Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What we're reading: Magical realism

At the beginning of I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, 13-year-old twins Jude and Noah are two halves of a whole. Noah is introspective, and relates to the world through his drawings, both real and imagined, but he is starting to have a sense of who he is in the world, including his fascination with the boy next door. Jude is outgoing and expressive, confident and popular, and looks out for Noah when he is targeted by bullies.
 
Three years later, at 16, they almost seem to have swapped places: Noah has inexplicably quit making art and is busy being--or at least looking like--a "regular guy," while Jude seems fragile and broken; and far from finishing each other's sentences, they now hardly speak to one another. What happened? and what will it take for them to realize that neither of them knows the whole story?

I loved this book so, so SO much. I think it is my new YA favorite for 2014. The characters in it relate to the world through art, and find the art in everything, which is always a plus for me; but the way in which they do this is so quirky and endearing, it made me immediately like and understand the characters and want to know them. The elements of magical realism (visitations from dead relatives for Jude, and inanimate objects that come to life through Noah's artistic vision) definitely give the book something extra.
 
The relationships between brother and sister, parents and children, and love interests are all complex and filled with joy and pain, but told in such a fresh, smart, different way. This isn't a typical "teen angst" story--the adults have a place on the page too, and this enriches the story without taking it over. The depth of the misunderstandings and betrayals, and the breathless anticipation to see whether any or all of them will be resolved carries you through the time switches (the book spans about three years' time but jumps back and forth between ages 13 and 16, and between narrators Jude and Noah). It was such a good story that I'm dying to sit down and read it again, just to renew the experience. I never read Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere, but NOW I will!
 
I usually hate it when publishers compare one writer or work to another in the cover blurbs, because usually it's just jumping on the coattails of a more popular book, hoping to benefit; but I truly believe that readers who loved Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, or Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, would also adore this book. Let me know if you agree.
 
5 out of 5 from me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teen review: Magical

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
512 pages
Fantasy, stand-alone
Reading level: high school and up

Reviewed by: IMC, grade 9

The Circus is an impressive sight. Nothing announces its appearance. One night there is nothing but a barren field, the next there are soaring black and white tents with an iron gate enclosing everything. The Circus opens at Sunset, and closes at Dawn. It is unlike any other Circus the world can offer. But, it’s the story behind the curtain that holds the real magic.

Since they were six years old, Celia and Marco have been bound to one another. They were chosen to partake in a duel; a duel of magic. Not the silly parlor tricks that clowns do for fun--real magic. But when they begin to fall in love, everything holding the Circus together falls out of place. The lives of not only themselves, but everyone around them whom they hold dear to their hearts is at risk.

On a scale of 1-5, I give this book a 5 and would rate it higher if I could. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. The writing style is very poetic, with long, detailed descriptions so that you really feel like you’re in the story. I liked the different points of views from the different characters because Ms. Morgenstern wrote the book in a way where each point of view would tie together in the end.

The suspense is one of the best things about this book. It’s not the type of suspense in a horror book/movie, but there is suspense for the duel and a general, “What’s going to happen?!” sense throughout the entire book.

I felt like the characters were relateable, they were practically lovesick teenagers despite their age. The book invoked a sense of wistfulness and it truly did feel magical. All books are precious, but every time I cracked open the pages to continue reading I couldn’t help feeling that there was true magic woven into the pages somehow. I would recommend this book to any teenager (or adult) who wants to read about love and magic in a sense that is not childish, but mature and intriguing.

Editor's note: For some other thoughts about this book (and some links to more great circus reads), read previous reviews here and here.


Monday, November 24, 2014

This week at the library...

...is pretty quiet! The library is open regular hours on Monday and Tuesday, but closes at 6 p.m. at all locations on Wednesday.



The library is closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Anarda and I wish you a warm and happy holiday!


We reopen on Saturday the 29th, regular hours.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Teen Review: Fantasy

Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush fantasy novel (the first book in the series) took the world by storm. It made the New York Times bestseller’s list, and sold thousands upon thousands of copies. However, when reading this book, many people found elements they liked and disliked about it. Since it is 391 pages long, this was bound to happen, but today, I will share my opinion on this story with you.

We first are introduced to Nora Grey, a seemingly normal high school girl with an iron deficiency. But, as fate would have it, she soon meets Patch, the obnoxious, mysterious, and unfortunately, attractive new student. Unable to escape confronting him, she is soon taken on a journey in which she learns more than she would like to about Patch’s, and her own frightening past.

I was unsure of how I felt about this novel when I first started it, but I was unable to put it down. (I will give you that, Becca, you do know how to force me to continue.) But when I came closer to the end, there were a few things that stuck out to me. The first thing is rather negative: I found the story incredibly predictable. As a book worm, I often complain of plot twists, but I have grown to love the suspense and shock of a turning point. This novel had nothing that I was astounded to learn. In fact, it seemed that I knew more than Nora herself. You could argue that it’s supposed to be that way, that it makes the story better, but I grew bored quickly.

The second thing I will bring to your attention is distractions. As I kept reading, I continued to become more and more frustrated as events took place. The fact of the matter is, I did not find all the events and characters in this tale as important as they were made out to be. Since there were characters being introduced in groups at a time, I didn't get all the information I wanted on their back story, or why they were part of the story. I found the character development growing weaker as the story progressed. (It moved swiftly and how I like it towards the middle of the book, but didn’t keep up the pace during the entire novel.)

The last thing to discuss is the main character, Nora Grey. I did love that her “disability” (her iron deficiency) was fully broadcasted and not looked down on. But, while I thought that she had many admirable qualities, I also noticed that she was rather dull and uninteresting. She also appeared ignorant as to what went on around her, and her ignorance led to many unpleasant events. Aside from that, though, I didn’t see much willpower in her. You could disagree, of course, but as I am a female high school student like Nora, I would have liked to see a strong and independent woman. She was swayed from her opinions easily, and I had hoped that she would have been a bit more confident.

Overall, I would rate this story a 3/5 stars. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it and I know many people will love this book. I recommend this as a middle grade series, but it does cover a few topics for more mature ages, so I believe grades 7-10 would enjoy the story the most. The premise of this story was intriguing, and if you love fantasy stories and aren't a fan of surprises, I recommend this novel to you.

Reviewed by L. K., grade 9


Editor's note: We own this book and its three sequels (Crescendo, Silence, and Finale). Since I haven't read this book, I will defer to L. K.'s review; the only thing I would add is, Wow, what a great cover!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tonight!

After hours, under the stars...
Join us for the '80s classic

THE PRINCESS BRIDE!

Bring a chair or blanket, a sweater, a snack! We will supply the coffee and hot chocolate. Trivia contest, prizes, a good time! It is INCONCEIVABLE that you would miss it!

Buena Vista Branch (outdoors in the park), starting at 6:30 sharp!

 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Club Report

There were 17 in attendance at November's 6+7 Book Club to discuss Uglies, the first book in the early dystopian series by Scott Westerfeld, and it was a lively and protracted discussion! We ranged across plot, characters, metaphors, our own standards of beauty, possible other ways the story could have gone (we have a couple of fan fiction writers in this group), and every time we thought we were done, Mohammed or Mei Li had another question, George or Ava had another comment. The rating for the book was 8.25, the highest so far this year.

Next month we are reading House of Secrets, by Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus, and for January we picked The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin.

Other books we considered (in no particular order):

     A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck
     The Edge of Nowhere, by Elizabeth George
               (or did you mean the one by John E. Smelcer?)
     The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester
     The Giver, by Lois Lowry
     The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot
     The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
     13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison
     Searching for David's Heart, by Cherie Bennett
     Circle of Secrets, by Kimberley Griffiths Little
     Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, by James Patterson
     Blood On My Hands, by Todd Strasser

Eleven of us in the 8+9 Book Club gave a high rating of 8.75 to the teen thriller The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It’s about a group of kids with skills—not superpowers, just extraordinary abilities that are attractive to the FBI. Two are profilers, one is a human lie detector, one can calculate the odds of anything, and one can read and gauge human emotions—who better to put together as a team to solve cold cases? Problem is, they don’t stay cold…

We had a lively discussion, and everyone is in the library looking for the sequel (or begging to borrow Melissa's ARC). Next month we are reading Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan, and the choice for January is Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Mabery.

Other books we considered (again, in no particular order):

Switched, by Amanda Hocking
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
Six Months Later, by Natalie Richards
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken
Splintered, by A. G. Howard

The 6+7 Book Club next meets on December 9, and the 8+9 Book Club on December 10.


Teen review: Fantasy/Sci Fi

The Supernaturalist is a 267-page science fiction book by Eoin Colfer, the author of the critically acclaimed Artemis Fowl series. This book is about an abused orphan growing up in the corrupt Clarissa Frayne Institute for the Parentally Challenged, where he and a thousand other boys are put to work testing dangerous chemical products, because...who else will? However, the boy--Cosmo--knows he has to escape the institution before he’s seriously injured or worse. He sits, waiting patiently for the perfect moment, and it comes. After his incredibly narrow escape, he is taken in by the Supernaturalists, a group of teens dedicated to eliminating supernatural forces on Earth. Cosmo must learn to work with the group to save all of mankind. However, he will later find out the truth of his work, and who the real enemy is.

This book was great to read. Between the brilliant moments of action and wit, The Supernaturalist never fails to surprise. The plot is filled with twists and turns that keeps the story new and fresh at every moment. It always seems as if every time the Supernaturalists take a step forward, they are pushed two steps back. They’re not only faced with supernatural problems, either. They’re faced with sappy day-to-day challenges that teens in our world have, about love, family, and friendship. The Supernaturalist is a deliciously made chocolate cake, and Eoin Colfer had the perfect recipe.

This book deserves a 4 out of 5. Eoin Colfer is a great author, and he’s certainly deserving of this rating. There’s never a dull moment in this book, and to me, that’s all a book needs to be a great one. I would recommend this book to all future-setting lovers, especially those who adore dystopia. The reading level starts from about 13 years old, but to be fair, it’s not exactly a hard book to read. The Supernaturalist is not part of a series, and I think I’d like it to stay that way. It has a great ending, and it works very well as a stand-alone book.

Reviewed by Isaac Kim, grade 9

Editor's note: There is also a graphic novel version!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Teen review: Ancient worlds

Rick Riordan, the popular author of the Percy Jackson series, took a little break to introduce the Kane Chronicles, with the first book in the trilogy being The Red Pyramid. The Red Pyramid is certainly not a far cry from the Percy Jackson series, using the same basis of blend between reality and ancient mythology, featuring gods, goddesses, monsters, and more from a new Egyptian (as opposed to Greek) template. At a sizable 516 pages, this fantasy book revolves around two teenage siblings who are thrown from their normal, everyday world into an confusing, painful, but exciting land of lore believed not to exist. They will face great danger, betrayals, and a lot of enemies. Yet Riordan is able to keep things light!

I enjoyed this book, the reason being that Rick Riordan is able to use literature in a way that connects with the reader. Using humor and relatable situations, he’s able to sculpt The Red Pyramid like a lump of wet clay. The plot also follows the standard Riordan time limit--the characters are only given a certain amount of time to accomplish one thing or another. Somehow, the suspense, drama, and humor mix very well together. Finally, the cover of The Red Pyramid shows a great image of main characters Sadie and Carter standing before…well, the Red Pyramid. It’s aesthetically appealing, and if I judged books by their covers, I would assume this book to be a 5 out of 5.

I would recommend The Red Pyramid to kids and teens alike, if they enjoy reading fantasy. It’s not a particularly hard book to read, vocabulary wise. However, some of the topics this book covers are for more mature audiences. I would rate this book a 4 out of 5. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly worth a read. If you’ve read the Percy Jackson series, then starting The Red Pyramid is like a breath of fresh air.

Reviewed by Isaac Kim, grade 9

Editor's note: We also have this as an audio book, and there is a graphic novel as well!