Top Ten Tuesday: Gateway Books/Authors In My Reading Journey

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Gateway Books/Authors In My Reading Journey."

I wish I'd started this one earlier so I would have had a better chance to think about it! I'm sure I'm going to be forgetting all sorts. But here are the most notable ones that stand out for me:

  1. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett - This has to come first, because it's the first full-length book I read by myself at age 7. It was so hard, and I wanted to give up on it many times, but I couldn't because it was required for my "gifted" program. God knows why they decided I was gifted when I couldn't even make it through a kid's book, but adults are inscrutable. At any rate, it was the beginning of a beautiful life-long friendship with hundreds of amazing books.
  2. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - This one fits on two counts, because it introduced me to both reading books about the holocaust, and reading books formatted as journals. Both of which were obsessions for me for YEARS.
  3. The Trixie Belden Series by Julie Campbell - these books were my introduction to mystery books. Quickly followed, of course, by Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. 
  4. Emily Dickinson - I have had a few poetry phases - mainly more untraditional like Ginsberg and Jim Carrol and Saul Williams - but they never would have happened without Emily Dickinson's "I Am Nobody" getting me interested.
  5. R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike - These were the books that made me even consider horror books. I'm a marshmallow, and I cannot handle horror. These were just scary enough that I could take it at that age and if it hadn't been for these, I never would have ventured into Stephen King territory!
  6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This book was pretty dark. Which is probably why I liked it. But it got me used to the rhythm of the language from that time period, and led to Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, Dickens and all of the Austens. 
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien - Any fantasy book I have ever read is directly because of  The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  8. Travels by Michael Crichton - A high school ex recommended this book to me, and while I didn't really expect to like it, it blew my mind. It's a selection of non-fiction stories based on Crichton's travels - you know, swimming with sharks, interacting with gorillas and communing with the occasional cactus. It's probably the first book I read that was loosely a travel memoir, and it started me down the path to Bill Bryson, who is one of my all time faves. It also boasts one of my favourite first lines of any book in the history of the world ever: "It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw." Tell me you're not intrigued. (Also, Julianne, you might like this book!)
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - The gateway to magical realism. I had this whole phase of it - everything from Laura Esquivel to Isabel Allende to Oscar Hijuelos to Julia Alvarez. I think I loved how the extraordinary mixed into daily life in these worlds - and how colourful the images in my head as I was reading were.
  10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I was never one who had much interest in dystpian or post-apocalyptic fiction before reading these books. Too depressing. But this book made me less intimidated, and also showed me that there can be beauty, strength and hope in these stories. I'd say that, while it wasn't my favourite series ever, this series did lead me to similar stories that I never would have tried otherwise. Most notably the Razorland series by Ann Aguirre, which is totally kickass.
  11. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - I'd read some YA before reading these books. You know, The Hunger Games, the Twilight books. Nothing that made me feel like it was a genre I really needed to explore much further. But I read these two books back to back, and have been obsessed ever since. There are so many excellent books I would have missed out on if I hadn't read these two by fluke. Talk about lucky!
Now, I know this isn't on the list, but as I was thinking about the books that had a huge impact on me, it occurred to me that as much as there were amazing books that opened up entire worlds to me, there were some that firmly closed doors, never to be opened again. Most notably Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy. While I'm glad I read some of these (I did NOT finish War & Peace - life's just too fucking short and the book is too fucking long), they really didn't make me want to ever experience anything similar ever again.

I might come up with some more to add later, but for now that's it! What about you guys? See anything on my list you've read?


The Sunday Review: GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE - Andrew Smith

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.
- Goodreads


I have no idea where to start with this book. It's... I just....


First of all... well, it's a book about giant 8-foot praying mantises taking over the world. Let's just be up front here - there's no way that's not going to be weird. But even if you ignore the bugs (which you can't because they're really fucking huge), the book is... odd.

Hmmm. Almost there.  Li'l odder.

Okay, well let's begin with the basics of any review. It's masterfully written. I don't know many authors who could write a book about a bug-pocalypse and still have me take it even remotely seriously. But Andrew Smith - well, he managed it. This is the only book of his I've read so far (though I've got Winger, which has now been moved up substantially on the TBR list), so I'm not sure if this book is written in his typical style or if it was unique. But I loved how raw and unflinching the writing was. Not only did Smith touch on topics and ideas that most authors (and readers and just normal people in general) would tend to shy away from, but he walked right up to them and planted a huge sloppy kiss right on their mouths. There are a lot of bits of this book that are awkward and uncomfortable. But at the same time, this was part of what made me respect it so much. Yes, it's a book about giant bugs. Yes, there are bits that are mind-bendingly, stomach-twistingly weird. But it's also a book that challenged me in ways I never expected, and that made it special.

Part of what made it work so well was the format of the story. It's written in the manner of a historical account, complete with omniscient narration. Its narrator is Austin, writing in his journals (we assume about past events). But also, for added flavour, the book goes off on the occasional tangent about peripheral characters and Austin's own ancestors. Though there's no way for him to know the things he does about events long past, I don't care because they added so much to the story. These side-stories are as weird as the main plot. Well, almost. Particularly when we get to the Doctor. He's the one who started this whole bug situation - and not that it needs stating, but he's totally crackers.

Yeah, but even more crackers. 

And all the way through there were these distractions courtesy of Austin's hormones. It doesn't matter if they're skateboarding, on a roof smoking, breaking into a store or being chased by giant bugs - he's just always horny, and he's always thinking about and sharing his horniness. Everything makes him want to have sex. It's actually kind of remarkable.


But okay, I mean the dude's a bisexual 16-year old with a very handsome boy and very pretty girl who are both in love with him and hanging out with him all the time. Plus the world is being taken over by giant bugs that could eat him at any moment, so it's kinda now or never. So I guess it's understandable.

Smith created an interesting cast of characters. Austin, our narrator, is a hapless, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes pathetic, often douchey character. But he doesn't mean to be a douche. He's just in this impossible love triangle, and no matter what he does he's going to hurt someone. He's also got a mother addicted to "blue kayaks" (anti-anxiety meds), a religious school shaming him for being normal, and a brother in the army. Being your typical teenager, he has absolutely no idea what to do about any of it.

His girlfriend, Shann, is understandably confused by his behaviour. Though she's not very well developed, I did feel bad for her. But I also didn't like her very  much.

Then there's Austin's best friend Robby - good looking, gay, and totally in love with him. He was probably the easiest character to identify with - if for no other reason than he's a really good friend to Austin, but you spend most of the book feeling like he's going to get his heart smooshed. (Both literally and figuratively.)

Because I'm an animal person, probably liked Austin's dog Ingrid most of all - for no other reason than she's a dog and awwwww.

There are a bunch of minor characters who wander in and out of the story, occasionally turning into a giant bug or getting eaten by a giant bug. They're not really that important, aside from their status vis a vis giant bugginess.


Though I've spend this entire post trying, this is the sort of book I can't really explain. No, really. I can't. It's too strange, and quite frankly, it's better if you discover it for yourself. You might want a drink or two on standby though, because things are about to get weird.


Good luck. You're gonna need it.

(Oh, and because I'm not even sure if this post makes sense, let alone helps you decide if you should read this book, I'm going to direct you over to Gillian Berry's review, which is what convinced me to read this book in the first place and therefore she's responsible for this ENTIRE FIASCO. Thanks, Gillian.)


Book Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Series: No
Edition: Hardcover
Published By: Dutton Juvenile
Released: February 11, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, GIANT FUCKING BUGS
Pages: 388
Date Read: March 1-18, 2014
Rating: 8/10


Stacking the Shelves #13

Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks where I don't buy books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some books I haven't shared in a StS post yet!

  1. Blood Red Road: Since reading the Razorland trilogy by Ann Aguirre, I've been jonesing for another really good dystopian story. I heard good things about this one... so we'll see!   
  2. Nearly Gone: They had me at "Bones meets Fringe."  
  3. Side Effects May Vary: I ordered this one awhile ago and kind of forgot about it until it arrived. I read the first little bit of it, and I'm not sure if it'll end up being on my faves list (perhaps it'll have trouble measuring up to The Fault In Our Stars - I know it's different, but it might have enough in common for comparison) but we'll see!  
  4. Slated: The third book in the series, Shattered, just came out and I heard some chatter about it and got curious. It sounds nice and creepy.  
  5. Hope is a Ferris Wheel: I pretty much just liked the cover. Pretty, isn't it?
  6. Brilliance: Basically it's a cross between a hard-boiled spy mystery and the X-Men
  7.  The Unnamed: This was on special - I think I got it for like $3. I'm not really sure what to expect - and the premise kind of reminds me of  
  8. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - but it is intriguing. Worth a few clams. 
  9. Ulysses: So I was having a bad week, reading-wise. And I thought, hey, can it really get any worse? Maybe I'll try reading one of those impenetrable books I've always meant to try. Hmmm. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour: I think this will be a good book for one of those days when I'm feeling a bit glum, probably when it's raining or when I have a cold.  
  10. Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line: Do I even need to talk about this one? It's Veronica Mars. (Also I may already have finished it...)
What books did you pick up this week? Share in the comments! 


Life of a Blogger: Favourite Animals

I've decided to try adding a Thursday link-up, mainly because it's not about books. I know, this is a book blog, that's what you're here for. But I thought maybe you'd like to get to know a little bit about me other than what I'm reading!

Life of a Blogger is a weekly meme hosted by Novel Heartbeat. Every week there's a new topic, not related to book blogging. This week's topic is: Favourite Animals. (For a full list of topics - past and future - go here.)

I love animals. All animals. I tried to save a worm from being smooshed on the sidewalk yesterday (unfortunately I may have been too late which made me sad for the rest of the day. I hope that thing about worms being cut in half and surviving applies to one end being injured too!). And while there are animals I'm scared of, I still like them being out there in the world somewhere - though in the case of spiders, I prefer waaaaaaay over there. But still.

It's pretty much impossible for me to pick favourites, so instead I'm going to share some of my favourite animal videos and pictures, because that's probably more entertaining anyway!

The Budweiser Clydesdales commercials. I cry every time. This one has puppies, too!

Then there's this baby polar bear taking its first steps. I've always wanted to cuddle a polar bear. I know, I know, I'd probably get eaten. But honestly? I almost feel like it would be worth it.

I can't even... *sniff*... just watch the video.

I could go on like this all day, but I'm sobbing over here and I just ran out of Kleenex. But those are some of my favourite animals - and favourite videos! Come on, say it with me: "Dawwwwwww!"


It's Veronica Mars Book Day!!!!

So I'm skipping WWW Wednesday this week, because I am way too excited to sit still and write a post. Why, you ask? Because:

I watched the show. I watched the movie. And I've been waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for the book  - and it finally arrived!

Later guys, I'll be back when I'm done reading.


Top Ten Tuesday: Things On My Bookish Bucket List

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List."

I've never considered a bucket list, much less a bookish one. So this is possibly going to be a bit odd. But here goes!

1. Try to read more consistently.

I generally aim for a couple of books a week. But if I'm reading a book I don't connect with, if I get busy, or if I'm just really tired and despondent, I can sometimes take a couple of weeks to finish a book. Which wouldn't be so terrible, except whenever that happens I tend to lose momentum. The excitement I had for that huge stack of TBR books turns into intimidation - even resentment. I find myself foundering around, picking up and putting down books, no idea where to go from there. It's tough, but I need to learn to deal with difficult reads better and just force myself to either DNF or sit down and finish the bloody things already.

2. Come up with more discussion post ideas.

The problem isn't that I don't have ideas - it's that the ideas I have and things I'd like to chat about have already been done. And while I very much believe that it's fine to put your own footprints on well-trodden ground, if there are already a bajillion posts on a topic that say the same thing, there's not a lot of point. So what's a girl to do? Answer: get better ideas or a new take. I'm workin' on it, guys. I'm workin' on it.

3. Finish series.

I have a tendency to start a series and.... just stop. I still haven't read Allegiant, for example. Though that might be a bad example because I don't actually want to read it. But still, you get my point.

4. Comment more on other blogs.

I'm pretty good about replying to comments on my own blog, but I subscribe by email to my favourite blogs rather than cruising on by. While this is great because I never miss a post, it does mean that I'm generally too lazy to swing by when I'm done and post a comment. So no one knows I'm actually reading them most of the time. I am, I swear!

5. Remember to vary my reading.

I get super stoked about all the books the bloggers are talking about, but a lot of the ones I follow are YA bloggers. Absolutely  nothing wrong with that, but it does give me tunnel vision. And while I love YA books and will always have a ton on my TBR and review lists, I would like to vary what I'm reviewing a bit more. If for no other reason than if I review a decidedly adult book, I don't want everyone to be all, "Isn't this a YA blog? What's this doing here?" I would like variation - everything from kid's books to classics to YA to erotica - to be the norm here.

6. Meet some of the book bloggers and authors I'm a huge fan of.

I haven't met many authors, but there's a long list of authors I'd love to have tea or beer with. Though I'd probably be horribly tongue-tied (probably should make it beer), but I'd like to imagine that eventually I'd regain the ability to speak and not make a total ass out of myself.

There are also so many book bloggers who are smart, funny, friendly people and I'd love to have like an international book blogger's hang out or something. You guys are fantastic. (I'd also really like to make Gillian Berry over at Writer of Wrongs my best friend whether she likes it or not. Which probably sounds really stalkerish if you haven't read her blog yet. But trust me, once you have, you'll get it. She's hilarious, super smart and totally awesome.)

7. Move to London and spend my days in the reading room at the British Museum.



Seriously. That place is beautiful.

8. Get beautiful, hardcover editions of all my favourite children's books.

There's something special about the books we read as a child, and having beautiful copies of those books makes them even more special. I have a few really lovely copies of some of them (The Secret Garden, Matilda, The Railway Children, Anne of Green Gables), but someday I'd like to have a bunch more.

9.  Read more classics.

I haven't read nearly as many classics as I should. I haven't forayed far into the Russians, I've only read one Dickens, I've never tackled James Joyce - I haven't even read any Sherlock Holmes. While I have read a bunch, I feel like there are some major gaps that need seeing to. So I would like to get into some more challenging reads.

10. Go back to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

I went there once, but it was under renovation (apparently so many people go through there that they had to strengthen the foundations or something) so I couldn't see all of it. I'd like to go again. It was a really intense, overwhelming experience, and I think a second visit would not only allow me to see the bits that were closed, but really experience it.

Oh, and own a library. Of course.

That was easier than I thought! What about you guys? What bookish dreams are on your lists?

Share Buttons