Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Teen review: Vintage Stephen King

The Stand
by Stephen King
823 pages
Mature audience

Reviewed by Jonathan L., grade 12

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, The Stand hosts an array of amazing and unforgettable characters: Stuart Redman, Abigail Freemantle, Trashcan Man, Nick Andros, Tom Cullen, Randall Flagg (just to name a few). These and many more traverse the length of America after a super flu called Captain Trips decimates 99 percent of humanity. Two sides emerge after the aftermath of the virus. On one side, there is Abigail Freemantle, the oldest woman alive who can still make her own bread. She believes and is strengthened by the hand of God. On the other side, residing in the city of sin itself, Vegas, is Randall Flagg, the apotheosis of evil. An epic battle between these two erupts, but the real question is: who will stand?


The Stand is by far the greatest post-apocalyptic epic I have ever read. Its amazing characters each has his or her own fleshed-out back story. The beginning is long, and many people may have a hard time keeping up with who is who, but in the end, The Stand is an amazing literary rollercoaster. The chemistry between each and every character is so well done that it doesn’t feel over-bloated in any way. The Stand receives a 5 from me based on all these reasons. The story itself may be simple (good versus evil), but in The Stand, it’s all about character. I recommend this to anyone who actually has the patience to read a book whose uncut version is over a thousand pages long. Keep in mind, though, that it is mainly for mature audiences, due to the graphic content it contains.

Editor's note: Obviously this one has come out in many editions--more than those pictured here! I always find it interesting to see how artwork concepts change over the years, with the publishers trying to decide what will appeal to the reader this year (or decade).

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Library schedule

This week, all branches of Burbank Public Library will CLOSE EARLY at 5 p.m. on WEDNESDAY, December 31, for New Year's Eve.

All library branches will be CLOSED on THURSDAY, January 1, for New Year's Day.

The libraries will be open regular hours at all branches on Friday and Saturday.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Teen review: Fantasy

The Last Apprentice:
Fury of the Seventh Son
by Joseph Delaney
462 pages
Fantasy / Thriller
Series (this one is Book #13)
Reading Level: Middle School - High School (frequent violence)

Reviewed by S.C., grade 9

The book takes place around the 1400s, although that's never clarified so I'm basing this on contextual clues. The main character is Thomas Ward, who is a Spook, a man who fights the things that go bump in the night (otherwise known as witches, boggarts, demons and evil gods).

In this installment of the Last Apprentice series, Tom is still apprenticed to his master Gregory, and they face the daunting task of completing a ritual that will kill permanently the most evil of all the demons, a beast commonly called the Fiend. To do this, Tom needs four things: three swords made by the old god Hephaestus, and to sacrifice his closest friend Alice. The only problem is, Tom is in love with Alice! Tom becomes determined to find an alternative, and in doing so finds out that Alice has turned against him and is now trying to bring the Fiend back to life because--according to what she learned while adventuring into another world called the Dark--there is another evil god rising called Talkus, a god who will only be born after the Fiend dies, Alice believes that protecting the Fiend will be the lesser of two evils. Will Tom be able to destroy the Fiend without killing Alice? I guess you'll just have to find out.

If a scale of 1-5 is what would I have to use I would pick a 4.3. I loved how descriptive the book was, and how it was consistent with all of the lore about witches and such. Tom was an amazingly thought-up character who was kind and so sympathetic to everyone he met and was such a good human being.

I suggest this book for anyone; but first read the first book of the series, which is The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch.

Editor's note: I hope I picked the right cover--S.C. only specifies that it's "Book 13." I believe this is that book.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Teen review: Sci Fi / Paranormal / Dystopian?

Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi, is a wonderful young adult sci fi novel that takes place in the distant future. It makes an excellent introduction into the series. Juliette is a teenage girl with a very lethal, “gift”: Her touch can kill. Her story begins in an insane asylum. She has lived there for most of her life, and has never met another person her age since she was first admitted to the asylum. This changes the day they put Adam in her cell. Adam is terrifying. Adam is a BOY.

After a while she begins to trust Adam, and they begin planning an escape together. But they can’t leave before she meets Warren. Warren is a military commander, about the same age as both she and Adam. Warren is highly interested in Juliette’s ability. She may be the exact weapon he needs in the fight against their rebelling society. Juliette has to decide if she wants to be a weapon, and receive freedom, or a warrior, and possibly receive death.

On a scale of 1-5, I would give this book a 5. I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and the writing style. Tahereh Mafi has a way of writing that is almost like poetry. In just 340 pages, I managed to really connect with the characters and care for them so deeply that the very next day I went out and bought the rest of the trilogy. I also found the characters very interesting, with intricate backgrounds and experiences that really shape who they are as people. It was very easy to sympathize and empathize with the characters, they just seemed so real.

One thing that I didn’t really like, however, was the way Juliette was portrayed at the beginning of the book. She is introduced as a poor, weak girl that needs Adam’s help to save herself. Thankfully, later on she becomes stronger and more self sufficient, and doesn’t need anyone else to take care of her.

Another thing that I wasn’t happy with was the cover. Thank goodness the publishers changed it! The paperback versions of the first 2 books and the hardcover version of the last book all have beautiful, intricate pictures of eyes on the cover. Sadly, the hardcover version of this book has a picture of a girl in a white dress that does not accurately represent the book.

I would say the reading level is somewhere around 8th-11th grade and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys impressive and powerful character development, poetic writing, and fighting against oppressive governments.

Reviewed by Isabella C., grade 9

Friday, December 26, 2014

Teen review: Dystopian

The book Uglies was written by Scott Westerfeld and contains 432 pages. It is a dystopian book describing the roller coaster life of a young teen named Tally Youngblood, who is part of a new society in the future. Tally Youngblood is like any other teen in her city waiting till she finally turns 16. Why is turning 16 so important? It’s not because you finally get to drive, since cars no longer exist. It’s because she will finally be a Pretty. On her sixteenth birthday she will be taken to the hospital to be put "under the knife.” She wants to be pretty so badly, especially since her best friend Peris is already a Pretty living the glamorous life in Prettytown, partying all night. During Tally’s time awaiting her birthday she makes an unexpected friend named Shay, who surprisingly shares the same birthday with her. During their time spent together before their birthdays, they do what they enjoy: hoverboarding and playing pranks.

One thing they don’t have in common, however, is becoming a Pretty. While Tally is eager, Shay is completely against it. She doesn’t like the mindset of the society she lives in. Tally doesn’t see Shay’s point of view. Shay tries to convince Tally to come to the Smoke, a rumored town where the whole Ugly/Pretty system does not exist, with her , but Tally declines. Shay leaves anyway and Tally continues on to become a Pretty, her dream. Instead of Tally becoming a Pretty, though, she is taken away to be questioned about Shay’s disappearance. From here Tally Youngblood’s life takes an interesting twist and doesn’t go back, her life changes forever. Read the book to find out why her world tips upside down. Two more books called Pretties and Specials finish off this exhilarating series, but the roller coaster doesn’t stop there: A fourth book called Extras adds, well, a little extra to the series.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and suggest it to middle and high schoolers. I personally read it as a ninth grader. This book accurately portrays the insecurities of teenagers and the message it was trying to get across--“you are perfect the way you are”--which may sound like a cheesy one, but is really extremely important. I loved how the character Tally is very relateable; her internal battles and questioning are ones that everyone experiences even if the situation may be different. Both Tally’s heroics and her imperfections make her human and real. I would say this book has similar ideas to the Divergent series and The Hunger Games, both of which I have read and enjoyed as well.

This book is around a 4, better than most, but not one of those books that I couldn’t go anywhere without. It was still a really enjoyable novel and Scott Westerfeld is an inspiring writer.

Reviewed by Marlena S., grade 9

Editor's note: Did you know there are also now graphic novel spin-offs of this series, starting with Uglies: Shay's Story? Pretty cool...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Teen review: Thriller

Girl Missing, which was previously published as Peggy Sue Got Murdered, is written by Tess Gerritsen. It is a fiction book in the thriller genre. It contains 352 pages and is not part of a series. This book definitely contains some adult themes and I suggest the reading level should be high school and above, since it is more mature.

In this thrilling thriller, Kat Novak, the main character who works as a medical examiner in the morgue, receives a body one day, a Jane Doe with only one phone number in a contact book in her pocket to identify her. When the man whose number was in the phone book comes in, he acts strangely, causing Kat to become suspicious. From there Kat’s curiosity gets the best of her and she has to examine further. When it becomes apparent that this was not a normal death, she takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of it even if it is a dangerous job.

Through this exciting story you read about real life dangers, exploding houses, illegal activities, and much more. Of course, how could you forget the love interest? one that develops through crazy and potentially dangerous exploits and awkward family visits. What will happen to Kat, and what really happened to the girl? Read it to find out!

This book is a pretty quick read and it was one that was hard to put down. It is a well-written thriller about a murder that leads in an unexpected direction. I personally love mysteries, and this one kept my attention--there was never a moment when I was bored. It actually has more layers to it than just the typical murder mystery. Kat’s life isn’t as simple as it seems, and her story is an interesting one. I also really adore anything romantic, and Girl Missing has, woven within the main plot, a sweet, complicated, and touching love story to add to all the drama of a murder case. I would definitely rate this a 5, "hard to imagine a better book," because not only did it keep my attention, but it had a balance between the murder, family problems, and love story. I would personally read it again.

Reviewed by Marlena S., grade 9

Editor's note: BPL owns this as an E-book. Didn't know you could check free e-books out of the library? Yep.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Twelve Holiday Stories

If you're looking for a book to make your holiday brighter, check out My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins. It has stories from all your favorite YA writers, and there are copies at each branch on the YA New Books shelves. Here's a rundown of the entire content, from a fellow blogger, "So Obsessed With"--she's already done the work for me of discussing what this book has to offer!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Library Schedule

This week, all branches of Burbank Public Library will CLOSE EARLY at 5 p.m. on WEDNESDAY, December 24, for Christmas Eve.

All library branches will be CLOSED on THURSDAY, December 25, for the Christmas holiday.

The libraries will be open regular hours at all branches on Friday and Saturday after Christmas.

Have a lovely holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Teen review: Sci Fi / Action

by DJ MacHale
407 pages
Science Fiction
Book 1 of the Sylo Trilogy
Reading Level: Middle School

Reviewed by J. C., grade 9

Pemberwick Island, Maine is a small yet peaceful place...until one night Arbortown High's star quarterback Marty Wiggins suddenly drops dead with no apparent cause. Within a few days, a United States military group called SYLO drops in and blocks off the entire island from the rest of the world. The group is headed by Captain Granger, who informs the residents of the island that there is a deadly virus on the island responsible for Wiggins’s death, that must be stopped before it spreads. Tucker Pierce, who witnessed Wiggins’s death, notices many other suspicious things going on around town, including an aircraft explosion and a traveling salesman selling substances that can make you superhuman. Tucker soon finds out there is more to SYLO than they’re letting on, and with the help of his friends tries to find the truth of what’s really happening.

If I were to rate SYLO from 1-5, I’d give it a solid 3. DJ MacHale can still craft engaging story lines. However that’s the only thing keeping this book afloat. None of the characters are really memorable and most are two-dimensional stereotypes that are only there to try to get you invested in the story. I felt like I was being told everything through text instead of through action and events in the plot. The pacing was all over the place, and the foreshadowing and character development felt obvious and forced. Every element of this book felt like it was being used to advance the plot, giving me no time to really care about the characters and their barely existent motivations. And the story is amazing. It’s interesting and I want to see where it goes. But the finer details of the story just hold this book back.

I would recommend it to middle schoolers looking for a fun and simple story to pass the time. But anyone looking for complex characters or writing that challenges their view of the world is looking for something else.

Editor's note: I am with J.C. on this. Here is my review, which I wrote a while back but never published until now.

I read the first three of D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series, of which Merchant of Death is the first, and while they were a little too "talky" for my taste, I completely understood why MacHale has so many tween and teen fans. The adventures are imaginative and individual, Bobby is plausible, everything pretty much works. I recommend them constantly to a certain age and type of reader. I didn't love them enough to read the whole series, though, because ultimately I found Bobby's internal monologue and constant self-reflection a little tedious.

When I heard that MacHale was writing a sci fi series, I was excited on behalf of all his young fans. So I am sorry to say that I didn't care as much for this book.

It started strong (I love books about small, enclosed cultures on islands!)...but then ensued an entire novel of running around in circles. Lots of action scenes, very few explanations, and the clues weren't enough to lead me anywhere. I became impatient with the main characters' constant speculation about what was happening, because at a certain point anyone could see where things were probably heading, but no one said so, leading me to believe that they were either in on it, or they were the most oblivious people on the island. I felt like there were a lot of manufactured crises, and after they escaped the fifth or sixth one only to fall prey to the next, I just got tired.

I imagine that some of D.J.'s fans will love this series--judging from other reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere, many people liked it a lot more than I did. And I will refer you to a previous review on this blog by teen reviewer Allen, who did in fact love it. So I will buy the rest of the series for the library…but I doubt I'll be reading it myself.

If anyone has read Storm and/or Strike and can tell us how those turned out, we'd like to hear from you!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Teen review: Mythology and adventure

The Blood of Olympus is written by Rick Riordan and is the fifth addition to "The Heroes of Olympus" series. It contains 516 pages including the glossary. The Blood of Olympus is based on fantasy and mythology and is part of the second fictional series that revolves not only around the demigod hero Percy Jackson from Rick Riordan’s first series, "Percy Jackson and the Olympians," but includes new and heroic demigods all with a hard past and an even harder future on their quest to save the world.

I recommend this book for 7th through 9th graders, but of course if you want to read this thoroughly captivating book then go for it. Its romance, friendships, and pure heroic characters appeal to all ages.

The seven demigods, half god and half human, of the prophecy (with the help of trustworthy friends) have to do the impossible and save the entire world from complete destruction. As you follow these courageous characters throughout their journey to destroy Gaea, the evil earth goddess who wants to annihilate the twelve Olympians, you will watch as lasting friendships ensue and seemingly insurmountable feats are accomplished. There is sword fighting, ingenious plans, shape shifting and much more. The pure hearts of these demigods will make everlasting impressions on you. Of course in a war there are casualties, but in a war with divine powers… who will make it out alive? What will happen to beloved characters in the final book and battle? Percy, Annabeth, Leo, Hazel, Frank, Piper, and Jason have been through so much. How much more will they have to endure?

I am in ninth grade and have read all the books preceding this one and loved every bit of them. This series, including this book, is a must-read especially if you appreciate a truly inspiring story. I do not like to have to leave a character after just one book so I really enjoy series, but sometimes they can drag on. This series never once did anything to remotely bore me. Not only do I recommend reading this series, but the one before this one too. This book is definitely and without question a five, hard to imagine a better book. This book will forever be in my heart and I hope it will for you too. Rick Riordan is a genius.

Reviewed by Marlena, grade 9

Editor's note: If I were Rick Riordan, this is the kind of review that would make my day!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Teen review: Realistic fiction

In the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, the story is narrated by a typical teen named Clay Jensen and his friend and ex co-worker, Hannah Baker. There’s just one small twist… Hannah killed herself last month. However, before doing so she recorded 13 stories on seven cassette tapes as to why she decided to take her life. For reasons unknown to Clay, he receives a package in the mail containing these tapes. As the story goes on, we see that each story pertains to a person who somehow affected Hannah in her short life.

This 158-page realistic fiction novel is not part of a series yet it is a book that is worth the short read. Due to the book's subject matter and sensitive topic, I would recommend that only high school age people or older read the book, as it may be slightly disturbing. Also, the book is told from two shifting points of view so it may be hard to follow for some. I highly recommend this book to anyone willing to read it.

Reviewed by Mallorey W., grade 9

Editor's note: BPL has copies of this book available at all three libraries. We also offer it as an audio book at the Central Library. While we agree that the subject matter of this book is difficult, most reviewers recommend it for ages 13 up. We read it in our middle school book club a few years ago.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Teen review: Sci Fi / Romance

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian young adult, sci-fi, action, romance novel (the first in the series) has been sadly underrated. It hasn’t yet grabbed the attention that it so deserves. Do not be thrown by the cover; contrary to popular belief, it is not all about a starry-eyed girl who needs to be saved by the mysterious and alluring boy/alien next door.

Moving to West Virginia was definitely a big change for Katy (or Kittycat), who had spent all of her 17 years in Florida. Of course, a change is exactly what her mom needed after her father passed away from cancer.

After moving in, she quickly comes to the conclusion that her neighbor, Daemon, is a jerk (but she says it in a rude way), and his sister Dee is just adorable! Dee soon becomes her best friend, and this results in a lot of time being spent with Daemon. Gradually, Daemon and Katy start hanging out together alone, and Katy notices some very strange things happening. One night, when she has a fight with Daemon and accidentally runs into the road, the truth is revealed: Daemon is an alien!

Katy handles this shocking revelation surprisingly well, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much. The main reason that she handles the news with ease is because she knows that she will do anything to protect her friends. She genuinely cares for both Dee and Daemon (even though she stubbornly denies her feelings for him), and wouldn’t want either of them to get hurt.

In just 335 pages, Jennifer L Armentrout manages to make you laugh, fall in love, and cry in terror (or at least she did that to me). This book is great for anyone who loves aliens, action, angst and hot boys. The characters are all very relateable. I’m not exaggerating when I say Katy was me. She was the awkward teenage girl who was obsessed with books and was always trying to do the best thing for her friends. Dee was the lovable best friend who is sweeter than can be. Daemon is the hot boy next door who insists on being shirtless 90% of the time; he’s rude at first, even cruel, but he feels terrible for making Katy feel hurt. He wants to protect her from his terrible and dangerous alien life. The book is marked as a young adult novel, but I would recommend it to 8th or 9th graders and up. There is some mature language, in addition to a minor scene in which another high school student oversteps his boundaries. Overall, I would give this book 4 stars out of 5, only because it took at least 100 pages for there to be any alien action whatsoever.

Reviewed by I.M.C., grade 9

Editor's note: For some reason, we own the sequel (Onyx) but not this first book in the series, so I'll take care of that at once, for all others who are intrigued by this review!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teen review: Realistic fiction

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, is an angsty 224 pages following the twisted life of Charlie through a series of letters. This realistic novel is an amazing coming of age story. The main character, Charlie, is starting his life off at a new high school where he meets some unlikely friends. However, Charlie’s mental issues from his scarring childhood leave him troubled and unable to communicate his feelings. Throughout the book, his friends show him how it is to love and be loved, and the importance that friendships hold.

Although this novel is not a part of a series, I feel as if every teen should read it. From middle school up this book would be a great read. Also, the movie version of the book was created in 2012 with Logan Lerman as Charlie. The book is better, in my opinion, but the movie is one of my favorites as well.

Reviewed by Mallorey W., grade 9

Editor's note: I would differ with Mallorey in her age rating--I think this book is more for 9th grade up. However, everyone reads at their own level, to be individually determined! And Mallorey, we liked the book and movie too!  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Teen review: Science fiction

Ender’s Game
by Orson Scott Card
368 pages
Science fiction
For ages 12-18

Reviewed by J.C., grade 9

This classic book is about Ender Wiggin, a gifted child with a mind for strategy. He is sent from his home to the Battle School, where other kids like him are trained in simulations to fight off a future alien invasion. Ender proves to be not only a talented, cunning tactical master, but humanity’s best chance for survival. But it is soon revealed that what Battle School wants Ender to become may not be best for humanity after all.

It’s been more than 30 years since this book’s release, and the powerful story and messages it tells are still far from irrelevant. The characters’ motivations and feelings are clearly defined and shown. You relate to and feel for all of them. Card’s writing is brilliant, making complicated ideas and feelings easy to understand without losing the feelings it’s supposed to invoke. And the beauty of the book is it could be read as a thrilling action adventure book, or as a more philosophical take on human nature.

If I were to rate this book, I’d give it a 5/5. The characters, story, idea, and pacing were all phenomenal. There wasn’t a boring moment in this book, and the ending is not only surprising, but it really gets you thinking.

Editor's note: We love Ender's Game too. And don't forget that there are many sequels! Go back to Isaac's review to see the order in which you might want to read them...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Teen review: Fantasy and Dragons

Slathbog’s Gold
by M.L. Forman
406 Pages
Part of a series
Reading level: Late Elementary School – Middle School

Reviewed by S. C., grade 9

Alex never really thought anything more of his life other than living with his stepdad and working in their restaurant, until he saw a “help wanted” poster hanging in the window of a small, dusty bookshop. The strange part was that instead of saying "help," the sign said “Adventurers Wanted.” Alex decided to walk into the store and inquire as to the meaning of the sign. After the events inside, Alex gets thrown into a crazy wild adventure and gets introduced to a whole new world full of dragons, trolls, and other (more experienced) adventurers! Before Alex meets the leader of his company, Bregnest, he is sent to load up on adventure gear where some blacksmith uses a magic book to decide what type of weapon to use and the book says sword, axe or…staff…which is a wizard's weapon so that’s crazy! Or is it..? Alex meets everyone going on the adventure and they discuss the end goal: killing the great dragon Slathbog, claiming his horde of gold, and saving the kingdom!

I would give this book a 4.1 out of 5. This book is so enchanting to me, and it has a cool unique story line that captures your interest only a few pages in! Alex is truly a good human being and struggles with coming to grips with this ancient magical world at first, but soon becomes at home with all of the other adventurers.

Slathbog’s Gold is part of an amazing series called Adventurers Wanted; I highly suggest starting here and exploring this wonderful world full of lore and adventure on your own!

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library doesn't own this series, but I am mentioning it to the person who would do the ordering.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Teen reviews!

You may have noticed that we teen librarians at Burbank Public Library offer service hour credit for book reviews--one hour for one review. The reviews have to be written to our guidelines, which are under the tab at the top that says "book review guidelines" (duh). This aspect of the teen blog has gotten off to a slow start--during the past couple of years we have received a few here and there--but this year it apparently became more widespread knowledge that we offer this, because we now have about 30 teen reviews lined up for publication! (Service hours are due at our local schools this week or next.)

The reasons we are drawing this to your attention are:
1. You will be seeing a lot more teen reviews than usual during the next few weeks;
2. We are so pleased with the results!

The teen reviews we have received have been both thoughtful and thorough, and we are happy to see that they have taken this exercise seriously and done it justice instead of just doing the minimum necessary. We are proud to publish them, and for those reviewers we haven't yet spoken to in person, we'd just like to say that we would welcome your reviews any time, and not just for service credit. So if any of you enjoyed this experience, please keep reviewing for us!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December Book Club Report

Last Tuesday night’s 10-12 Book Club discussed I Am the Weapon, by Allen Zadoff, a book about a boy assassin. Although we try not to differentiate in book club between “boys’ books” and “girls’ books,” and cheerfully (well, usually) read them all, this one definitely fell out along gender lines—all the guys liked it a lot better than the girls did, thought it was a better story, didn’t mind the inconsistencies, etc. The comments were varied, and the rating ended up being a hotly contested 7 from our 18 attendees. Next month we are reading Winger by the inimitable Andrew Smith, and the month after that is Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, a favorite of mine and Anarda’s.

There were 18 in attendance at this Tuesday night’s 6+7 Book Club to discuss House of Secrets, by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini. Some liked that the book jumped straight into action, while others would have enjoyed more character development and scene-setting. All were agreed that the book was weird but fun, although some liked it better than others, and our final rating was 7. Next month we will read The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin, and for February it will be Cinder, by Marissa Meyer.

Other books we considered (in no particular order):

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, by James Patterson
So B. It, by Sarah Weeks
Wildwood, by Colin Meloy
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Magyk, by Angie Sage
Beholding Bee, by Kimberly Newton Fusco
13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison
Radiance, by Alyson Noël

On Wednesday night we had a small group of eight at the 8+9 Book Club, due to some holiday choir performances at school. We discussed Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan, which received a rating of 7.85, and moved on to a group of other books in that same subgenre of paranormal romance. Next month we will read its polar opposite when we assay Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry (zombies), and then it’s a return to romance (though not of the paranormal variety) with February’s choice, Getting Over Garrett Delaney, by Abby McDonald.

Other books we considered (in no particular order):

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black
Ship Breakers, by Paolo Bacigalupi
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
The Rules for Disappearing, by Ashley Elston
A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass

Those who missed book club, you can pick up your copy of the book at either library. Those who missed book club without telling us, remember: It is part of your contract with Book Club that if that happens twice in a row or three times over all during the year, you are out of book club and someone from the waiting list moves into your spot--so get on your email or your phone and let us know ahead of time! (Preferably before 5 p.m. the day of book club!)

Teen review: Autobiography

American Sniper
by Chris Kyle
379 pages
Nonfiction: Autobiography
Reading Level: High School-College
(because of strong language and constant violence)

Reviewed by S. C., grade 9

This interesting autobiography by Chris Kyle leads us through the turbulent life of the man who is considered to be the most lethal sniper in history. Chris leads us through all of the trials and deep inner issues and motivation for becoming a Navy SEAL, which in Chris's case is not actually that exciting. Chris is from Texas and is living as a farmhand on a large ranch, a genuine cowboy, when he starts to look for his next challenge and walks into the mall where the military has its recruitment centers. He was interested in the Marines Corps but when he went by they were out to lunch, so on his walk back to his car the Navy recruiter caught his attention and they got into a long discussion about the Navy and specifically the SEALs. After hearing amazing stories, Chris signed up right away, only to find that the SEAL pre-training program wouldn't accept him due to pins in his wrist from a rodeo accident. Time goes by, and Chris forgets all about it until he receives a call from the Navy telling him how they want him and will ignore the surgical equipment in his hand.
This is the start of an American military legend.

On a scale of 1-5 I give it a 4, simply because to me learning about the Navy SEAL training program and just his life in general was the most enticing thing. Chris is an extremely humble human being capable of amazing things.

This book is a must-read for anyone who has found him- or herself interested in the military, special operations, or specifically the Navy SEALs.

Editor's note: BPL owns this book at the Central and Buena Vista branches, and you can find it at 956.70443 KYLE in the nonfiction section. You can also check it out as an e-book!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Teen review: Action/adventure

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
162 pages
Book One of a series
Intended audience: Elementary grades

Reviewed by Jonathan L., grade 12

The Bad Beginning begins by introducing the three main Baudelaire heroes of the series: Violet , a girl who can pretty much invent whatever she wants; Sunny, a baby of few words; and Klaus, your average know-it-all. After receiving the bad news that their parents are dead, the three siblings are sent to an unknown relative by the name of Count Olaf, thus spurring the countless efforts of Count Olaf to attain the children’s vast fortune that was passed on to them after their parents’ death.

This book (and the continuing stories that follow it) is as depressing as any children’s novel can be. Not only are our heroes subjected to living with a complete stranger, but they also have to live with a complete stranger who wants their money! The title pretty much says what this book is: a bad beginning to a deeply depressing series, and the title of the series doesn’t make it any better. I don’t know why I read this book, or why I even continued with the series. But something drew me to the series: mystery. I wanted to know how this series would end. I wanted to know if their unfortunate events would continue or if it would ever end (which it did, and the title of the eighth book completely ruins the entire novel). Each character (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) has a decent background to them, but the series doesn’t rely too heavily on the past. And the series itself was so repetitive, it almost seemed predictable. Basically, in every story after The Bad Beginning we have our main antagonist disguising himself in order to get back at our heroes, yet every time he’s foiled and has to run away…again. The final book’s cover ruined all the mystery as the reader can identify what obviously looks like Count Olaf lying dead right in front of the Baudelaire children. So, out of five, this book deserves a three. The series itself is a two, and I honestly cannot recommend this depressing series to anyone. So, don’t read it, and if you have read it, just be glad it’s finally over and we can all say “The End.”

Editor's note: We don't usually publish negative reviews, but given the familiarity of many of our readers with this series, and given Jonathan's rather humorous explication, we made an exception. Jonathan, you do realize that Lemony Snicket is coming for you...right?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Teen review: Literary fiction

The Cider House Rules is an enchanting book by John Irving, perfect for any high school student. It is a realistic fiction story following the life of Homer Wells, an orphan from St. Cloud's, Maine. The book begins in an orphanage by a hospital. As Homer's father figure, Doctor Wilbur Larch, performs abortions in secrecy, waiting for Homer to take over, Homer goes on an adventure to find himself, wherein he travels to an orchard. He meets new friends and is haunted by old ones. It is a journey that takes you (and him) home.

If the first sentence didn't imply enough, this book is spectacular. Don't be fooled by its tiny size, it took me two weeks to read. I loved the hauntingly human characters, with their perfect facades concealing terribly realistic flaws. I loved the jokes throughout, as well as the tone the author uses (it's serious, and yet hilarious).

The book is adult in its themes and length, so while I'd definitely recommend this, it's not for people younger than 14. I'd give it a 4.8 out of 5.

Reviewed by Louie Zekowski, grade 8

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What we're reading: Jandy Nelson!

I love this author. She has written two books, and I want her to have written a dozen or 30, just so I can keep reading her.

The emotions are profound without being trite. The story is fresh even though you think you've heard it all before. The relationships are incandescent. The language is poetic, but not high-flown--it's visceral, colorful, precise. The humor is infectious, the love is first-time, the heartbreak is, well, heartbreaking.

To try to describe the books is to take all the color and life out of them, so it's hard to write something that will make people want to read them, but here goes:

The Sky Is Everywhere is about a 17-year-old girl named Lennie, who has spent her life mostly contentedly in the shadow of her beloved older sister, Bailey. But then Bailey unexpectedly dies, and Lennie is left grieving, along with her grandmother and uncle, and Bailey's boyfriend Toby. She meets Joe, the new guy at school, who catapults her into Wuthering Heights-style love...but she's also having a confusing new interaction with Toby, who seems to be the only one with her in her grief about Bailey.

Yes, it's a love triangle. Yes, I agree, I hate those. But I didn't hate this one. Yes, it's a book about losing someone to death. Yes, those can be overdramatic and schmaltzy, I know. But not this one.

Book blurbs on the cover say "for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block." While I am a big fan of all of those writers, and while I can see why someone might make that leap, I feel like Jandy Nelson is out there by herself. You could equally as well say, If you liked The Fault In Our Stars, because of the tragic death/love story, you'd like this; or, If you liked the French boyfriend in Anna and the French Kiss, then read The Sky Is Everywhere. While I think both of those statements are probably true, I feel like it takes away from this book to try to pigeonhole it.

So let me just say, Read this book!

(And then read her other book, I'll Give You the Sun. See review below.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What we're reading: Supernatural comedy/drama

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, as well as some of our book club members, will remember how much I adored Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride, and its sequel, Necromancing the Stone, because I touted them here and on the main library blog.

This weekend, with great anticipation, I picked up her new book, Firebug. I wasn't disappointed...but I do have to say that this one was a little slow getting off the ground. I don't know what it was--her Necromancer books are equally complex, and also present a multitude of characters, but that story seemed to jump off the page from the first chapter, while in this one the first quarter of the book seemed like a lot of character description and scene-setting--in short, an info-dump. Which might be offputting for someone who wasn't already a fan and determined to hang in there...

It did, eventually, pick up, and turned into a good story. I was relieved to see (on the Fierce Reads website) that it's "the first book of a new series," not only because I liked the characters, but also because I feel like now that I have invested all the time to find out who they are, it would be a pity if there wasn't more payoff!

This is in some aspects a reprise of the Necromancer world-building--there are supernatural beings hiding in plain sight among all the regular folk, there are "councils" set up to rule them, there is a power-mad vampire refusing to get with the program and instead running her region like a Hollywood mobster...but I liked Ava the firebug and her gang, especially Ezra the foxy fox and Lock the intense half-dryad, and there's nothing wrong with going further into that world when it's such a varied and enjoyable one.

There were some great twists and turns, McBride's still clever with the puns and smart remarks, and I think others will join me in looking forward to what she comes up with in the next book in the series.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Teen review: Romance

The Darlings in Love
by Melissa Kantor
311 pages
Teen romance
The first book is The Darlings Are Forever,
but I don't think it has to be read first.
Reading level: Grades 6-12

Reviewed by Kayla, grade 10

Three best friends are happy and in love. Victoria, Natalya, and Jane, better known as "The Darlings," as they were nicknamed by Jane's Nana, have known each other for a long time. They all have men they are pursuing. Victoria has long-time boyfriend, Jack, who seems very in love with her--keyword being "seems."  Natalya has Colin, the boy she blew off a year ago in order to be friends with his super-popular sister, but she's falling for him yet again, which could be a problem. Jane, who seems to be unlucky in love, has found Simon, the most perfect boyfriend ever, but he seems to be sending mixed signals. Things seem too good to be true...are they?

This book started out pretty slow, to be honest, but then it picked up speed. I really liked the characters and felt like I was a part of their group, having all of these problems along with them. I liked how they stuck with each other through thick and thin. Even though Jane's grandmother isn't really present during this story, she also made the story come together, and I wished that she was a real person so that I could meet her.

I would give this book a rating of 4.

Monday, December 1, 2014


We'd love to post an end-of-year LIST of your FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2014!

Email title and author to

If you'd like, you can write a couple of words saying WHY. Not a full-on review, more of a three- to five-word commentary, like this:
                  "It was funny!"
          "I love the love!"
     "Cool characters and plot!"

Nothing too strenuous (although if you WANT to write a review, you know we'd love to have that too). Give us your book love!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Teen review: Realism and romance

Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell
328 pages
Realism / romance
Stand-alone book
Reading Level: High School (mature subject matter)

The year is 1986, the school year has just begun, and both Eleanor and Park couldn’t be more stressed. Near the bottom of the social ladder, Park tries very hard to remain unseen and unheard. Eleanor, upon arriving on the first day of school, is immediately put on the chopping block and thrown to rock bottom. With her flashy clothes and insane, red, very curly hair, the kids in their high school find no limit of things they could tease her for. In the beginning, Park and Eleanor are wary of each other. Forced to sit next to one another on the bus, they form a strong friendship. Soon after, they realize the depth of their feelings for one another. However, when other people in their lives find out about their relationship, they become plagued with insults and rejection. But at least they have each other, right?

On a scale of 1-5 I would give this book a 4. I loved how relateable it was. I found the characters easy to connect and sympathize with. There are a multitude of allusions and references to other books and fantastic music and movies, which made the characters even more lovable! What I love most about this book is that, unlike other YA romance novels, the characters are not consumed by the relationship. Even whilst dating, they both have things that make them people rather than just defining their entire lives by the relationship. The only reason it’s not a 5 is because I feel that the writing style could be improved.

I feel like this book would be fantastic for someone who is lovesick, and a hardcore romantic. It would also be great for geeks anywhere due to the allusions. But, this book does contain some mature subject matter, and if you cannot handle reading about domestic abuse then please do not read this book.

Editor's note: Here is another review of this popular book...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What we're reading: Magical realism

At the beginning of I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, 13-year-old twins Jude and Noah are two halves of a whole. Noah is introspective, and relates to the world through his drawings, both real and imagined, but he is starting to have a sense of who he is in the world, including his fascination with the boy next door. Jude is outgoing and expressive, confident and popular, and looks out for Noah when he is targeted by bullies.
Three years later, at 16, they almost seem to have swapped places: Noah has inexplicably quit making art and is busy being--or at least looking like--a "regular guy," while Jude seems fragile and broken; and far from finishing each other's sentences, they now hardly speak to one another. What happened? and what will it take for them to realize that neither of them knows the whole story?

I loved this book so, so SO much. I think it is my new YA favorite for 2014. The characters in it relate to the world through art, and find the art in everything, which is always a plus for me; but the way in which they do this is so quirky and endearing, it made me immediately like and understand the characters and want to know them. The elements of magical realism (visitations from dead relatives for Jude, and inanimate objects that come to life through Noah's artistic vision) definitely give the book something extra.
The relationships between brother and sister, parents and children, and love interests are all complex and filled with joy and pain, but told in such a fresh, smart, different way. This isn't a typical "teen angst" story--the adults have a place on the page too, and this enriches the story without taking it over. The depth of the misunderstandings and betrayals, and the breathless anticipation to see whether any or all of them will be resolved carries you through the time switches (the book spans about three years' time but jumps back and forth between ages 13 and 16, and between narrators Jude and Noah). It was such a good story that I'm dying to sit down and read it again, just to renew the experience. I never read Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere, but NOW I will!
I usually hate it when publishers compare one writer or work to another in the cover blurbs, because usually it's just jumping on the coattails of a more popular book, hoping to benefit; but I truly believe that readers who loved Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, or Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, would also adore this book. Let me know if you agree.
5 out of 5 from me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teen review: Magical

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
512 pages
Fantasy, stand-alone
Reading level: high school and up

Reviewed by: IMC, grade 9

The Circus is an impressive sight. Nothing announces its appearance. One night there is nothing but a barren field, the next there are soaring black and white tents with an iron gate enclosing everything. The Circus opens at Sunset, and closes at Dawn. It is unlike any other Circus the world can offer. But, it’s the story behind the curtain that holds the real magic.

Since they were six years old, Celia and Marco have been bound to one another. They were chosen to partake in a duel; a duel of magic. Not the silly parlor tricks that clowns do for fun--real magic. But when they begin to fall in love, everything holding the Circus together falls out of place. The lives of not only themselves, but everyone around them whom they hold dear to their hearts is at risk.

On a scale of 1-5, I give this book a 5 and would rate it higher if I could. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. The writing style is very poetic, with long, detailed descriptions so that you really feel like you’re in the story. I liked the different points of views from the different characters because Ms. Morgenstern wrote the book in a way where each point of view would tie together in the end.

The suspense is one of the best things about this book. It’s not the type of suspense in a horror book/movie, but there is suspense for the duel and a general, “What’s going to happen?!” sense throughout the entire book.

I felt like the characters were relateable, they were practically lovesick teenagers despite their age. The book invoked a sense of wistfulness and it truly did feel magical. All books are precious, but every time I cracked open the pages to continue reading I couldn’t help feeling that there was true magic woven into the pages somehow. I would recommend this book to any teenager (or adult) who wants to read about love and magic in a sense that is not childish, but mature and intriguing.

Editor's note: For some other thoughts about this book (and some links to more great circus reads), read previous reviews here and here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

This week at the library... pretty quiet! The library is open regular hours on Monday and Tuesday, but closes at 6 p.m. at all locations on Wednesday.

The library is closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Anarda and I wish you a warm and happy holiday!

We reopen on Saturday the 29th, regular hours.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Teen Review: Fantasy

Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush fantasy novel (the first book in the series) took the world by storm. It made the New York Times bestseller’s list, and sold thousands upon thousands of copies. However, when reading this book, many people found elements they liked and disliked about it. Since it is 391 pages long, this was bound to happen, but today, I will share my opinion on this story with you.

We first are introduced to Nora Grey, a seemingly normal high school girl with an iron deficiency. But, as fate would have it, she soon meets Patch, the obnoxious, mysterious, and unfortunately, attractive new student. Unable to escape confronting him, she is soon taken on a journey in which she learns more than she would like to about Patch’s, and her own frightening past.

I was unsure of how I felt about this novel when I first started it, but I was unable to put it down. (I will give you that, Becca, you do know how to force me to continue.) But when I came closer to the end, there were a few things that stuck out to me. The first thing is rather negative: I found the story incredibly predictable. As a book worm, I often complain of plot twists, but I have grown to love the suspense and shock of a turning point. This novel had nothing that I was astounded to learn. In fact, it seemed that I knew more than Nora herself. You could argue that it’s supposed to be that way, that it makes the story better, but I grew bored quickly.

The second thing I will bring to your attention is distractions. As I kept reading, I continued to become more and more frustrated as events took place. The fact of the matter is, I did not find all the events and characters in this tale as important as they were made out to be. Since there were characters being introduced in groups at a time, I didn't get all the information I wanted on their back story, or why they were part of the story. I found the character development growing weaker as the story progressed. (It moved swiftly and how I like it towards the middle of the book, but didn’t keep up the pace during the entire novel.)

The last thing to discuss is the main character, Nora Grey. I did love that her “disability” (her iron deficiency) was fully broadcasted and not looked down on. But, while I thought that she had many admirable qualities, I also noticed that she was rather dull and uninteresting. She also appeared ignorant as to what went on around her, and her ignorance led to many unpleasant events. Aside from that, though, I didn’t see much willpower in her. You could disagree, of course, but as I am a female high school student like Nora, I would have liked to see a strong and independent woman. She was swayed from her opinions easily, and I had hoped that she would have been a bit more confident.

Overall, I would rate this story a 3/5 stars. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it and I know many people will love this book. I recommend this as a middle grade series, but it does cover a few topics for more mature ages, so I believe grades 7-10 would enjoy the story the most. The premise of this story was intriguing, and if you love fantasy stories and aren't a fan of surprises, I recommend this novel to you.

Reviewed by L. K., grade 9

Editor's note: We own this book and its three sequels (Crescendo, Silence, and Finale). Since I haven't read this book, I will defer to L. K.'s review; the only thing I would add is, Wow, what a great cover!

Friday, November 21, 2014


After hours, under the stars...
Join us for the '80s classic


Bring a chair or blanket, a sweater, a snack! We will supply the coffee and hot chocolate. Trivia contest, prizes, a good time! It is INCONCEIVABLE that you would miss it!

Buena Vista Branch (outdoors in the park), starting at 6:30 sharp!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Club Report

There were 17 in attendance at November's 6+7 Book Club to discuss Uglies, the first book in the early dystopian series by Scott Westerfeld, and it was a lively and protracted discussion! We ranged across plot, characters, metaphors, our own standards of beauty, possible other ways the story could have gone (we have a couple of fan fiction writers in this group), and every time we thought we were done, Mohammed or Mei Li had another question, George or Ava had another comment. The rating for the book was 8.25, the highest so far this year.

Next month we are reading House of Secrets, by Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus, and for January we picked The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin.

Other books we considered (in no particular order):

     A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck
     The Edge of Nowhere, by Elizabeth George
               (or did you mean the one by John E. Smelcer?)
     The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester
     The Giver, by Lois Lowry
     The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot
     The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
     13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison
     Searching for David's Heart, by Cherie Bennett
     Circle of Secrets, by Kimberley Griffiths Little
     Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, by James Patterson
     Blood On My Hands, by Todd Strasser

Eleven of us in the 8+9 Book Club gave a high rating of 8.75 to the teen thriller The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It’s about a group of kids with skills—not superpowers, just extraordinary abilities that are attractive to the FBI. Two are profilers, one is a human lie detector, one can calculate the odds of anything, and one can read and gauge human emotions—who better to put together as a team to solve cold cases? Problem is, they don’t stay cold…

We had a lively discussion, and everyone is in the library looking for the sequel (or begging to borrow Melissa's ARC). Next month we are reading Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan, and the choice for January is Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Mabery.

Other books we considered (again, in no particular order):

Switched, by Amanda Hocking
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
Six Months Later, by Natalie Richards
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken
Splintered, by A. G. Howard

The 6+7 Book Club next meets on December 9, and the 8+9 Book Club on December 10.

Teen review: Fantasy/Sci Fi

The Supernaturalist is a 267-page science fiction book by Eoin Colfer, the author of the critically acclaimed Artemis Fowl series. This book is about an abused orphan growing up in the corrupt Clarissa Frayne Institute for the Parentally Challenged, where he and a thousand other boys are put to work testing dangerous chemical products, because...who else will? However, the boy--Cosmo--knows he has to escape the institution before he’s seriously injured or worse. He sits, waiting patiently for the perfect moment, and it comes. After his incredibly narrow escape, he is taken in by the Supernaturalists, a group of teens dedicated to eliminating supernatural forces on Earth. Cosmo must learn to work with the group to save all of mankind. However, he will later find out the truth of his work, and who the real enemy is.

This book was great to read. Between the brilliant moments of action and wit, The Supernaturalist never fails to surprise. The plot is filled with twists and turns that keeps the story new and fresh at every moment. It always seems as if every time the Supernaturalists take a step forward, they are pushed two steps back. They’re not only faced with supernatural problems, either. They’re faced with sappy day-to-day challenges that teens in our world have, about love, family, and friendship. The Supernaturalist is a deliciously made chocolate cake, and Eoin Colfer had the perfect recipe.

This book deserves a 4 out of 5. Eoin Colfer is a great author, and he’s certainly deserving of this rating. There’s never a dull moment in this book, and to me, that’s all a book needs to be a great one. I would recommend this book to all future-setting lovers, especially those who adore dystopia. The reading level starts from about 13 years old, but to be fair, it’s not exactly a hard book to read. The Supernaturalist is not part of a series, and I think I’d like it to stay that way. It has a great ending, and it works very well as a stand-alone book.

Reviewed by Isaac Kim, grade 9

Editor's note: There is also a graphic novel version!