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Beta Books: A Read-It-First Teen Book Club

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 by Becky.
Categories: .

Welcome to the home base of Beta Books!

Love to read? Want to read books BEFORE they are published? ARCs are Advanced Reading Copies of books, and we’re looking for 6th-12th graders to read them.

The newest books will be revealed at our monthly meetings. Can’t make it? Stop in the Teen Center to sign out a book and share your thoughts online. (NOTE: Not all titles are appropriate for all ages. Use your best judgement to decide if a book is right for you.)

Reviews are posted on this blog in the Beta Books category.

Got questions? Email us!


 

36 comments.

nindury

Comment on March 16th, 2011.

i’m comming to ur feastive party get ready 2 read.

kendra

Comment on March 21st, 2011.

I had to return Mecry and the Coven’s daughter so its avalibale to anyone

Odderkid

Comment on March 30th, 2011.

Reviewer: Odderkid

Book: All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

Author: Gretchen Woelfle (Illustrated by Thomas Cox)

What did you think of the cover?

The cover is a natural-looking watercolor of the Globe Theatre, covered in browns and blues. Honestly, if I had picked up this book any place else I would have thought it was a children’s book. The art is very simplistic and even disproportional. Obviously it went well with the Shakespearean-esque story, but I would have preferred a more mature cover.

What did you think of the book?

Perhaps I have an odd taste for books. I saw the fantasies and romances go by, but I grabbed this: All the World’s A Stage: A Novel in Five Acts. Maybe it’s because I liked the main character’s name: Kit. Maybe it was because I thought the beginning sounded similar to a story I’ve written. Maybe it’s because I’m working on my Hamlet thesis. Whatever the reason, I picked up the book about Elizabethan England, and the results are mixed.

This book is extremely short – with twenty one chapters in 153 pages, this is one of those books you read quickly just because the chapters are so short. I’m not saying it’s a page turner. In fact, I really only read it as such a pace because I kind of wanted to see if I could get it done in one night. “Stage” is odd because it takes place over about a year, and while many things seem to happen, it’s like you don’t get to see any of it.

The story follows Kit Buckles, an orphan trying to make a living in London, England by becoming a “cutpurse” – basically, a pickpocket, but on a much larger scale, within a gang of rascally young boys (which is totally different from any other TWISTY story I’ve seen). Things go sour when Kit, while on a mission at the playhouse, is caught red-handed and is forced into an ultimatum: he must either work off his crime or be reported to the authorities. Naturally, he chooses the former. And thus Kit becomes a stagehand for Shakespeare’s own productions, until a quarrel with the landlord threatens to put the group out of business forever.

At least, that’s what the back cover said. In reality, it’s a story of belonging. Kit makes friends and enemies on his path to find where he fits in. And, despite being only twelve, he puts careful thought into what he wants to do as a career, and where his fate will lead him. Perhaps THAT’S what interests me in this book in the end – since I’m almost about to leave high school I often find myself jumping back and forth from ideas of what I want to do with my life, and that’s where I sympathize with Kit. I believe that is where the meat of the novel lies.

It certainly isn’t in the actual plot. Most of the time I didn’t care what happened to the playhouse; there was obviously a revenge scheme going on under the table that Kit was a messenger for, but I felt like it did nothing but transport the protagonist from one mindset to the other. Characters were also lacking; it’s too short for any good development, and the only names I could really remember were Kit, the heroine Molly, and Will Shakespeare (because, come on). Luckily, a list of characters in the beginning helps to make up for that. The characters just don’t strike me as being anything interesting, except when it is revealed the Molly is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s famous line, “Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” Perhaps the most frustrating part of the book is that Molly, who actually seems like an interesting character, is practically ignored because Kit refuses to talk to her after she accidentally mocks him.

As a final point, I would like to talk about the writing style. I felt like it really evolved in this novel. While it stuck with the aggravating, Kit did this, Kit did that format (how about show, not tell?), I noticed that in the beginning of the book men would talk while working, but towards the end, “The air rang with hammer blows, rasping saws, and shouting men and boys.” I really wish that more effort had gone into this book before pre-publication, because I could have used the descriptive writing in the beginning.

To conclude, it’ll take either a dedicated reader with specific tastes or someone needing to kill some time to read this book. It’s not BAD in any way – in fact, I really enjoyed the dialogue, as it stayed true to the time period. I just wish that the author had spent less time trying to be factual (all but two characters were real people, and she even mimicked the exact weather of the year) and more time fleshing out story and characters. “Stage” would have made a good short story of fate, but as a novel I unfortunately have to say that this is probably only worth a skim.

How would you rate this book?

3 stars – Pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

Odderkid

Comment on March 30th, 2011.

Reviewer: Odderkid

Book: This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

Author: Kenneth Oppel

What did you think of the cover?

The cover is both amazing and confusing. I love the colors and fonts that are used, and for once I actually like the fact that there’s a person standing there. I like the use of the lock. But I have to ask, where the heck is Victor standing? And why do his feet look backwards? And…are those words on his coat? I’d probably leave this cover as it is, because I’d pick it up if I saw it, but I still don’t think that it’s perfect.

What did you think of the book?

Ever since Fullmetal Alchemist, I have been fascinated by the science known as alchemy. Ever since Airborn, I have loved the exciting, imaginative tales that Kenneth Oppel brings to the table. So of course I had to pick up Oppel’s upcoming prequel to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein: This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein—and luckily for you, you won’t need to be an aspiring alchemist or a preconceived fan of Oppel’s to enjoy this appealing Gothic adventure/romance.

Now, I haven’t actually read Frankenstein, but I’ve studied the full synopsis pretty thoroughly after finishing this book, which seems almost necessary—the last sentence of Endeavor pretty much leaves you eager to delve into the real story that Mary Shelley finished nearly two centuries ago. So you have to know going into this that almost nothing is resolved, because that’s left up to the original novel. Furthermore, from what I’ve gathered of the original Frankenstein, it seems as though Oppel makes a few changes to characters that make me curious as to how certain things could have possibly happened in the original, so don’t be expecting full canon if you’re reading this because you’re a fan of Shelly’s version. However, that doesn’t make Oppel’s at all bad. It’s one of the most addicting reads I’ve had this year, right behind Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth.

Victor Frankenstein, the son of a respected magistrate, is the fifteen-year-old hotheaded twin brother of Konrad Frankenstein. The brothers are inseparable, though Victor has always held a secret loathing of his perfect brother and wishes that he had been born with Konrad’s charisma and intelligence. They live in a fantastic mansion where the brothers, along with their distant cousin Elizabeth Lavenza, discover a marvelous laboratory within a secret passage. In this laboratory they learn of the outdated practice of alchemy, to which they are forbidden to perform by their eagle-eyed father. However, when Konrad falls violently ill Victor sets out to prove his father wrong and, with the help of Elizabeth and his best friend Henry Clerval, create the legendary Elixir of Life to save his brother. Along the way the group encounters fantastical enemies, the odd outcast Polidori, deadly obsessions, and a bitter love triangle (rectangle?) that threatens to break the group apart forever.

Kenneth Oppel has always found ways to amaze me with his stories, and this one is just as enthralling as the Airborn trilogy. The story starts out fast (make sure you get to page four before making any rash assumptions!) and only builds up speed until the heart stopping finale that makes you thankful that, for once, a sequel is out before you read the book. By far my favorite part of any Oppel book is the character interaction—they always have plenty of depth and tons of conflict. Victor is brash and compulsive, but I can’t help but feel sympathetic, perhaps almost empathetic, during his angst-filled journey. Konrad is the definition of the perfect twin, but believably so. Sometimes he needs to get off his high horse, but luckily he’s bedridden for the majority of the book. He’s really a character that the conflicts revolves around rather than includes. Henry is the cowardly best friend to round out the trio, but he develops into so much more in one terrifying scene that I guarantee will make you wince. Polidori is an annoying oddball character (we won’t get into that), but I still feel myself yelling at him whenever he speaks, so that’s enough for me to respect a fictional character. Then there’s Elizabeth. Good gracious, there’s Elizabeth—I can understand why all three of our male leads are in love with her. She’s such a rounded character who’s clearly trying to fight in her mind with who she loves, be it Konrad, who has fallen for her kind and beautiful shell, or Victor, who is infatuated with her passionate “wildcat” nature. And we’re not talking about a gross Twilight kind of love triangle. It’s completely heart wrenching to see Elizabeth so obviously torn up inside, as it is to see the brothers fight over her, that I can even forgive her when she starts to return both of their feelings.

I really wish Oppel’s great writing with the characters could translate into the action scenes. Don’t get me wrong—they’re imaginative and great, but some of them go on way too long (especially the final fight), and I found myself rushing through the perilous expeditions to see what Victor would do next to anger his friends. Thankfully, though, this only makes up enough of the book to keep the adventurous side of the plot moving, as Oppel seems to know what he can do best. I felt as though I would be more interested in the action if I was able to see it in front of me rather than read what was going on—which is why I’m so excited to see that Summit Entertainment is already turning this book into a film (though since it’s by the same people who brought us Twilight, I remain a bit wary).

My only other complaint would have to be the dialogue—at times. See, I didn’t live in Geneva during the French Revolution, so I don’t know how people talked back then, but I can only see lines like, “This way our pool awaits” before I get fed up. Still, I got used to it for the most part after awhile…or maybe I just ignored it in favor of appreciating the British accent that was sounding off in the back of my mind. Either way, you can live, because it’s worth it.

Don’t read This Dark Endeavor if you’re looking for a faithful prequel to the original Frankenstein—it’s definitely still great and relatable, but if you’re picky about that sort of thing you might be disappointed. Don’t read it if you’re looking for a really great action book. The plot wouldn’t be there without them, but there are better things here. Don’t read it if you’re looking for a great mystery—the enemy here isn’t that anonymous. Also, don’t read it if you’re extremely religious, because Christian’s take a bit of a beating here as Victor struggles to decide if he believes in science or miracles. Read this book because the characters are alive, and you’ll feel for them with each word they say and each step they take. Read this because you’ll gasp when you discover what the final ingredient is. Read this because the final chapter will make you throw the book across the room…only to rush to pick it up and find out what happens next. Read this book because I know I’ll be picking it up again when it comes out in August. And if you don’t believe I word that I say…I don’t care! Read this book anyway!

How would you rate this book?

4 stars – Awesome. I loved it and would give it to a friend.

Erin

Comment on March 30th, 2011.

GAH! Bad grammar alert. *Tsk* I shouldn’t have typed that right after I woke up.

Anyway, I’ll have Stage and Endeavor back next time I’m at the library (probably within the next week) for anyone who wants them.

Becky

Comment on March 31st, 2011.

@Erin, I can make some edits if you want — just let me know!

Erin

Comment on April 2nd, 2011.

Haha, don’t worry about it. But thanks! Just wanted to put that disclaimer out there.

Jayla

Comment on April 12th, 2011.

Reviewer: Jayla

Book: “My Not-So-Still Life”

Author of book: Liz Gallagher

What did you think of the cover?

I liked the cover; it is very colorful and suits Vanessa’s story nicely, because Vanessa’s life is full of color itself. I think the cover does go well with the story and I wouldn’t want to change it.

What did you think of the book?

Overall, I thought the book was quite good and held my interest to the end…I admired Vanessa’s confidence and upbeat personality, and how she would “rather be a freak than blend into this world, where everyone goes about acting as if it’s normal to all be the same.” Vanessa was definitely a fresh character who didn’t mind standing out and being different. One thing I didn’t like was the pace of the book. At times, the story moved along too slowly, and sometimes a few chapters would go by before anything exciting happened. However, if you are looking for a book with a courageous heroine and some drama, My Not-So-Still Life is worth checking out.

How would you rate this book?

3 stars – pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

Pres9tin (the 9 is silent)

Comment on April 15th, 2011.

I am still reading Blood Red Road……. Sorry if you wanted to read it….. DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!!! Did that sound offensive……. I didn’t want it to sound offensive…… I AM done with The warewolf book……. i think i spelled warewolf wrong….. ERIN!!!! DON’T CORRECT MY GRAMMAR!!!!! Even though I HATE people who use incorrect grammar…. ANYWAY….. it was good…… If ANY of u guys want to check out my blog I have 1 about the books I have read lately and stuff like that………. just type in….. I 4get!!!!! If ANY of you are at the next meeting I will tell you then…… yeah. GO ART!!!!!

Erin

Comment on April 21st, 2011.

I believe “4get” is spelled incorrectly.

Prestin

Comment on May 6th, 2011.

AHHHH…. I HATE YOU ERIN!!!!!… for correcting my grammar that is….

Becky

Comment on June 20th, 2011.

Reviewer: Matthew Hu

Book: Long Story Short

Author: Siobhan Parkinson

What did you think of the cover?

I think the cover was okay. I would change the cover so the children look like the are running from the house instead of just standing there in the rain and you wonder what’s happening.

What did you think of the book?

I liked the first part of the book because it was full of suspense and I couldn’t wait to see what happened on the next. I didn’t like the first sentence that started the book because it says “My grandmother died.” It’s a strange way to start a book. My favorite part of the book was when the children start running away from their mother. I would give it to a friend if he/she liked books with little suspense and the narrator talking more than the book and what is happening in the book.

How would you rate this book?

4 stars – Awesome. I loved it and would give it to a friend.

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Becky

Comment on July 14th, 2011.

Reviewer: Matthew Hu

Book: The Project

Author: Brian Falkner

What did you think of the cover?

I think the cover of the book went with the book because the book talks about Leonardo Da Vinci’s great discoveries hidden in the “most boring book in the world” and the cover of that book looks just like the cover of The Project.

What did you think of the book?

The Project is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I liked everything about the book and nothing made me dislike parts of the book. My favorite part of the book is where both kids (not going to say them) go back in time to save the future. I would recommend this book to my best friends.

How would you rate this book?

5 stars – Unbelievable! I’d rather read this book than sleep!

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Becky

Comment on August 8th, 2011.

Reviewer: Matthew Hu

Book: Shelter

Author: Harlan Coben

What did you think of the cover?

The cover of the book matched the story. It had a picture of a shadow in a dark house and the title was almost transparent. I wouldn’t change anything to the cover although it seems a little creepy.

What did you think of the book?

There was nothing that made me dislike the book, but what I liked the most was what happened at the end of the chapters. Once I finished the chapter, I had to keep reading. I would recommend the book to a friend.

How would you rate this book?

4 stars – Awesome. I loved it and would give it to a friend.

Becky

Comment on August 8th, 2011.

Reviewer: Matthew Hu

Book: Fracture

Author: Megan Miranda

What did you think of the cover?

The cover of the book was a little bit boring because it the cover had a light blue cover and said the title of the book and the author of the book, but the cover isn’t final. I don’t think the cover matched with the story because it didn’t represent anything. If I could change anything about the cover is the color; instead of it being light blue, it should be a picture of a girl running away from a break in the ice, which is what the beginning is sort of like.

What did you think of the book?

The only thing I disliked about the book was the bad language. There were a few bad words but not as much as some people I know. What I liked about the book was the suspense. Every time I finished a chapter, I had to keep reading since the book was so good.

How would you rate this book?

4 stars – Awesome. I loved it and would give it to a friend.

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Becky

Comment on October 11th, 2011.

Reviewer: Erin

Book: All These Things I’ve Done

Author of book: Gabrielle Zevin

What did you think of the cover?

The cover is extremely bland: the only artwork is a melting chocolate heart (which, while delicious in my imagination, is rather disappointing considering this is merely a paperback book). Since it’s not something I would usually pick up, I think it could use some work.

What did you think of the book?

(WARNING: LONG post ahead – Sorry! I’m working on it…)

I have this adoration for books that have that “history repeats itself” persona—and that’s the basis of Gabrielle Zevin’s new novel, all these things i’ve done: in 2083, Prohibition has plagued Americans once again, only now it’s chocolate that has been taken off the market (horrifying, right?). Anya Balanchine is the daughter of the long-dead crime boss that was behind the illegal chocolate supply stateside, but is more concerned with her family than her ties to the industry; she dutifully cares for her ailing grandmother, younger sister, and mentally handicapped brother in place of her own happiness. All of this, along with her relationship with a malicious ex-boyfriend, consumes Anya’s time.

Then, when life couldn’t get any more difficult, a new student enters Anya’s school: Win Delacroix, a kind farmhand everyone is immediately enamored with. He quickly grows fond of Anya and, though she would never admit it, she might just like him too. But the chocolate supply the Balanchines direct has recently been tainted, and Anya is at risk to be framed. It probably doesn’t help that Win is the son of one of the nation’s most recognized lawyers…

all these things i’ve done has a bit of action, some mystery, and a lot of romance. Although forbidden romance stories are getting stale, I was intrigued by this one: after all, it involved the mob, so what’s not to like? Well…perhaps a lot, depending on your tastes: the relationship between Win and Anya got rather old quickly. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it seemed as though there was a conflict that never truly existed because our two lovebirds were immune to it. We’re often told that these two can’t be together, but we never really see it. Their relationship is overall very convenient and overly-sentimental—there are those who love these fantastical relationships, I know, but I’m not one of them. I felt it lacked substance, though I know others may argue that it was simply poetic.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the novel; there’s still a lot to praise, though the romance is the core. The characters, mostly, were interesting: Anya is a very fierce and conflicted character when her narrative isn’t about gumdrop romance. Her family, too, was intriguing, particularly her handicapped brother Leo (who is anything but dumb). Most of the characters interact well with their imaginative environment, which I’ll address later. Most, I feel, except for Win. He’s like every clichéd romantic interest rolled into one blob of insufferable kindness. Let me put it in a way many fans of young adult fiction would understand: Win is highly reminiscent of Peeta from The Hunger Games (similarly, Anya reminded me a lot of Katniss). If you liked these two, you’ll probably like Anya and Win. If not, they could grate your nerves, but not enough to ruin your experience.

The novel excels at family drama. Anya’s determination to protect her family was very noble in my eyes, and I really enjoyed this theme. Her situation is made that much more powerful due to the fantastic setting: Zevin crafts a believable future world that is only slightly better than a total dystopia. A small but creative aspect I noticed, for example, is the practice of needing to buy virtual postage to send e-mails. The little details illustrate well how rotten the world has become. Even better, the novel visits what I assume is Ellis Island as a maximum security prison. Overall, these two factors—family life and a dying New York City—were easily my favorite elements.

The action of this novel revolves around the Balanchine crime syndicate and Anya being framed for the contamination, among other things: this plot was entertaining, though not flawless. A lot of this conflict is either ignored in favor of developing the romance or simply rushed through. Because it this, the ending is anticlimactic, though upon reflection I find that it was a sensible conclusion.

all these things i’ve done claims to be the first in a series, but I don’t quite see where the story can go from here. Would I read more if it did continue? Most likely, yes. This is a great book featuring a wonderfully headstrong lead in a extremely inventive environment. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by a needlessly rushed plot and annoying male lead. So it falls somewhere in the middle of the road—a three out of five, because I was definitely interested to see how it ended. A decent read for the bus ride, mostly for those who appreciate dystopian futures, great heroines, sappy romance, or all three!

How would you rate this book?

3 stars – pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

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airy

Comment on December 5th, 2011.

this is the very first time that i have signed up for such a thing and i do hope that i learn things as well as increase my reading ability and comprehension.

Bookgirl

Comment on February 19th, 2012.

I’ll luv to be in this book club but i be home by then.. What do I do?

Becky

Comment on February 20th, 2012.

Hi Bookgirl! If you can’t make it to the meetings, you can still participate by signing out books from our teen desk at the Westerville Public Library. Ask there for more details!

Bookgirl

Comment on February 25th, 2012.

Thanks!! Also what is the book list for March?

Becky

Comment on March 5th, 2012.

Hi Bookgirl! There is no particular book list — books will be trickling in all month, and the new ones will be premiered at our March 9 meeting, and then available from the desk in our Teen Center.

Ace

Comment on April 3rd, 2012.

will their be a ACR website?

Becky

Comment on April 3rd, 2012.

Hi Ace! I don’t think we’re going to do a web site at this time. As usual, books will be trickling in all month, and the new ones will be premiered at monthly meetings, and then available from the desk in our Teen Center.

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