Top Ten Gateway Books

TTT BannerTop Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Check out their amazing blog here!

Today’s TTT topic is: Top Ten “Gateway” Books/Authors In My Reading Journey (so your list could be a mix of a books that got you into reading, an author that got you into reading a genre you never thought you’d read, a book that brought you BACK into read). I’ll split it up into the three sections: books that got me reading, authors/books that got me reading a genre I never thought I’d read, and books that brought me BACK into reading.

Books that Got Me Reading

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1. Coming Home (Heartland #1) by Lauren Brooke. I was (as most young girls are) addicted to horses – wanted to be an equine vet and everything. Plus, this series killed me with feels before I even knew what feels were. Amy and Ty were my first ever OTP.

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2. The Wild One (Phantom Stallion #1) by Terri Farley. Anther series to fuel my horse fantasies. This isn’t the actual cover of The Wild One – this is book #17 or something. It was my favorite cover of the entire series though! And now I’m kind of sad that I don’t own them anymore. NOSTALGIA. 

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3. Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) by Mary Pope Osborne. This was like Magic School Bus for me; I loved all the different historical places and science and facts I learned through this series. And now it makes total sense to me why I failed history in high school with my textbooks. I always learned best through historically set fiction! (This is also not the cover for Dinosaurs Before Dark since my favorite in the series was actually #13 – Vacation Under the Volcano, set in Pompeii when the volcano erupted).

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4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by JK Rowling. I know it as Philosopher’s Stone rather than Sorcerer’s stone, because the first time I read HP was actually the UK versions of the first three books! Harry Potter is the most important series from my childhood, and even today I have them on a separate shelf, and two copies of the entire series.

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5. DragonSpell (DragonKeeper Chronicles #1) by Donita K. Paul. THANK YOU GOODREADS FOR REMINDING ME OF THIS SERIES. I now need to reread this entire series because I still have it on my shelf. This series is actually dragons and fantasy and knights mixed with allegorical elements of Christianity – it helped me understand my faith more than Sunday school. I don’t even have words for how important this series is to me ❤

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6. Eragon (Inheritance Cycle #1) by Christopher Paolini. So I actually haven’t even read the last book in this series, because Paolini’s style got a bit weird and to be honest the tone of the third book was really arrogant and there was a lot of deus ex machina going on so I’m still trying to work past those reservations. BUT – Eragon by itself is still one of my favorites, and Saphira is probably the root of my love for snarky characters.

Books that Got Me Reading a Genre I Never Thought I’d Read

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7. Deeper We Fall (Fall and Rise #1) by Chelsea M. Cameron. This was one of the first books I requested through NetGalley, before I even knew what New Adult was. Even though I’ve read some awful NA books since then, I truly enjoyed this first one, and I’m glad I entered the genre with this one.

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8. Left Drowning by Jessica Park. While I enjoy Flat Out Love more than this one, Left Drowning was another NA book that actually stands out in the midst of the rest of them all. It may have been a bit melodramatic, but sometimes I need drama, and this satisfied that need, plus the characters are still some of my favorites.

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9. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. The very first time I met Veronica, she and I went to Barnes and Noble, where she immediately told me that I needed to get over my aversion to Contemporary and chose three books for me to read immediately. SCS was one (Anna and the French Kiss being another!), and it was the first that made me realize that contemporary is actually not just cheesy romances.

Books that Got Me BACK Into Reading

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10. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. This is probably the only book I read while I was in college besides Harry Potter rereads. Ender was a character I understood so well, and Card’s writing inspired me to get back to my own novel and finish it. 

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11. City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare. After a two year stint of reading absolutely nothing except Ender’s Game and Harry Potter, CoB was the first book I picked up after graduation. I was actually at Target, with a bit of unexpected extra money in my pocket. Usually I would have bought movies, but that day I said “screw it, I’m going to read.” And thus began my journey back into reading and the YA genre in general. 

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12. Divergent by Veronica Roth. This was the other book in that Target trip. Even though I read several books between CoB and Divergent, I still count Divergent as one of the books that got me back into reading.

Apparently I had more books than I thought! That’s my list for this week – link me yours below!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Cry

TTT BannerTop Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Check out their amazing blog here!

Okay, so this weeks topic is technically best/worst series endings, but like I’ve said lately, I haven’t actually finished that many series. So, I’m pulling from the Broke and Bookish archives and picking a topic I never got to do because I didn’t start blogging till June. So instead… *drumroll*

Today’s TTT topic is: Top Ten Books that made me cry.

Flawless. Who doesn’t love a good cry? Some made me cry from pure joy and bliss, others rent my heart in two with feels, and some made me so angry that the only way I could express my emotion was through tears.

So without further adieu…

1. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. This one was along the lines of Perks for me. I laughed with Stargirl, then cried because she abandoned everything she was, and then smiled through my joyful tears when she embraced everything that made her Stargirl.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steven Chbosky. I’ve marked my copy up with underlines, post its, and highlights. I don’t think there’s ever been another book that I connect to like this one.

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This one was one of those bittersweet cries at the close of a book. It was a magical blend of sorrow, loss, hope, and promise.

4. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. So many emotions mixed with this one. It was like a rollercoaster.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. PAIN. ALL I SEE IS PAIN. And beauty. And tragedy. But mostly pain.

6. Left Drowning by Jessica Park. Happy tears, sad tears, angry tears. I was a faucet, okay?

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. Always. All was well. Of course it’s happening in your head, but why should that mean it isn’t real? How to bring a Potterhead to their knees 101.

8. Percy Jackson: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. I wasn’t expecting so much emotion from this one, since the other four books mostly made me laugh. But this cut into my heart as it made me giggle – a dangerous mix. WARNING: SORROW ABOUNDS.

9. Breathless by Lurlene McDaniel. Angry tears. Pure, seething rage. I threw this book – literally. And promptly cried because I had no idea how to handle the absolute displeasure I felt.

10. Cracked by Eliza Crewe. This was a surprise hit – I was laughing at the snark for the first half, then WHAM-O. FEELS AHOY. I think it was Eliza’s plot the entire time: reel me in with humor, then kill me with feels.

That’s my list for this week – link me yours below!

Five Star Ratings and the Love They Show

When I give out five star ratings on Goodreads (equivalent to a 6/6 on this blog), it’s a pretty rare occasion. It’s like the Congressional Medal of Honor in the book world – though not that serious. I desist. But, it is a big deal, and after a few months of consistently reading and reviewing, I’ve noticed a trend in the 5 and 6 stars that I give out. There are two occasions that I give out these ratings, and for entirely different reasons.

1. The first would be the “This book has changed my fundamental views of life and I will not rest until everyone else has read the magnificence that is the printed word.” This is the book that when you finish, you just sit there, holding it – still open, maybe closed – in your limp fingers, completely dumbstruck. It is the book that stays with you for days, maybe even weeks, after you’ve read it. If someone even gets within ten feet of you while you read this one – watch out. You are in the “Lost to Reality” stage of reading, and any interrupter risks death in their approach.

These kinds of 5 star ratings are the ones that you just want to scream “READ THIS BOOK BECAUSE YOUR LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AFTER.” Some of these kinds of books, for me, are Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, Fahrenheit 451, and Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter.

2. The second kind of 5 star review is when the book, though maybe not life changing, just plain makes you happy. These are the books that you clutch to your chest because your heart is full of butterflies and sunshine and nothing in the world can tear you down at that point.

They might not even be the best written, or the characters rely on too many stereotypes, but there’s that magic inside the cover that is undeniable, and you can easily ignore any downfalls. It could be cheeseballs from cover to cover, with so much schmuck and sweetness that you would send the dentist screaming for mommy all the way to the asylum. This is not to say that they’re always cliche and unrealistic, because some have great characterization, fantastic plots, and mind-blowing concepts. No matter where they fall on the cheese factor, these are the books that you pick up after a bad day, because you know the characters and story are there for you, and they’ll take you to that special, safe place in Bookland. If you need a good cry, they’ll hold the tissues. A laugh? They’ll pin you down and tickle you if necessary. Some of my 5 and 6 star ratings that fall in this category are Angelfall, The Hunger Games series, The Fault in Our Stars, Left Drowning, and Stargirl.

And sometimes, type one and type two mix together, creating the greatest book of all. These are the ones you’ll keep on your shelves, pass them down to your children and grandchildren, and buy every single edition that comes out, because you have to have the new covers. For me, this is Harry Potter. I have never found another book or series to match the profound impact that Harry Potter, and JK Rowling, has had on my life.

What are some books, for you, that fall in these categories? Have you ever found The One – that special blend of timeless magic?

Left Drowning

Title: Left Drowning
Author: Jessica Park
Pages: 399
Genre: New Adult, fiction, romance
Series? No
Publisher: Skyscape (July 2013)
Rating: 5.5/6 – Loved it so much!

Synopsis from cover: What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect – an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: I was so, so excited that this finally came out! It’s a nice thick book, and I curled up in my blankets, played my music, and lost myself in this book for a solid four hours. And I fell in love. So hard. Not with the couple, but with every single main character – all seven of them. Possible Spoilers Ahead.

What did I think about the characters? I could really go on about all of these people. They’re just so special and unique, and even in the large cast of characters Park made each one stand out with their own voice: they never get lost in the noise. I was emotionally attached to all of them, and truly enjoyed all of their parts equally.

The best part about these people is that they all come from some pretty crappy circumstances, and they acknowledge that. They can’t defeat their struggles on their own, and they rely on each other. The relationships, both platonic and romantic, were based on strength and love, even when they’re falling apart.

And the concept and plot? Concept: Take seven broken people and put them all together, and you’re going to get some heart-tugging drama. It was never overwhelming, though, and the drama was balanced and spread out well over the entirety of the book. 

Plot: Love, love, love! I don’t think I can express how much I appreciated the fact that all of the events of the book were spread over about two and a half years. Everything was very organic, rolling out at a natural pace and never forcing something to work. While I can forgive the “love at first sight” trope, it’s a refreshing pleasure when a couple takes a few months to realize their feelings for each other.

What about the writing style? I was sucked in from the very first page, and taken on a roller coaster that extended through the very last page. I felt every emotion, and was completely invested in the characters. I don’t often cry in the middle of the book (usually it’ll be at the end, if I do), but this one had me shed a few tears in the middle of the story. [I love how I judge a book based on how much it makes me cry. I might need to get a new system…]

Anything else you’d like to add? This wasn’t part of the synopsis, but it’s on the dedication page, and honestly it was the most touching passage I’ve read in a long time. I wanted to share it with you here (and I’m going to print it out and tape it on my mirror): 

This book is for everyone who has survived. You are not broken.
You can love and be loved, despite what may feel like
the eternally brutal nature of the world.
Even when you’re drowning and so far under,
there is always time to reach for someone who will teach
you how to breathe again.