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Friday, August 28, 2015

REVIEW: Paper Towns by John Green

“If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.” 

Paper Towns marks the third novel by John Green I've read.  For me, it is probably my least favorite thus far.  Not by much, but enough.

The story goes...

Quentin and Margo are next door neighbors in Orlando, Florida.  As children, they have an eerie bonding experience when they discover a dead body.  Over time, they grow apart. Skip to the end of senior year, Q is still infatuated with Margo from afar. One night she shows up at his bedroom window and convinces him to help her enact revenge against her enemies.  It is a magical adventure, at least for Q; however, his dreams of how things will change don't quite pan out when Margo goes missing.  Q discovers clues about her location and ends up embarking on an epic adventure to find her and himself in the process.

“The town was paper, but the memories were not.” 
What I liked...

The writing style has the same vibe I love to associate with Green's work. It's gritty and heartfelt and realistic.  He manages to capture an authentic teen voice. There are so many great themes and discussion points.  In fact, that's my I picked this title for the inaugural session of my new Young @Heart book club for teens and adults who read YA fiction.

 I also liked the majority of the characters.  I adored Q.  There's great character development for him as he makes it through this mystery of sorts.  I also really liked the group of supporting characters.  Q's overly psychoanalytic parents were hilarious. Ben is a hoot as well as Radar and his eccentric parents.  

What I didn't like...

Margo.  I just found her irritating.  Unlike other characters, I had no emotional connection to her whatsoever.  I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt during her night of revenge.  I saw her disappearance coming a mile away. However, her reaction toward being "found" made me angry.  So angry in fact that I wanted to pull an Allie Brosh- Hyperbole and a Half style- and hit her with a brick.  Margo just comes across and selfish and insincere and so emotionally disconnected that she's a potential danger not only to herself but those who try to care for her. I was glad that Q realized it wouldn't work. 

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” 

The other thing I didn't love was how much Paper Towns reminded me of Looking for Alaska.  It just felt too similar. That's just me. Overall, it is a sound novel that stands up against others in the genre which are not as well composed.

Final rating 3.75 out of 5 stars

#papertowns #johngreen #review #YAlit #realistic #fiction 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

REVIEW: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

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

Something strange is happening in New York City.  A deadly sleeping sickness is spreading, raising racial and ethnic tensions among the citizens of the city that never sleeps.  Henry has been dream walking nearly every night in search of his long lost love, Louis. On these treks he encounters Ling Chang, another dream walker.  Together they discover the root of the sickness but must band together with the other Diviners both in and out of the dreamworld to catch a killer.

Lair of Dreams follows the supernatural showdown with a ghostly serial killer from The Diviners. There is an interesting division of characters following the first book. Evie O'Neil, "America's Sweetheart Seer", has been outed as a Diviner, 'reading' objects which connect her directly with the past.  While she's a media darling, not everyone thinks so.  Evie embarks on her own adventure of sorts with Sam (still desperate to find his mother and learn the truth about Project Buffalo)--questioning her burgeoning feelings for him and her lingering ones for Jericho. 

The historical setting of this series is so well done and utterly unique based on a lot of titles published in YA fiction.  The roaring '20s was such an intriguing time, especially in NYC.  Bray incorporates the language, fashion, and culture of this era with pizzazz. I definitely recommend it for the reader who wants a supernatural story that is different and takes him/her to another time and place.

Does this novel have the same magic as book one? No.  I did not care for the pacing.  As consistent with Bray as a writer, her plots and character development are stellar. However, I felt like the whole story lagged until I got about 75 percent in.  I did not care for the character disconnect; however, I do understand that such an authorial choice is a plot point to bring our band of characters back together. Much of the twists and turns became all too predictable, but I did enjoy the last quarter of the book. Perhaps what I missed most was the  creepy vibe present in The Diviners.  When I think about that story, I still get chills.  The same feeling wasn't apparent for this book.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#review #YAlit #netgalley #lairofdreams #libbabray #ghosts #dreams #supernatural #roaring20s

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

REVIEW: Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

The first in a new series by bestselling author Rachel Caine, Ink and Bone supposes what the world might be like if the Great Library of Alexandria had survived the test of time.  Readers of any age will be enthralled by Caine's rewrite of history; spinning a dangerous tale of power and corruption.

The Great Library maintains a presence in every major city; providing knowledge to the masses. However, the use of alchemy to deliver content instantly is closely monitored and the personal ownership of any book is forbidden.  As such, a competitive and deadly book black market exists and young Jess Brightwell's family is in the thick of it.  Sent to act as a spy, Jess's loyalties are quickly put to the test as he trains to enter the Library's service.  Jess soon learns that not all is what it seems. The secrets revealed will certainly change not only his life but the world.

I loved this book! This is a departure from the urban fantasy Caine typically writes.  I am a big fan of her adult sci-fi/fantasy Weather Wardens books as well as the YA Morganville Vampires series.  Characteristic of her work, readers will delve into fantastic world-building and superb characterization. The historical re-write is fascinating and generates plenty of discussion points.  I'm considering Ink and  Bone for a future reading selection in my Young @Heart book club (teens and adults who like to read YA fiction).

The cover art is just stunning and will look great on display.  I will add that I listened to the audiobook narrated by Julian Elfer.  I did not love his performance, not because Elfer was lacking in any way but that his rich, manly tone did not fit how I'd imagined sixteen year old Jess to sound.

I highly recommend this book for purchase. Read it sooner rather than later!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @rachelcaine

#bookreview #history #YAlit #INKANDBONE #rachelcaine #library

REVIEW: "Heart of Tin" by Danielle Paige

"Heart of Tin" is the latest short story release tying into the Dorothy Must Die series.  This is the Tin Man's story, mostly detailing his growing feelings for Dorothy following her first visit to Oz. Paige's portrayal of the Tin Man here is rather forlorn and delusional.  There is a certain obsessive, creeper vibe.   Upon Dorothy's return, the Tin Man is elated at her return; however, insecurity and jealousy take hold within his devotion to her, which are traits Glinda uses in order to manipulate him. She twists his love for Dorothy into something utterly evil and Paige uses this opportunity to share with readers more details into Oz's dark turn.

Overall, it is a well written story which is key to explaining the Tin Man's demise and his terrorizing actions. This fits in nicely with the two published novels in the series (Dorothy Must Die) as well as the other short stories: No Place Like Home, The Witch Must Burn, and The Wizard Returns. These are all available in eBook format and should be found in Overdrive.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

#dorothymustdie #daniellepaige #wizardofoz #tinman #YAlit #review 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

REVIEW: Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

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

Expected publication: October 13, 2015

Black Widow: Forever Red is a Marvel YA novel featuring readers' favorite former Russian spy turned Avenger, Natasha Romanov.  On one of her first S.H.I.E.L.D. assignments, Natasha is sent to eliminate the man who ruined her life.  However, a turn of events leads to more than she bargained for with a little girl named Ava, with whom she feels a kinship.  Having both been manipulated and separated from their families, Natasha promises to heed Ava's call if she ever needs her.

Eight years later...

Ava, now seventeen, hasn't had the ideal life.  Despite S.H.I.E.L.D.'s promises, her time with them was little more than as a constantly observed prisoner.  Now a runaway, barely scraping by in New York, she harbors a distinct bitterness toward Natasha because she never answered Ava's calls for help.  Combating this rage are Ava's powerfully vivid dreams featuring a handsome young man named Alex.  The lives of Natasha, Ava, and Alex in an unexpected series of events that will have readers on the edge of their seats.

What I liked...

  • Margaret Stohl is a seasoned, bestselling YA author.  Having co-written the Beautiful Creatures series with Kami Garcia and authored her own dystopian series, Icons and Idols, Stohl's writing is energetic and captivating. She does justice to this beloved character, perhaps more so than Natasha has been given in recent film adaptations.
  • The general story. There are plenty of great twists and turns that will keep readers interested. 
  • Agent. Coulson.

What I didn't like...

  • The pacing.  Sometimes it felt like the story lagged. I attribute this in part to the formatting. I didn't much care for the POV shifts. These made it harder for me to really get into the story.  I had to really push through the middle section of the novel. However, the last third was pretty dynamic.
I recommend this for multiple audiences.  Readers of any age who are fans of Marvel characters will appreciate this novel. There is great depth of character and a pretty bittersweet ending. Those who are not necessarily Marvel fans will like this too because of the adventure and plot.  There is a tinge of romance, great action, and some truly kick-butt protagonists. Stohl's reverence and enthusiasm at being tapped to helm this creation are evident and add to the reader's overall enjoyment.

If you are buying for a library collection, definitely add this!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

#review #netgalley #YAlit #Marvel #blackwidow #margaretstohl

Monday, August 3, 2015

Unmask - The Caped Crusader makes a special visit

As part of the superhero themed SR program, we planned two separate movie marathons.  In June was had Marvel day.  Teens snacked on popcorn and pizza while enjoying a marathon run of Marvel flick of their choice.  Top contenders were X2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

July marked out DC movie marathon.  The day started with Man of Steel and continued with a marathon of Batman favorites.  The highlight was that The Dark Knight himself made a special guest appearance hanging out with teens and other library patrons as well as pitching in to help staff.

Check it out!

Just catching up on his Batgirl reading :)
An epic match-up with Captain America!

Making cupcakes!
Even superheros need a snack.

Even Batman is no match for The Closet of Doom!

Just helping out at the drive-thru!
Reading a bit of Shakespeare at the park!
Conducting important bat-business!

Working the reference desk like a pro!

#unmask #dccomics #batman #librarylife #teenprograming #marvel