Saturday, July 29, 2017

Reviews from Saleena 7/29/17

Dare You is a sequel to Shade Me, a murder mystery/suspense story centered around a girl with synesthesia (when colors & words & numbers are mixed up in your brain).   It was interesting and a quick read.  This wasn't a shocking book, but the suspense kept you going.

Inquisition is volume 2 in the Summoner series, and it picks up about a year after Novice ended, with Fletcher in jail for his "crimes".  Matharu fills in the gaps and brings the reader up to date with all the political issues & such relatively quickly...and then jumps into war and action sequences.  This is an interesting and quick moving series.

This Strange Wilderness is a quiet book, and a biography about John James Audubon, the bird guy.....I found it quite interesting and enlightening to learn more about him and how he changed science and bird watching.

Bone Gap is a Printz winner, so I felt obliged to read it (being a Teen Librarian and all).....I actually listened to an audio version, which helped, perhaps....because I was better able to see the various viewpoints and plot points than when I tried to read it.  Or maybe I was just in a better head space this time (one never knows).  Anyway, I enjoyed it, once I realized that it was essentially realistic fiction with a touch of "what if" thrown in.  I believe it is a growing genre of magical realism, though I thought of it as more science fiction due to the multiple universe view of things.  Essentially this is the story of 2 brothers and the strange girl who showed up in their barn one day.  She is kidnapped (or is she?) and they are trying to deal, and find her (or are they?) ;  and everything is exacerbated by the small town they live in, and everyone knowing everything about what's best, etc, etc.   It's hard to explain, but I did enjoy it.

I think of this book as a sort of Alex Rider book with a female spy angle.....because the main character has parents who are secret agents which causes a lot of moving & changing stories & confusion....but also, she is a kickass girl who knows how to handle herself.  Orlando does a good job of building a multi-layered character who is both confused & confident and dealing with an extreme situation.  It might not be everyone's cup of tea; but it was an interesting ride.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

“Book Review of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios” by Vanditha Krishnan

“Book Review of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios”
by Vanditha Krishnan

I just finished writing a review of Something Real, also by Heather Demetrios, and I found it so fascinating that I checked out another one of her contemporaries, I’ll Meet You There. Now this one actually has a cheesy title with an even cheesier cover, but I read it regardless. It was definitely a great decision, and it was MUCH better than its predecessor.

Plot: Skylar Evans has had one main goal throughout her life, and it’s not that easy to accomplish. She wants to get out of her tiny, isolated town of Creek View, California, and begin a new life. Of course, that’s where she runs into problems; some are much worse than others. For one, she reunites with her high school classmate, Josh, who’s had some problems of his own. He returns from the military with one leg but has a much better, disciplined personality. And when high school graduation comes up, her mother suddenly loses her job and begins drinking heavily -- again. Skylar slowly realizes that staying in Creek View is not necessarily a choice. She connects with Josh through struggles and belonging in this heartwarming novel, and both of them begin to build an everlasting friendship.

Characters: Skylar’s pain was tangible in every way; her arduous journey through poverty proved to be relatable to many teens. After her mother's raging alcoholism worsens, we feel nothing but regret and sorrow, and as readers, we want to help her. That’s where Josh comes in. He’s like that second puzzle piece that slides right into the other one. He desperately wants to get out of Creek View as well, but he’s dragged into his family’s tedious business and has too many traumatic memories from the military to count. Dylan and Chris were nice friends, and they truly cared for Skylar and helped her through difficult times.

Thoughts: The book illustrated many distressing conflicts, especially about Skylar’s life growing up poor. I loved the addition of Josh’s terrible experience in the military, and it added insight to how scarring life in the military could be. I’d say that this novel ranks much more superior in the world of great books compared to Demetrios’ other novel, Something Real, mainly because of the characters’ opposite personalities, yet the synchronization of their goals and aspirations. It’s a quick read, but definitely a good one!

My Rating:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

reviews by Saleena 7/15/17

Hoodoo is set in the early 1900s in the South.  Hoodoo refers not only to the practice of Voodoo but also to the main characters name.  Hoodoo is 12 and is being menaced by a Stranger who wants to kill him and take his hand.  This creepy but appropriate for young teen title is chockfull of suspense, action and drama; along with a bit of accurate historical information.  Smith has done a wondrous job of telling a tale that anyone who loves to be scared will adore reading over and over again.

Eat, Brains, Love seemed like a fun and interesting zombie story.  And it was.  It was interesting with the idea of the zombie virus being a sort of STD, and that the government had it completely under wraps and hidden; as well as the fact that if a zombie ate, it reverted back to it's human thinking and reasoning were is only a hungry shambling mess when it's starving.  It was a bit unexpected that the government agent was a teenaged girl with psychic powers and that she somehow bonded with a particular zombie.  It was a bit cliche (but acceptable) that the two zombies focused on in the story were the outcast and the pretty girl and that they would somehow start to fall for each other.  All in all, lots of fascinating twists to the zombie mythos; but a story that was a bit....expected nonetheless.  

Michael Anthony's account of coming home and trying to become "civilianized" after the military is concise and cuts straight through you.  He asks for no pity, simply stating what he saw, thought and knew; and what he has learned since.  This is not a fun read, but definitely one for anyone struggling to understand what their loved one is going through with PTSD, civilian life after war and addiction issues.

Fletcher finds out that he is a Summoner quite by accident.  He escapes a bad situation; and finds a school.  The school isn't a haven; but a battle training academy with everyone out for themselves and a staunch war between the commoners and the aristocrats.  Can Fletcher stop the war that's been dragging on for generations?   Can he overcome all the obstacles?  This book was a bit Harry Potter-ish in feel; what with the school and the tauntings. However, Matheru gives Fletcher a loving family (he was abandoned & adopted as a baby); but a terrible reality of power to fight against.  I like that the fight wasn't clearly good vs evil; but the use of power and the evils of prejudiced behaviors.  It was an enjoyable book, I look forward to the next volume.

This was such a novel concept that I had to read it and see how it worked.  And it worked really well!  One person's death is told through nine stories by nine separate authors....who they are, how they were impacted, whether or not they even knew the person who died; all of it tied together beautifully. 

Again, anyone who knows me, knows my love & fascination with fairy tales & mythology.  I couldn't resist a Garth Nix story, and one with a fairy tale scenario beckoned like a siren.  I listened to this book, and it was really well done; both by the actor and the writer.  I loved Anya, and even if in parts this book felt really young and silly; other parts felt like I was watching a character grow and mature before my eyes.  It was a beautiful thing, and a lovely book.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dracula by Bram Stoker Review by Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Review by Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii
“If ever a look meant death— if looks could kill— we saw it at that moment.” –Bram Stoker, Chapter 16 of Dracula

Introduction of the Genre
This is a book that is considered classical literature. Now. Do NOT get all whiney and automatically reject this book, because let me tell you right away: not all classic books are boring! Personally, I enjoy classical literature and read a lot of books that others would never even try, but that is just what I was exposed to as a little kid and what I have loved for most of my life. This was book was something entirely different. It was a combination of classical literature and horror, which is why I think many teens will enjoy this book. And don’t worry! It’s not super creepy. It’s a mix of about 40% horror and 60% mystery, for those who cannot sleep at night. 

Introduction of the Style
In addition to being a more modern-taste classical book, this book is also written a style that is a bit different than what you are used to. In other words, there is no main narrator of this book. It is a collection of diary entries from various characters, as well as clips from newspapers to relate the events that happened. Therefore, the style varies from character to character (as each character has their own way of writing events in their diaries). If this does not suit you and you do not think that you will like this book, don’t leave yet! Get the book from the library and read the first several chapters before judging a book by its cover, as trite as that may sound.

Count Dracula is said to live in the Carpathian Mountains. Obviously, he is a vampire and there are rumors about how he hunts little children at night and feasts on their blood. 
However, Jonathan Harker does not believe any of these “stories” and visits the Count in his castle for some business. Although the journey to the castle was a little strange, the Count seems nice enough. He gives Jonathan a hearty dinner and a comfortable room to sleep in. He is also very pleasant to talk to, and he only tells Jonathan that he cannot go into a certain area of the castle as the “single rule” of his visit.
At first, Jonathan thinks that the stories people tell about the Count are false and that when he leaves he will prove everyone wrong. But soon enough, Jonathan begins to notice strange things about the Count.
First of all, he never sees the Count during the day. The castle always seems empty and lonely. Second, the Count never dines with Jonathan. Certainly, he sits and talks to Jonathan as he eats, but he never eats any of the food himself. 
But when Jonathan is shaving with a piece of razor in the bathroom one early morning, something extremely strange happens. In the mirror, Jonathan sees the door open and close by itself. He turns around and sees the Count standing behind him. He is so startled that he jumps, and cuts himself with the razor. The Count does not have a reflection! But what is even more strange is the look on the Count’s face when he sees the blood streaming down Jonathan’s neck. Just for a second his eyes sparkle greedily and he looks as if he is ready to pounce. But then his eyes clear up and he helps Jonathan stop the bleeding.
After this incident, Jonathan is more wary. He observes the Count closely and tries to figure out what he does and who he really is. One night, he sees the Count crawling down the wall of his castle (outside) like a lizard. He gets to the ground and runs off somewhere like a wild animal that has been let loose. And, most importantly, the Count is wearing Jonathan’s clothes! 
That same night, Jonathan hears a baby crying in the room next to his. He hears footsteps, and then a slurping sound. The baby whimpers painfully, and then all is still. Jonathan shudders. Then, he hears a woman screaming for her baby. When he glances out of the door of his window, the woman glares at him and yells, “Monster, give me back my baby!” And then it hits Jonathan that the Count was in his clothes, meaning everyone will think that he took the baby.
A prisoner in the castle (for Jonathan realizes that there is no way out and that he is locked inside), he goes quite crazy and begins to ramble mentally.
Simultaneously, Jonathan’s beautiful wife, Mina Harker, keeps a diary at home. She writes about how much she misses her husband and how she spends her quite ordinary life. But when he does not return as promised, she begins to worry.
In addition, her friend, Lucy, has been acting strangely. She has a dazed look and a red mark on her neck that seems to never heal. One night, Mina swears she sees Lucy sitting on a rock near the shore with a dark figure hunched over her. 
When Jonathan and Mina finally reunite, they tell each other what happened and together decide to fight this monster until he stops plaguing the village and its people. It’s something only brave souls would choose to do, and Jonathan and Mina use the power of love and teamwork to try and achieve something that they never thought they would have to do…. 

My Thoughts + Rating
I would give this book a 8/10 (so 4/5 stars on Goodreads) for several reasons. Let’s start with the positives. I really enjoyed the style of the book and I thought it was interesting how Stoker would switch around the narrators to connect all the events and add to them (based on what characters experienced the events and how it happened). I also enjoyed the “mystery” factor of this book because I found myself trying to guess and who the Count was myself and trying to figure out his next move in terms of what Jonathan and Mina were planning. However, the reason why my rating is missing 2 stars is because I thought there could be a little more history on how Count Dracula was treated throughout different cultures and religions. The book started right when Jonathan is traveling to the castle, so I did not understand why he kept mentioning the Count as a mystery that nobody really understood until after I met the Count. That was a little confusing, but there is plenty of supplements online that I found after researching so if you find yourself confused you can search up “Count Dracula” on Google. Otherwise, this book was a thrilling read and I recommend it to everyone.

“Opinions on Something Real by Heather Demetrios” by Vanditha Krishnan

“Opinions on Something Real by Heather Demetrios”
by Vanditha Krishnan

They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and as much as we hate to admit it, most of us teens pick up a juicy book and begin reading just because of that gorgeous sunset on the cover. It’s something real (excuse the pun) and I’m pretty sure that everyone has done that at least once in their lives… am I right? Anyway, Something Real is a YA contemporary novel by the fantastic author Heather Demetrios. It’s my first time reading one of her works, and my impressions on this novel were, to say the least, interesting.

Plot: Bonnie™ Baker seems like your average 17-year-old. Living with her twelve other siblings, -- that’s right, twelve -- Bonnie™ is the main star of her family’s hit reality show, Baker’s Dozen. Her life seems to revolve around being in the spotlight, something her siblings love but she detests. Lucky for Bonnie™, the show is suddenly canceled and the Baker family finally gets to live life normally. That is, until Baker’s Dozen is coming back on air, this time with a bang! With such a large family to support, Bonnie™’s stepfather Kurt has no other option but to allow his growing household to be in the spotlight. And Bonnie™’s mom is definitely not letting her daughter quit. The normal life at school Bonnie™ has worked so hard to build is disappearing quickly, and she must find a way to protect it.

Characters: Bonnie™ was a sweet, intelligent character, but sometimes she was annoying. Part of the story involved her fussing over everything and arguing with everyone. Yet, you would expect this coming from someone with such a terrible home life. Her pain was extremely relatable, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for everything she had to go through. Patrick was a loyal friend, and he definitely helped her in many ways throughout the novel, but he seemed too perfect if you know what I mean. Most characters are flawed in one way or aspect, but Patrick had it all. I mean, compared to Bonnie™, he had great, supportive parents who loved him no matter what. His character made the book so much better, though. Benny™ and Lex™, Bonnie™’s twin cousins, really looked for her; Demetrios built a strong family bond that changed a lot throughout the novel. You can’t forget about Beth, the thirteen children’s callous, narcissistic mother. I felt like screaming at her multiple times; what parent forces their child to be exploited on national television against their will? And who would ever trademarktheir children’s names? I was constantly appalled by Beth’s selfish behavior, perfect on television but aloof off air.

Thoughts: Not a bad book, but it was predictable -- another one of those stories (a girl from a rich family has a harpy for a mother and must find a way to overcome her struggles). However, Beth’s unmotherly character made the story much more intriguing than it usually should be. She added tremendous depth and broke the tight bond of love and friendship that was going on throughout the novel. So if you’re a fan of sappy contemporaries, or looking for a quick read like me, this is the way to go.

My Rating: 7/10

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, review by Nina Soukhanovskii

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.  A Quote to Consider: “With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of...