Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love

Bella and I had a lovely afternoon consisting of the McDonald's PlayPlace, the public library, and a late nap. But it was at the public library that I arrived at the very important decision to revisit the books I've loved most in recent memory as today's Top Ten Tuesday. Then, because of immense snow day amnesia, I had to check and confirm that today was in fact Tuesday. Finally, my last thought on the topic was:

This could veeeeeerrry easily get out of hand. 

So I promise to be sanely brief in my descriptions of each of these lovely tomes. Okay, so most of them won't be tomes. I've been on a Young Adult kick in recent years. But I will use the cover images as my measuring stick and promise to adhere to that length requirement.

I also promise to avoid over-summarizing and will provide only 100% completely opinionated commentary.

For this list, I'm limiting myself only to titles from my Goodreads shelf. If you don't know what Goodreads is (and, therefore, don't know what you're missing) or you do but you don't follow me, go follow me here. (Also, all cover images in this post are from the site.)

Furthermore, as it turns out, most of these books either already are movies, are movies in production, have been optioned as movies, or have been ruined in movies. I'm not sure how I feel about all of this, but I just thought I'd pass that little tidbit along.

Ready? I'm not sure I am, but here goes nothing....

In no particular order:

Okay, so maybe there's an order. Or at least maybe number 1 is my number 1. Maybe not number 1 of all time, but definitely number 1 of recent memory. This book is ah-mazing. I know you've probably heard that a gazillion times, or you've seen the trailer for the movie and wondered what all the hype is about, or you've been living under a rock for a few years and have never heard of it at all, but I'm telling you, the hype is real. I put off reading this book for a very long time. Someone said the word "cancer" and I had flashbacks of My Sister's Keeper and decided I'd rather not be depressed for weeks or bored by cliches of teenage cancer love stories. I only read it because it was on sale on Google Play, I swear. And roughly 48 hours later, when I was sobbing on the couch, I cursed said sale for quite some time. However, three words: totally worth it.

In keeping with the "books recently turned into movies" theme, next up is this phenomenal story of a family during the Holocaust. The single most beautiful thing about this book is the unique narrator: Death. That's right, Death himself (herself?) tells the story. And it is a beautiful thing. Did I already say that? Sounds weird, I know. But for example, in the early chapters, Death informs us that he/she is a connoisseur of colors, particularly cataloging the colors of the varying skies at the times of mortals' deaths, as a distraction from the grueling task at hand. He also tells us that he met the Book Thief three times, leaving us to make several inferences about the Book Thief and asking many questions that keep us reading. Brilliant.

Also a movie (Are there no original ideas in Hollywood these days?), this is one of only three Nicholas Sparks books I have ever read. Back when I was a book snob, I refused this author on principle. I accidentally stopped being anti-Sparks when I read the The Last Song after borrowing it from BFF Rachel's classroom shelf a few years ago, and then picked up Safe Haven on a whim at Wal-Mart. I don't remember much about the first one, other than a general feeling of liking it, but I do remember Safe Haven. I will say that the main love story itself, in its most basic sense, is rather predictable, but the sub-plots and the conclusion (OMG, the CONCLUSION!!) are creative. Particularly the conclusion. I did not see that coming. I will also say, this is one to skip if you've already seen the was pretty much dead-on, and gave away the breath-taking-ness of the conclusion.

Ah, I'd forgotten about this one. I was intrigued by the existence of flower symbolism that extends beyond the significance of various colors of roses. It is pretty cool to read about a young girl who uses her talents of communicating with flowers and how it changes both her life and the lives of others. Very cool concept, beautifully written. And it makes me want to get tattoos of meaningful flowers. Love. Oh yeah, and it includes a flower dictionary as an appendix. And has also been optioned as a movie.

I didn't read this series as much as I devoured this series. I mean, I forget exactly what the timeline was at this point, but I basically read them all within like a week. It was insane. I spent entire days and evenings after work glued to the couch swiping the "pages" away on my iPad. I remember initially thinking it was a trilogy and then getting to what I thought would be the last page and being very, very angry. I also remember plugging these books shamelessly to my kids and co-workers, several of whom picked up the torch of passion for the series, and setting their cover images as my iPad wallpaper because I am that kind of book nerd. I was mesmerized by Lena's mystery and power, entertained by Ethan's voice, and completely consumed by the storyline. I was so pumped for the movie that I semi-jokingly asked Adam to take my picture with the poster outside the theater (and then played it off as a total joke when he raised an eyebrow at me) and then so infuriated by the movie that I wanted to leave halfway through. So don't watch it. Read them. All of them.

I told myself I wouldn't go there, but here I am, putting Divergent on the list. The truth is, I'm mad at Veronica Roth. Because as I have told anyone who asked me about the final book in the trilogy, I would never have read the first book had I known how it would end. Mad props for the courage to write unhappy (read: mind-blowingly tragic) endings, but whoa. I was wrecked. For hours. Adam asked if I was okay as I walked around the house sobbing. Maybe that's my problem and not Roth's. But still. Anyway, it's just too good to shun from the Top Ten. So be intrigued by a society that tests children to see which of the five factions of civilization they are most predisposed toward, be captivated by Tris and her plight, but be warned. It does not end well. So maybe just read the first book and then wonder forever about what happens in the end. It might be better that way. P.S. I've heard that the couple who play boyfriend/girlfriend in the TFiOS movie are brother/sister in this one.
I'd forgotten about this one, too! Apparently it is very useful to revisit Goodreads shelves occasionally! (I'm telling you, Goodreads is perfect.) This is what I'd imagine grown-ups who like Harry Potter would be into, if I had ever read a single line of Harry Potter (gasp, I know). The very first line gets me every time. It is staggering in its simplicity, and yet a very complex, magical war emerges. The story can be a little difficult to follow as it moves back and forth across space and time, but using a circus as a "front" for a wizard war is pretty cool. And the conclusion (I have a thing for conclusions) is straight dope, yo. Plus, there might be a star-crossed lovers element. I think a movie has been in the works for a while, so read it fast fast so you too can be a book-movie hipster like me!

Wow. Just, wow. Gone Girl has a very twisted conclusion, and it's probably my favorite conclusion that I love to hate. I have mad respect for authors who resist the pressure to tie all the loose ends up in a neat little bow (except you, Veronica Roth...I'm still mad at you), and instead leave us wanting to chuck the damn things across the room at the end. So mad props, Gillian did it. But seriously, the structure of this book is unreal, in terms of Flynn's pacing and methods of revealing the truth (the sick, twisted, psychotic truth). This book is Messed Up. And I loved every second of it. Let's just say Nick is a suspect in his wife's disappearance, on their anniversary no less, but something is very rotten in the state of Missouri. And if I tell you what is rotten, I ruin the whole thing. So read it. Before it too is tainted by the big screen. (Honestly though, I'm pretty pumped about the cast for this one!)

Let's just keep the creepy vibe going, shall we? Have you ever read The Scarlet Letter? Do you like futuristic, dystopian novels? Can you imagine what it would be like if your transgressions were easily visible to the naked eye? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions, read this book. In this futuristic "re-imagining" of the classic Hawthorne tale, the justice system practices a process called chroming, which requires convicted criminals to submit to injections coloring their skin according to the level of their crime. For example, if you had an abortion and were therefore considered a murderer, and you were caught, you'd be a Red forever. Yeah. Twisted. It's also pretty political, religious, sociological, and psychological. So also deep.

I thought I'd found a favorite that wasn't destined for the big screen. Then I Googled it. Apparently producers and the like have been trying to adapt this classic allegory into a film for years, maybe decades, and I kind of hope they never succeed. I think 287 weeks as a NYT Best Seller (seriously, I'm not kidding...287 weeks and counting) might just be all you need to know about why The Alchemist should definitely not be destroyed by a film adaptation. But anyway. This simple-on-the-surface story about an Andalusian shepherd boy who sets out to find treasure in Egypt after a recurring dream has much to teach us about following our destinies and learning to listen to the world around us. It is the most uplifting and spiritual text I have ever read and I wish I could memorize it and apply it as an instructional manual to life. In fact, I might use tomorrow's snow day to get started on just that. If you read none of the other books on this list, try The Alchemist. You won't regret it. And if you do, you missed the message somewhere along the way, so read it again.

So there you have it, the books that have made me laugh and cry (mostly cry, it seems....thanks, Veronica Roth), my completely arbitrary Top Ten Books I Love list. Here's to hoping that some of my 2014 reads are worthy of the company.

What books have made an impact on you and would be worthy of your Top Ten? And, more importantly, who can you talk into reading them with you so you can commiserate about how mad you are at Veronica Roth? (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Live on.

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