My Favorite Books Through the Years

When I was really little, I imagine I devoured books faster than the Very Hungry Caterpillar could ever hope to eat.  In fact, I have distinct memories of my elementary school years being spent at the reading station, working my way through every book, audio book, and reading lesson I could get my little hands on.  However, my favorite books were always either Winnie-the-Pooh books, of which nostalgia and pure love have kept me from letting go, or Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham.  I firmly believe the fact that my name is Sam played a very large part in my adoration of that book.

In the middle years of my childhood, I started reading chapter books very early on, a fact I was immensely proud of.  Books by Andrew Clements were a particular favorite of mine.  I enjoyed Frindle and I read The School Story more times than I can count.  I loved that book because it spoke to the writer in me.  It gave me the hope that, however fictitious this book may be, I could do that one day.  Maybe not exactly that way, per se, but I could write a book and get it published.  In all honestly, that book made the whole publishing process seem so easy, but I suppose that, to a very experienced author like Andrew Clements, it seems pretty easy.

I also loved books from Haddix, which I have mentioned before.  I practically lived for her Shadow Children series.  I would save my allowance dollars and the day I had enough to go purchase the next book in the series was the best day ever.  Those books still grace my shelves to this day.

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In high school, I read as often as I could with my more rigorous academia.  I lived for Rick Riordan’s books about Percy Jackson and his friends, hated (still do) the movies that they “based” off of the books, and waited nervously for the days House of Hades and then The Blood of Olympus came out (I can do a whole other post about my feelings towards this series and that last book in particular, if anyone is interested).  Once that series came to an end, I decided to move on and discovered other authors. I read and reread Changing Faces by Wendy Lawyon, a gift from grandparents.  I fell in love with the other books by Haddix, stumbled upon the books of Jessica Day George, and was introduced to Shannon Hale’s masterpieces.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of my time reading English literature from Beowulf to Frankenstein, discovering the poems, ballads, and epics (respectively) of Marie de France, Wordsworth, Sir Philip Sidney, Milton, and John Donne.  I’ve rediscovered my love of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and found some new favorites.  That is to say, I haven’t had a lot of time to find modern fiction favorites.  Of course, I look forward to summer and more free time to return to the guilty pleasures of fiction and fantasy novels.

Those are some of my favorite books and authors over the years.  Do you have any favorites?  Have any suggestions for me to read in my coming free time (oh, how I can’t wait)?  Please let me know in the comments!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Austenland

I recently did a review on Shannon Hale’s Midnight in Austenland, and in the review I mentioned I was planning on reading the book’s friend, Austenland.  Well, I have and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much.

Austenland was amazing on an entirely different level.  The mystery is of a different nature, and yet just as intriguing and page-turning.  The romance is a different quality, but is still very beautiful and heart-wrenching.

This book follows a middle-aged woman named Jane Hayes who is followed by a trail of very painful and disappointing relationships.  She fell in love with Pride and Prejudice when she was a teenager and she has been haunted by her idea of Mr. Darcy ever since.  When she arrives at Austenland, she has an entirely different view of it.  Jane goes into Austenland wanting to get swept up with the fantasy and hoping to leave it three weeks later with her Mr. Darcy obsession kicked and having become the strong, independent woman she believes she ought to be.  Those three weeks are just as swift and confusing and full of existential questioning as Charlotte of Midnight in Austenland‘s were.  Jane’s painful awareness of the actors and their two-sided (or more) nature confuses and blinds her to the reality of her own story and her own happy ending.

Different from her other book, Shannon Hale’s Austenland still succeeded in sucking me into her twisting plot and keeping me turning the pages and hoping ardently for a happy ending until the very last page.

I look forward to reading some of Shannon Hale’s other books and I encourage you to read this one.  Happy reading!!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful, written by Justina Chen Headley, is an incredibly poignant novel about a teenage girl with a port-wine stain birthmark and her journey in understanding what true beauty is.  Like any great book there is, of course, more to it than that.

Living under an oppressive and verbally abusive father, this book takes us along with Terra Cooper as she discovers beauty, love, life, travels, and freedom, and what everything means.  We follow Terra and her friends and family as they unearth their deepest fears, worries, and demons and find their own true beauty.  Filled with questions worthy of a philosopher, romance, pain and fear, and emotional diction, this novel had me intrigued until the very end and left me thinking- which is exactly how I like my books.

I recommend giving this book a read!  I look forward to seeing what other novels Justina Chen Headley has to offer us.

Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Midnight in Austenland

I discovered this author through the recommendation from Jessica Day George (another author I adore) and I am very glad I did.  I keep saying that such-and-such author is my new favorite or such-and-such author is my NEW favorite, and perhaps I am just being presumptuous or I am simply too nice, but I do believe I will enjoy reading all of Shannon Hale’s books.

Midnight in Austenland was amazing.  It’s about a middle-aged woman who recently got divorced after the husband she loved with all her heart cheated on her.  She is so hurt that she numbs herself to emotion and turns her heart to stone.  After dozens of blind dates set up by well-meaning friends, Charlotte feels even worse than before and decides to take a vacation in hopes of finding… well she isn’t sure exactly what… while her kids are staying with the ex-husband.  That is how she ends up at Austenland, where people go to pretend you are in the same time era as Jane Austen’s novels.  Here, the characters spend two weeks in Pembrook Park dressing in corsets and long-skirted dresses, eating traditional meals, dancing, doing needlepoint, and letting themselves fall in pretend love with the handsome gentlemen actors.  Charlotte goes because she has recently fallen in love with every aspect of Jane Austen’s novels.  What happens in those few weeks no one expected, especially not Charlotte.

Filled with adventure, romance, friendship, mystery, and gasp-out-loud, fail-to-hide-your-excited-giggle moments, Midnight in Austenland had me hooked until the last page and wishing for more.  Perfect from cover to cover, I recommend this book whole-heartedly, and look forward to reading the first book that takes place in this Jane Austen worthy setting, Austenland.

If you enjoyed Jane Austen’s novels, romance, mystery, or wish you could be in a place such as Austenland, I really recommend you read these two books.  I loved them very much.

Happy reading!!!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Dragon Spear

Jessica Day George (my goodness, her name is long, yet it has a lovely ring to it) has written another book that I adore.

Dragon Slippers is her very first novel for young readers, and I will admit that it is a fabulous first book.  I was a bit uncertain about it at first, for I was afraid it would be a bit too childish, but I stuck through to the end (I believe you should give a book a chance and read through to the end, or close to it) and was not disappointed.

The book touches on many of the things I so ardently love: magic, dragons, adventure, and a possibility of love.  This book also got me really interested in medieval clothing, in particular dresses.  I have come to realize, in the setting of this book especially, that dress-making (and clothes-making in general) is an art.

The main character of this book, Creel (I love her name, shortened and whole), is a poor girl from a poor family that is desperate for a bit of income.  They’re so desperate that her aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon in hopes that some brave (and rich!) knight will rescue her and beg her to marry him, thus benefiting her family.  Of course, it doesn’t go as her aunt expects it to and the book follows Creel on her amazing adventures with dragons, dress-making, royalty, and magic galore.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t hesitate to read the next two in the series.  Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear didn’t disappoint at all.  I always worry with books such as these that the sequels will disappoint and be much too similar with the same “problem” that characterized the first book.  That was not the case with this series, though.  The next two books continued to follow Creel and her friends, new and old, with the continued themes that I adore.  The “problems”, though, were entirely different and incredibly interesting.  Each book just got better and better.  In the second book I was surprised by the challenges Creel faced, and in the third book, I was even more surprised.

If you enjoy dragons, magic, romance, adventure, medieval settings, or any of Jessica Day George’s other books, I highly recommend you read this series!!  I enjoyed it very much.

Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Princesses of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass, and Princess of the Silver Woods

I am thrilled to share with you another wonderful book by Jessica Day George!

Princesses of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George was lovely.  I read the book in one day and stayed up until the wee hours of the night to finish it.  It was definitely a page-turner.

This book has it all.  There is mystery and suspense, innocent romance (which is to say not Fifty Shades of Grey level), magic, and a medieval time setting, along with a bonus for myself- a bit of German!

The story follows twelve sisters, all princesses, who are wrapped in a mystery known as The Mystery of the Dancing Slippers.  This mystery is a confusing one to all the characters that have heard of it, and of course involves magic, and not good magic, either.  To defeat it, true love, more than a good dash of luck, courage, and some odd magic items will be needed.

Besides this book, Jessica Day George- bless her- brought us two more that continue to follow the twelve sisters we first met in Princesses of the Midnight Ball.  In Princess of Glass, Princess Poppy, the sixth princess, is the main character of this story that takes an entirely different approach from the first book.  This plot is just as intriguing as the first and filled with plenty more of what the first novel had to offer.  In the third book of the series, Princess of the Silver Woods, the youngest, Princess Petunia, is the main character.  The story follows her as an old enemy reawakens and threatens her and all that she loves and cares about, including her sisters.  This book is my favorite out of the entire series.  It is, in my opinion, the climax of the ongoing plot that is the lives of the twelve princesses.

What impresses me most is not how well Jessica Day George creates her world and setting, not how well she creates the story and plot (and continues it into the next books, with a fluid and coherent passing of time), and not how well she writes in general.  What I am most impressed by is how she is able to create twelve different girls, whom are all related and sisters, yet every single one of them is entirely different and has her own set of quirks, traits, and characteristics.  Jessica Day George is not only able to describe these, but also keeps them separate and recalls them clearly throughout all three books (while another author I won’t mention, for I do love his books so, was unable to remember the name of one of his most important slightly minor characters and just called her something entirely different at the end of the book). Furthermore, she also creates dozens of other very prominent characters and draws them fully with her words, and remembers them from book to book.  Personally, I feel this shows George’s art and the downfall of authors who are pressured to turn out books.  Nothing about George’s writing or books seems forced, but rather as if she lives their and knows each character as if she were her own sister.

Jessica Day George has rapidly become one of my favorite authors (if not my number one) and I look very much forward to the day when all (yes, all) of her books grace my bookshelf.

My point?  Read not only this series, but all of her books!!!  Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Just Ella

I love this book so much!  Just Ella is written by one of my favorite authors, whose novels I own almost all of and which have their very own shelf on my bookshelf-well, one of my bookshelves.  It is one of my top favorite books.  I have read this book many times, and I simply love the plot, the idea, the way it is written, the ending, just everything about it.

Just Ella is written by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who is also the author of Double Identity, Running out of Time, and one of my absolute favorite series as a child, The Shadow Children series, among others.  If you haven’t read her books, I highly recommend you do!

This book, though, is especially great.  Just Ella is a very different take on the classic Cinderella story, but don’t let that put you off!!!  I myself have read more twists on the Cinderella tale than I can count on my fingers- and probably my toes, too, for that matter!!!  This one, though, is different.  This book picks up where every other book leaves off and tells what happens in the “happily ever after”, and it may not be as happy as you expect.

Filled with romance, feminism, take charge personality, intellect, and a whole new spin on the Cinderella happily ever after, this book is a page turner and truly lovely.  I especially love the ending, because it really isn’t what you would expect.  It surprised me in many ways, and I adore a book that does that.  Just read it.  Seriously!!  It is very good.

Let me know your thoughts on Just Ella and any other books written by Haddix.  And if you enjoy this book, read Palace of Mirrors, the sequel to Just Ella.  Happy reading!!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

I recently read a book that I really enjoyed and I decided to share it with all of you.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George is a wonderful book.  It’s a lovely take on a classic romance story and is filled with exciting mythical creatures and legends.  The story’s plot twists and turns and kept me guessing most of the way through.  I absolutely love novels that are so intricately woven, that try as I might- and I do indeed try very hard to predict what will happen in a book- I can’t figure out many of the things that will happen, and this novel was no exception.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is about a girl and her very poor family living in an area quite similar to Norway.  The story follows this daughter of a woodcutter through the adventure that she abruptly gets caught up in.  We are able watch “the lass”, as she is called, grow, mature, and change as she is faced with many interesting challenges and she discovers the crazy things love will make you do and the wonderful things it has to offer.

This story is not the typical magical type of book I read, but I enjoyed it very much anyhow.  Rather than containing wizards and mythological gods, this book contained trolls, magical spells, castles, and plenty more.  Oh, and of course it contained romance and sibling love that captured my heart.

I recommend you read this book.  I loved it cover to cover, and, I will admit, I read it in one day.  And then I read it again.

Now I plan on reading the other novels Jessica Day George has to offer.  She is a splendid author.

If you have read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, or have read any other novels written by Jessica Day George, or have any comments at all, leave them below!  Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

I previously mentioned that I would publish reviews for books I have read, but unfortunately I have been so terribly busy that I have hardly had time to read- tragic, I know- let alone write and publish a review. The other day, though, I decided to sit myself down and work on reading the large stack of books from the library that has taken a seemingly permanent residence upon my nightstand.  This is the first novel I chose.

Shades of Milk and Honey written by Mary Robinette Kowal.  It is quite a jewel that I have stumbled upon.  I first heard of this remarkable novel whilst watching a Vlog from one of the famous Green brothers (Hank, to be precise). I decided that if he read it and recommended it, that I ought to at least check it out from the library, which for me is the first step in reading a book and akin to adding it to my reading list. I was not even certain if I was going to read it.

I am so glad that I opened this book.  I finished it in one day, quite literally.  I sat and read it for an entire day.  I absolutely loved it.  My favorite genre is fantasy.  When asked what I like to read, my answer is: “Fantasy or Fiction.  Truly, anything with magic in it.” (And romance, actually.)  This book was something I have never seen before.  To surprise me when it comes to magic is quite an endeavor.  I have read hundreds and hundreds of books with all sorts of magic in them.  From dragons to centaurs to stormwings, from spells to potions to superpowers to charms, from transfigurations to teleportation to telepathy, from amulets to talismans to invisible cloaks and caps, I really know just about all of it.  This book, though, brought something new to my attention.  I have never seen magic such as this before, and I LOVE it!  It is new and interesting and beautiful and still has such incredible literary meaning.

I often find that people think that fantasy and fiction novels (especially those containing magic) have very little literary depth and cannot come anywhere near touching classic novels.  This book, though, is a beautiful mixture of magic, romance, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  This novel is somewhat of a modern version of Jane Austen’s lovely novel, but with magic, more depth, and much more complicated intricacies.  It is much more than a “beach-read” as my English teacher puts it, and truly has literary depth.  This book questions what beauty is, what it means, the importance of etiquette, society’s standards (just as Jane Austen does), and sexist standards and thought.

While indeed being deep and erudite, it is also a fairly easy read.  This book is a page turner and not terribly complicated to read.  Simply put, if you love magic, romance, Jane Austen and her presumptuous and arrogant society, or any of the other things I mentioned (including the spectacular Green brothers) I highly recommend you read this book, even if you were not very taken with Pride and Prejudice.

And that is my very first novel review and recommendation!  If you have read this book or have any questions, feel free to comment, though please do not indulge in spoilers.  Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl