Favorite Fictional Parents

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of some of my favorite fictional parents, as some of them play such a big role in raising their children to be the heroes we love to read about.

Martin Penderwick (The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall): One thing I love about Mr. Penderwick, who is a botanist, is that he always seems to have a phrase of Latin to toss to his daughters, most of the time leaving them to puzzle it out. It is not easy to raise four daughters on your own, and by looking at his daughters, you can see he did quite a nice job.

Arthur Weasley (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling): Always intrigued by the various creations of Muggles, Arthur Weasley is not your typical wizard. He seems a supportive dad, with his son Ron looking to him for answers to questions, and though he can get a bit carried away with tinkering with Muggle objects and his fascination with “escapators”, his wife Molly tends to keep him in check.

Molly Weasley (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling): Loving and warm–though sharp at times– Mrs. Weasley treats Harry as one of her own children despite her already large family of seven kids. The wondrous food produced in her kitchen is one of Harry’s most favorite parts of staying at the Burrow. Though she is motherly and kind, it’s also best not to get on the wrong side of her wand; even her sons shrink from her anger although they are taller than she.

Sally Jackson (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan): Sally Jackson shows true strength by raising a child on her own (a demigod, at that). Her love for her son, Percy, is evident in her willingness to live with a putrid-smelling man in order for the stench to cover up Percy’s demigod smell from creatures of Greek myths. Sally’s affection for her son is amazing, just like her seven-layer dip.

– Mia T.

Book List: Exploring New Genres

I used to find myself generally only reading books from two genres, and constantly rereading the same books. However, when I started trying out new books in different genres, I expanded my love for different styles of writing and discovered some really wonderful books. Although I still love fantasy and realistic fiction (and rereading), I also enjoy other genres. I think reading or at least exploring new genres is a great way to discover some extraordinarily good books that I may never have chosen to read had I not strayed from my usual genres. Here is a list of books, each from a different genre, that I recommend. I hope this may help you discover new books and genres you love or maybe just help you if you are looking for a good book to read.

Fantasy: The Goose Girl (Book 1 of The Books of Bayern) by Shannon Hale: The Goose Girl is based off of the Grimm fairy tale with the same title, however, Shannon Hale greatly expands on the world, history, and story while still maintaining the feel of a fairy tale. I really loved the way Shannon Hale augmented on the original story, and the characters are complex and well-developed. Although this book is the first in a series called the Books of Bayern, The Goose Girl ends well as its own story too. I really love this series and Shannon Hale’s writing style.

Dystopian: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: (This book could arguably be fantasy too). The Age of Miracles follows a young girl named Julia as she goes through the usual self-discovery of a middler schooler while, on a larger scale, the “slowing” starts. This is when the earth begins to rotate steadily slower, the effects of this growing more dangerous by the day and causing major changes in Julia’s life and the world. I liked this book because it wasn’t like the other dystopian books I had read. Although the slowing is is occurring throughout the novel, the story is a bit more like a realistic fiction because Julia’s experiences are characteristic of a normal girl at her age. The book also happens during the apocalyptic event, while a lot of other dystopian novels take place after an apocalyptic event.

Magical Realism: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton: This beautiful and unique book is narrated by Ava Lavender as she tells her family story beginning with her grandmother’s, then her mother’s, leading up to her own. Ava’s mother’s side of the family was very unique and were known for strange things to happen to them. This carries through the family, for Ava is born with wings. This anomaly puzzles everyone and draws the dangerous attention of some. This book left me in awe at how a beautiful yet harrowing story could be told with such consistent, poetic, and exquisite narration.

– Mia T.

Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance—a gardener, a once-orphan, an intellectual—is no ordinary twelve-year-old. Some would call her a genius. Willow’s great curiosity and knowledge help her understand aspects of the world, but sometimes keep others from understanding her. Her highly analytical and sharp mind alienate her from the majority of her peers, and Willow’s adoptive parents worry for her social life. When a tragic accident snatches away the two people who loved Willow the most, Willow is forced to adapt to a new life in which she doesn’t understand everything the way she used to.

On her path to find her new place in the world, Willow, once more an orphan, unintentionally brings together a Vietnamese family, an unmotivated counselor, and a taxi driver. She fills in the missing areas in the lives of these people, and they wish to return the favor. Counting by Sevens is a beautiful story of persistence, strength, metamorphosis, and the meaning of a family.

I read Counting by Sevens a few years ago, and recently read it again. This time around, I was able to appreciate and understand the story and its themes on a deeper level. The characters are all so unique and well-developed, and their metamorphoses catalyzed by the arrival of Willow Chance into their world are truly inspiring. Holly Goldberg Sloan exhibits a beautiful, flowing, and poetic narration which captures an incredible gamut of emotions. Her ability to convey such emotions through the complex characters she creates is amazing, and it contributes greatly to the essence of the story.

One thing I enjoyed most about this book were the intriguing metaphors that are sprinkled throughout the story. These perspectives and ideas of life are so clever and pretty, and they augmented the impact of the novel for me. The beautiful narration of Counting by Sevens combined with the strong, funny, unique characters build a touching novel of acceptance and the importance of both individuality and connections.

-Mia T.

Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani

Just as the fairy tale in the third book of this series came to an end, a new one with unexpected twists and plots opened. Quests for Glory, the fourth book in the School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani, follows the fourth-year pupils of the School for Good and Evil as they journey on the quests that have been assigned to them. 

Just a quick background on the world: The School for Good and Evil is set in a fairy tale world and has two school within it: a School for Good and a School for Evil. Based on their nature, the children are separated into these two schools. When each student reaches their fourth year, they are assigned a quest, and the Storian (and enchanted pen) writes and illustrates their adventures as a new fairy tale. King Arthur of Camelot, Cinderella, and many more were students at the School for Good and Evil. The characters who were introduced in the first book of this series, Sophie and Agatha, are now in their fourth year.

The fourth-year pupils are off on their assigned quests, but the quests do not seem to be going as hoped. Tedros cannot lift Excalibur to take what he thinks is his rightful place as king, Agatha is not as happy as she’d hoped in Camelot, and from the looks of Professor Dovey’s (Dean of the School for Good) magical quest map, the other students are not doing well either. A mysterious force seems to be working against the success of the students’ quests, and its ultimate goal becomes more and more apparent with its every move: Tedros’ place in Camelot. Professor Dovey begins to realize that perhaps the quests the fourth-year pupils have been given are not their real tales. 

I had read the first three books in The School for Good and Evil series about a year ago, and I had forgotten how full of humor and artful drama Soman Chainani’s writing is. The characters he creates are so vivid, unique, and enjoyable to read about. If you have not read this series, I would suggest it if you like books based on fairy tales (many of the students at the School for Good and Evil are children of famous fairy tale heroes and villains). This book was an exciting, magical, and humorous read which I’m sure fans of the series will enjoy.

– Mia T.

Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Have you ever imagined the fairy tales you read as a child having different endings, different villains, different heroes? Have you ever wondered how Ursula became so evil, why kings like to assign three impossible tasks to win their daughters’ hand in marriage, or if the Minotaur was really the monster he was accused of being?

Though inspired by fairy tales, mythology, and classic stories, the six stories in Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns go beyond the basic tales. They are all short stories written in the style of a fairy tale. Although these stories are set in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s other novels, they made sense even though I hadn’t read any of her other work (now, after reading The Language of Thorns, I look forward to reading Leigh Bardugo’s other books).

Leigh Bardugo creates such a detailed, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous world, and in it she expands upon and adds her own ideas to well-known tales. These stories are elegant and some are a bit creepy (if I had known this before reading, I may not have picked up the book, but now I am glad I did–I really enjoyed reading this book despite the darker parts), and the excitement of the stories combined with the amazing writing makes the book so hard to put down.

I loved how each of the stories had a twist at the end—maybe the villain in a story was not the same character in the original fairy tale (or someone you hadn’t even considered) or the real source of the conflict was an immense surprise. These stories did not always end with a happily ever after, and although I do like happy endings, this was a refresher from the widely expected endings of fairy tales. It made the stories a bit more exciting and unpredictable.

Some of the parts I loved most about this book were the illustrations and borders created by Sara Kipin. At the start of each story there are one or two small illustrations in one corner or part of the page, and as the story continues, new images that connect to the story are added on to the illustrations. At the end of each story you can almost see the tale in the pictures that make up the border. There is also one big picture at the end of each story that shows a scene in the tale. The pictures are beautiful, so thought out, and I really liked seeing the story show through them.

If you are a fan of fantasy, fairy tales, or even just someone looking for fascinating tales to read, I would definitely recommend this book. Not only is the writing magical and detailed, but the world, characters, and illustrations are so well-developed and seem to fit together wonderfully. However, be warned: in this collection of tales the faint may not always be as they seem, and the real villains may have a story of their own.

– Mia T.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Sarah Tolcser’s first novel, Song of the Current, was much different from what I expected when first picking up the book—though not in a bad way. This exciting story gives a taste of everything: action, adventure, romance, magic, and sacrifice—all centered around one girl who sails with her father on a wherry in the Riverlands.

When she was a child, Caroline “Caro” Oresteia was told her destiny: Like the many Oresteias who came before her, she would be favored by the god in the river. The river god speaks to sailors indirectly and keeps them safe on their journeys. Caro awaits the day when he will begin speak to her, just as he speaks to her father.

When she is seventeen, Caro still has not heard from the river god, and instead finds herself the captain of her father’s beloved wherry, Cormorant, transporting a strange package in order to free her father from imprisonment. When she agrees to carry the strange cargo, Caro has no idea of what her involvement is going to entail. However, it does not take her long to realize that the contents of the strange crate she is carrying is a danger to her and her wherry.

With the Black Dogs (a group of merciless pirates who are searching for the strange crate) looming threateningly in Caro’s wake, the unexpected arrival of a bothersome boy who seems to have something to hide, and someone attempting to force their way into the seat of the Emparch of Akhaia, a whirlpool of dangers, betrayals, and secrecy forms, pulling Caro in.

Through all of this, the god of the river remains silent in Caro’s ears. She begins to wonder if her true destiny is not what she had been told so many years ago.

Although this story is set in a fictional world, I liked how Sarah Tolcser used just enough factual elements such as sailing terms to maintain the believability of the world, and I also liked her use of strong characterization. Caro is a bold, determined character, and it is inspiring how she does not care about someone’s title—she bases her view of them on what she sees them do.

As a reader, I love big fantasy series, but I also like finding new ones that I have not heard much about. The Song of the Current would be a great read for anyone looking for another fictional world to explore. From shadowmen and sword fights to politics and philosophy, this book covers an amazing spectrum. If you ever read this book, I hope your journey through the Riverlands is just as exciting and full of adventure as Caro’s was. Though, of course, much, much safer.

– Mia T.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library