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Friday, November 20, 2015

REVIEW: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer is the first in Rick Riordan's new Norse mythology centric series. Sixteen year old Magnus Chase (yes, he's Annabeth's cousin!) has had a turbulent few years.  Following the mysterious death of his mother two years, before, he's been living alone on the streets of Boston. When he's tracked down by the very man his mother warned was dangerous, Magnus get the shock of a lifetime.

In a strange twist of fate, Magnus' life is over before it really began.  Carried in his afterlife to the halls of Valhalla, Magnus is shocked to learn he's the son of a Norse god and that all the Viking lore he learned as a child is true.  The Asgardian gods are at war and doomsday is fast approaching. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus and his new comrades must search the Nine Worlds for a powerful weapon, the Sword of Summer, all while deciding who to trust and ensure that Fenrir--legendary wolf-son of Loki--doesn't escape his bound prison.

Fans of Riordan's other mythology based YA series won't be disappointed.  Magnus reminds me greatly of Percy Jackson but perhaps with a bit more sarcastic edge, especially since he's experienced far more tragedy and hardships than our beloved Greek demigod.  I found this first in the series far more humorous than the Heroes of Olympus series as a whole. Besides humor, there are plenty of other characteristic present which Riordan readers have come to expect including the introduction of diverse characters, creative, adventures plot and an easily accessible way to learn more about mythology.

Overall, I loved it and certainly recommend the audiobook read by Christopher Guetig.  He gives each character memorable flair and highlights the exciting story and hilarious moments. I think it will be a great series and I can't wait for the Hammer of Thor's publication in 2016.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#Norse #mythology #YAlit #teen #swordofsummer #magnuschase #rickriordan

REVIEW: Traffick by Ellen Hopkins

For Hopkins fans, Traffick is the much anticipated sequel to Tricks. Again, readers become transfixed by the stories of five teens, all pushed into child prostitution based on crucial life choices and as a necessity to survive. Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas after her escape from an abusive religious deprogramming facility; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who uses his body in order to have food and a place to live; Whitney, the privileged kid manipulated into the life and heroin addiction by a pimp; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling debts force him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead. As this novel closed, readers were left with so many questions as to the fate of these young teens.

While Tricks chronicled the downward spiral of these characters, Traffick brings readers back to Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody as each begins to change the course of their lives for the better.  There are definite themes of redemption and second chances. While each teen has significant struggles to overcome, Hopkins explores the aftermath of these events and illuminates the harsh realities of child prostitution in the United States.

As with most of Hopkins' novels in verse, I found both Tricks and Traffic haunting. These journeys are heart-wrenching, gritty and all too realistic.  I'm glad that there is this sequel to lend a bit of closure to the events in the first book.  Hopkins' delivery and writing style are like none other.  There is something about the narration via poetry that makes the reading experience that more intimate.

There are plenty of realistic fiction novels published with teen readers in mind. However, none deliver the edgy, hard to talk about topics quite like Hopkins. Such issues exist and are realities for many teens. It is important that they have access to such books to understand that they are not alone.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#tricks #traffic #ellenhopkins #verse #poetry #YAlit #toughissues #realistic

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PROGRAM: Fall Line-up--Zombie Prom

Halloween is my biggest library program of the fall.  As part of an October 'Zombiefest' including our Skype session with Jonathan Maberry, watching Warm Bodies and reading Rot & Ruin, our teen Halloween party this year was Zombie Prom.

Audience: Teens ages 12-18

Duration: An hour and a half (pre planning is a must! give yourself at least 2 hours for set up if you have help such as other staff members and teen volunteers)

Food: Pinterest was a huge help! Here's what we made:
  • Witch hats & brooms (fudge stripe cookies, orange icing, Hershey kisses, pretzel sticks, mini Reese’s cups)
  • Puking pumpkin & chips (ranch dip, ruffles, lil pumpkin carved)
  • Graveyard pudding cups (pudding cups various flavors, oreo crumbs, ghost Peeps, candy pumpkin)
  • Apple nachos (apple slices drizzled with caramel sauce, mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows)
  • Oreo eyeballs (oreos, gel icing, gummy lifesavers, M&Ms)
  • Spider pops (tootsie pop, pipe cleaner, googley eyes)
  • Misc. candy + tiny treat bags

Activities: Teens were content to hang out, nibble on treats and socialize. We did have a number of other fun games:

  • Halloween Scavenger Hunt
  • Halloween Trivia
  • Boo bean bag toss
  • How to draw a zombie station w/ supplies
  • Bingo

Music & Photo Booth: A co-worker's father is a DJ so we had a fun Halloween mix playing for atmosphere.  'Thriller' is always a favorite but I was surprised by the group's love of the 'Addams Family' theme.  We also had a photo op graveyard scene. Check out the pictures!

It was a super fun eveing.  In total we had 25 teens who dressed as zombies, anime heroes, Marie, Luigi and even Boba Fett!

#Halloween #teen #program #zombie #zombieprom #party #library

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

REVIEW: Starflight by Melissa Landers

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Expected publication: February 2, 2016

Starflight is the first in a new series by Melissa Landers. Teen orphan, Solara Brooks is determined to flee Earth to embark on a fresh start.  Literally branded as a criminal, she hopes that she'll find a new life and employment as a mechanic in the outer realm. Solara is so desparate to escape that she's willing to indenture herself to former classmate, Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular heir to a fuel legacy.

Unforeseen events lead to quite a twist in fate when Solara and Doran end up on the Banshee, a space vessel of dubious reputation.  Soon Doran learns that he's been fraudulently been charged with conpiracy on Earth and that his father has been imprisoned. Dead set on completing his mission and clearing his name, Doran and Solara have to set their differences aside and agree to work together with hopes to avoid the forces gunning for their arrest.

Living in such close quarters on the ship is a challenge to all.  Both learn that they need to reevaluate how they look at the world and each other in order to survive.  Respect, trust and eventually attraction and love bloom. Readers are in store for a emotionally charged space adventure. The cast of secondary characters are compelling as are the villains and some rather startling discoveries. I loved the pacing, creativity and humor. I cannot wait to read book two and determine how certain events will impact other characters, namely Cassie and Kane.

Overall, I was reluctant when I began this book since space adventures aren't always of high interest to me as a reader. However, Landers weaves an artful web that will entice romance and adventure fans as well as those with a love of Firefly, Star Trek, and Star Wars.

Final rating: 4.5/5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @Melissa_Landers

#starflight #melissalanders #YAlit #space #romance #bookreview #teen #netgalley

Monday, November 2, 2015

REVIEW: Black Blade #1 & #2 by Jennifer Estep

In Cold Burn of Magic, book 1 of Estep's Black Blade series, readers meet Lilah Merriweather. Her life isn't exactly what you'd call boring. Sure high school is basically the same for everyone, unless you live in the "most magical place in America."  Run-ins with monsters just happen to be a common occurrence.  Orphaned, Lilah supports herself by using her Talents for Sight and Transference as a thief but her life takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself embroiled within a deadly family feud--the same feud that cost her mother her life.

Suddenly tasked with being the bodyguard to the Sinclair family bruiser, Devon, Lilah struggles with her growing feelings for her sweet, charming, irresistibly good looking and sometimes infuriating 'assignment.' Someone is dead set on targeting Devon and Lilah must use all her fighting skills to protect him.

Dark Heart of Magic picks up a few week after book 1.  Lilah is still adjusting to her place within the Sinclair family.  Having learned that her mother was a Sinclair, Lilah is more determined than ever to discover Victor Draconi's secrets and expose him for the murderer he is.  More strange occurrences are happening in Cloudburst Falls, coincidentally just in time for the annual Tournament of the Blades.  Lilah unexpectedly finds herself a contender in the games; however, the real challenge is surviving the deadly mishaps befalling participants.

Lilah learns some startling facts about her family's past in connection to the Draconi family. These discoveries has a greater impact on the outcome of the tournament and will prove to be important for book 3, Bright Blaze of Magic, due for release in April 2016.

What I liked...

I'm a fan of Estep's work, especially the adult urban fantasy Elemental Assassin series.  The author has the knack for writing smart, sassy female protagonists.  These characters usually have experienced trauma, leading to the development of a hard, anti-emotional exterior; however, they are more than capable of compassion and helping others when necessary. In a lot of ways Lilah reminds me of Gin but she isn't quite as jaded and deadly...yet. I do like that Estep has included some subtle connections to people and places in her adult series.

The secondary characters, pacing and plot are all well developed. These proved to be quick, fun reads with just enough mystery, humor, romance and just enough supernatural elements to entice teen and adult readers alike.

What I didn't like...

Aspects of repetition in the second book seemed to bog down the narrative.  Just how many times does the reader need to be told that Lilah's go-to outfit is a specific t-shirt, cargo pants and sneakers? Additionally, I noticed an over repetition of certain phrases and ideas that were distracting, if not irritating while reading.

In general, I wholeheartedly recommend this series.  It will appeal to Estep fans as well as urban fantasy fans young and old alike. I look forward to the next book and can't wait to see the next twist in the story

Final rating 4 out 5 stars

#jenniferestep #blackblade #coldburnofmagic #darkheartofmagic #urbanfantasy #bookreview #netgalley #YAlit #teen