Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

If you read my review of Delirium, you know that as soon as I finished it, I ran out that night to buy Pandemonium.  I could not wait to read the continuation of Lena's story.  I stayed up late last night to finish Pandemonium, and now I have to wait a possible 10 FULL MONTHS to read the conclusion in Requiem!  Oh, Lauren Oliver, how you torture me so!!

Pandemonium picks up right where Delirium left us.  Lena has made it across the border fence into "The Wilds."  She has escaped the love-less world of Portland and her "procedure" to remove the part of her brain that allows her to feel emotion.  With the help of Alex, who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Lena, she now is free for the first time.  Lena, however, is barely alive when found by Raven and the group of "Invalids" who have made a life together in the Wilds.  They take her in, bring her back to health, and Lena slowly becomes a part of this nomadic family.
Life in the Wilds, Lena quickly learns, is not easy.  It is harsh, dangerous, even life-threatening.  The group travels south for the winter, and then Lena becomes part of the resistance.  She takes on a new identity in New York city, blends in with the "cureds," and then works to infiltrate one of their extreme activist group, the DFA.  When Lena is kidnapped with Julian, the son of the DFA's leader, she must rely on her new survival skills and perhaps a partnership with Julian, if they are going to make it out alive.

I think there are several things that really sets this series apart from other dystopian stories.  Of course, there is the premise... the idea that society, in an effort to keep from falling apart, has created a world without love or freedom.  As Raven says--a world of zombies.
There is also Lena.  Lena, who is strong and complex; who changes as the story and her world change.   The world Lauren Oliver created in Delirium is very different from the Wilds in Pandemonium.  A testament to Ms. Oliver's writing skill, Lena changes and develops right along with the story.  She is hardened, and stronger, and therefore I like her even more in this second novel.
And finally, there is Lauren Oliver's writing.  The beauty with which she puts words together continues to impress me in this book.  From Pandemonium:
“I read once about a kind of fungus that grows in trees. The fungus begins to encroach on the systems that carry water and nutrients up from the roots to the branches. It disables them one by one – it crowds them out. Soon, the fungus – and only the fungus – is carrying the water, and the chemicals, and everything else the tree needs to survive. At the same time it is decaying the tree slowly from within, turning it minute by minute to rot.

That is what hatred is. It will feed you and at the same time turn you to rot.

It is hard and deep and angular, a system of blockades. It is everything and total.

Hatred is a high tower. In the Wilds, I start to build, and to climb.” 

Beautiful.  Simply beautiful.  
The only thing that scares me (spoiler alert!)...
is the love triangle.  I am not a fan.  However, I am comforted by the conviction that Lauren Oliver will not disappoint.  I'm sure she will continue to surprise and impress me.  

I had a copy of Delirium on a staff recommendation display, and one of our high school students came up to me last week to tell me that she had picked it up, was in the middle of reading it and LOVED it.  This morning, I gave her my personal copy of Pandemonium, and we gushed about it and can't wait to discuss it after she finishes the second novel.  Thank you, Lauren Oliver!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Introducing MaryAnne

Introducing our newest guest blogger: MaryAnne

There are no true gangsters in Greensburg!  If there was, I would be one.  The 1920s-styled gangster with suave suits and tommy guns.  My name is Mary Anne, I'm 17, and aspiring to be a veterinarian.  I love animals and good books.  My favorite series, well, I don't have one, but I love the Ender series by Orson Scott Card.  My favorite color is purple, and I love being absolutely random!  Allon-sy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

YA Book Cover Table

I'm in love with Mod Podge, so when we were looking for ways to add some flair to the reading space for our devoted "library kids," we decided to take an old table and transform it into a YA Lit. table.  First, we printed out covers from some recent and best-loved YA books.  We printed a variety of sizes.  We then brushed Mod Podge (which works like glue) onto the back of each one, placing the "covers" randomly on the table.  We put the largest covers down first and the smallest ones last.  Once all the covers were down, with very little actual table top showing through, we brushed Mod Podge over the entire table top.  We did 3 coats of Mod Podge, waiting 30 minutes between each coat.  Afterwards, we sprayed the entire thing with Mod Podge brand clear acrylic sealer.  I suggest doing that step outside... the smell is rather over-whelming.  Voila!  We were done!  Here are some pics of the process...
The original ugly orange table

The "glued" images

The first layer of Mod Podge

Mod Podge rocks!!

Yay, we're done!

We can't wait to do more!

Book Review: A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink
Book Review by Janine

  In one terrifying night Helen Cartwright has lost all that she holds dear, her family and her life, only to embark on a new chapter in her life, one that she never knew existed.  Helen is a descendant of angels and chosen to be one the keepers, those who keep the world safe from those who wish to take it over. Never has this job been more important.  Keepers are being murdered, her parents among them.  For what reason, no one is sure, but one thing is certain, she will stop at nothing to see the person or persons responsible for the deaths of her parents and the others of her kind.

  I will start this off by saying that I LOVE Michelle Zink.  Ever since I read her first series, Prophecy of the Sisters, I was hooked, and I was not disappointed this time around either.  There are so many things that I found refreshing about the book. Yhe first was the setting of Victorian London, which is different from so many books out there right now.  I also loved the whole premise of the book.  Helen doesn't know or understand who she is or what she has been chosen to do.  Keepers find out when they are sixteen about the their job, the Dictata, and Angels.  She is forced into her role early because someone is killing the Keepers at an alarming rate.  While being a descendant of angels does give her some unique abilities, they are not overly discussed but merely stated as fact, and then there is Helen herself.  In understanding the time period and the role that women played, it made it so interesting and awesome!! She was strong, determined and smart (which are the three characteristics that I love most in characters!), which made her believable and had you waiting to see what else she could do.  The story flows so well and the characters are so believable that you can picture yourself right there with her.  There was only one thing that I was leary of, which was the "love triangle," but it was handled in such a way that it wasn't the main part of the story, but just a side that helped to enhance the story line.
  In case it didn't show, I truly loved the story!  I am unsure if it is going to be a series or not but it is fine as a stand-alone, although lets be honest, if it was a series, I would be at the bookstore the day the next one came out!!

Introducing Madison!

Introducing our first guest blogger: Maddie

My name is Madison, lovely to meet you!  I am 16 years old, but I'll be 17 soon.  Obviously, I enjoy reading, but other than that, I love fashion, writing, and good-looking men!  I plan on majoring in creative writing in some college in New York City (my one and only love).  My favorite color is pink, favorite band is the Four Season, and my favorite word is "scuttle."  It might also be important to note that Alexander Skarsgard is my future husband.  I don't know how that will work out, but if all else fails, I plan on being a wildly free Kerouac-style vagabond!

(Maddie will be reviewing books for us from time-to-time in order to give our blog a teen's perspective on YA lit!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
If you can judge a book by how badly you want to read the sequel, well... I finished Delirium last night, and today I am running out to the book store to grab Pandemonium!

Lena has grown up in Portland, Maine, one of the "approved cities" in the U.S.  In this alternative society, love (or amor deliria nervosa) has been deemed a disease, something of which all young people are cured.  They undergo a procedure which alters the brain to no longer feel love or emotional pain--they essentially become emotionally numb.
(Cue Pink Floyd music, here.)  Lena is actually looking forward to the procedure and the calmness that will come after.  She is afraid that she, like her mother, will contract the disease.  It drove her mother to suicide.  However, a few months before she is scheduled for her procedure, Lena falls in love.
Alex opens Lena's eyes to what it's like to love and feel loved, to experience joy, and he reveals the truth about her mother.  But, can they escape Portland before Lena's procedure?  Will she be doomed to a life without Alex, without joy, without love?

I am on a dystopia kick right now, so I was pretty excited to read Delirium.  I found the premise really interesting... the idea that love can be seen as harmful.  I understand how the idea formed.  Love can make people to do all kinds of things--some of them bad.  Yet, a life without it, is hard to imagine.  As a mother, I think the thing that really got to me was the description of how parents who have been "cured" behave with their children.  There were moments when I felt a little annoyed by Lena's descriptions about how beautiful Alex looks and the flowery language she uses to describe every detail.  However, I had to keep reminding myself that from Lean's point of view (that of a teenage girl), the language we appropriate.  In other words, from a young woman's perspective as narrator, Lauren Oliver nailed it!  I cannot wait to read Pandemonium!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
I picked this one up because it's going to be our last discussion book of the school year with our high school kids.  I had tried reading it a while back, but put it down after just a few pages.  This time, as I am on one of those non-stop reading kicks where you just don't want to stop, I was a bit more eager to try it out.

The book reads like an actual biography, complete with "historic photographs" and footnotes.  The framework for the story is that our young narrator has been given "secret" journals of Abraham Lincoln.  Who has provided these journals?  A vampire named Henry Sturges.
Lincoln's life-long pursuit to kill all vampires begins at an early age, when his beloved mother is killed by a vampire to whom his father had unpaid debts.  During a near-fatal battle with a vampire, Lincoln is saved and nursed to health by Sturges, who becomes Abe's mentor in killing his fellow un-dead.  Sturges opens Lincoln's eyes to the true history behind slavery: that slaves are used to feed vampires in the south, and that the vampires plan to enslave all of mankind.  Lincoln has always been opposed to slavery, but now he knows the "true horrors" behind the southern slave trade.  He begins to fight vampires through politics, and eventually, the civil war.  All the while, Abraham is struggling with his own personal suffering.  The loss of his mother affects him throughout his life.  Loss seems to permeate Lincoln's years: his infant brother, his sister, friends, his own boys... Abe can't seem to escape death.  But what of his own?

I'll have to admit, I sort of had a love-hate relationship with this book.  I liked it in the beginning.  I loved reading about Abe's childhood and guessing what parts of the novel were based on real facts. Somewhere in the middle of the novel, however, I started to lose interest.  Maybe I thought it was a bit over-the-top.  Maybe I just lost sight of the fact that this was supposed to be a fun novel and not a biographical work.  There were parts that were a little too violent for my tastes, but I know kids wouldn't mind.  However, as the book went on, my heart really started to ache for the former president who suffered so much loss in his lifetime.  I started to really appreciate the strength of this man, and all the while, he is slaughtering vampires!  And then... the end!  Oh, how I was angry at the way it ended.  I don't want to spoil this for anyone, so I will leave it at that.  But I am anxious to have this discussion with our high school students to find out what they think!  I'm also looking forward to seeing the movie... anything by Tim Burton has the potential for movie greatness!  Here's the trailer: