Saturday, April 5, 2014

Teen Review: The Hobbit

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, is a fantasy novel that is 310 pages long. It is the prelude to the Lord of the Rings series. I would recommend this book to people of all ages, although ideally for kids/teens. The book is about a group of 14 people--12 dwarves, a hobbit, and a wizard--who set out on a journey to take the dwarves' former home back from a dragon named Smaug. The dwarves’ kin used to live in the Lonely Mountain, mining an immensely large amount of gold and jewels. But the jewels attracted the dragon, who flew to the mountain and drove all the dwarves out. Twelve of the remaining dwarves have recruited a Hobbit to accompany them on their journey to act as a burglar.

The book must have been very well planned and thought out, because there are many different species and places in the world of Middle-earth. The book takes place in an entirely different, big world that is only partially explored in this book. The plot is also very interesting, including mini adventures within the one big over all adventure. The reader will always be entertained, because there is always action, whether it is battling orcs or trekking through an enchanted forest.

The writing style, though, is not very child friendly at times. Sometimes the author lacks fluency and randomly mentions things that have nothing to do with the plot. For example, in the middle of Gandalf (the wizard) trying to persuade Bilbo to go on the journey, there is a random paragraph that mentions Bilbo’s heritage. Another problem with Tolkien's writing is that there are rather large time jumps. It will take the author a chapter to describe the events of one day, and then he will gloss over the events of the next week in one paragraph with almost no description. This can get pretty annoying after a while.

Other than these minor complaints, I found The Hobbit  to be a mesmerizing book that never stops entertaining the reader. The setting is completely original, creating a world full of surprises. People still try to understand the secrets of Middle-earth. I rate this book 4/5 due to minor technical difficulties. Read this book and you will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by DS, Grade 8

Editor's note: If you like this book, you might want to explore other books about it at the library. For instance, The Art of the Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, features all the illustrations that Tolkien made for the book. The Complete Tolkien Companion, by J. E. A. Tyler, explores its lands, legends, histories, languages, and people. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, by Robert Foster, is the A-to-Z guide to Tolkien's universe. And, of course, there's always the movie.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

What we're reading: Science fiction

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab
328 pages
YA, Science fiction, paranormal, mystery
9th grade up

In the Archive, the dead rest in pull-out drawers like those you would find in a morgue, but the ambiance is more like an elegant library--wood and stone, dim lights, stained glass, no loud noises; and the bodies are catalogued on the front of their drawers with their names and dates. Once dead, people are called "Histories," and the purpose of their preservation is that their entire lives can be seen in pictures that only Librarians, the custodians of the Archive, can read.

But occasionally, the "Histories" wake up, and when they do, they are confused, often violent, and determined to get out of the Archive. Keepers are the guardians of the Archive, returning these Histories to their peaceful sleep.

Mackenzie Bishop's grandfather was a Keeper, and she is his legacy successor. She has to keep the job a secret from her family and friends, so her life is one long lie or evasion to find the time to patrol the Narrows (the hallways between the Archive and "Out"), sending Histories back to the Archive.

Since her grandfather and her little brother died, though, Mac has started to wonder about the dividing line between the dead and the living. In the Archive, supposedly the dead are not to be disturbed, but some suspicious circumstances lead Mackenzie to the conclusion that someone in the Archive is deliberately altering or erasing Histories. The clues lead to both danger and revelation for her and her allies.

The Archived has such an intriguing premise, and the book is well written, too. The thing that interested me the most, though, is how different in style and voice it was from Schwab's adult book, Vicious, which I reviewed here for the adult blog. I'm always amazed when people can pull off one thing well and another thing equally well but yet completely differently. The voice in Vicious was spare and sophisticated, and while I really liked the way she told this story too, it's completely a YA novel, while the other is completely not. While she definitely included some YA imperatives here (tough teen girl with competing love interests, paranormal setting, etc.), the book is in no way clichéd, and held my (sometimes breathless) attention from start to finish. In my comparison of her books, I'm not saying you wouldn't enjoy one if you enjoyed the other (you would), or that teens shouldn't read the adult book (they should!), just marveling at the stylistic differences.

This one has a sequel, The Unbound, which came out in January, and, I am distressed to realize, Burbank Public Library doesn't own yet! I will remedy that situation ASAP! (And I might cheat and buy it for my Kindle in the meantime, because I really want to read the rest of Mackenzie's story!)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April is National Poetry Month!

A few ways you can celebrate...

1. Sign up to READ YOUR POETRY ALOUD at our Open Mic Night on Friday, April 25!

2. The POET TO POET Project: Write a poem in response to a poem. Click on the link to learn more.

3. POEM A DAY: Give them your email address and will send you a poem every single day. What a cool way to get acquainted with poets from all periods, all styles, talking about every topic you can think of (and some you won't)! I did this three years ago, and I LOVE my daily poem.

4. DEAR POET Project: Read a poem from the list provided, and then write the poet a letter telling him or her what you thought of it / liked about it / found interesting compelling weird about it!

5. POEM IN YOUR POCKET: Okay, I have to confess that even I think this is a little geeky, and I'm not a teenager, but...some of you might like it! You pick out a favorite poem, make a copy of it, and on April 24, you carry it around in your pocket all day, and pull it out to read and share with others.

6. Watch a poetry movie! Dead Poets Society, Shakespeare in Love, The Basketball Diaries...

7. Start a commonplace book! Copy your favorite poems and quotations into a notebook to form your own personal anthology.

8. Play "Exquisite Corpse" with your friends! Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Teen Review: Earlier John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Number of pages: 305
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Is it part of a series? No
Reading level: 8th grade up
Reviewed by: Patrick Castro, 10th grade

Reading The Fault in Our Stars before Paper Towns, I had a sense of John Green and his killer writing. His third novel is fully amazing. It's provocative, engaging, and utterly moving--you connect with all his characters and really feel their experiences. I think John Green gets every reader both emotionally and physically, and you guys don't know how excited I was to pick up Paper Towns for the first time!

In Paper Towns, we meet Quentin Jacobson, who has always had an eye for Margo Roth Spiegelman. They even have their rooms right across from each other (they are neighbors) and they can see each other from their windows. Most of John Green's characters we meet are so real and wholehearted, you connect. It's like PB&J. *gets hungry and makes one* As the novel progresses, Q grows and the adventures we see him and Margo go through are amazing. It's like those moments where you dream of doing all the bad things you ever wanted to do--reading those pages was an escape!

I mean, who wouldn't want to play pranks on the school bully or the most perfect girl in school and see their reactions? *raises hand* But after all those adventures, Margo disappears and it's now up to Q to piece together the clues to find her in a Paper Town world.

The book was wickedly genius, especially the plot. It was so unexpected and not formulaic at all, I love books that do this. So it makes it a true YA classic for me, because whenever you decide to pick it up again, you never know what to expect. Great job, John Green! *throws confetti* I actually had a couple of things I didn't like about John Green's writing, like it was too loose. By that I mean that at times it was all over the place and it didn't hook me, and then other times it did. I wanted consistency, and I didn't fully get it.


Margo honestly was one of those annoying characters in the beginning, but towards the end you finally see the struggles she had to face with her and family. It was tough.

Honest Question: Who would leave just after a night of adventures? I would so stay and see how it all plays out...That's me, but what about you?

I started to hate her in the beginning, like who honestly does all this stuff? She had that kick back attitude.

Overall, I loved Paper Towns a lot, it's definitely one of those rainy day books or a sunny day read. It's one of those book you definitely have to buy and own because when you re-read it again you never know what other meanings John Green has in store.