Saturday, March 12, 2016

Teen review: Alice reimagined

by A.G. Howard
371 pages
Part of a series (book one)
Best for grades 9/10

Reviewed by Shadowmancer, grade 8

Alyssa Gardner is not an everyday teenager. Since fifth grade she’s been able to hear the voices of flowers and bugs. But what would you expect from the great-great-great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, on whom the book Alice in Wonderland was based? But in this book, there aren’t pretty talking flowers and a Red Queen who enjoys playing croquet. No, Alyssa comes from a long line of cursed women who have gone insane, and if she isn’t careful, she’ll be joining her mother in an asylum. So to break her family’s curse she must go back down the rabbit hole and fix Alice’s mistakes in Wonderland. But along the way she will reveal the true identity and objective of each of the wonderland characters and their intentions for her in their world of nonsense and madness.

I found this book to be well written and have one of the best plots I’ve ever read. The author does a fine job of taking the characters from the original Alice in Wonderland and morphing them into a child’s nightmare. I am a fan of morbid things, so I liked that the story is dark and intense with many twists and turns. The character themselves are well done, and one of the main characters by the name of Morpheus is absolutely charming. A. G. Howard has done a great job in writing this twisted Alice in Wonderland, and for fans of the Tim Burton film version, prepare to fall in love with this book!


Editor's note: There are two more books in this trilogy: Unhinged, and Ensnared. Burbank Public Library offers both of those for borrowing. There is also a book of three short stories, called Untamed, that we will be stocking soon, and an e-book only novella called The Moth in the Mirror that we will also purchase, since it seems that many others are as enthusiastic about this series as is this reviewer!

Friday, March 11, 2016

March Book Club Report

All but one of our 19 members made it to 6+7 Book Club this month to discuss The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot. There were some surprising reactions to this book! As we expected, some of the guys really loathed the book, but one of them gave it a 10!

Comments about Mia Thermopolis were hotly contested, with some saying that her interminable whining about algebra and flat-chestedness were annoying, while others maintained that since the book is written in the form of a diary, it is necessary to be extra forgiving about its contents, since a  ninth-grade girl would say in a diary a lot of things she wouldn't normally reveal. We all agreed that she was unbelievably naive about the true nature of her father's family and status, and also that the idea of having a parent dating one of our teachers was beyond creepy.

In the end, the ratings ran the gamut, with seven ratings of a perfect 10 down to three ratings of a dismal one! The final score, considering the spread, was a respectable 7.5.

For next month's discussion, we are reading The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni. And for our final book of the year in May, we will read I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter.

Other books we considered, in more or less descending order, were:

Counting by Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
The Kingdom Keepers, by Ridley Pearson
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne
Earth Girl, by Janet Edwards
The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster
House Arrest, by K. A. Holt
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
Virtuosity, by Jessica Martinez
The Wish List, by Eoin Colfer

Our next meeting is on Tuesday, April 12.

Sixteen of our 20 members met for Wednesday night's 8+9 Book Club, to talk about The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. Apparently the majority of the club didn't share the love that Anarda and I have for this series. Some didn't care for the way the book is written in third person, jumping from perspective to perspective. Others considered Ronan too creepy, Gansey too oblivious, and the story itself confusing. The final score was a 7.3 out of 10.

Next month we will (finally!) read and discuss The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey. The book chosen for May was Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger.

Other books we considered:

I'll Be There, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Nearly Gone, by Elle Cosimano
I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore

Our next meeting is on April 13.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Teen review: The Help

by Kathryn Stockett
464 pages
Historical fiction based on a true story

Not part of a series
High school and above

Reviewed by Tyler C., grade 12

The Help is a 2009 novel. The story is about African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She is an aspiring journalist, and she may have a degree but in 1962 her mom won't be happy until she has a ring on her finger. No one will tell Skeeter where Constantine, the family's maid, has gone. This leads Skeeter to look more closely at the other maids in her community. The book is about a white woman (Skeeter) who writes stories about black maids and how they are mistreated by their white employers. She becomes deeply involved. All this takes place during the Civil Rights movement.

This book didn't appeal to me, and I would give it 3 stars. It kind of got boring throughout the book, and I had to keep going back to understand the message of the whole book. For the most part, I guess it would be readable and entertaining , but in my opinion, that varies from person to person.

Editor's note: For another viewpoint, here's another teen review. I somewhat agreed with Tyler, although I think I liked the book better than she did. This is one instance when I have to say that I think the movie did the subject matter more justice!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Teen review: Fantasy and Romance

The Kiss of Deception
by Mary E. Pearson 
497 pages
Book 1 of The Remnant Chronicles
Recommended for 9th grade and up

Reviewed by Emma F., grade 11

Princess Lia is the first princess of the country, and being the first princess she is betrothed to the prince of the neighboring country. Lia, wanting true love and freedom, runs away on her wedding day, to live the rest of her life as a commoner. Everything goes fine until two mysterious strangers arrive at the tavern where she works. Unbeknownst to her, she meets the prince she left at the altar, and the assassin sent to kill her.

When I first started this book, I thought that one book would suffice, and that any more would be overkill. I only kept reading the book because it had a nice cover. After reading the first 200 pages, the author delivered the biggest plot twist (which I did not see coming), which changed my whole outlook on the entire book. I was so shocked that I reread earlier parts to fully understand what had happened, and I went out to Barnes and Noble to buy the second one (it wasn't out yet). I admit, the book starts out slow, with the cliche of the unwanted arranged marriage, and the love triangle. Yet, as the book progresses it gets better and better. The book switches perspectives between the three characters (Princess, Prince, Assassin), which I usually don’t like but it worked really well in this book.

I give this book a 4.5/5 for the compelling characters, the major plot twist, and the aesthetically pleasing cover. I don’t give it a 5/5, because it takes a while to get to the climax. I recommend this book for people who like fantasy, and enjoy romance as well.