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Enclave, by Ann Aguirre

Read This! - Fri, 2014-07-04 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

Get ready for a fast paced, post-apocalyptic thrill ride. Author Aguirre appeals to a wide range of readers in this first of a planned trilogy, which has ample amounts of action, suspense and adventure.

The world now isn’t a place we would easily recognize. The ruins are all that remain, along with the violent gangs who inhabit them and the underground subcultures living in communities known as “Enclaves.” However, roaming the underground tunnels is another set of creatures as well. Known by members of the Enclaves as “Freaks,” these creatures are absolutely zombie-like, with a lust for human flesh. In this frightening view of the future we meet Deuce. She exists within the Enclave, a strong and dedicated member who lives for her coveted position as Huntress.

The Enclave has assigned the role of Hunter/Huntress to members of the community who will defend them against the “Freaks.” On her naming day, after fifteen years of training and waiting, Deuce is assigned the role of Huntress. Ever diligent and never questioning, she takes on the role with fervor. But everything begins to slowly change when she is partnered with another hunter, Fade. Fade is an outcast who arrived at the Enclave after surviving for years on his own topside. Never fully accepted and a self-made loner, Fade still possesses a unique skill set that is highly valued—fighting and killing. Together, Deuce and Fade begin to make notable discoveries about their leaders and start to get a glimpse of the dystopian society they have called home for years. After a devastating event forces Deuce and Fade to be banished from the Enclave, they must learn to survive not only the topside gangs, but the “Freaks” who have found their way up as well. An ideal read for fans of The Hunger Games and Graceling.

Check the WRL catalog for Enclave

Categories: Read This

Bad Taste in Boys, by Carrie Harris

Read This! - Wed, 2014-07-02 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

This debut novel by Carrie Harris is fun—if, like me, you enjoy the occasional zombie book!

High school junior Kate Grable is the football team’s student trainer. She is hoping that the experience will help her get into a good medical school, but up until now she’s pretty much just been in charge of the Gatorade cart.

One afternoon she notices a bunch of unlabeled bottles in the coach’s cabinet. She suspects they are steroids until one of the players collapses at a party. Kate swears the boy is dead, until he lurches to his feet and walks away. He can’t be dead if he walked away, right?

After a few more players show the same grayish skin and dead-like symptoms (like trying to munch on other students), Kate is ready to think the unthinkable. Something has turned these players into zombies.

Before the whole town comes down with the zombie infection, Kate has to find a cure. And if she manages to get a date to the homecoming dance in the meantime—so much the better!

The books are fast-paced and easy to get into. It isn’t particularly scary reading about zombies running loose in school. And while there is a certain “ew, gross” factor, even that is handled with humor. Add that to the usual high school angst, and friendships, and crushes…. it makes a great introduction to a series of books about geeky Kate and her high school adventures.  I wonder what will happen next to this aspiring medical student!

Check the WRL catalog for Bad Taste in Boys.

Categories: Read This

Joseph, by Shelia P. Moses

Read This! - Mon, 2014-06-30 01:01

Jan shares this review:

“Daddy does not know what it is like to have to be a father to your mother. “

It is always an adjustment when a parent is deployed, but what happens when a  family is held together by one parent and that parent leaves?  In Joseph by Shelia P. Moses, Joseph’s father is deployed to Iraq and his mother, a drug addict, cannot cope. In fact Joseph, a boy mature beyond his years, ends up looking after her. When they are evicted he gets a chance to go to a better school although he is terrified that his new friends will learn that he and his mother are living in a homeless shelter. Joseph is torn; he is a good student who wants to do well in school and wants to take up tennis again, but he also wants to protect his mother and is suspended for three days for fighting with boys at school who insult her. Joseph’s parents were estranged before his father went away but the deployment makes it impossible for his father to offer any support to Joseph, except financial support. And that goes wrong when his mother uses Joseph’s father’s money to buy drugs rather than food or utilities. Joseph’s father knew about his wife’s problems and was trying to get custody of Joseph, but had missed two court dates because he was deployed, so may never get custody.

Joseph is a gritty book, not holding back from Joseph’s mother’s degradation and the negative effects on Joseph. Joseph’s mother is not at all likable, while his father is physically distant and therefore unable to help. Joseph is all alone. When some of his old school mates pick another fight with him: “When they read me my rights they say I can make one phone call, but I have no one to call. Daddy is halfway around the world; Momma’s cell phone is off.” p75

Ultimately it is Joseph’s Aunt Shirley who saves him until his father returns, showing the importance of extended family in this sort of situation. When a military family are in crisis like this there are programs and people who are meant to help. I know that sometimes they are not as helpful as they are meant to be, especially in a case like this where Joseph and his mother live away from a military base. Isolated families face the same pressures in having a parent deployed but it is more likely that they will fall through the cracks and be missed by the  military assistance.

I recommend this book for adults and older teens who want a glimpse into the sordid life of addiction and the effects on children. It doesn’t talk a lot about what many people think of as a military lifestyle but does highlight that thousands of American children, far from military bases, have been affected by the recent wars as they have seen a parent leave.

Check the WRL catalog for Joseph

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

Read This! - Fri, 2014-06-27 01:01

Mindy shares this review:

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a laughable and adventurous satire packed with hilarious characterization and witty dialogue mostly in the epistolary fashion using email correspondence, letters, police reports, report cards, and other documents.  Modest readers might find some strong language offensive yet very in-character when utilized.

You’ll find hilarious characters, some to love, some to hate, and some to drive everyone crazy!  Semple pokes fun at Seattle’s subcultures of anti-fashionable, pro-geek, tech-talking, community-oriented, hyper-diverse, ultra-green, alternative-lifestyle embracing citizens.  Semple herself is a transplant to the Seattle region from Los Angeles, as is the character Bernadette, where she wrote screenplays for “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Ellen,” “Mad About You” and “Arrested Development.”

Caution, spoilers (because the events are revealed asynchronously and non-chronologically): Bernadette Fox has escaped her failed career as a genius architect by isolating herself in a crumbling fortress of a home where she can’t sleep and torments herself with self-pity.  She’s become so anti-social that she’s hired a virtual assistant to handle even the most mundane logistics of her life.  For years, her precious 15-year old daughter Bee has been Bernadette’s only reason for living.  Bee’s been promised this trip to Antarctica as an award for her perfect report card (Her Microsoft-guru dad can afford it).  Now, she’s having a panic attack brought on by the prospect of accompanying Bee through the sea-sickening Drake passage, “the roughest and most feared water in the world,”  and this leads to a series of outrageous circumstances that culminate in a final resolution that just might restore Bernadette’s artistic passion.

The narration, and actual singing, by actress Kathleen Wilhoite, is extraordinarily energetic and adds much to the listening experience of the audiobook version, which I was whizzed through completely enraptured with joyous laughter.  When hearing her voicing the hysterics of the ‘gnats’ (aka the condescending moms of Bee’s classmates at Galer Street School), I was reminded of Tea Leoni’s over-the-top character in the movie Spanglish.

Check the WRL catalog for the print version, too.

Categories: Read This

Operation Oleander, by Valerie O. Patterson

Read This! - Wed, 2014-06-25 01:01

Jan shares this review:

I found this book difficult to read, not because of the length of the book or the complexity of the language – because it is a short and quick read – but because it too realistically portrayed details of my husband’s recent deployment to Afghanistan, although he is now safely home.

Jess’s dad is in Afghanistan and she lives with her mother and toddler sister at invented army base, Fort Spencer, in Florida. She and her friends Meriwether and Sam have set up an unofficial charity to raise money in Florida to donate supplies to a girls’ orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan. Meriwether wants to stop working on the project and spend the rest of her summer sailing and swimming like usual. But Jess constantly looks at the photos and videos of the children they are helping and feels compelled to get more money for them.

A detail this book captures, that books set earlier miss, is the immediacy of electronic communication. Soldiers have always written letters home from war, and letters from Civil War and World War I soldiers are now important and poignant historical documents. Will a transcript of a Skype session ever be seen as history? Can a Skype transcript even exist and can streaming video be saved? When you expect instant electronic communication from someone in a war zone at a certain time every day or at an expected frequency, if it doesn’t arrive, its absence carries a burden of worry. In the first few pages Jess says, “His email is there. I check the date and time of his note. As of this morning, Dad was still alive in Afghanistan.”

That turns out to be an ironic statement as they soon discover that a surge is underway and there have been several explosions in Kabul, including at the orphanage. The explosions over 7000 miles away in Kabul turn Jess’s life upside down. There are injuries and deaths and some people in her community blame her for the military being anywhere near the orphanage, endangering themselves and the orphans.

Operation Oleander is an up-to-date book that captures a slice of military child experience. A child with a deployed parent may be interested in the book’s perspective, although they may find it too raw and difficult to read, although it describes no graphic violence. And thankfully, most military children don’t have to deal with so much tragedy. It includes details about the expectations for extra responsibilities when a parent is away, such as Jess’s father teaching her specifically how to add gas to the lawn mower and turn off the water main before he goes away. For every reader Operation Oleander also asks profound questions about blame, accountability, unintended consequences and our obligation to each other as human beings.

Check the WRL catalog for Operation Oleander.

Categories: Read This

Origin, by Jessica Khoury

Read This! - Mon, 2014-06-23 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

For the scientists at Little Cam, a top-secret research compound hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest, immortality is no longer an ambition but a reality.  With the creation of Pia seventeen years ago, the scientists achieved their dream after more than a hundred years of experimentation. Hidden away from the world at Little Cam, Pia has always considered her life to be perfect and absolute. But one night curiosity takes over, and she dares to venture outside the facility through a newly created opening in the fence. Once on the other side, Pia is so transfixed by the freedom of the jungle that she fails to notice a native boy, Eio, and runs right into him. Soon, Pia is discovering a new community of people, a different way of life and emotions that she never knew existed. The tropical forest and its native Ai’oan inhabitants along with handsome Eio all call to Pia in a way the compound never has. As the story progresses, the history and happenings at the research facility become strikingly more disturbing, and shocking secrets about Pia’s creation are revealed. When every ounce of her morality and humanity are questioned, Pia is torn between the life she is expected to live and the one that speaks to her heart.

Check the WRL catalog for Origin

Categories: Read This

Bayou, Volume 1, by Jeremy Love

Read This! - Fri, 2014-06-20 01:01

Laura shares this review:

If you asked people what they think of when they hear the term “American mythos” many would undoubtedly call to mind Cowboys and Indians and other aspects of the Wild West, unaware of the vibrant and complex stories and traditions of Southern Folklore. Bayou is a beautifully-rendered Alice in Wonderland-style fairytale set in Mississippi during the Depression. It is a uniquely Southern world, filled with mud and Spanish moss, concurrently embracing and fighting against the legacy of slavery.

The story centers on Lee, a young black girl, who is friends with Lily, the white daughter of the woman who owns the farm where Lee and her father live. Lily is snatched and swallowed by a monster from the bayou, named Cotton-Eyed Joe, and Lee’s father makes a convenient suspect for the local law officers when she is reported missing by her mother. In an effort to get her friend back, and free her father before he gets lynched, Lee follows the monster into the brackish water, and finds herself in an alternate but parallel world. The inhabitants of this world are human-like, but their physical bodies have been replaced by various characters drawn from Southern myths. She meets Bayou, a swamp dweller who, despite his giant stature, is cowed into submission by the Bossman and his lackeys through their brutal enforcement of the law. Despite his fear, Bayou sees the need and determination of Lee to find her friend Lily and decides to help her, although not without trepidation.

Any story that starts with a lynching and exposes the varied responses of people to such brutality isn’t going to pull punches. But what is most chilling about its narrative is that Bayou doesn’t make the humans into caricatures. The people in the normal world are just that: normal. They are all believable products of their time and environments, and that is clearly reflected in the social interactions between the characters. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor, everyone seems to know who is in power and the potential consequences of any action that might upset the current balance. In the parallel world, characters are taken to their extreme with Jim Crows, Golliwogs, and Confederate officer hounds, but it’s the similarities rather than the differences between the two worlds that are most striking.

Bayou’s injections of race, religion, poverty, and the blues contribute to an important and uniquely Southern voice in fantasy and graphic novels. The storyline and imagery can be disturbing and unsettling, but these aspects give meaning and power to the book’s message. Both written and drawn by Jeremy Love, the use of color enhances the atmosphere, bathing the images in deep gold, dusky pink, and brownish-green. Recommended to readers of fantasy, graphic novels, and southern fiction.

Check the WRL catalog for Bayou

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The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

Read This! - Wed, 2014-06-18 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

5 pilasters! 6 pilasters! 25 pilasters! (Shouts from the crowd), 1 Keystone, says Kestrel.  12 keystones! 13 keystones! 15 keystones! 25 keystones! (Shouts from the crowd), 50 keystones, says Kestrel. And so it ends. Kestrel, the General’s daughter, has just made a very public display of wealth, desire and in the eyes of those around her in public square, a sizeable mistake. She has participated in her first slave auction (much to her own surprise) and not to the disinterest of those with questionable stares. And she has purchased her first slave…but at an incredibly high and unexpected cost. Why? Because the auctioneer proclaimed the one thing Kestrel could not ignore; the slave could sing. And there is nothing more in the world Kestrel loves than music, even if it’s one of the things her people dislike most about the population they conquered years ago and enslaved. Kestrel is among the upper-most class of the Valorians, a people known for their rough natures, war fighting skills and commitment to conquering the lands and people that lay beyond but within their reach. But she is distinct, she is different. Kestrel doesn’t long for a prestigious military career like her father, or a marriage to another elite society member like her friends. She yearns only for her piano and the ability to play whenever she wants. And so, with the hope of perhaps finding a kindred spirit, she buys Arin, a Herrani slave. But Arin isn’t what she expected and his distant reserve and hard headedness along with a blatant refusal to sing make Kestrel doubt her already questionable decision. And doubt it she should, for Arin has his own secrets and agendas he brings into the General’s home. As things begin to spiral out of control for both Kestrel and Arin it seems they are also realizing they might have a closer connection than either could have dared imagine…and it could mean the end for both of them.

Check the WRL catalog for The Winner’s Curse.

Categories: Read This

Black Butler #1, by Yana Toboso

Read This! - Mon, 2014-06-16 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

“Just a stone’s throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria’s faithful servant…and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master’s wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London’s underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true…or at least, too good to be human…” – from Amazon

I was surprised to find myself reading Manga since it’s a different style than I’m used to. I gave the Manga a shot after I finished watching the Anime. I wanted to compare the two to see what was so different. The setting in Victorian London is the perfect time period for this story. Along with the era, the mansion one of the main characters, Ciel, lives in is amazing. The characters seem to be very relatable, which is a good thing. If the reader cannot relate to a character the reader tends to lose interest. Although they are relatable they always have a tweak or secret about them that the reader is not told about. The plot is very mysterious since it is only the first book and I look forward to future plot twists.

Check the WRL catalog for Black Butler.

Categories: Read This

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale

Read This! - Fri, 2014-06-13 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

I started this book thinking it was going to be childish with no true meaning. It turned out to be more than a parody on fairy tales and spins into an amazing tale. The theme of the book is destiny. The Royals all end up with happily ever after’s, while the Rebels are stuck never living happily. Raven, one of the protagonists, doesn’t want to follow her destiny to become the next evil queen. Throughout the book she tries to change that. I enjoyed this theme because it shows you can change your destiny. The characters seemed a bit predictable but it does add to the humor. The daughter of Snow White, who is the Queen, is a selfish princess. One of the sons of Prince Charming, Daring Charming, thinks very fondly of himself as well. The plot surrounds the thoughts of Apple White and Raven Queen as Raven searches for ways to not become more like her mom. Altogether, it was a great book and I am looking forward to the next one.

Check the WRL catalog for Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends.

Categories: Read This

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

Read This! - Wed, 2014-06-11 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

I saw this YA novel on a list of books being made into movies – and I decided to read it before the movie rocketed it up the “it” list.

The plot synopsis sounds like the saddest story ever.  Lennie and her sister Bailey were abandoned by their mother when both were quite young.  They live happily with their quirky grandmother and uncle, believing that one day their mom will wander back into their lives.

Lennie is an introvert and band geek who lives in her vibrant sister’s shadow.  She likens herself to the companion pony that walks beside the sleek racehorse to keep it calm before a race. And suddenly Bailey dies.

Lennie thought she was happy walking behind Bailey, letting Bailey make decisions on what to do, and now Lennie is floating through each day without that anchor.

That’s the sad part.  And believe me, you’ll need to keep some tissues handy.  Why put yourself through that?  Because you’ll quickly come to realize Lennie is more than just Bailey’s little sister.  She has to work through her grief – and reconnect with friends – and fall in love – and forgive herself for feeling happy again.  But that discovery is compelling, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.  Some of it is like watching a train wreck, but it ends in a good place (I promise!).

The coolest thing about this book is the poems and brief memories that Lennie writes on walls, paper cups, homework assignments, books, benches… These memorabilia are described every few chapters, along with where Lennie left them.  How cool would it be to find a piece of someone’s life like this?  It is so much more honest and revealing than “Lennie was here” or other typical graffiti.

The book is certainly worth waiting on a long hold list for — so if you can’t pick it up right away, keep it in mind once you hear the movie hype.

FYI – the movie option was purchased by Selena Gomez’s production company.  The Disney star is set to play the main character, Lennie.

Check the WRL catalog for The Sky is Everywhere

Categories: Read This

Mystic City, by Theo Lawrence

Read This! - Mon, 2014-06-09 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

Global warming has caused the melting of Antarctica and the rise of sea levels across the globe. The once prosperous, show stopping city of Manhattan now finds itself a series of submerged buildings and canal-lined streets. The city is divided between those who live in the Aeries (enormously tall high-rise buildings) and those forced to live down below, in the Depth, existing on raised sidewalks and dilapidated abodes. The Aeries is home to the wealthy elite, including all those in positions of political power. The Depth is the refuge of mystics, those with supernatural abilities, who once helped to build the incredible city itself. After a “mystic spurred bombing” the mystics were forced out of the Aeries for the protection of those without power. What remains is an uncomfortable and unwelcome balance between those above and those below, each fearful of what the other’s actions could bring.

This is the world in which Aria Rose exists. The daughter of one of the most powerful and richest businessmen in the Aeries, Aria has grown up in the lap of luxury. Now, on the dawn of one of the most important elections in the city’s history, Aria finds herself engaged to Thomas, the son of the only family in the Aeries whose wealth and power rivals her own. Once they’re married, their families will be united and control all of the Aeries. But from the first page, all is not as it appears. Aria has suffered memory loss after overdosing on a drug called “Stic,” a drug she does not remember buying or taking. She also can’t remember a single moment spent with Thomas, not to mention falling in love with him. But she can remember almost everything else. The story itself takes turn after turn after turn as Aria begins to learn more about the people who inhabit the Depth below, her family’s lust for nothing but power, and the strange but gorgeous rebel-mystic, Hunter. Reminiscent of a three-way Romeo and Juliet tale set in a futuristic dystopian world on the brink of rebellion, Mystic City is sure to appeal to a variety of readers.

Check the WRL catalog for Mystic City

Categories: Read This

Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry

Read This! - Fri, 2014-06-06 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

I was looking for something easy to listen to and picked up the YA book Rot & Ruin without really knowing what it was about — except that it was about zombies.  I was expecting a pretty typical “run from the monsters” plot and was completely surprised by the  sympathy the author evoked for the zombies.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s action, plenty of “uh-oh the monsters might catch me” suspense, but I was surprised at who was the real monster.

The world has been changed by a cataclysm – some sort of medical or environmental disaster that caused some people, including Benny’s parents, to turn into zombies.  And as people turned to zombies, they infected others until their sheer numbers overran cities large and small…

Groups of  survivors gathered in outposts with fences and patrols to keep the zombies out.  Most people don’t venture into the “great Rot & Ruin” – the zombie- infested expanse separating the outposts from each other.

That’s the post-apocalyptic world Benny Imura has grown up in.  And he hates zombies with a white hot passion. His older brother, Tom, is a zombie hunter, supposedly one of the best.  But Benny doubts it.  His earliest memory is of Tom running away when his parents were turned to zombies.  Benny hasn’t forgiven Tom for not staying to fight.

Benny goes to school and hangs out with friends.  But some of Benny’s favorite times are when the “real” zombie hunters like Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer tell stories of how they fought zoms in the Rot & Ruin.  It sounds so cool when they tell the stories.

In the fall after Benny turns 15 he has to find a job or face having his rations cut.  When he runs out of options, he reluctantly approaches his brother about going into the family business.  But hunting zombies is not what Benny thought it would be.

There’s depth to this story, as well as lots of nail-biting tension and some really heart-wrenching revelations.  Rot & Ruin is the first in a series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next to Benny and his friends!

Check the WRL catalog for Rot & Ruin

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Rot & Ruin

Categories: Read This

Department 19: The Rising, by Will Hill

Read This! - Wed, 2014-06-04 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

Fans of Will Hill’s first book, Department 19, will not be disappointed by The Rising. In this exciting and fast-paced sequel, the Operators of Department 19 are tested beyond measure when their director, Admiral Seward, reveals that the world’s oldest and most powerful vampire, Dracula, has risen once again. As the disturbing news sparks more vampire attacks and a higher level of secrecy between department members, Jamie, Kate and Larissa all struggle to keep their bond intact. Subplots abound throughout Hill’s 600-page novel, and familiar characters such as Frankenstein and the Rusmanov brothers reappear at center stage. But there are plenty of new mysteries to be solved with the introduction of a seemingly friendly, genius scientist and a wandering desert man who knows all about vampires and the inter-workings of Department 19. Readers will find many of the aspects they loved from the first book here as well, including technological super weapons, intense battle scenes, a good level of descriptive gore and moral dilemmas that call human nature into question. The Rising is written in an almost movie script-like fashion that allows the reader to visualize the story in exceptional detail. There is no doubt that Hill is once again able to captivate readers and leave them begging for more.

Check the WRL catalog for The Rising

Categories: Read This

Cupid, by Julius Lester

Read This! - Mon, 2014-06-02 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Today’s book is a retelling of the Greco-Roman myth of Cupid and Psyche.

The story in a nutshell: beautiful, mortal girl Psyche falls in love with Cupid, the god of love. Cupid, having never been in love himself, doesn’t trust Psyche’s feelings for him and makes stupid demands. Psyche in turn makes a dumb mistake, and they break up. Jealous mother/goddess puts girl through several tests, and just when you think she’ll make it, it looks like she won’t. But Cupid shows up at the last minute and saves the day. They live happily ever after.

Hmmm, that sounds like quite a few romance books I’ve read.

What makes Julius Lester’s book so appealing is the playful narrator who speaks directly to the reader and provides commentary on why people are behaving as they are. His lessons on love are insightful for readers of all ages. I particularly liked his observation at the end:

The interesting thing about this story is that it taught me that sometimes I act like Cupid and sometimes I act like Psyche.  Stories don’t much care who’s male and who’s female, because everybody has a little of both inside them.  That why this story and my story and your story, well, they’re all the same story.”

The audiobook, read by actor Stephen McKinley Henderson, is delightful. I could listen to Henderson’s rich, rumbly voice read the phone book and be happy. Needless to say, his narration of Cupid had me hanging on every word of the story.

Check the WRL catalog for Cupid

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Cupid

Categories: Read This

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-30 01:01

Andrew shares this review:

Greg has survived until his senior year of high school by being on the fringes of everything and the center of nothing. He hides his love of film (especially the work of Werner Herzog) behind a studied indifference which also conceals his near-constant and brutal self-criticism. (He’s got some points—serious social errors, like flat out complimenting a girl for having two boobs, are enough to make anyone want to tear his own tongue in half.) His parents love him with that bumbling uncritical affection that every teen hates and he has… Earl.

Earl has shared Greg’s love of Herzog since fourth grade, when the two boys tried to film their own version of Aguirre: Wrath Of God, the masterpiece shot on location in the Amazon—kinda tough to do in the local park. Their collaboration extends to their own films: Earl: Wrath of God II, Ran IIApocalypse Later, and still others featuring Greg’s cat. The thing is, Earl couldn’t be more different than Greg: he’s an inner-city Pittsburgh kid, bright but lost at school, surrounded by unfocused, violent, drug-dealing brothers and a mother lost in alcohol and online chat rooms. Greg’s stable home is a respite for Earl, and Earl is the only person Greg can be himself around.

And then there’s the dying girl. Greg knew Rachel Kushner in Hebrew school, with all its attendant early teen drama, but they haven’t had much to do with each other since. When Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg’s mom decides it will be a mitzvah, or good deed, for Greg to spend time with her. Awkward, right? But he does, and brings Earl along in his wake. Earl lets slip the secret of their filmmaking and next thing you know Rachel is watching their movies. Even more awkward. Suddenly Greg is open to all kinds of emotional blackmail and everyone around him takes full advantage of it. Even Greg admits that it sounds like an afterschool special—treat the different kid well and you’ll rack up points, feel good about yourself, and Learn A Lesson. But real life is messy, and even Herzog’s art can’t touch it.

Jesse Andrews gives the story a sense of immediacy despite its looking back at events. Internal monologue, conversations role-played as scripts, jump cuts to real life, and Greg’s direct addresses to an unknown audience give the book the feel of documentary, but one that allows raw and sometimes hilarious access to the filmmaker’s mind. That also means Greg’s and Earl’s casual use of insult and obscenity to each other might make the language a little rough for some readers, so be warned on that front.

Check the WRL catalog for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Categories: Read This

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Read This! - Wed, 2014-05-28 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

Shadow and Bone is the first in the Grisha Trilogy that takes place in the land of Ravka. Alina is unremarkable in every regard. Raised as an orphan alongside a single friend, Mal, only to become a sub-par mapmaker for the First Army, Alina has no illusions of grand beauty or remarkable skill.  Her only pull is towards Mal, who has grown to become a very handsome young tracker for the Army. They both serve together for Ravka, a land torn by war and the darkness of the Shadow Fold. Created by an evil Darkling, the Shadow Fold is a sea of complete darkness, full of flesh-eating monsters, that cuts Ravka off from the True Sea.  The Second Army, made up of those with magical abilities, has been working to undo the Shadow Fold as well.  But it seems all their power is useless against the darkness.

During an Army-led excursion attempting to cross the Shadow Fold, Alina and Mal come under attack from the “Volcra,” vicious monsters that fly out of the sky to kill anyone trying to cross the Fold.  While trying to save Mal, Alina spontaneously emits a strong radiating white light. Its raw energy leaves her unconscious and when she awakens she is among the Second Army (the Grisha). However unbelievable it may be to her, Alina is in fact a Sun Summoner, one who can call and control light.  She is the only person who has the ability to destroy the Shadow Fold and the Volcra. Taken to a Grisha training area and introduced to a whole new way of life, Alina isn’t sure how to proceed and has little faith in her own gift.  Only after extensive hard work and a close relationship with the beautiful Darkling himself does Alina began to hope she is the one who can save Ravka.

But everything may not be what it seems and Alina’s gift might turn into a curse she never could have imagined.

Check the WRL catalog for Shadow and Bone

Categories: Read This

Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers

Read This! - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Grave Mercy is the first of Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series.  It takes place in Brittany in the late 1400s.  The Duke has recently died, leaving 12-year-old Anne facing many suitors for her hand and her kingdom.

Ismae, the daughter of a turnip farmer, is unaware of the precarious situation in her country.  Her world is the small village where she grew up abandoned by her mother and brutalized by her father.  When her circumstances can get no worse, she finds salvation at the hands of strangers who secret her away to the convent of St. Mortain, the ancient god of Death.  Her days are spent learning swordfighting, poisons and their uses, hand-to-hand combat, and the “womanly arts” because as a handmaiden of Death, she must be ready to use any means necessary to fulfill Mortain’s will.

During her trials to prove her readiness for service, she meets Gavriel Duval, one of the young duchess’ most trusted advisors.  Duval catches Ismae moments after she killed a traitor who was marked for death by the saint.  He follows Ismae to the convent where he tries to get the reverend mother to cooperate with his need to catch and question the traitors before they are killed.  The reverend mother neatly traps him into taking Ismae with him to court in Guerande so as to keep the convent better informed of the factions warring for the kingdom.

Viscount Crunard, chancellor of Brittany, and the reverend mother put another task to Ismae, keep Duval under surveillance to determine if he is the traitor working against the Duchess.

Now Ismae faces court intrigue, complex family dynamics and the unfamiliar feelings of falling in love.  But while out of her element, she doesn’t sit idly by and wait for orders from the Convent, nor does she follow every directive from Duval.  She shows spunk and an appealing independence.  Her training as an assassin and special talents as a follower of Mortain come in handy more than once.

And while Ismae grows impatient waiting for her saint to indicate who among the many suspects she should kill, time is running out for the young Duchess as France makes moves to invade.

Grave Mercy is a fast-paced story based on actual people and events.  While the first of a series, it neatly stands alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to read what comes next, but I wasn’t left unsatisfied after I read the last page.  I can see this book, and the rest of the series, appealing to adults as well as young adults.  The main characters are well-developed, and the supporting cast is interesting. And did I mention the falling in love part?  Well-written and satisfyingly believable.

I particularly enjoyed listening to the audiobook which was skillfully narrated by Erin Moon.  She did a terrific job changing her inflections for the different characters.  I especially liked hearing the correct pronunciation of the character and city names.  The audiobook is about 14 hours long.

Check the WRL catalog for Grave Mercy

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Grave Mercy

Categories: Read This

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

This is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Stroud.  The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice, beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magicians study. Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so begins his summon of a powerful djinni, one who can help him to get retribution on the very magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, called Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined and his rival magician, Simon Lovelace is even more dangerous than he expected.  A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurks unseen threats and hidden perils. And worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do…he has lost control, not only of his djinni but everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.

Categories: Read This

Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Read This! - Wed, 2014-05-21 01:01

Laura shares this review:

On the surface, this is a familiar story: teenage angst about life intertwined with a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Gloria “Glory” Fleming is a teenage piano prodigy who is dealing with the pressures created by her talent and her career while still trying to cope with the loss of her mother several years before. She meets and falls in love with Frank Mendoza, a teen from Argentina who has recently moved in next door. Their relationship intensifies as their respective lives crumble. At the start of the book you find out that Glory has disappeared after slipping away from a rest home for musicians. The reader then traces back over the previous 18 months to find clues to where she went and why.

The actual process of reading the book is in itself a unique experience. That Chopsticks is bound like a book is indisputable but there are few words contained on the pages. Nor is it presented like a graphic novel with blocks of drawings and pops of dialogue. Instead we are asked to flip through a collection of concert programs, wine bottle labels, screenshots of IM conversations, album covers, newspaper clippings, photos, school progress reports, paintings, and more. The narrative more closely follows flipping through a stranger’s scrapbooked diary.  It is intimate but incomplete, as the characters are not asked to explain themselves or put their words into the context in which they were meant to be taken.  Are the angry words just flashes of emotion stemming from the frustration of existing in a world where you are supposed to be either an adult or a child, but not both?  Or do they expose some deeper trouble within the teenager’s psyche?

The voyeuristic view into the character’s private thoughts is slightly uncomfortable yet fascinating. There are no answers here, or at least none that are tidy or even concrete.  Individual readers will find different answers to the plot questions based on their own interpretation of the evidence presented. I found myself going back over sections multiple times after I had initially completed the book, seeing how my own view changed over time.  The only thing I knew for sure is that Glory had disappeared, and I was left with the extraordinary ache created by the human-shaped hole left behind.

Any reader, but especially those interested in the complexities of  both teens and human relationships and who don’t mind the ambiguity will be richly rewarded by investigating this book.

Check the WRL catalog for Chopsticks.

Categories: Read This