Thursday, September 3, 2015

How To Build A Hovercraft, by Stephen Voltz & Fritz Grobe

By now you have, perhaps, guessed that we in the OPL Teen Department totally heart science-y things. We'll take the Mythbusters over crushworthy actors or popular boy bands any day of the week. Science is awesome!

So when I stumbled upon How To Build A Hovercraft by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe (the original Diet Coke and Mentos guys) while straightening our New Book Shelves, I was ecstatic! Could this book be as great as that viral internet video they did? You bet! Not only does this awesome volume explain the how-to of, and the science behind, the now-famous Diet Coke and Mentos experiment, but it also has a wealth of sweet tricks you can try at home. No C-4 or blast shields required. Astound your friends (and frenemies) with optical illusions... Create a Slinky from Post-It notes... Build your own Airzooka (air cannon) with nothing more than a 5-gallon bucket (or supersize it with a garbage can)... Discover the paper airplane that flies forever... And, yes, build your own hover craft that really works

Yes! Try This At Home... BUT, as with any science experiments, please take proper safety precautions when testing out the experiments in How To Build A Hovercraft.  There are warnings (see the red boxes) with each experiment. Please take them seriously! We can't stress that enough!

The Verdict: Awesome! Awesome! AWESOME!! --AJB

Monday, August 31, 2015

Another Day by David Levithan

Sometimes a companion novel enhances the original story. Other times it misses the mark completely. The later is, unfortunately, the case for David Levithan's newly-released Another Day, companion to Every Day (2012).

Every Day tells the story of "A", a teenager who spends each day inhabiting the body of someone else while trying not to interfere with that borrowed life. Some days that host body is male, other days it is female. A is neither and both genders (a very confusing thing to grasp even if you've read the book, but somehow Levithan, genius that he is, makes it work). This has been A's life since A was born. Everything changes the day A inhabits the body of Justin and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon, a sad but sweet girl who A believes deserves better. There's a connection between A and Rhiannon, and they spend the bulk of the novel trying to make a relationship work at any cost (and there are costs)...even though that relationship is doomed from the start. A somewhat up-in-the-air ending makes things seem like they'll work out for the best, though. And that made everything OK. The whole thing is very tragically romantic in the way that stories about star-crossed lovers always are. I enjoyed Every Day. It was unique, and I enjoyed reading about the world from the perspective of someone who wakes up in a different life each day.

Another Day, the exact same story, but narrated by Rhiannon, wasn't nearly as awesome. The plot was predictable and tedious, and Rhiannon's point of view didn't add much to the existing story (if anything, it took away from it). Perhaps the only difference was how Another Day changed how I perceived the characters. In this book, Rhiannon comes across mope-y, indifferent, and having really low self-esteem. And her character doesn't improve as the story progresses. A comes off as creepy and stalker-y and someone who will stop at nothing to get what he/she/it wants (Rhiannon) and doesn't care who he/she/it hurts to get what he/she/it wants (Justin, Rhiannon, and pretty much every single host he/she/it inhabits as well as the friends, family, and girlfriends/boyfriends of those hosts). The only character I felt any sympathy for was Justin. He may not have been the dream boyfriend by any stretch, but he did care about Rhiannon even if he had trouble expressing his feelings. He didn't deserve to be lied to and cheated on. Further, the ending of Another Day was much more unsatisfying and frustrating than that of Every Day, and that made the story feel unfinished. Perhaps this means an actual sequel is in the works? 

The verdict
I will not deny the awesomeness of Every Day. It is still way up there on my list. But I admit that Another Day changed how I felt about the first book--and not in a positive way. If you too loved Every Day, skip Another Day. This is one companion novel that adds nothing to the original story. --AJB

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Friends, Fugues, and Fortune Cookies, by Michelle Schusterman (Tween)

Friends, Fugues, and Fortune Cookies is the sequel to I Heart Band, by Michelle Schusterman. This is a cute middle school book and it's perfect for ages 8 to 12.

Holly is looking forward to the winter dance and she wants to go with Aaron, her crush. She's so sure that he's going to ask her that she turns down her good friend Owen's invitation, only to find out that Aaron is asking her friend (and former enemy) Natasha.

There's also a band fundraiser going on where the different sections are having bake sales and competing to see who raises the most money. Natasha and Holly are also competing for regional band, so their friendship is in a tense place. Holly also feels awkward around Owen, with whom she usually plays video games, but when she shows up at the dance, forgetting that she lied to him about having a date, she knows she has to tell him the truth to make things right.

What I love about this book is there are lots of good details about middle school; girl drama, romance angst, band details, and some fashion thrown in for good measure. This book is fun, fast pace and clean.*JK*

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NEW: Nonfiction DVDs

Think science is just for geeks (or nerds, or dorks, or whatever the current term is to refer to someone not cool)? Think again! We have just gotten a wealth of non-fiction videos that prove science is the most awesome thing ever.

Topping my list of "Must Watch" videos are, of course, Mythbusters--seasons 11 through 13. Can you survive on (and escape from) a deserted island when your only tool is Duct Tape? Does Thanksgiving turkey really make you tired? In the movie Titanic, would it have been possible for Rose and Jack to survive? Is there any truth to those crazy viral YouTube videos? Ask veteran Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman as they calculate, research, and blow things up in the name of science. Every episode is entertaining, enlightening, and educational.  (p.s. My favorite moment involves Tori and a rocket-powered surfboard. Although Grant vs. a box of rats is pretty funny too). Mythbusters will bring out the wannabe scientist in anyone! Just remember: DO NOT TRY ANY OF THIS AT HOME!

For those who want something a little edgier, try Life After People. What would happen to the planet if humans suddenly became extinct? This series combines CGI animation and (seriously creepy) scientific speculation to answer the ultimate question... "What if?". Life After People is perfect for the fan of dystiopian fiction.

Want to check either (or all) of these awesome videos out? They're on the "New" shelf in the Teen Area. Still can't find them? They're probably checked out. Ask a librarian to place a hold for you.

The verdict: Science is awesome! --AJB

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess X: Quite possibly the
best thing I've read all summer!
When it comes to "princess" stories, I'm always torn on whether to read or watch them or run away from them screaming. My girlie-girl side, the side that urges me to want to wear pretty frocks and watch every single princess cartoon out there (Disney or otherwise), practically salivates with the need to read (or watch). On the other hand, the Grrl Power, martial arts movie-loving, feminist side of me rejects that desire in every sense of the word rejection ("Gawd, Alissa. Quit being such a...a...girl and go watch some Bruce Lee movies.").

There are exceptions. The Princess Bride, of course, tops that list. Yeah, it's about "kissing," but it's also about sword fights and adventure and true love (even Grrl Power Martial Arts Movie-Loving Feminists dig True Love). The Shrek series is another. Sure, Princess Fiona waits for Prince Charming to rescue her. At first. But she's also pretty kick butt (That Matrix/Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-style fight scene in the first movie was, alone, enough to win me over). I also love Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Kingdom of Montagne books, Princess Ben and Wisdom's Kiss. So basically there's a happy balance to princess stories that basically comes down to this: 
Helpless Girlie Pink-Wearing Princesses = BAD. 
Strong Female Characters (who happen to be princesses) = GOOD.

So when it came to Cherie Priest's novel I Am Princess X, I was torn. Sure, Princess X wears a fluffy pink dress...but she's also got a Katana. A Katana! Turns out Princess X is only a small, yet key, componet of this most excellent mystery story. It's also got strong female characters, an interesting plot and premise, AND A CHARACTER WHO HAS A KATANA! So yes, I HAD to read it. And I'm so happy I did, because, as it turns out, I Am Princess X was exactly the sort of book I've been looking for.

Without giving away too many spoilers, Princess X is a comic character created by May and Libby when the girls were still in 5th grade. In the months to follow, the girls spent hours creating the adventures of this Katana-welding heroine. But then Libby died in a car accident, and that was the end of Princess X. Or so May thought. Three years later, she sees a sticker stuck to a street corner window featuring Princess X. She follows the the trail to a website. Could the stories of Libby's death be wrong? Could May's old BFF still be alive somewhere? 

Part text, part comic, I Am Princess X tells the story of what happened after (and leading up to) Libby's supposed demise. And turns out the story is much more interesting and dramatic than May could have ever imagined. 

Verdict: In short, I Am Princess X is AWESOME! You should absolutely, totally read it! --AJB

Monday, August 17, 2015

Let's Get Lost, by Adi Alsaid

The lives of five very different teens have their lives transformed in Adi Alsaid's Teen Top Ten-nominated novel Let's Get Lost.

Leila is traveling 4,000+ miles across the country on her way to Alaska to witness the Northern Lights. On her way, Leila encounters Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia. Each teen is at a crossroad in his or her life and, by spending a brief time with Leila, is pushed in a certain direction they may or may not have taken otherwise. Sometimes that's a good thing. Other times not so much. No spoilers here, but the general twist is that Leila is even more lost than any of the others she encounters. Basically, her life is a mess, and she hopes that witnessing the Northern Lights will reveal her life's purpose and steer her on the right path. There's lots more to it, but you'll have to read the book to find out. 

Let's Get Lost reads more like a short story collection than a novel, but a collection where the stories are tied together by a common thread. So it's kind of choppy.

That said, Let's Get Lost is one of those books that, unfortunately, just didn't "click" with me. The characters didn't feel believable, the situations often felt contrived, and the twist felt like a last-ditch, from-left-field effort to give the story direction (it didn't work for me). Moreover, I often found myself getting angry with Leila for further screwing up the lives of all the people she encountered. That, I think, prevented me from sympathizing with her. Readers will have to suspend a certain amount of belief to get through this one.

To vote, visit YALSA's website. Voting runs through October 24, 2015.

--AJB

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kiss of Deception, by Mary Pearson

When I first encountered Mary Pearson's fantasy-adventure novel The Kiss of Deception (A YALSA Teen Top Ten Nominee for 2015), I wasn't sure about it. My uncertainty stemmed from the fact that the main character is named Princess Lia, which made me think of cinnamon bun-like hairstyles, metal bikinis, almost crushes between siblings (before discovering they're your sibling and switching your affections to your siblings overly arrogant best friend), and, of course, iconic intergalactic adventures. I wasn't sure I could get past that unfortunate naming coincidence and enjoy Pearson's story. I'm just saying...

I was wrong. So very, very wrong. 

The Kiss of Deception was awesome! And I should have expected nothing less from the author who penned The Adoration of Jenna Foxx (which you should definitely read if you get the chance). Apologies, Ms. Pearson. You fully rock and I never should have doubted your writing prowess!

THIS Princess Lia isn't one of those helpless female characters who waits for a guy to rescue her. No way! Rather, she saves herself. On the day of her marriage, which her parents arranged to secure a political alliance with a neighboring kingdom, Lia runs away from her home, her title, and all the outdated traditions and obligations that have chained her down all her life. Settling in a seaside village with her lady-in-waiting, Pauline, Lia makes a new life for herself and revels in her newfound anonymity. It isn't long before two mysterious and handsome strangers enter her life: One is the prince she would have married. The other is an assassin, sent to stop the wedding (and thus the alliance) from happening. What follows is a fast-pased tale of drama, intrigue, aventure, and, of course, romance! Who could resist?

To vote for The Kiss of Deception, visit YALSA's website. Voting begins August 16 and runs through October 24. --AJB