with a complete lack of sentimentality. The cheap theater owner is indifferent to the disgusting condition of the stripper’s dressing room toilet. To help the women, the burlesque comics pool their meager resources to buy the strippers a new toilet.

Gypsy expressed her conviction in the importance of organized labor through a character in The G-String Murders: Jannine, one of the strippers recently elected secretary to the president of the Burlesque Artists’ Association. When the strippers receive a new toilet, the candy seller suggested having a non-union plumber install it to save money. She refuses, forbidding any non-union member to enter the women’s dressing room. She snapped, “Plumbers got a union. We got a union. When we don’t protect each other that’s the end of the unions.” She reminded the other strippers of conditions before they joined a union, when they performed close to a dozen shows without additional compensation.

In the novel, Gypsy provided Jannine with another opportunity to talk about solidarity among burlesque performers and the unequal class structure in the United States. In a tirade against the police over the treatment of the strippers during the murder investigation, Jannine raged that the performers, both the strippers and comedians, might squabble but they were loyal and do not inform on each other. When a police sergeant tried to interrupt her, she retorted: “It’s the social system of the upper classes that gives you guys the right to browbeat the workers!”

Gypsy peddled the G-String Murders in the same clever ways that she publicized herself. In a prepublication letter to her publishers, she offered to “do my specialty in Macy’s window to sell a book. If you prefer something a little more dignified, I’ll make it Wanamaker’s window.” In an interview, she joked that if people did not know her in bookstores, she would remove an earring and ask, “Now, do you recognize me?”

As an added bonus, Gypsy put a lot of herself into this book, so the reader learns quite a bit about her burlesque work life, her sense of humor, her political beliefs, and sense of independence. Spending time with this mystery is a perfect way to celebrate a New York City burlesque anniversary.

Noralee Frankel is author of Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee. She recently co-edited the U.S. History in Global Perspective for National History Day. Dr. Frankel is a historical consultant and can be reached through LinkedIn or Facebook.

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9. Dissecting Christie Part 1

For the next few weeks, we are going to dissect The Crooked House by Agatha Christie.

The first layer we're going to examine is her use of theme. In The Crooked House, Christie used a children's rhyme to illustrate the bent and twisted nature of the family involved in the murder.

The following excerpts illustrate her use of the theme throughout the story.

Chapter 1

She added softly in a musing voice: “In a little crooked house …”

I must have looked slightly startled, for she seemed amused and explained by elaborating the quotation. “'And they all lived together in a crooked little house.' That’s us. Not really such a little house either. But definitely crooked – running to gables and half timbering!”

Chapter 3

I suddenly remembered the whole verse of the nursery rhyme:

There was a crooked man and he went a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence beside a crooked stile.
He had a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

I wondered why it had been called Three Gables. Eleven gables would have been more apposite! The curious thing was that it had a strange air of being distorted – and I thought I knew why. It was the type, really, of a cottage, it was a cottage swollen out of all proportion. It was like looking at a country cottage through a gigantic magnifying-glass. The slant-wise beams, the half-timbering, the gables – it was a little crooked house that had grown like a mushroom in the night.

Chapter 8

This was the Original Crooked Little Man who had built the Crooked Little House – and without him the Crooked Little House had lost its meaning.

Chapter 13

I went down to the Crooked House (as I called it in my own mind) with a slightly guilty feeling.

Chapter 15

“I think that’s what I mean when I said we all lived together in a crooked little house. I didn’t mean that it was crooked in the dishonest sense. I think what I meant was that we hadn’t been able to grow up independent, standing by ourselves, upright. We’re all a bit twisted and twining (…) like bindweed."

Chapter 17

“He was a natural twister. He liked, if I may put it so, doing things the crooked way.”

Chapter 26

“We will go there together and you will forget the little Crooked House.”

Throughout the solving of the murder, the evidence twists and turns and reveals the way the family members are intertwined in an unhealthy way. The young widow is often described as resembling a cat.

Christie sprinkled the theme in with a delicate hand. The analogy is referred to in only seven of the twenty-six chapters. The idea of crookedness inspires the whole.

To address theme, I suggest considering at the beginning or end of the first draft what you want the story to say. Then, as you go through the revision layers, develop your theme through description and dialogue.

You might find a nursery rhyme to fit your purpose.

Next week, we will take a look at how Christie uses description to introduce characters.

3 Comments on Dissecting Christie Part 1, last added: 9/16/2013
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10. review#408 – Smith: The Story of a Pickpocket by Leon Garfield

.. Smith: The Story of a Pickpocket by Leon Garfield The New York Review Children’s Collection 5 Stars . . . . . .   .   .   ..   .   .   .(illustration free). Back Cover:  Twelve-year-old Smith is a denizen of the mean streets of eighteenth-century London, living hand to mouth …

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11. Comic: Death and the Writer

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12. Girls who kill

By Kathleen M. Heide, Ph.D.

There has been a resurgence of interest in girls who kill, following the report of two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who stabbed another girl of the same age 19 times on 31 May 2014. The girls reportedly had planned to kill their friend following a birthday sleepover to demonstrate their allegiance to a fictionalized Internet character known as Slender Man. Despite the horror and the apparent senseless nature of the attack, all three girls had some good fortune. 

Although the victim had been left for dead, she miraculously lived. Had one of the stab wounds been a millimeter closer to a major artery by the heart, the victim would have bled to death. The victim crawled from the woods towards the street and cried for help. Had she not had the will to live and the good fortune of a passerby who heard her cries and took immediate action, the two assailants would have been facing murder charges instead of attempted murder charges. Under today’s sentencing laws, these two 12-year-old girls if convicted of premeditated murder in adult court could have spent the rest of their lives in prison.

The story sparked national attention given the age and gender of the assailants and the viciousness of the act. Questions quickly followed: Are murders by girls on the rise? Do girls who commit lethal violence differ from boys?

I have been evaluating juvenile homicide offenders and analyzing murder arrest trends in the United States for 30 years. My analyses of over 40,000 case of juveniles (ages 6-17) arrested nationally for murder and non-negligent manslaughter provide convincing evidence that the involvement of girls does not show an increasing trend over the years. On the average, the proportion of juveniles arrested for murder who were female since the mid-1970s has been about 8%. Stated another way, 92% of kids under 18 who are arrested for murder are boys. Analyses of victims, weapons used, co-defendant status, and circumstances indicate that there are significant differences (not due to chance) between boys and girls arrested for murder.

Do Not Cross, Crime Scene, Uploaded by Diego Grez. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Do Not Cross, Crime Scene, Uploaded by Diego Grez. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Girls under 18 are significantly more likely than boys:

  • To kill intimate partners
  • To kill victims under age 5
  • To kill family members
  • To use a knife, personal weapon, or weapon other than a gun
  • To kill a female victim
  • To act alone
  • To be involved in a conflict-related killings (e.g., argument)

Boys under 18 are significantly more likely than girls:

  • To kill adolescents and adults
  • To kill strangers
  • To use a gun
  • To kill male victims
  • To be involved in crime-related killings
  • To be involved in gang-related killings
  • To use accomplices to kill

The Wisconsin stabbing brought attention once again to youth violence in the United States. While murders committed by juveniles under 18 have decreased substantially since 1993, when they reached record highs, it is no time for complacence. This tragic case underscores the importance of parents to be aware of their children’s activities and to monitor their Internet activities. While it is unknown what factors in concert propelled these girls to plot for months to kill their friend, one fact is known from their statements to the police: their belief in a homicidal mythical internet character was part of the near lethal equation.

Kathleen M. Heide, Ph.D. is a Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and author of Understanding Parricide: When Sons and Daughters Kill Parents (Oxford U. Press, 2013), Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence against People (Alta-Mira, 2004), Young Killers: The Challenge of Juvenile Homicide (Sage, 1999), and Why Kids Kill Parents: Child Abuse and Adolescent Homicide (Ohio State University Press, 1992).

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13. KILLER HEAT by Brenda Novak

The “Heat” continues as Brenda Novak spins another tale of mystery, murder and mayhem in, Killer Heat.

Skull Valley may have been named years ago, but the finding of seven dead women (and perhaps more) leads the small town to bring in hired hand, Jonah Young. All is well until Jonah discovers the woman he’ll be directly working with...

...Betrayal is one of the worst feelings in the world, but when Private Investigator, Francesca Moretti is thrust in working with her betrayer of fourteen years ago, Jonah Young, how will it effect her performance and her ability to solve the crime at hand?

Killer Heat is a must read for anyone who loves stories of mystery, murder, love and deceit. I had trouble putting this book down - and so will you! Brenda Novak has a wonderful knack for spinning a tale of romance and murder and keeping you wanting more.

Check out KILLER HEAT and all of Novak’s books at; http://www.brendanovak.com/

Be sure to leave me a comment to be entered into the draw for all 3 of "the Heat" books - they're autographed too!

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14. 17 year old killer begs for forgiveness on Facebook

Joey Marsala, 17, sounds like he has had a rough life. His mom is sick, he has bounced around Oregon and California, lived with a foster family, dropped into and out of various schools.

Now he just flushed it down the toilet by beating and stabbing a man to death, then stealing his car. On his Facebook page, Joey posted, ""O god please forgive me, for I have sined. I guess I must forgive my self first before you can. I hope my friends, family, loved one's can forgive me. All of you will understand soon enough. Please an come see me when I'm out of sight."

You look at his sad face - the face of a person who is more boy than man - and you wish you could turn back the clock. Teen is just a year younger.

Read more here.

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15. New Book Review - The Diary of a Murder

Before I plunge into my book review, just a reminder of the contest for a free copy of The Fourth Wish, in Kindle or paperback (winner's choice). To read the rules for the contest -- which ends Friday, September 9th -- go here. (Please comment for the contest on that post so I can keep your points straight.)

Many of you know I like to read mysteries and historical novels when I'm not reading children's books. And I indulged in quite a few adult reads (and reviewed them) while I was recuperating from my foot surgery. So this is one last review of a book that combines both mystery and a historical setting: Victorian London, when streets were foggy, and you could hear the clop-clop-clop of horse hooves against cobblestones as doomed victims set off in carriages, and cases were solved without a swat team kicking in a door and waving guns. The book is The Diary of a Murder, by Lee Jackson. I bought the print version, but I see it is also out in Kindle now (in the UK).

A bit of background for this discovery: While gathering information for my middle grade mystery set in Victorian London (which is a tamer tale indeed), I came across Lee Jackson's wonderful website, called (appropriately) Victorian London. In it you will find a treasure trove of Victoriana. He provides a dictionary listing various topics, from maps, to transportation, whatever; and a click on any one topic will take you to a wealth of original sources (including Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, under Diet, where you can see what meals to plan for each month of the year in 1861. Mr. Jackson also provides some of the original "penny dreadfuls" for your reading pleasure. And he has a wonderful blog called The Cat's Meatshop, well worth following. The Diary of a Murder is his seventh mystery novel, and he has also published two nonfiction books: Victorian London and A Dictionary of Victorian London, An A-Z of the Great Metropolis.  And renowned mystery writer, Andrew Taylor, has said, "No one knows Vicorian London as Lee Jackson does -- historical fictin doesn't come more authentic than this."

On to the the review:
The Willises are concerned because their married daughter, Dora Jones, has disappeared after planning to visit them in Chelsea. When Sergeant Preston and a constable go to the Jones's home to investigate, they find the daughter brutally murdered and the pages of a diary scattered about. The diary is by Dora's husband, Jacob Jones, a clerk at the Crystal Palace. But Jacob appears to have fled the scene. Detective Inspector Delby is called in, and the story unfolds in chapters that alternate between Jacob Jones's diary, and the investigation by the inspector and the sergeant.

The story that follows reveals a doting husband, a humble clerk, who married above his station (Dora's father is a draper, and rich, and does not like young Jacob). Jacob gushes about his sweet wife,  confesses his yearnings to be a writer, admits his frustrations with his in-laws, who seem

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16. I Have Nothing to Say...Except....

...that's the problem with writers. They don't have anything to say, but they'll say it anyway!

First, thanks to everyone who stopped by Karen Nutt's blog yesterday. I couldn't get signed into Twitter, so couldn't spread the word that way. But I finally was able to do it today.

Second, I joined YARWA to try it out. It's a young adult chapter of the Romance Writers of America.

Now, I have to say I was trying to wrest the wheel away from the pirate. Note that he has taken us aground. And I am sure I can sail better than he can.

Why did I picture this here? The YARWA motto is say it like a pirate: "yarh" or something like that!

I thought it was cute.

He's not though. He's rather on the scrawny side. No meat on his bones. No muscles. No golden tanned skin. Even bald, if I can make out the situation under his pirate's hat and all.

Now note, my hat is also a pirate's hat. Well, maybe not real piratey looking, but I've worn it in many an ocean, protecting my Celtic skin from sunburn, and so if you look really, really close, you can see the salt from the Seven Seas. Maybe not the Seven Seas--doesn't that sound like a pirate's yarn to you?

But several--lakes and oceans and the Gulf too.

And that's what I have to say today...nothing at all!!!

Have a terrific Tuesday, and remember...if you feel the urge, be a pirate and yarh!~

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

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17. I love my job!

I love my job! The copy editor questioned whether one character could shove another character's dead body under the sink. So I climbed in to prove it. It's a tight fit, but a dead person is not going to grumble.

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18. The Graveyard Book - Review

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Publication date: 01 October 2008 by HarperCollins 
ISBN 10/13: 0060530928 | 9780060530921

Category: Middle Grade Ghost Story, Fantasy Fiction
Keywords: Orphan, Ghosts, Suspense
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

From goodreads:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

Kimberly's review:

After a tragic event and a narrow escape from a man named Jack, an 18-month-old baby finds himself adopted by the ghosts of the local graveyard. He grows up to be known as Bod, his full name "Nobody," and the novel follows young Bod from his rescue into his teenage years. As he grows more curious and fascinated with the outside world, his ghostly family watches his transformation, and experience what they haven't had in years- growing up.

A haunting and amazing adventure, Bod's got a strong voice and his adventures and growing pains are very real. His band of ghostly parents are vivid, both physically and character wise. Like other Gaiman writing, this book is suspenseful, spooky and creepy. I couldn't help reading late into the night, craving to know what was next for Bod. And for the man named Jack, who has come back to finish what he couldn't complete years ago. (The man named Jack still sends chills up my spine. Even in the middle of the day.)

For me, Gaiman's writing impacted me the most in this novel as well as Coraline. I don't know if I'm just partial to his Middle Grade/Young Adult writing more than his adult writing. Or if these stories transport me to a time long ago when I was a kid reading ghost stories under my bed with a flash light, scaring myself awake for many sleepless nights.

19. Someday this real-life murder in my family is going to be in a book

When I was at my mom’s house recently, I came across this picture of my grandmother. It was taken around the time that my great grandfather gunned down her boyfriend.

My grandmother didn’t marry until she was 32, in 1920. I used to just figure she was a late bloomer.

In 2009, when I should have been working on my editor’s revision letter, I goofed off by Googling my grandmother’s name. “Effie Satterwhite.” Google has obviously been scanning more books since the last time I looked, including one published in 1907 that listed the opinions of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

One of which involved Effie. When Effie was 18, her father shot her boyfriend for kissing her.

I’ve got booklets of family history and this is mentioned NOWHERE. My mom didn’t know it. She is also sure my dad, who died in 2003, didn’t know.

According to the court records, when she was 17, Effie started seeing a man named Jim Wallis. One night they went to an “entertainment,” and returned at 11 pm. “She started to go in the house, but was stopped by Wallis who reached out his hand and drew her to him and kissed her. She put her hands against him and pushed him away. They walked to the end of the porch, and stood there talking until the clock struck eleven. Wallis looked at his watch and then turned and kissed her again. He then left the house.”

Effie went inside, heard a door open, and then saw her father “going down the steps with a gun in his hands.” She heard the shot, and tried to run to Jim. Her father grabbed her, and said it was all her fault for hugging and kissing Jim. Finally he let Effie go to her boyfriend, who lay bleeding in the street.

At the trial, Effie’s brother testified that a year earlier he had seen Effie and Jim together “in a very suspicious attitude, conducting themselves in what he thought a very unbecoming manner on the front porch.” He ordered Effie inside, and told Jim to never come back. But Jim did, the next day, and told Effie’s brother that he loved her.

They continued to see each other until the night he was gunned down. My great-grandfather’s defense was that he was sure Jim “was trying to seduce his daughter and relieve her of her virtue.” But the jury found that the two intended to marry.

My great-grandfather was convicted of assault with intent to kill, and his appeal was denied. Jim died in a hospital four months after the shooting.

And my grandmother did not marry for 14 more years.

She was 72 when I was born, and 90 when she died. She was slender, with a sharp mind and sharp opinions. She was prim, severe, judgmental, fanatically religious. She could whistle really well.

I want to write a book where my grandmother and Jim, the star-crossed lovers, are reunited in the present time.

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20. Dead End in Norvelt - a review

Gantos, Jack. 2011. Dead End in Norvelt. New York: Macmillan.

I don't know how much of Dead End in Norvelt, featuring the fictionalized Jack Gantos, is true and how much is not, but I'll venture that the author Jack Gantos had a secure (albeit austere) childhood with two well-meaning, working-class parents, a tendency for nosebleeds, and a few very quirky neighbors. 

Bomb shelters, WWII surplus equipment, a dying town, the Hell's Angels, a local newspaper, the sharp-tongued elderly neighbor, Miss Volker, and of course, Jack Gantos and his family are the foils for a very funny, yet affecting book of life in rural, post-war America.

The story begins as young Jack is grounded for the summer due to an unfortunate incident involving a loaded firearm and the drive-in theater. Things get progressively worse as Jack, following his father's orders, mows down the cornfield to make room for a bomb-shelter, which in actuality is merely cover for a private airstrip. The usually kindly and practical Mrs. Gantos quickly takes charge of her two wayward men,

"Well, mister," she informed me with no trace of sympathy in her voice, "I'm going to march your father into this room and make him cut you down to size. And when he finishes with you I'll make him wish he had already built that bomb shelter because he might be living in it."   ...  It took two days for Dad to march into my room and cut me down to size.  He knew he had gotten me in trouble with Mom and so he quickly wrangled a construction job in West Virginia for a couple days of paid work.  He thought Mom might cool down, but he could have been away for two years and she would still have been just as angry.  It was as if she could preserve her anger and store it in a glass jar next to the hot horseradish and yellow beans and corn chowchow she kept in the dank basement pantry.  And when she needed some anger she could just go into the basement and open a jar and get worked up all over again.
 Throughout the long, hot summer, Jack's only respite from digging the bomb shelter and reading in his room are the frequent calls from the elderly Miss Volker, the town medical examiner and writer of obituaries for the local paper.  Her arthritic hands prevent her from typing and Mrs. Gantos, ever solicitous of neighbor's needs, sends Jack to help. In doing so, Jack learns much more than the history of his town, founded by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Realistic fiction with a humorous and historical twist, Dead End in Norvelt is one of the year's best novels. 

Best for grades 6 and up.

It's interesting that many of the best books in recent memory, including Dead End in Norvelt, prominently feature a wise, older or elderly non-relatives (Moon Over ManifestOkay for Now, Wendy Mass' Birthday series, I'm sure there are more).  Unfortunately, although these books are realistic fiction, there are far too few of these older, helpful, non-relatives in reality.  If you are in a position to be one, please do!

There is an abundance of resources available for Dead End in Norvelt.  Enjoy!
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21. The Epic Interview with Josh Berk, author of GUY LANGMAN, CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR

Josh Berk and I went to college together. Drew University, class of 1998. It’s a tiny liberal arts college in the monied wilds on New Jersey. We did not, however, know each other back then. Our ignorance is well documented.

The world spins as the world spins and it spun us both into the “billionaire’s game”–aka writing novels for young readers. And that’s how we finally met. It’s a good thing we did, at least for me. First off, Josh was kind enough to interview me when my latest book came out. Second off (is there a second off?), Josh is a master of teenage persiflage and tomfoolery, as well as murder mystery and general pathos. I have much to learn from this man. In pursuit of that knowledge, I turned the interview tables and we talked about his latest novel Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator (in stores on March 13!). It’s a rollicking tale of girls, grief and gold, and it stars a slacker, his thinly mustachioed best friend, a high school forensics squad, and a couple stiffs.  The unedited, no-holds-barred chat about it is featured below.

But I issue this warning: Some of the content is a bit ribald. If you do not know what ribald means, please stop reading now. And if your parents do not know what ribald means, please turn off the internet now and take a family trip to the library.  As for the rest of you? Enjoy!

AARON: Knock knock

JOSH: Who farted?

AARON: Cool it Berk! I’m the one asking the questions!

See what I did right there? That’s what detectives call the old Sandusky Switcheroo. Get a perp thinking he’s in charge of the situation, then BAM, turn the tables. Of course, you know that. Because when you wrote Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator, you must have studied a bit of police work, right? Tell me about some of the weird and amazing things you discovered regarding forensic science. What made it into the book? What didn’t?

JOSH: Well I did spend a few years on the force in Allentown, cracking skulls and chasing perps. OK really I watched a lot of CSI reruns. And Law & Order reruns. And I literally did read Forensics For Dummies, which I probably shouldn’t admit… I also did a lot of online research, including the scoping out of high school forensics clubs web pages to see the type of work actually being done by high school kids in their forensic science clubs these days. Lots of it is quite amazing! Most everyone in high school I knew was interested in committing crimes, not solving them, so I don’t know why people say they have no hope for this generation.

Amazing fact: If you lose your arms and have to learn to write with your mouth, eventually your mouth-writing will closely resemble your hand-writing. That’s a fact! It’s in the book. You can look it up. Also, try it at home. (Writing with your mouth I mean, not losing your arms.)

Something that didn’t make it into the book was a w

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All that reading and re-reading of THE HOUNDING as I revised and edited it, not only led me to fall back in love with Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson and the original story, but it made me downright itchy to write the next adventure in the series. I promised myself that as soon as I had all my deadlines met I would launch right into The Illustrious Client, and so I have. I'm having a great time. The game is afoot: I'm lining up the characters, beginning with Colonel James Damery who made an appearance right at the end of The Hounding. Next I had to choose who the illustrious client would be, of course, and begin building a story from the dust motes of the Sherlock Holmes's story "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client." As history is picked up, shaken out, and put back down, only the dust motes remain in the room, and from them I build a story for Shirley and Mary to share with their readers.
I've written character backgrounds for Oceane Chartré [Beaudet] a 20 year old pop star from France, and for her fiance Lucas F. Hansen, a Danish playboy/businessman who looks 30, and is about to have his looks ruined by an ex-girlfriend Borbála (Bori) Eszti whose background I wrote today. She's a beauty with a Lipizzaner farm from Bana, Hungary who is going to throw acid in his face here in Portland on a yacht where he and Oceane are moored for the Rose Festival. Bori is stalking him and plans to make a quick getaway.
Unfortunately, nobody is going to get what s/he wants for awhile. This is a murder mystery. Shirley, Mary and I will be the ones having all the fun, and that only because we are working and enjoying what we do. Stay tuned if you want to read about the process. Feel free to ask questions too. And, please! Share your own process. I'd love to hear it.

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23. MURDER? - a food poem

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Farmanac


Sunflower sprouts on my chicken salad:
baby sunflower plants.

No, inPLANTicide.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

Poem #6, National Poetry Month 2012

Cathy, at Merely Day By Day, is joining me in a poem a day this month. Other daily poem writers include Amy at The Poem Farm, Linda at TeacherDance, Donna at Mainely Write, Laura at Writing the World for Kids (daily haiku), Liz at Liz in Ink (daily haiku), Sara at Read Write Believe (daily haiku)...and YOU?

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24. New YA Novel Features a Ghost and Cheerleaders

Kimberly Dana's latest book will bring hours of reading pleasure to teen girls, especially those with a particular interest in cheerleading.

Years ago, a murder was committed in a cheerleading camp: a beautiful teenager with beautiful red flowing hair was drowned in the lake. Rumors say the killer was her best friend.

Now, ten years later, our witty protagonist Tiki Tinklemeyer is put in the same camp by her parents, who want their daughter to become more social and outgoing. But Tiki couldn't hate the situation more. She feels awkward and out of place, to say the least. She's not into fashion, makeup and boys, like the other girls in the camp. Worst of all, she's never done cheerleading in her life! How could her parents have been so cruel? How will she possibly fit in? Thank God, one of her roommates, Rubi, turns out to be rather nice.
Soon, Tiki finds out about the ten-year old murder and the rumors that the dead girl's ghost still roams the camp. Tiki can handle rumors of ghosts. After all, she's an intelligent girl with common sense. However, things take a turn for the worse when strange events begin to take place in the camp. Is it one of the girls playing a trick on her — or is it the ghost of the murdered girl?

This was a delightful read! Dana really has a talent for getting inside the head of teen girls. The voice is young and fresh and the pace moves quickly with lots of fun, quirky dialogue. So this is a soft horror story with a humorous twist. The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading throughout, and the ending was good, promising more to come in Book Two. The only thing I found a little annoying was how the author wrote the dialogue by some of the girls in capitals. At times it was too much, and I found it distracting. Because of this detail, I'm going to give this book 4.5 instead of 5. Recommended!

To learn more, please visit the author's website at: http://kimberlydana.com/
Purchase from 
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25. Poison Most Vial - a review

I've got a science-themed book review for you today, but if you're a teacher, I invite you to visit the ALSC blog today as well.  Let's talk.

Carey, Benedict. 2012. Poison Most Vial. New York: Amulet.
(Advance Reader Copy)

When the famed forensic scientist, Dr. Ramachandran, is found murdered in his office at DeWitt Polytechnic University, suspicion falls on Ruby Rose's father, the university's custodian.  Someone has planted empty vials of poison in Mr. Rose's locker.  With the help of her friend, T. Rex, and the reclusive "Window Lady" from apartment 925, Ruby and Rex attempt to clear her father's name before he is arrested.

 Although it's not specifically spelled out, Ruby and Rex appear to be in 7th or 8th grade.  They attend the Lab School, located on the university campus.  Using their proximity to the labs, and the knowledge of and familiarity with campus that is intrinsic to a custodian's daughter, Ruby and Rex begin to ferret out the whereabouts of everyone present on the evening of the murder, monitoring the comings and goings of employees and grad students through a labyrinth of access points. However, more difficult than discovering who may have had opportunity, the pair must learn the science behind toxicity, absorption and concentration.  Exactly what was it that killed Dr. Ramachandran?  When? and Why?

To truly enjoy Poison, readers should be prepared to think.  There is the science of forensics to ponder, as well as the internal musings of the three main characters - Ruby, Rex, and Mrs. Whitmore, the retired toxicologist in apartment 925,

"Why, hello," said Mrs. Whitmore, opening her door.
     The young faces looked so different up close, she thought, and it seemed that the boy was more then (sic) merely anxious.  He was searching her face so intently that she averted her eyes.
     "Welcome," she said, stepping aside. "Do come in."
     The untied sneakers, the shuffling way they walked, the shifting eyes; like no one had taught these children the proper way to carry themselves.
     "I made some cakes," Mrs. Whitmore said abruptly.
"Pudding cakes.  Would you like some?"
     She disappeared into the kitchen and overheard the boy whisper, "It's the left one.  See how it bulges a little?"
     "No more than your big bug-eyes right now," the girl replied. "Jimmy's pulling your chain. He's got no idea."
     "Ruby," the boy said, "Why do you think they call him the Minister of Information if -- Oh, hello."
     Mrs. Whitmore marched back in with a tray from the kitchen and nearly dropped it on the coffee table in front of the couch. A piece of cake, and the boy -- Tex, was it? made to lunge for it and then recoiled, glancing oddly at her face and turning away, moving back toward the window.
    "This is real nice," he said in an alto voice that surprised her. "You can see all the way past DeWitt through here."
     "Yes, it's quite a view," Mrs. Whitmore said.

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