“Most” Books of 2018

These are some of the most outstanding, unique, anticipated, and in some cases disappointing books that I read in 2018. Not all of them were published this year.

Most Anticipated Prequel

Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: 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. I found this book rather disappointing in the pacing and character development.  

Most Amusing Fantasy

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson: The three Igiby siblings evade the evil Fangs of Dang while they discover family secrets and search for a hidden treasure. This story is full of character, and is a funny and engaging story with an intriguing world.

Most Remarkable Historical Setting

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani: 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.

Most Genres Mashed into a Historical-Fantasy-Regency-Spy-Mystery

Murder, Magic and What We Wore by Kelly Jones: Annis Whitworth can sew magical garments and uses her talent to leave her privileged lifestyle and open a dressmaking shop as a cover while she investigates her father’s suspicious death.

Most Potential

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan: Kora must use her ability to sense gold to track down a thief who stole from the kingdom’s treasury in this tale full of pirates, thieves, danger, and gold. This book had a lot of potential, but was lacking in world-building and a good sense of time and place.

Most Powerful Voice

Audacity by Melanie Crowder: Clara Lemlich flees from Russia and begins working in a sweatshop where she is shocked by the horrific working conditions and leads other women in the fight against injustice. This book is written in verse, with powerful voice and a touching story.

Most Realistic Characters

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins: This book follows three generations of Indian-American women and their struggles with culture, friendship, family, love, race, and identity.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favorite (or least favorite) books this year?

If You Like…

If You Like… fairy tale retellings or books like Cinder and Ella Enchanted , you’ll probably like these books.

Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis: In this retelling of “The Wild Swans,” the Jantzen Technology Innovations heiress Liddi Jantzen must save her brothers when they are kidnapped by an evil employee.

Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: In this reversed retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”, a young healer is turned into an ogre when she rejects a suitor’s proposal and has a short amount of time to accept another proposal or stay an ogre forever.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison: The witch tells Rapunzel she is the luckiest girl in Tyme, but when Jack climbs into her tower and implies that the witch may be lying, Rapunzel leaves her tower for the first time.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu: In this retelling of “The Snow Queen,” Hazel and Jack are best friends until a magic mirror and its owner sweep Jack off and leaves Hazel to try to save his life.

The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville: A retelling “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”from the perspective of a governess who came to work for the bear family and meets a golden-haired girl who is a beloved member of the family until anti-bear activists try to take the girl away.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale: In this retelling of “The Goose Girl,” Princess Anidori is betrayed by her servant and must become a goose girl until she can reveal her identity and marry the prince her servant is courting.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George: In this retelling of“The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” Galen is a gardener who works at the palace and learns of the mystery surrounding the twelve princesses. He falls in love with the oldest princess and is determined to save her and her sisters.

The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson: In this retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,”Rose falls in love with Lord Hamlin, who is trying to save his betrothed from the evil sorcerer Moncore.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read any of the books on this list? Do you like fairy-tale retellings?

Five Books by Teenage Authors

It’s always fun to read books by talented young authors. These are five outstanding books with teenage authors.


Eragon by Christopher Paolini: An Alagaesian boy named Eragon discovers a dragon egg and becomes a Dragon Rider, putting him in the middle of a war between an evil king and those who resist him.  Christopher Paolini was fifteen when he started writing Eragon.

Interrupted by Rachel Coker: Allie Everly works to be able to trust and love again after her mother dies and an elderly relative takes her in. Rachel Coker published Interrupted when she was 16 years old.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton: The Outsiders spends two weeks in the life of Ponyboy Curtis, who feels out of place in his society. S. E. Hinton started writing The Outsiderswhen she was fifteen years old.

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank: Anne Frank started writing in her diary at thirteen years old. She wrote about her family and how they lived in hiding in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Victor Frankenstein creates a hideous monster during a questionable science experiment. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was eighteen.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read any of these books? Isn’t it inspiring to see teenagers with published books? Do you like to write?

Book Review: Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker

Title: Chasing Jupiter

Author: Rachel Coker

Publisher: Zondervan

Summary

Chasing Jupiter begins in the summer of 1969. Scarlett Blaine is sixteen, and lives in a small town in Georgia. Scarlett’s younger brother Cliff is often overlooked or misunderstood because of his autism, so when asks for a rocket, she is determined  to make his wish come true. She starts baking and selling pies to make money to build his rocket.

Although her summer starts out well, it quickly become busy and turbulent when her Grandpop Barley declines mentally, older sister Juli causes strain in the family, and Scarlett finds herself struggling between childhood and adulthood and struggling with family, love, and what her future should look like.

Review

I first discovered Chasing Jupiter when I was doing research on young authors that got a reputable publisher. Rachel Coker wrote her first book, Interrupted, when she was 14, and it was published by Zondervan about a year later. Chasing Jupiter followed in 2012. It’s always fun to read books by talented young authors, and Chasing Jupiter did not disappoint.

I thought that Rachel Coker did a wonderful job providing emotional depth to the story. Although the plotting leaves something to be desired, the characters are well-developed and likeable. Overall, my favorite aspect of the story was how real it felt. It faced the fact that life isn’t perfect, and not every ending is happily-ever-after while achieving a satisfying yet plausible ending.

If You Like

If you like character-driven books with happy endings or books like Anne of Green Gables, Ella Enchanted, or American Street, you might enjoy Chasing Jupiter. 

Let’s Chat!

Have you read Chasing Jupiter? Have you come across other interesting books by young authors?

If You Like

If you like adventurous, action-packed stories with smells you can almost smell and characters you feel right beside, you might like:

 Swipe by Evan Angler: In the future American Union, where you must be Marked with nano-ink to get a job, be a citizen, or buy things, Logan and Erin, two young people who are beginning to question if the government’s way of doing things is right,discover that the truth may be complicated… and frightening.

The Hobbit by J.R. R. Tolkien: Bilbo Baggins is a respectable, ordinary hobbit who stays faraway from adventure, until the wizard Gandalf chooses him to help a group of dwarves overcome the dragon Smaug and take back his mountain.

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson: Fern Johnson can see into a world nobody else can, and has been labeled crazy for it, until it appears that danger from that world may destroy her own.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson: The three Igiby siblings hold the legend and the jewels of King Wingfeather from the Shining Isle of Anniera, and the wicked Fangs of Dang pursue them relentlessly. They and their dog Nugget will need everything they have to survive the chase of the wicked Fangs.

The Green Ember by S. D. Smith: Rabbits with swords.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: Four children embark on a special undercover mission at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes: Everyone blames everyone else for the Stone Plague, but Thomas realizes that it is spreading and he must choose between proving himself to his father and betraying the girl he loves.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Cinder must uncover her past to protect her world in this exciting dystopian fairy-tale retelling.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini: An Alagaesian boy named Eragon discovers a dragon egg and becomes a Dragon Rider, putting him in the middle of a war between an evil king and those who resist him.

100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson: After his parents disappear, Henry York moves to Kansas where he and his cousin discover hidden doors that lead to other worlds.

Let’s chat!

Have you read anything on this list? What would you add? Do you like adventure stories?

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?