Monday, December 29, 2014

Teen Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Teen reviewer Sierra N, 13, read and loved Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling.

Here is her review:

"I loved this book (and the whole series) because it's all about adventure, magic, romance, villains, heroes, and all the bits and pieces that make up a good book. This book is all about Harry Potter and his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He finds friends and enemies. Harry was involved in a horrible murder--that of his parents--which he miraculously survived. The accused? Lord Voldemort (aka He Who Must Not Be Named). Harry was not killed, but was left with a lightning bolt scar that somehow connects him to Voldemort."

Sierra would recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (and the whole series) to others.

Teen Reviewer: Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz

Teen reviewer Marissa N., age 13, read Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz on a friend's request. She found this adventure story to be very entertaining. 

This is her review:

"The plot is about Alex, a typical boy who wants a normal life, but his uncle gets into a mysterious car crash and his (Alex's) life is flipped upside-down. With secret gadgets and intense training from M16 Secret Service, Alex is put into the life as a teen spy. Alex develops from a nervous teenager only worried about sports and grades to stopping villains. Along the road, Alex faces many challenges and it is intriguing to find out how he uses his special tools to get out of life or death situations. At the beginning, you might get a little bored, but wait a little longer and you won't be able to put it down!"

Marissa would recommend Stormbreaker to others.

Book Review: Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl

Cover image for Vintage Veronica

Huge puffy tulle underskirts, buttery soft  1930s flannel pajamas and a high school girl who is trying to find where she fits in with her divorced parents, her eccentric co-workers and her former friends, while dressing in clothes from the past.

Veronica is ecstatic when she gets a summer job at her favorite store,  Dollar-a-Pound, the "largest vintage clothing store in the northeast", sorting through the items brought in on consignment, and keeping her eyes open for those special outfits, like a pirate looking for hidden treasure. She works with some interesting characters who all seem to have an element of mystery to their lives: Claire, her boss who misses a lot of work with no explanation; Lenny (a.k.a.'The Nail') who is pale and quiet, but possibly interested in being more than friends with Veronica. And then there are Zoe and Ginger: are they really the archetypal mean girls just  pretending to be Veronica's friend in order to make her life a misery? Or could they somehow  have good reasons for behaving so badly? Hard to imagine!

This is a fascinating, quirky story, and readers will quickly come to like Veronica,  and then want to keep reading to discover if she can be confident enough to stand up for herself and live the life she deserves, while keeping her uniqueness intact.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thank You Volunteers!

Just a shout-out to say our Teen Volunteers are the best! Thank you to everyone who has helped out this year, whether assisting with a project or program or simply helping with shelf reading. 

You're all awesome, and we're very grateful for all you do to help us out!

Closed for the Holidays!

Just a reminder:

Oxford Public Library will be CLOSED for the Holidays on Wednesday December 24 & Thursday December 25.

Regular business hours will resume Friday December 26.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Guest Review: Snowed In, by Rachel Hawthorn

Guest Reviewer Joette B. read Snowed In, by Rachel Hawthorn. She found this Michigan-based coming-of-age story entertaining.

"(In Snowed In), A mother and daughter leave Texas to start a new life on Mackinaw Island, MI in the winter. They are going to open a bed and breakfast in a historic Victorian home. It tells the story of a teenage girl adjusting to new hardships, winter, and falling in love. It's interesting to read more about winter on Mackinaw Island and teenage relationships"

Joette B. would recommend Snowed In to others.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eleven, by Patricia Giff

What if your life wasn't really what you thought it was?

Young Sam is plagued by this question when, while snooping in his grandfather's attic for his birthday present, he discovers an old newspaper clipping containing a photo of his younger self. The only words Sam, who suffers from near-crippling dyslexia, can identify are his first name and the word "MISSING". Suddenly his whole world comes crashing down. If he is, indeed, "Missing," then where are his parents? Who is the man he has been calling "grandfather" all these years? Was he kidnapped? Who is SAM? 

Could these questions be the source of Sam's recurring nightmares about a castle a boat and a storm at sea?

If ONLY he could read that article!!

Then Sam is paired up with the surly and unapproachable Caroline for a class project. The two form an unlikely friendship, and Sam recruits Caroline, who loves to read, to help him solve the mystery. But time is running out. Can the two uncover the answers in time? 

Eleven, by Patricia Giff, is a fantastic, fast-paced mystery aimed at the tween audience, but older readers (even adults) will love it too and enjoy piecing together the clues as Sam and Caroline unravel them. There is a sense of urgency throughout this story, but readers will breathe a sigh of relief when all is revealed and things aren't as bad as they first seemed (the book ends happily). 

You won't be able to put this one down! --AJB

Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Lanagan

As you may have guessed from previous reviews, I like stories about fantastical sea creatures. Always have. So when author Margo Lanagan took a stab at the Selkie myth, I had to read it for myself. I was not disappointed.

(Side Note: Some may say Selkies are related to mermaids, but, really, the two aren't anything alike. To simplify, Selikes are women and men--yes, men too--who can shapeshift from seals into human form. To make one stay human, simply steal and hide their seal skin.)

The Brides of Rollrock Island is set on a distant, isolated island and takes place over several generations, and there is a lot going on. So pay attention. (this is NOT light reading, people) At the center of the story is Misskaella, who was born with the uncanny ability to communicate with the seals who make the shores and beaches of the island their home. Misskaella was not a pretty child, among other things, and the residents of the island never failed to remind her of her shortcomings. As she grows, she learns to use her unusual gift to draw out the women living inside the seals. She then sells these women, these "sea-wives," to the island's men...and makes quite a healthy living doing so. But the effect on the island's population is devastating: Families split when men trade their human wives for sea wives, children lose their mothers when a sea wife finds her stolen skin and returns to the sea without so much of a backwards glance, hearts break, and the witch laughs at it all. This is the revenge she'd hoped for. The story of Rollrock Island, and the revenge brought upon it by Misskaella, is told from six points of view--including that of the witch herself. It's not a happily-ever-after sort of story. In fact, it's quite uncanny and creepy. But it IS beautifully-written and memorable. And once you get into it, you'll want to keep reading.

Read this if you've enjoyed complex realistic fantasy stories like Maggie Stiefvaer's Raven Cycle or Bennett Madison's September GirlsDefinitely recommended! --AJB

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Game Day Saturday!

School is nearly out for the Holidays! Yippee!!
We know you have gifts to wrap, cookies to bake and people to see,  but if you need a break from all that rushing around, then stop by the Teen Department on Saturday December 20, to play a board game!

We have our new game Tapple, and of course, old favorites like Scrabble, Pictionary, Jenga and Yahtzee available for some good old-fashioned fun.

Bring a friend, or find one here at the Library.

And don't forget to sign up for the Winter reading Program while you are here; you could win some great prizes including books and gift cards.

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

The Brothers Torres is set in Borges, New Mexico where it may look and feel different compared to where you live, but the universal themes of brothers, family relationships, school, peer pressure, a first girlfriend and changing friendships are the same experience of teens everywhere.  Frankie, the younger brother, is easily identifiable, as he could be attending your school.

  Readers will root for him as he tries to remain loyal to himself and his family as his older brother/school soccer superstar makes new friends who take him away from the decent, hard-working upbringing that they have shared till now. You will find yourself laughing, wincing and shedding a tear for Frankie as he does his best to do the right thing for his family, best friend and new girlfriend under difficult circumstances.

The colloquial Mex-Tex phrases throughout the book add street-reality to the story, as Frankie is forced to mix with the gang that he is trying to save his brother from. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I really enjoyed reading this book, and would certainly recommend it for older teens who are interested in looking into a life both similar to and different from their own.
Oh, and there are some spectacular fire ant-hill explosions and mouth-wateringly vivid descriptions of the authentic Mexican dishes on Los Torres menu. SM

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

The story of The Scorpio Races is a unique story and one that I haven't heard before. Thisby Island is a remote island with a small population. The island and it's inhabitants are fairly quite and keep to themselves. All of this changes each November when residents and tourists alike flock to the annual Scorpio Races held along the island's beaches. Each year young racers compete on horse back to become the champion of the races. The only thing different about these horses are that they are water horses- they do not like to be tamed. They're deadly. Not only is there a need to be the best horse back rider but there is also a need for survival in order to cross the finish line. Deadly horses are not enough to keep Puck away from the races. Winning the race is the only way to help her family survive and keep her and her two brothers together.

One would think that a book that encompasses adventure, fantasy, a little romance, and man eating horses would have something for just about everyone, guess again.

Scorpio Games was among 25 other books I found on a list (Pinterest of course) called "25 Series to Read if You Love the Hunger Games". I decided that I was going to choose a couple of the books and give them a try. Well, most of them were pretty good and I did end up reading the entire series that followed. All except one... Scorpio Races. With so many of the other books being great or even (dare I say it) better than the Hunger Games, I dived into reading this particular book with high hopes. My hopes stayed high for the first chapter, the second, the third, and by that point I was reading in hopes that something exciting just had to happen so I continued on. Nope. With this book being just over four hundred pages long, the most excitement occurred in the last thirty pages (and no, you can't skip to the end otherwise nothing would make sense.) Maybe if a was an avid horse rider or even a horse enthusiast I would have enjoyed this book a little more. But just being a fantasy lover was not enough to suffice. This is why this reviewer would not recommend adding this to your "Must Read List" and maybe crossing it off of your "If I have Time List".


Friday, December 12, 2014

The Good Sister, by Jamie Kain

The Good Sister by Jaime Kain has been described (on Goodreads) as "The Fault in Our Stars meets The Lovely Bones," and I feel that is an apt assessment of this sad, but oh-so-good page turner. There's also a bit of We Were Liars mixed in.

The Kinseys are the picture-perfect example of a dysfunctional family. There's the former hippie mom who is determined to hold onto her flower-child roots. The former-hippie-now-reformed (but also absent) father. Sarah, Rachel, and Asha grew up in this crazy, messed-up household where the normal rules of the world didn't really apply. Despite the so-called "mellow" vibe of their California community, no one in the Kinsey household is really happy.

And ever since Sarah died, things have been even worse. Sarah, the "good" sister of the title, was the glue that held the family together. She was the sun the rest orbited around, built their lives around. With her gone, everything falls apart.

A lifelong leukemia patient, Sarah knew early death was almost a certainty. Everyone knew it was coming. Just not like this. Not in a hiking "accident" that may not have been all that accidental. Told from the three sisters' alternating viewpoints (with Sarah's perspective from the afterlife bringing an element of magical realism to the story), the true story gradually unfolds, uncensored. And it is a truth that's painful and far more complex and convoluted than the reader could imagine. Everyone's secrets come spilling out, and no one is who they first appear to be. 

Especially Sarah. Saintly, golden Sarah.

Saintly? Yeah right!

To say more would give too much away.

The Good Sister can currently be found on our New Book Shelf. Read it if you're looking for a complex mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. 

Definitely recommended! --AJB

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rules, by Cynthia Lord

Rules. We all have them. Rules help us make it through the day. Rules help us avoid trouble at home and detention at school. There are rules that even help us work as a society and keep us out of police cars. For Catherine's little brother, David, rules help him accomplish little things that we wouldn't even think twice about.

Keep your pants on.
No toys in the fish tank.

These are just two of the rules that Catherine keeps in the back of her journal. Her list is never ending and never finished as each day she tries to live a "normal" life. Unfortunately around Catherine's house life never seems to be normal when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around it. Throughout the story we get a glimpse of Catherine's day to day life. Each time she's worried that it won't be normal due to David's unpredictable behavior. When a new girl moves in next door Catherine is beyond excited at what this could mean. But in the back of her mind she keeps asking herself "Will David ruin this for me"? Catherine's outlook changes as she attends physical therapy appointments for her brother and meets Jason. This new friendship changes her outlook on the world around her and on her relationship with her brother.

Rules is a must read, easy to finish book. Ms. Lord was able to truly create an amazing story that everyone can relate to and could surely learn from. Everyday we see people around us that are different and don't realize how difficult it is to be them or even to be a part of their family. I love how the author uses Catherine's character to show us emotionally and physically what it would be like to have a sibling with a disease such as autism. If (and when) you read this book I'm hoping you'll be a little more accepting of the others around you.


Teen Reviewer

Teen Reviewer Troy, 19, recently finished Naomi Novik's Black Powder War, the third installment of The Chronicles of Temerair. To date, this is one of Troy's favorite fantasy series:

"This has to be one of the best series of books I have read in a long time! If you liked the Eragon books or others like that, you will love these stories. (Temerair) portrays the Napoleonic war, but with the twist of adding barn-sized dragons to the mix. No magic or super powers. Everything is portrayed in a realistic manner, and I love it for that. It's nice to see a change from works of high fantasy to realistic fantasy. The books are dripping in detail and always leave you with a cliffhanger and wanting more. Some might consider these books hard due to the large vocabulary and dated social reasonings. Not to mention not one of the books (in the series) is under 300 pages. But I can finish one of them in under 6 hours. See if you can do better than I can. Good luck and enjoy these masterpieces!"

Due to the difficult vocabulary and some mature situations, Troy recommends Black Powder War and the Chronicles of Temerair for older teens and more advanced readers.

Teen Reviewer

Teen Reviewer Sierra, 13, read and loved The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. In this first book (it's a trilogy), the main character, Mara, must sort out what really happened the night her three best friends died and why she survived when they did not. 

Sierra Neely: "I love the mystery of how Mara's friends died and why she can't remember anything"

Sierra recommends The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer for teens 13 and older.

This book has it all: Mystery, romance, a good dose of the paranormal, and a cliffhanger that will leave readers racing to the shelves for the sequel (like we said, it's a trilogy), The Evolution of Mara Dyer.

Oh...and don't miss the final installment: The Retribution of Mara Dyer!

Second Star, by Alyssa Sheinmel

Fairy Tale retellings can be very tricky, particularly ones reworked so they are set in modern day. Sometimes they work (as in Alex Flinn's Beastly), other times not so well. An example of the later is Alyssa Sheinmel's Peter Pan reboot, Second Star

At the opening of this story, we meet recent high school grad and Good Girl Wendy Darling. Wendy's twin brothers (Michael and John), both die-hard surfers, disappeared several months earlier. Pieces of their surfboards were found shortly after a huge swell swept up the coast, creating larger than normal waves (even for winter). Everyone but Wendy believes the boys drowned, even though no bodies were found. So after graduation, Wendy sets off to investigate and see if she can't find her brothers and bring them home. Instead she discovers an almost magical beach where the waves are always perfect. Here lives Pete and a group of homeless teens who spend their days surfing and stealing supplies from nearby McMansions. Wendy lies to her parents, saying she's going on a road trip with her BFF, and moves in with Pete and crew. Wendy develops a crush on the charismatic Pete... But she also falls for Jas, a local bad-boy-who-wants-to-be-good sort. Jas makes a living selling a hallucinogen called "Dust," and claims to know the whereabouts of her brothers. Wendy and Jas take off up the coast, chasing a storm that will bring unseasonably large waves. If Michael and John are anywhere, they'll be there when the waves hit. They find the beach, but not the brothers. Wendy and Jas rendezvous with Pete & Co. and take a boat out to catch the waves...and Wendy almost drowns.

She wakes up days later tied to a bed in the psych ward of the hospital... And here's where things get confusing. 

The reader learns that Wendy was found, bruised but otherwise physically OK, nowhere near the beach she claims to have traveled to with Jas. Her parents and doctors tell her that she must have hallucinated the whole adventure and everyone in it. The reason for this is Wendy apparently took an odd cocktail of drugs that combined to cause her "trip." Evidence suggests otherwise, though. Wendy can suddenly surf like a pro (before she couldn't). And near the end she anonymously receives a photo of the boys she fell for. And this is where the author left things. 

I did like the whole summery, dreamlike quality to the story. And the idea was a good one. Unfortunately, the execution was sloppy. The ending confusing.

Before diving into Second Star, know this: The story does require a good deal of suspension of belief in addition to the typical fairy tale elements. For example, what parents would allow their 17-year-old daughter to take off to do who knows what for weeks at a time--especially one as supposedly unstable as Wendy? Also, it is unclear at the end whether Wendy's whole adventure was imagined (as her parents and doctors claim), really happened (as the photo of Pete and the gang she receives at the end suggests), or a combination of the two. And if the adventure did indeed happen, why did Wendy's family, friends, and doctors tell her otherwise? If they want her to heal properly, wouldn't they be honest with her? Nothing really lines up properly.  Also, if the author wanted to add the "she just imagined the whole thing" twist, it could have been done better. The way it was, it seemed too rushed and, well, cliche.

If you're looking for a good magical realism story, there are better options. Ask the on-duty librarian for recommendations :)


Monday, December 1, 2014

Smithsonian @ OPL: The Way We Worked

The Way We Worked
Traveling Smithsonian Exhibit
December 6-February 1

Beginning this month (December 6, to be exact) and running through February 1, Oxford Public Library will be hosting a traveling Smithsonian exhibit titled The Way We Worked. This is all about working, jobs, and how things have changed throughout history. OPL is one of only a few sites statewide to host this exhibit, so this is BIG, people. REALLY big!

In addition to the Smithsonian's awesome displays (Some interactive! All interesting!), which will be in Community Room A and scattered about the library, each of the library's areas will be feature department-specific displays related to what you'll see in the Smithsonian. 

Teen has displays about:

Help Wanted: Would YOU Do This Job? (Dangerous, gross, and all-out unsavory jobs) 

Before They Were Famous: Match the celebrity with their regular job (This one's a contest. Prizes will be awarded to those who get the most correct answers)

OPL Staff: Where we used to work. Awful and unusual jobs library staff worked at before we came here (We're talking exploding milkshakes, horse poo, moldy cheese, and more!). 

In addition to these displays, the library will have all kinds of cool programs, events, and contests. 

So stop by the library and check out The Way We Worked. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You don't want to miss it!