To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reviewed by Joie
It's deep south in 1930, and to any person with status, an African American person is below them. Step into the world before Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. This world is racist and discriminatory, splitting the people by the color of their skin. Many turn their noses up at the African Americans, thinking them to be inferior beings. This is the world America tried to change. And one young girl, untarnished by such prejudices, is soon to realize the pain that the people bring to one another. Her father, a lawyer, fights for yet unheard of ideals, and through his spirited defense, she begins to see the world isn't a perfect mixture of black and white.
Scout is merely six, but she can read, write, and play as well as her older brother Jem. Her father, Atticus, is fair to them and treats them well. But through her innocent and clear eyes, something is brewing. Atticus has accepted the duty of defending a black man. The crime? He is accused of raping a white girl. Soon, Scout finds the ordinary people of her town, Maycomb, looking down at Atticus the same way that they do to the African Americans. And, during the painful trial, the true ugly face of segregation and discrimination rears its head.
A message in the title, To Kill a Mockingbird is more then your average book. Oh sure, one has probably heard it being assigned in 9th grade, as a Literature assignment, but don't let that fool anyone. This book, rich with detail, precision, and a realization for all, is a classic story for a reason. It tells of the time before the true melting pot of America, and echoes lessons of the past. Cutting through all twitters and chirps, the book is true to the view of Scout, and never would you think Scout is not alive and telling her story. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize and made into an amazing movie, it's not just another English assignment book; It's a classic.
Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black
Reviewed by Ruya
Valiant is the story of seventeen-year-old Valerie who runs away to New York City from New Jersey. She moves into an abandoned subway station with three others around her age: sweet but slightly crazy Lollipop, Sketchy Dave, and Luis, Dave's one-eyed brother. Eventually, Val discovers that there is more to her new friends than meets the eye. Luis has the Sight, which means that he can see faeries, and works for a troll named Ravus who lives nearby, delivering a potion which helps the faeries of New York to resist iron. What's more, Lolli and Dave discovered early on that if they inject that same potion into their bloodstream, it gives them a certain amount of faerie magic temporarily. As Val begins to take the potion/drug and accidentally binds herself to service for Ravus, she becomes more and more deeply entwined in the world of faeries which has been right under her nose all her life.
This book, a romantic fantasy which I consider a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is one you won't be able to put down until the very end, and once you've finished it, you'll want to read it all over again. It has complex and likable characters; I thoroughly enjoyed Val's comparisons of life to video games and some of her reckless decisions, and I adored Ravus, with his gold eyes and wisdom. I even found myself liking the sullen Luis towards the end. It has faeries and sword fighting. Best of all, it makes you think about things you've taken for granted your entire life in a whole new light, the way Ravus, with his broad perception of beauty, does; In his eyes, a gum wrapper transforms into "a mirror that never cracks," and a cigarette butt becomes "the breath of a man." The best books, in my opinion, are the ones that make you think even after you're done reading them, and needless to say, Valiant is one of them. Make sure to read it while it's not as popular, though—Holly Black's enticing story is being optioned as a movie, possibly to be released in 2010!
Librarian's note: this is the second book in the series Modern Tales of Faerie
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reviewed by Bronte
This story is one that I actually liked the movie version better (the only other one is The Count of Monte Cristo, because I don't like the ending of the novel) because the writing in this one was very past tense, but maybe that was because I was reading it when I was in fourth grade and had just read Harry Potter which couldn't be more different. Rereading this book I liked the writing, it is choppy but it is supposed to be, it lends Melinda more character. The writing is powerful but still depicts a young girl's struggle to fit in in high school. There is also the mystery surrounding what actually happened to her at the end of school the previous year. The story is amazing and looking back the writing is awesome as well, I guess I don't like the movie better than the book now, and this is a good thing, I was feeling like a traitor, but the movie is also amazing, it's with Kristen Stewart and she is superb in it. Ever since watching it she has been one of my favorite actresses. The story of this high school outcast is a worthwhile read. I would suggest waiting until a little later to read this book so you can really appreciate the writing.
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Emma
Nation is an amazing book. Period.
Nation is a book about a boy named Mau who goes to an island to become a man, just as every other true man that ever lived on the island called Nation had. He makes himself a boat to get back to Nation, then, there is a tsunami; Every person that was on Nation at the time is killed by the murderous wave, though Nation isn't the only island which feels this tragedy. Mau survives and paddles back to his home to find the hundreds of family members and friends laying dead. He makes himself a hut and while he is asleep a spirit version of himself clears away the bodies and sends them all into the ocean to become dolphins, an animal formerly worshiped by his people. When he wakes up there is a strange breakfast in front of his hut. Mau searches for this unseen provider of food and finds her easily. She is Daphne, an English-woman. They are scared of each other the first day, but then they really meet each other and become friends. They overcome challenges like speaking different languages and helping the 100 or so people that come to Nation as their last hope, only to find that Nation had also been overrun by the tidal wave. But the quote on the front of the book: "When much is taken, something is returned" holds true and they find a way to survive as a new and improved Nation.
The characters in this story are very realistic even though some of the happenings in the story are impossible. I would say that this book might be a little inappropriate for younger readers but that people in the 10+ range would love the book if they like almost-but-not-quite-tragic stories with incredibly satisfying endings.
The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies
Reviewed by Joie
They are searching for that one bird, whose presence was recorded only once in history before disappearing forever from the world. The Mysterious Bird of Ulieta was never found again after Joseph Banks was given the specimen. The only documentation the seekers have is a painting of this bird and the paper- thin leads that pop up. But this mystery, which weaves through past and present, shows the grand stories and loves of both those who had the bird so many years ago, and the ones that are searching for it now. All through the book a desperate question rushes — can it be found?
John Fitzgerald is both a naturalist and a taxidermist for aviaries. Basically, he preserves dead birds, though haunted by a failure many years ago when his once promising project died . He quietly disappeared back into his small taxidermy job until many years later when an inquirer by the name of Anderson comes calling, looking for the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta which has vanished from history. Anderson claims a lead on the bird, and offers John a chance of a lifetime. Soon, other prospectors arrive, including a shady Mr. Potts, and Gabriella, John's former partner. It's a race for leads to find whether the bird now exists at all.
Yet that is not all of the story. It whisks you into the past, into the true love story of Joseph Banks and his mistress, the mysterious Miss Brown. It details their intricate lives and feelings, creating a mystery thoroughly and beautifully haunting.
This book is an intricate mystery, the race for the last specimen of a probably extinct bird. Twisting and captivating, this book pleases and puzzles. The mystery is hard, but the moments of glory are spectacular, especially the beautiful ending of the book. Martin Davies has proved his ability to write mind-blowing mysteries that keep you on your toes, and The Conjurer's Bird is no exception. This is an excellent mystery with a touching message of holding on to the lost.
Troy by Adele Geras
Reviewed by Joie
In a land between continents, 2000 years ago, a war so terrible it is still known today is being fought. Men cleaved in half and punctured by hundreds of arrows lie on the battlefield. Blood is everywhere. The city is withering away. This is a tale of the Trojan War and people the people of Troy.
The battles of the Trojan war are well known and recited throughout ages. The clever Greeks and the spiteful Trojans. But this tale is not one of the battlefield. It lies in Aphrodite's game; two sisters with God sight are set against longings not known before, and, all the while, the war rages on. This story depicts what the great Trojan War was like from the viewpoint of women.
The book was a captivating read. Although one must know quite a bit about the Greek heroes and deities, it is a realistic tale of war siege combined with the cruelty of love and trickery among the Olympians. I recommend this book only for older teenagers and adults as it contains rather suggestive themes and gruesome scenes. Girls would probably enjoy it more than boys due to the action flowing more slowly than usual, but it is not standstill. The characters acted as real humans would at that time, and I think Geras did a good job depicting them. An adventure of the other side of the Trojan War is there for those who wish to read it!
Magyk by Angie Sage
Reviewed by Dio
Septimus Heap was born a seventh son of a seventh son, but he dies hours after his birth...or does he?
Jenna, the adopted 'replacement' for Septimus, looks nothing like the rest of her family; She's black haired when all the rest are fair headed, and soon this becomes a problem. A rumor has leaked out and, even though the parents know it to be true they still are finding it too hard to believe: Jenna's the baby princess! She's the heir to the throne, and someone wants her dead! As this fast paced tale unravels, you'll find out what really happened to Septimus and how Jenna really came to the Heap family. Magyk is a great book for children ages 9 and up.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Reviewed by Emma
Alright, this is my FAVORITE book. The Westing Game starts with the heirs being gathered to Sunset Towers, an apartment complex in Wisconsin. There were 16 heirs. None of whom knew their uncle, Sam Westing. A bet. 2 dollars for every minute that Tabitha-Ruth (more commonly known as Turtle) stayed in the old Westing mansion. 1 Minute. 2 Minutes. 5 Minutes. 10. 11. Then, screaming. Turtle hurtled out of the old house with thoughts of the waxy, dead hand and body neatly tucked in to the four poster bed. The next day, the headline on the newspaper blared : SAM WESTING FOUND DEAD. Everybody in Sunset Towers, the building where they lived, were heirs except for 2. They didn't win the estate, but they did get introduced to the Westing game.
You know how I said this is my favorite book? Well, I wasn't lying. This is an amazing book filled with mystery, wrong assumptions, and murder (maybe). It's a little hard to keep up with but if you remember every single little detail, then you are guaranteed to love it. This book would probably be best for ages 9-15 (give or take a few) but anyone who's up for an amazing mystery story should consider The Westing Game.
Big Gardens in Small Spaces: Out-of-the-Box Advice for Boxed-in Gardeners, by Martyn Cox (2009). '…See how careful thought and creativity can bring the intimate enclosure of a small garden alive…Boxed in gardeners needn't feel boxed-in any more! '
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter. A New York Times Notable Book in 2009, this is a 'unique and hilarious memoir about one woman living on a farm in downtown Oakland…'
Foliage, by Nancy J. Ondra (2007) - This lavishly illustrated volume won the American Horticultural Society Book Award in 2008. It organizes leafy plants by color and texture, and provides a wealth of well-organized information.
Mid-Atlantic Home Landscaping, ( 2006 - revised edition) by Roger Holmes and Rita Buchanan. Includes a 'portfolio of designs' for gardens with different themes in a variety of spaces. Also shows how to make paths and walkways, fences, arbors, trellises, ponds and retaining walls, along with problem solving tips and detailed plant profiles.
Native Trees for North American Landscapes: From the Atlantic to the Rockies, by Guy Stemberg (2004). This detailed compendium received the National Arbor Day Foundation Award. Includes tree profiles of more than 650 species and varieties, and more than 500 cultivars - each describing flowers and fruits, native and adaptive range, culture, problems and best seasonal features.
The New Encyclopedia of Hostas, by Dina Grenfel and Michael Shadrack (2009 - revised edition). This new edition of an award-winning work describes more than 700 varieties with 800 photographs, arranged according to leaf color and type of variegation.
Perennial Vegetables, by Eric Toensmeier (2007) - This winner of the 2008 American Horticultural Society Book Award is a gardener's guide to over 100 easy-to-grow edibles. Gives species profiles with history and ecology, and information on tolerances and preferences, pests, propagation and planting, harvest and storage, and uses.
Understanding Perennials: a New Look at an Old Favorite, by William Cullina. Another 2009 New York Times Notable Book, the author focuses on the “psychology of perennials…their needs, wants and potentials.'
What's Wrong With My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?): a Visual guide to Easy Diagnosis and Organic Remedies, by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth (2009). Reviewed in the Washington Post. Flow charts allow for easy diagnosis; it is well organized and clearly illustrated.
The Wild Garden, by William Robinson and Rick Darke (2009 - expanded edition). Called 'a model for truly sustainable landscapes,' this volume contains the complete original text and beautiful detailed illustrations from the fifth edition of 1895, enhanced by 125 color photographs.
Please visit the Takoma Horticultural Club web site. Their plant exchange will be held next Sunday afternoon at Heffner Park. This is for members only, membership costs $12. Bring a check.
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Reviewed by Shanta
Rules is a book reflecting the lives of many people throughout America who must deal with autism in their families. Catherine, for instance, is a girl who simply wants to be a normal girl and wants to be treated like everyone else. However, many people treat her differently simply because her brother is autistic. In the summer, Catherine makes two new friends and tries to fit in. Soon, because of her new behavior, everything turns out to be not how it should be. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially if they are in the situation Catherine is in. This book is descriptive in telling such a touching story, inspirational to all readers.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a lovely novel about the power of friendship between girls. This story tells of the first summer that four best friends are separated from each other. Although they are sad and even somewhat frightened about not being together, a pair of magical pants keeps them connected and fits each of their different body types beautifully. Throughout the summer the girls fall in and out of love, go through life changing experiences, and yet still continue to keep their friendship throughout the course of the novel. I especially enjoyed reading this book because it is a very quick and easy read, and the setting is in Rockville and Bethesda where the author grew up. This makes the book even more special to those in our area than to other readers around the world as we can see with our eyes the places that the girls live and travel throughout the novel.
The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants and The Second Summer of The Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
Reviewed by Saleiha
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood is even better than the first book as the characters begin to grow and develop into young adults . Lena meets Kostos again and their love begins to flourish, while Carmen seeks to destroy the love her mother has finally found. Tibby faces her fears of speaking about her deceased friend Bailey and Bridget faces her ghosts of the past and begins searching for answers. This is a lovely and brilliant novel filled with the ups and downs that most people will experience in life. It teaches you that fighting through rather than anger is the best way to face bad times as well as to enjoy every good moment in your life. If you have read the previous book this is a must read to find out about the future of these four girls lives.
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
Reviewed by Emma
If you are a girl whose dream is to be a spy when you grow up then I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You is the perfect book for you.
This book is about a girl named Cammie Morgan who was never normal. Her parents were both international spies. (Her mother is retired and her father was killed on a mission.) And she goes to a school where special girls can come and learn how to be spies entitled The Gallagher Academy for Extraordinary Young Women. Cammie is on a practice mission for one of her classes when she meets an amazing boy named Josh and everything becomes less guaranteed.
This book is better for an age group of about 9-12. To narrow it down further I'd say it would be for girls who are into action packed romances and the split second decisions that spy novels are so known for. Cammie Morgan is an extremely admirable character who acts exactly as a normal girl would. That is, if that normal girl knew 11 ways to kill a person with her bare hands. The story was very flowing and there was just enough time for a person to catch their breath after an action scene without that person getting bored.
If you're looking for an amazing book to pass the time with then I would make a beeline for the library or book store to get yourself I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You.