Monday, February 13, 2012

Has Monday mentioned that she reads a lot?

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Carlyn - I do not envy you your psychopharmachology or whatever it's called class. My brain revolted just from half a sentence. Good luck!

Christina - I'm eaten alive with jealousy! Your photos are absolutely breathtaking and beautiful! I can't imagine what it's like seeing all that in person!

I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but I read a lot. I've been right in the thick of it lately, with my story theatre classes and my twelve mile long list of books to read for them, as well as the children's novels I'm going through at work for possible book discussions later in the spring. It's February 13th, and I've read 13 books so far this month. Granted, most of them have been around or under 200 pages, but still.

And you might think, with all that reading, that the last thing I'd want to do would be to talk about books some more, but if you think that, then you really haven't been paying attention, have you? Let's talk top ten book series!

Yes, this is my top ten of the week. You get plenty of top ten book lists, but I haven't read a lot of top ten series. Now, here are my criteria:

1. "Top Ten" is a mixture for me of best, favorite, and most influential. In other words, I'm taking all that into account, as well as how the series functions as long-form storytelling and how well connected and maintained it is.

2. I'm defining "series" as three or more books dealing with a continuing or connected storyline. Also, I have to have read all of them.To that end, Honorable Mentions!

Honorable Mentions:
The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy by Jessica Day George and the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore. Why honorable mentions? Because the third of each doesn't technically come out til later this year. But in each case, the first two of the series have been masterfully done, and I have the highest hopes for the final installments.

10. Ann Rinaldi's Quilt Trilogy
Growing up, I read a lot of fantasy (you'll see a trend in the rest of the list). My historical fiction reading was limited to American Girl and Dear America books (which, don't get me wrong, are both excellent, and probably would have made a Top 15 list). But this series was my first foray into historical fiction for an older audience, and I have to hand it to Rinaldi; she knows what she's doing. She knows how to make history interesting and how to really bring the characters to life. I also love that the series spans three generations and doesn't always give the characters the happy endings we want for them. In a YA series, that takes guts.

9. The 39 Clues series
The brain child of Rick Riordan, this series has 11 books in it, written by, I think, 8 authors, and has spawned a sequel series that will eventually have six books. Geared toward a slightly younger audience, the story was nevertheless complicated and intricate, if at times slightly predictable and not quite believable. It's a dangerous thing, asking so many authors to write in one world, because not all of them are going to do such a great job (*coughPeterLerangiscough*), but overall I really enjoyed this series, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next book's release.

8. The Arrows of the Queen trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
So, I have absolutely no idea how many books Lackey has written in her Valdemar universe. I know for sure I haven't read all of them. But I've read a decent amount, and whenever I come back to the world, I come back to the books that first plunged me in. This is one of those series that my mother introduced me to in high school, so it holds a special place in my heart for that. But it's also an intricate and unique world with very strong characters.

7. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
 I am constantly trying to find the words to describe these books and I am constantly and consistently failing. I have no idea how to do them justice and no idea what to compare them to. Frail and dreamlike and haunting are the words that keep coming to mind. I encountered these in high school and early college, and the last book came out the same year as Deathly Hallows, and I wanted it almost as badly. So that might tell you something.

6. The 500 Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey
Yes, she has two on the list. The woman is brilliant and multi-faceted. This is one of two fairy tale series of hers, and the reason it's here and not the other is because this series is stronger as a whole. The number is up to six now, I believe, and they're all wonderful. Lackey takes fairy tales places that I would never think to take them, and she combines mythology and thematic elements seamlessly. I love this interconnected world she's created, and I love that she's touched on so many different folklore traditions.

5. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede
These books were my childhood. My parents read them to me when I was eight, and they influenced basically everything I did with my imagination through the age of 13. I reread these books almost every year, and they are entirely timeless. It takes a special author to write a series that has a villain made out of jelly and weapons like the Frying Pan of Doom and still tells an incredibly powerful story.

4. The Giver Trilogy by Lois Lowry
Sadly, the fact that The Giver has two companion novels is an often overlooked fact. And it's really a shame because they're both wonderful. I mean, Messenger changed the way I read novels. It's the simplicity of the stories that really makes them great. They're clean and simple and elegant, really, all while dealing with very complex issues in a very graceful and real way.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Are amazing, really. What else is there to say? I've said it before and I'll say it again, Suzanne Collins is a masterful author for the incredibly honest and complicated way that she portrays love and relationships. The series leaves me on the edge of my seat as I'm reading it, completely caught up in its world and its characters, and it's positively exhilarating.

2. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The narration. Oh my goodness, the narration. I really do think that's what sets these books apart from so many. It's the way that Riordan balances "I'm an adolescent boy and I think like an adolescent boy" with "I'm a demigod and I have to go save the world now." Also, each novel is so intricately done! Riordan's done his homework. To pull from and keep track of so much mythology is just downright impressive, and what it all comes down to in the end . . . brilliantly done.

1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
It seems almost like cheating to put Harry Potter in the number 1 slot. Honestly, a part of me feels like I should have some brand new, non mainstream, scarcely heard of series for my number one, but then I look at my criteria and there's really no other choice. Some of the series above may have more intricate stories, they may be more haunting, they may have a stronger pull into the world. But it's Harry Potter that changed the course of my life. I wouldn't be who I am today without this series. And a lot of that is because of how masterful a storyteller JK Rowling is. Each book is entirely connected with the rest. Tiny things that get barely a mention end up being crucial to the way the story plays out. The characters are real and relate-able, the books are highly quotable, and yes, it's made me laugh out loud. Add to all that the fact that this series changed my life? No contest. Number one.

I look forward to your lists.

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