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