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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.

The Wind In The Willows – A Review

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Wind In The Willows

The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

In 1908 Kenneth Grahame published a book based on letters he’d written to his son. These letters contained the exploits of several animals that lived in the Wild Wood and along the nearby river bank. They were Mole, the River Rat, Badger, Mr. Toad and others. These animals have adventures in caravans, crash sports cars, get lost in the woods, and above all, make friends with those they live near.

No one is ever too old to enjoy a children’s book. That’s what I always say. And it seems to be true with this book. Over one hundred years after this book was first published, adults and children alike, flock to it’s pages. However, while I found it to be extremely well written, I also found it to be exceedingly boring. I had been sure I’d read this as a kid, and rereading it I was reminded that yes, I did read it, and I was also reminded why I didn’t like it back then either. Not much happens. In the early chapters the most exciting thing to occur is a car running the horse drawn caravan off the road and Toad’s subsequent need to own a car rather than a caravan. As much as I wanted to like this classic, it just wouldn’t hold my attention.

If you’re looking for a good story about human-like animals, I highly recommend reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, starting with the first two books: Redwall and Mossflower. Here, the woodland creatures go on high adventures searching for friends, battling evil rats, and saving those they hold dear. This is a series I’ve enjoyed since I was in middle school, and I’m still enjoying them to this day.

redwall                              mossflower

The Crystal Cave – A Review

Posted on August 13th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Crystal Cave

***FYI, our TBOM book discussion group for teens will be meeting on August 28th at 3pm in the Teen Room to discuss this book. All teens are welcome to join us!***

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Read by Anna/Central Teen Room

Everyone has a basic understanding of who Merlin is. Right? He was the famous wizard who raised King Arthur and helped him when he finally became king. However, what most people don’t know, is how Merlin was born and raised and how he grew into his position as king’s prophet. This first book in Mary Stewart’s series of Arthurian Saga starts us off when Merlin is a small boy, the son of a princess who refuses to reveal who Merlin’s father is. It is speculated that his father is the Prince of Darkness, a demon who came into his mother’s room late at night and left her pregnant with Merlin. Merlin is shunned as a bastard son, but fate leads him on an amazing path from learning “magic” to helping not just one king in love and war, but several.  He is able to move on past his childhood. He makes friends and enemies, but always stays true to himself.

While this telling of Merlin’s life is based on a real person who lived around the year 470 A.D. (when it is suspected that King Arthur was born), in her Author’s Note at the end, Mary Stewart is quick to recognize that her work is complete fiction. There is much we don’t know about the great prophet and prince, or King Arthur for that matter. Yet that should not hinder anyone from enjoying a good story. I was enchanted right from the very first page which begins with Merlin in old age preparing to tell the story of his early years. He has an easy going manner in the way he tells his story, drawing you in and not letting you go until the story is complete. And while he is technically telling the story as an old man, you often forget he is recalling his childhood because it seems as if you are there, right beside him as he gets into trouble as a young boy, as he grows up and goes in search of his father. He is a character you cannot help but love and this is a story you cannot help but enjoy.  I highly recommend this novel for those who enjoy historical fantasy, with the knowledge that Merlin wasn’t a wizard as we think of them today. He did not have a magic wand or a pointy hat. He considered himself a prophet and was never in control of his visions. He could not tell the future upon command. As long as you aren’t expecting Harry Potter, you’ll enjoy this fun read.

The 2nd and 3rd books in this series are also told from Merlin’s POV, while the 4th and 5th take place after his death. They are as follows:

Book Two: The Hollow Hills (Merlin’s POV)

Book Three: The Last Enchantment (Merlin’s POV)

Book Four: The Wicked Day (focuses on Mordred)

Book Five: The Prince and the Pilgrim (focuses on Alexander)