Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blind Date With A Book

You've heard the expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover"...right? So now's your chance to see if there's any truth to that.

During February, the Teen Department will be featuring a Blind Date With A Book display. Book "dates" will be in sealed envelopes, so you won't know what you're getting (could be adventure or romance or humor or horror or, really, anything). Take your "date" home and spend some time with it. Then fill out the "Rate Your Date" review card and turn it in at the Teen Desk for a small prize.

Maybe you'll have absolutely nothing in common with your "date"...or maybe you'll discover your next favorite book! You can't know until you give it a chance.

p.s. NO CHEATING! Do not open your "date" envelope until you're home!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Juniors, by Kaui Heart Hemmings

For some reason, I was expecting sort of a We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)/Even In Paradise (Chelsey Philpot) sort of thing with this book. You know: average teen falls in with rich family with deep, dark, awful secret...and then follows drama and possibly doomed romance worthy of Shakespearean tragedy. 

Don't know why I thought that. 

Juniors the first YA (I think) novel by Kaui Heart Hemmings wasn't like that at all. Not really. There were elements of my expectations, like the poor(ish) girl becoming involved with a family rich almost to the point of obnoxiousness, but the book didn't really meet up with what I thought.

But sometimes experiences not meeting up can be a good thing. It was for me with this book...and it was for the book's main character.

Lea (pronounced "Lay-uh", not "Lee-uh") Lane and her D-list actress mom recently moved from California to Hawaii so her mom could take a job with a new TV series. Although this move to paradise may sound idyllic, Lea is feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Not sure where, or even IF, she fits in. This feeling is only enhanced when her mom moves them from their lower middle class neighborhood to the guest cottage of the extremely affluent West family (her mom and Melanie West are sort of friends). Most teen girls would probably feel like Cinderella at the ball, but not Lea. Instead, she's wondering what the motive is. Does Melanie West want something in return? Are they just a spontaneous charity case, adopted for show or sport? What? To say Lea is suspicious is putting it mildly. She doesn't expect to ever feel "at home" living at the West property. And she certainly doesn't expect to become such good friends with Whitney and Will West, people she assumed would be shallow and snobby because of their privilege. Like with any realistic relationships, these aren't all sunshine and sandcastles. But also like any realistic relationships (the ones worth holding onto), the teens work through their differences (when they have them) and help each other grow as people.

At its heart, Juniors is a story about growing up, putting aside preconceived ideas, and learning to become the person you're meant to be. This, if done well, can be interesting enough. No magic, post-apocalyptic-ness, or paranormalcy (ronantic or otherwise) required. And Juniors did it well.

I enjoyed Juniors. Not only for its tropical setting (it's January in Michigan, ok), but also for the well-developed and realistic characters. I also appreciated that there was quite a bit of multicultural flavor to the story (Hawaii is, after all, a complex blend of different cultures and nationalities). This last bit got me curious about a few things as I read, so I kept wikipedia open nearby.  

So yeah. I recommend this one. --AJB

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cemetery Boys, by Heather Brewer

Seeking a good, old-fashioned scary story? Look no further than Heather Brewer's uber-creepy novel The Cemetery Boys

After Stephen's mom goes crazy and is committed to the local mental hospital, Stephen's dad moves them back to his hometown of Spencer, Michigan where they will live with Grandma until the finances get sorted out. Now Spencer is NOT your picturesque small town with white picket fences and welcoming, down-home attitude. Rather, it's run down and populated with bitter, superstitious people who have definitely seen better times (but not in a very long time). There's even a creepy reservoir where people have died and a local legend about Winged Ones who bring about the Bad Times and must be appeased with a sacrifice to keep those Bad Times from getting any worse. 

Right away Stephen falls in with Devon and the crowd of local teens who meet up each night in the town cemetery (a.k.a. "Playground") to drink and engage in typical teenage debauchery. He even has romance potential with Cara, Devon's Tarot Card-reading goth girl sister. But as with any horror story, things aren't what they seem. And soon Stephen is in over his head. Because the Winged Ones will be returning soon. And they'll be hungry. And what better sacrifice than an outsider?

The Cemetery Boys is my first experience with Brewer's books (we have others, but I'm not exactly into vampires...even ones that don't sparkle), and I really enjoyed it. All the right elements of a good spooky story were present (in the right mix). I'd definitely recommend this one! --AJB

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Stung by Bethany Wiggins

13517444Bees... They are necessary to our everyday life. They are almost as essential to plant life and in return our life, as water. However, when we see one we tend to scream and run around. Most of us would not be doomed, however we know the pain that is associated with a bee sting. Ouch. But what were to happen if bees carried a more deadly sting- a sting that caused a world wide epidemic. Fiona Taris doesn't have to imagine because in her divided post-apocalyptic world this is exactly the case. The Bee Flu has run rampant across the nation. The only way to survive is caution and luck. Those parents in power and that have wealth even attempt a vaccine for their children. Of course vaccines have almost annihilated Polio, the Mumps, and various other diseases. Why not this one? When Fiona awakens not remembering why her home is destroyed and her family missing she finds out just what destruction the flu and the vaccine have created.

Stung is a must read for all dystopian lovers. The story runs along the same lines as Divergent (read and maybe you will catch it). However, with an interesting plot and all of its twists and surprises you'll be holding your breath and breaking your promise to your self of stopping after "just one more chapter". There is enough romance, suspense, and even a little blood for all genre readers. Stung is located on our New Book Shelf!

P.S. If you like the first book, author Bethany Wiggins wrote a second book, Cured, that continues Fiona's story along with adding in a new perspective and several new characters.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Riddle Me This...

Beginning Monday January 25, the Teen Department will be featuring a Riddle of the Week. Sometimes they'll be obvious, other times very difficult. Either way, you'll have three chances to come up with the right answer. If you DO answer correctly (remember, you only get three tries, so make them count!), you'll receive a piece of candy*. If you get it wrong... Well, better luck next week.

*only ONE per person per week.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science may be a short book (just shy of 80 pages), but it's exteremely interesting. And, as the title promises, it's kind of gross and freaky if you think too much about it. Or even a little.

And you will think about it! Really. How can you not?!? I mean, the guy had a metal rod blasted through his skull!!

The year is 1848. Phineas Gage, 26, a foreman for Rutland & Burlington Railroad, is heading up the construction of the rail passage through Vermont's Green Mountains. As you might imagine, there is quite a lot of rock to plow through. But back then there were no bulldozers, cranes, or drills. No modern equiptment. To do what they did, the men had to use picks, shovles, and manual labor. They also used (highly volitile) black powder to blast through rock. It was dangerous work, and safetey standards were pretty lax. So accidents were common. 

On a late summer afternoon, Phineas Gage was victim to one such accident. While packing a hole with black powder, the charge misfired and blasted Gage's 13-pound iron packing rod back toward him...and right through his head! The rod entered just below the eye, passed through his frontal lobe of his brain, and out through the top of his skull near the hairline. 

Such an injury should have killed Phineas Gage--especially back then when medical science was still pretty primitive. But it didn't. In fact, he lived another 11 years! 

How did he survive so long? Were there any consequences to such a severe injury? You'll just have to read the book to find out.

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman, talks a lot about the anatomy and science of the brain. And it also goes pretty in-depth (at times) about advances in medicine since Gage's time. But it does so in a way that's not boring. I promise! Not unlike one of my favorite TV shows, Mythbusters, Phineas Gage entertains while it educates.

Bonus Round #1: You can gross out your friends and impress your teachers by things you've read in this book. 

Bonus Round #2: It's got a skull on the cover, so you'll look cool reading it in public.

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science is awesome on multiple levels. And I definitely recommend it. 


Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Breakfast Club (DVD)

File this one under the category of "Over-Hyped and Underwhelming."

Because multiple sources have described The Breakfast Club as "the quintessential teen movie," I've chosen to review it for this blog...despite that the library houses it in the Adult section due to an "R" rating (This rating is mainly because of the profanity sprinkled throughout the dialogue. There's also some drug and alcohol references, but nothing I'd consider excessive. Such things are practically pedestrian in today's teen films. The movie would likely be PG-13, if it were rated by today's more lax standards). It is this mature rating that prevented me from being permitted to watch the film while still a teenager. And, in the years since, I supposed it just slipped under my multi-media radar. 

However, in the last few books I've read, the movie was referenced no fewer than three times. My curiosity finally getting the better of me, I checked it out and watched it for the first time last night. 

And I was highly disappointed. Because, plot-wise, nothing really happens. This "Nothing" concept may have worked for Seinfeld. It did not work for The Breakfast Club.

To sum up: Five teens representing five stereotypes (The Jock, The Popular Kid, The Loser, The Brain, The Goth) are shut in the school library for an all-day detention. They sleep, they fight-physically and verbally, they confess their deepest secrets, and they eventually become friends. Honestly, it's like a setup for a bad psychological experiment to test what happens when complete strangers are locked up together and forced to interact without cell phones or any other means of entertaining themselves (of course, the characters ARE in a library, which, in my humble opinion, would be plenty entertaining). Or the setup for a bad joke ("A Jock, A Brain, and Goth walked into a library..."). Or a bad horror film (A Zombie Apocalypse would have improved the movie immensely). 

My none-to-stellar reaction is likely due, at least in part, to the movie being so over-hyped. It's happened before. Also, John Hughes, the director who gave us such classic gems as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, and the Home Alone trilogy, is pretty much made of awesome. So I was expecting something spectacular. Something life-changing. Something so amazing that it rearranged the stars, caused the planets to align, and made cats and dogs put aside their differences and start a fool-proof campaign for world peace. What I got was something so dull I had to force myself to keep watching. 

In short: To paraphrase my favorite pop culture feline, Grumpy Cat, "I watched The Breakfast Club once. It was awful." 

Well, not awful. Just...really...boring.

And p.s. Bart Simpson's delivery of the line "Eat my shorts" was far superior to Judd Nelson's. I'm just saying.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

There are stories where it's obvious from the start who is a hero and who is a villain (Superman vs. Lex Luther...Harry Potter vs. Lord Voldemort/He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named...Inigo Montoya vs. Count Rugan/The Six-Fingered Man). As you read or watch, you know who to cheer for and who to, well, "Boo!". You know who you want to win and who you hope will be defeated/vanquished.

Nimona, an awesome new graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, is not one of those stories. 

Lord Blackheart, infamous and notorious supervillain (he even has an appropriately evil villain lair! how awesome is that?!?), has made it his life's ambition to make trouble for The Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and The Institution's favorite champion, Sir. Ambrosius Goldenloin. Blackheart hasn't really done anything bad enough to warrant arrest followed by execution. Embarrassingly, some of his plans have even failed quite epically. That is, until a ginger-haired girl named Nimona shows up and claims to be his new sidekick. But this spunky teen is not who she seems. Nimona, readers learn, can shift shape at well as some other things that make her pretty much invincible. And she's pretty bloodthirsty. Right off, she seems to be feeding some sort of mysterious vendetta that won't be made known until much later (sorry, no spoilers). As Nimona's hijinks become increasingly deadly, finally threatening the entire kingdom, Lord Blackheart is forced to ask himself some pretty serious questions and revisit the ghosts from his own past that transformed him into the villain he is--or thought he was (again, no spoilers). By the final pages, readers will be questioning everything they thought they knew about heroes, villains, and everyone in between. Because not everything is as it first seems to be (for the third time, no spoilers! quit asking and read the book!). And sometimes, people can change.

Nimona was recommended to me by a coworker who loved it and thought I might too. And she was right! Nimona is awesome and quirky and epic and all the things I look for in a book. There's even the right balance of humor and Lifetime-Movie-Of-The-Week warm fuzzies. Absolutely recommended for anyone who enjoys a good story. --AJB

p.s. I'd ask for a sequel, but I know it could never measure up to the awesomeness of the original. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Earlier this year, it felt like I kept hearing about this book.  Sometimes that can be reason enough for me not to read it but I am very happy that I gave this a chance.  Even though I read it months ago, it still sticks with me.

Glory O'Brien's life is far from normal.  Since her mother died, her home life has been bleak.  Her father loves her but they exist in a mutual avoidance of conversation.  Neither one wants to talk about their grief.  Her only friend, Ellie, lives across the street in a kind of hippy commune with her family.  One night, when everything is feeling a little too depressing, the girls take a petrified bat that has turned to dust and mix it with a cheap beer.  Suddenly, Glory can see everyone's infinite past and much more finite futures, to their final descendants.  What she sees is terrifying.

In the future she sees a civil war in a country where women have lost all of their rights and become nothing more than property.  In the past she sees war after war, in different places and different times.  But Glory can't see her own future and she's not sure what that means. -RYQ