Friday, March 27, 2015

Teen review: Mystery/thriller

Bet Your Life
by Jane Casey
336 pages
Part of a series (Jess Tennant #2)
Recommended for 8th grade and above

Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

Bet Your Life, by Jane Casey, was such an unexpected book for me. I thought it would be kinda boring, but finishing it I loved the book a lot more! It was a great mystery novel with a kick-ass heroine, suspense, and lies. And it turned out to be a part of a series, which I did not know until writing this review, so I'll probably check out the first book now.

In Bet Your Life, we meet Jess Tennant, whose life is turned upside down when a boy, Seb Dawson, suffers a head injury. The police take things into their own hands, but Jess decides to investigate it. I actually really got down who the characters are and who Jess is. Casey did a great job recapping the reader things from the first book, so anyone could pick up the book and easily distinguish the characters and plot. Jess was such a perfect protagonist for the story. I was able to relate to her, and you could easily see yourself in her situation. She gave the book a voice, and I found myself turning the pages faster to see how she would get herself out of a situation or get into a fight. Casey crafted great characters like Hugo, Ella, and Jess, and I liked them a lot.

The book did not really have a scary, creepy feel, but more of a thriller and suspenseful feel. I do wish that Casey had added more creepy, eerie elements, but the book still came out strong. In addition, I also liked that the book did touch a bit on romance, but it did not completely overwhelm the book.

Bet Your Life was a great book that people should pick up if they're looking for a thriller kind of read.

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library doesn't own this book, nor the first one, How to Fall. But based on Patrick's review and the need for more mystery/thriller books in our collection, we're going to purchase them both.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teen review: Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls
by Lauren Oliver
368 Pages
Realistic fiction, not part of a series
Recommended for 9th grade and above
Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11

Vanishing Girls was hands down one of the most poignant and powerful books I read year. Wow...I'm still blown away, honestly.

Vanishing Girls may look like you typical YA/Contemporary book, but beneath it all is an intricate story. Sisters Nick and Dara used to be so close to each other until Dara vanishes on her birthday. Nick thinks Dara is playing with her, but when Madeline Snow also vanishes, she knows something serious is going on. Oliver was able to effortlessly bring in suspenseful elements along with loss and love that ultimately created an amazing book.

Nick and Dara were really intriguing right off the bat. The book was divided between the two sisters and the past and present. It may have gotten confusing at times, but I was actually able to distinguish the two. I really bonded with Nick while reading, because she had a strong perseverance not to give up to find Dara. She goes through so much trying to find out what really happens to Dara, you could easily feel all the emotions she went through. Dara on the other hand, was a big mess for me. She needed to get her whole act straightened out and needed to stop playing games. I kinda felt a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" vibe from her because she would start these games and end up safe and normal. Oliver created such dynamic characters that really contrasted with each other that worked well.

I loooveed the suspense part of the novel. It was heart-pounding when Nick was piecing together all the clues about Dara. The ending had me on an emotional roller coaster! As the whole book comes together, you feel for all the characters especially Nick and Dara!

Be prepared!

I have a feeling this book would do great as a movie!

Vanishing Girls was a refreshing addition to the ever-expanding world of YA books. Oliver hits a home run with her emotional characters, a suspenseful plot, and a deep message about family, relationships, and love. Pick this one up!

Editor's note: This book has been purchased for Burbank Public Library (all branches) and will be available shortly. While you wait, if you haven't read her book Before I Fall, definitely check that one out to tide you over!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tonight! Don't be late!

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS pre-screening of the FANALE
presented by Warner Bros. and BPL

Tuesday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch
300 N. Buena Vista St., Burbank 91502
818 238-5620

Remember to BE PROMPT! The event is fully booked, and there is a waiting list! If you are bringing guests, you can't show up alone and save their seats--you must sign in your whole group at once. There will be a table outside the auditorium where you can check in.

Doors open at 6:30, so arrive early, sign in, and then you can look at costumes and props and have a cookie while you wait! At 6:50 we will let in the people on standby, so it's imperative that you arrive before that!

See you tonight! Cant wait for the #BigAReveal

Monday, March 23, 2015

Teen Review: Fairy tale meets nightmare

by Alexandra Monir
368 pages

Reviewed by Melody, grade 11

Suspicion is definitely a mixture of fairy tale meets nightmare. Imogen’s family is part royalty, but a number of secrets hide inside the walls of her family’s English country manor. The biggest mystery of all is the maze. It was set on fire, and led to the tragic death of her parents. Imogen’s parents' death caused a ripple effect of her moving to New York, grieving, and having to live with a secret that occurred right before they died. Over the years, as she becomes moderately accustomed to her new life, an unexpected letter arrives informing her of yet another disastrous catastrophe that has occurred at the manor. Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate and she accepts the responsibility of becoming a duchess. However, along with the overwhelming obligations that brings, she is also learning of the villainous secrets inside the manor. As they begin to be exposed, Imogen is slowly convinced her parents' death might not have been an accident after all. Determined to figure out every dark secret with the help of her long lost first love Sebastian, Imogen finds herself in a whirlwind of mystery, murder, and magic.

Over all this was a pleasant read, but I do have mixed feelings towards this book, which is why I rated it 3 out of 5 stars. It was suspenseful and extremely surprising towards the end. However, I did feel the beginning was rushed and was only geared towards cutting straight to the chase and action. Although, I’m sure the action in a book is usually the most anticipated part of reading, I find, when the story and details are hurried, it causes the action to be slightly less exciting when it finally occurs. Nevertheless, this was a small flaw in the book that hardly effected the overall quality of the thrilling story. My favorite part without a doubt would be the ending. It was a complete shocker! I also really enjoyed the language used to describe the pain Imogen felt after losing her parents. Hopefully others will enjoy this book too!

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library doesn't own this book (yet--let us know if you want us to buy it, by filling out a card for our suggestion box at the Reference Desk), but I read another book of Monir's last year, called Timeless. I had about the same reaction to it that Melody had to this one:

Not bad, not great. No theory of time travel at all--the accent here was all on the romance and the history and not on the science, apart from a little gushing from a classmate of the protagonist's, who "reveals" that Einstein believed in time travel and therefore it must be possible! It was mostly all about the desperate yearning for the person in the other time, trying to reach them, wanting to be together. But the historical details were well done, and there's a set-up for a sequel that seemed promising.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What we're reading: Mythic fiction

Marcus Sedgwick's book Midwinterblood is a seven-part story that spans centuries. It begins in 2073 and then hops backwards with each subsequent part, until we see the beginning at the end. When I picked it up, I had no expectations, and indeed didn't know what to make of it at first, except to admire the deceptively simple style. The storytelling is almost dreamlike, with the reader as much under the influence of the writing as the protagonist is under the influence of a mysterious island called, variously, Blessed, Blest, Blod...there are components of legend, old religions, and folklore, yet the writer has made the story completely his own, recombining elements to suit himself. What a fascinating, mesmerizing book it is. A strange island, a dragonflower orchid with life-giving properties, a story of reincarnation, of lovers finding one another throughout the centuries in various, unmatching guises…I was enthralled.

I have to say that I have no idea why the publisher would promote this specifically as a young adult book. It's not that I don't think certain teens would love it (I do), but it seems to me like the kind of book that would appeal to a certain kind of reader as opposed to a reader of a certain age. I would love to hear from teens who liked it, and for them to tell me specifically what they liked about it.

Midwinterblood reminded me a bit of Meg Rosoff's book The Bride's Farewell (one of my faves the year it was published), or of Far Far Away by Tom McNeal, not so much for the specific story as for the feel of it--old, legendary, fey. I look forward to reading others of Sedgwick's books.