Saturday, November 14, 2015

What we're reading: Adult fiction appealing to teens

Although I found Canary, by Duane Swierczynski, on the adult New Fiction shelf, after reading it all I could think was that someone should nominate it for an Alex Award, because it's also the kind of book I think high school teens or "new adults" would love. (Please note that there are mature themes, so high school and college are the appropriate ages to read this.)  It reminded me of The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, one of my Alex Award-winning faves that was also highly rated by high school book club.

Sarie Holland is a 17-year-old honors student in her first year of community college. She has so far avoided the "party hearty" habit of most freshmen, instead working on keeping up her grades and hanging out with her dad, who hasn't been the same since her mom died. But towards the end of the semester, she is persuaded into attending a party, where she makes a connection with D., a charismatic guy she has admired from afar. When he asks her for a lift home, even though it's way out of her way, she says yes; then he asks if she can make a stop along the way, so he can "pick up a book from a friend." She realizes that he's actually using her to make a drug run, but by the time she figures this out, he has taken off, leaving his drugs in her car to be discovered by a lurking policeman. She is (foolishly) loyal to D., so she refuses to give him up; the cop, a Philadelphia narcotics officer named Ben Wildey, is looking to bust somebody higher up the chain, and thinks if he can keep his claws in her and threaten prosecution (five years for possession), she'll rat out her "boyfriend," who will lead him to bigger players. Instead, Sarie turns herself into the perfect Confidential Informant (C.I.) by scouring Philly to find alternate people from the drug trade to sacrifice to Wildey. As he continues to hound her, she lets her desperation make her take risky chances that bring her to the attention of all the wrong people...

Some of the events of this book are so crazy that you find yourself saying "C'mon! Really?" as you read it. And yet, it's so well plotted, with such a fresh voice, that you keep reading anyway. It has multiple points of view done well, lots of twisty turns in the plot, and an explosive, unexpected ending--a real page-turner!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Club Report

Eighteen of our 20 members attended the November meeting of the 6+7 Book Club Tuesday night, to discuss Maile Meloy's fantasy, The Apothecary. The majority of club members were big fans of this book, and plan to read the sequels. In fact, there were only two people who gave a score below 8 when we rated it, resulting in an overall rating of 8.5. Positive aspects of the book: the creativity, the romance, the characters. Not so positive: historical inaccuracies (which we pointed out only holds true if you consider this magical realism, rather than alternative history!), and the ending, about which many were outraged.

We had a lively debate about what books to include in our list to vote on for January, which included new nominations as well as a raft of leftover suggestions from last month. The ultimate winner was Sylo, by D. J. MacHale. And in February, we will read The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor, in preparation for his February 11 visit!

Other books we considered:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel

Our next meeting is on December 8th, when we will discuss Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


A reminder that you have until TODAY at 5:00 p.m. to turn in your “retold fairy tale” story! So if you’re done but haven’t sent it, do it today! If you’re polishing it one final time, don’t procrastinate! We look forward to seeing what you have written!

Email it to, or drop it off at any Reference Desk BEFORE 5:00!

And remember: We will announce the top writers at BOOK CAFÉ with CORNELIA FUNKE, next Thursday night! Don’t miss that!

7:00 p.m. at Buena Vista Branch in the auditorium

Book-talking, coffee house treats, CORNELIA FUNKE!

She’s bringing/talking about the NEW BOOK in the Mirrorworld series,

The Golden Yarn.

(This program is for TEENS ONLY! Grades 6-12!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What we're reading: Magical realism

A loose definition of "magical realism" is "a literary genre or style that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction." I just read a book off the teen New Books shelf that qualifies for this definition...although the supposedly realistic bits were nearly as fantastical as the parts that were supposed to be magical!

The book is The Weight of Feathers, by Anna-Marie McLemore. In it, two families, both made up of "show people" (the Palomas are Spanish, the Corbeaus are French Romani), are on the road, setting up in villages and towns and performing for a week or two in each location. The families have been bitter enemies for generations, but once a year they end up in the town of Almendro at the same festival, competing for the audience while superstitiously avoiding contact with one another. This year, though, a disaster puts two teens, one from each tribe, in contact, and before they know that one is a Paloma and the other a Corbeau, Romeo- and Juliet-style sparks have flown.

The Palomas dress up as mermaids and do a water act--but they do their show not in a tank, but in any available river or lake close to a town from which they can draw an audience. The Corbeaus dress as birds (or fairies--they are described as both), with giant wings on their backs made of wire and peacock feathers, and they climb around high in the trees, dancing on the branches and mimicking flying from branch to branch.

This is the supposedly realistic set-up and background for the story...but all I could think about was how unlikely it is that there would be suitable water venues for the "mermaids" without overwhelming hazards present, and in enough places where they could realistically travel from town to town. And for the bird people, how many places are there with the right kind and size of trees, in the right kind of grouping, and also adjacent to a town from which to find an audience? The so-called realistic background was a problem for me!

But…the story itself, of the two least children in the feuding families and how they find each other, is magical and lovely, and got under my skin. The way that the rumors and legends and inaccuracies about what happened between the two families has poisoned the air between them so badly is an object lesson in making your own way and refusing to listen to the bitterness of the past. And the reveals at the end were powerful, as was the resolution.

I liked that one family was Spanish and one was French, with the languages dropped effectively and appropriately into the story, including alternating little aphorisms at the beginning of each chapter. The life in the trailers and on the road was nicely depicted. The alienation felt by the two protagonists was evocative. So…despite my misgivings about the realism, I'm calling this book magical!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Teens Read to Tots!

(Does it drive anybody else crazy that "read" is present tense and "read" is also past tense?)

Saturday, we did a fun thing! November is Picture Book Month; we've been wanting to do some kind of readathon at our library; teens are always asking us for service hours for school; so we brought all those things together and had a "Teens Read to Tots" three-hour readathon in the Children's Room at the Buena Vista branch of Burbank Public Library.

Seventeen of our teens checked in with the children's librarians a couple of weeks ago, to get picture books appropriate for toddlers--some new, some old favorites--then took them home to practice reading them aloud. Friday afternoon we had a practice session at which we librarians gave the teens tips about how best to read to little kids, and then Saturday we had constant reading of picture books by teens from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone who showed up.

We didn't draw a huge crowd, it was mostly regulars who were happy to find something extra going on, but we always had at least one kid willing to listen, and sometimes as many as 10 or 12. We discovered some new, fun picture books, the kids were happy, the teens got their service hours (and enjoyed themselves, we hope!)…it turned out to be a great program! I think we'll do it again!

Here's a drawing of three little girls who stayed for about eight books' worth:

Katrina, Mohammad, Andre, Hal, Niki, Gavin, Romina, Ava, Mane, Julia, Megan, Cameron, Harrison, Charlotte, and David! Vache and Kimberly, we missed you--maybe next time!

Ashley and Arsine for coming and coaching
Tina, Donna, Anush, Jenny, and Cathleen for picking out books


If you would like to see more photos, go to Burbank Public Library Teen Page, where we have created an album.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Teen review: Horror

The Light
by D.J. MacHale
Horror / Mystery
Series: Morpheus Road
Reading Level: High School

Reviewed by R.M.


Marshall Seaver and Cooper Foley were best friends. They were both living ordinary high school lives until something happened. Cooper goes missing when he goes to the Foleys’ lake house, and Marshall starts seeing things he shouldn’t see. While Marshall is being hunted, he follows his gut instinct that finding Cooper would solve his problems. Joined by Cooper’s sister, Sydney, Marshall embarks on an investigation to find his best friend and bring closure to what’s happening.


As a reader, this book kept me from sleeping peacefully for at least one night. My imagination was really worked up by the events in this book. The book also deals a lot with life and death and beyond, which gives new meaning to what life really means in this series. Because of this, the book brings characters that come from different times and eras, which gives the story a transcendent feel.

What I liked about the whole series is that almost everyone could connect with at least one of the characters, since all of them are unique. One thing that I didn’t like about the storyline is that it reuses concepts of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, just renaming them something else.

The other thing about this book is that there aren't a lot of plot twists. But despite that absence, the series still keeps readers at the edge of their seats.

I also see the series as some kind of a hybrid, because the first two books happen in the same setting, but from different perspectives. But what makes it special is that only the first book is truly a horror book. The rest of the books are more general fiction. This is because the second book explains a different side of the story in the first. This makes a reader appreciate the power of their own imagination, causing them to fear the unknown, only to feel secure after satisfying their curiosity.

Rating: 4.25

Editor's note: We have the entire trilogy available for check-out at BPL.