5 Podcasts You Should Listen To Right Now

Over winter break, I ended up having to commute an hour every day for a class I was taking and that left me with a lot of time spent in the car. In order to fill some of this time, I began listening to podcasts for the first time ever. I have begun to really enjoy them and I think they are fun to listen to if you are looking for something to do.

Here are some of the podcasts that I ended up listening to and enjoying. No matter if you are just getting into podcasts or have been listening to them for awhile, these are some great ones to check out:

1. “Hurry Slowly”

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This is a podcast series talking about different ways that you can learn to slow down in your life and actually increase your productivity and creativity. Sounds perfect—who wouldn’t want that? If you are interested in self-help type stuff, then this is a good one for you. Some recent titles include, “Walking Is The Best Way to Go Slow,” “Prioritizing Rest and Reflection” and “The Science of Sleep.”

2. “What Should I Read Next?”

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This would be a great podcast for you if you a giant book nerd like me. It basically talks about all things reading-related and is pretty laid back. Some recent titles include, “Your Best Reading Year Yet”, “Reading Slumps Are The Worst”, and “The Anatomy of an Excellent Reading Experience.”

3. “The Heart of It” with Estee Lalonde

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This is a podcast series that explores a different subject with a special guest for each episode. The topics of season one include travel, identity, mothers, strength, feminism, makeup, tattoos, and protests. I found this series to be very enlightening, but also very calming to listen to. There should be a season two coming out sometime soon in 2018.

4. “Happier” with Gretchen Rubin

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This is another self-help type podcast that deals with topics related to your happiness. The topics are very diverse, but all very interesting and thought-provoking. Some recent titles include, “Don’t Know What Will Happen in the Future? Try to Understand Now,” “Keep a Running List of Your Favorite Things,” “Introduce a Note of Whimsy.”

5. “The Daily”

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This is a podcast put on by the New York Times that gives a news update in twenty minutes for five days of the week. This is a good one to listen to if you are like me and don’t have much time in college to watch the news, but still, want to keep up-to-date on things that are going on.

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Book Review: The Chalkman by C.J. Tudor

My Rating: FIVE STARS

Goodreads Description:

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he’s put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank–until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

My Review:

I gave this book 5 stars and that isn’t something that I do often! To put it simply, I loved this book. And per usual, it is really hard for me to put into words why I love the books that I do, but I shall try.

When I first read the description, it had me hooked. The plot seemed so creative and I had a huge desire to pick it up and read it right away. I am so glad to say that it lived up to my expectations.

The storyline always had something huge/exciting that would happen and would leave you needing to keep reading. I honestly could have read it in one sitting if I had the time because of how much I wanted to keep knowing what happens next. I was always so excited to pick it up and read a little bit of it before bed and sad to have to put it down. I think that says a lot about how great the plot was and how easy the prose was to read.

One of the major things that I appreciated about this book was the fact that all of the characters contained a little bit of crazy about them, but in the end, they were all well developed. Their actions were realistic and not just attributed to them being a psycho maniac. I have read books like this where the author assigns all of the people in the story as “crazy” and attributes their actions to the fact that they are “crazy”. This is just not realistic–not everyone can be off their hinges. In this book, everyone’s reasons for their actions were comprehensible and something that could actually happen, which made it even more creepy.

If you are looking for a creepy, mystery novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and turning pages until after midnight, then this is the book for you!

 

Favorite Books Of 2017

2017 was a big reading year for me. I started this blog in August of 2017 and since then, I have gotten so much out of being able to share my thoughts with other people. Who would’ve thought that this blogging thing would be so much fun!

2017 was also the year that I started my first semester of college and went through a lot of change. That means that I didn’t read as much as I wish I could have. Nonetheless, I know that life happens and it’s not a big deal because it’s important to not make reading a chore; it should be fun!

I don’t have a definitive number of books I read this year, but I’m going to be better at keeping track of my reading in 2018.

Looking back, here are some of the books that stood out to me the most this year. They aren’t in any particular order.

The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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This has turned into one of my all-time favorite books. It is a wonderful story about a young boy named Daniel who picks out a book called, The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He realizes that someone is out to destroy all of Carax’s books and is brought into an intense journey of figuring out who it is and stopping them. This is a magical, historical, thriller set in 1945 Barcelona, Spain.

Here is my full book review: The Shadow of the Wind

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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Read this book if you are struggling to deal with your grief over someone you lost. A Monster Calls hit me so hard in the gut and I know I will have to pick it up again. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a worthwhile one. It follows a little boy named Conor and his seriously ill mother. Conor has had a monster outside of his window ever since his mother’s treatments started and it won’t leave until it gets what it wants.

 

The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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This is a magical, Russian, fairytale, story about an independent girl named Vasilisa. The stories told by the fireside are real and there are spirits all around that only Vasilisa and her mean stepmother are able to see. Vasilisa must use her special gifts and courage to go against her loved ones to stop the threat that could harm them all. It’s best to go into this world a bit oblivious, but I promise you won’t come out of it without feeling mystified.

Here is my full book review: The Bear and the Nightingale

 

A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving

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This is a heartwarming tale of friendship and faith. It is about a little boy named Owen Meany who hits a foul ball that kills his best friend Johnny’s mom. However, Owen believes that he is God’s instrument and that everything happens for a reason. This story follows Owen as he becomes a heartfelt hero. The characters in this book are written so in depth that they won’t ever leave you. This book caught me by surprise, but it was truly beautiful.

 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

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This book follows Ifemelu and Obinze, two lovers who leave Nigeria because of a military dictatorship. Ifemeulu goes to America and Obinze goes to the UK. The story recounts their journeys as they deal with the hardships of being in a new country and being apart from each other. I loved the sections with Ifemelu because of how clever and witty she is and Chimamanda’s writing in this book is so easy and fun to read. I am without a doubt going to pick up more of her books.

Here is my full book review: Americanah

 

The Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah

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This is a historical fiction book that takes place in France during World War 2. It follows two polar opposite sisters and everything they do to fight against the Nazi’s during the war. I liked this book because most World War 2 books are about the men in battle, but not many recount the hardships that the women had to face on the homefront. The reason this book made the list was because of how blown away I was at the challenges the two women face. I couldn’t put this one down.

 

Books About Strong Women For Strong Women

Christmas is coming up very soon and if you are trying to find a last minute gift idea for a strong woman in your life, then why not get her a book? When I think about strong women in my life, I think about my mom and my grandma because they inspire me to work hard. I’m sure whoever you think of in your life, would love to read about inspirational women like themselves.

Here is a list of books with a strong female character that is brave, resilient, and everything in between. This list contains nonfiction and fiction because even fictional women characters can be inspirational. I have read some of these, but not all of them. Some of them are ones I hope to read in the future.

Books I’ve Read

1. I am Malala- Malala Yousafzai

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This is a powerful biography about Malala’s life before and after she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ education. I got a lot out of this book and learned a lot about Malala’s activism and about the history of Pakistan. Malala was the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate at age sixteen and continues to advocate for the right for girls to get an education. She also has a movie called I am Malala that was very good.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” ~Malala Yousafzai

2. Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This is a story about two Nigerians named Obinze and Ifemelu who are in love. It chronicles each of their journeys as they leave a military dictatorship in Nigeria. Ifemelu heads to America, while Obinze goes to England. In Ifemelu’s part of the story, we are able to see her adjustment to life in America as an immigrant and the adversity that she faces. Ifemelu’s dialogue throughout the story is smart and witty and she is a very lovable character. I love Chimamanda’s writing style and will definitely read more of her books. She has also given some great TedTalks that I will link here…

The Danger of a Single Story

We Should All Be Feminists

“How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.”~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

3. Wild- Cheryl Strayed

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This is Cheryl Strayed’s story about how she hiked The Pacific Crest Trail alone in order to deal with her mother’s death. This book chronicles all of the challenges that she faced on her hike and how it ultimately healed her. I actually watched the movie before reading this and it made me want to pick the book up so I would definitely recommend the movie as well.

” The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” ~Cheryl Strayed

Books I Want to Read

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini

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This is about two women living in Kabul, Afghanistan who form a close fond. It deals with their struggles with family, war, and loss. I have seen a lot of really good reviews for this, so I’m expecting to like it a lot. I also read Hosseini’s other book, The Kite Runner, and loved it.

“One could not count the moons that shiver on her roofs or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” ~Khaled Hosseini

2. The Diary of A Young Girl- Anne Frank

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This one is pretty obvious. I think everyone has heard of Anne Frank and at least a little bit of her story with the Holocaust. I feel like it’s about time that I finally read her diary. She was definitely very inspirational.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”~Anne Frank

3. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou

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This book follows the life and struggles of a girl named Maya who has to deal with the feeling of abandonment from her mother and an attack from a man much older than her. This is a story of personal growth and how Maya learns to love herself. This would be the perfect gift for any Maya Angelou fans.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” ~Maya Angelou

Hopefully, this list gave you some good ideas about what to gift someone in your life who has inspired you!

7 Gripping Historical Fiction Books

Thanksgiving Break is here and that means more free time. If you’re a book nerd like me, then that free time will probably be largely taken up by reading. One of my favorite genres of book is historical fiction, and I think it is the perfect genre to read in autumn. Here are some of my favorites. Hopefully, they will help you find a good story to settle into over break.

1. City of Thieves by David Benioff

This book is set during the siege of Leningrad in World War 2. It follows two boys, Lev and Kolya, as they journey through the lawless and dangerous Leningrad to deliver a dozen eggs to a powerful Soviet colonel in exchange for their lives.

I could not put this one down. I didn’t go into it knowing that much, except that it sounded interesting and odd at the same time (delivering eggs?). The story was intense and eye opening to just how bad the situation in Leningrad was. If you want something quick and engrossing pick this up.

2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This book takes place in Nazi-occupied France and follows two completely opposite sisters. They struggle to survive and resist the Germans who have taken over their homes. This book was a good representation of the hardships women during the war had to face. A lot of the time, their stories are overpowered by the stories of men in battle, so it was nice to read about their hardships and how they persevered.

If you like reading about strong and empowered women, then this is the book for you. Also, I don’t have a sister, but I feel like this book would be very relatable to someone who does. I will admit that at the beginning of the story, I was convinced that I wouldn’t like it, but as I got to the end, I changed my mind and ended up really enjoying it. It was quite inspirational in a lot of ways.

Side note: I just learned that this is being turned into a movie, so definitely read the book before watching the film!

3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book also takes place in France during World War II. It follows the journeys of two very different children and a couple of other interesting side characters. One of the main characters is a blind girl name Marie Laure who lives in Paris but flees to Saint Malo with her father. The other character is a boy named Werner who is a Hitler youth. Their paths end up colliding in an intricate and well-planned way.

This book is so detailed and great that I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to write. The author, Anthony Doerr, won a lot of awards for this novel. You should read it if you want something that will make you think a lot about human nature and technology.

4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I would describe this as a historical fiction thriller. It is good to go into this not knowing too much, but I will tell you the very basic plot. It takes place in 1945 Barcelona and follows a boy named Daniel. On Daniel’s eleventh birthday, his dad takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and Daniel picks out a book called the Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Daniel is tasked with protecting this book, but there is someone trying to systematically destroy all of Carax’s work. Strange and dark things continue to happen and the mystery is drawn out in an epic tale.

This is one of my very favorite books. As I was reading this one, I knew it was going to turn into my favorite and it’s very hard to put into words how I feel about something I liked so much. I find it much easier to talk about a book I either hated or kind of liked. The writing was beautiful, the plot was unguessable, and the characters were very real. It was a very dark and epic adventure. This was originally written in Spanish, so if the book was this good translated, then it must be even better in its native language (sometimes things can get lost in translation).

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I would be very surprised if you haven’t heard of this wonderful book yet, but if you haven’t, then here is the synopsis. This story takes place in 1939 Nazi Germany and is narrated by death (coolest concept ever). It follows a foster girl named Liesel Meminger as she steals books, learns to love reading, and takes care of a Jewish man in her basement.

This is one of those books that you will never forget. It gives you all of the feels and leaves you gutless. The Book Thief is a classic that everyone should read.

6. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This book takes place 1941 is about a Lithuanian girl named Lina, who is forced, with her mother and brother, onto a dirty Soviet train car and shipped to the Arctic Circle to work in a labor camp. This book shows what life was like for Lithuanians who were forced by Stalin to toil in extreme cold and cruel conditions.

I cried the first time I read this and chances are, you will too. It is so heartbreaking, but it is a story that needs to be told. I had no idea about this part of history before reading this book. This is a quick read that you won’t be able to put down.

7. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys likes to write books about historical events that have been lost to history, and this is another great one of hers. I think I liked this one even better than Between Shades of Gray. It is about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II. Most people know about the Titanic, but not so many know about the Wilhelm Gustloff. This is odd considering it was the worst maritime tragedy in history.

Ruta is so good at writing amazing characters. Their stories and personalities seem so real. In this book, we follow four main characters, but there are also great side characters as well. The layout of this book reminds me a lot of All The Light We Cannot See because of how well all of the characters’ stories intertwined. She even brings in characters from Between Shades of Gray.

When I finished this book, I could not stop thinking about what I had read for the longest time. I think that’s a sign of a good book.

Top 5 Tuesday: Retellings

I have decided to participate in the Top 5 Tuesday posts that Bionic Book Worm puts on over at her blog. They look like so much fun! Here are the Top 5 Tuesday August Topics.

This week’s topic is retellings and as I was thinking about what to put, I realized that I haven’t actually read that many retellings. However, I really wanted to participate, so I decided to switch things up just a little bit. In my top 5, I will have 3 retellings that I have read and 2 that I really want to read. I know this isn’t exactly how it is supposed to be done, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do….

Three Retellings I Have Actually Read

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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This is a retelling of Russian fairytales and honestly, that phrase is what immediatly drew me to reading this book. It follows the main character, Vasya, as she struggles to protect her family from threats that only she can comprehend. In this book, demons and creatures from fairytales that are told during the cold Russian winters actually come alive. I loved this book! I have a full review on it here if you want to read it…. Book Review: The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

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When I was little, I used to be obsessed with this series. I remember that when I was reading it, they hadn’t all been released yet, so I would get super excited when a new one would come out and would beg my mom to rush me to the book store so that I could buy it. I managed to find three of the copies that I own (they are in the picture). This is about two sisters whose ancestors are the Brothers Grimm. They are sent to live with their grandma and thrust into a world full of the creatures/people from the Grimm fairytales. The sisters must take over the family business of being fairytale detectives and keeping the villains at bay. I would definitely recommend this book to an elementary school aged child who loves fairytales. The books are so fun and adventurous.

 Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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This is a fairytale retelling of both Snow White and Frozen, which is such a great idea! It is a feminist version of these tales and it has a queer relationship involving one of the main characters. If you want a unique and creative retelling story, then this book is for you. I read the ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of this book very recently and I did generally enjoy it even though I had a few issues with it. Here is the link to my full review of the ARC– ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. This book comes out September 5th 2017, so keep a lookout for it!

Two Retellings I Really Want to Read (well…maybe 4… I went a little overboard)

Alice (The Chronicles of Alice, #1) and Lost Boy by Christina Henry

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This is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and since I used to love the original book as a kid, I think reading a retelling of it would be really fun. I think this book deals with the grownup Alice which sounds interesting. I also know that she has another book called Lost Boy that is a retelling of Peter Pan. I would love to pick that one up too.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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This is another Peter Pan retelling except this one is from the point of view of Tiger Lily, the Native Chiefs daughter who lives in Neverland. I’ve been reading other people’s reviews of this one and it’s making me want to read it even more!

 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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This is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. I have seen it everywhere and have heard really good things. It has been on my TBR for such a long time and hopefully I will be able to get to it sometime soon.

 

 

Have you read of any of these or are wanting to read them? Also, do you have any other retellings that you would recommend?

The Best Books About Books

     Sometimes it is really fun, as a book lover, to read about other characters that love books as much as you do. That’s why I thought it would be nice to suggest some of my favorite reads that have a main premise that centers around books and storytelling. So here they are; I hope you enjoy!

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars
    This story is about about a curmudgeonly old man named A.J. Fikry who runs a bookshop on Alice Island after his wife dies. When A.J.’s rare collection of Poe poems is stolen and a mysterious package arrives in its place, he has to figure out what to do. This story follows A.J. as he tries to make his life happy again even if it isn’t how he thought it would turn out.
    I really enjoyed this story for how heartfelt and lovely it was. This story might not be for everyone because of how slowly it seemed to move and how character driven it was, but for the people who do end up enjoying it, I think it packs a big punch. I was one of the readers who did really enjoy it because I like books that have well developed characters who experience personal growth (basically what this story was). A lot of the relationships that form from the characters in this book are so sweet and genuine. It was very easy to relate to A.J. through his love of books even if I didn’t agree with every choice he made or his attitude at times. This book is the perfect book for a book lover that wants to read a heartwarming story about good characters who care for each other.

Quotes:

  1. “You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?”
  2. “Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time” 
  3. “We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
     This a world war 2 historical fiction about a young girl who learns to love books and words. I kind of wish I had included this book in my post, “World War 2 Historical Fiction Recommendations“, however if I make a part 2, then this will definitely be featured. I know that this book is pretty well known, but that is definitely for good reason.
    The main character is a girl named Liesel who is a foster child outside of Munich. She lives with an accordion playing father, an outspoken mother, and a Jewish man that they hide in their basement. As Liesel learns to read from a book she stole, she realizes how much she loves words and continues to steal books and learn as much as she can. As things in her life become more and more difficult, she learns to rely on words to get her through things.
    I have read this book many times (ever since I was in elementary school) and it truly is a timeless story. I think the most interesting part of this story is that it is narrated by death and this gives it a more encompassing view over every situation than if it were to be narrated from just Liesel’s perspective. It is very well written and the way that Liesel loves books will make you love them even more. I love the fact that almost any aged person (3rd grade and up) can read this, enjoy it, and feel its emotional impact. This book is one that will stay with me forever. I just love Liesel, Rudy, Hans, Max, and even Rosa. There is a movie out that was based on the book, but please read the book before watching the film! I thought the movie was very good, but I still enjoyed the book much better.

Quotes:

  1. “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
  2. “A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”
  3. “A small but noteworthy note. I have seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.” 

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
    This book takes place in Barcelona in 1945 and is about a boy named Daniel whose father takes him to a secret place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books when he is a kid. Daniel picks out a book called the Shadow of the Wind and is tasked with keeping it safe from harm. He falls in love with the story and seeks to find out more about the author, Julian Carax. However, on his journey of investigation, he discovers that a mysterious person is attempting to burn all of Carax’s books. As Daniel’s life begins to resemble The Shadow of the Wind, he realizes that everything is more mysterious than he first thought and he has to decide who to trust.
    This story is hands down one of my favorite books ever. I first read it very recently, but I was so excited about how good it was and now I can’t stop thinking about it. The writing is so beautiful (great bookish quotes), the plot is intricate, and the characters have so much depth. Not to mention the fact that this whole story gives you goosebumps and would be the perfect Halloween read. However, I won’t go into too much detail about it because I have already written a full length review on it. If you want to check it out, here is the link- Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

Quotes:

  1. “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have in you.”
  2. “Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.”
  3.  “The moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you’ve already stopped loving them forever.”

The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke

My Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
     The first book in this trilogy, Inkheart, is about a girl named Meggie who finds out that her father, Mo, can read book characters out of their books. When Meggie was three, Mo read from a book called Inkheart and accidentally made Meggie’s mother go into the book while characters from the book came into the real world. Mo and Meggie are determined to rescue Meggie’s mom and find that in order to do this, they must face the Inkheart villain, Capricorn and many other characters that came out of the story.
    I have to be honest, I haven’t read the third book in this trilogy called Inkdeath, but I have read Inkheart and the second book, Inkspell. When I was little, I was obsessed with Inkheart and the copy that I owned was very well loved. I wanted to be Meggie so badly and I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world if characters from a book could come into the real world (I still do). I also loved Dustfinger, his ferret, and his fiery talent. Inkheart is such an imaginative and fun story that is perfect to help a child fall in love with books. I haven’t read this series in a long time, but I remember that I really really loved it as a kid. I definitely want to read it again soon. I think the series is suited well for younger children (maybe 10+), but any age can still read and enjoy how creative and wonderful it is. Also, there was a movie made off of it that I thought was pretty good. Once again though, I would recommend reading the book before you watch the movie because it is nice to create your own imagery in your head before watching it on a screen.

Quotes:

  1. “Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.”
  2.  “It’s a good idea to have your own books with you in a strange place.”
  3. “Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly.”