Saturday, June 22, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

More Summer Book Reviews: Fantasy

This year, teens are writing book reviews as part of their Teen Summer Reading experience. We will periodically publish a group of these short reviews here, so you can see what other teens in your neighborhood are reading! Here's another installment...

From Abby M:
The Alchemyst, The Magician, The Sorceress
by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst is the first book in this series. Sophie and Josh (15-year-old twins) unsuspectingly go to work at the bookstore one day and are thrown into a new and exciting world of magic and ancient gods. It changes forever how they look at the world. The Magician is the second book. It is really good, full of fun, adventure and magic. It has fast-paced action, as well as interesting characters. Sophie and Josh are unlikely heroes who must deal with a different world full of magic and monsters that should only belong in nightmares. The Sorceress is the third book. In the previous book, Sophie's magical powers were awakened. and now Josh finds his powers too, assisted by a powerful god named Mars, who has been a prisoner for hundreds of years. Sophie and Josh are being chased by Dr. Dee while trying to adapt to other new powers.

Editor's note: There are six books in this series, so Abby has three to go! (We have the first four as e-books too, if you have an e-reader!) Also, the subtitle is "The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel"--do you remember where you have heard that name before?

From Megan W.:
The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3).
by Rick Riordan
I've read this book many times, because it is so amazing. The Mark of Athena is about a quest: Six demigods--Annabeth, Percy, Leo, Piper, Jason, Hazel, Frank, and Coach Hedge go on this quest to find the one thing that will bring the Romans and the Greeks together. I loved this book, it is my favorite book of all time, and I'm waiting for the fourth book in the series!

Burbank Public Library has The Mark of Athena as an e-book too! Check out our Magic Wall for this and more teen e-books.

From Patrick C.:
by Amy Butler Greenfield

Wow...just wow! I DEVOURED this! This book was just stunning in every single way--lyrical, and absolutely absorbing! I am such a fan of historical fiction and all the suspense and action, and Chantress delivered in those parts. The writing kept me hanging at every chapter--either waiting for a Chantress spell or for what happens to Lucy or any of the characters! I was blown away by her details and descriptions. It was a book rich in details, from the magic to the streets of Victorian England, to a witty and fun main character! Now I'm so picking up more Victorian and steampunk books. I CANNOT wait for book #2! Read this one soon.

Editor's note: This book is on order...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dig those crazy zombies!

Here's a group photo of all those who became zombified by Cinema Makeup School artists yesterday at our Zombie Movie Day! Terrifying, aren't they?

What we're reading: Paranormal powers, parallel universes

The Shadow Society
by Marie Rutkoski
408 pages
Paranormal / urban fantasy
Stand-alone (although more books could follow?)
Grades 8 and up
Reviewed by Melissa

I saw this book on the New Books shelf and vaguely recognized the name of the author as someone whose book The Cabinet of Wonders had been recommended to me by another librarian. That series (The Kronos Chronicles) was perhaps written for a slightly younger audience, maybe 4th grade and up? so I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet (too busy with YA!). But the familiarity of the author's name decided me on reading this new book last weekend, and I'm glad I picked it up.

I hesitate to tell too much of the story, because it was such a pleasure to go into it with no knowledge. The jacket copy doesn't give away too much, but since the catalogue has a more revelatory description, I guess I'll go ahead (cautiously) with some of it:

Darcy Jones is an orphan. She was discovered outside a Chicago fire station at the age of five, and has been "in the system" since, fostered out to various homes her whole life. Her latest foster parent, Marsha, seems to be happy to keep her (unlike the previous places, where she had caused trouble, usually by accident, and been sent back to DCFS, which stands for Department of Child and Family Services, to be reassigned), and she has actually put down some roots, since she is starting her second year at the same high school. She has some great friends--Lily, Jims and Raphael--and overall her life is good. The only thing that haunts her is that she remembers nothing before that moment she was discovered--she doesn't know her real name, where she came from, who her parents were, and why she was lost or abandoned, and this creates a hollow place she'd love to fill.

Enter Conn. Conn is the new boy at school, and after initially giving her the snake-eye stare, he starts trying to get to know her. They are ultimately paired off to do a class project together, and...I know what you're thinking right now! You're thinking [Groan], another Twilight thing where he hates her / he loves her / she distrusts him / she loves him / she turns into a soppy, sappy mess because they can't be together. Nope! I thought so too, and I almost put down the book, but... Just as fireworks start to ensue between them, he whips out a pair of handcuffs and arrests her! and the plot takes a decided turn for different!

I don't want to tell too much more, because it's so fun to discover it for yourself, but paranormal powers (Darcy's), secret government bureaucracies (Conn's) and alternate universes (yep) are involved. I labeled it as urban fantasy instead of sci fi because it's really more about taking an actual place (Chicago) and thinking "what if things were different in this way and this way and this" so that it involves world-building but not from a completely made-up place. Kind of like Cassandra Clare's New York in City of Bones, but in this one it's not beneath the surface, it's in a different space.

I really liked Darcy--she's independent, somewhat fierce, and brave despite being frightened down to her core of a whole bunch of things she doesn't even understand. I liked the romance, I liked the setting, the friends are great, the plot moves in unexpected directions. I'd give this one 4.5 stars! And I loved the cover--it was perfect.

This was written as a stand-alone (I think), but Rutkoski could certainly write more about these characters and this setting--it's a rich world she has created, and I hope she explores it further for us.

Marie says Adele's song "Hometown Glory" is the anthem for this book--have a listen!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Also this week...scratch the surface!

Since our summer reading theme this year is "Beneath the Surface," we kept looking for program stuff with a surface and a beneath to them, so we came up with a Scratch Craft afternoon! This Friday, June 21, at 3:30 at the Central Library, we will be making scratch masks, scratch bookmarks, scratch postcards, and scratch picture frames.

Black surface + stylus + creativity = colorful result!

Sign up by calling 818 238-5589, or email Space is limited, and this craft is for 6th through 12th graders only!

Warm Bodies, Cool Makeup!

Our next big event for Teen Summer Reading is ZOMBIE MOVIE DAY!

TODAY, June 19, we are showing the movie WARM BODIES at 3:30. But if you come at 2:00, Cinema Makeup School artists will be here to give you the fashionable zombie look with special effects makeup! So come to the Buena Vista Library at 2:00 for zombie makeup and at 3:30 for the movie!

And remember--if you are signed up for Teen Summer Reading, you qualify to be in our PRIZE DRAWING at the program! NOT signed up? Click on "Register for Teen Summer Reading" at the top of the column to your right!

See you there...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Attention Teen Book Reviewers!

Since this has come up with a few of you, PLEASE TAKE NOTE: The "regular" book review guidelines (above) are for the extensive reviews you do for service hour credit; but the SUMMER book review guidelines are what you want to follow over the summer as you enter your reviews in the Teen Summer Reading Program interface! Just a few lines about the book and a few lines saying what you thought of it--nothing lengthy needed, unless you want to go on longer, which, of COURSE, you are welcome to do! Hope this relieves some minds...

Teen Review: Gatsby!

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
192 pages
Realistic fiction
Not part of a series
High school and adult reading level
Reviewed by
Denisa W., 11th grade

S U M M A R Y :

Nick Carraway, the narrator and excellent observer of this book set in the 1920s, is neighbors with Jay Gatsby, a wealthy though relatively young man who lives in a mansion by himself. Gatsby is known for his notorious and lavish parties, which he throws every weekend in an attempt to catch the attention of his former teenage love, the beautiful but married Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby is a dreamer and optimist who causes trouble for himself due to his belief that the past can be repeated. The story evokes themes of love, power, social struggles, and the careless extravagance that characterized the Jazz Age.

R E V I E W :

The story was exciting to read and hard to put down. With a plot line that was already interesting itself, the beautiful writing and imagery that went along with it was what made the book one of my favorites. I really liked how the story was told by Nick, an observer, instead of by Gatsby himself, because it leaves a sense of mystery for the readers as to who Gatsby really is. Nick is generally unbiased as well, which creates a slightly tainted version of the third person narrator.

The classic Gatsby cover, with eyes and the brightly lit-up cityscape, was intriguing for me and made me more inclined to read the book and, in turn, watch the movie. Almost everyone tends to agree that books generally turn out better than the movies, and the case is the same for The Great Gatsby. Although I have seen the movie and really enjoyed it as well, reading the book (especially before seeing the film) definitely adds to the experience.

Overall, I would give this book a 4.5 rating out of 5 because although I can imagine a better book in general, I could not imagine a better written one for the purpose that Fitzgerald intended. Having some knowledge about the author and the intent of the book, I agree with many critics that The Great Gatsby is definitely one of the best books that characterizes the “Roaring Twenties” through vivid imagery and integration of Fitzgerald’s personal life experiences that make the story seem so alive. I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone who is up to it, as I feel that it should be at the top of everyone’s "bucket list."

Editor's note: Did you know that Fitzgerald's original title for this book was Trimalchio in West Egg? Wonder how well it would have done under that name?

In addition to the Baz Luhrmann movie now out in theaters, there are also a few other versions, including the one starring a young Robert Redford, Bruce Dern and Mia Farrow from 1974, and the A&E TV version from 2000 starring Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd and Mira Sorvino.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Book Reviews Part 1

This year, teens are writing book reviews as part of their Teen Summer Reading experience. We will periodically publish a group of these short reviews here, so you can see what other teens in your neighborhood are reading!

From Anis, some nonfiction:

Foods of Italy, by Barbara Sheen
This book talks about the foods that are made and eaten in Italy. I would have to say my favorite food in the book would be lasagna. I also like that it gives recipes for pastries. I would recommend this book to people at school.

From Patrick C.:

Wake was one book I had to pick up since I loved Amanda Hocking's Trylle series! Wake was definitely way better--a fresh, exciting, and enticing take on mermaids and sirens in YA! I was completely hooked by Wake and was enthralled by the world Amanda Hocking created! 

Gemma and Harper both live in a beachesque neighborhood filled with the docks, the ocean, and the water. The dual perspective with Gemma and Harper worked wonders for the book. I loved seeing how each sister had her own personality. There also happen to be three new girls in town: Penn, Lexi, and Thea. The characters had life to them and a spunk that I loved.

I honestly thought the mermaid/siren part of Wake was going to be off-the-charts cliche, but thankfully it wasn't! Also, it wasn't mermaids but focused on mythology and sirens, which was like a total insta-like! The story the girls told Gemma was really intriguing! The action towards the end was really cool too. 

Wake also had a few things I didn't like: It was too character driven, and the concept needed work. The good thing was that it wasn't romance driven! YES YES YES! Overall, I loved Wake and I'm already reading Lullaby right now! Pick it up if you want a new start to a promising series.

[Editor's note: This book is on order.]

From Laney R.:

The Adrian Mole Diaries,
by Sue Townsend
The Adrian Mole Diaries is a collection of journal entries by a thirteen-year-old undiscovered intellectual named Adrian Mole. The journals are basically day-by-day reports on the events occurring in Adrian's life, most of which are about his dog, his mother and father's relationship issues, his lover, Pandora, and his views on the world and life. I really enjoyed this book because of the humor, but it was a bit hard to relate to because it was written from the viewpoint of a thirteen-year-old English guy in the '80s. But overall, the book was amazing and I highly recommend it to others.

From Caleb V.:

Midnight for Charlie Bone,
by Jenny Nimmo
Ten-year-old Charlie Bone gets the surprise of his life when he finds out that he can hear people in photographs and that he has to go off to Bloor's Academy, a school for children who have certain talents. Once there, he finds that he is not alone--there are others like him. He will have to help uncover the mysterious past of one of them. This book is a good read that is full of magic and mystery.

From Jessie Y.:

The book Out Of My Mind is a novel written by Sharon M. Draper. It is about a girl named Melody who has cerebral palsy, which affects the body, not her mind. Melody's lack of cooperation with herself can drive her crazy, hence the term, out of my mind. She is extremely intelligent, and no one knows it. She receives a talking machine that talks for her. When her classmates win a contest that sends them to D.C., they leave Melody behind and lose. This book is one of my favorite books and I highly recommend this.

Remember, for each book review you write, you will be entered in one of our bi-weekly prize drawings. Only the people who write a review in each two-week period are entered in that drawing, so it's good odds, and the prizes are nice!

This last book is my pick for favorite cover of the week!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Teen Review: Classic Mystery

Murder on the
Orient Express
by Agatha Christie
256 pages
Mystery/crime fiction
Part of a series, but each can be read as a stand-alone
Grades 7-12
Reviewed by Viva, 12th grade

Are you traveling far and needing a suspenseful thriller to cozy up to in the car...or train? Maybe you're even staying close to home and need an escape from the calm, summery weather all around. Well, if a mysterious murder on a European train that's trapped in the middle of a convenient snowdrift will entice your crime-solving mind, then this Agatha Christie novel is the right summer book for you.

This book is just one of Christie's many Detective Hercule Poirot crime novels, and takes place on an old train, the Orient Express. After Monsieur Poirot, the book's protagonist, spends a day in "Stamboul" (Istanbul), he learns he must cut his visit short and head back to London. Poirot books the only first-class compartment left on the Orient Express, which is unusually crowded for that time of year. Before the train's arrival, Poirot takes interest in a peculiar man he sees at his hotel. Poirot is particularly given the creeps by this man because of the evil look in his eyes. Poirot is surprised on the first night on board the train when the same man, introducing himself as Mr. Ratchett, desperately begs Poirot to protect him (Ratchett recognizes Poirot as a famous detective). The man offers Poirot money to investigate several letters sent to him, which threaten to end his life. Poirot refuses bluntly with an “I do not like your face, M. Ratchett.” Very humorous, this Poirot!

The seemingly ordinary journey soon becomes the most shocking murderous ride as private detective Hercule Poirot must unexpectedly use his detective skills to solve a crime when Mr. Ratchett is found dead in his compartment the next morning. With twelve violent stab wounds and a train-load of suspects and witnesses, Poirot must solve the crime while the storm outside delays their journey. Amongst both eager and whining passengers who each think they heard or saw something, Poirot and the train's company director, Monsieur Bouc, must begin sorting the facts from the claims as the fast and twisted investigation is launched into finding out who each passenger is and what they are doing on the train. With nothing else to do and a dead body on board, Poirot and Bouc fall into the complex puzzle of solving the mystery, as each night more information is discovered, passengers reveal secrets, and related evidence turns up in random passengers' luggage, including Monsieur Poirot's...leading the men to believe that the murderer is still on board...and in fact playing a cruel mind game with the detective and his helpers.

So, Poirot...he's French, and on board the train they speak lots of French as a second language. So yeah, some things are common sense as Christie includes random French words or phrases after someone says something, but even the basics are surpassed in the dialogue--and there's some useful information not translated by Christie. I suggest having Google Translate by your side if vous ne prenez pas le français? Other than the neglected translations, the character of Poirot is methodical and quirky--and likable! The rest of the train's occupants are difficult to read, so thank you, Poirot for explaining all your findings and realizations. Those readers who are overwhelmed by the twists and turns of the investigation are represented by Poirot's friend, Monsieur Bouc. He asks a lot of unnecessary and repetitive questions, so Poirot basically constructs and completes the investigation on his own. M. Bouc, you are not helpful! But he is there to clear things up and acts as the sort of sidekick to Poirot's wonderful and deep-thinking mind. The book is intense...but I must admit I kind of saw it coming once I was halfway. However, this books earns itself a rating as a classic for several reasons, and one is that it is a fantastic page-turner--not too slow, and not too much “thinking.” It's rapid suspense and thrill and a must-read for any mystery lover!

Editor's note: As you can see, this book has been around long enough to have been published multiple times, with lots of fun covers (and there are more). This was also made into a truly classic movie, so don't miss that either--it's a chance to see performances from some big Hollywood stars when they were young and less well known. Take a look...

And if you're curious, here's a little two-minute history of the Orient Express: