"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teen Read Week...Top Ten Teen Books 2009

This week is the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Teen Read Week. At the beginning of the week a list of the top ten teen books, as voted by teens themselves, was published. Here is the list with a few notes from me. I've only read four of the books so I will comment on what kids are telling me about the books and what I've noticed about how the books circulate from my library.

1. Paper Towns by John Green -I really like this book. I really like John Green. His writing style is very inventive, hip, and funny. The characters in this book are well developed, likable and sympathetic. The scenes in the van are hilarious. Other scenes are poignant and interesting. I think this book totally deserved its number one spot on this list.
2. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - the fourth book in the Twilight series. Many students have told me that they did not like this book as much as they liked the first three. Or maybe it was just that it was the last book and they were making room in their life for other literature after being consumed by Bella and Edward for weeks and months. I have two copies in my library and neither are currently checked out but all the other books in the series are, so students should be making their way back to this book again soon.
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I blogged about this book and it's sequel, Catching Fire, a few weeks ago. This is the most exciting book that I've read all year. Students are telling their friends about this book and are waiting in line for the sequel. I predict that this book will continue to build up more and more fans over time. And there will be a third book though it doesn't even have a release date yet. If you haven't read this book yet, I recommend you do.
4. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. The second book in the Mortal Instruments series. Somehow I missed all the hype about this series until the third book, City of Glass, came out just recently. My students are just starting to read the series and seem to like the first book, City of Bones. I've placed it on my reading list and hope to get to it soon.
5. Identical by Ellen Hopkins. Girls, in particular, are crazy for Ellen Hopkins books which are all written in verse. I haven't read this one but I liked Crank, her first book about a girl sliding into Meth addiction.
6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I really enjoyed this Newberry Award winning book. Gaiman is a masterful writer and this book is quite unique in it's storyline and plot. Many of my librarian friends didn't care for it. But I think they were reacting to how scary this book is for a kids book. Teenagers do fine with it.
7. Wake by Lisa McMann. I've only had two kids tell me what they thought of the book. One liked it, the other didn't. The storyline sounds like something that teens would like...getting sucked into other people's dreams...Hum.
8. Untamed by P.C. and Kristin Cast. Once kids are completely finished with the Twilight series and are casting about looking for something else to read they quite often land on The House of Night series. (This is the fourth book in it.) They usually consume the books as fast as they can get their hands on them. Start with the first book, Marked.
9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. This book is the only book on this list to win a Printz Honor this year and it deserved it. In fact, I liked it better than the Printz Award winner, Jellicoe Road. Frankie Landou-Banks is a very likable character who outsmarts a whole club of boys through a series of pranks and foibles. A fun and thoughtful book.
10. Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I got this book for the library right at the end of last school year and kids were climbing over each other to have a turn at reading it before summer break. I just got the sequel, Fire, this past week. We'll see if it generates as much interest. This book has made it onto my reading list, but I will have to stand in line behind a long list of students waiting for it first.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things is an almost perfect book. I want to clutch it to my breast and not let the effects loosen their grip on me. One reviewer described it this way: “WHAT a story. WHAT a storyteller.” I’m almost at a loss of words to describe this masterful tale. So I am going to quote the information from the back of the book to get you started as you decide if this is the book for you:

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own – populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things. Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond the author, John Connolly, tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

Many of the challenges that David faces in the fantasy land are taken from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but all are fractured or different than I remembered. Some made me laugh aloud while others made me hold my breath in fear or horror. I was also reminded on the Wizard of Oz in that David encounters helpers along the way to find the King who might hold the key to the mystery of how to get home. But fear not, this tale is not another retelling of an old and tired tale. It is marvelously unique. And-spoiler alert- it ends, as all fairy tales do, with a happy ending.

Sigh*… that is me reflecting on the book and the powerful, enthralling hold it has on me right now. Read it yourself and see if you agree with me.

11th grade through adult level; Audio Book format; 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games, and its sequel, Catching Fire, are the most exciting adventure books that I know of right now for teens. They beg the question, what happens if we choose entertainment over humanity?

Hunger Games, which I read last April, is set in what is left of the United States. Twelve districts have survived the holocaust and the take-over of power by the "capitol". Every year each district must send two teens, one male and one female, to the Hunger Games where the twenty-four participants must fight to the death in a desperate attempt to be the sole survivor and thus the winner of the game. People in the districts watch the games like we might watch the Olympics and the sponsors of the games manipulate circumstance to make the games more interesting and exciting. Thrown in to spice up the plot are some romance and a little political intrigue.

Katniss, Peeta, and the other characters are all realistic and sympathetic. The plot is both brilliant and creepy at the same time. At times the plot moves at break-neck speed and other times it slows just enough to allow the reader to catch her breath before a plot twist occurs and more fast-paced action ensues.

I wondered if the sequel, Catching Fire, could possibly stand up to excitement of the first book. How could it even begin to match the action and surprises in the first book? Well, let's just say that I wasn't disappointed one bit. The second book, which definitely leaves the reader ready for the third installment in the series, is nearly as exciting and just as inventive as the first book.

Read them both. I highly recommend them. In fact, I'm not the only one. Hunger Games has been listed on at least 22 "Best Book" lists. With that many recommendations, how could you go wrong?

YA Science-Fiction; 5 out of 5 stars for both books.