10 Books That Have Never Left You

There’s a “thing” (a Facebook note or something) that’s been going around asking a variation of the question: what ten books have stayed with you (in some way) after reading them?

I found out about this from a Writer’s Digest post, and decided to try it myself. The point is that you’re not supposed to think too hard, but I over-think everything, so this took me longer than it should have.

Sidenote: these aren’t in order and they’re not necessarily my favourite books (not all of them, anyway). They’re just books that stand out for me.

Also: SPOILERS ABOUND. You’ve been warned.

1) Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

I’ve read this book so many times, my 16 year old copy is falling apart and there’s tape on one page from when I accidentally ripped it (and cried), but it’s one of my absolute favourites. Don’t talk to me about the movie, though.

Favourite chapter: Hard to choose, but I’d have to say the letters between Ella and Char. No matter how many times I read it, I still feel all warm and fuzzy the first time Char tells her he loves her.

2) Audrey, Wait! – Robin Benway

The characters are so real, I want to be friends with them. Plus so many music references – as Audrey said, “You’re finally speaking my language!”

Favourite quote: “If you really want to know something about me, you should know this: I like my music loud. I mean loud. I’m not talking the kind of loud where your parents knock on your bedroom door and ask you to turn it down. Please. That’s amateur hour. When I say loud, I mean you-can’t-even-hear-your-parents-knocking-and-the-neighbors-are-putting-a-FOR-SALE-sign-on-their-house-and-moving-to-another-block-because-they-can’t-handle-the-constant-noise-anymore loud. You have to turn it up so that your chest shakes and the drums get in between your ribs like a heartbeat and the bass goes up your spine and fizzles your brain and all you can do is dance or spin in a circle or just scream along because you know that however this music makes you feel, it’s exactly right.”

3) Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

Do I even need to say anything?

Best back story: Prisoner of Azkaban (it was my favourite for the longest time) – the Marauders were amazing; and

Best series ending: Deathly Hallows – I love how she tied everything together.

4) Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

Probably my earliest experience with death in a book. I remember being devastated when Charlotte died (I was about 7. This was also the one and only time I was sad about a spider’s death). My oldest sister (Vanessa) read it to me around the same time we read Anne of Green Gables together and it was an emotional year (Matthew’s death traumatized me for life).

Tearjerking moment: when three of Charlotte’s children decide to stay with Wilbur…even though the idea of a sack of spider eggs freaks me out.

5) Coraline – Neil Gaiman

Ask me again in a couple of years, and I’ll likely have replaced Coraline with Neverwhere (heck, half this list will probably be Gaiman-ized by then). A lot of Coraline’s story stayed with me in the 10+ years between my first and second reading of it: the dismembered hand, the button eyes…Scary but oh so good.

Creepiest scene in a children’s book: the three ghost children behind the mirror, especially when they explain that the Other Mother has their souls.

6) The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

We read it in grade seven and it was my favourite book we were ever required to read. Plus Hinton was only in her teens when she wrote it, which makes it even more impressive. My dad read it relatively recently and I kept flipping through it whenever he put it down. The ending made (makes) me cry.

Memorable quote: “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

7) Wicked Lovely series – Melissa Marr

Easily one of the best YA fairy series I’ve read (sounds specific but you’d be surprised at how many YA fairy series there actually are). Extremely well written and fascinating. Also had one of the best series’ ending.

Best bromance despite being from separate courts: Seth, the Summer Queen’s beloved/the High Queen’s adopted son, and Niall, the Dark King – especially in my favourite book, Fragile Eternity (#3). They’ve always been my favourite characters, and I loved that they both had bigger roles in the second half of the series.

8) Gemma Doyle trilogy – Libba Bray

Admittedly, I don’t remember many of the details from this trilogy, but Libba Bray is one of my favourite authors and I’ve always loved her writing style. On my “to re-read” list.

Memorable scene: That time when Kartik turned into a tree and fans had a collective heart attack. I was distraught, at the time, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Plus The Sweet Far Thing was the first book to set me on the “endings don’t always have to be happy” route, which has definitely influenced me as a reader and a writer.

9) Archer’s Goon – Diana Wynne Jones

It took two readings before I fully figured out what happened. She took a basic idea (boy who doesn’t know he has powers) and exploded it into something completely new. You think you know what’s going on but then there’s the bombshell at the end and you’re all “WHAAAAAT the heck just happened?” Extremely well done.

Best set of siblings: Torquil and Hathaway. And Awful gets a shout out because, despite what her nickname suggests, she was hilarious.

10) Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

A bookworm who has trouble separating fiction from reality – I relate to Catherine Morland on so many levels. (Sidenote: the “retelling” by Val McDermid is only good if you like stupidly stereotypical teen protagonists).

Best (Austen) hero (in my opinion): Henry Tilney. Mr. Darcy’s great and all, but you have to give Mr. Tilney props: he knows full well how naive and silly Catherine can be and yet still puts up with her. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Will – Grace Tiffany

Will: A Novel


“Will Shakespeare has left Stratford for London and pitched himself headlong into the chaotic, perilous world of the theater. Through raw will-and an amazing gift for words- he raises himself from poor player to master playwright. But as his success earns him great pleasure and adoration from others, it also draws the jealous wrath of Christopher Marlowe, a baby-faced genius whose anger is as punishing as his poetry is sweet…

From the pen of Grace Tiffany, a Renaissance scholar and Shakespeare historian, leaps a wild, vivid tale that brings Will Shakespeare to life.”

So, this review comes to you while I’m on a bus to London (Ontario, not England), and I, like the young William Shakespeare so beautifully described in this book, am hoping to pass the time by writing.

I must admit that, while I enjoy what little of Shakespeare I’ve read (one day I’ll read all of his plays…one day), I didn’t really know much about the man himself. This book solved that problem.

Starting a few months before he met (and eventually married) Anne Hathaway, Will tells the story of Shakespeare’s humble beginnings in Stratford, his early experiments with writing, his struggle to become an established playwright while acting (on the stage) the plays of his rivals, his consequent success, and ends as the Globe Theatre burns to the ground.

What’s interesting is that it doesn’t focus just on his writing – it shows the complicated relationship between Will and his sometimes-estranged wife and children. Anne shows confusion – and occasional bitterness – toward her husband’s writing obsession, especially when it draws him away to far-away London with few trips home in between staging his plays.

The writing is very well-done: historical details and fictional elements blend so that sometimes it’s hard to see what is true and what is not so true. But that’s part of what makes the book so fascinating.

At times, I forgot that I was reading about a real person: Will was such a fleshed out character, with visible flaws that, rather than spoil my image of the great playwright, made him more real (more accessible, I guess).

The only problem is that I keep trying to talk like Shakespeare i.e. throwing in “methinks” and “dost” and “forsooth”, etc.

Highly recommended for any Shakespeare fan and/or anyone who fancies a well-described jaunt through 16th century England.

And thus ends my review.

[Exit, pursued by a bear.]

Reading, writing and (thankfully no) ‘rithmetic

When authors are asked to give advice to fellow writers, they often say at least one of the two things:

1) write often

2) read lots

Solid pieces of advice, but difficult to implement in one’s daily life. I don’t know about you, but generally I have to choose between writing and reading on any given day because – short of quitting my job (I wish) – it’s hard to do both for a decent amount of time in 16 hours or less. My reading time is generally limited to 30-40 minutes before work, plus lunch time and then sometimes (though it’s rare) another 30-40 minutes before bed.

But today, since the frightful weather outside can only be described as a “class 3 kill storm” (note to self: add the clip from The Simpsons here) and the office closed early, I am going to indulge in a couple hours of reading (I gotta finish this book before Fiction Friday!). And maybe some tea! It’s times like this I wish we had a fireplace.

Because if there’s a better way to spend a snow day, I haven’t found it yet.

EDIT: This is what I think of every time we have a heavy snowfall:

I don’t like the sound of that “class 3”.