Saturday, March 30, 2019

Dealing with Dragons

Dealing with Dragons
by Patricia C. Wrede
Point, 1992. 212 p. Young Adult

Princess Cimorene no longer wants to be a princess. Princesses are not allowed to do interesting things they cannot learn to fence, cook, or Latin. When her parents try to marry her off to a prince who has no intelligence to speak of that is the last straw and Princess Cimorene runs away to live with a dragon. Where she chases off knights and catalogs magical objects, and helps deal with pesky wizards.

This is one of my favorite stories. It is a short series with only 4 books and it is absolutely delightful. I love Cimorene I love Kazul who is a wonderful character. It is just a fun light read and I love the message that you don’t necessarily have to be what everyone expects you to be.

 MH

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass

Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass
By Lilah Sturges
Boom! Box, 2018. 141 Pages. Young Adult.

This story follows the girls of the Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. When the girls start to go missing during an orienteering activity, Molly knows something is wrong. Maybe her creepy glowing compass has something to do with it? Molly's insecurities grow with each disappearance until she's left all alone.

This book is a great starter for those wanting to dip their toes in the graphic novel genre. The writing and art styles pair well together to present an entertaining and concise read. . The gradual presentation of Molly's fears was beautifully executed and didn't dominate the story. I was impressed with how easily I connected with each of the diverse characters in such a short narrative. I would recommend this book to new and veteran graphic novel readers.

HS

Autoboyography

Autoboyography
By Christina Lauren
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2017. 407 pgs. Young Adult

Tanner was open about his bisexuality while living in California, but hides it after his family moves to Utah. When he starts to fall for Sebastian, the mentor in his high school writing seminar, Tanner watches from a distance, knowing Sebastian is a bishop’s son. However, when Tanner starts getting signals that perhaps this faithful, church-going guy is interested in him, both of their worlds will take a drastic turn.

I didn’t realize when I picked this book up that it took place in Provo, and then I became hyper critical, seeing if the author got the setting just right. It was surprisingly accurate, and the Provo City Library even makes a cameo!

Aside from the “love at first sight” trope, I felt the characters of Tanner and Sebastian were really well done. It had a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel between the socially liberal and socially conservative, which was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Really, this book was an emotional roller-coaster (which I loved!), and it strongly resonates with many LGBTQ+ youth in socially conservative communities.

For more great books about LGBTQ+ youth, check out our booklist.

ACS

Dear Martin

Dear Martin
By Nic Stone
Crown, 2017. 210 pgs. Young Adult

Justyce is a college bound, African American teen attending a predominantly white high school. When he’s accepted into a college that denied another classmate, a discussion starts about Affirmative Action, assumptions, prejudice, and racism. Then a run in with a retired, white police officer turns violent and Justyce must come to terms with what it means to be black. His journal-like letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. show his desire to be a good example of peacefully standing up for what right, while pressures from all sides weighs him down.

I’ve read several books recently that address a variety of social issues, and I love how this one addressed the issue of racism head on. Justyce is a well-developed character, and when he comes face to face with unacknowledged racism, his reactions and responses felt real and genuine. I would definitely recommend this to fans of THE HATE U GIVE.

ACS

Monday, March 25, 2019

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc
by David Elliott
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019. 208 pgs. Young Adult

Joan of Arc was called by angels to support Charles VII in recovering France from English rule. This book of poems tells her story through people she knew as well as inanimate objects that she interacted with. It details her beginning and ultimately her end.

I know hardly anything about Joan of Arc, so this was a really interesting introduction to her story. The author uses a mix of modern poetry and poetry formats that were popular at the time of Joan of Arc. I felt like I was learning about both history and poetry at the same time! Overall, I thought the poems were well-written and it was especially interesting to get the perspectives of inanimate objects like Joan’s dress or sword. I would recommend this for people who like short collections of poetry (especially older forms) or anyone who wants a good, brief introduction to Joan of Arc.

AU

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Vanishing Stair

The Vanishing Stair
by Maureen Johnson
Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 373 pgs. Young Adult

Following the death of a classmate, Stevie Bell is pulled from Ellingham Academy, but she will do just about anything to return. When the opportunity arises, she returns and immediately starts investigating the Ellingham kidnappings and murders. But strange things start happening, and just when Stevie thinks she has everything figured out, disaster comes to Ellingham Academy again, not once, but twice.

An intricate story is woven where all the little things are needed to create the final reveal. Some of the mysteries from book one are solved, but more arise with not one, but three new deaths. The emotions, relationships, and reactions feel authentic and interesting. The clues are there for anyone to solve, which makes the story more exciting. It will be a hard wait until the release of book 3.
TT

Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat
by John Steinbeck
New York, N.Y. : Penguin Books, 1986, c1935. 207 p. Fiction.

Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, John Steinbeck created a “Camelot” on a shabby hillside above the town of Monterey, California, and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. At the center of the tale is Danny, whose house, like Arthur’s castle, becomes a gathering place for men looking for adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging—men who fiercely resist the corrupting tide of honest toil and civil rectitude.
 
As Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck chronicles their deeds—their multiple lovers, their wonderful brawls, their Rabelaisian wine-drinking—he spins a tale as compelling and ultimately as touched by sorrow as the famous legends of the Round Table, which inspired him.


I'm a huge fan of John Steinbeck and his signature writing style, but this book didn't pull me in like his other works did. Once again, he paints us a beautiful picture of the scenery (Monterey, California) and introduces the challenges of the time (Prohibition, Great Depression Era) in a subtle way. I find issue with the characters. I had a difficult time establishing a connection with them. Perhaps it is because this book isn't full of many serious, life-altering scenes. The book itself feels more casual than, say, The Grapes of Wrath. Even still, I would recommend this book (along with any John Steinbeck) book to anyone looking to be immersed in a new place and a different time. 

NS




Truly Devious

Truly Devious 
by Maureen Johnson
Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 420 pages. Young Adult Fiction

Ellingham Academy was opened by a rich family as a school for gifted youth in the 1930s. The place was soon riddled by a high profile disappearance and series of crimes that have been unsolved to this day. The only real clues left behind were haunting riddles and letters signed “Truly, Devious”. Today, Stevie Bell is fascinated by this mystery and as an Ellingham student, she is determined to solve the decades old crime as her final project for her graduation. When her classmates start going missing, and new crimes take place as she delves into her investigation, she wonders if “Truly, Devious” may well be tied to the current day mystery, too.

This book is two mysteries woven artfully into one; both the 1930s disappearance and a string of new crimes as Stevie inches closer to the truth twist and weave their way together in unexpected ways. The story is fast-paced and leaves the reader guessing right up to the very last pages (and beyond!). I loved that it’s the kind of mystery that gives enough clues that readers can attempt to solve the caper right along with the sleuth. Be warned that you’ll want to have book two, The Vanishing Stair, on-hand to begin right as you finish this first book in enthralling series!

RC

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

Cover image for The faithful spy : Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot to kill Hitler
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
By John Hendrix
Amulet Books, 2018, 175 pages, Young Adult Biography

Tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor known for speaking out against the suffering caused by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. Convinced that it was better to stand up for what he believed than to do nothing, Bonhoeffer became a spy who was involved in at least three different attempts to kill Hitler.

This book is a sort of melding of the traditional biography format with that of a graphic novel. While it’s the words on the page that drive the story, each page also features a large picture that interacts with the text.  A great example of this can be seen in the cover art. I found this to be a very effective method for telling this story.  It enhanced the key points of Bonhoeffer’s beliefs, and highlighted the atrocities of the Nazis. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading inspiring stories of real-life people who stand up for what they believe in, even when it is hard to do so.

MB

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver
New York : Harper Flamingo, 1998. 546 p. Fiction.

The family of a fierce evangelical Baptist missionary--Nathan Price, his wife, and his four daughters--begins to unravel after they embark on a 1959 mission to the Belgian Congo, where they find their lives forever transformed over the course of three decades by the political and social upheaval of Africa.

In the past, I received so many positive recommendations about Barbara Kingsolver and this book in particular, and I'm so glad I finally decided to pick it up this and read it. The storyline offers the reader a glimpse into colonialism and postcolonialism and is made even more unique as it is told from the perspectives of the four Price daughters and Nathan Price's wife, Orleanna. The daughters' perspectives bring a nice touch of innocence and humor to mature themes (colonialism, religious conflict, racism, sexism). This book has a bit of a slow pace, but I welcomed that fact because it gave me a chance to think about what I was reading. I would recommend this book to those interested in historical fiction and those looking to settle in for a long read (it is 600+ pages long).

NS 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bloom


by Kevin Panetta
First Second, 2019. 368 pgs. Young Adult Comics

Now that Ari has finished high school, he is ready to move to the big city with his hip band. But first, he needs to convince his dad to let him quit his job at the family’s struggling bakery. He used to love working there as a kid, but now he will do about anything to escape. While interviewing his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari hates it. As they spend the summer together in the bakery, love starts to bloom, as long as Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

I enjoyed the story and depth of the characters. The story flowed well, and the monochromatic colors fit the tone of the story. Ari and Hector felt fresh and relatable, and their relationship developed in authentic ways. This was a sweet story about love and how the people who love us will be there as we grow and learn and make terrible mistakes.

TT

Monday, March 11, 2019

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness
By Ingrid Fetell Lee
Little, Brown Spark, 2018. 359 pages. Nonfiction


Designer and TED star Ingrid Fetell Lee explains why balloons make us smile, why orange creamsicles and sunsets make us happy, and why baby animals make us coo. Using groundbreaking research, Lee shows how even small changes in our lives, like a round pillow or a splash of blue paint can change our physiology. Lee argues that the physical world has a huge impact on our happiness and that we can bring elements of it into our homes to change how we feel for the better.

This book was fascinating. The research ranges from psychology to neuroscience to internal medicine. I knew that nature could affect my mood, but I didn’t realize that bringing elements like shapes, textures, and colors in from outside could change my happiness level and even my blood pressure. Lee's hope is that people can use these techniques to find more joyfulness in their lives. I can't wait to get started.

AG

What If It’s Us?


What If It’s Us?
by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
HarperTeen 2018, 437 Pages. Young Adult Fiction.

Arthur is an intern at a NYC law firm where his mother is working for the summer. Ben is a recently heartbroken New York native who is struggling through summer school in order to finish high school on time. The two connect through a chance encounter at the post office and each of them regrets not exchanging phone numbers, but through the magic of internet stalking research, they find each other and believe that the universe is pulling them together. Their time together has expiration date- as Arthur will return to Georgia at the end of the summer, but after a series of “do-over” first dates, they finally start to let their guard down and fall for each other just as their deadline creeps up on them.

This is a charming coming of age romance with plenty to love. Written by two popular YA novelists, each author writes one boy’s perspective, giving them unique voices, and the story unfolds in chapters that alternate between the two character’s viewpoints. I enjoyed the pop culture references, Arthur’s obsession with Broadway musicals, and total dorkiness. Ben’s fantasy writing, SIMS playing, well-meaning but underachieving personality make him feel familiar as well, and either could stand in for kids from many high schools across the country. This book’s portrayal of the power of friendship, the butterflies and nervousness when exploring a new relationship, and trumps and tribulations when finding your way in the world is timeless and uplifting, while leaving room for unexpected magic to unfold.  

RC  

Friday, March 8, 2019

Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies

Cover image for Women of the blue & gray : true Civil War stories of mothers, medics, soldiers, and spies
Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies
by Marianne Monson
Shadow Mountain, 2018, 230 pgs., Nonfiction

Monson brings to light the incredible stories of women from the Civil War, whether they be from the North, or from the South. The women in these micro biographies were wives, mothers, sisters and friends whose purposes ranged from supporting husbands and sons during wartime to counseling President Lincoln on strategy.

If you enjoyed Monson’s other collection of micro biographies, Frontier Grit, you know to expect fascinating stories of interesting women whose contributions to the human story have been mostly lost to time. Women of the Blue and Gray spends less time editorializing on the lessons to be learned from each woman’s life, and instead focuses on trying to give as many viewpoints as possible on the topic of the Civil War.

I especially enjoyed learning about Virginia Mason McLean, whose homes just happened to be the places where both one of the first and one of the last encounters of the Civil War occurred. I was also fascinated by the efforts of Clara Barton and the Red Cross after the war to reunite lost loved ones.

This is a book that will make you amazed at the courage and fortitude of the people who lived during one of America’s most tumultuous times, and it might inspire you to document some of the bigger moments of your own life.

MB

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 
by Albert Marrin
Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 198 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction

With the help of World War I, the 1918 influenza quickly spread across the globe creating the worst pandemic in recorded history. Not even the black plague of the Middle Ages hits close to the number of deaths of the 1918 flu. This book presents a full picture of what is known about the 1918 flu pandemic from the social, medical, and political contexts of the time, to a brief but thorough explanation of viruses and how they spread. Intended for a teen audience the information is very accessible without being watered-down.

 I was absolutely astounded by the information in this book, I learned so much about the flu pandemic that I never knew before. The thing I like best about this book is how it perfectly blends the different academic disciplines of history, medicine, and science as it discusses the advancement of the disease throughout the world. I’d definitely recommend it to teen readers, but adults will still find it informative and engaging.

ER

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
Simon Schuster, 2018. 310 pgs. Non-Fiction.

On April 28, 1986 the LA Public Library caught fire. The fire reached a temperature of 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage and destroying or damaging more than a million books. It took years for the library to recover and rebuild, but with the support of the community, many volunteers, and generous donors they were able to.

This book is one part true crime, one part history of the LA Public Library, and one part love letter to the modern library. I really enjoyed the way that Orlean wove the three narratives together and I didn’t find one more engaging than the others. She starts each chapter off with a few book titles that relate to the chapter and their call numbers which I thought was a nice touch. I would recommend this for anyone who likes light true crime, LA, or libraries.

AU

The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island 
by Margo Lanagan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 305 pgs. Young Adult Fiction 

On remote Rollrock Island the men make their living, and fetch their wives, from the sea.

The sea witch Misskaela will call the girl out of a seal for anyone, for a price of course. Pay the witch, hide the seal skin, and keep an enchantingly beautiful woman forever. At least, that is what the men of Rollrock Island tell themselves. But the magic costs more than money given to the witch, and everyone on the island pays that price.

This book was so thought-provoking! The men of Rollrock Island didn’t always get their wives from the sea, and watching that transition unfold was both heartbreaking and fascinating. I really appreciated how the book plays out the consequences of their decision. It didn’t leave the problems with taking sea-wives unaddressed. I think this book would be a good one for a group discussion.

ER

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Ginny Moon

Ginny Moon
By Benjamin Ludwig
Park Row Books, 2017. 360 pgs. Young Adult

After bouncing around in foster care, Ginny Moon finally has a forever family. However, her new mom is expecting and it’s bringing up worries from her past that Ginny has a hard time expressing. Ginny is autistic, so what’s important to her, how she sees the world, and how she reacts to things, tend to be a little different. She’s constantly worrying about the “baby doll” she hid when CPS took her away from her abusive mother, and she’s willing to do anything, including be kidnapped, to make sure her baby doll is okay.

 I love reading books where the main character has a different view and experience of the world than I do, and seeing things through the eyes of someone with autism was illuminating. Ginny is smart and determined, and because the adults in her life don’t understand what she’s trying to tell them, she must take matters into her own hands to get closure. They kept trying to convince Ginny of one thing or another, trying to get her to understand their view, while not giving serious consideration to Ginny’s view. The frustration I felt for Ginny made me more aware of my own interactions with people with autism. I loved this book for the characters and story, but also for the way it made me look at myself. Would highly recommend.

ACS

The Librarian of Auschwitz

The Librarian of Auschwitz
By Antonio Iturbe
Godwin Books, 2017. 423 pgs. Young Adult

Fourteen-year-old Dita was sent to Auschwitz with her family when Nazis took over Prague. They were placed in the “Family Camp,” built under the pretense that Auschwitz wasn’t actually an extermination camp. In the children’s block Fredy Hirsch ran a small school to help bring a sense of normality to the children’s lives. When Dita becomes one of his assistants she is honored to be chosen to protect a secret stash of books. However, life is hard and brutal in the camp and Dita must use all of her ingenuity to protect the books, her friends, and her family.

This book is only semi-fictional and is based on real people and events. Dita is clever and observant, and her story is heartbreaking and powerful. Much has already been written about the struggle to survive in Nazi concentration camps, but this takes a relatively unknown story and brings it to light. I would easily recommend this if you liked Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF, Elie Wiesel’s NIGHT, or THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.

 ACS