Thursday, March 26, 2015

Secret Hum of a Daisy, by Tracy Holczar

At least the cover is pretty!
I'd been hearing some very positive buzz about Tracy Holczar's middle-grade novel, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, so I interloaned it from another library so I could read it and see if it was something OPL would want for its new Tween Collection. 

Grace, 12, and her mother moved around a lot. Every couple months, they'd pack up and hit the road to find a new home. Grace's mom always seemed to be looking for something, but what this was Grace didn't know. Then Mom drowns, and Grace is sent to live with a grandmother she's never met (Backstory: Mom was supposedly kicked out of the house when she became pregnant with Grace, and she never looked back). Shortly after arriving at her grandmother's place, Grace discovers a series of clues her mother left for her, which, when solved, helps her learn the truth about her family history and discover things about herself (Backstory: each time they moved, Mom would set up a scavenger hunt to help Grace acclimate to her new surroundings).

Sounds like a really great feel-good story about family and growing up, all wrapped up in a mystery, doesn't it? That's what I was expecting after reading all those glowing reviews.


Unfortunately, I couldn't even get into the story, much less finish it. The plot kind of drags, and the characters I met weren't very likable. Grace was whiny and negative and, when she spoke, she didn't sound like a 12-year-old girl (rather, she sounded like a middle-aged woman trying to write the part of a 12-year-old girl). Grandmother was simply awful: Cold, filled with unreasonable rules, and just plain something out of an old VC Andrews novel. Mom, for what little I learned of her, sounded like a candidate for the nuthouse. Totally bi-polar. Side characters I met were never really fleshed out beyond a single dimension. 

Maybe the characters improve. Maybe there's that A-ha moment where Grandma bakes Grace a batch of warm chocolate-chip cookies with love in every bite and the two hug and become a loving little family. Maybe the story picks up and gets really exciting. Maybe this becomes one of those books you want to hug when you finish it.


Sadly, I will never find out (and don't much care if I do), because I couldn't get far enough into the book to learn whether or not those things happened. So the recommendation is not to be. 

I DO, however, want a chocolate chip cookie!--AJB

Monday, March 23, 2015

Song of the Sea (new in Teen DVD)

NEW! In Teen DVD: Song of the Sea

Six years earlier, the night Ben's sister Saoirse (pronounces seer-sha) was born, their mother vanished into the sea, sending the children's father into a deep, self-absorbed depression. For this upheaval of his happy family life, Ben blames Saoirse and doesn't even try to disguise his constant anger toward her.

Then on her 6th birthday, Saoirse steals a seashell flute from Ben's room. When she plays it, something is awakened...and that something leads the girl into the ocean. Here we learn Saoirse isn't exactly human. She's a selkie, a mythological being that is part girl, part seal. Her father finds her washed up on the shore, wrapped in a magical fur coat and clutching the seashell flute.

For the children's protection, their father sends them to live with their strict grandmother in a distant city. A city as far from the seaside as one can get. Wanting to get back home to his beloved dog, who was left behind in the move, Ben runs away...and Saoirse follows. 

Not long after, the children are kidnapped by a mysterious trio and taken to a secret cave. Here they learn the truth: A terrible Owl Witch has been turning the world's magical creatures to stone, and only the selkie's song can restore everything to as it should be. Problem is, Saoirse is mute. She can't even speak, let alone sing.

Time is running out, and the children must rescue the world of magic before it's too late--for magic and for Saoirse.

What follows is an epic adventure about family, love, and self-discovery. Ben and Saoirse learn to work together and, in doing so, learn to care about each other and become a family. Each also learns things about themself they never believed they were capable of.

Song of the Sea is gorgeous film. It's full of unique mythology (unique as in not Greek/Percy Jackson mythology), and the quest, full of narrow escapes, will keep you wondering until the end. The animation isn't as complex or detailed as that of a Disney film, but it's beautiful in its simplicity. It's a movie worth watching. --AJB

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Like Manadrin by Kirsten Hubbard

Grace Carpenter is the ultimate "Good Girl," but she has secretly idolized the wild, free-spirited Mandarin Ramsey since she was 6 years old.  Now at 14, Grace is paired with Mandarin, 17, for a school assignment. Grace is thrilled with this arrangement. Mandarin adopts Grace and brings the younger girl into her exciting world of secret parties, skinny-dipping, and plans to someday run away to California. At first, Grace is thrilled. But then she begins to see a dark and destructive side to her new friend. Mandarin seems like she's on a one-way collision course with a tragic ending. And it no one can save her. Not even Grace.

Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin reminded me a lot of John Green's books. Particularly Looking for Alaska, where a previously sheltered teen is charmed by a wild classmate and drawn into her world--only to have things end badly. The character of Mandarin reminded me a lot of Alaska. Both girls are from broken homes, both had a tragic childhood, and both are spontaneous, bad-girl types destined for an unhappy ending.

Like Mandarin was fantastic! Like with Green's books, characters, setting, and plot are exquisitely detailed. You, the reader, will be instantly drawn into the story and will experience every emotion right along with the characters. I absolutely recommend this one!

Like Mandarin is currently located on our New Book shelf. For similar books, try Wanderlove, also by Kirsten Hubbard and The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour. --AJB

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Beauty, by Lisa Daily

What if you woke up one morning and, suddenly, had everything you ever wanted? You'll find out in Beauty, by Lisa Daily (one of our "New" books). 

Molly has never been pretty or popular. Not even close. Between the frizzy hair and zits, she's the epitome of adolescent awkwardness. Worse, she's snubbed by mean girls, teased by her brother, and the guy she likes doesn't know she exists (of course).  Even Molly's own mother (a former beauty queen) thinks she needs help in the looks department. Or seems to. Everything comes to a head at the local fair. Feeling like her life is over, Molly wanders to the deserted edges of the carnival and encounters Dharma, a strange artist who offers to sketch Molly's portrait...with one condition: Molly must not look at the drawing (not even peek) until she gets home.

The next day, Molly awakens to discover she's become the most beautiful girl in the school. Maybe even the town. Suddenly, Molly has everything she's ever wanted: Adoration, admiration, popularity, and a date with the cutest guy in school.

Life is perfect!

Or is it?

Molly learns that having ultimate beauty and popularity aren't everything she thought it would be. Her best friend wants nothing to do with her, her beloved dog doesn't recognize her, and she's not sure if people genuinely like her for herself or only because she's beautiful. It's a nightmare!

But unless she can find Dharma and get her to un-do whatever magic spell she cast, Molly will be forever stuck in a life that isn't her own.

Beauty is predictable (it reminded me a lot of Tom Hanks' movie Big), and even a bit cliche, but enjoyable just the same. There are valuable lessons here too: Be careful what you wish for...Don't judge on appearances... etc...  Molly is one of those characters who does a lot of maturing over the course of the story, beginning things as a whiny, self-absorbed brat and emerging as a well-rounded and confident young lady. I enjoyed watching her growth. And I cheered for her happy ending.

Beauty is not the most deep book you'll read this month, but it'll keep you reading. Besides, sometimes you need something light and fluffy to balance out all that heavy reading you have to do for school. --AJB

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard

Travis has always wondered about his dead-before-he-was-born dad. In search of answers, he decides to run away from his mom's house in California and make it own his own out to his grandmother's in rural Minnesota. In the first couple of days he discovers a human head in the basement- no worries it's made out of cheese, that his dad may have been involved in a major bank robbery, and that his plunder may still be out there for someone to find. Along with the kids next door Trav embarks on a summer and an adventure of a lifetime.

Murder, mystery, friendship, even a little romance mixed in. Turn Left at the Cow sounds great, right? Well then I will have to be the bearer of bad news. This book was bad. Like eww, get that away from me right now bad. When I picked this book up I thought the title sounded cute, even a little goofy and ignored the "blah" cover art. By the end of the first chapter I knew I wasn't going to make it to the end. I continued to read because the mystery still intrigued me. However, after fifty (or so) pages in I just couldn't do it anymore. I swear this book mocked me as I walked by.

The summary and title easily drew me. Again, I thought the general idea of the plot sounded good. However, the characters lacked depth and I just wasn't able to relate to them (and I don't think many teens will once they start reading). I also felt that there were a lot of details missing, if these had been there maybe the story would have been flowed better. All in all if you are looking for a good adventure story ignore this one and ask a teen librarian for a recommendation. We would love to help!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Since spring and summer is right around the corner and the weather being warmer made me want to read more some love stories. Love, Lucy is a great example of a love story. April Lindner introduces to Lucy Sommersworth, a girl who has spent most of her struggling with her own desires to pursue acting, and her father's wish for her to have a more practical career (e.g. business). As a compromise to her father, Lucy agrees to follow in his footsteps, in exchange for a trip to Italy. But it's on that trip to Italy, that Lucy meets Jesse and begins to realize that life isn't what she expected. After she returns home, she quickly finds that her summer romance is continuing to influence her life. 

Italy is the place to experience the streets, the people, the food, and the culture and one thing I could relate to Lucy is the need to get lost in a foreign country. I love just going where the path takes you, especially when traveling to foreign counties. It really is a serene and beautiful as Lucy described it. I truly felt how realistic the experience was for Lucy, it was like April Lindner actually experienced it herself and went through the same emotions as she did, and I love this authenticity in writing.   *JK*

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cold In Summer, by Tracy Barrett

A lost little girl....

A town that's been drowned beneath a lake....

A hundred-year-old mystery....

Fresh from our New Tween Collection comes Cold In Summer, by Tracy Barrett, a fantastic mystery/ghost-story that is so good you'll be reading it under the blankets with a flashlight long after you've gone to bed!

Ariadne's family has just moved from their sunny Florida neighborhood to a small, rural community in Tennessee. Ariadne's family seems to be adapting just fine, but Ariadne, 12, feels very lonely. She misses her best friend, Sarah, and everything about "home." There's nothing in this new place for her.

Then Ariadne encounters May Butler in the woods near the local lake. Despite May's old-fashioned clothes, cryptic way of speaking in riddles, and odd habit of seeming to vanish at a moment's notice, there's something about May that makes Ariadne think this girl could become a friend. 

But not everything is as it seems.

There's a local legend about a young girl who vanished mysteriously just before the local dam was built a hundred years earlier, flooding the valley and drowning the town that once existed there. This missing girl's name was also May Butler. Could Ariadne's new friend be distantly related to the missing girl?

Or is the May Butler of the past and the May Butler of the present the same person?

This is a mystery only Ariadne can solve.

Pay no attention to the drab cover (Rule: Don't Judge!). Cold In Summer is a fantastic middle-grade story! Readers will be drawn in immediately and enjoy piecing together the clues to solve the mystery as it unfolds. Check it out today!

p.s. If you liked Cold In Summer, try Wait Till Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn. --AJB

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Dragon's Tooth, by N.D. Wilson

If you liked Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan) and Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) and are looking for what to read next, head on over to our Tween Area and grab The Dragon's Tooth, by N.D. Wilson. This is the first in a fantastic trilogy that's packed with high adventure, heart-pounding excitement, and non-stop action that will keep you on the edge of your seat. We promise you won't be able to put it down!

Cyrus Smith never thought there was anything special about his life. Since the death of his parents a few years earlier, he and his sister, Antigone, have lived a fairly boring existence with their older brother Dan and helped operate the family's run-down motel. But not many guests come to stay, so there's not much to do. 


On a day that begins like any other, a reclusive old man with a skeleton tattoo arrives and makes some very particular demands. By morning, the motel has burned down, the old man is dead, and Cyrus is in possession of a set of very unusual keys that, in the hands of the diabolical Dr. Phoenix, could spell the end of the world as we know it. Just before the bad guys arrive on the scene, Cyrus and Antigone are kidnapped by a hulking stranger who informs them that their family is part of an secret Order of magicians, explorers, and sages who have been keeping the world in balance for thousands of years. Now they must begin training so they can take their rightful place among these great men and women.

But that's not the whole story.

Years earlier, their parents got involved in something that caused them to fall out of favor with the Order (their deaths were no accident). And now, because of this, Cyrus and Antigone are outcasts. But despite being hated by nearly every member of the Order, Cyrus and Antigone must stay within the walls and train. Because staying means they will be offered a certain amount of protection. 

But Dr, Phoenix knows Cyrus has the keys to ultimate power. He knows where Cyrus is. 

And if Cyrus makes one wrong move... 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Burn Baby, Burn Baby by Kevin Craig.

Francis Fripp, (France to his best friend Trig), endured years of abuse from his dad, culminating in a horrific burning incident when he was in elementary school. Now he is 17, and his dad cannot come anywhere near him, but France continues to suffer from the relentless tormenting, bullying and name-calling of some of his peers because of the physical scars his dad left him with. Readers will quickly realize that France also has massive emotional scars which seem to cause him even greater harm and put the good parts of his life at risk; he doesn’t think he is worthy of romantic attention from the new girl in school, Rachel Higgins, and that the long friendship and unconditional support of Trig are undeserved.

This is a story of a young man trying to find where he fits in a cruel, but unfortunately all too realistic world, where the school jock/chief bully keeps getting away with his sadistic behavior towards Francis, until one of his own henchman finally sees the truth and speaks up for Francis, in a violently shocking and unexpected conclusion. Readers will be drawn into the relationship between France and Trig, a true friendship between two young men who have grown up together, with a bond that apparently cannot be broken, even when France pushes Trig away for caring too much. The typical older, male teen interests of girls and alcohol are included, but in a believable way; readers will understand why Francis thinks he needs to drink before he can talk to Rachel, and applaud her for telling him not to. The secondary characters are equally well-drawn, especially Trig’s dad, who is a gem of a male role-model to fatherless Francis.

At times this story was so vividly written it was impossible to keep reading; brace yourself for the horrific first-person descriptions of the abuse suffered by Francis as a child. This is a truly unforgettable novel for older teens, with characters that will stay with the reader long after the all-too brief 150 pages have been devoured.
(Burn Baby, Burn Baby by Kevin Craig.Published December 2014 by Curiosity Quills Press. Reviewed by Sian Marshall)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Carnival at Bray, by Jessie Ann Foley

It's 1993, and Maggie Lynch, 16, couldn't feel more lost.

Her emotionally unstable mom has just married her latest fling, a guy she barely knew four months, and uprooted the entire family, forcing a move from the familiar Chicago neighborhood to a dreary small town on the coast of Ireland. Unlike her outgoing younger sister, Maggie has trouble making friends her own age and fitting in at her strict Catholic school. She misses her old home, her friends, her grandmother. But she misses her rocker Uncle Kevin the most of all. Despite that her family thought Kevin was a horrible influence, there was no one Maggie related to better. Despite their 10 year age difference, Uncle Kevin was the only person in Maggie's life who treated her like an equal, like a person, and not like a child. He was her best friend, and the only person she fully trusted.

And now he's an ocean away. 

As the winter rain falls outside, Maggie spends hours shut in her room, listening to the bands Uncle Kevin introduced her to: Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and especially, especially Nirvana. This music is the only thing that makes sense to Maggie. It's the only thing that makes her feel connected to anything resembling a normal life.

Then comes two very important turning points: Maggie falls deeply in love with a local boy and a sudden tragedy strikes her family.

Spurred into action by these events, and armed with a pair of concert tickets Uncle Kevin sent in his last care package, Maggie runs away from home to make a forbidden trip to Rome where she will finally see the band whose music kept her company during those lonely hours. But it's more than just a road trip. More than just a concert. It's the beginning of everything. And, in some ways, the end.

The Carnival at Bray, by Julie Ann Foley, initially sparked my interest because it is set in the time period when I was a teen--so I suppose one could call it historical fiction. But despite the dated pop culture references, mentions of bands now considered "classic rock," lack of modern technology (no cell phones), and absence of social media, it's still a story that's relatable to teens of today. Family drama, first love, music, unexpected changes, and finding one's place in the world...these are still very important and relevant issues, and The Carnival at Bray handles them beautifully. Maggie is a very "real" character, and Eoin is positively crush-worthy! 

The Carnival at Bray was up for several awards this year, and, having read it, it's easy to see why. This one is definitely recommended. --AJB

p.s. On a side note, I'd like to mention that this book would me more appropriate for older teen readers. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Summer I Saved The World in 65 Days, by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Nina Ross didn't mean to start a pay-it-forward revolution that summer she turned 13. She just saw her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Chung, who had recently broken her leg and was on crutches, struggling to plant her annual marigolds... and Nina decided to help. So she snuck into her neighbor's yard and planted those flowers. 

This small deed gave Nina's happiness a boost, something she needed.

Nina had been feeling sort of lost lately. She's missing her grandmother, who passed away a few months back, and she's worried she's drifting apart from her BFF, who has become increasingly obsessed with boys, clothes, and beauty (things that Nina just doesn't "get"). But that one good deed, anonymously planting Mrs. Chung's marigolds, felt good. Really good.

It made Nina feel she had a purpose.

So Nina decides to anonymously do ONE good deed each day for the rest of the summer. All 65 days of it. She won't do it to get credit or praise. She'll just do it for the sake of doing it. Because it'll help someone out. Or just brighten their day. Nina doesn't realize what a difference these small, daily good deeds will make for the people living on her cul-de-sac. But suddenly her neighbors are smiling more and being kinder to each other. The cul-de-sac is a friendlier place.

But by helping everyone else can Nina sort out her own life dramas?

Additionally, not everyone is a fan of the mysterious "superhero" bent on helping people--and they want to expose that person for the mischief-maker they believe them to be.

Will things end happily?

You'll have to read the book to find out!

Michele Weber Hurwitz's sweetly inspiring novel The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days is one of the most adorable books I've read lately. Not only is Nina an extremely likable character, but she's real and relatable too. Reading this book just may inspire you to do something nice for someone too. This one is highly recommended. 

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days is one of the books from our NEW Tween Section, where you'll find all sorts of awesome books aimed at younger readers--AJB


Our NEW "Tween Area"
There are changes afoot in OPL's Teen Department!

FIRST: We have created a NEW "Tween Area," located against the yellow wall at the entry to the Teen Department. These shelves are packed full of quality, non-controversial books aimed at younger readers (about ages 9-12). Here, tweens"and their parents can browse great books of all generes without fear of encountering some of the more "mature" topics found in books aimed at older teen readers. 

SECOND: The Teen Series Books are now interfiled with regular Teen Fiction. We reason that, keeping all our books together (rather than separating them out) will make items easier to find. Also, we hope that our patrons will discover other great books while looking for their favorite series. 

Both changes are works in progress, however. We ask that you please mind our dust as we adjust. Thank you :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Sarah and her family have always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold and as soon as a chill can be felt in the air Sarah and her parents pack up and move on to a new home. The plastic totes and cardboard boxes don't even bother her anymore. Sarah always assumed it was the cold that bothered her parents, she could never have imagined that her run of the mill, ordinary parents were running from something bigger. Magic.

After her mother walks out, all of the magic that the family has been running from finds them. Once her mother leaves Sarah's father begins to turn into something beastly. Before the full transformation occurs he leaves Sarah in the care of her grandparents. People she didn't even know existed. Here in the middle of a forest in a crumbling castle Sarah finds out the truth of a curse that has been bestowed upon her family and will effect her too. It's up to Sarah to solve the mystery and find an answer to the curse before she becomes a monster as well...

Cat Hellisen does a great job at pulling you into Sarah's world. You will easily forget that you are not actually in the forests of the novel and that Beastkeeper is just a book in your hands. It is defiantly a must for fantasy lovers! Even if fantasy is not your favorite hopefully the love, family, magic, beasts, and beautiful imagery that runs throughout the pages will pull you in as easily as it did for me.

Beastkeeper can be found on the New shelf in the Teen Department. Enjoy!!


Blind Date With A Book

Last month we packaged up some books so you couldn't see the cover or, really, anything about the book (author, title, synopsis). The only clue was a generic tag saying what sort of book was inside (scary, funny, romantic, etc.). We called this Blind Date with a Book

The objective was to get people to get people to NOT judge a book by its cover, and to maybe get them to step out of their comfort zone when it came to reading. The ideal goal was that those who DID participate in a "blind date" would discover their new favorite book...or at least discover something great, something they, otherwise, may not have picked up at all.

To those who accepted the challenge of such a "blind date", we asked them to do a short review the books they read.

Here are some of those reviews:

Piper A. read Schooled, by Gordon KormanShe thought the book was good enough that she'd "date" another book by this author.
"I enjoyed reading this book. I really liked how it was told from different characters' perspectives. It was relatable and funny."

Ethan P. read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. He was hoping for a scary book, but was disappointed by his "date".
"It was OK. There were some plot twists, but just barely enough to interest me. It was not that scary."

Mallory A. picked up an "unusual read" and ended up with Appetite for Detention by Sloane Tanen
"It was a weird book. Pipe cleaner chicks talking about relationships and high school is kinda strange."