Friday, August 7, 2015

Teen review: Sci Fi series

by Michael Grant
576 pages
first of a series
Science fiction, thriller, horror
Recommended for 9th grade and up

Reviewed by Michelle M., grade 10

Gone, by Michael Grant, is the first in an action-packed fantastical series of six books. In 576 pages, Grant introduces an interestingly morbid yet addicting new addition to the sci-fi shelves.

The story begins in calm Perdido Beach, California with an ordinary 14-year-old boy named Sam Temple. Sam lives an average life: riding the waves, going to school, and hanging out with his bro Quinn. Everything is completely regular until -POOF- everyone is gone. Anyone over the age of 15 magically disappears without a trace. After this terrifying, crazy event, chaos erupts and everyone in Perdido Beach is forced to meet a shocking new reality. It's a brutal dog fight for power, and something dark and powerful seems to be pulling the strings from behind the curtains...

This book (and the rest of the series) is easily one of my favorites. I loved the wide range of characters with diverse personalities and goals. I felt that Gone expertly captured the struggle for an efficient leader to connect groups, which is one of the main problems in the book. There’s something to love or respect in every character (well, except Drake!) because Grant effortlessly brings out both the vices and virtues of their human nature. Yet another one of the many things I loved about the book was its intricacy. The plot initially seems sort of mundane for a sci-fi novel, but this book takes all sorts of twists and turns I never thought were possible. Just when you think there might be a moment of rest for the weary characters, something else pops up to keep you turning the pages.

If you are an aficionado of explosive sci-fi novels, you will rave about Gone. I recommend this series for 9th graders and older because the story has its fair share of gore and more than its share of violence. If you want to read this novel, you should keep that in mind. 

I rate this book a 5 out of 5.

Editor's note: I especially enjoyed this first book in the series, too. The thing that bugged me as the series went on, though, was the book covers! All these beautiful teens dressed in pristine clothes, looking like supermodels, while inside the covers of the book, they are muddy, bloody, starving, and beaten down! Whoever designed the covers should have read the books first!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What we're reading: A. S. King

A. S. King is an interesting author. Some love her, some not so much, but everyone has to give her props for writing an intriguing tale. We read Please Ignore Vera Dietz in high school book club last year, and the club rated it a 7 out of 10, which wasn't their highest rating but was definitely respectable. Anarda raved about Ask the Passengers back when it came out, and she also gave a high rating to Reality Boy, although she warned us about how crass it was in places! King has a new book coming out soon (she's an amazingly consistent writer, seeming to release one every year in the fall), described as surrealist fiction, called I Crawl Through It, which we will definitely buy for the teen collection. So I decided that, before the new one arrives, I should read the latest: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future.

Glory O'Brien is in stasis. She's about to graduate high school, but has no plans. Her mother committed suicide when she was four years old, and because everyone around her has refused to talk to her (or listen to her) about it, she has never really gotten past it. She knows her father loves her, but ever since her mother's death he has thrown himself into his work and absentmindedly done the minimum he needs to do to raise her. She has one friend, and one night they do something foolish that awakens a strange power in both of them: the ability to see a person's infinite past and future. When she looks at people, she sees their ancestors, and she sees their destinies, and what's coming in our future she doesn't like one bit. Glory writes down everything she sees, hoping that she can make a difference for others, even if her own future is murky.

I loved this book--it had the right amount of magical realism and quirkiness to make the basic issue of a teen girl grieving over her mother interesting and fresh. I liked how it roamed around, via Glory's mind, embracing big topics like freedom and feminism and small topics like wardrobe and love life. I believed Glory's outsider status and empathized with it, and I also understood the part where she realizes that her best friend Ellie is only her best friend because of proximity. How many of us have made friends with someone on the playground at five years old and kept them as friends thereafter, despite the obvious incompatibility, simply out of obligation or sheer inertia? Some friendships just have a shelf life, which Glory realizes about hers with Ellie.

King has a gift for delineating characters simply by telling you, for instance, what they're wearing and why. It's a subtle, delicate method of characterization that I particularly enjoy.

The ratings for this book on Goodreads were all over the place--from 5 out of 5 down to the 2s. I think the problem was that the magical realism confused some people: The "seeing the future" part of the book was so creative and weird, but the people who gave it bad ratings because "that couldn't happen" were missing the whole point. I will concede that it's probably not a book for everyone. You have to be willing to suspend disbelief and go with the premise.

King's books often seem to celebrate a moment in a character's life. Sometimes not a lot happens--but the momentum of the stories comes from watching her characters confront the moment, work out what to do, and articulate why they will make those choices. Sometimes we don't even get to see the final consequences, but that's okay. The synopsis of this book sounds like Glory's life is a great big fat negative--but despite all that, I left this book with a hopeful feeling, and that's how I like a book to end, so a big thumbs up from me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Take our survey!

If you registered for and/or attended any of our TEEN MEETUP IN THE BURB events this summer, or if you kept a reading log or wrote book reviews or kept a sketchbook, please take our survey! We want to find out what you liked (and what you didn't!), so we can offer you what you want during Teen Summer Reading! Your opinion matters, so please give us the feedback!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Teen reviews: Savannah Reid-fest!

Kayla, grade 11, continues with the Savannah Reid mystery series by G. A. McKevett! She is as addicted to these books as Savannah is to sweets!

Sour Grapes
249 pages
Adult mystery series, recommended for grade 10 and up

Ex-cop turned private investigator Savannah Reid is the epitome of sassy. She is a woman in her mid-40s, with cobalt-blue eyes, dark brown curly hair that falls in ringlets, and voluptuous curves. In her latest adventure, her baby sister, Atlanta, comes knocking on her door. There is a beauty pageant in town, and Atlanta is one of many competitors. Savannah is hired as security at the pageant and soon finds out how ugly the process behind the pageant can be. But when one of the girls goes missing, can Savannah find her before it's too late?

I have read quite a few of these books now, and I can truly say that each book is better than the last. How did I find this series, you ask? I was looking through the mystery section in the library and all I kept seeing was a bunch of boring covers and titles. Then I grabbed one out that was bright and had a cute and sassy name, and I've been hooked ever since. Not only are the titles outrageously catchy, but the cover art is to die for (pun intended). If you have read any of these books, then you know that Savannah loves her cats, Cleopatra and Diamante. On the cover of each book, is a picture of a cat near whatever food is in the title. For example, on the cover of Sour Grapes, there is a black kitty with a tiara squishing grapes near a satin pageant sash. How could it get any better than that?

I rate this as a 5.

Death by Chocolate
248 pages

Adult mystery series, recommended for grade 10 and up

Savannah Reid is at it again, and this time it's more fun than ever! She has been hired to be a bodyguard for her idol, the queen of chocolate, Lady Eleanor. Lady Eleanor has been receiving death threats, and it's Savannah's job to find out who is sending them. However, there are quite a few suspects because most people who know Eleanor want to see her dead! And Savannah is finding out that Lady Eleanor might even deserve these threats. Can this talented and sassy P.I. stop the threats before they become a reality??

I really liked this book. The amount of detail is just enough so that the reader can visualize everything without feeling like the author is droning on. This book made my mouth water with all the talk of chocolate and other sweets. I can't wait to read the rest of the series...but I am going to be so sad when it's finished. I have grown so attached to the characters that they are almost like family now.

I rate this book as a 5.

Bitter Sweets
311 pages

Adult mystery series, recommended for grade 10 and up

Savannah Reid loves her work even though it's not exactly steady. Savannah gets a somewhat easy case this time. She is employed to find the estranged sister of a real estate broker. However when she finds her, strange things start to happen and Savannah finds herself right smack in the middle of a murder case! With the help of her assistant, Tammy, and her ex-partner, Detective Dirk Coulter, who is still on the police force, Savannah hopes to find the murderer before he or she strikes again.

This book was amazing. The whole series never fails to disappoint. Although I love all the characters, Savannah is probably my favorite. I love how the author describes her. She also has such a cloud of confidence that always surrounds her and it's catching.

I rate this book as a 5.

Peaches and Screams
301 pages

Adult mystery series, recommended for grade 10 and up

Savannah is happy to be going back to Georgia...if only if wasn't to attend her sister Marietta's third wedding. But at least she gets to see her beloved Granny Reid. However, when she gets there, she finds out that her younger brother, Macon, is in jail for the murder of a well known judge in the town. Savannah is shocked, but she is even more surprised when Tammy and Dirk show up to help catch the real killer! Can they catch him or her before Savannah's brother goes to jail for good??

Savannah's family is the most outrageous, ridiculous, but lovable literary family I have ever read about! They have almost more sass than the reader can handle, and you can almost hear their sweet Southern accents as you read along. Not to mention that they all are named after towns in Georgia, which is so great. I highly recommend the books in this series to anyone and everyone because I cannot put them down!!

I rate this book as a 5.

Cereal Killer
247 pages

Adult mystery series, recommended for grade 10 and up

Savannah is helping her ex-partner Dirk on one of his cases (as usual), when he gets a call about the death of a plus-size model. She happens or rather, happened, to be one of Savannah's role models. However, it looks like an accident caused by an extreme diet. But when another model ends up dead, Dirk and Savannah start to think that neither of the deaths are accidental. Can they find the killer before another model ends up dead?

This book had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I could not figure out who the killer was, it was a total surprise. I also love the punny name. In the book there was a serial killer, but the title is "Cereal Killer" and anyone who reads the book knows that it does indeed have to do with cereal. I love these books and I can't wait to read more!!!

Editor's note: Kayla, I don't think you are the only one who loves the puns! G. A. McKevett must have fun thinking those up...