This or That Books

I think it’s interesting how books can be from the same genre, but have such very different types of writing, stories, characters, and setting. I made a list of some genres I’ve read and books in them that, while they have some similarities, are very different overall. Which of each two would you choose to read?

Fairy Tale Retelling

  •  Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Futuristic, thrilling, magical, intriguing, unique
  •  Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: Charming, lighthearted, whimsical, adventurous

Realistic Fiction

  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen: Inspiring, heart-warming, emotional, authentic
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia: Informative, moving, beautiful, potent

Mystery

  • The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill: Engaging, sharp, plotted, fast-paced
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Steward: Puzzling, clever, intricate, amusing

Historical Fiction

  •  Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith: Gripping, exciting, informative, well-structured
  • Audacity by Melanie Crowder: Poignant, lyrical, satisfying, driven

Fantasy

  •  A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan: Surprising, fun, adventurous, fast-paced
  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini: World-building, complex, lush, powerful

Science Fiction

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry: Riveting, thought-provoking, plotted, creative
  •  Swipe by Evan Angler: Suspenseful, intense, dark, atmosphere

Humorous Fiction

  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall: Adorable, romping, nostalgic, refreshing
  •  Geek Girl by Holly Smale: Dramatic, fun, satirical, light-hearted

Let’s Chat!
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Isn’t it interesting how books can be similar in some ways, but so different? Do you have a favorite genre or type of book to read?

Review: Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Title: Ogre Enchanted

Author: Gail Carson Levine

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

When the fairy Lucinda turns Evora, a young healer, into an ogre after she rejects her apprentice’s proposal of marriage, she has 62 days to accept another proposal or forever be an ogre. Evie leaves her home to meet other ogres and learn their method of persuasion so that she can force somebody to propose to her. As days pass, she finds her way to the king’s castle, where she helps stop a plague and makes friends and enemies and gets thrust into the middle of political tension.

Review

This book had several aspects I did enjoy. It was a very clever reverse Beauty and the Beast retelling, and fans of Ella Enchanted will be delighted to return to its world in this prequel. It addresses themes of good versus bad, and the writing is excellent, detailed and imaginative, and the characters were unique.

However, I didn’t really like this book for several reasons. The pacing seemed off. I didn’t feel an urgency as Evie’s deadline approached, and I felt like several portions of the book were overly wordy and used as filler, not contributing as much to the plot as they could.  

The characters, while unique, were not as relatable and grabbing as other characters Levine has written. I think there were quite simply too many characters in the book. With a group of ogres, the fairy Lucinda, Evie’s family and friends, many people at the castle, several different traders, and other characters just filling up space, the author didn’t have space in her story to develop the characters and make us care about them.

There were groups of characters that weren’t even that vital to the story. I would have preferred if Gail Carson Levine had condensed her character list and focused on just a few characters, and made those characters sparkle with charm and personality.  

 Ogre Enchanted book covered 62 days during which Evie traveled from place to place extensively, and the scenes didn’t feel anchored in time and place. Several times I was confused as to where the story was and when, and with Evie bouncing from place to place, I didn’t get a feel most of the places.

Gail Carson Levine certainly has a wonderful imagination and writing talent, but this book was not her best. This book was still interesting, and not a complete waste of time, but I enjoyed Ella Enchanted, Fairest, and even The Two Princesses of Bamarre much more.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read Ogre Enchanted or other of Gail Carson Levine’s books? What do you think about fairy tale retellings?

Ten Favorite Book Characters

As a reader, I think characters are one of the most important parts of a book. We care about the characters; we pick up the sequels to see what becomes of the characters. We love a strong, relatable character and leave a flat, annoying character. These ten characters are some of my favorite characters in fiction. They are often complex and flawed, they have problems and they try to find solutions, and they are interesting and unique.

Kira from Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry: Kira is crippled, and when her mother dies, she is at the mercy of the manipulative Council of Guardians in a town where the weak are killed or cast out. She is reserved, but not shy or complaining, and she is an intelligent and strong character who acknowledges her weaknesses and strives to be a light in her dark, fearful, trustless community. I think Kira is one of Lois Lowry’s most complex, interesting, layered, and relatable characters.

Levana from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is a fascinating character. She thinks she is doing the right thing and deserves to be in charge, but really, she is a manipulative, frightening, power-hungry, and evil queen.  She is completely twisted and blinded, and in Levana Marissa Meyer has created a villain of the best sort.

Logan from the Swipe series by Evan Angler is a scaredy-cat with good reason. I appreciated seeing a character that developed over the course of the series, but didn’t get to the end of the story and have a completely new personality and be a perfect, outgoing, kind and wonderful person.

Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is renowned, and I probably don’t need to repeat why. I loved Scout because I can very much identify with her drive for justice and distaste for not knowing what’s going on or who is telling the truth.

Lucy from Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo has an unusual identity crisis. (I know, I know, all YA characters have an identity crisis and they all follow pretty much the same pattern. This doesn’t.) Lucy washed onto shore on an island in Scillies with amnesia and no memories, no backstory, and no family. She must discover who she is over the course of the story with the help of a kindly fisherman and his family.

Nisha from The Night Diaries: Nisha is a sweet,sensitive girl confused by the turmoil in her world. I enjoyed getting to know her in The Night Diaries.

Henry from 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson: Henry is an unusual character. He is an eccentric and awkward boy, but he is also the typical adventure hero with energy, bravery, something to overcome, something to defeat, and a sidekick.

Sonia from You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins is a book-loving, cause-supporting, opinionated girl, and I wrote a post about her and the other characters in You Bring the Distant Near in this book review.

Chess from The Fog Diver is a daring, precocious character trying to survive on a makeshift raft as he dives down beneath the fog to salvage what is left of the world before his. He is perfectly suited for his setting, and was a very entertaining character.

 Charles Wallace from the A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle: Charles Wallace is a brilliant, quiet boy who knows everyone and whom everyone thinks they know. He is the best kind of character: one who is flawed and sometimes wrong, yet ultimately comes to realize and acknowledge that fact and find a way to overcome their obstacles.

Let’s chat!

Who are some of your favorite characters? Do you prefer plot-driven or character-driven stories? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Review: The Night Diaries by Veera Hiranandani

Title: The Night Diaries

Author: Veera Hiranandani

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

In The Night Diaries, Nisha receives a diary on her 12th birthday and turns to writing to make sense of her world during the Partition of India in 1947. She writes about her love of cooking, her family, and her confusion and fear as gaining independence from Britain has split her country into two parts and her family is forced to move to a new home.  While Muslims and Hindus used to live side by side peacefully, her country is split and there is one part for Muslims and another for Hindus.

Review

Veera Hiranandani shows us the turbulent historical period of the Partition of India from the perspective of a young girl, and well balances details of this event and Nisha’s personal thoughts, ideas, and struggles. Her pacing and storytelling is wonderful, and although she keeps the story real, she also keeps it hopeful. Nisha’s story is told with enough detail that readers with little or no knowledge about the Partition of India can understand it, yet the story is still interesting and coherent.

I appreciated how Veera Hiranandani shows us how Nisha recognized the changes in her world, and her wondering what it might be like if things were different, if her mother were alive, or if she could still see people and not try to figure out if they were Muslim or Hindu and if they could stay or had to go.

 The Night Diaries is epistolary, written as a series of letters by Nisha. Although I don’t always like stories written in letters, I think this format was a good choice for this story. It allows the author to share details and Nisha’s thoughts and feelings that help us understand her and her time better without feeling like the story is being interrupted.

If You Like…

If you enjoyed Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, or The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Bradley, you will like The Night Diaries. While targeted toward children, The Night Diaries should interest anyone who likes learning about historical events, likes to get to know a character, and appreciates outstanding storytelling.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read The Night Diaries? Do you like historical fiction?

If You Like…

If you like sweet stories set in the past with spunky heroines, beautiful writing, and tastes of old-fashioned life, you might like:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: This classic story follows the life, joys, loves, and sadnesses of the four March sisters as they grow up in the nineteenth century.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: An eleven-year-old orphan is mistakenly sent to live with an old brother and sister on a farm on Prince Edward Island and proceeds to astonish, horrify, and amuse everyone she encounters with her stunts and musings.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith: A light-skinned African-American girl passes for white so she can flywith the WASPs during WWII.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell: “Will” Silver’s widowed father dies,and she is sent from Zimbabwe to a dreary English boarding school to learn howto be a lady. She must adjust to a new culture and new expectations.

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm: The mischievous May Amelia Jackson doesn’t want to act like a lady when her brothers get to have all the fun in 17thcentury Washington.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson: When Hattie Brooks inherits her uncle’s claim, she travels from Iowa to make her home and prove herself in the rough country Montana. Meanwhile, she works toward her goal ofbeing a journalist and struggles to understand the prejudice of the town.

 Boston Jane by Jennifer L. Holm: Jane Peck from Philadelphia is in for a shock when all her lessons in manners and etiquette are of no use to her as she makes a life for herself among the traders and Chinook Indians of 17th century Washington Territory.

Let’s Chat!

Do you like “If You Like” lists? Have you read anything on this list? What would you add?

Review: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Title: You Bring the Distant Near

Author: Mitali Perkins

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers

Summary

This book follows three generations of Indian-American women and their struggles with culture, friendship, family, love, race, and identity. It opens in 1965 when Ranee Das and her two daughters, Sonia and Tara, are moving to the United States where Mr. Das has found work. It follows the lives of Sonia and Tara as they adjust to a new culture and school, pursue their dreams, fall in love, and grieve over their father’s death. About halfway through, the book begins following the lives of Anna, Tara’s daughter, and Chantal, Sonia’s daughter.

Review

You Bring the Distant Near is certainly a character-driven book, but it is my no means uninteresting. Mitali Perkins does a wonderful job of crafting an interesting and inspiring story, of making us care about her characters and feel like we know them. She shows us her characters’ hopes, dreams, failures, and flaws; their greatest joys and their greatest struggles.

Tara has always wanted to act, but her mother expects her to marry or become an engineer or doctor, like a good Bengali girl. Anna, Tara’s daughter, just started attending her cousin’s school in America and struggles with feeling overshadowed by her cousin Chantal. Chantal comes alongside her cousin and makes her feel welcome in the school, even though she doesn’t share in Anna’s personal struggles.

Mitali Perkins gracefully and honestly addresses issues of race, prejudice, and relationships in You Bring the Distant Near. She acknowledges these important part of her characters’ stories and struggles, and represents her characters admirably.

You Bring the Distant Near is one of my favorite books, for the characters, the settings, the struggles, and the writing. It tells a story that many can enjoy, and also identify with. It has received awards and acknowledgements such as the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Boston Globe Best Book of the Year, and South Asia Book Award. I would recommend this book to fans of Piecing Me Together, The Hate U Give, Salt to the Sea, and American Street, as well as  anyone who enjoys beautiful story full of character


Let’s chat!

Have you read You Bring the Distant Near? Do you prefer character-driven or plot-driven stories?

Top Ten Opening Lines in Fiction

 I was starting a blog post, and wondering exactly what I should start it with, and that got me thinking about opening lines. Then I started remembering and repeating and laughing over some of my favorite first lines. So, in no particular order, ten of my favorite opening lines in fiction.


“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader  This quote is just wonderful. It’s something to be said when you’re in the elevator with strangers and there is that awkward, smiling silence. It’s funny, it’s cute, and it grabs your attention.

“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” – William Goldman,  The Princess Bride Sorry, sir, but I’m not sure I want you reviewing my book if I ever write one.

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web This quote sounds sort of familiar, if you cut out the ax part. I’m pretty sure this is said every time anyone goes out the door at my house.

“The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.”-Marissa Meyer, Cinder That sounds awful. Poor girl, just like a little Cinderella.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, he told me, just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”–F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby  This quote is unique in that it doesn’t grab your attention because it is funny, or strange, or curious. It grabs your attention because it is profound and thought-provoking, and also makes you wonder where exactly this story is going. It was in the fiction section, right?

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” –J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to live underground.

“The Austrian horses glinted in the moonlight, their riders standing tall in the saddle, swords raised.”-Scott Westerfield, Leviathan I’ve never had a horse, but I’ve also never heard anyone describe a horse as “glinting in the moonlight.” Also, did we just get plunged right into the middle of a battle? 

“It was a dark and stormy night.”Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time This is so awful it’s great. Sometimes, when I’m starting a new story, I’ll write this sentence just to get past the cursor blinking on the empty white page. 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Ha ha, self-explanatory. Didn’t think you’d get through this post without seeing that, did you?

Let’s chat!

What are some of your favorite opening lines? Even better, what do you say in awkward elevator silence?

Review: A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

picture from the Blink YA site

Title: A Touch of Gold

Author: Annie Sullivan

Publisher: Blink YA Books

My Rating: 4/5 stars

“Gold is wealth. Wealth is power. Power is a curse. Midas learned his lesson at a price, but what will Kora’s journey cost?” –official summary

Summary

Ten years after her father King Midas gave up the gift that almost killed her, Princess Kora’s skin still carries a golden tint, rumors follow her almost as closely as her skin, and her powers are becoming difficult to hide. She spends her days hidden in the palace, an object of fear and pity.

A handsome young duke arrives and teaches Kora that not everyone fears her and her curse, but their relationship is interrupted when Kora must use her ability to sense gold to track down a thief who stole from the kingdom’s treasury.  Not everyone is what they seem, and gold and the power it brings is even more dangerous than she could have ever anticipated. Her journey is filled with pirates, thieves, danger, and new ideas.

Review

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan was an adventurous, beautiful, and unique story. I’ve never read a King Midas retelling before and was excited to find one. A Touch of Gold is a good story in many ways. Annie Sullivan’s pacing is masterful, and the plot was interesting and not too predictable. She has a gift for beautiful writing that stands out among the serious, dark tones that populate YA fiction.

I liked the main character, Kora. She was interesting, clever, and energetic. I liked that she wanted to prove herself, because I think that is a basic fairy-tale element and played into the overall story. However, I wasn’t a big fan of the rather clichéd romance. There was a sort-of love triangle, and Kora seemed too naïve in matters of judging others’ characters. I would have like to see more compelling relationships.

 I also would have liked to see more time devoted to Kora’s world. Annie Sullivan seems to have a gift for making her story come to life, and I would have liked to see this applied to her world. From what I could tell, the characters lived in a slightly medieval world, where magic and mythical creatures abounded, but we didn’t really get to see much more than that.

Overall, A Touch of Gold was a fun, beautiful story and one I’m glad I read. I think the author has a lot of talent, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for her books in the future.

-Grace

Let’s chat!

Have you read A Touch of Gold? Do you like retellings?



Meet the Blogger

Hello! I’m Grace. I love books, writing, strange facts, art, and lists. On this blog, I’ll be posting book reviews, lists, and opinions.

My top five favorite fiction books are:

  1. You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
  2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  4. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  5. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

I particularly like fiction, historical fiction, biographies, interesting nonfiction, and fantasy but I’ll try most things that catch my eye and sound interesting.

Character is very important to me in a book, but I love excellent plots, unique voices, well-placed descriptions, and masterful world-building.

My rating system for fiction is simple:

  • 1 star for character
  • 1 star for plot
  • 1 star for world-building
  • 1 star for voice
  • 1 star for overall excellent writing and solid voice

I’d love to learn more about you. Comment below and let me know you stopped by!

-Grace

Let’s chat! What kinds of posts would you like to see?