Teen Book Talk features book, movie, and local event reviews written by local teen writers. This week, we’re sharing a review of an older teen book, An Ember in the Ashes.

Teen reviewers select which books and movies they’d like to review, and also which local events to attend and review. All opinions are those of the reviewers. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Sahana N., Teen Reviewer

Book Title: An Ember in The Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Book Format: Book

Year of Publication: 2015

Appeal: 6th – 9th Grade

Rating: 5

Laia of Serra, a slave girl, and Elias Veturius, one of the finest and chief soldiers for the Empire, could not live more different lives. But what they don’t realize is that they could also not lead more special lives, because they are both Embers in the Ashes. Laia of Serra is a 17-year-old Scholar girl, afraid of the Empire and her past. One day, Laia’s brother, Darin, is arrested for treason to the Empire. Frozen in fear, while the “masks” invade her home, Laia runs at Darin’s commands. Escaping, all she can think about is her cowardliness so she sets out to find the Resistance, in hopes that they will help free Darin. But all good things come with a price… Laia is forced to spy for the Resistance within the premises of the dangerous military academy of Blackcliff.

Elias can’t be free from his conscience. Reluctant and hesitant to kill, and unwilling to carry out the Empire’s brutal orders, Elias, isn’t sure what he wants: to follow his orders and become the exact person he hates or rebel against the Empire and be what he has been prepared and instructed to fight. When he finishes his training as a mask, a special announcement is made that pits Elias against his own heart and deepest wishes. When Elias meets Laia, with her gleaming golden eyes and silky hair as black as the night, they are both forced to make choices that could quite easily get them killed or lead them to the future they’ve both always wanted.

The way Sabaa Tahir spins Laia and Elias’s tale takes you for a whirl as you make your way through unexpected and exciting twists and turns, and you never really know what’s lurking around the corner. This book is my current favorite because a world is created that makes you laugh, wonder, and at times feel like crying. The characters are strong people who discover things about themselves and in doing so allow you to learn about yourself too. At first when I was reading the beginning of the book, I honestly thought it was going to be a book that would leave me disappointed, but I have to say that this was not the case. In fact, I was actually jumping to read the sequel. If you’ve ever enjoyed classic well-known books like Divergent, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter or even some of the newest Young Adult series like Red Queen and the Selection, then this book is perfect for you. It has the greatest mix of action, a bit of fantasy, and romance. An Ember in the Ashes is an unforgettable and truly thrilling first installment in the series.

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Calling all teens! Did you know that there are weekly book-related contests at the Dublin Library this summer? Stop by the teen area each week (Monday afternoon through the following Monday morning) and fill out an entry form with your answers to the week’s contest. Last week we had book title anagrams up on the board, and this week (June 19th – June 26th in the morning) we have a character matching game. Match the character names to the book cover to which the characters’ belong. We’ll pick on lucky entry from those that guess all the characters correctly.

In addition, we will save all correct entry forms each week to enter into a grand prize drawing. The grand prize winner will be announced the first week of August. These contests are open for teens ages 13-18. These programs are sponsored with the generous support of the Dublin Friends of the Library.

Teen Book Talk features reviews by local teen writers. This week, we’re sharing a review of another movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The DVD is now available to place on hold at the library (there is currently quite a long hold list!)

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Neha H., Teen Reviewer

Name of Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release Date: November 18, 2016

MPAA Rating : PG-13

My rating : 4 stars

Genre : Fantasy, action, thriller

Set roughly seventy years before the timeline of the Ha rry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first entry in a five-part series of prequels that will focus on the events leading up to the climactic duel between Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. With a screenplay penned by J.K. Rowling, F anta stic Beasts is directed by David Yates, and produced by David Heyman and Steve Kloves — all of whom worked on the original Harry Potter film ser ies. The film follows the adventures of British magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), after he arrives in 1920s New York City with a briefcase filled with magical creatures.

Newt finds himself directly in the midst of the sudden chaos and turmoil that wreak havoc on New York streets; the mayhem gradually reveals the longstanding tension and deep distrust between the American magical community and the “No-Majs” (non-magical people, the equivalent of Muggles). Although Newt evidently prefers the company of the beloved creatures he carries with him, he encounters demoted Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her Legilimens sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (Dan Fogler), all of whom help him in his quest to save the American Wizarding World from total anarchy.

Each of the actors deliver superb performances; Oscar-winner Redmayne, in particular, perfectly captures the charisma and charm of Newt. While not quite as emotionally powerful and gripping as on the page, Rowling’s talent still shines through her screenwriting; she expertly conveys the developing relationships between the characters through memorable lines of dialogue.

The thrilling, fast-paced action sequences are supplemented by a lilting score courtesy of James Newton Howard ( The Hunger Games, T he Dark Knight, Maleficent), who incorporates snippets of John Williams’ classic “Hedwig’s Theme” along with refreshingly original elements. However, a few scenes in the middle of the film seem a bit too drawn out, and the magical creatures — which were promoted as the core of Fantastic Beasts — are quickly forgotten in the midst of the action. Nevertheless, Fantastic Beasts makes for an entertaining fantasy adventure sure to enchant audiences; moreover, its underlying commentary about the dangers of intolerance and paranoia is just as riveting as it is deeply unsettling.

This week for Teen Book Talk, our teen reviewer shares her views on a teen novel, Mosquitoland, by David Arnold.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Esha C., Teen Reviewer

mosquitolandBook Title: Mosquito Land

Author: David Arnold

Format: Book

Year Of Publication: 2015

Who Will This Book Appeal To: Readers who enjoy books by John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Jandy Nelson.

Rating: 4/5 stars


In David Arnold’s Mosquito Land, main character, Mim Malone, decides to drop everything, leave home, and go find her mother. She hops on a bus with some cash, and an address, hoping to finally find some closure about her mother’s disappearance and the lack of communication that they’d had for months. Throughout her journey, Mim encounters various interesting people, and develops fleeting friendships as she finds her way closer and closer to finally seeing her mother again. By the end of the novel, Mim has reached new levels of acceptance and has learned to open up her heart in ways she didn’t think were possible before. 

 

I really enjoyed this book. The plot took a lot of interesting turns, so I never got bored while I was reading it. This book is similar (the writing style) to books by John Green, Jandy Nelson, and Rainbow Rowell, so I think that readers who enjoy the Young Adult and Realistic Fiction type novels will really enjoy this book. (There is no material in the book that would make anyone want to stop reading or uncomfortable.)

 

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer shares his take on the end of a series, with a discussion about the last title in the Daniel X: Alien Hunter series. This book is book six, and entitled, Daniel X: Lights Out by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. (The library only owns book six in ebook format. Click on the title here to link to the catalog listing for the ebook).

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Justin L., Teen Reviewer

lights-outTitle: Daniel X – Lights Out

Author: James Patterson

Book Format: Book

Year of Publication: 2015

Appeals to: Preteens and early teens

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In Lights Out, the sixth (and final) book in the Daniel X Alien Hunter series, Daniel has already taken down most of the aliens on the List (a list of alien outlaws plotting to commit evil crimes on Earth). The only one left is Number One, known as “The Prayer”, a giant praying mantis with dreadlocks, immense strength, an enormous intellectual capacity, the ability to warp space and time, and no conscience. The Prayer killed Daniel’s parents when he was three years old, so Daniel has a personal grudge against it. Not only that, the Prayer also opened up a black hole to destroy all life on Earth, and it’s up to Daniel to stop it before it’s too late.

I actually did not enjoy this book very much. The main character’s narration had the sarcastic humor used throughout the series, but the plot did not pull me in. There was a lot less action in this book than all the books preceding it, which was disappointing considering Daniel was supposed to be fighting the worst and strongest of all the alien outlaws. The plot was also confusing, with Daniel leaping around through time and then immediately leaping to another time and place while the Prayer followed him (although this demonstrated the “amazingness” of the powers of the Prayer, it wasn’t very interesting as the List already gives the reader a long list of everything that the Prayer can do). There were also random hospitals, fake parents, real parents (who shouldn’t have been able to come back after their souls were scattered in Book 5), and many other details in the story that were confusing. The whole concept of souls (not discussed in depth in any of the books prior, first mentioned, briefly, in Book 5) was also suddenly thrust upon the reader in the middle of the book, and the discrepancies between what the characters said about what souls can do and what the souls actually did in the book only serves to confuse the reader more. In my opinion this book did not do a good job wrapping up the series and I wouldn’t recommend this book (however I would recommend Game Over, Book 4 in the series; I liked that one better).

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer shares a review of a classic novel, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Esha C., Teen Reviewer

brave-new-worldBook Title: Brave New World

Author: Aldous Huxley

Format: Book

Year Of Publication: 1932

Who Will This Book Appeal To: Readers who like science fiction and books about utopian/dystopian societies

Rating: 4/5 stars

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is an amazing book about the future. Well, when it was first written in 1932, the book was the author’s “prediction” about what society would be like in the future (around the year 2020). Right now, 2020 is not too far away, and after reading Brave New World it is blatantly clear that the society in the book looks nothing like our world today.  Brave New World centers around the utopian society called the World State, which is composed of five classes of citizens: the Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The novel also centers around a character named John, who is exposed to the World State after growing up in a reservation that isn’t affected by the utopian world. Brave New World is one of the most amazing books I’ve read.  At first it was really difficult for me to understand what was going on, but as I read more and more of the book, the story and characters became extremely interesting.  Brave New World is a book about a utopian/dystopian society, but it doesn’t involve any rebellions or revolutions the way that The Hunger Games or Divergent do. Instead, the book focuses on the injustices of the lives of the citizens in John’s eyes. While everybody leads a happy and content life, John argues that it’s wrong that none of the citizens get to feel or understand love, pain, or emotion in exchange for maintaining a stable society. I think that this book provides a very much needed fresh breath of air for readers who enjoy utopian/dystopian novels, and I definitely recommend others to read this book. (This book has no content that would make anyone feel uncomfortable or unwilling to continue reading the book).

 

 

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer shares a review of an adult novel, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Neha H., Teen Reviewer

the-alchemistBook Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Book Format: Book

Year of Publication: 1988

Likely Appeals to: Ages 14+

Rating: 4 stars


“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.”
― from The Alchemist


Brazilian author Paulo Coelho weaves together an enchanting and compelling tale in The Alchemist, first published in Portuguese in 1988 and later translated in over 67 languages after becoming an international bestseller. The novella chronicles the physical, mental, and spiritual journey of Santiago, a young Andalusian shepherd, as he leaves his homeland in Spain to travel to the Egyptian desert in pursuit of an unknown treasure. Along the way, he encounters several symbolic figures who offer him counsel during his journey ‐ including an aged Gypsy woman, the biblical king of Salem, and the titular alchemist.


Coehlo’s writing is simple yet evocative; he expertly conveys Santiago’s conflicted emotions as he embarks upon a quest to fulfill his destiny. The Alchemist is no ordinary coming‐of‐age tale: it is an uplifting fable with a poignant message of fulfilling our so‐called “Personal Legends” ‐ following our dreams and listening to our hearts. As a protagonist, Santiago’s incredible courage, self‐righteousness, and knowledge of the world is the perfect fit for a novella filled with this type of inspirational wisdom.