Books That Shape Us

Being from a reading family, and the daughter of a librarian, book have always been a part of my life. They’ve greatly influenced who I am today. Growing up with books trains the mind to build deep thought processes, be exposed to experiences it normally wouldn’t, and build imagination and creativity. Like Harry Potter has affected entire generations (yes, it will be on this list!), I know that I have been heavily influenced by certain books and series in my reading background.

It was hard to narrow it down to the list below. There are many wonderful books I haven’t included because they haven’t had effects in my life, which is really the required thing here. In alphabetical order.


  • Amy Tan
    • I no longer remember when I first read a book of hers, but it was probably The Joy Luck Club. Her work is deep and intense, and I ready many of them during a time when I was expanding my world view.
  • Anne McCaffrey
    • Of everything on this list, she is probably the most influential writer. I cannot say enough about how much I was obsessed with the Dragonrider series. My mom first got me Dragonsong on tape as a young teenager, and when I finally listened to it I went on to read all of the Dragonrider books I could get. My first serious attempts at writing were Pern fanfics, and that in turn has led to so many other things.
  • Anne Rice
    • Your view of vampires won’t be the same after reading these. It’s been very difficult finding anything as good. Nothing else I’ve read stands up to the level of character, plot, and clearly thought out vision of her vampire stories.
  • Beatrix Potter
    • I don’t think I’ve ever not known tales like Peter Rabbit or Two Bad Mice. Peter Rabbit came out in 1902, and people still read these to their kids. I don’t know any other picture books still in use after such a long time. My mom has been to her home on her tours of the UK, and I’m lucky enough to have some first edition “reprints” from their store.
  • Beverly Cleary
    • Another childhood staple. The tales of Ramona Quimby, beef tongue, and yogurt chicken were prevalent in our household. DH had never heard of her and that made me sad.
  • Bishoujou Senshi Sailor Moon
    • A gateway anime for lots of people in my generation. But the original manga is a lovely story, with lovely art. I have met so many awesome people and that has shaped my life tremendously since 2004. I’m also into the musicals.
  • Black Beauty
    • I read this as a kid, and still read it once in a while. Being a horse girl, I read tons of horse stories, but this one is pretty universal and still read by children today. Also a great story for animal rights.
  • Blood and Chocolate/The Silver Kiss
    • These are okay YA supernatural stories, but it was shortly after reading these that I was inspired to write a story. That became the origin of Zaira’s story. After 20 years with her, and now a writer, I just can’t leave these off the list.
  • The Color Purple
    • Despite the fact that this is a great story that sheds light on important issues (both historical and current), I discovered how the author, Alice Walker, talking about her characters–as if they are real people. It’s very similar to my own inclination when speaking of them and how my relationship with them is.
  • Dawn of Desire
    • I have no memory of where I found this used book, but it is one of the only romance novels I’ve read–really, it’s an adventure/ancient Egypt story and does not include many of the details found in modern romance books. It did, however, get me even more interested in ancient Egypt with a story of intrigue, magic, and adventure.
  • The Deer Dancers
    • I discovered these books in a large book shop when our parents took us to Toronto as teenagers. It’s a great series about Native Americans and were some of my first books in that genre and greatly improved my understanding of Native cultures.
  • Gail Carson Levine
    • This author does both re-written fairy tales and original YA fantasy works. If you’re a fantasy reader who also enjoys fairy and fold tales, then her books are for you.
  • The Golden Filly Series
    • More horse stories! This is one of those rare good Christian fiction series, featuring a young female jockey. There are 10, and I enjoyed them all. It greatly expanded my knowledge of the racing world, and I really did love them.
  • Harry Potter
    • I’m really not sure that this needs any explanation. Although I’m a bit older than the Potter generation, this series has affected my life and I enjoy many of it’s fandom qualities, including fanfiction.
  • Louisa May Alcott
    • I’ve always loved Little Women, and have read various works of hers. I can say that her ethics and morality are high, and seeing how she stood up for these things being a social reformer is quite inspiring.
  • Marguerite Henry
    • I was totally into horses growing up, and read TONS of horse-related fiction and non-fiction. Marguerite Henry was a children’s book author to specifically wrote about horses, and I read so many of them. You’d most likely know her as the author of Misty of Chincoteague.
  • The Mandie Series
    • This is a historical fiction mystery series aimed at young teens, the title character being a young female “detective”. These were influential on me late elementary and early middle school, and I also had the cookbook. I read over half of them, and many were published after I was in their age range.
  • Narnia
    • Although Mom read these to us growing up, it wasn’t until the movies came out that I developed a deeper interest, and re-read them. I find them more meaning full now that I have a better understanding of the concepts and design of the stories.
  • The Ordinary Princess
    • This is another book which I don’t remember picking up, but ever since the first read, this has been one of my favorite fairy-tale like stories. It’s definitely a children’s book, but is charming and a quick, lovely read. I read it a few times a year, and was delighted when the recurring Lavender’s Blue song was used in Disney’s live action Cinderella.
  • Redwall
    • I discovered this series as a teenager, and couldn’t put them down. While most of the stories revolve around good, freedom-loving animals fighting a tryant who wants to take over, the plots are varied, the world well-built, and the feasts epic. They will make you hungry. So, so hungry. I myself now enjoy getting into food and descriptions in some of my stories.
  • The Sano Ichiro Series
    • These are detailed, in-depth novels set in Shogunate Japan. They are good and well-researched. However, the main reason they’re on this list is that I read them with a friend and we enjoyed discussing them together. Also a great way to learn old Japanese culture, which I already had an interest in.
  • The Shannara Books
    • I read the original two sets of books in middle school, and I remember being quite engrossed in them. The show now on Netflix is…not at all what I remember, and we’ll leave it at that.
  • Tamora Pierce
    • While I didn’t discover this awesome writer until I was an adult, she writes some of the best medieval-type fantasy for girls and young women you’ll find anywhere. My favorite so far has been the Protector of the Small series. If you are into YA or fantasy at all, these are must-reads.
  • Tolkien
    • I’m very glad I didn’t read these as a teenager, I wouldn’t have finished them. While the books are good, the movies have changed the entire way that movies can be made, and also brought in things from the appendices and histories (which I haven’t read). Nevertheless, both mediums speak to the genius, complexity, and ideas encapsulated in these master works. It has also affected me greatly that this and works like Harry Potter bring fans together, whether it’s the fandom or teams making movies. It is part of what changed fandom from geeky to cool.
  • Wicked Lovely
    • While this is the first of a series, I haven’t had a chance to read more of them yet. However, it was shortly after reading this and seeing what the author did with the various groups of Fairies that I seriously considered starting a fairy story. I’ve always had an interest, so this was encouraging, and I’m now working on a story with with its own versions of the varied lore.


I’d love to hear some of the books, authors, or series have greatly influenced your life, and if you have any questions or opinions on what’s shaped mine.









Ultimate Book Tag

I saw this list of questions/challenge over at at Milliways with a pen and thought it was a pretty good list of questions (and also something to think about for some of my characters). There also seem to be other good writing prompts, etc., over there, so do check it out. Feel free to copy the questions and do your own.


  1. Do you get sick while reading in the car?
    • No, I never have.
  2. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you?
    • I really do not like Virginia Wolf’s stream of consciousness style and have never ready more than a few pages of what we were supposed to in school.
  3. Harry Potter series or Twilight saga? Give 3 points to explain your answer.
    • Harry Potter. It is quality work with an intricate and well crafted story, has excellent role models, and the writing style draws one in while reading.
  4. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what’s in it (besides books)?
    • No, but I carry a very big purse and usually have both a book and a notebook for writing. Also everything I usually need, like my wallet, keys, a bathroom kit, etc. Gum. Gum is pretty important. And thus a lot of wrappers. Umbrella, train pass, USB drive, headphones, floral knife.
  5. Do you smell your books?
    • Old ones, yes. But usually not in public.
  6. Books with or without little illustrations?
    • While they’re not necessary, I do like them. Especially in books like the Redwall or Unfortunate Events Series.
  7. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?
    • No idea here!
  8. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!
    • Not that I recall?
  9. What is the tiniest book on your shelf?
    • A tiny flower language book, it’s only about 2 inches.
  10. What’s the thickest book on your shelf?
  11. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as an author?
    • I am a writer, but probably will never bother with publication.
  12. When did you get into reading?
    • As a very young child, we always had them and were read to since I can remember. My mom was a librarian and we always had plenty to read.
  13. What is your favorite classic book?
    • Depends what you call classic. Probably something like Dracula, Black Beauty, or The Wizard of Oz. I used this list of classics.
  14. In school, what was your best subject?
    • English
  15. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated, what would you do?
    • Stick it on the shelf for a bit and then donate it.
  16. What is a lesser known series that you know that is similar to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games?
    • There are so many great YA series and books out there. The Prydain series is pretty good, and The Dark is Rising. Also, Redwall. I know they’re not quite what was asked for, but all very good.
  17. What is a bad habit you always do while blogging?
    • Blogging isn’t my primary focus, so I don’t post for long periods of time and tend to ignore work when I do.
  18. What is your favorite word?
    • Right now, probably Miara.
  19. Vampires or Fairies? Why?
    • Depends on the story. Vampires usually, as they tend to be taken more seriously and I’ve ready more there. Anne Rice is totally the queen of Vampires, though.
  20. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?
    • Shapeshifters. The species I write about fall into this category, and they are far more interesting than angels.
  21. Spirits or Werewolves? Why?
    • Here, it really depends on the treatment, but probably the latter. I really dislike that vampires and werewolves are pitted against each other so often.
  22. Zombies or Vampires? Why?
    • Vampires. I like vampires and don’t like zombies. Just have never been into them.
  23. Love triangle or forbidden love?
    • Love triangles are far more interesting and involve a lot more tension and conflict than forbidden love. Bonus points for complications if it’s between a group of friends. It fits more with what I’m interested in writing and reading.
  24. And finally: Full on romance or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?
    • The best stories are always ones that include elements of several types of stories, such as travel, drama, a bit of romance, magic/powers/science, mystery. So definitely the latter here.

The Lost Art of Mixing


As promised, Mom lent me the sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients, which I reviewed previously, entitled The Lost Art of MixingWhile this story continues the story of several of the characters: Lilian, Tom, Chloe, and Isabelle, while adding characters connected to these people. I must admit, my initial reaction to the major chance in Lilian’s life, which I won’t mention for those who will read the book, wasn’t very good. But it grew on me. Mostly because it seems to come out of the blue. Isabelle, and one of the new characters, Finnegan, really carry this book. Isabelle’s memory is always wandering in and out, and it’s an interesting study on a common problem among older people. It inspired me to write some wandering memories for one of my oldest characters, although he isn’t losing his mind.

What this book is missing is the focus on food and cooking. There is both food and cooking in the story, but it’s much less in the foreground, and more used to serve the plot instead. Bauermeister hasn’t lost her easy-reading writing style, and there are interesting characters. Overall a nice book, but not as good as The School of Essential Ingredients.

The School of Essential Ingredients

ImageNormally, my mother and I like different reading material. But we both enjoy food and cooking, so when her book group read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, she recommended it to me. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this book. Even if you’re not a foodie, food appeals to you in some manner, and the way Bauermeister describes both food and cooking is wonderful. Even without that, her writing has a flow which is very inviting and easy to read, and once I started I couldn’t put it down.

To very very very briefly summarize the book, Lillian is a gifted cook who gives cooking classes in her restaurant’s kitchen once a month. She has a gift of healing people with food, and the lives of her students are changed.

While Lillian is certainly a nice character with eccentricity, it is the lives of her students which really shine in the book, and which kept me interested. Each one of them is given a section of the book, and their stories are varied and compelling. This is definitely a warm, fuzzy, feel good kind of book, while still dealing with difficult issues in the various characters lives.

There is also a sequel, entitled The Lost Art of Mixing, which I’m hoping mom will let me borrow when she’s done with it.

As for my thoughts, it would be totally cool to be able to have Lillian’s gift for cooking people out of their funks. But essentially, we’re all comforted by familiar food. A bad meal can ruin one’s day, and a good one will leave us reminiscing for weeks, months, years. Maybe it subconsciously inspired me to do all that cooking this weekend. Nothing fancy, just meals and some squash bread (think zucchini bread). But it filled our apartment with good smells and our stomachs with good food, and the experience of both preparing and partaking a pleasant meal, and what it does for our souls, which is what this book was all about.