Booktalk: Breaking Point by Alex Flinn

Breaking Point Cover

Alex Flinn has become popular for her novels in different genres.  While many of her recent successes are fantasy books with ties to fairy tales like Beastly and Towering, today I decided to highlight Breaking Point, one of her realistic fiction books.  Like Breathing Underwater, this is a powerful novel featuring a boy who has to overcome some major obstacles as he struggles to find out what kind of person he is and what he really wants to become.


Paul Richmond is having problems at Gate, his new school where the students are rich and they don’t like outsiders.  Paul doesn’t fit in, but some days it’s worse than that.  Some days he hears whispers behind his back, he gets spitballs in his hair, he’s tripped in the hallways, and he even has garbage thrown in his locker.  Paul is tormented more and more every day, and soon he hates going to school.

But everything changes when Charlie Good offers his friendship.  Paul doesn’t understand why Charlie, one of the most popular boys in school, is so friendly to him.  Charlie offers Paul a chance for something he wants very badly; a chance to fit in and be part of group.  So it doesn’t even matter what kind of a group it is, or what they do, as long as Paul can fit in.  It doesn’t matter, even if the group is called the Mailbox Club, and the whole purpose of the club is to drive around late at night drinking and destroying mailboxes with baseball bats.  At least Paul fits in.

But soon he realizes that the Mailbox Club is only the beginning, and that Charlie Good has even more plans in store.  Dangerous plans which, if he carries them out, will leave behind a lot more than just broken mailboxes.

Booktalk: Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami

Seraph of the End cover

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami is one of the best mangas I’ve read in a long time.  It has a great combination of external and internal conflicts.  We spend a lot of time inside a 12-year-old boy’s head, learning why it’s so hard for him to trust other people and why he reacts so badly to the idea of a family.  But we also get lots of action in the form of vampires, and there are plenty of exciting scenes that will keep readers on the edge of their seats!


In the future, a mysterious virus kills most of the Earth’s population.  It kills the adults but leaves the children alive. With all of the adults gone, human society starts falling apart.

And that’s when the vampires take over.

The vampires capture the human children and bring them underground.  They let the children live, but only to be used as a permanent blood supply.  Yuichiro is a 12-year-old boy who hates vampires.  He dreams of having enough power to fight and defeat them, which is almost impossible because vampires are so much stronger than humans.  But before Yuichiro can defeat the vampires first he must escape the underground city and find his way back to the human world.  He doesn’t know it yet, but the human world is a lot different than he remembered, and a lot different than he expected.

Booktalk: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods cover

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is kind of difficult to categorize.  It’s definitely a collection of short stories that are all dark and haunting in different ways.  The stories feel like fairy tales and are sometimes loosely connected to fairy tales, but they also stand alone on their own.  And the collection could be categorized as a cross between a graphic novel and a picture book for older readers.  But no matter how you categorize it, this is a great book to share with readers who are ready to try some deeply chilling stories!


There was a girl, and there was a man.  The girl’s father told her that she had to marry that man, and so she did.  And then she traveled by horse and carriage to the man’s enormous home, where there were servants, and silk dresses, and beautiful jewelry, and more food than she could eat.

During the day the house seems perfectly fine, but every night, she hears the sound of someone singing.  Sometimes it’s coming from the walls, sometimes from the floor, or the stairs, or the ceiling.  But each night the song is the same. Each night the voice sings that she married her love in the springtime, but by summer he’d locked her away.  Each night the voice sings about what her husband did to her, and each night the girl lies awake in bed, listening to the song, filled with terror and dread.  But even though she’s afraid, the girl is determined to find out what happened to this woman and to understand why her voice is haunting this house.

“A Lady’s Hands are Cold” is just one of the dark and chilling stories in
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Reporting From Limbo

Hi, Guys.

As some of you have already noticed, if you look up this podcast on iTunes or follow the iTunes link on this page, you’ll find the episodes that were posted from the old feed which I stopped updating several weeks ago.  I can now tell you that our friends at iTunes are ON THE CASE!  Which means that after trying and failing to figure it out myself, I had to ask for help.

In the meantime, you can listen to the new episodes here on the website or through the updated RSS feed, although for some of you the new episodes are already appearing in iTunes and/or the Podcast app, just in a new location.  I’ll keep you posted when the right link is up and running!

Science Technology Engineering and Math

NDTSTEM LogoVulcan Salute

Learn how to find books and other resources that tie into STEM, aka Science Technology Engineering and Math!  Here are the books/websites listed in this episode:

The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson (booktalk HERE)

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History by Lois Miner Huey (booktalk HERE)

Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World of Food by Andrew Zimmern (booktalk HERE)

Beta by Rachel Cohn (booktalk HERE)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (booktalk HERE)

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (booktalk HERE)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

STEM Education Coaltion

STEM Resources (YALSA)

Booktalk: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl cover

I’d never read Zita the Spacegirl before this week, but I’ve been hearing good things about it for a while.  I was trying to familiarize myself with the books on our summer reading lists, and Zita was an easy choice for me!  It’s a graphic novel, it’s a quick read, and it reminds me both of The Wizard of Oz and Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series.  Check out Ben Hatke’s website for more information about Zita the Spacegirl as well as his other books.


Joseph told her not to push the red button.  The button was part of a device that they found inside a meteor which had fallen from outer space and landed in a field.  Joseph told her not to push the red button, but Zita was feeling curious, and she didn’t think it would do any harm.  So she pushed that red button, and after a moment a bright light suddenly appeared before them.  But this wasn’t exactly a light — it was really more of a doorway.  And through that doorway came something that Zita and Joseph had never seen before.  They couldn’t even see the whole creature.  All they could see were its long dark tentacles … just before those tentacles grabbed Joseph and pulled him through to the other side.

Joseph has been pulled into another world, a place filled with creatures more strange and astounding than he or Zita could ever have imagined.  When Zita follows Joseph into that world, she will meet many of these creatures, and she’ll have to try to figure out which ones she can trust.  She’ll have to figure out who’s good, who’s evil, and who’s somewhere in between.  She’ll also have to figure out who can help her find and rescue Joseph, and who can help both of them get back home to planet Earth.

I Am Rebuilding My Vast Empire

… by which I mean I’ve figured out how to set up the email subscription widget for this page.  It turns out that I had to activate my Jetpack first.  Ah, WordPress, you’re so whimsical!  Anyway, I re-invited a bunch of people who had subscribed to the old website, or commented on it, or given me moral support, etc. etc.  So if you’re here because of a recent invite, welcome!  Check out the new bells and whistles on my fancy new site!

Anyway, the rebuilding process is going well.  The old pictures on my blog did NOT all vanish when the old server went down (YAY!)  I’m still fixing broken and outdated links (BOO!)  And adding a simple links / blogroll widget to this page is way more complicated than I would have thought (???)  [ETA 6/29: Okay, I figured it out.  I just had to put in a text widget and wrestle with the HTML until I got it right.  Go me!  Anyway, there's now a "few of my favorite links" section on the left-hand side that contains most of my old favorites, plus new websites and new tumblrs, too!]

So please enjoy the website as it continues to improve (read: I figure out what I’m doing).  And stay tuned for a new podcast episode next week!

Tune in For Our Discussion of Mary Poppins on Cinefantastique!

Mary Poppins BookMary Poppins Film

On weeks when there isn’t a new fantasy / science fiction / horror film release, the Cinefantastique podcast will often use those opportunities to go down memory lane and revisit a historic film.  This week they invited me to join them to discuss one of the favorite films of my childhood, Mary Poppins.  Our conversation starts as a discussion of the original 1964 film, but it quickly branches into a discussion of the book, the soundtrack album, Saving Mr. Banks, child psychology, bad parenting, musical numbers, dancing penguins, and more.  The episode will be ready very soon — stay tuned to the CFQ website!

Still Under Construction

wallpaper book pic

Hi, everyone!

[FYI, both the site and this post are technically under construction right now.  I'll use this post to keep you ... uhm ... posted about what's going on.  So check back here for the latest info.]

I’m still getting the hang of the WordPress bells and whistles, so just bear with me for a bit.  Originally I was going to use this picture (gathered from the stack of YA books I’m currently reading) and use it as wallpaper for this site, but when I tried that it made the page title unreadable :(  And so instead we’re now enjoying a much “cleaner” look.

I manually added the actual MP3 files back into each post, which I thought would be a 1-step process but actually turned into a process of 159 steps because I have a LOT of episodes at this point and there was no way to transfer them all at once.  But THEN I discovered two days later as I was trying to figure out the whole iTunes / RSS thing that I have to do some more tweaking to those 159 episodes which will actually involve removing all of those MP3 files I manually put in so that they’ll be added to the RSS feed correctly.

*bangs head against the wall*

So I was hoping that once I removed my old website and put this new-and-improved one in its place that the RSS feed would be the same … except … it isn’t :(  Anyway, the NEW RSS podcast feed is now here:

I think this might mean that you’ll have to re-subscribe to the podcast in iTunes when I’m done uploading all the episodes into the new RSS feed, unless of course iTunes surprises me with its intuitiveness.  We shall see.

[Oh thank God.  The new feed DID automatically update in my iTunes subscription just now.  There's only one episode in it at this moment (which happens to be at 3am), but I'll spend my free day on this (*grumble*) and I'll get all of the episodes into the new feed.]

I will also be adding image files back into my posts, because most of them are going to disappear after Wednesday when the old server vanishes.  I’ll also be double-checking all my old links to see which ones need updating.  This is going to take a little while because I have three years’ worth of posts to go through (yikes!)

This week I won’t be posting my regularly scheduled episode because I’m going to be wrestling with this damned working on this website migration project, but by next week everything should be back to (almost) normal.

Okay, here’s my last ETA (6/26/14):

QuickBlogCast vanished yesterday and all of my old pictures are still up on the site.  I’m *hoping* that means that they’ll stay there, because that would save me an enormous chore.  I still have to go through the entire site and fix outdated links, but I’ll be doing that gradually.

I used as an intermediary step while I was working on the new site, but I’m not going to be using it anymore because is up and running again.  I’m probably not going to keep the .net address, but I’m not sure yet if I’m just going to cancel it or let it run its course.  Come to think of it, I’ll leave it up for a little bit just to re-direct people back to this site.  Anyway, your old bookmarks (you DID have this site bookmarked, right?) will still work.

As of this moment, all 150+ episodes of BaBB are up on the new RSS feed.  If you subscribed to the podcast on iTunes, you won’t need to subscribe again.  The new episodes going forward will automatically be appearing in the new feed.

Thanks again for your patience, and … onward and upward!

Booktalk: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

This book falls into a rare sub-category of fiction — not just a letter-format novel, but an unanswered letter-format novel (see Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott for another great example).

Love Letters to the Dead is an excellent debut novel that will speak to teen readers looking for realistic fiction about life, death, friendship, and family.  You can learn more about this book on Ava Dellaira’s website or the Love Letters to the Dead website.


Laurel’s assignment for English class is to write a letter to a dead person.  She writes a letter to Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, was a fan of his music.  Kurt Cobain is gone now, and so is May, but Laurel still thinks about both of them.

Laurel is supposed to turn in the letter to her teacher, but she doesn’t.  Instead she writes another letter, and another, and another.  Sometimes she writes to Kurt Cobain, or River Phoenix, or Janis Joplin, or Amelia Earhart, or Amy Winehouse, or Judy Garland, or Jim Morrison, or e.e. cummings, or Heath Ledger.  She writes to dead singers, dead actors, dead poets, dead people who weren’t brave enough or dead people who might have been too brave.  She writes to them about their own lives and about her own life.  She writes about starting over at a new school, about trying to make new friends, about falling in love for the first time.  But she also writes about May, about trying to understand May’s life as well as her death, and about learning to live now that May is gone.

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