Saturday, January 3, 2015

Teen review: Sci Fi action/adventure

The Gunslinger
by Stephen King
224 pages
The Dark Tower Series, Book 1
Intended Audience: High School (10-12) and above

Reviewed by Jonathan L., grade 12

The story follows and revolves around a gun-wielding man named Roland of Gilead. He traverses great distances in order to reach the man in black, a mysterious foe who wields great power. Along the way he befriends a young boy named Jake Chambers and they both set on a quest to find the man in black.

This is the book that triggered my interest in the entire series. Alone this book is okay, but being part of a series, it’s an amazing start. It’s like that pilot episode of every television show. It sets up the main protagonist and the story in a clear and concise way. The entire series is purely entertaining from start to finish. This is the greatest science fiction series I have ever read. Throughout it, you meet more unforgettable characters, each with their own fleshed out back story. As for Roland, his history is fleshed out with each book. We learn more and more about this man as he traverses what I think is the multiverse to get to The Dark Tower, the center of all things.

This is a grandiose series and one that I will never forget. If it had been a stand-alone story, I would have given it a four, but since this kick-starts an amazing ride, I give The Gunslinger and the entire Dark Tower series as a whole, a five. I recommend this to anyone familiar with Stephen King; and for those who are new to him, this is a great introduction to the author who is essentially the Edgar Allen Poe of the modern world.

What I also love about this series is that it ties in with many other novels from Stephen King, such as It, The Stand, and more.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Teen review: Urban Fantasy

City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare, is a fantastic young adult supernatural adventure that can and will enthrall readers everywhere! It is the first book in The Mortal Instruments series and is 485 pages long.

The story begins when Clary Fray and her best friend Simon decide to go to a club. The club is called Pandemonium, and it’s the hottest place to be for any teenager living in New York City. But, when Clary witnesses a murder that no one else can see, she is thrust head first into the world of Demons, Downworlders, and Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters are a race of half human/half angel people who live amongst "mundanes" (everybody else) and are sworn to ridding the earth of demons.

To make matters worse, within one day Clary’s mom is captured and Clary herself is attacked by a monstrous demon only to be saved by another shadowhunter named Jace. Jace (along with his shadowhunter friends) becomes intrigued by her. She seems to be a mundane blessed with the Sight, but those are very hard to find. When fighting and searching for her mother, Clary discovers just how deep her connection with the Shadowhunting world is.

On a scale of 1-5, I would give this book a 4.5. In the beginning it’s a bit slow and this causes many readers to give up on it. But I urge you, continue reading! It truly is a fantastic book, and after this the series just gets better and better! The characters are relateable, and you immediately form a connection with Clary because she’s just so darn lovable! One thing that I really and truly enjoyed about this book (and this series) is that you can tell that Cassandra Clare put a lot of effort into creating this world with these characters. In addition, all of the mythology terms she uses are accurate (ex ; the race is referred to as the Nephilim, and in mythology, Nephilim were the offspring of angels).

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys adventure, plot twists, angsty romance, and supernatural/fantastic beings. I think it would be best for anyone in grade 6 or higher.

Reviewed by I.M.C., grade 9

Editor's note: BPL has this as an audio book as well, and we also have the movie (although the book is soooooo much better!). We also have the rest of the series, as well as Clare's other steampunk series, The Infernal Devices.

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