Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Hedgehogs This Saturday

Book Hedgehog Craft
Saturday Nov. 1
Noon-3 p.m.


Stop by the Teen Department on Saturday afternoon and make an adorable Book Hedgehog

This fun craft is part of #TeenCraftSaturdays @ OPL program, which happens the first Saturday of the month.

Crafts are drop-in only (no registration required), but we still have limited supplies. So be sure to get here early, because when supplies run out, they run out forever.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer

What if you wanted something so badly, you actually convinced yourself it was reality? Meg Wolitzer explores this in her addicting novel Belzhar.

After her boyfriend, Reeve, died, Jam was inconsolable...so her parents sent her to The Wooden Barn, a boarding school in Vermont that's sort of a halfway house for emotionally damaged teens who aren't crazy enough for the psych ward (but are too fragile to mix with regular society). Jam obviously doesn't want to be there. She wants to be with Reeve. But Reeve is dead, and they can never be together again.

Or can they?

Jam is stunned when she is one of five students selected for Special Topics English, taught by the mysterious Mrs. Quenell. Everyone who has ever taken the class has claimed it changed their lives, but have remained secretive about the details. So Jam goes, not knowing what to expect.

What happens as a result of this exclusive membership is she and the other Special Topics students are allowed limited entry into the magical world they dub "Belzhar." This is a place they can go where the terrible thing that happened to them, the terrible thing that put them in The Wooden Barn, never happened and life is as it should be. For Jam, this means she can be with Reeve again. But she soon discovers they can only relive past memories. They can't create any new experiences. And she can never stay for very long. But this is enough for her.

As Jam and her classmates approach their last visit to Belzhar, they learn the truth about the place: That Belzhar gives them what they want to see...but it also reveals the truth about their trauma, the parts they blocked out the first time around. That during their final visit, they must re-live every sordid and terrible detail of the worst experience of their lives. This means Jam must re-live Reeve's death and face the awful, psyche-scarring truth about what really happened that day.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from Belzhar. I'd picked it up because I'd read a fabulous review that revealed just enough to spark my curiosity...but didn't give it all away. And it was good. Very, very good. Unusual, but very good...and I kept reading. I wanted to know what happened as much as the characters did.

Yes, there was a bit of a twist at the end (no spoilers). Not one that put my jaw in my lap, but still one that surprised me and changed the way I felt about Jam. Previous to the twist, I had felt a twinge of sympathy for her, certainly, but that was it. After all, she seemed to be getting better. Then the twist...and I realized how sick and twisted she really was. Far beyond what I first believed. 

Confused? Curious? 

Read the book. --AJB

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Movies: Saturday!

Halloween Spooktacular Film Festival
Saturday October 25
10a.m.-4 p.m.

Looking to scare up some Halloween fun? Stop by the library this Saturday (October 25) and catch a spooky movie or more. The fun will begin when the library opens at 10 a.m. and run all day long. Watch one...or watch them all! And watch out for treats throughout the day. One thing's for sure: you'll sure to be in the Halloween spirit. So attend...If you dare!

Parents: Movies are PG and PG-13 and will be scary. We don't want to be the cause of any nightmares, so please make plans for younger siblings.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Even in Paradise, by Chelsea Philpot

I initially picked up Chelsea Philpot's Even in Paradise because I was desperately looking for a read-alike for We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, a book I devoured earlier this year and have ever since been seeking something of comparable awesomeness. Even in Paradise seemed like it had promise for that (maybe it was the cover similarities). 

Paradise did have some striking similarities to Lockhart's masterpiece (If Liars were to have be told from an outsider's point of view), but it also reminded me a lot of Perks of Being A Wallflower in that the narrator recounts an almost magical time in her life when she was swept into a golden world by friends who are too good to be true.

Unlike most of the students who attend St. Anne's, Charlotte is fairly normal and relatable: She's not rich or the daughter of someone famous. She doesn't wear expensive clothes or have an impressive (or infamous) background. She's a scholarship student, studies art, and is friendly with most but has no best friend. She's normal. And kind of boring.

That all changes the night she saves a very intoxicated Julia Buchanan from being busted for underage drunkenness, a behavior that would surely cause the girl to be expelled. From that point, Julia takes Charlotte ("Charlie") under her wing and introduces her to a world of beautiful things and beautiful people. Charlotte is charmed and awed. And she's more than a little bit in love with Julia's brother, Sebastian. It was the magical sort of friendship Charlotte always dreamed about but never expected to personally encounter.

But not all is as golden as Charlotte first believes.

On the surface, the Buchanan family seems the picture of perfection: Beautiful, rich, privileged, famous, and always smiling in the spotlight. But beneath all that gloss and glitter lurks a dark tragedy: Years ago, Julia Buchanan, her sister Augustine ("Gus"), and Gus's boyfriend , David, were in an auto accident. Julia walked away with only bruises. Gus and David weren't so lucky. 

This is something Julia was up front about right away. 

The twist, the truth no one knows (or will admit to), is this: Julia, then 14, had actually been the one behind the wheel on that fateful night...and the guilt that she was responsible for the two deaths has been eating away at her ever since. 

In a perfect storybook ending, Charlotte would help Julia overcome the tragedy. She would be the rock while her friend healed and got past the guilt and sorrow. And the two of them would grow closer because of it and become lifelong friends.

But this is not a perfect storybook ending. Julia is too broken for such a recovery. And instead of trying to face her guilt and the tragedy, she distances herself from everything and everyone that reminds her of it. And that includes distancing herself Charlotte. 

The ending is not a happy one. It's messy, it's cruel, but it's also realistic. Sometimes friendships last, but quite often they don't. Sometimes there is a falling out. Sometimes people grow apart. And sometimes there is no explanation for why a friendship ends. It just does.

But there's also hope for a new (albeit different) beginning. The reader knows Charlotte will be OK despite everything.

So was Even in Paradise the We Were Liars read-alike I was hoping for? No. Not quite. Not even close. I guessed the twist early on. In fact, I guessed it the first time Julia and Charlotte ever talked about the accident. There were no jaw-in-my-lap surprise endings that left me with that "OMG!" feeling long after I finished the last page. 

But I really liked Even in Paradise even though it wasn't what I was hoping for. I liked it for it's own awesome qualities: The characters and the ways their relationships developed... that hazy, nostalgic quality to the narration that made everything that happened to her seem almost too good to be true... The way the plot was built. 

Definitely recommended! --AJB

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Eye of Zoltar, by Jasper Fforde

Jenny Strange, 16, Orphan, Indentured Servant, and acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management has been assigned with perhaps the biggest (and strangest) task of her young life. 

In the Eye of Zoltar, the third installment of Jasper Fforde's Kazam Chronicles, The Mighty Shandar, greatest wizard of all times, is back--and he's got a vendetta against Jenny for unknowingly foiling his centuries-old evil plot to rid the world of any and all dragons. Shandar gives Jenny a deal: He will spare the lives of her two young dragon friends if Jenny retrieves for him the legendary Eye of Zoltar. The Eye is an egg-sized ruby of untold power that was supposedly last seen in the possession of the legendary Sky Pirate Wolff, who supposedly has a hideout within the legendary Sky Leviathan graveyard atop the mysterious mountain Cadir Idris, located at the heart of the deadly Cambrian empire. The odds are against her even before she begins her quest: Surviving the untold dangers of the Cambrian Empire are 50%...and the odds of returning alive from Cadir Idris are 0%. Furthermore, any unmagical person who touches the Eye (or even an unworthy magician) will be instantly transformed to lead. Yes, there are risks. But being a girl of considerable bravery and resourcefulness, Jenny accepts this challenge. She really has no choice.

Joined by wizard boyfriend Perkins, a princess in disguise, a rubber dragon (who is really a real live dragon), a rag-tag trio of adventure-seeking idiots, and a juvenile tour guide who is so hard-core she could scare the crap out of Chuck Norris, Jenny sets off on her impossible quest. What she learns while chasing legends is there is a reason for all the horror stories and secrets surrounding Cadir Idris. In fact, there is a reason for all the legends of the Cambrian Empire. Eventually, the ugly truth reveals itself: The Mighty Shandar's evil plot is to start the most vicious Troll War ever, and it seems the only one who can stop him and save the world as she knows it is the very non-magical Jenny. A cliffhanger ending promises a fantastic fourth installment in the (hopefully) very near future.

I can honestly say I haven't enjoyed a fantasy series this much since Harry Potter...and I think that, maybe, I like The Kazam Chronicles even more. The Eye of Zoltar makes an awesome addition to the first two installments of the series, The Last Dragonslayer (book 1) and The Song of the Quarkbeast (book 2). The Kazam Chronicles have it all: Adventure, humor, great characters, and an awesome storyline. If you haven't checked out these books yet...what are you waiting for?

Highly, highly recommended! --AJB

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Teen Read Month 2014


Teen Read Month (Turn Dreams Into Reality) is in full swing, and it's not too late to sign up! So stop by the Teen Area and pick up your Teen Read Month activity packet. Complete it by October 31 for your chance to win awesome prizes!

Have questions? Want to sign up? Call Alissa Bach at the Teen Desk (248) 628-3034.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Graveyard Book #2 (graphic novel adaption), by Neil Gaiman

Previously, when I reviewed the first installment of the graphic novel adaption of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, I bemoaned the fact the graphic format had taken an awesome stand-alone book and split it into two parts. As of late, Hollywood has made this into a nasty trend with book-to-movie adaptions and, well, let's just say I'm not a fan of that concept. I hate waiting. Especially when there's a cliffhanger involved.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long before The Graveyard Book vol. 2 was in my hands. When book one ended, Bod, the boy raised by graveyard ghosts, made a few ill-fated attempts to venture out into the world. He met a witch--or at least the ghost of one. He visited the ghoul city of Ghulheim and was rescued by a legendary Hound of God. And, of course, The Man Jack begin to plot how to find (and dispose of) the child who escaped him years earlier.

Book 2 picks up where Book 1 left off. Here, we find Bod older, but not necessarily wiser, about the world outside the Graveyard he calls home. Still, Bod's previous adventures have made him curious. He wants to attend school and make friends his own age--friends who are not ghosts. Unfortunately this opens the door to more trouble...and that trouble leads Bod into the worst sort of danger. Yes, he has his friends and family to help, but ghosts can only do so much when one is faced with mortal danger. Can Bod figure out how to outsmart The Man Jack when the two come face to face? Will he ever get out of the graveyard? And, more importantly, will he want to? Read the book to find out. 

As with vol. 1, each chapter in The Graveyard Book vol. 2 is illustrated by a different artist. This time, however (with the exception of the first chapter), the artistic styles are more similar, so this second installment doesn't feel as disjointed as the first. 

Together, these two books pay spectacular homage to Gaiman's original story. The dialogue stays true to the original story, and the illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and detailed. These two books are definitely worth checking out! 
--AJB