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  • January 2020
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Teen Review-The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Henry -Since I was born 16 years ago, my biggest claim to fame has been winning the state geography bee in 2009. I run cross country and track for Seton-La Salle High School. I play trombone in the school’s marching band and am a member of the Mock Trial and Academic Games teams. I like to read the Greeks and Romans, and I love opera.




The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

glass castle

The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir written by journalist Jeannette Walls.  Before I start my review in earnest, let me caution that this memoir (which was not nearly as boring as I had always assumed memoirs must be) was written for an adult audience, in both senses of the word.  Nevertheless, despite its probably intended audience, I found The Glass Castle singularly well-suited to readers of my own generation.  This memoir is the story of its author’s childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood.  Starting when the author was only three years old living in a trailer park with her parents, older sister, and younger brother, in southern Arizona, burning herself with the fire she was using to cook hot dogs by herself.  The author is taken to the hospital, where she nearly dies from the burns, and she is smuggled out of the hospital by her father (who is opposed to the “antiseptic” atmosphere) before her treatment can be completed.  The first half of the book follows pretty much this same trajectory, but with different backgrounds and other variations, as the family wanders nomadically around the western United States.  The family has an unspoken rule that every family member must pretend that they are on some fantastic adventure (instead of fleeing creditors, the actual reason for their wanderings), and, despite the fact that it is clearly not an adventure in the positive sense of the word, I could not help feeling a sense of adventure reading this first part.

The second part of the book begins when the family moves to Welch, West Virginia, where the father grew up and where his parents still live.  The narrator is about ten years old at this point, and as she and her siblings grow up, the theme of the memoir moves from the adventurous feel of the first part to a sense of being trapped in the poverty of the Appalachian back country and the struggle to escape it.  The author’s older sister, Lori, wants to move to New York City to become an artist, she herself wants to go into journalism, and the two decide to help each other leave West Virginia for Manhattan.  The second part describes their efforts to make a new life for themselves and their siblings in their attempts to get to New York and their experiences once they get there.

I hope very few people can fully relate to the things Ms. Walls goes through.  I, thank Heaven, certainly cannot directly relate to the poverty and abuse described in The Glass Castle.  However, I most certainly can (and suspect that many other of my contemporaries can as well) relate to the desire to be independent, to go away and to prove to the world.  In this sense, it is almost a “coming -of-age” -type book, but it is subtle enough and not too overt to feel pandering or unpleasant.  All in all, a truly enjoyable read.



Teen Review-Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

caroline photoHi! I’m Caroline. I’m 17 and a senior at Oakland Catholic. My favorite letter is probably F because it is the first letter of many of my favorite things; for instance: fencing, friends, and Frankenstein. (Best book ever!) I’m somewhat of a grammar freak and an anglophile and I like to fool around with crafts when I get the time. I also like to try to harmonize with songs on the radio. Enjoy my reviews!


Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

Colin isn’t showing up at basketball practice.
Not only, that, Nick discovers, but his best friend won’t pick up his phone. And he’s suddenly hanging out with the creepiest guy in school. In fact, he’ll barely talk to Nick.
What’s going on?
Nick gets his chance to find out when he is handed a mysterious CD. Eager to see what it is (he’s sure this is what everyone’s been sneaky about), he loads it onto his computer to discover a game called Erebos. Only it’s more than just fun. It’s so realistic, Nick can’t stop playing. Set in a mystical world, the goal is to become one of the top players – and if you die, you don’t get a second life. Not only that, but the game instructs him to carry out certain tasks in the real world – sometimes dangerous ones – in order to gain levels. The catch is that Nick’s not allowed to speak of the game to anyone – not even other players. But the game is so addicting that Nick keeps playing. He works his way through labyrinths, battles the other players, and blank. He becomes more and more disconnected from the real world – ignoring his grades, his basketball practice, and his family. His friend Jamie tries to help him, but Nick doesn’t want any of it.
Then he is asked by the game to carry out a terrible task in the real world – and when he doesn’t, his character dies, leaving Nick with nothing to do – and nothing to lose. So he breaks the rules that no longer apply – he reveals the game. To find out what happens next, read the book!
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. In fact, I was on the edge of my seat reading this, and I often felt that I was the one playing the video game (and worrying about someone catching me!) It was really realistic and suspenseful. You don’t even have to like video games to love this book – put it on your to-read list!

Teen Review: Feed by M T Anderson

Jenna M.

Hi, my name is Jenna and I am a senior at West Mifflin Area High School. I volunteer at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main. No matter where I am, you will probably see a book in my hand. I hope you enjoy my book reviews!:)


Feed by: M T Anderson 

Titus and his friends are just ordinary teenagers in their world. Their life surrounds the feed that was implanted in their brains since before they could remember. The feed is basically like a computer. Titus and his friends can chat (message) each other’s feeds just by using their brains. The feed is constantly projecting an endless stream of advertisements, music, television shows, and world news. The people buy products using their feeds. They can even download other people’s memories and literally feel what the other person was feeling; emotions and sensations. Barely anyone talks out loud anymore… Why should they when they can do it within their heads?

But there are some people still in America that are trying to fight the feed. Like Violet, a girl Titus meets at the moon. Yes, these kids travel to the moon for fun. At first Titus just thinks Violet is interesting because she’s someone new and she’s physically beautiful. But, as Titus gets to know Violet, he realizes that she’s different than him and his friends. She hates the feed. She doesn’t go to School like the rest of the kids, where they learn about how to use the feed. She’s homeschooled by her father, who teaches Mayan language, which makes her even more weird to the other kids.

Not knowing who to believe or what to think, he is torn between what is better; life with the feed, or without?

If you are a person who hates how much today’s society is based off of media and technology, you would want to read this book. The book is a satire of society today and how big a part media plays in everyone’s lives.

This book is heavy on futuristic slang. And a lot of “like”‘s. Once you get used to the slang and figure out the meaning behind the words, it can become bearable.

Violet is a great character. I loved that she is so headstrong and independent. She didn’t need acceptance from the rich and popular kids. She was content with just being herself. She is willing to rebel against anything that tried to conform her. She is alive; unlike the boring, robotic-like teenagers Titus is friends with.

Titus is a great main character. He is willing to be different than his friends and at least try to see Violet’s point of view. It was sweet how he always stood up for her in the early stages of their relationship. But sadly, Titus is always going back and forth with what he believed, which is very similar to real-life teenagers.

This book is a good read. It is unique to say the least… I’ve never read a book quite like this one. This novel is eye-opening and warns that society could very much become like this horrible world depicted in ‘Feed’.

Music Blog Breakdown

Some folks take a passive approach  to finding new music…
It can be as simple as turning on the radio.
Others take a more active role…
I think it’s fun learning about new music or “new to me” music, but even I admit that there are times when all the reading and listening start to feel like a full time job.   So, what are your options?  Scale back and allow the music to come to you?  Or make the time you spend focusing on new music count for more?
I’m no good at sitting back and waiting so I take the second approach, and the very best way I know to get good info in a short time is through the hundreds of Indie Music Blogs out there.
Now you’re saying, “hundreds of blogs”  how’s that supposed to help me save time?
Well you don’t have to read each and every blog.  I’ve helpfully compiled a list of some of the most respected blogs out there.

Check a few out next time you’re itching for something new to listen to.
Aquarium Drunkard
Started by Justin Gage, this indie blog features reviews, interviews and lots of great footage and samples.  AD covers a wide swath, jumping all over the pop/rock map and throwing in funk, soul, country and jazz to keep things interesting.  Gage isn’t satisfied to stick with modern music makers either.  He mines the depths of of musical history to introduce or remind readers of tons of long-lost or forgotten musicians.  Listen to Aquarium Drunkard’s radio show on satellite radio via a free trial.

Potholes In My Blog
A knowledgeable staff generates the content for this blog.  Along with your typical album reviews and news these guys churn out a podcast every few weeks along with tons of feature content.  They cover a wide territory but there’s no doubt that the emphasis of this blog is in the hip hop and rap world.  One of my favorite features, called vinyl gazing  takes a look back at an older record released on vinyl and what implications it’s had to modern music. 

These guys consider themselves a music webzine.  The UK based site includes indie rock reviews and interviews with a nice balance of new and old artists to consider.  Like many music review sources they also offer lots of content for your listening enjoyment as well as occasional compilations.

Pigeons & Planes
Pigeons & Planes generates tons of content.  From indie hip hop and rock, to huge pop stars they cover it all with reviews and news.  My favorite part of this blog are the often humorous features…See their compilation  “The Best and Worst of Dubstep Beatboxing”.

The Needle Drop
Last but not least The Needle Drop is the quirky creation of Anthony Fantano, the above mentioned busiest music nerd.  Check out TND for thorough video reviews of music across the spectrum with an emphasis on punk, metal and rock.  Don’t forget his NPR affiliated pod cast streamable from the website.

Now its your turn…where do you get your new music fix?  Leave your suggestions in the comments.


CLP South Side

We need your opinion! Be a graphic novel reviewer.

Every year, the Young Adult Services Association, a national association of Young Adult Librarians/Library Staff/Library Advocates, puts out lists of the best media of the year in a bunch of different subjects.  Don’t like long, slow books? Take a look at the Quick Picks list. Prefer movies? We have Fabulous Films for you. Want to read nonfiction? They have it. Into books published for adults?  They’re onto that too.

There is also a list of the best graphic novels published for teens, and that’s where we need your help.  In January, this list is voted on through a committee.  I’ve volunteered to be on it, so all this year I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels to find what I think are the best ones that teens would like.  The rest of the committee and other graphic novel readers have also been nominating titles for the list.  But we need to know what the teen readers really think. After all, we’re making the list for you.

If you want to let the committee know what you think of the nominated titles, you can do so by

1. finding a nominated title by looking at the list

2. getting it from your library (or asking me if I have a reading copy you can borrow)

3. reading it

4. using this online form to tell me what you thought of it.

Then I can take your opinions with me to help us decide what really are the Great Graphic Novels of this year.

Have a title that’s not nominated yet, but you think it should be?  You can nominate it using this form – but it has to have been published after September 2011.

Happy reading,

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

Great Irish Stories for St. Patrick’s Day


March to me means two things- NCAA March Madness and Saint Patrick’s Day.  I’ve always loved Saint Patrick’s Day and my family always had a huge party to celebrate.  Of course my grandparents last names were Murphy, Mulligan, McGillicuddy, and Carney.  So, yeah we’re pretty Irish!  We still have a while to go until the actual Saint Patrick’s Day, so I thought instead of focusing on the holiday I would talk about some of my favorite Irish writers and stories.  I may be a bit biased in favor of Irish writers, but anyone will have to admit that such a small country has produced some of the greatest writers and storytellers of all time.  This tiny island nation has produced literary giants like James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, and William Butler Yeats to contemporary writers like Frank McCourt and Cecelia Ahern.  I’ve picked a few of my favorite books by Irish authors.  Hopefully, you will pick one up to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day!  Enjoy!

 White Horse Trick by Kate Thompson– The third in a series that started with The New Policeman, but it can be read without having read the others.  It’s set in the future when the climate has become disasterous and everyone is struggling to get food and water in order to survive.  However, a group in Ireland has found a way to transport people to the land of the fairies where there are no such problems.  The only problem is the fairies don’t want more people in their land, so they must be tricked into letting more humans into their homeland.   

 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd– Dowd was a fantastic writer who had just started publishing before her untimely death from cancer at age 47 in 2007.  This book is based on an idea she had about a young boy named Connor who is already dealing with his mother’s cancer and bullies at school when has a monster begin to appear to him every night at 12:07.  The monster tells Connor that he will tell three stories and then Connor must tell the monster the TRUE story of his life.  It doesn’t sound that scary, but it shows how sometimes our worst nightmares are nothing compared to the reality of life.  Definitely one of the best books I have read in a long time. 

 The Alchemyst by Michael Scott– The first in a series about Josh and Sophie Newman, two normal teenagers living in San Francisco.  Atleast they think everything is normal until they find out their bosses are really Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, the famous alchemist and his wife.  The Flamels are hundreds of years old and have been waiting for a set of twins prophesied to save the world.  The Flamels think that Josh and Sophie are those very twins and their lives are never the same.  Scott uses mythology from Ireland (a almost every other culture) in this exciting series. 

 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne– Bruno is a nine year old whose father has a job working for the German government.  This is the story of how he deals with the problems he encounters when his father gets a new job.  This sounds pretty normal except for the fact that it is 1942 and the German government is controlled by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Calling All Comic, Graphic Novel, and Manga Readers!!!

The nominations for YALSA’s 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list have been finalized!  All year I’ve been reading all the new graphic novels, superhero stories, and manga I can get my hands on to evaluate and nominate titles, because last year I was selected as a committee member for this list.  But the committee doesn’t just need my opinion.  We also want to hear what you think about the titles that have been nominated to be on the list.

Our final discussions will take place during the ALA Midwinter Conference.  That’s on January 20-24 of next year.  That still gives you time to read some of the books and send me your thoughts. Many of them are available from the library!  But some of them are so new we haven’t even gotten them on the shelves yet.  However, I have copies!

Publishers generously send the committee members review copies of nominated titles, so I have a whole shelf of them here at CLP – East Liberty.  Leave a comment on this post telling me which ones you’re interested in, the library branch you go to, and the librarian that you know there, and I’ll send the books over for you to read. All you have to do is fill out a one page evaluation form telling me your thoughts about whatever you’ve read.  OR you can email me the info at barbert@carnegielibrary.org

The opinions of actual readers are so helpful to us when discussion time comes around.  So please lend me your voice and help us select the books that will end up being Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2012.  Once again, the list of nominations can be found here.  And below you’ll see a sampling of some of the covers of the nominated books.

Thanks! I look forward to hearing from you.

Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

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