Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Recommendations for My Cousin

I didn't post yesterday because I read a book I really disliked and didn't want to rant about it. I've done too much of that lately. I will say this, though: the thing I liked least about the book was the way it sounded like the writer set out to "write a book." It followed every popular cliche without much explanation and seemed so...pattern. I mention this because I want to implore you writers out there to write the books you want to write, not the ones you think the people want. The stories that shine to you will shine to readers, I promise.

I want to be positive today, and I have the perfect material. An aunt asked me to recommend some books for her middle grade/YA aged daughter, preferably books that are not silly romances where the girl is willing to do anything for the guy. So I went to the library, took notes, and sent her a list. And I've decided to put that list on here for all of you. Some of these should not surprise you; I talk about them enough. And the list is certainly not comprehensive. But I positively love all of them.

- Anything by E.D. Baker. She writes fairy tale retellings that have love stories but they are not the focus. Characters are great, storytelling is clever, protagonists are smart and strong. Good place to start is The Frog Princess or Fairy Wings.

- Anything by T.A. Barron. Seriously some of the best fantasy for children I've ever read. The Lost Years of Merlin series is a good start, but so is Heartlight or The Merlin Effect. Excellent worldbulding and characterization.

- Ordinary Boy books by William Boniface. About a boy with no superpowers in a town full of them. Goofy, enjoyable, clever take on superhero tropes.

- The Sisters Grimm series. Darker, grittier take on fairy tales with a mystery/detective vibe.

- So You Want to Be A Wizard by Diane Duane. Fantasy mixed with science, deeply thought-provoking and enchanting story about power and good versus evil.

- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. A classic. Science and fantastic elements mixed, intelligent writing that calls for intelligent readers, beautiful message.

- Anything by Nancy Farmer. Wonderful writer with well-researched books. Engaging stories. A good place to start here is The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (sci-fi) or The Sea of Trolls (fantasy based heavily on Norse culture).

- Anything by Cornelia Funke. Some of the best fantasy I've read. Inkheart is her most famous book, but I also like The Thief Lord and, for a holiday treat, When Santa Fell to Earth.

- Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. Fantasy with some unique takes on dragons and typical fantasy styles. Writer is LDS and quite cool. Her book Princess of the Midnight Ball is also good.

- Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham. Because it's Grisham. The protagonist is a boy, but the storytelling is great and the law references are as accurate as you get. Thrilling story and good characters.

- Anything by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Extremely clever science fiction writer. I recommend Running Out of Time or Turnabout to start, though her Among the Hidden series is classic. She also does some historical fiction.

- Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Another LDS writer with powerful writing. She's one who knows how to string the right words in the right order. Strong female characters and great plot. Also recommend her book Goose Girl.

- Anything by Eva Ibbotson. British writer with sensible characters and whimsical fantasy. Great writing. Island of the Aunts is great, but Which Witch may be my favorite (witches compete in a pageant!). Her book Journey to the River Sea is realistic adventure.

- Anything by Ally Carter. Clever writer whose books are just awesome to read. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You is the first in a series of books about girl spies, and Heist Society is about art thieves. Fun writing and brilliant plotting. Memorable, lovable characters.

- The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. One of my all-time favorite writers. British humor, sensible characters who do what needs to be done. The hero, Tiffany Aching, is one of my favorite female characters.

- Anything by Diana Wynne Jones. Brilliant writer who understands her genre inside and out. I recommend particularly Fire and Hemlock and Howl's Moving Castle.

- Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. Story about a princess who gets "captured" by dragons and doesn't want to be rescued. Heroic protagonist who is also sensible, great writing, great secondary characters, great use of the genre. Her other books are wonderful too.

- No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman. Fantastic realistic fiction with the best oddball characters and ridiculous plot. So clever, so much fun. Korman also wrote a modern teen retelling of The Great Gatsby called Jake, Reinvented that is worth reading.

- Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. One of my favorite LDS writers. Wonderful wordbuilding and use of mythology and folklore. Great pacing and (I like this) Mull is not afraid to hurt his characters, aka, the stakes are clearly high.

- The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris. Retelling of Arthurian legend. Brilliant writing, clever characters, informed retelling based on texts and the writer's own logic. Also, real love versus the culture of love shown in most of the books.

- The Giver by Lois Lowry. Never mind the movie coming out, this is a classic. Excellent dystopian novel that everyone should read.

- Archvillain by Barry Lyga. About a kid who sees an alien land (think Superman) who becomes the town superhero. The kid gains powers too and decides to expose the alien by being the town supervillain. Great subversion of the genre and clever characters. Kind of like Dr. Horrible in book form, for kids.

- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. The book is much better than the movie. Strong-willed, intelligent heroine and wonderful take on the "Cinderella" story. Levine's other books are good reads, but this one's the classic.

- The Cay by Theodore Taylor. Historical survival fiction about a boy blinded in a shipwreck and surviving on an island with an old black man. Classic book and good survival fiction.

- Anything by Rick Riordan. Exciting reimagining of classic mythology. Great characters and dialogue. The Lightning Thief is a good place to start.

- Half Upon a Time by James Riley. Mashed-up fairy tales with a twist. I like these because the writer uses the tales to tell a lager story; it doesn't feel episodic. Great characters, great dialogue, interesting twist.

- The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. About kids working as pages in a library that stores items from fairy tales. Great characters and premise. Exciting plot.

- The Alcatraz series by Brandon Sanderson. Brilliant LDS writer and my hero. These books are cleverly written, exciting, and silly. Very fun and excellently written.

- The Bartimaeus Sequence. Story about sorcerers and one demon they raise (Bartimaeus). Wonderful 3D characters and excellent use of footnotes in fiction. Worldbuilding is also spectacular.

- Of Giants and Ice by Shelby Bach. Really clever fairy tale retelling: kids are trained to be characters in stories. Likeable characters, exciting plots.

A long list, I know. But it could be longer. I thought of other books and authors since sending the list. Like this: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Very clever fairy tale take, where the Prince Charmings of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White team up as a heroic yet bumbling team of adventurers.

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