Boston Public Library
Teens

The Rogue Crew – A Review

Posted on October 6th, 2014 by Anna in Reviews - Staff
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rogue crew       The Rogue Crew by Brian Jacques Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

 

This is the final story in the Redwall series. It chronicles a group of hares, shrews, sea otters and a few hedgehogs, as they race against time to reach Redwall Abby before the murderous vermin crew of the ship, Greenshroud. The ship and her wearat captain, Razzid, once thought to be defeated by fire, have returned, bigger and better than before. Now, the ship not only sails the seas, it has wheels that allow it to sail on land as well! Will the warrior hares from Salamandastron and the mighty sea otters of the High North Coast reach the Abby in time to save the good woodland creatures who live there? Or will more vermin along the way keep them from reaching their goal and their friends?

I started reading this series nineteen years ago. Yes. You read that correctly. Nineteen years. The first book in the series, Redwall, was originally published in 1987, though I didn’t find it until a few years after that. The Rogue Crew (book #22) was first published in 2011. So you can see just how long this series has been going on. If it weren’t for the death of the author, Brian Jacques (pronounced Jakes), this series would still be going on. This will always be one of my favorite series, and Brian Jacques will always be one of my favorite authors. Though he lived in Liverpool, England, I was lucky enough to get to meet him on three separate occasions and I can say he was an amazing person to listen to. His voice was as rich and deep as his stories. Did you know Redwall got started as a story for blind children? Jacques delivered milk to a blind school and wrote Redwall for them, making his style of writing as descriptive as possible so the children could see everything in their imaginations.  A former teacher of his eventually showed Redwall to a publisher without telling Jacques, and as they say, the rest is history.

Because of his descriptive style, his work makes me feel like I’m in an adventure with all these different creatures who are kind, caring, tough, warrior-like, evil, mean, innocent, whatever words you can use to describe people, you can use to describe these creatures. I really do feel like I’m there, in the midst of a battle, or enjoying a huge feast on a beautiful summer evening. Though, one thing I adore about these books that tends to be a deal breaker for other readers, is the fact that each type of animal has its own way of speaking and Jacques uses that throughout all of the dialog. I see it as a fun time to learn how to speak like a mole or a hare. Others, find it distracting. If that is something that bothers you, this might not be the book for you. If it doesn’t, I urge you to check it out.  I can’t recommend these books highly enough, and I’m very sad to have finally reached the end. A note about the order of the books: Each book is its own story with its own set of characters. If you’re new to the series, you should start with either Redwall or Mossflower. Redwall was the first book published and Mossflower is the prequel. After that, you can read them in any order you like. I admit, they might get tiring after awhile if you attempt to read all 22 in a row, but take a long break and come back to them and you’ll remember why you enjoyed them so much when you first picked them up. To me, these are timeless classics set in their own fantasy world. Thirty, fifty, even perhaps one hundred years from now, I imagine they’ll still be readable and enjoyable by many and I hope they’re never forgotten by readers of all ages.

Seraphina – A Review

Posted on September 29th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

Dragon shifters abound in this tale of a young woman who is half dragon and passing as human. Someone is threatening the 40-year-old treaty keeping peace between the dragons and the humans. But who would do such a thing? And why? And how can they be stopped? Those are the questions Seraphina longs to answer as she goes about her days as the court’s Music Mistress, working hard to put the program together for the Treaty Eve festival. However, memories her mother planted in her mind often get in the way and threaten to expose her for what she really is, something no one knows exists. With her life in danger, memories trying to swamp her mind, and visions getting out of hand, Seraphina is making friends in high places and hoping against all hope they don’t notice anything amiss.

I’ll admit, it took me a few chapters to really get into this book. But once I was in, I was in. I was really interested in the different characters Seraphina sees through her visions. I was especially drawn to Fruit Bat, a mute boy who seems to be the only one who responds to her attention, as if he is a real person who can interact with her. Yes, there is a romance in this book, yet it doesn’t overwhelm the plot at all. In fact, it’s so subtle, you might miss it, which makes for a nice breath of fresh air. It’s a fantasy like no other. Rachel Hartman has taken the classic character of the dragon and made it as unique as a fingerprint. She did a great job making them new, different, and extremely interesting. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes fantasy.

The end of the book leaves it open for a sequel which is slated to be released sometime in 2015. And any who enjoyed this first book might enjoy the 17 page prequel, which can be found for free here. Or by the link on the Goodreads page here.

Our TBOM discussion group will be talking about this very book on October 31st at 2pm!

Anyone interested in joining the discussion should request a copy

of the book, ebook, downloadable audio, or audio CD

through our online catalog, and have it read by the end of the month.

We will also be planning future reads at the end of the discussion so come ready to plan!

A Time To Dance – A Review

Posted on September 12th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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a time to dance

A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman

Read by Anna/Central Teen Room

Veda is a classical dance prodigy in India. Ever since she first saw the statue of Shiva, the four-armed God of dance, as a small child, she’s wanted to do nothing but dance. However, her parents know that dancing won’t bring her a steady career with good money and a stable life. Her mother wishes she would study harder to get into a good college. And yet, Veda still wants nothing more than to dance. Then, the unthinkable happens. She loses half of her right leg in an accident. Now, she can no longer dance. And yet, Veda still wants nothing more than to dance. But even her dance teacher isn’t so sure she can do it anymore. Still, her determination finds her in the capable hands of an American man determined to create a prosthetic foot to help her dance, and a new dance teacher who believes in her, not just her ability to dance.

This was a very inspiring story, told in verse. It was a quick read, one that I found very difficult to put down once I’d gotten started. Veda is a very likeable character, and someone most people can relate to. A Time To Dance offers a glimpse of what it’s like to live in India as a young girl, showing the Indian traditions including those stemming from religion, and talking about the caste system. However, while religion is there, while it inspires Veda, it does not preach to the reader, for which I was grateful. I found this story to be rather peaceful for the most part, and heart wrenching for the rest of the time. The romance is sweet, feels natural, and doesn’t over shadow the rest of the story. But Veda’s story isn’t just about dance and a little romance. It’s also about family and friends, how to hold onto both, and how to let go. A Time To Dance handles serious issues realistically and easily. I loved the way this story was told, I loved the characters, and I also really liked the cover, which first drew my attention to it. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something inspirational, something about loss, life, love, and dance. Or if you’re at a loss as to what you should read next, pick this one up. You’ll be glad you did.

Golden Boy – A Review

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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golden boy

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

Golden Boy is the story of a fifteen-year-old boy who is intersex, meaning he has both male and female genitals. He is different. And he is very aware of his difference. His parents agreed to naming him Max after a long debate. His mother because it was a boy’s name. His father because it could be short for Maxine. Doctors wanted to do a genital reassignment surgery when he was a baby to turn him into a girl. Max’s father refused even as his mother thought it was the only way to go. It didn’t happen. New doctors wanted to do a reassignment surgery on him when he was thirteen to turn him into a boy because he’d taken on the role of a boy and looked more like a boy than a girl. Throughout all of this, Max drops his head and lets things happen to him, lets his parents decide his fate. And then one horrible night, his best friend does something terrible to him. Something that will change his life, and that of his family, forever. When Max finds out he can indeed have children, and is currently pregnant, he has no idea what he should do. Should he keep the child? Should he have the reassignment surgery to fully become a boy? Max, having kept his secrets from everyone, has no one to talk to, even his little brother is clueless to the things going on in his life. Just how will he cope? How will this affect his entire family? His father is running for Member of Parliament, which means the media will be all over the family. What if these secrets get out? What then?

At the end of the blurb on the inside cover, it says “…a novel you’ll read in one sitting…” Honestly, I didn’t believe that at first. But the deeper I got into the story, the more I couldn’t put it down! True, I didn’t read it in one sitting, but I would have if I could have. If I could describe this book in three words they would be: heartbreaking, gripping, and gut wrenching. All at the same time. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I wanted to step into the book and be the friend Max needed. I wanted to smack his mother for the insensitive things she said. I understood why she said them, I know she thought she was doing the right things, but I still wanted to smack her. This book brought out all of my emotions, my anger, my sympathy, my fears for Max, everything. And the thing about this book that makes it even more gripping is the fact that people like Max really do exist. Right now, there is someone out there struggling with their life because of issues similar to Max’s. This is not some LGBTQ fantasy. This is real life for some people. And the realness of Golden Boy is scary and riveting. I  loved this book very much, for the plot, the well-rounded characters, and how well everything melded together. While this book was told from multiple points-of-view (Max, his 9-year-old brother, his mother, his father, his girlfriend), and while I normally don’t like books that go above two or three POVs, this one was handled expertly well. This is a book that both adults and teens will enjoy simply because you get into the heads of all of the main characters, and each one is written about very realistically. A heartbreaking, gut wrenching, gripping book, I urge everyone to pick up a copy and read it today!

The Odyssey – A Review

Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Odyssey

The Odyssey by Homer

Read by Anna/Central Teen Room

The word “odyssey” means a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc. The origin of this word stems from the epic poem Homer wrote depicting the long journey home of King Odysseus, known as The Odyssey. A whole twenty years prior to the start of the epic poem, Odysseus took soldiers to Troy in order to fight in the Trojan War. The trip should have been easy. He should have returned straight home to his wife and son on his native lands of Ithaca, but thanks to Zeus and the other Gods, the return journey was fraught with dangers and troubles. It took him ten years to get home, and lots of cunning to escape the fantastical creatures and Gods and Goddesses who wished to detain him. He went down into the darkness of the Underworld to talk with those who had died during the Trojan War. While he was known to be one of the best fighters in war, he fought a cyclops, not with swords, but with cunning words and actions. He told his men to lash him to the mast of the ship in order that he might hear the sirens call to him to turn the ship into dangerous waters bent on his destruction, but so that he would be able to do as they wished. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife was besieged with suitors who were eating her out of house and home, taking no cares in how many pigs and cows they slaughtered for their daily feasts and ignoring their own flocks. They each yearned for her to take another husband while it was assumed King Odysseus had been killed at war or on his return journey home. Queen Penelope held her ground and would neither wed another man nor send them away, leaving her son, Telemachus, to deal with them as best he could until his father could return home.

When I decided to reread this for my summer reading list this year, (I originally read it in 10th grade English, I think.) I decided to listen to the audio version for several reasons. Reason one being the long and unfamiliar names. When I read them in my head, I often change the pronunciation because I’m never sure what it should be. Having a narrator read to me, means the pronunciations will always remain the same. And reason two, the narrator was Sir Ian McKellen. Yep, that really awesome British actor who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and other great, well known characters. What better guy could you get to read the story of Odysseus? I ask you, and I doubt you’ll come up with one. If you do, you’ll have to let me know who it is. I found his voice was perfect for telling an epic tale. While he didn’t read it as more modern narrators will, giving different voices and accents to different characters, it wasn’t hard to determine who was speaking at all. I highly recommend this just for Ian McKellen’s voice alone. If this is something you have to read for school, the audio book just might help get you through it.

On one hand we have this amazing audio book, but on the other we must consider the epic poem written by Homer, that is so much more than just a plain old poem. It literally is an epic fantasy. It includes many Gods and Goddesses, a cyclops (a giant with one large, round eye in the middle of his forehead), sirens (sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing),  a centaur (one of a race of monsters having the head, trunk, and arms of a man, and the body and legs of a horse), and many other characters Odysseus must fight against to win his freedom and be able to finish his journey home. While most of the story is told by different characters telling the story to others, it is certainly not boring by any sense of the word. Unless, of course, you aren’t into poetry, fantasy, adventures, and a little violence. (There are some pretty bloody battles that get depicted in this epic, especially toward the end.) If, however, these are things that do interest you, I urge you to check out this book, either in audio or in print. Minus any notes, appendixes, and introductions, the poem is roughly 400 pages and the audio book is around 13 hours. While that may seem like a long book, because it’s in poem format and because there are a lot of action scenes, the story seems to move at a quick pace for the most part. There’s a reason The Odyssey is continually reprinted and translated after it was initially written in either the late eighth or seventh century B.C. I really enjoyed rereading this, and getting myself reacquainted with the story years after my first reading, and I think you’ll like it too.