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: 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