Saturday, April 16, 2016

Teen review: Vampires! (reformed ones)

The Reformed Vampire Support Group
by Catherine Jinks
362 pages
Companion to The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group
Best for Grades 8 and older

Reviewed by Shadowmancer, grade 8

Nina Harrison is a vampire in Australia, no matter how much she doesn’t want to admit it. But being a vampire isn’t as cool as the books and movies make it seem. You can’t go out during the day, you’re always sick and weak, and you don’t have any cool powers. And she isn’t the only one. Every Tuesday, Nina and other vampires meet together at the Reformed Vampire Support Group to discuss how they feel since the turning and if they're managing to lie low. But at one of these meetings, it turns out one of their members has been turned to ash. Who is the mysterious and possibly lethal vampire killer and will he come after the rest of them? As if that isn’t enough action for these usually useless vampires, they also meet a young werewolf, two werewolf hunters, and a whole lot of danger. If they aren’t careful, they could all end up a pile of ash.

From priests to dog fights, sunglasses to guinea pigs, this book is probably one of my favorites. I love how Catherine Jinks writes, and her characters are just amazing. Some make you want to laugh, some make you want to cry, and some make you want to throw the book across the room. But you can’t help but keep reading. As a companion to another book, it doesn’t really matter which one you read first, in my opinion, but if you feel it’s necessary to do things in order, this is the book to start with. What I enjoy most about this book is how it shows the downside of the vampires; after all, there have been so many books that make vampires look like superheroes. In this one, their achievements seem a lot more important because of how many hardships stand in their way. Altogether, this book is a great new twist on vampires and I recommend it to everyone who loves a fangtastic read!

Editor's note: I also love the cover art! If you like these books, you might like a couple other titles: Fang Girl, by Helen Keeble, wherein Jane is an undead, eternally pasty 15-year old who only wishes she was like the vampires she always read about; and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride, in which totally normal Sam goes from working at a fast food joint to being hounded and persecuted by all sorts of paranormal folks because surprise! he's a necromancer (a raiser of the dead). Not a vamp protagonist, but with vamps, werewolves, and other strange creatures galore. You might also like Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskey.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April Book Club Report

Last Tuesday, 14 members of our 10-12 Book Club (out of 20) met to discuss Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the award-winning coming-of-age novel by Benjamin Alire Saenz. There wasn't a huge amount of discussion, simply because, almost without exception, we loved the book! The most cited positive was the "voice" of the protagonists, which was so distinctive and quirky and real that several of us found ourselves highlighting or marking quotes, or even entering them into the quotes database on Goodreads. We admired that Saenz made the adult characters every bit as real and interesting as the teen protagonists, and concluded that some of the best interactions in the book were between the teens and the adults. We felt there was just enough action and drama but not too much, just enough romance but not too much, and the book was refreshingly not "angsty." The club gave the book a rating of 9 out of 10, the highest this year.

Next month we will be reading Jo Walton's philosophical exploration of the Platonic ideal, The Just City. (When we mentioned in the book-talk that there were robots, we knew we had them.) Next month is our last meeting for the year, and this will be a great book on which to end things. We will, of course, have Teen Summer Reading during June and July, with four sessions of Book Cafe, for those who are jonesing for more book club; and current members of the club will read Kill the Messenger, by Tami Hoag, over the summer.

This Tuesday, the 6+7 Club had a mixed reaction to The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni. While some liked the tie-in to Arthurian legend, others felt that the author waited far too late in the book to introduce the element of magic, and several had problems with the specific way some of the magic worked. Everyone was in agreement that Jax was an idiot for not sharing important information with his guardian, but of course, if protagonists didn't make mistakes, there would be no story! The 17 teens in attendance gave the book a rating of 7, and three people said they would go on to read the sequel. We suggested that if they enjoyed the idea of "time out of time" that was the theme of this book, they might also enjoy reading Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters series, which begins with The Secret Hour.

Next month's book will be I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter.

We thought that we would pick a book to read over the summer, and so we opened up nominations and got quite a few good ones (some new and some repeats), but then we asked for a show of hands of who will be promoting into the 8+9 Club, and all but eight people raised their hands! Since only those eight will be in this club next year, we didn't see the point in having 19 people read a book they weren't going to be able to discuss with one another, so we decided to do what we did the past two years, which is meet in August to pick books with the clubs everyone will actually be in for the school year. But since the nominations were good, here's a list:

Don't Turn Around, by Michelle Gagnon
The Orphan Queen, by Jodi Meadows
Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
Counting by Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
The Kingdom Keepers #1, by Ridley Pearson

This Wednesday, the 8+9 Club was sharply divided over The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey. Some really liked the story, the writing, and the characters, while others felt that it was confusing and slow. Some thought Ben Parish (Zombie) was the most interesting narrative line, while others wanted to hear more about Cassie and thought Zombie was a drag. Some were swoony over Evan Walker, while others couldn't stand him from the moment they "met" him. So when we rated the book, we had a high of eight and a low of two, with a resulting 6.75 score.

Next month's book is Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger, a steampunk boarding school mash-up weirdly reminiscent of I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, only set in the 19th century on a dirigible. And there is no summer book, again because eight book club members are "moving up" and would end up reading the wrong book. But all of you can feel free to ask us for recommendations for your summer reading.

Speaking of which...we heard a lot of talk about books you've been reading lately--how about some reviews?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tonight! (and Thursday!)

Buena Vista Branch
7:00 p.m.

an author talk by Nathalia Holt
In the 1940s and ‘50s, when the Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women to be "computers." Before the digital age, that meant that these women used pencil, paper, and math skills to transform rocket design, help bring about the first American satellites, and make the exploration of the solar system possible. Hear their story! In addition to the author, Sylvia Miller, one of the Rocket Girls interviewed for the book, will be a special guest!

We believe that this program will be popular with adults and teens alike, and it has been well publicized in the media as well as at the schools, so be on time (or better yet, early) or you probably won't get a seat!

Buena Vista Branch
6:30 p.m.

with Juan Cárdenas and Jessica M. Wilson Cárdenas of the Los Angeles Poet Society

Join us for National Poetry Month to learn two new poetic forms: the musical Ekphrastic method (using one art form to inspire another) and the Humument (human document) process, which is similar to the blackout poetry we did last year!

We hope to see you at the library for these programs! Proof of attendance will be provided for those whose teachers offer extra credit.