Friday, June 10, 2016

My top five books - and why

Sophia Valentine really challenged me with this post. I'll be honest, I started thinking about this one a week ago because how in the world am I supposed to choose only five favorite books?!?!

This is not really a problem ... I mean, I love to read. I have a lot of favorites, and that is a wonderful thing in my opinion. So, I decided to write about my five favorite books RIGHT NOW. Admittedly, a couple of these have been my favorites for many years ... and they will most likely always appear on any favorite list I might compile in the future. There's no way I'll ever stop reading ... and there are so many remarkable, memorable books out there. So, here is my current list (in no particular order) of five favorites and why I love them so much.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Yeah, I know. Huge surprise. Me and a bazillion other people - but it's true. Since my English teacher introduced me to it in ninth grade, I have absolutely loved this book. I've read it many, many times since then, (ninth grade was an incredibly long time ago and I've had lots of opportunities). I find myself navigating toward it when things in my life go all pear shaped. This book makes me feel like things are going to be okay. It's almost like a really good therapist. Sometimes bad things happen. There isn't always a happy ending, but still, life is good. I wrote a post about this book back in 2013. If you're interested in reading it, you can find it here. My favorite line? The very end when Scout says, "Hey, Boo." It transforms me and brings a smile to my face every single time.

Swan Peak by James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is my all time favorite author, no question. I've read about thirty of his books. (There are twenty in his Dave Robicheaux series alone.) Every time I pick up one of his novels it's a huge event in my life. Never have I read anyone who writes like Burke, (although now I've found someone who is a little similar. See below.) His prose flows like water, and he's so incredibly descriptive that I get hopelessly caught up in his literary world. I'm a big southern fiction fan. Burke's Robicheaux series takes place mainly in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. I've loved every book in this series, but I chose Swan Peak for this list because there was something a little different about the feel of this book. I was almost sure this was the last of the series, and the way Burke wrote the end of this novel had me so emotionally wrought ... well, okay, I'll admit it, it was kind of ridiculous, but my feelings were genuine. I know it has to come to an end eventually, but as soon as I finish one book, I find myself hoping for another. James Lee Burke is the only author whose books I cannot wait to buy, but then wait to read them once I have them. I anticipate them so much that I don't want the experience to be over with too soon.

Billy Purgatory: I Am the Devil Bird by Jesse James Freeman

This is a new favorite for me. Freeman's writing reminds me a little of James Lee Burke's - which was very unexpected (and exciting) for me. This book is one of the most imaginative, creative, surprising books I've ever read. There is so much here, and put into the hands of any other author, I'm fairly certain it would have become a jumble. Freeman, however, is a plotting genius, and the whole thing moves (more like flies) forward without a hitch. There are vampires, fortune tellers, Greek gods, a time zombie ... and of course, Billy Purgatory himself. Freeman's writing is absolutely lyrical and wonderfully confident, and he's got a gift for character development. The story is serious and sad at times, but also very funny and packed with action. The more I read the more I wanted to read. (Thankfully this is the first book in a series.) I can't think of a single thing about this novel that I didn't absolutely love.

I've read this book at least a dozen times. It just always appeals to me when I see it peering at me from my bookshelves. The story takes place in Louisiana, (there's that southern fiction thing again) in 1956. Sissy has been trapped in a sham marriage for years and finds herself wondering if she could end it all by pouring some aspirin into her Coke bottle. Then Parker Davidson, her high school sweetheart who left town fourteen years previous, shows up again, and Sissy's life starts to get real exciting. Sissy compiles little words of wisdom that she adds to the Southern Belle's Handbook she's writing in her head. Some gems are "Love is like cigarettes. It gives you a little pleasure while you're at it, but it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth and a pain in your chest." and "It's okay for a woman to know her place. She just shouldn't stay there." This is just an incredible romp through Sissy's interesting and eventful life ... and Despres tells it with such a sense of humor that even thinking about this book makes me chuckle.

Predator's Game by S.L. Shelton

This series ... writer S.L. Shelton has really taken me on a crazy ride with this one. I ran across the second book, Unexpected Gaines while I was taking part in a review group with Goodreads. I have never been a fan of spy thrillers, but this series is the exception. Shelton grabbed my attention with his intriguing cast of characters and his writing style. I have enjoyed all six of the Scott Wolfe novels, but Predator's Game is my favorite ... probably because it's a little imore emotional than the others, and Scott, who is a serious badass, shows quite a bit of vulnerability in this book. S.L. Shelton's books play out like Jason Bourne movies. There is a lot of action - so much so that there is very little letdown throughout the entire story. Shelton has a talent for manipulation; one second I'm incredibly happy, the next I'm ready to throw my Kindle across the room, (only to retrieve it again because I can't not know what happens.) Shelton's books are not the fast food variety. I am always sure to be well rested before jumping into one of his tales, because I usually can't stop reading it until I've come to the end.

*I posted an author spotlight for S.L. Shelton when Predator's Game was released. If you're interested in reading it, you can find it here.

So, there you have it! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and find some more favorite books to read.