Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Graveminder by Melissa Marr


Publisher's Blurb:
Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville. While growing up, Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual at every funeral: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words, “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”
Now Maylene is gone and Bek must return to the hometown—and the man—she abandoned a decade ago, only to discover that Maylene’s death was not natural . . . and there was good reason for her odd traditions. In Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected—and beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D. From this dark place the deceased will return if their graves are not properly minded. And only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk. . . .

Review:  This is the debut adult novel by the very popular Melissa Marr, author of many young adult books and the faery series Wicked Lovely.  Having lived under a rock for several years, I'd never even heard of this author, but Graveminder looked so intriguing on the library shelf and I eagerly grabbed it.  It sounded like such a deliciously creepy and original blend of paranormal mystery that I couldn't wait to jump in.  And it was...kind of.

BEWARE - HERE THERE BE PLOT DETAILS!!!!!! So don't read further if you don't want to know.

The overall story of a town both blessed and cursed by a contract with Death was truly original and a great premise.  But the first 100 pages or so was a slow and frustrating start, and didn't build up tension, atmosphere and mystery so much as it was something to slog through, hoping to get to the good stuff.  We learn that Rebekkah and Byron have a long history of loving each other, yet every time they get close, Rebekkah runs away - literally.  She runs from city to city and job to job, trying to escape her feelings for Byron, and he is always there for her.  When her grandmother is murdered, and she returns home to Claysville for the funeral, Byron has already moved back to Claysville and is there for her.  But her continued emotional immaturity, and his understandable frustration but puzzling devotion, begins to feel like an annoying emotoinal hamster wheel that these two just keep running on.  Their relationship seems much like a teenager/angsty/melodrama rather than two adults trying to grieve their losses and sort their feelings.

The mystery of Claysville, its people and their dying (and behavior after dying) was truly a spooky, smart, original story.  The plot was so clever in how it explains the rest of the town's seeming obliviousness to the supernatural shenanigans around them.  They live their lives in a fog of good health, waiting for permission to have children, and getting intense headaches when they learn too much.  It sounds like a kind of hell, actually. Unfortunately, by the time that part of the story became the focus, the story had lost most of its momentum for me.  When Beks learns that she has been selected as the next Graveminder, and Byron is the next Undertaker, they are clueless, because the previous title-holders had intentionally kept them in the dark, hoping to buy them time for a "normal" life.  So as they learn the history of the town and the roles they must play, so does the reader.  But the information is doled out so sparingly, I became bored and I had to force myself to finish the book.  As Beks learns that the Graveminder is of the living and the dead, she suddenly feels drawn to the dead and their world, and has new powers and abilities.  (Although she is still an emotionally immature twit.)  Which she handles with remarkable aplomb, given her history of running away from anything and everything that would require a relationship or responsibility.  But the sudden segue from mere mortal to special powers felt forced.  Beks suddenly has intense feelings of maternal-like compassion and possessiveness over the dead, and instinctively knows how to use them.  Byron's love for her blossoms just as he learns of his fated role as her protector, her Undertaker.  He's suddenly shooting people to get to her. 
I think I am mostly disappointed, because this story should have been MORE.  So much potential with a fresh and spooky story, an alternate world, and new rules for the dead coming back to life, and yet the overall effect was an anoying relationship, a hastily assumed supernatural role, and a sudden ending that neatly wrapped up a murder mystery, family problems, new job angst, and questions about the history of Claysville and how the contract was started.  The latter really felt forced - the explanation was that the first Graveminder opened up a gateway and waltzed into the world of the dead, Death fell in love with her and all kinds of complications ensued.  And it was explained in about a paragraph, which frustrated me no end after I'd read through the entire book hoping for more satisfying explanations.  I was left with many more questions.  If Death is so powerful he can provide perfect health and mind control for a town over three centuries, how come he says he can only control the dead?  Why is a former Graveminder still stuck in the limbo that is the dead's town?  How do they keep track of townspeople who leave Claysville and get killed, thereby rising to eat the living? Would vodka or Diet Coke or Kool-Aid work as well as whiskey in controlling the newly dead?  This has the setup for a sequel, if not a series.  Byron and Rebekkah have a lifetime to learn about their new roles and relationship, and a former Graveminder is still mysteriously hanging out in the land of the dead, stirring up problems for Death. 
If you, like me, were looking for a deliciously creepy little mystery with a little romance, you'll probably be disappointed.  But if your preference is for complicated, angst-y relationships with a background of the paranormal you'll probably love this book.

For more information visit the author's website at

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions Two Lines Love Struck Wicked Lovely, with Bonus Material (Wicked Lovely Series #1) Darkest Mercy

Monday, January 30, 2012

Help Support Dedicated School Library Funding

I received the following email from ALA President Molly Raphael today, and wanted to pass it on.  Please consider signing this petition in support of dedicated school library funding under the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Dear Colleagues,
I hope that by now you have heard about AASL President Carl Harvey’s White House Petition on School Libraries. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 4, 2012, in order for this petition to reach the desk of the President. We are more than halfway there, but time is running out! In addition to signing the petition, please take these steps to ensure that this petition is a success:
  1. Spread the word and see that at least ten of your friends or family members also sign;
  2. Work with local educational groups, including the local PTA or PTO, and ask them to mount a signing campaign;
  3. Work with other community groups and ask them to get involved.
School libraries are everyone’s issue. Cuts in staffing or elimination of school library programs in a specific community affect all libraries in that community, whether it’s the public library now tasked with serving a school curriculum, or higher education librarians teaching remedial information literacy skills. In order for any of us to succeed, we must be willing to work on these issues together to support our broader library eco-system. Please get involved and help create awareness about the need to ensure that every student has access to an effective school library program.
Please note that the petition is a two-step process. You have to create an account, and then return to the web page to sign. We’ve heard reports that it’s also temperamental: if you have trouble signing, please try working in a different browser, or try in off-peak hours. It might not be easy but please be persistent! Our school library programs, and the children we serve, are so worth it.
Let’s show the world that we can mobilize people to speak out for libraries. Anyone 13 or older can sign the petition. Help us make this an issue that commands attention. Thank you in advance for your efforts.

Molly Raphael

2011 - 2012 ALA President

You'll have to create an account with but it only took me about 2 minutes to complete the entire process.

If the copied link above does not work, copy and paste this link into your browser:!/petition/ensure-every-child-america-has-access-effective-school-library-program/tmlbRqfF?

Thank you for your support!!!

Munchkin Mondays (or, What My Kids are Reading)

Where Butterflies Grow [WHERE BUTTERFLIES GROW -OS]
Publisher's Blurb:  In a field of lacy leaves, a small caterpillar hatches, grows, and sheds its skin, becoming a smooth, green creeper. It eats and changes some more, then in a sequence of remarkable close-ups, spins a sliken sling in which to pupate--until it finally bursts forth as a brilliant black swallowtail butterfly. Includes suggestions on how children can grow butterfiles in their own gardens. Full color.
Describes what it feels like to change from a caterpillar into a butterfly. Includes gardening tips to attract butterflies.

Mommy:  So what was this book about?
Sami:  It was about bunnies, flowers, birds, and a caterpillar.  The bird wanted to eat the caterpillar.
Mommy:  What happened to the caterpillar?
Sami:  I don't want to talk about it.  It just grew new skin.  I liked the pictures and I liked the flowers.  And the bunnies.
Mommy:  What do you want people to know about this book?
Sami:  I liked the birdies.  And the really, really, really tiny flowers were pretty.

I would like to add that the illustrations by Lynne Cherry were lush and gorgeous.  Every page was beautifully and densely filled with animals, insects, plants and flowers.

And my son is reading:


Mom:  So what's this book about?
Sean:  Volcanoes erupting, and when they're going to explode.  It's about real people seeing a volcano being born.
Mom:  That sounds cool.  So how is a volcano born?
Sean:  They form when plates cross and the volcano rises above the sea, and the dome is being formed.  The plates are pieces of the crust and when they collide - dum dum dum (dramatic sounds) - VOLCANO!
Mom:  Wow, you learned something new.  What surprised you the most about volcanoes?
Sean:  They can form anywhere, even outside of the Ring of Fire.  The Appalachian mountains are a volcano but they've been dead for years.
Mom:  What is the Ring of Fire - other than a great Johnny Cash song, haha.
Sean:  It's where the biggest population of volcanoes being born are, somewhere in Italy.
Mom:  Are you sure about Italy?
Sean:  I think.  Well, a volcano in Italy was erupting every 30 minutes.  I have no idea when.  Some fishermen called it the Fire Lighthouse because it lit up like a lighthouse.  But surprisingly when they got 50 meters close to it, no one got hurt, which I don't get.
Mom:  What don't you get?
Sean:  If a volcano is erupting every 30 minutes, with fishermen 50 meters from it, I don't get WHY they didn't get hurt.  I heard that some volcanoes can shoot a volcano bomb 100 meters.
Mom:  Maybe this Italian volcano was a tiny one. 
Sean:  True, that may be possible.  This is something in the book that I think you'll like:  "Making a volcano of your own".  (Sean described the materials needed to make a volcano - he's pretty excited about this one because it's not the usual baking soda and vinegar.)
Mom:  We can make that volcano activity tomorrow, okay?
Sean:  I want to do more!
Mom:  Like what?
Sean:  I want to tell you that when (and here we're quoting) "an underwater volcano explodes, it throws out lava which cools and hardens.  A cone shaped mountain forms around the vent.  The volcano grows with each eruption until its tip is just below sea level.  Gas and lava from the next eruption rise above the waves and the tip of the volcano breaks the surface.  The tip of the volcano now lies above the sea level.  A volcanic island has been born."
Mom:  That's really interesting. Do you want to be a vulcanologist when you grow up?
Sean:  No, I want to be a geologist to study the rocks and study volcanic bombs and learn how old they are and figure out how they formed and what type of rock it is.
Mom:  Thank you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Flashback Fridays Presents........The Boxcar Children

In honor of my sister who loves these books about four children during the Depression (and suggested I write a Flashback Friday about them!):

The Boxcar Children (The Boxcar Children Series #1)

Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote the original 19 books about the Boxcar Children, which were published beginning in 1924.  There are now over 100 books in the series.

From Wikipedia:
"The Boxcar Children is a children's literary franchise originally created and written by American writer and first-grade school teacher,[1]Gertrude Chandler Warner. Today, the series includes well over 100 titles. The series is aimed at readers in grades 2-6.[2]
The Box-Car Children-1924.jpg
Originally published in 1924 by Rand McNally and reissued in 1942, the novel The Boxcar Children, tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They get permission to stay overnight at a bakery but run away when they hear the baker's wife say she will keep the older three and send the youngest, Benny, to an orphanage. They create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest. They fear their legal guardian, their grandfather, believing him to be cruel. They enjoy their freedom, but need to seek help when Violet becomes ill. They eventually meet their grandfather, James Alden, who is a kind and wealthy man. The children agree to live with him. James moves the beloved boxcar to his backyard so the children can use it as a playhouse. In the subsequent books, the children encounter many adventures and mysteries in their neighborhood or at the locations they visit with their grandfather. The majority of the books are set in locations the children are visiting over school holidays such as summer vacation or Christmas break.
Only the first 19 stories were written by creator Warner. Other books in the series have been written by other writers, but always feature the byline "Created by Gertrude Chandler Warner". The recent books in the series are set in the present day, whereas most of the original books were set in the 1940s and 1950s."

Boxcar Children Bookshelf (Books #1-12)
There is a nice biography of Gertrude Chandler Warner on the website
This website is a lovely reference for almost every aspect of children's literature.  Read author and illustrator bios, search for books,  and find events in your area.

The Woodshed Mystery (The Boxcar Children Series #7)  The Yellow House Mystery (The Boxcar Children Series #3)  Surprise Island (The Boxcar Children Series #2)   Schoolhouse Mystery (The Boxcar Children Series #10)   The Lighthouse Mystery (The Boxcar Children Series #8)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wolf At The Door by MaryJanice Davidson (A Novel of the Wyndham Werewolves and Betsy Taylor)

Publisher's Blurb
The howlingly good spin-off of the Undead series from the New York Times bestselling author.
Rachel, a werewolf/accountant, is asked to keep one eye on Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor and the other peeled for a rogue werewolf who's itching to start a war. But her attention is mostly on a sexy, mysterious stranger she wishes she could trust.

I'm a big fan of MaryJanice Davidson's books because the woman makes me laugh out loud.  And while I love the Betsy Taylor, Queen of the Vampires series, I really enjoyed Derik's Bane and the stories that involve the Wyndham werewolves.  So MJ was kind enough to write this book just for me - thanks, MJ!  (In my head she's my very good friend.) As fans of her books know, she has a very strong and unique narrative voice chock full of nutty humor and wacky wit.  You'll either love it or scratch your head asking "WTF"?  Obviously I am in the former camp, and will happily swill any Kool-Aid she's pouring, because her books brighten my day and put me in another world for a while.  And isn't that something special?

So anyhoo, back to Wolf at the Door.  Written in the author's somewhat breathless, stream-of-consciousness style, it is primarily the love story of Rachael - CPA, werewolf, and cousin to the Wyndham Pack leader, and Edward - CPA, geek-extraordinaire, and roommate to a Boston vampire and albino vampire-slayer.  Rachael has been sent to St. Paul to keep an eye on Betsy. The werewolves don't know much about the Vampire Queen, other than the fact that one of their own died in her service, and her appearance on their turf afterward made her seem even more of the enigma that she is - as in "Is she really that vapid or is it a deviously clever act?".   And now that Betsy's publishing a newsletter for the undead and other paranormal creatures (with her home address and phone number!), she has caught the eye of Edward, crusader for what is right and good, and scout for the legendary Boo, albino vampire slayer and girlfriend to Ed's vampire roommate.  So both Ed and Rachael have ended up in St. Paul on a mission, and they soon meet in a bookstore, where fate and destiny obviously have a plan.  These two get each other and see all the wonderful qualities in the other, quickly falling into mad, passionate lust and like.
The writing style of the author allows for a real sense of knowing Rachael and Edward.  The reader feels their awkwardness, excitement, anxiety and lust.  It creates a shared intimacy with the characters, and places the reader in the story,  caring and worried about what happens next.  Unfortunately the breezy, inside-the-characters-head style also left me completely confused in the beginning about what was going on.  A little more explanation about the initial scene would have helped me jump into the story faster.  As it was I just kept reading and trusted the author and everything turned out fine.
An added treat to Wolf at the Door is seeing Betsy and her gang from a fresh, outsider's perspective.  And they are funny and strange and unlike any other character (paranormal or human) I've read about.  Their personality quirks and foibles make them seem honest and realistic.  And they completely befuddle Rachael and Ed, who were expecting something a little different from the legendary Vampire Queen, her consort, a zombie, and a very pregnant billionaire.

All in all, this was a delightful diversion, a fine romance, and laugh out loud funny.

For more information visit the author's website at