Arts & Entertainment

Book Reviews with Elizabeth

ELIZABETH LÉKA

Opinion Editor

Hello fellow book lovers! I have been requested to write about my all-time favorite books, so here you go! There are so many amazing books out there, so I hope reading about the books that I love will help you find some for yourself. I of course “reviewed” some of my favorite books, but I say reviewed loosely, because let’s be real, I basically just wrote about my love of them. There is also a list of books and other authors that I recommend at the end for your reading pleasure! Without further ado, happy reading (and seriously happy reading, because these books are amazing, and you will be happy). 

Books:

“The Book Thief” by: Markus Zusak

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction 

A haunting tale narrated by Death, The Book Thief tells the story of a girl, the Jew in her basement, and the power of words. In her new home on Himmel Street (or in English, Heaven St.) the girl is taught how to read by her adopted father, and finds a new passion. Once a scrappy street fighter, Max now begs for scraps of kindness, sunlight, and food. As a Jew, he is persecuted, but still manages to become the word shaker for Leisel, and changes her world. With the threat of conscription, discovery, and kisses looming, they both find their savior in words, and find that reading is necessary for survival. 

For some readers, I am sure it is hard to pick a favorite book. Not to brag, but I am one of the few who does not have that problem. I can say with absolute certainty that The Book Thief is my favorite book, and probably will be for the rest of my life. Why is this your favorite book, you may ask? First of all, I can really relate to Liesel. Well, ok, I’m not starving in Nazi Germany, but we have the same interests! We both love reading so much, and would do almost anything for books, and for the people we love. She is the perfect heroine: bold and stubborn, yet naive. Sooo, I just gushed over Leisel, but confession time, my favorite character is actually Rudy. His persistence, humor, and the whole Jesse Owens incident won me over. Another reason I really enjoy this book is the writing style. The story is written from the perspective of death, so there is a lot of dark humor, and this really cool omniscient narrator thing going on. Also, unexpectedly, this book has my favorite trope: right person, too little time. There is a movie for this book, which is surprisingly good. The moviemakers really focused on Rudy and Liesel’s childhood spirit being slowly drained away by the world, while the book doesn’t give them much chance to be kids. I won’t spoil the ending, but know that it is devastating, yet absolutely perfect. Endings are so crucial to the story, and this one does not disappoint. Warning: you will cry. I’m sure I could revise this paragraph a million times, and still not be able to adequately express my love for this book. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and hope that you love the story as much as I do. 

The “Truly Devious” series by: Maureen Johnson

Genre: Mystery

Famous business tycoon Albert Ellingham decided the brightest and most brilliant students deserved a school, and he was the best person to make that happen. Tucked away high in the Vermont mountains, Ellingham Academy would soon become the location of the most sensational mystery of the 20th Century. Albert’s wife and daughter were kidnapped, with the only clue being a twisted riddle signed “Truly, Devious”. Many years later, Stevie Bell, a true crime aficionado, is accepted to Ellingham Academy. With the help of her new friends, she resolves to solve this case once and for all, but the past starts repeating itself, and soon someone is killed. There are three books in this series, each adding to the intrigue. Will Stevie find out who “Truly, Devious” is and uncover what happened to the missing Ellinghams?

I am a huge sucker for a good mystery, the more confusing, the better. And geez, is this one confusing. In every book, there is a huge twist that makes the case completely different, which is so fun. If the author spent three books trying to solve some simple little case, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. I really want to give you a play by play of the story, but that would give major spoilers, so I’ll restrain myself. I really appreciate that all the loose ends were tied up at the end (because some authors don’t have the decency to do that!) but that is a prerequisite of a good mystery, having that dramatic moment at the end where the detective sits down and tells all. Ooh, this is a fun tidbit. In Vermont (where Ellingham is), there are apparently a lot of moose. Well, throughout the whole series, Stevie cannot wait to see a moose. Will she get her moose spotting? The whole moose subplot is really entertaining, and honestly the best part of it all. If you are looking for the next mystery of your dreams, this is the one for you. Also, Evelina liked it too, so now you have two vouchers for it. 

Since this is the “my favorite books” edition, I had to give you all some more quick synopsis’ of books I love! 

My top five favorite books:

  1. His Fair Assassin Series – Robin LaFevers – Historical Fiction:

These books are so intricate and detailed. I mean, the level of historical accuracy is insane. Of course, a whole religion for the god of death might be a bit overkill…but Mortain is super cool. There are 3 books in this series, each focusing on a different girl from the St. Mortain convent. I don’t really know what else to say other than if you like reading about medieval times, duchesses, and awesome assassins, you will absolutely love this series.

2. The Grace Year – Kim Liggett – Dystopian Fiction:

Tierney is about to turn 16, the year when girls in their society go out to live in a remote spot in the woods for their “Grace Year.” When the year is up, most of the girls do not come back, but the ones who make it are forever changed. Naturally, Tierney is curious as to what will happen out there, but as the time for the journey grows nearer, she realizes the biggest danger she will face is not the poachers in the woods, nor the wilderness itself. It is the other girls, the ones she will continue to be pitted against her whole life. This story is in a similar vein to the Handmaid’s Tale, but becomes a lot more horrifying. If all this sounds interesting, go for it, trust me, you’ll want to know what happens in their Grace Year. 

3. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline – Science Fiction:

I’m really not much of a sci-fi person, but geez I love this book. It centers around this egg-hunting contest in the Oasis, which is a virtual universe that life in 2045 depends on. Anyways, Wade Watts (our lovely protagonist) is a boy who is searching for Halliday-the game creator-’s legendary egg. They made a movie…that doesn’t follow the book, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you want more there is a second book aptly named Ready Player Two.

4. The Penderwicks – Jeanne Birdsall – Fiction:

I was probably a bit too old for these books when I first read this series. Yes, they are targeted for a bit younger of an audience than an 8th grader, but I immediately felt a connection with the family, and beautiful Arundel. Each sister is totally different, and their sisterly bond is tested many times, but they’re always able to come back together as a family. I love the dynamic of Jeffrey and the Penderwick girls. All of their adventures are so fun, and of course Hound has to be dragged along. If I could live in a book, it would probably be this one. Also, there are 5 books in the series, so plenty of time for fun.

5. Harry Potter and the Lack of Lamb Sauce – Imagitory (on AO3) – Fanfiction:

I don’t even know how I found this, but it is the most amazing fanfic ever. If you like the Harry Potter world and Gordon Ramsay, this is the story for you. Basically, the premise is if Professor Slughorn was never a professor, and instead Gordon took his place. So, he teaches at Hogwarts, and hosts a cooking competition there. It is 99 chapters of friendship, sadness, and Ron being the star. There are so many amazing new characters (shoutout to Noel, aka my favorite), and the author deep dives into many of our old favorites. Is Imagitory a way better writer than J. K. Rowling? (I would say a resounding yes)

And, now with all of those words, here is a plain old list of books that I like and definitely recommend, with the genres included, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

  1. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Series – Holly Jackson – Murder Mystery
  2. Three Dark Crowns Series – Kendare Blake – High Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction
  3. Sadie – Courtney Summers – Thriller, Mystery
  4. Caraval Series – Stephanie Garber – Fantasy Romance
  5. A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama – Laura Amy Schlitz – Melodrama
  6. The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller – Fantasy Fiction, Romance
  7. The Thorne Chronicles – K. Easton – Space Opera
  8. The Swallows – Lisa Lutz – Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction
  9. The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Fiction, Mystery
  10. A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins – Adventure Fiction, Dystopian
  11. The Devouring Gray – Christine Lynn Herman – YA, Dystopian, Fantasy
  12. The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd – Historical Fiction, Bildungsroman
  13. All Eyes on Her – L. E. Flynn – YA, Mystery, Suspense
  14. In the Hall with the Knife (Clue Mystery) series – Diana Peterfreund – Mystery
  15. They’ll Never Catch Us – Jessica Goodman – YA, Mystery, Bildungsroman
  16. Two Can Keep A Secret – Karen M. McManus – Thriller
  17. The Folk of the Air Series – Holly Black – Fantasy
  18. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell – Romantic Comedy, Realistic Fiction
  19. Red, White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston – LGBT, Romance, Realistic Fiction
  20. The Pirate Captain’s Logbook (my favorite book as a kid) – Sue Unstead – Fiction
  21. Any books I mentioned in previous book reviews (because I didn’t include any books I have already reviewed here)

I was looking up a genre description for some of these books, because I find it hard to categorize things, and came across the term ‘Bildungsroman’. Honestly, I thought it was a typo, but upon further research I found out its meaning. In simple terms, a Bildungsroman is a “coming of age” story, so the character grows up, and learns moral lessons, and whatever else the book is about. I think the same thing could be expressed by simply categorizing it as a coming of age novel, but those darn book people always have to overcomplicate things. Look out in the list above for the Bildungsroman books, and tell me what you think about that name!

Other authors I love: 

  1. Leigh Bardugo (particularly the Six of Crows duology)
  2. James Patterson (everything, but his NYPD Red series with Marshall Karp is really good)
  3. Marieke Nijkamp 
  4. Stephen King (I’ve been reading his short stories, I liked Gwendy’s Button Box)
  5. Any authors I mentioned in previous book reviews (go read those if you have not already), or even earlier in one of the lists here

Thank you so much for sticking with me through this whole wild ride of an article! I know that there are definitely books I forgot to include, but this is a pretty good list of As always, happy reading!!

Categories: Arts & Entertainment