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Friday, May 28, 2010

YA Pick

House of Dark Shadows

(Dreamhouse Kings, Book One)

by Robert Liparulo

Thomas Nelson, Inc.

286 pages, with reading group guide

Xander King is not happy to be leaving his friends in Pasadena and moving to a small "hicksville" town in the mountains of northern California. His father has taken a new position--principal of Pinedale High School. The King family buys a creepy, abandoned Victorian house in a heavily wooded rural area. Soon, as expected, even creepier things begin to happen. Giant footprints are left in the dust. There are strange voices and creaky noises; things go bump in the night. Victoria, Xander's little sister, sees a huge intruder standing in her room.

Xander and his brother David discover a closet that has a secret portal. They step into the portal and out of a locker--in the hallway of Pinedale High School. Other portals lead to much more dangerous destinations.

Xander's dad has a secret, and when Xander discovers what it is, it threatens the safety of the entire family.

Part scary, spooky thriller, part strange, twister killer mystery, part time travel sci-fi genre, this debut YA novel will appeal to readers of spooky stuff like Mary Downing Hahn and lovers of Anthony Horowitz's Horowitz Horror.

Recommended for reluctant readers, grades 5-9 and anyone who enjoys creepy old houses. Book Two is Watcher in the Woods and now available.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

YA Pick

The Red Pyramid ( Kane Chronicles, Book One)

by Rick Riordan.

Disney, Hyperion Books, 2010.

516 pages.

Following on the heels of tremendous success with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Rick Riordan takes on the Egyptian gods. Not quite as fun or popular as their Greek counterparts, the gods from Egypt are darker and meaner. They may become as popular as the Greeks in the capable hands of storyteller Riordan.

The Red Pyramid is a fun, non-stop adventure with tongue-in-cheek humor and puns. Riordan makes fun of many of the foreign sounding names, like Djehuti, whom the main character, Carter, pronounces "Ja-hooty." Titles of chapters are also part of the joke. Chapter 35, for instance, is titled "Men Ask For Directions (& Other Signs of the Apocalypse). There are funny characters like an baboon who plays basketball and wears a Lakers jersey.

Carter and Sadie Kane are siblings whose parents are Egyptologists and who the kids learn later are descended from the original Pharoh families. The Kane children have special abilities like magic and are protected by a cat named Muffin, who turns out to be the ancient goddess Bast. Other gods help Carter and Sadie along the way, too. Hey, it's not easy saving the world!

The novel itself is dedicated "to all my librarian friends, champions of books..." Riordan remembers all the book talks and reviews fellow librarians have done in the past helping his books become best-sellers. For that, he is commended!

The Red Pyramid will excite those who read the Percy Jackson series. It, too, will be several installments--probably six books--and who knows, maybe a movie???

Recommended for YA collections grades 6-h.s. If you liked The Lightning Thief and its sequels, this book is for you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Middle School Pick

Killer Pizza

by Greg Taylor

Scholastic, 2009.

341 pages

Any book that evokes R. L. Stine and Darren Shan, is a book that will appeal to middle school reluctant readers. If they love monsters, pizza, and action, this first novel by Greg Taylor is for them.

Toby McGill is not looking forward to a long and boring summer vacation. More than anything he would like a summer job to break the monotony. He is excited to learn that the manager from a local pizza delivery shop wants to hire him. Toby is soon the best cook at Killer Pizza. What he doesn't know is that pizza delivery is only a "front" for what really goes on there.

Killer Pizza is actually a chain of monster killing shops; they seek out guttata--somewhat human and something like a giant bear--to destroy. Toby is picked for an elite team of monster patrol along with Annabel--a cute and super-smart classmate and Strobe, an angry and defiant rebel.

Together they patrol the streets of Hidden Hills, Ohio--just an ordinary town except for the presence of monsters. As Toby hones his skills as an operative, he also gains experience in the kitchen and realizes that his dream to become a chef is attainable.

Mixing pizza with monsters is a great idea. Two things that kids love. What else could they want?

Recommended grades 5-9.

Monday, May 17, 2010

High Schol/Adult Thriller


by Dean Koontz

Bantam Books, 2010

428 pages.

Koontz's latest novel is thrilling, provocative, and shows his finesse as a wordsmith. He is a magician, a wit, a curmudgeon, a surgeon, a master, a poet, a keen observer, a biting satirist. Never has Koontz been this spot-on. He slays literary agents and book reviewers with equal punning intended.

Cubby is a celebrated novelist and makes quite a good living churning out best sellers. His wife writes children's books. Together they parent an eight-year old genius named Milo and a dog Lassie--named by the eight year old, of course. Life is good, until Cubby's latest book gets a bad review from a literary critic. Sherman Waxx can make or break novelists. He is an enigma wrapped up inside a mystery! Koontz is at his comic best when he takes swipes at an on-line encyclopedia--could it be Wikipedia???--and quotes that "Waxx is an enema..." the site meaning "enigma," of course.

This literary critic is not just your average mean-tempered snoot--he is an evil madman who will stop at nothing until Cubby and his family are dead. Relentless is as thrilling as it gets. You won't be able to put down this page-turner. I would say this is Koontz's best novel, by far.

Koontz offers his insight into writing prose as well when Cubby says, "Outlines are a waste of time. If you give your characters free will, they will grow in ways you never anticipated and they will take the stories places your could not have predicted" (p. 79).

Koontz offers his view on fine dining establishments and the kind of foodies they attract. "Such restaurants seek and attract a type of customer whose very existence, in such numbers, proves our civilization is dying: boisterous and free-spending egotists taught since infancy that self-esteem matters more than knowledge..."

Koontz may well become the Will Rogers wit of his generation. He turns a phrase as deftly as a maestro, and he is becoming the voice of the intelligent, although outnumbered by the scores of ignorant boors and wanna-be intellectuals.

Recommended for high school collections, adult collections. Violence, some language.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How To Make a Book Trailer--Images

Part Two: Images

1. Open Windows Moviemaker
2. click on file and choose "new project"
3. Search for your pictures. If you have them in a folder on your desktop, open the folder.
4. Import the pictures you want to use. Don't worry--you can add/subtract pictures any time before you publish the final product.
5. Your images will show up in a window called "collections"
6. When you have all your images imported, figure out which one will go first, second, third, and so on.
7. click on the first image. Drag and drop the image on the timeline below "collections "
8. Continue to drag and drop.
9. You can shuffle images by clicking on the image and dragging it where you want on the timeline.
10. I add the title of the book when I am ready to add the type.
11. Don't forget that you will have to cite where these images came from. You should have a word document that you've saved the citations on. (See blog May 12, 2010).
12. Your last pages will be citations.
13. You can view your project in timeline or storyboard. To switch from one to the other, simply go to the icons on the left of the "collections" window. It will say "show storyboard" or "show timeline" --click on it to change it.
14. To view your pictures in a "movie" click on the right arrow which is "play timeline."
15. To save your work at any time, go to File, save project as, name your project and save. This will save it in Moviemaker.
16. To reopen your project, go to Moviemaker, and open project.
Congratulations, you have the beginning of your book trailer!

Next blogpost, "Choosing and Adding Music."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How To Make a Book Trailer—Getting Started

People have asked my advice on how to make a book trailer, so I will do my best to spell it out here. There are many sources on the Internet that you can read, but until you actually make one for yourself, it probably won’t make a lot of sense. I read several sites first, and then, deciding, “How hard could it be?” I dove right in! Experience is the best teacher; at least, in my case.

1. Decide on a book:
First, choose a book that is really INTERESTING that you think kids will respond to. If I read something that I think I can recommend to a particular reader or group of readers—those kids who loved Twilight, for example, I know it will make a good review and trailer.

As I am reading the book, I write down observations or feelings or descriptive adjectives that I am “feeling” about the book. This helps me when choosing images, music and making title overlays—more about them later.

2. Let me give you an example: I was reading The Compound by S. A. Bodeen. It is a dystopian fiction novel in which the father creates a compound underground that would guarantee his family’s safety for fifteen years in case of nuclear war (fifteen years being the period that would make it safe to come out, finally).

I wrote down these words:
Locked in
Nuclear war
Internet scam
Science gone mad

You can tell what the book is about! I used these words when I chose to write about the book first in a review on my blog at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
And then in a trailer I uploaded to http://www.abookandahug.com/ and http://www.booktrailers4all.com/

3. Once you have read the book, begin thinking about images. You can use images from the Internet if they are royalty free, or if you have prior permission, or if you have purchased the images. If you are unsure, read the site’s policy on images. If it says you can use the images, right click on the image. Choose “properties.”This will open a new window. See the code that is address (URL). Copy this code and paste to a word document.

I open a new folder on my desktop for each trailer I work on. Then I copy property codes to one document. I usually put a name next to the URL address, like “locked door” for example. This way, I know which code belongs to which photo. If I dump that photo later, you can also dump the code. You can also put the code with each photo, if you prefer.

I usually chose images while I am reading the book. It may come to me that I want an image of a locked steel door—while reading The Compound, I chose images of steel doors and locks first. Copy the images to a folder on your desktop. You may use all the images you copy, or if you find others later, you can just dump the ones you don’t use.

I usually save ALL the images I download to another folder titled “unused images” and bunch them together by subject. An example would be “beach sunset” and have images of beach pictures. This way I can search my folder before I have to go to the Internet. I may have the perfect image to use that I previously downloaded.

4. To begin your search, do a Google search using the words “royalty free images” and you will get many links. Look at http://jupiterimages.com/ for example.

Prepare yourself to spend some time looking for just the right images. There are so many out there. I tend to “overshop”—I download maybe 25-30 images per trailer, knowing that only 10-12 will make the cut. This way, you have choices. Directors of movies and documentaries take many hours of film, knowing that most of it will end up on the cutting room floor.

5. Once you have plenty of images, you are prepared to begin putting your book trailer together.

See my posting “Making a Book Trailer-Downloading Images and Choosing Music”--coming soon, I promise!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

YA Pick

Lockdown: Escape From Furnace I

by Alexander Gordon Smith

Faber and Faber, 2009

273 pages.

In this gritty and disturbing YA novel, Smith creates Furnace Penitentiary, the "toughest maximum security prison in the world for young offenders." Furnace makes the U.S. prison system--even maximum security lockdowns like Rikers Island--look like a child's tea party. Framed for his best friend's murder, Alex gets a life sentence in this hellhole. Even though Alex is guilty of breaking and entering and bullying and fighting, readers will like him. He shows his true colors once he enters the Furnace. Championing underdogs and saving lives, Alex fights for the rights of the little guys. He stands toe to toe with the most brutal of the prison gangs, the Skulls.

The prison itself is wedged in a massive gorge beneath the Earth. Rock surrounds them on all sides. There is no escape, only death. There are no safeguards for prisoners' rights. In fact, the guards would rather see the prisoners dead than alive. The sadistic warden welcomes new boys by saying, "Beneath heaven is hell, boys, and beneath hell is Furnace. I hope you enjoy your stay."

Sometimes "they" come for you in the middle of the night. Sometimes you come back and most of the time, you don't. Alex is determined to find a way out. He enlists the help of his cellmate and two other boys who came in with him. They come up with a risky plan to blow a hole through solid rock using gas from the kitchen's stoves. If it works, they will probably die in the explosion. If caught, they will die. If they stay in Furnace, they are guarenteed death. This is a no-brainer for Alex. Readers will not be able to put this book down.

Exciting and ferocious. Action-packed. Reluctant readers will enjoy this thrill-ride. Highly recommended for YA collections, grade 7-high school.