Book Buzz

2015 Truman Award Nominees

Teen Book Buzz - June 23, 2014

2015 Truman Banner
The Truman Readers Award honors a book that is selected by Missouri junior high students. Even though this award is administered by the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL), it is the responsibility of Missouri teens to choose the actual winner. This year’s finalists were announced last December and voting will take place in March 2015. As summer kicks into high gear, consider bringing along one of these titles to enjoy poolside.

Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo
Orphaned by the Border Wars, Alina Starkov is taken to become the protege of the mysterious Darkling, who trains her to join the magical elete in the beliief that she is the Sun Summoner, who can destroy the monsters of the Fold.

The Raft” by S.A. Bodeen
Robie lives with her family on the Midway Atoll, a group of islands in the Pacific. Returning from a visit to her aunt in Hawaii, her plane hits nasty weather and goes down. Max, the only other survivor, pulls her onto a raft, then the real terror begins. How long can they survive?

Unstoppable” by Tim Green
If anyone understands the phrase “tough luck,” it’s Harrison. As a foster kid in a cruel home, he knows his dream of one day playing for the NFL is long shot. Then his luck seems to change. With new foster parents, he quickly becomes a star running back on the junior high school team. Even so, good luck can’t last forever.

One for the Murphys” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
After a heartbreaking betrayal, Carley is sent to live with a foster family and struggles with opening herself up to their love.

Elemental” by Antony John
In a dystopian colony of the United States where everyone is born with the powers of water, wind, earth or fire, 16-year-old Thomas is the first and only child born without an element. He seems powerless, but is he?

Insignia” by S.J. Kincaid
Tom, a 14-year-old genius at virtual reality games, is recruited by the U.S. military to begin training at the Pentagon Spire as a combatant in World War III, controlling the mechanized drones that do the actual fighting off-planet.

See You at Harry’s” by Jo Knowles
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible in her family, where grumpy 18-year-old Sarah is working at the family restaurant, 14-year-old Holden is struggling with school bullies and his emerging homosexuality, and adorable three-year-old Charlie is always the center of attention. When tragedy strikes, the fragile bond holding the family together is stretched almost to the breaking point.

Ungifted” by Gordon Korman
Due to an administrative mix-up, troublemaker Donovan Curtis is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students, after pulling a major prank in middle school.

Cinder” by Marissa Meyer
As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, Cinder, a gifted cyborg mechanic, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.

The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
In the country of Carthya, a devious nobleman engages four orphans in a brutal competition to find an impersonator for the king’s long-missing son and avoid civil war.

Dead City” by James Ponti
Seventh-grader Molly has always been an outsider, even at New York City’s elite Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology, but that changes when she is recruited to join the Omegas, a secret group that polices and protects zombies.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip” by Jordan Sonnenblick
After an injury ends star pitcher Peter Friedman’s athletic dreams, he concentrates on photography which leads him to a girlfriend, new fame as a high school sports photographer, and a deeper relationship with his beloved grandfather.

Originally published at 2015 Truman Award Nominees.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Donna Tartt

Next Book Buzz - June 16, 2014

Book cover for The Goldfinch by Donna TarttDonna Tartt writes so well that the Pulitzer people were compelled to award their prize to her novel, “The Goldfinch.” An extra-impressive feat considering it’s an award so prestigious that some years the committee finds none among the billions of novels published every year worthy of their kiss of automatic bestseller-dom. But rather than stumble further into a tirade outlining my feud with this cabal of critical killjoys and their silent and invisible but no doubt existent and reciprocated animosity, I’ll add my voice to the chorus of praise bellowing about Donna Tartt, thereby giving you the gumption to read her work that a million glowing reviews and Stephen King and the Pulitzer couldn’t.

“The Goldfinch” is narrated by a boy who, due to a museum bombing, loses his mother and gains a painting. He loves the painting but is tremendously dissatisfied by the trade. The novel follows him and his grief-swaddled existence through time spent in New York and Las Vegas, and eventually, climactically, Amsterdam. I found it to be the sort of rollicking, stay-up-later-than-normal read usually associated with books featuring more than one explosion, or at least aliens or a pandemic or a comically massive red dog, rather than a coming-of-age tale suffused with grief and concerns about hiding a painting.

Book cover for The Secret History by Donna TarttLike “The Goldfinch,” her first novel, “The Secret History,” is a finger-exhausting page-turner despite featuring little of the fanfare that typically propels those sorts of books. It does have some murder (on the first page even), and a horrifying and ancient ritual, but it’s mostly about ramifications, and it gallops along with a pace that surpasses its plot points. Her second novel, “The Little Friend,” is probably also great (though its reviews are less enthusiastic), but I must wait my turn to read it, and anyway it’s nice to save a little Tartt for the decade-long (and worth it) wait for her next book.

There has been some backlash against “The Goldfinch,” which tends to happen when something is popular and good, by critics that prefer their fiction to be non-fictional and mostly concern the ennui of professorships or lake houses or small, conventional dogs and to have plots revolving around getting old or being unhappy or, in certain ambitious cases, both. They dislike Tartt’s novel in part because of its “absurd” premise, what with its terrorist attack and orphaned child, things that fortunately are unrealistic and unheard of occurrences in the real world, outside of such “fantastical literature.” Though clearly I’m of the opinion that this is a great novel, it’s not that I’m unwilling to hear words against it. Rather, I find it absurd to be angry about its success and to believe it’s a “book for children” and somehow believe that reading it, because of its supposedly fanciful nature, will kill the public’s interest in literature. Which of course makes sense because what the public wants most are ultra-realistic examinations, scrubbed of even a hint of escapism, on what it’s like to be alive.

Anyway, Donna Tartt crafts her books carefully and with a passion that pays off for the reader. A book per decade is a wonderful rate when they’re this good.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Donna Tartt appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

2014 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees

Teen Book Buzz - June 13, 2014

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list of recommended reading sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Sixteen young adult book clubs from libraries across the country are responsible for narrowing down a list of nominees for teens to vote on nationwide. Below is this year’s full list of Top Ten nominations.

There are some  heavy-hitters including “Of Triton” by Anna Banks, “Teardrop” by Lauren Kate and “The Eye of Minds” by James Dashner. My personal favorites include “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell and “Siege and Storm” by Leigh Bardugo. The library offers print, eBook, and audiobook editions of many of the these titles.

The Nightmare Affair” by Mindee Arnett
Dusty Everhart a Nightmare, (literally!), has been trying to escape the shadow of her mother’s reputation, and one night, while dream-feeding, she sees the crime scene of a murder victim who attends her high school, a school for supernatural children. When she arrives back on campus, she finds, to her horror, that the dream had come true. Now she must use dreams to find the killer and save victims-to-be in order to stop an ancient darkness from returning.

Of Triton” by Anna Banks
After Emma’s mother, the long lost Poseidon princess returns to the sea, the Syrena begin to bring her identity into question. When all hope seems lost, and appears the Royals have a revolution on their hands, Emma has the opportunity to use her Gift to save those that she loves. But at what cost will her choices bring to not only her, but also to those she considers her family.

Siege and Storm” by Leigh Bardugo
Alina, a sun summoner on the run from the evil Darkling, is searching for a way to increase her power and save the ones she loves. But as her power grows she falls deeper in the Darkling’s grasp and farther away from her best friend and love, Mal. When the time comes Alina must choose between her love, her power, or her lust for the Darkling and all of his power.

Love In The Time Of Global Warming” by Francesca Lia Block
Penelope believes she is the last person alive in the city of Los Angeles after a massive earthquake destroyed the majority of the earth. After encountering a group of survivors, however, she begins to have hope in whatever may be left of the world, whether it be love, trust, and, just maybe, her family. Modeled after Homer’s Odyssey, Pen goes on a post-apocalyptic journey filled with Giants and butterflies in an attempt to find her way home.

The Testing” by Joelle Charbonneau
Cia is chosen to participate in The Testing, a government program that will select the brightest graduates who show potential for becoming future leaders in this post-apocalyptic world. Cia’s excitement of being chosen soon dies when her father warns her of the experiences he faced when he was chosen. Cia must trust no one if she hopes to come back alive. However, will she be able to face the dark, unholy truth about the testing? One kept whether you leave… Or don’t?

The Eye of Minds” by James Dashner
Michael is an average kid who plays video games, but this video game, the Virtnet, is different than others. You can die in it physically and mentally, and that happens to a girl named Tanya who rips out her core and commits suicide. Suddenly, Michael is whisked away by the designers of the VirtNet and is given a mission by them to find a cyber terrorist, named Kaine, who is suspected of killing gamers.

Earth Girl“by Janet Edwards
In 2788 humanity has developed technology that allows them to portal between many habitable worlds except for those are deemed “the handicapped”, those who are born with a one in a thousand chance of having an immune system that cannot tolerate other planets. Jarra, a handicapped 18-year old student with a passion for history, creates a false identity for herself and enrolls in a college course for students from other planets in an attempt to get revenge for the way the handicapped are looked down upon.

The Clockwork Scarab” by Colleen Gleason
The niece of Sherlock Holmes, the world’s first consulting detective, and the half-sister of Bram, the vampire slayer, are thrown together to find out why high society girls are being murdered and what a mechanical scarab beetle has to do with it

Maybe I Will” by Laurie Gray
One life-altering, life-changing event which dramatically effected Sandy, and not i nthe good sort of life-changing events like winning the lottery or having a kid, will leave you thinking. Finding true friends and activities that allow Sandy to really be free and let off steam is all that keeps Sandy sane and is an important factor in putting Sandy’s life back together once again.

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die” by April Henry
Cady wakes up in a up in a dark, torn apart cottage hearing someone tell another man to “finish her off.” To make things worse, not only does she not know why she’s in the cabin or why the men are trying to kill her, she also doesn’t remember who she is. Eventually, she escapes and meets up with Ty, a boy who is willing to help her even at the risk of losing his own life. Together they attempt to figure out what happened to make her lose her memory.

Splintered” by A.G. Howard
Alyssa, a girl already struggling with life in general, is pulled into something dark and mysterious. She follows in the footsteps of her ancestor, Alice, and goes down the rabbit hole to right the wrongs that Alice caused to cure her family of their “curse”. Instead of finding Lewis Carroll’s Beautiful wonderland she finds a dark and twisted version with monstrous creatures that aren’t as nice as the ones in the novel or as pretty

Teardrop” by Lauren Kate
Eureka has only ever cried once in her life and the one time she did, her mother told her to never cry again. Ever since then, she has never shed a tear; not even when her mother was killed in a tragic freak accident. Unbeknownst to Eureka, she was also supposed to die, but Ander couldn’t bring himself to let her die despite the threats that Eureka possesses because of her tears.

Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsberg
Rafe has been out of the closet for years. After transferring to an all-boys boarding school, however, he decides to keep his sexual orientation to himself. But when he meets Ben, a teammate on his soccer team, he wonders if their friendship-turned-more is worth outing himself for.

Monument 14: Sky On Fire” by Emmy Laybourne
When disaster strikes in the city of Monument, 14 kids are huddled in a Greenway store for shelter and survival. They decide their only chance of living through this nationwide disaster is to make their way to Denver International Airport where the military is evacuating people to safety. Will they make it alive or will they meet their doom like others have?

Six Months Later” by Natalie D. Richards
Chloe Spinnaker is an average student just barely making the grade. But one day spring day, after falling asleep in study hall, she wakes up to snow and an empty classroom. Six months of her life has passed and she has no clue what happened except that now she is popular and has lots of friends that is, except Maggie, the one true friend she had before everything changed. Bewildered by the sudden time lapse in her life, Chloe decides to embark on a mission where she stops at nothing to figure out what happened to her and to get her memories back.

Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell
The year is 1986 when Eleanor arrives in town to live with her family and abusive step-father. It’s been a year since the last time she lived with them, and she doesn’t expect life to be any better. Park’s life, on the other hand, is going steady. He’s got a spot in the popular crowd and he’s about to get his driver’s license. But when the two meet on the bus, things change drastically. Even though they both know high school romances never last, they’re going to try everything they’ve got to make it work. But in end, will everything they have be enough?

This Song Will Save Your Life” by Leila Sales
Elise Dembowski is a high school loser. After reaching the tip of the iceberg and facing suicidal thoughts just months before, Elise is searching desperately for a way out of her nearly friendless life. When she accidentally finds a dance club called Start, Elise’s life finally takes off as she meets new people, makes new memories, finds a new passion, and discovers herself.

Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson
Ten years ago, Calamity came; a light in the sky that appeared one day and many believe that somehow it was connected to the rise of the Epics. These beings, once human, now have all kinds of amazing and dangerous powers that have enabled them to take over the world, and one could argue the most dangerous one is Steelheart. Able to bend the elements to his will and turn any non-living substance to steel, many say he’s invincible because they’ve never seen him bleed — except for David, who will stop at nothing to get his vengeance and see Steelheart bleed again.

The Rithmatist” Brandon Sanderson
Joel wants to be a Rithmatist more than anything. Rithmatists have the power to bring two dimensional beings called Chalklings to life and defend against the wild chalkings that threaten to overcome the Rithmatists. Joel is student at Armedius Academy, a prestigious school where Rithmatists and wealthy children go to learn. When a string of kidnappings begin to occur Joel must gain assistance from the Rithmatists at Armedius Academy in order to bring order back to the academy.

This is What Happy Looks Like” by Jennifer E. Smith
Ellie is the girl from Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine, and Graham Larkin is the hot superstar sensation from Middle-of-Everything, California. While Ellie hides from the media, Graham is constantly being watched by the paparazzi. However, an email mistake from Graham to Ellie starts an online relationship between these two teens, marking the start of a friendship and something more. Can Ellie accept Graham despite all the publicity? Or will the media be the demise of this couple’s happiness?

Winger” by Andrew Smith
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen year old junior trying to make everyone else blind to the one thing that makes him different than everyone else, his young age. This is not easy though, as he must prove himself to everyone – the girl of his dreams, his scary roommate, his friends, and the rugby team. As Ryan Dean tries to survive his junior year, he encounters horrifying injuries, moments of ecstasy, and shattering heartbreak.

A Midsummer Night’s Scream” by R.L. Stine
Claire, a girl with a dream to become an actress, finally gets her chance when her parents decide to remake Mayhem Manor, a movie that was never finished because of 3 real deaths. As the camera starts rolling on the remake, strange things begin to happen. Like the little hairy man Claire meets by the makeup trailer one day. Who or what could be the cause of these actors’ deaths?

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” by April Tucholke
Violet, a sassy, independent, and sharp-tongued young lady, rents out the side cottage on her parent’s estate in the hopes of making a little extra money to pay the bills. Her easygoing customer is as dangerous as he is mysterious, and murders and madness soon sweep her little home town. She takes it upon herself to understand him and the events, but only finds a darkness she can only hope to escape with her sanity and safety.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters
It’s the fall of 1918: The Spanish Influenza and the horrors of World War I grip the world with terror, and spiritualist photography, as the face of death seems to greet every household in America, has become increasingly popular. After her father is arrested as a suspected traitor, Mary Shelley Black travels to San Diego, hoping to escape the flu while living with her Aunt Eva. Only a few days after arriving, Mary Shelley is told that Stephen, her sweetheart who recently became a soldier, has been killed in France. But Stephen’s spirit hasn’t left yet, and he desperately needs Mary Shelley’s help.

The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey
Present day – the aliens have invaded the planet, or as Cassie likes to call them, the Others. Almost everyone has been killed off by the 4th Wave, and now, Cassie one of the few survivors living now during the 5th wave, roams the country while trying to stay alive to find her brother – that is, if he’s still alive. When she’s taken in by a boy named Evan, she realizes that he’s different. He’s not like her, but he’s all she’s got. Cassie has to overcome her doubts and trust issues if she wishes to survive the 5th wave.

Originally published at 2014 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees.

Categories: Book Buzz

Classics for Everyone: Charles Darwin

Next Book Buzz - June 9, 2014

Book cover for Darwin's Origin of SpeciesSince our Summer Reading program this year centers around a science theme, your classics maven has elected to focus on one of the most influential science texts in history – Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” First published in 1859, it made an immediate and lasting impact on society. In my mind, one thing that makes a book a classic is if it’s frequently referenced even by people who haven’t read it. Almost everyone knows about this book.

Charles Darwin was 22 years old when he boarded the HMS Beagle in 1831. He’d signed on to work as a naturalist during the ship’s exploration of South America and the Pacific Islands. In the Galapagos, he found animals that existed nowhere else on earth, including enormous tortoises. He became intrigued by the variations he found among the animals on different islands. On one island finches had beaks suited to breaking nuts, while on another, their beaks were formed for optimal berry picking. These observations planted the seeds for his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Darwin didn’t originate the idea of evolution, a concept that dates back at least as far as ancient Greece, but he was the first one to develop an explanation for how the process might work, and he supplied more evidence than anyone before. He spent more than two decades researching, gathering evidence and refining his ideas before finally publishing “The Origin of Species” at age 50. In his day, interest was growing in fossils and the extinction of species. His book tipped the balance for evolution in the scientific world from being a highly debated idea to a largely accepted one.

Outside of science, there has been more resistance to the idea of evolution. Only a few months after the book’s publication, the “Great Oxford Debate” took place, with hundreds of spectators arriving to witness the Bishop of Oxford exchange barbs with Thomas Henry Huxley, who defended Darwin and his theory. Then there was the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 in Tennessee, in which a teacher was tried for violating state law by teaching about evolution in the public schools. With the controversy continuing to the present day – within American culture at large, at least, if not within the scientific community – it’s probably a good idea for more people to read the actual book itself.

It’s worth the time, even if you’re pretty sure you already know what you need to. “The Origin of Species” is far from a compilation of dry, technical jargon. Darwin says, “We see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part of the organic world,” and he details many of them with exquisite descriptions of the natural world. His passages about the connectedness of all living creatures are downright inspirational. And his observation about what trouble will come to us humans if the bee population should decline is chillingly prescient.

The post Classics for Everyone: Charles Darwin appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Best Audiobooks for Your Road Trip: 2014 Audie Winners

Next Book Buzz - June 6, 2014

Cover art for Still Foolin' Em by Billy CrystalJust in time for your summer travels, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced this year’s awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. Nothing makes the miles fly by like listening to a professional read an engrossing story, so check out one of these titles on CD or downloadable audio before you hit the road.

Audiobook of the Year: “Still Foolin’ ‘Em” by Billy Crystal; Read by Billy Crystal
The judges praised this work calling it “a seamless blend of single voice narration and live performances that does for the audiobook medium what Billy Crystal’s opening acts have done for the Oscars, which is to bring in a larger audience. From Mickey Mantle to Muhammad Ali, with the inside story on Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ thrown in for good measure, Crystal’s life story will have listeners hanging on every word.”

Distinguished Achievement in Production: “Pete Seeger: The Storm King” by Pete Seeger, edited by Jeff Haynes (read by Pete Seeger)
Publisher’s description: “The Storm king audio collection presents Pete Seeger’s spoken words as he recounts his most engaging stories, narratives and poems, set to new music created by over 70 musicians from traditions as diverse as African Music, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic Music, Classical Guitar, Folk, Israeli Music, Jazz, Native American Music and Tuvan Throat Singing.”

Nonfiction: “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
Publisher’s description: “Malcolm Gladwell, with his unparalleled ability to grasp connections others miss, uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, the powerful and the dispossessed.” 

History: “Devil in the Grove” by Gilbert King (read by Peter Francis James)
Publisher’s description: “Chronicles a little-known court case in which Thurgood Marshall successfully saved a black citrus worker from the electric chair after the worker was accused of raping a white woman with three other black men.”

Fiction: “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
Publisher’s description: “Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, ‘The Shining,’ in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of ‘The Shining’) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.” 

Literary Fiction: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (read by David Pittu)
Publisher’s description: “A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend’s family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother – a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.”

See the full list of Audie winners at APA’s website.

The post Best Audiobooks for Your Road Trip: 2014 Audie Winners appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Science Coffee Table Books

Next Book Buzz - June 2, 2014

Book cover for The Elements by Theodore GrayI generally follow the advice to never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the cover is what attracts me to a book. When I was a child, I read the book “National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe,“ by Roy A. Gallant, because there was a cool-looking spaceship on the cover. The book was about astronomy and physics, of course, but it also had mythological stories about each planet and about the universe as a whole. There were illustrations and charts that helped my puny mind begin to grasp the complex ideas of space and time. But what I most clearly remember about the book was the section in which the author imagined what characteristics life would have to survive the heat of Venus of the atmosphere of Jupiter.

My attraction to coffee table books continues through the present day. They are convenient to browse when you are waiting 15 minutes for the oven timer to sound but are equally suited to intensive investigation on the back porch with a cup of coffee. Here are some of my more recent favorites.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
by Theodore Gray
The author describes this book as containing “Everything you need to know. Nothing you don’t.” Gray lays out the requisite structural information for each element, but he also shows you what each element looks like. He also shares examples of how each element is used, both in nature and by humans. Learning about atomic weights and density might not seem immediately thrilling, but this book is fun enough to have inspired puzzles and posters.

Book cover for The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel SussmanThe Oldest Living Things in the World
by Rachel Sussman
This book is the culmination of 10 years of Sussman’s work. She traveled to every continent and even learned to scuba dive so she could photograph organisms that are all at least 2,000 years old. The pictures are exceptional, of course, but what distinguishes this book are the stories that Sussman shares about her process.

 The Definitive Visual GuideScience: The Definitive Visual Guide
edited by Adam Hart-Davis
If you can’t decide which scientific discipline you want to learn about, then this book is the place to start. It is organized chronologically and covers biology, medicine, astronomy, math, chemistry, life, the universe and everything. Parents (or anybody who likes awesome juvenile books) might recognize DK Publishing as the publisher of the Eyewitness book series. This science book has a similarly pleasing aesthetic, breaking down complicated ideas into simpler and manageable elements.

The post Judging a Book by Its Cover: Science Coffee Table Books appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz
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