In honor of Chicago’s Book Con happening at McCormick Place on May 14, we picked some of our favorite books from the authors attending to talk about why we love them so much.
Gina Catalano, Editor: I don’t recall when I actually started reading The Princess Diaries series but it might have been around the time the first film came out. I remember loving the character of Mia and her wildly outrageous personality. Through reading and falling in love with these books I ended up falling in love with all Meg Cabot books. My all-time favorite would have be a different series of hers called The Mediator series. The stories are about a teenage mediator whose mom remarries and moves to an old Southern Californian home, complete with resident ghost. Another sassy, strong female character that Meg Cabot is great at portraying!
Britni Moses, Writer: After watching The Baby-Sitters Club movie as a child, I was inspired to read the book series by Ann M. Martin that it was based off of. Being a preteen at the time, I found myself having trouble getting into the books because the girls were a few years older than me, and they were hard to relate to. I then discovered the Baby-Sitters Little Sister series, which was a spin-off of the original Baby-Sitters Club books. I enjoyed reading about seven-year-old Karen Brewer’s journey through childhood as I was also growing up and encountering various trials and tribulations at school, home, and everywhere in between. Each book also ends with some sort of life lesson. For preteens, I would definitely recommend the Baby-Sitters Little Sister series. For teenagers and beyond, the Baby-Sitters Club series is recommended.
Katy Garica, Writer: Because of Winn Dixie is a feel good book that makes you want to be a kid again. It is about a young girl and all the adventures she encounters in her new town with her new dog Winn Dixie. Growing up I found myself reading this book or The Tiger Rising, also by Kate DiCamillo, over and over again. Her books tend to be about adventures, mischief and animals which were always my favorite books to read as a kid.
Marisa Goldman, Writer (WARNING: Marisa loves reading books and writing about them. You’ve been warned): The Darkest Minds Trilogy is set in a dystopian American world where, around the age of ten, children either die or develop terrifying powers. Ruby, the main protagonist, survives and is sent to live in Thurmond, a “rehabilitation camp,” but she manages to escape. The summary words it best: “Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.” Released in 2012 during the hype of the dystopian YA craze, The Darkest Minds presented something different. The book had just enough to drag you in, but both The Darkest Minds and Never Fade (the sequel) left you with cliffhangers that had you aching for more. Now, four years after the release of the first book, I would still recommend this book – a dystopian that carefully deals with a traumatized teenage girl who still manages to kick ass, has romance but not a sickening amount, and provides you twists and turns that you’d never except, The Darkest Minds lived up to the hype, and still does. The trilogy titles also make a sentence – The Darkest Minds Never Fade In the Afterlight. Passenger is the newest book, released in Jan 2016, I own it and it’s currently on my TBR, but it deals with TIME TRAVEL!!!!!
Another recommended book is Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. Set in Prague, Taylor weaves in element of fantasy in a Harry Potter esque way, everything is behind closed doors. Karou is a blue haired artist, whose adopted family consists of a hodgepodge of demonic deities who run a herb shop (95% sure… it’s been awhile). But war is brewing beneath the surface, and Karou might finally find out who she is – but she may not life it. Laini Taylor writes incredibly well-written fantasy, and it’s one of the few I’ve seen that artfully develops a fantasy world in an existing city (that’s not American!!!), but there are some elements of the book that could’ve been handled better (aka Akiva, who is arguably the worst), but overall, it’s a good book, and I would recommend it to all readers, not those who just love fantasy.
Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising are the three books in the Grisha Trilogy, and they might be some of the most breathtaking fiction I’ve ever read. Set in the fictional world of Ravka and with elements pulled from Russian History and Mythology (!!!!!!!!!!) The Grisha trilogy tells the story of Alina Starkov, a girl with a dominant power that could end up saving the country. She’s wisked away to the royal court be trained by the magical elite, the Grisha, who are led by the Darkling (spoiler alert: he’s an asshole.) Alina is a complicated protagonist, which is what I love about her. Her power represents light, something very much based in goodness, but is drawn to the darkness both by the Darkling, and by her own hunger for power, which could enable her, or destroy her. The book grasps onto you and doesn’t let you go, and by the last pages all you want to do is cry. Everyone needs to read this book.
The Raven Cycle is one of the biggest series taking the book world by storm, especially with the recent release of The Raven King, the last book in the series. I’ve only read the first book (The Raven Boys), but within that one singular book, you can see why everyone loves it so much. Blue Sargent is the daughter of clairvoyant, and lives with her mother’s coven of witches, essentially. When she was younger, she was told by said mother, that she would be the cause of her true love’s death. Then, when Blue helps her mother, she sees a boy walk out of the darkness, and his name is Gansey, a rich student from Aglionby, a private school, where the boys are known as the Raven Boys. Together with Gansey and his friends, Adam, Ronan and Noah, they embark to find Glendower, a mystical world Gansey has been dreaming about since he’s been a boy, and they find some things about themselves. Every human being needs to read this book series. Every one. It’s so amazingly crafted and Stiefvater tells a riveting story, which could be difficult when your entire audience figures out the ending to the whole series by the end of the first book (and then live in denial for the last three books.)
I don’t have words to properly articulate how much I love Sarah J. Maas and how much I love the Throne of Glass series. First of all, it’s fantasy, which is one of my favorite genres. Second, FEMALE. ASSASIN. FEMALE. ASSAIN. It’s honestly beautiful and you don’t know you want it until you read the book and fall in love with Celaena Sardothien. As you continue on the series, it frequently changes POVs, which can be hard to deal with and can get muddled quickly. That doesn’t happen with this series. You get introduced to so many amazing female characters, have the male characters do things of substance besides falling in love with the female characters and being filled with manpain (ok, there is some manpain). Romance is present in the book, and while it does fuel decisions made by some of the characters, it doesn’t overly impact the overarching plot, which is. Amazing. Everyone needs to read this series. Everyone. A Court of Thorns and Roses is Maas’s second series, once again fantasy, but more beauty and the beast with faire elements (as it is a beauty and the beast retelling).
Jamiece Adams, Photographer: Cooking is usually a lot of measurements mixed together to hopefully look as close to a Food Network masterpiece as possible. In the case of one Hannah Hart, measurements are considerations, the picture is probably a lie and it may or may not taste as good as it looks. In My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut, the humor is so easily read, her sense of voice so clear through every misshapen recipe. I anticipate the same honesty and fully formed ideas in her upcoming book, Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded. I’m sure it will be a more personal piece that everyone will be able to connect with.
Brianna Silva, Writer: The Divergent series is absolutely incredible and beyond captivating! I love how there’s a strong female protagonist, how the love story develops and how it points out the flaws in people. The only downside to this book is that it has a slow beginning, but once it finally takes off, there’s no disappointments. I highly encourage book lovers to pick up this book this summer!