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Teen Blogger: Stargirl Review

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Today I will be reviewing Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. This is the first book in a set of two books, but it can be read as a standalone novel. Overall I did enjoy this book, but if you are looking for a more in depth review you can read below.

Characters

The two main characters of this book were lovable and quirky. Leo, the main character felt a bit bland to me at first, but after the plot picked up I did enjoy reading about him. While most of the book focuses on Stargirl, I really loved his character. Stargirl (yes, her name is actually Stargirl) was really unique and fun character. Her quirkiness might have been a little overplayed, but I loved her message of being your own person. I give this area an 8/10.

Setting

I loved the fact his book took place in the desert instead of the typical Midwest town or city. The parts that were the most descriptive, like the part about the desert flowers or the large cacti, were interesting because you don’t normally hear about that kind of beauty in a desert. I do wish the school was described more. I am going to give this area a 7/10.

Plot

This book was simply heartwarming. There wasn’t any epic quest or week-long journey across the US.  It was simply a book that made you feel happy on the inside. Plus, the book was so short, (180 pages) I don’t think there could have been a long, involved plot. Normally I don’t enjoy plots lacking complexity, but this book was really sweet and satisfying. I am giving this area an 8/10.

Writing Style

I did enjoy the author’s writing style. While the book wasn’t very long, he did manage to make each and every one of those pages meaningful. I zoomed through the book, and dreaded every moment when I had to put it down. I though overall the writing was pretty good, though it did have a few small issues. I am going to give this area a 9/10 because I did enjoy his style.

The Final Verdict

Once the scores are tallied up, I get a 7.5/10!  I agree with that score, as the book did have a few problems, but overall was put together well. If you enjoy books with a heartfelt message, you will most likely enjoy Stargirl! My one warning is that for some Stargirl might feel too quirky. Please know these are just my opinions. I respect yours too, so why not leave a comment?  Please mark spoilers for new readers.

Happy Reading!

-Laurel

Riptide With Bubbles

Laurel is an overly creative person that is looking for good books to read. While she fills her spare time with crocheting, filming, editing, drawing, sewing, writing, and crafting, she always has a little time to read. She enjoys books that have an intricate plot and fresh new characters, but does not like books with a lot of romance. Hopefully she will find what she is looking for.

The Selection

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Today I will be reviewing The Selection, Book One of the Selection Series by Kiera Cass.   Here is a summary of the book for anyone curious:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime.  The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth.  To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels.  To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.  But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare.  It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her.  Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want.  Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.  Then America meets Prince Maxon.  Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.”

Characters

This book combined stereotypes with a breath of fresh air. I really loved America, Maxon, and Marlee.  My one complaint is that some of the characters do lack a developed personality and backstory, but this is the first book in a trilogy.  This book was jam packed with interesting character relationships. A secret love interest is unveiled early on, which definitely complicates the plot. I very much enjoyed the relationship between Maxon and America, but you will have to read to see how that plays out. The relationships between America and the other Selected really was intriguing. While some simply don’t get along with her, she instantly makes a few friends. At the same time America is technically competition, so we are never too sure about how things will end up. I really enjoyed this element of suspense.

Setting

The setting of this book at first confused me.  After a bit of investigating I learned that this books takes place in America.  While we don’t know how far into the future this book takes place, it seems like it has been at least a hundred years.  Now royalty is the main form of government and rankings determine your income, social class, and job.  It‘s very interesting to read about.  At the same time this author didn’t elaborate on the surroundings well.  It might just be me, but I like a very vivid setting to think about.  I like to know the colors of the walls, the little flaws in the architecture, and that sort of thing.  While we did get small descriptions of the setting, I just feel it could have been stretched out more, especially with the castle.

Plot

The plot of this book took old clichés and made them new.  I enjoyed discovering the little details of the government, and trying to figure out what would happen next, yet parts of the book seemed so close to many other dystopian novels.  Mainly the book reminded me of The Hunger Games.  Take out the death in The Hunger Games and replace it with broken hearts, and you have the majority of this plot.  I am not going to complain about this more than I need to, as there were plot twists, original characters, and many events that were completely original, but you might get the same feeling I did when I read it.

The Final Verdict

I really enjoyed the authors writing style!  I thought dialog was realistic and humorous.  The actions the characters took were interesting to read about, and were described in a way that I felt like I was witnessing them.  My one complaint was sometimes it was hard to figure out who the speaker was.  I get a 7.5/10!  This falls right in-between decent and good for me, but you should make up your mind for yourself.  I recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that has interesting characters and plot, with the warning that any Hunger Games fan might find themselves bored with the story.  And if you like love stories, you will like this much more than I did!  The book itself isn’t all that long (only about three-hundred pages) so I recommend you get at least halfway through before you decide.  The beginning can be hard to follow, but it picks up towards the start of the actual Selection.  Thankfully the library systems has lots of copies in print and digitally.  Please let me know what you thought of it! I’m always interested in hearing opinions.  But please, mark spoilers for anyone trying to see if they are interested.

Happy Reading!

-Laurel

Laurel is an overly creative person that is looking for good books to read.  While she fills her spare time with crocheting, filming, editing, drawing, sewing, writing, and crafting, she always has a little time to read.  She enjoys books that have an intricate plot and fresh new characters, but does not like books with a lot of romance.  Hopefully she will find what she is looking for.

National Day of Service and Remembrance

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the September 11th Terrorist attacks against the United States.  2,977 people were killed that day in New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA.  There have been some great books written about that day and the events that led to it.  Among the best of these are:

 The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright- A sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking
look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on             America.  The Looming Tower achieves an unprecedented level of intimacy and insight by telling the story through the  interweaving lives of four men: the two leaders of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri; the FBI’s counterterrorism chief, John O’Neill; and the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
The Looming Tower draws all elements of the story into a galvanizing narrative that adds immeasurably to our understanding of how we arrived at September 11, 2001.

 

   102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn- Drawing on hundreds of interviews with rescuers and survivors, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts, New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn tell the story of September 11 from the inside looking out, weaving together the stories of ordinary men and women into an epic account of struggle, determination, and grace.  Dwyer and Flynn reveal the decisions, both good and bad, that proved to be the difference between life and death on a day that changed America forever.

 

   Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll- From the managing editor of the Washington Post , a news-breaking account of the CIA’s involvement in the covert wars in Afghanistan that fueled Islamic militancy and gave rise to bin Laden’s al Qaeda.  Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll tells the secret history of the CIA’s role in Afghanistan, from its covert program against Soviet troops from 1979 to 1989, to the rise of the Taliban and the emergence of bin Laden, to the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998.   Ghost Wars answers the questions so many have asked since the horrors of September 11: To what extent did America’s best intelligence analysts grasp the rising threat of Islamist radicalism? Who tried to stop bin Laden and why did they fail?

Today has also been declared a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  You can find some great opportunities for volunteer service here.  You can also volunteer your time at your local CLP branch library.  If you are up for a drive, you can visit the Flight 93 National Memorial, which is about an hour away from Pittsburgh.

Teen Review: The Legend of Zelda™: Symphony of the Goddesses at Heinz Hall

Hi, I’m 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.

Heinz Hall: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

As I arrived at Heinz Hall Friday evening, I couldn’t help noticing a number of things I normally do not see here. One of the most conspicuous of these was the select number of the audience who arrived dressed for the occasion in green caps that made them look like as if they were decorations in the spirit of the music we were to hear. All in all, the crowd generally seemed to have been drawn more by the “Zelda” in the title than the “symphony.”

The stage was dominated by a very large screen suspended over the orchestra’s chairs. When the conductor, a Ms. Eí mear Noone began the music, the screen showed screenshots from different games of the Zelda franchise. The images on the screen evoked laughter from time to time among the audience in general, but I, having never played a game in the franchise, was not sure when and why to laugh.

At the beginning of the symphony, I resented the screen as an unnecessary distraction; by intermission, I was curiously mesmerized by it. It was a very different experience from when I’ve been there for more conventional works. I think it would be detrimental to some works whose music is attractive enough to sustain interest (in my case, music of Mozart and his generation); for others which I do not care for as much (e.g., Bruckner, Debussy, Wagner, etc.) it would almost certainly hold my attention better.

The music itself presented, I think, did not need such sideshows. It was, as is much video game music, catchy and facile (in the best sense of that word). The main theme was repeated innumerable times, but not ad nauseam. The style of the music defied categorization, but I would call it modern if I had to call it anything. My personal favorites were the first two movements, which were respectively descriptive of a dungeon and a pastoral village in the universe of Link and Zelda.

In its entirety, I thought the show was better than average, and not merely for the novelty of the staging or the unusual music (or, perhaps, in spite of them). The quality of the music was overall very good, and, as usual, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra showed us the reasons why it is so highly acclaimed.

Teen Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

My name is Clara, and I am 14 years old. I go to Science And Technology Academy and I am in the 10th grade. In my spare time when I’m not reading a good book, I dance in competions, do cheerleading, and play sports.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Hello fellow readers! I just finished reading Perfect by Ellen Hopkins, and I wanted to tell you how great the book is! The book is all about the struggles that teens in everyday life face, with trying to please their parents, trying to fit in, and mostly tring to be perfect in the eyes of others.  In the story, four high school seniors struggle with trying to be perfect and the problems they encounter from these struggles.   The poetry in the book only make the book easier and more fun to read, and lets you veiw the characters through different eyes. I would recomend this book to anyone who likes reading edgy teen books, and wouldn’t mind opening their eyes to something new.

Indie Animations Worth a Look!

I’m always down for Coraline or the Nightmare Before Christmas, and Up made me cry like a baby (in a good way).  But just because big-name movies are easy to locate doesn’t mean they’re the only ones worth seeing!

There are tons of art house, foreign studio, or amateur “scrapster” animations that are not to be missed. Next time you’re looking for something different to watch, try one of these…they’re all at the library.

Whoa! Sita Sings the Blues weaves together the passion of love, the sadness of breakups, a 3,000 year-old Sanskrit epic story called Ramayana (told in graphic novel here), and the 1920’s blues croonings of Annette Hanshaw. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. Each narrative is told in a different style of animation–which keeps things clear and interesting. This film is a great example of what novice filmmakers can do with a little passion and time  – filmmaker Nina Paley had never animated anything longer than a few minutes when she started making this one.




Watch as Alice‘s inanimate world comes to life in this quietly bizarre stop-motion film. If you grew up with Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, it may seem twee in comparison with this darker 1988 adaptation. I shiver every time the White Rabbit chomps his teeth. This version of Alice is really faithful to the classic Lewis Carroll, where the world of Alice that you think you know expands. If you’ve participated in QuickFLIX already this summer, you may find inspiration for your next stop-motion creation here!



Mary and Max is an Australian claymation film set in the 1960s that follows the unlikely friendship of two pen-pals. Mary Dinkle is a lonely, homely kid in Melbourne. Her mom is an alchoholic, and her dad just seems not to care – so picks a name out of a phone book and begins writing to Max, who she learns is an obese New Yorker with Asperger’s Syndrome. Over 20 years (don’t worry – they go fast), the quirky duo follows and changes one another’s lives.



The Secret of Kells is the story of the book that “turns darkness into light.” Brendan lives with monks at a remote outpost, Iona, when a visit from a master artist turns everything upside-down. He confronts evil, hidden in a deeply enchanted forest, and his darkest fears. If you like quest stories, faeries, Ireland, or medieval art, this one’s for you.

The stylings throughout this film are a clear homage to the painstakingly elaborate illuminated manuscripts of medieval Ireland–heck, the Book of Kells is one. For you art history buffs (I know you’re out there!), this is icing on an already delicious cake.



Madame Sousa’s grandson is kidnapped while riding the Tour de France, but she’s not just going to sit and watch it happen. She enlists her pooch, Bruno, and a spinster trio of jazz singers (because hey, why not?) to help her find young Champion. The upbeat retro soundtrack of The Triplets of Belleville is a little bit reminiscent of the music from a high-school classic, Ghost World, and the animation – well…watch it and find out!

These are just a handful of what we’ve got at the library, but what do you think? What’s the best animated film for teens?

Whitney, CLP – Main

Rural reads

I grew up in a tiny town in the corn belt where the first kid to ride his tractor to school was not the last. We swam in ponds as often as in pools. The super-spacious Midwestern sprawl and lack of public transport meant that, once I learned to drive, I usually got where I was going with the windows down at…um…a totally legal and safe speed.

That car now is scrap metal, and as summer activities go, Pittsburgh beats the flatlands with no contest!  But gorgeous summer afternoons, grilling with friends, cinema in the park and some of the most ridiculous jams from the 90’s have the power to send me back to my neighborhood with force. These books do the same, and it’s kinda nice!

The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom

In 1984, the author set out to photograph everyone in his hometown of Oxford, Iowa, instructing them to “come as you are.” Twenty years later, Feldstein hunted down the same people who had stood in front of his lens the first go-around and published the photographs side-by-side. Each set of photos comes with a brief interview of the participant, and they range from downright wacky to mundane. I’ve never thought of small town life as stunning, but this series of portraits absolutely changed my mind.

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Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Joey was 16 when his mother tragically died and he was shipped from Chicago to rural Iowa to live with a father he barely knew. Living with a near-stranger is hard, but finding out the stink in your shack comes from the graves your dad is robbing? Arguably worse. This takes the small (and big) town mantra “nothing ever HAPPENS around here!” and runs it through the wringer. This book is not for the weak of stomach, but if you enjoy a thoughtfully dark read, you will get what you came for with Rotters.

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Need to get out of the city – if only for a little while? Check out some of these other awesome reads with rural settings.

   

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Whitney, CLP – Main

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