Monday, July 21, 2014

Middle School Monday: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Westover teen volunteer Cassie B. shares some thoughts on a fairytale retelling that is sure to catch your eye:
Beastly By Alex Flynn

Don’t be turned off by the fact that you didn't like the movie, this fairy tale reboot will have you on the edge of you seat, recreating the magic of the story for an older audience. Kyle Kingsbury, son of renounced television anchor, has everything. Looks, popularity, the prettiest girl in school, and now, he is about to become 9th grade prince at the school dance. Everything is right in his world, except all the ugly people who keep getting in his way. Thankfully, he can get back at them for their disgrace on his eyes with nasty pranks. In a twist of events, Kendra, a witch, turns Kyle into something he can only call a beast.

 Even though you already know what will happen, Flinn manages to surprise the reader throughout Kyle’s character growth, and search for true love. The story is told through a mix of chat rooms with other cursed fairy tale creatures and Kyle’s story. I would give this book 4 out of 5 white roses, and also recommend Flinn’s other books, Bewitching, another book about the witch Kendra, and Towering, a modern telling of Rapunzel.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flashback Fridays: The Turbulent Thirties

Our journey into the past continues as Kady looks into the decade of Dust Bowls, The Great Depression and other more uplifting things... the 1930s!

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
A Circus! Sideshow freaks! A dark and twisted ringleader! And, caught in the middle, a normal girl who just wants to find her father.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
So you're living in 1930s Germany and life is good. You've got a sweet and doting Uncle Dolf (the world knows him as Adolf Hitler) and a great best friend in Eva, who is really sweet even if she does have a weird crush on Uncle Dolf (Eva Braun, Hitler's eventual girlfriend). Your father died as a martyr for the National Socialist cause so you and your brother have always been treated like royalty. What could possibly go wrong? 

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
Have you ever seen news clips of the great dust storms that destroyed the heartland during the 1930s? They're terrifying and it's easy to see why so many people packed it in and headed towards greener pastures (or at least California). Callie's mother is not one of those people, she refuses to leave their tiny Kansas town until Callie's father- who Callie has never met- comes home. But it's not just dust that Callie will have to endure and escape in Kansas, it turns out she's half fairy and now that she's seeing weird and mysterious things in the dust, who can she turn to? Who can she trust?

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
And of course, a book actually written in the 1930s. Steinbeck is the master of the Dust Bowl lit genre and while The Grapes of Wrath may make it onto more school reading lists, for my money Of Mice and Men is where it's at. Read it for the lush California setting, a direct contrast to so many of the books on this 1930s list, or read it to finally understand the eleventy billion references to George, Lennie and bunnies that are floating around pop culture.

Flashback Fridays: The Roaring Twenties

We're starting our trip back in time with teen reviewer Libby's look at Libba Bray's The Diviners.

The Diviners by Libba Bray is an odd but compelling combination of 1920's thriller and supernatural powers. Its a mystery with all sorts of secrets, drama, murder, jazz, and intrigue. Evie O’Neal is moving to New York City from her hometown in Ohio. Its 1926, and she couldn’t be more excited for her big city adventure. Except that once she arrives, she finds that things may not be as great as they seem. First she finds herself living with her Uncle Will, the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, also known as the Museum of Creepy Crawlies. The city is being rocked by a sensational series of strange and ritualistic killings, and Uncle Will is called in to consult. Evie might be able to help, but only if she reveals a secret supernatural power she doesn't entirely understand. As the hunt for the killer escalates, Evie discovers that Uncle Will and her new friends may also have secrets of their own. Can they stop the killer from creating anymore chaos? Is the killer even human?

The Diviners is mostly Evie's story, but there are chapters of the book that are from the perspectives of other New Yorkers who are dealing with their own supernatural experiences. Memphis has dreams he can't explain. Jerecho has a mysterious medical condition. Their pieces of the story add more layers to the overall plot and serve as a great setup for the sequel, "Lair of Dreams," which is set to come out in 2015.

This book was the creepiest thing I'd read in a long time. I started it in the middle of the afternoon, and couldn't put it down. By the time I finished, it was two in the morning and I was the only one awake in a dark and silent house and I didn't think I'd ever sleep properly again. The writing is vivid, which makes all the little details pop out, even when they're terrifying. Its clear Libba Bray did her research, and the mythology is consistent and blends into the reality of Evie's world. While I did find some of the 1920's expressions offputting, the details and the mystery were more than enough to make up for it. The characters are relatable, the killer is the definition of evil, and the adventure is exciting. I recommend reading The Diviners with the lights on.

Read More:

Up and Coming: The Diviners by Libba Bray

You Oughta Be In Pictures: The Diviners by Libba Bray

A Very YA Halloween






Go Back In Time This Summer With Flashback Fridays

Every year we like to do something special with our Friday posts. This year, we're jumping in back in time with a different decade each week. Step into our time machine!

Check out our previous Friday Themes:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Up and Coming: Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Fans of the strange and dark take note, Librarian M is here to talk about Brenna Yovanoff's latest:

Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

 Release Date: August 14, 2014

Brenna Yovanoff is back with another book to creep you out!

Clementine has been down in the cellar of her family’s burned-out house for ten years. She hasn’t really been living, but she’s not dead either. She’s been in a kind of stasis, waiting for someone to discover her and set her free. One day a group of boys find her and bring her to her aunt’s house. Clementine is grateful to be out of the cellar until weird things start happening around town. Is Clementine a harbinger of evil doings? Maybe it would have been better if she had never been found.

The setting of this book is spooky and strange. Words like fiend, craft, and reckoning are used frequently and the story is woven like a web around the main characters. Yovanoff spins information out slowly as she constructs this eerie world. I recommend reading this book after dark and under the covers with a flashlight.

Read More:

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Radio Week: "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Up and Coming: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

 Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: August 14, 2014
Isla has had a crush on the artistic and kind of mysterious Josh since she was a freshman. She is seriously shy, but still somehow has managed to make a fool of herself in front of him on a yearly basis. Josh sees these events quite a bit differently and much to Isla's surprise they start a romance.

But unfortunately, that thing about the course of love never running smooth is all too true for the new couple. There are school rules, detentions, parental problems and more determined to stand in the way of their relationship. On top of that there's the fact that both Isla and Josh have personal battles that need to be fought before they can really get to that happily ever after. People always dismiss first love as fleeting, will Isla and Josh be just another example of lost love? Or will they find a way to find their way back to each other?

Isla, Isla, Isla is there anything more delicious than getting the exact thing you want after waiting for it for a really long time? I don't know that there is. Anna and the French Kiss is one of my most favorite books and it's follow up, Lola and the Boy Next Door was just as wonderful. Could the third book live up to the standard set by these two? I'm so happy to report that the answer is a giant yes!

One of the best things about Stephanie Perkins novels is how well she knows her leading ladies. Isla is smart and funny, but she doesn't have the self confidence to enjoy being herself. Instead, she second-guesses and criticizes herself even as she gives her friends the benefit of the doubt. Isla is at school in Paris, dating the boy she's crushed on for ages and the whole time she's waiting for the other shoe to drop. She is all too human and it was easy (at least for me) to identify with the way she sees the world. In each of Perkins novels her main characters have tackled a lot of self growth through the arc of the story and it makes them incredibly relatable.

And then there's the romance. Her books have a swoon level that is almost unparallelled. The love interests of her girls are guys with good hearts who fall hard and what could be more romantic than that? This is not a rom-com where two people hate each other and then *poof* suddenly they're in love, instead you have hard-won crushes and long looks across the classroom, these are relationships with slow builds that you hope will last for the long run.

Isla and the Happily Ever After would have been a favorite of the year even if I had never read any other books by Perkins before. The fact that it brings a beloved trilogy to a perfect ending is a fabulous bonus.

 Read More:

 Bringing YALLFest to You : All the Feels Panel

 L-O-L-A! Lola is finally here!

 You Oughta Be in Pictures: J'aime Paris et Anna

 Teen Review: An Open Letter to Stephanie Perkins

 Friday Lit Spotlight: Anna and the French Kiss? Yes, Please!

 Friday Lit Spotlight: Falling in Love with Rereading


Monday, July 14, 2014

Ordinary Boy by William Boniface

 Westover's awesome volunteer, Sarah is back with a super-hero story for your summer.

Ordinary Boy by William Boniface
Review by Sarah G

If you are a fan of a good super hero novel, Ordinary Boy is the perfect story for you. The novel is about a city in which everyone has superpowers. The narrator of the story, Ordinary Boy, has no powers whatsoever, as suggested by his name. He and his friends go on adventures around Superopolis to find a single trading card, and ultimately battle the greatest super villain in the city. The book's element of mystery combined with its sense of humor makes it appealing to any young reader.