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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mockingjay

Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. New York : Scholastic Press, 2010. ISBN: 0439023513. $17.99
As the final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Mockingjay brutally and beautifully ends the struggle Katniss Everdeen has had against the Capitol.
Mockingjay begins with Katniss, Gale, and some of the remaining residents of bombed-out District 12, now far below the earth's surface in the massive underground world of District 13. As Katniss is brought into the war District 13 is planning against the Capitol, Katniss must return to her Hunger Game persona, the mockingjay. It is an emblem for the inhabitants of Paneam that they do not have to allow the Capitol to control them. She is a symbol of hope and freedom. Yet, Katniss realizes that there are some who are willing to exploit her popularity, and use her for their own gains. The truth Katniss must discover is who is true to the cause of the war and who is using her in order to gain their own opportunities for power.
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Then there's the love triangle Katniss is always in, between her best friend Gale and the boy who has always loved her, Peeta. Yet, all of their relationships have drastically changed since the last book, Catching Fire. Peeta is a prisoner of the Capitol and obviously in pain and anguish as he is submitted to tortures that are hinted about when President Snow airs his warnings to the rebels over the national televised network. Gale, on the other hand, is with Katniss in District 13. He is by her side, most of the time, but he is also absent more and more while is working with Beete and District 13 on secret weapons to use against the impending battles with the Capitol.

So Katniss is left with now not knowing who to trust and no one to really talk to about her fears. She does not know what 13 is truly planning. While Gale is there with her in 13 and always by her side, just like he was when they were back in District 12 five years ago, she is plagued with not knowing if she will ever get to see Peeta again. She is drowning in her guilt that so many people have died, and more will soon perish, because her actions of spurred an uprising. However, Katniss is the mockingjay because she cannot tolerates the Capitol’s deadly control over Paneam. She is a true rebel, but will her actions be worth the war that will take place because her personal vendetta against President Snow is now a war for the rebels of Paneam?

Collins truly ended her trilogy perfectly. I have to say that I cried at the end because the conclusion was perfect, and the fact that I did not want the story to end. This is a truly brilliant set of works that cover so many themes, such as sacrifice, friendship, morality, death, family, etc. Paneam is a violent and brutal place that uses death as a way to control the population. Yet, they never thought that a girl from the poorest district would fight so hard for her family and friends, so much in fact that the entire country is now embattled in a bitter and cruel war. Collins spares no one from the heartache of the battle. Everyone will lose something or someone before the dust settles and either the Districts or the Capitol wins control.

If you have not read the Hunger Games trilogy, I highly recommend going to your local library and get started.  Here is the list of books, in order:

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay

Suzanne Collins has received the follwoing critical acclaim for this trilogy:
  • New York Times Notable Children's Book
  • ALA Notable Children's Book
  • ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults
  • ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Green, John &; David Levithan.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  New York : Dutton, 2010.

ISBN: 9780525421580.  $17.99
(Image Credit: Cape May County Library)

What are chances that two strangers with the same name end crossing paths?  What if that chance meeting ends up changing their lives in ways that they could never foresee?

For the first Will Grayson, high school is a strange, and sometimes, unfriendly place due to his friend Tiny.  Tiny draws attention wherever he goes.  He's huge, like 300 lbs., nice, loud, and proudly gay.  He's been Will's best friend for his entire life, but Will feels that Tiny's good intentions always complicate his life.  Will wishes Tiny would just tone things down a little, and maybe Will's life would become easier.  He would have some of his old friends back.  Maybe girls would notice him and not only his big friend.

Then there's the other Will Grayson.  He's depressed and miserable.  His friend Maura is always trying to get him to ask her out, when Will just wants to be left alone.  He would rather be home and on the computer talking to Isaac.  Although they have never met, Will has strong feelings for Isaac.   Isaac is also Will's biggest secret.  No one knows that Will is gay.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is more than just a book about teens and sexuality.  It's a book about friendship, love, tolerance, ignorance, and admitting when you are wrong to yourself and others.  All the characters in this book are completely relatable,  funny, witty, and charming.  As a reader, I found each one endearing with characteristics that not only show their good points, but also their flaws.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson is more a story about friendship and discovering why the people closest to you matter the most.

Check out John Green's commentary on Will Grayson, Will Grayson:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/mYTFJ1Z3DS3PS
John Green is well known for his novels:
Paper Towns
2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult NovelAn Abundance of Katherines
2007  Printz Award Honor Book
Looking for Alaska
2006 Printz Award
ALA's 2005 Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults

You can visit his websites:
www.sparksflyup.com
http://nerdfighters.com

David Levithan has penned:
Boy Meets Boy
Love is the Higher Law
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

You can visit his website:
www.davidlevithan.com

Melissa the Librarian

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Initiation

Fine, Susan.  Initiation.  Woodbury, Minn.: Flux, 2009.  ISBN: 9780738714660.  $9.95.  


When Mauricio Londono begins his freshman year at St. Stephen's School he feels optimistic, hopeful, and full of a renewed sense of purpose.  This is the best preparatory school in all of New York City.  It is the institution where the privileged and wealthy send their children.  Mauricio feels St. Stephen's will afford him opportunities he would never be able to attain in public school.  In fact, he feels that St. Stephen's will not only give him the best education money can buy, he also believes this is his chance to lay the foundation for becoming wealthy and privileged himself. 


Yet, all of Mauricio's optimism is crushed within the first few minutes of crossing St. Stephen's doors.  Here he sees the next four years of his academic life as rather lonely.  He doesn't know anyone and everyone seems to know each other.  Mauricio's hopes of finding a new life sink away faster than he can make himself try to fade into the background of St. Stephen's first assembly.  His goals shift from finding a privileged life to strictly surviving high school. 

Mauricio's initiation into St. Stephens goes beyond blending into the student body and trying to make friendships.  It also incorporates the knowledge and experiences he acquires as he progresses throughout the school year, where friends aren't always who they appear to be and where what appears to be occurring on the surface is just masking the drama and backstabbing floating underneath. 


Initiation has been reviewed in School Library Journal


This book would be a great read for anyone who enjoyed Robert Corimier's The Chocolate War

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Monstrumologist

Yancey, Rick.  The Monstrumologist:  William James Henry. NewYork: Simon & Schuster: BFYR, 2009.  ISBN: 9781439152614.  $21.99.
(Image Credit: Cape May County Library)

monstrumology n.
1. the study of life forms generally malevolent to humans and not recognized by science as actual organisms, specifically those considered products of myth and folklore.

2. the act of hunting such creatures*

*(Yancey, Rick.  The Monstumologist:  William James Henry, 2009:
http://www.rickyancey.com/monstrumologist/home.php)

What if there was truth in the childhood belief that there monsters underneath your bed and things that go bump in the night?  The kind of creatures that only come out in the darkness to violently feed off the living, the human race.

When the journals of William James Henry, a man who claimed to be 136-years-old, are discovered, their pages reveal a dark tale.  Will Henry was once the assistant to Pellinore Warthrop, a monstrumologist.  He knows the doctor studies bizarre and mysterious creatures, but it's not until there is a knock on the door late in night, when Will soon learns how the world is a dark, dangerous, and deadly place.

Anthropophagi are thought to be monsters of myth and folklore.  When a local graverobber brings Dr. Winthrop something he discovered in the local cemetery, it becomes painfully obvious that these nocturnal creatures exist and they hunt humans.  They are unlike any other documented animal.  The stand at least seven-feet-tall.  Although, human-like in appearance, they have no head.  Their eyes are in their shoulders.  They have a large, vicious mouth in their torso, with equally sharp claws.  From a scientific-point-of-view, they are a perfectly engineered human killing machine.

But how did a creature native to the African plains, end up in 19th century New England?  As Will Henry follows and assists the montrumologist in his quest to reveal the truth of their existence in a new country, he also learns about the lies and secrets that the ones closest to us may carry.  Are Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry able to uncover the truth before the Anthropophagi feed again, or are they a beast that has evolved to overtake man with its insatiable appetite for human flesh?

This is one of the best books I have read in quite a while.  It is an engrossing tale, with gripping descriptions that haunt the mind, well after the book is finished.  It is not a read for the squeamish, but if you are looking for a tale that evokes horror, repulsion, curiosity, adventure, and suspense, then I highly recommend this work.  --Melissa Brisbin, Librarian

Awards:
2010 The Michael L. Printz Honor Award Winner for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
Booklist Star-Reviewed Best Horror Novel.
ALA Best Books for Young Adults.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hamlet: A Novel

Marsden, John.  Hamlet: A Novel.  Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780763644512 $16.99.
(Image Credit: Cape May County Library)

Before I go into my view of this book, I think it is a huge undertaking to try and novelize a tragic Shakespearean play.  That said, James Marsden tries to breathe new life into a 400-year-old Hamlet.  The novel starts out strong, giving life to the characters of Elsinore.  He makes Hamlet and his best friend, Horatio, relatable as they discuss the recent death of Hamlet's father, the King of Denmark, as well as the recent marriage of his mother to his uncle.  Hamlet is full of rage.  His prose is peppered with anger, confusion, and sarcasm.   To many of those around him, Hamlet seems to be slowly losing his senses, but underneath his twisted words he often speaks a truth that many would not be willing to speak about. 


Hamlet is not alone in his doubts over his mother's marriage to his uncle, two months after his father's death.  Most of the royal court does not know how to handle the change.  Hamlet no longer trusts his father's old advisers, such a Polonius.  He doubts the motives of all that surround him, yet he cannot find proof to support his thoughts.  That is, until he is visited by the ghost of his father, who reveals to Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother, Hamlet's uncle, and his current step-father.


While exploring the idea of revenge, Hamlet's actions begin a downward spiral that effect of those who closely surround him.  Without considering the price he would pay for murdering his uncle, Hamlet lets the idea of revenge consume him.  With a cloudy vision and a hateful heart, he takes actions that cannot be undone nor mended.  Soon those that mean the most to Hamlet will fall.  Yet, once the circumstances have been set forth and actions taken, there is no way to take them back.


Overall, Hamlet: A Novel tries to make a complicated play relatable to a modern audience.  Marsden starts off with a strong interpretation of Shakespeare's vision, but he also tries to spice up the novel in areas that do not seem to fit.  Although the novel begins well, I also felt that the ending was a bit rushed.  In the beginning of the tale there were often some details that, I felt, were unecessary, as well as somewhat haphazard.  Marsden tried to make the tale of Hamlet more sexual.  He would use scenes of sexuality that, I believe, were meant to support the confusion Hamlet had about himself; however, they did not flow with the text.  They seemed to be more small shots of sexuality that did not quite fit the rest of the novel.  Overall, the were fractured pieces of descriptive information.  I also would go so far as to think that the as the beginning of the novel started out with unecessary details, the end of the novel was equally lacking important descriptions.  In the places where I thought the author could expand dialogue and narrative, he did not.  The end of the novel felt rushed and incomplete.


Hamlet: A Novel would be a good read for someone who wants to become familiar with the play, but does not want to spend the time deciphering Shakespeare's complicated prose and vocabulary.  In fact, for a teenager, this book could be a good starting point to get the gist of the tale, and then re-read the actual play.   The novel does give an overall description of Shakespeare's version, but in order to truly appreciate the tale, I believe it is equally necessary to read the original work. 

John Marsden is a best-selling author who has penned over thirty novels, including the popular Tomorrow Series and the Ellie Chronicles.



Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tombstone Tea


Dahme, Joanne. Tombstone Tea. Philadelphia : RP Teens, 2009.  ISBN:  9780762437184. $16.95.
(Image Credit: Cape May County Library)


Laurel Hill Cemetery sits high above the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It contains thousands of graves, including some of Philadelphia's most prestigious and famous residents.  But not of Laurel Hill Cemetery's residents stay in the ground.  In fact, many of them are not ready to cross over to the other side and would rather remain dwelling within the well-kept grounds of Laurel Hill.   

Jessie is new to Phildelphia.  She's attending Laurel Hill Charter High School and she doesn't know a single student.  Feeling like a complete outsider and lonely, Jessie decides to take up a dare from three of the school's most popular girls.  She must spend a night in Laurel Hill Cemetery.  Jessie sees the dare as an oppertunity to find some friends as well as explore a new place.  What Jessie doesn't know, yet, is that she won't be the only being roaming the cemetery that night.
During her night at Laurel Hill, Jessie meets Paul and he guides her around the cemetery.  He also informs her that she has chosen the perfect night to visit the cemetery.  Tonight there is a Tombstone Tea.  Jessie soon finds herself mixed up in a world tangled between the past and present, with both the living and the dead.

However, Jessie also discovers something that she has known, but ignored for a long time.  She is a spiritualist, someone who can communicate with the dead.  When she meets Paul, a current and former employee of Laurel Hill Cemetery, she begins to understand her ability.  She is soon confronted by the wrath of Jenny, the angry spirit of a woman who is desperately seeking her long-lost daughter.  Paul and Jessie, along with some of the cemetery's ghostly residents must combine forces to fight Jenny's powerful rage, before Jessie becomes overtaken by the spirit world.   Is Jessie strong enough to overtake Jenny and unite a broken and painful past that keeps her from moving on? If she is able to do so, Jessie will need to count on the assistance of the other ghosts that remain in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Joanne Dahme has also written The Plague and Creepers.

Tombstone Tea has been in both Publishers Weekly Review and Booklist Review.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beautiful Creatures


Garcia, Kimi & Stohl, Margaret.  Beautiful Creatures. Boston:  Little, Brown and Company, 2009. $17.99.  ISBN: 978316042673.  (Image Credit: Cape May County Library.)

Ethan Wate feels he lives in a average South Carolina community with the typical high school, friends, and family.  He dreams of escaping Gatlin's normality.  He seeks a life that goes beyond the ordinary.  He knows that he wants more than a mediocre and predictable existence. 

When Ethan sees Lena Duchannes, the new girl at school, he knows that she is unlike anyone the small town has ever seen or experienced.  When he learns she is the niece of the town's mysterious and feared recluse, Macon Ravenwood, he is intrigued.  Ethan also recognizes Lena.  She is the girl who plagues the dreams he's been having about a girl he never met, but knows he loves.  She is also the girl that he loses at the end of each dream.  It's a nightmare that continuously haunts him each night.

Yet, Ethan's dreams hint at the undeniable connection he and Lena have between each other.  Ethan begins to learn that there is more between Lena and himself.  There is an almost electrical connection, along with the ability to talk to one another without saying a word.  He also learns that the inhabitants of Ravenwood Manor, Lena's family estate, are anything but normal.  It is a place where things are not quite what they seem and where everyone possesses special powers.

Ethan's dreams are more than a connection to Lena; they are a warning of events that are soon to become reality.  The more he falls for Lena, the more he finds himself in a situation that is bigger and deadlier than he could have ever imagined.  Ethan will have to fight for he girl he undeniably loves, even if it means going against all he has ever known and all that he is beginning to learn.  It seems that the town of Gatlin is far from ordinary.  It is a place where humans co-exist with powerful Castors.  It is up to Ethan and Lena to discover the truth, as well as find a way to battle the dark forces that are mounting against them. It is time to learn how destiny and choices are intertwined within the darkness and the light.

Beautiful Creatures was reviewed in both School Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly and Booklist.

Awards and Recognition:
New York Times and International Best Seller. I
Amazon Best of 2009 as a #1 Teen Pick and a #5 Editor's pick. 
Indie Next List Teen Pick Winter, September 2010.
ALA William C. Morris Ya Debut Award Finalist, 2010.
Wall Street Journals Best Books to Give as Gifts Starred Selection.

You can also read more about Beautiful Creatures and its authors at:
http://beautifulcreaturesthebook.com/ 

You can also view the book trailer from the website:       

--Melissa the Librarian