Jane Austen (Author Spotlight)

Another of my all-time favorite writers is Jane Austen. I tend to be the kind of person who perversely avoids things that everyone is raving about, but in this case, I don’t mind being part of the crowd of admirers. Here is a list of her books with their publication date:

She also had two unfinished works, The Watsons and Sanditon (included with Lady Susan in the book I linked to above). Although Pride and Prejudice is probably her best known book (who doesn’t love Mr. Darcy?), my favorite of her novels is Persuasion. I have always identified with the personality of Anne Elliot and love the way the romance unfolds between her and Frederick Wentworth. I especially enjoyed the 1995 movie version of Persuasion with Amanda Root.

Her novels have been retold and added onto by countless writers and filmmakers over the years with varying amounts of success. I have read (and viewed) lots of these and enjoyed many of them, although sometimes they are overwhelmingly bad.

Do you like Jane Austen? Do you have a favorite novel of hers?

Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author Spotlight)

My absolute favorite children’s writer is Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I have read her Little House series dozens of times starting in childhood and continuing on through the present.  I know that her books aren’t 100% true to her life, but I think they are an amazing story – told in a way that is appropriate for children – of what life was like growing up during pioneer times in America.

Here are the titles of the series in order:

  1. Little House in the Big Woods
  2. Farmer Boy
  3. Little House on the Prairie
  4. On the Banks of Plum Creek
  5. By the Shores of Silver Lake
  6. The Long Winter
  7. Little Town on the Prairie
  8. These Happy Golden Years
  9. The First Four Years

I have read a number of other books related to Little House over the years, including the series that were written in the same style about her daughter Rose, her mother Caroline, her grandmother Charlotte, and her great-grandmother Martha.  I loved all of those.

Two books I have read recently which were inspired by the Little House series are Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas and Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller.  The first one is a middle grade book about a girl whose mother moves them to Walnut Grove, where Laura Ingalls lived as a child, and her experiences there.  The second is a retelling of Little House on the Prairie from the perspective of Caroline, Laura’s mother.  Both were very good.


Jamie Langston Turner (Author Spotlight)

Jamie Langston Turner is hands down my favorite contemporary writer. The first time I read one of her books, I started out very unsure of whether I would like it. It seemed quite unassuming and even slow at times, plus some of the characters were decidedly quirky. But I was quickly drawn into the rich storylines and unexpectedly deep characters, and she soon became one of my favorite writers.

The books are not really a series, but they are all set in the same fictional area of South Carolina. There are also several minor characters that are in many of the books, which lends an air of familiarity even as you are meeting a new main character.

I can’t really name a favorite, as each one holds a special place in my heart. Her way of expressing relationships and faith is simply amazing. According to the newsletter on her website, she is currently working on her ninth book. Here is a list of the eight books Turner has published so far:

I have decluttered a lot of books over the years, but I will never get rid of hers. I don’t own them all yet, but I hope to finish out my collection this year.

Have you read any of her books? What did you think?

Gabrielle Zevin (3 Great YA Reads)

I have been reading up a storm in the last couple of months, including trying to catch up on some series that I had started previously but lost track of.  One of those was the Birthright series by Gabrielle Zevin, about the daughter of a crime boss dealing in illegal chocolate in the year 2083.

I had read the first two books quite a while ago but still wanted to find out what happened in the third book, In the Age of Love and Chocolate.  It wasn’t on the library shelf the first time I went, but I picked up two other books by the same author that looked interesting: Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.

I practically inhaled Elsewhere, starting and finishing it in the same afternoon that I checked it out of the library.  It was a charming and thought-provoking tale set in a world where, when you die, you go to Elsewhere and live your life again – backwards. Not so much fun when you die at age 15, like our main character Liz Hall, but at least she gets to meet her grandmother and learn how to drive, along with discovering a whole lot about the meaning of life…and death.  It’s a fun and clever book that also draws you in and makes you care about the characters.  I definitely give it 5 stars for its all-ages appeal.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is the perfect example of a book I would have loved when I was 16 and still enjoyed at 46.  It centers on Naomi, who has lost her memories from the last several years as the result of a fall, following her as she slowly regains them.  Along the way, she has to figure out how she feels about the boys in her life – her boyfriend, her best friend, and the new guy in town – and deal with their reactions when her current feelings don’t always match up with the past they remember. A solid 4 stars.

Imagine a world where chocolate is illegal?  That’s the case in the Birthright series, and the main character Anya Balanchine is the daughter of a powerful crime boss, i.e. illegal importer and distributor of chocolate.  To me, In the Age of Love and Chocolate is like the third season of a nighttime drama, when the characters’ stories have crossed and re-crossed each other until they resemble a spider’s web.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two books, although it did provide a satisfying wrap-up at the end.  3 stars.

Although I don’t read much Young Adult these days, it is nice to occasionally dip my toe in the water and see what is out there.  I’m always open to suggestions, so feel free to leave a comment with your recommendations!