Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope that your week is going well and that you are also doing well. I know, most of us are still shrugging off some of that holiday hangover. But with the new year also comes new opportunities for us to be better, opportunities for us to turn on a new leaf. The new year also means new opportunities for reading new books and for new reading adventures. It is also a fresh canvas of book blogging year wanting to be painted with new memories.

As it is Tuesday, let me share a Top 5 Tuesday update for the year. Top 5 Tuesday was originally created by Shanah @ the Bionic Bookworm but is now currently being hosted by Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads.

This week’s topic: Freebie

This week is a freebie that got me thinking about which subject I should write about. This led me to what February is usually about: love. Because of Valentine’s Day, the first thing that I associate February with is love. With this in mind, I thought about sharing romance books I love. But this is a literary genre that I rarely ventured into, except for classics perhaps. Moreover, romance was always coupled with other literary tropes, such as mystery or suspense. This then led me toward Nicholas Sparks, one of the few contemporary writers I associate with the theme of romance.

I used to love the works of Nicholas Sparks, particularly the novels he first published. I think I read at least 18 of his works; the only ones I missed out on were the works he released in the past six years. There was even a point during my university days when I would devour his works. I missed out on his most recent releases mainly because I lost interest in his works. I felt that his newer works were formulaic, playing around the same theme of romance laced with mystery and grief. His last novel I was really invested in was At First Sight. The succeeding books I found bland. I still felt like sharing this list because Nicholas Sparks’ works once formed part of my literary journey. Happy reading!

The Notebook

I guess The Notebook is a no-brainer. Sparks’ debut novel, the book really blew me away although I have to admit that I watched the movie first (through a university subject). The story of Noah and Allie got me invested. What really worked in the favor’s book was its quick pace. Sparks did not bother embellishing it with too many details that would have undermined the story. It ended as quickly as it started but it still left a deep impression on me. It was a remarkable start to what would be a stellar career. This was not the first novel by Sparks I read but it definitely is one of the top-tier. You can immediately tell that it had the ingredients for a wonderful movie.

Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle was another novel by Sparks that was adapted into a film. However, unlike The Notebook, I have not watched the book’s movie adaptation. Ironically though, it was the movie that also held me back from reading the book. I eventually changed my mind and thankfully I did. Like The Notebook, Message in a Bottle had a quick pace. For a book that is over 300 pages, I finished it in one seating. At the end of the story, I was teary-eyed. The earlier works of Sparks were great at stirring emotions, even creating emotional connections between readers and the characters.

The Wedding

Ah, The Wedding. When I started reading The Wedding, I was bored. I did not have any expectations of the book for, unlike Sparks’ other earlier works, the book was not adapted into a film. Moreover, I found the story and the writing very plain. There was some tension but it was not interesting or exciting enough to hold my attention. The only interesting thing about it was that the female main character was the daughter of Allie and Noah from The Notebook. I was about to give up and give the book a very bad rating when the story started to unfold toward the end. I was totally caught off guard! I did not expect that it would end that way.

A Walk to Remember

My memories of A Walk to Remember (the movie that is) are very vivid. I still in my memories the image of the young Mandy Moore and Shane West. Ah. The movie was part of my high school years. It gave the younger me goosebumps. And the songs! I liked everything about the movie. A couple of years later, I would read the book and it was as interesting and compelling as the movie. In retrospect, when pared down, the story of Landon and Jamie was very basic. It was again Sparks’ cunning for stirring emotions that elevated the story. He knew when to build up and when to hold back. The book’s quick pace gave the story a sense of urgency. It was indeed a book to remember.

Dear John

Ah. Without a doubt, Sparks has a talent for writing stories that are marketable in any form of media, may it be in film form or published text form. That was palpable with Dear John. I liked the story and I guess the freshness of memories of the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq contributed to this. I like the main characters who I felt were characters I could easily relate to. Fun fact. I just learned – yes, as in today – that the story was in fact inspired by the story of Sparks’ own cousin. I guess this is the reason why the main characters were very believable.