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Guest Post: Top Ten Books That Have Influenced A.J. Walkley

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Top Ten Books That Have Influenced Me 
by A.J. Walkley

I’ve put together a list of books that have been meaningful to me as a writer, reader and overall person from my childhood through today. Without further adieu and in no particular order:

1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This book is the reason why I ended up applying to be a health volunteer in the Peace Corps, heading to Malawi, Africa upon my graduation from college. I’ve loved Kingsolver ever since reading The Bean Trees as a 7th grader for her style and character development. I also love the structure of this book, each chapter featuring a different character’s point-of-view. The amount of research that went into Poisonwood is evident, Kingsolver taking readers back to 1959 when the Belgian Congo was attempting to attain independence from Belgium. I have been inspired by her and this book specifically to put just as much research into my own work.

2. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult (among others)

Picoult is another of my favorite authors who employs the separate POVs per chapter, allowing each of her characters the chance to voice their take on the situations at hand. While I’ve chosen Keeping Faith for the purpose of this list, mostly for making me think about religion in a way I hadn’t before, I should really have each of her books here. The way Picoult tackles difficult scenarios is something I love to read about and employ in my own writing.

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I remember being drawn in by the intricate plot L’Engle weaves in this sci-fi tale, wondering back in my early teen years when I first opened its pages how anyone could come up with anything so involved. I won’t give away its plot here, but will say that if you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time yet, you’re in for a treat. In fact, it’s about time I re-read this one.

4. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

The majority of books that have come to mean a lot to me are rich in characterization and thought-provoking circumstances – and this book is no different. Like all of Lamb’s books, I Know This Much Is True is jam-packed with many plot paths, all of them connected to the development of his protagonist and surrounding characters. Thank goodness this is a lengthy novel, because even when all was said and done, I still didn’t want it to end.

5. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I received this book as a gift upon graduation from high school from my favorite English teacher – my first introduction to Irving. To say the man can write is an understatement. I felt for his characters and came to think of them as people I had known my entire life. You haven’t read if you haven’t read a John Irving novel.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Perhaps an obvious choice, but one I can’t leave off this list nevertheless. Growing up with a criminal defense attorney as a father, I related very personally to Harper Lee’s classic. Just as I am drawn to aforementioned authors for the difficult plots they tackle, this book is no different, especially for taking on race relations at a very specific, fraught moment in history. This is a must-read for everyone, outside of a classroom at that.

7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This book took me a helluva long time to get through, but I was very glad when I made it to the end. Not only was it an accomplishment to make it through this 1,069-page tome, but the subject matter was fairly right-wing and Capitalistic in nature – subjects I have stayed away from due to my own liberal leanings. I was taken out of my political comfort zone by Rand and learned a lot in the process.

8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I’m sure this is another title on a lot of authors’ “influential lists,” but mine as well. I loved this tale of a dystopian future where books were outlawed because it is against all I personally believe in. Censorship may not be as absolute in our reality as it is in Bradbury’s fictional portrayal, but there is still plenty of it in various parts of the world today. This is a reminder of the many reasons why it is such a dangerous practice. I’m sure it hits close to home to many a writer.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Yet another sort of dystopian story masked in what may first some across as a sort of utopia, The Giver was highly influential to me as a young reader. Once again, Lowry’s ability to imagine such a world in this book was amazing to me as a 6th grader. What would you do if the perfect world you had always known shrouded you from the truth? Maybe the world we currently live in does just that in some ways. This novel speaks to many a “What if?” question, which is only one of the many facets I love about it.

10. They Cage the Animals at Night by Michael Jennings Burch

I had to include at least one non-fiction work on this list and They Cage the Animals at Night is one of the most significant I’ve ever read for multiple reasons. Another title I came across in middle school, I remember crying forcefully as I read Burch’s account of the abuse he suffered moving from orphanage to foster home as a young boy. I also vividly recall meeting the author himself at the end of a school assembly at which he spoke about his life and his book. I couldn’t help the tears that sprang to my eyes in his presence. He gave me a hug and assured me he was stronger for having endured all he had, that he was okay. Michael Jennings Burch was one of the first authors I’d ever met in person (save for Steven Kellogg in elementary school) and I was incredibly moved by the impact this man had with his words, as well as by sharing his own life story with the masses.

To say this list was difficult to narrow down to 10 is a massive understatement! In many ways, every book I’ve read has influenced me in some way, shape or form – even the terrible ones. Reading is a gift and I send a heartfelt “Thank you!” out to all of the authors out there who have dared to put their pens to paper and produced some of the great works of art that I’ve come across to date, and will continue to consume for the rest of my life.

Born in Bridgeport, CT, 27-year-old A.J. Walkley has been writing for nearly 20 years of her life. A reporter, freelance writer and novelist, Walkley spent time as a health volunteer in Malawi, Africa, with the U.S. Peace Corps after earning her BA in Literature in 2007.

Walkley’s second novel, Choice, was published by iUniverse in 2009.


In My Mailbox (37)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren and inspired by Alea from Pop Culture Junkie. It gives bloggers a chance to share all the books we bought, borrowed, and received this week.

Titles that are linked go to goodreads. Book covers that are shown on my iTouch are eBooks.

Won: (Thank you Two Chicks on Books, Kirsten Hubbard, and Alex - Electrifying Reviews)
Destined by Aprilynne Pike
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard swag and a drawing book
Invincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Review: (Thank you Little, Brown and Company)
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

NetGalley: (Thank you Random House and Bloomsbury)
Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

by Aimee Agresti

Blog Tour: Guest Post with Julie Anne Lindsey

Thursday, April 19, 2012
Death by Chocolate by Julie Anne Lindsey
Goodreads | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Series: Killer Confections #1
Publisher: kNight Romance Publishing
Release Date: March 22, 2012
Buy it from Barnes & Noble

Ruby Russell has reached her limit. When she discovers her hipster husband has a dirty little secret, she whips him up a Viagra-infused-chocolate mousse punishment, but in the morning, her husband's a stiff. Armed with a lifetime of crime show reruns and Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, Ruby and her best friend Charlotte try to lay low until after Ruby's son's wedding, but a nosy therapist, meddling minister and local news reporter are making it very difficult to get away with murder.

Something for Fun 
by Julie Anne Lindsey

First, I need to thank you, Vy for having me over to your blog! Blog tours are a lot of fun! It’s a complete freak out, but I get to meet lots of new bookish friends and bloggers and find favorites on my trip. It’s been so much fun, I thought I’d tell you how I ended up on this tour.

I am writing this blog post on the same day I finished Mockingjay. Last week I borrowed The Host from the library and fiddled around trying to want to read it for about 35 pages before I gave up. Then, I decided to go see The Hunger Games. BUT I hadn’t read it, so I quick got it on my Kindle and started reading. OMG. I read straight through the night and *luved*. So, I got the next one. I liked Catching Fire even better than The Hunger Games. I tried telling people about it but they didn’t care. LOL I was completely swept away.

Then I got Mockingjay.


Mockingjay had me wound so tightly I was barking orders at my family and wanting to scream and break things and hide and go bazonkers. It started out nice enough but then it all turned to horror and I could barely stand myself. I get invested you see. LOL I love books where I get carried away and in Mockingjay - away I went.

I rarely read books that get me all upset. Life is dramatic and stressful enough without putting myself in those situations. I was never one who needed “a good cry.” I don’t like movies meant to entice tears or stories with animals because I know someone will be mean to them. I like to laugh and or swoon. Both is a double bonus. Which is what I aim for in my romances. I think of them as romantic comedies : ) I aim for a witty heroine who cracks me up. But, I haven’t always fancied myself a romance author. A few years ago, when I signed my first publishing contract, the story was as far from a romance as possible. I’ve changed a lot since then, but the contract moved forward and now…’s here.

My debut novel arrived in print last month, Death by Chocolate. It’s not a romance, but it’s as far from stressful as they come, AND it makes me laugh. I like to laugh, and I like to write what makes me smile. Death by Chocolate is a nutty tale of harmless looking women with a mounting body count. I also like irony. LOL. Beware of the quiet ones they say.

If you’re in the mood to let loose and smile at the inconceivable, try my sweet ladies. But don’t try their goodies. You have been warned. LOL Death by Chocolate is available now on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. I hope it will make you smile : )

Julie Anne Lindsey

I am a mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus. Most days you'll find me online, amped up on caffeine & wielding a book.

Magical Realism: Dos Palabras by Isabel Allende (Lit Project)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Dos Palabras by Isabel Allende 

A short story about a women who sold words.

There's a tone of love and caring in the story after Belisa is introduced to the Colonel. 
"There was more to it than that, however, she felt the urge to help him because she felt a throbbing warmth beneath her skin, a powerful desire to touch that man, to fondle him, to clasp him in her arms."
"[...] the whole world could see the voracious-puma eyes soften as the women walked to him and took his hand in hers."
photo credit: MrPhilDog via photo pin cc

1. Dictionary

The dictionary tossed into the sea by Belisa symbolized her ridding herself of packaged lies.

photo credit: janetgalore via photo pin cc

2. Words

Words affected those who read or heard it mentally and physical. It also symbolizes power because of how much control is gained with the right words.

Magical Element:

Words were a magical element because of how Belisa would sell them. They were also magical because of how the words given to someone can have the power to influence their emotions and actions.

 Words have the power to hurt or heal. 
"To anyone who paid her fifty  centavos in trade, she gave the gift of a secret word to drive away melancholy." 
"She discarded harsh, cold words, words that were too flowery, words worn from abuse, words that offereed improbable promises, untruthful and confusing words, until all she had left were words sure to touch the minds of men and women's intuition." 
"[...] and saw that the Colonel's eyes glittered with enthusiasm, convinced that with those words the presidential chair would be his." 
"[...] he was stopped by an avalanche of words he had never heard before; believing them to be an irrevocable curse, the flame of his desire was extinguished."

This post is a graded project for my world literature class. 
But be sure to tell me your thoughts on magical realism and magical realism in YA. 
What are your favorite magical realism books or authors?

Books I've Recently Read and Will Review Soon (1)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I've been trying to catch up with my reviews, but I've been reading my netgalley titles a bit faster than I could write. Here are a couple of recent reads that I will be posting the review to soon.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Series: His Fair Assasins #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3, 2012

*I had one of those moments where I wrote my review directly onto blogger and then my browser crashed and I lost everything. Lesson learned. I still remember some of what I wrote so this review will be up soon.*

This book! There's the historical setting, politics, and very in depth characters. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK.

Overall: 5 out of 5

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Series: Of Poseidon #1
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: May 22, 2012

I've been on the look out for a good "merman" story for a while and a couple of bloggers recommended me this one. There was an instant like with Of Poseidon because of the light and fun characters.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Series: Lies Beneath #1
PublisherDelacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 22, 2012

This fell a bit flat for me. I didn't feel connected to the characters. The story was interesting though.

Overall: 3 out of 5

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker
Website | Facebook | Twitter

PublisherBloomsbury USA
Release Date: May 22, 2012

I loved the boating life, the main character and her love for music, and the light writing style. Seriously loved this one.

Overall: 4 out of 5

National Library Week (April 8-14)

Monday, April 9, 2012

It's now National Library Week, which will be running from April 8- 14, 2012. I believe that libraries and librarians are extremely important! If it wasn't for my two middle school librarians I wouldn't be reading as much as I'm reading today. This blog wouldn't even exist if I didn't start reading.

Here's some of the information I got off the website:

What exactly is National Library Week?

National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use.

Online Events

-You belong @ your library Six Word Story Sweepstakes
Share your story of why you belong at your library by composing a six word story for National Library Week! Check out the six word story sweepstakes for more information and examples.
-Share Your Library Story
Do you have a story about how the library has impacted your life? Share your story!

-Celebrate National Library Week on Facebook
There are so many facebook cover arts! Click here to find banners like the one I have on the top of my post.

Other Events During National Library Week
-Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books - released in State of America’s Library Report (Monday, April 9)
-National Library Workers Day (Tuesday, April 10)
-National Bookmobile Day (Wednesday, April 11)
-Support Teen Literature Day (Thursday, April 12)

Buy stuff!
There are some really fun items being sold like buttons, posters, and bookmarks. Be sure to click here to head to the store if you're interested.

Happy Easter

Sunday, April 8, 2012
photo credit: hepp via photopin cc
This week has been a bit over whelming, but after this weekend things will be back to normal. 
Happy Easter to you and your family!

In My Mailbox (36)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren and inspired by Alea from Pop Culture Junkie. It gives bloggers a chance to share all the books we bought, borrowed, and received this week.

Titles that are linked go to goodreads.

NetGalley: (Thanks to Harlequin and Random House)
The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross
Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Velveteen by Daniel Marks

Won: (Thanks Mundie Moms)
Book plates + Everneath guitar pick

Received: (Thanks Jill Hathaway + Vi - Confessions of a Vi3tBabe)
Slide Bookmarks
A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Fame: Suzane Collins: A Graphic Novel by Sara Gundell
Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
Fever by Lauren DeStefano

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