Favorites Friday: Chosen Ones

I recently finished NaNoWriMo and working on a novel about the Chosen One, fated to defeat great evil in an ancient prophecy.  Well, actually, it’s about his very smart best friend who gets a bit overlooked.  Playing with the tropes?  Oh, definitely!  So I thought it would be fun to look at a few other stories about Chosen Ones…

1) Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – This is, of course, the juggernaut, the one that, for this time period at least, defines all the others.  I like Harry Potter a lot though I’ve never been one of the really dedicated fans.  And I like Harry the individual reasonably well, although…how great is Hermione???  I reread these not long ago, and my experience reading Harry Potter as an adult was mostly that this whole fight against Voldemort would have been over much sooner if Hermione had been allowed to take the lead.  Inspiration for my recent novel draft?  Oh, definitely!

2) Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen – Eerily similar to Harry Potter in many ways, though only one, much shorter and also simpler book.  I do especially like Henry in this one, and while he has a smart female friend, he carries his own load in defeating the big bad villain.

3) Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier – A different style of fantasy from all the others here (not a boarding school, for instance), this is a really interesting story of prophecies and people who believe in them, with (at the risk of a spoiler) a very nice twist besides.  And a female lead, incidentally!

4) Carry On (Simon) by Rainbow Rowell – An interesting backstory here, because Rowell wrote Fangirl, where the lead character Cath is writing a fanfiction novel called Carry On, Simon about a (I assume!) Harry Potter-inspired Chosen One character from his own (fictional) series.  And then Rowell wrote Carry On about said-character, which is sort of Cath’s novel, but not…  Anyway, with or without said-backstory, it’s a fun adventure that, not unlike mine, is deliberately playing with some tropes of fantasy Chosen One stories.  Great fun.

5) Percy Jackson series + Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan – Chosen One fantasy with a mythological twist, Percy fits right in the mold with Harry and Henry, and Annabeth would probably be best friends with Hermione (if they didn’t turn into fierce competitors instead).  I like Percy–and I love Annabeth–and getting some parts from her point of view is one reason I actually like the second series better.  Riordan is funny and clever and rarely have I seen a Chosen One story where it was SO clear that Percy’s apparent weaknesses turn into his strengths.  As happens in good kid fantasy, of course.

That’s a handful, but there must be many more!  Do you have a favorite Chosen One of literature?

Favorites Friday: Newbery Medal Winners

I’m on my second year reading Newbery Medal winners, reviewing as I can, but I’ve never done a best-of reflection on Newbery Medal books.  Here’s a round-up of favorites–some I read before this challenge, others read in the last couple years.  In no particular order…

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  2. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
  3. The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
  4. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  5. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  6. Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt
  7. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  8. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg
  9. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  10. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Bank

What are your favorites among the Newbery winners?  (Not sure? Find the complete list here!)  Maybe you’ll give me an idea for what I should read next.

Favorites Friday: (Un)forgotten Childhood Reads

Looking for a bookish topic for this week, I went to see what the Broke and the Bookish have proposed in the past–and found Childhood Favorites right at the top of their list.  I’ve written about a number of childhood favorites (like Monday’s Classic Review), but I thought there had to be many I’d never mentioned.  So of course I went to my bookshelf for some slightly more obscure favorites.  It wasn’t hard–I’ve made a habit for years of buying childhood favorites from the library’s (extremely cheap!) warehouse sale, in part so I won’t forget them!

1) The Mystery of the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks – The Indian in the Cupboard is one of those well-known classics, and I liked that one…but I liked the later Mystery of the Cupboard better, with its story of how the cupboard became magical.

2) Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – Not unlike Little House on the Prairie, this is a story of a child out on the frontier…although somehow Caddie seemed to have more fun and lead a less lonely life than Laura!  Funnily enough, long before I ever went to England, I didn’t feel quite the way I was obviously supposed to when the Woodlawn family must decide whether to go take up an English estate or to stay on the frontier…  I think I’ve always been in favor of civilization though!

3) The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew – A very charming little story of a girl who meets a witch, whose spells only work reliably on Wednesdays.  It’s funny and cute and, come to think of it, features a talking cat…

4) Beverly Cleary, en masse – I haven’t written much on this very well-known author, but I think I’ve read just about all of her canon.  I certainly read the entire Henry Huggins series, and the related Ramona series.  My favorite was Ribsy, from the dog’s point of view.

5) Morning Girl by Michael Dorris – The story of a girl and her brother growing up in the Bahamas in 1492, it brings a very foreign culture vividly to life.  I suspect that the sinister undertones to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Epilogue went completely past me as a child…  Randomly enough, this is the first book I can remember reading with alternating first person points of view.

6) The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse – I love the way this one is written.  A girl who grew up with dolphins is “rescued” and taken to a research center for education (and study, though the people do seem benevolent).  Written from the girl’s point of view, the language and sentences grow increasingly complex as she learns.  It’s not unlike Flowers for Algernon, I suppose (though the ending is happier, if rather implausible).

7) Howliday Inn by James Howe – This series is better known for Bunnicula, but my library had Howliday Inn so it was the one I read first.  The character of Bunnicula is almost completely absent–so in my mind, this series was always primarily about well-meaning Harold the dog, and suspicious, scheming Chester the cat.  They’re funny and absurd and wonderful characters.

8) Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Magic by Betty MacDonald – I read this entire series, about clever Mrs. Piggle Wiggle who solves behavior problems for all the neighborhood children…but this is the best one.  In the first book her solutions are purely practical and a bit heavy-handed.  Magical solutions are so much more fun, when tattle-talers have clouds with tails hang above them and a “heedless breaker” finds herself moving in slow-motion.

9) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – Somewhat like Morning Girl but in the opposite ocean, this invites us into Native American life on a small Pacific island.  This becomes a castaway story when a girl ends up living on the island alone for years.  This also contains a rather sad ending…but I remember the sadness did hit me as a kid for this one!

10) Yesterday’s Doll by Cora Taylor – I’m not sure if I was more fascinated by the doll handed down through generations, or the fact that she’s the key to time travel…but either way this one captured my imagination too.

What were your childhood favorite books?  Maybe not the very top of the list ones, but the ones that still hold fond memories for you too?

Favorites Friday: Holiday Albums

I’m somewhat famously Scroogish about Christmas music.  Fifteen years ago, the radio started playing Christmas music (earlier and earlier every year) ad nauseum this time of year, and even though I haven’t listened to the radio (to any meaningful degree) for a good six years now, I’m still not over feeling that I’ve heard too much Christmas music.  At least, of a certain variety, because the radio (and retail establishments) do tend to play a certain type.

But I like Christmas–and I do have particular Christmas albums and songs I enjoy.

1) A Christmas Album by Michael Crawford – I mean…Crawford!  He brings all that emotional heft and incredible range of notes to Christmas music and it’s beautiful.  It’s also mostly non-“certain type” songs.  His “Journey to Bethlehem” medley of a good dozen religious songs is breath-taking, and his “O Holy Night” is SO Crawford.  There’s a repeated refrain of “O night divine.”  The first time I listened to this song, after a good dramatic “O night divine,” I thought–no, it’s Crawford, he’s going to go bigger.  And sure enough, he repeats it one more time even more dramatically.

2) John Denver and the Muppets – On the possible other side of the spectrum…this really is the Muppets singing Christmas carols, with occasional accompaniment by John Denver.  Miss Piggy squawks indignant about “piggy pudding” (“no, no, figgy pudding”) and throughout “Little St. Nick” you can hear Animal yelling, “Run, run, reindeer!” in the background.  It’s great fun, and there’s a few more heartfelt moments too. Continue reading “Favorites Friday: Holiday Albums”

Favorites Friday…for a Book Club

Two weeks out from NaNoWriMo, I’m trying to get back to more normal blogging, which means I need a good Friday post!  Surfing around to my usual places for bookish topics, I landed on the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday archive.  One of their past topics was best books for a book club.  I’ve been in a book club for years, and it got me thinking…what have been our best reads?

1) The Magicians by Lev Grossman – I hated this book.  So did half the group.  The other half disagreed, generating probably our best book discussions ever.  For those of us in my half, Quentin is still a benchmark five years later for irritating characters.

2) Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang – Another one I hated.  It was so good to have a group of people to discuss it with!

3) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – This one just wins because, I mean…Good Omens!  You can’t go wrong with Pratchett and Gaiman.

4) Night Circus by Erin Morganstern – So I confess, this one is on the list for one reason.  I mean, I liked the book–but the particular book club appeal is that devotees of the circus start wearing black and white, with long red scarfs.  So that’s what I wore to the discussion.  And that’s just a fun potential with this book.

5) Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines – Heroic magical librarian.  This was one of the books I read and started telling everyone to read, including my book club.

6) The Giver by Lois Lowry – I love this incredibly deceptively simple book.  So much scope for a book club discussion.

7) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – No, really!  There’s a collection of very tongue-in-cheek discussion questions at the back and we had a semi-serious discussion around them.  I may have started some impassioned quoting of Winston Churchill (“We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the streets, we shall never give up and we shall never surrender”) for the question about why the characters didn’t just abandon England to the zombie hordes.

8) A Game of Thrones (or whatever the first in the series is called) by George R. R. Martin – I didn’t actually read this one.  But we got so many new people out to the meeting where we discussed it.  So if your book club has a recruitment goal…

9) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Mostly I get book club picks from the library, but somehow I bought this one.  It was universally liked, and my copy made the rounds to a large number of my non-book club friends.  Always a good sign.

10) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris – This is a fun, irreverent holiday essay collection–but the real reason it’s on here at the end is to give a slightly sappy, holiday-themed end to the post, because this book holds the honor of having been under discussion at the meeting where two of my dear friends met…who have now been married for several years.  I’ve heard her say that his defense of the moral choices in this book was what first caught her eye.

Any members of a book club out there?  What have been your best reads?

 

Favorites Friday: Romantic Couples (Biannual Event)

Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and I have a (loose) tradition of posting about favorite fictional romantic couples around this holiday…  I’ve covered a number of favorites in the past (2012 and 2014), but have met some new ones since last time, and noticed one I’m surprised I didn’t have before…

1) Cress and Thorne, The Lunar Chronicles Series – This series is just full of wonderful romances, and I could put Scarlet and Wolf or Winter and Jacin on this list too…but Cress and Thorne are my favorites, each one a little unsure, each trying to become more than what they fear they are.  And they’re just adorable, separately and together.

2) Percy and Annabeth, Heroes of Olympus Series – I met these characters in the Percy Jackson series, but the romance doesn’t come in until Heroes of Olympus…and it’s wonderful.  I love that they are such equals with so much respect for each other; they’re comrades in arms who are also in love, who literally go through Hell (Tartarus) leaning on each other.  In Book Two Percy forgets all of his memories except the name Annabeth; in Book Three there’s a lovely moment when Percy reassures Annabeth by saying, “It’s okay, we’re together” and she reflects on how he knows that’s what will most make her feel better.  It’s just beautiful.

3) Daniel and Sophia/Lucy, My Name Is Memory – This is less about who they are and more about the nature of their story (unusual for me).  A story of reincarnation across 1,500 years, Daniel always remembers and recognizes “Sophia” – but she never knows him, until finally in the 21st century, as Lucy, she begins to pull some glimmers together.  I just love the way they’re connected to each other in different ways in different lifetimes.  So fascinating.

4) Faolan and Eile, The Well of Shades – Two incredible characters with hideous amounts of pain and darkness in their pasts, who help each other heal…so beautiful!  The one and only time Juliet Marillier has left me dissatisfied with an ending was the book preceding this one, because I was sad for Faolan–and this book made it all come out right after all!

5) Beatrice and Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing – I can’t believe these two never made it onto my lists before!  My favorite Shakespearean couple, the sparring Beatrice and Benedick who are clearly obsessed with each other and fall right into love with just a little pushing.  Maybe I love them because they’re such intellectual equals–and for a story written in 1598(ish), that’s remarkable!

Do you have any favorite fictional couples?  And happy Valentine’s Day!

13 Reads for Friday the 13th

I’m not superstitious, but somehow Friday the 13th always feels like an appropriate day to post about something a little dark, a little creepy.  Even though, as a rule, I don’t read creepy books!  But I did find it surprisingly easy to rustle up a list of 13 books I’ve read in the last few years that are a little spooky, or a bit gothic, or just on the ghostly, shadowy side of things.  Here’s my list, in no particular order except to note that the top seven are particular favorites…

  1. Phantom by Susan Kay
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  5. Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
  6. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
  7. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
  8. Midnight Riot/Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  9. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  10. Austenland at Midnight by Shannon Hale
  11. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
  12. Doll Bones by Holly Black
  13. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Do you have a favorite spooky, gothic, shadowy read to recommend? 🙂