Takoma Park Maryland Library · 101 Philadelphia Avenue · Takoma Park Maryland 20912 USA · 301.891.7259


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

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

Posted by library at 10:49 AM   VIEW FULL POST

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.

Posted by library at 04:37 PM   VIEW FULL POST

June 18, 2014


Fablehaven by Brandon Mull 
reviewed by Samuel 

Fablehaven is the first book in an amazing 4-part series by Brandon Mull. In this book Kendra and Seth must go spend a two-week vacations at their grandparents' home. When they get to the home they think it's going to be a boring two weeks. Boy, were they wrong. From the first day there, Kendra and Seth knew there was something different about the house, the farm, and the woods surrounding it all. Within two days of being there, they realize it is not just any farm but a preservation for magical creatures. Before they know it, they are sucked into an epic battle of good versus evil. Brandon Mull combines humor with action, adventure, and heartfelt moments. This is a book for all ages. It is amazing and I recommend it for people who like to read fantasy and adventure.

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull 
reviewed by Samuel 

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star is the second book in Brandon Mull's five part series. In this book Kendra and Seth have just finished the school year and are ready for another summer under the sun. But things don't pan out when a man claiming to be a friend of their grandpa sends Seth on what seems a harmless mission to feed a statue of a frog but things go terribly wrong. This man is secretly a member of the Society of the Evening Star wishing to infiltrate the preserve belonging to Seth and Kendra's grandparents to steal the secret artifact. Kendra and Seth manage to get the preserve safely but their problems have just begun. Brandon Mull does a great job of making his fantasy contain a touch of realism that allows readers to connect with the characters. This is a great book for children who like to read fantasy and adventure novels.

Fablehaven: Secret of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull 
reviewed by Samuel 

Fablehaven: Secret of the Dragon Sanctuary is the fourth book in Brandon Mull's five part series. In this book, two of the critical artifacts have already been discovered by The Sphinx. It is not until Kendra finds secret instructions left by the late Patton Burgess on how to find the next artifact that anyone has hope. The only drawback is that she has to go into a dragon sanctuary. In other words this is a suicide mission. Kendra and the best warriors of The Knights of The Dawn must embark on this scary mission. You'll have to read the book to see who survives. Brandon Mull has masterfully crafted this fantastical thriller with countless twists and turns. This series is a great read for people of all ages. From fantasy fanatics to adventure addicts, this book is great and anyone can enjoy it.

Posted by library at 10:19 AM   VIEW FULL POST

June 17, 2014

6 Reviews by Maya

Divergent by Veronica Roth 
reviewed by Maya 

Veronica Roth's Divergent Roth is an extraordinary book that keeps you on the edge of your seat! It's about a city split into factions based on beliefs. Now that the main character, Beatrice is sixteen she can choose her own faction. This a hard decision for Beatrice because she has grown up as a selfless girl in one faction but she has never felt like she fit in. She has always admired another faction for their fearless approach to living. Once she chooses a faction that surprises her family, her life changes immediately. This story has action, adventure, and romance. This book keeps you thinking about the what future society could be like.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare 
reviewed by Maya 

This book is the second in the Mortal Instruments series. Read the first before looking! The second instalment is better than the first, with more action and intrigue to delight fans.

Clary's life has fallen apart. Her mother is in a coma, her past life is a lie, and the boy she thought she loved is her brother. Of course, maniacal fathers rarely take into account their daughter's problems when plotting evilly. Bodies of downworlders are turning up, drained of blood. All leads point to Valentine, but are Jace and Clary ready to face him again? To make matters worse, the Inquisitor has arrived and is twisting the Law to get what she wants most: revenge.

This book is probably the best in the series, with emotions raw and surprisingly real. The final show-down is good, if a little fake, but a plot twist at the end that saves Simon leaves the reader confused. For fans of the series, this book fulfils the promises of the first. However, if City of Bones was not your cup of demon blood, don't pick up the second. A good, but not great, read overall.

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane 
reviewed by Maya 

This book, and most of the following series, is purely enchanting. It all starts when Nita Callahan seeks shelter from bullies in the career choice section of her beloved library. She wanders through the titles until one catches her eye: So You Want to Be a Wizard. Thus starts a grand adventure with her new partner, Kit Rodriguez, through New York and the Other New York, chasing the ultimate evil.

This book gives the reader everything and anything one could want from a science-fiction novel. The explanation of magic is thorough, and a little advanced for younger readers. The bonds of friendship are strong, and fantasy is woven into every turn, from conversations with trees to walking on air. I would recommend this book to middle school age readers. Parts of the book are for older readers, but they are not inappropriate. Older readers may find the book a little young, and it does follow the conventional plot. However, it is well written and a brilliant book.

The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern, William Goldman 
reviewed by Maya 

O lord. This book is … inconceivable. It is hilarious, tender, sarcastic, exciting, magical, and blows the mind faster that Fezzic can rhyme the word “amazing”. It all starts with Buttercup, an amazingly ditzy and selfish girl, albeit the fifteenth prettiest. She falls in love with the stable boy, they kiss, he set off to win his fortune, and dies. This is all within the first few chapters. What follows is what Juliet died to escape. Now the unloving bride of a mostly-evil prince, Buttercup is kidnapped by a miniature genius, vengeful Spanish sword-wizard, and a poetic strongman. True love is found, then lost, then found. Epic duels are fought, and a rapier wit is wielded by Morgenstern that makes you roll on the floor laughing.

I would recommend this book to anyone old enough to enjoy satire in its fullest, but young enough to believe in giant sharks and R.O.U.Ss (rodents of unusual size), and brave enough to venture into a fire swamp with the dread pirate Roberts. Amazing!

Protector of the Small: First Test by Tamora Pierce 
reviewed by Maya 

Tamora Pierce is without a doubt one of my favourite authors and I was so excited to learn that there was a third series set in Tortall, a land of magic and now, female knights. After a decree is passed allowing girls to become squires as well as boys, not many are ready to be the first to take the offer. Keladry, nicknamed Kel, is the first who is brave enough to travel to the castle to train. As the first open female squire, she is put on a probation year. A shorter scope of time than most of Pierce's books, she still artfully keeps the story flowing quickly. As a squire, Kel learns to deal with bullies and her crippling fear of heights. By making new friends, animal and human, Kel begins to succeed in her training. Then comes the ultimate test: the call to battle.

I would recommend this book to lovers of fantasy or science fiction. First Test is a book for younger audiences than what Pierce usually writes for, but all ages can enjoy the story. Reading the series before it, Wild Mage and Song of the Lioness, make for a better reading experience, but the books can be enjoyed on their own. This series is my favorite, and I cannot say how many times I have read these books. A great character unto herself, Keladry's books work magic on the reader that has nothing to do with the Gift, because she doesn't have one.

Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce 
reviewed by Maya 

Tamora Pierce has done it again. She has taken us back to Tortall (this time in the past) and made the lower city a place of dark magic, where anything can happen and frequently does. The story is written diary-style, but most of the time it seems like a first person narrative. This is not necessarily a fault, as it does add more detail, an odd occurrence in Pierce's work.

The stage is set with a young girl, Beka, who has spent the last eight years working for the Lord Provost, who saved her and her family from the slums of Corus. She harbors the odd dream of becoming a Dog, the police of the capital city. One who has read the Alanna books will recognize little but the Rouge and Faithful (he's back, just under a different name!), as the book is set in an element far removed from the elegant palace. By stepping out of her comfort zone, Pierce creates a masterpiece that looks on the mostly ignored others of the middle ages.

I would recommend this book to anyone in their teens or older, as it does have some sexuality and adult subjects. It is a great book, and works like magic on the reader. Beka is shy but brave, a different type of heroine. However, as I said before, this book breaks all conventions of high fantasy books and does it well.

This is the first book in a trilogy.

Posted by library at 12:13 PM   VIEW FULL POST