Monday, July 16, 2018

WEEK FIVE WINNERS

Here are our Level One Winners for this week:

JAMES PURDUM, $8 Subway Card 

HELEN RAMOS, $10 Target Card 

NA'LEA LYDIA, $8 Ben & Jerry’s Card 

SARAH-KELLY SCHRUPP, $8 Starbucks Card 

ELEONORA TOPLAGHALTSYAN, one AMC movie ticket


And here are the winners for the second Level Two drawing:

JANIKA MAMARIL, two AMC movie tickets

AARON YANG, a See's Candy Gift Certificate

KATELYN SANTA MARIA, a bigger Target gift card

SYMERA JACKSON, a Barnes & Noble gift card


IF you want to win one of these Level Two prizes, your book review MUST be a proper one, containing both parts: A description of what the book is about (without spoilers, and no telling the ending!), accompanied by YOUR THOUGHTS about the book--did you like it? Why or why not? Was it the fast pace, the scary elements, the characters, the beautiful writing?

We have written to several of you who have submitted book reviews that are incomplete, and asked you to revise them; as long as they remain unrevised, you will not be eligible to win a prize, so please do go back into the program and change up your reviews!

Here is an example for those who still may not quite be sure:

Congrats to everybody who won a prize--keep on writing!



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What we're reading: Seanan McGuire

About six months ago, I discovered Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway, and raved about it and its sequels here. Having admired these books as perfectly told little gems, I then decided to branch out and read some of her other (adult) fiction. Despite the brevity of the Wayward Children books, she's quite the prolific author, with many books and many words to her credit. There's the Incryptid series, which is up to eight books; there's the October Daye series, which contains 11 or 12 books; and some random stuff on the side.

I read one book (Rosemary and Rue) in the October Daye series, and one (Discount Armageddon) from the Incryptids.

I liked Discount Armageddon quite a bit, and have meant to go back and read more in that series. My review at the time was:

"This was awesome! And it was so different from the other two books of hers I just read. Those were serious literary fantasy along the lines of Cornelia Funke's Mirrorworld series, the dark side of fairy tales, while this was the adult version of Lish McBride's Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. The creation of the cryptids, the back story of the Covenant of St. George, the heroine who moonlights as a waitress by night to pay the bills while filling most of her time as a cryptozoologist and a competitive ballroom dancer...who could make this stuff up? But she did. I'm completely impressed by the range of this author, the sheer ability to switch gears between different types of storytelling and do them both so well."

Then I read Rosemary and Rue, the first book in the October Daye series, and my reaction was quite different, although my astonishment was similar:

"Apparently, in things to do with the fae, you have to be careful what you wish for: My one comment about Every Heart A Doorway and its sequels that wasn't positive was that they were so short; I felt like I wanted to know more.

"I jumped into this series, and got what I wished for, and immediately wished I hadn't asked for it.

"This book is so explainy. It states something, then states the obvious about that something, then restates it one more time in case you missed it, and then 40 or 50 pages later, when it brings that thing up again, it explains some more because you might have forgotten or misunderstood or been too preoccupied to take it in fully. It was interminable! I felt beaten to death with description, explanation, and back story, and when that wasn't happening, the egocentric voice of the protagonist, who goes on and on about herself, her many connections, her circumstances, the state of her underwear drawer, and tells you absolutely everything you never needed to know while withholding those very details that you had questions about from page one, overwhelmed what little interest I had left. It's too bad, because I like the urban fantasy world she created, with the remains of the fae living in the cracks of San Francisco, and would have enjoyed a series about it if she had used just half the restraint she employed in writing her little masterpieces."

This brings us to this week, when I decided to chance another book by McGuire that wasn't part of the Wayward Children series: I picked up and read Sparrow Hill Road, the first book in the Ghost Roads series.

This book started out as a bunch of short stories written for an anthology, and then McGuire's publisher suggested she combine them, align them, and publish them as a novel. It's based on the urban legend of Rose Marshall, who died in Michigan on the way to her boyfriend's senior prom, and who has spent about 60 years of afterlife hitchhiking the roads of America. She's known as the Girl in the Diner, the Phantom Prom Date (she's still wearing her green silk gown), or just as Rose, the hitchhiker ghost. Those who encounter her are sometimes lucky and sometimes not; she does her best to save them from their fates if those fates are bad, but can't always affect what's to be. She's also got her head turned over her shoulder watching out for Bobby Cross, the guy originally responsible for running her car off the road, making sure she stayed eternally 16. He's hunting for her, and she'd just as soon not be found. I mean, she's dead, but things can still get unpleasant, especially around Bobby Cross.

This book's style fell almost exactly in the middle: I found it, like her fairy series, too stuffed with types of characters (in this case ghosts and pseudo-ghosts and special types of people like crossroads guardians who might be alive or might be dead, who knows?); all the explanations are kind of exhausting, especially when they don't relate that much to the story. It's also repetitive (how many times do I need to be told that putting on a live person's jacket or sweater at their invitation gives you substance, Rose? maybe three times? Not two or three times a chapter, as happened in this book). I liked the character of Rose and some of the people (beings?) with whom she interacts, such as Emma the bean sidhe, proprietor of the Last Dance Diner, and Apple, Queen of the Old Road, and the stories themselves are good; but the explanations are a bit much.

I'm reviewing this series here because, although it's shelved in the adult section, there is nothing inappropriate about it for older teens, and some might enjoy the concept of a 16-year-old girl hitchhiking America in a prom dress! I myself would read the next book, but I will probably give it a rest and undertake something more straightforward first. I still maintain that her best books ever are the Wayward Children series. They are stripped down to what is absolutely necessary, and benefit from it. I'm hopeful that this new writing style for that series will eventually inform her others?



Rose Marshall, by Amy Mebberson

Friday, July 6, 2018

WEEK FOUR WINNERS!


Here are our Level One Winners for this week:

MOHAMMAD DARWICH, $8 Subway Card 

YARA KHOZAHI, $10 Target Card 

EDDY HAY, $8 Ben & Jerry’s Card 

ANIKA DREA BALDOMAN, $8 Starbucks Card 

SAMI HARVEL, one AMC movie ticket


And here are the winners for the first Level Two drawing:

JOSIE LaFONTANT, two AMC movie tickets

ABBAS DARWICH, a See's Candy Gift Certificate

NICHOLAS WATERHOUSE, a bigger Target gift card

OLIVIA WATERS, a Barnes & Noble gift card

We're not getting so many book reviews! So if YOU write three of them before next Friday and become eligible for our Level Two drawing, you have a good chance of winning!


REMEMBER, THOUGH: It MUST be a proper book review, containing both parts: A description of what the book is about (without spoilers, and no telling the ending!), accompanied by YOUR THOUGHTS about the book--did you like it? Why or why not? Was it the fast pace, the scary elements, the characters, the beautiful writing?

Here is an example for those who still may not quite be sure:

Congrats to everybody who won a prize--keep on writing!



Saturday, June 30, 2018

Two weeks of winners!



I knew I was forgetting something all week, and I finally realized what it was: I didn't post the winners for last week's and this week's Level 1 prize drawings! Those who won know that they did, because they received a notification, but no one else does. So, here they are:

WEEK TWO

MILENA MANOUKIAN = $8 Starbucks

ZIA SAENZ = $8 Ben & Jerry’s

SUNGJOO YOON = $10 Target

EMERSON LEE = one movie ticket

JASON UTAN = $8 Subway


WEEK THREE

LORELEI SANTA MARIA = $10 Target

ANGELO WATERHOUSE = $8 Starbucks

EMILY WATERS = $8 Ben & Jerry's

ELIYZA JABRAYAN = one movie ticket

DHRUV KRAUSHIK = $8 Subway

All you prize winners, email ANARDA at awilliams@burbankca.gov and tell her where you would like to pick up your prize. It might take a day or two to move it to the right branch, so be patient and call first. When you come to pick up your prize at the reference desk, be sure to bring your student I.D. or something with your picture so the people handing you the prize know for sure that it's you! We don't want someone else getting rewarded for your hard work!

Remember that NEXT week, we start the drawings for the LEVEL TWO prizes, which are given for doing either many more tasks or for book reviews (the only way you can accumulate enough points). So be working towards that and watch this space for drawing results!


Teen review: Series continues

Risked
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Reviewed by E. R. S., grade 12

Risked is the sixth of the Missing Series collection, which includes Found, Sent, Sabotaged, Torn, Caught, Risked, Revealed, and Redeemed. I have read six of these books and am in the middle of Revealed.

Margaret Peterson Haddix continues the adventure when Chip, Jonah, Katherine, and Daniella are kidnapped by Gavin and accidentally sent back to 1918 to the Romanov family. They end up in the middle of the Russian Revolution in a dangerous and deadly setting. They must escape with as many people as possible and with limited resources. Many of them think this is their final trip in time. This 308-page historical fiction for teens kept me entranced for four days--I couldn’t put it down. The books are suggested for grades 6-8, but I have found they can be enjoyed by all.

By far, this is my favorite of all the books. This book is much more serious than the others. This book also includes a lot more danger and strategy from the Skidmores and their friends. I rate this a 5 out of 5, and can't wait to see how the series ends. What I enjoy about the series is the author’s love for history, and how she can keep a fictitious story so accurate. I loved how she included Alexei Romanov and his hemophilia, and incorporated it into the story.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Photo albums

Just in case you failed to notice, there are photo albums published on our Facebook page, documenting all the fun experienced so far at "Reading Takes You Everywhere," our teen summer reading program. See pix from our first Book Café, both paper marbling workshops, and the two-part book-making workshop. And there's more to come!


Thursday, June 28, 2018

What we're reading: Realistic fiction

In We'll Fly Away, by Bryan Bliss, Luke and Toby have been best friends since childhood in their small town in North Carolina.

Luke's mother is, shall we say, a casual single parent, and expects Luke to do half or more of the chores, including looking after his six-year-old twin brothers, while going to school, keeping his grades up, and working hard for a wrestling scholarship. She, meanwhile, jumps from job to job and man to man, and gives them all priority over her children. Toby's father is a mean, abusive drunk, who goes out of his way to ambush Toby in every way that he can, just for kicks. Toby's mother has fled the scene long since. Toby keeps his head down and his mouth shut when he's around his dad, but when Jimmy is in one of his moods, it doesn't matter--Toby's in for a beating.

At school, Luke is the strong silent type, while Toby is always pushing his luck with his smart mouth, so Luke ends up being Toby's defender a large percentage of the time. But each takes refuge in the friendship of the other and, once Luke found out he had won an athletic scholarship to a college in Iowa upon graduation, they started making plans to head out as soon as they can swing it financially.

When the book opens, though, you find out that whatever was supposed to happen isn't going to. Half of the book is a third-person narrative about the story of Luke and Toby, but the other half is made up of a series of letters from Luke, writing to "T." from death row in prison. So from the beginning, you know something will go wrong, and you have a feeling what it might be, but the way it plays out and the specific circumstances are devastating. The cycle of neglect, with parents who are either oblivious to anything but their own needs or who are actively mean for their own arbitrary and volatile satisfaction, is something that happens more in some teens' lives than we would like to believe. The fact that these two boys banded together to defend one another from the results of their family situations gives you hope; but ultimately, they are teenagers, and sometimes teenagers make bad decisions, which lead them somewhere from which they can't come back.

The heartbreaking part about what happens to Luke and Toby is that most of it could have been averted with just a little attention from one concerned, caring adult who was paying attention. It makes you think about what goes on around all of us, and whether we are really sufficiently tuned in.

To a certain extent, this book is the author's vehicle for something specific he has to say about the death penalty, and because of this, I feel like he should have done more research into the actual living conditions and circumstances for those on death row, in order to make this book true to life; but other than that one flaw, I would give the book five stars. The story was raw and poignant and felt completely real. I used to lead book groups at juvenile hall in the maximum security unit for boys ages 14-19, and learned there just how easy it is for a teen to make an instant's mistake that leads to a lifetime's punishment. I agree with the author that we cannot judge someone by one terrible thing they did, when we see all the steps that led up to it. I wished, at the end of this book, that I could mitigate consequences for Luke and Toby, just as I used to wish it for some of the members of my book club. It's a wrenching read, but well worth your attention. Recommended for teens in grades 10-12.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Teen review: Historical time travel

Margaret Peterson Haddix’s fifth installment of the Missing series, is called Caught. The series has eight books so far, and I have read six of them. They are Found, Sent, Sabotaged, Torn, Caught, Risked, Revealed, and Redeemed. Throughout this series, you learn that a bunch of famous people from history were kidnapped as babies and brought to the future to be sold, when the plane crashed. Each book takes place in a new time in history, where Jonah Skidmore and his friends and sister go back in time to correct history. In Caught, they go back to 1902. They end up with Albert Einstein trying to correct mistakes left behind by other time travelers who escaped prison.

This book is intended for readers in grades 6-8, but as a high school graduate, I love the series. The book is short at 352 pages and is considered young adult fiction, historical fiction, and science fiction.

I love these books because of the true history mixed with the science fiction of time travel. You feel like you can understand these famous people from history a bit more after seeing them as simple people in these stories. I'd rate this book a 5, because I love the story. At times it can be a bit childish because it is from the point of view of a 13-year-old, but I wouldn't let that discourage anyone from giving them a read. In this installment my favorite character is Jonah, because of how he is resourceful and dedicated to thriving in the harsh conditions in which they are fighting.

Reviewed by E. R. S., grade 12