Saturday, October 19, 2013

Some Spooky Reads for Hallowe'en

From the Teen New Books shelf:

I just picked up the first book in a new series by the author of the Bartimaeus books, Jonathan Stroud. We read the first in that series (The Amulet of Samarkand) in middle school book club a few years back, and I enjoyed the snarky humor in that one enough to venture into his new universe.

This one has a somewhat similar vibe, in that it is set in London, it focuses on the paranormal, and its protagonists are kids who are pursuing their own agenda despite the adult disapproval surrounding them. But this one takes place 50 years after the onset of "The Problem," which is that ghosts are walking. Well, they're not just walking, they are actively interfering with the living, and all the rules have had to change because of it. No one goes out after dark, the industries that produce iron, salt, and silver are booming (because these materials are antithetical to ghosts), and a whole new business model has arisen--the Psychic Detection Agency, designed to discover the Source of each troublesome haunt and eradicate it. The catch is that only children and teens are sufficiently psychically attuned to sense the specters, so the adults have retreated to the safe indoors while the kids are out on the streets with rapiers, salt bombs, Greek fire, and iron filings, searching out and destroying the Visitors, as they are called.

The first book, Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, is narrated by Lucy Carlyle, a talented young girl able to hear the voices of the Visitors. Lucy leaves her country home for London after a disastrous run-in with an unexpectedly strong paranormal presence. After a few unsuccessful interviews, she lands at Lockwood & Co., an agency run by the charismatic young Anthony Lockwood and his colleague, grumpy and frowsty George Cubbins. There are no adult "minders" at this agency, and both Lockwood and Lucy are a bit impulsive (George is the cautious researcher, but alas, they fail to listen to him), so things go wrong in pretty short order and they find themselves in debt, in trouble with DEPRAC (Department of Psychic Research and Control) and in danger of going out of business. Fortunately (or is it?), they are given a chance to redeem themselves by taking on the "clearing" of a notoriously evil mansion...

One small thing bugged me about this book: Although it is subtitled "The Screaming Staircase," there is no mention of what this is until page 223! An awful lot has happened by then, and it seems like a more relevant title could have been found (perhaps something connected, instead, to the murder mystery that takes up the first half of the book), although it is central to the big resolution of the plot. But this is an insignificant caveat, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and that it should not be restricted to the middle school audience at which the reviewers are aiming it--I think persons of any age would enjoy it. I personally can't wait for the next in the series! (Also, it's pretty scary.)

And other scary reads...

If you want your Halloween stories truly gruesome, you can check out my review of The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. If you like it (shudder), there are several sequels. I have never encountered a more harrowing book! And speaking of harrowing...

For high schoolers, try Alexandra Sokoloff's The Harrowing:

Robin Stone, a student at Baird College, is staying at 100-year-old Mendenhall (her dormitory) over the Thanksgiving break. At first she thinks she's the only one in the building, but slowly four others, each of whom has decided for his or her own reasons to remain at school for the long weekend, reveal themselves. Soon, a raging storm takes out the electricity, and the five decide to play (by candlelight) with a charred Ouija board one of them found on the premises. Is it ever a good idea to play with a Ouija board? Especially when you're alone in a vast old building in the middle of a storm? And is one of the five playing a joke on the others, or is there really a ghost speaking through it?

Some other titles and series for middle and high schoolers...

The Bad Girls Don't Die books, by Katie Alender
Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake
The Morpheus Road books, by D. J. MacHale
The Dead of Winter, by Chris Priestly

...and of course all the many, many, MANY series and standalones about vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other denizens of the night, which I don't have either the time or the space to list here individually, but which you can find by:
  1. Going to our catalog (, click on "I want to...find a book")
  2. Clicking on "POWER SEARCH"
  3. Typing "horror" in the "WORDS OR PHRASE" slot
  5. And hitting "SEARCH."
You will find almost 200 titles!
Or, you can (on the main search page) click on "HAVE YOU READ?" over at the right, then click on TEEN BOOKLISTS and choose "Supernatural Titles for Teens."

Happy Hallowe'en!

Don't miss our post-Hallowe'en program, "WHO WAS DRACULA?" at Buena Vista branch on November 13 at 7:00 p.m. Explore the Dracula legend (and learn new answers you've never heard before) with Jim Steinmeyer, author of Who Was Dracula? Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood. Perhaps your English teachers will give you extra credit....whoooooo-hooooooo!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10-12 Book Club Report

We had a lively discussion about Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass (and yes, about many other topics too!) at 10-12 Book Club Tuesday night. Fourteen of us offered our opinions, and the consensus seemed to be that while we liked the protagonist, we would have liked a little more action and a little less bragging; that we felt the abrupt changes of direction regarding her love life were a bit distracting and that the mix of assassin with Cinderella was somewhat incongruous; and that some of us were disappointed with the conclusion but liked the book enough to read the sequel. We rated the book 7.25 out of 10.

Next month's book (for discussion on November 5) is Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. Here is a summary from our catalog:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Here is a list of the books we considered for December:

Obernewtyn, by Isobelle Carmody (post-apocalyptic paranormal agrarian society with mindreaders)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin (paranormal romance with amnesia and unexplained deaths)
Because I Said So, by Ken Jennings (nonfiction fun facts)
Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne (disasters weathered by hiding in a superstore)
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan (global conspiracy, code-breaking, romance in a bookstore)
Break My Heart 1,000 Times, by Daniel Waters (ghosts and murder)

Although there was some interest in all of these titles, the winner for December is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, an Alex award-winner. (The Alex awards are given to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. It's an award given by the American Library Association.)