Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, by Lemony Snicket

HorseradishJan shares this review:

As a librarian, “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them,” may be the best advice I have ever heard. This sterling counsel comes from children’s book author Lemony Snicket. His slim volume of silliness, Horseradish: Bitter Truths you Can’t Avoid, is full of similar useful admonitions. Lemony Snicket (or his alter-ego Daniel Handler) is most famous for his bestselling Series of Unfortunate Events, where his humor is also off beat, and always unexpected. I thought at first that this was a book of quotes from his other works, but he seems to have created original aphorisms, such as, “After you leave home you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up.”  As a person who tends to get left with the dishes, I judge my many past homes on the remembered quality of their dishwashers, so I consider this quite germane.

The book is arranged into thirteen chapters of advice pithy or wordy, starting with “Chapter 1: Home” and “Chapter 2: Family” and going on to “Chapter 12: An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does.”  There are many truisms to pop in and visit, no matter how you are feeling. The back cover of this book promises that its contents will not help with life’s “turbulent journey” but I beg to differ; life is always helped by laughter and a fresh perspective and Lemony Snicket can be relied upon to provide both. Try Horseradish: Bitter Truths you Can’t Avoid if you are in the mood for some frivolous fun, or you want an axiom that is more apt than usual. And remember, “A library is like an island in a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded.”

Check the WRL catalog for Horseradish: Bitter Truths you Can’t Avoid.

Unbreakable, by Kami Garcia

Kami Garcia/UnbreakableJessica shares this review:

What a thrill! This action filled novel is the first in the new series The Legion by Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures young adult series.

We first meet Kennedy, a teen living a pretty normal life…until the day she mysteriously finds her mother dead at home. Devastated and alone (her father also left rather oddly years before) Kennedy cannot begin to imagine what is in store. When she is suddenly attacked by a force she can’t explain, twin brothers Jared and Lukas spring to her rescue. Confused, Kennedy doesn’t know whether to trust the brothers, or run away screaming in search of the police. But when they reveal they are part of a secret organization that has existed for hundreds of years to protect the world from a powerful demon, and that Kennedy’s mom was a part of the organization as well, she is truly baffled. Yet there is something in the brothers that she trusts and her curiosity gets the better of her.  While the brothers continue to fill her in (including the fact that she must take her mother’s place among the other four members, all teens who lost their parents on that one fateful night) Kennedy finds herself in a new place surrounded by four exceptional people, all with unique talents and skills which far surpass the ones she believes exist within herself.

As the book progresses Kennedy surprisingly seems to fall into her new role and proves she has something to offer the others. But something is wrong too. Something that separates Kennedy. Something no one can seem to put their finger on. What will it mean for the team? More importantly, what will it mean for all of humanity? A great start to what is sure to be a fast paced, mystery-filled series (with a hint of romance) that brings in not only the paranormal but religious type-themes found in The Da Vinci Code as well.

Check the WRL catalog for Unbreakable.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick

forgiveRachael shares this review:

Leonard Peacock, age 18 today, doesn’t connect with anyone at school except for Herr Silverman, his social studies teacher.  He spends his free time with a chain-smoking elderly neighbor watching Bogart films, and surfing the subway dressed in a suit, observing the workaday adults looking for any sign that “it’s possible to be an adult and also be happy.”  He sometimes writes letters to himself from imagined loved ones from his future, as suggested by Herr Silverman to get through the daily life of his teenage experience.   Leonard is a loner, to say the least, his self-absorbed failed rock-star father gone, and his aging model mother, pursuing a mid-life career as a fashion designer spending most of her time in New York with an insidious “Jean-Luc.”  None of these are the reasons Leonard has decided to kill himself and his once best friend Asher Beal today.

Leonard Peacock has a bitterly funny and painfully sincere perspective reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, questioning the norms of a world in which so much seems wrong.  He laments a world lulled into the habit of accepting or ignoring everyday evils, but because he harbors hope for the better:  “Call an old friend you haven’t seen in years.  Roll up your pant legs and walk into the sea. See a foreign film.  Do anything! Something! Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take.  Just don’t go back to that miserable place you go every day.”

This book is swiftly-paced, darkly humorous, and probably for the more pensive reader of realistic fiction.  The darker themes may resonate more with older young adult readers, and adult readers shouldn’t miss out on this YA gem (Quick also wrote The Silver Linings Playbook). The characters are flawed, real, and some lovely.  Several long footnotes/sidebars annoy at first, but seem to drop away once the main story and characters are established.  Quick offers a perspective on hope and happiness in spite of terrible events, rather than for lack of them, and that happiness can require work.  I really connected with this book and feel compelled to read the rest of his work – all of which have been optioned for film.

Read-alikes:  Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher, Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

Check the WRL catalog for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Shaman King, Volume 1, by Hiroyuki Takei

Shaman_king_volume_1_coverLizzy shares this review:

When he takes a shortcut through a cemetery, Manta Oyamada meets a strange kid with headphones — surrounded by ghosts. The kid is the teenage shaman Yoh Asakura. Tapping the supernatural swordfighting powers of samurai ghost Admidamaru, Yoh fights Bokuto no Ryu, a sword-wielding gang member. But an even more dangerous opponent is stalking Yoh and Manta — a Chinese shaman who wants to possess Amidamaru. -Book Summary

Shaman King is a manga that centers around a teen with the ability to see spirits. He comes from a family of shamans, hence the name, and uses his gifts to protect the spirits in the area.

I found the characters to be likeable and humorous. The writer even used the side characters to his advantage in certain situations which really brought out other characters’ personalities. Although they are all likeable, each character has their own personal flaw. I found it interesting how each character changed throughout the book and how it effected the story.

Altogether, the first volume of Shaman King was excellent and should be enjoyed by many.

Check the WRL catalog for Shaman King, Volume 1

Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer

scarletLily shares this review:

Scarlet’s grandmother is missing. The townspeople suspect suicide…what else could it be? No note. No missing items. Just gone. Scarlet refuses to believe her grandmother would do such a horrible thing. Her grandmother, the kind and somewhat strict woman that raised Scarlet after the passing of her mother. No. It was not suicide. But what?

Then she meets Wolf, a cryptic street fighter with information on her grandmother’s whereabouts. What Scarlet doesn’t expect, after she decides to let him help, is to fall in love.

Meanwhile, Cinder, with the humorous and ‘charming’ convict named Thorne, escape from prison and flee to outer-space. Cinder is still very apprehensive of her Lunar gift, not just because she doesn’t want to control people, but that she enjoys it when she does.

Queen Levana is on the move – sneaking her way through Prince Kai’s defenses – and is coming closer and closer to having the Eastern Commonwealth in her clutches.

Marissa Meyer does not disappoint in this sequel to Cinder.

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Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

wonderChristine shares this review:

I admit it; I occasionally hit a reading slump.  I’m surrounded by hundreds of thousands of wonderful stories, and sometimes I am unable to find one book that will pull me down the rabbit hole.  So I turned to a fellow librarian for advice.  I asked for the one book she had read that she just could not get out of her head. Her response was immediate — R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.  No hesitation, no thought, no second guessing, she laid Wonder at my feet and I’m so glad she did.

Ten-year-old August Pullman will be starting public school for the first time after being homeschooled his entire life.  Auggie happens to have a combination of rare genetic mutations that cause severe facial abnormalities.  Because Auggie is so obviously different on the surface it is hard to see that he is just like many other boys his age — intelligent and funny and passionate about Star Wars.  Needless to say going to public school will be an adventure filled with friends, enemies, middle school wars, laughter, joy, and pain.

I don’t want to give details of the plot because Wonder is a story about everyday life for someone that happens to be ordinary with an extraordinary face.  These details are best appreciated and understood as revealed by Auggie.  Wonder weaves together the shifting perspectives of Auggie and his friends and family to reveal the joys and challenges of life with compassion and humor.

Wonder is magic that will pull you in and won’t let go.  For me it’s the very best kind of book, one that makes me love being in the rabbit hole, but also able to appreciate the world around me a little more when the story has ended.  There will be moments this book will make you cry, but it is worth every teardrop.  This is a book that will stay with you for a long, long, long time.

Check the WRL catalog for Wonder

Page by Paige, by Laura Lee Gulledge

pageLaura share this review:

Paige is despondent. Her family recently moved from central Virginia to Manhattan and she has to deal with acclimating herself to a new city and culture while her relationships with her parents, especially her mother, have been crumbling. She misses her old life, and her old friends, especially her best friend Diana. Paige floats around New York with a sensation of being lost, unsure of herself or what she wants.

Both her mother and father are writers (hence her unfortunate name, Paige Turner), but she is more like her grandmother, a painter. Introverted and quiet on the outside, Paige is full of life and emotions on the inside. She can’t express these feelings in words so she buys a sketchbook, determined to follow her grandmother’s rules that she came up with to teach herself to be an artist. Starting the first drawing is daunting, and brings to the surface more of her anxieties. Is she a good enough artist, what if she has nothing to draw about? Monologues of self-doubt constantly run through her head, even as the pages begin to fill up with sketches.

Entering her new school, Paige quickly falls in with Jules, her brother Longo, and his friend Gabe. The foursome is soon inseparable. Paige still struggles with self-doubt, and everything cool and fun she sees in her friends strengthens her inferiority complex, and fear that her lack of specialness will be discovered. Her inner voice promises that she can change. But how can she build a new self and remove those parts she dislikes most?

Ever practical, Paige makes a list of those aspects of her personality she dislikes the most and intentionally faces them with the help of her friends. She discovers that they too have things that they lack the courage to face, and she begins to coach them, even as she is developing and evolving herself. The image of a seed being planted and carefully tended to as it grows into a fragile shoot appears several times in the drawings and is particularly apt.

The writing is lyrical and evocative while being relatable to anyone who was unsure of themselves when they were a teenager. Paige has a knack of summing up complicated emotions using simple phrases. She states that “like fun house mirrors, different people reflect back different parts of me” and while mourning her loneliness early on, she states that she hates how all her “friends now live in picture frames.”

Recommend for young adults and graphic novel readers and anyone else who can relate to the heart wrenching process of finding yourself.

Search the catalog for Page by Paige

Dead Is a Killer Tune, by Marlene Perez

dead is aLizzy shares this review:

High school freshman Jessica Walsh is a Virago—a woman warrior who must protect her hometown from danger. And in Nightshade, California, trouble is always lurking. At the town’s Battle of the Bands, Jess’s boyfriend, Dominic, and his band, Side Effects May Vary, are up against Hamlin, a band so popular, their fans follow them everywhere. Soon, the competing musicians are doing risky, illegal, and even fatal things—and claiming that they heard strange music that compelled them to do it. Can Jess and her friends track down the tuneful tyrant before it’s too late? – Book Summary

Dead Is a Killer Tune is an amazing book. It is #7 in the “Dead Is” series and follows Dead Is Just a Battlefield. The book contains music, fun, and supernatural trouble. I feel that the plot was evenly paced and the characters were rightfully portrayed. Altogether is was a great read.

Check the WRL catalog for Dead Is a Killer Tune

Breakfast Served Anytime, by Sarah Combs

breakfastJessica shares this review:

Generally, I’m a fan of fantasy and maybe even paranormal. Realistic fiction never really caught my interest. However, I must confess, Breakfast Served Anytime, has become a quick favorite. Set in Kentucky, this novel follows high school senior, Gloria, as she goes off to the Commonwealth Summer Program for Gifted and Talented Students, aka, “Geek Camp”. Each student can select their own course of study and much to her own surprise, instead of choosing her beloved Theatre, she decides on a very different major, Secrets of the Written Word.  From the mysterious first letter from the professor, hand written and sealed with wax, Gloria knows this class will be a little different. Once she arrives Gloria soon discovers that Geek Camp isn’t what she expected at all and the incredible experiences and close friendships she develops help her not only decide what she wants to do with her life but also ease the pain of losing her grandmother just recently. This story is beautiful written; full of well imagined and illustrated characters and as much an ode to the author’s home state of Kentucky as it is to coming of age, surviving losses and discovering what it is you really want. If you’re in the mood for a witty, honest, and heartwarming story I highly suggest trying this debut novel.

Check the WRL catalog for Breakfast Served Anytime.

Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 10, by Bisco Hatori

ouranLizzy shares this review:

Ever since the day he helped her up after a nasty tumble, Black Magic Club member Reiko Kanazuki has been obsessed with Hunny. She is devoting all her knowledge of the dark arts to curse him and steal his soul. Will the sweetest member of the Host Club fall victim to her spells? – Goodreads summary.

Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 10, was interesting. It starts out with a bold entrance and gets bigger and bigger.

The characterization in this volume continues the path that they were going. Each character still has their own quirks, even the twins! This volume even shows a way to tell the siblings apart.

I found it interesting how part of the volume is set at Hikaru’s and Kaoru’s house. The reader is able to learn more about them and their family life. Personally, I found it to be different than I thought it would be.

I would give this volume 4 stars since I didn’t quite enjoy the ending, but altogether it was great.

Check the WRL catalog for Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 10.

Forest Born, by Shannon Hale

Forest-bornLily shares this review:

This is the 4th book of the Books of Bayern series.

As a young girl, Rin took comfort in the trees, soaking up their soothing warmth. Being the youngest in her family, she has always looked up to her brother, Razo. His visits from the city were always filled with the tales of all the adventures he’d had since his last visit. Razo insists that Rin come with him to the city for a much needed change, and she does. Being there, she realizes how much her life was missing and how much she had retreated into the safe shell of home. Rin meets Razo’s friends: Isi, Enna, and Dasha (the Fire Sisters, she nicknames them). Their talents give Rin a sense of longing to be like them.

In time she finds her strength, independence, and power…in ways she never expected.

Check the WRL catalog for Forest Born.

Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes

operationyes

Jan shares this review:

Bo Whaley lives on an Air Force base in North Carolina. His father is the base commander, which just makes life complicated, especially when most of the kids in his class also live on base. To make life even more convoluted, his cousin Gari arrives from Seattle to live with him because her mother is being deployed to Iraq. They are assigned to the same class to help Gari fit in, but things go badly between them from the start.

The only good thing that is happening to Bo is his new teacher. Ms. Loupe, who is in her first year of teaching, has a tattoo and is young enough to have been taught by the principal. For Bo the best thing about her is her passion for theater. She engages the class in improv involving a beaten up couch, and Bo discovers in himself a talent for acting that previous teachers had seen as a propensity to talk and goof-off in class. His enthusiasm grows until he discovers that the big theater camp that the teacher is planning will be held next summer. He will be gone then, when his family is sent to their next military assignment, which makes Bo furious with the military lifestyle.

Ms. Loupe also gets the class working on a project to send supplies to her brother, who is stationed in Afghanistan. When her brother is declared missing in action, Ms. Loupe is understandably distraught, and Bo’s whole class want to help. In the most moving part of the book Bo, his cousin Gari, Ms. Loupe’s entire class and finally the whole community find a way to work together and, if not fix the unfixable, at least make things better. In the process they learn about each other, themselves, friendship and community.

In turn hilarious and heartbreaking, Operation Yes has a lot to offer. As a librarian I love the literary profanity that the school librarian indulges in : “‘Frog and Toad!’ Miss Candy said. ‘Not again!'” or “Green Eggs and Ham!” I am doing a project on books featuring children with parents in U.S. military, and some of these books are impossible to get through without crying. Operation Yes is definitely in this category. Read it for a moving portrait of a community coming together or an accurate depiction of the military family lifestyle.

Check the WRL catalog for Operation Yes.

Ruined, by Paula Morris

ruinedJessica shares this review:

Ruined is a hauntingly mysterious ghost story that takes place in the heart of New Orleans. When Rebecca finds out that she has to leave her beloved hometown of NYC for a few months while her father is away in China for business, and stay with a little-known family friend in New Orleans, she is mortified. What about her friends? What about school? But there’s no choice, and Rebecca soon finds herself in the heart of the Big Easy, wandering through the Garden District and casting curious glances at the cemetery down the street from her “Aunt’s” house.

When she follows a group of the popular, old-money kids from her new private school into the cemetery one night, she surprisingly encounters a lonely girl, about her age, wearing a slightly torn dress. Interested but concerned that she will be discovered by the other teens, Rebecca asks the girl for a way out of the cemetery and runs off.  As the days go by, Rebecca finds herself thinking more and more about the girl in the graveyard. When she returns a few nights later, Rebecca once again talks to the girl, but can’t help thinking there is something a little off about her. It is only when the girl, Lisette, takes her hand and she becomes invisible to the living that Rebecca makes a startling realization. Lisette is a ghost. But there’s a lot more than that to the story.

Once Rebecca looks into Lisette’s past, and her death, a shocking trail of clues, curses and hundred-year-old buried secrets comes to light. And the rich and powerful of the city are willing to do anything to keep the past hidden and their good names intact. A chilling tale with not only mystery and intrigue but also cultural detail and historical insight, this story will appeal to a range of readers.

Check the WRL catalog for Ruined.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

cinderLily shares this review:

In this futuristic, dystopian world, humans, androids, and cyborgs live together in New Beijing. Many citizens are ill with an incurable plague. On top of that, a ruthless lunar people wait in the sky, watching for an opportune moment to strike.

Cinder is an adopted cyborg who pays her way by being a mechanic.She lives with her adoptive (step)mother and two (step)sisters in an almost nonexistence. Life is pretty consistent.

Everything all changes when Prince Kai comes to her, asking her to repair his android. Suddenly, it all goes haywire from there and Cinder realizes she is part of a much bigger picture than she thought.

I love this book and recommend it to those who love sci-fi, action, and a little  romance.

Check the WRL catalog for Cinder

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

Eragon_book_coverIsaiah shares this review:

“When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.”

I like Eragon because the idea of one ordinary farm boy going up against an entire empire with just a dragon, an old storyteller, a little magic, and a sword just seems so impossible that  it becomes irresistible to read. I become enveloped in the story that Christopher Paolini created; it is just amazing to read and enjoy over and over again (which I have).

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The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

maze runnerLily shares this review:

“When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.”

 

The Maze Runner is an action packed book that will leave you yearning to read the sequel. There wasn’t a moment reading it that I was bored or skipped ahead. Every page kept me sucked in.There were some parts that were dark and depressing, but for a story like this it’s necessary. I enjoyed the fact that is is written in a boy’s perspective and that most of the characters are boys (with one exception:  the girl that shows up after Thomas). The plot is unlike any story I’ve read, which is most likely a reason why it’s so interesting. A lot of books today are unoriginal and dull. The Maze Runner is by no means anywhere close to unoriginal or dull.

I recommend this book to those seeking a late-nighter and who want to be sucked in completely by a tale of suspense and adventure.

Check the WRL catalog for The Maze Runner

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein

roseCharlotte shares this review:

This hard-hitting historical novel is a “companion book” to the Edgar award-winning Code Name Verity, with which it shares a World War II setting and a handful of characters.

Rose Justice is an 18-year-old American pilot with England’s civilian Air Transport Auxiliary. Only recently arrived in England, she’s chirpy and excited about her work and a little naïve. She dismisses rumors of terrible things happening in German prison camps as propaganda. And one day, returning from a flight over France, she flies off course—while tipping a bomb out of the airmay I add—and suddenly two Luftwaffe jets are escorting her into Germany. Mis-classified with a group of French political prisoners, Rose is sent to the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück.

She has entered a different world. In six months, from September 1944 to March 1945, Rose has any remaining naïveté starved and frozen and beaten out of her, until the appalling becomes ordinary. She is taken under the protection of the Rabbits (we would say “guinea pigs”): Polish prisoners, mostly students, on whom the camp doctors have run unconscionable medical experiments. The Rabbits know that they will all be executed eventually, but various means of evasion may keep them hidden away for another week, or day… in perpetual hope that the war will end and someone will survive to let the world know what happened in this place.

Rose’s narrative is written after she escapes Ravensbrück. A survivor in a sort of post-war limbo, Rose is also concerned with how to return to “real life.” Having sworn to herself and others to “tell the world” about the atrocities at the camp, she isn’t even able to describe the experience to her family. The Doctors’ Trial at Nuremberg suggests one path to closure by way of judgment and retribution, but Rose is looking for other ways to redeem her experience.

A poet as well as a pilot, she creates a pilot’s metaphor—lift and weight, thrust and drag—to describe the forces that fueled her survival during and after the prison camp. Obviously, Rose Under Fire is a story carrying a lot of weight. It’s the strong relationships between very different women—women from the French resistance, Night and Fog agents, Girl Scout saboteurs and Soviet bomber pilots—that give the novel lift as well.

Check the WRL catalog for Rose Under Fire

Towering, by Alex Flinn

toweringLily shares this review:

Wyatt goes to live with a lady he barely knows, in order to escape his messed up life. He finds the diary of the lady’s dead daughter. A mystery starts to unfold before him. Then, he begins to hear strange singing noises that no one else notices. Something bizarre is happening in this small town.

Rachel lives in a tower in the woods, in order to be safe from the people who had killed her mother. She is cared for by another woman, whom she calls Mama, even though she knows she is not. Rachel starts to sense a change coming. Something is about to happen.

When I noticed that this book was written my Alex Flinn, I was skeptical. I enjoyed the last book of hers I read (Beastly), but it wasn’t AMAZING and the movie adaption kind of sucked.

My expectation for Towering from reading the back: “This is going to be a sappy love story.”

“Today, I woke knowing something would happen. Something would be different. I opened my window. I was a long way down. Still, I wanted to leave the window open, to smell the world outside. I would play my harp and sing my songs, and the animals, at least, would hear me.

I sang the saddest song I knew, about a girl in love with a poor boy but unable to marry him.

I know where I’m going;

And I know who’s going with me.

I know who I love;

But the dear knows who I’ll marry.

As I sang, I had once again that strange feeling, the feeling of being listened to, not by birds or squirrels or even deer. I rushed to the window to look. I saw something, or someone, moving. It was walking closer to me, struggling where there was no path, holding on to trees to keep its balance, but still coming closer. Perhaps it was the man I had dreamed of.”

Halfway through the book I began to wonder why they had put that especially lovey part on the back cover. Then, it finally started getting sappy. I don’t like it when there’s some strange, magical connection between a couple, and then all of a sudden they’re deeply in love and feel like they’d die without each other. It’s unreal.

I mean, sure, love can be magical, but I think it’s necessary for a relationship to have a foundation other than “I knew he was the one”.

Overall I liked the beginning of the book, but the ending was predictable and the romance dripped with sticky, unrealistic love.

Check the WRL catalog for Towering

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