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My Summer Reading List for 2015!

Posted on May 29th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff, Teen Services
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Every summer I like to challenge myself to read eight books I wouldn’t normally read within the months of June, July, and August. Some of the books have been chosen by Boston schools as either previous, or current, summer reading books and others are books I’ve been interested in for awhile but haven’t gotten around to reading yet. There is always a mix of fiction and non-fiction. As I finish each book, I  will post a review here on this blog so that everyone can see what’s going on and determine whether or not something on my list will be of interest. So, without further ado, here is my personal summer reading list for 2015:

 

FICTION:

 

the illustrated man

 

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

 

The tattooed man moves, and in the arcane designs scrawled upon his skin swirled tales beyond imagining: tales of love and laughter darkness and death, of mankind’s glowing, golden past and its dim, haunted future. Here are eighteen incomparable stories that blend magic and truth in a kaleidoscope tapestry of wonder–woven by the matchless imagination of Ray Bradbury.

 

 

 

 

one flew over the cuckoo's nest

 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

 

In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.

 

 

caine mutiny

 

The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

 

The novel that inspired the now-classic film The Caine Mutiny and the hit Broadway play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Herman Wouk’s boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life-and mutiny-on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was immediately embraced, upon its original publication in 1951, as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of World War II. In the intervening half century, The Caine Mutiny has become a perennial favorite of readers young and old, has sold millions of copies throughout the world, and has achieved the status of a modern classic.

 

 

Monkey

 

Monkey: A Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en

 

Probably the most popular book in the history of the Far East, this classic combination of picaresque novel and folk epic mixes satire, allegory, and history into a rollicking tale. It is the story of the roguish Monkey and his encounters with major and minor spirits, gods, demigods, demons, ogres, monsters, and fairies.

 

 

 

 

 

bel canto

 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

 

In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

 

 

 

 

NON-FICTION:

 

harvey milk

 

The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts

 

Known as “The Mayor of Castro Street” even before he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk’s personal life, public career, and final assassination reflect the dramatic emergence of the gay community as a political power in America. It is a story full of personal tragedies and political intrigues, assassinations at City Hall, massive riots in the streets, the miscarriage of justice, and the consolidation of gay power and gay hope.

 

 

 

when I was a soldier

 When I Was a Soldier by Valérie Zenatti

 

What is it like to be a young woman in a war?
At a time when Israel is in the news every day and politics in the Middle East are as complex as ever before, this story of one girl’s experience in the Israeli national army is both topical and fascinating. Valerie begins her story as she finishes her exams, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves for service with the Israeli army. Nothing has prepared her for the strict routines, grueling marches, poor food, lack of sleep and privacy, or crushing of initiative that she now faces. But this harsh life has excitement, too, such as working in a spy center near Jerusalem and listening in on Jordanian pilots. Offering a glimpse into the life of a typical Israeli teen, even as it lays bare the relentless nature of war, Valerie’s story is one young readers will have a hard time forgetting.

 

 

beowulf

 

Beowulf by Unknown; Translated by Seamus Heaney

 

The national bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award. Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the classic Northern epic of a hero’s triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed in the exhausted aftermath. It is not hard to draw parallels in this story to the historical curve of consciousness in the twentieth century, but the poem also transcends such considerations, telling us psychological and spiritual truths that are permanent and liberating.

 

 

 

 

Bitterblue – A Review

Posted on April 28th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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bitterblue

Title/Author: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Read by: Anna, Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Bitterblue first appeared in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling as a young princess running from her father, the king. She was ten years old then. Now she’s 18 and struggling as Queen to understand exactly what happened during her father’s reign and how it’s still affecting her people. During her search for the truth, she befriends a thief and realizes that King Leck used his grace to do the most unspeakable things to his subjects.

Series/Standalone: Book 3 in the Graceling trilogy

Genre/sub-genre: Fantasy

Diversity: yes (In reading Bitterblue, I’ve come to realize there is more diversity in the previous books than I originally thought, but they aren’t for the reader to know about, until book 3.)

Relatable characters: yes

Would I re-read?: Maybe-yes

Personal thoughts: This was a very difficult book to read, as much as it was very good. Bitterblue faces many obstacles in her search for the truth, and many of those obstacles bring her down, making her doubt herself. This was hard to read, but also finding out exactly why King Leck hired his healers as his main advisers was also difficult. I won’t sugar coat it, this book is dark, and a lot longer than the other two. However, that said, it does a nice job of ending the trilogy and wrapping up all the important bits, while leaving enough open to be realistic. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a lot of realism thrown in.

Fire – A Review

Posted on April 1st, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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fire

Title/Author: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Read by: Anna, Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Fire is the last monster human alive, with the ability to read minds. When spies start appearing in the Dells with foggy brains, the king pleads with her to help with the interrogations, to figure out who means well and who doesn’t. But she doesn’t want to hurt anyone the way her father did and she considers interrogation almost inhumane. And yet, if she doesn’t help the king, war will break out and the kingdom could be lost.

Series/Standalone: Book 2 in the Graceling trilogy, but can be read as a standalone

Genre/sub-genre: Fantasy

Diversity: There are characters with mobility issues

Relatable characters: yes

Would I re-read?: Maybe

Personal thoughts: I enjoyed reading this, though I think I enjoyed the first book, Graceling, even more. Again, there is a romance in this story, but it doesn’t take over the story, and it doesn’t have the traditional ending most romances have, which I appreciated. The main character is strong, but also has weaknesses, which was also appreciated. She was realistic in that way.  There is one more book in this trilogy, Bitterblue, which I am intending to read next!

Graceling – A Review

Posted on March 25th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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graceling

Title/Author: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Read by: Anna, a Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Katsa is a Graceling, graced with the extreme skill to kill. Her uncle, the king, has been using her to keep control over his lands since she was a young girl. But then she meets Prince Po and finds a friend where she never expected to find one. With Po, she’ll work to break free from the bindings the king has placed on her and head off on a wild adventure that will teach her more about herself than even she knew was possible, all while keeping friends and family safe from unknown dangers.

Series/Standalone: Book 1 in the Graceling trilogy (but can also be read as a standalone)

Genre/sub-genre: Fantasy

Diversity: Characters are diverse in the fact that a select few are different than the rest, some have disabilities as well, though skin colors don’t play a factor, eye colors do.

Relatable characters: Yes

Would I re-read?: Yes

Personal thoughts: I loved the cover. I loved the fact that Katsa was a strong girl in mind and body, who didn’t lack emotions, who knew what she didn’t want in life and was strong enough to stick to that all the way through the book. Yes, there is a bit of romance here, but it’s never overwhelming, and the couple are friends first and foremost. The story was brilliant. Even I didn’t see how the puzzle pieces fit together until the very end. The world building was fantastic, and all of the characters were well rounded. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy.

The Recruit – A Review

Posted on March 20th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Recruit

 

Title/Author: The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

Read by: Anna, Teen Librarian at Teen Central

Summary: A young boy finds a way out of his rough life after his mother dies, when he is given the opportunity to train as a spy for the British government.

Series/Standalone: Book one out of twelve.

Genre/sub-genre: Mystery/Thriller/Espionage

Diversity: Some of the more minor characters came from different backgrounds.

Relatable characters: Yes, though some of the characters seemed a lot older than their stated ages.

Would I re-read?: Perhaps, though I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Personal thoughts: This was a very fast read for me, as I couldn’t put it down. It was also something that I wish had been around when I was a teen because I know I would have loved it back then too. The characters were great, and James’ first mission was interesting because it did leave him with a lot of questions about the validity of what the government was doing versus what common civilians were trying to do, and what large companies sometimes get up to. If you enjoy reading about spies, I encourage you to pick up this book, you’ll be glad you did!