Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear Bully book review

Dear Bully edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones
4/5 stars
Teen Reviewer: Lauren Batchelder
With seventy heartfelt and empathetic stories about bullying, this wonderful book reaches out to victims everywhere. Many prominent authors such as R.L. Stein and Lauren Oliver open up and share their stories about bullying- as observers on the sidelines, victims and as bullies themselves. Every story is deeply personal and it makes every single person who has ever been bullied realize that they are not alone. Bullying is an issue everywhere. This book talks about a subject that is painful to many people, and even though some parts are really hard to read, it is a wonderful book. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a bully, has been bullied, or watched someone be bullied. It will change your view on the subject forever. Dear Bully, is rare. I have never read a book that has had so much power and emotion. I loved it and I know that if you read it, you will be captivated by it too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kinsey and Karla Book Review Part I--Envy by Gregg Olsen

Envy by Gregg Olsen

Review by Karla Accorto

3 Stars

This month, Kinsey and I selected Envy by Gregg Olsen. It is a fictional story inspired by a true crime. Envy begins with the death of Katelyn Berkley, a fifteen year old girl. It appears to be an accident, or possibly even suicide. However, twin sisters Hayley and Taylor Ryan- old friends of Katelyn- believe differently; they think it was murder. The two girls work to figure out what really happened to Katelyn, aided by the supernatural gifts that they were born with. They try desperately to put together the pieces, leading them to the very surprising conclusion.

At first glance, Envy seemed like a typical murder mystery or thriller. Once I actually started reading, though, I discovered it was much better classified in the paranormal/supernatural genre. I was somewhat disappointed with the book. When I find a book that really interests me, I can read it easily in a day or two. Envy took me several weeks to get through. The beginning 100+ pages were a struggle for me to get past. After about page 120-125, though, I flew through it in a day. It could be due to the fact that this genre does not typically interest me, but looking at it objectively, I also believe that the beginning plot moved slowly. It was definitely an interesting story line, but just hard to get into at the start. I was also disappointed with the author’s portrayal of the three main characters: Hayley, Taylor, and Katelyn. I had a very hard time distinguishing Hayley from Taylor throughout most of the book and I really wished that I was able to experience Katelyn some more. Hayley and Taylor appeared to be such complex characters that I really wanted to learn more about what makes them different, instead of just the same.The author, Gregg Olsen did an excellent job creating many of the supporting characters, though, which was definitely a plus. These included Katelyn’s family, Taylor and Hayley’s family, and Katelyn’s best friend, Starla and her family. The setting of the story was great, too, in a sleepy, historical small town. I found that part to be really relatable and well-crafted. The mechanics of Mr. Olsen’s writing were spectacular, as well. His sentences flowed nicely and his vocabulary was superb. There was nothing left to be desired there. The last few sentences of some of the chapters reminded me a lot of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, mainly due to the foreshadowing and intrigue. I loved PLL so that really made me excited for Envy. Envy had a pretty tidy ending, which I also liked, but also left it open enough for a sequel, due out this fall. I also liked that it was written in a third person narrative. Normally, I cannot stand reading a book written in third person, but for Envy it just seemed so fitting. It allowed the reader to see every little thing that was happening and how it was connected to Katelyn, as opposed to just what Hayley and Taylor had uncovered.

This was an interesting selection for Kinsey and me because our opinions seem to differ on it. She read it first and encouraged me to finish it, saying that it would be worth it. She agrees that the beginning was slow, but believes it picks up at around page 50, whereas I believe it doesn’t until around 100. She really enjoyed the book and I feel that I neither liked nor disliked it- right in the middle. All I can say is that next month, Kinsey, I’m picking the book! J To hear the rest of her opinion, you’ll have to read her review. As for me, I give Envy three out of five stars.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teen Book Review: The Auslander

Review: The Auslander
by Paul Dowswell
Review by Angeliek Devine

Summary: When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw. Then German soldiers take him away to be measured and assessed. They decide that Peter is racially valuable. He is Volksdeutscher: of German blood. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and "acceptably proportioned head," he looks just like the boy on the Hitler-Jugend poster. Someone important will want to adopt Peter. They do. Professor Kaltenbach is very pleased to welcome such a fine Aryan specimen to his household. People will be envious. But Peter is not quite the specimen they think. He is forming his own ideas about what he is seeing, what he is told. Peter doesn't want to be a Nazi, and so he is going to take a very dangerous risk. The most dangerous risk he could possibly choose to take in Berlin in 1942.

Review: After reading Paul Dowswell's novel The Ausländer I must say that I am quite impressed, and was entirely immersed into the story by the first chapter. The horrors of WWII were impeccably depicted throughout the reading. I especially liked the concept of viewing the war from the perspective of the Germans' side and through the eyes of a teenager. Right off the bat Dowswell brings tragedies into Peter's life, setting the dim scene for the majority of the reading. This novel is not for the softhearted out there, it truly shows the cruelty of war, and the lives of those during this time period. It was interesting to imagine being a civilian in Berlin, Germany during the 1940's, always having to follow orders without a single complaint, and not being sure who you can trust, even within your own family. The book follows Peter through his days at school, perceiving the difficulties for children growing up in a Nazi society, having the pressures forced upon them by their peers as well as the law enforcements to be the perfect citizen, as well as being fully immersed in a world wide war.

As the story progresses, the brutality only grows more and more grim, hooking you in to want to read more. Not only was this book enthralling on an entertainment aspect, but it also gives the reader a good amount of historical background as well as incorporating the German language, connecting the reader more to the story.

During some chapters of the book I did feel that a lot of pages towards the middle seemed more like filler, in my opinion. Overall, however, The Ausländer is a captivating novel and does a beautiful job of combining the horrors of war, difficulties of fitting in, and the trouble of growing up all in one intense read.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction novels centered around WWII, I would most defiantly recommend this book to you.

I give this book an overall rating of 4 out of 5.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Title: Boy Toy
Author: Barry Lyga
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 416

First Line: -- (Don't have the book on me, sorry!)

Summary: Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.

Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not.Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won’t stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink. And then there’s Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh’s past. It’s time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.

If only he knew what the truth was . . .

Source: Amazon

Review: Like The Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Boy Toy handles some tough stuff.  Lyga is a master at writing topics that are difficult in a way that is realistic, but still sensitive.  The way the story is woven keeps the reader interested and, even when the reader knows what's going to happen, they still don't quite believe it.  Lyga's style is easy to read and gives the reader plenty of time to think about what has been written.  His characters are well-rounded and the story is atypical for the specific genre.  This was an excellent book, though I would not recommend it to younger teen readers, as there are some graphic scenes and plenty of obscenities.  For people who are unable to handle child molestation or inappropriate relations, this book is not for you.

Worst part: Something about Josh and Rachel's relationship didn't feel right.

Best part:  Weaving in a scene from TAoFBaGG was really cool.

Grade: A+

Other Books by This Author: The Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Goth Girl Rising, Hero-Type, Wolverine: Worst Day Ever, Archvillain: The Series, Mangaman

Author's Website: Barry Lyga

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teen Book Review: Flesh and Blood So Cheap

by Albert Marrin
Reviewed by Will Hunt

This book , Flesh & Blood So Cheap By Albert Marrin describes the great fire of the Triangle Waist Company which made shirts in New York City, on March 25, 1911, the events that led up to it and the measures put in place after its devastation. The fire destroyed the top 3 floors of the Asch Building. The fire broke out on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floor of the building. One hundred and forty six people died, and only six of the men were identified. The rest were either women or labeled as unidentified. There were many problems that made the fire much worse than it could have been: All the debris on the floor of scraps of cloth, paper pattern pieces, bolts of fabric, oil placed on top of cloth, an elevator that could only fit TWO people at a time, crowded stairways filled with panicking people, people trying to escape, ladders that were to short to reach the factory floors, very few safety measures for fires or anything else that might happen, and worst of all doors that were locked that should have never been locked just to discourage people that come in late and just to keep out union organizers.

Many safety measures were taken: the growth of workers unions, better working conditions for immigrants,(since most of the workers in the factories were immigrants), child labor laws were written, the development of healthier working conditions, and a lot more Government involvement in developing regulations for businesses(although i'm not sure certain that many of these were good developments). Today most businesses are healthier and safer and they receive a decent wage well at least in the United States.

My opinion of this book is that it was a very informative book and that it took a lot of gumption to get through it but it was very well written and gave very vital information and was extremely interesting. There were some bad points though because of course the Socialist Party grew from this. The factory owners received very little punishment for causing all this pain and suffering . The unions helped to give rise to gangsters which caused more strikes. Because of increased costs because of labor unions, businesses moved their factories to developing nations where labor was cheaper but those factories became sweatshops much like the Triangle Waist Company had been in the early 1900's.

Many people believed that the Triangle Waist Company Fire was the worst man made disaster that had occurred in America until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

My rating: 4/5