Saturday, July 21, 2018

Guitar Hero Night

Guitar Hero Night

Tuesday July 24 @ 6:30-7:30 p.m.


Channel your inner Rock Star and play Guitar Hero on the big screen! No musical experience required, but be ready to have fun, play some mini games, and cheer on fellow guitarists as they rock their way to stardom. 


Oh yeah...and there will be snacks!

Friday, July 20, 2018

The History of Jane Doe, by Michael Belanger

Author Michael Belanger's debut novel The History of Jane Doe is a decent read-alike recommendation for anyone who loves the writings of John Green and wants something pretty much exactly like a Green novel (and I do mean exactly).

Raymond is your typical nerd whose sole passion in life is collecting obscure historical facts. Particularly those having to do with his town of Burgerville, which is famous for being home to mythical green cows. His life has thus far been boring until the New Girl shows up. Jane is mysterious, alluring, and has a tragic air about her Ray can't quite put his finger on. Her arrival seems like a miracle...especially when she picks Ray over the more popular choices to be her best friend and, eventually, her boyfriend. 

Jane becomes Ray's new reason for getting out of bed in the morning and the two have random and quirky adventures together. But Jane is hiding some Big Tragedy from her past. Something she won't talk about. And that secret is slowly wearing her down.

Of course it's only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and things spiral downward. 

I won't spoil anything, but I bet you can guess what's going to happen. Especially if you've read John Green's Looking For Alaska, which I was reminded of several times over the course of reading Jane Doe. In fact, this book was so similar it felt like a reboot of Alaska.

Unfortunately, Jane Doe wasn't nearly as good as Alaska. The plot was highly predictable and I easily guessed all of its secrets well before they were naturally revealed to me (and I promise I didn't peek ahead). Characters were more stereotypes than fleshed-out people. There was the Emo Male Protagonist, the Quirky Best Friend, and, of course, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl With LOTS of Baggage who became the Emo Male Protagonist's reason for living. This made it difficult for me to connect with, or have any sympathy for, any of them--even after the Big Tragedy was revealed. 

Overall, The History of Jane Doe wasn't terrible. It just wasn't anything new or exciting. It's been done before and done better at that.

--AJB

Monday, July 9, 2018

Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli

After devouring Becky Albertalli's novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and its film adaption, Love Simon, and loving, no, adoring, them both, I just wasn't ready to leave that world or those characters behind. And thanks to the author's spinoff Leah on the Offbeat, I didn't have to.

Seriously, you guys...I was so happy this book happened!

Leah on the Offbeat focuses on Simon's sarcastic artist/drummer-girl friend, Leah. The novel is set about a year after the events of Simon. And unfortunately, not all well among the friends: Abby has split with Nick, unwilling to attempt the long distance relationship thing when they go off to college in a few more months. And Nick is not taking the break well. Meanwhile, Simon, while still rock solid with Bram, is facing his own doubts about taking that next big step toward adulthood. And Leah, in the middle of all the friend drama whether she wants to be or not (try NOT), has her own struggles to contend with. Particularly when she unexpectedly falls for a certain classmate at the worst possible time.

Could life get more awkward?

The answer is, yes. Yes, it can. 

And it does. 

Everything comes to a head on Prom Night, but things actually turn out all right  for Leah and friends (I know, how very John Hughes of you, Becky Albertalli, but I loved it just the same). Another feel-good ending.

While I didn't get the same feels about Leah on the Offbeat as I did about Simon, I still enjoyed the book very much. I really liked Leah's character. While she comes across as tough and blunt (almost rude at times), she's someone who cares deeply about her friends and her family. At the same time, she's trying to find the courage to be true to herself. Leah is not always likable, but she's a very "real" character. Someone pretty much anyone can relate to.

I'm hoping Becky Albertalli writes more books centering on these characters. Or maybe make it so Leah on the Offbeat gets a film adaption. All I know is I'm looking forward to more good things from this author in the future. The hardest part will be waiting for that to happen.

--AJB 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Love, Simon (DVD)

Know this

I simply adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so when I learned that Becky Albertalli's iconic novel was being adapted into a movie, I was excited. And maybe a little apprehensive. After all, how many fabulously amazing books have been spoiled somewhat by absolutely horrid film adaptions as of late? Too many, in my opinion! Did I really want to witness this happening to yet another beloved book? (Not so much)

(I'm not being pessimistic, blog reader. I'm being realistic)

Somehow I missed Love, Simon when it was in the theater. Life. You know. It gets in the way sometimes - lol.

So when the Love, Simon DVD finally, at long last, crossed my desk, curiosity won out over concern. Besides, I'd heard nothing but good things about this movie. So I watched it. And I was not disappointed. 

In fact... If anything, I loved the film as much as (if not more than) the book. First of all, the casting was stellar! The characters were pretty much exactly as I pictured them while reading the book. And the director & writers obviously had the utmost respect for the source material, because the film stuck pretty close to the book. Some liberties were taken, of course (liberties are always taken, no matter what), but those didn't interfere with the film in any way and, in fact, only enhanced my overall viewing experience. Much like the liberties that were taken with The Princess Bride and the Lord of the Rings movies. 

So the verdict: Out of 5 stars, I give Love, Simon a solid 10!

For those who have not yet read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or seen the movie adaption: What's wrong with you? Only kidding :)

The story centers around Simon Spier, a likable high school student who has pretty much everything going for him. He's got an awesome family, an amazing group of friends, and is mostly pretty happy. Simon lives a fairly charmed life. Except for the fact that he's been keeping a huge secret (he's gay) from everyone.

And Simon is content to keep this bit of personal info under wraps indefinitely. Especially when he starts emailing another closeted boy from his school (alias, Blue) and, for the first time, finds the safety of common ground. Inevitablly, Simon begins falling for his secret pen pal. 

But Simon's secret may be out sooner than he thinks (or wants) when fellow student, Martin, happens to take a screenshot of Simon's emails and uses them to blackmail Simon to get a date with Abby (who, by the way, wants nothing to do with Martin). This means not only will Simon be outed, but Blue as well (whoever he is). Simon can't let that happen, so he agrees to Martin's demands.

Things obviously spiral out of control from that point.

I won't spoil the book (or the movie). But know that this is one of the most enjoyable stories out there. The characters are well-developed and likable. Even the hapless and annoying Martin. The romance is sweet. And the ending has enough happy feels to brighten even the worst day.

I adored it! (both)

--AJB

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Big Water, by Andrea Curtis


The year is 1882 and Christine is aboard the Asia steamship, making its passage through the Great Lakes to Sault Ste. Marie. She is trying to restart her life on her own after the heartbreak of losing her twin brother puts a large strain on her relationship with her parents, who cannot bare to look at her. Chris does not know how to live her life without the person that has been there through it all with her. She does not have a plan about what she will do when she gets to the Soo, but the need to run away from it all is strong enough. She isn’t traveling alone- her older cousin, Peter, happens to be the heroic first mate who acts as a mentor to Christine. After a huge storm hits, the Asia steamship and everyone on it is in trouble.

This new teen book of historical fiction takes in a heavy breathe of survival story grit. That being said, this tale is not for the faint of heart. The sinking ship alone is heavy, but Christine’s heartbreak of the death of her twin brother, becomes incredibly intense after being surrounded by the death of the passengers of the Asia. Christine also experiences some intense survivors guilt since she is one of the two people who survive the tragedy.

Big Water is a fictional tale based off of the real story of the only two survivors of the sinking of the SS Asia in 1882 in the Great Lakes.

If you are looking for a nail biting survival tale of suspense, this is it! - MC

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Neverworld Wake, by Marisha Pessl

One year ago, Bea was living a charmed life. She was popular, she had amazing friends, and she had an incredible boyfriend, the boy all the girls wanted to date and all the guys wanted to be. Everything was perfect. Until Jim's mysterious (and accidental?) death, that is. 

That's when everything fell apart.

Today Bea is a different person. Her grades have dropped, her friends have drifted away, and she spends her free time working at her parents' restaurant and trying not to think too much about the past.

Then comes an invitation from Whitley Lansing. Whitley tells Bea that the friends are reuniting for the weekend at Wincroft Estate. And against her better judgment, Bea attends. She finds everything and everyone the same, but senses there's something very wrong. Something no one is talking about. 

Then, following a near-miss car accident, a mysterious stranger arrives at the door. He tells the five teens that they are all lingering between life and death, caught in an endless loop where they are doomed to live out the same day over and over again. There is only one way to break the loop: Each day, they must vote on who lives and who dies. 

The vote must be unanimous. 

And there can only be one survivor.

(You can guess how well that plays out)

At first no one believes the Stranger and everyone goes their separate ways. But again and again they wake to find themselves back at Wincroft, repeating the same day. Some use these repetitions to do what they want without consequence, but Bea begins to look into why she and her friends are stuck in time. She suspects it has something to do with the circumstances surrounding Jim's death. Unfortunately, this is something no one will talk about.

Neverworld Wake, the first YA novel by Marisha Pessl, reminded me of a cross between We Were Liars (Lockhart) and Before I Fall (Oliver). In the best possible way! The author did a fantastic job with character development in that I didn't much like any of the characters but, as I got to know them, I became sympathetic with each and every one of them. I understood their motivations for how they behaved and why they did what they did. The plot was highly suspenseful and hauntingly strange. It kept me guessing right until the end. And, for the most part, I didn't see the twists and turns coming until they were upon me. 

That's all I'm going to say. This is the sort of book that's best read if you don't know too many spoiler-y things. In fact, the less you know going into it, the better. (I've probably already said too much)

Just read it!

You know you want to!

-AJB

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi


Zelie’s mother was a powerful maji, who was killed by the royal guards during the raid because of her ability to perform magic. At the kings command, all of the maji were ordered to to be killed in attempt to wipe out magic from the land forever. Their children, "diviners" marked with bright white hair, are spared since their magic was not supposed to reveal itself until they’re older. Without the maji, the diviners are doomed to never acquire their powers. Magic becomes a thing of the past. Almost a legend. Diviners are treated like animals, having to pay higher taxes which causes some to be forced into selling themselves into slavery. The diviners, who are referred to as "maggots", live in fear as they are also frequent victims and survivors of violent crime. They would dye or cut their hair to conceal their identities as diviners, but the white strands repeal all methods of remaining hidden.


Many years later, an artifact resurfaces that possesses the ability to give magic back to any diviners who touch it. Orisha’s rebel of a princess, Amari, escapes the castle with the stolen artifact with the help of Zelie. Teaming up with Zelie’s stubborn brother Tzain, they find themselves in an important quest to try to bring the magic back to all the diviners, “The Children of Blood and Bone”.  


Any teen will fall in love with the magical people from the land of Orisha. The diverse characters, intricate character development, and meaningful plot line will keep readers turning the pages until its over. There are also giant cats the characters ride on, so that is pretty awesome. Zelie and her cause to give the magic back to the diviners so they can stand up to their oppressors is both powerful and inspiring. This book is also told from 3 alternating points of view every chapter or so. Adults and teens alike will not be able to put this book down until it is finished. I loved it. It is everything I wanted out of a 2018 fantasy novel and more.

MOVIE ALERT: In additional exciting news, the book is signed in to become a movie in development at Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions with the incredible producers Karen Rosenfelt and Wyck Godfrey (you know them from their work in movies like- Twilight, The Fault In Our Stars, Love Simon). Read it before it hits theaters! 

-MC

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling

This is a brief review of the Audiobook version read by Jim Dale.

Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts for his 3rd year there. The prisoner Sirius Black is on the loose. Harry, throughout the school year, is told he is not safe with Sirius on the loose. Later, he meets Sirius Black and learns the unknown truth about his godfather. 

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Overall, I think the audio-book "The Secret Garden" was an interesting experience. Usually, I don't listen to audio-books. But, I think I'd definitely listen to another one after this. Furthermore, I'd absolutely suggest listening to The Secret Garden because it is a classic story and it is almost like someone is sitting there and reading to you. Looking back on this, I now realize that I like audio-books, and without this square on my bingo board I would have never tried it out. 

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

Warcross, by Marie Lu

An ever-changing virtual reality world, bounty hunters, food delivering robots, a warrior of a heroine, a slice of romance, game-changing plot twists- what more can you want from a science fiction novel?!

Warcross is the name of a virtual reality game that changes the world. You can use it to escape to a virtual island in the sun, make a “better version” of yourself in your avatar, play the actual fighting game it is used for, or keep yourself logged in on your walk to work so anyone else also logged in can see your virtual pet dragon following behind you. The Warcross tournament is an event that is kind of like the Olympics. Everyone watches from around the world. The game itself is essentially capture the flag style, but set in virtual reality with amazing power-ups like being able to fly.


Emika Chen is an orphaned teen who is struggling in life. She has a job as a waitress, but is about to be evicted from her apartment due to a lot of debt. She also works as a bounty hunter for the New York City police to make ends meet and she escapes into Warcross on her off time. An experienced hacker, she attempts to hack into a professional Warcross game to try and make some quick cash. She is caught by the game creator, young billionaire and skilled inventor, Hideo Tanaka. Quickly, Emika’s life is changing into something she did not know she would be getting herself into.

This science fiction has some seriously stellar technology flares that Emika (as a hacker) can see as breaches through its security. Any teen interested in technology would enjoy this piece of science fiction that might not be too far off from our own world after all. As Hideo Tanaka says, “everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact”.   




This book will make you feel like you have entered an episode of Netflix's Black Mirror - MC

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Flight of Dragons (DVD)

Recently I recommended ordering a bunch of animated (and Anime) films to add to our growing DVD collection. Among them was Flight of Dragons, which popped up as an "if you like...try..." recommendation for one of the other films. The reviews were glowing and Fantasy films are popular here, so I figured we'd give it a try.

Over the weekend, I decided to check it out. And, despite the decidedly old-school animation, I was not disappointed! This movie was pretty fantastic!

Flight of Dragons opens with the Green Wizard expressing his concerns about the negative impact of modern society on the environment and, in turn, the repercussions that impact is having on the realm of magic. Before his power disappears entirely, he contacts his brothers the Blue Wizard and the Yellow Wizard. Together they determine a champion is needed to defeat the diabolical Red Wizard, who has basically cursed the world and humankind to self-destruct, destroying all positive magic with it and leaving in its wake a world of evil. Pretty harsh!

Enter Peter, a gamer geek from the 20th Century. We first meet Peter while he is playing a Dungeons and Dragons-like game with an elderly friend. Although skeptical at first (because this kid hardly looks like warrior material), the three Wizards decide to trust the wisdom of the Fates that Peter's combined love of science and fantasy is what is needed to save the day. 

The Green Wizard brings Peter to the Realm of Magic, but a spell goes awry and traps the young man in the body of a dragon. But the quest happens anyway. Aided by an aging knight, a warrior princess, a Hobbit-like creature, and a magical wolf, Peter does, indeed vanquish the Red Wizard. But it is his intelligence, not his sword (or fiery breath), that saves the day. This was a twist I wasn't expecting, but really appreciated.

Although originally released in the mid-1980s, Flight of Dragons touches on some issues that are very timely today, such as environmental awareness and accepting others rather than making war with them. 

Overall, Flight of Dragons was an enjoyable movie. I'd recommend it to fans of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and other classic fantasy stories.

--AJB 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Finding Someplace, by Denise Lewis Patrick

A book you should read is a beautiful novel by Denise Lewis Patrick. It's called Finding Someplace. Reesie is turning 13 years old, August 29th, 2005. This spunky girl who is living in New Orleans believes her birthday is going to be the start of something great. However, in the middle of coconut cake and presents, one of the most deadliest hurricanes, hurricane Katrina decides to strike. Everyone else is paranoid about the staying through the storm so evacuations are made immediately. Reesie is stuck with her elderly neighbor Miss Martine. As they barely escape on a boat, the storm was not the only thing that shook Reesie. Finding Someplace talks about the importance of family and truly finding someplace to fit in. It taught me that storms can destroy anything, but it can get you closer with the people you love. - Teen Summer Reader

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Invisible Emmie, by Terri Libenson

Emmie is a talented artist, but painfully awkward and shy. Especially when it comes to boys (and one boy in particular). 

Katie is everything Emmie is not: Pretty, popular, and has no trouble talking to anyone (cute boys included).

The drama begins when a secret love letter Emmie writes about her crush is stolen by the most obnoxious boy in class and circulated through the entire middle school. Emmie is horrified! To make matters worse, Emmie has a fight with her best friend over the loss of the note. So she's never felt more alone.

What's more, the crush in question just happens to be Katie's new boyfriend! 

Katie, who has pretty much the same class schedule as Emmie, witnesses her classmate's humiliation in full...including the fact that her BF seems to return Emmie's feelings. 

What will happen next?

Will Katie confront Emmie about the note (and about her boyfriend's reaction)?

Will Katie instead help her less-popular classmate deal?

Will Emmie continue to take the teasing?

Will she finally learn to stick up for herself?

At this point, anything can happen.

But no spoilers!

Like with Terri Libenson's other book, Positively Izzy, Invisible Emmie boasts a cast of likable characters, a well-developed plot, and a surprise twist. While I didn't like Emmie quite as much as I did Izzy, there was plenty of dramatic action to keep me reading. And I still very much enjoyed the story. 

I would definitely recommend it!

--AJB



Monday, June 4, 2018

Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson

Izzy and Brianna are both students at Lakefront Middle School, but that's where their similarities end. Although the girls know (sort of) each other, they're not what you would all "friends." 

Izzy is outgoing and artistic with a knack for acting. Unfortunately, she often has her head in the clouds, which usually means she's in trouble for not doing so well in school. 

Brianna is shy and super smart, often pulling straight A's without even trying. She wishes she could get her classmates to see past her "brain" label, but doesn't know how to break out of her shell. 

Izzy has been practicing her act for the annual school talent show for weeks, and she couldn't be more excited. But when she fails a test the day before her big performance and ends up grounded (meaning no talent show), of course she sneaks out. After all, the show must go on, right? Hopefully she won't get caught...

Brianna, on the other hand, has never been comfortable in the spotlight. But when one of the main actors cancels at pretty mugh the last minute, the new drama teacher (who just happens to be Bri's mother) convinces her to fill in. Reluctantly, Bri agrees, but worries that this could only lead to disaster...

On this night, the two girls' paths cross in unforeseen ways. And the consequences of this night of drama will change them both forever. 

Terri Libenson's novel about (literal) Middle School drama, Positively Izzy, was a fun story about two very different teens. Told in alternating chapters, the reader really gets to know each character. This is something I really enjoyed about this story. But the best part was the ending. No spoilers, though.

I'd recommend Positively Izzy to fans of Raina Telgemeier. And be sure to check out Libenson's other book, Invisible Emmie, which focuses on Bri's best friend.

Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts


Watts crafts a world that is much different from our own without feeling completely otherworldly.  The city where most of the action takes place is some kind of holy city and there is talk of the New World without there ever being any real explanation of what the New World is.  The whole book has a surreal, otherworldly 1970's feel to it.  Django Conn, the rock star that everyone loves, definitely feels like Bowie and the fashions that he's ushered in fit the glam rock scene too and there is a lot of talk about the moon landing and what it might mean.

Davi has always lived in the Angelus Hotel.  His family has owned it for generations and there he has access to almost anything he could want.  He spends his time listening to music in his room and coming and going as he please, him and his sister having chased off any tutors long ago.  When Davi goes to the Django Conn concert, he spots a girl who is completely lost in the music and he can't help but feel like they are the only two people who really get it.  When the girl, Anna Z, shows up with Davi's sister's boyfriend, Davi follows her, desperate to find out who she is.  Anna Z is unlike anyone Davi has ever met before.  She talk-talk-talks about strange things until they seem to be the absolute truth.  But Anna Z is trying to escape and she needs Davi to be more than he ever has in order to free her.

This was an iffy book for me.  It was short and had short chapters, which I loved, and it reminded me a lot of Francesca Lia Block, which is honestly what kept me reading.  There was a lot here and I would like to see it with more ratings and reviews because I definitely think it's worth the read.  However, I was a little put off by the portrayal of Anna Z.  She's almost the definition of a "manic pixie dream girl" but I still liked her as a character.  I liked this book enough that I would like to seek out some more of Watts in the future but it is definitely an acquired taste.  Read it if you love music enough to think it's everything and don't mind a few strange ideas being twisted page after page. -RYQ

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Starry Eyes, by Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett is about a spectacular adventure with some cuteness, fun, romance and heartbreak.

Best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon are stranded together after a camping trip that goes wrong. With no one but each other, they are forced to face their issues. With witty jabs and insults as they try to make it back to safety. Fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature, what could possibly go wrong?

Both Zorie and Lennon are dealing with some major things happening in their lives and the one person that they would typically confide in, (each other) has been MIA. The solitude of the trail and camping allows them to open up to each other and share the things that have come between them. And they are some pretty major things. Now I'm not much of a hiker or camper, you might be able to convince me on this glamping thing, but I absolutely loved what Bennett created here.

This was such a unique setting to use for these characters and I adored Lennon's love for the trail and how it allowed him the time to come to terms with the things happening in his life. As always Bennett manages to weigh some heavy and overwhelming issues with lighthearted moments, and the story is so lovely and emotional and as always, the romance is sweet and delightful and I just want more and more.

This was a quick read but a a feel good adorable YA contemporary that I may re-read just because this  book did not let me put it down at all! I highly recommend this to YA contemporary romance fans and invite you to fall in love!

This was my first time reading Jenn Bennett's work and I can't wait to jump into more of it. *JK*

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Stay Sweet, by Siobhan Vivian

When the weather gets warm, I tend to crave light, "beachy" reads. Preferably ones with a Happy Ending (and so what if things wrap up way too easily!). And even better if the story centers around Ice Cream, which is my favorite hot weather treat.

Thus was the case with Siobhan Vivian's new novel Stay Sweet. This story is just as sweet as its title indicates. The story centers around Amelia, who just graduated high school and is about to begin her final summer working at Meade's Creamery, the local ice cream stand famous for its unique homemade flavors and its tradition of employing an all-female staff. But this summer will be special. This summer Amelia is Head Girl at Meade's, meaning she's in charge, second in command to Mead's founder, Molly Mead who, as legend has it, started making and selling ice cream to cheer her friends (and herself) when the local boys--boyfriends, fiances, brothers--were overseas fighting in WWII. Molly kept it up even after her own beau did not return from the war. Mead's has been famous ever since. 

Being Head Girl is so much more than being just a manager. It's being a mentor for the younger girls. It's forming lifelong friendships. It's being part of local history and carrying on a proud tradition. And Amelia is excited to begin.

But that all changes when Molly passes away suddenly and her grand-nephew, Grady, inherits Mead's. Grady comes into the picture with ideas for how the business should be run. Ideas Amelia feels have no respect for tradition. And one thing's for certain: Amelia will protect Mead's at all costs.

But there's more to Stay Sweet than the all-too-predictable hate-to-love relationship between Amelia and Grady. This is a story of friendship, empowerment, self-discovery, and finding one's true place in this world (and thus finding happiness). And don't forget there's also ice cream! In fact, there's a mystery involving a missing recipe for a particular mouth-watering flavor.

Stay Sweet is one of those books that will leave you smiling long after you've turned the final page. And, if you're anything like me, it'll have you craving ice cream as well!

--AJB

Saturday, May 5, 2018

9 Days and 9 Nights, by Katie Cotugno

I love Katie Cotugno's writing. Her stories always delve into challenging themes that will make you really think about how you feel about so many things!
9 Days and 9 Nights is the second book of the 99 Days series. It's been a while since I've read the first book, but Cotugno reminded me wonderfully in the first few chapters! That said, it might be better for me to read her series back to back in the near future.
The main character, Molly, is now living in Boston where she's majoring in Business and she's not the same girl she was when we first met her. She's reinvented herself and she's got a serious boyfriend and a plan... her life is back on track and getting back to normal. A European trip with her boyfriend Ian is the perfect next step.
While in London, she runs into the guy who derailed her life the last time and Ian unwittingly invites Gabe and his girlfriend to join them to the next leg of their trip to Ireland, and Molly can't share why it's so awkward without sharing the past she's managed to hide from the people in her new life.
Sometimes the plot is sort of awkward that it will make you cringe and my first reaction was, "Thank goodness this didn't happen to me!" But I definitely have to say the story will make your heart rise. There's no denying that this story is messy, but life is messy and complicated and Cotugno doesn't sugar coat anything.
This is a smart and riveting story and it reminded me again why I love the Cotugno's writing so much. Her amazing voice and writing style definitely make her a favorite author, but her realistic, stories are what keep me coming back again and again. She's an all-time favorite in the YA contemporary genre and I look forward to reading more of her books! *JK*

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Breadwinner


Inspired by the award winning historical fiction book, The Breadwinner (the animated movie) does not disappoint. Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women's freedom and behavior, Parvana’s family is completely dependent on her father to provide for them. The women of Kabul are forbidden to work, go to school, or be outside the home at all without a man. Most girls are too afraid to be outside the home under the Taliban rule. One day, her loving father is wrongfully arrested, which in turn, puts the rest of the family’s survival in danger. Eleven-year-old Parvana cuts her hair and wears boy clothes to disguise herself as a boy so that she can work and buy food for her mom, sister, and baby brother. By disguising herself as a boy, she faces new adventures and new dangers than she did before. She is forced to grow up fast in her harsh environment and copes with it by telling stories.

Throughout the movie, the viewer gets to see Parvana’s is gift in the art of story-telling come to life. The colorful story she tells throughout the movie amidst all of the tragedies she witnesses in reality becomes more than just a tale. Her story gives her a power that helps her to sustain hope throughout her challenges.

This animated movie has some strong themes of feminism and the importance of stories themselves. I also love that the author of the book that it is based off of interviewed refugees from Afghanistan to base the events off of real world experiences. The book (which we also own if you are interested in checking it out) and movie is set in the late 1990’s, and the laws and political climate are true to the story even though Parvana and her family are fictional characters. I love it so much and I would highly recommend it to any teen and especially those who enjoy a great historical fiction. 11/10 stars from me.   -MC

The Wendy Project, by Melissa Jane Osborne with artwork by Veronica Fish



The art in this graphic novel was so incredibly beautiful. The Wendy Project is a retelling of the story of Peter Pan, but this time a lot- and I mean A LOT- more sad. Seriously, it ripped my heart out. Please don’t read this if you want to cry. In fact, you can stop reading this review now. Consider this a “Lemony Snicket” warning.

The Wendy Project takes place in modern day, and we see the Darling children again by another name. In this version, they are called the Davies, which is the family that author J.M. Barrie based the Darling children off of. It should be noted if you do not know already, that J.M. Barrie, who was the original author of the story of Peter Pan, suffered a lot of personal loss throughout his life. His older brother died in a skating accident when he was just a teen. I felt like this is important to know when reading this book because I think that Melissa Jane Osborne was paying some homage to J.M. Barrie’s early childhood life in this graphic novel. Anyway, in this book, the Davies experience some serious turmoil right off the bat. While Wendy is driving, the children are in an awful car accident. Wendy and John make it out, but Michael is missing. Dealing with loss is never easy, but since Wendy and John believe he is still out there somewhere, it is even harder for them. Will they ever see Michael again?

One thing I have always loved about the story of Peter Pan is that there are many different adaptations. Even with the play or movies, the tale is usually altered from the original J.M. Barrie classic. The interesting theories that are out there about the story of Peter Pan go to show the many different ways to look at and analyze the original story. I do not want to give too much away about the twist in The Wendy Project in my review here, but this book is in full support of one of the main theories out there. If you are a fan of any Peter Pan adaptation (AND are okay with crying today), check out The Wendy Project.    - MC


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins

Great stories don't always have to involve Grand Adventures or Epic Quests. Sometimes great stories are just about life and the ordinary magic that happens every day (if one only knows how to look for it). This is the basis of Lynne Rae Perkins' Newberry Award-winning novel Criss Cross

It begins with a single wish. For something good to happen. Something different. And soon. And the story unfolds from here.

It is the summer of 1970-something, a time before cell phones and social media, and friends Debbie, Patty, Lenny, and Hector are poised to discover the meaning of life, the universe, everything. Or at least that's what each teen is hoping for. What really happens is life: Events, choices, actions, decisions. And all those things lead to other things. Snapshots of moments, ordinary and extraordinary. And these moments strung together is what makes the story so amazing.

How ironic is it that the very thing I loved most about Criss Cross is what makes writing a review so difficult? After all, nothing really happens here (and yet everything does). Criss Cross is not so much a story in the traditional sense. Rather, it captures a certain elusive feeling. Criss Cross is watching fireflies on a warm summer night. It is sharing with your best friend things silly and profound. It is the butterflies you get the first time you see your first crush. It is hearing a new song and instantly connecting with it. Criss Cross is the best kind of magic. The sort you don't need a wand or special words to conjure.    
I'll admit it: Criss Cross is not for everyone. If you want a lot of heart-pounding action or epic romance, you best look elsewhere. But if you're sick of reading about drama, love triangles, and all the ways the world could end...If you want a sweet, quiet story that will transport you... Well, Criss Cross is exactly what you're looking for. Read it! And I hope you'll love it!

--AJB

Monday, April 23, 2018

Legendary Ladies, by Ann Shen

In the past 10 years as a teen librarian, I've seen a lot of trends come and go. This years most popular book can become next year's joke...or, if nothing else, a guilty pleasure no one will admit to liking. I've seen it happen. But the one thing that always seems to be popular is Mythology. Greek, Egyptian, Norse, etc. If it's about gods and goddesses, it's sure to fly off the shelf. We can thank authors like Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame) for that.

So when I encountered Ann Shen's book Legendary Ladies: 50 Goddesses to Empower and Inspire You, I predicted it would be super popular. For one thing, it's all about Mythology. And BONUS! it also fits the bill for the recent reawakening of the Girl Power movement that has filled so many books with strong, empowered heroines. When I read about it, I knew we had to have it for our collection!

I just didn't realize how cool this book was until I flipped through it today!

Each page features a different goddess and includes a color illustration and a brief write up about what she represented within her mythology. But Legendary Ladies doesn't just stick with the more well-known Greek and Norse myths. Also featured are goddesses from Native American, Polynesian, Hindu, and Ibo (to name just a few). So its pretty diverse. However, there are several similarities among the stories. For example, the tale of Creiddylad, Welsh goddess of Springtime, is very similar to that of the Greek Persephone.

Overall, Legendary Ladies was a very interesting read. I think the teens here will really enjoy it! I know I did. --AJB

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Altered History of Willow Sparks

Willow Sparks is at the bottom of her high school's social food chain. Each day she and her equally unpopular best friend, Georgia, run the gauntlet of mean girl bullies, deal with unsympathetic gym teachers, and nurse crushes on boys who don't know they exist. 

Then something miraculous happens: While working her after school job at the local library, Willow stumbles upon a secret basement storage room. And in this room she finds a blank book bearing her name as the title. Attached to the book is an old fountain-style pen with the inscription "For Emergencies Only". Willow smuggles the book home and soon discovers she can re-write the parts of her life she doesn't like, replacing those parts with how she wishes things were. She starts with small things, like getting rid of her acne and a new designer wardrobe she'd never be able to otherwise afford. But as her wishes get bigger and bolder, other things in her life begin to change as well...and not necessarily for the better. Suddenly Willow's BFF no longer wants anything to do with her and her mom doesn't trust her anymore. And then it gets worse.

Maybe the Book isn't such a miracle after all. But Willow finds that the more she re-writes her life the harder it is to stop. There's only one person who can help her, but will she find the courage to seek him out before it's too late?

Like Willow Sparks?
Try this read-alike!
The Altered History of Willow Sparks has been on my "To Read" list for several weeks, and I was not disappointed. Although I pretty much knew what was going to happen from page one (predictable), I nevertheless enjoyed this book. Author Tara O'Connor's minimal but well-placed dialogue moves the story along and the detailed artwork does the rest. Willow is a sympathetic and likable character. Although she doesn't make the best choices for much of the story, she learns from her mistakes. Eventually Willow learns that cool clothes and being liked by popular boys aren't what makes her happy. Rather, it's her true friends and, even more important, self-acceptance that is most important. Pair this one with Lisa Daily novel Beauty and the 80s-era comedy film Teen Witch, all three of which center around the same universal themes. 

--AJB

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Summer of Jordi Perez & the Best Burger in Los Angeles, by Amy Spalding

With winter seeming to drag on and on, I've been in desperate need of something light and summery and beachy. And Amy Spalding's new novel The Summer of Jordi Perez & the Best Burger in Los Angeles was exactly what I was craving. I'm serious! This book was adorable! And a lot of fun!

Abby Ives feels like her world is falling apart: At 17, she's never been kissed. Sure she's had crushes on girls in her school, but they've never liked her back the same way (Not that she's ever had the guts to approach any of said crushes, but that's beside the point). What's more, she feels as though she's a constant disappointment to her skinny, health-obsessed mother. 

The one bright spot in Abby's life is securing the coveted summer internship at Lemonberry, her favorite couture clothing shop. Not only will this mean free clothes and fodder for her fashion blog, but it will be excellent experience for the career Abby someday plans to have in the plus-size fashion industry. What's more, everyone knows this internship usually turns into an actual paying job come fall. 

Maybe things aren't so bad after all. But then...

Abby learns she'll be sharing the internship duties with fellow classmate and rumored bad girl Jordi Perez. Problem is there will only job offer at the end of the summer. To complicate things further, Abby begins crushing on Jordi. And by some miracle, Jordi likes her back! When the girls begin dating, Abby wonders how she can feel right about competing with someone she only wants to kiss. And what will happen to their relationship at the end of summer when one girl gets the job and the other doesn't?

Maybe Abby won't have to worry about any of that. Maybe fate will decide things for her.

The Summer of Jordi Perez & the Best Burger in Los Angeles read like the script for a teen rom-com from back in the day. Perhaps something directed by John Hughes of Sixteen Candles fame. Abby is the perfect atypical heroine: Insecure, sarcastic, quirky, and completely oblivious to how awesomely cool she really is. I adored her! And her relationship with Jordi is very sweet. Even side characters come alive within the pages: Jock Jax, who is not really as cool as he pretends to be and ends up being the best sort of friend... Maggie, the frazzled owner of Lemonberry... Abby's circle of supportive friends who are there for her no matter what... As with any good rom-com, the plot is predictable and the issues resolve themselves just in time for the Happily Ever After ending. 

I enjoyed every moment of this amazing book!

(Also, it really got me craving a hamburger! With lots and lots of pickles...)

--AJB

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

This book was a reread for me.  I read the first five books in this series when they first came out and I remember being absolutely riveted.  I wasn't wrong!  This book sucked me in and kept me there, sufficiently scared but also needing to know what was going to happen.

Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son and when he turns thirteen he is apprenticed to the spook.  A spook's job is to protect the county from the dark, from ghasts and boggarts and witches.  Tom is not necessarily excited about his future job.  He knows that the spook's life is lonely and dangerous but his mother, who seems to have the gift of sight, tells him that he is meant for this life.  Tom resolves to make the best of it.

However, he quickly gets himself involved with a girl who wears pointy shoes, something the spook has warned him against.  Now there are missing children in the village and a witch on the loose and the spook just happens to be out of town.  Can Tom handle it himself with just a couple of weeks worth of training?  What about when an angry witch gets too close to his family?

This book was exciting and scary.  However, it's definitely not for the faint of heart!

-RYQ

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Girl Like That, by Tanaz Bhatena

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhatena is definitely a story that I can't forget. This book tackles a lot of tough topics and before I go on I want to say these pages do contain bullying, rape, and physical abuse and the author handled them very well.

First of all, this is an incredible read. To me, it reads more like true events than a fictional story and I found it tough to get into and then impossible to put down. I think it was hard to start because there are a fair amount of characters to meet and multiple points of view. Also, this is set in Saudi Arabia. Their culture, language, and traditions are alien to me, so it took longer to immerse myself in the setting. Honestly, I don't think it is possible for me to appreciate the full impact of this story, and that's okay because it wasn't written for me. That did not stop me from enjoying and appreciating Bhatena for showing me a glimpse of this world so different from my own. And I still could relate to a lot of what the characters went through because a lot of what young adults face is applicable in all cultures.

Zarin, the main character is such a tough character. Her parents both died when she was very young and now she lives with an aunt and uncle who don't always appreciate her presence in their lives. Zarin is also a girl who steps outside the boundaries, breaks  through the caution tape and defies the rules. I really loved her fire. Every one of the characters is unlikable and some are downright despicable. Except perhaps Porus, who is just the sweetest friend and protector to Zarin. The muliple points of view into each character's life was really interesting. I didn't feel like I got to know any of them really well but I saw important moments that influenced them. I don't believe that Bhatena ever justified the antagonist behaviors of the characters but she did show us just how complex each life is behind closed doors.

At the start of the book and even in the synopsis we know that Zarin is dead and then the story begins in the past leading up to the accident. I knew what was coming, eventually, but I was not prepared for the journey I would go on with Zarin. Bhatena flipped my expectations over, surprised me, delighted me and broke my heart. *JK*

Friday, April 6, 2018

Breakfast Served Anytime, by Sarah Combs

Gloria (Glo) hopes a summer at "Geek Camp," hanging out with other artistic types and studying the Secrets of the Written Word, will help her get over a few things: Namely the recent death of her beloved grandmother and the pain of an unrequited crush on an older boy. She's also struggling with whether or not moving to New York City with her best friend is still something she wants to do with her life (She thought so once, but now she's not so sure...). 

Armed with only her biting wit and her GoGo's copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, Glo  embarks on an what is perhaps the biggest adventure of her life thus far. Here at the Morlan College Program for the Gifted and Talented, she discovers new friends, new perspectives, and maybe a new love interest. But she also discovers some things about herself and becoming the person she's meant to be.

Sarah Combs' novel Breakfast Served Anytime is one of those stories that make you fall into instant bookish love. The characters are quirky and likable and the setting is so vivid the reader feels as if she is there, discussing the Great American Novel underneath The Kissing Tree or hanging out at the Egg Drop Cafe ("Breakfast Served Anytime"). There are no Grand Adventures or Epic Quests, but there's real life...and maybe just a little bit of the best sort of magic.

Breakfast Served Anytime is not going to be exceptionally memorable. Won't be one of those books that lodges itself into my mind and heart and becomes something I return to again and again throughout life. In fact, a year from now, I may not remember it all that much. But I loved this book in the moment, and for me that is enough. 

A great choice for fans of Emma Mills and John Green.

--AJB

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Water Memory, by Valerie Vernay & Mathieu Reynes

When young Marion and her mother move into the old cottage by the sea (complete with a private beach!), Marion can't wait to explore. But there's more to her new home than meets the eye. There are these sinister carvings all over town and a creepy lighthouse keeper who seems to already have an instant vendetta against Marion. Research leads Marion to a local legend of a cursed family and a terrifying sea monster who demands a sacrifice every generation. And if that doesn't happen, well...the alternative is too terrible to talk about. With the time of sacrifice fast approaching, Marion knows something must be done to stop the creature's vengeance once and for all. But will she find the solution in time?

Valerie Vernay and Mathieu Reynes' graphic novel Water Memory is really the best sort of adventure story. Marion is my favorite sort of hero: Curious, brave, loyal, and willing to do anything to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand. Much like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter or Mikey from The Goonies. I loved the seaside setting, and the plot kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed this book. The only drawback was it wasn't long enough. 

Definitely recommended! --AJB

Monday, March 26, 2018

Finding Felicity, by Stacey Kade

Caroline never planned for the lie to go that far. But when her social butterfly mother pressed her for details about her new school, it just popped out. To hide the fact she had yet to make a single new friend, Caroline borrowed characters from her favorite retro TV show, "Felicity." She figured she'd make some actual friends eventually and wouldn't need the fictional ones anymore, but when that didn't happen she kept the lie going and growing...until it finally backfired the night of graduation, when her mom threw her a surprise party and (surprise) none of her "friends" showed up. 

Caroline confesses and is immediately sent into therapy. She worries that this will ruin her plans to go away to college, but her shrink thinks that going away and starting fresh just might be the best thing for Caroline. As long as she regularly checks in, of course.

Caroline is relieved. Because she has a very important reason for attending this particular college: It is the same school Liam, her high school crush, is attending. This is the boy she was too shy to speak to for the past three years. But she knows things will change once the two of them are away at school together. She knows they'll become a couple. Because she and Liam are meant to be together. Obviously. After all, that's what happened when Felicity followed her crush Ben to college. 

What Caroline doesn't get is this is real life, not a cheesy 90s TV drama. And things aren't going to work out the way she hopes. Unfortunately, she's going to have to learn this the hard way.

Stacey Kade's new novel Finding Felicity reads like a checklist for exactly what you SHOULDN'T do when going away to college. Underage partying, language, and other mature situations make this book a poor choice for younger teen readers. Caroline is the quintessential unlikable/unreliable narrator. There are some serious plot holes. And the ending wraps up far too neatly. (Also, it's doubtful today's teens would have heard of Felicity...even with the recent wave of 90s nostalgia. It's not among the better known of 90s TV shows. So many of the references will likely fly over the heads of today's young readers). 

And yet...the book has a certain charm. As a reader, I totally felt (sorry) for Caroline and hoped for things would turn out well for her. And this kept me reading through every single awkward moment and cringe-worthy situation. I was happy to witness Caroline's eventual transformation from shy and clueless teen to a somewhat better adjusted young lady (this time with real actual friends). I still didn't like her much, but her character did improve significantly in the final chapters. And that was refreshing.

Overall, Finding Felicity was a decent read. Not the most memorable book I've read this year,  but it kept me entertained.--AJB