Another Teen Book Bomb - with some retakes on old favorites

Hart, Jeff
Eat, Brains, Love
This book is hilarious!  I have to say first-off that I am NOT a fan of zombies.  However, this book could make me start to like them.  Jake's day starts out relatively normal.  He gets up for school, downs some cereal, and worries about how he hasn't finished his homework.  Amanda's day isn't going so well.  Her crazy stalker type jock ex-boyfriend shows up at school and starts a fight with her.  She also doesn't feel all that hot.  Their day gets a lot worse.  This book has all the wackiness of a teen road trip comedy. Throw in some government conspiracy theories, zombie-ism as an STD, and the stoner gets the hot chick meme, and you've got a must read!

 Howard, AG
This wonderfully dark take on the world of Alice in Wonderland is a must read for anyone who has ever felt that they were a little "off."  Alyssa, descended from the original Alice, is one of the outsiders at high school.  Quirky, wearing short skirts, boots, corsets, petticoats, and skateboarding, she's not your average heroine.  Her sense of humor and ability to take on all comers draws you in as she tries to figure out what's reality and what's Wonderland.  Morpheus (aka the Mad Hatter) melds the two when he enters our world to convince Alyssa to return to Wonderland and save it from the Red Queen.

Moore, Kelly; Reed, Tucker; Reed, Larkin
Amber House
Amber House has been in Sarah's family since the 1600s.  Everything in it is steeped in history.  For some reason that was never explained to her, Sarah's mom and grandmother despise each other so she's rarely been to visit.  Her younger brother Sammy, her mom and herself go back for her grandmother's funeral where she meets a mysterious young man Jackson who seems to know things about her. After spending time in the house, it starts to show her things about the past: about her mother, about a cruel sea captain, about a slave woman who can touch the future, and about a young Jackson.

Moore, Kelly; Reed, Tucker; Reed, Larkin
Sarah has changed the past and saved her aunt's life as a child.  Because of this, her family is together and happy.  Her grandmother was never estranged from her mother.  But something seems off.  The house sends her visions; and she remembers a different past.  It’s a past where the Nazi's didn't win and where slavery didn't continue into the 20th century.  How could saving her aunt's life in the 1970s have altered so much history?

Rossi, Veronica
Under the Never Sky
Aria was raised in a hermetically sealed environment, knowing that she was genetically perfect.  Her mother’s love of opera had spliced into her DNA a perfect voice, her teeth were perfectly straight, and she and her friends spend their time in virtual realms where they can make themselves into anything without fear.  Until something goes horribly wrong one night when she’s “gone real” while out with some friends exploring a damaged pod.  Next thing she knows she’s exiled and her only hope is an outsider.  A savage in a landscape she’s always been told she has no hope of surviving.

Rossi, Veronica-
Through the ever night  /
Aria and Perry are finally going to be reunited.  But things don't go like they'd hope.  Although she's only half dweller and is an Aud, the Tides don't accept her even as a person, much less as Perry's mate.  The Aether storms are getting worse, the food rations are getting low, and they have to find Liv.  It seems the only way for Aria to save Perry is for her to leave him.  Can she and Roar go find Liv and have her relationship with Perry remain when they return?

Rossi, Veronica-
Into the still blue
Reverie has fallen, and Sable and Hess have joined forces to find the Still Blue, the mythical place where there is no Aether.  With a mixed group of Tides and Dwellers all crushed together in a cave and Aether storms getting worse, Perry has to decide what to do.  How can he overcome the superior forces of Sable and save his people?  How can he rescue Cinder, the 13 year old boy who can control Aether? How can he live with himself now that his sister Liv has been murdered and his best friend Roar seems to blame him?

Sax, Aline; Strzelecki, Caryl
The War within these Walls
There's nothing light about this read.  This book is a really intense look at the Warsaw ghetto during WWII.  It's a book of few words and intense line drawings that tells the story of a brief uprisings of Jews when the Nazis decided to clear the ghetto out one year for Hitler's birthday.  It's really intense.  Really good.

Shepherd, Megan
The Madman's Daughter
This is an intriguing twist on the classic The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells.  After her father is banished from England for performing vivisection on animals, Juliet and her mother fall from the heights of society to utter poverty.  Forced to work as a maid at the college her father once taught at, Juliet learns that some of the students are trying to re-create her father's work.  Trying to escape, she convinces her former servant and now her father's assistant to take her to her father's island. 

Shepherd, Megan
Her Dark Curiosity
The sequel to The Madman's Daughter brings us to Juliet living back in London once again part of high society.  One of her father's old friends, who also denounced him, has adopted her.  Unfortunately, something has followed her from the island and is terrorizing the city.  People are being killed in brutal ways, and all of them have harmed Juliet in some manner.  Is it possible for a monster to feel love and be protective of someone?  Should they be helped? Once again, we're faced at what it means to be human and are given a great twist on an old classic.  I'm really looking forward to the next in the series.

Souders, JA
Don't judge this book by its cover!  I did.  I read the excerpt, ordered it.  Saw the cover, thought "Ewwww! Romance!!!" and sent it back… TWICE!!  The third time, I finally decided to bite the bullet and read it.  Renegade is a great psychological thriller.  Evelyn Winters lives in a utopia below the ocean.  She's been raised to be the "daughter of the people" the paragon of perfect genetics and everything her people should be.  Her only duties are to listen to her people's petitions, to do what her mother tells her, and eventually to have children to pass on those perfect genetics.  It isn't until a surface dweller is introduced to her idyllic garden that she realizes that everything isn't what it seems.  Her memories have been altered and her world begins to unravel.


Literary Orange 2014: Maurene Goo

I started reading Since You Asked by Maurene Goo because, like main character Holly Kim, I went to high school in the San Diego suburb of Pacific Beach.  I can’t think of very many books set there! 

Although I would have liked more local details, it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of this humorous debut novel, because Goo does such a good job of evoking a high school milieu that could be anywhere.  Specifically, she captures the tension between cliques and individuals. 

Holly and her three best friends have made it through freshman year by keeping a low profile, and she expects the same strategy to work as a sophomore.  No such luck.  When a satiric school newspaper column that she penned as a joke is mistakenly published, everyone on campus knows who she is.  Not only that, she is persuaded by the journalism advisor to write an opinion column (which we get to read, interspersed with the narrative).

Another reason to appreciate this book is Goo’s convincing portrayal of the sometimes tense, but ultimately understanding relationship between Holly and her more traditional Korean American parents.  Tired of stricter rules than her peers live under, Holly defiantly sneaks off to a beach party in L.A., with disastrous results. 

Holly and her friends are interesting, well-rounded characters.  I’m looking forward to reading what Maurene Goo writes next.  In the meantime, come see her at Literary Orange on April 5, 2014.


Robert Jackson Bennett

George Carole is a naturally gifted pianist.  One for who notes seem to jump off the page, without any formal training.  While he seems to have all the natural gifts and talents in the world, and at 17 he has a beautiful life ahead of him, he is not happy with himself.  He needs to go out and find out who he is.  And he will not be happy until he finds out why the man he called “father” left.  So he sets out to find and confront the man who has haunted his very existence.  He goes out to find “The Troupe.”

Robert Jackson Bennett, in his novel, “The Troupe,” beautifully explores a myriad of themes while weaving a fantastical tale of light, darkness, creation and what it means to be called a family.  It’s a blending of the real world with fantastical elements, answering the questions of why we are here, and what our purpose is along the way.  George Carole has lived a relatively normal existence when he goes out in search of his father, albeit with his grandparents.  He did have a natural talent for music but everyone seems to have gifts and talents for which they seem to have no earthly explanation.

But George Carole’s father isn’t just like any other dad.  He’s a vaudevillian.  He’s on the road almost all year long, and when George gets to the entertainment circuit, he has to wait and bide his time until his dad arrives.  But when he finds out his dad is not going to come to the place where he is at, George sets out to go out and seek him himself.   What he ends up finding is like nothing he was ever going to expect.   Sure, the man that he had found was his father, only months prior, was not going to be exactly like he had imagined.  And a reunion with him was never going to go as planned.  But this was far more than George could possibly imagine.  So much that it is hard to take in.

In this new-found world of his father, there exist fairies, demons, wolves, ghosts, and monsters so terrible it's hard to even express.  George found himself in for far more than he could have possibly dreamed.  Bennett, however, does not leave us awestruck.  What is beautiful about this story is that it’s not only a fantastical tale that takes us from one end of the world to the other and beyond.  What’s beautiful about the story is that Bennett works hard to detail the small things in this incredible world.  It’s not only a larger story of light and darkness, good and evil, and the forces of nature.  It’s also a beautifully crafted tale of fathers and sons, racism, and what it means to love someone else.  TheTroupe is not just a tale about Vaudeville and its craziness.  It’s about life and how to live it, which is what any good story should be about.


A Problem and a (Partial) Solution

Global warming isn’t exactly the most light-hearted topic for our library blog, but I recently came across two items in OCPL that I just need to share:  a book, Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and a DVD, Chasing Ice.  

I’ve been reading Johnson’s blog for a while and was excited when her book came out.  (You
can check out her blog here.)  Years ago, she decided to tackle her family’s consumption and in the process, she learned tons of tips about how we can each do our part to keep our planet healthy.  Zero Waste Home details all the little things we can do to lessen our carbon footprint, while still enjoying life.  Some of the tips we know (bring your own bags to the grocery store), some we’re glad to learn (how to make your own cleaning products) and some are a little beyond most of our reach (compost your pet’s droppings).  But she shows us that it’s not all or nothing.  We can make a little change here and a little change there and still make a difference.

I found the documentary, Chasing Ice, randomly and am so glad I did.  The photographer, James Balog, places cameras in different parts of the world and for three years, these cameras take one photo every hour.  Not only do they capture natural beauty (this DVD contains some stunning imagery!), but they also document how the glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.  He doesn’t just give us numbers and data; he gives us photos, so we can see for ourselves.  Watching him plan the project and finally put it into action was inspiring.

Chasing Ice shows us the enormity of the problem of climate change, but Zero Waste Home shows us how we can take steps to help our planet right now.


Finding Luck at Age Twelve

The Thing About Luck by  Cynthia Kodohata a treasure trove of insights into the life of a twelve year old girl from Kansas who badly needs her family to find some Kouun which means "good luck" in Japanese. In the first paragraph Summer says that "Bad luck chased us around, pointing her bony finger." She lists seven flat tires in six weeks, her case of malaria from a mosquito bite and her grandmother's spine trouble starting to cause her excruciating pain. She also adds unexplainable random bad smells and the apparent new cloak of invisibility for her younger brother Jaz whose best friend has moved leaving him always alone and not noticed, unless he is having one of his tantrums because one of his Lego buildings is disturbed.  

To make matters worse Summer's parents have been suddenly called away to Japan to care for three elderly parents who were expected to die and wanted someone to care for them in their last weeks. So there goes her chance to enjoy her summer.  She will have to help take care of Jaz, a very "intense" boy who might be identified as somewhere in the high functioning autistic or Asperger spectrum, but has not been diagnosed with anything that any specialists can name.  And as the family is always desperate for extra money to pay the mortgage, she and her 67-year-old grandparents will have to be the ones to help with the wheat harvest for the summer as they travel south to Texas and work preparing the meals and driving the big rigs and combines as they follow the harvest north.

The rest of the story is a comedy of suspense and information. Her grandparents Obaachan and Jihan are hilarious. Grandmother Obaachan is the bossiest, insisting on old-fashioned Japanese rules and traditions while murdering the English language trying to bark her orders with current expressions such as "you in rah-rah land" or the favorite, "you grounded!" which happens almost daily. Jihan is more in tune with Summer's needs but enjoys constant bantering back and forth with his wife of an arranged marriage about such topics as who will die happiest or first.

As they join the harvest crew driving in the complex parade of combines, grain carts, and big rigs that haul them back and forth, the novel introduces a wealth of information about the tricky wheat harvesting process. The harvesters have to meet the wheat at the exact moment when it is perfectly ripe, often working through the night or days on end if rain is threatening. A damp crop can mean ruin. But when Obaachan's neck pain worsens at a critical time, Summer, who assists with the shopping and cooking for the crew, may have to take on far more than she ever imagined. And just to add to the interest, there is Summer's first young crush.

Newbery Award winner Kadohata seems to have outdone herself again, winning the 2013 National Book Award in the Young People's Literature category for this title. Even the most reluctant reader should enjoy this book. Kadohata currently resides in Los Angeles. Author visits or future Literary Orange catch anyone? There is a nice sample of the book found here as well as good information on other websites. Kodaharta has written a number of other books that are have historical or intercultural themes., including her Newbery Award winning Kira-Kira.  Another book at a picture book level which treats the theme of being Japanese American in days of early immigration is Alan Says's The Favorite Daughter.


Goodnight iPad

Ann Droyd’s (a.k.a. David Milgrim)  Goodnight iPad is an entertaining and clever book written for children that will also delight adults. It is a wonderfully executed parody of the children’s classic nighttime book Goodnight Moon, with the story line and graphics closely following the original. This is a book about turning off electronics for the night, will provide parents with a great discussion opener for children who won’t put down their iPad when it's time for bed. This story is a fun way to teach them to disconnect and enjoy a traditional bedtime story when winding down.  
The story is that of a multi-generational, family of rabbits, and their pets, so wired into technology that they ping, ding, and beep late into the night until the granny bunny desperate for sleep, shuts down their electronics and one by one they all drift off to sleep, until one little rabbit and his pet, sneak out of the covers to read a book; Goodnight Moon.

A short read that the readers will enjoy in both the text and the fun illustrations, which merit more than a cursory view.  A closer look with reward the reader with delightful and fun discoveries, perhaps not noticed in the first reading.

Much like the characters in the story, this is a fun multi-generational read. Although younger children may need a little help to understand all the references, the story has great wit, with a quirky sense of humor for our device-driven culture, and a moral for everyone who has trouble disconnecting to remind us to power down, and the ending ties it all together nicely.


Calling All Downton Abbey Fanatics

If you love Downton Abbey and are looking for books with the same feel you might like some of these books and DVDs. Some of the titles we've selected for you are classics and some are fresh newly published titles. Let us know what you think!


Longbourn by: Jo Baker

Habits of the House by: Fay Weldon

Long Live the King by: Fay Weldon

Ashenden by: Elizabeth Wilhide

The Shooting Party by: Isabel Colegate

The Buccaneers by: Edith Wharton

The Custom of the Country by: Edith Wharton

The American Heiress by: Daisy Goodwin

A Countess Below the Stairs by: Eva Ibbotson

The Go-Between by: L.P. Hartley

Brideshead Revisited by: Evelyn Waugh

The Remains of the Day by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Park Lane by: Frances Osbourne

The Uninvited Guests by: Sadie Jones

The House at Riverton by: Kate Morton

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by: Wendy Wax

The Suitors by: Cecile David-Weill


The Chronicles of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

The World of Downton Abbey by: Jessica Fellowes

Upstairs & Downstairs: The Illustrated Guide to the Real World of Downton Abbey by: Sarah Warwick

Below Stairs; and Servants’ Hall by Margaret Powell

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by: The Countess of Carnarvon


Upstairs Downstairs

Secrets of Highclere Castle

Haven't had a chance to become a fan because you haven't seen the show yet? Checkout the first season today! Click here to see if an OC Public Libraries branch near you has a copy available.



I first read Toni Morrison’s Beloved many years ago, and was thoroughly captivated by this powerful story of slavery and salvation.  Although it’s beautifully written, it can be challenging to read.  The book is not narrated chronologically, and I was confused by the multiple flashbacks recounted by a large cast of characters. I decided that Beloved is one of those books that needs to be read a second time to fully understand and appreciate. It has always been my intent to re-read this classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it.  Why revisit the harrowing account of runaway slave Sethe and her decision to murder her children rather than return them to a life of slavery, when there so many fun books to read instead?

Picking Beloved as a Book Club title provided the necessary incentive to tackle this book again, and more importantly Book Club members would have the benefit of discussing confusing plot points with others.  Reading Beloved was definitely easier the second time around.  As the story unfolds through the multiple narrative threads, each one providing more detail and building upon the previous, a cascading effect is developed, steam-rolling the reader to the horrific realization of Sethe’s ultimate act of defiance. 

Reaction from Book Club members varied.  Some found the book too confusing.  Some (like me) had read it before and appreciated the opportunity to read and discuss it again.  A few relied on Cliffs Notes. Eighteen years after the war and Sethe is still not free.  She’s haunted by her daughter’s ghost, a greedy and indulgent spirit who saps the life out of her mother.  How in the world does Sethe find the will to continue?  Fortunately, the community rallies behind her and the reader sees glimmers of hope and recovery at the end.

Book Club members agreed that Beloved is an important book that needs to be more widely read. Its dark depiction of slavery and its lasting effects is tough to read, but important to understand.  Members commented on the rekindled interest in slavery brought about by the Oscar-nominated movie Twelve Years a Slave (based on the book by Solomon Northup), and that an examination of our nation’s shameful legacy can help shed light on current societal challenges. 

Toni Morrison has created a powerful, gut-wrenching, truly amazing book.  I’m dazzled by its brilliance. I shouldn't have waited so long to read it again.


Paid For Looking Plain in 19th Century Paris

S'il vous plaĆ®t…do not judge the young adult novel Belle Epoque by its lovely cover art.  Or by the note underneath the title that it is “a novel of beauty and betrayal”.  To anyone picking up this book for the first time, the glamorous and pensive young woman on the cover – likely Maude, our heroine – and the note may give the mistaken impression that the novel is light-weight.  This is not the case.

 Belle Epoque is a very original and at the same time highly readable book for which its author, Elizabeth Ross, has just earned William C. Morris YA [Young Adult] Debut honors from the American Library Association.  These honors are given annually to “impressive new voices in young adult literature”. 

The year is 1888 and Maude Pichon is a sixteen-year-old from the Brittany region of France.  She has just moved to Paris to escape her father’s probable plans of marrying her off to the local much older and decidedly un-charming butcher.  It is a thrilling time to be in Paris. The Left Bank art scene is vibrant and the Eiffel Tower is being constructed in preparation for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair).
Desperate to make ends meet, Maude takes a position as a repoussoir at the Durandeau Agency.  Repoussoirs serve as “beauty foils” for the wealthy who can afford to hire them.  The basic idea is that a plain woman is paid through the agency to accompany a wealthy woman on social outings, with the idea that the former woman’s plainness will make the latter woman appear more attractive in contrast.  Author Ross notes that she was inspired to write her novel after reading a short story about this slightly horrifying concept by Emile Zola called Les Repoussoirs (1866).

Not surprisingly, Maude often finds her work repugnant and degrading.  However, she also becomes close friends with Isabelle, the daughter of her main client, who is also instrumental in helping Maude discover her passion for photography.  The unusual aspect of this friendship, though, is that Isabelle does not know that her mother has hired Maude as Isabelle’s beauty foil.  Maude becomes quite caught up in the world of her wealthy client and in doing so risks ruining her friendships with Isabelle and two others, including Paul, a young musician to whom she is drawn.    
I strongly recommend Belle Epoque to both teens and adults for its unique premise, Maude’s thoughtful narration of her experience and the novel’s thought-provoking treatment of its theme of beauty.  Ross approaches this theme from various angles, including whether physical beauty can ever be judged objectively and how our self-image – fueled by the positive and negative feedback that we receive from others -- can affect our motivation to move forward toward our goals.  Maude grows significantly during the novel, noting at one point that with her photography she wishes to capture “not the classical beauty of symmetry and exact proportions,” but rather “the beauty of a soul, that inner life that reveals itself so seldom, just for an instant, and only if you look closely and learn to see with an open heart”.  In our appearance-obsessed culture it is impossible not to identity with Maude on some level.  Reader, you will root for her all the way.  


Super Cute Award Winning Picture Book

Dog lovers young and old will appreciate this fun picture book. Anyone who has ever had a ball-obsessed dog will see their own dog in this book. While you might think a book would need more than one word to be exciting, Ball by Mary Sullivan proves that one word says it all. In this delightful book a playful dog spends all his waking hours, and even his dreaming ones, thinking about his red toy ball. His owner indulges him, but when she leaves for school he is left to his own devices. Funny and unique illustrations and a hopeful little dog make it no wonder that this book was selected as A 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. I loved this book and think you might too!