Symphony for the City of the Dead

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Title: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: During World War II, the Russian city of Leningrad, formerly known as St. Petersburg, was bombed and held under siege by Nazi forces for almost three years, unable to obtain fresh food or other necessities for survival. Starving and desperate, residents of the cosmopolitan cultural capital of the nation endured unspeakable horrors. It was the stuff of nightmares, but it was also a source of inspiration, as famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich created a piece of music that would come to demonstrate to the war-torn world the incredible strength of his native city, the Seventh Symphony.

Born before the Russian Revolution, Shostakovich was a living witness to an incredible time in world history. This stunning and impeccably researched work of non-fiction describes the epic story of the war in the U.S.S.R. by telling the story of this one man, an artist who had been held up a both a hero and a pariah by those in charge over the course of his turbulent life. This book is challenging and deeply rewarding, much like author Anderson’s acclaimed fiction including Feed and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II, this book will surprise you.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in history. Musicians and artists. People who are curious about everyday life under war conditions.

If you like this, try this: For more on Russian history, try The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For mature readers, City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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Queen of Someday

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Title: Queen of Someday

Author: Sherry D. Ficklin

Summary: Sophie knows she must do her duty to her family, her country and the emperor. That this means leaving the only home she has ever known to attempt to secure a marriage to a boy prince she has only met once in her life is out of her control. Driven by her ambitious mother, Sophie makes the journey to the cold heart of Russia, ruled by Empress Elizabeth and her nephew, the heir, Peter. Once she arrives, she must defend herself against palace intrigue, rival princesses and the desires of her own heart. Can she master the subtle rules of the court, form the alliances she needs to surpass her enemies and survive the treacherous atmosphere to someday become queen?

This is a great, quick read for anyone who likes romance and historical fiction. Sophie is a strong, resourceful character who you will root for, even as she makes mistakes. While it can be a little loose with the historical facts of young Sophie’s life, the basic story follows the biographical record. You will race through this book and want to read the whole series to see how it all turns out for the princess as she begins the journey that will see her become one of the most powerful and controversial royals in history.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like historical fiction based on real people. Romantics. People who like stories about royalty. Fans of the television show Reign.

If you like this, try this: The forthcoming books in the series, Queen of Tomorrow and Queen of Forever. For a quick look at the (scandalous) reign of Catherine II, read her installment of the Wicked History biography series. You can also take a look at the princess-based series of Carolyn Meyer and Esther Friesner.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Diviners

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Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Summary: Evie O’Neill finds herself in big trouble over a little parlor trick she performed at a party.  She only meant to get a little attention when she took Harold Brodie’s class ring and attempted to divine a few of his secrets for the crowd.  Instead, she ended up incurring the wrath of the Brodie family and getting banished from her small town of Zenith, Ohio to her Uncle’s home in New York city.  But being sent to one of the most lively cities in the country during the 1920’s is hardly a punishment for a girl who has always been too much for her hometown.  New York city is exactly where Evie wants to be and all she has to do to stay is live with her Uncle Will, a man who stirs up his own fair share of gossip being the head of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, and abide by the few rules he sets.

It doesn’t take long before Evie is swept up into the bustle of New York City and reacquainting herself with a childhood best friend and making friends with an exotic Ziegfeld girl, but the good times grind to a halt when a grisly serial killer with ties to the occult starts to accumulate a body count.  Uncle Will is called in by police to help decipher the cryptic symbols left at the murder scenes and Evie talks herself into being included in the case.  It’s a case where her ability to divine secrets from personal objects may just be the key to stopping the killer or in possibly marking her as the next victim.  However, Evie isn’t alone in her efforts to catch the killer or in possessing a unique and otherworldly gift.  Her uncle’s assistant, Jericho hides a secret while her new friend, Theta, is trying to escape from her past. And then there’s Memphis, a young man who has lost his parents and his gift but fights to protect and take care of his younger brother.

Who will like this book?:  Anyone with an appreciation for intelligent and well-written stories will throughly enjoy Libba Bray’s writings.  It’s rare to find a mystery/thriller driven by such well-developed characters, especially one where the paranormal is a key aspect of the storyline.   She’s the only YA author who can make 578 pages seem like a quick read and have you wishing the book was longer.

If you like this, try this:  Thank goodness this is the first in a proposed trilogy because this story is simply too big (and too good) to be confined to one book.  While you wait for the sequel to come out, try some of Libba Bray’s other writings, especially her Gemma Doyle trilogy.   If you are looking for another great historical fiction book try Code Name Verity, there’s no paranormal in the story, but it is an amazing historical story featuring strong female characters in life-and-death situations.  Ruta Sepetys, Out of Easy is another great historical fiction mystery that doesn’t feature the paranormal.  But if paranormal historical fiction is what you want to stay with, give Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy a try.

Recommended by:  Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

Code Name Verity

Title: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Summary:  Set in World War II, this story tells the tale of two young women and their harrowing experiences serving their country.  Verity is a secret agent captured by the Gestapo after parachuting into Nazi-occupied France.  She is given two options by her captors: reveal everything she knows about England’s defenses and her mission or face torture and an excruciating death.  Verity believes she will die regardless of her decision, so what she must come to terms with is how much she is willing to reveal.  Given paper and ink, she is tasked with betraying her country, yet what she puts down is so much more.  In her writings, she tells the story of her captivity, her past life and how she became friends with Maddie, the pilot, who flew her into France and subsequently crashed.  Her story is a tribute to friendship, a test of courage, and revealing look at how it feels to face the possibility of one’s own failings.

Who will like this book:  Fans of historical fiction and strong female characters will love this emotionally charged story.  That being said, this is really a book for anyone who appreciates a good story with amazing characters.  Code Name Verity is a book you regretfully close after finishing and recommend to all your friends the next day.

If you like this, try thisThe Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

The Philosophy Book

        

Title: The Philosophy Book

Author: DK Publishing

Summary: Ever wanted to know more about philosophy (the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct)? Seriously…we know some of you out there do. We’ve heard you ask about it! This book is a great place to start. A subject like this can seem overwhelming, but this excellent book by the great people at DK (you might remember them from the Eyewitness book series in the Children’s library) lays out 2500 years-worth of thought in an fun-to-read fashion. See?

Over 100 thinkers are featured, with their core ideas presented in an amazingly eye-catching design. Illustrations and quotes are featured throughout and make even the most complicated philosophical theories easy to figure out. This book is also pretty well-balanced: Western and Eastern thinkers, Classical and Modern philosophers and male and female voices. Of course, they don’t all agree: There is no right answer, only which ones make the most sense to you. Give it a try…we bet you’ll be surprised at how much fun this book is!

Who will like this book?: Anyone interested in getting a general idea about philosophers. Know-it-alls. If you are planning on heading to college soon, this book is worth a look.

If you like this, try this: The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Books from the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series like Harry Potter and Philosophy, Batman and Philosophy and even Twilight and Philosophy.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Watch That Ends the Night

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Title: The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

Author: Allan Wolf

Summary: It is April 15, 1912. Undertaker John Snow is on a cable boat, heading towards the site of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century: The sinking of the RMS Titanic. He thinks he sees birds floating on the surface of the water but as he gets closer, he sees what they really are: Frozen bodies. From this intense and gripping opening scene we are sent back in time to the beginning of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Through the voices of over 20 actual people who were on board the ship, from the Captain and Shipbuilder, to famous travelers like John Jacob Astor and Margaret “The Unsinkable Molly” Brown, to unknown passengers from third class, we follow the Titanic from the excitement before its maiden voyage to its launch to its destruction in the frigid North Atlantic by iceberg.

You may be familiar with the Titanic from that famous movie. But author and poet Wolf presents the story in such a complete and thorough way that both readers who know nothing and who know it all will be entranced. Written in verse, it is a quick and compelling read. Even the iceberg and the ship’s rat get to share their story. Sure, you know how it ends, but this is a book about the journey, not the destination. The final section of the book is devoted to facts about the ship and those who sailed on it, giving a grim description of the grandeur of the Titanic and the scope of its legendary tragedy.

Who will like this book?: This is the official One Book One Town 2012 selection for Fairfield, so…everybody! The 100-year anniversary of the Titanic’s voyage is on it’s way so this is a book for anyone interested in this famous disaster story. Fans of adventure and historical fiction. People who like hearing a story from more than one point of view. Fans of Ellen Hopkins, Sonia Sones, and other verse novelists.

If you like this, try this: A classic, A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn. Iceberg Right Ahead by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Find this book and more at the Fairfield Public Library.

Wonderstruck

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Title: Wonderstruck

Author and Illustrator: Brian Selznick

Summary: It is 1977. Ben likes to collect things. Some are treasures his mom has given to him. Others are things he has found growing up in Gunflint, Michigan. But Ben just lost his mom in a car accident and is living with his aunt and uncle. When he returns to his old home, he discovers in his mother’s things a book about the American Museum of Natural History called Wonderstruck, inscribed to someone David. Could this be the father he has never met? Ben decides to find out.

It is 1927. Rose lives a lonely, isolated life in Hoboken, New Jersey. She longs to cross the river into bustling New York City. She, like Ben, is missing something in her life and she is determined to find it. The way these two stories interweave, one in words, the other in pictures, will suprise and delight you.

I’ll admit it: I love The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It was Fairfield’s One Book One Town book a few years ago and it’s creator, Brian Selznick, might be the most charming author around. So I picked up Wonderstruck with a mixture of excitment and nervous anticipation. Would it be as good as Hugo? The answer is clear: Yes. Yes, yes, yes! Read this book right now.

Who will like this book?: Everybody. Seriously.

If you like this, try this: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, also by Selznick. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian