Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
reviewed by Jasmine
Poison Study is a great beginning to the Study series. The book is about a girl named Yelena who is next in line to be executed for murder. But she is given a choice by the chief of security. That choice is to either become the food taster for the Commander of Ixia or to die for her crime of murder. She chooses to become the food taster. Follow Yelena as she discovers secrets about her past that even she never knew about herself.
The greatest strength for this book is the appealing storyline in which everything is in perfect order and nothing is either spread thin or too concentrated.
Although the storyline is strong, however, the plot has a few holes in it. For example, the author would introduce a character but you would never see that character mentioned in the rest of the book. Other than that, this book was an awesome read which I wouldn't mind reading again.
The Mist by Stephen King
reviewed by Melanie
Who hasn’t heard of Stephen King? He’s the monarch of Barnes & Noble, the King of Horror (no pun intended). With great fame come great expectations—but no worries. The Mist proves King’s not overrated.
The Mist is about a dangerous paranormal presence that imprisons members of a small town inside a local supermarket. It’s more eerie than downright chilling. Granted, I didn’t check for monsters in my closet or refuse to go outside once I got to the last chapter. Nevertheless, this book still left a lasting impression.
It’s short (by Stephen King’s standards, anyway) and a definite page turner. The characters are appealing, diverse, but best of all — the humans are human, nothing less, nothing more. I was constantly thinking: "I would do the same thing if I was in that situation!" If you’d like a taste of The King before investing in a five-hundred-something page novel, I highly suggest this story.
Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm
reviewed by Becky
I have a hard time coming up with the right words to describe this book, written by Jennifer Holm and illustrated by Elicia Castaldi. That's how much I enjoyed it. In my opinion, it does not really count as a book, but it's not a graphic novel, or a book of poems or a novel either. It's a story based around stuff. Stuff meaning: poems, report cards, sticky notes, school assignments, magnets, magazines, comics, cards, letters, newspaper clippings, calendars, receipts, tickets, worksheets, and much more.
The storyline of Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf focuses on a girl named Genevieve Davis, and her seventh grade year, which she considers her worst year ever. She starts out the year with a list of 10 simple things she wants to accomplish, and ends the year having accomplished entirely different things than she wanted and that's okay with her. I think the main message of this story (other than the dislike for middle school, hence the title) is about being okay with not everything going your way, which I think is a great message to live and learn by.
My favorite thing about the book was how much you learned just by looking at all the "stuff" included in the book. I really liked this because each person picks up different ideas through observation, so I was really able to understand the characters and the setting very well. I thought the story did flow very well because I was always wondering what way Holm would use on the next page to portray the events in Ginny's life.
I hope the next new book coming to booksellers soon will be called "High School Is Worse Than Horse Meat" and will be written by Holm about Ginnny's adventures through high school.
Chiggers by Hope Larson
reviewed by Becky
Have you ever been to camp? Have you ever felt a little lonely before? Have you ever wondered about why a person acts a certain way, but never had the courage to ask them? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, you will most likely enjoy the graphic novel Chiggers, written and illustrated by Hope Larson.
The main character in Chiggers is a girl Abby and her experience one summer at camp. It's the same camp she has gone to every summer for a long time. But, this summer is different. The people she normally hangs out with have become too cool for her and she feels distant from everyone until a girl named Shasta arrives. But there is something odd about Shasta, and while Abby really wants to be her friend, she can't until she understands who Shasta really is.
I really enjoyed this book. The drawings are in black and white, but they are very detailed and the characters seem very well-developed, even though it is a graphic novel. The summer camp setting is very interesting, to me at least. I am always wondering what other sleepaway camps are like, since I have only been to one. Also, I think the story flowed very well, and it kept me interested.
Overall, this book is definitely geared towards ages 12 and up, and girls would mostly like it better than boys.
Now that I have read this book, I'm wondering...do most camps have chiggers?
The Amazing story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo
reviewed by Tinsae
The Amazing story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo is one of my favorite books
This book is about a story of a girl named Lily who lived in a village in England during the Second World War. Her father was a soldier and one day the villagers were ordered to evacuate so U.S troops could practice their landing. There was shooting in the area, so civilians had to stay away. Unfortunately, Lily's cat, Tips, had gone missing during the evacuation. Two friendly soldiers were very helpful in trying to find Tips for her.
Readers should read this book to understand the lives of the people during World War II.
I learned that you shouldn't give up looking for something you love even at the risky moments in life.
[Librarian's Note: Michael Morpurgo also wrote War Horse]
Every Day by David Levithan
reviewed by Joanne
Every Day is about a being named A. A is neither female nor male, brunette nor blond, fat nor skinny because A has no body. The only life A has known is the lives of others. A wakes up in a new body every day and lives the person's life for that day only. But one day A meets a girl named Rhiannon and realizes he/she doesn't want to forget about her.
David Levithan has written a book with a plot that is like nothing ever written before. I really enjoyed reading this book and the main character was just great. The reader automatically sympathizes with and understands A throughout the whole book. This is a romance-based story so it would probably appeal more to teen girls but a great thing about the story is that it has examples of all different kinds of relationships. The only disappointing thing about the book is that it lacks descriptive wording in its passages, although this does give the reader room to imagine things as they see it. Every Day is a book that should definitely be on your reading list.
[Librarian's Note: author's web site]
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
reviewed by Tinsae
If you would like to know how to survive in the wilderness, read Hatchet.
This book is about a teen named Brian Robeson, age 13, who had a tough life
after his parents’ divorce. He could only visit his father — in Canada — during the summer and lived with his mother during the school year.
He was on a plane to go to his father's home when it crashed in the Canadian
wilderness and he was the only survivor. Brian struggled to feed himself and find
shelter in his two months alone in the wilderness.
I never wanted to let go of this book and I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes a good adventure.
[Librarian's Note: Gary Paulsen wrote several sequels to Hatchet, as well as many other superb books.]
We recently found three reviews by Cory that we had misplaced. They were written in the summer of 2012.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
reviewed by Cory
"Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature. It is one of the greatest novels of any time and place."Written by fellow author Sherman Alexie, this excerpt is found on the back of Ceremony and immediately gives the book a reputation that’s incredibly hard to live up to. Excited by the thought of “one of the greatest novels of any time and place,” I tore into the book. Upon finishing it, I wondered if we had read the same piece of literature.
Not that the book is terrible. In fact, most books fall into the category "not the greatest novel of any time and place." Ceremony certainly has its high points. It is about a Native American named Tayo with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who tries to fit in with his culture. Being Native American, Silko is one with nature and gives some of the most beautiful and serene descriptions of the land that I have ever read. She effortlessly spews vivid descriptions of mountain peaks, canyons, rivers, and everything else you can imagine. The images consume the reader. It is truly a world one can get lost in.
Silko’s writing style different, creative, and works very effectively. There are no chapters in Ceremony, just different sections of text. The narrative is told out of order, with memories, historical events, Native American myths, and the present all mixed into the novel. There is no preamble to each section; Silko simply starts the scene as if the reader knows what is happening. Because of this, oftentimes one doesn’t know exactly what is happening until a few paragraphs into the section. Though this may sound potentially confusing, it engulfs the reader into the story.
There are flaws that hold the book back from greatness, however. First of all, I couldn’t relate to the main character, Tayo. Some of his decisions he made throughout the book had me disappointed with his moral character. It was hard for me to respect or care about what happened to him.
In addition, Silko is much too harsh on White people. I understand that what a specific group of White people did to the Native Americans in the past was horrible and wrong, but this doesn’t mean everything about the entire race is evil. There are no redeeming White characters in her novel. Silko even uses her despicable Native American characters to say, “Look what the White people have done to us.” Partway through the novel, Silko introduces a myth where a witch made the evil white people for the sole purpose of destroying the Native American culture. I expected her to qualify this statement by the end of the book by having Tayo realize such a closed minded opinion is immature and that Whites and Native Americans should get along. No such realization happened.
All in all, Ceremony is a decent book. The characters are mostly three dimensional and Silko’s writing does occasionally hit emotional chords, especially if the reader is Native American. Ceremony is worth a read if you are interested in the subject matter, just don’t expect perfection.
Calico Joe by John Grisham
reviewed by Cory
Redemption is always possible. This is theme of Calico Joe, the story of a man who tries to get his professional baseball player of a father to face his shameful and heinous past and make amends. This book was a somewhat surprising turn for its author. John Grisham, once known to me as “that guy who wrote all those legal thrillers,” is now known to me as “that guy who wrote all those legal thrillers and that one baseball book.” It is a short but entertaining read.
Warren Tracy, the antagonist of the novel, is an angry and aggressive major league pitcher. Calico Joe is a rookie player who is having the best season in baseball history. Warren, jealous of the success Joe is having, hits Joe in the face with a pitch, effectively ending Joe’s short career.
My main quarrel with the book is that some characters weren’t believable enough. Having played baseball my whole life, Joe’s performance is much too good to be true, especially for a rookie. Nobody has ever had stats even close to his in the Majors, and nobody ever will. It is like reading a story about a WWII soldier who single-handedly defeated the Nazis. Instead of a baseball player, he seems more like an abstract symbol of wasted potential. Although this gets Grisham’s point across, it detracts from the story. Warren, on the other hand, has absolutely no redeeming qualities the first part of the book. His vices range from alcoholism to adultery to child abuse, and the reader feels no sympathy for him. When Warren does a complete 180 degree turn at the end of the novel, even though he was influenced by his terminal cancer, it seems a little farfetched.
Despite this, the story is still very engaging. The narrator is very relatable, sensible, and has honest intentions. The reader feels his hate for his father and his sorrow for his ill-fated childhood hero, Calico Joe. It is rewarding to see his plans all work out in a powerful climax that sticks with the reader after they put the book down.
Calico Joe reads more like a short story than a novel. It is a mere 200 pages long and follows the narrator around for the entire time. There are no subplots. By the end, I was wishing it had been longer and explored further into the character’s lives. However, it is still entertaining and fulfilling and is an excellent book to read if you aren’t looking for a time commitment.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
reviewed by Cory
In a post-apocalyptic and unforgiving wasteland, a father and his young son fight for survival against the biting cold, hunger, and even cannibals. Their destination is the west coast, but the father isn’t even sure why. He tells his son that they must survive because they are the "good guys" and good must prevail, yet the moral line between good and evil is extremely blurred in a world where everyone must fight tooth and nail for survival. They store their few provisions in a shopping cart and always keep a pistol loaded with two bullets-but they aren’t for the bad guys.
The heart of this novel is the relationship between the man and his son. They are both each other’s sole reason for survival, the one light that illuminates the dark and hopeless hell that surrounds them. Their emotional connection is extremely powerful and overcomes the feeling of hopelessness that persists in trying to suffocate them. The father, a hardened and experienced survivor, sacrifices everything to protect his innocent son, who may be the last source of innocence on earth. Their relationship is believable and touching as they struggle to find hope within each other in a hopeless world.
Despite the oftentimes heartwarming relationship between the two protagonists, The Road is relentlessly hopeless. Good things seldom happen to the duo, and when they do, danger is always right around the corner. The son oftentimes wants to share his food provisions with other starving travelers he sees on the road, but the man, who knows nothing of empathy anymore, wants to do no such thing. Innocence is lost quickly in that world and it is tragic yet clear that soon the boy will be as compassionless as his father. The son even asks his father why they bother staying alive anymore. The father doesn’t know either.
McCarthy’s writing is poetic and eloquent; he writes beautifully about terrible and depressing subjects. Through his language, he weaves a completely encompassing world that the reader is engulfed by. The love, sadness, and disasters are all painfully real and the reader experiences everything right alongside the two protagonists. The writing flows and is easy and gripping to read, even in the occasional section where nothing is happening.
The Road is an extremely powerful book about the relationship between a father and son. However, if you are looking for a light feel-good book, then you should search elsewhere, as The Road is anything but. The somewhat slow pace may be a turn-off to some readers who have a shorter attention span, yet it complements the tone and is necessary for the book to be as effective as it is. If you can handle the dark and hopeless atmosphere this book contains, then it is definitely worth a read.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
reviewed by Sumin
The Three Musketeers may seem very thick and impossible, but don't judge the book by its cover and thickness! The adventurous and exciting plot, Dumas's beautiful writing, and the interesting setting in the seventeenth-century France will drag you into book.
Our main character, D'Artagnan, is a young, ambitious, and intelligent Gascon boy who made a trip to Paris in order to become one of the musketeers of Louis XIII. Although young, he quickly becomes inseparable friends with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and shines brightly among everyone else to Monsieur de Treville, the captain of all the musketeers. With intelligence, bravery, and skills, D'artagnan and his good friends fight against the evil plots of Cardinal Richelieu, for the loved ones, the Queen, and France.
One big reason why I loved this book so much is Dumas's wonderful style of writing. He portrays the traits of the characters so well and in detail that it sometimes inevitably makes me giggle, admire, smile, or even shiver in horror. I also enjoyed learning a bit of the history of France, since the broad things that happened in the book were the things that actually happened in the past, like the Siege of La Rochelle.
The Three Musketeers is a book that you should never miss, and you definitely wouldn't regret reading it. If you're hungry for more after this, fortunately there are two sequels: Twenty Years After and the more well-known one, "The Man in the Iron Mask."
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
reviewed by Joanne
The best thing about Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is the depth of the characters she writes into being.
Seraphina is the name of a girl living in the supernatural kingdom of Goredd. It is not unlike parts of Europe in the 1600's except for the dragons that inhabit the world. In Goredd, dragons and humans have a rocky relationship that is experienced from both sides by Seraphina because she is half dragon, half human. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens when she encounters more of her kind and meets a charming prince.
I really enjoyed this read because it was creative and different from other dragon stories I've read before. One aspect of the book that I also liked was that music is a key element in the story. I think this will make it appeal to a wider audience because many people play an instrument. The only drawback of the book is that the author introduces lots of made-up terminology regarding her world but doesn't explain them in too much detail, which leaves you wondering at the meanings. Luckily, there is a sequel coming up called Shadowscale which I'm looking forward to, and maybe she'll elaborate more in the next book.
The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell
reviewed by Becky
What happened to Anders' dad? The project? Who was the fox? How was she related to Abby? What happens to Abby? These are all questions I have left after reading the book. What's ironic is, the reason I kept reading the book was so I would have answers to my questions, which I never got.
"The Second Life of Abigail Walker," written by Frances O'Roark Dowell, is a story about a girl named Abby who does not fit in at school, and she feels like no one understands her. Instead, of letting her sorrow out, she keeps her sorrow inside of her, and decides to begin exploring her neighborhood because she is bored most of the time. She discovers different animals, and a family who needs her help, so Abby decides to help them and see where that takes her.
Overall, I just did not enjoy the book. I thought it was weird, and wished that at least some of my questions were answered at the end. Also, I thought that the characters were underdeveloped. Abby just seemed to be a stereotyped overweight girl who connected with no one and the 'mean girls' at her school were typical mean girls who teased her about her weight to make themselves feel better. I did not connect with Abby, however, I did think the story flowed well because I was so curious about everything that I kept reading.
In conclusion, I think that this book is best for ages 10 and up, particularly for girl. But don't go running out to your local bookstore because this book isn't likely to be a best-seller.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
reviewed by Joanne
Fever 1793 is the book that convinced me that my favorite genre is historical fiction. Laurie Halse Anderson writes of the story of a girl living in Philiadelphia as she battles the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 and at the same time matures into a young woman. This book has humor, heartbreak, fear, courage, romance and more. Mattie Cook is a great character with plenty of flaws to relate to, such as her reluctance to get up early in the morning. What I liked about the book is that the author really connected it to the real world. In the back of the novel, there are a few pages spelling out the factual parts of the story. Famous figures, settings, organizations and more. This book is for mature readers as it handles death and extreme illness but the more gruesome aspects only make for a realistic feel in my opinion. I recommend Anderson's other historical thriller, "Chains," as it is a fresh look on the life of an African-American slave. "Fever 1793" is a great book and I only wish it was longer!