Friday, June 1, 2012

What We're Reading: Sequels again

Some of you read Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, for high school book club in February of 2011. I don't know how many went on to read Fire, Cashore's second book, which is not a sequel but a "companion" book, with events that take place about 45 years previous to those in Graceling. It's all different characters, except for one significant one: You find out more about the origins of the king of Monsea. Now, however, the true sequel to Graceling has arrived! Bitterblue continues the story, focusing on the new (very young) queen of Monsea, who is the daughter of Prince Po's aunt, Ashen, and her husband, the evil Leck.

I don't want to tell too much about any of these three books, because it would be so easy to spoil them for those who haven't read them. But here's a synopsis:

GRACELING: There are five kingdoms, and in these five kingdoms, occasionally a child is born with what they call a "grace." This is some special ability, and it can be as amazing as reading minds, or as ridiculous as being able to open one's mouth wide enough to put in a watermelon. These children are called "gracelings," and they are known by the two different color eyes they have, once their talent settles. Once it is known that they are gracelings, they are given up to be servants of the king of whichever kingdom in which they live. Katsa is the protagonist of the first book, and supposedly her grace is to kill. But she is working hard, behind the scenes, to prove that there is more to her than being King Randa's assassin, and in the course of her duties, she meets Prince Po, from the Lienid kingdom, who is also a graceling, although his grace is not immediately apparent. These two share a quest, and the rest of the book is about their journey towards it.

FIRE: There is also another land, unbeknownst to the five, that exists over the other side of the Great Gray Mountains--The Dells. In this land lives strange, monstrous versions of ordinary creatures--wolves, mountain lions, birds, all gifted with unnatural colors to their fur or feathers (bright pink or lime green or crimson) and likewise with the ability to control minds and fascinate their viewers. This is a big advantage to a predator, and merely an annoyance in something like a firefly or a kitten, but imagine a monstrous human with hair like flame and a mind and physical presence/appearance that captivates and controls everyone with whom she comes in contact. This is Fire, who is in her late teens when the book opens, and is about to meet and become involved with the greatest people in the land of the Dells--the king, his brother the heir, the other prince and princess--in order to help them win a desperate war against corrupt factions trying to take them down.

BITTERBLUE: Although some events from both books eventually come together in this sequel, this is primarily the story of Monsea and its young queen, Bitterblue, who is now 18 years old and struggling to take hold as monarch of a kingdom that has been under an evil spell for 35 years and hasn't really come out of it in the subsequent eight years of her reign. Bitterblue has to figure out how to let her people move on from their devastating past, while dealing with the fallout and acknowledging the problems, and it seems like no one wants to let her do this.

This was a really satisfying (though in some places difficult/emotional to read) sequel to two of my favorite YA fantasies. (Graceling was one of the "Teens Top Ten" books for 2009.) The ideas, the language, and the wonderful characters all kept me fascinated from start to finish.

For those of you who enjoyed listening to Maggie Stiefvater and Corey Whaley talk about their writing process, here is an article about Bitterblue from the perspective of Kristin Cashore's editor, Kathy Dawson, who, upon receiving the original 800-page manuscript, sent it back to Cashore with the advice to cut at least 300 pages--and start over from scratch! Imagine...

And here's a trailer. Check it out...

Finally--and I hope they will forgive me for scanning this in from the book--I would like to say how beautiful I found the maps and illustrations by Ian Schoenherr. They look like woodcuts, and perfectly enhanced the feel of the story.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Now that you're out of school...

...all you smart and literate Burbank about writing some book reviews for this blog? The "book review guidelines" can be found under a tab at the top of this page (and you should definitely look at them), but if you want an example of how your review should be structured, scroll down a ways and look at Melissa's review of Getting Over Garrett Delaney to see the proper format.

If you need a bigger incentive than seeing your immortal words in PRINT (well, in blog print), here are TWO:

1. You can get credit for one service hour for every book review you write (think how much more fun this is than cleaning DVDs or straightening shelves);

2. If you are in 9th-12th grade, you will be entered in a DRAWING for a valuable prize, if you write the review between now and July 23rd. We will draw a name to win that prize on July 24th at our Teen Summer Reading Club finale, which is an Open Mic Night and Poetry Slam. about reading a book just for fun (see "book lists" blog below for suggestions), warming up those typing fingers, and emailing a book review to

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Have YOU signed up yet for our teen summer reading program? This year's theme is "Own the Night..." Here is a short rundown of the events, activities and workshops planned:

Three big events:
  • A readers' theater version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring Burbank teens, with a face-painting session beforehand (fairy faces for teens only, but everyone is welcome to the show!)
  • A performance by hip hop group Culture Shock L.A.
  • An Open Mic Night and Poetry Slam
PLUS: two Friday afternoons of Supernatural Series--we'll show Episodes 1-3 of The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf

There are random prize drawings at each of these events.

A Workshop:

Write poetry with author April Halprin Wayland (If you want to perform at the Poetry Slam, you can come to this to polish your poems!)

Three activities:
  • READ and WIN! For every book, manga or graphic novel read, you receive a ticket that goes into a jar at the reference desk. Once a week for six weeks, we draw nine names (three at each branch) to win gift cards, movie tickets, See's Candy, and more!
  • Keep a Dream Journal. If you write down your dreams from June 18 to July 19, you will be invited to a Dream Interpretation Workshop to have a dream interpreted.
  • Trivia Challenge: Dark Fairies, Dark Futures, Night Skies. The trivia challenge is based on three booklists from the "goodie bag" you receive when you register, and there will be prizes for the five top performers.
And for high school students can write book reviews for our teen blog, YAthink?, and be entered into a drawing for a great prize! (The Book Review Guidelines and the suggestions for keeping a Dream Journal are both on the blog. The Trivia Challenge will be posted on June 18.)

Sign up NOW online, or at any library reference desk after June 12. (Teens are in grades 6-12. Those in grades 6-8 may sign up for either the children's or teen programs--or both!)

Monday, May 28, 2012

What We're Reading: Gone

Speaking of sequels...I just picked up the latest in the Gone saga, by Michael Grant. We read the first book in middle school book club in 2009, and I have faithfully read the next one...and the next...and the next, trying to hang in there just so I can say I stuck with the series to the end.

For those who haven't read it, here's the premise: One day, Sam Temple is sitting in class, and suddenly his teacher, who's writing on the chalkboard, just disappears. No puff of smoke, just there and then gone. When he investigates, he discovers that the only people left in the entire school building are kids--no adults at all. Then they all go out into the town of Perdido Beach, and discover chaos--cars that have crashed, houses on fire--because the adults who were driving or cooking or whatever also disappeared. The town, and the nuclear power plant down on the beach, are now enclosed in a giant dome, a kind of force field that lets no one out and no one in. And some of the kids inside the dome are developing weird mutant powers...

The latest book (#5) is called Fear, and it resolves some things while coming up with some brand new horrors. Some familiar characters get eliminated, some tyrants are taken down while others grow stronger, and the gaiaphage finds a new way to interact.

One thing that finally happens is that we get a glimpse outside the FAYZ at Connie Temple (mom of Sam) and some of the other parents who have sat in vigil, written to Congress, and wondered if this giant featureless gray dome will ever open up and give them back their children. (This isn't a spoiler, you find this out in Chapter One.)

I had high hopes when things seemed to be getting to a really desperate pitch, that this would be the finale, the last volume; but given the new twists revealed as the book ended, I'm sensing that Grant could either wrap it up in the next book or create a whole new story line that could carry us along for awhile. I see from interviews online that the next book is supposed to be the last one, and I'm hoping that's true; I'm really ready for this franchise to end. It's not that it's not gripping or entertaining; it is, in its own horrifying way. But...there's something to be said for a nice trilogy!