Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 6+7 Book Club Report

Eighteen of us gathered on Tuesday night at the Central Library to discuss Variant, by Robison Wells, a science fiction duology with a crazy twist mid-book. Although there was not a lot of enthusiasm expressed (no one gushed "I LOVED this book!"), everyone found it both entertaining and intriguing. Some felt it was too much like Masterminds, by Gordon Korman, which we recently read, and some also compared it to Maze Runner, by James Dashner. In the end, though the ratings were high enough to give Variant a score of 7.85.

For next month's meeting, we're reading Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. Anarda and I were astounded that more people hadn't yet read this book, since it came out 30 years ago, in 1987, but it's one of those perennially popular books, like The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (which another club member has just started reading) that seems to have a secret Energizer Bunny keeping it going for generation after generation.

After much discussion and three tie-breaking votes, after many proposals both new and old, we ended up picking Feedback, the sequel to Variant, for our January book! So everyone will get to find out what happened to Benson and all those other questionable characters in the first one.

Other books we considered, somewhat in order by popularity (although the votes from round one and the votes from round three didn't tally at all!) were:

Highly Unusual Magic, by Lisa Papademetriou
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, by Leslie Connor
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Our next meeting will be on December 12.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Why science fiction?

Somebody asked me (about our recent writing contest), "Why science fiction?" To answer this, let's turn to Jo Walton, a master of science fiction;
“The trouble with mimetic [realistic] fiction isn’t that you can tell what’s going to happen (I defy anyone to guess what’s going to happen in Middlemarch, even from halfway through) but that you can tell what’s not going to happen. There isn’t going to be an evil wizard. The world isn’t going to be destroyed in Cultural Fugue and leave the protagonist as the only survivor. There aren’t going to be any people who happen to have one mind shared between five bodies. There are unlikely to be shape-changers. In science fiction, you can have any kind of story—a romance or a mystery or a reflection of human nature, or anything at all. But as well as that, you have infinite possibility. You can tell different stories about human nature when you can compare it to android nature, or alien nature. You can examine it in different ways when you can write about people living for two hundred years, or being relativistically separated, or under a curse. You have more colours for your palette, more lights to illuminate your scene.”
Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great

Friday, November 10, 2017

Top Writers!

We had a great time at Book Café last night! It seemed like half the people who came were new to Book Café, and it's always fun to initiate new people into the art of book-talking! We had lots of great book-talks last night, many from teens who hadn't given one before, and we hope you will all come to practice your skills at the next one! (Of course, cookies and cappuccino may be an added incentive.) There will be photos up on our Facebook page later on this weekend (Anarda has to send them to me and I have to download, edit, post, and caption!). But here is one new book-talker, Neil, who actually ended up doing three book-talks (one with two friends) during the evening. Good for you!

The other purpose, of course, for getting together was to announce the top writers in this year's "Stranger in a Strange Land" writing contest. We received 23 stories, and after much reading and discussion between Melissa and Anarda and our tie-breaker, Miss Cathleen, here is the big reveal—the top four writers are:

ANGELO WATERHOUSE for A Europan in Europe

KATRINA DARWICH for A Planet of Suffering

GRACIE MILLER for Elian the Being

CALEB VAUGHAN for My Trip to Hollywood

We also awarded four honorable mention writers:

VICTORIA KROL for Emotions and their meanings…to Martians

ELYSIA LOPEZ for Willowdale

STEPHAN BEGLARYAN for New World, New Rules


The top writers received $25 Amazon gift cards, while the honorable mention writers received $15 Target gift cards. Two of you weren't at Book Café to receive your prizes; you may pick them up from the Reference Desk at the Buena Vista Branch on Monday or thereafter. (The library is CLOSED today and tomorrow for Veterans' Day.)

Everyone else who wrote a story for our contest received a "swag bag" containing a notebook and pen, plus other fun or useful stuff. You may also pick those up at Buena Vista.

Anarda and I would like to thank everyone who wrote us a story. They were all interesting and creative and had something individual to say about the experience of being "the other." Some were also quite entertaining and funny!

We encourage you to keep writing, practice your skills, let your imaginations fly, and enter next October's writing contest at Burbank Public Library!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Café!

TOMORROW NIGHT, Thursday, November 9, come to Book Café at Buena Vista at 7:00 p.m.! For those of you who haven't attended a Book Café before, here's what you need to know:
  • Bring whatever you’re reading, or something you read that you liked.
  • Stand up and tell others how amazing it is, by doing a book-talk.
  • Draw on the table.
  • Drink cappuccino (or cocoa) and eat cookies.
That’s what we do at Book Café!

Coincidentally, TODAY is National Cappuccino Day, so we will drink some tomorrow to acknowledge that!

Also at this Book Café: Find out who will be named as the TOP WRITERS in the "Stranger in a Strange Land" story-writing contest. Prizes will be awarded, so if you submitted one, be sure to come to this session of Book Café to find out if you won a prize or scored an honorable mention!

Parents telling you "no socializing on a school night"? Friday is a HOLIDAY, so party on, Garth! Party on, Wayne! You can sleep late!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Teen review: GWTW

Gone With the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
1037 pages
Historical Fiction/Romance
Recommended for High School

Reviewed by S.M., grade 9

Gone With the Wind quite possibly has a fair shot at being my favorite book ever.

Centering around the life and times of Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara during the late Antebellum period, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, Gone With the Wind is a five-part book spanning more than 12 years, from 1861 to 1873, set in the heart of the South, in Georgia. The book follows Scarlett through her late teen and early adult years as she tries to manage with the outbreak of the Civil War in the South. Her wants, needs, and even mindset change as she marries, has children, and moves around Georgia, whilst meeting a variety of characters and working and socializing with them, all set against the backdrop of the fighting, love, and loss caused by the Civil War. Throughout the book, Scarlett has different motives and goals she’s working towards, like getting certain men to fall for her, or running her own business, and she stops at nothing to get them. She disobeys rules and society, bullies others into getting what she wants, and she’s unapologetic about it all, once she stops looking back and leaves her antebellum life in the past.

A rotating set of characters floats in and out of the book throughout the different periods of Scarlett’s life, but a handful stay constant. The constant characters of Gone With the Wind boast a wide variety of traits, from the stubborn, selfish and vain Scarlett, to the mysteriously handsome Rhett Butler, the timidly kind and loyal Melanie Hamilton, and the dashing and noble Ashley Wilkes.

Because this book is set over a period of 12 years, and is obviously lengthy, it’s incredible to see how author Margaret Mitchell fleshes out each character and develops them as their motives, interests, and circumstances change. It was a unique experience for me, and I don’t think I could compare it to any other book I have previously read. I found myself both smiling and shedding tears, letting my jaw drop in shock, and furling with rage. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though at the beginning I thought I would never finish! However, as I read more and more, and fell further in love with the characters and the setting, I found I couldn’t put this whopper of a book down! When I finished the novel about a month after I started it, I found myself craving more, and to be quite honest, I was upset that it was over. It was a phenomenal read, and I have a feeling this won't be the last time I tackle this beast.

This book has been on my “to read” list for a while now, and I must say, I can’t believe I waited so long! It’s an intoxicating read; it manages to suck you into the world of Scarlett O’Hara and the people around her, and you develop such an intimate relationship with all of the characters, as if you were actually a part of their lives.

Though I wasn’t completely satisfied with the content of the ending, I think I can live with it, as it added unexpected charm to this already beautiful novel. Multiple sequels and a prequel have been published, but they were not written by Margaret Mitchell, so I have no intention of reading them. They may be good and interesting in their own right, but I would only trust Mitchell to deliver an accurate and fulfilling sequel or prequel.

All in all, I highly recommend Gone With the Wind if you’re looking for a long but rewarding read. Don’t let the length of the book scare you, because the content is truly remarkable and very readable. It has everything you could ever want in a book: romance, action, drama, and so much more. Let yourself fall in love with the intriguing world of Scarlett O’Hara; you most definitely won’t regret it.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Editor's note: I read a few of those sequels. I enjoyed Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley, although she took the story places that many people didn't like; and also the one told from the slaves' point of view, The Wind Done Gone, by Alice Randall, which was a fascinating (and important) way to turn this book on its head. But I disliked and didn't finish Rhett Butler's People, by Donald McCaig, even though he stayed more true to the GWTW "canon."

Friday, November 3, 2017

10-12 Book Club Report

Thursday night, eight of the 15 members of the 10-12 Book Club met to discuss Beka Cooper: Terrier, by Tamora Pierce. Although seven people had to miss (due mostly to band and play rehearsals), we did get ratings and comments on the book from four of those members, which was good, because of the eight who met, only two of them actually managed to finish it! This book didn't turn out to be a popular choice for the club; although there was some admiration and "props" for good world-building and some interesting characters, most agreed that they didn't care much for the journal format, and that it was too slow and would have been more enjoyable had it sustained a brisker pace. Only one person indicated he might read the two sequels.

It still remains a favorite book for this book club moderator (your editor), who has read it three times and feels it completely holds up, and who is considering revisiting the sequels as well! I'm also mulling over a re-design for the cover, which is pretty awful. If I do, I'll post it here.

Despite the lukewarm reaction, no one hated it, and the final rating was a respectable 7 out of 10.

Next month's book will be a change of pace to realistic fiction, as we peruse The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby. And for January, the book club chose Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, set in the future inside a virtual reality video game, but rife with 1980s references!

Other books we considered, in approximate descending order according to popularity, were:

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman
Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma
The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Our next meeting is on Thursday, December 7.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Story Contest, Book Café

Monday was the deadline for the "Stranger in a Strange Land" writing contest, and we were pleased to receive stories from you! The final total was 24, about evenly split between short and long format, and from teens of all ages, from 6th grade to 12th. Anarda and I, plus "Miss Cathleen," who has agreed to be our third reader, are looking forward to immersing ourselves in your narrative this week.

Next Thursday, November 9, there will be a session of Book Café at Buena Vista at 7:00 p.m. For those of you who haven't attended a Book Café before, here's what you need to know:
  • Bring whatever you’re reading, or something you read that you liked.
  • Stand up and tell others how amazing it is, by doing a book-talk.
  • Draw on the table.
  • Drink cappuccino (or cocoa) and eat cookies.

That’s what we do at Book Café! For newbies and timid folk, please be aware that book-talking is voluntary--you don't have to do it, you can just sit and listen to book-talks from others! Don't know what a book-talk is? It's like a movie preview: You tell what the book is about without giving away the ending or the good parts, and you say why you liked it and think others might want to read it.

Also at this Book Café: Find out who will be named as the TOP WRITERS in the contest. Prizes will be awarded, so if you submitted one, be sure to come to this session of Book Café to find out if you won a prize!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Teen writers with aspirations

Hey, you teen writers--think you're ready to take on a full-length NOVEL? Because today is the first day of November, also known as NANOWRIMO, or National Novel Writing Month.

The explanation on the official website of the organization says:
"National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel."
If that's you, check it out!