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The Name of the Star – A Review

Posted on July 5th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

This is the story of a girl from Louisiana who goes by the name Rory. Her parents accept a job in Bristol, England and so Rory decides she wants to go to a boarding school in London for her final year of high school. The school she chooses happens to be in the area where Jack the Ripper murdered several people in the late 1800′s. When the killings begin again, on the same dates, with all of the details as exactly like the originals as they can be, the entire city of London is thrown into chaos. No one knows who the original Jack the Ripper was, so who could this new Ripper possibly be? Rory discovers she can see and talk to a strange man her roommate cannot see or hear. What does it mean? Who is the strange bald man? And just who exactly is the third roommate in Rory’s room who arrived late in the semester, almost ruining the bond she’d formed with her first roommate?  Will Rory escape the wrath of the Ripper alive? Or will she become one of his victims?

This book was amazing! It was recommended to me shortly after it first came out and I just never got around to reading it until now. I should have. I should have picked it up right then and there and started reading. On the inside cover of the paperback, YA author Ally Carter, is quoted as calling it “unputdownable”. Granted, that’s not a real word, but in this case, I think we’ll let that slide. This book WAS unputdownable! I loved the new/fresh setting, as I rarely read books set in England, or maybe there just aren’t that many YA books set there. I wouldn’t want to live there (hate cold and rain too much!) but visiting via a good book is perfect. I also liked her portrayal of all the characters. They’re realistic without going over the top. Usually books that revolve around a school have the popular kids with their noses stuck in the air and too many groups and cliques. This didn’t. Not to that degree anyway. I enjoyed the relationship Rory has with her first roommate, and the relationship that eventually grows with her third, as they live in a room meant for three. And I liked how the murderer is not who you think he is. Ever. I kept changing my mind, changing it back again, only to change it to something else a second later. The ending was not predictable and was very satisfying. What a rush!

In short, I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good murder mystery. Even with a paranormal twist, it seemed very realistic. Fantastic reading.

Shadowfell – A Review

Posted on June 26th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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shadowfell

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Read for my personal summer reading list (book #1 on the list) and also for our July 3rd TBOM book discussion.

This is the first book in a series about Neryn, a sixteen year old girl with the ability to see the Good Folk, fairies who blend in with nature, tend to be very small, and don’t have typical fairy wings. The king of Alban has decreed that anyone with canny abilities should be killed, or work specifically for him. No one is allowed to speak of the old ways, or practice the ancient arts. Anyone who can sing or weave a basket too well is thought to have abilities they shouldn’t. This is not a time of peace, but of unrest, a time when being overheard speaking the wrong words could cause death, or worse, a mind-scrapping. Enter Neryn, a young girl who’s grandmother told her secret tales of the Good Folk, who was ready to stand up for what she believed in, and eventually died for those beliefs. Neryn is on a long journey with Flint, a companion she isn’t sure she can trust with her deep secrets. It turns out, however, that Flint has secrets of his own and they might be closely related to hers. Will she reach Shadowfell, a destination marked for safety to those with canny abilities? Or will Flint turn her over to the king for his use?

This book was well written, seemingly above the traditional YA fantasy novels that have been written lately. I fell into a world that was at once fantastical, and yet very believable. I loved the Good Folk, who are like fairies and yet not like any that have been written about recently. These are magic folk of old stories. They blend into nature and only come out if you can see them, only help you if you are kind hearted and share whatever you can with them. Neryn learned to share from her grandmother, learned that it doesn’t matter how much you have, you always have something you can share. Often she is hungry and offers a little of her food to the Good Folk in return for a little of their help. She is able to call mythical creatures to her aid, creatures not found in typical YA novels. She is strong, and kind. She isn’t what I would call “girly” and she isn’t not “girly” either, something else I liked. The cover of the book doesn’t have the typical girl in a beautiful gown (which usually never appears in the actual book!) and that made the book that much more approachable. This was a good read over all, but there were a few issues I had with it, minor though they might be. Trust is a hard won issue throughout the book. No one is trustworthy in Alban. Everyone is looking over their backs. That’s understandable, but the trust between Neryn and Flint goes back and forth so many times, it does get a little irritating, along with the repeated traveling, that never seems to end. As for Flint himself, it is stated somewhere in the book that he’s young, perhaps early twenties at the most. But his actions, and the way he speaks, puts him at a much older age. I kept picturing Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), and thus, had a little trouble picturing the budding romance between the two. I actually would prefer him to be a man of Aragorn’s age, minus the romance. I’ll admit, I’m getting tired of there having to be a romance in every YA book out there. Otherwise, I loved this book, and will likely give the second book a try when I get a chance.

For those who are interested, our TBOM book discussion will be at 3pm on July 3rd. Everyone is welcome and snack food will be provided!

 

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution – A Review

Posted on June 25th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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Victory

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution by Linda Hirshman

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

This is the story of the gay revolution in America starting over one hundred years ago, long before the famed Stonewall Riots in 1969. This non-fiction narrative covers every gay and lesbian organization and seemingly every single person involved in helping them gain equal rights. It chronicles how the movement started out with a small number of underground activists to large numbers of people taking a full political stand for what they believe in. Many organizations that were created over the years died out because their tactics didn’t work any more. New organizations were born of the old. Those people simply picked up and carried on in a new fashion. Each group had its own way of combating the issues they faced, be it police who wouldn’t let them innocently congregate in a bar, people who were afraid of what they didn’t know and made it illegal for an entire population to have consensual sex, to a government that withheld important medication that could have saved thousands of lives during the AIDS epidemic. Slowly the gay community fought back and gained the rights they deserved. There is still more work to be done, but when you look at how far we’ve come, we’ve certainly accomplished a lot in the last one hundred years.

This was a very good, very interesting read. I learned a lot I didn’t know about the history, and a lot about current matters I was unaware of. I would highly recommend this book for someone who’s very interested in the topic, already has at least a basic understanding of the past, and is looking for more. This is the book for you. It is very in depth and covers a lot of ground. However, do keep in mind, that until very recently Transgender equality wasn’t much of a priority, thus it is rarely mentioned in this book.

Despite all the good information in this book, there was one thing I had a problem with. There are a lot of names that come up over the course of history, many repeatedly, others not so much. There were a lot of organizations that came and went, along with their acronyms. And towards the end, when things turned political, there are a lot of court cases that get mentioned on the fly. How is one to keep all these things straight? I felt there needed to be a list of people, organizations, and a list of court cases at the end, all with a brief, one to two line description of who that person was or what the point of the case was. That would have helped a great deal. This is the reason I do not recommend this book to a beginner. If you don’t know much about gay history, read an easier book first before you tackle this one.

My best suggestion is a wonderful book called Gay America: Struggle For Equality by Linas Alsenas. There is a lot of information given without overwhelming the reader with names of people, court cases, or organizations. Everything is nicely laid out in an easy to read manner, and there are a lot of great pictures, helping to put faces with names.

Gay America

TMNT: Change Is Constant/Enemies Old, Enemies New – A Review

Posted on June 20th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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TMNT new vol1   TMNT new vol2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 1: Change Is Constant

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New

Written and drawn by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

This is a new take on the original series. The four turtles (Rapheal, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo) and their rat sensei (Splinter) seem to originate in a lab, where they were being used in science experiments for the military. April O’Neil and Casey Jones are college students just getting a foothold in life. Some unknown ninjas break into the lab and try to steal the turtles, whom April has come to care for. The turtles are minus one for a good portion of the story as Raphael was snatched as a baby and never found.

I loved reading this! Yes, I’ll fully admit to being a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan in the 80′s when I was a kid. I still am. So finding this new series made me very happy. The art was spectacular, the emotions clear on each character’s faces, and something, almost old fashioned about the way they were drawn and the colors that were used made it perfect. My only problem was that ALL of their headbands were red, which made it hard to determine which turtle was which unless they were openly carrying their weapons. The story was also well developed, and had a clear ending, though it’s obvious it will continue in the following volumes. Just a fair warning, the story does go back and forth from the past to the present, and back again, but it’s pretty easy to tell what’s going on where and when. Overall, I loved this, and I hope a new generation of TMNT lovers will find it enjoyable as well.

In the second volume, you do learn why all four turtles are wearing red headbands. They also receive their proper color headbands in this volume. More of their reimagined past is revealed, and Splinter is taken at the end, leaving the reader with a cliffhanger. Again, the art was well done, and the storylines were good as in the first volume. I highly recommend this new series for anyone who has never even heard of the turtles and for old fans alike. Well done, and I’m impatiently waiting for more!

The Diary of a Young Girl – A Review

Posted on June 9th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Teen Book of the Month (TBOM) discussion on June 12, 2013!

This book contains the diary of a young Jewish girl kept in hiding for several years during World War II. She’s trapped inside an attic-like living space along with her parents, her sister, another boy and his parents, as well as a dentist with whom she shares a bedroom. For the most part, one would think their living situation is quite normal. They have sit-down dinners, they listen to the news on the radio, do their laundry, and cook together. But they are not permitted to leave the building. The entrance to their hiding spot is covered with a fake bookcase so no one will realize where they are. She writes to her diary, calling it Kitty, as if it were a real person she could talk to. In it, she explains about life with all these people. She talks about what it’s like to have burglars break into the warehouse beneath them, afraid someone will find them in hiding, what it’s like when their food rations run down until they eat nearly the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let’s not forget her budding romance with Peter, the only teenage boy stuck with them. And the arguments! The arguments between so many people trapped together, unable to get away does not make for a peaceful living situation, no matter how much it may seem to be peaceful at times.

This was hard to read. It seems as if nothing is happening, and indeed, they aren’t in the thick of things in the war. They are. And they aren’t. Unlike a lot of stories of the Jewish in WWII, they aren’t dragged off to a concentration camp. They go into hiding early so they can avoid being found and taken to a camp. What ends up happening is Anne growing up in a confined space with so many people, trying to become an independent teenager, which is not easy to do. She also falls for Peter, the older teenage boy, and struggles with her feelings for him as she grows older and closer to him. She argues with her mother and grows apart from her parents. Everything is told from her point of view so it’s easy to understand where her feelings are coming from. What’s hard sometimes is pulling back to see where the feelings of the others are coming from.

Only a few days after Anne’s last entry in her diary, the police and SS officers arrive and take everyone to a concentration camp where they were separated. The afterword tells the brief story of what happened to everyone living in the annex in hiding and those who were keeping them hidden. When reading her diary you come to know all these people only to learn of their horrific deaths shortly after. It was not easy to keep the tears at bay when learning this news. If it hadn’t been for Anne’s father, Otto Frank, her diary never would have gotten published. Her body is assumed buried with her sister’s in a mass grave at one of the concentration camps she was taken to. Her diary, Kitty, is all that’s left along with the house where she stayed hidden for so long.

When reading The Diary of a Young Girl, a good companion book is Anne Frank Her Life in Words and Pictures. This book has photographs of the secret annex where she lived with seven other people and two cats for several years. It’s most helpful to have those pictures in mind while reading her diary.

For more information on Anne Frank, the Anne Frank House museum website gives great insight on what happened to Anne’s father who survived the war and his reactions to reading her diary for the first time. You can also plan a visit to the house in Amsterdam. Here is the link to the website: http://www.annefrank.org/en/