Friday, October 25, 2013

Facebook, Time Machine, Pop-Tarts

Hey all. I'm very excited to announce that the Wood Library Teen Scene has finally taken a time machine to 5 years ago and established its very own Facebook page. While the library has had its own FB page for a while now, I was feeling kind of guilty for flooding it with teen stuff all the time. So, I've struck out on my own. Check it:

Give us a like if you, like me, love to read posts about YA reads, movies, fandom, geekdom, pop-culture, cats in people clothing, and pop-tarts. Or any combination thereof. -Kelley (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Monday, October 14, 2013

List Love: Teen Read Week

Happy Teen Read Week, everybody! 


The purpose of TRW is to e-specially single out teens and get them excited about reading and libraries. As if reading and libraries weren't already exciting to all the teens in the world, right??? This week is just for you, and the theme is "Seek the Unknown"... via sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, or any combination thereof. How tantalizing.

Here's a quick list of suggested, YA-friendly titles that will help you celebrate Teen Read Week, for all your unknown-seeking-needs. Apologies that this list leans heavily sci-fi. Books marked with a * are some of my personal favorites.

Pure (Pure Trilogy #1) by Julianna Baggott*
In a post-apocalyptic world where those undamaged by the cataclysmic events are kept safely inside the Dome, a young girl on the outside teams up with a boy on the inside to search for his missing mother. 

Losers in Space by John Barnes
In 2029, hoping to bypass the exams and training that might lead to a comfortable life, Susan, her almost-boyfriend Derlock, and seven fellow students stow away on a ship to Mars, unaware that Derlock is a sociopath with bigger plans.

Ready Player One by Ernst Cline*
Immersing himself in a mid-twenty-first-century technological virtual utopia to escape an ugly real world of famine, poverty, and disease, Wade Watts joins an increasingly violent effort to solve a series of puzzles by the virtual world's creator.

In Victorian London, Albert Garrick, an assassin-for-hire, and his reluctant young apprentice, Riley, are transported via wormhole to modern London, where Riley teams up with a young FBI agent to stop Garrick from returning to his own time and using his newly acquired scientific knowledge and power to change the world forever.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
In a future where poor children and teenagers work for corrupt bosses as gold farmers, finding valuable items inside massively-multiplayer online games, a small group of teenagers work to unionize and escape this near-slavery.

Eve & Adam by Michael Grant
After being in a car accident, a patient recovering in her mother's research facility is given the task of creating the perfect boy using detailed simulation technologies.

Insignia (Insignia #1) by S.J. Kincaid
Tom, a fourteen-year-old genius at virtual reality games, is recruited by the United States Military to begin training at the Pentagon Spire as a Combatant in World War III, controlling the mechanized drones that do the actual fighting off-planet.

When fourteen-year-old Everett Singh's scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves a mysterious app on Everett's computer giving him access to the Infundibulum--a map of parallel earths--which is being sought by technologically advanced dark powers that Everett must somehow elude while he tries to rescue his father.

When fourteen-year-old Itchingham "Itch" Lofte discovers a new radioactive element, he must use all of his wits and scientific knowledge to stop a top-secret government agency, his greedy teacher, and an evil corporation from getting hold of it.

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer*
As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story. 

In the not-too-distant future, when biotechnological advances have made synthetic bodies and brains possible but illegal, a seventeen-year-old girl, recovering from a serious accident and suffering from memory lapses, learns a startling secret about her existence.

Starters by Lissa Price
To support herself and her younger brother in a future Beverly Hills, sixteen-year-old Callie hires her body out to seniors who want to experience being young again, and she lives a fairy-tale life until she learns that her body will commit murder, unless her mind can stop it.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Enjoying his assignment with the xenobiology lab on board the prestigious Intrepid, ensign Andrew Dahl worries about casualties suffered by low-ranking officers during away missions before making a shocking discovery about the starship's actual purpose

Unwind (Unwind Trilogy #1) by Neal Shusterman
In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives "unwound" and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to uphold their beliefs--and, perhaps, save their own lives.

Stung by Bethany Wiggins
When a vaccine to save endangered bees causes their sting to turn children into ferocious killer beasts, the uninfected build a wall to keep the beasts out, but Fiona wakes up on the wrong side of the wall.

Happy seeking! -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Internet Don't Lie

Dude, I knew I would end up being a stupid Hufflepuff. For the record, I was one point away from Ravenclaw. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Borrowing from the Blog-o-sphere: TLT's YA Fiction for Sherlock Fans!

You may or may not be surprised to learn that librarians like me are all over the internet fanning out. And thank goodness for that, because these people are full of fabulous ideas and inspiration. Case in point: Teen Librarian Toolbox's Take 5: It's Elementary (YA Fiction for fans of Sherlock Fans). A list like this so needs to exist. Click on the link for their awesome suggestions.

I've read 2 of the suggested titles, The Name of the Star and Code Name Verity, and really enjoyed both of them. The Name of the Star has boarding school, London, secret organizations AND Jack the Ripper's ghost, so how could you not want to read that? I wouldn't have thought of recommending Code Name... to Sherlock fans, though it is an epic read, full of intricate details that you gradually begin to realize you are piecing together into one shocking whole (kind of like a Sherlock episode). Plus, it's got lady spies, and lady pilots, and complex villains. The audiobook was phenomenal, especially if, like me, you're super into UK accents. 

Happy reading, Sherlock fans:

 -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Teen Takeover: NEW Guest Blogger Feature

Though I wish I could, I can't read or review everything. Also, hearing myself speak about books gets lonesome sometimes, and so I introduce you to a new feature: Guest Teen Blogger!

This week, Victoria, otherwise known as "teen blogger extraordinaire", reviews The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by one of my all-time favorite YA authors, Libba Bray. Take it away, Victoria:

Get all three books at the library! Click HERE.

"Libba Bray wrote this thrilling historical fiction trilogy. It starts with A Great and Terrible Beauty, next comes Rebel Angels, and finally the last book is A Sweet Far Thing. It follows sixteen year old Gemma Doyle. Gemma has just lost her mother, is gaining strange powers, moving from India to England for boarding school, being watched by a mysterious stranger that she may or may not be attracted to, and creates friendships with three very unique girls. The four girls stumble upon The Realms, a magical land where the dead come to crossover the river to go beyond. Only select women from The Order have this power that Gemma possesses, and, whether she wants it or not, Gemma is now the one holding this power and must decide who to trust, who to fight, and, most importantly, what to do.

The first book, I felt, got off to a slow start. Once its momentum got going, though, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. I found the second book extremely hard to work through. It didn't seem up to par with the first book [Insert from Kelley the Librarian: I TOTALLY AGREE!]. It started off in another person’s point-of-view without anyone knowing before just switching to Gemma’s with no warning. It made me very confused. I was hesitant to pick up the third book after the second, but I did anyway. Best choice ever! The third book blew me away. I think I liked it better than the first one. There is tons of action and the book never seems to slow its pace. The ending was a love-hate one. I loved it, but I still wanted it to be different--if that makes any sense to anyone.

I believe there is at least one character in the books that everyone will like. It may not be the same person, but they are all so unique and different that I think it’s only a matter of personality preference. The characters certainly have personality and are well developed into the story line. I highly recommend these books even though I didn't like the second one. The trilogy is a great read. I’d skip dessert to read them!"

~Victoria, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire!!! 

Do YOU want to be a guest teen blogger? It's as simple as sending me an email: (Guest teen bloggers must live in Canandaigua or Ontario County-abouts, and they must be teens, obvs)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Report: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha)

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why is writing a review of a book you love so much harder than writing about one you... loved not so much?

I indulged myself by reading Shadow and Bone and its sequel, Siege and Storm, back-to-back. What a luxury it was! Things started a bit slow for me... I even doubted for a few chapters whether I would dig this series. But then! Oh my! I was swept off my feet. How? Why? Because Alina Starkov's life goes from 0 to 120 in a matter of pages, and the pace, the magic and the sensuality don't really slow from there.

The best type of heroine, Alina starts from nothing and must quickly come to grips with a tremendous power she never knew she had. This is an archetype I never really get tired of, especially when it's done as well as Bardugo does it. When we first meet Alina, she's a orphaned teen apprenticing cartography in the First Army of Ravka (peep a map at the front of both books for a geography lesson; #yeahbookmaps). An important thing you need to know about Ravka is that it has literally been torn in two by a swath of physical darkness known as the Shadow Fold (it's just "the Fold" for short, ya'll). The Fold is full of some really nasty creatures that will eat you, and the Fold may be growing. It's, like, a huge problem and plays a central role in the politics of the book. But now, back to our heroine:

By her own accounts (and she may be a tiny bit hard on herself), Alina's not much more than average in all departments, until one day a life-and-death situation while crossing the Fold forces her dormant powers to the surface, and she is thrust into the world of the Grisha.

The Grisha are people born with special abilities like summoning and controlling wind or squeezing the life out of a person's heart. In neighboring countries, they're hunted down and burned as witches, but in Ravka they are enlisted into the powerful Second Army, led by a dead-sexy character known as the Darkling.

When Alina's power is discovered, she is "taken under the wing" of the Darkling more or less by force, whisked off to the royal capital in the hopes that her powers can be harnessed and used to fight the Fold. Alina is also separated from her one and only friend/childhood companion, Mal, who she has serious unexplored romantic feelings for. Remember when I said the book swept me off my feet? This is about where it happened.

While the adventure moves along quickly, we also get some wonderful character development and growth, especially moving into book 2. I read a lot of YA, and I read a lot of YA series, but this series is at the top of my list right now, alongside Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. I will eagerly await the third book in both of these series, and gush about the first two books to anyone who will listen until then.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hot Off the Presses! Middle School Summer Reads

I am very excited to officially release this list of suggested summer reads for my middle school students out there. I know you guys in the Canandaigua area have to read 2 books this summer (at least!), so we're here to help with hand-picked books, just for you. 

Who's "we"? This list was a collaborative effort of Yours Truly and Melanie Dyroff, School Library Media Specialist at Canandaigua Middle School. And, you know, double the librarian equals double the awesome. 

Technical details: Stop by Wood Library and browse a print copy of the list in the Teen Scene or at the Reference Desk. All of these titles are available for check-out this summer at Wood Library and through the Pioneer Library System. Many of the titles are also available as eBooks or audiobooks in OWWL2Go. -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Report: How to Lead a Life of Crime

How to Lead a Life of Crime

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like, wow. I'm not much a "true crime" reader, but I do have a bit of a thing for secret schools and societies, so reviews of this book hooked me. And I'm so glad they did.

The deal: our narrator, Flick, seems awfully young to be so hardened by life, but this is a book where we see on many levels how awful life can be to even the very young. That's right: life-suckieness does not discriminate here.

It just so happens that hardened youth such as Flick are exactly what the prestigious Mandel Academy is looking for. This elite New York preparatory school has a reputation for turning hopeless lives around... but not by any of the educational means you're most likely familiar with.

Some things about Flick's very troubled past we learn right away; he tells us. Other facts are skillfully and gradually teased out through his interactions with the novel's other characters (all fascinating and meaty... Bravo, Kristin Miller!) Most of these characters are living, but we also get to know Flick through his interactions with the apparition of his dead younger brother, Jude, who comes in and out of Flick's alone time dressed in full Peter Pan regalia. I know: but it so works.

Flick's been living on the streets of New York by choice. He's an excellent pick-pocket and one heck of a thug. But underneath the tough exterior, he also has a tender relationship smoldering with Joi, a young woman who runs a make shift orphanage for runaways in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side. Flick's criminal activities and severed family ties attract the attention of the Mandel Academy's headmaster, Lucian Mandel. He offers Flick a place at the school, but, more importantly, he offers Flick the chance to avenge Jude's death. Flick convinces himself that revenge is the only thing that matters to him, and so he accepts. Fortunately for us readers, Flick has only an inkling of what he's getting himself into. And when Joi gets pulled into the hornet's nest as well, Flick discovers that he does care about something else other than revenge.

What lengths is Flick willing to go to for what matters most to him? What will or won't he do in order to survive Mandel? That question is at the heart of both the narrative and the themes of this page-turning novel. So good!

I see that other reviewers have pointed out the violence. Yes: the explicit is shocking, and the implicit is haunting. That said, I don't think that any of the violence was unnecessary or unexpected; I think it was artfully woven in and always within character. (Is it so wrong that I was appalled and delighted by the way in which a certain character's head is dispatched from his body?) Plus, this book is never anything but up-front about what's contained in its pages: "A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.... Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies." You get the picture.

As a librarian, I would for sure steer this into the hands of my older high-school readers. It's just not the right book for a younger crowd, not just because of the violence, but for the complex themes and questions this book grapples with as well.

All in all, this book is awesome. I've never read Miller's Kiki Strike series, but now I certainly will.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

SYNC YA Listening Summer 2013 Launches Today!

May 30-August 15, 2013

YOU GUYS this truly is really cool. Each week this summer, starting today, you can download two free audiobooks to listen to on your computer or mobile device. I'll keep you posted throughout the summer on the weekly titles. There will always be one contemporary YA title and one related YA "classic".

Bonus factors:

  1. If you already use OWWL2Go to download library eBooks, you should already have the OverDrive app needed to download these audiobooks;
  2. Unlike library eBooks, these title don't need to be "returned". That's right: you can keep them. What?
Download the 1st free YA Novel & Summer Reading Classic pair from SYNC here. Or, you could just keep reading for a sneak preview of this week's titles, followed by some easy to follow instructions. Your choice.

This Week's Audiobooks: 
Available to download free May 30 – June 5, 2013

Of Poseidon By Anna Banks
Read by Rebecca Gibel
Published by AudioGO

Galen, prince of the Syrena, is sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish and after several encounters with her Galen becomes convinced Emma holds the key to his kingdom.

The Tempest By William Shakespeare
Performed by a Full Cast
Published by AudioGO/ BBC Radio

A storm rages. Prospero and his daughter watch from their desert island as a ship carrying the royal family is wrecked. Miraculously, all on board survive. Plotting, mistaken identities, and bewitching love follow as the travelers explore the strange place of spirits and monsters.

Thank you to AudioGO for generously providing this week's titles.

Available for a Limited Time:
Remember--grab these titles before they are replaced by a new pairing on June 6! While the title availability is time-limited, your listening time is not. Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, the audiobook is yours to listen to at your leisure.

Downloading Tips:
The OverDrive Media Console will deliver SYNC summer audiobooks to you via Overdrive Media Software installed on your computer (compatible with Windows and Mac) or through an Overdrive App on your mobile device (compatible with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7). Visit the OverDrive website to download the App or Software.

Don't miss the remaining summer season of SYNC audiobook downloads! Click here for the full schedule.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Report: How I Live Now

How I Live Now

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will try to say as little about this book as possible, because I get speechless about things that affect me this much. I love it and I don't want to spoil it with my stupid words! I will say that it's breathtakingly beautiful; that I read it cover to cover; and that I sobbed during the last 10 pages. Maybe you don't like sobbing over a well told tale, but I do, so I consider this an achievement on the author's part.

I ordered this for my library by chance when I saw it on a Novelist read-a-like list for The Hunger Games. I read the description and reviews and thought, "we should own this!" It won the Printz award in 2006, which in the world of YA librarians is a big deal. P.S. apparently the movie adaptation is in post production. And it looks achingly lovely. Bonus, and fingers crossed.

The deal: Upper West Side teen Daisy is packed-off to relatives in the English countryside by her Dad's new-ish trophy wife. Through the cracks in her narrative armor, we learn that: her mother died in childbirth; she's no stranger to trouble; and she gains a sort of peace or power from not eating. She's NYC-Tough with an attitude to match, which makes her cousins' idyllic life-style completely foreign and overwhelming to her. It's as if she's walked into a fairy tale, and she gives herself over to it almost completely.

When alarming yet vague news of "the war" comes, Daisy and her cousins at first have the luxury of ignoring it. Through circumstance, they are left on their own with no adult supervision, and their fairy tale days reaches a dizzying height. But they can't stay that way.

If I found any flaw in How I Live Now, it was the style of Daisy's narration being a bit much, with her lack of quotations and trains of thought. But when I got near the end of the book I realized why, and I realized it was perfect. So, scratch that.

This is a slim little volume that packs a wallop of emotions and sensations. Rosoff gives us a terrifying present that could very easily be our own, and a narrator that could very easily be the teen you. Highly recommended, a personal classic, though not for the faint of heart. Loved. --Kelley, (Your) Teen Librarian

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Report: The Hunt

The Hunt (The Hunt, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pre-Review Note: Andrew Fukuda is one of 33 awesome authors appearing at the Rochester Teen Book Festival on May 18!!! Pick up this book and its sequel from the Wood Library Teen Scene.

I was mucho excited for this book. Dang, the premise of this book still thrills me! How cool is this (?): Our narrator is truly a one-of-a-kind guy. He's the only human he knows in a world populated by blood drinking, flesh eating, upside-down sleeping "normal people". Gene once had a family, but now he's on his own, using all the tricks his father taught him to blend in and survive. But his charade, already life consuming, becomes increasingly difficult when he is randomly selected to participate in a government sponsored hunt for his own kind.

I devoured the first part of this book, fascinated by the methods Gene uses to hide his true nature, as well as by the traits of the "people" (how they laugh, eat, or even make-out is particularly unsettling). And there's a really interesting question at the center of the novel: what makes a civilized person, and what makes a savage animal? Is it just majority rule that decides? If "people" somehow evolved to hunt and eat flesh, and humans are now near extinct, are the flesh eaters the more evolved/sophisticated species? Was it evolution at all?

And so, I really wanted to love this all the way through. But there were just too many instances of implausible plot twists and character developments. I get it that you have the wonderful right to create a completely fictional world, but that world has to behave in a logical way for me to go along with it. Especially irksome to me is when a character acts out of character, does something that even under the most difficult circumstances is not in the nature the author has thus far created for them. 

I always want to give a full disclaimer that I listened to the audiobook version of The Hunt, and format can make a huge difference. My biggest complaint? Gene is supposed to be a smoking hot teen loner, but the narrator came off as a whiny and strained. I get that Gene's life is beyond stressful, but his voice shouldn't sound like he's passing kidney stones AND chewing on marshmallows for 300 pages straight. So, maybe I need to give the print version a quick re-visit.

Still, this was a thrilling and at times horrifying read (in a good way). The set-up and world building are truly fascinating and unique. The sequel, Prey, is out - will I pick it up? 50/50. If you enjoy survival tales and vampires that are scary, not sexy, then you should give this a shot.

Book Report: Cryer's Cross

Cryer's Cross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pre-Review Note: Lisa McMann is one of 33 awesome authors appearing at the Rochester Teen Book Festival on May 18!!! Pick up her books from the Wood Library Teen Scene.

Review Note: This review contains one big spoiler that is going to happen... NOW: haunted talking desk! 

If you were to tell me a week ago that I would make it through an entire book that centers around the idea of a talking desk possessed by ghosts, I wouldn't have believed you. "Oh, come on! That's too much," may have been my jaded response. But somehow, Lisa McMann pulls it off. At least, I think she pulls it off until we actually get to the talking desk in the last 1/4 of the book. Then I really had to strain to suspend my disbelief of haunted talking desks. (Shall we call them "HTD" from now on?)

The first 3/4 of the book are equal parts realistic, high school fiction and truly creepy thriller. McMann really does attain a nice balance between the two. Kendall, our teen protagonist, suffers from above average OCD. I haven't met too many fictional characters who admit to their OCD, so it was interesting for me to look in on Kendall's habits and coping mechanisms. I kind of enjoyed how most of the book was about her mental struggle, and I for sure enjoyed the unexpected, budding romance between Kendall and the new kid in a town of, like, 2 people. But wait: her best friend has mysteriously disappeared, her soccer team has dissolved, she probably won't get into Juilliard, and, oh by the way, A DESK IS TALKING TO HER! Is she going crazy? What are the voices trying to tell her? And is her BF Nico ever coming back?

I would recommend this to a reluctant reader in a heartbeat. The creepy is ever present and weirdly mysterious, and the narrative moves along at a clip. Nothing earth shattering for me, but I liked. -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Report: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles, but WOW: this book! Marissa Meyer has done such a wonderful job integrating new, complex characters and plot lines while still seamlessly continuing what she started in Cinder. Scarlet is a satisfying, rich read, full of thrills both horrifying and romantic; terror, adventure and swoon. The sci-fi world Meyer has created is unique and air tight. (Rare! I am a tough customer when it comes to YA world building... so many worlds, too many holes). Again, I love how she interprets classic tales (this time around, Red Riding Hood) with such a light, clever hand. I truly can't wait for the third book in this series. Bravo! 

Shame-free TBF Promotion: Marissa Meyer is one of 33 YA authors appearing at the Rochester Teen Book Festival on May 18!

And, for those of you who have not read Cinder, here's my original review of that book from way-back-when. (Note, Dear Reader: you will need to read Cinder before jumping into Scarlet. And that's not a bad thing!)

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I avoided this book for a bit because I'm a bit tired of YA fairy-tale/myth retelling/re-imagining. Though you can describe Cinder as a retake on Cinderella, that meager description doesn't do the book justice. It's great fun to imagine as you're reading how the author is going to incorporate the elements of Cinderella into her tale and she doesn't disappoint in her creativity or subtlety. I would describe this as very accessible yet classic sci-fi, loosely based on the Cinderella tale, with a kick-ass heroine and a satisfying tease of teenage romantic longing. Great character development, great intrigue, and a brisk, building action that will send you catapulting into a can't-wait sequel.

I recommend this series to readers who enjoy any of the following: science fiction, fairy-tale retelling, strong female leads, adventure, a perfect dose of romance-amid-action, page turners and series. Did I forget anything?  -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Monday, March 11, 2013

Calling All Teen Volunteers!

Over the next several weeks, I will do my best to bombard you with information about this year’s Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival, which takes place on May 18 from 9am-5pm at Nazareth College in Rochester. Otherwise known as TBF.

Why? Because you should go. Why? TBF is an annual event that provides great opportunities for teens to interact with their favorite YA authors and discover new favorties. It is a day of fun, entertainment and fanning-out, and IT IS FREE. Hundreds, if not thousands, of teens and lovers of YA books will be in attendance.

Now, yours truly happens to be on the TBF Volunteer Committee, and I am here to tell you that volunteering at TBF is an amazing way to experience the festival! Available all day? Sign up to be an “author handler”; you'll get to hang with an author or a panel of authors all day, helping them get around and introducing them to their audiences. There are all sorts of assignments for those of you who are only available part of the day as well. We love having teen volunteers, but we’re also looking for some adults to help the day run smoothly. If you’re interested, you can fill out an online volunteer form HERE. Do it! Do it soon! Volunteer registration ends on March 25!

For a full list of this year's authors, their books, and just about everything else you need to know about TBF, visit the website: 

Hope to see you there! -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Report: After the Snow

After the Snow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are into survival stories and/or dystopian fiction, you will want to read this book. Extreme climate change? Over-controlling government? A secret band of dissenters? Persistent peril? We got that!

Plot basics: teenage Willo lives an isolated existence with his family in a world where the oceans have "stopped working", and snow and ice have covered the globe. We meet Willo hiding up above his home, waiting things out after his family has been dragged away by government trucks. Why did they take them? What's he going to do now? Willo knows he can't stay in the home he's grown up in, and so he sets off with a sled to his "secret place" in the mountains to regroup, but a chance encounter with a pair of starving children changes his course.

I am, in general, a slow reader (alas!), but I tore through After the Snow, fascinated by Willo's world, how it came to be, and how he would navigate it once he finds himself utterly alone. The plot is almost entirely non-stop action, though the pace varies to build suspense or give us a needed break to recover. Willo-as-narrator is a perfect blend of common sense and unawareness. Plus, he wears a dog skull on his head and talks to it, which charmed me. You will be rooting for this kid from page 1; he's not perfect, but he's a pure soul.

There were moments in this book, especially when Willo is in "the city", that reminded me of the thrills and fears I felt when I first read 1984 or saw Blade Runner... haunting images and characters. The author does not shy away from depicting the horrors that human beings are capable of when they are starving or hopeless, and I appreciated that as honest (still, I'm also thankful that she showed such things with judiciousness, and didn't go overboard... just the right amount of human-beings-suck).

I felt a little let down by the ending. It felt hasty after so much care. That said, I think the author's choice of ending would make a fascinating discussion. Overall: so good.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Report: Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I listened to the audiobook of Blood Red Road, and when I didn't like something in the narration, I often asked myself, "but would I appreciate it or understand it more if this person's voice wasn't bothering me so much?" So, this review may be unfairly lopsided, especially since I heard such great things about this book (and it's sequel, Rebel Heart). I heard Hunger Games comparisons mentioned. I'm sorry to say that Hunger Games for me this is not, but it's still an interesting (and fast paced) post-apocalyptic journey.

I did really like how the novel starts; it showed exciting promise. Our heroine, 18 year old Saba, lives an isolated existence in a shack made of tires with her twin brother, Lugh, her dad and her little sister. The author does a really great job of subtly hinting at how food and water have become increasingly hard to come by for this family in a place once appropriately named "Silverlake". Young also establishes the dynamic of the family deftly, just in time for a big, red, menacing dust cloud to blow "into town" and cause all sorts of turmoil. Lugh is abducted by black robed riders under mysterious circumstances that hint at some cult-ish, quasi-religious world beyond Silverlake in a very intriguing way. And so Saba hits the road, hell bent on finding her twin.

Great start, right? And there's plenty of non-stop suspense, action and even romance (!) to come. So what's my problem with not loving this book? I feel like Young didn't reach 100%, though she showed awesome promise. There were some characters and situations that just fell flat for me, or (worse), weren't consistent. Let's just say there were a couple of "oh, come on!" moments for this reader. The thing that bothered me the most was the evil king that supposedly rules just about everything in this area (whatever area it may be) of what was probably once North America. He is a total wiener, and I just could not realistically believe that people would obey him, or that someone wouldn't overthrow him the first second they had. I can't go into much detail without spoilers, but he was the worst, and it just didn't jive for me that all this woe would be caused by such a total loser of a monarch. I did, however, really like how grotesque he was both physically and mentally. King of the creeps, for sure.

Other than that, I did like this book. If I decide to read the sequel, I'm definitely going to read the print copy to give Saba's real voice a second chance.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Report: Seraphina

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I struggle with enjoying high fantasy. For example, I slogged through LOTR (though was ultimately glad that I did). That said, I barely struggled with Seraphina, which is a huge accomplishment in my reading habits.

It's no wonder this book is on several best lists for 2012. First off: the world building is awesome and awesomely achieved! Dragons who can transform into human form? Yes, please. But Hartman doesn't just stop at unique ideas; she really goes all-out in describing through her characters the differences between humans and dragons, AND creating an air-tight fantasy world and a history in which they both dwell. Our narrator and protagonist, Seraphina, is half-dragon, and I thought it was masterful how Hartman subtly depicted the characteristics of both species in her. (Did you know that dragons can swiftly calculate distance, velocity and time in their heads? Well, they can. They also love to hoard coins [shocker!] and only have to go to the bathroom about once a month.)

Even the language and the settings are intricately created. I loved Seraphina's frequent exclamations of shock, surprise or frustration, in which she utilizes a bevy of made-up saint names. There is no lazy writing to be found in this book. Plus, the intrigue and the romance are suppressed, secretive and simmering, as they should be in any medieval court worth its salt. Mandatory reading for those of you who love high fantasy, and highly recommended for those (like me) who are on the fence about it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Calling All Canandaigua Teen Artists--TBF 2013 T-Shirt Design Contest

To all my budding Canandaigua-area teen artists out there, here's your chance to put your stamp on something BIG. Submit your entries for the (Annual Greater Rochester) Teen Book Fest T-shirt Design Contest. Your design could be worn by hundreds of fellow teens and TBF volunteers. How cool is that? Details are linked below:

Don't know what TBF is? Stop missing out!

Visit and be amazed.

And stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved with TBF, where 30+ awesome YA authors will descend on Rochester in May 2013.

-Kelley, (your) Teen Librarian

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Report: Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to the super excellent Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of my favorite YA titles from last year. If you haven't read the first book, I highly recommend that you do so... now.

The first book was all magic, atmosphere, swoon and mystery. We meet our blue haired heroine Karou in modern day Prague, where she spends her days filling her art school sketch books with fantastical half-animal creatures so vivid and detailed you believe they are real... which, of course, they are. They're Karou's chimera family, living on a portal between our world and another, sending their "daughter" out around the globe to gather teeth from nefarious sources (for mysterious purposes). Into this picture comes one smoking hot seraph (see: angel), propelling Karou into a chaos of self-discovery. THRILLING. Intrigued? GO READ THIS BOOK.

Now on to the sequel, an excellent middle-book in a planned trilogy. Daughter of Smoke and Bone ended in destruction and loss, but also realization and awakening for our protagonist. The sequel finds Karou and a small band of warrior chimera attempting to recover from the destruction of their home, camping out in a kasbah in the middle of the desert in our world, building a resurrected army. In the world of Eretz, Akiva reluctantly aids the seraph forces in the emperor's attempt to wipe the decimated chimera off the face of the planet. The "blood" in the title belongs there. We gots-lots of death, pain, violence and fear going on here; lots of longing, sorrow and regret. Both sides seem hell bent on mutual destruction. Yet Taylor excellently teases out the scantest threads of hope for survival. (Personal note: due to the violence, themes, and sophistication of the writing, I would recommend this to my high school readers and up; I just don't think the middle school set is ready for this one). 

While our main characters suffer and struggle, the secondary characters from the first book are more fully flushed out and explored. The scenes with Mik and Zuzana especially provided necessary doses of tenderness and beauty in the otherwise bleak landscape. I also loved watching the humanity bloom in Akiva's sister Liraz, hereto depicted as a steely, unbending warrior.

I was so excited for this to be published and was not disappointed in the least. Taylor has such excellent pacing, her images are so evocative, and her writing so uniquely poetic. I can't wait for the third book, especially thanks to a particularly smoldering cave scene in the last few pages. There is much to look forward to. Whatever will I do to pass the time until then? :)

-Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian