Friday, December 03, 2010

Book Recommendation: Looking for Alaska by John Green

One of my favorite book genres is realistic fiction. This might be one of the reasons I enjoyed John Green’s Looking for Alaska so much. I think maybe I loved it because it is so well written and the dialogue and characters are very believable.

Our story begins as high school junior Miles Halter is leaving for Culver Creek Creek boarding school in Alabama. He has spent 9th and 10th grade at a public school in Florida where he lives but decides to go to Culver Creek for two reasons.

Reason #1: His father went there.

Reason #2: As he tells his parents the day before he leaves, “So I don’t have to wait until I die to seek the Great Perhaps.”

The tone for the book has been established. On his first day at Culver Creek Miles gets his first nickname, gets thrown into the pond, and meets Alaska, the most interesting girl he has ever met. Throughout that fall he makes good friends for the first time in his life and begins to see what it is like to really live life. He also falls in love with Alaska, despite the fact that she has a boyfriend.

Then on January 10th tragedy strikes and changes Miles’s world forever. What happened to Alaska and how will Miles deal with it? Find out by reading Looking For Alaska.

Final Note: This book has been compared to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I would say to readers, read them both and see what you think. I liked this book better than Thirteen Reasons Why because I thought the characters were better drawn and more likable, but I would be interested to know about what you think.

-Katie at CCL

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Book Recommendation: The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

I like to read about things that scare me. No, not vampires and zombies; I’m talking about futures that are disturbing but possible, like the one in Rae Mariz’s The Unidentified.

The government can no longer afford to run schools, so now corporations have taken over. Katey, nicknamed Kid, goes to a school in a former mall, called simply the Game. It’s not the type of school you and I know: grades are described as levels, and classes are played like video games. Students update their status and communicate with friends constantly via Game-supplied laptops and handhelds, all under the watchful eye of corporate sponsors. These sponsors continuously monitor everyone’s feeds, looking for the latest trends to exploit and students to “brand” with their merchandise—or spot potential trouble.

At first a dummy tossed over a fifth floor railing, with the sign “UNIDENTIFIED. CHOOSE YOUR SUICIDE” on its back, seems to everyone like another corporate marketing stunt. But Kid’s curiosity and unease cause her to investigate the prank’s origins, starting with an uploaded video she finds of the event. She starts to draw attention from sponsors, particularly the Game’s security firm, Protecht. What happens is previously-unknown Kid is now plunged into the middle of an obsessive media culture, where status and popularity fluctuate not just day-by-day, but minute-by-minute; and endless co-opting and rebranding has Kid questioning everyone else’s motives, including her own and the Unidentified’s.

This book reminded me of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, but without the plastic surgery and a whole lot of media savvy and high-tech. If you didn’t think much about your Facebook page or Twitter feed before, or don’t pay attention to those internet banner ads that follow you everywhere you surf, you will after reading this. I give this a definite thumbs-up.

By- Debra B.

Book Recommendation- Smile by Raina Telgemeier; illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

When San Francisco 6th grader Raina Telgemeier falls while playing tag with her friends, she knocks her front teeth out. Her dentist tries to fix her teeth, first with a cast then with a root canal. It soon becomes apparent however that more extensive work will need to be done. What follows is years of braces, headgears, retainers with fake teeth in the front, and rubber bands. Her teeth problems also happen as she is going through all the usual middle school stressors. Some friends are supportive but some are downright nasty.

Smile is a true story told in the form of a graphic novel. Raina Telgemeier, its author and illustrator, is also the illustrator and adapter of The Babysitter’s Club graphic novels. One the aspect of this book that I really enjoyed was the fact that it takes place in the early 1990’s when I was a junior high school student. I felt like I could relate to the time period and some of the things she was going through.

Smile is a quick read and is for readers who are looking for a relatable realistic story. Though it is a true story, it reminded me of Judy Bloom’s novels for young adults.

by- Katie G.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Recommendation-Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore could be labeled as another paranormal romance, but that’s a rather incomplete description. The plot sucked me right in: Nimira, a music hall dancer, is noticed by a handsome stranger during one of her performances, who then makes her a proposition: to sing and dance alongside a piano-playing automaton. The stranger is Hollin Parry, a sorcerer, and the automaton is no mere machine; previous dancers have been spooked by it, claiming it’s haunted. Nimira jumps at the chance to return to a better life, the kind she had back home in her parents’ kingdom, before her mother’s death and her father’s fall from grace. But quickly, she learns things are not as they seem. The automaton is not haunted, but contains a trapped soul, whose identity puts Nimira and Hollin in danger, and whose being captures Nimira’s heart.

At 225 pages, the plot moves along quickly enough that the romance doesn’t get the chance to be too mushy, but instead is broken up by suspense, mystery, political intrigue, and—yay!—sorcerer battles. Namira is a plucky and admirable character, and one can see the tortured emotions beneath Hollin’s upper-class exterior, as he falls in love with Namira while hiding a shameful secret. The ending is begging for a sequel, and while it’s in the works, there’s no news of a publisher’s date. I wait with bated breath to see what happens.

Review by Debra at CCL

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Book Review- Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Richard Harland’s steampunk novel Worldshaker has a unique premise: an ever-moving city, two and a half miles long and three quarters of a mile wide, with 53 decks and a population of over 10,000 people. This doesn’t include the “Filthies”—the two thousand or so poor souls forced to live in the bowels of Worldshaker, keeping it running.

Colbert Porpentine, groomed to be the next supreme commander by his grandfather, Sir Mormus, meets Riff, a Filthy girl who has given security the slip, and is hiding under the bed in Colbert’s room. He doesn’t turn her in, and so begins his journey into discovering the real world that exists beyond his upper-class upbringing.

Col helps her find a way back to the Below, but they meet again as his curiosity gets the best of him and it gets him in trouble. This shakes his (and the Porpentine families’) standing in the community. He learns the Filthies aren’t dumb, mute animals, and that the polite fa├žade of those around him can’t hide their planning and scheming. The constant emphasis on class and social status may seem a bit over the top, even downright offensive in this day and age. But as Col’s anger grows at the injustices of Worldshaker’s society, the action and suspense grows. I had to push myself in the beginning to keep reading, but then found myself racing to the end. It may not have the usual airships and advanced gadgets of traditional steampunk, but it’s still worth a spin.

-By Debra B. at CCL

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Recommendation- The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

In The Forest of Hands and Teeth a post-apocalyptic tale by Carrie Ryan , an unexplained contagion occurring generations before has left a village isolated and surrounded by zombie victims, called the "Unconsecrated." Mary is a teenage girl looking for true love within, and a world outside, the restrictive laws of her society. Her life changes dramatically when her mother becomes infected after leaving the village to look for Mary’s father.

Cast out by her brother, Jed, who blames her for what happened, Mary is left no choice but to live with the Sisterhood, a religious order that controls the village. Sister Tabitha runs the Sisterhood, and appears determined to “break” Mary of her curiosity. The arrival and imprisonment of a girl from outside the village shows Mary the Sisterhood’s true intentions. When the village fences are breached by Unconsecrated, Mary and those closest to her flee through a series of previously unknown gated paths, desperate to survive. Where they wind up and who makes it is anyone’s guess.

Mary's desire for self-determination comes off as selfishness, and makes her a less sympathetic character than I would like. The love quadrangle between Mary, Travis, Travis’ brother Harry, and Mary’s best friend Cass, might turn off those looking for a straight-up zombie fix. But any story whose author is willing to let bad things happen to good people provides just the suspense needed to keep a reader on his or her toes, dying (pardon the pun) to know the outcome.

The sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth is The Dead-Tossed Waves. The third installment, The Dark and Hollow Places, is due out Spring 2011.

-Reviewed by Debra B. at CCL

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s first YA novel, Ship Breaker, takes place in the Gulf Coast region of the future. Nailer, a teenage grunt on a scavenge crew, strips wiring out of oil tankers, beached due to hurricanes and no more oil available. He looks to make quota while trying to avoid his violent and drug-addicted father, Richard, and while dreaming of a better life. When a “city killer” (a previously undefined category 6 hurricane) tears through Bright Sands Beach, Nailer and a friend from the scavenge crew find in the aftermath a clipper ship dashed on the rocks. They see their chance to make enough cash to buy their freedom from the crews. The dead girl in the wreckage is draped in enough gold to last them a lifetime. When her rings won’t slide off her water-logged fingers, Nailer gets out his knife and presses it against a joint, drawing blood.

And then the girl’s eyes blink…

I don’t want to give any more away, because that would spoil the suspense. In a world where everyone has a set worth—what they own, how much quota they can make—even what their body is worth in parts—the desperation of the characters in this book means anything can happen. But it’s not as grim as you think: this desperation shows how characters stand together, and support each other if they’ve sworn to it. Nailer is a quickly likeable character that you’ll find yourself rooting for. And while the half-men—a hybrid of man, dog and tiger— that serve as loyal muscle to those who can afford it may seem far-fetched; the scenario of a New Orleans completely underwater, replaced by Orleans II further inland, is not. Early on, an incident earns Nailer the nickname “Lucky Boy.” Just how lucky he is, and where this luck takes him, will keep readers’ eyes glued to the page—I know mine were.

-Reviewed by Debra B. at CCL

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

While reading Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, it’s hard to imagine living in a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but cells within endless halls and caverns, nestled among cities, separated by dangerous metal forests and wilderness, under soaring but enclosed skies. Even scarier, this failed high-tech experiment in rehabilitation, whose name is the book’s title, is now self-aware and always watching. It makes sure everyone, including seventeen-year old gang member Finn, understands that they have been born here, and, with its tunnels and caverns that shift and turn at random, there is no way in and no way out.

But Finn’s flashes of memories and a tattoo on his arm convince him that he came from the world outside. When, during a raid, he comes across a crystal key that allows him to open doors to parts of the prison unseen, he’s even further convinced there’s a way out.

In a parallel story, Claudia, the daughter of the wealthy Warden of Incarceron, is in her own prison in the outside world: decreed to live under conditions of the Victorian era, despite advanced technology; and groomed from birth to wed the Queen’s son and become her formidable opponent. When Claudia discovers the other crystal key after breaking into her father’s study, she communicates with Finn and becomes convinced he was a boy she once knew a long time ago, the real heir to the throne who was presumed dead. It’s then a race against time as Claudia and Finn struggle to gain his and his companions’ freedom, before Incarceron can stop them, and before the Warden comes to march Claudia down the aisle.

Despite the 450 pages, as a big fan of dystopian fiction, I found this book hard to put down. Finn’s instant likability and sympathy did make me wonder how he could hold his own in a ruthless gang like the Scum. While Claudia does seem spoiled, I sympathized with her anger at living a life not of her choosing. The discovery of what Incarceron really was shocked me, and the ending left me begging for a sequel, which there is: “Sapphique” comes out late-December of 2010.

-Reviewed by Debra B. at CCL