Saturday, February 21, 2015

Teen review: New Dystopian

by Ally Condie
368 pages
For 8th grade up

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

Atlantia by Ally Condie is the novel I wished she had written before Matched, because it was amazing! It was the type of novel Matched wasn't, and it exceeded my expectations! Atlantia was explosive, racing, and definitely exciting. So happy I picked it up, and I hope you do too!

Atlantia is about a girl named Rio who has dreamed, for as long as she can remember, of going to the Above. Her sister, Bay, made the life-shattering choice to go Above, and now all Rio has left is herself. Ever since their parents' deaths, Bay and Rio have been inseparable, but now Rio has to use her instincts to fight her way through a misguided and dangerous world. I really liked reading Rio's story! She was such an easy character to relate too and connect with, she brought the story alive. Plus she had such a ease to her that made the book so light to read. While we have no actual scenes with Bay, Condie made her sound interesting and she does give reasons as to why she goes Above.

The book had great actions scenes also! But Atlantia mainly focused on the aspect of deception--whether Rio should trust her aunt, believe her mom and the goodness of her society and trust a new boy. The book tackled these issues in a good way. As the story went on, Condie did have some romance going on, but unlike other dystopians, I'm happy to say there was no love triangle!

Cheers for Condie! 

Over all, Atantia was a breathe of fresh air. The concept of Above and Below was intriguing and well thought out. Rio and all the others had the perfect amount of characterization, and the book had some great action scenes, I was surprised how much I ended up liking the book! Definitely give this a try, especially if you read Condie's Matched series or are looking for something new :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

What we're reading: Classic Fantasy

Still "weeding" the young adult fiction collection, which is to say that I am looking up the number of times each teen book at the Central Library has checked out in the past few years, to decide whether it should stay (because it's well-loved) or go (because no one is appreciating it). The Magician of Hoad, by Margaret Mahy, is one of those with few check-outs, but…being the fantasy/sci fi maven that I am, and having liked others of Mahy's books, I took this one home to read first.

The description of the book on Goodreads is uncharacteristically brief:

A legend is born. Heriot has always known that he was different, with his terrifying dreams and psychic powers. Ripped from his family farm, he is forced to serve as the King's magician in the capital city of Diamond. Isolated and lonely, his only friends are the 'mad prince' Dysart and Cayley, a mysterious wild city child.

So I didn't really know what to expect, which is sometimes the best way to go into a book, right? My conclusion...

This is a wonderful book. With all the debates about high fantasy versus low fantasy and what makes something one or the other (with all the conflict about world-building and which world where and why), I can't decide where this would fit. The descriptions of the city of Diamond and the islands and the countryside do remind me of those in A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin--that level of high-flown romantic realism.

Its simplest description is that it's about a boy who becomes a magician through no conscious choice or knowledge of his own, and is acted upon by and acts upon people he never expected to meet in his life as a farmer: kings, princes, the life of a great city far removed from his bucolic beginnings living in a family tribe ruled by his great-great aunt.

But the thing I like about it is that although it is about people, and among those people are kings, heroes, magicians, warriors, nobles, and street rats...and that some of these end up being interchangeable, and all of them are important to the story...what it is also about, in the fine tradition of people like Ursula Le Guin and Patricia McKillip, is earth, water, air, the great world and how we are all connected to it, expressed by it, destined for it, contained by and yet made greater for it. If that sounds a bit mystical, it is; but it's also immensely practical and greatly satisfying.

And my favorite part? No Orc battles. Not one.  :-)

It's a keeper. Look for it!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Teen review: Paranormal

Made for You
by Melissa Marr
356 pages
Paranormal fiction
For high school and up

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11 

Made for You by Melissa Marr was a big "trend" book in 2014. It had all the elements for hype--suspense, a serial killer, and a touch of contemporary. It was a good book, and did deliver on some parts, but it wasn't super thrilling. Overall, I really liked reading the book and it was excited seeing how the whole thing came together.

Made for You is about a girl named Eva Tilling who lands in the hospital after being intentionally hit by a mysterious person. As she gets better, the whole town is abuzz about who tried to kill her, and Eva soon develops a skill--the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. It also brings her closer to Nate, an old friend whose feelings for Eva soon spark. I thought the whole book had an intriguing and fresh idea. I liked how the book was fast to start and kept on rolling. Marr really hit it on point with the story and plot, but her characters were a fail for me.

Eva was an okay character, but I was expecting so much more out of her. I liked the way she told her flashbacks when she touched an item, and it was vivid and clear. I expected Eva to be more colorful and characterized more. She started to be a stale cracker for me towards the end of the book. I liked Nate, he really gave something more to Eva and the story and his relationship was interesting.

I did absolutely love the action and suspense scenes in Made for You! They were clear and action-packed, Marr definitely knows how to write killer action scenes, and the book showcased them perfectly. In addition, I also loved how the book pieced everything together, with the visions, the killings, and Eva's ability. The ending was the strongest part of the book, and no reader would have guessed the ending!


Be sure to pick up Made for You! It was an intriguing and clever book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reminder: Photography Contest!

For you photo bugs, remember that this Saturday, February 21, is the FINAL DAY to turn in an entry for this year's Friends of the Burbank Public Library Amateur Photography Contest! Here is a link to the application: Be sure to follow the directions TO THE LETTER, so your photo isn't disqualified! The photo must be turned in at the CENTRAL Library, at the reference desk, no later than 5:00 p.m. on Saturday!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Interesting program

While this is not specifically a teen program, we feel that some teens may have an interest in it, both from a personal and an historical point of view. Some of you are considering careers in the military; some of you have brothers or sisters who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan; and some of you may also be or know someone who suffers from PTSD for another reason.

If your teacher has offered extra credit for attending this program, please be aware that the proof of attendance slips will be distributed at the end of the program (but before the book-signing).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
7:00pm - 8:30 p.m.
Buena Vista Branch Library

Author David J. Morris will discuss his memoir, The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mr. Morris draws on his own battles with post-traumatic stress (as a former Marine infantry officer and reporter in Iraq) to explain the disease from a personal perspective. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and author signing, and refreshments will be served.

The Burbank Public Library has invited Mr. Morris to appear here to celebrate its creation of a special collection of books for veterans, which will be available in late February at the Central and Buena Vista Branches. This collection was made possible by a generous donation from the Friends of the Burbank Public Library.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Teen reviews: The Princess Diaries!

Editor's note: Sometimes we start a series, love the first book, then get on a roll and keep reading it! That's what happened to Kayla recently, so here are her reviews of the first three books in the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, a favorite with many.

The Princess Diaries
by Meg Cabot
238 pages
Contemporary series (see below)
Recommended for grade 6 and up

Reviewed by Kayla, grade 10

Mia is just a normal girl living a normal life at a normal high school. That is, until her father comes to tell her that she’s not a normal girl. She’s a princess! However, she is still flunking Algebra, and she is still in love with her best friend’s brother. Only now, besides studying and having her best friend Lilly psychoanalyzing her, she also has to take princess lessons from her Grandmother (who is also a princess). She thinks that she is so not princess material, but she has to be, due to the fact that she is the only heir to the throne. But even though a lot of things go wrong, some things do go right.

This book was amazing! I had seen the movie and although there are a few similarities, it is very different from the book! Mia is easily to relate to, because she has a hard time in school, has a strange but awesome best friend, and has a crush on a boy she thinks doesn’t even notice her. It is such an unimaginable story that it is almost believable. I highly recommend this book because it has a serious but funny edge to it. It is also written in the form of a diary, which adds to its uniqueness.

I rate this book a 5.

Princess in the Spotlight
by Meg Cabot

When Mia’s strict and quite forceful Grandmère (Grandmother in French) arranges for her to have a TV interview, Mia puts her foot down. However, as usual, Grandmère gets her way and Mia is interviewed. She slips up quite a few times, and suddenly not only is her best friend furious with her, but she gets her school in trouble too. To top it all off, she is still flunking Algebra, her mother has an exciting bit of news, and she has reporters following her everywhere. Mia--who was once just a normal girl--is now anything but normal.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series but this one was even better. Mia gets funnier as the book goes on but even when bad things happen to her she has a positive outlook on life. Mia is so sassy, and has a way of looking at problems that I would never even dream of. I love Meg Cabot’s writing style and I have loved all of her books so far. I highly recommend this book and also rate it a 5.

Princess in Love
by Meg Cabot

After waiting for what seems like her whole life, Mia finally has a boyfriend. Except there is one problem: Mia doesn’t love or even like her boyfriend Kenny! She is in love with her best friend’s brother, who she thinks doesn’t even know that she exists. On top of all that, she is going to Genovia in a month and doesn’t know anything about being a princess, and since she in the only heir of Genovia, that could be quite a problem. But Mia has a way of working things out even if they get a little twisted up along the way.

I loved the first two books in this series, but this one was the best one yet. Mia is a hilarious character, but she always works things out, which makes these books so believable. She is very down to earth, and that is what I like the best about her. She has flaws, yet she has to try and seem like she is perfect because she is a princess. I also love the style in which these books are written--diary entries. I lwill continue to read Meg Cabot's books. This one gets a 5 as well!

Me again: According to Goodreads, Kayla (and you) have volumes 4-10 to look forward to as well, and then there are a few inserted in between them (4.5, 6.5, 7.5, 7.75! what happened there?) so keep on following the fortunes of Mia!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chinese Brush Workshop!

Don't forget to sign up for our Chinese Brush Painting Workshop with Deborah Nourse Lattimore on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. (at the Central Library) for Chinese New Year!

This will be a really fun workshop, as well as a great opportunity to receive instruction from someone both qualified and cool! Deborah is a famous children's book author and illustrator (she wrote and illustrated, among other titles, The Lady with the Ship on Her Head, CinderHazel, and I Wonder What's Under There? A Brief History of Underwear), and is currently an instructor at Otis College of Art and Design! (She's also a lot of fun to be around.)

The library will furnish all supplies, but you DO need to sign up for this, as enrollment is limited. Email with your name, phone number, and email address, and come make art with us on Thursday afternoon! (This workshop is intended for teens in grades 6-12.)