Monday, February 13, 2012

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart (A little)

Top Ten Tuesday is having an Anti-Valentine's today with Top Ten Books that Broke My Heart a little. Every day is Valentine's Day for me as a reader. I read Romance as a broad, encompassing genre from literary romances to guilty pleasure erotica because I like happy endings. I'm having a hard time right now with Downton Abby which is still my favorite show, but it no longer appears like ANY happy endings are guaranteed. I do not mind suffering. I do not mind crying. Nay, I LOVE books that make me cry. I just need a happy ending, even an unorthodox one. So most of the books on my list have a happy ending of some sort, they just broke my heart along the way. In particular this week I was drawn to books where someone loses--there is a loss that must be suffered in order for the happy ending to have a chance. And that loss isn't magically erased with romance fairy dust--it's real and its palpable and it lingers with the reader.

  1. Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore--Possibly one of the best love triangles in all of Regency, this unusual historical features TWO heroes worth rooting for all the way through the book. My heart broke not only for the not-chosen hero, but for the heroine forced to make an untenable choice. Her heart is broken by her choice, even though it's the right one. (My original gushing over this on GoodReads)
  2. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn--Quinn is at her very best when she breaks our hearts. This is my all-time favorite Quinn because heroine falls in love twice, once which ends in such tragedy that my pages tear stained. And Quinn never negates that love or belittles it. Franchesca's love was real. It was returned and had her first love lived, she would have lived a long happy life with him. My heart breaks for the life they could have had. (My GoodReads Review here)
  3. Book of Scandal by Julia London. I had a hard time opening this book knowing that it was a marriage-on-the-rocks tale, but it charmed its way onto my keeper shelf amid buckets of tears. My heart broke for this couple whose heartbreak is, indeed, the centerpiece of the book. 
  4. The Paper Marriage by Susan Kay Law--I know I've mentioned this book on this site before, but I couldn't skip putting on here. Any book where heroine is married to a man who's been in a coma for years is bound to break our hearts a little. Add in a hero learning how to be a father to a teenage daughter who doesn't know how to cope with heroine's unique situation, and you have a book that will never, ever leave my keeper shelf. 
  5. Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming--Every single book in the Clare Fergusson series breaks my heart in different ways. Her most recent, One was a Solider, about killed me. So. So. So. Good. Even through tears. This earlier book in the series, however, broke my heart in a way that lingered through several later books as we catch just a glimpse of what could be, what should be, and what can never be in a single scene where she truly manages to convince us someone is going to die. I just re-read the scene for this blog, and even knowing where the series ends up, it still chokes me up. 
  6. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen-Turner. This is another series I rave about all the time, but Book Two stands out as the real heart breaker of the series. A young man, a terrible loss that will haunt him the rest of his life, two countries at war, and a young, seemingly heartless Queen who makes a terrible mistake. This is five hankie heartbreak, but don't even think of starting the series here. Start with The Thief.
  7. Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty. This ode to dysfunctional relationships everywhere is by far the most heartbreaking of the Jessica Darling series. It kept me guessing the entire book, and the ending shocked me. Start with Sloppy Firsts and make sure you have the series-ender Perfect Fifths on standby when you start Fourth Comings. 
  8. Life After Joe by Harper Fox. Two men, both hell-bent on destruction in different ways, both overcoming different types of heart break make this an emotional, angst-filled ride. Both heroes must suffer pretty awful losses to even have a chance of happiness. 
  9. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. Not a Romance, and I knew that when I opened it. But sometimes, even I know when to set aside my need for a happy ending. This book removed part of the lining of my stomach, but years after I last read it, the characters remain as vivid as ever. 
  10. Table for Five by Susan Wiggs. If you need a happy ending with a lot of tears along the way, Susan Wiggs delivers every time. Here, tragedy throws heroine and hero together. The heart of the book is how they and the secondary characters cope with and overcome that tragedy 

So of course, you know I want to know what books break your heart? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Hand to a Non-Reader

This week's top 10 Tuesday theme from the Broke & The Bookish is "Top 10 Books I'd Hand to Someone Who Doesn't Like to Read." I come from a family of readers, and I tend to surround myself with other readers. However, in my students, I run into non-readers frequently. And frankly, after all these years, non-readers still baffle me. I think someone becomes a reader as a child, by being read to or by having teachers and librarians place the right book in their hands at critical moments. I believe strongly that people tend to become readers when they are surrounded by others who read for pleasure, so I always try to mention my reading to others. When I recommend fiction to people who don't read many novels, I always consider:

  • What movies/TV they watch--this is key for me as since I read a lot of genres, I can help target my recommendations better. 
  • The reason I'm recommending--I'll suggest way different titles for a long plane ride versus pregnancy bed rest versus long wait in a hospital waiting room. 
  • Length of the book. I want to encourage people to read MORE fiction, so I like to choose manageable books to recommend. No 500 page tomes or lengthy description slowing things down.
  • Format available. Again, I want to encourage more reading, so I tend to recommend books that are available in E-book, paperback, hardback, used, and library versions. In other words, very accessible for a non-reader.
  • If it's on my keeper shelf. Being able to hand someone a book on the spot is powerful. 
  • If it's a series. There's a number of series starters on my list, because again, I want to trick people into reading more. 
  • If it has good audio versions. I always tell non-readers about audio books and try to recomend really, really well done series because if you hook them by ear . . . 
My Top 10 Books for Non-Readers 
  1. The Thief by Megan Whalen-Turner. I recommend this to those who loved the movies based on Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings. It's a stand-alone book that starts an addictive series. A slim, gem of a book, this is my top pick for non-readers of all ages. 
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I recommend this to those who loved Coraline and those who love Tim Burton's work. Perfect for non-readers of all ages, I have used this book in an academic setting to win over die-hard non-readers. 
  3. Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald--This is for all the sweet chick flick lovers. So readable, no premarital sex, beautiful love story with deeper social issues. I buy this book as gifts, and I've used in class. This tends to surprise a lot of male non-readers who find themselves swept up in the first person voice. My discussion of her books here
  4. Warrior by Zoe Archer--I have yet to recommend this series to someone who doesn't go onto read the other four books. Guys, especially ones who love the new Sherlock Holmes fast-packed smart style, love this. Fans of period pieces love the unusual setting. Indiana Jones fans adore this. And the red-hot romance has everyone happy.
  5. Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton--I give this one to Indiana Jones fans too. The heat level is a bit less than Warrior (still hot!), so I give this one out even more often. A treasure hunt, a fast pace, and a smart heroine. I'm on my fifth personal copy of it b/c I keep giving it away. 
  6. Spirit of the Mountain by Paty Jager--I recommend this to all the Western lovers who wanted Dances with Wolves to lose Kevin Costner.  My review of it here
  7. The Painted House by John Grisham--I like to recommend this deceptively complex 1930s tale to those whose last good book was Steinbeck in High School, those who like movies set in this time period, and those who aren't a good fit for my romance picks.
  8. In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming--This is my pick for all the Castle fans, all the Law & Order die hards, the Inspector Lewis fans. What makes this pick special is that the audio of it is also so excellent. I recommend this to busy non-readers who need to discover the world of audio books. I wax poetic about her series here (SPOILER WARNING)
  9. The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann. Another author with fabulous audio books for an addictive series. Fast paced with rich characters, this is natural for military fans, but also the historical subplots give this series broad appeals. 
  10. Artemis Fowl--This is my other big recommendation for non-readers who loved Harry Potter. I have the first three books in the series on almost constant loan. The audio books are perfect for a family drive. 
What books do you hand to non-readers? Do you encourage them to try audio books? E-books? What do you consider when recommending to non-readers?