Female of the Species: A Book Review

Title: The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Copyright Date: 2016

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Mindy McGinnis draws you immediately into the action of this novel with the hook, “This is how I kill someone.”

Alex Craft’s sister was murdered, and ever since Alex has struggled to feel anything but numb. Withdrawn from the rest of humanity, Alex finds herself reluctant to log hours for a senior project at the local animal shelter. While working at the shelter, Alex meets Peekay, the Pastor’s daughter, who helps Alex open up little by little. A friendship forms between the two, and Alex finds herself thrust back into social interactions. But there was a reason she hid away. She’s protecting those around her.

The death of her sister not only stole her emotions, but also created an instinct. That instinct pulls Alex toward revenge and violence. As Alex goes from another face in the crowd to part of the in-crowd it becomes more of a challenge to keep her beast at bay. Falling in love also proves to be just as dangerous as she feared.

Told from three perspectives this novel gives the reader a glimpse into life of a pastor’s kid who loves to get drunk and frisky, a jock who falls in love with Alex, and a female vigilante out to avenge her sister’s murder.

I liked to envision Alex Craft as a young, female version of Dexter from the television series. She’s odd. People don’t really know the real Alex. Oh, and in her spare time she kills the bad guys that the cops let get away.

I’m a fan of anything Mindy McGinnis. After hosting her at my school, teaching her novel Not a Drop to Drink in my classroom, and encountering her several times in my SCBWI group I have mad respect for her as an author. This book is very well written, but I caution readers of her other works that this one is written for a much more mature readership. From the outset, she makes it clear that the intended audience should be okay with vivid scenes of violence. Additionally, she covers topics like rape, sex, and drugs throughout the course of Alex’s story.

Other books I’ve reviewed by McGinnis include: Not a Drop to Drink and A Madness So Discreet.

“The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”-Rudyard Kipling

The Ameri Brit Mom

Short Story: Allegations

This short story was submitted to a contest through The Short Fiction Break. It is written according to contest guidelines and following a prompt provided by judges. It is a YA piece.

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Allegations

by: Lauren Sisley

Everyone else in the room decided I was guilty. I wondered if trying to persuade them otherwise was even worth the effort. Mom sat in the corner picking at her nail polish while Dad nodded along as the principal explained the situation. Neither of my parents looked me in the eyes.

“Mr. and Mrs. Konkel, this is a very serious allegation that has been made against your son. If charges are pressed we will have to turn this case over to the local police.”

The sound of my mother’s gasp distracted me from the dialogue. Dad asked questions like a detective. Mom continued in silence letting her heavy breaths do her talking.

“All I can say at this time, Mr. Konkel, is that it matches up. I can’t say for sure that Jordan is at fault, but he is our only suspect.” Principal Wallis placed his hands on his desk and looked my direction. He was the only brave soul in the room.

“And if charges aren’t pressed?” Dad questioned.

“Then, suspension is not off the table. This is still very serious and the school has a zero tolerance policy for this kind of thing.”

I found it ironic that no one asked me if I did it. They just assumed because I was Wilson’s little brother that I had to be guilty. While I was a captive to Principal Wallis’ office I tried to put the pieces together in my mind.

Seventh period I was in English. Miss Thorne was going over poetic devices and I was nodding along like I had any clue who William Shakespeare was. The bell rang and somewhere between my seat in English and the bathroom floor I lost all recollection.

I awoke to the smell of urine. A hand tapped my backside as I realized my face was soaking up the wet floor. My head felt as though it had taken the brunt of the fall. I could feel a bruise already forming under the skin, but other than that I felt fine.

“Better get yourself to the nurse, Kid.” The janitor spoke to me while returning to his mopping. It’s weird how you can go to the same school for three years and never once speak to the janitor. I wondered if he knew my name. Standing to my feet I walked right past the man without a word and made my way out of the bathroom.

When I turned to the hallway I heard the cries.

A girl from my history class was talking to Principal Wallis and pointing toward the bathroom. My vision was blurry, but I could see her busted lip and ripped clothes from where I stood. Fear masked her face almost as well as her smeared makeup.

Principal Wallis turned just as I crossed the hall. “Young man, I think you ought to turn around and head toward my office. You have some explaining to do.”

Then the questions started.

“What were you doing in the bathroom in the middle of eighth period? Do you know Amira Paulson? Why are you covered in urine? Did you flood the bathroom? Why is your head bleeding? Please answer me!” Principal Wallis was getting frustrated.

As hard as I tried I couldn’t come up with a response. There was seventh period and there was the bathroom floor. I couldn’t be sure of anything else.

Watching my parents as they each dealt with the conflict knotted my stomach. I could tell that they were struggling with how they could have raised another monster. They never thought I’d turn out like Wilson. Dad was pacing and finally worked up the courage to address me.

“Well, Son, do you have anything to say for yourself? After all we’ve been through as a family these past few months do they mean anything to you? Did you learn anything from your brother’s mistakes?” It was my first opportunity to speak since they arrived, but the death of my brother was still too raw to touch.

I wanted to be able to give them an answer that would satisfy them. I wanted to remember what happened so I could get myself out of this. I wanted to tell them I’m not like he was, but I couldn’t bring that up. Not now.  I just shrugged my shoulders and continued to avoid eye contact like the other three people in the room.

“Jordan, I suggest that if you are innocent you say so.”

“I need my bag.” My words were involuntary.

“Excuse me?” Dad’s voice jumped several decibels.

“I need my book bag. I think I left it in the bathroom.”

“No, it’s been confiscated.” Principal Wallis pointed to a bag behind his desk that I couldn’t have possibly seen from my chair.

“Well, I need it back.”

“Listen here, Jordan. You will get your bag when you cooperate. You’ve gotten yourself into a whole heap of trouble. You don’t get to make requests. Right now your only concern is the truth. Tell us what happened.” I could see a vein popping out of Dad’s neck as he spoke.

“The bag first.” I tried to barter information for the safe return of my belongings.

“What’s so important in this bag anyway?”

In a quick motion Dad bent down and grabbed the bag off the floor. I felt my stomach wrench as he unzipped the front compartment and shook the bag upside down. I couldn’t watch, but I heard the sound of many objects as they hit the desk.

I knew they had found it the moment Mom began to wail.

I could hear him pick the bag up off of his desk. “Is this why you did it?” I balled my fists as I waited for a lecture. It didn’t come. Instead I was punished by the return of silence to the room.

“You’re just like him, Jordan! And I can’t go through this again.” Mom broke the silence as she stood up and left.

All of this was too much for her. I wasn’t the first of her children to carry around a bag of crank. I always promised that I wouldn’t get caught up in this stuff like Wilson did.

“Mr. Konkel, I have no choice but to involve the authorities now.” I heard Principal Wallis pick up the phone and dial.

“How could you do this to your mother?” Dad barked before he joined my mother in the hallway.

I was done for. Not only had they found my stash, but there was a girl in the next room crying rape. Both my parents were furious. The authorities were on their way. I wasn’t sure how I would ever get myself out of this one.

I continued to answer all of Principal Wallis’ questions with silence until there was a knock on the door.

The janitor entered the room. He was a large man, and his face was lined with wrinkles. He wasn’t someone to be crossed.

“Mr. Wallis,” He muttered. He had a student by the collar as he shoved him into the office. “Caught this one in the hall talking about that little girl who was in here crying.” He let go of the student and looked over at me. “Oh, hey, how’s that head doing? You took quite the fall on the floor. I was coming in to mop it all up when I seen you laid out. Stupid seniors always making my job tough. Clogging toilets and all.”

It was a relief to know I hadn’t done it.

I have a week’s suspension from school to figure out how to tell Mom and Dad that I carry Wilson’s bag to remind me who I don’t want to be. It’s all he left me in this world.

I would never hurt them the way that he did, which is why I was so terrified that I had.

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent.

A Madness So Discreet: A Book Review

Title: A Madness So Discreet

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Copyright Date: 2015

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(photo credit: Good Reads)

Set in the 1800s in a famous insane asylum in Ohio, this thriller explores insanity and the patients who find themselves exiled to the depths of asylum halls. Grace Mae is the oldest daughter of a senator. When her father’s secrets become a danger to his reputation he sends her away to an asylum in Boston where she is mistreated. During her stay in Boston she meets a young doctor named Thornhollow who specializes in the practice of performing lobotomies to cure the insane.

The doctor sees that Grace is no less sane than himself, but rather she has become the victim of a dark man. He devises a plan to get her out of the Boston asylum and brings her to Ohio with him where she will be cared for and will serve alongside him in the study of criminal minds.

In her new home, Grace hides under the alias of insanity. She trades her voice for a chance to catch criminals like her father and becomes protege to the doctor.

A letter from her younger sister, Alice, changes her focus and forces Grace to take much more drastic action.

A Madness So Discreet was one of my favorite books I’ve read in the past couple of years. It was brilliantly written and had me hooked from page one. The dramatic themes of the book kept me on the edge of my seat as I hoped to find justice for all the wrongs done to Grace by people she should have been able to trust. Her desire to protect her sister from the harm she faced also pulled on heart strings. This book is a cross between historical fiction and criminal investigation with a large dose of family drama.

The author, Mindy McGinnis, is an Ohioan whom I have met on several occasions. Her first book, Not a Drop to Drink, is one that my students read and she came and spoke at my school last spring after we finished reading that book. Also, she spoke to my SCBWI group a few weeks ago about character development. Next month she is releasing a new book, Given to the Sea, that I am excited about. Mindy’s YA books are among my favorites and A Madness So Discreet is my favorite one yet. If you are looking for a book to hook you from the very onset this is a great book for you!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Gone Too Far: A Book Review

Title: Gone Too Far

Author: Natalie D. Richards

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Copyright Date: 2015

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Ever since I became a member of the central Ohio SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) I’ve been on a quest to read books by Ohio authors. This book was recommended to me by my high school librarian. The author is local to our area. 

Piper Woods is a senior just trying to make it to graduation. Her future plans are all laid out and include paying out of state tuition and studying photography. She won’t miss the cliques and the drama of high school, and she’s aching to get out of her dysfunctional home.

All of that changes when she finds a notebook laying in the hallway of the school. She picks it up and flips through the pages. It doesn’t take her long to figure out that someone is using the notebook to record secrets about her classmates. She soon realizes that knowing the secrets comes at a dangerous price.

After tragedy claims someone mentioned in the notebook Piper decides to turn it in and walk away. Before she can do that, a text message urging her to make things right changes her mind. Piper finds herself caught up in the secrets of the school. Torn between making people pay for the harm they have caused and keeping her squeaky clean record Piper is forced to make some major choices.

Natalie D. Richards is also the author of Six Months Later. Many of my students have read that book and it seems just as good as Gone Too Far. I look forward to continuing my list of Ohio authors over the next couple of months. Some of the authors of the list (like Natalie D. Richards) are also part of the SCBWI with me. It is so cool to read a book by someone I have met. It makes my dream of becoming an author seem so much more realistic. Let me know if you are interested in some reading suggestions written by Ohio authors. There are some really great pieces that come from my home state.

The Ameri Brit Mom

24 Book Challenge: A Book With a Number in the Title

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This is book #15 from The Ameri Brit Mom 24 Book Challenge in 2016. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, or outside influences.

Title: Numbers

Author: Rachel Ward

Publisher: Chicken House-Scholastic

Copyright Date: 2010

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The hardest part of growing up for Jem isn’t the fact that she watched her mother die or that she’s been stuck in the lowest classes for her year amongst all the people society has given up on. No, the hardest part for Jem is growing up with the power to know the date of death for anyone whom she looks in the eye.

Jem is a teenager living in London with her foster mom, Karen. She keeps to herself and likes it that way. Without friends, Jem is constantly haunted by the death of the people around her. One day she makes friends with another boy from her class, Spider. Although instincts told her to stay away from him, knowing that his number is coming very soon keeps Jem intrigued and close to Spider. She wants to prove that she can beat these numbers and protect him.

One day, after running away from school the pair decide to hang out at the London Eye. Blowing off school was fun until Jem starts to look around and realize that the death date for many of the people around her is the same-and it’s today.

Numbers is a tale of one girl’s struggle to face her greatest fear: death.

Throughout the book, you begin to see the tough layers of Jem being pulled back. She opens up to Spider with the understanding that his days truly are numbered. During the course of their friendship Jem learns what it means to love and to live each moment to the fullest. In the end, she learns so much from the first boy she let into her life.

This was a great YA tale that many teens would enjoy. With a slight apocalyptic feel this novel explores themes of love, friendship, and fear. This book is followed by two others in the trilogy: The Chaos and Infinity.

The Ameri Brit Mom