Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Changed My Life

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where we discuss various book or book blogger related topics via top ten lists.
As a writer who dreams of sharing her words with the world, I'm sure it comes as little surprise when I tell you that I feel that words--and by that extension books--have power. This week's Top Ten Tuesday post is suppose to be about gratitude, so I decided that I would write about the books that have:

-- Inspired me as a reader
-- Brought me new friends
-- Most effected me as a blogger.
-- Strengthened me as a writer
-- Changed me life in ways you might not imagine.

I'm not here to talk about how fabulous these books were or are. Their greatness (to me) should be obvious if something about them stuck, or if reading them inspired something in my life. Oh, and just an up front warning: there are going to be thirteen books listed here. Not ten. Let's get this party started. :D

...As A Reader

We spend a lot of time obsessing over the stories of the characters we meet in the books we read. But how often does one stop to think of the effects that reading can actually have on their own story, or life? Before I can delve deeper into books that have effected me in very specific ways, I must start with ones that effected me in the most simple ones.

I learned several important things from Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. Sometimes it's important to give a book a second chance--and sometimes, for one reason or another, an opening scene isn't always gonna click with me. (Hence the need for that second chance.) Book books don't have to be scary--this was one of the first really large books I read when I was in high school. Lastly, fantasy is awesome. And things aren't always 'easy', 'black and white', or purely 'good' or 'evil'. While the story itself, looking back, was fairly straight forward...I would be lying to you if I didn't admit to toying with pieces of it in my head. It made a fine introduction to the genre.

I bought Dark Magic by Christie Feehan at Chapters in Peterborough after crossing four lane traffic for the first time in my life. I'm legally blind and come from a (sometimes neurotically) sheltering family, so this was a rather big deal to me. More directly related to this post, this was my introduction to Paranormal Romance, which is my main genre of choice as a writer. If I hadn't loved this book the way I did, I wouldn't have looked for more. And amid that looking, I wouldn't have reached the conclusion that THIS is what I want to do. When talking about books that had a life changing impact, the discussion would not be complete for me without mentioning this.

And of course a discussion of how books have changed my life as a reader would not be complete without mentioning the House of Night series. It was my introduction to modern YA (as opposed to what constituted this category prior to things like Twlight and Harry Potter. What we have today is much larger and quite different.) It was also the initial catalyst that got me writing again after years of (basically) dormancy because it is what helped solve the one puzzle I was having in setting up Sealer's Promise. My characters kept telling me that people knew they existed, and this series proved to me that can work.

...As A Writer

The old adage goes, "If you want to write--read." This is true in many ways, in my opinion. By reading you are most likely to learn the natural flow of 'story', you are also able to learn what elements of storytelling work for you and which don't, which can effect genre, technique, and personal development. But rather than this, there are often more personal, unique benefits that others books can have on us as writers. At least, I know that this has been so for me.

The Harry Potter series is totally fabulous. I'm pretty sure a fair number of you will agree with that. But would you also guess it got me into fan fiction? And that while I don't necessarily think it's great that fan fiction is getting people writing (I'm neutral on this--I don't wanna touch it) that I do feel it's a fantastic way to learn. I believe that it can teach consistency, story structure, plot structure, and allow authors to work on developing their own style in implomenting voice, dialogue, and description. It's also a great shot for someone who is learning to actually get readers. Lemme tell you, it's TOUGH getting people to check out an original piece of fiction. I do feel that people need to eventually write their own stuff, but I'm not from the author camp who feel fan fiction is the end of the world. If nothing else, fan fiction is a great way to START to get an idea of whether you like writing, and things can progress from there.

When I started blogging, Marie over at Ramblings of a Daydreamer was one of the first friends I made. It certainly doesn't hurt that we live half an hour from each other, we both like a variety of different genres of books, and we both write, as well as read. Her debut novel, Blue Sky Days, is a book that I really loved. (And on that subject, I've loved each of her books since. And no, FYI, it's not that she's my friend. I'm a really finicky, moody reader.) What people may not know, and the thing Blue Sky Days did that I'm sure no one intended, was that it was the book that made me decide that I should go the self publishing route. I have the utmost respect for Trade Publishing. And someday, perhaps, I'll pursue that. But the quality and beauty of Marie's book, and the fact that she had found a way to share it with people, was the final straw that made me decide, "Hey, I bet I can do that too.". (Marie's not the first person to inspire me in this way, but she was the turning point.)

Wanna know how and why Sealer's Promise ended up finally getting it's third rewrite, and why it's now a new adult novel? Many thanks must be given to Strength by Carrie Butler. This is the book that showed me that New Adult can go beyond contemporary, a reality that totally blew my mind. For what it's worth, I really should go back and re-read this again. I reviewed it for a tour, which is not me at my finest if we're being totally and brutally honest. This book itself deserves another go since it did something so important for me.

...Through Friendships

The only thing cooler than reading a really good book is also having the great fortune to either be friends, or become friends, with the person who wrote it. As a person, it's just neat to have that level of connection. As a writer, it's vital to make friends to help with the solitude that the quest of writing, revising and releasing a book can take. I've already talked about Marie Landry. Now here are three other friends I'd love to spotlight.

In fall of 2011 I received a request to review a novel. I'd only started my blog a few months prior and I was still learning when to accept and decline things. Little did I know that this book, The Scarlet Dagger, would be the best book I've been requested to review since starting I Write, I Read, I Review, and that it would lead to a friendship that I value deeply. I'm always careful to note when I'm friends with someone whose work I review, but the thing is, I reviewed Krystle Jones' novel before we became friends. Still, the Sealers and I owe her a great deal. She was my main beta for the last draft and she gave some extremely useful insights. If I hadn't read The Scarlet Dagger (or she hadn't written it) I would have missed out on both the knowledge and a great friend. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Time and again I have praised the Absolute Write Water Cooler as being my absolute favorite hang out when I want to talk about writing. That definitely extends to the friends I made on the Self Publishing & POD forum when I started learning more about self publishing so I would be able to help my characters story actually become a real, tangible thing. Merri Hiatt, author of Winter Love (and a lot of other great romances; this one just fit the season.) is one of the friends I've met there. An extremely encouraging, upbeat presence on the forums, and a talented writer to boot, I'd try and list all the useful things I've learned from Merri--directly or not--but then I'd run of space in this post.

And of course this section would have a big gaping hole if I didn't talk about Robert Bevan, author of the hilarious beyond words Critical Failures. In addition to being the person who wrote (and writes) one of my favorite series, Robert is also the person who encouraged me most to actually GET the third draft of my book written when I realized a third draft was needed; along with *all* of the other authors I've listed as friends here, he is one of the first people who sees (and acknowledges) the samples I put up when I'm writing something (When any of my friends do this it's helpful in more ways then they possibly know. I'm very social and it keeps me motivated to keep going.) and as another friend from Absolute Write, I've learned much from following his journey with his series and from opinions he has given on posts that I've done.

...As A Blogger

Before we go any further, I want to take a moment to tell all of you that it means a great deal that you take the time to come and check out my posts here at I Write, I Read, I Review. I've made some totally awesome blogging friends in the 2.5 years I've been doing this, and I've had some totally awesome experiences thanks to blogging as well. My life as a reader, writer and person has been blessed by choosing to open this blog and that would not be so without you guys. Words only live when someone reads them. Thank you. As for the books I value most deeply as a blogger, here are three pretty memorable milestones for me.

In summer 2011 I randomly entered a giveaway happening on Absolute Write where I won a copy of Summer on Fire by Kevin Craig. I had just started a blog after finishing the first draft of Sealer's Promise (then called Moon Dance) and that (this) blog had no real structure yet. When I received the book and read it, three really cool things happened. (1) I really liked the book. (2) I reviewed the book and discovered that I liked reviewing. (3) My aunt and I ended up having an 80s music videos marathon--it was Summer on Fire that taught me the idea that books can effect lives; in many ways it's the catalyst for this post.

A few months after starting my blog, one of the books I kept hearing about on Absolute Write was Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. I had just recently gotten into contemporary YA and I kept being told this was *the* book, apparently out of this world amazing. (For the record: they were right.) The problem was that this book wasn't being released until next year. Then someone told me about Net Galley and I made an account, requested the book, and was approved. For a book blogger, being approved for that first ARC--whether digital or physical--is pretty exciting. While I'm not *as* big on those now (my priority is writing and my personality doesn't mesh well with trying to have reviews up by certain dates) I will always be grateful to Random House for the opportunity to check out a book I was extremely hyped for months prior to its release.

The last book I want to highlight as something I'm grateful for as a Blogger is Mortal Obligation by Nichole Chase. Like Marie and Krystle, Nichole was one of the first authors I came into contact with who had decided to go the self publishing route. She gave some really great advice and thoughts in the interview she did on my blog. Which leads us to the actual reason I'm listing her here. Mortal Obligation is the first book I was part of a blog tour for. Again, that's not something I do a lot of, but at the time it was a huge deal to me and looking back it's something I recall fondly. (Also, I need to review them but her books Flukes and Suddenly Royal are also great.)

...In More Ways Than I Can Count

King Arthur pulls excalibur from the stone. Romeo meets Juliet. Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts. Zoey Redbird is Marked. Kelsey Hayes takes a job at a circus. In fiction, there is often something a protagonist does that in some way causes them to cross a threshold, and in doing this, the changes they need are able to happen in their life. For me, that transformative moment didn't come from any of the above. In fact it came from something much more humble and simple. Meet the book that changed my life...

I can hear what you're probably thinking. "Uh, Kat? That's not a book at all." And you're totally right. It's issue #30 of Nintendo Power Magazine, which released in November 1994. I don't have any idea how or why my family had a subscription to the magazine when I was eleven. I think there may have been a free trial or something and my dad signed us up. But that's beyond the point. This magazine is how I found out about Final Fantasy IV (which back then was known as Final Fantasy II in North America). You've ALL heard me talk about that. But for those who haven't, let me fill you in.

Back in the 90s you had to read text when you played RPGs. Through playing Final Fantasy IV (III) I discovered my love of reading.

Because I played the game multiple times during my choldhood and used it to learn to read better, spell better and in turn want to write better, i started writing Final Fantasy IV (II) fan fiction probably a decade before I read a Harry Potter book. At the time I had an audience of one: me. And I wrote because I didn't want the story to end, or because I wanted to make changes to the story. Yes, my eleven year old self did create characters and do lord knows what else to this world. This game, which I discovered through this magazine, is what made me want to be a writer.

Of all the games I've played, this is the only one that I have beaten multiple times, and it is the game that made me decide that I was (and am) a gamer.

And because of that decision, I continued gaming. Since I continued gaming, I eventually discovered MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). My main introduction to MMOs as a game called Phantasy Star Universe. And through Phantasy Star Universe, I met my boyfriend, Jay. We've been together nearly 5 and a half years now. So you could say, yes, that in it's way that humble Nintendo Power Magazine helped bring me love.

Now that I have shared how books have changed my life, it's your turn. Have books done anything remarkable or exciting for you? Or perhaps you posted about something else you are grateful for this week? Either way, feel free to link me up or leave a comment. Have a great day!


  1. Amazing list! I forgot to include my family/dogs on the list because I was too busy fangirling over a certain TV show that I'm thankful for and now I feel silly!


    Doris @ OABR

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Kathy Ann! <3


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