GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: Great Historical Fiction

Teens Blog BannerHistorical fiction is a funny thing.  I find when I read it that a lot of times, it feels a lot like reading fantasy.  Not because all fantasy is based in historical times (although much of it is,) but because often the time period I’m reading about is so different from our own times that it might as well be another world.  That said, historical fiction does offer something fantasy can’t – a fresh look at a real event.  Fantasy can offer perspective on human actions, and sometimes even re-write history.  But the historical fiction perspective is something different.  Good historical fiction thrives on good research, but is of course fiction, which allows for this new perspective.  And speaking for myself, historical fiction almost always teaches me something or makes me interested in learning something about the period.

But of course most importantly, good historical fiction – like any good fiction – is fun to read.  So check out these historical fiction novels set in Tudor England:

Blog Entry 34 - Image 1The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope – This is the book that made me think of the Tudor period for this list.  The Perilous Gard is one of my absolute favorite books, and Kate is one of my absolute favorite heroines.  When Kate is banished at Queen Mary’s order, she is taken to a house arrest of sorts at the Perilous Gard, an isolated castle in the forests of England owned by the Heron family.  There she finds a mystery surrounding her host and his brother, as well as rumors about an ancient and dangerous race of fairies.  Before she knows it, her curiosity gets her much more deeply involved with the Herons and the Fair Folk than she could have imagined.

Blog Entry 34 - Image 2Tarnish, by Katherine LongshoreTarnish is one of admittedly many takes on Anne Boleyn, looking at her life at court before she became queen, and her relationship with courtier Thomas Wyatt.  Anne is an outcast when she first comes to court, and struggles to find a place.  When Thomas Wyatt takes her under his wing, he assures her that if she plays his game, she will find acceptance at court.  Anne agrees, but what neither of them count on is that the stakes of their game will be raised when they start to fall for each other…and Anne attracts the attention of King Henry VIII.

Blog Entry 34 - Image 3VIII, by H.M. Castor – This book is another story involving King Henry VIII, but this time from his own perspective.  VIII introduces us to Hal, the young Henry before he became king.  He is a good fighter, an idealist, and determined to not rule like his family has.  But as Hal grows into all his powers and privileges as King Henry VIII, it will be harder to escape his past – and harder to control his future.  Like BBC’s The Tudors, VIII starts with a Henry very different from the fat balding man with a string of deserted and dead wives behind him that most of us are used to thinking of.  But throughout the novel, Castor shows us how he became that man.

Blog Entry 34 - Image 4The Fool’s Girl, by Celia ReesShakespeare in Love gave us one suggestion about the inspiration for Twelfth Night, but The Fool’s Girl gives us a wholly new one.  Violetta is the daughter of Viola and Orsino, the lead characters in Twelfth Night.  She arrives in England, accompanied by the fool Feste, to try and stop a plot of the villainous Malvolio.  There she meets Shakespeare, who hears her story – leading to him writing his famous play – and assists her and Feste.  Combining characters from Shakespeare’s plays and historical figures of his time, The Fool’s Girl will appeal to fans of Shakespeare, fans of historical fiction, and fans of engaging and awesome heroines.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Announcing Homework Cafe

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 33 - ImageNew program announcement!  Late Night Study was awesome you guys.  At least for us.  And I hope, despite the studying, for you all.  You certainly seemed to enjoy it, based on the amount of pizza eaten and hot chocolate drunk.  So much so, that I started thinking it seems unfair to only offer that twice a year.  Plus, I noticed how many teenagers come to the library every day after school, and how you’re usually working your butts off.

So going back to my old “how to make anything in the world better” standby, I decided that hot chocolate and caffeine are obviously the best way to make the daily homework grind better.  So a couple weeks ago, we launched “Homework Café” – your one-stop shop for study space and hot drinks after school.

Every Thursday afternoon from 2:30-4:30, we will be serving coffee and hot chocolate in the Teen Scene for teenagers.  Like Late Night Study, you can take your drink anywhere in the library (as long as it’s covered!) or stay in our awesome teen room to study, chat, or whatever else you’re whiling away your after school time with.

I’m excited that this program has already gone smoothly twice in a row, and I’m looking forward to fulfilling your chocolate and caffeine needs for the rest of the semester!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Why I Love…The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Teens Blog BannerThis may already be obvious, but when I love something, I tend to really love it, and talk about it a lot.  Which is why you’ll often see me mention the same authors or books several times – it’s not really conscious, I just can’t help myself.  So I thought I’d try doing a few posts explaining why I love these particular authors or books (or characters or movies or TV shows or whatevers) so much.  I’m not promising I will stop referencing them, but maybe it’ll get them out of my system just a little bit.

Blog Entry 32 - ImageToday, I thought I’d start with one of the worst offenders, The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson.  I believe I’ve included this book in at least two or three lists and personally recommended it to at least a few people.  There’s so much good about it that I can’t possibly write about it all in one short blog entry.  But I’ll try!So just why do I love this series so much?

Because Elisa is wicked cool and strong without it being all about physical strength – Look, I love Katniss, Tris, and a good workout as much as the next person.  But both Katniss and Tris rely a lot on their physical prowess and strength to survive, to win, to accomplish their goals.  It’s wonderful to see a different type of heroine.  Elisa reminds me of Hermione a little bit in her book-smartness, but she’s got something else going too.  Although it takes her a while to realize it and let this skill flourish, Elisa also has people-smarts.  She understands people, including how to manipulate them, and she uses this.  She’s not physically weak – very early on in the first book, she kills a man to protect someone – but she is much more reliant on her mental and emotional abilities than her physical ones.

Because Hector! – I hope I’m not spoiling too much when I say that Hector becomes a big character in this series, even moreso after the first book.  And he is wonderful.  It’s so great to see a fascinating, complicated, attractive male character who does all this without being “bad” in any way shape or form.  It would be so easy to make Hector interesting by giving him a much darker side than he really has.  It would also be really easy for Hector, since he is so freaking good, to be extremely boring.  But Carson does a masterful job of creating a complex, complicated and charming character without making him bad or boring.

Because Elisa is not even close to thin, and that’s okayAnd – Elisa never gets skinny.  It’s just so dang refreshing to read about.  Granted, at the start of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa has an unhealthy relationship with food.  She eats when she’s not hungry, she eats as comfort, as protection.  She eats without thinking about it, often to the point of discomfort.  She is dominated by her food cravings.  BUT – never once is her weight the problem.  Only her relationship with food.  And when – minor spoiler – she has no choice but to eat less and exercise more, she is still not skinny.  Yes, she loses some weight.  Yes, she breaks her unhealthy food cycles.  Yes, she gains muscle and physical strength.  But she’s never going to be a skinny girl – which doesn’t make her any less of an amazing heroine, doesn’t make her any less attractive to people who matter, and doesn’t stop her from enjoying the heck out of some really delicious honey cakes.

Add on top of all these things some really outstanding world-building and character development, and I just can’t think of any reason not to love The Girl of Fire and Thorns series.  Don’t believe me?  Read it yourself and find out!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Pets and Clothes?

Teens Blog BannerOkay guys, I’m still sick of winter, despite the warmer days, and I think it’s starting to sap my inspiration.  So instead of any discussion about a famous literary character, or a booklist, or anything librarian-ish and literature-ish like that, I’m going to my old standby for humor and cheerfulness – adorable pictures of animals.  So I present to you:

Five Reasons You Should Not Embarrass Your Pet With Clothing

1. The results can veer disturbingly into the uncanny valley.

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2. Your adorable pig might start plotting murder.

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3. Your cat will definitely start plotting, then commit, murder.

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4. That shirt will have hair in it FOREVER.

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5. You will NEVER get over this kind of guilt!

Blog Entry 31 - Image 7  Blog Entry 31 - Image 6

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Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Midwinterblood

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 30 - ImageSo now that the American Library Association has announced their youth media award winners, I’m back on lots of award reading!  Currently the book of choice is the winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

What I’m Reading Now: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumor has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visitor arrives. He is greeted warmly, but something is wrong. Something is hidden on the far side of the island. Something that, as if in a dream, he cannot reach.

And so it is that under the light of the waxing and waning moon, seven stories unfold: the story of an archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact; of an airman who finds himself far from home; of a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking. And the story of a love so primal and passionate it slips the bonds of time.

This is the story of Midwinterblood.

Do I Like It: Let’s just say it is abundantly clear why this book won an award!

Thoughts: I don’t even know where to start with Midwinterblood.  In a way it’s like a short story collection, except that the same two characters appear in some form in all the stories.  And each story is part of a larger story, so it has a much more connected narrative thread.  That I’m reading backwards.  I kind of want to go back to re-read all the chapters in reverse order when I’m done.  And I guess that says something, that I’m not even done yet and I already want to re-read it!

So, this kind of confused excitement is most of what I feel about Midwinterblood, but I’ll try to give a little more of a review.  The characters of Eric and Merle, two connected souls finding each other through different lives, are what hold the novel together and bring each shorter episode into the larger story.  Each story in Midwinterblood so far has been really unique, despite the fact that they all have Eric and Merle in them.  But the stories are so different tonally, and the characters come at different ages and with different relationships to each other, so each story feels fresh.  Some of them – like the opening story – get my “doom sense” tingling.  Other ones, like “The Painter”, have more of a sad sweetness about them.  Nothing is completely free of the overwhelming creepiness of the island and the mystery of who Eric and Merle are and why their lives keep connecting.

Sedgwick’s writing is wonderful.  He does a great job creating the eerie but still beautiful and seductive island of Blessed.  At this point, I’m half in love with the island and half terrified of it.  He makes even the littlest things – an apple, a hare – important and appealing and delightful.  It’s easy to see why this book won a prize known for honoring “literary” books.

Midwinterblood isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever read before, but I’m really enjoying it for its own sake – and for the experience of reading something so fresh.  Midwinterblood is a great read for anyone who likes more “gothic” kind of creepy, as well as anyone who likes intergenerational stories or just really great writing.  I’m definitely enjoying it, eeriness and all!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Someplace Warm

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 29 ImageAs opposed to my last couple displays, the newest book display in the Teen Scene makes perfect sense for me.  I find right about February every year is when I start getting sick of winter.  Really, really sick of it.  Now, generally speaking, I’m a cold weather kind of girl.  Most of the time, I think any temperature about 80 degrees is way too hot.  I like boots and scarves and jeans.  But after three months of winter – especially this winter – I start to think fondly of shorts.  Of walking outside without having to put on extra layers.  I even start to think fondly of sweating (which, let’s be clear, is terrible.)

Unfortunately, I can’t take the month of February off to go to Florida every year, which would obviously be the ideal solution.  But I’ve found just escaping mentally for a few hours someplace warmer can make all the difference.  When I read The Blue Sword I can practically feel the desert sun pounding down on me.  When I immerse myself in Persis Blake’s world in Across a Star-Swept Sea, I fall asleep thinking of tropical drinks, turquoise seas, and whatever the heck frangipani smells like (can anyone help with that?)  When I listen to Legend in my car, I feel like I could be fighting my way through a dystopian (but still toasty!) Los Angeles.

And ultimately, this is one of the best things about books in any situation – they can transport us somewhere else.  They can allow us to see and experience things that we never will, or at least that we can’t right now.  Or they can guide us through something so relatable that the book feels like an alternate version of our own life, and we almost believe we are living it.  Either way, novels allow us to be in the book.  And so for this month, when winter feels like it will never end and summer seems way too far away, I hope you’ll agree with me that the best possible place for a book to take anyone right now is someplace warm.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Holden Caulfield

teens-blog-bannerCatcherSo I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Holden Caulfield.  And as weird as that sounds, this isn’t actually abnormal for me.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Holden Caulfield.  In fact, I had a pretty big crush on Holden when I was a teenager (crushes on fictional characters are totally real and totally legit guys!  Despite the fact that your crush will clearly go nowhere.)

But what brought on this most recent round of Holden-centric thought was a conversation I had with a family friend last week.  This family friend – about my parents’ age – recently re-read Catcher in the Rye, and found that she didn’t like it.  At all.  This was a surprise because she remembered reading it as a teenager and loving it.

There tends to be a sharp divide about Holden.  Most people either LOVE Catcher in the Rye, which usually means they love Holden despite his faults, or HATE Catcher in the Rye because they can’t stand Holden.  The complaints usually include some or all of these issues: that he’s whiny, he’s over-privileged and unappreciative, that he’s as phony as the phonies he complains about thus making him a hypocrite, that he’s just plain annoying, and more.  Interestingly enough though, I agree with most of this – but it doesn’t make Holden any less interesting or likable to me.  I love him because when I’m reading about him, he’s real.  I love him because he’s deeply damaged but still tries to reach out to other people and form connections.  I love him because for all his whininess and privilege, he’s also funny and compassionate and smart.

But I also think the reason some people like him and some people don’t simply has to do with when they read the book (like my friend who loved the book as a teenager and couldn’t stand it as an adult,) as well as – ultimately – how much the individual in question likes teenagers.  I’m not in any way saying that all teenagers are like Holden, or that all teenagers will like Holden.  But so much of him is directly related to his adolescence, to the conflicting forces of change and nostalgia in him, and to the fact that he is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants his relationship with the world to be.  Plenty of teenagers can’t stand Holden either, but I still think that whether or not a reader can understand and sympathize with Holden’s difficult adolescence makes a huge difference in whether or not a reader will like Catcher in the Rye.

So I suggest giving Holden another chance, and giving Catcher in the Rye another chance.  Even if you still don’t like Holden, the book is a masterpiece, and absolutely worth your time.  And if I can’t convince you, maybe John Green can:

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 1)

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 2)

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 3)

What do you think?  Have you always loved Holden?  Have John Green and I convinced you to give him the benefit of the doubt?  Or are you still on the “whiny and obnoxious” side of things?

Posted in GEPL Teens

Teens Blog: Valentine’s Day

teens-blog-bannerBlah blah blah Valentine’s Day blah blah blah.

Actually, I’ve always kind of liked Valentine’s Day.  Mostly because I like chocolate and paper hearts (really – my eighteenth birthday party involved making valentines with construction paper, crayons, and stickers.)  But it can get a little overwhelming with all the romance stuff for a whole month.  Unfortunately, I’m going to add to that!  Don’t worry, this will probably be my only V-Day related post this month.  But I thought I could at least acknowledge the holiday with a list of some of my favorite bookish couples!

Image 11.) Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy!   Yes, yes, everybody talks about them.  Plus, I would be the first to argue that Jane Austen novels are not romances at heart, despite the fact that they contain romance.  And honestly, Pride & Prejudice isn’t even my favorite Jane Austen novel (that honor goes to Emma.)  But Lizzie and Mr. Darcy have such an amazing relationship.  There’s so much more going on than just a “they meet, they hate, they love” kind of arc.  They challenge each other constantly, they better each other, they can be their best selves around each other.  Even when they initially dislike each other, they engage on an intellectual level that neither of them gets a chance to with most of their friends and family.  They force each other to look past their prejudice and pride (and they each have plenty of both!) and become better versions of themselves.  They fall in love only after they have each undergone personal growth, and learned to truly respect each other.  They are a wonderful couple, and I love them SO much.

Honorable mention for another Jane Austen couple goes to Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion.  That letter at the end!  I swoon every time.

Blog Entry 27 Image 2 2.) Katsa and Po from Graceling.  I actually like Fire and Bitterblue both better than Graceling, but there’s no denying that Graceling is a better introduction to the world, and Katsa and Po are definitely Cashore’s most exciting couple.  They are such a perfect match for each other in every way.  Po is physically the only person in the world able to match Katsa (even if ultimately she’ll win all their spars.)  Po’s calmness and Katsa’s fire complement each other.  Their willingness to fight for each other is beautiful, but so is their mutual understanding that as much as they love each other, some things are more important than their romance.  I love that Po understands and supports Katsa’s non-traditional decisions about children and settling down.  I love that Katsa uses her stubbornness and strength to bring Po out of darkness.  Katsa and Po were made for each other, without a doubt.

Blog Entry 27 Image 3-1 3.) Eleanor and Park.  I realize that this is the super trendy thing to say right now, but there’s a reason – because this book is incredible, and the relationship between Eleanor and Park is delightful, heartwarming, heartwrenching and so, so real.  Each character shines on their own, but together, they make something spectacular.  Watching them learn to like each other, then love each other, was one of the best journeys I’ve been on.  Seeing how their love saved Eleanor in an almost literal sense made me feel like anything is possible.  And the intensity of their affection, despite the questions about the future of their relationship, was something I’ve felt before.  Feeling it again was a powerful experience.

Blog Entry 27 Image 4 4.) Maddie and Julie from Code Name Verity. No, they are not a romantic couple.  But Maddie and Julie, the two narrators of Code Name Verity, are certainly a couple.  And their friendship is every bit as exciting and wonderful to read about as any of the romantic couples on this list.  As Julie says, “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”  And what best friends they are!  In almost every word written by either girl, their love for each other shines through.  They prop each other up when necessary, they have fun together, and they make incredibly difficult decisions and sacrifices for each other.  And that’s love – whether romantic or platonic.

You may have noticed that Hazel and Gus are conspicuously absent.  That is because thinking too much about Hazel and Gus makes me weepy, and I try to avoid crying at work.  But I never promised a comprehensive list – just a list of some of my favorite literary couples!  Who are your favorite book couples?  What do you love about them?

Posted in GEPL Teens

Folk Singer Dean Milano to Headline GEPL’s Open Mic Night

news-blog-banner

Back by popular demand, folk singer Dean Milano is set to headline the February 5th installment of the Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Open Mic Night at Shannon’s Irish Pub (428 Main Street).

Milano, whose incredible musical style ranges from folk, country, rock, Latin, bluegrass and pop, has been performing since 1966 and has opened for Bo Diddley, The Kingston Trio and Cab Calloway.

Milano is a student of rock an roll, recently publishing a book called The Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s and has appeared as a guest on Rick Kogan and Nick Digilio’s WGN radio shows and on the WGN TV news.  His music has been featured on WXRT, the WDCB Folk Festival and the WFMT Midnight Special.

Open Mic Night is a great venue for performers looking to test new material and for art admirers to discover local creative artists. Acoustic musicians, singer-songwriters, poets and wordsmiths are invited to sign up or a performance slot. Signup begins at 6:30 pm with the first act starting at 7pm.

Posted in GEPL News, GEPL Teens

What I’m Reading Now: The Tyrant’s Daughter

teens-blog-bannerBlog Entry 26 ImageIn a fun twist on “What I’m Reading Now,” I’m reading a book that hasn’t been published yet!  I scored an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  The book won’t actually be published until February 11, but don’t worry, it’s already on order and will be on the shelves at GEPL soon!

What I’m Reading Now: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

What’s It About (Jacket Description): From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs. 

When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.

Do I Like It: I definitely like it, though it’s one of those books giving me “doom” stomach knots right now.

Thoughts: I read a lot of good reviews of this book before I lucked into a chance to read it early, so I was excited to get started.  What I found is a book that’s both exactly what the reviews promised me, and not at all what I expected.

What I was expecting, and got, is a portrait of a girl struggling to define herself after her life changes completely.  What I was not expecting was the tenseness of wondering what is going on with Laila’s mother and the CIA.  I was also not expecting that the focus on Laila adjusting to the United States would be less about culture shock and clothes and independence, and more about making friends and learning to connect with people in a real way rather than through the layers of privilege, power and half-truths that surrounded her in her old life.

But despite all this – the CIA, the friends, the family – it is Laila who drives the book.  She is a fantastic character, likable but believably naïve and flawed.  Despite circumstances that I certainly will never experience, she struggled with issues I think anyone can recognize – having to re-think her view of her parents and her world, being thrust into completely new life circumstances, how to make and keep friends.  What makes Laila so wonderful to me is that she is unafraid to change, unafraid to adjust her own ideas and identity.  Although it is difficult for her to learn the truth about her father, she doesn’t hide from it or deny it, and she acts similarly about other conflicts.  Though she worries about and fears many things, she faces the changes in her life and herself with courage.

I can’t wait to see how Laila’s story ends, and I have a feeling that The Tyrant’s Daughter is one of those books I’ll be thinking about for a long time after I’m done reading.

Posted in GEPL Teens