Fans of Girl of Fire and Thorns, Shadow and Bone and Graceling--listen up!
No one suspects that Prince Damian’s most able guard, Alex, is actually an orphaned girl--Alexa--who was forced to conceal her identity after the death of her parents. As treacherous plots begin to endanger the fledgling peace in the palace, Alex learns that she isn’t the only one guarding a life-threatening secret. Who can Alex trust, and what will happen when she learns that the secret of her identity may not be so secret after all? Larson’s Defy teems with adventure, intrigue, a dash of magic and the hypnotic spell of first love.
-->Full disclosure: I received a ARC of Defy from Net Galley. I received neither tea nor shoes in exchange for my honest opinion.
The rhythm of the Spring semester is finally feeling normal here in the MS Library. I have loved hearing from the students about how many books they read during the break, or how excited they are to find the sequels they've been dying to read waiting here the library. In graduate school we learned the Five Laws of Library science, which were originally proposed by S.R. Rangnatham:
The fact that I get to see this sort of relationship form between a student and a book countless times a day is just one reason why being a librarian is the best job in the world. Also, who doesn't love the fluidity of managing a "living organism"--the possibilities are maddeningly endless!
I'm looking forward to some exciting developments that will be happening in the library this Spring! Read on to find out what we're up to...
Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Sloane Emily Jacobs balances her time between trying to stage a comeback into the fierce world of figure skating and being the perfect daughter of of a US Senator. Exhausted by this pressure and not looking forward to an impending four week skate camp, Sloane Emily jumps at the chance to walk a mile in Sloane Devon Jacobs’ shoes. Sloane Devon has anger issues that have caused her to start picking fights during her hockey games. Consequently, Sloane Devon is being packed away to hockey camp. The girls meet by chance the night before their respective camps start, and decide Mary-Kate and Ashley style, to switch places.
What really works in this book is the dual POV. We really get to know Sloane Emily and Sloan Devon; their voices are very different, and it’s refreshing to see each of the protagonists through the other’s eyes. Both girls are dynamic, and their character development is probably the strongest part of this book. Clearly Lauren Morrill knows quite a bit about hockey, figure skating and Montreal. Her knowledge grounded the book, adding substance to the zany life-swapping. I also really liked that the Sloanes are athletic young lades with healthy appetites.
(Beware, vague romantic spoilers ahead...)
I wasn’t as keen on the romances; both felt a little rushed. I would have liked to know a little more about Matt’s transformation from Lothario to good guy. In Nando’s case, his return to hockey wasn’t really fleshed out—how do we know the same psych-himself-out thing won’t happen at Boston University? Also, even though I liked both Sloanes, I wanted to know why both of these hot guys were immediately attracted to them. Lastly, although I like the soft colors and airy look of the cover, I think it somehow needs to feature both Sloane Jacobs.
All in all, this book wins points from me for being hip, fun and creative. I loved that both our protagonists were strong young ladies who learned about themselves by trying something new.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of Being Sloane Jacobs from Delacorte Press. I received neither compensation nor coffee nor shoes to write this review.
Pawn by Aimée Carter
Kitty Doe’s only chance of having a happy life will happen on her 17th birthday—the day she takes her aptitude test. If she scores a 5 or above she’ll have wealth and prestige, if she scores below a 4 then life will be bleak and difficult. Kitty scores a 3. Rather than accept her fate, Kitty finds herself with an offer from the Prime Minister that she can’t refuse. Kitty will become a 7, but she’ll become entangled in a dangerous game of espionage and masquerading that she may never escape.
At least the oversized eye is obscured by the manhole/air vent/grate? I’m fairly ambivalent about this one. While there’s no Papyrus or Comic Sans in sight, I’m not wowed. The bright blue Pawn in the top corner doesn’t really fit to me; it seems too obvious. Pawn meet pawn! Huzzah…or not so much?
3—> Kitty is basically head over heels for her childhood sweetheart Benjy. We hear so much about Benjy, and yet he does very little in the book. While, I’m usually anti-love triangle, I found myself starting to cheer for Knox the schemer and dreamer. Also, I was really tired of Benjy’s constant hostage/damsel in distress role. Seriously, Benj, if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen!
-Secrets! This book twists, turns and unfolds into a rather complicated, intriguing tale.
-Girl-next-door. Kitty really is that nice girl you knew from down the street or your math class. While Kitty can be woefully naive at times, she also shows strength and compassion. I’d be her friend!
Less than Bests
-Secrets…sometimes this book felt a bit like a Dystopian soap opera. “No, I knew that you knew, that I knew, so I lied about this, and that, and that, and bam, you’re my minion forever!” I loved Lila’s quip about lies being her family’s love language. YES, yes it is.
-First person point-of-view. I like Kitty, you know that, but I couldn’t help but feel that sometimes she droned on and on about protecting Benjy. I wanted some space from Kitty at times. I liked that Kitty wasn’t dazzled by the Hart’s glamour, but I wanted to see the Carter’s world beyond her Benjified gaze.
-1D Characters. Aside from Kitty, our heroine, many of the other characters felt rather flat. Daxton and Augusta were your average power-obsessed, conniving villains. Benjy was just about as interesting as a cardboard cutout of some red-haired teenage box. Furthermore, Knox didn’t get the development he needed to help me fully understand him and his constant liaising between the Harts and Blackcoats.
All things considered
I’m certain Pawn will have devoted readers. Carter nicely balances popular elements from the Dystopian genre (the caste system used in The Selection, the aptitude testing from Divergent, etc.), however, Pawn didn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the genre to really stand out to me. I’m would recommend it to my students, but I’m not entirely enthralled myself.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of Pawn from Little Brown. I received neither money nor transatlantic tickets nor chocolate for my review.
Less than bests
Wow, not much comes to mind? Read this book!
All things considered...
Yes, this book will be hard to read at times. Any book with this much suffering and needless pain ought to be disturbing to the reader. Yet Sepetys highlights the beauty and strength of the human spirit in characters like Lina, who never ceases struggling to survive and overcome the Soviets' oppression.
Reviewed by: Emily Echols
Upper Middle School Library Lunches are a time when up to 20 students can choose to spend the time they would normally spend on the field during recess in the MS Library. Library Lunches are a casual time where students can check out books, catch up on homework, read a book or a magazine, or as pictured above play cat's cradle and chat.
One of the main goals of a school library is to be the living room of the school, in essence a place that can be simultaneously educational, fun and comfortable. I've loved seeing how the SF students make the library their own by rearranging the pillows, claiming corners or by power walling (never running!) down the halls because they can't wait to put their feet up on one of our ottomans.
Recently I've instituted "Chocolate Trivia" where students can answer a question, which usually concerns popular YA series such as Percy Jackson, Divergent, the Hunger Games, etc., for a chance to win chocolate. Again, I'm so happy to see the students enthusiastically engage in this activity, and I'm constantly amazed at their ability to answer even my trickiest questions!
In LMS Book Club, Astrid and I have been reading J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We decided that since we love the book so much, that it might be a good experience to channel our enthusiasm into a book trailer. We used Animoto to create the trailer. Astrid did a fantastic job selecting the theme, pictures and text included in the trailer.
What do you think? Have you ever created a book trailer? If not, do you watch book trailers?
Just a little while ago I spent nearly a year in Belfast, Northern Ireland volunteering with a nonprofit called Quaker Cottage. Quaker Cottage is a family center that serves mothers, children and teens in North and West Belfast who have experienced trauma. Our essential goals were to provide these families a safe place for discussion and rest, and to foster community.
Many of my UMS book club members seem to have a fondness for the United Kingdom, so I thought it might be an interesting experience to connect these American students with the Belfast teens. We prepared for our Skype chat by discussing Northern Ireland, from where it is to its troubled political history. We also read excerpts of Our View, a collection of stories told by real Belfast teens who attended Quaker Cottage.
I was so proud of our St. Francis students for their enthusiasm and thoughtful questions during our Skype chat. We learned that even though and ocean divides us, Northern Irish and American youth play many of the same video games, are all familiar with Miley Cyrus (although the Belfast teens seemed fonder of her than our St. Francis students), watch a few of the same TV shows, and love their pets as much as we do. We also had the chance to ask questions and discuss significant cultural differences. For example, our students confirmed to the Belfast teens that in America differences of religion are generally accepted. The teens mentioned that they had some trouble today driving to Quaker Cottage because of impending riots between Catholics and Protestants in West Belfast. We also learned that in Belfast, students finish school at age 16, whereas here in America most students finish their senior year at age 18.
Stay tuned to read more of what the students have to say about our transatlantic chat.
The UMS Book Club, which has dubbed itself "the Club Who Must Not Be Named", has taken a particular shine to our library pet --a Beanie Baby hedgehog. One of our members, Hanna Popov, sketched the hedgehog, now known as Martin, above. Benedict is of course the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Sherlock Holmes in the BBC mini-series. It's amazing to see our students' creativity!