I had something else in mind for today’s Fireside Fridays post but then the wonderful Sara Letourneau posted an open-ended tag yesterday that was just too great to miss. Basically, the various stages of courtship are listed, and you get to compare each to a book—and it doesn’t necessarily have to be romance (which is good because I don’t really read romance books). Ready for this fun?
Phase 1: Initial Attraction. A book that you bought because of the cover?
Oooh, covers. There are so many delightful ones out there. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by one, but my opinion of a book improves greatly when it is aesthetically pleasing. I’ve mentioned these recently, but the first thing that attracted me to Helena Sorensen’s Shiloh Series was their covers. I loved the blend of simplicity and elegance, the promise of fantasy and adventure combined with the feeling of something deeper, grander. In fact, I liked these covers (and the blurbs, too—of course I had to do my research) so much that I bought them without even reading them first. That’s quite a shocker, coming from me.
Phase 2: First Impressions. A book you bought because of the blurb?
Blurbs annoy me. They usually never cover the important parts or they focus too much on one element that seems less integral to the overall plot once you actually read it or they’re cheesy or they’re boring or they’re too long. I can’t really criticize authors, though, because I know how hard they are to write. Occasionally, though, I find a good one, like M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. Quote the blurb (courtesy of amazon) coming right up:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
So, first of all, it’s about a lighthouse, and I love lighthouses and the ocean in general. But what really grabbed me about the blurb was that it was about people and hard choices and family, all themes and topics I love. The last sentence all but forced me to pick up the book immediately—it was that perfect combination of catching and mysterious but not cheesy. Plus, since I’ve read the book, I can attest that this blurb does a great job summarizing the key points without giving too much away. Go read it, folks.
Phase 3: Sweet Talk. A book with great writing?
I love great writing. There are many important components to a truly good book, like in-depth characters and powerful themes and smooth pacing—and you could make the case that if those elements are present, the writing quality may not matter as much. But few things can beat plain old, hands-down great writing. One book that immediately springs to mind in this area is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The writing literally took my breath away. It was gorgeous, captivating, stunning, original. My words don’t do it enough credit. Please give yourself the gift of reading it this Valentine’s Day.
Phase 4: First Date. A first book of a series which made you want to pick up the rest of the series?
So many books could fit this category. It’s extremely rare that the first book of a series doesn’t hook me. But Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl—that one stands out. See, I heard that this book had won some Christian fantasy award, and I thought, Hey, that’s just my thing! But the only place I could find it was an ebook library—and I couldn’t even get it as an ebook. I had to read it as a pdf on the computer, which, let me tell you, is not the ideal reading experience. It hurt my eyes, was horribly inconvenient and uncomfortable, and sadly made the reading of this book a miserable experience. Except that the book was so storming good that it didn’t matter. I immediately bought the others in the series without trying to find them for free somewhere (again, a big deal for me). Oh, and I should point out that Starflower isn’t actually the first book in the Tales of Goldstone Woods series, but it does serve as a fine starting point since it’s kind of a stand-alone.
Phase 5: Late Night Phone Calls. A book that kept you up all night?
Anything by Brandon Sanderson. Seriously. I cannot put his books down. It’s really very detrimental for one’s sleep and school, and I recommend only reading him during the summer (except that of course you can’t just not read Sanderson). I remember Shadows of Self being particularly grabbing. I know I huddled in my blankets in my frigid attic room far, far past my bedtime to finish that thing. And then of course I stayed up for who knows how much longer inwardly screaming and shaking the book and trying to get my heart rate to slow and railing at Sanderson and marveling at Sanderson and—well, you know, the typical symptoms of Sandersonitis.
Phase 6: Always on My Mind. A book you could not stop thinking about?
This one’s kind of funny because I like thinking about books. A lot. But one in particular that has been haunting me ever since I finished it is Elizabeth Goudge’s Green Dolphin Street. I really can’t go into a lot of detail due to spoilers but something one of the characters did was so inspiring—so hard and beautiful and convicting and powerful—that I just can’t get my mind off it. It’s one of those instances where a book correlates so strongly to real life, where a character’s example shows you such a clear path to how you should live. The whole book itself is just so unique and poignant that it will always stay with me. It’s giving me shivers just thinking about it. Wow.
Phase 7: Getting Physical. A book which you love the way it feels?
This was the first phase that I knew the answer to right away: my copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I found this lovely copy at Walmart for $20 last year. It is covered in this thin velvet material that’s gloriously soft and smooth, and the rings are created with a shiny gold paper. Ooh, and the letters are pressed in (there’s a technical term for that, I’m sure), which adds a nice tactile appeal. I know you can get far more rare, ornate editions, but I really like the classic elegance of this one. Plus, it’s not so nice that I feel like I can’t make it my own, but it’s nice enough to display proudly.
Phase 8: Meeting the Parents. A book which you would recommend to your family and friends?
Hmm. Toughie. I really like recommending books, but I also really like making sure they fit the person, and everyone’s so different. It’s hard to find a book that would fit most people. I’m going to have to go with a classic here: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Its youthful narrator will appeal kids, who could even understand most of the book, but the themes and allusions to what’s really going on make it meaningful to adults. From a unique, delightful voice to hard but important topics, it’s a classic for a reason, and it won’t disappoint.
Of course I have to include C. S. Lewis in this list somewhere, and here’s the perfect place. Lewis’ books are just so full—pick any of them, and I promise you that the second, third, and infinity-eth (yup, definitely a word) time you read it, you’ll find something new. The problem is which book of his to pick. I’ll go with two—The Chronicles of Narnia (which is technically six, but hey) or Till We Have Faces. Despite the fact that they’re technically a children’s series, Narnia is so rich, and I’m constantly discovering new meanings in it. I just reread Till We Have Faces last summer, and I felt like I was discovering a whole new world. It was incredible. I hope to dive into again some other time and have my eyes opened a bit more. Plus, both of those are simply great stories.
Phase 10: Share the Love! Who do you tag?
I’m tagging along with Sarah (get it, tagging? Haha … ha.) and making this open. Anyone of you can snatch it—and please do! I’d really love to see what you choose. This is such a fun, creative tag, and it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day (though you can do it anytime you like). Or, if you’d like, you can tell me in the comments which books you would have chosen. Remember to link back to me so I can what you pick!