Book Blog 25: Royals

Hawkins, R. (2018). Royals. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 1524738239.

Summary:

Daisy Winters is a quirky sixteen-year-old living in Florida. She and her best friend, Isabel, both work at the Sur-N-Sav, a knock-off Wal-Mart. The girls are counting down the days until their big summer trip to Key West for Key Con; only four more weeks to go. After work, Daisy heads home to discover that her sister, El, and Alex, her sister’s boyfriend and Prince of Scotland, have come for a visit. During their visit, they share the news of their engagement. Daisy is happy for her sister, but also knows things are going to change. Daisy soon finds that to be an understatement. Her ex-boyfriend, Michael, who is her ex because he sold their prom pictures to the tabloids, sells a story that he was dumped by Daisy so she could get together with a royal. Bringing the wrong kind of attention to the royal family and the Winters, Daisy is forced to go to Scotland for the rest of the summer and miss her trip to Key West with Isabel.

Daisy soon realizes that life is very different in Scotland, especially around the rich and famous. Sebastian, Alex’s younger brother is one of the most wanted bachelors in the world and he is going to be her brother-in-law. When Daisy meets him, she thinks he is charming and better looking in person than on magazine covers. However, her opinion of him takes a turn. Her first night at the castle, Sebastian makes his way to Daisy’s room and makes a pass at her. She pushes him away and he ends up passed out on her floor. Fortunately, his friend, Miles, comes to the rescue and helps get Sebastian to his room. Miles hasn’t been very welcoming toward Daisy, but she still appreciated his help until he insinuates, she is hunting for a royal match. She realizes he is referencing the story in the tabloid and is ready to scream. They do not start on the right foot. As Sebastian continues to make poor choices, he drags Daisy into them, leaving the tabloids tongues wagging. The palace is not happy and to fix things, she and Miles are to fake dating. They do as they are told and soon, Daisy sees him in a different light.

Things are looking up until Sebastian reveals to Daisy that he is in love with her sister. Daisy is furious. At a polo match, Sebastian gets drunk and starts running his mouth. It comes out that he is in love with El and his brother, Alex, punches him. It is on the front page of the paper the next day. When the queen calls a meeting to discuss how to fix everything, El has had enough and tells Daisy to come with her. They are going to take a walk. El apologizes to Daisy for being a horrible sister to her, for putting her through all that has happened and lets her know that she loves her. When they head back, Daisy and Miles talk, and she lets him know that their relationship can’t go anywhere. She doesn’t want to cause him any trouble with the royal family and she knows she must go back to the states. She is heartbroken and Miles walks away.

Once Daisy is back home in Florida, she doesn’t want to go out. She wants to be a hermit and hideout at home. Her dad helps her get past it and she goes back to her normal life, working at the Sur-N-Sav with Isabel. Yet, Daisy can’t stop thinking about Miles. Apparently, Miles can’t stop thinking about her either. Miles leaves what he knows behind and follows his heart.

Connections:

Royals is the first book in Rachel Hawkins series, by the same name. This book’s title has since changed to Prince Charming. This was a funny, laugh-out-loud, story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Daisy’s character was absolutely delightful and full of wit. I never new what she was going to say next. Even though the story including the Scottish royal family, it also shared their flawed, more realistic side, full of drama. Daisy tries her best to do what everyone asks of her, especially her sister, but their relationship is strained. Her sister, El, always seems displeased with Daisy and wants her to be someone she’s. Daisy also sees how El has changed and has lost her spunkiness. Daisy feels sorry for her sister. Finally, El has had enough and takes a stand. She and Daisy have time to themselves to be real with each other. As a reader, you see the beginning of the relationship, where Daisy is trying her best to please everyone, yet stay true to herself. She finally gives in and works hard to do everything “right, based on the palaces standards.”  I found myself becoming frustrated and wanted to shake her sister and some of the royals who were extremely snobby and rude. In the end, El misses Daisy. She loves her and wants her to be herself, despite the royal’s opinions. You see the bond the sisters have and how their relationship has grown through all that has happened.

You also get to see the relationship between Daisy and Miles develop. The do not start off on the best of terms, but due to circumstances beyond both of their control, they are forced together. As the story progresses, Daisy starts to see another side of Miles and he starts to come out of his shell. At first, he came off as an arrogant jerk, but he ends up being charming. Prince Sebastian is a whole different story. He is used to the attention as the most wanted bachelor on the planet and you get to see him be put in his place and rejected by several women, which is something he is not used to. His reaction to not getting his way shows his immaturity and how spoiled he is. In the end, he makes a spectacle of himself with a Victoria’s Secret Model, taking the eyes of the tabloids off Daisy and Miles. You see that in the end, he may be growing up a little bit. Rachel Hawkins has written the second book in the Royals series. Her Royal Highness is due out for release May 9, 2019. A book review by Bickering Book Reviews is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxBWY8QC2Lw.

Book Blog 24: Fugitive Six

Lore, P. (2018). Fugitive Six. New York, NY: Harper Collins. ISBN: 0062493760.

Summary:

After an alien invasion, some teenagers found themselves developing special gifts, or legacies. These legacies could range from having the ability to walk through solid objects, shape-shifting, healing, and telekinesis to name some. The Garde Academy was built as a safe place for those to go who possess legacies. There, the teens would be provided with room, board, a school education and instruction in developing and controlling their powers. A group of kids that attend the school have already been through a lot together, fighting against Einar, another Garde they encountered in Iceland. Known as the Fugitive Six, for escaping the school’s grounds to save the world, they are really close, almost like a family. When kids with legacies start disappearing, it is discovered that the Foundation is behind it. The Foundation’s goal is to acquire as many gifted teens and sell the use of their legacies at the right price. When Nigel’s father dies, he returns home for the funeral only to discover that his mother is part of the Foundation. Even though she is evil, he still loves her. Ran and Kopano are taken, against their will, to a secret organization. If they comply, they will be assigned secret missions for the group, and if they don’t, they will be kept in a cell. Taylor and Isabel come up with a plan to get Taylor into the Foundation. They want to be them down and will go to whatever links to make that happen. Once Taylor is in, Isabel finds herself stuck with Einar and his cohorts. Caleb, the last of the Fugitive Six, has graduated the Academy and is part of the Earth Guard. He along with a couple other Guards are to help rebuild cities around the world, from the aftermath of the alien invasion. They all find themselves in the Swiss Alps, on different sides of the situation. In the end, the group chooses sides, and they are left divided. You must read the next book in the series to find out what happens next.

Connections:

Fugitive Six is an exciting and fast paced story that captures the science fiction genre by incorporating aliens, extra-sensory perceptions, and spaceships. It takes you on an adventure with a group of teens who possess special powers. They want to better the world and make it a safe place. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same vision. I found myself getting immersed in the development of the characters, their relationships with each other as well as discovering themselves or things about themselves. With Taylor and Kopano, use see their feelings for each other blossom Caleb’s sadness seeing them together since he likes her, too. Isabel struggles with her appearance and keeps her scars covered using her shape-shifting abilities. In the end, when she chooses her side, she also chooses to be herself and not hide her scars anymore. As for Nigel, he has had to come to terms with who his parents were. With both being involved in the Foundation and realizing what links his mother will go through for money and power, he must face who they truly are and who he is as a person. Ran also struggles with herself, fearing her legacy and not knowing if she can control it or if she will end up using it for more harm than good. All six of them are changing as individuals as well as a group. I found myself constantly wondering what was going to happen next. After reading this book, I want to go back and read the first in the series Generation One, as well as read the next book, Return to Zero, which is scheduled for released June 25, 2019. The official book trailer for Fugitive Six can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU2RY1Zcu_Q.

Book Blog 23: Damsel

Arnold, E. (2018). Damsel. New York, NY: Balzer & Bray. ISBN: 0062742329.

Summary:

Prince Emory set out on a quest to rescue a damsel. It was a long-standing tradition that for a prince to become a king, he must slay a dragon, save the damsel, and live happily ever after, just like in the fairy tales. His mother explained to him that in order to slay a dragon, and save the damsel, he needed three things, his sword, his brains and one other thing he would learn later. However, things are not always as they seem.

Ama, the damsel was rescued and when she awoke, she was naked, wrapped in a blanket, and being held by the prince on horseback. She had no recollection of her former self. They journeyed to the prince’s castle where he was to become King. Over time, King Emory showed himself to be cold, arrogant, and cruel. Sex was always on his mind. He hated her pet lynx and threated it would be gone before their wedding day and he keeps his promises. He took advantage of Ama and any other woman he wanted to. He took whatever he wanted. King Emory’s controlling ways left Ama feeling trapped. Ama was more determined to know about her past. She wanted to learn who she was and where she came from. She was determined. Through all the King’s torment, Ama stayed strong. She finally discovered who she was and confronts King Emory. She was a dragon. She was so angry with King Emory taking her freedom from her. He took her from her home, took advantage of her and turned her into a damsel. Ama stabs King Emory and cuts out his heart. She eats it and turns back into a dragon. She flies away, happy and free.

Connections:

If you are one who likes a twisted fairy tale with knights, damsels, and dragons, this may be the right book for you. This is definitely a story of things not being what they seem. At first, the character of Prince Emory seems to be a determined individual that the reader will fall in love with. However, that changes after he points out several times that he saved the damsel, Ama, on more than one occasion. Ama, trying to figure out who she really is and where she comes from, fears she is stuck with Prince Emory and life at the castle. The character of Ama develops over time as she starts to figure out her past and discovers that she was not rescued at all. She realizes she was taken from her home and wants revenge. In the end, she takes a stand, having the courage and strength to take back what was hers. As a reader, you can see how she has grown as an individual and refuses to leave things to fate. She is in control of her destiny. I struggled with getting through this book. I wanted to scream at Ama in her passive state. I couldn’t stand Prince Emory as the story progressed. The author did very well in developing his character for the reader to loath. However, I was thrilled when the prince got what he deserved in the end, which helped make reading the book all the more worth it. Some other books by the author include Sacred, Burning, Infandous, and What Girls are Made Of. Elana K. Arnold talks about her book, Damsel, on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws2EKPqBR0w.

Book Blog 22: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

Hutchinson, S. (2018). The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. New York, NY: Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781481498548.

Summary:

Elena Mendoza is a miracle. She is the product of a virgin birth. She is blessed with the gift of hearing voices and healing. When a boy, David Cobs, shoots the girl she has a crush on, the voices tells Elena to heal her. Elena closes her eyes and can see Freddie’s wound. She can close it and stop the bleeding.

Already an outcast at her school, Elena is teased and called Mary, from the story of the Virgin Mary. Freddie always thought that was Elena’s name, since that’s all she ever heard. Elena and Freddie are brought together by all that has happened. People don’t know if Elena really saved Freddie of if it’s all a hoax to get attention. Elena discovers Freddie is not who she thought she was.  There is a lot more to her than she believed there to be. The voices use inanimate objects to talk to Elena, such as a My Little Pony doll or a statue of the Virgin Mary. They tell her to continue to heal people so they can save humanity because the world is coming to an end. They want as many people saved so more can go into the light Elena questions what she is doing and if she should listen to the voices. She wonders if it is her place to heal so people will be taken away. Elena learns how to open the portal to send people through it. She decides to give the people the choice to stay or go. She opens the portal for a week, giving people the chance to make their own decisions about crossing over. Elena and her friends decide to take their chances and stay on Earth.

Connections:

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza makes you think about what happens after this life. It makes you wonder if the Rapture is real and what would happen if it took place during our life time. This book shows the character of Elena going through Havighurst’s Developmental Stages including her finding her calling or what she is supposed to do with her gift as well as developing her morals and values, showing what she believes in. It also addresses her feelings for a girl she likes and her bisexuality. This book is for young adult readers because it addresses some major issues including bisexuality, the end of days, and the rapture. I do not feel it would be appropriate for elementary students because of the topics the characters have to deal with. Some middle school students may be able to handle it, but I would want them to understand what the book entails before they read it. Other books by the author include We are the Ants, Violent Ends, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, and The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried.

Book Blog 21: My Plain Jane

Hand, C. (2018). My Plain Jane. New York, NY: HarperTeen. ISBN: 006265277X.

Summary:

My Plain Jane follows the life of Jane Eyre, a poor orphaned girl, who was sent to live with her relatives, the Reeds. With the death of her uncle, she was left in the hands of her cruel aunt and horrible cousin. After being locked in the Red Room and dying, briefly of fright, Jane confronts her aunt and in return is sent to Lowood, a boarding school for girls. Jane is an odd sort of girl, plain, but very kind. She has grown into a young woman and became a teacher. Jane’s friend, Charlotte Bronte, an aspiring author, tells Jane about the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits. Jane reacts strangely and walks off. Charlotte is curious and writes down some notes. She writes everything down, hoping to write a novel someday. Jane ends up going to a pub, where the Society is supposed to be. In the pub, the ghost makes its presence known and the Society agent, Alexander Blackwood, appears. He traps the ghost in a pocket watch and is intrigued by Jane, who can see ghosts. He tries to talk to her, but she leaves quickly, back to the school. She keeps the events of her evening to herself.

Alexander tracks Jane down and offers her a job with the Society. She refuses and ends up taking a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall for Mr. Rochester. Over time, Jane finds herself falling for Mr. Rochester and he seems to feel the same about her. Charlotte, her brother, Bran, and Alexander, find a way to access Thornfield Hall to convince Jane to work for the Society. Their attempt fails and they are told to leave. Jane is then possessed by a pearl necklace and agrees to marry Mr. Rochester. With new found information, Charlotte finds Alexander and Bran. They realize what is really going on with Mr. Rochester and save Jane just in time. Alexander heads back to London, while Jane, Charlotte, and Bran to Haworth. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned. Alexander is almost killed, but he is saved by Mr. and Mrs. Rochester. They set out to find Jane. Once she is found, they all work together to save the King, and restore the image of the Society.

Connections:

My Plain Jane takes Charlotte Bronte’s classic, Jane Eyre, and twists it around, adding humor, adventure, and paranormal activity.  I absolutely loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I am a huge fan of Charlotte Bronte, as well as her book, Jane Eyre. To combine the author and characters of the classic novel, in an exciting and adventurous story, was thrilling.

The reader can see the development of the characters throughout the story, especially with Jane. She starts as a young girl forced to live with her horrible aunt, after the death of her parents, until she is sent to Lowood, a boarding school for girls. She grows up there and keeps to herself except for her friend, Charlotte, and her ghost friend, Helen. Jane comes into her own and makes the decision to become a governess for Mr. Rochester’s ward. She deals with the feelings she has for her boss and is sad to find it was not real. You see her having to deal with her feelings and decide to become a Beacon, if it means it will help those she cares about. Jane’s friendship with Helen Burns addresses how peers change over time. Jane was able to stand on her own and let her friend go so she could move on to the next life. Charlotte’s character also develops throughout the story. She wants to be a writer and is determined to prove her worth. She also has to deal with her feelings for a man, Alexander Blackwood. Fortunately for Charlotte, the feelings are mutual. Overall, this was an excellent twist to the classic story of Jane Eyre. I highly recommend this book to anyone ages 10 and up.  The younger readers need to be able to handle the story with the cruel, abuse behavior of Jane’s aunt, trying to solve a murder, and dealing with the supernatural. Other titles by Cynthia Hand include My Lady Jane, The Last Time We Say Goodbye, as well as the Unearthly Series including Unearthly, Hallowed, Boundless, and Radiant. A book trailer is also available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTjrX-0J-z8.

Book Blog 20: Not If I Kill You First

Carter, A. (2018). Not if I Save You First. New York, NY: Scholastic. ISBN: 1338134140.

Summary:

Maddie thought she and Logan would be best friend’s forever. When you dad is a Secret Service agent and Logan is the President’s son, things can change quickly. On an important night for US and Russian relations, the First Lady is kidnapped, but saved by Maddie’s dad. Logan is also injured. Shortly thereafter, Maddie’s dad backs them up and moves them to Alaska. She and her dad live in the middle of no where for six years. During that time, Maddie has written hundreds of letters to Logan, but he never responded. She is all alone and has lost her best friend.

Logan hasn’t been making wise choices lately. He’s sixteen and sneaks off from his security detail, getting into trouble. His parents do not know what to do with him anymore. For his own protection, they decide to send him to Alaska for a while. When Maddie sees Logan, she realizes she doesn’t know him anymore. She asks him about the letters, and he says he never got them. They hardly speak to each other. Maddie’s dad gets a call for work. He feels he must take the job and has to fly out the next day. He shouldn’t be gone for too long, leaving Maddie and Logan alone. Maddie has chores to do and Logan follows her. Suddenly, they are taken hostage by Stefan. Maddie goes over a cliff. Logan thinks she is dead. Stefan forces Logan to trek through the woods to get to a specific location so he can trade him for his sister. When Maddie comes to, she follows Logan and Stefan and gets herself caught. She has set a trap so they can escape. When the time comes, the trap works, and they find a small cabin to hideaway in for the night. The next day, they go for the satellite phone and are caught by Stefan. Another Russian, who works for the Wolf, a notorious Russian bad guy, appears and is caught. Maddie finds out her father has been taken hostage by the Wolf. Her father killed the Wolf’s son and now he is going to kill her father and the President’s son, when he catches him, for revenge. Maddie is determined to save them. She and Stefan have a plan and set off to save his sister and her father. They walk into the camp and Maddie uses magnesium as a distraction. Stefan is able to get his sister out of harms way. Two of the Wolf’s guards are temporarily knocked out, but the Wolf manages to get Maddie’s dad and put a knife to his throat. There is a scuffle and Maddie’s dad is shot. He collapses to the ground. Logan comes running towards them and kneels in front of the Wolf. Maddie throws her knife killing the Wolf. She tells Stefan to take her dad’s plane and get he and his sister out of there and they leave. The place is soon surrounded by Secret Service agents and others. Maddie’s dad is taken to a hospital and she is back in Washington, D.C. with Logan while her dad undergoes surgery and then recovery. Everything is different for Maddie being in the big city. She isn’t too sure how to handle it. Logan is right by her side lets her know that he is there if anything goes wrong.

Connections:

Maddie and Logan are not who they used to be.  They have both grown and changed over the years since they last saw each other. There is a lot of anger between the two of them. They have a lot to deal with before they can get past what happened to them years ago and what is happening between them now. Havighurt’s Development Stages are shown including their relation as best friends when they were children. Unfortunately, things change and when Maddie has to move away, their friendship is left behind. Maddie tries to keep it going, but for six years, Logan never speaks to her or writes her. Logan’s relationship with his parents has changed. He has pulled away from the and been getting himself into trouble. Because of this, he has to go to Alaska and stay with Maddie and her dad. Both of them have had to deal with a lot and as they are forced to spend time together, they realize just how important they are to each other.

Also, Kohlberg’s Moral Theory is relevant to the story and the development of the characters as well. As young children, they follow the rules and do what they are told.  They know that they will get in trouble if they are doing something they are not supposed to, reflecting their development of the Preconventional and Conventional Stages. The Post-Conventional stage is also present when Logan breaks the rules and is determined to have fun and be a regular kid without the Secret Service following him where ever he goes. He knows it’s breaking the rules, but he does it anyway. Also, when he and Maddie let the bad guy go because he was trying to save his sister’s life as well as helped save their lives in the end, they knew it was against the rules, but did it anyway. The life of the individuals superseded the laws. I really enjoyed this action-packed adventure. I couldn’t put it down until I finished reading it. There were so many twists and turns to the story, trying to figure out how Maddie and Logan were going to get out of the mess they were in alive. I recommend this book for middle school age students and up, due to profanity and violence. Other books by the author include the Gallagher Girls Series, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, and Out of Sight, Out of Time. A book trailer is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFEmGRQE9xY.

Book Blog 19: Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees

Brown, D. (2018). Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 9781328810151.

Summary:

Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees captures the ongoing experiences of people fleeing a war-torn country. The stories begin in 2011 with some boys marking a wall, wanting the regime to fall. They are arrested, imprisoned, and tortured until protests spur their release. Under President Assad’s rule, and like his father before him, Syria was a dictatorship. It was ruled by one man and no one had rights. You were not allowed to speak out against the government without punishment. They were in control. The violence escalating with the president calling for attacks on his own people. Bombs were being dropped. Tanks were moving into cities and neighborhoods. No place was safe. Thousands of Syrians were killed; men, women, and children.

To escape the dangers and flee for safety, many Syrians grabbed whatever they could and headed for the borders of Turkey, Lebanon, and to the coast to catch boats to Greece. Many wanted to escape to Western Europe to start a new life. Not everyone made it safely on their journey. Overtime, the millions of refugees pouring into the host countries became too much for the economies to handle. The “love” that they once had for the refugees began to change and borders were closed to stop more from coming in. Thousands of refugees were left stuck in camps with very little supplies, no money, and no where else to go. Many families have been torn apart, few have been reunited. Majority of the Syrians had to leave their homes along with everyone and everything they knew, to try to find a better life for their children. They were willing to do whatever it too to give them more than what they had. Some made it and are living their dream, many are still waiting, with no place to move forward, and nothing left to go back to.

Connections:

Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees is a graphic novel that gives an account of life in Syria during the Islamic Revolution. The story takes the reader along for the journey of a many people, both young and old, whose life is turned upside down because of the war. The story shares the experiences of various individuals and their families who were forced to flee their homes for safety.  Some made it across borders to safety and some lost their lives. The story also shows how over time, some countries no longer wanted to take refugees in because of the cost and strain it puts on them.

Due to the war, many individuals were not able to meet their needs based on Maslow’s Developmental Need Hierarchy. One of the obstacles many faced were hunger and lack of sleep, making it difficult to meet one’s physiological needs. Also, safety was a huge issue with the bombings that happened on a regular basis. Families were torn apart because of this. Many sent their children to other countries to live with friends and relatives, while the parents stayed behind. Some of the children never would see their parents again. This graphic novel is a sad story that brings to light why so many fled the region. It also shows how some countries were welcoming of the refugees and some were not. It was a difficult time in their lives and Don Brown captures the severity of it all through his writing and illustrations. This book is not for the young or faint of hard. It is raw and shows you how cruel some can be. The tragedy of the war can be seen from the very first page to the last. Despite its harsh reality, I still could not put this book down.  I feel that I learned so much from this book and have a much better understanding what was going on in the region and what the people of Syria have had to go through under Assad’s regime. Other graphic novels by Don Brown include The Great American Dust Bowl, Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, and Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918.

Book Blog 18: Black Dahlia

Geary, R. (2016). Black Dahlia. New York, NY: NBM Graphic Novels. ISBN: 1681121786

Summary:

Elizabeth Short, nicknamed the “Black Dahlia,” had dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Unfortunately, not all dreams come true. Elizabeth was found viciously murdered, her body cut in two and her mouth slit from ear to ear. A mother and her young child discovered her body near Leimert Park on January 15, 1947. Elizabeth was twenty-two.

Black Dahlia describes the crime scene and introduces the readers to the investigators. It explains how Elizabeth’s body was mutilated and posed. Information from the autopsy report and information about clues from the crime scene that were never photographed were included. The book includes flashbacks to Elizabeth’s life as a child and growing up. It also shares how she got to Los Angeles and as much information that could be found regarding her whereabouts for the week leading up to her murder. The investigation is also broken down into evidence, which isn’t much, and all the suspects that were interviewed. Overtime, without any new leads, the case grew cold. A few possible suspects came up over the years and were cleared, except for one, “Arnold Smith,” an alias for Jack Anderson Wilson.  He met with a freelance writer on a few occasions and shared with him very specific details about the murder, claiming he had been told the story. The police suspected that he was there, or he was the killer. He becomes the prime suspect. Unfortunately, the police did not know where he was. “Arnold Smith” always contacted them when he wanted to talk. The story is leaked and printed that the writer has found the “Black Dahlia” killer. Shortly thereafter, “Arnold Smith’s hotel room catches fire and he supposedly died. It was all really strange, since his was the only room that caught on fire or was damaged. There have been no further leads since then. Elizabeth Short’s murder is one of the oldest cold cases still open in Los Angeles.

Connections:

Black Dahlia is a graphic novel that tells the story of Elizabeth Short and her horrific murder. The book takes you through who Elizabeth Short was and what happened to her.  It follows the investigation and possible leads that developed over the years. The reader is taken along for the ride, starting with the crime scene, then flashes back to Elizabeth’s life and how she became known as the Black Dahlia. It continues on, showing the days that led up to her death, or at least as much as the investigators could piece together, as well as shares the evidence that was found at the crime scene, including the important pieces that were never photographed. You see what the investigators did right and areas where they didn’t do their job so well.

As I read the graphic novel, I could see how Elizabeth Short never achieved self-actualization, the highest level of Maslow’s Development Needs Hierarchy. She barely met the first stage of the hierarchy at times, pertaining to one’s physiological needs of hunger and sleep. She struggled with her safety needs being met, spending time with some dangerous people. Also, as she got older, she was looking for love and to have it returned, but that didn’t go the way she had hoped. When she realized she once had the love she wanted, it was too late, she had already lost it. It is a sad story, especially since her murder has never been solved. It is one of the oldest cold case in Los Angeles’ history.

Several other graphic novels addressing true crime by Rick Geary include Jack the Ripper, The Lindbergh Child, The Axe Man of New Orleans, The Case of Madeleine Smith, and The Mystery of Mary Rogers. Some other biographies about the Black Dahlia include Piu Marie Eastwell’s Black Dahlia, Red Rose, The Black Dahlia Murder Case: Unveiling the Real Story by J.D. Rockefeller, and The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul, and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles by Don Wolfe. Numerous movies have also been made based on Elizabeth Short’s murder.

Book Blog 17: Drama

Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. New York, NY: Scholastic. ISBN: 0545326982

Summary:

Callie loves theatre. Her passion is working behind the scenes, not out on stage. That’s probably a good thing since she can’t sing. Her middle school’s end-of-the-year production is Moon Over Mississippi. As the set designer, Callie is determined to create the best set ever. There’s only one problem. She’s not the most skilled at carpentry. With ticket sales down, everyone must pull together to put on a great show.

Callie’s personal life has its own drama. Her crush, Greg, and his girlfriend, Bonnie, broke up. Callie takes this opportunity and hisses him. He kisses her back, but the next day, he acts like she doesn’t exist. Callie’s hurt and tries to move on. She is soon distracted by new friends, 8th grade twins, Jesse and Justin. Justin tells Callie he’s gay, but that Jesse isn’t. Callie is starting to crush on Jesse. They go to the 8th grade formal dance together, double dating with Justin and Liz, Callie’s best friend.  During the dance, Jesse disappears for a couple hours and is caught talking, closely, with Loren, the stage manager. Callie is hurt and runs off, bumping into Greg. He apologizes for being a jerk to her and tells her if she’ll give him another chance, it’ll be different this time. Callie walks away from Greg and heads home.

Callie sees Jesse at school, and they have a long talk. Everything is good between them and they are still friends. They head to the diner for their last stage crew meeting. At the meeting, it is announced that because she handled everything so well with their last performance, Callie will be recommended as next year’s stage manager. She is so excited, and her ideas start flowing. It’s a dream come true!

Connections:

Drama shares the life of Callie and dealing with all that comes with middle school. Havighursts’ Developmental Stages are present showing Callie’s friendships with her classmates, her crush on a boy and how he brushes her off makes her feel. IT shows her finding what she loves or her calling with theatre and developing her own morals and values when it comes to who her real friends are. It also addresses one friend who she knows is gay, and his twin brother, whom she likes, realizes that he is gay as well. You can see how peer change in adolescents and how one boy that she used to like and who she thought was a friend, isn’t really a true friend at all.

Drama draws the reader into the middle school life and makes things real for the reader. I found myself remembering times in middle school when friends were changing, and I found out which ones were true friends and which one’s weren’t. It also reminded me of dealing with boys and how they could be real jerks at times. Anyone who has been through middle can understand at least a part of what Callie goes through. Many may see themselves in one or more of the characters. The illustrations help bring the words to life, capturing the expressions that speaks volumes themselves. I recommend this book for middle schoolers and older. It does address same sex relationships and dealing with having your feelings hurt when a boy breaks your heart and blows you off after acting like he likes you. It is definitely relatable.

Other titles by the author that may be of interest include Sisters, Smile, and Ghost. Guts is scheduled for  release in September 2019. A book trailer for Drama is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysWrqAMktc0.

Book Blog 16: Looking for Alaska

Green, J. (2006). Looking for Alaska. New York: NY: Penguin Books. ISBN: 0142402516.

Summary:

Miles Halter wants a change in his boring life. He not very popular at his school and has very few friends if any. He decides he wants to go to boarding school at Culvert Creek in Alabama; the same school his dad went to. He’s not wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, but his parents don’t have to know that. Miles loves famous last quotes and is looking for the “Great Perhaps,” a term François Rabelais said in his last words.

Once at Culvert Creek, Miles meets his roommate, Chip Martin, a.k.a. the Colonel. He is a unique individual who comes from a poor family and is at Culvert Creek on scholarship. Because of Miles’ skinny physique, the Colonel nicknames him “Pudge.” Pudge is introduced to Alaska Young, the most beautiful, interesting, intelligent, and funny girl Pudge has ever met. He is also introduced to Takumi Hikohito, a talented rapper whose ancestors came from Japan. Pudge gets hazed by the “Weekday Warriors” when they take him outside in his underwear, wrap him in duct tape, and throw him in the lake. Once the Colonel and Alaska find out, they want revenge.

During Thanksgiving Break, Pudge and Alaska are two of the only people on campus. They take advantage of the opportunity to search the “Weekday Warriors” rooms to gain information. Pudge and Alaska grow closer over the break. She tells Pudge that even though she has a boyfriend back home, she also likes him. Pudge cares for Alaska a lot. As the break progresses, Pudge sees a darker, depressing side to Alaska. It concerns him and he wonders if he should distance himself from her some.

Once break is over and everything is back to normal, all the details for revenge are in place. Fireworks are set off to distract Mr. Starnes, the administrator always looking for reasons to expel students. While he is distracted, they hack into the school’s computer, change the “Weekday Warriors” grades so their parents will be notified and put blue hair dye in their shampoo bottles, thanks to Lara, another friend that Pudge met. Later, during a game of best day versus worst day, Alaska reveals that her worst day was the day her mother died from an aneurism. That night, Pudge and Lara get together, despite he and Alaska still teasing and flirting with each other. During a truth or dare game, when Lara wasn’t around, Pudge is dared to make out with Alaska, and he does. Later that night, Alaska gets a phone call. She is drunk and upset. She takes off in the car and is killed.

When the students of Culvert Creek are told about the accident, Pudge and Colonel blame themselves for what happened. That starts questioning if the crash was an accident or suicide. They investigate and realize they will never know the truth. In their search, they found a prank Alaska had been planning and decide to execute it. The school year is almost over and at the Speaker Day event, Pudge and the Colonel hire a male stripper for their class speaker. Mr. Starnes thinks the man is a psychologist. During the speech, the stripper starts taking off his clothes. Everyone goes wild. It was the best prank ever and a great way to honor Alaska’s memory.

Connections:

Looking for Alaska needs a warning label that tissues are required. Although there were moments of laughter and good fun, there were some gut-wrenching moments that left me in tears. This emotional story pulls you into the lives of Miles “Pudge” Halter and his friends at Culvert Creek.  You can’t help but feel sorry for him when only two kids show up to his going away party before he leaves for boarding school. You can’t help but get angry at the “Weekday Warriors” for hazing Pudge. You can’t help but cry when Alaska is killed. You can’t help feeling lost and wanting answers to why the accident happened and wondering if it was really an accident to begin with. This wonderfully written book captures the raw emotions of dealing with the death of a parent, the loss of a friend, and the guilt that comes with blaming yourself for it.

Looking for Alaska shows Finn climbing Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy for Children. His physiological needs and safety needs were met. When his safety needs were compromised, that was corrected by getting revenge on the “Weekday Warriors.” Also, Finn knew his friends had his back.  He also felt that he belonged somewhere instead of feeling like the outsider. His esteem was met and finally he was able to believe in himself, meeting the self-actualization stage. We can see Finn’s growth as a person both mentally and emotionally. He and his friends had to tackle some really tough issues and came out the stronger for it. A book trailer is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prtrMNj9oFM. Some other books by John Green include The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.