Thursday, July 31, 2014

Haatchi and Little B by Wendy Holden—A sweet story of love and compassion

Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN: 9781466868199
ARC Source: Shelf Awareness

While not specifically designated as YA, Haatchi and Little B (based on a true story) could definitely fit into that category as many teenagers would love this story of a boy and his dog. For adult readers, the book speaks to new relationships and acceptance, of being a parent, and of being courageous. It takes a lot for a book to be accessible to such a wide range of readers, but that is where this book finds its success.

Haatchi is an Anatolian Shepherd who was hit over the hit and left for dead on the railroad tracks in London, England. After being hit by a train, Haatchi partially loses a leg and most of his tail. He is rescued and undergoes surgery where he must learn to walk with three legs and communicate without his tail. After trying to stay in one home and causing too much trouble (as many dogs will), Haatchi is sent back to the vet. Eventually, the big, lovable dog makes his way into the home of Owen (or Little B as called by his stepmother Colleen) where he forever changes Owen’s life.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

End of Summer Movie Rental: Endless Love (2014)

Endless Love was released on February 14th of this year and is the remake of the 1981 film starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt, which is an adaptation of the novel written by Scott Spencer. I skipped it in theaters mainly due to avoiding the stereotype of seeing a romantic movie on Valentine’s Day but also due to being snowed in (yes, we do occasionally get snowed in here in South Carolina).

Finally, I made my way into my local Family Video and decided to take the deal to rent three movies, and get one free (which the dude forgot to give me but promised one on my next visit). I left with two YA possibilities: Endless Love and Vampire Academy, neither of which I’m that excited about but intrigued enough to spend $1.79 each for five nights. I also left with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (which holds promise for my classroom) and Devil’s Knot (hey, I like Reese Witherspoon).

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica—A thrilling read with a mind-blowing ending

Release Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1655-8
ARC Source: Harlequin
*No spoilers ahead

Twenty-four year old Mia Dennett is the daughter of Chicago Judge James Dennett, a man of old money and dismissive family responsibilities, and British Eve Dennett, a homemaker and socialite. Sister to Grace, the oldest and a lawyer just like their father, Mia doesn’t buy into the family lifestyle; instead, she is an art teacher. Jason, her inconsistent boyfriend, is supposed to meet her on the night she is kidnapped but calls to say he has to work late.

From the beginning of the novel, the reader is aware that Mia has been taken by a man named Colin Thatcher and that he kept her in cabin in Minnesota. In fact, Mia has already been found only a few chapters in. What follows is a mixture of multiple perspectives, both before and after Mia is found, telling the story of how Mia, who refers to herself as Chloe, copes with her kidnapping, how Detective Gabe stops at nothing to find her, and how her mother Eve tries to solve Mia’s trauma-induced amnesia and help her remember the truth.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills--A rare peek inside Harper Lee's life

Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-1594205194
ARC Source: Penguin

Pretty much everyone has been exposed to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at some point, whether it is through personal exploration or a school reading assignment. Many, including myself, will tell you that the novel has left an imprint on their reading lives, forever engraving Scout and Atticus into their list of unforgettable characters.

After To Kill a Mockingbird was published 1960, it quickly won the Pulitzer Prize and became a staple in American classrooms. To this day, teachers, like myself, anxiously wait to ask their students on the first day of school if they have read the novel, silently hoping the answer is no. We each want ownership of exposing Maycomb to today’s generation. As teachers, we have always finished the novel and nostalgically left Scout and Jem’s town behind, wondering what life was really like, how much of the story was based on Lee’s life, and why Lee became so reclusive. Now, Marja Mills steps forward with her memoir to give us some answers.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Four by Veronica Roth—Companion novel a piece to the puzzle

Release Date: July 8 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

ISBN: 9780062345219

It has been two years since Divergent’s release, when teens everywhere fell in love with not only Tris as the heroine but Tobias Eaton, a.k.a. Four, the surly and secretive Dauntless instructor. As Tris slowly fell in love with Four, so did readers, and they loyally followed the couple through Insurgent and Allegiant. On July 8, Roth released the companion novel told from Four’s point of view where he takes the reader through his decision to leave Abnegation and join Dauntless, through his initiation and offer as leader, through the realization that his mother is still alive, and finally through the first steps of falling in love with Tris.

“The Transfer,” “The Initiate,” and “the Son”

In these first three sections, we see Tobias’s home life with his father, Marcus. From Divergent, we knew that Tobias was abused, and now we get to see first-hand what it was like. Marcus is relentless, often isolating Four to his room. When Marcus finds Four’s box of keepsakes initiated by his mother, Marcus calls him self-indulgent and breaks everything inside. When Four allows his blood to drop on the coals, we cheer for his bravery and Marcus’s disappointment.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Amity by Micol Ostow—Not as good as the original

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Egmont USA
ISBN: 978-1606841563
ARC Source: Netgalley
When Jay Anson’s account of the Lutz family’s terrifying 28 days in their home in Long Island was released in 1977, it didn’t take long for two things to happen: one, that it would cause mass criticism of the legitimacy of the claims and two, that it would spawn a movie only two years later. The Amityville Horror has become the Holy Grail for many who love chasing ghosts and for producers raking in money from sequels. In fact, 2015 welcomes yet another remake.

What is so enticing about a haunted house? So much, it appears that writers have been retelling the story for ages. On August 26, 2014, Micol Ostow releases his version of the one of the most famous horror stories ever told.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco—Not your everyday Japanese horror

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781402292187

Since The Ring’s explosion onto the big screen in 2002 and the subsequent premiere of The Grudge in 2004, the images of pale faces, black hair, and contorted bodies have haunted our dreams. On August 5, 2014, Rin Chupeco releases her version of the original Banchō Sarayashiki Japanese story, considered to be one of the most famous in Japanese culture.

Okiku is three hundred years old, and she is a part of the “murdered-dead,” those who were viciously killed and roam the earth for vengeance. Okiku says that these particular spirits “do not go gently,” eerily pulling from poet Dylan Thomas to explain her complicated situation. But she’s not the horrific Japanese stereotype you may be considering right now, at least not all of the time. When she appears to avenge those murdered children, the victims (if you can call them that) see her as a corpse, bloated and broken, just as she was found at the bottom of the well that she was thrown down. To Tark, the “strange” fifteen year old boy with tattoos who has just appeared on her radar, she more often appears as a sweet young girl; he even calls her pretty at one point.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins--Incandescent verse

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderberry, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442482845

Matthew Turner is an eighteen year old high school student struggling with the suicide of his younger brother Luke, the victim of brutal bullying due to his sexuality. Matthew has lost all faith in God, blaming religion and his parents for not helping Luke get through his ordeal. His father is the basketball coach and stays gone most of the day (for reasons other than basketball) while his mother turns to pills and alcohol for comfort. The only apparent light in his dark world is Hayden, his girlfriend, who is obsessed with religion.

Matthew is called into the guidance office after writing his senior essay on his lack of faith, specifically that of a higher being. His counselor and other teachers are worried that he may be planning to exact revenge on those who bullied Luke into suicide, but Matthew claims he’s just letting off steam. His therapy sessions don’t help, and the lack of parental involvement at home drives Matthew further and further into darkness.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Circa 1700s

When we think of July 4th, Independence Day, a couple of things come to mind (probably in this order): BBQ, fireworks, Will Smith, freedom, and finally the American Revolution. Teens today are afforded many luxuries, from cell phones to a sense of entitlement, but what would like have been like for them in the Colonial period? Imagine no technology, no electricity, and no personal freedom.

According to Ellen Holmes Pearson of Teaching History, “that stage of their lives was not the carefree, exploratory period that today’s youth experience.” Back then, teens were already expected to know their plans for the future; there was no wait-until-you-get-to-college attitude. In fact, most young adults didn’t have the opportunity for any higher education. Teen boys, specifically, had to learn a trade and practice it every day. Telling a 21st century American teenager today to get a job at fifteen is laughable by adults and teens alike.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Giver Quartet Omnibus by Lois Lowry—Sleek, portable new collection

The Giver Quartet 20th Anniversary boxed set came out in November of 2013, giving readers a chance to have a collection of the best-selling series in four, separate hardcover books. Today, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt releases for the first time the Omnibus, a single volume of all four novels: The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

While readers may appreciate having separate, lighter, copies of each novel, the Omnibus provides a surprisingly light collection of the unabridged editions. The cover is simple, yet beautiful, and would look great on anyone’s bookshelf. The font size is appropriate for any young adult or adult reader, and you can’t beat $29.99 for all four books.

In case you need a refresher, here are some brief summaries/criticicm of each book in the series.