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This group had a lot of similar pairs so I’m going to do some head-to-heads and let you know which ones were my favorites.

HISTORICAL FICTION81551.jpg

I love historical fiction. Historical fiction is my jam. These two great pieces of historical fiction to read. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Annie Barrows is about a woman who falls in love with a community of readers through letters. The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini is about a young teacher working the underground railroad. And of course there’s a dash of romance in each. So basically, everything I love.

In this historical head-to-head, The Guernsey…Society comes out on top, if only for the Pride and Prejudice vibe I got from The Sugar Camp Quilt. Mr. Nelson is no Mr. Darcy, brood as he might, and that other racist guy whose name I don’t remember is no Mr. Wickham. Their similarities to Jane Austen’s classic made the relationships predictable. I would highly recommend either book to lovers of historical fiction looking for an easy and fun read.

Don’t regret what you say
so long as it’s the truth.
– The Sugar Camp Quilt, Jennifer Chiaverini

TWISTS ON A CLASSIC
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Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad is the story of Odysseus from the point of view of his wife and her handmaids. I’m not sure why I put this on my To Read list. I’ve never been particularly interested in Greek mythology. But it was an interesting read – one I would definitely recommend to any high school English teacher. I’m sure it was fun for Atwood to write a classic from another point of view, to explore Penelope’s character, and I’m sure it would be fun for lit students to do the same kind of thing.

I tried not to judge Beastly by Alex Flinn for what it wasn’t. It’s not supposed to be a deep thinker – it’s just a fun, modern twist on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast. That being said, and that being my mindset, it was still too cheesy for me. A little too hard to believe. The Penelopiad wins this round!

YOUNG ADULT MYSTERY
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I read more than half of these 10 books in their paperback form, which was something special for me, as most of the books I read these days are ebooks. But I happened to be in Michigan at the beginning of this month and of course one of my first stops (after Taco Bell) was the library. I made a random list of books from my To Read list that I hadn’t been able to get ahold of in their ebook form and these two books just happened to be on that list and in that library. They are weirdly similar. It’s weird because I’ve never read another story quite like these two.

I don’t want to give anything away, because they are mysteries, but let’s just say they both have a surprise ending. In Of Scars and Stardust Andrea Hannah kind of unravels the mystery, though. By the end I was pretty sure I had it solved, but it was still a twist, still a surprise. Stephanie Kuehn’s Complicit has a similar twist, so I saw it coming from a little further away (I read it after Of Scars and Stardust) but solving the mystery felt a little clumsier in Complicit. The “clues” were scattered and disconnected, whereas the “clues” in Of Scars and Stardust seemed to lead in a straight line. Both good, suspenseful reads, but Of Scars and Stardust wins hands down.

CRAZY
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This is a very insensitive category for two books featuring characters who probably suffer from mental illness, but these stories are just crazy! This might’ve been the hardest pairing from which to pick a favorite. Pretty Baby was my second Mary Kubica novel and man she knows how to spin a tale. Reading her books is like watching an episode of Criminal Minds. She peels back the layers of the story and the characters one scene at a time until finally it all comes together in a jumble of craziness. My only complaint is that the book was written from the perspective of three characters – Heidi, Willow, and Chris. Heidi and Willow are the real main characters, and I feel that Chris’s perspective didn’t add anything to the story and should’ve been omitted. We all know how I feel about books that are unnecessarily long.

For that reason alone, this head-to-head winner of the crazies is This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. Right in the first sentences I knew I was going to love reading this book. It is fast paced – I think the whole book only covers about an hour of action – and dives right in. It is written from the perspective of a few different characters, all involved in a school shooting situation, and each character adds something to the story. Nijkamp was not afraid to kill some darlings and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crying by the end.

There are more stories
in the universe
than stars in the sky.
And in every story,
there’s the light of hope.
– This Is Where It Ends, Marieke Nijkamp

THE MISFITS
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These two books are not similar. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart is about a boy who reflexively steals a painting from a museum when the museum is bombed. The story goes on to follow this boy as he moves to Las Vegas to become a drug addict and then moves back to New York City to become a lying drug addict and then I stopped reading. This is the first book in all my book challenges I haven’t finished. But it was long and I had lost interest so I moved on. I loved the first half. I was hooked and engaged and wanted to know what happened next! And then I was over it and annoyed and didn’t care.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is an important series of essays written by a black father to his black son about race and suffering and all of the hard things I imagine a black father has to explain to his black son. It’s an important book, and one I’m glad I read, but it was a bit repetitive. However, I did finish it, and did a lot of nodding and affirming while reading it, so Between the World and Me is the winner of the misfits.

I am sorry that I cannot make it okay.
I am sorry that I cannot save you –
but not that sorry.
Part of me thinks that your very vulnerability
brings you closer to the meaning of life.
– Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

For more book quotes check out Words, Wisdom, etc.

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