Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Club Report

There were 16 in attendance at the December meeting of the 10-12 Book Club, at which we discussed The Martian, by Andy Weir. We have been wanting to read this book for a very long time, and fortunately the book lived up to its hype: Only one of the 16 didn't care for it, and everyone else was a fan. Those of us who know something about math and science enjoyed the intricate details, while those of us who know nothing about those subjects nonetheless loved the book for the story, the suspense, and the smart-mouthed protagonist. The rating was 8.5.

Unlike last month's meeting, when we were all practically unanimous about next month's book (Ketchup Clouds, by Annabel Pitcher), there were 12 books nominated this time, so we voted three times and then voted twice and then voted once! The one we ended up with was Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Other books we considered:

Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
All You Never Wanted, by Adele Griffin
The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Proxy, by Alex London
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia
The Bride's Farewell, by Meg Rosoff
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Locked In, by John Scalzi
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

The club meets again on January 5, 2016.

The 6+7 Book Club was decimated by both illness and choir concerts this month, so only 12 were there to talk about Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz, the first in the Alex Rider series. We had two low ratings that pulled the average down a bit, but everyone else liked the book so much that it still ended up with an 8. Even though many of the events of the book were pronounced highly unlikely to completely ridiculous, most people were willing to go with it for the sake of the adventure, and several have already read a few of the sequels.

Because we had already chosen our book for next month (The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor), since the author is paying us a visit in February right after book club, we spent the time we would usually take to vote on a book to instead discuss some things we've been reading that we liked.

Here's the list:

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Ten, by Gretchen McNeil
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni

We will save these for future meetings. The club meets next on January 12.

The 8+9 Club also had some attrition due to choir and orchestra concerts ('tis the season), so we had only 10 club members to talk about Variant, by Robison Wells. It definitely seemed like there were more teens in the room, though, what with the lively discussion of this strange science fiction story! Everybody liked the twist, and the book was favorably compared to The Maze Runner, with a rating of 9 out of 10!

Next month we are reading Gone, by Michael Grant, and for February we chose Splintered, by A. G. Howard, to put this group in the Alice in Wonderland mood as well!

Other books we considered:

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
October Sky, by Homer Hickam
Far, Far Away, by Tom McNeal
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

The club's January meeting is on Wednesday the 13th.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teen review: The great detective

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Part 8 : The Adventure of the Speckled Band
by Arthur Conan Doyle

Reviewed by Criselin, grade 12

In this series about investigating crime, Sherlock Holmes is the detective, and Dr. Watson is his partner. In this book, Sherlock Holmes is trying to discover who murdered the sister of Helen Stoner.

This book is inspiring for someone who someday would like to become a detective. It entertained me a lot, especially because detectives are so amazing when they solve crimes. I love to read, even though English is not my first language, and I rate this book 4 out of 5 because once you start reading this book, you can't stop. The book inspired me to create my own version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I recommend this book, and Arthur Conan Doyle has been added to my list of favorite authors.

The only thing I didn't like is the cover of the book. People say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but in my opinion, the cover needs to be attractive to all readers, and I would like this cover to be more modern.

Editor's note: Criselin did not send me a picture of the cover, so I'm not sure which one it was that she disliked--this book has been released under numerous covers! Here is a more modern one that she (and you) might like...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teen review: Fantasy series

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
Fantasy series
High school level readers

Reviewed by Mher Arutyunyan, grade 9

The fantasy novel The Name of the Wind, written by Patrick Rothfuss, is the first installment in the ongoing Kingkiller Chronicles series. It follows a lowly bartender named Kvothe, who recounts his exciting life story to a chronicler. Kvothe’s story is rife with danger, magic, and love. He was born into a travelling caravan and lived a happy life until one fateful night when his parents were slaughtered, leaving him as the only survivor. This sends Kvothe on a journey to the University, a school specializing in the study of various types of magic, where he hopes to learn the art of sympathy. Sympathy is a form of magic that deals with the manipulation of energy. It is at this point Kvothe begins his journey to kill the Chandrian, the group of seven evil beings who murdered his family.

The Name of the Wind may at first seem like a daunting read. It is quite dense with fascinating lore, and is quite long, with a page count of 722. Its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, is even longer, with more than 1,000 pages! However, The Name of the Wind is an absolute masterpiece and a must-read for fans of fantasy. The world is fascinating and the characters have many layers to them, especially Kvothe. He is a proud, skillful boy whose magical ability surpasses his fellow students’. I found that the most enjoyable and memorable parts of the book took place at the University. At first, the University felt like a copy of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. Thankfully, the University proved to be quite a unique place, filled with students from different walks of life, and intimidating and eccentric teachers.

The best way I can describe The Name of the Wind is Harry Potter combined with the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin. The novel has more mature themes and situations than Harry Potter, and I would recommend it to high school students interested in fantasy. The system of magic in the series, sympathy, is very well developed and feels real. Rothfuss is excellent at explaining the fantasy world in which Kvothe lives, but he never over-explains things, like many fantasy writers. The concluding chapter of the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy has not been released yet, meaning that readers will unfortunately have to wait a while to get a proper resolution.

The Wise Man’s Fear, the second in the series, didn’t quite live up to its predecessor. It felt a bit too long, and it got away from the University. It also focused too much on the worst character in the series (in my opinion), Denna. She is Kvothe’s love interest, but she doesn’t feel like a real person. She’s always distant and quite unlikeable, in fact. That said, The Name of the Wind is one of the best fantasy novels of the past decade, and it earns a 5/5 from me.

Editor's note: While you are waiting with Mher for book #3, you could read a novella by Rothfuss about one character from the series, the mysterious Auri. It's called  The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Check it out!