Archive for the ‘Literary Tie-in’ Category

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When we think of summer reading, we think of books we choose because we like them—books for fun.

In the past I’ve read long lists of YA books over the summer and have encouraged you to read some of them as well. This year I think I need to feed my soul with some not-so-light adult books that probably don’t have wide teen appeal. I will also be reading some books about bullying—both the cyber sort and the in-person attacks. (I listed choices in a recent post.)

Since I think you should pick some fun reads for summer, I hope you’ll read some YA books that are soon to be movies. Reading the book before you see the movie provides a good opportunity for you to compare and contrast two works; it’s a great way to think at a higher level without even realizing that your brain is working.


 So many good teen books are coming as movies in the next few years. Here are some that I’ve read and reviewed:


Catching Fire

(Second book in the Hunger Games trilogy)

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

The Great Gatsby

(OK, it’s an adult book, but teens read it in school, it’s short, and it’s great—

romance, betrayal, mobsters–all the stuff teens love)

2014 and possibly 2015:



The Knife of Never Letting Go

(first book in the Chaos Walking series)


The Maze Runner

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The Fault in Our Stars

(Yea! It will star Shailene Woodley as Hazel. No word on Gus yet.)

Coming as movies soon, but I haven’t had the chance to read the books yet:

Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen, of course.)

Actually, I have had the chance to read this one,

but I didn’t like it, and I quit after a few chapters.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Have a great summer reading on your own and at the theater!


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road  One of the comments you’d never see in a professional book review is “The book is graphic enough to appeal to high school guys.”  I hate to admit it, but this is something I think about when I’m reading. Research shows–and anecdotal evidence at Colony High backs up that research–that high school boys rarely read, almost never when they have the choice.

This summer I read a great book–and I mean great in every sense—a literary masterpiece, a stunning work of fiction, an insightful look into a bleak future, a beautiful rendering of the father-son relationship. And–ta da–a book graphic enough that it will appeal to high school guys.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the story of an unnamed father and son who are making their way to the sea in a post-apocalyptic world. “A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions” have left the world barren. Animals are dead (or long ago eaten by the few remaining people), plant life is scorched and roads are melted. The air is always gray with ash, as is the snowfall. The sun is blotted out and winter arrives early. All living people are scavengers—and with little left to scavenge, most are cannibals as well.

In a world that is virtually hopeless, it is amazing that McCarthy can wrench the heart of his reader with the love of the father and son. The father has often told the son that they are “the good guys” and while they have to be on a constant alert for others (who might capture and eat them), they would never do such a thing themselves. Though starving and exhausted from their trek, the son reminds the father that the two of them “carry the flame.”  The son always wants to do well, including helping other people. The father knows better and is more wary. Understanding that he is dying, he saves two bullets in his gun so that he can take his son with him.

Some of the situations McCarthy envisions are horrific (people imprison others and eat them limb by limb, cauterizing the amputations) and yet all strike the reader as inevitable in such a world. Too often, I’ve read reviews that describe a new novel as a ‘tour de force.’ After reading the book, I assume that the reviewer was the author’s best friend. The Road is one novel that deserves the praise.

(Another review that I wrote pre-Chaffey but am linking to QR codes. Originally posted in 2007.)

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The newest–come check them out!

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman

When her estranged grandmother dies and leaves her mother the family home on Selkie Island, seventeen-year-old Miranda meets her mother on the Georgia island, where she discovers mysterious family secrets and another side to her logical, science-loving self.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

New York high school student Elizabeth gets an after-school job as a page at the “New-York Circulating Material Repository,” and when she gains coveted access to its Grimm Collection of magical objects, she and the other pages are drawn into a series of frightening adventures involving mythical creatures and stolen goods.

Loss (Riders of the Apocalypse) by Jackie Morse Kessler (guy appeal)

A lifetime of being bullied has left fifteen-year-old Billy angry and frightened, but when he is tricked into becoming Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with the power to inflict diseases, he travels through time and memory to find Death in hopes of escaping his fate.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

When shy sixteen-year-old Helen Hamilton starts having vivid dreams about three ancient, hideous women and suddenly tries to kill a new student at her Nantucket high school, she discovers that she is playing out some version of an old tale involving Helen of Troy, the Three Furies, and a mythic battle.

Shadows of the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume, who is able to re-create herself in any form, is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge pot.

Liberator by Richard Harland (guy appeal)

After the Filthies seize control of the massive juggernaut Worldshaker, now called Liberator, members of the former elite, Swanks, remain to teach them, but class differences continue to cause strife and even Col and Riff may be unable to bring unity.

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Victor Frankenstein as a teen: When his grieving father orders the destruction of the Dark Library, Victor retrieves a book in which he finds the promise of not just communicating with the dead, but entering their realm, and soon he, Elizabeth, and Henry are in the spirit world of Chateau Frankenstein, creating and growing a body.

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Come to the Teen Book Fest tomorrow–

Saturday, May 5

1-4 PM

Ontario Senior Center

(Just go to the Ovitt Library downtown and folks will point at the building for you!)

Bring your camera and take a photo with one of the five YA authors:

  • Josephine Angelini
  • Anna Carey
  • Tahereh Mafi
  • Alexandra Monir
  • Jay Asher

You can bring your books to be signed, or buy books there and have them signed.  (Prices are very reasonable. You can get a paperback Thirteen Reasons Why for $6.99 plus tax.)

I’m so excited about the Teen Book Fest tomorrow–I’ve been reading just one more of the authors’ books this week–Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini.  I’m not sure if I will finish–I’m three-quarters of the way through it now. Those of you who’ve read other reviews here know that I’m not into paranormal fiction myself, but that I get why so many people are. As to Starcrossed, I get why paranormal fans are going to love it!

Helen doesn’t understand why she is faster and stronger than other kids. All of her life, she’s tried to hide her talents and despairs of being considered a freak. That is until a strange new family moves to Nantucket and peaceful island life is turned upside down.  Helen discovers that the legacy of the Greek gods–who were always having affairs with humans–is alive and well in Massachusetts. Their demi-god children have passed their characteristics and powers down through thousands of years and many generation.

Anyone with just a little background in Greek mythology will immediately recognize that the three Furies are after Helen, but will have to wait to discover why. Add to that new neighbor Luke, demi-god and all around luscious guy, is crushing on Helen while his cousins try to help her control her powers so that she can combat evil demi-gods who want to kill her in order to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, Helen is getting glimpses into the nature of her long-ago disappeared mother.

Starcrossed combines some fun elements–the Greek myths are transformed and the demi-god characters are a lot like the vampires you find in YA fiction these days–but without all that nasty bloodsucking.

Helen is transforming from a meek, hunch-shouldered loner to a kicking powerhouse of electrical energy. This is a romp with a female superhero–and it’s the first in a series, so more fun for paranormal fans is on the way.

See you tomorrow at the Book Fest!


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Adult books for teens: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan 

In a future United States, a scourge has caused pandemic infertility. Abortion is against the law, and when Hannah Payne is caught, she is imprisoned in the “Chrome Ward” where she (as well as other prisoners) are videotaped for public humiliation. After a month of public display, she is released to try to start life anew.

Melachroming is a part of punishment for criminals. They are injected with a virus that makes their skin a color related to their crime. Hannah wakes up entirely red—crimson from head to toe—because she is a murderer. She must remain so for sixteen years. Her punishment is for ten years, but because she refuses to name the abortionist or the father of the unborn baby, three years are tacked on for each. Should she try to flee once her month-long sentence in the Chrome Ward is up, she will die—‘frag out’ as they say in the book. She has another virus implanted that will start to cause mental derangement if she doesn’t go in for her regular sessions to be re-chromed.

Hannah doesn’t name the father of the baby because he is her minister. He is widely known as a holy man and does a lot of good work for the impoverished. Hannah doesn’t want to see that work stopped. If all of these direct connections to The Scarlet Letter don’t grab you, the quote from that novel at the beginning of the book is another big hint. This is a future dystopia with a Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmsdale (here simply Reverend Dale) working out their sins over video mail.

When Hannah is released from the Chrome Ward, her mother, a very strict, upright Christian, refuses to take her in. She must go to a halfway house run by a (extremely self-righteous and voyeuristic) Christian couple. Only capable of taking so much humiliation, Hannah flees, and, being sought by anti-abortion terrorists, finds herself in the arms of a pro-choice underground group. Ironically, what they have in common with the unforgiving Christians is that they, too, are unwavering in their beliefs. They will not let anything get in the way of their mission.

Although Hannah does question her decision to have an abortion, just as she questions her strict religious upbringing, ultimately—just as with Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter—she feels more sinned against than sinning and rejects the moral certitude of those who torment her.

I would love to talk about the end of this book with someone who has also read The Scarlet Letter. When She Woke would be a great read for teens who are looking for literary readalikes. However, here’s a caveat: This novel is not for everyone; I can say with certainty that conservative Christians will object to the content and to the outcome. It’s for mature, older teens, not the middle school set. Mature topics and situations appear throughout the book.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Poor Cinder. Not only is she Cinderella on warp speed—she slaves away as a mechanic for her step-family in a future world that has been through four World Wars—she’s also a cyborg who started out as human, but, after a hover car accident, received lots of replacement parts including a mechanical hand and foot. She lives in a world where cyborgs have few rights and are regarded as less than human. This creates an interesting view of prejudices for the reader.

So, no. She isn’t going to be able to make the ball, even after she meets the handsome Prince Kai at her market stall in New Beijing of the Eastern Commonwealth, a part of a new world order in which alliances have prevented more war. Prince Kai, who has no idea that Cinder is a cyborg, is there because he needs help with his android, and Cinder is the best mechanic there is. He’s cute, and soon to be Emperor, but Cinder has more important things on her mind. Like escaping from her dreaded stepmother, Audrey, and her wicked stepsister Pearl. (Her other stepsister, Peony, is actually nice and Cinder loves her.) Besides, rumor is that Queen Levana, ruler of the Lunars (yes, they live on the moon and have special powers) will have the poor Kai as her husband or she will attack the earth with her superior army. Add to that the fact that there is a terrible plague—lutumois—running through the population and the Emperor (Kai’s dad) is dying from it himself, and it’s pretty incredible that Kai has the time to keep asking Cinder to the ball.

Why is this sci-fi futuristic population so interested in a formal ball? I can’t say. But I’m asking you to go with it because it makes for a wacky, creative sort of story. From the beginning I thought Cinder would be running away from the ball at the stroke of midnight and drop her mechanical foot. And I wanted to find out—how could she hop away on one foot fast enough to escape? Well, that isn’t exactly what happens. But Cinder does escape more than one place and leaves clues to her identity.

The author also drops (heavy, heavy, heavy) hints about Cinder’s true identity—of which she is entirely unaware. You’ll figure out who she is right away, and you’ll know how important she is to the future of Prince Kai, the Eastern Commonwealth, and the entire planet. So you’ll cheer her as she fights prejudice, evil backstabbers, and mindless androids.

This is the first of four books in the Lunar Chronicles series. Get ready for an all-out galactic war.

Note: It seems a new trend in reading is in re-imagined fairytales. I thought I’d try some for summer reading, but got an early start with Cinder. Another trend I see, that may just be local—at COHS and CHS—is in war books. So, I plan on some of those for the summer a well. Odd combo, huh?

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A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The Gillette murder case: In 1906, Grace Brown was a worker in the Gillette Skirt Factory (New York State) and was murdered because Chester Gillette, nephew of the owner, didn’t want to marry her after impregnating her. Chester wasn’t wealthy himself, but he wanted to marry a rich girl and have a better life. So, on the pretext of taking Grace away from home to elope, he took her to the Adirondack Mountains (also New York), checked into a hotel under an assumed name, and, took her out on a lake in a canoe. After hitting her in the head with a tennis racket, he tossed her over the side and she drowned. This might have appeared to be an accident, but Grace’s desperate letters to Chester were later found and helped to convict him, although he claimed that Brown had committed suicide. He was executed by electric chair. The murder was one of the most sensational events of the period, with a lot of media coverage, and a very famous novel was written about it about 20 years later (An American Tragedy by Theodore Dresier).

Though no one is out to murder Mattie Gokey, Mattie’s story interweaves with Grace Brown’s. As the novel opens, she is working in the Glenmore Hotel where Grace and Chester (‘Carl”) had stayed. Before Grace goes out on the lake with Chester, she hands Mattie all her letters and asks Mattie to burn them. (This is a fictional aspect of the story.) Mattie can’t sneak to a fire without someone seeing her, so she is stuck with the letters, which she begins to read.

Mattie is also a girl with few options. A top student at her school and a good writer, she earns a scholarship at Barnard College in New York, but there seems to be no way to go. A year earlier, her mother died of breast cancer, and then her only brother ran away from home after a fight with their father. As the oldest girl, Mattie has to take care of the other children and help on the farm. Family farm life is terribly difficult. The work never ends, there are no holidays and no vacations. And without their mother at home, their father can’t go away for extra work and extra money. The Gokeys live on the precipice of poverty, and anything—a serious illness, a bad crop, the death of their cows—could ruin them. The family is grieving, hungry and angry.

Mattie is smitten with Royal Loomis, her neighbor. At least physically. But the reader can see that although Mattie has the hots for Royal, these two would make a terrible match. Royal will make a good farmer, but he can’t understand why Mattie bothers to read, which he regards as a waste of time. Mattie senses the disconnect, too, but can’t see her way out.

I hope students don’t pass up this book because of the era. It’s a great story about the place of women at the turn of the twentieth century and a clever defense of feminism. The scenes when Mattie learns about some of the realities of life are more honest that any YA books I’ve read about the same topics.

Mattie’s best friend, , a married teenager, has twins within a year of her wedding. She almost dies in childbirth because one of the babies is positioned feet first. Though no one ever discussed sex with the girls, afterward,  confines in Mattie that having to care for the babies as well as feed farmhands is wearing the life out her. Her house is filthy. She wishes she’d never married, and she is sick of her husband always ‘at her’ about sex because she is afraid she will get pregnant again. She nurses the twins because she’s told it will keep her from getting pregnant, but her breasts are raw, sore and cracked. She’s gaunt, depressed and exhausted. Mattie is shocked since these realities had always been hidden from her. It’s not the life she wants for herself.

One of the biggest influences in Mattie’s life is her teacher. She appears to be a very independent single woman. Yet she has a secret, and her husband is tracking her down and threatening to put in a mental hospital if she doesn’t behave within her prescribed gender role. And legally, he can do this, just because his wife published poetry.

Donnelly also does a good job in giving the reader a sense of class and race issues. Weaver, Mattie’s best friend, is the first free-born child in his family. He, too, is very smart, and the friends often play word games. He plans on going to college and becoming a lawyer. His chances look good, as his mother is always adding to his college fund. But his refusal to put up with names, with the ‘n word,’ keeps the reader in constant tension, knowing that drunken loggers will seek revenge on him. In fact, all of the secondary characters are interesting, three-dimensional folks. As a bonus, the writing is beautiful. The reader sees, hears, smells and tastes life in the country, and identifies with Mattie’s desire for creativity and the education that will give her the opportunity for it.

I highly recommend this one!

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