Friday, March 21, 2014

March Book Club Report

Fifteen members of the 10-12 Book Club gave a rating of 8.4 to I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. We had a lively discussion about the end--some thought it was the perfect denouement, while others thought it took the reader right out of the story and was "cheesy." Regardless, everyone enjoyed the language, the characters, and the writing style.

For April, we will be reading Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley; our meeting is on April 1, and Corey will be at BPL for an author visit on April 9! His new book, Noggin, releases on April 8, so we are his first stop--even before the L.A. Times Festival of Books! We're excited! In May, we will read Unwind, by Neal Shusterman.

8+9 Book Club was a little smaller than usual (12--what happened?), but no less energetic. Most people liked our book selection--The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater--and it ended up with a 7.5 rating. Several are reading the sequel.

Our book for next month is the Area 51 sci fi thriller Adaptation, by Malinda Lo, and we voted to read Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins, for May.

Other books we considered:
My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
, by Mark Haddon
Rumblefish, by S. E. Hinton
Ten, by Gretchen McNeil
Starters, by Lissa Price

6+7 Book Club was well attended (14) and enthusiastic about the book! We read Bad Girls Don’t Die, a horror novel by Katie Alender featuring possession and a creepy doll, and it received a rating of 8.5. Two members have already gone on to check out the sequel, From Bad to Cursed.

Next month we are reading the fairy tale fantasy Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, and for our last book club meeting of the year in May, we will read Across the Universe, the first volume of a space odyssey by Beth Revis.

Other books we considered:
The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi
Pendragon: The Merchant of Death, by D. J. MacHale
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld

All of you book club members who didn't attend our meeting be sure to pick up your book from the Circulation desk at either library. And here is your ASSIGNMENT for next month: Be thinking about what you want to do over the summer! Do you want to read a single book or a series? Do you want to have one summertime meet-up amongst all the book clubs? Be ready to tell us in April so we can make some PLANS!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What we're reading: Book club books

The book for 6+7 Book Club this month was Bad Girls Don't Die, by Katie Alender, a horror story. I liked it well enough to write a review of it; the club liked it well enough to give it an 8.5 rating out of 10.

Alexis is 15, and she lives in a creepy old Victorian house with her parents (who are rarely home) and her little sister, Kasey, who's 12. She's an outsider at school, not fitting well into any clique, so she doesn't have close friends, and spends her spare time on her photography. She has a potential boyfriend, but when things start going badly at home, she makes a choice to keep him out of it by discouraging his interest. She has an arch-nemesis, Megan Wiley, the leader of the cheerleader pack. Sounds like a normal life in high school, right? But...her sister has been acting weird lately. She spends way too much time with her doll collection, and she's started talking about a new friend, whom no one ever meets...or do they? Then bad things start to happen...

This was just the right amount of horror for me. Creepy, a few gasps here and there, but not overwhelming. I liked Alexis, with her attitude and her independence. Kasey was a satisfyingly whiny but endearing little sister when she was herself, and when she wasn''ll find out. I liked the love interest, Carter, and how he wasn't who Alexis thought he was, and ditto Megan the Cheerleader. Alexis's house was a character all by itself, and a good one--I want to see it, but I do NOT want to live in it!

The cover really has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and yet it works, because it's sufficiently disturbing to make you want to pick up the book--and you do want to pick this up and read it! I think I will continue on to the sequel, From Bad to Cursed, and the third book, As Dead As It Gets. Although...I might save them for Hallowe'en week!

I tried my hand at some fan art--I wanted to paint the creepy doll with the glowing green eyes--but I didn't quite pull it off. Dolls are hard! They are made to look like humans, so you want to paint them realistically but you want them to look like a doll looking like a human, which means the hair has to look like hair but also like a wig, the skin needs to look smooth like porcelain or plastic, not like skin...and in the process, the creepy aspect escaped me--she looks a little blank. Maybe I'll give this another try sometime.

Note: If you love dolls, you may not want to read this--it could ruin them for you forever!

Monday, March 17, 2014

What we're reading: Continuation of a series

Some of the book club members read The Circle of Magic books (Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Briar's Book, and Daja's Book) by Tamora Pierce one year over the summer. Battle Magic returns us to that world of Emelan and Winding Circle created in her two quartets and two single sequels: The Circle of Magic quartet, The Circle Opens quartet, The Will of the Empress, and Melting Stones (the last two sometimes included under the series name The Circle Reforged).

It's nice to be back in this world, with the added advantage that Briar and Rosethorn, accompanied by apprentice Evvumeimei (Evvy), have gone out to see the other side of the world, which gives them a wider stage. This book is a prequel, of sorts, to the last two books, since the action takes place between the second quartet (specifically the book about Briar and Evvy, called Street Magic) and The Will of the Empress, in which it is noted that all of the members of the quartet have been traveling with their mentor mages and are now reunited.

After staying with the youthful God-King in Gyongxe, the three from Winding Circle take a detour on their way home, to visit the Yanjing emperor's palace, presumably so Rosethorn (and Briar) can experience its fabled gardens. (Evvy likes gardens too, but only for the rocks, and no rock would dare sully the perfection of the emperor's garden!) There they are treated to the spectacle of horrors visited on all and sundry who dare to displease His Imperial Majesty Weishu in the slightest of ways, and learn to their dismay that he has plans to invade and conquer Gyongxe, center of the world's religions. Rosethorn feels bound by her vows to Living Circle to return there to warn the God-King, Briar and Evvy aren't about to let her go by herself, and things get sticky for all of them and their new friends and allies as the emperor seeks revenge.

I enjoyed this…but not as much as I did some of the other books in this series. Honestly, there was too much preparation for fighting, fighting, and recovering from fighting to keep the story fresh and on track for me. I did enjoy the whimsical notes Pierce introduced with the creation of various mythical beings who interact with the humans in the story, but we really didn't learn much of anything new about ambient magic, and there was a little too much gloating that "regular" mages just didn't "get it," without explanations of how their magic differed.

I do like the concept of ambient magic--that magic is intrinsically rooted in water, air, earth and fire rather than being something foreign that is created out of nowhere by humans--it makes sense to me that magic is "called out" from some source. I never have figured out how magic is just conjured out of nothing in many fantasy world views! And the descriptions in the book, particularly those given in explanation of Evvumeimei's gifts, were enjoyable. But it would be nice to have a better understanding of both sides of magic, how they differ, and how they could work together instead of oppose or show one another up.

Please note: If you haven't read any of the other books, you would be truly and completely lost and baffled--this is definitely a sequel, not a stand-alone. But if you liked the other books, definitely try this one. My rating: 3.5.