Friday, September 26, 2014

Teen review: Gritty realistic fiction

by Lauren Myracle
350 pages
Realistic, not part of a series
9th grade and up--mature

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

I'm shocked!

Honestly, after reading Shine, by Lauren Myracle, I am at a loss for words. The story was beautifully written and every page was impactful! I was so surprised by how much I loved the story and how great it turned out to be. Shine was a gritty YA book that was so moving and poignant, I honestly recommend this book to any reader out there!

Shine had a very complex plot, yet I could easily follow Cat, the main character and how she pieced together the clues about how her best friend, Patrick, was attacked in a hate crime. Patrick is gay, and Cat desperately needs to find who did it to him. She faces so many challenges and it was mind-blowing to see everything come together. Throughout the whole book, I really liked Cat. She was such a strong, determined character, I think anyone could relate to her. And Shine has a diverse cast that really made it a complex book, but still very easy to read.

Shine was also a harrowing read that will shock every reader to their core. I would definitely re-read the book over and I like Myracle's take on thrillers. The book really leaves you with a great message: No matter what sexuality a person is, you shouldn't treat them in a different or bad way. Everyone is a great person and Shine really brought that message alive. Pick this one up!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Teen review: Thriller

The Naturals
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
308 pages
Thriller--not paranormal, but with "special abilities"
Part of a series (book one)
Reading level: 9th grade and up

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, was a great action-packed thriller about serial killers, teens with powers, and undercover cold cases from the FBI. I was happy I picked up The Naturals, since I've been reading a lot of relaxing books, I decided to kick it up. Did I regret it? No, I really liked The Naturals!

The book was fast-paced and had a great plot. A protagonist who reads peoples minds? The FBI? Cracking cold cases? Count me in! It had everything to grab anyone, and it did deliver on some parts. I really liked Cassie. She was a great character who didn't take herself too seriously, and she brought the story alive. Every aspect of the book was written amazingly, from the characters to the pacing! You'll definitely find yourself turning the pages quickly!

The writing was bothering for me. At times, I would forget who would be talking or what Cassie was talking about. And that usually meant re-reading the chapter, which kills because I love the story and I want to keep going! The book also had pages titled "YOU" and I thought it was cool, but I felt myself just skipping them and moving on.

Overall, The Naturals was a great thriller I think anyone should pick up, especially if you're looking for something to spice up your reading.

Editor's note: You can also read my review of this book and its sequel, here. And 8+9 Book Club will be reading this book in November!

Monday, September 22, 2014

More Time Travel--to read and to write!

I am on a quest to find a good time travel book written for teens. And the reason is...our Teen Read Month writing contest! Yep, this year it's all about the time travel. It can be a contemporary story, historical fiction, science fiction, romance, or what have you, as long as it somehow incorporates...

The contest starts October 1, and the stories are due October 31 by 5:00 p.m. So limber up your fingers AND your brains and start thinking about where YOU would travel if you could "Turn Dreams into Reality." Would you go back to medieval times? or would you go back to last week for a do-over? Would you go forward three days to see if you got the part in the school play you wanted? or would you go forward 25 years to see how your life turned out?

In Time Between Us, by Tamara Ireland Stone, there's romance, there's a bit of mystery and yes, there's time travel. It's a "time-slip," rather than straight "time travel"--the blog reader who gave me that term distinguished them thusly:

Time travel is scientific, uses a machine or device, and anyone who wants to risk it can do it. (Think Dr. Who and his Tardis, Marty McFly's DeLorean, etc.) A time-slip is where someone has some special ability or power to time travel, but no one else can follow his or her example.

This book would be the latter.

Bennett is the time traveler, and Anna is the girl he meets while hanging out in her time for a reason he doesn't disclose at first. The story is definitely a romance between the two, but the author wisely doesn't make the romance the entire focus of the book. I also like that she adheres to some basic time travel rules--citing the Butterfly Effect, and also sticking to limitations about when, where, and how Bennett can travel. I really hate it when authors simply make it up as they go along, when there is a long history and tradition of time travel that they will be flouting by doing so! Bravo, Ms. Stone, for not doing that.

I liked the characters very much. They were real and believable, and the author avoided insta-love while making their relationship work within the context of the story. She also (thank you!) didn't make Anna a wimpy swoony girly-girl who sits and waits!

There were still a few problems for me about the vagaries and contradictions inherent in the time travel, but it is a good story!

If you would like to read this or other time travel books as preparation for writing your own story (or just because you like them), we have a YA LIST. There is also an adult time travel LIST, but it is quite incomplete, so don't stop there--search the catalog! Get hints and tips about that, as well as some further suggestions, at the bottom of my previous time travel-related post. If you're more of a research-oriented person and want to know some of the rules of time travel, someone has written a fantastic exposition of this on Wikipedia--check it out!

If you read this book, you will also want the sequel,
Time After Time. Yes, we have that at BPL too--yay us! (Although you might not be able to get it right away, because a certain librarian took it home this weekend...)

Finally, if you think Tamara Ireland Stone is your kind of author, you will have the opportunity on October 9 to take a workshop with her on writing time travel, followed by an author event with autographed copies of her books! Email to sign up for this workshop, which will be from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teen review: Realistic fiction

by Kristi Cook
356 pages
Realistic, stand-alone book
Reading level: 8th grade and up

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

I honestly really enjoyed Magnolia by Kristi Cook from beginning to end! There was something about the characters to the survival-love aspect that had me hooked, and I'm pretty impressed Kristi managed to create a good realistic fiction book (since her previous books were paranormal). Definitely give this one a try!

What struck me about Magnolia that I really admired was the flow and ease of the plot and characters. Jemma McCafferty lives in Mississippi, where they have tons of storms every year. As she tries to find who she is and what she plans to do with her life, she doesn't know a storm will bring her even closer to her best childhood friend, Ryder. I felt the beginning of the book to be a little cliche. You know that best friend love romance stuff? That was here, but Cook brings her own take by adding a storm and I really enjoyed it. Magnolia was moving and it had me turning the pages to see how Jemma faced all things happening to her family and also her heart. The characters are warm and did feel real and the plot was great!

Magnolia could have been more complex, if Kristi gave Jemma the chance to get to know Patrick, the boy to whom she seems attracted. It felt like some things were rushed and some of the decisions of the characters were a throw. But Magnolia shines with Cook's simple writing alongside her warm characters, and I applaud her for moving away from the paranormal genre to try something else!

Magnolia was a great summer book, but you can definitely read it any time. The characters hit home, and you'll be wrapped up in a warm, bittersweet story!