Recommend a… (book with a blue cover)

Recommend A… is a weekly meme run by Chick Loves Lit. Click here to check out future prompts and take part!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Published February 14th, 2012 | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Realistic Fiction

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels

Palacio’s Wonder proves itself a tender story that deserves to be read not only for theme, but for value. It produced no effect at first, and August’s young sense of humor — though I hate to admit this, because it will assert me as a downer — felt dull. My sympathy owns a tough coat, though penetrable, while my perspective has become jaded. (Fussy taste, it seems, extends beyond the realm of food.) I wondered how well, if at all, I would warm up to August Pullman. Few stories like Wonder manage to stand out among the heap and bedazzle me. While others may sound preachy or campy, few touch on a deeper, realistic level if only because I’m human. Needless to say, August grew on me — and quickly. (In fact, I found myself attached to the majority of characters.)

I feel shock and disgust, yet I also expect these emotions, when I am a witness to cruelty — whether I play the bystander or victim role. Sitting opposite of cruelty’s nature, however,  is kindness, and how overwhelming it can feel to be surprised by it! Palacio presents a story heavy in affliction but writes with humor balanced by keen sensitivity. This book reminded me that while life throws punches, goodness still exists. These are moments to appreciate and not sweep by unnoticed. I laughed and I cried, and I felt uplifted. For me, Wonder is not about the ending’s accuracy to real-life situations. Wonder is about the lesson I sometimes forget I have learned, and the importance of it.

Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.

Kindness, after all, does not simply affect the person it is directed at, because kindness also invokes change in the one who gives it.

Recommend a… (book someone else recommended to you)

Recommend A… is a weekly meme run by Chick Loves Lit. Click here to check out future prompts and take part!

A book recommend to me by someone else (multiple people, actually) is A Game of Thrones, but the last book I recall someone suggesting I read — and that I did read! — is…

The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi & illustrated by J.K. Drummond
Published January 31st, 2011 | Subterranean Press
Fantasy

Magic has a price. But someone else will pay.

Every time a spell is cast, a bit of bramble sprouts, sending up tangling vines, bloody thorns, and threatening a poisonous sleep. It sprouts in tilled fields and in neighbors’ roof beams, thrusts up from between street cobbles, and bursts forth from sacks of powdered spice. A bit of magic, and bramble follows. A little at first, and then more–until whole cities are dragged down under tangling vines and empires lie dead, ruins choked by bramble forest. Monuments to people who loved magic too much.

In paired novellas, award-winning authors Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi explore a shared world where magic is forbidden and its use is rewarded with the axe. A world of glittering memories and a desperate present, where everyone uses a little magic, and someone else always pays the price.

In the beleaguered city of Khaim, a lone alchemist seeks a solution to a deadly threat. The bramble, a plant that feeds upon magic, now presses upon Khaim, nourished by the furtive spell casting of its inhabitants and threatening to strangle the city under poisonous vines. Driven by desperation and genius, the alchemist constructs a device that transcends magic, unlocking the mysteries of bramble’s essential nature. But the power of his newly-built balanthast is even greater than he dreamed. Where he sought to save a city and its people, the balanthast has the potential to save the world entirely–if it doesn’t destroy him and his family first.

I hopefully will get to the Song of Ice & Fire series soon — preferably before the year ends — but I am glad to have read Bacigalupi’s short novella back in 2011. The Alchemist tells the story of Jeoz: widow, father of two, and desperate to cure his sick child. In a place where magic is outlawed, Jeoz risks punishment by casting spells that subdue his daughter’s bramble-induced illness. However, with every cast spell means new bramble: a deadly plant encasing Khaim, threatening to take over completely. Determined to find a solution — both for his child’s health and the end of bramble — Jeoz creates the balanthast, thus providing Khaim the ability to free itself. To the misfortune of Jeoz and his family, this wondrous invention also brings unforeseen consequences.

Ninety-five pages long, Bacigalupi’s words breathe life to the story. Quickly paced, the language proves tactful and not butchered by disruptive sentence flow or poor execution. Instead, I find it a surprisingly fun and lively read — one that I don’t mind reading again and again. I haven’t checked out Tobias S. Buckell’s The Executioness  yet, but it may interest you more to read both back-to-back.

You can find my review here!

Recommend a… (first book in a series)

Recommend A… is a weekly meme run by Chick Loves Lit. Click here to check out future prompts and take part!

I was going to recommend Hartman’s Seraphina, but considering how I gushed over it in a review yesterday, I think I will shine the spotlight on something else. Several titles came to mind: The Colour of Magic, Shadow & Bone, Harry Potter (a no-brainer), Divergent, Legend, and the list carries on. As always, I waver back and forth between options, so which book did I finally settle on as a recommendation?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Published June 7th, 2011 | Quirk Books
Young Adult Fantasy

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I acknowledge that Riggs’s book is not for everyone. Varying opinions surround the photographs, which work in conjunction with the story-telling. These pictures are considered unnecessary, a poor construct way to build plot, or they simply aren’t “scary.” (If anything, I find the photographs serve as interesting (but not scary) visual aids, finely tied to the text. I have no issues with them.) For the record: I do see several faulty areas in the writing, places that I believe — had they been revised more — could have made a leap of improvement (such as the conclusion). I’d prefer to see a stronger foundation from which the story’s framework is built — a neater wrap-up of a novel, if you will.

At the start, Riggs succeeded to enmesh me into Jacob’s suspense and fear. This thrill, I thought, would last — it would remain a key factor in the story’s progression. Alas! That exciting rush and prickling unease subside, as Jacob’s journey becomes one of steadily paced intrigue. Where I think much disappointment stems from is how Riggs’s novel is showcased: “spine-tingling fantasy!” it says. I disagree, but that does not make this book any less interesting or worth checking out. I found myself absorbed into the characters, and I calmly anticipate book two (expected publication: 2o13). There are whispers of a film adaption as well!

  We answered with a cry of our own, both a victory yell and a lament, for everything lost and yet to be gained.

You can find my favorite Peculiar quotes or read my review here!

Recommend a… (book you read this year!)

Recommend A… is a weekly meme run by Chick Loves Lit. Click here to check out future prompts and take part!

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Published October 1st, 2009 | Scholastic Press
Young Adult Realistic Fiction

From bestselling author Natalie Standiford, an amazing, touching story of two friends navigating the dark waters of their senior year.

New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. Still, Bea can’t quite dispel Jonah’s gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?

Given the choice to suggest one out of the eighty-six I’ve read this year (I’m on a roll, kind of…), I choose How to Say Goodbye in Robot. I could (and do) recommend The Hunger Games, I Sang to the Monster, The Book Thief, Between Shades of Gray (no fifty, and much more YA-appropriate)… The list goes on. However, Standiford’s book stands out among other YA contemporaries I’ve read, and I’m sad that I have no one to share it with.

A fair percentage of readers don’t understand the relationship between Bea and Jonah — the two become so intrinsically bound that their connection transcends mere friendship, and yet absolutely nothing romantic results from it. Frankly, I adore that. These two characters manifest an unconditional love for one another, developing an attachment that will last a lifetime. Trying to label the relationship, I find,  proves ineffectual; words can’t name it. (To discuss it, though…) One can say they sit somewhere between best friends and a couple, but — and I believe Jonah himself says something similar — they have something that tops both, and I enjoyed watching their friendship thrive and mature. While this book has imperfections, I found it overall heart-warming, funny, and bittersweet — it is a book I think about often and would love to re-read.

(Poor-quality picture-excerpt does not apologize.) See my How to Say Goodbye in Robot favorite quotes & excerpts.