Teen Book Reviews: Darius the Great is Not Okay and Divergent

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, reviewed by Ali A.

I really enjoyed Darius the Great Is Not Okay and feel like it’s a must-read for teens. The main character of this novel is Darius Kellner, a white-washed Persian living in the United States who is diagnosed with depression. He feels disconnected from his relatives in Iran, and doesn’t even get along well with his own father. His father, Stephen Kellner, is always disappointed in Darius and wishes Darius could be more normal instead of an overweight loner with funky hair. Darius gets teased at school and only finds peace at the tea shop he works in, the Tea Haven at the Shoppes at Fairview Court. Darius and his family then finds out that Darius’s grandfather, Babou, has a brain tumor and would die soon so Darius’s mother plans a family trip to Iran. It’s Darius’s first trip to Iran so he’s excited but is also worried. Darius knows barely anything about his Persian culture and heritage and doesn’t know if any of his family will like him, especially since Darius doesn’t even know the language of Farsi. However, when Darius gets to Iran, his life changes. He quickly makes friends with a neighborhood boy named Sohrab and Darius discovers more about the Persian culture. Darius’s relationship with his father also becomes tighter and they enjoy each other more. One thing is for sure- Darius is a different person by the time he returns to America. He is no longer lazy, lonely, or as teased as before. I loved this book because I share a lot in common with Darius Kellner. My grandparents and extended family live in India whereas I live on a whole different continent. Also, I only see my grandparents through awkward Skype calls and it’s tough to communicate with them because I don’t know Urdu which is the language that they speak. Adib Khorram did a wonderful job writing this empathetic novel that many teens including myself can relate to and love.

5 Stars.

Divergent by Veronica Roth, reviewed by Ali A.

Normally I hate science fiction books. They are usually about aliens, robots, or people trying to take over the world. Most of the stuff in science fiction books are too complicated for readers to understand and visualize in their minds and science fiction books are usually boring. However, Divergent is the only science fiction book that I have ever fully read and loved. Most science fiction books go overboard on crazy futuristic ideas, but Divergent keeps it real. The Utopian land that the citizens live on is divided into 5 difference groups, which are called factions. The 5 factions are Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, and Amity. Each of the 5 factions prioritizes a special aspect. Abnegation prioritizes selflessness, Dauntless prioritizes bravery, Erudite prioritizes brilliance, Candor prioritizes honesty, and Amity prioritizes tranquility. The main character of the book is Beatrice “Tris” Prior. Beatrice was born into Abnegation and loved her parents and her brother. When everyone is 16 years old, the students are required to take the Aptitude Test, which helps the students discover which faction they should join. Beatrice takes the test and receives a horrid result. Her results revealed that she was Divergent, meaning she doesn’t really fit with one faction but rather a mix of all of them. Beatrice doesn’t understand why being Divergent is so bad or different, but no one explains that to her. On the Choosing Day, where each 16 year old chooses which faction they want to join for the rest of their lives, her selfless brother chooses to join Erudite. Beatrice knew she wasn’t as selfless as her brother so she thought that if he didn’t fit in Abnegation, then she didn’t either. So at the last second, Beatrice chooses to join Dauntless. In Beatrice’s training she has to work hard and do cruel things such as fight her peers for fun and learn to shoot guns. Although the pain is overwhelming, it makes her stronger. Beatrice soon finds out that Erudite is making plans with Dauntless leaders to declare war on her old faction, Abnegation. Veronica Roth did a wonderful job with the plot of Divergent and keeps the readers hooked with plot twists after plot twist.

5 Stars.

The Long and Short of It

Music and its forms have always been in a state of flux. While operas often dragged for hours, recording them, when the means became available, was a different problem. When temperamental wax cylinders gave way to 78 rpm shellac discs, you had 5 minutes of music before you ran out of groove and had to turn it over.  Post-WWII, when brittle shellac gave way to more forgiving vinyl, record speed dropped to 33 rounds per minute, allowing up to 22 minutes per side on a 12” “long-playing” record (or LP, for short.). When the 45 rpm single – cheaper to produce, cheaper to purchase – became standard, music averaged 3-5 minutes a side.

If you wanted to get airplay on a radio, music had to be submitted on a 45, thus most popular songs were limited to around 3 minutes in length (Hence Billy Joel’s line from The Entertainer: “If you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05”). Albums could play for as long as 20 minutes a song on each side. Jump up to CD, and you can now go to 100 minutes. Streaming? The only limit is your tolerance.

So what’s the long and short of it? What are the longest and shortest songs on the road to success? The 50’s and 60’s, with the advent of transistor radios to make music portable, saw an explosion of short catchy tunes, meaning more could be crammed onto the radio, which meant more airtime, more commercials, and thus more money all around. Elvis consistently comes in under two minutes (Let Me be Your Teddy Bear1:43, Are You Lonesome Tonight, 1:25) as do the early Beatles ( From Me to You, 1:56, Please Please Me, 1:59), Summer Time Blues by Eddie Cochrane (1:58), and Hit the Road, Jack by Ray Charles (1:58).  

Albums play around more – If you’ve got 18 minutes of music, but can squeeze one more short track in, you fill it. Styx’s legendary Paradise Theater album has 3 blink-and-they’re-over tracks (AD 1928, 1:07, State Street Sadie – a flash at 33 seconds, and AD 1958, 1:06). Pink Floyd, who loves to drag out a tune, logs in at 1:25 with Pigs on the Wing, a beautiful melody on the Animals album. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s legendary Welcome to the Pleasuredome album clocks in two blips – Snatch of Fury, at 36 seconds, and The World is my Oyster, which is 1:02, perhaps 45 seconds longer than the track needs to be. 

 

But just how long can you carry a tune? Well, outside of perhaps an opera or symphony (Beethoven’s 9th is about 70 minutes long). American Pie takes up both sides of a 45 at 8 minutes 32 seconds, and Hey Jude clocks in at 7:11, perhaps the longest singles on 45s. But when you hit albums and their longer tracks, if you count all nine parts of Pink Floyd’s ethereal “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” from the album Wish You Were Here, it totals 26:01, the longest segment being over 13 minutes. You could add Rush’s 2112, at 20:33, Yes’s Close to the Edge at 18:30, or the legendary In a Gadda da Vida by Iron Butterfly at 17:05 – three songs that can carry you clear across the state.  Meatloaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) made it to Number One on the Charts with a time of more than 12 minutes, so length does not affect popularity at all. 

With the pandemic, streaming of music and even live concerts has increased in popularity. While the current trend is to make shorter songs for the attention-short listener, it will be interesting to see in the next five years or so if, freed from the limits of physical media, musicians will increase the length of their songs or not. Genres are losing their hold as streaming crosses boundaries (ie, Jimmy Buffett gets mixed with a lot of country), 24-bit audio capacity has lead to quieter music (less digital noise on soft tracks and streaming services even out loud tracks anyway), music labels are losing importance as musicians self-release songs, and songs are even breaking up their ages-old format and frequently starting with the chorus instead of a verse. We might cringe at the pace of the changes, but in the end, for the musicophile, it’s a wonderful time for variety and a widening range of music.

Teen Book Reviews: The Outsiders and The Giver

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, reviewed by Ali A.

The Outsiders is a book about a gang in Oklahoma called the Greasers. The Greasers are made up of of poor, violent teenage boys that are led astray in society. However, the Greasers are not the only gang in town. The Socs, short for the Socials, constantly battle for control in Tulsa. The Greasers face constant threats of being jumped (jumping is when a group of rival gangsters “jump” out of a car or building and beat up a member of the rival gang), stolen from, or being seriously hurt. Ponyboy, the main character of the book, lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop, who are also fellow Greasers. Darry is an athletic and strong young man who is trying to raise his younger brothers after their parents died in a car crash. Darry dropped out of school to work full-time to support his family. Sodapop is a carefree young man as well and is one of Ponyboy’s best friends. Ponyboy is able to avoid serious trouble until one day he was walking home from a movie and got jumped by a group of Socs. After that encounter, Ponyboy and his friend Johnny are enjoying their time outside until another group of Socs try to finish the job and kill Ponyboy. However Johnny tried to protect his friend and accidentally killed one of the Socs. Now Ponyboy and Johnny have to escape the police and the Socs by hiding out. After the tragic killing, the Greasers and Socs agree to a gang war in Tulsa. I enjoyed the book and I’d reccomend this to readers who enjoy exciting novels with dramatic changes. One change I’d make if I were the author would be if the Greasers and Socs could achieve peace with eachother and end the practice of gangs. However towards the end, the Socs become somewhat more friendly with the Greasers.

4 Stars.

The Giver by Lois Lowry, reviewed by Ali A.

The Giver is a science-fiction book about a land in the future where no one has any freedom. The Chief Elder controls what your job will be, who you will marry, how many children you can have, what you will be named, when you can have a child, what you can eat, etc. Basically, the Chief Elder is a dictator. However the people who live in this Utopian land don’t feel restrained and instead feel happy that they can live in a world without any major problems. The reason the residents of this land feel this way is because the Chief Elder forces the residents to take a pill that restricts any feelings or emotions. This pill even makes it so that people can only see black and white out of their eyes! The Giver revolves around the life of a 12-year old boy named Jonas. In this Utopian land when a child turns 12 the Chief Elder selects each child’s future career based on the child’s skills and interests. As Jonas is at the ceremony and the Chief Elder assigns the careers, he skips over Jonas’ name. Jonas fears that he wouldn’t get a career and would be banished from the land, but instead he got an extra special job called “The Giver”. The Giver is the only job in this city that isn’t allowed to take pills, meaning they can feel all emotions and can see color. The reason for this is because the Chief Elder doesn’t allow residents to experience “memories”, so all memories of people go to The Giver. A lot of these memories are painful, but it’s Jonas’ job to experience them so that he can keep the community safe. As Jonas spends more and more time going through memories without the pills, he starts learning how bad his community really is, from killing babies and elders to lack of freedom, so Jonas decides he has to escape his backwards land. I’d rate The Giver a 2/5 because the storyline is very hard to understand. To fully understand what goes on in this story, you’d have to read Son and Messenger, but if you would read one of those books first, you wouldn’t understand what goes on in those stories without reading The Giver. I’d rate The Giver a lot higher if Lois Lowry did a better job of structuring her books that way readers could understand what’s going on.

2 Stars.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in October

Welcome to fall!  In October we’re talking about books, learning to code, decorating pumpkins, and inaugurating our new piano with a concert by a Cheshire favorite. All that an a lot more, check out the October Calendar for details on all our upcoming programs!

October Teen Volunteering Challenges

All month long

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Earn community service hours by submitting a photo, video, or other content that may be added to CPL’s social media pages! Each submission will be awarded 2 community service hours. October’s challenges include:

  • Art: It’s the month of Drawlloween!  Draw anything that reminds you of Halloween!
  • Writing: Write about what you have always SECRETLY wanted to be for Halloween.
  • Food: October is National Pizza Month- so explore the world of pizza and all the flavors it offers by making your own fabulous version!
  • Reading: Celebrate Dictionary Day (October 16) this month by looking up the definitions of words that you don’t know. Which words were they?
  • More Reading: Read a spooky story. If you don’t enjoy scary stories, read a non-spooky book with a traditionally spooky character.
  • Even More Reading: Read a book that features a character who wears a costume or disguise.
  • Extra Credit: Change your life forever by learning a new language- check out Mango Languages on our website, and send us a screenshot of what you are working on… ganbatte!!

If you participate in the challenges, earn community service credit by submitting your creations so we can share them on our social media pages.

Book Buzz Teen Book Club: The Inheritance Games

All month long

This month we are going to read The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Books will be provided and are yours to keep! Join us here (our Google Classroom page) to share and hear our different points of view about the book!  To pick up your Book Buzz book, starting on October 1st, you must register for this event. Then you can come into the library and pick up your book at the Children’s Desk.

Introduction to Medicare

Saturday, October 2, 2021, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Join us online as we will learn about the enrollment processes, enrollment periods, timelines, deadlines, penalties, benefits, and costs relating to Medicare coverage and Medicare plans. We will also review coordination of benefits issues and address questions involving Medicare and HSAs. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time.       

Let’s Draw: Monsters

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 4:00 – 5:00pm

Award winning cartoonist and humorous illustrator, Rick Stromoski, will teach you how to create your own creatures, goblins, and ghosts during this virtual event! For children and teens in grades 2-6, please register once per family to receive a Zoom meeting link 1 hour prior to the program start time.

Navigating College Admissions

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 7:00 – 8:00pm

Learn how COVID-19 has changed the college admissions landscape and how it will affect Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors. This virtual program covers how students can position themselves to develop a compelling narrative to increase their chances for admission. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time.

Coding Club: Roblox 

Wednesdays in October, 4:00 – 5:00pm

Happy Code Club will teach students in grades 5-8 the basics of scripting in Lua to add gameplay elements like traps and other game features during this virtual event. Technology Requirements: PC or Mac with wifi, Scroll mouse. No chromebooks or tablets. Roblox Studio must be installed and tested prior to class. This program meets four times: October 6, 13, 20, & 27. Register once to attend all four sessions.

¡Arte! A Bilingual Art Class for Kids! 

Fridays in October, 10:00 – 10:45am

Join us for a virtual bilingual art and music class presented by Mi Amigo Hamlet from Go Creative Programs. Children will learn simple Spanish vocabulary through music, movement, and art! Best for ages 2-6. This virtual program meets 4 times: October 8, 15, 22, 29. Please register once per family to attend all 4 sessions. 

Cat Tales Writers Group

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us virtually for an open writing group that can help answer your questions on writing, editing, grammar, and publishing. Read a selection of your work to the group for general constructive feedback, or discuss a book you’ve read that might help someone else. Join us once, join us every month! We’ll meet on Zoom, please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time.

Mixville Family Halloween Bash!

Friday, October 15, 2021, 5:00 – 8:00pm

Bring your own pumpkin to turn into a Jack-O-Lantern and display on the Mixville Park hillside before you take it home. Artsplace instructors and volunteers will be on-hand to provide stencils and guidance. Carving tools provided for use on first come/first served basis (or bring your own) as well as glow sticks to illuminate the pumpkins. Pumpkin carving and decorating will take place 5:00-6:00pm (pre-registration required for this portion of the event). Pumpkins will be lit by 6:15pm. Hocus-Pocus, everyone’s favorite family Halloween movie, will start at dusk. Bring a picnic dinner, your blankets, chairs and some bug spray!

Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire: Going for Silver!

Monday, October 18, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Since early 2020, the CSC has successfully collaborated with our municipal government, local non-profits, and small Cheshire businesses to build relationships and promote sustainable projects. These projects and others helped Cheshire earn “Bronze” certification with the state-wide initiative, Sustainable CT.  Coalition members will share information about what it means for Cheshire to go for “Silver” and how you can take small (or large!) steps to improve our community with simple everyday actions. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time.

Simplifying the Financial Aid Process

Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 6:30 – 8:15pm

This seminar will provide parents and students with tips on securing the best possible financial aid package from the college of their choice. Presented by Jennifer Philips, who worked for Fairfield University for over 6 years as Assistant Director of Financial Aid & has been in the field for 10+ years. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time of the program.

Homegrown National Park: Nature’s Best Hope

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 7:00 – 8:30pm

Join us via Zoom for a talk with acclaimed author and speaker Doug Tallamy to learn more about the importance of native species and the difference each of us can make in planting them in our own yards. Doug will discuss simple steps that each of us can take to reverse declining biodiversity and will explain why by joining Homegrown National Park, we, ourselves, are nature’s best hope. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time of the program.

Author Talk: You are Not Alone

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Author Sydney Sherman looks at why and what we believe about the afterlife. Her book draws distinctions between myths and the paranormal and recounts numerous experiences with energies. She offers hints to avoid falling prey to the frauds in the paranormal field, and educates readers on how they too can continue their relationship with their loved ones. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time of the program.

Books Over CoffeeThe Push 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 12:00 – 1:30pm

Want to engage in great discussions about books? Meet new people? Join us for an adult monthly book club program called Books Over Coffee. We will meet over Zoom. This month’s book is The Push by Ashley Audrain. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time of the program.

Trivia Night

Thursday, October 28, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Come by yourself or bring your friends. Test you knowledge from general categories, including pop culture, current events, history, music, and of course, literature! Registration is required for this adult program.  When registering, please register entire group from one person to a max five people. (Please note that his program may be moved to a virtual program.  An e-mail will be sent to registered participants with any schedule changes.)

My Favorite Android: The Murderbot Diaries

The first use of the word “robot” dates back to the 1920’s (robotnik or similar being a term for factory worker in many slavic languages), but the word “android,” meaning a miniature human-like automaton, is older, as far as 1863. A robot – a disembodied piece of machinery – does work for you – like a Roomba, or the useless rolling pest in the grocery store that spies on people who might steal things (at least Roomba can clean up a mess it finds, and doesn’t cost $35,000). An android looks like a human, moves like a human, interacts like a human (more or less), but inside is a machine.

That fact has led to a huge amount of introspection – how do we define Human? Is a self-aware, English-communicating Gorilla a person? What about our AI creations? When a computer becomes self-aware, does it have a soul? Is it “human”? At that point, is the use and ownership of an android slavery?  That question was battled in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Measure of a Man,” where Starfleet claimed to own Data the android and control him like equipment, while the case was made he was sentient and free. The movie(s) Blade Runner also focused on that question. 

I’m not a techie. Computers are great if they do what I need,  but I couldn’t care less about future tech, AI interfaces, androids, or streaming. Anyone who knows any science fiction knows you never trust AI or give it too much power. I like Data, I don’t love Data. C3PO is annoying. I hated Marvin the Paranoid Android. No matter how many times I watch Blade Runner, I think it’s one of the most boring movies ever (I still love The Six Million Dollar Man, but he was a bionic human, not android). So I was really, really surprised that I even picked up the book All Systems Red by Martha Wells, also known as The Murderbot Diaries #1. Not my kind of book. But from the first page, I could not put the book down. I read it while cooking. I read it while my kids were in the tub. I read it while walking. I had to finish it in one day. Thankfully, it’s a short novella, and that’s entirely possible.

Murderbot, as it calls itself (it has no gender. Murderbots are not built for sex; that’s a sexbot), is a Security Unit (SecUnit), a partly organic robot/android construct built to provide security detail for whoever rents or buys it. Of course, mostly what security entails is killing whatever might harm the persons it’s hired to protect, hence the term Murderbot. Murderbot, however, manages to hack its own governor module, releasing itself from control by the company who owns it. 

This starts Murderbot on a soul-searching (or soul-developing?) quest to find out exactly who or what it is now, all while working hard not to let anyone realize it’s free, because an uncontrolled killing machine is a very, very dangerous thing (to quote Kyle Reese from Terminator, “That terminator is out there, it can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop… EVER, until you are dead!”).  But Murderbot isn’t fond of killing. He’s fond of soap operas and TV serials (like The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon). All he wants is to be left undisturbed to watch his shows while he tries to figure out the human race. Life never lets him, and he feels obligated (like the heroes in the soaps he watches) to help while trying to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill the people he was hired to protect.

Murderbot is sarcastic, droll, funny, depressed, almost autistic in his stilted approach to emotion and interaction with people. He’s a fast thinker and an opportunist. He says s**t a lot more than Data. He doesn’t want to be human, yet is fascinated by them and can’t stop studying them. And he makes mistakes, just like a human. The innovative – and logical – adaption/hijacking of computer systems has opened my eyes to issues I’ve never given a thought to, such as the power of drones. With all the issues currently happening via ransomware, spying, and breaches, and the mass-market and miniaturization of drones, maybe we should be thinking more along the lines of Murderbot, as our military is also controlled by computers, and nothing but nothing is hack-proof. People mistrusted the NYPD robodog so much they had to send it back.

I had to read the second book Artificial Condition (possibly my favorite, because of ART, Murderbot’s name for the “A*****e Research Transport” ship computer), whipped through the third, Rogue Protocol , flew through the fourth Exit Strategy, (also possibly my favorite), and am now reading the fifth, Network Effect. The sixth and current volume is Fugitive Telemetry, with three more commissioned by the publisher, and a TV version is in the works (please, please don’t mess it up!). All Systems Red has won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Alex Award, and the Locus Award. Yes, the stories are simple (good guy must take down bad guy) but the humanity and humanism throughout the series will keep you emotionally invested to the very end. 

Pure enjoyment, with no other agenda. Murderbot is my favorite android ever.