Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.
Today we have contemporary and romantic suspense author JoAnn Ross here to share her list of Five Books. Her Shelter Bay series is one of my favorites and I’m so pleased to see some of my favorite books on this list.
I’m not the first in this wonderful series to find choosing only five (!!!) books nearly impossible. There are so many wonderful ones I’ve enjoyed, many that other authors have already named. So, I decided to select five that have had a lasting emotional impact on me.
1. The Passion of Patrick MacNeil by Virginia Kantra
Dedicated burn surgeon Kate Sinclair shields her tender heart behind a white coat and a coolly professional manner. But something about the little patient the nurses dub “Iron Man” and his vital flyboy father challenges her as a doctor and a woman.
Since the car crash that killed his wife and almost took his son, pilot Patrick MacNeill’s life has revolved around his little boy. No one—no woman and certainly no interfering doctor—can intrude on their bond, forged in love and pain.
When little Jack’s care brings these two together, it ignites a passion they can’t ignore. But their growing involvement threatens Patrick’s emotional barriers and Kate’s professional future. With so much at stake, will she trust her judgment…or her heart?
The Passion of Patrick MacNeill is the first book in Virginia Kantra’s fabulous MacNeill brothers’ series. Whenever I pick up one of Virginia’s books, I remember why I write and read romance. Despite having suffered a horribly tragic loss, former Marine fighter pilot Patrick MacNeill remains doggedly protective of his beloved, terribly injured son. Unfortunately, any brief description can’t begin to do justice to the man or the story, which is why you must read it for yourself. Patrick loves unconditionally. Passionately, which makes this such an emotional book that’ll warm your heart even as it brings you to tears. It’s also why Patrick and Dr. Kate’s so well-deserved happy ending is all the more satisfying.
When I culled my thousands of books to move from Arizona to Tennessee, this one came with me. When, thirteen years later, I gave away hundreds more books to finally move back home to the Pacific Northwest, Patrick came along again, this time on my Kindle. He’s a true hero and a keeper. (And did I mention the book’s free this month?)
2. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Throughout her blockbuster career, Jodi Picoult has seamlessly blended nuanced characters, riveting plots, and rich prose, brilliantly creating stories that “not only provoke the mind but touch the flawed souls in all of us” (The Boston Globe). Now, in her highly anticipated new novel, she has delivered her most affecting work yet—a book unlike anything she’s written before.
For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.
As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.
I buy Jodi Picoult’s novels because she sets up complex moral and often legal conflicts that have me turning pages late into the night, trying, as both a reader and a writer, to see how she’s going to write herself out of the characters’ dilemmas she doesn’t stop throwing at them. But Leaving Time was different. I had no idea what kind of story I was reading, but was quickly hooked and just kept following what often seemed like an impossibly twisted path.
The fact that elephants play important secondary characters in the story was emotionally moving for me. Even more so when I learned in the acknowledgments that the often tragic events were taken from lives of elephants living at a Tennessee refuge. That alone might have landed this book on my list. But then the story took an abrupt twist I never saw coming. Looking back on it, I realized the author had sprinkled breadcrumbs all along the way; I was just so caught up in the story, I didn’t pick up on them.
3. Secret Girlfriend by Bria Quinlan
Since her mom died, Amy Whalen’s been invisible—but not in the cool, superpower kind of way. Overlooked at school and ignored at home, Amy holds tight to her few constants: running, painting, and her long-held crush on soccer god, Chris Kent. But as senior year nears, Chris doesn’t just notice her, he needs her.
Amy will agree to almost anything to be with him.
Everything is great—sort of—until Luke Parker shows up for soccer tryouts and sees through every one of Amy’s defenses. When Luke decides he wants Chris’s spot on the team and wouldn’t sneeze at the captain’s jersey either their rivalry spins out of control.
It doesn’t help that Luke also wants the girl Chris kept hidden all summer: AMY.
I also enjoy reading contemporary Young Adult because the characters are at an age when EVERYTHING seems life or death important and emotions always run high-octane. Anyone who reads or thinks about writing contemporary YA has probably read John Green, and I’m no exception. But in my opinion, Bria Quinlan (who also writes contemporary romance as Caitie Quinn), is right up there with him. This is another case where I could have named any of her books, but Secret Girlfriend resonated with me because, along with being like a trip back to high school (but without the cool DeLorean), it was the perfect mix of humor, teenage angst, the deeply emotional issues of loss, and how you can feel totally alone even when you’re with someone.
I personally write to themes, and there are so many in this book: self awareness, self value, family, the yearning to fit in, wisdom born from experience, emotional healing, and what we’re willing to do for love. And there’s even a love triangle! This is not just a perfect YA book. It’s a beautifully written perfect book for all ages. And fudging the five book rule, I have to add that the sequel, Secret Life, is equally wonderful.
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A novel of intense power and intrigue, Jane Eyre has dazzled generations of readers with its depiction of a woman’s quest for freedom. Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor-qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved? This updated Penguin Classics edition features a new introduction by Brontë scholar and award-winning novelist Stevie Davies, as well as comprehensive notes, a chronology, further reading, and an appendix.
My English honors’ thesis topic was the Brontës as feminists and Jane Eyre is a book people continue to argue about. Based on many of Charlotte Brontë’s own experiences, one of the reasons this book was first published in 1847 under the gender neutral pseudonym of Curren Bell is that Victorian society was male-dominated with women expected to be subject to the voice of men.
Did Jane make mistakes? Like Amy, from Quinlan’s Secret Girlfriend, absolutely. But in a sexist, class-driven society, she never surrenders to those who ruthlessly despise the poor and don’t believe them worthy of dignity. Under continued difficult pressures, she doggedly pursues economic and social equality, independence, and true love. (That insistence on a perfect love is a reason many contemporary feminists don’t believe that she belongs in the club.) Still, holding to her belief that true love should be based on equality, mutual understanding, and respect, she walks away from Rochester, whom she loves, but can’t have on her terms.
Later, not willing to lose herself in an affectionless marriage, she turns down the proposal of a good and decent man who, while admiring her tenacity, still expects her to be a docile partner in his missionary work.
Intelligent and unwilling to be treated unequal in any situation, Jane continues to rebel, daring to voice her own beliefs, never giving in. Admittedly, there are those who believe that she only acquires equality once Rochester has been brought down, but I’m in the camp who believes that in the end, Jane receives the happy ending she’s fought for all her life. On her own terms.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.
When F. Scott Fitzgerald conceived this story, he announced that he was going to write “something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” Which is a very ambitious goal. The fact that he actually pulled it off intimidated me for a very long time until I read back-and-forth editorial letters and telegrams and realized how many revisions went into creating Fitzgerald’s finest work.
The Great Gatsby (ironically no one at Scribner, but Maxwell Perkins, his editor, liked the title) is often viewed as a Jazz Age novel, but I find it timeless in its depiction of a society’s obsession with money, greed, and ambition; the vast gap between wealthy and poor; and self-invention. Like the best Greek drama, it also depicts an eventual fall from grace after a rise to glory. Another still-current theme.
For a novel that’s less than two hundred pages (when Fitzgerald sent the manuscript to Perkins, he said that although it was only fifty-thousand words, he wanted it published and priced as a “full-sized” book), the writing style is intricately patterned, with page after page of imagery, metaphors, similes, and alliteration. But his word choice, while poetic, is so crystalline, it somehow manages to make for easy reading. Which is how I’ll find myself pulling it off the shelf, planning to read a few pages, only to realize I’ve read it to the end. Again. It’s a truly beautiful book and what I consider not just the best I’ve ever read, but the best of the twentieth century.
JoAnn Ross wrote her first novella— a tragic romance about two star-crossed mallard ducks— for a second grade writing assignment.
The paper earned a gold star.
And JoAnn kept writing.
She’s now written around one hundred novels (she quit keeping track long ago), has been published in twenty-six countries, and is a member of the Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll of best-selling authors. Two of her titles have been excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine and her books have also been published by the Doubleday, Rhapsody, Literary Guild, and Mystery Guild book clubs. Among her awards are RT Career Achievement awards in both category romance and contemporary romance.
JoAnn lives with her husband and two fuzzy rescued dogs, who pretty much rule the house, in the Pacific Northwest.
Check out her latest release: Sunset Point
New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross returns to Shelter Bay with a story of destiny, desire, danger, and a sea captain’s ancient curse that’s become local legend. Someone to Watch Over Me Independent, strong-willed Tess Lombardi has dedicated her life to fighting for justice. As a deputy district attorney, threats are merely part of the job. This time, with several high profile cases on the line, she reluctantly agrees to protection. Only to discover that Nate Breslin comes with his own risks. How can she trust a bodyguard who’s stalked her? And lies for a living?
Former Marine sniper Nate Breslin has managed, at least most days, to leave danger and death in his past. Nate has his own reasons for tracking Tess down, but when her life is threatened, this mission becomes personal and he’s willing to risk anything to keep her safe. As the danger escalates and her would-be killer closes in, Tess must learn to trust Nate. With her life. And her heart.