Friday, September 30, 2016

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake

I didn't realize author Kendare Blake's new novel Three Dark Crowns was the first in a trilogy (duology?) when I picked it up. And I'm not sure I'd have read it had I known. As of late, I typically avoid anything that's not a stand-alone for the simple fact that I prefer books that have definite beginnings and definite endings. I'm glad I read it, though. Of course I AM chomping at the bit to find out what happens next (because what a cliffhanger!!), but there's no denying that this book was amazing!

Three Dark Crowns is The Hunger Games meets The Selection meets The Parent Trap...with some serious Awesome mixed in. It centers around royal triplets Katehrine, Arsinoe, and Maribella, each supposedly born with a special magical power. The girls have been raised separately, and for good reason. Upon their sixteenth birthday, they must battle each other (as in fight to the death) for the Crown. This has been how the people of Finnbirn have chosen their ruler since the dawn of time.

But this year's battle is different: Katherine, a Poisoner, and Arsione, a Naturalist, have yet to come into their powers. Katherine cannot endure even the most mild of poisons without becoming violently ill. And Arsinoe couldn't even grow a dandelion in the height of summer. The only sister with any real power is Maribella, and she is the strongest Elemental anyone has seen in generations. Of course Maribella is the obvious choice. Anyone can see that.

But wait...

There's a twist! (isn't there always?) But I won't spoil it here, even though you may guess just from reading this review.

Three Dark Crowns is a fantastic start to this story arc, and I highly recommend you read it before Hollywood acquires the rights and does it's (accidental?) best to ruin yet another amazing YA book. --AJB

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Run, by Kody Keplinger

Run, by Kody Keplinger may seem, at first, like your typical opposites-attract friendship story (with a road trip element). And, in many ways, it is. Agnes Atwood is the Good Girl who has never broken curfew, never failed a class, and never defied her parents in any way. She's never even held hands with a boy. Bo Dickinson, whose name is synonymous with 'trouble' in the small town of Mursey, is just the opposite: rebellious, promiscuous, notorious... She's the quintessential Bad Girl and proud of her reputation. Despite their differences, the girls become fast friends. And they, along with the reader, learn there's much more to the other than meets the eye. No stock character stereotypes here. And this is the thing that saves the book and keeps it from being Just Another Road Trip Book.

And there IS a Road Trip. Fearing being sent into foster care after he mother's arrest for selling drugs, Bo decides to flee town in search of her estranged father (and the money she hopes to get from the man). She asks Agnes to accompany her, and Agnes agrees. The girls "borrow" Agnes' sister's car and, before they know it, this teenage Thelma and Louise are on the run from the law. Things are kind of predictable from here on out. There's a spot of romance. There's some "I've-never-told-anyone-this-before" revelations. There's some drama and some conflict. And there's the Happy Ending resolution.

But the main focus for me is the friendship that is cemented between the two girls over the course of the story. And, of course, the wonderful character development. Aside from that, there's really nothing new about this book that hasn't been done before. Run is a good read, especially for those who are looking for realistic Friendship Books, but it isn't anything unique.

Run is a good recommendation if you liked John Green's Paper Towns. --AJB

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pirates vs. Wizards

Pirates = 7

Wizards = 2

In honor of Pirate week (Sept. 19-24), the Teen Department asked patrons to vote for their favorite: Pirates or Wizards. A total of 9 people voted, and Pirates won by a landslide! Congratulations, Pirates! You win! Huzzah!

Congratulations as well to Katherine Lewis, winner of the Pirates vs. Wizards contest.

Up Next:
Banned Books Week (Sept. 26-30). Stop by all this week and make Black Out Poetry, take a Book Mug Shot, and guess the shredded banned book.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand

I'm definitely a fan of historical fiction and romance. My Lady Jane, who are written by the co-authors, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, is absolutely magical, adventurous, and heartwarming. I don't see how anyone could fail to fall in love with this story and its wonderful characters.

I seriously don't want to ruin any of the plot, so I'll just say this book is surprisingly hilarious. Basically, the story starts out adding its own twist on history, but then ends up chucking history out the window and rewriting a happier ending for King Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, and Lord Guildford Dudley. All of the familiar faces like Elizabeth I, Bloody Mary, and Mary Queen of Scots are featured. And the new ending could totally still fit in with actual history. There were so many hilarious references and actual lines pulled straight out of Monty Python and the Princess Bride. And Guildford's character kept coming up with a ton of Shakespeare's lines. I especially loved the characters and the mixing in of actual history with a fictional book. It was quite well done!

I also loved the slow-burn romance. Jane and Guildford, otherwise known as "G", were total strangers upon their first meeting at their wedding and hated each other. Of course, they gradually learned to tolerate one another, though there were too many annoying almost-kisses in my opinion. Lady Jane can be pig-headed and silly at times, but she's also brave and fearless and bold. Although I think she is a little too bold for this time period. *JK*

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pirate Week

Monday September 19 is Talk Like A Pirate Day, but we at OPL Teen decided that one day just isn't long enough to give props to the awesomeness of our favorite High Seas Buccaneers. So we've extended the celebration to all week long. 

Stop by the Teen Area Monday September 19 thru Saturday September 24 and take part in several Pirate-Themed activities:
  • Exercise your brain and figure out daily Pirate Riddles (guess it right in three tries and win a small prize!)
  • Color a Pirate-Themed picture or do a Pirate-Themed Puzzle.
  • Vote in our Pirates vs. Wizards contest (winner randomly drawn on Monday September 26 to win a cool surprise prize)
  • Attend a special screening of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas on Saturday September 24 @ Noon.
  • And More!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier

Author-Artist Raina Telgemeier has addressed such teen-relevant topics as image, unrequited crushes, sibling rivalry, and general angst with light-hearted flare and painfully real humor. However, her latest book, Ghosts, moves into the much darker, more serious territory: Death. (not to say that image, unrequited crushes, and family drama aren't serious, but compared with death...well...)

It's all Maya's fault Catrina has to leave her friends and life as she knows it behind to move to the chilly, coastal town of Bahia de la Luna. Not that Cat begrudges her little sister.  She doesn't. Well...maybe a little. But she'd never say so. Maya has cystic fibrosis, a disorder that makes breathing very difficult. The windy, foggy climate of their new town is supposed to help (and Cat really wants Maya to get better). Still, because of the seriousness of Maya's illness, death is a very real thing. No one really talks about it, but it's there. Like a... Well, like a ghost that can be felt and sensed, but not seen.

Unlike the cautious, fearful Cat, Maya approaches everything about life with excitement and optimism, whether it's an encounter with a stray cat or or meeting Carlos, an older boy who leads the town's Ghost Tours. And there are A LOT of ghosts in Bahia de la Luna. Especially as the annual Day of the Dead Celebration approaches. Cat is freaked out by that idea of ghosts and death, but Maya is intrigued. Very much so. And this annoys Cat, who, at first, just doesn't get it. Readers (Cat too) will eventually learn that little girl's fascination stems from more than just simple curiosity. She honestly wants to know what happenes when people die, because people with her serious condition typically have a much shorter life span than those who are 100% healthy. 

Although Ghosts touches on some very serious topics, it's not a morbid or depressing story. Just the opposite, in fact. Themes of friendship, family, and finding one's place run strong throughout this amazing book which, in my opinion, is the author's best to date. There's even a touch of fantasy/magical realism woven in, which is something I appreciated. And, of course, there's the artwork! Telgemeier's fans won't be disappointed. Five stars! --AJB

Friday, September 9, 2016

Jem and the Holograms: Dark Jem

This series just keeps getting better and better! I mean, it's got pretty much everything I could ask for in a graphic (or any story, really): Plot twists, humor, romance, fantastic characters, cool sci-fi elements, superheroesque elements (what with the whole secret identity thing), and eye-catching artwork.

The author-artist team of Kelley Thompson and Sophie Campbell dish up a fantastic story with Jem and the Holograms: Dark Jem. Readers learn that there's something very wrong with Synergy, the super-smart Supercomputer Jerrica Benton uses to transform into Jem and make her band happen. This virus, which was hinted at in volume #2, Viral, has broken free of Synergy and now calls herself Silica. And Silica is determined to take over the world with her twisted new music. We're talking total world domination (isn't it always world domination?). She has first infected the Holograms, turning them into mindless zombies who will spread her virus far and wide.

Meanwhile, at Camp Misfit, the ladies find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They're determined to be loyal to each other, but with Pizzazz still recovering from injuries sustained in a recent car accident and unable to sing, they must find a new lead singer PRONTO! And who should fit the bill perfectly, but their good friend and fangirl Blaze. But Blaze has a secret. A secret that could change everything... 

So then... Silica's virus is spreading, and something has to be done! The girls are at a loss. Then help comes from the most surprising place...

Jem and the Holograms: Dark Jem is by far my favorite in this series so far. Not only does the story arc wrap up in the best possible way (with a new little cliffhanger hinting at more to come--Squee!), but the character development is phenomenal! Especially when it comes to the Misfits. It's something I wish the old TV show would have done (btw: On the TV show, the Misfits were pure evil. Like Cruella DeVille, puppy-killing evil). In the graphic series, though, they're more sympathetic. More like-able. Sure, the Misfits are still competative when it comes to the Holograms, but they don't hate them enough to maim or commit felony. In this series, they're funny, loyal, and accepting (the way they handled that thing with Blaze...Awwww!). And they're actully quickly becoming my favorite part of the series. So, yes, I'm totally adding Stormer, Roxy, Jetta, and, yes, even Pizzazz to my list of Characters I Want to Hang Out With. Even minor side characters like Eric, TechRat, and Craig are well-rounded. 

If you're a fan of the first two books, you definitely want to pick up Jem and the Holograms: Dark Jem. Because how can a story about rivals teaming up to fight a mind-contoling computer NOT be awesome?! --AJB

p.s. Still wonder what Jetta and Roxy did to snap Blaze and Clash out of their zombification. Guess I'll have to use my imagination on that one...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The X-Files: The Event Series (TV Show)

Watching The X-Files: The Event Series (a.k.a. Season X) was sort of like attending your 20 year high school reunion and trying to have a meaningful conversation with a friend you haven't had any sort of contact with since graduation. Sure, it's good to see them again. But the truth of the matter is, once you've reminiced about your shared past, you find you really don't have much to say to each other. Because that much catchup with someone you haven't had anything to do with in two decades... It's just too much effort. So you just assume that not much has changed with your old friend and keep conversation to small-talk.

It was kind of like that. 

When the X-Files mysteriously reopen, Mulder and Scully are reunited. And, apart from looking older, they really aren't that different from the last time around. They still have the same hangups, obsessions, and personal angst as they did during the original series. So no real character development. If you were expecting that, sorry to disappoint (there was a bit of character suicide, but not enough to rant about).

Only two of the six new episodes deal with the original UFO/Alien/Conspiracy Mythology. The rest are either cheesy Monsters-of-The-Week types or are so graphically horrifying (we're talking blood & guts & severed limbs) they could easily be part of a horror movie. You'll see monsters that change into men, kids who use the Emergency Broadcast tone to drive people insane, the one and only Fox Mulder on a line-dancing, yee-hawing bad drug trip, and an abundance of poorly-disguised Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout. And the ending... Let's just say my reaction to the end was similar to that of the kid from The Princess Bride when Grandfather revealed that no one actually killed Prince Humperdink ("Gee-Wiz, Grandpa! What the heck did you read me this for?!?").

I almost wish I hadn't watched The X-Files: The Event Series. It kind of tried to spoil some things for me that I loved about the original series.  So if you're a fan of the original series, you may want to skip this one...If only to preserve the memory of how aweseome The X-Files used to be back in the day. --AJB

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

I've really been enjoying the revival of Archie Comics.  I absolutely adore the new Archie.  I can't wait for CW's twisted take on Riverdale, which has been described as "dark" and "noir."  I tried Afterlife with Archie, which fell flat because I'm not a big fan of zombies.  When I heard about the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I could not wait.  Witches are totally one of my things and this was hyped as playing back to old school horror.
The hype was exactly right.  Warning, this is a comic more suited to older teens.  There is blood and witchcraft and horror.  It's not the sunny Sabrina that I grew up with.  It is aimed at a specific kind of horror fan but definitely at a horror fan.
That being said, I ended up really enjoying this one after a slow start.  It takes place in the 1960's and really does pull from those classic horror movies.  The first issue, learning about Sabina's birth, could be Rosemary's Baby.  It hit so many of the horror tropes: teen witches, succubi, funeral homes, raising the dead, and insane asylums.  It also used the history of New England and the Salem witch trials in the story line.  Sabrina is part witch and part human and she walks the line between these two worlds.  When she starts human high school, she falls for Harvery, an all-American boy.  Sabrina's cousin offers to help her do a love spell to attract Harvey's attention and for a while everything seems perfect.  But as her sixteenth birthday approaches, little does she know that something is being summoned in the woods that will ride into town on a wave of revenge.
I liked this one but, again, it is only going to work for older teens who like horror. -RYQ