Saturday, January 24, 2015

Double Teen Review: Zombies!

Rot & Ruin
by Jonathan Maberry
458 pages
Young Adult Dystopian
Part of a series for middle school and up

Reviewed by Riley O'Callahan, grade 8

This book is about 15-year-old Benny Imura, a teenager with a lot on his mind as he deals with the problems of growing up after First Night, or the day that humans started becoming zombies when they die. Zombies, or "zoms," as they’re known in Benny’s world, are kept out of his town of Mountainside with keys, doors, and fences. But when Benny is forced to start work with his brother Tom, a well-known zom killer with a sentimental streak, Benny learns that the world outside the fence is harsher than it seems. Will Benny survive in the Rot and Ruin – and save his brother as well as his crush?

I enjoyed this book overall, awarding it a 7 out of 10, but there were a few spots that just seemed slow in my opinion. For example, the beginning takes a while to get the story off the ground, but once things pick up, it transforms from just-another-zombie-book into not-your-typical-zombie-book, if ya know what I’m sayin’ here (wink wink).
Seriously, though, I would recommend this book to all you horror movie and “The Walking Dead” fans out there. You know who you are. There are three books following this one: Dust and Decay, Flesh and Bone, and Fire and Ash, respectively. They sound intriguing, considering where the story left off, so I’ll think I’ll give them a shot. In the end, Rot and Ruin was a fresh take on all of those stereotypical zombie books, and an insight into human morals, survival of the fittest (or should I say fastest…’cause zombies are slow? Get it? Ha ha) and reaching from our souls to the bane of our existence.

Editor's note: I received two reviews of this book at the same time, so here's another viewpoint...and here's author Jonathan Maberry's OWN zombie card! (The kids in the book collect zombie cards like baseball cards...eeuw.)

Reviewed by Michelle M., grade 8

Rot and Ruin by John Maberry is fantasy fiction novel of 458 pages that takes place in a world overrun with the living dead. This thrilling book is part of a four-book series that will surely take you on many exhilarating journeys with Benny and his gang of lovable characters.
Benny has just turned 15 and must find a job in order to keep his food rations. Benny has an older brother, Tom, whom Benny has resented for being a coward ever since he was young. Tom offers Benny an apprenticeship with him, and when Benny cannot find any other job, he accepts the offer. After that, Tom introduces Benny to a whole new world outside his sheltered town, a world that is both beautiful and ugly: the Rot and Ruin. During his adventures, Benny sheds his naivety and learns of the hardships of life. But Benny also comes to learn who the real monsters of the world are.
At first, I felt that Rot and Ruin was an average book with a plain storyline (the overused ‘zombie apocalypse’ thing), but as I progressed through the book, the plot really developed and became a complex and interesting story. Although it begins slowly, it picks up the pace fairly quickly later in the novel. Similarly, the protagonist, Benny Imura, goes through major character development, transforming from a whiny, snotty teenage boy to a mature, intelligent young man. I enjoyed most of the book after it stopped being boring, everything from the action-packed scenes to the sweet, heartbreaking moments.
The message this book conveys is also very clear and well incorporated into the plot. Over all, I liked
everything in this book except for its bland, early stages. I would recommend this book to 7th grade up, although highly sensitive readers may not appreciate the gore Rot and Ruin contains; people who are okay with that kind of content may enjoy the thrilling read. I look forward to reading the rest of the series, and I will rate this book as a 4 out of 5.
Editor's note: We use a different rating scale (1-10 instead of 1-5) in book club, so that's why the ratings are dissimilar. Also, both our reviewers (and me) seem to agree about the slow start that turns into a great read!


Friday, January 23, 2015

What we're reading: An alternate world, a battle of wits

The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski.
355 pg.
First in a series
9th grade and above

Reviewed by Anarda

Kestrel is the 17-year-old daughter and only child of the great Valorian warrior, General Trajan. Having led the Valorians to conquer the Herrani people 20 years ago, he and his daughter live in splendor in the captured capitol, while other Valorians make their homes in the former mansions of the now-enslaved Herrani. While the Valorians prize battle prowess above all, and Valorian female children can choose marriage or the army at the age of 20, they are otherwise an unenlightened culture, while the recently enslaved Herrani value the arts and education.

Kestrel inherits a piano and her musical skill and passion from her long-dead mother, but her skill in fighting is not so good, much to her father’s chagrin. What she has in abundance is a strategic and insightful mind, so when she overbids on a young male slave with skills as a blacksmith, she comforts herself with the idea that he will be useful to her father’s in-house garrison--but something about her unexpected purchase bothers her. She eventually starts to observe him, only to discover that he is exceptionally observant (and educated) as well. Thus begins a meeting of like minds; two seemingly mismatched people who are enemies by birth, who share a love of skillful gaming and of music, and who hold contempt for those who will not understand them. And one holds a secret that will destroy the other.

This is another winning book for Rutkoski (author of the Kronos Chronicles series and The Shadow Society), with a character-driven plotline enriched with good world-building and a satisfyingly plausible relationship between foes.

Editor's note: Anarda convinced me to read this book (she book-talked it at 10-12 Book Club), and I agree! The world-building, the relationships, the premise, the resolution, were all beautifully done. And while there is a hint of romance, it definitely doesn't take over the book, which is also good! It reminded me of The Thief, (the Queen's Thief series) by Megan Whalen Turner, which is a high compliment.

The only thing I disliked (quite a lot, actually) was the cover! When in doubt, put a girl in a fancy dress on it? C'mon, the dress isn't even the color of the one from the significant scene, and the girl is too slight and delicate to be someone who trains daily with weapons, no matter how ineffectually. It's also almost impossible to find the book when you're looking for it--the title is so obscured within the picture (much more so in person than in this photo) that I went by it twice on the library shelves before I figured out this was the book I was looking for.

I hope others find it, though, because it's a book worth reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I don't know about your weekend plans, but mine ALWAYS include at least four hours of reading. (I do have three book club books to read, and a few more so I have something to propose for next month…but I also have to catch up on the latest mystery by my favorite authors, or check out the time travel book recommended to me by my cousin, or go back to some old classic science fiction I've been thinking about…).

So what about YOU? Do you have plans to read this weekend? Some book publishers and Goodreads have banded together to encourage you to read in solidarity this Saturday! It's the first ever NATIONAL READATHON DAY, and they want you to pick a book, get comfy, and read from noon to 4 p.m.! If you want to, you can also POST what you plan to read--go here:

OR, you could tell US, and we could put it up on our Facebook page! If you'd rather do that, send us an email to, and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Teen review: Magical realism

Autumn Falls is the first novel in a series by Bella Thorne, apparently highly influenced by events that have occurred in her own life. The book is 213 pages long. It is a story about a teenage girl who--under tragic circumstances--must move away from her hometown where she grew up. She dreads the move, as most girls her age would. She can't bear the idea of being apart from her best friend Jenna, and saying goodbye to all the family memories she's enjoyed in the town of Stillwater. As well as moving, she must also learn to cope with the heartache and emotions connected with the death of a loved one.

Now more than ever, Autumn must call on all her courage and face being the new girl--but when the not-so-nice queen bee of the new school targets Autumn, being the new girl becomes a lot tougher! Aside from earning a spot on the wrong side of the "cool" crowd's list, Autumn uncovers the close relationship her crush has with them and is torn between moving on or following her heart. Furthermore, embarrassing accidents make it harder to shy away from unwanted attention, but, with some new friends she makes along the way, Autumn won't face the attention completely alone. In addition, with the help of a wish-granting journal, Autumn will either create a recipe for disaster or use it as the perfect ingredient to fix the mess she's in!

This was a cute, lighthearted novel--it reminds me of something I might see on The Disney Channel. I'd rate this book a 2.5 out of 5 stars because it did make me laugh out loud a couple of times, which earned me a few awkward stares from my family. I also admired the courage it must've taken Bella Thorne to publish a book with so many personal elements, such as her father's and grandmother's passing. Aside from that, though, there's not much else to the book. There was a lack of suspense, the writing wasn't great, and I didn't feel attached to any of the characters. However, I didn't dislike the book, it was entertaining. I would recommend this book to a middle school audience or as a "transition" book--something for when the reader craves a light read after an emotional roller coaster, which most YA books cause. This would also probably appeal more to readers who enjoy contemporary books. Although the cover is cute and appealing, I felt a lot more could have been incorporated into it, as it doesn't really reflect the contents. I would encourage others to read and enjoy this book too.

Reviewed by Melody, grade 11

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library doesn't own this, but it is on order in response to a request, so we will have it soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Teen review: End of the Lux series

The Lux Series #5)
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Science fiction
534 pages

Reviewed by Madeleine Britt

Opposition, the fifth and last book in the Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, was surprisingly not up to par compared to the rest of the books of the series. What happened there? Well, it became a cliché-- the typical alien invasion story. Which really surprised me, considering that I loved the first four books. I can honestly say Obsidian, the first of the series, is one of my favorite books ever, but Opposition didn't really make it for me. I did enjoy reading it, however. My only problem was the plot; the writing was still as amazing as always. I love Armentrout's writing not only because it's hilarious and extremely entertaining, but also because it's captivating and actually makes me feel as if I were part of the plot the entire time. I love that type of writing.

The Lux Series is about a group of aliens called Luxen--two of whom fall in love with humans who become hybrid Luxen-- Hybrids, and Origins. The major issue in the series is with the dynamics of the relationship between Daemon, a Luxen, and Katy, a Hybrid. Their relationship is a beautiful, well-developed relationship I fell in love with; unfortunately for them, it's forbidden among his kind to reveal his true self-- a Luxen-- to a human, and it is forbidden even more so to heal a human, turning one into a Hybrid as Daemon did. And that is what really makes this series so worthwhile: the sacrifice the two make for each other again and again; the way they hopelessly love each other and stick together through everything they go through--and trust me they go through a whole lot!

In Opposition, they're faced once more with their biggest challenge, an alien invasion by none other than the Luxen themselves. However, they aren't the friendly Luxen who commonly roam the Earth. They're malicious Luxen, literally out of this world, who just want to take over the planet and get rid of humanity. Katy and Daemon come together with their friends to put an end to the chaos in a series of crazy, action-packed scenarios.

It's a good book, though a predictable one, which was the down side. I give Opposition a 3.5 out of 5 because it was entertaining, well-written, but clichéd. I definitely recommend this series to any high schooler who likes YA science fiction books! This a GREAT series! I loved the series and I'm sad to say goodbye. Although it has its flaws in the last book, the series is honestly worthwhile and a creative take on alien life-forms, who actually look like supermodels with outstanding, developed, creative, relateable personalities.

Editor's note: Some reviewers say this series is fine for 7th grade and up, while others specify 10th grade and up! So reader be aware...

Monday, January 19, 2015

What you're reading: Top 50s, continued

Here are the top 50 check-outs that are NOT new books, in descending order, most to least:

The Fault in Our Stars / John Green
Divergent / Veronica Roth

The Maze Runner / James Dashner
Mockingjay / Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins
If I Stay / by Gayle Forman
Catching Fire / Suzanne Collins
Looking for Alaska / John Green
Where She Went / Gayle Forman
Allegiant / Veronica Roth
The Perks of Being a Wallflower /

     Stephen Chbosky
The Death Cure / James Dashner
Insurgent / Veronica Roth
The Scorch Trials / James Dashner
City of Lost Souls / Cassandra Clare
City of Bones / Cassandra Clare
Thirteen Reasons Why / by Jay Asher
Paper Towns / John Green
Insurgent / Veronica Roth

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children /
     by Ransom Riggs
The Kill Order / James Dashner
Ender's Game / Orson Scott Card
City of Fallen Angels / Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes / Cassandra Clare
An Abundance of Katherines / John Green
Son / by Lois Lowry
Will Grayson, Will Grayson /

     John Green & David Levithan
Just One Day / Gayle Forman
City of Glass / Cassandra Clare
The Eye of Minds / James Dashner
It's Kind of a Funny Story / Ned Vizzini
Crossed / Ally Condie
Matched / Ally Condie
Legend / Marie Lu
The 5th Wave / Rick Yancey
Uglies / Scott Westerfeld
Perfect : A Pretty Little Liars novel / Sara Shepard
Cinder / written by Marissa Meyer
The Selection / Kiera Cass
Let It Snow : Three Holiday Romances /

     by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian / by Sherman Alexie
Unwind / Neal Shusterman
The Elite / Kiera Cass

Eleanor & Park / Rainbow Rowell
Champion / Marie Lu
Unbelievable : A Pretty Little Liars novel / Sara Shepard
Hollow City / Ransom Riggs
The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern
Just One Year / Gayle Forman
Just Listen / Sarah Dessen

I notice that there is one thing many of the books on this second list have in common: MOVIES! A movie just came out, a movie came out a while ago, a movie is about to come out...the movies are giving YA lit a higher profile, it seems! Divergent, City of Bones, The Giver, If I Stay, etc. are leading people to their sequels. So the movies may be promoting more reading...

The exception to all rules and trends, of course, may be John Green; While he did have a recent movie hit with The Fault in Our Stars (which has appeared on BOTH of these top 50 lists, you'll notice) his other books are consistently checked out almost as often, and were popular long before that movie appeared. What can we say--he's a phenomenon.

Again, I have bold-faced and linked the books reviewed on the blog.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Teen review: Classic Stephen King

The Shining
by Stephen King
497 pages
Horror, stand-alone
High school (grade 12) up

Reviewed by Jonathan L., grade 12

The Shining is about a family that gets snowed in inside a hotel that is built above an Indian burial ground, which basically means it’s a haunted hotel. Jack Torrance is a struggling writer who takes a job as the hotel's caretaker and moves there with his entire family. As the story unfolds, so does Jack, as the ghosts of the hotel start to peel and unwind his mind.

The Shining is a horrifying story that forces you to leave the light on at any hotel at which you stay. This book is downright scary in many ways. There were times when I couldn’t even read it at night because it was just too frightening to do so. Character-wise, it’s pretty impressive, but it’s not as if you’re invested with these characters. The only attachment you have is when Jack starts going crazy and you’re reading this book and yelling, “Run! Run! He’s coming!” It’s not only incredibly scary but also creepy. There’s a scene where Jack makes out with a woman and then it turns out to be some dead lady who looks like she was three years into her grave.

Out of five, this is certainly a five. I recommend this to anyone who really wants a good ghost story and to those thrill seekers who love to read a good horror story at night. I do not, however, recommend this to anyone afraid of apparitions, blood, murder, a drunken, insane author bent on killing his entire family, and snow--because if there’s one thing this book has more than scares it’s snow.

This book isn’t as mature as one would think, and minus the violence and the sailors' language, this book can be enjoyed by everyone above the age of thirteen.

Editor's note: Squeamish and easily frightened people please take note of Jonathan's multiple warnings! There are many, many covers for this book, which has been released dozens of times, but I always liked this one with the picture of the hotel on it. The library also offers this as an E-book and, of course, the movie starring Jack as Jack!