Saturday, October 10, 2015

What we're reading: My Life Next Door

Samantha Reed and her uptight politician mother live next door to the Garrett family, and Samantha, as an only child, has always had a fascination with the "tribe" of children on the other side of the fence. Mrs. Reed's opinion is a lot more critical--the Garretts are everything Samantha's mom was dreading the day she saw them move in--loud, messy, affectionate--and Mrs. Reed considers their house an eyesore in their upscale neighborhood, and their family beneath notice.

Samantha, on the other hand, longs to be one of them. Her bedroom window with its tiny slice of roof outside is the perfect perch from which to study not only the stars (a hobby of hers), but also all the Garretts' comings and goings. She thinks that her wistful voyeurism is a secret from both her mother and the family she is observing, until one summer evening when Jase Garrett climbs up to talk to her, and everything changes.

Jase and Samantha fall for each other, and his family welcomes her with open arms, while she keeps Jase and her friendship with the Garretts a deep dark secret from her mother. But then something devastating happens, and that's suddenly not the only secret Sam is keeping, only this time it's from Jase. Now she has to decide where her loyalties lie.

I had read another of Huntley Fitzpatrick's books a year or so ago, and then apparently skipped over this one and read The Boy Most Likely To, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. That isn't precisely a sequel to this one, it's more like a continuation of the Garretts' story from a different character's point of view. I saw on Goodreads that some people found that one disappointing after having read and loved My Life Next Door, but since I read them in reverse order, I had a different perspective. This book was definitely a great story, but it was much more of a romance with some life drama thrown in, whereas I found The Boy Most Likely To more complex. Or maybe I just enjoyed the antics of "bad boy" Tim more than the less complicated (though infinitely better looking) Jase?

Anyway, a thumbs up from me for all of Huntley Fitzpatrick's books!

A personal note: The cover on this book looks like something from the 1970s! Don't be put off by it, though--if you enjoy Deb Caletti, Sarah Dessen, or Stephanie Perkins, I'll bet you will like these books.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Teen Poetry


by Harika Katakotta

Across the haunted bay

dwell dystopians

camoflauged in smog

Bloodshot hunchbacks

stuffed in fleece

zig-zagging molten asphalt

Split open their hearts

and out gush songs

of sparrows and laughter

Starved of light they will

wither away, little dust hills

piled in corroded hearths

Editor's note: We seem to have some teens who like the idea of publishing poetry on the blog--if there are more of you, perhaps we will create a poetry PAGE, that you can reach from clicking on a tab at the top. So if you want your poetry featured here, please email it to!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

10-12 Book Club Report

There were 14 in attendance (out of 20) at Tuesday night's 10-12 Book Club (it seems there were choir rehearsals and surprise pop tests that kept people away) to discuss Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick.

Everyone pretty much agreed that they started out unsure about the book but were quickly pulled in and then couldn't put it down. Although the topic was controversial (and caused two book club members to stop reading at various points), most felt that the protagonist was interesting (although weird) and the story was well written. Only one person expressed active dislike for the book. A few were uncomfortable with the open ending, but most felt it was appropriate and gave them what they needed to know. Our rating was a solid 8 (high for this group).

Next month, we will be discussing Lexicon, by Max Barry, and the month after that we will read The Martian, by Andy Weir.

Other books we considered (in alpha order by author):

Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia
The Bride's Farewell, by Meg Rosoff
Lock-in, by John Scalzi

Our next meeting will be held on November 3. You can pick up your copy of Lexicon Wednesday after 4 p.m. at either library.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Teens read to tots!


November is PICTURE BOOK MONTH, so we decided it would be fun if Burbank Teens read to Burbank Tots! If you would like to be one of those teens, here are the details:

The readathon takes place from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 7, at Buena Vista Branch, in the round room in the Children's Department. But before that happens...

You would get to pick your book(s) (in consultation with the children’s librarians), check them out, take them home, and rehearse on your own before the event.

We will meet ONCE before the event (November 6 after school) to practice our stories and get pointers from each other and from one of the children’s librarians.

Then you show up to read during your given time period. We will have teens reading continuously at 15-minute intervals during that entire time, but YOU would only have to be there for your "slot."

BUT! None of this will happen unless TEENS SIGN UP!

We will make it worth your while by giving you SERVICE HOURS. Yes, we will. But we hope that you will be motivated more by the "reading to little kids" part!

If you are interested, contact or and TELL US! Name, phone, email address. We will collect names and then get back to you with a confirmation and a schedule. (Also please say if you can only do certain times—for instance, “I have swim practice from 10-12, so schedule me after 12:30.”)

We will discover some new picture books and enjoy some old favorites. People can come and listen to one, or stay for them all! If you are NOT going to be a teen reader, at least tell all the people you know who have toddlers so they will bring their children to this giant readathon storytime!

Monday, October 5, 2015

What we're reading: Charles de Lint

I wanted to discuss the works of the author Charles de Lint, because although many teens don't know about him, most of his books would be both appropriate for and interesting to teens who like fantasy and/or magical realism. He has several books that are marketed to young adults--The Blue Girl, Dingo, and Little (Grrl) Lost--and they are available in our teen sections, but his adult books are equally compelling and take place in the same universe.

His particular niche is called "urban fantasy," because instead of being set in some mythical kingdom or strange land that he "world-built" from scratch, the stories are set in an urban environment, i.e., in the city. This gives them more of a modern feel than what we typically think of as fantasy (Lord of the Rings, for instance), because it's as if we're in a contemporary, everyday place where magic is not the norm, but it still manages to creep in around the edges.

Picture yourself, for instance, walking down a busy street or through a city park. You catch a fleeting glimpse of a person that you could swear had horns growing out of his head, but then you decide that of course it must have been a hat. You see a couple of crows perched in a tree, and for an instant they look like a couple of raggedy goth girls dressed in black, but then the crows fly away and you mutter to yourself, "Got to get some coffee." The characteristic of urban fantasy is that it's happening all around you, but most people remain oblivious as they go about their day of commuting, working, playing, eating, and sleeping. The weirdness comes to a character's attention because something causes him or her to step outside of daily routine, and he is suddenly able to see more.

Charles de Lint is one of the masters of this genre. He has created a fictional city called Newford, which is loosely based on his home town of Ottawa (in Canada), although he maintains that Newford is an American city, and is much larger than Ottawa. It's hard to say just how many books he has set in and around Newford, but I counted more than 40 books on his website, and most are urban fantasy. He is one of the few writers whose short stories I enjoy; I don't usually care to read short stories (it's too truncated a format for me), but de Lint's all hang together around central themes that make them more like continuing narratives than individual stories.

On his website, he has a suggested order for reading the books set in Newford:
Dreams Underfoot (collection)
Memory and Dream (novel)
The Ivory and the Horn (collection)
Trader (novel)
Someplace to Be Flying (novel)
Moonlight and Vines (collection)
Forests of the Heart (novel)
The Onion Girl (novel)
Tapping the Dream Tree (collection)
Spirits in the Wires (novel)
Widdershins (novel)
Promises to Keep (short novel)
Muse and Reverie (collection)
Although I have enjoyed all those I have read, my favorites are Trader, and Memory and Dream.

In Trader, Max Trader wakes up one morning in someone else's bed in someone else's apartment and, when he looks in the mirror, he discovers he's also in someone else's body! After an initial period of confusion, he heads over to his own place, figuring that perhaps there's another guy inside his body. There, he discovers Johnny Devlin, a loser who has gone to sleep wishing his life could be different and has awakened to discover he "is" Max Trader, with all of Max's successes and assets, and Johnny isn't inclined to trade back! Meanwhile, Johnny's been evicted from his apartment, his possessions are impounded, and Max, walking around in Johnny's body, is sleeping on the street and considering panhandling for spare change so he can eat. Trader is the story of what happens next to both of them.

Isabelle Copley is the protagonist of Memory and Dream, which takes place in two time periods: the present, in which she is a reclusive artist living alone on an island and painting only abstracts; and the past, when she first came to Newford as an aspiring young art student and fell under the spell of the talented but abusive painter of super-realistic portraits, Vincent Rushkin. Isabelle, or Izzy as she was known then, learned a particular skill from Rushkin that at first gave her great joy in her art but later led to heartache and disaster. Through the dual story, we learn how she went from a vibrant young woman with friends, success, and happiness to the solitary, defensive person she is today...and then the story continues.

Both of these books are wonderful on so many levels--the world-building, the characters, the narrative, the magical realism verging on fantasy. I hope this will inspire you to try one of them and see if you, too, would like to be an inhabitant of Newford for a while.