Posts tagged with "book review"

Posted by emather on 08/21/14
This book review is by Max B. All summer, we had teens submit book, music, and movie reviews for a Left Brain challenge. Max's was chosen as the best submission all summer, and in addition to winning a tablet, we're posting his awesome review here. He's got a great book to recommend!
 
Ashfall, an apocalypse novel by Mike Mullin, surpassed all of my expectations, yet fell short of being a truly great read.
 
Alex Halprin is an introvert living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Alex’s family goes to visit his uncle in Warren, Illinois, leaving Alex behind. Everything is going fine until a super volcano underneath Yellowstone National Park erupts.
 
Alex leaves Cedar Falls to find his family, and along the way he meets Target, an ex-convict that is taking advantage of a lawless land. He also meets the Edmunds family, most notably Darla, who soon bonds greatly with Alex. Alex and Darla set off together to find Alex's family and chaos ensues.
 
There are two broad ways to describe the book: Ashfall the apocalypse novel and Ashfall the stand-alone novel. Mullin did an amazing job writing Ashfall as an apocalypse novel. The words are well thought out, the tone is consistent, and though the overall plot is good (if a tad cliché,) it’s the plot arcs themselves that are unique and well done.
 
On the other hand, Mullin didn't do nearly as good of a job writing Ashfall as a stand-alone novel. It is poorly written, and most of the dialogue follows the same pattern with excessive amounts of arguing and thanking. The relationship between Alex and Darla turned from a promising friendship with hints of a relationship in the future into a sappy, poorly written and unnecessary romantic subplot.
 
Although Mullin didn't spend too much time on the romance, the time he did spend on it simply wasn't well done. It wasn’t so much the romance that bothered me, but rather the deviation and lack of consistency. The novel was presented as an apocalypse story, but with how often it deviates from that format it stops being so.
 
Most parts of Ashfall are unique, interesting and most of all genuine. When apocalypse stories are made, there is a factor of irrationality that turns it into a joke. However the threat within Ashfall is realistic and could be viewed as a valid concern.
 
As far as apocalypse novels go, Ashfall is one of the best; as far as novels in general go, it falls as hard as the ash within the novel.
 
 

Posted by tspicer on 06/19/14
 
What happens when you mix science fiction, fairy tales, romance, and a compelling, fast-paced plot all in one book?  You get Cress, which is all of that and so much more.  Cress continues the stories of Cinder and Scarlet, the first two books in The Lunar Chronicles.
 
Cinder and Scarlet and their ragtag band of fugitives take their stolen spaceship to rescue Cress (think Rapunzel if she was locked up in an orbital satellite instead of a tower). Cress has the secrets they need to stop the Lunar Queen Levana, who plans to marry the young Emperor Kai (who Cinder might just still have a crush on, although she’d probably never admit it), then kill him and invade the rest of the Earth.
 
With a fast pace, plenty of action and a bit of romance, Cress will appeal to a lot more than just sci fi fans, although there’s plenty here for them as well: cyborgs, spaceships, and moon people with psychic powers, for example.  There’s only one downside – once you finish you’ll have to wait until next year to find out what happens in the next book.
 
 

Posted by tspicer on 07/10/14
What if the people who raised you had been lying to you for your entire life?  What if everything you believed, everything you were, was nothing more than someone trying to manipulate you for their own ends?  In Bloodwitch by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, that’s the question that Vance Ehecatl has to face.
 
Vance is a quetzal, a shapeshifter who can take the form of a bird.  Abandoned by his own people, Vance has been raised by the vampire rulers of the powerful Midnight Empire.  His sheltered life is interrupted by Malachi Obsidian, who tells Vance he’s a bloodwitch, a powerful magic user, and that the vampires have been lying to him all his life to make him their tool.
 
Vance struggles to discover his identity and figure out who he can trust in this compelling fantasy tale.  It’s the first of a new trilogy, but if you enjoy it you can follow the ongoing “Lilith’s Explorations of Midnight” tale that the author posts on her Facebook page.
 

Posted by red_sonya on 02/07/14
                                                                       
 
Drawings don’t normally move but Katie swears the mysterious Tomohiro’s drawings just did. Katie, an American girl, is a world away from home in Japan, still adjusting to the language barrier and culture gap. When Katie gets involved with the intriguing and sometimes dangerous Tomohiro and his moving drawings, her life changes forever. She is left wondering why the ink is seemingly drawn to her all while learning about Kami (Shinto Gods) and dodging the Yakuza (a Japanese gang).
 
 
This is a book full of Japanese mythology, danger, with a dash of romance. As an avid manga reader, I felt like Ink could easily be made into one; as the plot is very similar to many shojo mangas. The book has many images within it that coincides with what you are reading. There are many Japanese words you learn through out Ink (there is a glossary in the back to explain them so don’t worry!). This book is wonderful for those Japanophiles out there. It gives a good look at what life is like living in a foreign country, dealing with the different culture, and their everyday lives.
 
 
Ink was a very quick read; it’s very intriguing, and gripping. I thoroughly enjoyed and it and will be purchasing it for my own collection at home. The book does end on a cliffhanger and sadly the next book, Rain, doesn’t come out till June this year (which I have on preorder already).
 
There is also a prequel to Ink, called Shadow, which is available for free on Amazon!
 

Posted by red_sonya on 02/24/14
                                                        
 
 
Insanity is a gripping page turner, full of suspense. Taking place in Never, Kentucky and the medical facility/mental institution called Lincoln. Lincoln isn’t your average medical facility, the dead never seem to fully rest here. Lincoln is a gateway to the other-side, and might even be a living being itself. Four kids whose lives intertwine are all pulled into Lincoln’s mysterious, sometimes terrifying ways. Together they go on a journey full of ghosts, shades, and other supernatural beings, and find their lives drastically changed.

I found this book to be a thrilling read. I simply couldn’t put it down. The author does a fantastic job of making you connect to the characters. The book is told in four different parts, each part another kid, and all connected. I enjoyed reading the same progressing story line but told through the different points of views, and their own voices.I did think the book could have ended earlier, but I did like the ending the author chose.
 
For a supernatural read I found this book to be an exciting one. I felt the fear and terror that the characters were feeling. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good ghost story.
 
 

Posted by emather on 12/31/13
                 
 
As the year comes to a close, we always like to look back, and it's impossible to deny that 2013 has been anything but a great year for books.  Several series concluded (Allegiant, the Sweet Tooth and Locke & Key comic series), kept going in new and interesting ways (ProdigyRose Under Fire) and amazing new ones began (The 5th Wave). We saw books from both great new authors and old favorites (both Rainbow Rowell and Neil Gaiman each published two great books this year). We polled both HUB staff and HUB teens for their favorite books of 2013. You can find the results below.  See if your favorite book is on the list (feel free to yell at us in the comments if it's not), and you'll probably find one or two great picks to add to your to-read list.
 

HUB Teens' Five Favorite Books of 2013:

 
  1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  2. TIE: Allegiant by Veronica Roth, Prodigy by Marie Lu
  3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  5. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Trixie on 03/24/14
I like to think that he saw me, the loosened ends of my long bandages and the wispy tangled curls of my hair reaching out to the wind, the skirt of my nightgown billowing in the melodic waves. I like to think that he watched as I climbed over the side of the rickety widow’s walk, my toes perched on the ledge, my fingers clasped lightly to the railing behind me. Perhaps he noted, with quiet irony, that never before had anyone more resembled an angel. I like to think that he marveled at the mass of bandages that unraveled completely and tumbled to the ground, and at the pair of pure white wings, large and strong, that unfolded from my shoulder blades.
 
 
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is about love: unrequited and impossible, elation, loss, and suffering; in the midst of it, a girl is born with wings. First, readers follow the relentless suffering of Ava's immigrant family over the course of three generations. This chronicle culminates in her birth. Set in 1950s Seattle, Ava's mother and grandmother shelter winged Ava from the community in order to protect her. However, as any blossoming teen, Ava longs to fit in with her peers. In this novel, Leslye Walton writes about a teenage girl's exploration of self and her place in an unexplored world. 
 

I absolutely LOVED this book! It’s beautifully written with incredible imagery. I felt as if I opened the book and walked right into the scenes described. Walton delivers a rich and full story that provides the context for Ava's plight; she weaves together stories across generations à la Marquez. I also adored the characters and was invested in their outcome. I liked the dark, traditional fairy tale/fable feel of the novel - sobbed at the end of it, but strangely hopeful and satisfied despite tragedy. If you like magical realism or emotional stories, this is a must read!

 

Posted by emather on 01/25/14
Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in...with a bunch more reading recommendations!  Here are some teen book suggestions from library staff outside of teen services, since you're all probably sick of us yelling at you to read books.   Shannon,  Carol, and Amy have written reviews of three unique but excellent.  As always, you can find many more Intralibrary Teen Book Alliance recommendations here.
 
 
 
Could you live in a world where love was outlawed?
 
Lauren Oliver’s novel describes a futuristic Garden of Eden where teens are matched with a “life-mate” and then undergo a procedure to remove their capacity to love.  Teens that flee or resist the procedure are known as “invalids” and are believed to “live like animals…filthy, hungry, desperate.”
 
When Lena and Alex must choose between the law and each other, they know that they are making an impossible decision.  If they run away, they will lose their families.  If they stay and undergo the procedure, they will lose the feelings that they have for their families – and each other.
 
The dramatic conclusion will leave you wondering… What would you risk for love?
 
Review by: Carol E.
Dept: Circulation
 
 
 
Shai is a strong, independent girl who is very talented at what she does for a living. She is a forger. She doesn’t just copy things, however. She uses her magical skills to enhance the very essence of the item she is copying, consequently mirroring not just its appearance, but its entire history. She is so good at her job that she attracts the attention of the Emperor’s entourage. When the Emperor suddenly loses consciousness after an assassination attempt, they see Shai as their only hope against what they fear the most; the loss of their powerful positions in the Empire. In order to prevent a revolution, the Emperor’s highest ranking officials capture Shai in the midst of a forgery, and force her to choose between being sentenced to death, or accepting a job they believe she will not pass up. They challenge her to forge their Emperor’s soul.
 
This is a cleverly written fantasy with a unique storyline, and character development that usually needs at least twice as many pages to pull off. Shai’s personality draws you in so rapidly that before you know what is happening you are immersed in her world, and rooting for her to pull off the impossible. Not only are you pleasantly surprised by the ending, but you get there so quickly that you are almost sorry to see that it is over. Sanderson is well known for his epic fantasies, and more recently for completing the Wheel of Time saga, but this first attempt at a novella was undeniably a success, as well as a Hugo award winner. Marketed for both adults as well as teens, it is absolutely worth reading.
 
Review by: Shannon M.
Dept: Circulation
 
 
 
Weetzie Bat, a high school girl in Los Angeles, is best friends with Dirk.  Weetzie and Dirk have adventures after high school when they find a genie in a magic lamp who grants them three wishes.  Weetzie and Dirk both find love and have many adventures together with their significant others.  This book is a quick read and is fun with its whimsical tone and some bits of magic mixed in with the reality of life. If you are looking for a book that will take you on an adventure, then this is the book for you.
 
Review by: Amy H.
Dept: Bookmobile

Posted by Trixie on 05/12/14
 
Laura Lee Gulledge’s graphic novel Will & Whit is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. At first glance, I assumed it was a teen romance. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with teen romance. I checked it out and turned out to be wrong about the book’s plot.
 
The story is about a teenager trying to face her fears and deal with tragedy as well as friendship, her supporting cast. It’s about summer adventures and creativity. “Problems just force us to be more creative, right?” As far as creativity, Gulledge’s illustrations are fantastic. Black and white drawing that seems to radiate off the page, creepy shadows cast that enrich the story. “You know, in the dark, people see what they want to see.” It’s a great graphic novel for someone that likes realistic fiction and coming-of-age stories. It kind of reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
 
As a bonus, Gulledge includes a few extras, like the soundtrack she envisions for the book (included below, less one song), her inspiration and a recipe for the Blue Crush Cookies referenced. Who’s going to bake the cookies and bring ‘em to the Hub? Any takers (or bakers)?
 
 

Posted by tspicer on 02/27/14
 
If you still haven't placed a hold on Boxers or Saints yet after watching the above clip, I'll try and convince you now. I've only read Saints, but it was so uniquely told, informative, funny and horrifying, that I am eagerly waiting to read Boxers. The Boxer Rebellion occurred in China over 100 years ago and this 2-volume set of graphic novels by Printz award winning author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang, sheds light on the complicated events of this bloody period of the world's past. Yet the genius of this book is that it makes these events that happened such a long time ago seem vivid, understandable and totally engrossing as the author crafts genuinely believable characters, whom the reader ends up caring greatly about their plights.
 
China at this time was weakened and the government in shambles. European missionaries began to emerge and flex their influence throughout the country and the result was a nationalism-inspired backlash by the 'Boxers' against these 'Saints'.

Bloodshed and chaos ensued.

It all sounds so violent and terrible and certainly at times it is. But the story is filled with humor, as the character's facial expressions are so expressive, including the young teenage protagonist, an unwanted fourth-born daughter named ... (ahem) 'Four Girl'. Four Girl is a Chinese Christian teenager who struggles with her faith. She hatches all types of odd plans to cope with the confusion and turmoil surrounding her, including my favorite plan of hers: in order to be feared and respected, she walks around endlessly with her "devil face" on. This face needs to be seen to be believed and is laugh out loud funny. Four Girl's struggles with her faith and whose side to fight for, come across as gut-wrenching, endearing and are acutely conveyed. Teens, adults should all dive into this amazing work of art.