Saturday, December 22, 2012

Teen Review: Vampires before Twilight

Interview with the Vampire
by Anne Rice
352 pages
Horror / Fantasy
Book 1 of 10 from a series called The Vampire Chronicles
12th grade and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


A handsome yet quaint gentleman from Louisiana by the name of Louis talks to a reporter. The subject at hand: his first 200 years as a vampire. What follows is the fascinating and horrible tale of Louis's transformation at the hands of Lestat, a vampire who wanted an immortal companion. Though first terrified of his own power, Louis slowly comes to terms with his horrific nature, but not without resentment. As he tries to keep his monstrous secret, he comes across a poor little girl dying next to the corpse of her mother. Though at first he's against Lestat turning their company of two vampires to a party of three, Louis comes to love Claudia as a daughter. However, Louis and Claudia both get fed up with Lestat. As the interview goes on, Louis tells us of love, betrayal, murder, secrets, adventure, horror, self-hate, and self-acceptance.


I would first like to start by saying that Interview with the Vampire is not easy to read, and certainly requires a level of maturity, so I would only recommend it to experienced readers. Back to the book though, it is absolutely fascinating. The plots, subplots, and descriptive details of the setting are what sets this book apart from other vampire stories. I can't imagine a young adult not loving this book, because it has almost everything you could ask for. Interview with the Vampire is a classic and should be the staple for all emotional, story-driven vampire books. If someone were to ask me for a good vampire book, Anne Rice's masterpiece beats Twilight hands down, every single time.

My Rating: 5/5

Friday, December 21, 2012

Today is the deadline!!!

Were you thinking of applying to go, via our Sister City program, to Incheon, Korea? If so, TODAY is the deadline to apply! You need to turn in your application by 5:00 p.m. upstairs at the Central Library in Administration, so don't be late! Want to know more? Here is the previous blog post:

What we're reading: Historical fiction

A Brief History of Montmaray
by Michelle Cooper
296 pages
Historical fiction
First book in a series of three
Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by: Melissa

We were going to read this book for 10-12 Book Club in February, but we couldn't track down enough paperback copies, so we went with an alternate choice. Since I read it anyway in anticipation, I will review it here, and you can check it out of the library if you still want to read it but didn't get it for book club!

This book takes place on the fictional island of Montmaray, which is way out of sight of the European continent almost dead center between Great Britain and France, in the Bay of Biscay. This locale gave it a strategic advantage during World War I, when it was a meeting place for negotiations between powerful political allies, but by 1936, when the story opens, the "kingdom" has dwindled to a somewhat pathetic shadow of its former self. As Sophie FitzOsborne, the 16-year-old narrator notes, there are more "royals" on the island than there are subjects: Her crazy uncle, the king, whose mind was damaged in the Great War and who never leaves his room; his daughter, Veronica, bookish head of the household at age 17; Sophie, the niece, whose parents died when she was a child; and Sophie's younger sister, Henry (short for Henrietta), a quirky tomboy. The heir to the throne, Toby, is away at boarding school in England, and the cast is rounded out by the weird housekeeper, whose obsession with caring for the king leaves the girls to cope with the dank, leaking, slowly collapsing castle on their own; and her son, Simon, an aspiring diplomat (but actual office boy) about whom Sophie has a few romantic fantasies. There used to be a village on the island, but the population has dwindled to one loyal fisherman's family, who help with the cleaning and deal with supplying the island from passing ships, and that's it for the cast of characters.

The book is told from Sophie's viewpoint, in the form of a journal, so all the events are tinged with her perceptions and prejudices. For more than half of the book, the journal details and explains life on Montmaray (past and present), and I have to confess it's a little slow and gets bogged down in Sophie's rather self-absorbed musings. If you can hold out for about 140+ pages, though, things finally begin to get exciting: Two Nazi officers--one a scientist seeking the Holy Grail, the other an SS thug--land on the island and take over an empty cottage, and they soon come into conflict with the royal family, with disastrous results. After this it's one exciting, hair-raising adventure after another, until the breathless finale. There are two more books in the series, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and The FitzOsbornes at War, both of which are owned by Burbank Public Library, and both of which received good reviews from other readers (I haven't gone there yet).

This book reminded me so much of another book, although that one doesn't have either the royal aspect or the historical context:
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, which tells the story of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who similarly lives with her oddball family in ever-increasing poverty in a broken-down old castle in England in the 1930s. The book is also written in a journal format with Cassandra as narrator, but I found the writing to be much more clever, and although I did enjoy the historical aspects of Montmaray, Smith's I Capture the Castle is a wonderful, lively romantic story with a lot of wry humor thrown in. I don't know whether to say "if you liked that, then read this," because while I was reading Montmaray, I was thinking it was more than a bit derivative of Smith's book. I guess I'll say that if you like the historical aspect (and wish for sequels!), read the one, and if you like romance (and clever writing), read the other. (I'm a sucker for a good first line, which is: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.") There is also a movie of I Capture the Castle, and it's not bad, but the book is far superior.

Note: Dodie Smith is best known for writing the children's classic, The Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teen Review: Graphic Novel

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
192 pages

Graphic Novel – Action / Romantic Comedy
Vol. 1 of 6
9th grade and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


Scott Pilgrim is an average Canadian slacker fresh into his 20s. With hardly an idea what to do with his life should his band, “Sex Bob-omb,” fail to reach the heights for which he hopes, he begins to dream of a strangely beautiful girl with colorful hair. He eventually meets Ramona Flowers, the girl of his dreams (literally), in the flesh. As they build a relationship, Ramona talks about her life and important aspects of it, such as the recent break-up that led to her moving to Canada, and oh, the fact that she can travel through an alternate dimension. Scott falls head over heels for Ramona, but he is about to find out that dating her won't be easy. As supernatural forces come into play, Scott must fight strange battles to win the rights to his soulmate.


Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1 is just the start of an incredibly unusual series of graphic novels. The characters, such as Scott's gay roommate and Ramona's ex-boyfriend, are all so varied and different that it's a joy just getting to know them, let alone reading about their crazy involvement in Scott's story. The story is interesting, blending all types of genres into one, and the writing is fun to read and humorous, especially for today's teenagers. Besides that, the graphic illustrations are out of this world. With vivid colors that pop, Bryan Lee O'Malley has created a great-looking world. He's combined the look of comic books, retro video games, and other different aspects to build a strange environment, especially in the action scenes. In fact, if there's one word I'd use to describe Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life and the chapters that follow, it would definitely be unique!

My Rating: 5/5

Editor's note: The library owns all six volumes of this series, as well as the DVD of the movie based on the series.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Teen Review: Epic Fantasy from the beginning

The Hobbit
by J. R. R. Tolkien
320 pages
Prequel to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
10 and up
Reviewed by M. K., 12th grade


It all begins in the Hill, a beautiful, happy place inhabited by hobbits, small human-like creatures with big, furry feet whose personalities matched their peaceful environment. One such hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is visited by his friend, Gandalf the Grey. Upon the old wizard's arrival, Bilbo throws a party for him and his 13 dwarf companions, known as Thorin's Company (after their leader, Thorin Oakenshield). What starts as a harmless party suddenly changes when Gandalf and the dwarves reveal their true purpose: to journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim treasure being guarded by a dragon called Smaug. Though at first reluctant, Bilbo agrees to come with them for what will be the making of what I think is literature's most beloved adventure. In this coming-of-age story, Bilbo Baggins faces battles that will undoubtedly tear his innocence away, but none so fearsome as the battle with a certain magical ring...


Unlike its three famous successors (the Lord of the Rings trilogy), The Hobbit was written mostly as a children's novel, making the book far easier to read. Though this makes it sound inferior and simplistic, it's still a fantastic story with great themes. Some might even argue its childish nature actually adds an air of beauty, innocence, and magic to the story. Just reading it is an amazing adventure on its own. That's not to mention that Bilbo Baggins is a very interesting character--a cheerful, peaceful hobbit whose innocence is being taken as he is forced to change to survive. His adventurous, romantic, and clever nature make him an incredibly likeable character, especially when he uses all these traits to get himself out of certain situations. The Hobbit is one of my top five books, and is a must-read for anyone even slightly interested in fantasy. I hope that Peter Jackson's films do justice to Tolkien's classic.

My rating: 5/5

Editor's note: We are reading The Hobbit (in anticipation of the film!) in the 6+7 Book Club this month.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Teen Review: Revisiting old favorites

by J.K. Rowling
734 pages
Book 4 of 7
12 and up


As the summer comes to an end, Harry attends the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, but what starts out as a wonderful event ends in terror as Voldemort's followers publicly foreshadow the coming years. Harry makes his way back to Hogwarts to discover that his beloved school of witchcraft and wizardry is hosting an international tri-wizard tournament between Hogwarts and two other schools, one in France and one in Eastern Europe. Harry watches as the sixth- and seventh-year students of each school put their names into the Goblet of Fire with the hope of representing their school, and then is stunned as he is chosen, for the first time in the history of the tri-wizard tournament, as a fourth contestant.

Finally, with this book, teenagers can relate to the world's favorite young wizard. It's not easy making a fantasy novel to which young adults in today's world can really relate, but Rowling has pulled it off with The Goblet of Fire, arguably the bildungsroman of the Harry Potter series, as our hero faces not only his own growing maturity, but also experiences a terrifying event that causes his final loss of innocence and the return of his greatest nemesis.

My Rating: 5/5

by J.K. Rowling
759 pages
Book 7 of 7
13 and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


For the first time since the day his old friend Hagrid knocked down that door, Harry will not be attending Hogwarts. With Snape's betrayal, Dumbledore's absence, and the rise of Voldemort, Harry faces his greatest challenge. He's a marked man, all alone but for his loyal friends, Ron and Hermione. As the world of magic encounters its darkest and most horrible time, it is up to Harry to find the remaining horcruxes, learn about the secret life of Dumbledore, uncover the truth behind his own past, and stop Voldemort once and for all in the epic conclusion to the series.


As the final installment, Deathly Hallows is the traditional story of our hero fighting against all odds with limited help. His sacrifices, the sacrifices of his friends, and his bravery make this book stand out as the smartest and most mature of the series. And though some have argued that its ending was a bit far-fetched and poorly done, I liked Rowling's decisions, and think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a worthy conclusion to the story of the world's most beloved young wizard.

My Rating: 5/5