Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Project Cain by Geoffrey Girard

2013, Simon and Schuster

Jeffrey Jacobson's world changed the day his father decided to disappear after he hands his son a folder. This file folder, which contains information about himself, would make Jeff question his existence, as well as answer the questions he has kept secret for so long...

Jeff grew up in a home with his father, a famous geneticist, who is now working on a secret project for DSTI, a private science/technology corporation.  Looking back, he could say he lived a fairly normal life - going to camp, taking trips to the museums with his father, hanging out at home...just normal stuff.  He remembers his dad taking him to work and showing him what he did, which included vats full of liquid with someone, or something, floating in them.  Little did he know that he was once in those vats too.

But now at 16, Jeff realizes the full potential of his father's work for DSTI.  Project Cain...a secret weapon the Department of Defense is secretly funding to create a new weapon, this time based on DNA and replication.  Jeff's  father has found XP-11, an anger gene found in a unique population of humans.  And the folder Jeff is holding contains information on a person  he was cloned from who carried that gene...Jeffrey Dahmer.

But the list didn't stop there. His father had taken genes from some other notorious killers to clone:
Henry Lee Lucas
Dennis Rader
Ted Bundy
David Berkowitz.

They are now teenagers, living at Massey Institute as guinea pigs, unbeknownst to what DSTI is doing. Their names?
Henry Roberts
Dennis Vliase
Ted Thompson
David Spanelli

On the outside they look normal, but on the inside, their genetic markers are taking control. Now, they've escaped and are looking for the others like them...

The experiment went way beyond genetics though.  All of the clones were raised in homes much like their original...being exposed to the same horrible childhoods their genetic "parent" experienced.  Jeff Jacobson was the one that got away.  His life wasn't anything like Jeff Dahmer's, but quite the opposite, even if his dad did creep him out at times.  Nature vs. Nurture...the ultimate experiment.

Now, Jeff  is with Shawn Castillo, an ex-military man contracted by the government to hunt down these killers.  They pave a road of death and destruction and it's only a matter of time when the escapees meet their pursuer, and the ultimate stand-off for power begins...

Girard writes a novel with a specific YA audience in mind. The book is filled with both fact and fiction not only about the original serial killers, but government conspiracy and science as well. Therein lies another aspect of this novel that will keep readers intrigued, and if they're like me, getting online to see if the author is telling fact or fiction.  Although the pace of the book can slow down at times, the driving question remains if the main character possesses the same murderous rage the other do.  Interestingly enough, Girard creates an adult parallel novel based on the viewpoint of Castillo, the mercenary extraordinaire, which plays into the questions and scenes veiled thoughout this YA novel.  I, for one, enjoyed this book and its concept. Recommended for mature teens.
Perfect pairing with Derf Backderf's non-fiction graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Asylum by Madeleine Roux.  2013, HarperCollins
Dan is a geek, and he readily admits it.  His academic career is stellar and he's ready to go out and conquer the world.  His first step into post-high school?  A summer spent at the New Hampshire College Prep Program for gifted students.  And this summer, he'll be part of something more than the sum of its parts...

The college has a beautiful campus nestled into the background of the East Coast.  Quaint and picturesque, it's close enough to the small town of Camford but far enough away from the city to keep its own identity and anonymity.  The students that are accepted know they're attending this program to receive challenging coursework in a collegial environment.  While Dan and others venture into Camford, the residents there don't mix well with the students and keep their distance from campus.  They know the secret the buildings hold and even though the campus may be changing through renovation, the darkness never leaves and the townspeople still murmur among themselves about it's gruesome history.

Before it became part of the college, the Brookline Dorm that Dan and his friends, Abby and Jordan, will be living in was once part of a sanitarium for the criminally insane, where most of the patients endured probing experiments only to end up dying at the hands of a merciless doctor.  Dan has no idea about this until, unexpectedly, a door opens to a secret room and they dare to enter. But did they find the door, or did something....or someone...find them?
When they cross the theshold, they are in none other than the "good" doctor's office, complete with images of the patients and their records.  But there are more rooms to explore and the deeper Dan goes, the closer he comes to the danger that has eagerly waited for his arrival...The Sculptor has returned and he's ready to meet Dan.

Roux fills her book not only with a story of possession and revenge, she also adds images and notes throughout the book that coincide with the plot of the story.  The images also help solidify the story conjured up in the readers' minds.  At times, the writing and image pairing may be somewhat disjointed, but overall Roux does what she intended to do - create a horror read captured with more than words, which she most certainly does.  The characters in the book add to the appeal, with the central character creating a relationship with the reader through his emotional reactions to everything going on in his world. Roux also adds breadcrumbs the reader will pick up on that will lead them to the ending with satisfaction.  A great addition to your horror collection.  Recommended 7-12.  Fiction book pair:  Bliss by Lauren Myracle, Harry N. Abrams, 2008

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why Genrefy? The Hows and Whys I Decided to Change

I want to preface this by saying that genrefying a library isn’t a science or an art.  It’s based on loose parameters and how a librarian personally wants to shelve and separate.  This, more than anything, is what drives some librarians crazy because there isn’t a logical or standard sequence.  But for those who have blazed this trail, it can be a very rewarding experience. 

There is one person I’d like to thank for creating that spark in me, and that is Texas librarian Jennifer Turney ( ).  I heard it from her first at a conference and couldn’t WAIT to get back and begin! 

When I started this, I was wary but eager (such an oxymoron!) so I began with the one genre I thought was the biggest – supernatural.  Then it was time to tackle the stacks and I went through them rather quickly and pulled as much as I could out. These were set on library tables that weren’t used for classes and wouldn’t impede traffic or teaching.   
In Destiny, my library assistant and I began changing the spine labels so they looked like this:

The labels were then printed out by the dates they were created  (there’s an option in Destiny, which is the system we use) and began stickering (is that a word?) over the previous spine labels.   UH-OH… that became overwhelming and chaotic so the alternative was to work with just a table of books and print spine labels by barcode range.  PERFECT….each student aide was given a table they were responsible for and re-labeling was quick work.
While the stickering was going on, I went back into the stacks and used a fine tooth comb to pull out more books that were overlooked.  The first time I did this was by sight and familiarity.  This time, it was book by book, sometimes pulling it out and reading the CIP with the subjects on them to double check.  They got their own tables and the process continued.
Once the first genre was done and shelved, I fell in love with the concept (I had to see it, not just read about it….makes a HUGE difference!) Then I sat down and wrote all of the genres I’d like to see happen based on which types of books I’d seen come in and out through the years:
Supernatural (SUP)
Fantasy (FAN)
Historical Fiction (HIS)
Guy Reads (GUY)
Girls Reads (GLR)
Mystery (MYS)
Science Fiction (SCI)
Dystopia (DYS)
Novels in Verse (NIV)
Real Life Reads (RLR)
Adult/Classic (ADC)

Working one genre at a time, I did the same process over and over again until they were all done.  The time frame on this?  Months….sometimes I wanted to scream and cry when I came into work to see the mountains of books still waiting to be shelved, but in hindsight I realized that I had to go through some obstacles to learn ways around them. 

Now, when a bulk set of books come in from a vendor, I go straight to the catalog and re-print out spine labels.  It’s become a second hat. 

So, onto FAQs, why don’t we?

1.       How did you decide which genres to use? 
I did this through personal experience of reading and booktalking a lot of these titles as well as reading reviews.  There are other sources that helped guide me, including the subject headings for the book, which can be found on LOC, Titlewave and the CIP in the books. 

2.       Why did you want to genrefy?
TBH, this grew out of irritation at looking up a book in the catalog for a student, and then helping them find it in the stacks because they couldn’t….yes even in the fiction section.  Kids are kids, regardless if they’re looking for a book in 1st grade or as a senior in high school.  Plus, genrefying was beginning to trend, and I wanted to give it a chance before I dispelled it as being a fly-by-night idea (which it isn’t…more libraries are coming over to the “dark side”).  The difference was AMAZING!  Now kids know exactly where to go and since the sections are smaller, they can find what they’re looking for faster.

3.       What if a book belongs in more than one genre?
That’s going to be a personal call you make for yourself.  There isn’t a handbook on this, so you get to become the creator of it.  A lot of books found in Real Life Reads can also be part of the Guy Reads and Girl Reads sections.  I decided most of the darker, more serious reads would be in the RLR, which helped delineate them from the other aforementioned sections.  Also, if I have multiple copies of a book, I have been known to put them into different genre sections to get more circulation from them as well as meet the needs of readers of a particular genre (ie some fantasy books by Terry Brooks are in two different genres – FAN and ADC)

4.       What about new books that come in?  How do you determine where they go?
I never buy a book unless I’ve read a review, which helps jog my memory when I pick up a new book.  If my memory gets a little cloudy, I go straight to the CIP to read the summary and look at the subjects to guide me.  If there isn’t a CIP I read the inset and look online to verify subjects.  Doing this so many times, I realized that I could also select them by covers too.  If I see a pink cover with a guy and girl holding hands walking in the sunset…yep.  That’s a girl book.  A dragon is usually a dead giveaway as well as black covers with bloodthirsty vampires.  Dystopia covers are getting easier to discern as well.  It seems like they all have characters standing strong on the edge of a precipice looking over a world of destruction they now call home.  And then there is the author him or herself.  But I definitely stick with the first way, which has more logic and authority behind it.

5.       Are there any benefits of genrefying?
The obvious is that the patrons find titles easier and circulation has spiked.  There are other little things I realized later: A) I did a LOT of weeding in the process, which helped free up some shelf space.  B) It gave me a chance to look at all of the genres and see which ones I needed to buy more titles for so I could even out the collection; C) I could put series in order and replace whichever ones were missing; D) Made me even more aware of books I overlooked that I needed to do a reading re-visit on and how many I DID know, which made me happy!; E) It helped me with “if you liked this book, then you’ll like this one…” scenario;  F) It opened readers of a particular genre up to reading “outside the lines” and finding themselves reading from more than one genre

6.       What about signage?
Again, that’s a personal choice.  I created Wordle signs to put on the shelves and then bought cardboard letters we glittered to place on solid ends of the shelves.  The sky’s the limit with this one….

7.       Any other advice?
Always leave a shelf empty for each genre.
Know that this is an ongoing process (I’ll admit, I still have a section in the stacks I have to go through and finish.  Interestingly, these don’t get a lot of circulation…)
If you ever think of moving to a different library, leave information of  your genrefication process with the new librarian so they can make sense of it all

Only do this if YOU want to, not because everyone else does it.  It’s a commitment that’ll last the duration of your career in a particular library.  Embrace the change if you want to, NEVER if you feel you have to

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan: the true story of how the iconic superhero battled the men of hate

By Rick Bowers.  National Geographic, 2012

The 1930s was a time of change in America.  People were just beginning to rise out of the the Great Depression but they still had a long road ahead of them.  Most people with jobs were considered lucky, and Jerry Siegal's family was one of the lucky ones.  The Siegel's lived in a small, safe Jewish community outside of Cleveland Ohio. Jerry went to a typical high school, but wasn't the typical teen. Instead of hanging out after school or going out with friends, Jerry would go to his attic and spend hours reading science fiction magazines or watch swash-bucklers like Zorro on the silver screen. With the help of his friend Joe Shuster, they would create one of the most famous and recognizable superheroes in American history.  What started out as a simple comic book fantasy in 1932 would become bigger than anything they could have dreamed of.

The South didn't fare much better than the Midwest during the Great Depression, and Southerners felt the desperation as well. This was the catalyst that brought the Ku Klux Klan rearing its ugly head in American history once more. The KKK began their sordid reign after the Civil War, but lost some steam and by the 1930's there wasn't much left of the group. Because of the tensions of the times, leaders saw a chance to revive the Klan to target men who would band together and fight for their rights, regardless of disreputable actions.  It was also during their second rise that a new symbol emerged from the KKK which would send fear throughout the nation...the burning cross.

Then there was a boy named Stetson Kennedy.  Growing up in Florida, Stetson was raised in a family based on Southern values.  He was considered free-spirited and spent a lot of his time playing outside, which exposed young Stetson to the shanties where "colored folk" lived and the poor treatment they endured by the whites was noticeable. This left a bad taste in his mouth that later would parlay into a career in exposing the KKK through the mightiest weapon of all...the pen.

With World War II looming in the distance and the fanatical rantings of a lunatic Chancellor in Germany, the KKK began a huge resurgence in membership and power, able to create death and destruction without any repercussions for their actions.  Little did they know that someone else was gaining followers more followers...Superman.  And after the War, he would take on the KKK in a showdown of morality that had lasting impact on Americans everywhere...

Bowers takes two of the most intriguing symbols of good and bad in the annals of American history and writes a narrative of their beginnings, the processes each went through to gain momentum in society, and the power they wielded in American culture.  He also weaves biographies of the creators and leaders of these two entities as well as those closely involved in each.  Bowers compliments his book by filling it with images of the time as well as an interesting afterword on all the people he wrote about in the book. The biggest draw for YA readers to this book is not only the intrigue of the KKK and Superman as iconic images of polar opposites, but the writing that is easily digestible and doesn't come across as textbookish.  Recommended for JH/HS

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Guardian by Julius Lester
any Superman comic book

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Harcourt, 2013

It has been a hundred years since the first of the Four Stages took place. It had a domino effect, leading one leader to drop bombs to decimate other countries...bombs that not only contained radiation but chemicals as well. The last Three Stages was the earth fighting back, creating devastation through natural disasters for years.  The United States, now the United Commonwealth, has colonies set up across the country to not only help civilization survive in a particular region, but also to give each colony a specific job to bolster the Commonwealth in general. The Tuscon Colony has specialists in oil refining.  Five Lakes Colony has a specialist genetically modifying plants to survive in a wasteland the Seven Stages has created, and this is where Cia Vale lives.

She knows her future is uncertain, and more than anything, she wishes she could be a part of the Testing, giving the top graduating students in every colony a chance at a better future. For the last 10 years, no one has been selected from Five Lakes. Cia knows it's a long shot, but continues to be hopeful....and her hopefulness is rewarded the next day when she finds out her name is on the list selected for the Testing. Although she's full of nervous excitement, her father is not happy for her.  He knows...he's been through it himself.  His only piece of advice before she departs is to not trust anyone.  And with that, Cia is transported via skimmer to Tosu City along with Tomas, Zalandri, and Malachi.

The testing will take place in four stages.
Stage One:  the written exam designed to test knowledge.
Stage Two: hands-on examines to test the transference of knowledge into practical use
Stage Three: to determine teamwork as well as assessing other teammates' strengths and weaknesses
Stage Four: testing decision-making and leadership abilities.

Not all will make the final cut.  Cia is up for the challenge and the further into the Testing she goes, the more she understands that it's not only about her abilities of meeting the demands of the tests, but the willingness to survive them as well....

At this moment, dystopia fiction is hot...and there is a lot being published out there for YA readers.  While some feel "empty," others have more substance. Well, YA dystopia lovers, rejoice!  Charbonneau takes the reader into the not only the aftermath of the Seven Stages, but also why they happened, which creates a rich historical background to the story, which make the present more understandable. The characters in the book receive no training or even advance notice about the Testing, which makes the plot thicken to the point where readers will wonder who will pass or fail and which character can they trust. While some proclaim this akin to the Hunger Games, I see it as something very different in the story itself because of all the aforementioned items.  Dystopia is will look the same. But this one has some serious flavor to it!  Sequel is out:  Independent Study. Recommended.

Infographic: Digital Literacy in the 21st Century Classroom and Library

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon

2013, Soho Teen

Three teens living three very different lives have one thing in common, and it will be this commonality that will drive them together.

17 year-old Anat is an Israeli being trained as a soldier.  She knows there will be consequences for her actions, but she doesn't care.  With planning and stealth, she's ready to leave her homeland to be with the love of her life, an Egyptian who's waiting for her on the other side. She's paid her way through a tunnel leading her to freedom, but little does she know the dangers that await her, until it's too late...

17 year-old Declan is a typical Irish teenager trying to make some extra cash.  All he has to do is take a package from one place to another, which doesn't seem that hard.  Until he notices two men trailing him.  The more he speeds up, the more they gain on him. Declan hits a brick wall, literally, and when he turns around, the men are holding guns and the bullets begin flying...

17 year old Sophie lies in bed weak and exhausted. Her family hovers nearby and all she wants is for it all to end.  Terminal cancer keeps her being the normal teen she wants to be, but it also left her with no option.  Now, in a hospital, Sophie knows it's only a matter of time.  And then the darkness begins...

All three wake up in a hospital they don't recall ever seeing.  When they venture out into the hall, they realize there are no doctors or nurses, only a hall with rows of doors.  They don't know each other, and there isn't a lot of trust in this situation, only confusion.  Its becomes even more confusing with the three venture upon three more people who have been there much longer than they have.

The world has changed.  It's not safe outside, but every one of them realizes they must get out there if they are to escape this prison of a hospital.  No one knows what truly lurks out in the dense overgrowth, but the risk is worth the escape.  Six people who have to rely on each other for person could end their lives.  Who can you trust?

Michelle Gagnon writes a science fiction book based on time continuum and parallels, which creates this strange new world readers will find themselves in without feeling lost.  The sense the book evokes is more mystery blended with science fiction, and that is the pairing that makes this book a fast read.  Gagnon's ability to write about six distinct teens creates a diverse canvas where each reader can pick and choose the character they feel are the strongest, and which ones will fall, and ultimately, which one the reader can trust. With such a vibrant background along with the characterization, there is no wonder why this book is a big draw for teen readers.  Recommended 7-12