Saturday, March 14, 2015

March Book Club Report

We had 19 of our 22 members in attendance at 10-12 Book Club this month, to discuss Vicious, by V. E. Schwab. This speculative fiction novel about EOs (ExtraOrdinary people, i.e., superheroes) was a big hit, garnering the highest rating so far this year, a 9.33 out of 10! Everyone liked the moral ambivalence and the fading of black and white to gray as you love the villain and hate the self-styled hero, and most noted by everyone was the wonderful characters Schwab creates.

Next month we are taking a turn for the realistic with the Alex Award-winner Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt, a book about family, coming of age, and AIDS in the 1980s. And for May we will read either the paranormal romance Meet Me at the River, by Nina de Gramont, or the high fantasy book The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, as our last book club book of the year before the summer--we're waiting to hear the final decision from our club members!

Other books we considered:

No Safety in Numbers, by Dayna Lorentz
Ketchup Clouds, by Annabelle Pitcher
The Martian, by Andy Weir
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

Thirteen of our 19 members gathered to discuss The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, at 6+7 Book Club. The split on this book was kind of surprising: While I would not identify this particularly as a "boy book," since it has both a male and a female protagonist and is a fantasy novel, the vote really skewed, with three perfect 10s and a 9 from our guys in attendance, while the girls who read it (about half made it past the halfway mark!) gave it 7s. The final score was an 8, but that's artificially high since we don't let anyone who didn't read at least half of it vote. Those who declined to finish it would probably have brought that down to a 7.

Next month we are reading The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, a book all seem to be anticipating with enthusiasm; and the following month we will read The Cabinet of Wonders, by Marie Rutkoski.

Other books we considered:

The Candymakers, by Wendy Mass
The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy
Vampirates, by Justin Somper
Dead Girls Don't Lie, by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

The 8+9 Book Club was represented by seven of its 12 members as we talked about Seraphina, the high-concept dragon fantasy by Rachel Hartman, whose sequel (Shadow Scale) released on March 10. Here is my opinion, from 2013, of Seraphina:
This elegantly written book was instantly and completely involving. After reading the entire story (in one day) and coming up for air, I had a lot of questions about the dragons’ background and how they came to take human form when so many of them so despised humanity; but while I was in the moment, all I could do was admire the emotional and philosophical complexity of the society that Hartman created and get completely caught up in Seraphina’s story. The world-building was consistent, perfectly plausible, and more than a little fascinating. The best part about the book was its beautiful, lyrical language.
Anarda and I were nervous that some people would find the book too slow or confusing, and indeed a couple said they had some trouble getting into it, and also keeping track of all the characters. But I am delighted to say that pretty much everybody in the club liked the book quite a bit, and gave it a solid 8.5 rating. We are all looking forward to getting our hands on Shadow Scale!

Next month's book is Time Between Us, by Tamara Ireland Stone, and for May we will read Kill Me Softly, by Sarah Cross.

All book club members who didn't attend this month please remember to pick up your book! There are copies waiting for you at both libraries at the Circulation Desk.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Teen review: Aliens rule the earth!

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey, is a Sci-Fi novel in which aliens have attacked Planet Earth and have almost succeeded in killing all that is left of humankind. It begins with Cassie, the girl named for Cassieopia. She’s hiding out in the woods with her M16.

Then there’s Ben. Ben Parish, aka Zombie. He’s not an actual Zombie (even though the 3rd Wave is a disease that was spread by birds). He gets that nickname in a military camp.

We can’t forget Commander Vosch. Savior to some, ruthless killer to others. He’s the brains of the military camp.

These are our characters, and a smoldering, disease-ridden, rotting world is our stage.

All in all, this 457-page book was just okay. I must say that the ending was unsatisfying for me, the characters were a little hard to get invested in, and I really really wanted to learn more about the alien culture. Because of these reasons I rate this book as a 4.5 stars out of 5. It has some mild swearing, and at one point an F-bomb is dropped. Other than that it’s pretty tame, so middle to high school would be the perfect reading level.

In the end, it just didn’t get me excited like Afterworlds, or City of Bones, or The Night Circus.

Reviewed by Isabella C., grade 9

Editor's note: I guess I liked this book a lot better than Isabella did! Here's what I had to say in July of 2013 on Goodreads, right after I read it:

The voices are fresh and interesting, the action is exciting, and I loved the overall premise. Why are we so fascinated with aliens-take-over-the-world scenarios? I don't know, but this is one of the best I've read in a long time. I particularly liked how Cassie, the smart-mouthed girl protagonist, mocks your typical American movie scenario in which a ragtag little band of humans gets out the nukes and the missiles and the jet fighters and somehow triumphs. Excellent story line, great characters, good progression between narrators, tension maintained throughout--this was a book with good writing and good editing!

If you read and enjoy the book, the sequel is now out, and we have copies at Burbank Public Library!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Teen review: Classic dystopic novel

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
158 pages.
Dystopic fiction

8th grade and up

Reviewed by Michelle, grade 8

Fahrenheit 451 was a brilliantly crafted novel by the late Ray Bradbury, who also wrote many short stories before he died. This book is set in a twisted, dystopian future where the main character, Guy Montag, is employed as a fireman. However, the most bizarre disparity between the futuristic society and our current one is that firemen are paid to set fires rather than to put them out. In this bleak and peculiar future, books are considered taboo, being totally replaced by the "poison" of electronic devices. Guy Montag, in the beginning, seems to accept his culture, but when he meets an eccentric young girl named Clarisse who tells him about strange, unbelievable tales of a past where books were a marvel, Guy Montag’s morals and view of his society are sent totally haywire.

I read this book after reading one of Bradbury's 
short stories called “All Summer in a Day,” and it didn’t disappoint me at all. Ray Bradbury’s particular writing style and technique really gave the text that emphasized eerie feeling that never failed to send chills down my spine. Fahrenheit 451 easily became my favorite book, just because of the unique and engaging plot and the adventure and adrenaline it pumps into a reader. I really enjoyed seeing the dissonance of their society from ours, but also seeing the message the author might have been trying to convey. In some ways, it shows the importance of written texts and what our lethal over-usage of technology could lead to.

The book dealt with some content that could be complex and difficult to comprehend, although most of the book would not be considered ‘mature.’ This novel has some heavy content and would not appeal to a reader looking for a lighthearted and happy read. Although this is true, it is a truly outstanding book that everyone should read. (Other Ray Bradbury short stories are also highly recommended.) All this being said, I would rate this book as a 5 out of 5.

I feel that the hardcover art on this book, which displays a firefighter dressed in clothes made of sheets of paper from books and with a pile of burning books below his feet, really represents the whole concept of Fahrenheit 451.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Teen review: One book, two viewpoints

Reviewed by Isabella C., grade 9

Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld, is both a paranormal romance, and a coming of age novel. This book is about 612 pages (depending on the edition); but really, you shouldn’t be intimidated because it’s basically two books in one! Each chapter has an alternating point of view.

One point of view is that of Darcy, the recent high school graduate and novelist who has just moved to New York and is trying to figure out her life. Within just a few months, she has a contract with a publisher, an apartment in Chinatown, and a budget that requires ramen noodles for dinner every night.

Our second point of view is actually the book that Darcy has written. Even though the entire novel is called Afterworlds, Darcy’s novel that she writes is actually called Afterworlds as well. Confusing, isn’t it? But it’s all so worth it! Lizzie is the main character in Darcy’s story. After being the only survivor of a brutal terrorist attack, Lizzie now has a connection with the undead. But that isn’t the only thing she has a connection with. There’s the (visually) young death god Yamaraj who is oh so handsome, and whenever they’re together, literal sparks fly.

With Darcy’s side of the story, we get an inside look into what it’s like to be a writer and what being part of the writing community is like. Because of this book, I now desperately want to go to Book Expo America (who cares if it’s in New York? The books are free!). With Lizzie’s side of the story we get to see the dangerous life of a psychopomp, and find out the underworld isn’t as simple as it seems.

Although it doesn’t say specifically whether Afterworlds is a stand-alone or part of a series, on Darcy’s side of the story she spends a lot of time freaking out about a sequel to Afterworlds that her publisher wants by November. I think that Scott Westerfeld was hinting at something, so I would keep my eyes open.

I really, truly, enjoyed this book, almost to a fault. The Lizzie side of it was just so intense and intriguing, I really couldn’t stop reading. The Darcy side was so heartfelt and funny, I felt like the characters could jump off the page! I felt like I was Darcy’s best friend. Darcy was just so loveable and naive and sweet. I especially liked her because I aspire to be a writer. One thing that I really liked was that Mr. Westerfeld didn’t really put much into descriptions other than ethnicity and personality, so you could really make the characters your own. That way you could always find a way to connect with them.

If you’re interested in reading Afterworlds, I will tell you that it specifically says on the inside cover that it’s for ages 14 and up. This is most likely due to the explicit language, the terrorist attack, some underage drinking, and quite a bit of murder!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring ahead!

A friendly reminder that this is the Sunday to turn your clocks FORWARD an hour!