Top Ten Books That Changed My Life

Hey everyone!  So there was this thing on Twitter last week about YA authors talking about finding your own story.  And, one thing led to another in my brain, and I was thinking about books that have made me look at the world differently.  I’m not necessarily going to be talking about book series that I obsessed over or that are some giant awesome fandom.  I’m going to be talking a lot about YA books that made me realize things about life.  They’re the books I probably can’t stop thinking about.

While this is obviously a little more on the personal side for me, I hope that you find something here that can/has changed your life.

Oh, and if you’re worried about these all being heavy tear-jerkers, they’re not.  Some are quite light and/or funny.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be life changing too.

Top Ten Books That Changed My Life

Image result for life changing

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first.  I can’t even pretend that Harry Potter was not the most significant series in my entire life.  It was one of the earliest chapter books I can remember reading as a kid with my mom.  On top of that, there were all those themes about overcoming corruption and what it means to be a friend and the dangers of prejudice (mudbloods, etc.).  There is so much about life layered away in those books that I think I would be failing as a blogger if I didn’t include it.

2. Stolen: A Letter to my Captor by Lucy Christopher

This is not a widely known story, and I think that’s part of the reason it’s so life changing.  Written as a letter from a girl to her kidnapper, it details everything the girl was thinking and experiencing during her captivity in the Outback of Australia.  Not only is it beautifully written, but it shows us that even though people can be truly horrible and evil, they can have the capacity for goodness…no one’s entirely good or evil.

3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I can remember reading this in the car on vacation years ago and trying not to let the five other people in the vehicle know that I was crying.  It’s so powerful to watch Sam discover that she’s been living her life all wrong and that she’d missed out on all these amazing people because she was too wrapped up in herself and trying to be cool.  It’s heartbreaking but soooo good.

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

An interesting choice for this list, to be sure.  But here’s why: Cath is the same shy, quiet, bookish, and occasionally lost girl that I was in college (and still can be today).  She was real.  And the fact that she was introverted and would ask for personal space and whatever else she needed was a revelation.  Everything in romantic comedies and love stories always had everything moving so fast.  When I knew that wasn’t me and that wasn’t how my life would go, I’d feel depressed.  But finding Cath and discovering that relationships can move at whatever pace the couple is ok with…that was life changing.

5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is completely and totally the reason this book is on the list.  I connected with her self-conscious hopelessness from the very beginning.  She’s forced into a situation where she’s completely out of her element and she’s forced to adapt, even against her will.  Her personal revolution is undeniably inspiring and when you finish reading this book, you feel like you can move mountains too.

6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Whenever I need a tear-jerker, this is my go-to movie AND book.  It’s that ultimate question of what do you live for when it feels like there’s nothing left to live for?  I really like the way the story’s written and its powerful messages of family and love.  I don’t think I will ever recover from this book.  Nor do I want to.

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I teach this book every year, and I have to say it’s just so beautiful.  It’s all about the absolute power of the written word.  It shows the dangers of Nazi Germany and the systemic destruction of “other”.  It shows the pain of loss and the slow growth of hope.  It shows the power of the family you choose to call your own, not the one you were born into.  I just…like I am so in love with this book and its message that I have seriously debated about naming a child of mine Liesl.

8. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

There’s a reason that this is my go-to reread on my shelf.  Yes, I vastly enjoy the romance and the twist on Greek mythology, but it’s more than that.  Stay with me here: I grew up Catholic and I was never quite satisfied with what the afterlife was supposed to look like.  Pearly gates, streets of gold, etc., or an eternity of burning.  That’s it.  I didn’t care for that.  This book was the first book where I actually found a way of talking about life after death in a way that I could get behind.  So whenever I experience loss in my life, this is the first book I go back to because it helps me feel grounded in what I believe.  If that makes me some kind of heretic, then so be it.

9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I mean seriously, could I make this list without this book either?  I’ve legitimately used quotes from this book in college essays.  I’m not joking.  It’s cynical and doesn’t sound like any teenager I’ve ever met in its use of vocabulary or metaphors, but what Gus and Hazel are going through is all too real and shows you just how fragile life can be.  And how powerful love can be, even when it feels finite.  Love is infinite.

10. Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

This book destroyed me.  It’s very similar in themes to TFioS, but the tone is completely different.  Beth finally starts coming into some confidence and starts to realize her worth, especially as she begins to get close to someone else.  But love is always complicated and things get messy.  It just helps show that sometimes we think we know someone but there’s always more to learn.  And I also really love that music has been twisted into the whole story because music is also a powerful force.

Advertisements

Top Ten Best Fictional Couples

So Friday (7/6) was International Kissing Day or something like that, so I got thinking about the best fictional couples, the ones I adore reading about the most.  I feel like this is different from my favorite fictional crushes because there is different criteria for this.  For example, when it comes to my crushes, I’m looking for the characteristics that mesh the best with mine.  For the couples, I’m looking for the ones whose personality traits mesh well together.  I’m looking for couples that balance each other well, the ones that I fight for to stay together through every hardship.

Will there be some overlap?  Undoubtedly.  But I think it’s going to be enlightening nonetheless.

And if you’re not into series or if you’re looking for a standalone contemporary romance, I made sure to include those on my list as well.  Hopefully you can find something you haven’t read before!

Top Ten Best Fictional Couples

1. Henry and Kate, The Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter

So, this is one of my favorites series to reread (in large part because of the Greek mythology, I won’t lie) but also because of the level of emotion I feel from Kate.  Kate is sweetness and despair, constantly intertwined.  Henry is completely closed off, seemingly emotionless, hopeless all because he lets fear rule his life.  I love that Kate never really gives up on him and that he has a lot more depth than he ever shows anyone else.  It’s awesome.

2. Rhys and Feyre, A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Y’all, let’s not even pretend to be surprised that these two are on the list.  Besides the fact that Rhys made it onto my swoon-worthy crush list AND I just did that spotlight on Maas books on Friday, it was pretty much certain that these two would show up at some point.  These two are the perfect counterpoints to each other.  They both have a lot of bravado and snark, but they feel pain deeply.  They both strive to protect others until their dying breath and they are utterly vicious toward anyone who wants to hurt them.  Their similar personalities also mean that arguments are explosive.  It’s delightful fun to watch them fight and make up.

3. Anna and Etienne, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I don’t think I give this book as much credit as it deserves.  I adore these two because when I first read this book, it was like they were speaking to me.  Anna was me. But what I like about these two together is that they’re encouraging.  They see what the other’s hopes and dreams are and they listen and push them to reach it.  It’s not an easy beginning to their relationship, but I think it makes them stronger for it.

4. Penryn and Raffe, Angelfall series by Susan Ee

I debated a little with this one.  Like, were they actually a couple of epic proportions?  But considering the story involves explosions, death, and dismemberment, I’d say it’s pretty epic.  We’re talking angels, so everything is on a massive scale.  The danger level is high, which means the emotions run that much stronger.  They’re both bitter about the life they now lead, but they find someone who understands in each other.  And while that maybe doesn’t lead to a perfect life, it does show exactly how far they’ll go to save the other.

5. Scarlet and Robin, Scarlet series by A.C. Gaughen

Ok, this couple right here needs to stop being so freaking adorable.  The life Scarlet’s running from is absolutely awful, so awful that she’d rather live dressed as a boy than let anyone even guess who she really is.  The fact that she trusts Robin means a lot because she no longer trusts anyone.  And Robin, while being understanding and sweet, is undeniably fierce when it comes to protecting her.  I really enjoy reading about these two.

6. Kate and Matt, Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Do you ever have a book that you read and you just can’t get it out of your head, no matter how much time has gone by?  That’s this book for me.  This couple is different from many other couples.  Kate is religious and quiet.  Matt is silly and a nerd who grew up into all his delicious glory.  It was so much fun to watch these two try to understand each other, to learn from their mistakes, and to finally acknowledge their feelings.

7. Charlie and Braden, On The Fence by Kasie West

I think this is easily my favorite Kasie West book.  Charlie is a tomboy.  She hangs out with her brothers and plays all the sports.  Braden is her neighbor and best friend of her brothers.  They’ve known each other forever, so when the feelings start becoming more than that, it runs the risk of making everything awkward.  But I loved that Charlie really doesn’t fit the mold of a typical romantic lead and that there is this that friendship between them before it becomes something more.  It’s sweet.

8. Christian and Elyse, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

When we’re talking about two characters that balance each other out, I don’t think there are two better characters than these.  Elyse is from the Caribbean, a talented singer who lost her voice in a freak accident.  Christian is a rich boy who lives on the coast with his family and is pretty much spoiled.  They’re complete opposites in so many ways, but Christian sees Elyse in ways that no one else does.  He’s the only one who treats her normally, not like she’s broken.  She’s the only one who sees the pressure being piled on Christian’s shoulders.  I adored that balance.

9. Ali and Cole, the Alice in Zombieland series by Gena Showalter

Again, this is a couple that balances each other well.  When Ali and Cole meet, she’s almost afraid of her shadow because of what happened to her family.  Cole is tough as nails and definitely someone Ali should be running from.  But he gives her confidence and treats her like a person.  And Ali softens his edges.  Again, it’s a very cute couple, even though they’re quite terrifying at the same time.

10. Sydney and Adrian, the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

I have a very hard time deciding between Sydney and Adrian or Rose and Dimitri, from the companion Richelle Mead series, Vampire Academy.  But I ended up going with Sydney and Adrian because of their amazing character development.  And it’s not just that Adrian grows up–it’s Sydney too.  She finally starts to realize how important other things are in life, starts to question what she’s seeing.  But together, these two are magical.  There’s just something so compelling about how Adrian can pull out Sydney’s sillier side as well as see her in a way that she doesn’t feel like anyone else has seen her.  And there’s something wonderful about the way Sydney saw a spark of promise beneath Adrian’s sarcastic, self-destructive exterior.  They understand each other in a way that is simply beautiful.

Top Ten Retold Fairy Tales

Hey guys!  So I was recently thinking about retellings of Greek myths (thanks Hermione and Clara!) and, while I was stumped about picking 10 retold Greek myths, I had no problem coming up beautiful retellings of fairy tales.  So I thought this would be interesting.

Full disclosure: I’m completely biased to Beauty and the Beast, if you couldn’t guess that already.  It’s so much my favorite fairy tale that I named a blog after it, so….

Top Ten Retold Fairy Tales

1. Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Image result for hunted meagan spoonerThis is the first of my Beauty and the Beast books.  It’s got kind of a Hunger Games twist on the story, though.  Let me explain.  When Yeva’s father loses everything and moves the family to the woods, Yeva’s relieved.  She loves the wild, loves not making small-talk, and especially loves not being forced to marry against her will.  But her father’s not well and when he disappears into the woods, Yeva sets her sights on the creature her father was obsessed with before his disappearance.  She follows the beast back to his territory and the ruined castle.  But who’s going to survive–Yeva or the Beast?  It’s a darker take on this tale than you normally see, and the story relies heavily on Yeva’s cleverness.  When I read it, I compared it to A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.  The Beast isn’t as human as he usually seems in other stories and there’s a heightened sense of danger in this book.  While it’s not my favorite Beauty and the Beast story (my favorite is later in this list!), it’s still really interesting and worth the read.

2. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Image result for the great huntBased on the Brothers Grimm tale “The Singing Bone”, this is a story I know I won’t soon forget.  I read this as an ARC (because I’m lucky like that) and I fell in love.  A strange beast is terrorizing Lochlanach.  Princess Aerity becomes a prize: whoever can kill the beast gets Aerity’s hand in marriage.  Hunters comes from all over, but it’s Paxton Seabolt who catches her eye.  Paxton doesn’t want to marry Aerity–he wants to kill the beast and protect what’s left of his family.  But this beast isn’t going down without a fight and the kingdom may be destroyed before it does.  What I loved is that the plot seems deceptively simple, but there’s so much going on behind the scenes.  But that simplicity allows us to learn more about the characters because we’re not bogged down by an over-complicated plot.  The action was great, the characters were great, and the world building was awesome.  Read this.

3. Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Image result for princess of thornsStacey Jay is phenomenal when it comes to fairy tales, you guys.  So this isn’t exactly a retelling as it is what happens to Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, but I’m counting it.  Aurora is a fairy blessed with many powers, but cursed to destroy the free will of any man who kisses her.  So she disguises herself as a boy and joins the army of Prince Niklaas (as one obviously does when one is cursed).  It turns out Niklaas is cursed too.  Together, they try to free Aurora’s brother and unseat the ogre queen who stole throne from Aurora’s family.  It sounds super weird, I know, but it’s addicting.  It’s imaginative and funny and exciting and so much else.  I loved it.

4. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Image result for of beast and beautyY’all do not understand the absolute heartfelt love I have for this book.  Yes, it’s the second Beauty and the Beast retelling here, but it’s perfection.  And sci-fi, which is something you rarely ever see.  In the domed city of Yuan, blind princess Isra is raised to be a human sacrifice.  Outside of the city is Gem, a mutant beast who fights for his people, the Monstrous, to save them from starvation.  Isra desperately wants to help those around her who have Monstrous traits, but isn’t sure how.  So she enlists the help of captive Gem, who was caught stealing an enchanted rose.  But things aren’t as either one of them believes.  What’s so beautiful about this story is how it plays against what you know of the original story and creates a story that’s even bigger than that behind it.  Also, having a blind character like Isra means we experience her side through sounds and smells and feelings.  It’s amazingly well done.

5. Entwined by Heather Dixon

Image result for entwined heather dixonThere was a time in the early 2010s (oh my God, I feel so old saying that) when the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses was constantly being retold.  This was one such story.  Azalea has everything she could ever want, but then it’s all cruelly ripped away from her.  The Keeper offers her a deal–and from that day on Azalea and her 11 sisters spend their time with the Keeper.  But he’s more dangerous than they anticipate.  What I loved about this story was the way Azalea’s deal was a mystery for her father and everyone else–people came from far and wide to figure out why the princesses were so tired, why their shoes were ruined every night, etc.  And every character felt unique.  It’s a very cute story.

6. Spirited by Nancy Holder

Image result for spirited nancy holderShh, let’s just ignore the fact that this is the 3rd Beauty and the Beast story on this list, though it’s more like BatB meets Pocahontas.  This one, however, combines my favorite story with my favorite era of history: colonial America.  This may sound weird, but stay with me: it’s 1756 and the beginning of the French and Indian War (that’s what we call it in America; everywhere else I believe it’s called the Seven Years’ War).  Isabella is travelling with her father to a fort to stay safe, but along the way she’s kidnapped by Wusamequin, a medicine man who is desperate to avenge the death of his wife and child at the hands of the British.  So he kidnaps Isabella, but he’s charmed by her.  And things aren’t going the way either of them expected.  Admittedly, there are some things that infuriated me about this story (*cough* European treatment of Natives *cough*), but it’s so well told.

7. A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

Image result for a kiss in timeEasily the funniest book I have on this list.  A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, this is the story of After.  Talia touched the spindle and brought a curse to her people.  300 years later, Jack escapes his tour group and finds the sleeping Talia.  He decides–oddly–that he needs to kiss her, which wakes her and sets in motion events that Jack wishes he could undo.  But what’s absolutely hysterical is that Talia needs to fit in with Jack’s time…even though there are 300 years between and she doesn’t even know what electricity is.  I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud reading this.

8. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Image result for princess of the midnight ballA retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this book does not disappoint.  Every night, Rose and her sisters are forced to dance for the King Under Stone.  Galen is a soldier recently returned from war.  Together, Rose and Galen try to discover how to break the curse that forces the girls to dance each night.  It’s suspenseful, it has action, and the characters are incredibly well-written.  It’s enchanting.

9. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Image result for book of a thousand daysThis is perhaps one of the deepest philosophical books on this list.  Not that it’s not still cute and gives you the warm fairy tale feels, but it’s more than that.  Based on a little-known Brothers Grimm tale, this is the story of Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress.  Because Lady Saren refuses to marry who she’s been ordered to wed, Dashti and Saren are locked in a tower until Saren is forced to make a choice.  It really is a beautiful story and because it’s not as well-known, you truly don’t know what’s going to happen next.  And that’s rare in more retellings.

10. The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

Image result for the amaranth enchantmentI don’t think this is a retelling, per se, but it very much feels like a fairy tale.  If anything, it’s a twist on Cinderella.  After Lucinda’s parents disappear, she’s sent to work for her evil aunt in a jewelry store.  Then a mysterious stranger enters the story with an even more mysterious jewel and Lucinda’s life changes.  I found the story to be cute, funny, and just uplifting overall.  I’ve had a lot of fun reading and rereading this book.

 

***

Is there a book I left off of the list?  Is there a fairy tale retelling that you absolutely love?  Let me know!  Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Top Ten Fictional Crushes

Hey guys!  For this Top Ten, I decided to have a little bit of fun with it.  So I was thinking about my dream guy the other day (because my love life is about as hopeless as actually reading all of the books on my to-read list) and I started thinking about how perfect Gomez Addams from The Addams Family is.  Seriously.  He’s passionate, a great father, caring, and totally supportive of his family.  And that got me thinking of who would be my fictional crushes from books.  Not just because they’re supposed to be cute or popular in pop culture.

Buckle up, sweethearts, because I’m about to make you think differently about who is swoon-worthy.

(P.S. I have actually done this post before, in 2011.  It’s been 7 years and literally hundreds of books later, let’s see how my tastes have changed.)

Top Ten Fictional Crushes

(In descending order)

10. Balthazaar, Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

I hesitate to say too much about Balthazaar because he’s not introduced until the last book in the series, but I will say this: he’s by far my favorite love interest in this series.  He appears at first like a dangerous man, but he’s actually sweet and fiercely protective of those he cares about.  And he’s incredibly gentle and kind.  I just…yeah, swoon.  Ok, now I want to reread his book for like the 12th time.  I’m not kidding.

9. Will, Angelfire by Courtney Moulton

If Balthazaar is a dark bad boy, then Will is kind of his opposite, seeing as Will is basically an angel.  Literally.  But he also has that fierce quality, seeing as he’s a warrior.  And he’s smart, which I like.  I always picture him as being something like a big bear that just growls whenever something/someone threatens his girl.  It’s a weird visual, I admit, but that’s the impression I get.  And while I object in real life to men doing that, it’s cute in books where there are actual monsters trying to kill you.

8. Cole, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Apparently I have a soft spot for bad boys.  Cole is pretty much the ultimate bad boy persona.  Tattoos, leather jacket, dangerous law-breaking attitude.  But he’s doing it all for a good reason: he’s trying to protect people from zombies that normal people don’t know exist.  He’s literally the most unlike any guy I would actually date, but that I still find cute.  Because with Ali, he’s not dangerous at all.  Unless you count stealing her heart.  (Ohh, see what I did there?)

7. Ian, The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Image result for ian the host

Oh, for a tortured soul

I’m going to bet for a lot of people, Ian would be on their list.  Throughout the story, Ian becomes more sweet and curious and protective of Wanda.  But he’s also self-sacrificing because he’s willing to do whatever’s best for her, even if it hurts him.  He’s charming, by and large.  And he’s got a quieter side than a lot of these boys have.  Of all of them on this list, Ian is probably the one I would actually date in real life.  There’s the least amount of danger in his life.

Holy crap, I literally *just* realized that of all of the guys on this list, not a single one of them comes from a contemporary romance book.  Everything has elements of fantasy or sci-fi.  Um…whoops??

6. Tod, the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent

And we’re back to my dark side!  Tod is a reaper, so there’s that, but he’s way more than that.  It doesn’t matter who it is, if he loves them, he’s going to try to protect them.  And I really like that quality about him, that he will make life-and-death decisions to protect his family and friends, even if it makes him bitter.  But Tod’s also clever and incredibly sarcastic, which I also like.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read this series, but I still keep a soft spot for his hopeful darkness.

5. Rhys, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Of all of Maas’s characters, everyone from Dorian to Chaol to Tamlin, Rhys wins my heart by a mile.  Now, he didn’t at first, but once I was won over, oh boy, I fell hard.  Rhys has a dark past that he works to overcome, and he keeps a lot of secrets that he shouldn’t, but  you never doubt his feelings.  He’s insanely clever, protective, ferocious (and sometimes scary-good at being bad), but he’s also gentle and caring and loyal.  I just…ugh, now I want to reread his book too!  Maybe doing this list was a bad idea because I’ve just tripled my reading list.

4. Adrian, the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

Oh, Adrian.  He is one of the most flawed boys on this list, but I can’t help but love him.  He’s sarcastic and flirty, bipolar (I think, it’s been a while since I’ve read the books), impulsive, and dark.  But with the right people around him, he’s devoted and real.  He’s not the smartest (especially compared to Sydney), but he only tries to be the best him he can be.  But it’s that dichotomy between that flirty-fake side and his real side that gets me.  Because when someone suddenly drops that mask and you see behind it, it’s magical.

3. Dimitri, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

Image result for dimitri belikov

Dimitri *hair flip* Belikov

I believe this is the only one on my list that was on my previous list 7 years ago.  You don’t understand–I have a serious soft spot for Dimitri Belikov.  Sweet Jesus, the boy is hot.  Russian, tight-lipped, an amazing fighter, and passionate, Dimitri is basically a young Chuck Norris with a Russian accent.  Which doesn’t sound hot, but it kind of is.  I started reading this series when I was in middle school or high school and I just cannot get it out of my head.

2. Henry, The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

This is the last you’ll see of my dark side on this list.  Henry is the equivalent of Hades, so we’re basically talking about the God of the Underworld here.  That’s not weird, right?  I’ve been fascinated with the story of Hades and Persephone since the 6th grade and this modernization of the myth is by far my favorite.  Henry, even though he’s a god, is uncertain, soft-spoken, careful, and closed-off.  He doesn’t know how to be open with Kate and he makes lots of mistakes.  I really loved that he wasn’t this arrogant, macho god.  It’s his insecurities that make him more real, and that’s what melts my heart.

1. Jamie Fraser, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Image result for jamie fraser

So…when can I travel through the stones?

I wanted to keep this all YA, but I just couldn’t keep Jamie off the list.  (To be fair, my last list had True Blood on it, so it wasn’t all YA either.)  When you’re reading literally thousands of pages in a matter of weeks to read all 8 of these books in a single summer, yeah, I’d say you’re hooked.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I fell for Jamie from the very beginning, with his charm, self-sacrificing ways, open attitude, humor, and so much more.  Not to mention he wears a kilt, which was not a “thing” for me until Jamie rode into my life.  These books–and Jamie–plucked so hard at my heart strings that during one brutal chapter in the series, I was crying so hard that I literally could not keep reading.  I couldn’t see through my tears to read what happened next!  I cried more then than I have over actual real breakups in my life.

Um…that’s normal, right?

Did I leave anyone off of this list that I should have added?  Did I include any of your favorites?  Share comments down below!  I’m always looking for another swoon-worthy read!

Top Ten Books To Try If You Like Libba Bray

Hey guys!  So easily the most active post I’ve written is this one called Top Ten Books To Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas.  It gets so many views that I thought maybe I needed to try doing this with other authors, too.

Image result for libba bray books

Libba Bray is an author I have respected since I was in 7th grade and got hooked on A Great and Terrible Beauty.  As an author, she tends to write historical fiction with elements of magic/fantasy.  She also finds a way to write hysterically funny pieces, like Beauty Queens.  But basically, she’s writing about strong female characters who, because of their society (be it late 1800s, 1920s, or now) are oppressed and not able to fully share their (usually magical) gifts except with others like them.  So that’s the idea that I focused on as I looked for books with similar writing styles/themes.  If you want strong females with a taste of history and magic, you have come to the right place!

Top Ten Books To Try If You Like Libba Bray

1. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

This is set roughly in the 1890s and follows 3 magical sisters trying to hide their abilities from their town.  If they can’t hide it, they’re dead.  There’s a lot going on in this story, so the plot is intricate but well written.  The characters are good, but I really enjoyed the plot of this one.  It’s very similar to Bray’s Gemma Doyle series.

2. The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

This is basically textbook Bray-style.  Set in 1241 in Province, France, Dolssa is a young girl who has visions of God, something she’s desperate to keep secret.  Unfortunately, a friar has discovered her and is determined to burn her as a heretic.  But Dolssa is clever and she won’t be easily captured.  This story was nothing short of eye-opening.  It has the feel of something that might be a fairytale, but it’s pretty sound in its history of medieval France.  It was a terrifying time to be alive, let me just say.

3. And I Darken by Kiersten White

I picked this one as similar to Bray’s because of the way Lada defies her “womanly” roles.  This is basically the story of a female Vlad Dracul, the inspiration for Dracula.  Lada, abandoned by her father and raised by the Ottoman court, is biding her time until she can return to her homeland and reclaim her land.  But it’s never that simple and war does not come without a cost.  The plot of this is intricate, the characters are fierce, and the history is spectacular.

4. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

If you think Bray is weird, this book totally trumps the weirdest Bray’s ever dealt out.  And I’ve read Going Bovine, so I should know.  The story of Lady Jane Grey, the girl who would be known as the 9-Days Queen of England.  When Jane’s cousin King Edward arranges her marriage to Gifford Dudley, things don’t exactly go as planned.  Gifford is a horse, after all.  (Well, something more akin to a shifter, but still a horse.)  But more than that, G, Jane, and Edward are pulled into a plot intended to rid England of Edward.  This book is so weird, the history is…fluid, and the plot is ridiculous.  But that’s what’s fun about it.

5. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

I don’t think I will ever not love this series.  A new take on the old tale of Robin Hood, Scarlet is one of Robin’s band, a woman who pretends to be a man.  But once her secret is out, trouble ensues.  The plot is fantastic, the characters are amazing, and you will be caught off guard by some of the twists.  I guarantee it.  It’s brilliant storytelling.  I liked how this turned a well-known story and turned it on its head.

6. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Probably one of my weirder picks for this list.  Grace has been locked in an insane asylum for a long time.  She knows madness.  Then a visiting doctor discovers her sharp mind and keen eyes and decides she’d be a good assistant for him as he hunts a killer.  This book leaves you questioning for a long time if Grace is actually crazy or not.  There’s a great mystery, interesting characters and plotting, and weird/humorous things that happen.  We are in a madhouse, after all.

7. A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Set in 1814 as Europe is trying to recover from Napoleon, this follows a handful of teenage girls who don’t fit in to society.  They aren’t magical…just smart or different.  Their families think they’re being sent to a finishing school, when in reality these girls are being trained to be highly effective spies for England.  The story is charming, with an interesting plot and characters, but also a touch of romance.  It’s like a regency romance for YA, but with the added bonus of political intrigue.  Don’t underestimate these girls.

8. Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney

It’s been something like 7 years since I’ve last read this, and I still think about this book fondly.  It’s another set sometime in the 1800s, I believe.  Tory reveals her magic to save her nephew and is sent away to be “cured” of her magic.  True, I don’t really remember what happens, but I remember really liking how the magic and history were woven together and I loved the characters.

9. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

As often happens with Rae Carson, whatever story is writes is golden.  (Hehe.)  This story, set in 1840s America, follows Leah Westfall.  She can sense gold when it’s near, a trick she uses to keep her family out of poverty, until her secret isn’t secret anymore and she needs to run.  So she escapes west to follow the Gold Rush.  It has strong characters, a hint of magic, great plotting, a bit of romance, and follows a bit of history that isn’t often looked at in YA.

10. His Fair Assassin by R. L. LaFevers

Another story I will never not love!  In 1400s Brittany (now part of France), a group of pagan nuns at the convent of St. Mortain (the god of Death) are trained as assassins.  With the political climate of Brittany at the time, their services are required to keep the child queen alive as rivals attempt to kill her and claim Brittany for themselves.  It’s fantastic historically, beautifully written, and a complete chess-match as far as the plot goes.  Also the characters…of all the books I read, this series gets probably most of my rereads.

 

Top Ten Great American Read Books I Don’t Like

Hey guys!  So whenever there’s a list of books that comes out purportedly being the Best Books of All Time, well, there are always a few that we tend to disagree with.  And there are certainly a number of these that I did not like, whether I was forced to read them in school or because I just didn’t like them.  So I thought I would share this list with you, just for kicks.

Image result for great american read

Top Ten Great American Read Books I Don’t Like (or Recommend)

1. 1984 by George Orwell

My dad recommended this to me in high school and I hated it.  It’s not that I don’t see how it’s relevant to the world and all that, but it’s so depressing.  I can’t stand books that start at their happiest and just spiral down from there.

2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This was required reading in high school before my senior year.  And truth be told, there were parts of it that I genuinely liked.  But Rand tries so hard to push her political ideas through it that there’s one part that like 20 pages of this long speech about it all.  It’s ridiculous.  If I could just keep the parts I liked, this 1000+ page monster would be more like maybe 200.

3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Yes, I get that it’s been quite a game changer in the romance world, but the writing is absolutely horrible.  I just want to go all Gordon Ramsey on this and filet it.  I also can’t stand the sexism and abuse that the first book in particular has in it.  It bothers me.

4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Ugh, of all the books on this list, this is the only one I didn’t actually finish.  It was a freshman year of high school required read.  It was horrible.  Dickens is incredibly wordy, especially when he doesn’t have to be.  (If I remember correctly, Dickens was paid by the word count for his serialized stories, which explains that.)  Couldn’t they have put A Tale of Two Cities on this list?  That, at least, was far more entertaining.

5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I had to read this 2-3 times in college for different classes because it showed colonization in Africa, specifically the Congo.  But dear God, it’s so racist.  Yes, that was the time period, yadda yadda yadda.  But that doesn’t mean I want to read it now.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Believe it or not, I never really cared for this.  This was required reading my junior year of high school and while I sort of got into it, I never bought into it.  The characters felt like caricatures.  Gatsby is so disingenuous that it’s hard to see why I’m supposed to like him.

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This was a pick of my own in high school because I’d found quotes by Douglas Adams and they were hilarious.  But as far as creating a story?  I didn’t care for it.  But I still like finding his quotes.  They are so entertaining.  His writing in that respect is brilliant.

8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This was required reading in college for one of my English classes.  I could almost see the appeal of this story at times, but the characters were so unlikable.  Some people say that’s the point, but characters make or break a story for me.  This one broke.

9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

This was required reading in the same class I had to read Heart of Darkness.  Honestly, I don’t even really remember this story at all.  But when I think back on it, I don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about it, and my Goodreads account says I gave it a 3 in a time when I hated giving negative reviews, so it was probably more like a 2.  That’s enough for me to know I didn’t like it.

10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This was a choice of my own.  I picked it up once to see what everyone was talking about.  Catherine and Heathcliff were so annoying.  They did everything to destroy themselves.  I don’t understand people like that.  And I don’t see the appeal of reading stories like that when you can literally see the same thing every day just by watching the news.  I’m reading to escape that.

Top Ten Books I Want To Read from The Great American Read

Hey guys!  So I’m definitely not shutting up about this Great American Read thing because I think it’s so incredibly awesome.  (My local Barnes and Noble has fully embraced it as well.)  I bought a number of these books just last week and I’m so very excited to start reading some of them!  Feel free to share your thoughts on these books, and also any other recommendations you have from the list!  I’ve only read 25/100!

Image result for great american read

Top Ten Books I Want to Read from The Great American Read

1. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Let me be the first to say that I am not a classics person.  I tend to think they move incredibly slow, though there are some I really enjoy.  And I have a feeling the humor/satire in this one is going to make this one that I like.  There’s supposed to be social commentary in each of the stories of the travel stories.  I love humor like that.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

No, I have not read this.  But I’ve seen the movie and a play version of it, so I think it’s time I finally see what all the fuss is about.

3. The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I’m a little worried I’m about to sell my soul to this series once I start it.  And I’m equally worried that I’m going to end up hating this from the very beginning.  (I hated the first episode of the show, so…)

4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Apparently this is just absolutely hysterical, which further impresses upon me the need to read this.  It’s set in Italy in WWII, which is where and when my grandfather (who recently passed) was stationed.  In a way, I’m hoping this makes me feel a little closer to him.

5. The Shack by William Paul Young

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly religious.  (My issue is with the organization part of organized religion, not religion itself.)  When I saw this movie, it was like a sucker-punch to the gut.  It seems like it’s the kind of book I need to read during a particularly hard time to feel better.

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

No, I have not read this one either.  My friend bought it for me like 4-5 years ago in this lovely old-fashioned binding and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since.  This summer, it’s probably time I try it out.

7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I had heard of this before, but I had never really known what it was about.  It’s supposed to be like a Latino (I’m not sure if it’s Central or South American…) dramedy about an officer.  They read the first lines of it on the PBS show and I’m hooked.  You guys know how I am with first lines.

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

And we’re back to social commentary that I love so much.  I’ve always vaguely known what this book was about and it had my interest, but never enough that I’d actually read it.  And now I own it, so…yeah, it’ll be 5 years before I finally read it.  🙂

9. The Stand by Stephen King

This was one Stephen King book I had never heard of.  (Truly, I thought The Shining would’ve been his book on this list.)  It sounds like it’s a post-plague apocalypse story, and I can definitely get behind that.  I figured it would be worth a try this summer, to break up the classics.

10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

During my long hiatus from blogging, I gorged myself on medieval/Dark Ages English history (and Colonial American history, but that’s neither here nor there).  I absolutely love that period of history, especially relating to the monarchy.  The fact that this book is supposed to be some kind of historical fiction about the building of a medieval cathedral (I believe?), yeah.  I’m so in.