Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teen Reviewer: The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, #1)
By: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Emily Reeves

“It'll be dangerous," Nyssa warned him. "Hardship, monsters, terrible suffering. Possibly none of you will come back alive."
"Oh." Suddenly Leo didn't look so excited. Then he remembered everyone was watching. "I mean... Oh, cool! Suffering? I love suffering! Let's do this.” 
Description from Goodreads:
Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in The Heroes of Olympus series.

Emily's Review (minor spoilers ahead):
In the first book of the second series that involves the same people along with some new ones, Jason doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with Piper. Apparently she’s his girlfriend. His best friend is named Leo. Everything seems very wrong. Piper’s father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Piper, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to Camp Half-Blood. The most troubling thing is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that Annabeth’s boyfriend is missing. This is one of the best books that I have ever read; I totally recommend it. My favorite part of the book is when Jason saves Piper from falling to her death. My least favorite part of the book is that Annabeth does not find Percy. I cannot believe that Hera would to this to her own family; I mean she is the goddess of marriage for crying out loud!

Teen Reviewer: Percy Jackson and The Olympian Series, Books 1, 2, and 3

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and The Olympians, #1)
The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians, #2)
The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and The Olympians, #3)
By: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Emily Reeves

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and The Olympians, #1)

“My name is Percy Jackson.
I'm twelve years old. Until a few months ago, I was a boarding student at Yancy Academy, a private school for troubled kids in upstate New York.
Am I a troubled kid?
Yeah. You could say that.” 

Description from Goodreads:
Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Emily's Review (minor spoilers ahead):
In the first book of the Percy Jackson series, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is on his first dangerous quest. With the help of Grover and Annabeth, Percy must catch a thief who has stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt. He must come to terms with a father he has never known and betrayal by a friend. I would recommend this book. My favorite part of the book is when Percy finds out who is father is. My least favorite part of this book is when Percy’s mother gets abducted by a monster. I would freak out if I found out that I was a half-blood. I mean could you imagine never knowing one of your parents? Most times the mortal parent does not even know that the other parent is a god. I would be having nightmares of all of the monsters that would be attacking me.

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians, #2)

“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we're related for better or for worse...and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.” 
Description from Goodreads:
After a summer spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson is finding his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson, a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any normal friends. But things don't stay quiet for long.

Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: the magical borders that protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millennia. Only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name: The Bermuda Triangle.

Together with his friends, Percy must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family, one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

Emily's Review (major spoilers ahead - read the review with caution if you haven't read the book yet!):
In the second book of the Percy Jackson series, the magical borders of Camp Half-Blood begin to fail. Now Percy and his friends have just days to find the only magic item powerful enough to save the camp before it is overrun by monsters. Percy must stage a rescue operation to save his friend Grover. He learns that he has a half brother that is a Cyclops. I would totally recommend this book. My least favorite part of this book is when Percy denies that Tyson is his brother. My favorite part of the book is when Thalia comes out of the tree that her father turned her into years ago to prevent her from dying. Another one of my favorite parts of the book is when Percy saves Annabeth from the sirens that are showing her what she wants to see about the future to lure her to her death.

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympian's, #3)

“In a way, it's nice to know that there are Greek gods out there, because you have somebody to blame when things go wrong. For instance, when you're walking away from a bus that's just been attacked by monster hags and blown up by lightning, and it's raining on top of everything else, most people might think that's just really bad luck; when you're a half-blood, you understand that some devine force is really trying to mess up your day.”
Description from Goodreads:
When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it's up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. Who is powerful enough to kidnap a goddess? They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared—a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever.

Emily's Review (minor spoilers ahead):

In the third book of the Percy Jackson series, Percy gets an urgent distress call from his friend Grover, and he immediately prepares for battle. He knows he will need his powerful demigod friends at his side and his trusty bronze sword Riptide. The demigods rush to the rescue to find that Grover has made an important discovery. The titan lord Kronos has devised another plot to get his revenge on the gods. An ancient monster has arisen. One rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus. Artemis, the only goddess who might know how to track it, is missing. Now Percy and his friends have only a week to find the kidnapped goddess. I would definitely recommend this book. My least favorite part of the book is when Annabeth falls of the cliff during the rescue mission of the two new half-bloods. My favorite part of this book is when Percy meets with Aphrodite because she is suggesting that Percy like Annabeth, but he gets so flustered.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Manga Review: Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club (18 volumes)
By: Bisco Hatori
(5 out of 5 stars)

Let me preface this post by saying I am a total noob (aka newbie) when it comes to manga and anime (graphic novels and comics, too, for that matter). My friend, Mike, is always sending me links to anime clips and giving me lists of stuff I should watch. Most of the time I think it's completely wackadoodle (like the one where there's a princess who is a ballerina who turns into a duck...something like that...). I was hanging out with Mike and my other librarian friend, Lauren, and they teamed up and forced me to watch the anime of Ouran High School Host Club. We watched maybe two episodes before they had to leave, and the whole time I'm watching I'm thinking that this stuff is cray-cray. This was Sunday.

By Tuesday, I'd watched all 26 episodes.

Within 2 weeks I had read manga volumes 1-17, minus 4 and 8; volume 4 was missing from the library and had to be reordered and volume 8 was checked out. When I got to the end of 17, I was all "This is how the story ends?!? NOT COOL!" Then I found out there was one more volume, and it was going to be published within the month. (This is not the first time I've lucked out with book series and publishing dates; I didn't start reading the Harry Potter series until about 6 months before The Order of the Phoenix was published. Unlike most other HP fans, I didn't have to wait years after Goblet to find out what happened when He Who Must Not Be Named came back!)

See, here's the thing: every now and then I completely geek out over stuff. When I was in college, I watched the first two Mummy movies and the first two HP movies on a loop. My roommate would come into our dorm and just look at me, roll her eyes, saying without words, "Again?" Since then, other obsessions have included the new Doctor Who (this obsession is ongoing and is unlikely to ever stop), Leverage (an awesome TV show on TNT), the Marvel movies (I heart Tony Stark!), and most recently, the Ouran series.

Here's the deal:

A girl from a low to lower-middle-class home is super smart and gets into the uber-elite Ouran Academy in Japan. She's a girl with a plan for her future and she's determined to succeed. Since her dad doesn't have a lot of money, she couldn't afford one of the super expensive uniforms, so she wears some slacks and her dad's old sweater. Combine that with a short, shaggy haircut and old glasses, Haruhi's gender isn't apparent on first - or second - glance.

Trying to find a quiet place to study, she enters what she thinks is an empty music room. Alas, it isn't empty. Haruhi has mistakenly wandered in to the Host Club head quarters. (At this point, I should probably attempt to explain a host club. In this story, the Host Club is a group of super-rich and gorgeous guys who basically cater to the whims of the girls at Ouran by spending time with them at the club, telling them how pretty and talented they are, and basically being what every girl wants in a guy...while they're at the club. All this happens without dating or any kind of real relationships.) So while in the music room, Haruhi accidentally breaks the club's vase worth $80,000 and finds herself beholden to the club. The club president, unaware that Haruhi is a girl, decides that she will act as a member of the club to pay off her debt. Chaos and hilarity ensue when the boys realize Haruhi is a girl, but make her pretend to be a boy to continue paying off her debt.

So the plot sounds almost as wackadoodle as the princess-ballerina-duck story, but it's really well written (and illustrated) and there's so much character growth and emotional interactions that this series really is fully realized and a lot of fun. Over the course of the story, both Haruhi and the boys learn a lot about each other, friendship, and what's really important in life. I love the characters and the way they develop throughout the story, and the final book wraps up the loose ends and feels very satisfying (though I kinda wish she'd keep writing - it's always sad when a great series ends!).

I totally recommend this series, both the manga and the anime. I did enjoy the manga more, though - the anime was completed long before the manga series ended, and I like where the manga story went more than the anime version. That being said, they were both fun. This series may appeal a bit more to girls, but manga lovers will dig it, whatever their gender.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Reviewer: Gone

Gone (Gone #1)
By: Michael Grant
Guest Reviewer: Alicia Scully, MPL Youth Services Intern
(5 out of 5 stars)

“One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone. There. Gone. No 'poof.' No flash of light. No explosion.” 
With no warning, suddenly everyone over the age of fifteen disappears and the kids left over find that they are encased in some kind of dome stretching 20 miles across. Sam and his new found friends must try to understand their situation as well as how to survive. To make matters worse, a group of kids from the prep school have taken over and Sam isn't so sure that they're as kindhearted as they appear. There are other issues as well--the animals are starting to mutate in strange ways. The premise is extremely fascinating and the pace is quick enough but the narrative shifts points of view abruptly and there isn't a strong connection at first to make this a good move initially. Eventually this makes sense and it does help to pick up the pace toward then end, so it isn't too much of a problem. The book is extremely violent and shows immense instances of human cruelty, even more so than the Hunger Games books. If you're squeamish and can't handle graphic details, this may not be the book for you, but the plot is well worth it in the end and not all of the mysteries are revealed in this installment.        

Guest Reviewer: iBoy

By: Kevin Brooks
Guest Reviewer: Alicia Scully, MPL Youth Services Intern
(4 out of 5 stars)

“She moved closer to me, put her hands to my face, and kissed me softly on the lips.
God, it felt so good.
So perfect, so right...
It felt so good, I nearly fell off the roof.” 

Description from Goodreads:
What can he do with his new powers — and what are they doing to him?

Before the attack, Tom Harvey was just an average teen. But a head-on collision with high technology has turned him into an actualized App. Fragments of a shattered iPhone are embedded in his brain. And they're having an extraordinary effect on his every thought.

Because now Tom knows, sees, and can do more than any normal boy ever could. But with his new powers comes a choice: To avenge Lucy, the girl he loves, will he hunt down the vicious gangsters who hurt her? Will he take the law into his own electric hands and exterminate them from the South London housing projects where, by fear and violence, they rule?

Not even his mental search engine can predict the shocking outcome of iBoy's actions.

Alicia's Review:
Tom is a good kid living in a bad neighborhood, and one day that catches up to him. Someone throws an iPhone off the top of a 30 story building and Tom is hit in the head, an event that causes bits of the iPhone to meld with parts of Tom's mind. Tom can suddenly do everything that an iPhone can do and so much more. With his newfound powers and his need for revenge concerning the gang rape of his lady love, Tom becomes iBoy and begins his path as a vigilante.

The pacing is steady enough, the premise is a cliche with a new spin, and the mixture of technical and colloquial writing fits the plot perfectly. All of those points considered, it was extremely difficult for me to get through, maybe because I wasn't expecting it to be so realistic in terms of the violence. With a plot like it has, I was expecting more camp but it was really well handled. I would say in terms of content and Brooks's ways of addressing difficult content, the book gets 4 stars. It's not something that I would reread often though, so it may actually be lower or closer to 3 in my mind.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crafty: Constellation Mosaic

Next week as part of our Own The Night: Summer Reading Program, we'll be focusing on outer space. As with all of my craft projects here at the library, I was inspired by something I found on Pinterest. In this case, a woman made a giant mosaic to become an art piece over her sofa. I downsized the craft to make it something cool and simple that my teens could create and take home with them, and I tailored it to the Own The Night theme.

The Finished Piece: Orion
For this program, we're going to be discussing constellations and then using the star groupings to make our mosaics. I'll provide some images of constellations, their names, and their history while the teens work on the craft portion of the program. I've done a lot of the prep work, including cutting out all the squares from scrapbook paper, to give the teens more time to produce their art; however, in this tutorial, I'll discuss all the steps in making the mosaic.

What you'll need:

Scrapbook paper (multiple sheets - for 20 crafters, I used 14 sheets)
Card stock (one for each crafter) - I used the white cardboard/card stock that comes with comic books and keeps them from bending, but you can use whatever you have on hand, as long as it's sturdy enough to frame the scrapbook squares
Glue stick

Note: This project is very low cost; I only spent $3.40. The only thing I needed to purchase that our library didn't have on hand was the scrapbook paper, and that I got on sale. That being said, this project takes a lot of time, effort, and prep! I used 14 sheets of scrapbook paper to have enough for the 20 teens who signed up for this program, and it took me and two interns several hours to cut all the squares, in addition to the hours it took me to draw the grids. This project is a lot of fun, it's creative without being too difficult for those of us who are artistically challenged (moi!), and very inexpensive, but you have to put in the time to get it done!

Ok, first things first: selecting your scrapbook paper. For this project, I wanted different yellows and blues to signify the stars and the night sky. I then limited my selections by price (you can get as fancy as you'd like with the scrapbook paper, but when I saw the big section of "4 for a $1.00" sheets, I jumped on it. I initially purchased 12 sheets; 4 yellows, 4 lighter blues, and 4 darker blues. I later went back and grabbed another lighter blue and darker blue sheet, just to make sure I had plenty of the blues, since that's what we'll be using the most. One thing I discovered, though, was that the swirlier the paper, the better the squares blended in the mosaic; solid colors and defined graphics stood out too much.

A lighter blue page and a darker blue page, both with good color variation.
For each sheet of scrapbook paper, you'll need to draw a grid, which will create the squares you'll need to cut out. I decided on a 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch grid. This size provided plenty of squares for the 7"x10.5" card stock (294 to be exact), without being to small to work with. You'll need to make a grid on the back of every piece of paper you're using, including the scrapbook pages and the sheets of card stock. With the card stock, there was a glossy side and a matte side - draw your grid on the matte side (so you know where to paste your squares); it takes both the pencil lines and the glue better than the glossy side.
1/2" x 1/2" grid
Drawing the grid: I'm a little OCD about this type of thing, so I measured and marked 1/2" points along the edge of each page and a ruler's width from the edge so I would have 4 points to connect with my ruler when drawing my line. It's up to you if you want to be that...particular...about your measurements. For our program, the teens will all have to create a grid on their card stock, but the scrapbook paper has all been taken care of in advance.

Next: Cutting the squares. I used a paper cutter to cut the scrapbook paper into strips, then followed up with scissors to complete the squares.

Using the big gun.

FYI - This part takes forever. Get out some tunes and prepare to work.
I divided up the squares into their three color groups to make it easier to select later while we actually made the mosaic:

Once all the squares are cut (8064 of them!!!), you've completed the prep work and are ready work on the mosaic. Create your 1/2"x1/2" grid on the back of the card stock if you haven't already. Decide which constellation you want to use (I chose Orion) and map out where you want the stars on your grid.

Orion's head and shoulders - or are those arms?
Rather than do a single yellow square for each point of the constellation, I beefed it up by adding one or two extra yellow squares. Once you have all of your yellow squares where you want them, coat their backs with the glue stick and paste them to the card stock.

I surrounded each star cluster with the lighter blue squares to make it feel like the stars were lighting up the sky, and then I surrounded those with the darker squares.

I worked my way across the page, building out from each star cluster and trying to keep a good variety of color and pattern as I went along.

The glue dries quickly, so by the time I finished sticking on my last square, my mosaic was good to go!

The mosaics look pretty cool up close, but you get the full effect of the star placement when you look at it from a distance. To finish up, I went the extra step and purchased a cheap frame from Michael's for $1.50 and got a sheet of super-sparkly scrapbook paper for $2, and framed my mosaic. I didn't have the card stock dimensions on me when I was shopping, so the frame isn't exactly perfect for the mosaic, but I'm happy with it all the same. For a not-terribly-artistic person, I'm really proud of this project and how it turned out!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Soulbound

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

On Savvy Book Reviews, I'll be showcasing books that we'll be adding soon to the library!

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Soulbound (Legacy of Tril #1)
By: Heather Brewer (author of the Vladimir Tod series)
Publication Date: Technically this has already been printed, but it won't be in our library until August.

From Goodreads:
Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the evil Graplar King. Seventeen-year-old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learn to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret. Enter two young men: One charming, rule-following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.

From Me:
Confession: I'm totally judging this book by it's cover; hence, I judge this book awesome. And the description didn't change my mind. Come check this out at our library next month!