I haven't really been all that good about writing on my blog, something I pledge to fix this year. But since this week is quite crazy, I thought I'd run a post I ran awhile ago on my book review blog, Cellar Lit Rants & Reviews--with a few tweaks. I'm moving away from that blog, although I have a few review commitments left so it will live on a bit longer. But since, like I said, I haven't posted much over there, I am going to run the few reviews I have left up my sleeve over here as well. This one isn't new, but it's kind of fun. It was originally the Book Playlist of My Life, but I've since realized these are really more the books that shaped my youth and early adulthood, although there are a couple crossovers. I'll have to run a Book Playlist, the Later Years at some point. There are some of course that left an impression, not necessarily good, that I didn't mention, like "Gerald's Game." Stephen King's horrific imagery is still stuck in my head more than 20 years later. I probably shouldn't have been reading it at 12. But horror was my "thang" back then. Anyway, here are some of the more tame books near and dear to my youthful heart.
A Secret Garden/A Little Princess: Both these books were written by Frances Hodges Burnett, and were a huge part of my childhood and young adult life. I can’t tell you the number of times I read them. In fact, I was recently given a new hardcover copy of A Secret Garden in the last couple of years and I read it again, relishing in the comfort and magic of a beloved friend. They tell of two young girls overcoming insurmountable odds who find acceptance and parental love from unexpected people. I love them so much, and will cherish these stories and young heroines in my heart forever. How can I ever forget the moment Mary finds the lovely and mysterious garden? Or when the practically starving Sarah goes up to her attic room to find a feast laid out for her. I am a slave to feel-good stories and happy endings. Hence the reason I’m a Disney fanatic, which my kid will probably love me for until he’s a teenager and I’m still watching shows like “Wizards of Waverly Place.” But I digress.
A Mermaid Summer: On rainy days I would drag my younger sister into my room and read her this book. The magical tale of a mermaid and two children who must outwit her has been one of my favorites since my third grade teacher handed me a copy. I recently bought both my sister and I a hard cover edition, which I had to scour Amazon for because it’s out of print. It’s one of the first book I decided to review when I started my book review blog. Although I read it as a child, the story still appeals to me as much as if ever did.
Vampire Diaries/ Secret Circle: I am not afraid to say I love young adult. I can still remember when I picked up my first L.J. Smith book. It was the second installment of the Vampire Diaries series, and after reading it I knew I had to go back and read the first. At that moment I was hooked. After reading my rants about later installments written in the Secret Circle and Vampire Diaries series, any loyal readers I might have know I am passionate about these stories. These books are worn and torn. Secret Circle in specific, touched my 16-year-old soul because for a time in middle school and high school I thought I was a witch, or Wicca. Fun times remembered with an Oijui Board, candles, tarot cards and essential oils.
Summer Sisters: Judy Blume targets a more adult audience in this book about two girls and their timeless friendship. I seriously will read this novel again and again. It touches me because the relationship between the two main characters is so like my relationship with my high school best friend. In our early-to-mid-twenties I finally got her to read it by giving her a copy for her birthday. She agreed. It was just like us. Except for obviously, she didn’t disappear or marry my ex-boyfriend. Anyway, it’s a great story about the bonds of friendship and growing up. What else could we expect from Judy Blume?
The Giver: I think I may have read this for school at one point, and I think I definitely read it again in college for a Young Adult Lit class. All I know is this book continues to come back to me through the years, inspiring and making me think. What if we lived in a world where feelings were taken out of the equation? I’ve had The Giver-themed dreams before, and continue to be haunted by the story’s themes.
A Wrinkle in Time: Honestly, I love this entire series by Madeline L’Engle. In fact, I love everything I’ve ever read by her, especially A Ring of Endless Light. But A Wrinkle in Time helped to inspire some of the elements from my own book.
Christopher Pike: I cheated a little bit here by just naming the author, but I honestly couldn’t pick a favorite. He was the author of my middle school life. I ate these books for dinner, from Remember Me to the Final Friends series to the Midnight Club. Pike started out in Y/A horror, and ended up in his later works exploring spirituality, mysticism and mythology. I always wonder why he stopped writing. I’ll have to Wikipedia that man.
Mists of Avalon: On a trip to Salem, Mass., (you can bet I was stoked because I was still a delusional little witch), I picked up this bible of King Arthurian lore. For anyone who likes to read about female-empowered characters, this follows the women within the legend, specifically Morgan Le Fey. I believe I actually even read it twice and it’s huge. It has served to color my views of anything dealing with King Aurthur since. There's a review of it here. Side note: Morgana and Guinevere have a part to play in my book Fractured Dream, but they've been re-imagined in a way never seen before. Look for it in June 2014!
Practical Magic: If anyone asks me who my favorite author is I would have to say Alice Hoffman. I adore her style of writing where magic drips from every word. Of course, Practical Magic involves actual magic, but it also deals in relationships between children, sisters, lovers and parental figures. Again, it’s one of those books I’ve read more than five times and a book I will read another five times. They’re the security blankets of my life. When in doubt, curl up with a good, familiar, beloved book. This one would definitely make both my early life playlist and my adult playlist.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: I read this for an environmental/nature writing class in college. I will never forget the way Annie Dillard was able to make me scratch myself in paranoia after she described the habits and appearance of all sorts of insects. Ug, I hate them but I love her. A mix between spirituality and nature, this book, her observations and philosophies, truly changed my life.
A Walk in the Woods: I have never laughed so hard reading a documentary-style book as I have this one. My husband, who was a witness to my amusement as I read about Bill Bryson’s trek along the Appalachian Trail, ended up reading it himself, and he’s not a big reader. We even got the idea for our son’s name from this book. This would also make list No. 2!
Many Lives, Many Masters: Early in my college years when I was discovering what I thought and who I was, I took a class called Reincarnation. We read a book by a man named Dr. Brian Weiss, who documented his first forays into hypnotherapy and his discovery of past life regression. Needless to say, my little open mind was hooked and before my mother could object, I had booked myself at a holistic retreat with Dr. Weiss himself. It was definitely an experience I don’t regret. Plus, the photo taken of me with the good doctor showed me I should never streak my hair orange again. That’s a valuable life lesson for sure.
The Time Traveler’s Wife: It’s not that I think this book was amazing, although it’s a decent read. But it gave me the germ of an idea that inspired some elements from my own book. Don’t get me wrong, if you read my book you would not even be able to see how this story could have been an inspiration, but it’s where the seed began and my own ideas dealing with alternate time and universe dimensions were sown.
Child of the Grove: Tanya Huff’s Child of the Grove and Wizard of the Grove are two of my favorites. I love the way she writes and have always been inspired by her. Although it’s been some years since I’ve actually read the two-part series, I know I will again because they sit in my library waiting, creased and worn and loved.
If anyone wants to share their life/book/ youth playlist, I would love it!
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.