Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So, I totally spaced on doing this last week, but the reason I haven't updated and won't in the next week or two is because I'm currently in the Bangkok airport and finding wifi has been like finding unicorns. Ahem. Okay, just wanted to put that out there so nobody thinks I suddenly died or anything. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

King of the Mild Frontier by Chris Crutcher

"Do You Know:
  • A good reason to be phobic about oysters and olives?
  • That you can step inside a roaring coal furnace and feet cool?
  • That Jesus had an older brother?
  • How shutting your mouth can help you avoid brain surgery?
  • How to avoid cow-pies during your baptism?
  • How to survive in the winter wilderness with only a fishing pole and a sausage?

  • Chris Crutcher knows the answers to these things and more.
And once you have read about Chris Crutcher's life as a dateless, broken-toothed, scabbed-over, God-fearing dweeb, and once you have contemplated his ascension to the buckskin-upholstered throne of the King of the Mild Frontier, you will close this book, close your eyes and hold it to your chest, and say, 'I, too, can be an author.'

Hell, anyone can."

Ugh. I know, I didn't post last week. My brain, and everything else for that matter, was completely fried by Sunday and I had no energy or time to read, due to nonstop rehearsals and performances of the Nutcracker. I calculated that I spent 28 hours at the performing arts center last week, so I think I deserved a break. Anyway, here's this week's book: an autobiography. Normally, those aren't the type I go for, but since the author of this one was Chris Crutcher (see Whale Talk from a couple weeks back), I wanted to give it a try. I would say no disappointment was had overall--Chris never failed to keep me entertained with his signature sense of humor. Even though he basically led a normal life, he recounted it all in the exact way that the events felt at the time of their happening--i.e, as heroic and genius endeavors. And even though he ended up failing at basically everything, often spectacularly, the way he tells it makes it deeply entertaining. A side warning, though: secondhand embarrassment is very likely. Very. The way the book was written was very episodic, less of a chronological timeline. While this made for more entertainment while reading, it could also prompt a second reading to fully get the big picture. The end, as well, was amazing. It lost some lightness, tackling those deep topics that Chris tends to deviate toward. There were some amazing concepts and quotes involved, and I'd definitely recommend reading this for those at the very least. There are copies at Kettleson and Sitka High, in the nonfiction section.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures."

This book has been on my to-read list for a ridiculously long amount of time. Given that, once procured, it took me roughly an hour to get through it, I figure I could have gotten to this one a while ago (in my defense, I've been on a small brink of insanity for the last month or so). Anyway, I'm aware this is a children's book, but seeing as it made a heck of a lot more excellent points, and sense, than most adult books, I don't care a bit. This was only 90 pages or so, very short and very concise, and presented a brilliantly simple look at humanity and philosophy and value. I could probably find a quote of deep and deceptively simple meaning on every page. The book was enjoyable to read, easy to read again, and interesting to think about; I have no complaints whatsoever. Everyone should take the time to read this; it's ridiculously short and extremely powerful. It's at Kettleson, Sitka High, Blatchley, and Keet.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life."


This is a good, traditional, old-fashioned, book. It has fantasy, a royal court, no excessively silly romances (though select quality ones), and a pretty awesome protagonist. It's nice and thick, too. A perfectly wonderful book to take a good chunk of time reading; it's not frivolous, it addresses good issues, and is incredibly smart. I kinda loved all the character interactions too. They're all different, very three-dimensional and believable, and interact in all these really interesting little ways that could be totally true to life. Seraphina is curious, meddlesome, intellectual, sassy, awkward, and direct. She's a refreshing heroine. There's really not much that I have to say critically about this one--I loved it. I have to go now because I have homework, but I bet you'll love it too: go find a copy at Mt. Edgecumbe or Blatchley. Adios!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die."


Okay, so this one was pretty good. I liked the idea of a futuristic Brazil, because we're always so self-centered and choose America. The giant glass pyramid of a city is a really cool concept, giving a pretty literal sense to the idea of levels of society. I liked June, didn't exactly connect with her for some reason, but was fine with reading her perspective. The characters as a whole were pretty interesting, though some of the futuristic elements and attitudes prevented me from wholly loving everything about them. I think my favorite part was the setting, the description of the civilization and all the vibrancy in it. That alone could easily carry the story, I think.That, and some interestingly out-of-the-box ideas tossed out here and there: the society is matriarchal, thus the disposability of the Summer Kings (which I unfortunately never quite get why they die) and the openness of different sexualities. I think the author had some very cool ideas and themes in mind when writing this book, even if that wasn't expanded in all areas to be completely coherent. Some areas seemed to be touched on and forgotten about, or not explored quite the right way. It's still quite a good book, though, and I'd give it maybe 3.8 stars. Go check it out at Kettleson.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sabriel by Garth Nix

"Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny."

I really wasn't sure what to expect with this one--it wasn't at first sight the most exciting or appealing book. I figured it had a fifty-fifty chance. It managed to pull through for me, though, gaining my approval. I'm not gonna do backflips for it, but I have to say that it's a very well-written book. The world, its settings and history and characters, was extraordinarily fleshed-out and accessible; I could easily picture the environment, feel what the characters were going through, and get a sense of everything very clearly. The writing was done in the best way to do that; it wasn't overly remarkable when you concentrated on it but it did wonders for fluidly and directly setting the scene. I enjoyed Sabriel, the main character, and the author's penchant for doing things straight--there was no back-and-forth dithering with the plot or the characters. To add to that, any potential romantic interests there are aren't stretched painfully long. There's the believable beginning stages and denial, and the kinda cute falling-for-each-other, but they don't dance around each other for annoyingly long periods of time. I liked that. Overall, the book was undoubtedly done well and enjoyable--no real complaints here. There're copies at Sitka High, Kettleson, and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

"There’s bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don’t have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway. A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant), the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to find their places in a school that has no place for them. T.J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket–exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T.J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High–will also be an effective tool. He’s right. He’s also wrong. Still, it’s always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets soon becomes the space where they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to grow. Together they’ll fight for dignity in a world where tragedy and comedy dance side by side, where a moment’s inattention can bring lifelong heartache, and where true acceptance is the only prescription for what ails us."

Dear lord. Okay, I wasn't exactly expecting to love this book as much as I did, but it managed to surprise me. In every single possible way. First of all, it was funny--sure, kind of a dark humor at times, but that's kinda my thing so 
I was into it. Serious humor factor. At the same time, I want to warn you: the author pulled no punches. Whatsoever. With anything. The emotions and back-stories and situations in this book are deep and intense and there are parts that made me just stop for a second and go, "What? Wait, that just happened?" And coming from someone who's seen her share of plot developments, that's saying something. I highly respect, too, the way that everything came full-circle in the end, nothing was forgotten. Reading a book like that is really powerful, especially with the subject matter in this particular book. I'd even go so far as to give this one 4.5 or 5 stars. I can't recommend it highly enough; this is one of the best books I've read in a while. It's hilarious and beautiful and terrible. Read it. Don't ask questions, just do it. It's at Kettleson, Sitka High, and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Trash by Andy Mulligan

"In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city. 

One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong."


This was a bit of a deviation from my normal books, but I'm very glad I read it. It was a big "social issues" book, one that made commentary and society and showed the depths to which it can fall or rise to (um, it mostly focused on the "fall" part). It was set, as far as I can figure, somewhere in Latin America (they used pesos and the names were reminiscent of that area). Also, one thing became significantly clearer to me throughout the book: it isn't about the characters. Not at all, really. They live the situation and provide a characterization of the state of the country and its citizens, but they aren't the focus. The focus is the story that's being told, the story of corruption and unfairness and poverty and the few people who have rebelled against it over time in the hopes of making something better. In that respect, the author does a spectacular job--you can't help but picture the state of living and the awful life that too many people consider routine. The ideas and questions that it leaves you with are almost more important than the experience of reading it; you have no choice but to consider the book's message and its very real applications today. I'd give this one a good rating, and recommend it especially to someone interested in these issues. Heck, read it if you're not interested. I think that's partly what it's for, getting people to consider new viewpoints. Go find a copy at Kettleson, SHS, or Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

"Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?"


So. I picked up this book because an absurd amount of people really loved it and I wanted to give it a try. I honestly expected it to be just one of those generic, drama-fluff books that gives you a cavity and an empty sensation between your ears, but I'm happy to report that it doesn't (really) fit that bill. It was able to get more dimensional and believable, making me able to get into it and enjoy it despite the decidedly "first-world problem" context. I loved that St. Clair was short--how often do you see that in a love interest, really? And the dialogue was incredibly fun to read; the characters are witty and kind of hilarious and awkward and real but still optimistically romantic. The characters were completely the best part of the book. One thing that I have to mention, though, is that the writing was... a little fluffy at times. Specifically, imagery; there was quite a bit of cliche and at times hilariously cheesy similes/metaphors. It wasn't a debilitating weakness, though, just enough to get you to roll your eyes when macaroon crusts are called "as delicate as eggshells" or something like that (seriously, have you felt an egg? Those things aren't exactly delicate. If I tried to bite down on an eggshell, I'd need to put some force behind it). But that's the only really noticeable shortcoming; as a whole, the book was witty, real, adorable, and addicting. I'd definitely recommend you read it. Go find a copy at Kettleson or Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

So my book this week was House of Hades, which is basically a later continuation of this universe, and I realized I haven't done a review on this original book yet, so voila. May I acquaint you with one of the most wonderful books ever? That was a rhetorical question: you're gonna read it whether you like it or not. I first read this book in middle school, and became completely infatuated with it. The Greek mythology is so awesome and interesting that you can't help but get pulled in. And, one of the wonderful things about this whole series: it has a lot of heart, but doesn't take itself too seriously. The chapter titles are basically gems on their own ("We Take a Zebra to Vegas," "I Ruin A Perfectly Good Bus," "Clarisse Blows Up Everything," etc...), and the rest of the story is equally as quirky. You fall in love with these characters in .2 seconds flat. No lie. They're unique and unapologetic and awesome role models. There's a companion series too, which is equally as amazing and a little more grown-up. It's best to start with this one, though; you won't regret it. If I was allowed to bribe you to read these books, I would, but I have to settle for a stern order: I won't love you anymore if you don't or haven't at least tried reading these. (I'm kidding. Mostly).  Anyway, there's copies at Kettleson, Mt. Edgecumbe, Blatchley, and Keet. Go, I tell you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Michael Kamkwamba

"William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala—crazy—but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo—his "electric wind"—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.

Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him."

There's not much to be said about this book that hasn't been said by the blurb, but I'll interject real quick: this was really fascinating and interesting, and quite eye-opening to read. It gives you a new level of understanding of lives in Africa; over the first two-thirds of the book simply chronicle his life growing up in Malawi. Really compelling and completely new. If you're interested at all in other cultures, read this. You won't regret it (I even cried once. The writing's straightforward but gets to the heart of things). It's at Kettleson, SHS, and MEHS.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett



"'Another world is colliding with this one,' said the toad. 'All the monsters are coming back.'

'Why?' said Tiffany.

'There's no one to stop them.'

There was silence for a moment.

Then Tiffany said, 'There's me.'

Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk's local Nac Mac Feegle - aka the Wee Free Men - a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds - black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors - before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone...."

This review is gonna be short, but I have to say: major props to Terry Pratchett for his characters. Tiffany is unapologetic, no-nonsense, and sensible, and is one of the best characters I've seen in a while. She's not fluttery, beautiful, or prone to singing: she knows what has to be done and uses her common sense and cleverness to do it. She defends herself with a frying pan, for God's sake. Words cannot express how much of a breath of fresh air this girl is. If anything, read the book for her--and the Feegles. They, equipped with ridiculous names, terrible poetry, and the idea that the solution for anything is a good loud stampede, make the book really colorful. This book's funny and written really well. Trust me--I have about twenty slips of paper in my copy to prove it. Dear lord, just read this book. No regrets here whatsoever. There's a copy at Kettleson and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

"'From now on I'm Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I'll be a knight.' 
And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. 
But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. 
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's first adventure begins -- one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land."


So I'm having a horrible weekend of being sick, and found my old copy of this somewhere out of the blue. Needless to say, it was my couch buddy. And, since I haven't reviewed this before, I figured I'd enlighten y'alls that haven't read this fabulous woman's work. I basically grew up with this series, and roughly seven years later, I still love reading it. Let me explain why: Alanna is the most amazingly awesome role model for any girl. She basically goes, "gender roles? What the heck is the point?" and does what she's determined to do. She's stubborn and headstrong but also very innocent in a way, which she has to learn to leave behind fast and use cleverness and quick thinking. Tamora Pierce has this rare writing where it entrances kids and teenagers and adults all in one fell swoop. I honestly can't say enough good about this series and this author; she's responsible for a good part of my childhood and I still love her today. This book in particular is at Keet, Blatchley, SHS, Mt. Edgecumbe, and Kettleson... and I'm gonna stare at you virtually through this screen until you read it. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and Neil Gaiman


"Stephen is used to invisibility. He was born that way. Invisible. Cursed.

Elizabeth sometimes wishes for invisibility. When you’re invisible, no one can hurt you. So when her mother decides to move the family to New York City, Elizabeth is thrilled. It’s easy to blend in there.

Then Stephen and Elizabeth meet. To Stephen’s amazement, she can see him. And to Elizabeth’s amazement, she wants him to be able to see her—all of her. But as the two become closer, an invisible world gets in their way—a world of grudges and misfortunes, spells and curses. And once they’re thrust into this world, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how deep they’re going to go—because the answer could mean the difference between love and death."

I really liked this one. It kept me really entertained, and for the first time in a while, made me bring it to school in order to finish it in two days. It could have easily gone the little-kid, generic route with the invisibility thing, but it took it to a new level and tried to put me in his shoes and made it--in a weird way--believable. I really loved the depiction of him having to be completely and utterly removed from society, it was really vivid. Also, even the supporting characters were incredibly awesome--you know the author's done a good job when you could pick any supporting character and want to read a separate book solely about them. Really good and witty dialogue all around. And I guess there's not much more to say: it's a great story with wonderful characters, good writing, and a generally engaging plot. Not much reason not to read it, so why are you still sitting there? There's a copy at Kettleson.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters


"In order to restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising."

So, I'm doing something a little different this week: movie review! This is mostly spurred on by the desire to rant about this movie 'cause it was, um, astounding. In many ways. Let me begin by saying this: it was resoundingly, wonderfully, hilariously awful. In continuity terms anyway. Seriously, you thought the first movie went off the book? Nope, the screenwriters were just getting warmed up. I kid you not, I think that they opened up the book at random after writing about ten pages of script, put the random scene in, commenced to improvise for the next ten pages, and then the cycle started all over again. They changed actors, made up characters, scrambled to introduce ones that should've been in the first one, jumped the gun on some fragmented future plotlines (can you say 'prophecy?'), and OH YEAH, basically made up everything from halfway in to the end. My friends and I moved past the 'nudge each other when they get something wrong' phase within ten minutes, which morphed into 'nudge each other when they actually get something remotely right.' Which didn't happen often.
BUT. Having said that, I will freely point out that the second movie was a lot like the first: if you ignore the book, it's actually kinda good. Sure, a little cheesy at times, but really not too bad. Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillion helped a lot with the comedy factor (and I mean, jeez, that man can slip a Firefly reference into anything). If you squashed your sobbing inner book-lover, you'd really enjoy it. I even did, in between being outraged at the writers. So, honestly? It might be worth it. If you've never read the books or are willing to set them aside, go see it. If you're afraid of it spoiling the book for you, don't worry. You can basically treat it like it's not even remotely related. But yeah! It's downtown this week in the Coliseum, maybe go check it out...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Archived by Victoria Schwab


"Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.


Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.


Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall."


This is one of those books that you can't really get with a blurb. The general idea that the blurb talks about is the same, but the story isn't really well presented by this little snippet. When I first read it I pictured her as the sole guardian of all these stacks, when in fact in the book it's more of a case of one foot in both worlds: she's one of many Keepers who live in the real world and, when called upon, enters the Archive to deal with problems. I liked the way it panned out in the book more than the "hardened lone watchman" vibe from the blurb. Anyway, to the actual book. I liked it. I really did, and it grew on me the more I read. Mac comes across as very real, and the writing (if I wanted to be really pompous I'd say "the prose") was very captivating, fluid, and easy to read. My favorite character was one not even mentioned in the overview: Wesley, a guy she meets out in the real world that's more than he seems--not mentioning the witty comebacks, forgivable guyliner, and adorable ego. Seriously, if nothing else, read the book for him. He's a great character. Sure, the book had a couple little weaknesses here and there, like making me read twenty pages before realizing Da wasn't her dad, but her grandfather, and the fact that the villain wasn't too difficult to guess halfway through, but that's really little stuff. It was still really interesting to read and easy to get through. Good mysteries, too. Really, there's not much to like, so what are you waiting for? Go get it at Sitka High or Kettleson, seriously, you won't be sorry.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

"The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again."

I'll just say it: this book wasn't really the best one I've ever read. I'd give it maybe 3.5 stars. I didn't hate it, but I didn't have a whole bunch of excess love for it either. Maybe it was just the transition from the exciting vivid 20's setting and fluid writing of last week's book, or maybe I wasn't able to appreciate the style it was going for, but the writing seemed to fall pretty flat. When it keeps referencing the heat but can only seem to ever muster the word "limp," and when I went the whole book not really having a sense of what Hannah looks like beyond her hair color and that she's "occasionally pretty," I tend to get a little bored. To give the author credit, there was quite a bit of introspection and dealing with issues and emotions, but it's kind of off-putting to realize that, two-thirds of the way through the book, I still couldn't picture Hannah at all. It just focused on the situations. These however, I'm happy to report, were mostly well-handled and very realistic--a trait that made the ending stronger but admittedly caused some chafing/awkwardness along the way. In a sweet way though, I guess. So, like I said: 3.5 stars. I wouldn't go around recommending this to everybody, but if you're looking for a book you can blaze through in about 4 hours you could really do worse. A resounding "meh."

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

"Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened."

And so ends my endeavor to read this 580-page book in one day. I couldn't have picked a better one to do it with, though. I wasn't quite convinced when I started it, but it started reeling me slowly in. By the end I was basically transfixed. One of the things that made it interesting was the '20s backdrop, I haven't read many set in that era and the way it was written with the language and the setting was pretty engaging and captivating. The writing in general was very well done, and there were spots here or there when it was nothing but imagery and it was really cool to read. Another selling point: it was witty. It made me laugh a couple times. The multiple-storyline angle mixed things up a bit, which was nice, although it gave each side character a little less "screentime." But that's another thing about the characters: they were all pretty surprising. I was hard-pressed to find a character that was exactly as they seemed on the outside; everyone had layers, and more often than not, those layers were pretty freaky. It enhanced the interest of the book. Anyway, this has been a rambling review of The Diviners, which I'd give 4.75 stars if I could. Trust me, it's worth the read! Go find it at Kettleson or MEHS. Seriously. I'm not kidding. I'm just gonna stare at you through the computer screen until you go out and do it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

"A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy."
Soo... hmm. Well-- I don't know. I mean, it was a good book. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset for it or something. Well, whatever it was, I thought the book was fine and good enough, but wouldn't exactly do cartwheels for it. On the positive side of things, it was very vividly written and was able to convey a lot of themes and emotions. Word use and settings were really stellar. One of the things that made it a little offsetting for me, though, was the amount all the characters changed from one moment to the next. And, I mean, it's good to have a book that breaks stereotypes and looks beyond them, but it was a little more unnerving than that. A character could do something decidedly mean or awful, but it would be forgotten about in five pages. They're a group of girls who supposedly end up best friends, but are capable of lashing out horribly at each other. And I get where some of this is coming from: the flaws of humans and our ability to be led and swayed, but it didn't exactly make the characters wholeheartedly endearing to read. Anyway, in conclusion, it wasn't by any shot a bad book. It was quite good, especially if you're in the curling-up-in-bed mindset. It was a tad slow at times, and had those other elements I talked about, but the style is good and I was fine with reading it. This is one of those ones that you really need to try for yourself to decide. I've heard many other people have really liked it (and I'm going to give the second one a try). It's at BMS, Sitka High, MEHS, and Kettleson.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

"'There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,' Neeve said. 'Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.'

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.


Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.


His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.


But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.


For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore."


I wasn't sure what I was expecting when I started reading this, but the road the book took wasn't anything I could have guessed. I think that's good, though. Admittedly, the first half-ish of the book was a little slow (it takes quite a time for her to even start interacting freely with the Raven Boys) but you can never say there was too little character depth and development. Maggie Stiefvater gave some generally more straightforward bios as the book began, but the character gold started coming when all the characters started interacting with each other; little quirks and details of each fueled motivations and insights into each of the boys and Blue. That started at the halfway-point of the book, give or take, and it got increasingly compelling and--if you can call it that--entertaining. Not that it's a comedy by any shot, but the characters are insanely fun to read. I can also tell it's definitely meant to be part of a series, and a cohesive one at that; the original hook and plotline intrigue you get from the inside cover almost takes a backseat to other correlating events, but I get the feeling they're definitely not forgotten. If I could, I'd already have the next book and be reading it to find out more. I don't know, I think this has the potential to be a really good series--can't wait for the next book! Now: go get this one at Kettleson!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

"When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living."

This is a book that at first glance could seem like any other dime-a-dozen dystopian novels. It's not. I don't know how, I can't really pinpoint it, but this one was different. It was really memorable, and undoubtedly very good. I loved it. The author managed to, if not trailblaze her style of writing, then at least take some paths less traveled. What could have been a familiar concept was made unique by all the singular little details of characters and plots, and the excellent writing. The author didn't go for stereotypes with the characters, giving them humor and depth and unexpected choices and plotlines. She made me get hooked and stay that way until the very end, and I now can't wait for the sequel. I'll say it again: this is a very good book. You're seriously missing out if you don't read it. So, yep. It's at Kettleson, go pick it up!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery….
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever they are to be found.With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul."

I don't care who the heck you are. Boy, girl, preteen, adult, whatever--you need to read this. There's a reason this book's been a bestseller for so long and is on its way to becoming a classic: it's well-done in every single way. The writing is really powerful; it's not overly descriptive, but it uses ways to say things that are completely different and raw. You'll find no clichés whatsoever.Secondly, when you combine writing of that quality with a setting and situation like this, there's no doubt it'll be an uncommon book. There were new angles to situations that hadn't ever been brought to your attention in this way before, and new images you get of those historical events. And yes, before you ask, it did make me bawl like a baby. I guess that's a hazard of really good books. (Yep, I'm looking at you, Fault in Our Stars). Another thing about this book was that the power of the writing and the story were the main focuses. Suspense wasn't needed; the book was too candid to have been able to pull that off. And it's kind of a testament to the book that I basically knew what was coming from the very beginning, and it still managed to make me cry. Thanks. Thanks a lot. But yeah. Anyway. You can find it at BMS, Sitka High, MEHS, and Kettleson. Go forth!
(Oh hey look, it's my 100th review. *cue tiny confetti shower*)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

"Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target."

Yes, I know, I technically didn't make it to the week cutoff. But hey, birthday weekend. Free pass. And it won't happen again; I now have blissful freedom for much of the summer. But this review's gonna be short, sorry. In a nutshell: I really enjoyed the book. It was kinda quirky, played around with new ideas I hadn't seen before, and was nicely paced and written. The characters were likable and relatable. All in all, there's not much to dislike; it was definitely a good book. It's at Kettleson, you should check it out.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

"The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities."

Me gusta this book. It's very different from anything I've read before, in a really good way. I liked the history integration, I learned some new things. It was a creepy book, which I  kinda have a thing for, and as ghost/mystery stories go, this one was original and well-written and captivating. The characters were pretty varied and not really stereotypical, and surprised me a couple times. Some bits were a bit predictable, but with a description like that it's bound to happen. Honestly, it was new and caught my attention and built intensity until the end and got me attached to the characters and you should read it if you're into creepy/ghost stories. Go. Do it. It's at Kettleson.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

"According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes NutterWitch(the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . ."

Let me begin by saying this:
This book is freaking amazing. FREAKING. AMAZING.
Now that that's out of the way, let me explain: my friend's been on this campaign to get all her friends to read it, and I finally gave in and borrowed her copy to occupy me on a plane ride. 
After finishing it, I can happily say I'll be right along with her on her campaign. This book was amazing. It was very Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-esque, in the best possible way. It was pretty much hilarious and had so many references and snide allusions and straight-out commentaries and jokes and even the wording was enough to send me into a laughing fit sometimes. I literally cannot express how much I loved this book. It got me cracking up with tears running down my face one time. And it was smart, too. It wasn't just like a book of jokes. It wasn't afraid to make fun of/reference pop culture, philosophy, religion, you name it. (So, if you're sensitive or don't have a sense of humor or something, maybe steer clear). If I could, I would jump through your computer screen and put this book in your hand. So, next best thing: go out and find it yourself. The libraries unfortunately don't have it, but heck, buy the thing if you have to. 
You won't regret it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

"So, let’s say you’re fourteen years old and you live in New York City.
(Well, technically you live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is very close to and almost just like Manhattan… except not.) You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet...
You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express Card. No fake ID, either – not that you’d pass for 21 in a million years even if you did. The only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made out of an old laundry bag when you were eleven. You've never been to a club, or had a drink served in a martini glass or, frankly, done anything really NYC-ish at all.
You definitely don’t have any secret powers, or friends who are vampires, or magical weapons stored in your parents’ basement. You’re about as normal and totally boring as a human being living in the most exciting city on the planet could possibly be.
In other words? You’re me: Kelsey Finkelstein.
But don’t despair, people—I’m starting high school in less than a week! This is going to be the year that I live up to all of my untapped potential—finally.
I have to say… I’m feeling almost optimistic."

Soo, this one was a little like the last one. I really didn't mind reading it, but I only started getting into it by the end. When it came to the characters, I really liked them. Kelsey is really real, to be redundant. She's kinda insecure but simultaneously doesn't have any filters, she tends to suck at talking to guys, and she's not exactly sure how starting high school will go. So, I liked her character, and her friends and even enemies. They were interesting, funny, and fleshed-out. What I wasn't so crazy about, though, was the plot. I'm sure NYC has some pretty different attitudes, but as an Alaska girl reading about these fourteen-year-old girls casually drinking and going to parties and considering sex and all that, was a little off-putting. I mean, seriously, you're a freshman girl and you're getting drunk and having drunk escapades? Well anyway, on another topic: the reason I didn't really get into it 'till the end was partly due to the embarrassing chain of events that was the book. I know that's mostly the premise, but it just ended up playing out that I was cringing for Kelsey (not in a good way at all) every time. A train of somewhat unfortunate events dramatized by the main character didn't really make for good reading for me. One last event at the end finally took the book into enjoyable semi-hilarity for me, and from then on I enjoyed it pretty thoroughly as things began to turn around a bit. So, meh. I really don't know what to think of this one. If you're bored and want to try it, give it a read. If you're not into drama, don't. It's at Kettleson.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

"In the good old days, magic was indispensable—it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic."

So, the reviews on the back of this seemed pretty promising, saying things like "true literary comic genius" and "for any Harry Potter fan." Things like that. But I was pretty underwhelmed, honestly. The writing could have been better, leaving me to slate it for a more middle-school audience. And, sure, it was funny in the first part of the book. But all things considered, it wasn't quite the type of book I was expecting--there was quite a bit of politics and the like, in it. I mean, all sorts of things like corporations, bureaucracy,  flawed governments/leaders, etc., were present in fluffy incarnations of themselves. Not really an action book. The plot, while having some dropped or random story-lines here and there, managed to pull it together to give a mostly interesting conclusion. So, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5, and would pass it on to middle school audiences. They would probably like it quite a bit. It's at Kettleson or Blatchley. (And expect another review pretty soon; I'm leaving halfway through next week and want to get it up before I leave).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

"Did you know that the most creative companies have centralized bathrooms? That brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea? That the color blue can help you double your creative output?
From the New York Times best-selling author of How We Decide comes a sparkling and revelatory look at the new science of creativity. Shattering the myth of muses, higher powers, even creative “types,” Jonah Lehrer demonstrates that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.
Lehrer reveals the importance of embracing the rut, thinking like a child, daydreaming productively, and adopting an outsider’s perspective (travel helps). He unveils the optimal mix of old and new partners in any creative collaboration, and explains why criticism is essential to the process. Then he zooms out to show how we can make our neighborhoods more vibrant, our companies more productive, and our schools more effective.
You’ll learn about Bob Dylan’s writing habits and the drug addictions of poets. You’ll meet a Manhattan bartender who thinks like a chemist, and an autistic surfer who invented an entirely new surfing move. You’ll see why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar’s office space is designed to spark the next big leap in animation.
Collapsing the layers separating the neuron from the finished symphony, Imagine reveals the deep inventiveness of the human mind, and its essential role in our increasingly complex world."

So, you may or may not have heard of some of the controversy surrounding this book (long story short, Jonah Lehrer was spotlighted for messing with a Bob Dylan quote or two, reusing a little of his past work, and "oversimplifying" ideas dealing with neurological science). I know all this happened, and it caused a bit of outrage, but I guess I'm either pretty unintelligent  or just not that discerning because I really actually liked the book. It was good. And, I mean, really: if you wanted to, you could have totally skipped over the Bob Dylan chapter. There was so much more in that book. And who am I to care if he used his previous work some--I've never read them. And as for the neurotics, hey. I'm not a neurologist, I'm cool with baby steps. But yeah, this book was really interesting and I learned a lot that I didn't know. And it kept me fascinated. For a nonfiction book being read by a teenager, that's no mean feat. I was really intrigued by so much of what it was talking about, it took me about three days to finish. So, sure. Take this book with a grain of salt, but still, READ IT. I totally recommend it to anyone. Just try it. It's at Kettleson.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

TAB

O hai. Me here. Soo, just wanted to put a little PSA out there: if anybody's interested in being on the Teen Advisory Board for Kettleson, there's a meeting tomorrow (Friday May 31) at 6:30 PM. It's basically composed of teens and we work on organizing some events for the library and reviewing books and it's a good time. Soo... if anyone's interested, you could send our teen librarian an email (maitelorente@cityofsitka.com) or leave a comment or anything. It's a pretty low-key board, but it's fun, so give it a try! (Oh, and if you can't make it to this meeting, it's cool. Shoot us an email anyway). Ciao!

The Selection by Kiera Cass

"For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined."

Heh. Soo, about fifty pages into this, I had a revelation. This book is basically a really feminized version of The Hunger Games. It's set in the future after some big war (except here the monarchy isn't really dictatorial), there's rebellion, there are levels of society, there's a competition that selects young people to travel to the heart of the country and compete to be the one and only victor, and there's a love triangle. Seriously. It's pretty much identical, only the princess version. But anyway, that said, it was a fine book. Definitely pretty fluffy, despite attempts to make it dystopian-ish. I definitely didn't hate it, it was just a mildly interesting filler book. I think I have some weirdly girly tendencies, so that part of me enjoyed it. I didn't like the love triangle development because I really loathe love triangles (seriously. The angst? And the poor indecisive heroine who's terrible at decision-making? Please.) but I mostly liked America and Prince Maxon because their characters were actually pretty witty and America has some nice feminist tendencies. She's not at all afraid to yell at him. So, maybe 3.5 to 4 stars on this one. If you're looking for a light summer read, I recommend it. A hard-hitting novel, not so much. It's at Kettleson.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

"I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything."

This one gets two thumbs up. I've been getting kinda bored with some books lately, and the main reason is that they seem to all have pretty much the same plot. This one was different and interesting, and really likable. I got really into it, it was one of the more enjoyable books in a while. Character setup and development was good, and, like I said, it got me hooked and rooting for the characters. I think, overall, the best part was the original concept. It was so new that it made the book really captivating. It reminds me a little of maybe one other book, but I can't put my finger on it so I'll just let that go. Anyway, ignore my rambling. Go check it out at Kettleson! I really recommend it!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist


"Four nearly identical girls on a desert island. An unexpected new arrival. A gently warped near future where nothing is quite as it seems.

Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned."

So...meh. This one went fast, which worked for me. I mean, it was fine enough...which is the problem. It didn't actually get to the point where I wanted to keep reading it. Not much happened for quite some time in the book, then when it did (namely May arriving), it wasn't all that groundbreaking. I'd say the best thing this book had going for it was the imagery and introspection/world examination that the girls did (for their lessons, they were tasked with basically walking around and observing everything), which were interesting. That came in this big chunk though; it lasted about the first third of the book, and that's all that happened for that time. Got a little strung out. The ending was kinda weirdly anti-climactic, too (I think it was supposed to come off as climactic, but it didn't do anything for me).  I don't know--I'm now pretty sure this is a middle-school-age book, so I can't really tell if it'd be good to someone that age. Wasn't my thing, but, hey. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt...It's at Kettleson.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt

"When sixteen-year-old Angel meets Call at the mall, he buys her meals and says he loves her, and he gives her some candy that makes her feel like she can fly. Pretty soon she's addicted to his candy, and she moves in with him. As a favor, he asks her to hook up with a couple of friends of his, and then a couple more. Now Angel is stuck working the streets at Hastings and Main, a notorious spot in Vancouver, Canada, where the girls turn tricks until they disappear without a trace, and the authorities don't care. But after her friend Serena disappears, and when Call brings home a girl who is even younger and more vulnerable than her to learn the trade, Angel knows that she and the new girl have got to find a way out."

Sorry... short review this week. I really need about 14 hours of sleep due to having dress rehearsals and dance recitals all weekend. Anyway, soo...this was heavy. It was actually in verse, too, which I think was right for the story. I can't actually tell if the verse made it more heavy or relieved some heaviness--it just seemed to fit the story. It also made it go a lot quicker. And, yes, it dealt with topics of abuse and addiction, in a different way than I've read before. It was undeniably wonderfully written. Definitely not a super uplifting book, and has a high maturity level, so I would only recommend it to high school age or over. Try it if you are okay with that sort of thing; it is good, I promise. Get it at Kettleson. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green


"Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same."

So, as of now, I've read every John Green book I've been able to get my hands on. And it's making me kinda sad. Because each one of them is absolutely wonderful. I don't know what it is, exactly, but John Green has a way of writing things that make them more real and different from other books of the type. It was no different with this one--I could probably name three other books off the top of my head that have this type of story-line (maybe even modeled after this one), but this book's different. It has this ability to, um, how do I say this? Crush your heart? Yeah. In a lovely and terrible way. It makes you see what's going on, it makes you think about something like this playing out in real life. It wasn't so extremely tear-jerking as The Fault in Our Stars, but it still had John Green's flair for the heartbreaking. Overall, really powerful. Can't recommend it enough. Go get it at Kettleson, Sitka High, or Blatchley. Over and out!