Thursday, April 30, 2015

REVIEW: His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers


“Hate cannot be fought with hate. Evil cannot be conquered by darkness. Only love has the power to conquer them both.” Dark Triumph


When book one, Grave Mercy, was recommended to me by a co-worker, I first thought "nun assassins"? I was skeptical whether this was the book or series for me but I have to say that I was delightfully surprised by the trilogy as a whole. My favorite of the three was by far Dark Triumph for the mere fact that I found Sybella the most compelling of Mortain's deadly handmaidens.

Set in medieval France, the His Fair Assassin series weaves historical fantasy with actual events from the 15th Century.  True, there was a power struggle for the duchy of Brittany with a mere twelve year old girl at the heart of the political intrigue, plotting and marriage alliances.  However, LaFevers artfully blends this historical plot line with elements of fantasy, thus making the series accessible for those readers who might not typically favor historical settings.


What is unique about this series is its storytelling.  We begin with Grave Mercy and Ismae's story. Following a turbulent childhood and a brutal arranged marriage, she finds shelter at the convent of St. Mortain--one of this fictional world's nine old saints and the patron saint of Death.  Here, Ismae and other young women like her train to be deadly assassins. Her first assignment takes her to the high court of Brittany and into the midst of the political turmoil. Ismae must use all of her skills when it comes to unforeseen matters which challenge her mind, body and soul.

The story continues in Dark Triumph but with a switch in POV. Readers now follow Sybella in her assignment as she is thrust back into the family at the epicenter of great grief and despair. Her task is to use her talents of death and seduction in order to spy on her father concerning his bid to take the duchy of Brittany for himself. Just as she accepts that true death would be better than to suffer more at the hands of her family, Sybella discovers a new ally who gives her something to live for besides vengeance.

Mortal Heart concludes this tale and finally allows reader's to experience Annith's story. Passed over for numerous assignments, Annith is hurt and confused as to why the Abbess refuses to send her on missions despite her advanced skills.  Annith leaves the convent of her own volition not only to be reunited with Ismae and Sybella but to confront the Abbess concerning what she believes are grave offenses in Mortain's name. Not only does she find truth in long buried secrets which will aid the duchy in its time of need, but also discovers unexpected love.

Readers looking for a bit of romance won't be disappointed. Ismae, Sybella, and Annith each find love interests who both nurture and challenge them but also provide the support and love each have been denied. Duval, Beast and Balthazar are truly are intriguing male supporting characters who learn to quickly that these fierce ladies have a mind of their own and will not bend to the typical female subservience notable for the time period.  This is certainly a 'girl power' read.

“I follow you for twelves leagues, accost you in the dead of night, and you are worried about my penance?"
"You did not accost me; I LET you kiss me, make no mistake.” ~Annith, Mortal Heart


Final Grade:  Grave Mercy 4 out of 5 stars, Dark Triumph 5 out of 5 stars, Mortal Heart 4 out of 5 stars.

Check out the author on Twitter: @RLLaFevers

#gravemercy #darktriumph #mortalheart #fairassassin #YA #reading #HistoricalRomance #fantasy #girlpower

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teen Zone: Upcycled Modge Podge Table Tops


In the fall of last year we gave our Teen Zone a much needed renovation to transform it from a dark blue cave into a modern, well lit and defined space where teens in our community could gather for programs, to hang out after school and have a functional place to work on homework assignments.
As with any renovation, sticking to a budget is important.  To save money, I was able to repurpose two of our existing tables.

It took me about two weeks but here are pictures of the finished product.  This is an homage to literature as much a pop culture.  All it took was Modge Podge, a paint brush, picture print outs (plus pages from some discarded books, and a WHOLE LOT of patience.

Every one who sees it loves it and relishes in the challenge to find Olaf, all 101 dalmatians and of course Waldo!
















#diy, #diycrafts, #upcycling, #modgepodge

Program: Spoon Art

Linsey's Wizard of Oz themed spoon art (2014)

Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!  Last year I was looking for a super quick and easy activity to do with teens during spring break.  I found the idea for spoon art on Pinterest.  I was just amazed at the response from teens about how much they liked this idea.

What you'll need:
  • A box of plastic spoons (white preferred)
  • Sharpies
  • Glitter (optional)
  • White glue (optional)
Most participants were content with spoons and sharpies. However, if you have truly creative teens, break out some of your special crafting supplies like glitter or feathers to jazz up their creations. 

#diy, #teencrafts, #spoonart, #sharpie, #sharpieart, #wizardofoz, #oz

Monday, April 27, 2015

REVIEW: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*



A Court of Thorns and Roses marks the debut of an exciting new series by Sarah J. Maas, author of the bestselling Throne of Glass series. The novel centers around Freyre, a nineteen-year-old huntress, struggling to care for her family following the death of her mother and her father's financial ruin. Freyre is thrust into the beautiful yet deadly word of the Fae when she learns that the wolf she killed in the woods was in fact a Sentinel to the High Lord of the Spring Court. As penance and to further protect her family, Freyre must concede to leave the human world behind and live out the remainder of her days on her captor's estate.

What follows is an artfully imaginative twist on fae-centered fiction and a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a dabble of the Persephone and Hades myth toward the novel's conclusion leading into 2016's second book. The first icy then fiery, passionate relationship which develops between Freyre and Tamlin will entice teenage and adult readers alike. Maas' knowledge of fae lore as well as her ingenuity as blending such elements into a beautifully descriptive and epic romantic adventure make for an page turning read. Freyre is a compelling and complicated female protagonist whereas Tamlin is fierce, dashing and mysterious. Readers will love the supporting characters just as much, especially Lucien and Rhys! (insert SWOONS here). Even better is the addition of a deliciously evil villain ruled by grief and a hunger for power.

I will caution that I'd recommend this title to slightly more mature teen readers given that there is a degree of sexuality.  While these instances are not overtly graphic, there is a descriptive level of intimacy implied--more so than the Throne of Glass series. This is certainly a novel for fans of similar books such as Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series, His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers, and even the Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin.

This novel is by far my favorite of the anticipated 2015 releases.  I give it an overall rating of 5/5 stars and will attempt to wait patiently for the followup.

#sarahjmaas, #fae, #acourtofthornesandroses, #sjmaas, #ACOTAR

Happy Monday!


Cheers to another eventful week in library land.  If you haven't watched this new parody video of 'Uptown Funk', you definitley need it to start out the week!





#librariesrule #uptownfunk #unreadbook #brunomars

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Program: Sharpie Light Bulb Art


Want a fun, easy and relatively cheap program? Try sharpie light bulb art!

What you'll need:
  • sharpies
  • light bulbs
    • white or clear will work
    • stick to a lower wattage 


Zelda!
Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon
TMNT
Captain America the First Avenger!


My teens loved this craft! The artwork was fun and creative, plus the patterns display on the wall at night so it is an easy way for teens to create room art.

Here's some of their creations!

 (#librarydisplay #teenart #lightbulbart #sharpie #sharpieart)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

REVIEW: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

It's been a little over 13 years since I first read the Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  I just finished a re-read to help cover a co-worker's program at the library.  I think I liked it and appreciated the writing and story crafting more this second time. In over a decade, I've never truly forgotten the story and how moved I was by many of the characters.



For those unaware of the premise...

In Pennsylvania, 1973, fourteen year old Susie Salmon is raped and murdered by a neighbor.  The story that follows is mystery and grief surrounding her death as told by Susie looking down upon her friends and family from Heaven.

While not a traditionally 'teen' book, upon this re-read, I could see the appeal for mature YA readers who've exhausted other titles in the collection and what a compelling read that is both sad and hopeful in discussing harsh issues and overcoming grief. Teens would like the science fiction 'twist' to the story as well.

I still have yet to watch the 2009 film but that is a project for later this week.


#lovelybones, #alicesebold, #grief, #mystery

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Shadowhunters'

I was actually pretty excited to learn the Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series will be adapted for television by ABC Family for the 2016 season.  I think the series lends itself to be serialized for this medium rather than film.


I enjoyed the theatrical release; however, I do not think the studio or media did it justice with an obscure release in late summer.  Furthermore, while I liked Lily Collins as Clary Fray, I felt as if other key characters, especially Valentine and Jace were misrepresented to a degree. Jamie Campbell Bower just wasn't the right fit for Jace and as much as I adore Johnathan Rhys Meyers, I think most fans of the series would concur that Valentine should portrayed differently.


Television will give this world room to grow.  I can easily see creators delving not just into the Mortal Instruments books but shifting back and forth to the Infernal Devices trilogy as well.  Based on his performance as Christian Ozera in Vampire Academy (2014), Dominic Sherwood, should make a compelling Jace. It doesn't hurt that he is Taylor Swift's video guy of the moment in 'Style.' Sherwood is definitely pretty enough to be Jace, let's just hope the rest of the casting goes as well. 

What do you think?


#shadowhunters, #cassandraclare, #mortalinstruments, #dominicsherwood


Monday, April 20, 2015

Display: Pop Open a Good Book

I thought I'd share one of my new book displays in the teen area.  I found the idea on Pinterest =). I've also included popcorn bookmarks that I had on hand from Demco (they are scratch 'n sniff). #librarydisplay #popcorn #crafts #booksarecool

What you'll need:
  • White paper (we used a roll of white butcher paper)
  • Red construction paper
  • White tissue paper (any easily crumpled paper will do)
  • Cut out words created using Microsoft Word
  • Tape

Program: Literature Thumbprints


My most recent Crafty Creations for Teens program was Literature Thumbprints.  I found the idea on Pinterest.  Planning was easy, not time consuming and construction is inexpensive.  I had left over canvas from a previous program but you might find packages in 3's from a craft store or even Walmart. (#librarydisplay #teenart #literature #literarythumbprint #literaturethumbprint #sharpie #sharpieart)

Supplies Needed:

  • Canvas, white card-stock, or white construction paper
  • Sharpies
  • A way for teens to access their favorite quotes

Teens really enjoy having this personalized art piece. Take a look at some of the results!





REVIEW: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge





Touted as Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast, I was excited to read Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge for the cover art alone.  The bold move to incorporate the story's steel staircase as well as the famous fairy tale rose makes for an eye catching cover that entices readers.

Unfortunately, for me, the cover was the best part.

The premise:  Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil demon ruler of her kingdom because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. Needless to say, she feels bitter toward her fate, her father, and her twin sister who has been the family favorite and has escaped this ominous fate. Per the bargain, Nyx is married off to the immortal, Ignifex, and sent to him with the plan to seduce him, destroy the enchanted castle, and free her kingdom from the nine hundred year old curse. 

Alas, nothing is as easy as it seems when she learns ending the curse has dire consequences as does betraying her demon husband whom she has surprisingly grown to love.

As a reader, I just couldn't connect with the protagonist.  I wanted to like Nyx; however, she failed to generate much of a personality besides being angry, bitter and a bit manic. I might have liked it better if the story was from Ignifex's POV or had altering perspectives.  In general, I felt that the characters and story just lacked pizzazz.

FINAL THOUGHT: Recommended for a reader who wants a fractured fairy tale and may have already read the Lunar Chronicles, as well as titles by Alex Flynn, Holly Black, Sarah Cross and Jackson Pearce.#cruelbeauty #fracturedfairytales



Saturday, April 18, 2015

REVIEW: Black City by Elizabeth Richards



"The war has just begun."

And so ends what I'll say is an inventive spin on dystopian fiction.  I have one word. Vampires.  

Following a devastating war, Darklings (for all intensive purposes, differing species of our favorite creatures of the night) live in a walled off portion of the city known as 'The Ghetto.' 

Ash is a twin-blood or halfling, neither fully human nor darkling. He chooses to live up to this outsider, bad boy persona by dealing Haze (the addictive venom is his bite) so that he can help support his family. Ash struggles to fit in as the oppression of the government under Purian Rose's rule marks him as dangerous. 

Natalie is the Emissary's daughter. Newly returned to the city following the death of her father by a Wrath infected Darkling and the torture and disfigurement of her sister, Polly, she too faces her own struggles including the betrayal of former love and current bodyguard, Sebastian as well as learning of her own mother's nefarious role in the capture, torture and experimentation on numerous darklings and other creatures. 

Brought together at first by sheer loathing and then mutual attraction, Ash and Natalie do the unthinkable and fall in love spurned by the electric connection between them that causes Ash's dead heart to beat for the first time.  However, all is not fair in love and war for these two when they find themselves in the midst of a conspiracy that threatens to change everything and lead the dueling factions into another bloody war.



Black City ends with a significant cliffhanger as to the fate of this society and these at present ill-fated lovers.  As a reader, I did not love this book.  It is an interesting twist on the blending of genres; however, other parts were highly problematic.  Ash's character is initially interesting and edgy, but likeable, but soon the characterization and dialogue is indistinguishable from the voice of the woe-begotten, Natalie.  He fails to sounds authentic, which makes the relationship less believable and at times cringe-worthy. 

The trilogy concludes with Phoenix and Wings.  I remain curious enough that I will read these two books.  Possibly for the mere fact that the covers are GORGEOUS!

RECOMMENDED for readers (probably female) looking for additional dystopian titles similar to the Hunger Games, Divergent, or Matched and for those who want an element of paranormal romance. #blackcity #dystopian



Friday, April 10, 2015

REVIEW: Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander



“Scientifically, I know beginnings don't exist. The world is made of energy, which is neither created or destroyed. Everything she is was here before me. Everything she was will remain. Her existence touches both my past and my future at one point- infinity. 
Lifelines aren't lines at all. They are more like circles.
Its safe to start anywhere and the story will curve its way back to the starting point. Eventually.
In other words, it doesn't matter where I begin. It doesn't change the end."  ~Charlie


This book surprised me.  Back in November 2014, this was recommended to me during an author visit to my branch by Mike Mullin.  He and his wife were visiting for the day for a book talk regarding his (fantastic) Ashfall series and holding an afternoon long writing workshop for teens. They knew the author and had both read it and loved it. 

I made note of the title and swore I'd get to it in 2015.  I knew literally nothing about the plot but adored the cover and thought I was going to experience a typical YA realistic romance plot.

I. WAS. WRONG.

I certainly wasn't prepared for the emotional upheaval story of Charlie and Charlotte.  I do not want to give too much away but think The Fault in Our Star or another particularly sad read that had you bawling your eyes out.  

RECOMMENDED: for readers who enjoy similar fiction from the likes of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Katie McGarry. #tissuesrequired #realisticfiction









Wednesday, April 8, 2015

REVIEW: The Secrets Between You and Me by Shana Norris

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review.*

Seventeen year old Hannah's life is a mess.  Her father is in rehab after a nasty overdose on pain medication and her in denial alcoholic mother is jet setting around Paris, leaving Hannah alone to travel to Asheville, NC to visit her aunt.  Hannah is at a crossroads. She is tired of living up to her parents' high expectations, yet she still feels unsure of who she wants to be.  This summer is the opportunity for a fresh start.  The events that transpire over these few months have a profound impact on Hannah's future.

I enjoyed this book, especially since I am a fan of the new adult genre. This book artfully bridges the gap between traditional YA realistic fiction with a romantic flair while moving toward the new adult genre.  Both Hannah and her love interest, Jude, each have their fair share of baggage and secrets. Jude is still reeling from the death of his older brother by a roadside explosion in Afghanistan.  Readers will be enthralled by the way in which Hannah and Jude bond over their family lives in shambles.  In a typical romantic trope, Hannah's inability to divulge her secrets puts her friendship and budding romance with Jude in jeopardy.

This is a quick read for fans of realistic YA fiction with PG-13 romantic situations.  I would definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy books by Katie McGarry and Sarah Dessen.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Promises, promises

Professionally, I am attempting to embark on a new chapter.  Today is the first post of the rest of my career (lol). I do solemnly swear to post regular updates on my notable teen reads, teen programming, and other tidbits related to teen services. 

My most recent teen read was The Duff by Kody Keplinger.  Overall, I rate this a 4/5 stars. What's it about? Why this rating?

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review*

Seventeen year old Bianca is smart, savvy and has a witty, snarky sense of humor. She knows she's not the prettiest girl in school, especially when compared with her two besties, Casey and Jessica. However, Bianca is generally okay with self-esteem until the school's charming player, Wesley, labels her a DUFF (designated ugly, fat, friend) and shakes her confidence. Throw in troubles at home, plus learning her crush has a girlfriend, and her ex is in town, and Bianca feels as if she needs an escape - and ironically, that escape is Wesley. It turns out that Bianca may have misjudged Wesley but what happens when she realizes her fling might be leading to much, much more?

I really enjoyed this book. Bianca is a fantastic female protagonist along the lines of Virginia in 'The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things' by Mackler. The themes, situations, and dialog are authentic and appeal to a modern teen audience. That being said, this isn't a novel for just any teen given the sexual relationship between Bianca and Wesley that is at the forefront of the plot. I'd recommend this for slightly older, teen readers.