Posts Tagged ‘Shannon Hale’

It’s been a literary month around here. Lots of reading – old favorites and new stories. So this is a long post, but here’s my monthly dose of bookish delight for you:

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5), Rick Riordan
I loved this fast-paced, breathless, battle-filled conclusion to the Percy Jackson series. I could hardly turn the pages fast enough, wondering what was going to happen. Sad moments as some characters are killed in battle; I suppose it’s like this with any epic series (echoes of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, again). But (sorry if this shocks you) good does triumph over evil and Percy and his friends save the day. I won’t tell you how, though. The journey is pure pleasure.

Daddy-Long-Legs, Jean Webster
I found my copy of this sweet story at Brattle Book Shop, in the outdoor stalls, and read it in just a couple of days. The narrator, Jerusha (who wisely nicknames herself Judy), is sweet and funny and observant, if a little naive. It’s such a fun portrait of a girl’s college life around the turn of the last century, and though I already knew about the sweet surprise at the end (from having read Dear Pen Pal), it was still worth reading.

Meet the Austins, Madeleine L’Engle
I bought this one at the charming Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, caught without something to read on the train home. I quite enjoyed it – I knew about the Austin series from reading Madeleine’s memoirs, but hadn’t read them before. I like Vicky and her quirky family, though I think I like the Wrinkle in Time series better.

Romancing Miss Bronte, Juliet Gael
This title and cover captivated me – I found it at the library and it just looked so romantic. And it was – though not in the way I quite expected. I didn’t know much about the Bronte sisters’ lives, other than their quiet seclusion in Yorkshire with a blind father and a delinquent brother. Gael brings the sisters and their struggles to life deftly, and I learned a lot about their lives I didn’t know before. (This is fiction, but even the servants’ names are historically accurate.)

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
I know I’m late to the party – the literary world has been abuzz lately over Mockingjay, the third in this trilogy. But I just hadn’t got round to The Hunger Games, and now that I have, I can only say: Wow. It’s like Shannon Hale’s tales of bravery and 1984 and a Roman gladiator fight all in one. Katniss is a little dense when it comes to boys, but she’s brave and strong and clever, and compassionate – which both saves her and endangers her in the end.

The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale
I’m needing a little extra bravery these days as I learn to navigate a new city, send out job application after job application, and work to make friends. I love the tale of Anidori Kiladra Talianna-Isilee, who must hide her identity as a goose girl before she can claim her rightful place as queen. The language is rich and the characters are real, and it all feels true and solid, and it makes me feel brave.

Enna Burning, Shannon Hale
I love this sequel to The Goose Girl as much as the original. Enna has a great but dangerous gift – and I love walking with her as she learns to control it. The characters really start to come into their own in this book, and there’s a lot here about love and bravery and battle. Excellent.

River Secrets, Shannon Hale
Razo is one of my favorite Shannon Hale characters, even more so because he doesn’t know the scope of his own gifts. The world of Bayern expands southward, and Hale draws us, along with her characters, into a new realm where lots of the rules are different. It’s a compelling, entertaining, powerful story.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
I don’t know what I can say about this series that hasn’t already been said. It’s heartbreaking, powerful, challenging, compelling, enchanting – and funny. Every time I read it I catch more of Rowling’s jokes, more of her cleverness, more complex layers of plot and character. I always have to go back after finishing the seventh book and read the last 200 pages (at least) again. The last few books, when people really start dying, make me cry, and all of them make me laugh, and warm my heart, and make me stay up way too late reading.

The Bread of Angels, Stephanie Saldana
This is a moving account of one woman’s journey out of faith and back again – but it’s more than that. It chronicles her year living in the Christian quarter of Damascus, her complicated relationship with her family, her longing to find her calling in life, and her falling in love with a monk. Stunning prose – though I admit I got bogged down at her spiritual low point – but such hope and grace and beauty later on.

Pies & Prejudice, Heather Vogel Frederick
I love young-adult and middle-grade fiction, even more so if it relates to books. So this fourth installment of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, where the girls read Pride and Prejudice, charmed me. The girls are growing up – they’re starting high school – and it’s fun to watch them mature, navigate the world of boys, read Jane Austen for the first time, and visit England together.

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story, Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
I’d heard this was wise, beautiful and compelling – and it was all three and more. The intertwined journeys of mother and daughter, both dealing with their identities as women and writers, resonated deeply with me. (I also learned a lot of the backstory behind The Secret Life of Bees.) I love travel writing that’s also spiritual and literary – this is perfect.

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Since the end of August got completely squished into September, due to our two-week European adventure, I’m doing a combination books post. Here are my last two months’ worth of reading, including four books read or started on planes, on buses and in hostels:

It’s Not About the Tapas: A Spanish Journey on Two Wheels, Polly Evans
I bought this mostly because we were about to go to Spain, and because I miss riding a bike (though I would NEVER be ambitious enough to cycle around half a country). I enjoyed it, though it did get a bit repetitive towards the end. Evans is witty, observant, self-deprecating, and appreciates a good Spanish wine.

No Children, No Pets, Marion Holland
A re-read of a perennial summer favourite. This book evokes two totally different sets of images for me. The story is set in Florida, so it evokes sand and salt air and palm trees and unexpected hurricanes, and hours playing on the beach. The experience of reading it, though, takes me back to my grandparents’ Missouri farmhouse, lying in the middle bedroom in the afternoon, laughing out loud. (I did this for years, reading this book every summer. Made me laugh every time. Still does.)

Betsy’s Wedding, Maud Hart Lovelace
The last book in the Betsy-Tacy series is definitely one of my faves – and it speaks to me anew as a young married woman and a novice writer, like Betsy. Very old-fashioned, in a sweet way; funny; realistic; and full of charming scenery and characters. I love this whole series. So much.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
I borrowed Jana’s copy of this book for our long plane ride – and read it in a couple of hours. Flavia de Luce, 11-year-old chemist and detective, is utterly hilarious and charming. And the book’s plot isn’t half bad, either. Intriguing, smart and funny, with interesting characters. I’m ready for the next one in the series.

Where Shall We Go For Dinner?:A Food Romance, Tamasin Day-Lewis
This was a Blackwells purchase, and chronicles the travels of one English food writer and her boyfriend, a fine cheese purveyor from New York. They go all over the place, from Venice to the Pyrenees to Somerset, and it was mouth-watering – and highly entertaining. Highly recommended if you like food, and don’t we all? With recipes (most of which are too gourmet for me, but a few look doable).

Home, Marilynne Robinson
Julie lent me this follow-up to Gilead months ago, and I read it on our return flight to Texas. And ached. And cried. And wanted to walk right into the pages and talk to Jack and Glory Boughton, brother and sister who are dealing with Jack’s return home after 20 years’ absence. This book deserves all the accolades it got. The characters are real, and Robinson’s writing is luminous.

Much Ado About Anne, Heather Vogel Frederick
This was a fun, quick read – second in The Mother-Daughter Book Club series. Makes me want to read the Anne of Green Gables series again, but I also enjoyed the modern-day antics of Megan, Cassidy, Jess, Emma and Becca, set in Concord. Technically YA lit, but so fun.

Two Feet, Four Paws: Walking the Coastline of Britain, Spud Talbot-Ponsonby
This one also came from Blackwells – and gave me quite a new perspective on Britain’s coastal areas, most of which I’ve never seen. The author/narrator walked a distance equivalent to London to Calcutta to raise money for a homeless charity, and had some fascinating adventures along the way. Occasionally she gets a bit preachy, but I did enjoy the story of her journey with her faithful dog, Tess.

Dear Pen Pal, Heather Vogel Frederick
This is the third Mother-Daughter Book Club book (see above). Not quite as good as Much Ado About Anne, but I enjoyed it anyway – it’s full of the perils and drama of eighth grade. Reading books like this makes me glad my own junior-high days are over, but also helps me remember what I loved about them. (Mostly my friends – some of whom are still dear to my heart.)

Forest Born, Shannon Hale
This is the fourth book of Shannon’s Bayern series – following The Goose Girl, Enna Burning and River Secrets. I love, love, love these characters and their stories, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this one. Forest Born features Rin, the younger sister of Razo (who starred in River Secrets). She’s a delight to get to know, and all the old favorite characters are back. I love Shannon’s writing – so smooth, but it has such depth, like a perfectly calm glassy lake. Her characters don’t just fight battles and become queens and fall in love – they grow up, and discover things about themselves – and other people – that they never would have dreamed.

That may sound a little lame, but trust me, the Bayern books are wonderful tales of adventure, with real heart. They’re supposedly young adult, but (as with so many “young adult” books), I loooove them. Read them. You won’t be sorry.

The Actor and the Housewife, Shannon Hale
This is Shannon’s second book for adults, following Austenland (2007). It began as a dream – no, seriously – and reads like a smart, quirky, wonderfully unconventional romantic comedy. Romantic comedies are involved in the plot, actually, since one character is a famous British actor and another is a screenwriter. I don’t know how to categorize this book – it’s not normal chick lit – but it’s funny, and heartbreaking, and fabulous. Just like everything else Shannon has ever written.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller
After hearing Don speak at ACU Summit, my husband bought this book – and wow, is it fabulous. Felicity posted her review here, and I agree with her – it blew me away. I read it in a day and a half, and will definitely be revisiting its principles about stories and dreams.

That’s all for now, folks. Stay tuned for October’s books!

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