Friday, February 24, 2017

Alive by Chandler Baker

I really, really enjoyed this book.  Really.  Enough that it almost got five stars.
Stella has a shot at a newish beginning.  She has just received a heart transplant and after months of recovery, she is ready to go back to school and live like she hasn't lived before.  She is happy to be back with her best friends, Brynn and Henry, even though she has left Henry hanging for far too long.  Henry asked her out when she was sick but she didn't want him to be "the sick girl's boyfriend" and then have to be "the dead girl's boyfriend" if something went wrong.  Stella isn't sure what she wants out of her new life, but she thinks it might not be safe old Henry.  Plus, she's still dealing with the side effects of her transplant: hallucinations and a searing pain every day at 5:08 PM.  It's hard enough just trying to pretend that everything is normal.
Then she sees the new boy, Levi.  Levi is gorgeous.  Levi is intense.  And Stella doesn't feel the pain when Levi is around her.  It isn't long before they become inseparable and Levi begins to educate Stella on music, taking her to concerts and in search of records.  Stella longs for the relief she feels when she is around Levi, even when she begins to suspect that there is something very wrong with their relationship and something very wrong with him.
Then a girl is found dead and her heart has been cut out.
Okay, reasons I loved this:  Even though I had an idea of what was going on, the twists and turns in the plot felt twisty and turny.  They made me gasp.  They made me need to shove the whole book in my face right this instant.  It was entertaining even with the flaws.  It tickled my horror bone, which needs tickling once in a while, and there was even some gore.  Also, I really admired Stella's voice.  I liked how determined she was to change and I related to her for that.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

I started keeping a journal religiously when I was in high school.  Recently, I read back through some of my earliest entries and rolled my eyes and laughed at myself while also being struck but how serious things were.  I don't remember a lot of those serious things that were going on but they were there.  Maybe this is part of the reason I LOVED this book, which is presented in diary form.  Also, having spent some time as the resident fat girl in high school, I could really relate to Gabi.
Gabi is a seventeen year old Mexican-American whose life is crazy to begin with and about to get even crazier.  She is overweight and her mother is constantly poking at her to lose weight.  She's gotten very clever about hiding her secret jerky stash.  She's entering her senior year of high school with high hopes for college and a low Algebra II grade.  Her brother is a little bit of a delinquent.  Her father is a meth addict.  Then, at the very beginning of the book, her best friend announces that she is pregnant.  Gabi is shocked because, well, Cindy never told her that she had even done it.  Next, her friend Sebastian comes out to his parents and finds himself sleeping on Gabi's couch for a while.
Gabi takes us through her tumultuous senior year with honesty and humor.  She gets her first and then her second boyfriend.  Her very religious aunt comes to live with the family.  She has to help her enemy out of a situation.  Gabi is never overly dramatic about the big stuff but can be humorously over dramatic about the little stuff.
I loved this book.  It made me laugh out loud and bite my fingernails.  Don't let the cover throw you off.  This one is definitely worth the read! -RYQ

Monday, February 20, 2017

Staff Picks: Rachael's Favorites

Dangerous Angels, by Francesca Lia Block: Love is a dangerous angel...Francesca Lia Block's luminous saga of interwoven lives will send the senses into wild overdrive. These post-modern fairy tales chronicle the thin line between fear and desire, pain and pleasure, cutting loose and holding on in a world where everyone is vulnerable to the most beautiful and dangerous angel of all: love.

The Beautiful Creatures (Series), by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl: Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Nimona, by Noelle StevensLord Blackheart, a villain with a vendetta, and his sidekick, Nimona, an impulsive young shapeshifter, must prove to the kingdom that Sir Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klaus: Having fallen for a human boy, a beautiful teenage werewolf must battle both her packmates and the fear of the townspeople to decide where she belongs and with whom.

On Writing, by Stephen King: "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft -- and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade -- how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection. Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King's overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower -- and entertain -- everyone who reads it.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Make It Up: The Essential Guide to DYI Makeup & Skin Care

I picked up Make It Up: The Essential Guide to DYI Makeup & Skincare because it looked interesting and because I was curious. I have a friend who works in the beauty industry, and, for the past several months, she's been posting all sorts of "natural alternative" stuff on Facebook. Articles ranging from practical to trendy to completely out there. I'm not sure if she actually tries any of the tips she shares, but one thing's for sure: If something pops up enough on your Newsfeed, you can't help but eventually take notice and, at the very least, do a bit of research.

So when Make It Up appeared on our New Book shelf, I thought it sounded like a fun book to browse. And who knows: Maybe I could even find a few simple recipes to try. After all, I already know how to make lip gloss using petroleum jelly, Kool-Aid powder, and a bit of coconut oil. We did it for a library program a few years back. And it was easy and fun. Simple.

And I am all about simplicity.

Well... This book is anything but that. Sure, it is packed with recipes on how to make everything you could find at Sephora or Rite Aid (or wherever) and more, and while many of the ingredients are natural (healthier?), it's lacking in the area of accessibility. 

A few of the ingredients, like Coconut Oil and corn starch, are easily available at your local grocery store. Most, though... Where would one even begin to locate them? Online, maybe. But that could quickly get expensive. Likely more so than purchasing the ready-made product outright. And then there's the matter of measuring and mixing and brewing, all of which is time consuming and probably difficult. And what if you mess the recipe up? Or get the color all wrong? Then you're out on all counts. Bummer. 

Overall, the book seems more like a lesson in advanced chemistry (or Potions, if you prefer) than a DYI beauty guide. In short: The recipes seem more trouble than they're worth. It's easier (more cost effective, less time consuming) to stop by your local drug store and just buy the cosmetics you need. 


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (DVD)

I will own this confession now: I adore Tim Burton. The darkly-twisted quirkiness of his storytelling totally appeals to the strange and unusual side of my movie-viewing preferences. So imagine how thrilled I was when I learned Burton would be directing the live-action adaption of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I mean, who else BUT Burton could handle a story like this? M. Night Shyamalan, perhaps (he does do pretty good with the bizarre, although he tends to lean more toward the horror side of the genre). But, if asked, Burton would be my #1 choice for a movie adaption of this most excellent book.

Overall: I liked it.

Sure it fell victim to the usual movie pitfalls: Things were left out of the movie that were in the book... Characters were different (namely, some of the powers/pecularities were switched around)... Things were added to the movie that weren't in the book... And the ending! Well, yes, it was different. Completely. But recall that the book ended in a major cliffhanger. Also note that no film sequels were in the plan. I can see why Burton decided to do what he did. And I'm glad he went that particular route. I'm sure the purists, thos who critique every bit of book-to-movie adaptions, have (and will) find all kinds of fault with this film. But I had no complaints. Basically, I thought it was a great film. Not my favorite Burton offering (that honor still belongs to Frankenweenie), but worthy. 

So what DID I like about it? 

The setting, for one. Burton was able to capture the eerie creepiness of the book. The fog-shrouded island populated by suspicious and unpleasant people, the deserted ruin of a house, and, in contrast the surreal beauty of life in the Loop. 

And the special effects were pretty sweet. Even the haters can attest to that. 

And yes, I liked the story. I liked what Burton did with it, the creative license he took, the changes he made. And I liked the ending. Liked how the bad guys were defeated and how everything worked out in the end.

So yes, I definitely recommend it. 

Although... My advice for those who have read the books: When seeing this movie, don't view it as an exact adaption. Take it for what it is and enjoy the story.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Staff Favorites: Julie Kwon

The Fill-In Boyfriend, by Kaise West: When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable...convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. The problem is that days after prom, she can't stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship? Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West's talent shines in this tale of one girl's unexpected quest to find love...and possibly herself.

PS I Like You, by Kaise WestSigned, sealed, delivered...While spacing out in Chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk, and added a message to her. Intrigue! Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters: sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she's kind of falling for this letter writer. Only who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery, and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can't always be spelled out... Kasie West brings irresistible wit, warmth, and sparkle to this swoon-worthy story of love showing up when you least expect it.

The Memory Book, by Lara AveryThey tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember. Sammie McCoy is a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even the rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly steal her memories and then her health. So the memory book is born: a journal written to Sammie's future self, so she can remember everything from where she stashed her study guides to just how great it feels to have a best friend again. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime-crush Stuart, a gifted young writer home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood friend Cooper, and the ridiculous lengths he will go to make her laugh. The memory book will ensure Sammie never forgets the most important parts of her life--the people who have broken her heart, those who have mended it--and most of all, that if she's going to die, she's going to die living. This moving and remarkable novel introduces an inspiring character you're sure to remember, long after the last page.

My Lady Jane, by Cyhtnia HandThe comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history--because sometimes history needs a little help. At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren't for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England. Like that could go wrong.

The Last True Love Story, by Brendan Kiely:From the critically acclaimed author of The Gospel of Winter and the coauthor of All American Boys comes a cool, contemplative spin on hot summer nights and the classic teen love story as two teens embark on a cross-country journey of the heart and soul.The point of living is learning how to love. That's what Gpa says. To Hendrix and Corrina, both seventeen but otherwise alike only in their loneliness, that sounds like another line from a pop song that tries to promise kids that life doesn't actually suck. Okay, so: love. Sure. The thing about Corrina--her adoptive parents are suffocating, trying to mold her into someone acceptable, predictable, like them. She's a musician, itching for any chance to escape, become the person she really wants to be. Whoever that is. And Hendrix, he's cool. Kind of a poet. But also kind of lost. His dad is dead and his mom is married to her job. Gpa is his only real family, but he's fading fast from Alzheimer's. Looking for any way to help the man who raised him, Hendrix has made Gpa an impossible promise--that he'll get him back east to the hill where he first kissed his wife, before his illness wipes away all memory of her. One hot July night, Hendrix and Corrina decide to risk everything. They steal a car, spring Gpa from his assisted living facility, stuff Old Humper the dog into the back seat, and take off on a cross-country odyssey from LA to NY. With their parents, Gpa's doctors, and the police all hot on their heels, Hendrix and Corrina set off to discover for themselves if what Gpa says is true--that the only stories that last are love stories.

Secret of a Heart Note, by Stacey LeeFrom critically acclaimed author Stacey Lee, an evocative novel about a teen aroma-expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to help others fall in love--while protecting her own heart at all costs--perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and E. Lockhart. Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking--all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn't want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman's son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn't always a choice you can make. At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee's The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one's place in the world.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Our Chemical Hearts, by Krystal Sutherland

I really loved this book. It was funny and cute but it also had a lot of meaning. I loved how everything was balanced and it wasn't just a fluffy contemporary and it wasn't one of those books that will leave you feeling like you got ran over by a train. It had a perfect mix of humor and sadness.

I really liked the main character, Henry. I also loved his group of friends as well as his family which are quite amazing. I thought each character had interesting and different perspectives. Although I had a difficult time liking Grace in the beginning of the story. It was very obvious that Grace was keeping something major to herself so it is no wonder that her character was more of a mystery. I also enjoyed the interactions between Henry and Grace when they were together.

The main focus of this book is really solving the mystery that is Grace and Henry slowly builds a relationship with her. Grace does have some tragedy in her past which is greatly impacting her present life. Henry is patient and tries to be there for Grace even though he wants to move forward and focus on a future with her. For Henry, Grace become his total focus often to the detriment of other things in his life. In addition to being a story of first love, Henry learns a lot about himself, his family, and his friends over the course of the story.

Overall, Our Chemical Hearts is a great read. It's so well written and original. *JK*