Tuesday Top Ten

gateway

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten books and/or authors that were gateways in my reading journey, ones that introduced me to a new genre, reinvigorated my interest in reading, somehow changed or affected my reading journey.

  1. Dystopian Books – The Giver by Lois Lowry – My first foray into dystopian novels, The Giver will always be my first and my favorite!
  2. Young Adult – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – It wasn’t my first YA book, but the first one that dealt so directly with difficult issues that matter to young adults, the first time I realized what great literature exists for teens.
  3. Stories told in a series of books – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling –  They’re everywhere!  Prior to this series, I don’t ever remember reading books where you needed to wait until the series was complete to be able to finish the story! I do love many of these series, I just have taken a vow not to start one until all of the books are released so I don’t have to wait so long between pieces of the story!
  4. Historical Non-Fiction – Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – Historical non-fiction has never really been my thing – I don’t want to read the equivalent of a high school social studies textbook – but this book proved that there was historical fiction out there that would tell me a story while teaching me about the past.
  5. Current Non-Fiction – Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Too much of current non-fiction is just someone trying to turn their opinions into fact or someone trying to catch the wave of popularity associated with the issue or personality of the day.  But this story grabbed my interest and held it, teaching me about the past and the present.
  6. Mysteries – Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene – Giving credit where credit is due, Nancy and the gang were my first introduction to the mystery genre, one that I still love today.
  7. Cozy Mysteries – Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton – My first cozy mystery series, there are still a number that I regularly read and enjoy – they are always a fun, quick escape!
  8. Detective Stories – Moe Prager series by Reed Farrel Coleman – Another part of the progression, the jump to grittier detective stories, this series continues to be a favorite.  It will be bittersweet when the last book comes out next month.
  9. Historical Fiction – A Good American by Alex George – I had not read historical fiction in a long time, didn’t really consider it a genre that I liked that well, until I read this and now I find myself reading all kinds of historical fiction!
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The book the reinvigorated and affirmed my love for the written word.  The funny thing?  I walked by it in the bookstore for months, picked it up and put it back down, before I finally decided to give it a try – and it is my favorite book.
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Matched Trilogy

I recently listened to the audiobooks for the entire Matched trilogy over the course of a week and half. I love it when all the books in a trilogy have been released and I can follow the entire story arc without waiting a year for each installment!  The trilogy is nothing new and original and exciting – another YA trilogy set in a dystopian society with a love triangle – but I thought it was fun, entertaining.  I also loved the use and importance of poetry throughout the series.  There’s no way to discuss the series without giving some things away, I will try to minimize the spoilers, but consider yourself warned!

matchedThe Society controls everything – where you live, your work, your schooling, your food, your spouse, your entertainment, when you die …  Cassia Reyes is headed to her match banquet where she will find out who The Society has paired her with – and surprise!  Lucky her!  She has been matched with her best friend, the handsome, smart, sweet, and loyal Xander.  She couldn’t be happier until a brief flash of someone else’s face shows up on her match card – that of another childhood friend, Ky Markham.  The Society assures her that it was a simple glitch.  But when her grandfather gives her handwritten outlawed poetry (no one’s allowed to write…) at his final meal, she begins to see a world of possibilities.  What if she could choose?  As she begins to learn to write, and to fall in love with Ky, everything about the world she has known and trusted becomes confused and suspicious.

This first installment was told in Cassia’s voice, and while parts moved a little slowly, and there were some weird plot holes (if you can type on a computer, even if you haven’t been taught handwriting, why is the idea of writing so foreign?), it went quickly and I liked the characters.  I was engaged in watching Cassia awaken from her naiveté even though it sometimes felt like she was falling in love with Ky simply to be difficult when she’d obviously been head-over-heels for Xander a week earlier…

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 384
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, November 2010

crossedKy, who happens to be an aberration (someone whose parents have committed an infraction against The Society), has been sent outside of the society and Cassia is determined to find him.  Of course, as Cassia is running from place to place trying to find him Ky is running from place to place trying to get away from The Society, or The Enemy, or somebody.  Apparently there’s a war, and Ky and his buddies are being used as bait, but it’s never clear who the war is with or what is actually happening.  But anyway, he’s running (with his new friends Vick and Eli) and Cassia is chasing (with her new friend Indie).  There are also rumors of The Rising, a group of people who want to overthrow The Society.  Cassia wants to find Ky so they can find and join The Rising together.  Ky just wants to find Cassia.  Once they find each other, where will they go from there?

Crossed was told in alternating voices, switching between Ky and Cassia.  That wasn’t a problem, except I found Ky to be annoying – overly dramatic or something – he just grated on my nerves.  I still liked Cassia and while I wanted her to find Ky and The Rising because she wanted to, I wasn’t convinced that what she was doing made any real sense.  It still felt like she was doing all of this simply because someone told her not to, not because of some great destiny.

Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 367
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, November 2011

reachedCassia and Ky have joined The Rising, only to be separated again.  Cassia has been sent to Central to work from inside The Society while Ky is a pilot for The Rising and Xander is working as a medic.  There is a rebellion, and a plague is unleashed.  When the plague mutates things start to fall apart.  Will a cure be found?  Who will be in control – The Society or The Rising or someone else?  And of course, who will Cassia choose?  Or will she even have a choice anymore?

Reached was also told in alternating voices, but this time the chapters alternated between Ky, Cassia, and Xander.  Ky was less annoying, but still too emo for me.  Xander’s voice was actually my favorite. Overall, I guess I was OK with this book and the way the story ended.  While the actual uprising seemed anti-climactic, the search for a cure was far more engaging.  Things moved quickly.  Parts of the book were still a little weird for me, it felt like there were parts of the story that remained unexplained.  Having said that, there is character growth and change, particularly with Xander, and the main storylines do get wrapped up, and for the most part I was fairly satisfied with where things ended.

Title: Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 512
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, November 2012

Allegiant

AllegiantAllegiant is the final book in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. The trilogy focuses on a dystopian society which is divided into different factions, each holding a human trait – selflessness, knowledge, honesty, bravery, kindness – as core to their values and their existence.  The books focus mainly on Tris, who has left Abnegation, where she was raised, to join Dauntless where she meets Tobias (aka Four).  Tris discovers that she is Divergent, having no singular trait which defines her.  Throw in the factionless, outcasts who live on the edges of society, power hungry leaders trying to destroy the Divergents, betrayal, mind control serums, battles, death, and the inevitable romance between Tris and Tobias, and things get interesting…

Don’t get me wrong, this is pure guilty pleasure reading, fast-paced, romantic, just plain fun.  It may not be great literature, but pleasure reading doesn’t always need to be, and this was an enjoyable trilogy.  I loved the first book in the series, Divergent, and the second book, Insurgent, was better than I expected, leaving both my daughter and I anxiously awaiting the release of Allegiant.  Were we disappointed?  Ultimately, I don’t think so – we both still love the trilogy – but there were moments…

Tris, Four and their friends are ready to head out of the city to see what lies beyond the gates.  Once they make it out it seems a bit like an M. Night Shymalan movie for a while – everything you thought you knew (and that the characters thought they knew) turns upside down and inside out.  There is secrecy and betrayal and revolution.  There are genetic experiments and societal experiments gone awry.  In the middle of all of this, Tris and Four are discovering new truths about themselves, their pasts, and their families as they try to figure out who they are and where they belong.

There is no way to review this book while ignoring how the trilogy ends, especially since it has been the focus of so much discussion.  So while I will attempt to avoid giving away all of the gritty details, consider yourself warned…

So, ultimately, the biggest hurdle to liking this book is the ending.  I had heard rumblings in the bookish world, so I was not completely surprised.  When I walked in on my daughter one morning, tears streaming down her face while she held the book in her hands, I knew that she had not seen it coming.   First impressions on reading it, from both of us, was that the death seemed pointless, done simply for shock value without any real meaning.  Given some time away from it, and a chance to chat about it with my daughter, I do believe that there was meaning there, we just didn’t like it!  But ultimately, it was about love and sacrifice, bravery and selflessness.

There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”

Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 544
Publication:
Katherine Tegen Books, October 2013

Requiem

requiemThis is the conclusion to one of those trilogies that I’m always complaining about.  I LOVED the first book, Delirum, which I read shortly before the second book came out.  I couldn’t wait to read Pandemonium when it came out, and I have to admit to being a little disappointed with it.  It suffered from the “middle-book syndrome” and I was disappointed in having to wait another year for it to get better and to come to a conclusion.  I have read numerous reviews complaining about the ending of the trilogy, whether it was because someone had a preference in the love triangle that didn’t come to fruition or because there were too many issues left unresolved.  I did feel like the ending was a bit rushed, but overall I liked the ending, I though the unresolved issues were appropriate, displaying that life isn’t simple and events don’t always lead to a tidy ending, we don’t always have control, we certainly don’t control others, the future is unknown, but we keep on going.  And I guess it leaves room for another book???

“They couldn’t have known that even this was a lie – that we never really choose, not entirely.  We are always being pushed and squeezed down one road or another.  We have no choice but to step forward, and the step forward again, and then step forward again; suddenly we find ourselves on a road we haven’t chosen at all.  But maybe happiness isn’t in the choosing.  Maybe it’s in the fiction, in the pretending” that wherever we have ended up is where we intended to be all along.”

Title: Requiem
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 432
Publication: Harper Collins, March 2013