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Read Karen MacPherson's essays, reviews, and interviews with authors.

August 27, 2014


P.S. Your Not Listening by Eleanor Craig 
reviewed by Joel 

Mental illnesses have always interested me. I've always been curious as to how certain people act under certain circumstances. P.S Your Not Listening is an excellent book that explores how children with serious mental or emotional issues function. It follows a teacher, Mrs. Craig, who is also the author. She is hired at a typical school to teach a class of so-called special and unteachable students. Their actions and reactions are incredibly interesting to witness, and her struggles with their problems along with her own add a very personal aspect to the book.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes the psychological sort of genre, but truly anyone could enjoy it.

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August 26, 2014

Real SF

Manifold:Time by Stephen Baxter 
reviewed by Isaac 

Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Time is a thrilling journey through space and time, plus loads of adventure. One of the most ambitious books I have ever read, Baxter's instant classic tells the story of Reid Malenfant, a wealthy businessman who attempts to bring man to the stars while his society, a disturbing future America, has descended into chaos. Hunted at home and faced with urgent messages from the future, he must gamble the very existence of time and space on a desperate final mission. Flying in the face of doomsday predictions with a heart-pounding romp through alternate realities and universes, Malenfant uncovers the true nature of time and its implications for the fate of humans.

Sprinkled with a bit of romance along with mind-bending science and incredibly vivid imagery, Manifold: Time is an experience not to be missed. Beyond the dazzling scenery and sudden plot twists, the book poses a chilling question about human nature: why are we here and what does our future really hold? If you are a hard-core science fiction fan or simply a casual believer in the impossible, this book is for you.

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August 25, 2014


Cold Cereal by Adam Rex 
reviewed by Gabby 

Have you ever wondered about what's in your breakfast cereal? Cold Cereal by Adam Rex exists somewhere between reality and fantasy. The Goodco Cereal company and its secrets are investigated by new student Scottish "Scott" Doe. Accompanied by his friends Emily and Erno Wilson (and possibly some mythical creatures,) Scott unfurls the secrets of Goodco.

Rex's style of writing is enjoyable because his characters are very often sarcastic, humorous, and troubled like many people are in everyday life. In addition, Cold Cereal is packed with action and secrets, along with some literal secret ingredients.

Rex uses cereal humor, often opening up sections of the book with comic-strip style commercials, and using the paper jacket of the book like a nutrition information box. He blends together fantasy characters like Mick, a "clurichaun," and Harvey, a talking rabbit, and "the Good Folk," or the "Fey," who are mythical creatures with "glamour,", magical abilities. The mix of these two elements is very intriguing, and I'd say that Cold Cereal is a page-turner that isn't easy to put down!

Posted by library at 10:36 AM   VIEW FULL POST

August 24, 2014

12th Night

Twelfth Night by Shakespeare 
reviewed by Sara 

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, although eloquently written and difficult for some readers, is a memorable read that will keep you laughing out loud. Sebastian is Viola's identical twin brother. His ship has sunk and Sebastian is supposedly dead. Viola finds herself in the faraway land of Illyria. Even though she is a princess, Viola decides to disguise herself as a man due to the war and she goes off to work for the Count Orsino. The Count Orsino loves a woman by the name of Olivia and will do whatever he can to woo her, but things aren't that easy. Olivia's brother has recently died and she is still overcoming the trauma of it all. In her woe, she denies the company of any man. Count Orsino grows fond of the loyal Viola who has disguised herself as a man by the name of Cesario. Count Orsino sends Cesario to woo Olivia for him but Viola is in love with Count Orsino.

As the story unfolds the reader will slowly understand the love triangle and many suprises and side stories. The play is a lot of fun to read and even funnier to watch! This a good entertaining classic that many will enjoy.

Librarians Note: We will be following the edX course, Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance, this fall with Sunday afternoon discussion sessions. Sign up for the course now, and we will post additional information about the Sunday sessions soon.

Librarian's Second Note: Though it is indeed implied in the text that Sebastian and Viola are identical twins, such twins by division cannot be of different genetic sex. Boy/Girl twin pairs are fraternal.

How have you made division of yourself?
An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin
Than these two creatures.

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August 23, 2014

Grimm Tales

A Tale Dark And Grimm by Adam Gidwitz 
reviewed by Maya 

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz is a gruesome twist on the fairy tales we all know and love and I enjoyed every minute of it! This book is a mash-up of fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and The Three Little Bears. Follow along in this adventurous, dark tale as they sneak their way though the dark forest meeting obstacles greater than a foolish witch. They even recruit an army to fight a drunken dragon! The narrator's interjecting comments add humorous thoughts as a break from the nightmarish stories. Great for kids with a different way of looking at the simplest bed time stories. This story is perfect for a night in front of a crackling fire.

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz 
reviewed by Gabby 

In a Glass Grimmly is the sequel to Adam Gidwitz's first popular book, A Tale Dark and Grimm. Both are very similar, however they are both equally different. In a Glass Grimmly follows the story of popular nursery rhyme characters, Jack and Jill, who are cousins in this book. The two cousins go on many daring adventures, based on many familiar stories like Jack and the Beanstalk, and some less known, like the tale of the Eidechse Von Feuer, Der Menschenfleischfressende, better known as Eddie.

I believe that the reason why Gidwitz's stories have been so popular is that they are very adventurous, with clever and brave characters, who often discover many things about themselves along their journeys. Additionally, the stories are (sometimes) slightly gory, so many older students and readers may find that the real story of the usually adorable fairy tales is much better and curious.

I find that the best thing about the book is the characters. Jack and Jill are portrayed as children in the age range of ten to thirteen, who are living in the shadow of their idols, and are very clever. This is proven when Jill outsmarts giants in The Giant Killer, "‘I challenge you all to show me the food in your bellies!’ Jill bellowed…[she] turned to Meas. Very slowly, very clearly, she said, ‘Bring us knives… ’ Jill raised the knife above her head. Then she brought the knife down and buried it in her stomach. It entered her body just above the belt; from there she drew it up the length of her enormous belly." Also, the children are brave, shown when they face fear in The Others. Gidwitz writes, "The walls, the ceiling, the floor were all made of bone… Jack looked at Jill. She nodded."

Lastly, Gidwitz delivers a very important message in his book: "To find what ye seek, look no further," which can be interpreted to mean that you must be happy with who you are and not let others tell you who to be. In summary, In a Glass Grimmly is an incredible book, expecially with astounding characters and an amazing moral.

Author's web site
Previous post about the Grimm books

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August 22, 2014

Death of Lincoln

Killing Lincoln
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard 
reviewed by Joel 

Your parents probably do not like the author of this book. Bill O'Reilly is a very conservative talk show host, and seeing that we are in Takoma Park, your parents are very probably not conservative. My parents are included in that boat. However, O'Reilly's views are barely, if at all, noticeable throughout the book. The build up to the assassination is incredibly well written, keeping you engrossed and making the book hard to put down. It is an excellent historical book, since it is both accurate and exciting. Unfortunately, some people have claimed that there are multiple historical inaccuracies within the book, although O'Reilly himself claims that the criticisms are a "concerted effort by people who donít like me to diminish the book".

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most interesting and important people in American history, and everyone really ought to know about him. Despite the possible inaccuracies, I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes history, and also to anyone who doesnít know much about Lincoln. Considering you see him every day on the penny or five-dollar bill, you really should know who he was.

Librarian's Note: Some of the library staff also found this a captivating read.

Posted by library at 09:49 AM   VIEW FULL POST

August 21, 2014

6 Reviews from Sarah

Matched by Ally Condie 
reviewed by Sarah 

This is a story about a girl named Cassia. In her society, teenagers are matched at age 17 and they find who they are most compatible with. Cassia's nervous about the big day and wishes her best friend Xander the best of luck. Cassia waits anxiously to see her match and is surprised and relieved when she sees that it is Xander. She receives a case which has additional information about Xander in it.

One day when she opens the case she sees another boy's face: Ky Markham. Cassia doesn't know who she is really matched with and who her true love is. She's closer to Xander but her relationship with Ky is growing and growing into something more. She's conflicted about her love and is doubtful about what her society really is and what it's hiding. If you enjoy this book there are also other books in this series, following this one, Crossed and Reached . I recommend this book to people that like to read speculative fiction and dystopian novels. This is a good read for many teenage readers and I recommend it to readers of all ages.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card 
reviewed by Sarah 

Ender Wiggins is a child genius and is unbelievably strong. He has been watched for the majority of his life and is sent off to Battle School in outer space to train to fight in the war against the buggers and save humanity. Ender is only nine years old when he becomes a platoon leader in this school and can fight on professional level. He gets bullied by the bigger, less intelligent kids at this school due to his brilliance but he doesn't let it affect him too much. Ender proves to be the promising leader that world leader thought he would be and develops good fighting and thinking skills and is able to easily adapt into the Battle School and eventually, the command school life. Ender knows though that the buggers don't really want to fight the humans and he becomes determined to win the war and find them a home. This book is much like Insignia by S.J. Kincaid so I recommend it to those who like the Insignia series.

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner 
reviewed by Sarah 

Michael is a gamer on Virtnet, a virtual world in which one sleeps in a coffin and enters an virtual world that tests hacking and life skills but feels so realistic that it might as well be for real. This game is extremely addictive and allows people with money to enter their fantasy worlds, to risk their lives but not have to worry about the effects of dying because they come back to life anyways, and are just to have fun.

But things aren't always fun and games when in Virtnet. A mysterious gamer with hacking skills beyond human ability is brainwashing gamers one by one and his motive is unclear. Michael and his friends, Sarah and Bryon, are asked to find Kaine and bring him down, but lives are at stake. Gamers are entering Virtnet and never leaving a trace of their existence. Sarah, Bryon, and Michael are now putting their own lives at stake, and Kaine knows their coming and will do everything in his power to stop them. For fans of the Maze Runner series, your favorite author is back, better than ever. This book is action packed and very adventurous and I recomend it to all teenagers that want a good free read.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green 
reviewed by Sarah 

Colin has only dated Katherines. In fact, he's dated a total of 19 Katherines. And he's been dumped by every single one of them. This time, he's suffering from the break-up of his 19th Katherine, the one he had been in love with for the longest. Finally out of his depression, he and his friend Hassan embark on a road trip that stops once they reach the town of Gutshot. Colin is a child prodigy and to many people a genius, but he doesn't see himself as a genius. To Colin, a prodigy copies what geniuses have done and genius must create something original. Colin doesn't want to be just another prodigy. He wants to be a genius, and he wants a Eureka moment.

Colin and Hassan stay in Gunshot under the roof of one of their new friends, Lindsay. Colin attempts to make a equation about his theory of love that will help him predict the outcome of a relationship. He thinks that this could earn him the true title of genius. Colin mainly focuses on his theorem but he starts to fall in love with Lindsay who happens to have another boyfriend, coincidentally by the name of Colin. I highly recommend this book to teenagers who want a good laugh and a love story.

Animal Farm by George Orwell 
reviewed by Sarah  

Animal Farm by George Orwell is an allegory of the Russian Revolution. On Mr. Jones' Manor Farm in England, there is the start of a revolution. Old Major, a prize wining boar, calls a meeting of all the animals in the barn. He addresses the issue of animal injustice. Old Major tells these animals about a dream, a dream where all animals live in peace together without humans to oppress them. These animals take into consideration what Old Major says and three days later Old Major dies and is butchered. This sparks a revolution. The animals drive Mr. Jones and his wife off their farm and decided to run their own farm and carry on Old Major's dream. They follow the principles of their so-called animalism and prosper with their new leadership, the pigs. Animals now live without conflict and without human control but how different really are these animals and humans?

I enjoyed this story a lot and hope many other readers of all ages will also appreciate and understand it.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'engle 
reviewed by Sarah 

Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin are outcasts and just want to be normal. One night a stranger comes to the Murry 's house and brings the three children on a mystical, extraordinary, and perilous adventure through time and into a distant universe. Their fate lies in their ability to defeat an evil brain, IT, who uses its powers to brainwash everyone and to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace's father. This is a fantastical adventure classic that has earned its place on many bookshelves. I recommend this classic to everyone and it is a book every well read person needs to read.

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Fayette Street

The Corner by David Simon and Edward Burns 
reviewed by John 

The Corner is the true story of one year in the life of a family living in inner city Baltimore. Powerful and moving, it follows three family members as they stumble their way through addiction. Fifteen-year-old DeAndre McCullough is a dealer and a teen father. Gary, DeAndre's father, is a hopeless addict, battling cocaine and heroin at the same time. And Fran, DeAnde's mother, once poised to raise the family out of Baltimore and away from the drug corner forever, has come back to drugs as well.

The corner is the center of their world; it is where the police arrest, the touts sell, where those addicts await that high that they desperately seeking. The corner, to them at least, provides a feeling of stability that the family lacks. Brutally accurate, it shows us the utter disparity of drugs. And it gives us a real, completely true, illuminating look at how the Corner takes away your money, your friends, your family, and finally, your life.

Simon on the death of DeAndre McCullough
NYT obit
Simon's recent Sports Illustrated article about the Orioles
An earlier NPR interview with Ed Burns, former Baltimore detective and Simon's co-writier.

Posted by library at 11:13 AM   VIEW FULL POST

July 22, 2014


Insignia by SJ Kincaid 
reviewed by Sarah 

Tom Raines lives in the future during the time of World War III. He is poor and gambles for money. In this world, people gamble with video games. Tom always wins these games and uses the money he makes to support his dad and himself.

One day, a general from the combatants (the supernatural warriors in World War III) is watching Tom play and wants to recruit him. Tom leaves his father to go join the Combatants and fight. Combatants are the smartest, strongest, and fastest people in the world. In order to measure up to these standards, Tom is given a computer chip which is placed in his brain. He uses this to download information, speed up his thought process and provide perfect photographic memory. He is also given growth hormone bars to make him taller, faster, and stronger.

Tom trains and becomes the strongest fighter. He engages in the war and learns and befriends a combatant on the other side. Tom also aces other struggles and other enemies within his own territory.

This is one of the best books I have ever read and I highly recommend it to teens who like adventure and speculative fiction.

Librarian's Note:
SJ Kincaid's Blog
Insignia Playlist

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Chasing Vermeer

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett 
reviewed by Gabby 

"On a warm October night in Chicago, three deliveries were made in the same neighborhood." Just by reading the first sentence of Chasing Vermeer, I was already curious about the book. The author's style of writing made the book interesting; the way that she is mysterious yet still makes it possible for the reader to envision the scene in their mind is, in my opinion, a very hard thing to achieve.

We do not meet Chasing Vermeer's main characters until the second chapter. Calder is a thoughtful boy and Petra is an extremely smart girl. Balliet introduces the characters in a school classroom, and by doing so helps the reader feel that the characters are familiar. The main plot of the story is that the characters must find an "invaluable Vermeer painting." Backed by their extensive knowledge of pentominoes and most topics in general, Calder and Petra work together to prove that you can do anything, regardless of who you are.

Overall, I found Chasing Vermeer a very enjoyable story and would suggest it to any open-minded reader seeking a mystery.

Who is Blue Balliett?

Posted by library at 10:26 AM   VIEW FULL POST

July 21, 2014


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 
reviewed by Joel 

I'll start this review off by saying this is one of the best books I have ever read. However, it is not for kids. Don't read this if you cannot handle sexual themes. Seriously. On the surface, Middlesex is a story about the transformation of a person born as a girl, Calliope, into a man, but it is much more than that. It deals a lot with the history of the narrator's family, starting in Greece during the Balkan Wars, At the end of the history part of his book, Eugenides goes into the story of Calliope, or Callie. Her epic journey from woman to man is flawlessly chronicled by Eugenides, and every page is filled with details and beautiful insight into the human mind. I would genuinely recommend this book to anyone, not only because it addresses an important social issue, but just because it is so darn fun to read.

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