Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry


At first, I wasn't sure I was going to pick this one up.  Janine and many of our high school students read this a while ago, and they have all been raving about it.  When we decided that we were going to go meet Mr. Maberry at YA Fest in Easton, PA, I finally started Rot & Ruin.  The reason I had been so hesitant to read this one is that I have these awful apocalyptic dreams sometimes, and I try to avoid books and movies that deal with this.  The fact that this was about zombies didn't exactly help, either.  Who knew I'd actually end up feeling sorry for the zombies in this book?!

Benny Imura has grown up after First Night, the night when a zombie epidemic broke out.  He has been raised by his brother Tom, who fled with 18-month old Benny on that fateful night, when their parents became infected.  Benny thinks he is a coward for abandoning their mother and running, but little does he realize Tom's strength and bravery.  Benny has a coming-of-age experience when he leaves their small gated town to go out into the great Ruin with Tom.  He has decided to apprentice with Tom as a zombie hunter, but did not realize what all that job entails and what all is out there in the Ruin.  When some of the town's zombie hunters commit horrific crimes to protect Gameland, a place where children are sacrificed to fight "zoms" for entertainment, Tom and Benny go on a new kind of hunt, where Benny will learn more about Tom, the Ruin, and the truth about what goes on outside of their protected home.

When I first started reading Rot & Ruin, I was continually interrupted by life (work, kids, all those responsibilities), but as the story went on, I started making it a priority, staying up way to late to squeeze in "one more chapter."  Finally, I carved out 3 full hours of non-stop reading to finish it!  And boy, was I NOT disappointed.  To take something so bizarre as a zombie apocalypse, and turn it into a complex story, with twists, and surprises, and multi-dimensional characters... that is a testament to Mr. Maberry's skill.  He leaves you wanting more... to know more about the characters and their choices, more about the mystery of the Ruin and the world beyond Mountainside.  As a high school librarian, this is one of those books that I can recommend to both boys and girls.  It's beyond any kind of gender stereotype, and I love that!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Crafty Summer Reading Promotion



File this one under "crafts in the library."  Janine and I were looking for a way to distribute information about our summer reading book club to our library "regulars."  At our final monthly book club, we gave all the high school kids these information packets.
We used a Cricut machine to make the envelopes, and included a book mark, a gummy "book worm," a printed old-fashioned "library card" on which kids could keep track of books they read over the summer.  (We can use them in a library display next school year.)  We made additional bookmarks with paperclips and ribbon, and of course, included our information about meeting for book club over the summer... when, where, and what we're reading (Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver).
We created a group for our book club on Goodreads, and we plan to communicate with the kids about summer reading there.
The kids enjoyed them and took a lot of time picking the envelope they liked the best!  Now, let's hope our summer book club works as well!
We used scrapbooking paper to make the envelopes.

These are all the contents included in the packets.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Book Review: The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement -Moore 
Review by MaryAnne (Teen Guest Blogger)

Slyvie Davis is a ballerina who can't dance.  A broken leg ended her career- but Slyvie's pain runs deeper.  What broke her heart was her father's death, and what's breaking her spirit is her mother's remarriage.  Uprooting her from their Manhattan apartment and shipping her off to Alabama is her mother's solution for Slyvie's unhappiness.  Her father's cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family's history.  As it turns out, the Davies have a richer history than Slyvie ever imagined.  More unnerving, though, are the two guys she can't stop thinking about.  Shaun Maddox, the resident golden boy, and Rhys, a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin.  Then Slyvie starts seeing things.  A girl by the lake, a man peering from the window, and a graveyard with an oddly placed headstone.
Like every other book I read, there are things I liked and didn't like about the book.  Slyvie's attitude at first, made me like and dislike her.  She wasn't the typical city girl, but her whining made it difficult to stand her at times.  She's sarcastic, witty, and doesn't mind the hard work.  Several characters seem to undermine Slyvie and her intelligence, which made me angry, but pleased when Slyvie fought back.  The book is well written, told from Slyvie's point of view. While It could have done without the constant interactions with Slyvie's dog Gigi, the story of magic and ghosts kept my interests peaked.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth


The day that Insurgent was released, I left work and went straight to the book store.  I had finished my previous book a week ago, but hadn't started anything else because I wanted to be ready for this book.  I read it so quickly because I couldn't wait to find out what happens, but now that I've finished, I feel like I read too fast and I'm having a hard time remembering details...which, really, is a good excuse to re-read both novels before the third one comes out!

From the inside cover: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

I know a lot of other reviewers were annoyed by Tris in this sequel, but honestly, I didn't feel that way.  There were several times when I found myself wishing she would just get over the killing Will thing.  I felt that it wasn't truly Will that she killed, and I could not understand this guilt that haunted her.  However, I also have never shot anyone (let alone one of my best friends), and so that's a hard perspective to have.  Other than that, Tris did not bother me.  I liked that Tris continued to question everything she encountered... Amity's refusal to become involved, Candor's willingness to work with Erudite, and even Tobias' new alliance with the factionless.  I was impressed with her determination to follow her instinct and her convictions.  She did not want her parents' sacrifice to be for nothing.  She wanted to carry on their mission, and I think that showed her real strength.

One of my favorite things about this book is that, as readers, we get to learn more about the other factions.  I  laughed out loud when Tris was drugged my Amity, and I cringed at the Candor hearing when Tobias was forced to take the truth serum.

In general, I was extremely impressed by this sequel... it's definitely one of the best-written sequels I have read!  I won't write a spoiler here, but Veronica Roth really has a way of wrapping up the end of the story while leaving the reader gasping at the revelation, and desperate to read more.  Now, I just have to wait (not-so-patiently) for Roth's conclusion to the series.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer 
Review by Maddie (Guest Teen Blogger)

In his debut novel, Foer writes with a freedom that most authors forget they have.  The dynamic tempo and constant change in point of view create potential for confusion if the reader doesn't pay attention.  But its vivaciousness and vibrance of emotion make it the best book I have read in years.
Foer's unconventional style sprouts in his first novel as he frankly confronts prejudice, cliches, and love.  He expresses himself via full paragraphs of capitalization, pages of the same phrase repeated over and over, and by his refusal to blindly follow the rules of conventional grammar.  Foer's hip outlook on writing assaults the reader at every angle, making it impossible to ignore his talent.
In Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer creates an unflinching plot that hits readers, like myself, who are unaccustomed to such profound writing.  Foer weaves together 3 stories: letters between a Ukrainian and American friendship, how the American came to visit the Ukrainian, and how the American became an American. But even thought this is only what is being told, in this novel so much is being said.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow By Robin Wasserman

Book Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
A "Duel Review" 

Review by Janine

Three students and one eccentric professor are working on translating the Latin text that may hold the answers to revealing the true power of the Lumen Dei.  The Lumen Dei is a device in which one can have ultimate control of the world and communication with God himself. The three students Max, Nora and Chris along with Chris' girlfriend Adrienne don't really believe in what they are doing will lead anywhere but just a nice semester independent study.  They don't believe that any of what their professor tells them about the power and purpose behind what they are doing is true, but when one ends up dead, one catatonic, and one has disappeared, the story becomes much more than that; it becomes a matter of life and death.

  I have to admit that I was super excited to read this book; murder, suspense, and a good mystery make for an awesome read in my book, and I was not disappointed. Of the four students involved in what becomes an intense adventure, Nora is person that we follow.  She is translating the text of Elisabeth, who is the daughter of the creator of the Lumen Dei.  The more she translates her letters, the more of a connection she feels to her.  Then on one fateful night, Nora steals one of the letters that she is translating.  In a fit of guilt she confesses to her fellow translator and best friend Chris, who agrees to put the stolen letter back.  That seals the fate of the group, Chris ends up murdered, and Adrienne catatonic.  Max disappears and is suspected of murder.  Nora, knowing that Max is being wrongly accused and  in trouble, follows the clues he leaves for her and goes to Prague where her real adventure begins.  She begins to follow the clues that Elisabeth's letters give to finding the Lumen Dei while trying to out-run the others looking for her; some will want to stop her, others will follow and encourage her, and some  want the ultimate power for themselves.  I really loved the setting of this book, Prague, which is such a unique setting, with just enough historical intrigue to make the story believable and the reader wishing they were there. What I also love are the characters in the story, the good and the bad.  They were so believable, it was easy to cheer for or hate them (and to have strong opinions about it!). This book was great, I love the action, the fast pace, and the mystery, everything!!! My students cannot wait to check it out, and I recommend that you do the same!

(Here is a chapter sampler, courtesy of Random Buzzers:


Since Janine already did an excellent job of summarizing the story for you, I will just leave you with my opinion.  I was hesitant to pick this one up because it just seems that there are so many books out there right now with "shadow," "bone," and/or "blood" in the title.  Frankly, I keep getting confused by all of them as to which one is which!  However, I received two free ARC of this one from Random Buzzers, decided to make it one of the high school library's book club picks, and there you have it--now I HAD to read it. 

I was more than pleasantly surprised!  Nora is a truly believable character... extremely intelligent and somewhat socially awkward in an endearing way.  Her intelligence, it seems, ultimately gets her into trouble with the wrong people, but will it also save her in the end?
The other characters, as Janine mentioned above, were all likable as well... both the good and the not-so-good.  The author, Robin Wasserman, does an excellent job of showing that there is, ultimately, both good and bad in all of us.  
Though I feared that this would be a DaVinci Code for teens, I think that there were plenty of new twists and ideas in this novel, to make it truly its own story.  I will be looking for other Wasserman novels in the future.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
REVIEW BY MARYANNE (Guest Teen Blogger)

A "social outcast," Alexis, begins to experience strange occurrences with her thirteen-year-old sister, Kasey.  Kasey has always had a love for dolls, while Alexis has become and amateur photographer.  However, Kasey's love has become obsessive, and with Kasey's sudden "black outs," boiling water on the unlit stove, and out of wack air conditioning units, things are becoming borderline creepy within their home.

When this book was dropped into my lap, I was unsure about what I'd find.  The gorgeous cover drew me in, and I began reading it whenever I had time.  This book never left my hands if I could help it.  Alexis, witty and sarcastic, had me so in tuned to the story.  When the book came to a funny part, I giggled.  When it became intense, I couldn't put it down.  I loved that the romance was subtle, which was refreshing.  The book never strays from the plot.  The only thing I didn't like about Bad Girls Don't Die are the cliche, stereotypical, "popular" types that always hate the main character or want on her to-be boyfriend.  Overall, I think I'd like books to fall in my lap more often.  This was definitely a pleasant surprise!