Book Review: The Suffering

The SufferingTitle: The Suffering
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genres:  Horror,
Pages: 272
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: In books stores now

Summary:  It’s been two years since Tark Halloway’s nightmare ended. Free from the evil spirit that haunted him all his life, he now aids the ghostly Okiku and avenges the souls of innocent children by hunting down their murderers. But when Okiku becomes responsible for a death at his high school, Tark begins to wonder if they’re no better than the killers they seek out.

When an old friend disappears in Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous ‘suicide forest’, both must resolve their differences and return to that country of secrets to find her.

Because there is a strange village inside Aokigahara, a village people claim does not exist. A village where strange things lie waiting.

A village with old ghosts and an ancient evil – one that may be stronger than even Okiku…

Review: I really enjoyed Rin Chupeco’s debut novel, “The Girl from the Well,” so I had high expectations for her sequel, especially because I didn’t know that she had planned a sequel. I was appropriately freaked out by “Girl form the Well,” and wanted to read more, so I was excited to be able to get an ARC once I learned “The Suffering” was available. And while I found “The Suffering” enjoyable (and extremely creepy at points), I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Chupeco’s debut novel.

I couldn’t figure out exactly why I didn’t fall in love with the novel, but then I realized that it’s Tark’s voice that I didn’t quite connect with this time. “The Suffering” is told from Tark’s perspective and I feel like a lot of the angst that he had in the first novel is now completely gone, making him seem like an entirely different person. Now, I know that the book takes place two years after the events of the first book, and I understand that people heal from their wounds, but he seemed too normal, almost too carefree for someone who is only a few years removed from a serious trauma. He had a darkness in him that I loved, and even though he still travels a dark path because of his connection to Okiku and her drive free the souls of tortured children, even then he seemed a bit too light-hearted for my tastes.  To me, there was just something missing to Tark, and his light-heartedness seemed to take a bit of darkness from the novel.

On the other hand, I just loved Okiku’s and Tark’s relationship. They know each other well, including each other’s quirks, and have developed a beautiful relationship. They have become dependent upon each other, not in a bad way, but in the way that you trust the person closest to you with your life; which in Tark’s case, his life truly in in Okiku’s hands. Their relationship was sweet and loving and built on mutual respect.

Lastly, Chupeco upped the creepy factor in this book by having Tark and Okiku travel to an old village that is full of vengeful ghosts. The mystery of the village is intriguing as a number of young girls were sacrificed for a nefarious purpose and they are rightfully angry. One ghost in particular is the definition of a scorned woman taking her revenge; she scared the living daylights out of me (and anyone that was in her path). With the reveal of what actually happened, my heart broke and I could fully understand why all those ghosts would be so angry; the torture they experienced was horrifying. Despite the horror of the situation, however, the way Chupeco chose to resolve the mystery was beautiful and touching. In fact, the way Chupeco chose to end the novel was touching and even though she has stated that the original plan was a duology, I think fans would love to have another book. I know I would.

Recommendation: Get it soon

Banned Books Week


Ironically, just last week I had an exchange with a parent over the book her daughter chose to read for our first unit. She felt the book had some inappropriate situations and was concerned about a number of books on the list. She wanted to know who vetted the list (me) and then asked me to remove some books because SHE found them inappropriate for 8th graders. I told her no. I said that my students are at different maturity levels and I would not take away their options.  She asked again and my response was the same. After she walked away, I chuckled to myself because I can only imagine her reaction to some of the books we will read this school year. In light of that little chuckle, here are just some of the banned books that I have taught or am currently teaching.


bird singsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.


alexie2The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.





speakSpeak, Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.




romeo and julietRomeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

She’s a Capulet. He’s a Montague. But when Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all-consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together?

Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week! As noted by the ALA last April, “books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned.” Four of the top ten most challenged books of 2014 were written by authors of color.

So in recognition of Banned Books Week, here are two of my favorite books that have been challenged:

18465566This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other. [Image and summary via Goodreads]


15798660Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? [Image and summary via Goodreads]


Banned Books Week (part 2)

BBW-logoI don’t own many books that could be considered middle grade, but Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is one that is near and dear to my heart. My late uncle, a teacher, challenged me to read all of the Newbery Medal Winners before I completed sixth grade, and this was one of the few that left a strong impression on me. It was one of his favorites, too–he taught it yearly in his own sixth grade classes. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was the sixty-sixth most challenged/banned book from 2000 to 2009.

Roll of Thunder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Why is the land so important to Cassie’s family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she’s black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family’s lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.

New Releases

There are quite a few new releases out this week. As always, if we’ve missed any titles, or you know of others coming out soon, please be sure to let us know.

untwineUntwine (Goddess War #3) by Edwidge Danticat
Scholastic Press

A haunting and mesmerizing story about sisterhood, family, love, and loss by literary luminary Edwidge Danticat.

Giselle Boyer and her identical twin, Isabelle, are as close as sisters can be, even as their family seems to be unraveling. Then the Boyers are caught in a car crash that will shatter everyone’s world forever.

Giselle wakes up in the hospital, injured and unable to speak or move. Trapped in the prison of her own body, Giselle must revisit her past in order to understand how the people closest to her–her friends, her parents, and above all, Isabelle, her twin–have shaped and defined her. Will she allow her love for her family and friends to lead her to recovery? Or will she remain lost in a spiral of longing and regret?

Untwine is a spellbinding tale, lyrical and filled with love, mystery, humor, and heartbreak. Award-winning author Edwidge Danticat brings her extraordinary talent to this graceful and unflinching examination of the bonds of friendship, romance, family, the horrors of loss, and the strength we must discover in ourselves when all seems hopeless.

all am boysAll American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

A Big Dose of LuckyA Big Dose of Lucky (Secrets) by Marthe Jocelyn
Orca Book Publishers

Moving forward doesn’t always occur in a straight line.

Malou has just turned sixteen—hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own—and all she knows for sure is that she’s of mixed race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she finds out that she may have been born in a small town in Ontario’s cottage country. Much to her surprise, Parry Sound turns out to have quite a few young brown faces, but Malou can’t believe they might be related to her. After she finds work as a cleaner in the local hospital, an Aboriginal boy named Jimmy helps her find answers to her questions about her parents. The answers are as stunning—and life-changing—as anything Malou could have imagined back at the orphanage.


Either the Beginning or the End of the WorldEither the Beginning or the End of the World by Terry Farish
Carolrhoda Lab

For sixteen years, it’s been just Sofie and her father, living on the New Hampshire coast. Her Cambodian immigrant mother has floated in and out of her life, leaving Sofie with a fierce bitterness toward her—and a longing she wishes she could outgrow.

To me she is as unreliable as the wind.

Then she meets Luke, an Army medic back from Afghanistan, and the pull between them is as strong as the current of the rushing Piscataqua River. But Luke is still plagued by the trauma of war, as if he’s lost with the ghosts in his past. Sofie’s dad orders her to stay away; it may be the first time she has ever disobeyed him.

A ghost can’t love you.

When Sofie is forced to stay with her mother and grandmother while her dad’s away, she is confronted with their memories of the ruthless Khmer Rouge, a war-torn countryside, and deeds of heartbreaking human devotion.

I don’t want you for ancestors. I don’t want that story.

As Sofie and Luke navigate a forbidden landscape, they discover they both have their secrets, their scars, their wars. Together, they are dangerous. Together, they’ll discover what extraordinary acts love can demand.  — Cover images and summaries via Goodreads

Banned Books Week

BBW-logoIn honor of Banned Books Week, this week we’ll each have an extra post featuring a challenged/banned book we’ve enjoyed. While preparing my post, I found ALA’s Virtual Read-Out. Librarians, teachers, authors and others contribute videos of themselves reading portions of banned/challenged books. Here is one example: Jason Reynolds shares a passage from Black Boy, a book he read as a teen.

If you’re interested in participating in the Virtual Read-Out, instructions are posted here.

I chose to feature The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and has been repeatedly challenged.

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.  — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

In the following video, Sherman Alexie discusses the banning of books.

What are some of your favorite banned or challenged books?