Classic Spinoffs

Have you read any classic books? Even if you haven’t, you can still enjoy the books on this list. These are inspired by classics as they tell the stories of supporting characters, are prequels or sequels to the classic stories, or even retell the classics themselves. Read them all!

gertrudeandclaudius Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike  
This prequel to Hamlet tells the story of Gertrude Queen of Denmark before the action of Shakespeare’s Hamlet begins. Updike brings to life Gertrude’s girlhood as the daughter of King Rorik, her arranged marriage to the man who becomes King Hamlet, and her middle-aged affair with her husband’s younger brother.


MadameBovarysDaughter Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach
This continuation of Flaubert’s classic Madame Bovary finds twelve-year-old Berthe cast off by society in the aftermath of her mother’s suicide and sent to live with her impoverished grandmother, from where she eventually rises through the ranks of Charles Worth’s famed fashion empire.


thebeekeepersapprentice The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King   
In 1914, a young woman named Mary Russell meets a retired beekeeper on the Sussex Downs. His name is Sherlock Holmes. The Great Detective is no fool, and can spot a fellow intellect even in a fifteen-year-old woman. So, at first informally, then consciously, he takes Mary as his apprentice.


julietsnurseJuliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen   
A new telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, from the perspective of Juliet’s nurse. In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappelletti’s darkest secrets.

ruthsjourney Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig
A prequel to one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of all time, Gone with the Wind. The critically acclaimed author of Rhett Butler’s People magnificently recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, from her days as a slave girl to the outbreak of the Civil War.


revenge Revenge by Stephen Fry  
This brilliant recasting of the classic story The Count of Monte Cristo centers on Ned Maddstone, a happy, charismatic, Oxford-bound seventeen-year-old whose rosy future is virtually pre-ordained. Handsome, confident, and talented, newly in love with bright, beautiful Portia, his father an influential MP, Ned leads a charmed life. But privilege makes him an easy target for envy, and in the course of one day Ned’s destiny is forever altered.

thehistorian The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A woman discovers that the past of her family is connected to the stories of Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired Dracula and must decide whether to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.


deankoontzfrankenstein Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son
This is a retelling of Frankenstein set in New Orleans. In the 19th century, Dr. Victor Frankenstein brought his first creation to life, but a horrible turn of events forced him to abandon his creation and fall away from the public eye. Now, two centuries later, a serial killer is on the loose in New Orleans, and he’s salvaging body parts from each of his victims, as if he’s trying to create the perfect person. But the two detectives assigned to the case are about to discover that something far more sinister is going on…

widesargassosea Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys  
Jean Rhys brings into the light one of fiction’s most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane EyreSet in the Caribbean, its heroine is Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Rochester. In this best-selling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

monsignorquixote Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
When Father Quixote, a local priest of the Spanish village of El Toboso who claims ancestry to Cervantes’ fictional Don Quixote, is elevated to the rank of monsignor through a clerical error, he sets out on a journey to Madrid to purchase purple socks appropriate to his new station. Accompanying him on his mission is his best friend, Sancho, the Communist ex-mayor of the village who argues politics and religion with Quixote and rescues him from the various troubles his innocence lands him in along the way.

There are many, many more books that are inspired by the classics. Sometimes even classics are inspired by other classics! What are your favorite classic spinoffs?

Young Adult and Children’s Books by Young Writers

Everyone likes to see a little bit of themselves in the books they read, or the shows or movies they watch, whether it is relating to the author or to pieces of a character’s personality or circumstances. This is especially true for children and teens. One way to easily find some common ground is by reading material written by people of the same age range as the reader. As a bonus, young readers and teens might find inspiration or encouragement in knowing some of the books they love are written by people their age or younger.

bykidsjakeThe Just Jake series for middle grade readers is by Jake Marcionette. He started writing, prompted by his mother, when he was in elementary school. Now in middle school, Jake has three books published and more are sure to be on the way. The three books he currently has are Just Jake, Dog Eat Dog, and Camp Wild Survival. If you want to know more bykidsswordabout Jake and his books, visit his website.

Nancy Yi Fan started writing her first now published book when she was only eleven years old. Now there are three books in her Swordbird series; Swordbird, Sword Mountain, and Sword Quest which takes place 100 years before Swordbird).

bykidseragonChristopher Paolini might not be a teen anymore, but he started writing his first book when he was only 15. Eragon (the first book in his series) was published when he was 18. Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance soon followed. In 2007 Eragon was even made into a movie. For more information on Christopher and his series you can explore his website.

bykidsforestAmelia Atwater-Rhodes was writing her first young adult novel at the age of 13. In the Forests of the Night was the first of her books published, though she now has a pretty extensive list of published books. Her other books include;  Demon in my View,  Shattered Mirror,  Midnight Predator, Persistence of Memory, Token of Darkness, All Just Glass, Poison Tree, Hawksong,  Snakecharm, Falcondance, Wolfcry, Wyvernhail, and most recently Bloodkin. Fans and those interested in the author can stay up to date with her by reading her blog; The Den of Shadows.

bykidsschoolAlec Greven wrote his first book at 9! He writes self-help books for other kids. Rules for School is the most recent publication, but he also has written How to Talk to Girls, How to Talk to Dads, and How to Talk to Moms.


Still looking for more? Did you know that a now 52 year old author of over eighty bykidskormanbooks for children and teens wrote his first book at 12, and had it published when he was just 14? Check out Gordon Korman‘s tween age writing in This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall! to see how his first book rates in comparison to his many more current and very popular titles.

Alexandra Adornetto wrote her first book at the age of 13. The start of her second series, Halo was published when she was the ripe old age of 17 in 2010 and has been translated into a variety of languages. She is still writing and publishing steadily. S.E. Hilton‘s well known book, The Outsiders, was published when she was only 18.  Age is no obstacle, it all comes down to talent, determination, and luck!

The Day I Forgot My Phone

taber-No-Cell-Phones-AllowedI left the house without my smartphone and didn’t realize it until I arrived at work.

It felt funny at first. I had become used to carrying my phone with me. But as the day went on, I noticed something peculiar. I felt calmer.

There were no texts interrupting my concentration. No buzzing of a phone set to silent to distract me during a meeting. No notifications from apps warning me of impending weather fronts.

I didn’t text my husband with thoughts the second I had them. I didn’t send any “how are you” or “where are you” messages to my daughter.

Jacket.aspxAs if to reinforce the strange but not bad quiet of my day, I saw a book on the new book cart that caught my minimalist eye. The Joy of Less: 101 Stories about Having More by Simplifying Our Lives, a book in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Flipping through the pages, I discovered, by a great cosmic coincidence, a section titled “Joyfully Unplugged”.

This section has stories about taking a sabbatical from Facebook, going without television, and generally disconnecting from electronics in order to reconnect with life. One of my favorites is titled, “Why I Gave My Smartphone a Lobotomy” by Nicole L. V. Mullis. It is simply a short essay about a woman who began to pay more attention to her phone than to those around her and cured herself by deleting all her apps.

I’m not quite ready to do that, but I am ready to lay my phone aside and forget about it from time to time. I don’t need to be available 24/7. I don’t want to be available 24/7.

The quiet of my phoneless day was an unexpectedly nice surprise. I realized with a shock that quiet is now a treat, something that needs to be planned. And, I have decided, it is something worth planning.

Interested in the effects being constantly online? Try these titles, which explore the bad and the good sides of being online:

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Downloadable Audiobooks:

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Understanding Urban Issues

Here is a group of books – some of them very good – that are sure to fuel political fire, no matter which fence you sit on regarding the issues of the blighted inner cities.

indexGhetto is a brand-new book by Mitchell Duneier on the term “ghetto,” which dates back to the 1400’s when Jews were forced to live in isolation from Christians. They were free to come and go, except at night, and anyone could do business with them. This led to a flourishing if separate culture for hundreds of years. Enter the Nazis, who isolated Jews into Ghettos with barbed wire. No one was allowed in or out. Here, people had no jobs, severe overcrowding, no public services, and as the ghettos decayed and residents grew desperate, people accepted the fact that Jews lived like animals, and it helped fuel antisemitism. Why would people live like that if they didn’t deserve it, forgetting that to cross the wire was not just banishment, but death. By the 1940’s the term expanded to the narrow neighborhoods that African-American people were allowed to live in. There was no barbed wire, but an invisible barrier that they weren’t allowed to cross except for work. As their neighborhoods became overcrowded because no one could move out, they fell victim to the same issues faced in Germany. Duneier presents facts throughout the last century – the 40’s, the 60’s, the 80’s, and today, on the current use of the term vs. the historical one, and how the stagnation and forced living creates the discord we see today. The book is far too long and detailed – it could be half and still be excellent – but even if you have to skim it, it is serious food for thought.

Easier to read, if not more infuriating, is Family Properties:  Race, Real Estate, and the5190mOD8p3L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ Exploitation of Urban Black America by Beryl Satter. Satter details the blatant racist policies of 1940’s Chicago, where Real Estate agents were threatened if they sold houses to African Americans past the “White” line, and people who did buy in would find the houses disassembled by the neighbors to prevent it. It took many years and many lawsuits to get things to change. This book will make you angry.

514dyV2l3KL._SY479_BO1,204,203,200_A head scratcher is All Souls: a Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick McDonald. Mrs. McDonald is Irish, unmarried, and pumps out children like party favors (11 in all), living in the infamous projects of South Boston – an area run by no less than Whitey Bulger himself. Michael tries to sort out his childhood as his siblings fall victim to gangs and drugs and forced busing. Entertaining and tragic, even if you can’t relate to their lifestyle.

Death at an Early Age, Savage Inequalities, and Fire in the Ashes, all by Jonathan Kozol, are heart-rending books about the disparities in Urban and Suburban education. They are excellent reading that will break your heart. The realities of urban living will block most of these kids from ever achieving, and it is not their fault.

Jacket.aspxI cannot recommend the book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns enough. I could not put it down. It covers the grim streets of Baltimore, a place so bad it’s where trauma surgery originated. It is compelling and reads like a novel. And they made a TV Miniseries out of it. One of my top-50 favorite books.

51BHwvQwVbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re really, really, really into sociology, then go back to the original: How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis. This is one of the first sociological studies on the slums of 1886 New York City, and the issues seen there – discrimination, overcrowding, street children,  gangs, alcoholism, domestic violence, prostitution – paint a familiar story as European immigrants try to find a way to survive in a hostile new world. It’s dry reading at times, but interesting in the patterns that appear.

Lyndon Johnson took decisive moves to improve our urban areas; 50 years later, not much has changed. The issues brought up in these books are just as relevant today as then, and we have more than enough information to make positive changes. These books will open your eyes.

Flowers Are Blooming

flowers 2

Everywhere you look, there are beautiful flowers blooming.  Nature’s artwork is a feast for the eyes.  Another feast for the eyes, is a good book to read.  To continue with the  flower theme, here’s a list of fiction books with ‘flower’ in the title.  Pick a title, find a beautiful place to sit, and enjoy your reading!

language of flowersThe Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
Discovering the symbolic meanings of flowers while languishing in the foster-care system, 18-year-old Victoria is hired by a florist, a situation that leads to a romantic prospect and the confrontation of a painful secret from her past.

all the flowers are dyingAll The Flowers Are Dying – Lawrence Block.
Matthew Scudder, with his eye keenly on retirement, unofficially investigates the suspicious online suitor of an acquaintance, and finds his own life in grave danger.


send no flowersSend No Flowers – Sandra Brown.
Since the death of her husband, Alicia Russell has struggled to take care of her two young sons alone. Now fiercely independent, she is determined to never again depend on another person. But when a sudden storm threatens to ruin a family camping trip, Alicia finds it hard to say no to a stranger offering a night’s refuge–especially when the man playing hero offers much more than shelter from the storm.

a hundred flowersA Hundred Flowers – Gail Tsukiyama.
A tale set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution follows the struggles of Kai Ying to safeguard her family when her teacher husband is arrested and sent to a “reeducation” labor camp for criticizing the Communist Party.


the blood of flowersThe Blood of Flowers – Anita Amirrezani.
After her father dies without leaving her with a dowry, a seventeenth-century Persian teen becomes a servant to her wealthy rug designer uncle in the court of Shah Abbas the Great, where her weaving talents prove both a blessing and curse.


flowers on mainFlowers on Main – Sherryl Woods.
When she abandons Chicago and returns home to open a flower shop, writer Bree O’Brien finds her new life anything but peaceful when her estranged mother arrives and her former lover, Jake Collins, tries to run her out of town.

war of flowersThe War of Flowers – Tad Williams.
When his music career becomes stagnant, thirty-year-old Theo Vilmos seeks solace in a secluded cabin in the woods where he discovers an old book written by his great-uncle that transports him into the terrifying world of Faerie – a strange and dangerous place that holds the key to his destiny.

queen of the flowersQueen of the Flowers – Kerry Greenwood.
Chosen Queen of the Flowers for St. Kilda’s first Flower Parade festival, Phryne Fisher finds the glamour of her crown wearing off when one of her attendants vanishes. She launches her own investigation, which is complicated by the disappearance of her adopted daughter Ruth and a not-so-pleasant reunion with an old lover.

all the flowers in shangAll The Flowers in Shanghai – Duncan Jepson.
A young Chinese woman plots revenge after being forced into a cruel arranged marriage in 1930s Shanghai as the entire country begins to become gripped in a growing call for revolution.


art of arranging flowersThe Art of Arranging Flowers – Lynne Branard.
After 20 years as an intuitive florist who has helped her friends, neighbors, and customers with their romances, celebrations, and sympathy gestures, Ruby Jewell looks to the power of that community to heal her floundering spirit after her sister’s death.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fansnow flower and – Lisa See.
A story of friendship set in nineteenth-century China follows an elderly woman and her companion as they communicate their hopes, dreams, joys, and tragedies through a unique secret language.