July 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I am really excited about my pick for this week. It combines two of my loves: Tudor England and witches. And with fall coming…I am excited. I love reading witchy tales in the fall. I cannot wait to devour this novel.

Title: 'Witchstruck’
Author: Victoria Lamb
Publisher: Harelquin Teen
Pages: 304
Release Date: 24 Sept. 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

How interesting does this sound?!

What are you waiting for this week?

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator

July 16, 2013

Review: Imperfect Spiral

This was a hard novel to read—and now to review.

Like Humphrey, I was hit by a car when I was five years old. While I was hospitalized and had a cast from my chest to my toes, I was lucky.

Humphrey was not, and reading about him and his relationship with Danielle, oh…my heart.

I loved this book. I am going to go ahead and say that this is one of my favorite reads of 2013. I think one of the reasons is the connection I feel to it, but I could not put this down (nor the towel I used to wipe my eyes while I read).

I think that for those of us who grew up babysitting, you too will feel all the feelings while reading this novel.

Go ahead, get the towel ready now.

I love this cover
Title: ‘Imperfect Spiral’
Author: Debbie Levy
Pages: 352
Publisher: Walker Children’s
Available: NOW at your local book store/library
Source: requested from Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Danielle Snyder's summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she's watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It's time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey's memory and forgive herself for his death?

My Thoughts:

This book made me feel all kinds of feelings.

As the novel opens, Humphrey has been lost to a terrible accident while walking home with his babysitter Danielle. And while this should have been a novel about how to deal and recover, it turned into something else toward the end.

While some may have a problem with that, I did not. Here’s why: when a tragedy happens, people are always looking beyond the tragedy itself for self gain (whether personally, professionally, politically, etc.). That is what happens in the novel. We shift from the loss of Humphrey to why we need stronger immigration laws.

I felt that this shift mirrored a truth in our society—and why we need to keep our eye on the true victim. In this case, it isn’t America with illegal immigrants; it is five-year-old Humphrey. He is getting lost in the accident, and Danielle works to make sure his not forgotten and overshadowed.

Oh Danielle, talk about a heart-breaker. This character absolutely melts my heart. She has a good head on her shoulders, but she feels lost. Humphrey is dead, on her watch, and she doesn’t know how to move forward. To mirror this, the author gives us flashbacks into their relationship, from the first day Danielle meets the quirky child until his last moments. Okay, where is my towel?!

Danielle wants forgiveness from Humphrey, from Humphrey’s parents, from herself. It is a hard loss for her, for obvious reasons. She is young, tackling babysitting for the first time in her life, and she has a close bond with her charge. There is nothing wrong with that. It just makes the story that much harder to read tear-free.

I loved the layout of the novel. I enjoyed getting to know Humphrey and seeing his relationship with Danielle grow. What an amazing little man—and what a tragic accident.

The development of Danielle’s character was a journey not just for her but for me as well. As the first words appear, it is clear she is grieving. The entire book is her journey through the process—especially since it seems that she is being lost in the shuffle. This loss did not just happen to Humphrey’s parents; it happened to Danielle too, on her watch. She saw it happen. She held his head. Humphrey’s parents could not even be reached on the phone.

I will say that Humphrey’s parents were a bit of a surprise, and they added to the heartache of the story. Without ruining plot points, let me say that their story just builds on the need for a towel, and not just for the loss of their sweet boy.

With a sprinkling of minor characters who are there to keep the plot moving (including a character that reminds me of Mrs. Kravitz from ‘Bewitched’) and to help Danielle come to turns with her grief, the author did a solid job with not only storytelling but also with the way she used her characters.

And while the plot shifts to the issue of illegal immigrants, the author handles it with care, but it is clear on where she stands on the issue. Make sure to read her author’s note about it when you finish the novel. Or before you start. I don’t think the note ruins any element of her storytelling.

While I loved this book as a whole, my favorite chapters were the final two. If you are reading and unsure of how you feel about the novel, hang on until the very end. Those final two chapters will wrap you in their arms with all kinds of feels. I promise.

I recommend this novel to readers of Meg Cabot, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Lindsey Leavitt. The novel has the same “feel” as these writers but with a bit more tragedy.

What realistic fiction novel have you read lately that really struck a chord in your heart?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

July 14, 2013

Review: A Trick of the Light

I am always looking for realistic YA for my male students and this is one I am excited to add to my classroom library.

If I could pick one word to describe this book, I would pick powerful.

Title: ‘A Trick of the Light’
Author: Lois Metzger
Pages: 189
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Available: NOW at your local library/book store
Source: from FSB Associates

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they’re getting confusing at school. He’s losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he’s a mess.

Then there’s a voice in his head. A friend, who’s trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that’s holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.

Telling a story of a rarely recognized segment of eating disorder sufferers—young men—A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger is a book for fans of the complex characters and emotional truths in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

My Thoughts:

And it all begins with a mirror—one that is distorted but speaks “truth” to Mike.

Metzger hits a serious note in this tale of a teen guy just trying to make it in the world. There is only one problem, the voice in his head. The voice that he initially ignores, but as it slowly erodes into his consciousness, so does Mike’s health. Very clever tactic indeed.

The book is broken into three parts: The Mirror, You and Me Both, Stop-Motion. I found this to be an effective way to move readers through Mike’s story. Instead of bogging readers down into details, the author gives us snapshots into what is happening to Mike, how gradual it is…and yet it isn’t at the same time.

This reminded me of Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ because she descends readers into madness before they even realize they are there. This is how I felt while reading Mike’s story. I was so caught up in his rationalizations that I almost forgot that something terrible was happening to him, and yet at the same time I was quite aware.

I don’t want to reveal the narrator of the novel because I feel that will spoil the author’s storytelling, but it was clever and I enjoyed it.

The chapters mix prose with dialogue, and I really enjoyed this switch throughout. I felt it helped pace the plot in a way that keeps them engaged, especially teen readers reading such a serious topic.

For Mike’s character, all I could think was how wonderful it was that he had a mom that loved and cared about him so much while at the same time allowing him to make life choices for himself—until those choices could end his life. While I’m not always a fan of parents in YA for a variety of reasons, I loved the role his mom played. And then there was dad who seemed to disappear from Mike’s life suddenly, which is one of the reasons the voice took over, but came back to help his son.

While I found Mike to be irrational a lot, I also found this to be a part of the truth within the fiction. Aren’t we all irrational about something(s)?

Usually in YA storytelling there are a lot of minor characters that play a major role, but in this novel that job is left to one: Amber. Her job in the story is not to enhance Mike but to help justify him and his choices. She is there to give the audience knowledge, especially when it comes to eating disorder lingo.

And while Mike’s mom and dad are there, I feel Amber’s influence is the most strong on Mike. She is his peer. She is his partner in eating disorder.

It was clear to me that the author had done her research, and not just because I read her author’s note where she discussed the type of research she conducted. I could feel the honestly of her storytelling, of that research breathing life on the page of her novel.

There were elements that were hard for me to read, but that is the point. Realistic storytelling should make readers feel a bit uncomfortable when dealing with hard-hitting issues.

This is a tough topic to handle, especially in males, but the author does so with tenderness and care. She is real. She is raw. She is the deliverer of truth within this novel. Eating disorders aren’t just for females.

I agree that this novel will appeal to readers of ‘Winter Girls’ and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ but I also think it will appeal to readers of Chris Crutcher.  

I look forward to adding this to my classroom library and hearing feedback from my students.

What is the most raw and honest realistic novel you’ve read? I would love a list of novels to include in my classroom library.

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

July 3, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

My pick for this week is by the author of ‘The Mockingbirds,’ a novel that is an absolute must read. Her latest novel sounds like a cross between Stephanie Perkins and Ally Carter. Squee.

Title: 'Starry Nights’
Author: Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 272
Release Date: 3 Sept. 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.

Like a master painter herself, Daisy Whitney brings inordinate talent and ingenuity to this romantic, suspenseful, and sophisticated new novel. A beautifully decorated package makes it a must-own in print.

What are you waiting for this week?

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator