QOTW: Amazing Books

11 Jun

Don’t forget about the Kim Harrison Book Giveaway!!

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This week we chose to answer two similar questions and also reveal something we’ve been working on for a time: A list of our Favorite Books!

Christina: Hey, I was wondering what maybe your top 5 or so favorite books were that inspired you to write or that you wish that everyone would read at some point in their lifetime and why.

Christina: If you could recommend a few books that you believe everyone should read at some point in their life becuase it made that great of an impression on you, inspired you, or it was just that amazing, what books would you recommend for others to read?

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The Lord of the Rings. I feel like every fantasy writer says this, but that’s because LotR is soo good. The world just feels complete; there’s mythology, history, cultural differences, and a whole delightful ecosystem complete with oliphants. I wanted to visit Middle Earth (in a protective bubble where no orcs could get me), I wanted to be friends with the hobbits, and I always wanted to know why there weren’t more kickass girls like Eowyn.

Alanna, The First Adventure taught me girls could be awesome, active main characters in fantasy. They could go out and fight evil and have adventures, they just might have to dress as a boy to do it. I loved Alanna, I loved the school for knights and the world’s magic and it made me want to try writing something of my own.

Pride and Prejudice made me love love, or romances, especially period romance. It showed me that love stories didn’t all have to be sappy tales of women pining for men and couples talking about how much they loved each other, they could be sharp and witty and comment on life and involve men like Colin Firth (yes, I watched the BBC version before reading).

The Curse of the Pharaohs, by Elizabeth Peters. This series is my guilty pleasure, and The Curse of the Pharaohs was the first book from it I read, way back when I was nine or ten. It’s a Victorian murder mystery set at an archaeological excavation in Egypt. I can’t think of any other sentence that has so many of my favorite things in it. The main character is spunky and outspoken, she has a hot husband and she isn’t beautiful. It wasn’t just the plot or the characters that hooked me, the writing style reflects the period and I decided that it meant I could get away with an elevated style if I could write well enough. I’m still working on that.

The Writer Revising to Query

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Beloved by Toni Morrison. This was the first book I read whose characters and emotions seemed to drip off the page. All of the description and themes were so intense and emotional that the book changed me forever as a writer. Now I seek to make my writing as lyrical and saturated as Toni’s, and it also gave me a craving for spooky stories and characters compelled by their own legends. It’s not a book for everyone, but it hit me at just the right time and will forever be one of my favorites.

RANT by Chuck Palahniuk. This is another book that changed me as a writer; this story is so complex and amazing that it blew my mind and made me want to write stories like nothing I’ve ever heard before: rabies epidemic, time travel, crashing cars as sports, immortality, and ‘porting’: a personally-experienced hologram. I had to read this book twice to really understand what was going on, and five times to catch all the nuances. I wish that Rant Casey lived in my head instead of Palahniuk’s.

The Animorphs by K.A. Applegate (mostly). The Animorphs were the first books I ever had a ‘fangasm’ for, and the character of Tobias influenced my own character Shaedyn in Antebellum. The Animorphs compelled me to begin writing fan fiction, which eventually led to me writing my own fiction. For that, and for a world I could visit again and again, they will always have a special place in my heart.

-The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: This is one of the books that first inspired my writing style. Of course, that was over six years ago, and I’ve developed a lot since then, so you can’t really tell anymore. But I remember reading his work and being breathless with the raw emotion and beauty in many of the scenes. Plus, I adored Lyra with all my heart and was absolutely devastated when a certain something happened at the end of the series. I remember wanting so, so badly to live in that world and have a daemon of my own. Pullman’s world-building, language, and deftness with Lyra’s character development made this my absolute favorite book as a child, one that lived with me for years and still occupies a very special place in my heart.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: This book made me cry so hard. I wanted to protect Ender so badly, but even as I hated the people manipulating him, I understood their motives. This book taught me a lot about complex characters–people whose motives are in shades of gray, and how the line between Good and Bad jumps around depending on the angle with which you view the ground. Also, I know some people say they saw the twist at the end coming from a mile off, but when I read it at twelve years old, I couldn’t have predicted it for the world. It blew me away. Like The Golden Compass, this book haunted me for years, and a tattered copy sits on my bookshelf.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: Unlike The Golden Compass and Ender’s Game, I first read this book recently. It’s a powerfully told story of both present and past, the two weaving into each other brilliantly. There’s a lot of word play, and certain metaphors or descriptions are so rich and full they fairly burst before your eyes. It’s a sensuous novel. It taught me to paint a scene with all four senses and not not be afraid to dig deeper than the usual clean, shiny descriptions because those fall flat the easiest. Unlike the other two I have listed here, I’ve only read The God of Small Things once straight through and have not really felt the urge to read it again and again as I have the others. But that has nothing to do with the greatness of the book–it’s strange, but I feel like the story is already whole and alive inside of me, and I have no need to revisit it…or maybe it’s just because I wrote a number of essays on it already, and have memorized many of the passages 🙂

-The Writer Gearing Up to Query

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I generally don’t like telling people what to read, especially since there are so many different possible genres out there. But if I had to pick a few neutral ones (books that I think are helpful for any writer), it’d be these:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – this is my all-time favorite novel. I’d consider it an essential for several reasons: it’s written in breathtaking prose; it pulls in the reader immediately and keeps his or her attention, as detail is VITAL to the story and the unreliable narrator’s techniques; it focuses on the right amount of detail; it creates characters that are so realistic and believable, they seem to live on even after the book ends; it has a captivating beginning and a satisfying ending … to avoid ranting on for pages: you name it, this book has it. It’s like my Bible for writing techniques. It’s also useful for learning how to manipulate the first person point of view to achieve certain reactions and expectations in the reader… the whole book is about playing with the reader’s head!

The Harry Potter Series – I actually just started getting back into this series after giving up on it (for reasons unknown even to myself–I was probably getting annoyed having to wait for each one to come out) somewhere in the fifth book. Though there are undoubtedly a lot more “notable” works out there, if that’s how some are inclined to think, I think this series is incredible because it’s a great example of good writing in present-day publication. A lot of writers (myself, included!) can get stuck on the delusion that the “classics” are the only truly good works out there, and that modern writing will never live up to them. But J.K. Rowling is a new author, and a good one at that. She has a knack for creating believable characters and complex yet interesting storylines that amaze me, especially since one of my biggest weaknesses is creating substantial plots and subplots that have more than one layer to them. I like to think of her as one of the ultimate storytellers!

The Picture of Dorian Gray – going back to what I said in my comment above, I’d feel like a bad writer if I didn’t have at least one of the oldies in here. So I’m going to bring in Dorian Gray, because it’s simply an amazing book. The story is unique and interesting, the characters are entertaining, and the description is vivid and full of symbolism. In a time when there seems to be very few “original” ideas left, Dorian Gray can teach you a thing or two about originality and how to make crazy concepts work.

Summer by Edith Wharton – reading romances has been a huge guilty pleasure for me from the time I picked up The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks years ago. But the problem with a lot of romances is that they’re unrealistic; this is fine, when a reader is looking to escape into a fantasy, but when a writer is trying to form believable relationships… it’s time to pick up some Wharton. Maybe she tends to be a bit on the pessimistic side–real-life stories CAN have happy endings–but I like to call Summer the first and only convincing love story I’ve ever read. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you want to brush up on building tangible relationships between your characters, this would be the book to go for. It might be a bit dated, but the way people interact with each other never seems to change–I’d say that if you can get past the 19th century language, you’ll definitely connect with and understand the protagonist on some level, whether you agree with her actions/ways of thinking or not.

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I have many books that I love, but the following three are probably the YA/MG books that influenced my own writing the most.  All but one are somewhat unknown, so I’m thrilled to have the chance to talk them up a bit!

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer.  This book is a classic of British children’s literature.  Published in 1969, it is a haunting fantasy about a girl who goes off to boarding school and finds herself time-traveling involuntarily, trading places back and forth with a girl who slept in the same room over forty years earlier, as WWI raged in Europe.  What I find so captivating about this book is the way that it deals with fantasy elements without leaving “the real world” (early “Urban Fantasy!”) and manages to explore the familiar YA theme of the search for identity in a completely new and imaginative way.  Of all the things I adore about the book – hypnotic prose, the question of dreams vs reality – what influenced me the most about it is the fact that the character of Charlotte is as skeptical and incredulous about what is happening to her as any real girl would be.  From Charlotte Sometimes, I learned that characters within the story can be as confused and frightened by the fantasy as I myself would be in their shoes.

Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren.  You may have heard of this Swedish children’s author (Lindgren wrote the famous Pippi Longstocking books) but Ronia is a little known gem outside of the author’s home country.  The events of the story revolve around Ronia, the daughter of the leader of a band of robbers, and her friendship with Matt, the son of the leader of rival robbers.  This “Romeo and Juliet” set-up is tempered by the young age of the main characters.  However, because of the hatred between their families, even platonic friendship becomes the catalyst that propels the story, which ultimately explores the theme of independence.  I could go on all day about the many memorable qualities of this book, but I would have to say that the setting of an ancient robber’s castle in an enchanted forest, combined with the strength of character shown by Ronia and Matt, are the aspects of the book that have influenced me the most.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  Okay – this one I KNOW you know!  This was the first science fiction book I ever read, and influenced me essentially by proving that science fiction can appeal to all kinds of people and can be about characters as much (if not more!) than it is about “science.”  In fact, there really isn’t any true “science” in the book, beyond the fabulous quasi-scientific explanation of a “tesseract” – the actual folding of the fabric of time and space to which the title refers.  There is so much imagination and pure fantasy in this story, yet it all revolves around themes of good and evil and the strength of love for family.  The way that this book takes universal themes and weaves them into an immensely imaginative story is one of the main reasons it has become one of my most enduring favorites.

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The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. I read this book when I was 11, and it forever changed me. THatC made me fall in love with kick-ass heroines—it made me want to WRITE about kick-ass heroines, who could go out and slay a dragon while still maintaining their girly side. It’s also a book that made me realize fantasy wasn’t just epic quests, but also about characters—and the impact of tough choices. McKinley doesn’t make things easy for her characters—and she made me fall in love with The Bittersweet Ending long before Lloyd Alexander made me fall in love with it again.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Don’t laugh at the title. No, seriously. I wish it were different, too. I wish I didn’t blush when people ask about my favorite books, and I mutter “The Last Unicorn.” But, title aside, it’s brilliant. Beautiful. Heart-breaking. TLU showed me the loveliness of prose—proved to me that fantasy COULD be beautiful while being epic. It made me savor words; it made me savor IDEAS. Some of my all-time favorite quotes (see my Facebook info) are from this book. And if that’s not enough to entice you, it has some of the most beautiful opening lines ever.

“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. It will ALWAYS be Number 1 favorite book. Why? Because I’ve read the series every year since I was 18 (I curse myself for not reading them earlier), and each time I read it, I learn something new. Alexander is a master of world-building—none of the books are very long, but Prydain remains one of the most vivid and detailed worlds I’ve ever read. Not to mention, the fourth book in the series, TARAN WANDERER, is one of the greatest books of ALL-TIME (trying really hard to refrain from making the Kanye reference). I think most of the wisdom in the world is contained within the pages of THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN, not to mention Taran will always be my #1 hero. I wept for hours after I finally finished the series. HOURS.

This book changed my life—it changed the way I wrote, the way I saw books, the way I saw characters—most of all, it changed the way I saw the world OUTSIDE of my books. To this day, if I come to a moral crossroads, I’ll sometimes ask myself “What Would Taran Do?” Yes, I am a dork—but I cannot emphasize enough how incredible these books are. If you love high fantasy, memorable characters, and the threat of an unstoppable army of the walking dead, READ this series!

-The Writer With Her First Book Deal

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I have so many favourites, but if I had to choose a few, one of them would be The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I read this before I ever started writing, and after I finished this book (and the rest of the trilogy), I found myself not only crying (if you’ve read it, you’ll know why!), but absolutely inspired. I’m not sure how many years later I began to write; but His Dark Materials trilogy made me fall in love with reading all over again (which I believe to be one of the reasons I write). There was something so relatable about Lyra; and like Kat mentioned, I wanted desperately to have my own daemon. It is one of those books that I look forward to rereading. I loved the complexity, and it is proof that something so complex was still understood by me as a child. Rereading it has only added more respect for the many intricacies. This story was proof that something epic wasn’t just about huge armies battling it out, but also about the scope of one character’s journey to find the truth, save the world, and come of age.

Sabriel by Garth Nix is another story I could reread over and over again! I absolutely love writing when it comes to world building; and the Abhorsen trilogy was brilliant at it. Magic was truly magical in this book. It was so brilliant, so beautiful in its simplicity, that I was entranced right from the start. It infused every page, and I never got tired of it. Sabriel isn’t a scared damsel in distress, though she does feel fear; nor is she a fearless warrior woman, though she is strong and can be brave. She is believable, and it is one of the reasons why I’m still so drawn to her character. And then there is Mogget; you’re never quite sure whether he is good or bad. His ambiguity is absolutely brilliant; and yet you still find yourself liking him, nonetheless.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, will always be a favourite. Like Jenn, this book made me realize that women can kick ass! Alanna is a heroine who wants to be treated equally, and is willing to risk so much for what she wants. She works hard to get to where she ends up, and it never ceased to inspire me. This was one of the first times I came across feminism, and it really struck a chord with me. This is another book that I could reread over and over (and have!). I wanted to be able to create worlds just as breathtaking, and characters just as complex, and write stories about one’s coming of age in wonderful, magical, and dangerous setting. I wanted to write about strong women after reading this series.

And since I can’t only choose three, there is The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman. After reading this, I was blown away. I wanted to be able to write like her. Hoffman’s prose is poetically beautiful, and absolutely haunting at times. Some of my favourite lines are from this book. The story and characters are complicated, and the answers are never quite so clear-cut. Rain is a girl of the Amazon tribe of warrior women; and she rebels, through all the sorrow and hate in her life. In a search for herself, we see how she reacts to the ruthless women of her tribe. I was blown away when I first read it, and I am still blown away when I read it.

The Writer Making Her Way Into Publishing

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The book Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky was a big influence. I read it a couple years ago, and it’s a totally different genre (literary) than the fantasy/sci-fi I usually read, so it was a bit of an eye-opener. It was also a very sobering read in terms of the human condition and what people will do in a time of crisis. It’s about the French Exodus in WWII when Germany invaded, and what I enjoyed most about it was its feeling of almost total neutrality. She didn’t favour any sides, and it exposed me to writing techniques that help display a character clearly without saying “They are evil” or “They are good”. She let’s the reader interpret they goodness or evilness according to their morals, and I think that’s very, very cool.

On top of that, Némirovsky gave me a flavour for mystery and things in a book that are never really cleared up. Of course, it’s because of tragic circumstances that this happened in hers: she died in Auschwitz before she could complete it (which makes the neutrality even more fascinating) and at the end of the book you see her notes on how she was going to continue the story. Like, there is a part 1 and a part 2, and they’re finished, so the book has an ending, but there was supposed to be a 3, 4, 5… And I loved imagining all the different possibilities, and even still adore it when there’s an unexplained phenomenon going on in a book (provided that it makes sense) and I even add little bits like that my writing. Of, course, I know the truth behind it, but not many other people do :).

And then there’s…. Ugh this is going to sound cliché and not very helpful in terms of recommendation because sooo many people have read them but….the Harry Potter books. They’re basically the reason I started reading, and the reason I started writing. I went to a French Immersion elementary school and during English class in Grade 3 we, as a class, read a novel. We had a choice between Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Bunnicula. My vote was Harry Potter, not, get this, because I thought it’d be good, but because I didn’t like Bunnicula’s glowing red eyes. The other class read it though (they didn’t know what they were missing) and we had this stupid little rivalry of whose book was better. Obviously we won. It wasn’t even a competition.

But back to the point. Before then, I wasn’t a big reader, mostly because at school I spoke French, at home I spoke Serbian, and I only spoke English in the schoolyard or with my neighbourhood friends. Or during English class. I was at a point where my reading skills in English weren’t at as strong a level as they were in French and Serbian, but when we read Harry Potter, I liked it so much I went and read the second, and then third, and then waited excitedly for the fourth like every other person when I caught up. In my early teens I’d go and read fanfics until one day, at the very end of Grade 8, I thought it’d be fun to write some of my own.

And I couldn’t. Here was the problem: it kept straying from Harry Potter. In other words, it was becoming too original.

Lo and behold, and I cannot believe I’m admitting this publicly, it turned into TIME IS A FUNNY THING….

What?

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The following is a list of our collective favorite books!

Children’s/MG:

Harry Potter
Ella Enchanted
The Paperbag Princess
The Island of the Blue Dolphins
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Scaredy Squirrel
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
The Chronicles of Prydain–The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, etc.
The Minpins
Z for Zachariah
True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Shiloh
The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney
Stephanie’s Ponytail
Charlotte’s Web
After Hamelin
A Wrinkle in Time
Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
Into the Painted Bear Lair
Charlotte Sometimes
Winnie-the-Pooh series
Matilda
Maniac Magee
Black Beauty

YA:

The Golden Compass/His Dark Materials
The Hunger Games Trilogy
The Alanna Series/Song of the Lioness Quartet
Sabriel
Ender’s Game
The Hero and the Crown
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Wind Singer/ Wind on Fire Trilogy
Crown Duel
The Theif
The Last Unicorn
Graceling
Hate List
The Chosen One
Living Dead Girl
Monster
The Westing Game
The Earthsea Cycle
Hush, Hush
Perfect Chemistry
The Giver
The Catcher In The Rye
The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
The Once and Future King

Adult:

The Great Gatsby
Pride & Prejudice
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Lolita
Life of Pi
The God of Small Things
Emma
Alphabet of Thorn
Wit’ch Fire
War For the Oaks
Water for Elephants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies
Wuthering Heights
Atonement
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Catch-22
Invisible Man
The Amelia Peabody series
Night Watch
Always Coming Home
The Atonement Child
Fight Club
Beloved
Summer by Edith Wharton
Metamorphoses by Ovid
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
The Oresteia plays

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What are your favorite books, and why?

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58 Responses to “QOTW: Amazing Books”

  1. Kelly June 11, 2010 at 1:08 AM #

    HOW CAN ‘GONE WITH THE WIND’ by Margaret Mitchell NOT BE IN THE LIST OF FAVORITE BOOKS?!?! It’s tantamount to Pride and Prejudice in terms of sharpness and witty banter, there’s a heck load of chemistry between the protagonist (Scarlett O’Hara) and her love interest (Rhett Butler.)

    Admittedly, there are times when you just want to strangle Scarlett because of her obliviousness, but you can just SEE the transformation of her from a materialistic, rich girl into a person strong enough to survive the Civil War! At times I did want to throw the book at the floor because the sophisticated vocabulary use had me flipping through the dictionary every two minutes, but overall it was a very enjoyable (and long) read and made me cry at the end… In public. Not good at all.

    As for your book suggestions, I’m going to be visiting the bookstore AND library very, very soon… 😀

    Thank you all for a wonderful post! With all these books I have to get my hands on, summer will pretty much fly by! xD

    • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 1:33 AM #

      Omg, I don’t even know how GWTW didn’t make it onto that list! It’s one of my favorite books (and movies) EVER! Scarlett is such an incredible heroine–one of my all-time favorites!

    • Kat Zhang June 11, 2010 at 10:09 AM #

      I actually enjoyed GWTW a lot, too, and was REALLY close to adding it…it must have slipped my mind at the last moment!

      But yes, LOVE Scarlet.

      Oh, I just realized we don’t have TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on there, either! We need to edit this thing, hahaha.

  2. Marina June 11, 2010 at 1:19 AM #

    I actually didn’t read most of the novels on the list. I also feel strange when I see the list bellow and most of them are oldies. But I go back to them more often then I do anything modern that I’ve read, except for the two exceptions of course.

    Sherlock Holmes– favorite stories by favorite author. I believe he was my first crush.

    The Lost World by Conan Doyle- it made me want to be a scientist, it made me want to be so many things, mainly brave enough to try new things. Professor Challenger will alway be one of my all time favorite characters.

    The Count of Monte Cristo– because it taught me that size doesn’t matter. Also, kick ass adventure story.

    Gone With The Wind– because I fell in love with Rhett and hope that my male leads could live up to his boots.

    Inkheart– first book I’ve read that actually made me want to go into that world. Incredible fantasy novel.

    The Iliad– because it makes modern day action movies look like kid’s movies.

    Artemis Fowl– it made me want to be more funny in my novels. And it was the first time I realized I liked villains better then heroes most of the time.

    Also, you guys need to make a list of novels you really didn’t like or even despise.

    • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 1:36 AM #

      Yay for another GONE WITH THE WIND fan! And OMG–isn’t the Iliad SO badass? It was one of the books assigned in school that I DIDN’T mind reading, and I’ve wound up rereading a few times over the years! Major ❤ for Achilles.

      • Marina June 11, 2010 at 3:31 PM #

        I know, I was frankly surprised when I started reading the Iliad and didn’t find it a complete drag! It inspired me to love mythology more then I already did. I’m still trying to cook up a good idea that would do the mythos justice. I had a crush on Achilles too, until I took Classics in college and our professor told us what a creep he actually was. Still love him for being such a drama queen though.

        • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 4:37 PM #

          I was SO mad when TROY (the film) came out, because it just…butchered everything, even as a historical flick. The only highlight of the film was seeing Brad Pitt all oiled up and jacked, lol. 😛

          • Marina June 11, 2010 at 5:18 PM #

            Lol, it did, I heard that he was so proud of how he looked he actually requested nude scenes. Oh, Brad, how did you know?
            They did ruin it though, I especially disliked the absence of the gods, because they’re like one of the most important parts of the whole epic. I kind of wish they’d remake it, and add the gods, I mean can you imagine how cool they’d look with all the cgi that they’re able to use now? It would really be epic then.

  3. LePipette June 11, 2010 at 1:32 AM #

    Ah, The Last Unicorn is a gorgeous novel, it’s had my heart since childhood.

    Have you seen the movie? It’s an animated film with a screenplay written by Beagle. It’s almost exactly the same as the novel, but with a few scenes cut out. Still amazing.

    Also, it has the added bonus of an incredible eighties theme song that makes me laugh hysterically every time I hear it. I particularly love the pique of ‘last unicorn’ and ‘I’m alive’. It’s great alone-in-your-living-room dance and belting music.

    Enjoy.

    • LePipette June 11, 2010 at 1:33 AM #

      Eee, I didn’t mean for there to be a whole youtube video, I just meant to link it…

      Dx Sorry for the page stretch!

      • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 10:18 AM #

        I totally love that it embedded the video! 😀 So no worries!

    • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 1:34 AM #

      I am OBSESSED with TLU movie! I know every line. And I have the complete soundtrack! I’ve seriously been obsessed with it since I was a kid! I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to make the live action version, but production keeps on stalling. *sigh*

      • LePipette June 11, 2010 at 10:59 AM #

        I definitely found the theme on an old cassette I had as a baby. I was thoroughly excited. xD It’s been a favourite movie since I was like, three. xD I found it on DVD two years ago, it was thrilling.

        Live action would be beyond awesome. o : I didn’t even know there was one that was even POSSIBLE. // off to imdb

  4. Link June 11, 2010 at 1:55 AM #

    His Dark Materials is, in my opinion, one of the greatest literary works of our time, and quite an important one. When I read it the first time, it touched me so deeply that I have read it at least once a year since I first got it(and if not once a year, close to it).
    It showed me that fantasy didn’t need Dark Lords or evil laughter or elves or even need to be set in medieval times. Fantasy became, from my understanding, a genre where the rules of our world needn’t be obeyed, as opposed to a genre with its own set of conventions and tropes.
    Mr. Pullman developed a world unsurpassed in detail and originality and a literary depth very few have achieved since.
    Anyone reading this who has not read His Dark Materials, should go and do it NOW! You will not regret it.

    • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 2:11 AM #

      Yes! I remember how I cried and cried and cried after I finished THE AMBER SPYGLASS. And that scene with Lyra and Pan in the underworld? That broke me.

      The series definitely showed me how YA/children’s books didn’t have to be sugary-sweet–they could defy societal normals, and break the rules. BIG TIME. Making the church/God/angels the enemy was one of the most ballsy things ever–I still admire Pullman for it.

      Not to mention, Lyra is one of the greatest heroines EVER.

      • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 10:27 AM #

        Hence why that trilogy is among my top faves of all time!

        For me, prior to The Golden Compass, fantasy was elves and dwarves and fairies and blatant good vs. evil. And His Dark Materials wasn’t any of that. Even the bad guys were ambiguous at times, at that was one of the great things about it. In fact, it made it brilliant. It was one of, if not THE first time, that I found myself feeling something other than hatred for the villains. And THAT makes it absolutely brilliant.

        I still give kudos to Pullman for not dumbing it down for kids! I loved that it was controversial, and dark, and blasphemous. I loved how it doesn’t answer everything by being perfect and happy happy. It’s just amazing.

    • Kat Zhang June 11, 2010 at 1:32 PM #

      There’s supposed to be a BOOK OF DUST coming out, but people have been talking about it for years, and we’ve seen nothing…

  5. tymcon June 11, 2010 at 7:16 AM #

    I love the Abhorsen Trilogy! That’s the trilogy wich got me writing fantasy. Lord of the rings got me writing epics, and Geore rr Marting got me writing dark epics:P
    But i still love Mogget and Kerrigor.

    • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 10:28 AM #

      Mogget is brilliant. One of my favourite characters EVER to this day!

      • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 1:30 PM #

        Dude, me too! I LOVE Mogget! I’m SO excited for the new book that’s coming out!!!

  6. Renee June 11, 2010 at 7:33 AM #

    My absolute FAVORITE books that never cease to inspire me (as a writer) are Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. She’s not a well-known author at this point–Graceling was her debut in 2008, Fire is its prequel but was released a year later–and honestly…I know of few fantasy books done so well. Both protagonists are strong females and Fire especially deals with the choice between good and evil, and sometimes using evil FOR good. Graceling centers around a similar theme, as well as touching strongly on believing in yourself and controlling your own destiny.

    (Not to mention, her supporting cast is very strong. The main male lead in Graceling, Po, I just fell in love with from the first time he appeared.)

    I seriously recommend these books to anyone writing a fantasy series, especially with a female protagonist. They’re so helpful, and just a good read all around! 😀

    • Kat Zhang June 11, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

      I need to read Graceling–I’ve heard so many good things about it! Guess it’s time for another trip to the library/bookstore….

    • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 10:31 AM #

      I LOVE Graceling and Fire!

      Mind you, I read them both earlier this year (perhaps in January) and I felt so satisfied afterwards. I can’t say that it influences my writing as much as some other books, but it is certainly similar to the style and type of story that I would like to write.

      And i completely agree, it’s their decisions and the choices they make that really makes those books so great.

    • jenn fitzgerald June 11, 2010 at 1:55 PM #

      I’ve heard so much about Graceling that it’s on my too read list. I’m really excited about it

  7. Kay June 11, 2010 at 9:06 AM #

    I will be looking into some of these! So thanks.

    Hunger Games and Harry Potter! Yes!

    Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo was an amazing book that made me cry because it was such a tragic story.

    The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver- Awesome! Set 6,000 years in the past, it details the lives of Torak, Wolf and Renn. Paver created such a deep bond of friendship between the characters it was truly touching. Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Romance.

    Mortal Engines Series by Philip Reeve-There are four books and two prequels (so far). The first book was by far the best in my opinion. Reeve has created such a wonderfully vivid and descriptive world, I could literally devour the sights he created. Peter Jackson will direct the movies, so look out for it! Fantasy, SciFi, Action, Adventure, Romance

    • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 10:36 AM #

      OMG!!! I completely forgot about the Mortal Engines series!!! I read it years ago, but never bought it, and I kept forgetting what it was called when I went to bookstores.

      That was the first time I read anything steampunk. I haven’t had much luck with finding good steampunk books since (perhaps because The Mortal Engines is SO GOOD!). I need to go out and buy it and reread it ASAP! (And, how cool would it be to live in a traction city? SO COOL! You can’t beat moving cities!)

  8. Rowenna June 11, 2010 at 9:17 AM #

    Biljana–I LOVE Suite Francaise! I read it in a couple of breathtaking sittings last summer. Beautiful, aching, honest writing. A collection of Nemirovsky’s short stories was released recently–to be read, for sure!

    And other answers took me back–The Prydain series was one of my favorites, as well as Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix. I should dig those out of storage and read them all again.

    One of my favorites that isn’t mentioned yet–All Quiet on the Western Front. Not only an incredible story, action with character-driven plotline, but also perfect illustration that poetry and prose aren’t all that different–the passages are written in prose, but often have the depth and cadence of poetry. And so terribly, tragically sad.

    • Biljana June 11, 2010 at 9:50 AM #

      Argghhh isn’t it? I read it on the beach. I’m still really impressed by the frankness whenever I go back to it.

      All Quiet is something I’ve been meaning to read for AGES but still haven’t because I know I’ll start bawling lol. I’m always a touch reluctant to pick up sad books. Besides that, it’s the ones I /don’t/ know are sad that affect me the most. Which is why I HATE it when people tell me I should read a book cus it’s sad because it’s like a spoiler; I’m not surprised by the end anymore. Chances are someone’s gonna die or leave or something and it sticks in my head and when the time comes all I can hear in my head while reading it is “Read it it’s really sad.”

      Anyways sorry about the tangent and before you feel guilty or something I already knew that All Quiet was sad :P.

      • Rowenna June 11, 2010 at 10:45 AM #

        Hehe, I know–there’s kind of no spoiling the end to All Quiet. But you know, it’s sad in ways you don’t expect–even knowing the overarching tragedy of All Queit still leaves so much open to discover as you read. And in some ways, the parts that should be sad aren’t so much…you’ll see 🙂

  9. Cari June 11, 2010 at 10:32 AM #

    I love Peter Pan. It was my favourite story growing up and then reading again as a high schooler is where I learned a lot about humor in writing.

    My other favourites are Tess of D’Ubervilles and the Scarlett Letter: something about a strong woman going against a crazy oppressive society appeals to me. And by looking at my book shelves, I know Tamora Pierce was probably the biggest influence on me as a young reader.

    I didn’t actually like the Golden Compass, but now I’m thinking I should give it another chance. Maybe reading the rest of the series would help?

    • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 10:40 AM #

      I love anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne, so I really like the Scarlett Letter. I absolutely ADORED his short stories though (like Rappaccini’s Daughter and The Minister’s Black Veil – those two are my absolute faves).

      And I think you should give The Golden Compass another chance. I know some people who love the second and third books a WHOLE lot more.

  10. Harmony June 11, 2010 at 10:39 AM #

    Ahh! I’m so glad Graceling is on there 🙂
    My favorite books and why they helped me write:

    Graceling: First of all, it’s beautiful and showed me that the girl can be stronger than the guy and THAT’s okay! And it also showed me that Fantasy is such an absolutely amazing genre and that I should read more of it more often!

    Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: She is the goddess of writing. Seriously. This book is sad and lyrical and absolutely heart-breaking. She showed me how beautiful and fragile love is and how to translate that into words.

    The Hunger Games: Also showed me girls can kick some major butt. And I love me so dypsonian! And that a love triangle never fails 😉

    A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: This book made me LOVE and apperciate correctly period novels. It had romance, a secret world, magic. It made me go: “Wow, you could do that?” As in made a novel in 1895 and it not be centered around people’s money and what they’re wearing and who their getting married too.

    Brightly Woven: Just because I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. It made me apperciate a character who is not constantly snapping witty retorts but is strong-minded and stubborn on the inside.

    && though i’m kind of embrassed to admit it:

    The Clique Series by Lisa Harrison: Ok, this = guilty pleasure until like the 7th grade. Hated carrying it around, seriously. But reading this really got me writing, yes really really bad writing about rich girls going on a roadtrip with rich obnoxious boys, but still writing!

    There you go!

    • Cari June 11, 2010 at 11:56 AM #

      Yes, I love A Great and Terrible Beauty too! That was the first time I’d ever read anything in first person, present tense. I thought it was so weird and then it sucked me in, so now my current WIP is in that tense. It’s a challenge but I love it.

      • Kat Zhang June 11, 2010 at 1:34 PM #

        I kind of love first person present…My current WIP keeps slipping into it against my will. I really want to write a contemporary YA in first person present..hm…next project? 😛

        • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 2:31 PM #

          lol, dude–after I read the AGATB trilogy (I was in the middle of writing ACOTAR, which is told in first person past), I started writing in the first person present! I seriously wrote an entire chapter in FPP, and then went back to read it and was like: “….wait, WHAT?!” It was SO annoying to have to go back and change everything into the past tense! But kinda funny that AGATB had switched around my thinking.

          • Kat Zhang June 11, 2010 at 2:36 PM #

            This is EXACTLY what reading THE HUNGER GAMES did to me–IS doing to me. And I read this days and days ago! Arrrgggg.

            • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 2:59 PM #

              It took me SO long to get Katniss’ voice out of my head. THG was the reason I started writing Book 1 of ACOTAR in first person.

        • Vahini June 12, 2010 at 3:20 AM #

          WRITE IT. All of my stuff is in first person, present tense. I made a conscious decision to write that way for my YA UF a while back for various reasons and it’s stuck through all of my contemps 🙂

      • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 2:23 PM #

        I actually found it hard to get into a Great and Terrible Beauty (well okay… the first chapter didn’t hook me at all). But I’m so glad I kept reading it, because it was such an enjoyable book (and I ended up loving the series!)

        • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 2:29 PM #

          I really enjoyed AGATB–so much that I RAN to the bookstore after I finished it and bought the other two! I’m pretty sure I locked myself in my office for 3 days so I could read them. I keep on hoping she’ll write a 4th one!

          • Vanessa June 11, 2010 at 2:34 PM #

            Same here!!! I’d love it if there was a 4th!

            It’s funny how I doubted some books right at the beginning (like Harry Potter… it took me 3 tries to read past the first chapter).

            As soon as I finished AGATB, I ran to buy the other two as well, hahaha!

            • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 3:02 PM #

              OMG! I tried reading the first HP when I was like…12, and put it down because I couldn’t get past that first chapter. A year later, I was home sick with the flu for 3 days, and was so bored that I picked it up again, skipped the first chapter, and I wound read all 3 books (which were the only ones out at the time)!

              • Vanessa June 14, 2010 at 12:44 PM #

                I did the exact same thing! I finally read it after the 3rd book was out (and then I flew through all of them!)

                My brothers were reading them, and I kept saying that I just didn’t get the hype.

                And when I finally tried it a year later (when the 3rd book came out), I was absolutely HOOKED (and madly in love!). Hahaha :p

  11. Daisy June 11, 2010 at 3:24 PM #

    I love Ronia the Robber’s daughter! I’ve read it so many times as a kid!
    The His Dark Materials trilogy blew me away when I read it last year, I also cried at the ending.
    I’m also very much in love with The Name of the Wind.

    • Julie Eshbaugh June 11, 2010 at 7:59 PM #

      Hey Daisy! I’m so glad to find a fellow lover of Ronia!!! (AND your name is from The Great Gatsby, so you couldn’t be COOLER!) I LOVED Ronia the Robber’s Daughter so much that as soon as I finished it I read it straight through again! I mean, who could resist a book that starts out by telling you that the castle was split in two by a lightning bolt on the night Ronia was born?
      I’ve never read The Name of the Wind, but I will now check it out on your recommendation. 🙂

  12. Aly June 11, 2010 at 3:37 PM #

    Those are some awesome books! I’ve actually heard of/read most of them, which is cool. Here are my top three:

    Harry Potter series (since… I don’t even know how young I was). I’ve read each at least twice, some… four times now?

    Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy (saw the movie first, then read them). I ADORE this author’s style and these have really influenced my writing a lot.

    Terrier (Beka Cooper Book 1). I love the leading lady, Beka, to bits and was sucked in by the wonderfully constructed world as well. This one is a really good read.

    There are so many others that I have read, loved, and re-read, but these are my main few.

    • Kat Zhang June 11, 2010 at 4:13 PM #

      I just watched Howl’s Moving Castle for the second time yesterday and laughed so, so hard at all the funny parts. It’s really wonderful. I adore the book as well–it’s the rare case that I love both book and movie, especially when they are so different. But each has its own merits! I really want to get my hands on her other books, but they are a little hard to find…

      • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 4:15 PM #

        OMG! The part where Sophie is like: “EAT YOUR BREAKFAST!” <–that gets me every time. And when Howl has his Emo Attack! It's definitely one of those rare things where the movie is just as good (if not a bit better) than the book.

        Omg all this talking about HMC makes me want to watch it SO badly. It's one of my "feel better" movies (like, I'll watch it when I'm sick). Not that I'm sick right now. I just want to watch it/drool over Howl. 😛

        • jenn fitzgerald June 11, 2010 at 4:25 PM #

          I love love love Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s one of the movies my mom had but I couldn’t stand going to school without it so I bought my own copy. I actually like the movie better than the book, but I like the book in its own way.

          I also get Terrier for my little sister so I can steal it to read later 🙂

  13. Kate June 11, 2010 at 4:06 PM #

    My favorite books are the Wit’ch Fire series. All the characters in those books became my family over the course of my reading. I laughed and cried so much. Wit’ch Fire was also responsible for turning me into a fantasy addict!

    • Sarah J. Maas June 11, 2010 at 4:13 PM #

      Me too!!! Totally obsessed with Er’ril. He was my first BIG-TIME literary crush. I love him to death.

  14. Myra June 11, 2010 at 7:31 PM #

    Though it’s not the usual fantasy/scifi that I read, the Jessica Darling series (starting with Sloppy Firsts) has to be my favourite, favourite, FAVOURITE series of all contemporary YA books. I love Jessica, I love Marcus, love Hope–even when she’s barely sketched out in the first few novels–and Bridget and Percy and… I could go on and on! Jessica has a voice that jumps off the page and pulls you in. It’s hard to believe she isn’t actually writing to you because she seems so, so real.

    The first time I read it, I gotta admit, I wasn’t impressed. In grade eight, I was like, is this realistic? Is this really what kids are like in high school? I get to grade ten, reread it, and go, OMG YES! This IS what high school kids act like! Slightly exaggerated, but I could still connect to it on so many levels. I can’t recommend this series enough (especially the first two books–they’re my favourites of the series).

    Um, enough ranting about my love for those books. 😀 Like many people, I love Sabriel, the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, the Gemma Doyle series, and His Dark Materials. They’re brilliant YA fantasy staples. If someone disses fantasy I just point them on over to those books.

    Oh, and anything by Neil Gaiman. Love, love, LOVE him, and can’t believe he hasn’t been mentioned yet. American Gods has to be one of my favourite adult fantasy novels ever. (Also, his voice is amazing. Just sayin’. Try listening to an ebook read by him sometime.)

    • Vanessa June 13, 2010 at 10:18 PM #

      Neil Gaiman IS absolutely amazing! I couldn’t agree more!

  15. Glaiza June 11, 2010 at 9:04 PM #

    ~ The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody – My first taste of a post apocalyptic world blended with fantasy. I wanted to be Elspeth. The Obernewtyn world became so real to me.

    ~ The Book Theif by Marcus Zusak – the opening and closing passages will never leave me.

    ~ Harry Potter Series – These books introduced me to magic – fictional and of the reading variety, I read them on a plane to the Phillipines when I was 9. I didn’t understand half of the words but I wanted to know what happened next.

    ~ Earthsea by Ursula le Guin – After Harry Potter, I started seeking anything that featured magic and became an avid fantasy reader. I felt like I was being introduced to ancient magic in Earthsea.

    ~ Lirael (and the Abhorsen series) by Garth Nix – I really connected with Lirael when I was 14, I read Lirael before realising Sabriel came first. I wanted to be a fantasy writer after reading this.

    Anything by Virginia Woolf and Ray Bradbury – for introducing me to voice, poetry and prose intertwined.

    • Vanessa June 13, 2010 at 10:17 PM #

      OMG, I read Lirael first as well, way before I ever read or knew about Sabriel! Character-wise, I think I’ve always connected moreso with Lirael than Sabriel.

  16. Samantha W June 12, 2010 at 1:32 AM #

    It is such a good thing my birthday is coming up… I’m going to need a bunch of gift cards!

    Some of my favorite from when I was a kid.
    The Secret Garden
    The little princess
    Ella Enchanted (the movie made me want to cry, in a bad way…)

    Some of my more recent favorites
    The Hunger Games (Not my usual read, and it BLEW ME AWAY)
    Queen of Glass (to be honest, I have never loved ANY fantasy more. Seriously.)
    Wicked Lovely
    Sabriel (and those that follow it)

    • Sarah J. Maas June 12, 2010 at 5:20 PM #

      lol, can I just say that I got really sniffly when I saw QOG on your list? THANK YOU SO MUCH–I’m really honored. 😀 😀 😀

  17. Adriana Marachlian November 22, 2010 at 10:19 PM #

    I know I’m commenting on an old post, but whatever :p

    Graceling is on the list! 😀 That makes me really happy. I picked up that book because it had a wonderful cover art and it was the one of ten fiction books at the bookstore that I hadn’t read (or didn’t revolve around some vampire-esque figure). Mind you, I was back at the country where I’m from (venezuela) and books just don’t get there unless they’ve been proven to be profitable (which, again, includes mostly vampire books. Ugh)

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Point is, I loved Graceling! 😀 Wonderful MCs and awesome, engaging plot. I didn’t like Fire (the sequel) nearly as much, but it was still good.

    Loves,
    A

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