All things teen library

Reviews, notes and useful links...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Review - Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Publisher: Atom

Publication date:2009

Pages: 375

Betrayed is the second book in the popular House of Night series by mother-daughter author team P.C. and Kristin Cast. House of Night is a supernatural series about young vampyre Zoey Redbird set in Tulsa. I read Marked, the first book in the series earlier in the year. A young person I work with recommended their latest offering 'Tempted' to me. Tempted is book six and I aim to get to it by reading the series alongside the many proofs I receive.

Seventeen year old Zoe finds herself marked by the vampyre goddess in a dream, the mark is a small tattoo that all fledgling vampyres receive. Vampyres are no secret in this book, but fledglings are excluded from the human community and sent to the House of Night boarding school. At the school they live by night and sleep during the day. The complication of the change from human to vampyre is that not all fledglings survive to be adult and as a result, some characters are lost along the way. It soon becomes clear that Zoey is extraordinarily talented. By the end of the first book knows she will become a vampyre high priestess, and eventually, take charge of the House of Night herself.

Both Marked and Betrayed were refreshing reads following several emotive and issue based teen novels. I love the way that Zoey, lead female vampyre says exactly what a teenage girl would think. No doubt due to a young author's realistic writing. In Betrayed Zoey must experience the complications of three men in her life - a human ex boyfriend who refuses to let go, a vampyre teacher's attentions and a vampyre boyfriend. She must also learn to control her yearning for blood, maturely deal with tragedy and as the title suggests, a betrayal of the greatest kind from a mentor.

I found Betrayed refreshing and light to read, but also funny and emotional in the right places. Zoey is a great example for girls her age, she has great energy and values. What is great about this series is that in the midst of the supernatural genre this book is addressing many teen issues, such as sexuality, relationships with parents, bullying and friendship. Series' in this genre are often associated with previous popular series', but House of Night has something new to offer. Betrayed will be loved by Gossip Girl fans for it's dark wit and sexy characters, and adored by Twilight fans for it's new take on the vampyre genre. A highly recommended light read.


Saturday, 26 June 2010

Review - Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Publisher: Walker books

Publication date: 3 May 2010

Pages: 603

Monsters of men is the final book of the groundbreaking Chaos Walking trilogy, read it!

I could end the review there, but I would not be touching on the serious challenges and issues the book enables young readers to vicariously experience. In this final book Todd - our main protagonist - and his girlfriend Viola's relationship is tested more than ever. Mayor Prentiss - the President of the new state New Prentisstown, gains Todd's trust and exercises mind control techniques to manipulate him. A frightened Viola watches Todd change beyond recognition and as the peacemaker of the story, tries to move the planet towards peace. Her efforts are repeatedly thwarted by the Mayor and Mistress Coyle, leader of terrorist organisation the Answer. Both underhandedly vying for leadership of New Prentisstown. Atrocities of war, acts of terrorism and the serious consequences of personal revenge appear again and again. Executed with extreme sensitivity by Ness who focusses on the character's emotions and personal development.

The most exciting element of Ness' recent offering is the third voice of the earth. The introduction of a new angle on the troubles motivates and excites the reader as you move through the book, which for the most part concerns war and tactics.

Ultimately the fighting leads to devastation and destruction in New Prentisstown, as none of the groups will work together. New hopes for a peace die and the battle for survival is on.

Although the book did not end as I would have liked, the concluding chapter was emotional and shocking. Monsters of Men ended on a note of hope, though, and with a new, powerful voice for peace. The book made me gasp. laugh and cry, again and again. A poignant and exciting book, not to be overlooked.


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Review - The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Publisher: Atom

Publication date: 5th June 2010

Pages: 178

The most common question asked by fans and critics of any 'spin off', whether that be TV, book or film would be: is it as good as the original series? The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner most definitely lives up to the first four Twilight books.

I enjoyed the return to Meyer's dreamy prose. I was easily swept away into the story. The book was still as innovative as the first due to featuring a new kind of vampire we hadn't met in the Twilight saga. Fans have been used to well behaved 'vegetarian' vampires with a conscience, like the brooding Edward Cullen. Bree Tanner takes us to meet a newborn coven through the eyes of a sixteen year old girl, the thirsty coven take no prisoners and drink the blood of humans without caring of the consequences. Bree is a characteristically good role model for girls like Bella in Twilight, an intelligent reader who takes on board the game playing and characteristics of these dangerous vampires.

Essentially this is another love story. Meyer introduces the character Diego, a male vampire two years older than Bree and he acts as her protector until she can look after herself. Their dedication to each other towards the end of the book is heartwarming, however shortlived.

It was interesting that so many young poeple and adults alike rushed to buy this novella on it's release day, despite it being available for free online within a couple of days. Dedicated readers of Eclipse would have known how Bree's story ends. This demonstrates the power of Meyer's work in delivering something unique in every story, her stories appeal to the reader and are lifted off the bookshelf again and again.

I have just one criticism of the novella, would it not have been better to include more of Victoria, Bella's enemy? Aside from a scene in a hut in the middle of nowhere there was very little more learned about the character and little connection with the new born vampires at all. The army are supposedly Victoria's in Eclipse.

Overall I loved the book and I hope Stephenie writes more in the future exploring background characters from the Twilight Saga.


Friday, 14 May 2010

Connected Generation 2010 #cgen10

I attended Connected Generation 2010 in Bristol on 7th May. The event focussed on using social media to reach young people where they are. The day included ideas on launching and developing digital and online projects with young people responsibly and safely.

We were welcomed by lollies and plenty of tech (the coolest mini handheld video cameras by busbi £35), to record short clips from the day and a macbook to update Twitter with our comments. This enabled all the participants to create an on-point online record of the day under the searchable hashtag #cgen10. I updated key points to add to the record.

The morning speakers were very inspiring and covered a range of issues. Amy Sample Ward from Social by Social talked about researching your projects to find out where young people are online and the aims of your work. The main points I took away were that young people need to be inspired to engage and be empowered by a social media project, engagement is not simply following but interacting, and you need to talk to them in their own language online. We need to work on ensuring the platform and content inspire the young people using libraries.

Jo Jopling gave a fantastic presentation on her youth work project in Gateshead, using msn chat and her professional Facebook page to reach 'at risk' young people. Jo has engaged 180 young contacts. To keep it safe there is a tag team member or line manager online for support. Young people have to ask to be added and parents are notified about the project, records are kept for evidence, as you would a youth work session and safety messages on the Facebook page give advice on safe use of social networking. Jo recommends you set guidelines - only experienced youth workers take part, as young people are fearless online. Online youth work is the most valuable tool Jo has ever used.

Mog aka Chris Morgan Outreach worker for GEECS communities 2.0 project uses digital storytelling as a tool for young people to have a dialogue about difficult situations in their lives. Mog says "stories are digital media tools". They develop skills such as creativity, photography, editing, production and DVD authoring. GEECS also work with SMS stories texted to an online message board. A tip is to make it relevant to young people, give them a voice through participation and inclusion. More about the project on their blog.

FInally Kieron Kirkland from Futurelab talked about supporting young people aged 14-19 to raise their aspirations. Futurelab have set up a site that enables young people to learn about their rights in their language, it is linked to Facebook and enables young people to network and vote on content. The site looks like a really useful resources for young people so we have set up a link on HeadSpace Efford's blog and added to the Plymouth Libraries children's cyberlibrary.

In the panel discussion the importance of protecting professional integrity and client privacy was highlighted, panelist Katie Bacon recommended a record sheet to log conversations and anonymous usernames to keep personal information confidential.

I attended presentations on Plings (places to go and things to do for young people) and social media policy and practice. I learned that we have a duty to collect and share information with young people in spite of the issues, a bored o meter app can be used on Facebook to guage young people's response to your page, you can ask young people to post info on their Facebook pages to increase your reach. We also have a responsibility to put together a relevant risk assessment in partnership with our partners which enables us to protect us as professionals and the young people when they access our pages. Katie Bacon recommends a secure site that only members can post on in confidence for youth work.

In our openspace session on Facebook I learned that it is easy to install a 'like' button on your site which will appear on young people's Facebook pages. However this does appear on other's homepages, and you need to put together a statement which makes young people aware of this. This can be used as an opportunity to educate young people about privacy.

My follow up for our library service as a result of Connected Generation 2010 will include:
1. Regularly maintaining existing social networking sites (our blog and Twitter) to make them fun and fresh
2. Involving young people more in the content of the site
3. Developing a safe use of social media policy for young people and staff, based on our own acceptable use policies and other safe use policies
4. Developing the use of Facebook as an online outreach point for young people to talk about books and other media, reserve items and get help with homework
5. Ask for some training to host digital storytelling workshops at HeadSpace sessions

Overall the conference was a great day, it was my first course around social media and even though I am already using the sites I learned a tremendous amount and would be keen to attend next year.

To quote Amy Sample Ward: "Start listening, start asking and start inviting. Try something."

Monday, 3 May 2010

Review - Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Publisher: Orion

Publication date: August 2009

Pages: 217

The recent Carnegie shortlist and a visit from Marcus at one of our libraries motivated me to read Revolver. I have recommended his books to young people in the past because of the quality and beauty of his writing. This book was no different.

Revolver is set in the harsh climate of the arctic circle. The main character Sig, his sister Anna, Stepmother Nadya and father Einar live in a hut on the other side of a lake, near a mining town. The setting is isolated and bleak, but the picture of the family relationships painted in contrast, is one of love and warmth. Both his mother and stepmother are religious and his father is fascinated by a revolver pistol he keeps in their food store.

You join Sig on the day his father passes away whilst travelling home across the precarious ice covered lake on his sledge. When his sister and stepmother go to break the news of his father's death in the town, a frightening stranger from his father's past arrives making demands and it is up to Sig to deal with a fatal situation once and for all.

As a reader you find yourself immersed in the cold, hard nature of life in the arctic. I immediately empathised with Sig the 14 year old boy who has lost his father, and struggles to come to terms with the loss. The story skips back and forwards smoothly to Sig's childhood memories of his father, scenes in his parent's earlier life and back to the present day with the frightening stranger. Throughout the book you desperately want to find out what happens next. Clues are provided, but I rarely managed to make a link between them and the outcome of the story. I finished the book in a couple of hours.

Needless to say the events shape Sig's journey into adulthood and have a real impact on his and his family's life. A dramatic, emotive and thrilling tale, which draws you in and transports you to another place and time. Brilliant!


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Review - I was Jane Austen's best friend, A Secret diary by Cora Harrison

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication date: March 2010

Pages: 340

I was Jane Austen's best friend is a fictitious story by Harrison about Austen's teenage years and family life. The main character, the sweet, endearing Jenny Cooper is Jane's cousin, orphaned and sent to live in a boarding school in Southampton with Jane. The girls hate living at the school but make the best of it, until Jane becomes ill, and early in the book Jenny is forced to risk her prospects and reputation to save her friend.

The Austen's quickly realise the boarding school is not suitable for either of the girls and they return to the family home, a parsonage in Steventon to be educated. For Jenny this means living for the first time amongst boys - Jane's five brothers and Mr Austen's male pupils, experiencing social occasions like balls for the first time and writing all about it in her secret diary.

Jenny's is a shy and timid character, quite the opposite to Jane who is very confident and as you would expect, always coming up with entertaining stories and jokes that keep everyone amused. The book is Jenny's story of the journey from child to young woman, with some heartwarming moments and shocking twists along the way.

Harrison really opens up what it would have been like to be a young woman growing up without a fortune in the 18th Century. The relationships she develops between Jane and her brothers were so realistic and the exchange between them written with humour and warmth. At the end of the book the author explains that the extracts of stories she included written by Jane were real, as were all of her family members, their personalities and the families living around them. However, the events were of her creation because Austen left very little record of her teenage years. Where Harrison has filled in the blanks, it is done so cleverly and intuitively. A true Austen fan!

A charming, heartwarming, emotional and clever read - loved it!


Saturday, 27 February 2010

Review - Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 4 February 2010

Pages: 626

Beautiful Creatures is a modern, magical love story. The book has been bigged up by publishers and Twi-hards alike as "the next Twilight saga" . I must admit I was sceptical another author could develop the Twilight appeal in a fresh context, and with the dreamy prose that Meyer is loved for. However I have been converted along with I expect most of the female population aged 14+.

There are five things I love about this book:
1. The book is written from a male perspective, which is refreshing in the supernatural genre. Ethan is just an ordinary lad, frustrated with a small town life in the deep south. He finds himself in extraordinary circumstances and situations that are sometimes more than he can handle, for his love 'Caster' Lena.
2. The deep south setting and historical input are very well researched and linked with the fictional content of the book. The public judgement of Lena and the inclusion of To Kill a Mocking Bird (and other classic works and quotes) are examples of this.
3. The personalities of the characters of Amma and Macon, their clear differences and despite this coming together to support the young couple.
4. Ethan and his best friend Link's childhood relationship, is played out in a realistic manner and I felt like I knew Link, even though he is not a main character. It was good to see some lighthearted, funny scenes played out instead of a continual tense, building drama.
5. I didn't once know what was coming next. I was very shocked, and moved by the ending.

There was only one bug bear that I did have throughout the book which was the sixteen moons song, it was a little predictable and I felt the author's could have been more creative. Having said that I really think Beautiful Creatures saga will be a prime target for film studios filling the gap left by Twilight.

I will definitely be recommending this book to young people.