I want to thank Samantha MacDouglas for presenting me with the Booker Award. When I accepted this opportunity to share my top 5 favorite books of all time, I thought, oh, easy, peasy, but not so fast. I love to read. In fact, every night before I fall asleep, I read from my TBR pile. So, needless to say, pulling out my top five was quite a challenge. To do that the book had to meet certain criteria:
- Relatable: Could I truly empathize with the character, situation, or theme.
- Change: Did the book spark a visceral response from me so intense that I changed the way I viewed the world and acted thereafter.
- Fate: I truly believe that a soul mate exists, a person that understands your essence, flaws and all, sees through the mask and loves you for you. Books that prove this theme—and paranormals have a wonderful way of threading destiny into this design—hook me instantly.
The following are my top five all time favorites, one is a series (Spoiler Alert).
1.Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series by Laurell K. Hamilton is my all time favorite series. Laurell’s book 1, Guilty Pleasures, was written in 1993 and hooked me from the very first line:
“Willie McCoy had been a jerk before he died. His being dead didn’t change that.”
When the series begins, Anita is a vampire hunter and necromancer; later she becomes a U. S. Marshal. She lives alone—except for Sigmund, her stuffed penguin—protecting her heart from being broken again after her first love dumps her because of her nationality.
As the series develops, Anita must come to accept who she was born to be, and that is not human. She starts out hunting vampires (monsters), hating them, loving them, becoming one, and finally learns to love herself. She learns to recognize others’ differences. Some she accepts into her heart and home.
“I stared at Jean-Claude and it wasn’t the beauty of him that made me love him, it was just him. It was love made up of a thousand touches, a million conversations, a trillion shared looks. A love made up of danger shared, enemies conquered, a determination to neither of us would change the other, even if we could. I love Jean-Claude, all of him, because if I took away the Machiavellian plottings, the labyrinth of his mind, it would lessen him, make him someone else.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton, Cerulean Sins
The central theme is acceptance, of both oneself and others. And the series inspired me to abandon a more puritan, contemporary style of writing and delve into the sexy paranormal. To do that, I’ve had to release the limits I’ve put on myself both as a person and a writer. To say I’m happier is an understatement. I’m writing for me and I’m living for me. And that is true liberation.
Thank you, Laurell!
2.Into the Darkest Corner by Author Elizabeth Haynes is a psychological thriller. I found myself so empathetic with Cathy, the heroine, I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, I read the 397 page novel in a short weekend.
Cathy is a vivacious, desirable young woman with a kind heart who meets Lee, an undercover cop posing as a bouncer at a local pub. Haynes does such an incredible job crafting Lee. She makes him bigger than life, a white knight, a mountain of protection I found myself yearning to stand behind. And, yes, Haynes infuses Lee with wounds Cathy can’t help but want to mend.
This book drew me in like a worm on a proverbial hook, because I too am a rescuer, a fixer of broken things . . . And I wanted to heal his hurts and witness Lee’s reformation almost as much as my next sobbing breath. In the beginning, Lee captures Cathy’s heart and soul. In the beginning, Lee won my heart too. But alas that changed.
Because, sadly, Lee is the villain.
Inevitably, I found myself wondering about Lee’s backstory. He had to be the victim of something atrocious, though Haynes does mention a woman who crushed his heart, I felt the author left something that happened to him in his childhood out. But then again, that was part of Lee’s flaw; he wasn’t willing to open up fully or seek help or change, and he further fell victim to the delusions of his mind.
However, Cathy is one tough chick who, after fighting Lee off and seeing him jailed—hopefully forever, though the reader is left wondering—comes to terms with her PTSD, OCD, and anxiety enough to accept her figurative and literal scars Lee has inflicted on her. She’s able to find true love with Stuart, the true hero who falls in love with Cathy’s essence, seeing the nurturing beauty on the inside, regardless of her wounds, and a powerful and intelligent woman. Not the mask Lee refuses to see past.
3. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is a story of incredible hardship endured by a girl named Sakamoto who is sold to a geisha boarding house in Kyoto Japan pre WWII. The book deals with child slave labor and skin trade, rivalry, betrayal, the matriarchal society and politics of the geisha world, and the ultimate power of fated love. Sakamoto, the heroine, begins her life in the geisha district at the age of nine. After a failed attempt to find her sister and severe punishment, she meets the Chairman, surrounded by geishas. He gives Sakamoto a coin to buy shaved ice, but she uses that coin to donate to the Goin Shrine and prays to become a geisha so she can see the Chairman again someday.
As the fates work their magic, she becomes the most sought after geisha in Kyoto, wins the heart of the Chairman, and after many years of separation during WWII, Samakoto finally earns the Chairman’s love and the title of his danna (husband).
The prospect of true love, an eternal love worth fighting and sacrificing and waiting for is the heart of romance, and the reason Somakoto is one of my favorite deserving heroines: she never gave up on her true love. And he never gave up on her!
4. Play Dirty by Sandra Brown is my all time favorite romantic suspense. In fact, it’s one of the books that inspired me to write in the genre. Fallen Dallas quarterback Griff Burkett, the hero, has just been released from prison after serving a five-year term for throwing a game for the mob, and being accused of murder. The QB has no football prospects for his unforgivable crime and he’s lost all his worth, both literally and figuratively. Then he gets an offer he can’t refuse from paraplegic, millionaire Foster Speakman to impregnate his wife, discretely of course and the way nature intended. Only, as the months pass, Griff can’t help but fall in love with Laura, and she him. Then Foster shares the news with Griff that Laura is pregnant and they arrange to meet. Griff discovers Foster true intentions are to murder Laura after his heir is born and has no intention of paying Griff the millions he promised or let Griff live. As Griff’s past closes in on him and he’s hunted for Foster’s suspicious murder, he and Laura run for their lives in search of the true killer.
This story is certainly one I intend to read again, but the root of why it’s my favorite is because of Griff’s tenderness toward others. People matter to him. He can see a person’s essence as if it were a sixth sense. When Laura’s pregnancy ends in miscarriage, he doesn’t brush the loss of life off as commonplace, even as Laura does, because that life mattered to him. He celebrates the pregnancy, their lost child, with a tiny gold star with an infinitesimal diamond in its center.
Excerpt (Griff presenting Laura a momentum to remember the what they created):
“It wasn’t very far along, I know. Probably no bigger than that diamond. But . . .” He ran his fingers through his hair. “But there’s no marker, you know? Nothing to show that it ever existed. And it did. At least for a few weeks.” . . . “I thought you might like to have something to remember it by.”
. . . When she finally raised her head, her face was wet with tears. “I’ll always remember it. I’ll hold it in my heart for as long as I live.”
I believe that all life, no matter how brief, should be celebrated.
5. Twenty Wishes by Author Debbie Macomber is a story that revolves around a bookstore owner Anne Roche. She’s a recent widow, who has no children, and she desperately wants to find happiness again. Inspired by a group of women who frequent her store, she asks them to develop a list of 20 wishes, things they always wanted to do but never did.
Anne volunteers at a local elementary school and meets Ellen, a foster child, who eventually gives Anne more than she ever imagined. And the novel follows the other women’s search for happiness and their HEAs as well.
The book inspired me to create my own 20 wishes. Now this is not a Bucket List, these are wishes. Some I pretty sure will never happen, but I dare not erase those just in case. Some I’ve already checked off and added others. The list can be shared or held dear. The idea is to add another wish every time you cross one off so you’ll never run out of goals.
Ask yourself: What do you want most in the world? And then turn those wishes into reality.
Thank you for reading my Top 5 Books.
Now it’s time to pass the Booker Award on. I can’t wait to read what favorites these three authors have to share with the world.
Jill James: www.jilljames.wordpress.com
Jansen Schmidt: www.jansenschmidt.wordpress.com
Tara Sheets: www.tarasheets.com