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Jimmy Kimmel Flubs Rob Ford Interview

rob-ford-and-jimmy-kimmelJimmy Kimmel Live! features innovative skits, celebrity interviews, and music. It’s an enjoyable and somewhat lightweight late-evening program. Kimmel, however, has never been known as the strongest interviewer. It’s no burden when he’s chatting with celebrities. But his recent interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, best known for admitting he used crack when he was drunk, was not Kimmel’s finest moment.

Click here to watch the interview in full

Kimmel’s (and his staff’s) flaws were evident in a travesty of an interview, poor research, and lack of follow-up questions. Ford made outrageous claims or avoided responding to the few tough questions Kimmel asked. Kimmel seemed more interested in making Ford his buddy than learning what makes this man tick. Far too many softball questions were tossed at Ford, as if Kimmel didn’t want to insult his guest.

Ford made claims of financial achievements that Kimmel didn’t question (claims Ford made twice). If you believed Ford he resurrected Toronto. I have to fault his staff for not having figures to counter Ford’s claims and Kimmel for not following up with tough questions. If Ford has achieved all he claimed why were his powers stripped by the Toronto council? Council transferred a significant chunk of the mayor’s budget and many of his powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.

Ford, who is running for re-election, then claimed that if re-elected his powers would be restored. The obvious follow-up question, which Kimmel declined to ask, was wouldn’t the city council simply strip him of his powers again?

We also heard a Kimmel-lite when he question Ford about his cocaine use and alcoholism. Kimmel asked one question which Ford evaded and then went on to another topic. Why didn’t Kimmel press Ford on allegations that he smoked crack cocaine while in office, had gotten behind the wheel after having a few drinks, and purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?

Even the enjoyable replay of Ford’s many foibles captured in video clips allowed Ford to steer the conversation. The video montage showed an out-out-control Ford. Kimmel and Ford laughed at them together when hard questions should have been posed. Kimmel seemed won over by Ford’s jovial personality.

Kimmel’s toughest comment dealt with a barb about his poor selection of ties. Ford took Kimmel’s harsh criticism in stride, laughing with Kimmel. The man knew he had the host right in the palm of his hands.

Neither Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon, as new host of The Tonight Show, are adept at questioning non-celebrities like Ford. Only David Letterman would have asked the hard questions and refused to accept Ford’s deflections. Letterman’s staff would have prepared the host with facts to refute any false allegations Ford made. Letterman’s scrutiny is probably why Mitt Romney refused to appear on Letterman’s show after he had been a guest of Jay Leno.

If this were a title fight Rob Ford would have won easily, possibly by a knockout. A shame because Kimmel was given a wonderful opportunity to add to his credibility. And he blew it.

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What Would Dara Do?: Reaction to Miley Cyrus Criticism

Miley_Cyrus_Y100_Miami_Concert1This is the ninth in a series discussing how characters in The Shamra Chronicles would deal with current hot-button issues and pressures that confront today’s teens. How would Dara respond to Miley Cyrus being vilified for her performance at the Video Music Awards?

Dara would probably suggest those outraged by Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs take a chill pill. Celebrities are often unjustifiably put under a microscope and even when behaving badly (though not illegally) are targeted as being poor role models. Dara would have none of this.

Even before becoming a leader of the Shamra resistance, when her country was invaded and enslaved, she was a rebel and often criticized by her fellow Shamra. She competed in athletic competitions against boys (and often prevailed) causing consternation among adults who felt females should act . . . well, like females (raise the children, do household chores and generally be seen and not heard).

She said what was on her mind in school, drawing the disapproval of her teachers. “Why were there no female heroes in the Holy Book that was the core of Shamra teaching?” she asked. Not a question to be posed in class. Dara also wore a necklace passed down from generation to generation by her family which flew in the face of Shamra tradition where the wearing of jewelry was discouraged.

In today’s world the Shamra would be tweeting like crazy about Dara’s rebellious behavior and mocking her with parodies on YouTube. Late-night Shamra talk show hosts would make her the butt of their jokes.

Would you find Dara twerking if she lived in today’s society? No, it wasn’t in her nature to be outrageous in her actions. On the other hand she would be the last to criticize Miley Cyrus. Cyrus is no Lindsay Lohan, who has been in and out of rehab and courtrooms like a revolving door due to self-destructive behavior.

Cyrus was a positive role model during her run on Hannah Montana. Even then her every action was scrutinized. She is attempting to break out of the Disney shadow that is responsible for so many child actors flaming out before they reach adulthood. She flaunts her sexuality and dresses provocatively. She hasn’t, though, been in rehab for drug or alcoholic addiction. She hasn’t been arrested for shoplifting . . . hasn’t been arrested for anything.

If twerking is the extent of her rebellion it’s tame compared to other child stars who have struggled (just a few weeks ago former Disney child star Lee Thompson Young committed suicide). No way would Dara condemn Cyrus. She would, on the contrary, applaud her rebellious spirit.

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The 8 Best Female Villians Currently on Television

Entry-46-MartindaleI recently was pleasantly surprised to find Sherlock Holmes’s arch enemy Moriarity, on the TV series “Elementary” was a female, excellently portrayed by Natalie Dormer. Ninety-percent of the villains on television are male and while some are excellent many are run-of-the-mill. I can name worthy female villains on just over one hand.

Now, my list is obviously subjective. I do have standards to determine who can make the list (which obviously limits the list). The actress has to appear in an “arc” (multiple episodes). There have been some wonderful female (and male) villains on the various Law & Order shows, but all were caught in one episode. I’m also listing those on series that are currently on television (though the villain may have been on the series a few years ago).

So, here are my eight (in no particular order):

(1)  As previously mentioned Natalie Dormer’s portrayal of Moriarity on “Elementary.” This show is exceptionally well-written with more than a few surprises that make you sit up and go “Damn, I didn’t see that coming.” Well, I don’t think many had any idea that Holmes’s lost love (he assumed she had been murdered) was the evil Moriarity. Dormer gives the character any number of layers. I just hope she returns to battle Holmes and Watson in the future.

(2a)  Margo Martindale as crime matriarch Mags on “Justified” has to be near the top of any list of memorable villains. She is both motherly and merciless. It will be difficult to top her performance as Mags, though. One for the ages that earned her a well-deserved Emmy.

(2b) Having just finished watching “The Americans” Martindale is the only actress to make my list twice. She plays “Grannie,” a merciless KGB operative, the handler of two sleeper soviet spies who infiltrate the highest levels of the government and FBI. You don’t see the range or humor in “Grannie” Martindale provided to her Mags character on “Justified” but she’s one scary lady. Her portrayal is more nuanced than her Mags character but just as villainous.

(3)  Another well-written show is “Persons of Interest” which has a slew of evil-doers, among them the wonderful Amy Acker playing Root, just as ruthless of “Justified’s” Mags. Acker has had an interesting career. She is probably best-known for her work on “Angel” and in subsequent guest appearances on shows played someone without much character (due in most part to poor writing). She first turned evil on Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” and pulled it off without a hitch. On “Persons of Interest” she begins her stint as a helpless woman the show’s daring duo must aid. By the end of the episode we find out she’s far more (much like Enrico Colantoni’s portrayal of a mobster). You mess with Root at your own peril. This year’s finale promises Root will play a major role next season. Props to the show’s writers for keeping her around.

(4)  No list would be complete without the extraordinary performance of Vera Farmiga as Norma Louise Bates on “Bates Motel.” Farmiga’s nuanced portrayal makes one feel both sympathy and disgust for Norma, often both at the same time. Norma Bates is a complex woman. Her love for Norman is unnatural but clearly genuine. She’s a mama bear who will do anything to protect her cub. Can’t wait to see the road she goes down in season two.

(5)  Deidre Lovejoy as “The Gravedigger” on “Bones” (2010-2011). To be honest I’m was no great fan of Lovejoy, possibly because writers had not provided her with quality material. As The Gravedigger, however, Lovejoy is manipulative and creepy evil. At her trial, where she defends herself, there’s her smirk letting the viewer know she gets off making the show’s squints look ridiculous. There is no overblown outrage when she’s found guilty. She again flashes that smirk and remarks the shows heroes haven’t seen the last of her. She’s a much better actress than I gave her credit for who needs to find quality parts to show off her skills.

(6)  “The Americans” is the only show to give us two extraordinary female villains. Marge Martindale is mentioned above. Add to her the surprisingly powerful portrayal of KGB sleeper agent Claudia Jennings played by Keri Russell. I felt Russell was a lightweight on the few episodes of “Felicity” I watched. She has most definitely blossomed with her role on “The Americans” where she has to walk a tightrope of mother, wife and master spy. Claudia is first and foremost devoted to her native Soviet Union. At times it appears she merely tolerates her children and would sacrifice them without a second thought. As the series progresses, however, she appears conflicted; family becoming more important (though still a distant second to her country and mission). She falls in love with her “husband” only to feel betrayed. She shows a vulnerability not many actresses possess that both draws you to the character and repulses you at the same time. When necessary she can (and does) murder without remorse. She uses and abuses for her country yet one comes to empathize if not sympathize with her quandary.

(7)  Sadly, the only other female villain I could find was Melinda Clarke’s Amanda on “Nikita.” Clarke’s character is less nuanced than the others above, but there is no denying the evil within her. The body count she leaves in her wake is greater than all of the other five villains mentioned in this blog combined.

Now, I don’t watch every series on the tube (couldn’t get past two episodes of “Mad Men”, for example, and also pass on “The Vampire Diaries,” “Dallas,” and “Pretty Little Liars” to name just a few). And I’m sure there may be a villain or two who appeared on HBO or Showtime that I’ve neglected.

So, do me a favor and let me know who should be added to this list and why. I’m getting a bit tired of the Hannibal Lechter-clones that routinely appear on TV and think the women above are the equal to any male villain now on television.

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First Amendment Rights Violated of a High School Senior

As a former-teacher I often wonder how educators (specifically administrators) can act so uneducated and idiotic. I mean, a school suspending a kindergarten child for pointing a finger (NO, not THE finger) at another child as a make-believe gun is not cause for suspension. You’ve heard the expression “guns don’t kill…” Well, guaranteed “pointed fingers don’t kill”.

High schools are continuing to find ridiculously creative ways to destroy graduations for their students. In the latest and, one of the most heinous, Chelsea Ramer was denied her diploma, final transcript and fined $1000 for wearing a feather in her graduation cap to symbolize the culture and spirituality of her Native American tribe.

Ramer didn’t wear the feather as a form of protest. And, she wasn’t sneaky about her proposed tribute. She and tribal leaders told the Escambia Academy High School of her plans months in advance of graduation. The school’s response was to require that all students sign a contract agreeing they would not wear “extraneous items during graduation exercises unless approved by the administration.” If they didn’t sign the contract they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in graduation.

Ramer didn’t sign the contract yet she was allowed to take part in her graduation. She was still fined and denied her diploma and transcript. Even if she had signed the contract the punishment certainly doesn’t fit the crime. To put it bluntly the denial of her First Amendment rights was criminal.

In an ironic aside the school’s headmaster Betty Warren was abruptly replaced after graduation. That was certainly appropriate, though the school should have apologized to Ramer, rescinded the fine (which to date they haven’t) and given her the diploma and transcript they withheld.

Far too many schools overreact rather than deal with such incidents in an intelligent manner. Tribal leaders attempted but were “denied requests to speak with the school about the issue” in the months leading up to graduation. What kind of lesson does this teach students who have legitimate requests they want discussed? The administration clearly dropped the ball in this case and should rescind the discriminatory punishment against Ramer.

I have heard the expression “those who can’t … teach.” Well, as a former teacher who met his share of inept administrators I’d like to amend the expression to “those who can’t teach become administrators.” To add to that, in many instances, “incompetent ones.”

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Latest Injustice: Borders’ Gift Cards Cannot Be Redeemed

In a gross injustice a federal judge, according to ShelfAwareness, upheld in late-May a bankruptcy judge’s ruling that 17.7 million in Borders gift cards worth an estimated $210.5 million cannot be redeemed. Judge Andrew Carter’s rationale was that allowing cardholders to try to recover money from Borders would “upset the liquidation plan that is substantially completed.”

So, let me get this straight . . . the judge ruled in part because it would be inconvenient to help individuals who purchased the gift cards in good faith. Sadly, once again the individual gets screwed. I only wish the judge was a major shareholder in Borders. He might not be so insensitive if he had to shoulder some of the loss millions of customers have.

Now, I haven’t seen the liquidation agreement but you can bet that large publishers and other large vendors will be the first to receive monies from Borders. Those who purchased gift cards, in good faith, won’t even be at the end of the line. They’ll just be totally ignored.

As a small press publisher I went through this same injustice when I published Gauntlet Magazine. I paid all of my bills on time and sent copies of the magazine to numerous distributors as required by contracts I signed with each. However, over the course of a decade, a number of my distributors folded owing what is a tidy sum for a small press and I didn’t receive a penny. Ironically, one of those distributors supplied Borders with copies of the magazine. After I had been told by the distributor that I wouldn’t be getting paid I was appalled to find copies of the magazine still on a local Borders magazine shelf. The bankrupt distributor was going to pay off their debt with my publication for which I would get nothing. I was tempted to walk out of the store with the copies of the magazine that I would never get paid for, but I would have ended up being arrested. And if Judge Carter is any example no judge would have had sympathy for my plight.

Because lawmakers in Washington, despite their talk of helping small businesses, spend most of their time (when not on recess) investigating partisan scandals rather than passing legislation we are ignored whenever a large company folds its tent. And, in the case of Borders individuals get no consideration at all. Just another case of injustice that makes us all cynical.

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Going too far: Death Threats Against Michael Vick

USA Today reported (March 13) that Michael Vick’s publisher has canceled book signing events relating to Vick’s autobiography Finally Free, due to violent threats against Vick, his family and employees participating in the event.

Sadly, animal rights fanatics (as opposed to animal lovers) have once again made their point with threats of violence and deserve only condemnation.

Now, I’m no fan of Michael Vick. A New York Giants football fan, I despise the Philadelphia Eagles and Vick as a player for my least favorite team. But, I’ll fight to the death for his right to publish his autobiography and be able to conduct a book tour. Vick has paid a hefty price for his transgressions (19 months in prison and the loss of countless millions of dollars when his contract with the Atlanta Falcons was voided). We are a society that offers second chances (in the case of Lindsay Lohan, for example, dozens of second chances).

We have something called peaceful demonstrations in this country, which sets us apart from many third world nations where protests can lead to jail or death. Animal rights fanatics (along with peaceful animal rights advocates) could have picketed outside stores Vick was to appear at and generated publicity for their cause. It’s a right granted by our Constitution and an appropriate response. There is no excuse for threats of violence, especially against employees of stores who were not culpable in Vick’s crimes. We have recently engaged in discussions to end bullying in schools. The sad fact is that bullying is not relegated simply to schools. Those who threaten violence to force the cancellation of a book signing are nothing more than heinous bullies who deserve our scorn.

I have no interest in reading Michael Vick’s autobiography but my protest against those who preach violence will be to purchase the book . . . and then donate it to my local library without reading it.

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Pass On Standardized Tests

Teachers from at least one school in Seattle are refusing to administer standardized tests to their students, calling the results of the test “meaningless.” Teachers in other states are also balking at spending valuable time to teach the test and are considering refusing to administer the test. Simply put, teachers are being asked to “teach the test,” not educate students.

I speak as a former teacher of thirty years who saw a school district transformed in the late-nineties as standardized tests became significant not only to measure student’s performance but to evaluate teachers. Current teachers who may fear for the jobs aren’t able to reveal what they know about the lengths schools and districts will go to raise the scores on standardized tests (and I don’t mean cheating, which does occur). No longer under the thumb of my principal or school district, I can discuss the dark underbelly of test preparation.

In Philadelphia in the late-nineties a new superintendent was hired. His first year he downplayed performance on standardized tests. The tests were given with little fanfare. Many schools in the district did poorly.

The following year the superintendent moved aggressively to prove reforms he had implemented were successful. At our school over a period of just a few years our esteemed principal got rid of an art teacher, the school librarian and severely cut back on music (effecting a teacher who had been at the school forever and was beloved by all). Her hours were cut so she would only work with K-3 in a school that was a K-8 school. In their place the principal hired additional staff to work on reading, math and science – the areas covered by the standardized test. Teachers who offered programs in those areas were given preference when it came to receiving paid after school extracurricular programs – again at the expense of the arts.

District-wide the superintendent was equally as aggressive. What few know (and probably still don’t know) is that schools are penalized for each student who does not take the standardized test (at least in Pennsylvania). A student who answers just one question correctly actually helps a school while the school’s results are penalized if that student was absent and did not take the test. The first year of the superintendent’s reign this fact was not made known to individual schools. Poor attendance at some schools led to poor scores. The next year, out of the blue, a local radio station held a contest, offering a concert for the high school which had the best attendance for the standardized test. Commercials on the station ran ad nauseam. A coincidence? I think not.

At our school a reading teacher, whose main job was the preparation for and administration of the test, called the homes of any students who were absent the days the test was given. When they returned, even if still ill, students could make up any test missed (even if it meant being pulled out of their regular class where educating was going on). Attendance significantly improved when the test was given. Were parents contacted either before or after the test was given to improve attendance? The answer is obvious. The school couldn’t care less.

Lastly, manuals were provided to each teacher, with day-by-day lesson plans on how to teach for the test (something not done the previous year). Teachers were told to teach “the test,” not educate students. I often wondered aloud what would occur if on the day of the test a different test were given rather than the one we were told to prepare students for. Test-taking skills weren’t taught. We were instructed to teach “the test.”

Is it any wonder our school and many others significantly improved on their test scores from the previous year? The superintendent made sure the improved scores made headlines in the local papers and TV stations. His so-called reforms, he could say, were validated. It was nonsensical. The district couldn’t be accused of cheating (teachers didn’t erase incorrect answers and fill in correct ones as was the case in Washington, D.C.), but was the improvement in scores honest and accurate? No way.

So I applaud teachers who are risking suspension (as is the case in Seattle) for refusing to teach a test whose results are meaningless; a test which takes away valuable weeks of preparation when students can be educated. Test-taking skills should be taught to students. A state-wide test can be one tool in evaluating student performance. But a test should never become more important than educating students. A test shouldn’t stymie the creativity of teachers. And valuable programs shouldn’t be cut so a school can hire teachers whose main job is to prepare students to take a test. Applaud the teachers in Seattle and other cities who take educating so seriously they risk their job by refusing to administer a meaningless test.

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Kill My ARCs? Not a Chance.

Recently YA author Elizabeth Fama wrote an impassioned plea to reviewers, entitled “Kill My ARC,” to destroy Author Review Copies (known as ARCs) once they have read and reviewed them. Donate them to a library? Not on your life. Allow a friend or relative to read the book? Heaven forbid. Donate it to a school library or an impoverished school without funds to purchase books? Sorry, she won’t have it.

Part of her argument is that an ARC is not the finished book. It is an uncorrected proof sent out to reviewers prior to the book’s release. It’s sent out for review to generate buzz and (hopefully for the author) high praise.

In Fama’s case she said that she made major changes between the ARC and the book that will see release. And, the cover art on the ARC is not that on the finished product. So, the ARC is NOT her book she is saying.

And she is fervent in her demand that once reviewed an ARC should be destroyed. “I don’t want a deserving teenager—even one who is underprivileged, owns no other books, and who devotedly helped with his library’s collection development—to be given my ARC as a gift.”

And her demand is that “I want every single ARC pulped when the real book comes out” because “to me, the ARC is not my book. It’s an impostor of the real thing. Kill my ARC.”

Fama certainly doesn’t pull any punches, but her argument just doesn’t wash. Besides being a published author I am the publisher of Gauntlet Press. The ARC is 99.99% the finished product. As a reviewer why would I want to read an unfinished book? Why would I want to review a book where the author will make significant changes? Such changes could affect my review. In Fama’s case she said “my editor and I also doggedly tweaked the language to make it more lyrical.” I’m sorry, but those changes are to be made in the final proof the editor and author agree upon before ARCs are sent to reviewers, not after ARCs have been printed and shipped.

Fama also said that the cover art of her “final” version of the book is not the same as that on the ARC. Again, with the vast majority of publishers the cover art is not changed from the ARC to the final version (and in many cases the author has no say whatsoever on the cover art). And many publishers send out books without cover art for review. There’s nothing wrong with that.

There is another flaw in Fama’s argument. Since her ARC is not the finished product she wants to dictate what reviewers do with the ARCs they receive. What she fails to grasp is that many reviewers are not paid to review an ARC they receive from a publisher. A reviewer is just as much a writer as Fama. Unlike most reviewers Fama be paid, though, by her publisher, in part as a result of the efforts of unpaid reviewers. Since they are not being paid reviewers shouldn’t have to adhere to Fama’s ludicrous demands. There is nothing wrong with giving an ARC to an impoverished school or child. With budget cuts libraries (both public and school) are having increasing difficulty purchasing new titles. I’m in favor of donating books (yes, ARCs) to such deserving institutions. And, as far as giving the ARC to a friend or relative, the author might pick up a new fan who will purchase previously published books by the author. Is Fama opposed to that?

An ARC is a promotional tool of the publisher; a publisher who pays an author an advance and has a vested interest in trying to promote said author. What a reviewer does with an ARC after having written a review is none of Fama’s concern. The solution to her complaint is simple. Provide the publisher with the finished product prior to the publisher sending ARCs to reviewers.

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What Would Dara Do?: Part Eight

This is the eighth in a series discussing how characters in The Shamra Chronicles would deal with current hot-button issues and pressures that confront today’s teens. How would Dara respond to the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs?

I live in Colorado Springs and have seen the impact of the Waldo Canyon fire. While the great majority of Colorado Springs has been spared the worst effects of the fire it has impacted everyone. Homes have been destroyed, lives lost, evacuations commonplace and no one has been spared the smell of the smoke that, at times, blanketed the city.

So, what would Dara, heroine of The Shamra Chronicles do when confronted with a fire like the one that has caused havoc in Colorado Springs? While women were taught to be submissive in the land of the Shamra Dara rebelled and when her country was invaded and enslaved she became the leader of a resistance army to free her people. She’s not one to sit on the sidelines.

Once the fire spread causing evacuations and destruction Dara would have wanted to fight the fire. Sadly, she is a teenager and she would not have been allowed to be a firefighter to combat the Waldo Canyon fire. She would most definitely have been irritated. To her age is a merely a number. She would have agreed to training and would have taken a test to determine if she had what it took to fight the fire. She wouldn’t have gotten her way due to her age. Now, it’s possible that impulsive as Dara was she might have ignored any warnings and attempted to fight the fire without permission. But, that would have been foolish and might have put others in harm’s way. After seething a bit Dara would have understood this. Still she would have wanted to be on the front lines. She would have volunteered to provide food, water and other necessities for those firefighters combating the fire.

She would have done more. Families who were forced to evacuate their homes were told, at a meeting, the last week in June whether their homes had survived the fire or been destroyed. For some prayers were answered. For others their worst fears became reality. Dara would have been at that meeting and would have done all she could to comfort those families whose homes were destroyed. She would try to make them understand that possessions can be replaced but lives can’t. Just as she attempted to raise the sometimes sinking morale of her resistance army she would rally those who lost their homes to look at what they still had – their lives and their loved ones. And, later, when it came time to rebuild, even though a teenager, she would volunteer to help in any way possible.

Still, she really would have wanted to actually fight the fire. It’s in her makeup.

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Book Review: STARTERS by Lissa Price

In the Dystopian YA landscape, other than The Hunger Games trilogy, there is little that is innovative. As with every “the next big thing” there is little that equals the original. Lissa Price’s Starters is one of the rare exceptions. Price has come up with an original premise full of psychological terror and, as the book progresses, physical danger to the protagonist, as well.

In Price’s future there are the young and the old. The rest of the population has been annihilated by a genocide spore war. Only the young and the elderly were vaccinated. Only they survived. The elderly (some who are as old as 200) crave youth. The young, many who are homeless and live as scavengers, desire a stable home life. Prime Destinations offers the young both wealth and stability they desire. Teens can “rent” their bodies to the elderly (referred to as Enders) for more money than they might see in their lifetime.

Callie, a sixteen year old, is desperate for food and medicine for her sickly younger brother Tyler. She rents her body at Prime Destinations and the ride begins. The chip implanted in Callie’s head to manage the transfer malfunctions and she awakens in the midst of a rental in her own body with the voice of her renter, Helena, urging her to commit a heinous crime.

As the tale unfolds we learn that Prime Destinations has more grandiose and diabolical plans than simply renting bodies to Enders. Callie must expose Prime Destinations while also locating her brother who, she believes, has been kidnapped by the nefarious corporation.

Starters is crisply written and a quick read, full of twists and turns that continue to the very end, setting up the second and final book in the series.

Starters suffers from its one-dimensional heroine. Callie is beautiful, smart, heroic and willing to sacrifice herself for her brother, regardless of the consequences. Simply put she has no flaws. The best characters, whether in a YA or an adult novel, have layers and flaws that make them far more interesting than Callie. Helena, the Ender who initially inhabits Callie’s body, is a far more interesting character because she is more human.

As in far too many Dystopian novels amidst the horror that drives the plot romance blossoms. In this case Callie falls for Blake, the great-grandson of a Senator. The problem is the romance is too sudden. Callie meets Blake and within days is smitten. Even at the book’s conclusion when Callie learns Blake isn’t really who she thinks he is when he reaches for her hand she relents. Maybe Callie does have a flaw—she’s superficial.

All in all Starters is a satisfying read and Price has set up any number of conflicts to be resolved in the sequel.

(3 ½ out of 5 stars)

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