Book Pages: UPDATE

For those who haven’t explored my site thoroughly (shame on you, what are you doing with your life?), you may not know that when you let your mouse hover over the “Books” page at the top of the site, four more options appear.

The first two, “Title Archive” and “Author Archive,” are self-explanatory and remain unchanged.

The third, “Illinois Awards,” is a great place to go if you want recommendations on Middle Grade or Young Adult books.  Each year, librarians and teachers in Illinois compile a list of around twenty books for middle and high school students to vote on to determine the states’ favorite.  I just added the Lincoln Award list (for 9th-12th graders), and it has several of my favorite books on it!  I added links to my reviews, and I hope to add more as I make my way through the lists.

The fourth, “Recommended,” is my one-stop-shop for your book-related needs.  Rather than creating lists based upon genre or age level, I decided to sort my recommendations by type of Reading Need.  For instance, my “Give Me a Series So Engrossing I’ll Start Thinking It’s Real Life” is perfect for the summer, when you have a lot of time on your hands and you want to trick your brain into believing that elves live just beyond your vacation cabin in the woods.  I’ve just updated this page to include the books I’ve read most recently.  Check it out, and let me know if you agree or find something intriguing!

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

This is such a cute book!  I read YA books to clear my mind of heavier non-fiction words on faith or life.  But sometimes I need to go a step further and read middle grade stories of children discovering life and romance for the first adorable time.  It’s fluffy, poignant, and a fantastic mental palate cleanser.

For all that, though, Flipped is really a very clever book.  Alternating chapters reveal the same events from both Bryce’s and Juli’s perspectives.  When this is done well (as it is here), the story grows with repetition, adding depth to an otherwise linear plot.  Continue reading

Close Kin by Clare B. Dunkle

Okay, I’m sad to say I didn’t like Close Kin nearly as much as I liked The Hollow Kingdom.  Although it was so much fun to return to a world where Victorian humans interact with goblins, elves, and dwarves, there was not nearly enough Kate and Marak to satisfy me. Of course, this was not their love story.  It was…Emily and Seylins’?  Which is weird, because they spend very little of the book together.  Even when they are finally reunited, we hardly get to see them.  Other couples, like Sable and Tinsel, dominate the last fourth of the book.  Which is okay, I guess, because the goblin/elf relationship was oddly sweet.  But it was disorienting to root for one couple the whole time, only to be left with an anticlimactic reunion.

The best part, for me, was getting to see the cultural differences between goblins and elves.  I loved Dunkle’s subversion of the norm, so that her goblins are loyal, respectful, and kind, while her elves are cruel, vain, and dirty.  The ugly creatures are beautiful inside, and the beautiful creatures are ugly inside.  Fun!  Semi-relatedly, I also really love how the goblins see their deformities as based in strength.  There was one especially sweet scene when a goblin heals someone’s scars, but not fully.  He’s happy about this, because the scars are reminders of her courage, and he wants her to be able to keep some part of that.

I still love the world Dunkle has created, but it was definitely the Beauty & the Beast storyline of Kate and Marak that so completely enthralled me in The Hollow Kingdom.  Guess I’ll just have to reread it!

closekinBook Jacket

“Goblins are just a tale to frighten children.”

Emily might have believed this once, but she knows better now.  For years she has been living happily in the underground goblin kingdom.  Now Emily is old enough to marry, but when her childhood friend Seylin proposes, she doesn’t take him seriously.

Devastated, Seylin leaves the kingdom, intent on finding his own people:  the elves.  Too late, Emily realizes what Seylin means to her and sets out in search of him.  But as Emily and Seylin come closer to their goals, they bring two worlds onto a collision course, awakening hatreds and prejudices that have slumbered for hundreds of years.

In this sequel to The Hollow Kingdom, Clare Dunkle draws readers deeper into the magical world that Lloyd Alexander, winner of the Newbery Medal, calls “as persuasive as it is remarkable.”

Release Date:  2004

Want another opinion?  Check out reviews by The Thunder Child and Scribd.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

I’ve loved Telgemeier’s previous cartoon reminiscences of adolescence, Smile and Drama.  She captures the confusion, dreams, and crankiness of being a teenager through perfect pictures and timely dialogue.  This time we shift away from school to her home life, especially her relationship with her sister during a three week vacation one summer.

I loved the way Telgemeier portrays family as annoying people you have to put up with but will cling to desperately when things get rough.  No one has the power to lift you up or tear you down quite like your siblings.  And these relationship changes take place in the smallest gestures, like taking off headphones in the car.  The book is a quick sweet look at the ups and downs of family life from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl.  More, please!

41wBjyCmB7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Book Jacket

Raina can’t wait to be a big sister.  But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be.  Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself.  Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years.  But when a baby brother enters the picture, and later, when something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along.  They are sisters, after all.

Raina Telgemeier uses her signature humor and charm to tell the story of her relationship with her little sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.

Release Date:  August 2014

Want another opinion?  Try reviews by Stacked and Alice Marvels.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

OH MY GOSH THIS BOOK.  After I read the last page, I literally held The Hollow Kingdom in the air, shook it, and rasped, “I love you so much!”  It’s been a while since a story was so exactly catered to my interests, and I’m still reeling from its perfection.

I mean, first of all, the goblin kingdom is one of the coolest worlds I’ve read about.  It is lovingly detailed, full of vaguely argumentative doors, polite monsters, and pets with pets.  I loved seeing goblins through Kate’s practical English eyes; at first she can only see the horror.  But when she returns to the human world, she realizes just how attached she has become.  Hers was a slow fade into appreciation and love, which felt very real.  I, however, was more like younger sister Emily, quick to awe and adoration.  Continue reading

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I have been scorned multiple times for the fact that I have not read Anne of Green Gables.  Well, no more!  I picked up a copy for $0.50 at Half Price Books and read it through.

Of the two title characters, I unabashedly loved Green Gables (and the surrounding town of Avonlea).  Montgomery is almost too good of a writer, describing the ponds and woods with such magic that the place sounds almost like paradise.  I’m entirely sold, ship me off to Prince Edward Island at once!  Continue reading