Saturday, March 5, 2016

5 Books that Changed My Life


"When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity, in a way that no other reading in your life does." - Kathleen Kelly:

I have read a lot of books in my life.

     Maybe not as many as you -- for as much as I love books, I consider myself a slow reader. Some people can read a 400-page book in one day, no sweat. I read about one-fourth as fast as that. But still, I've lived seventeen years (say WHAT?) and I've been reading for about 13 of those years, so as you can imagine....that's a lot of books.

    The other day I was browsing through a favorite blog of mine, Meghan Gorecki's A Northern Belle, and came across a post of hers where she talked about how certain books had influenced her life. That ignited a little spark in my mind, and I started thinking -- how many books have I read that have made an impression on my young life, and actually impacted the way I think about things, the way I live? And how many books, by just the mention of them, take me back to that season of my life when I discovered them for the first time? 


YES. yes yes yes.:

So, I composed a list -- as I am prone to do -- of books that have made a specific impression on me, books that still take me back to that time and that place. 


#1 Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin

      I still remember the day I got this from the library for the very first time. We were at the library for my sister's and my piano lessons. I was twelve; at the time I was obsessed with Jane Austen (or more accurately, I was obsessed with the movie Becoming Jane, which I firmly and unreasonably defended as the honest-to-gosh truth -- but we won't talk about that now). I had just embarked on my lifelong fascination with American history, and at twelve, I thought it was high time I try some adult fiction. (Twelve is an adult, right? Totally. Of course.) This book had a pretty cover; it was about the Civil War, and I liked the Civil War. I plucked it off the shelf and started reading it before we even left the library. I think I'd finished the first chapter when I officially declared it was my favorite book. ;-)

     I have fond memories of getting up early on those summer mornings, taking my pillow out to our deck swing and reading for hours while the sun rose over the hill. Candle in the Darkness was my first Christian historical fiction book, and thus opened a door into what would become a long and agonizing love/hate relationship with Christian fiction. It was sort of a rite of womanhood for me. I proclaimed Lynn Austin as my favorite author (the woman was genius!), and I started recommending the book to everyone I knew before I even finished reading it myself. 

     Candle in the Darkness really did change my life. It also showed me what a good historical book was, it inspired me to try my hand at historical fiction, and it introduced me to Lynn Austin, who is still one of my top favorite authors. Even though it's no longer my favorite book, it's got a special place in my book history. I'll always remember those summer mornings on the porch swing. ;-)


#2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

     Chances are I don't need to even tell you what a gem this book is. The first time I read it was two years ago, in the spring, and it was a school assignment -- which meant that by default I decided I wasn't going to enjoy it. I have always had this weird quirk when it comes to reading books for school. If it's assigned to me, I will make up my mind not to like it. At least, this pattern held true for many years; I like to think I'm more open-minded now. ;-P Anyway, I knew TKAM was a classic, and classics are usually boring, so I didn't hold my breath.

     Until I started reading it. And then I couldn't leave Maycomb, Alabama, until I'd turned the very last page. Even then, I was stuck there for about a week afterwards.

     I read the first half of the book one afternoon while I was waiting around in the hallway of a university for my sister's violin lesson/concert. I honestly don't think I've ever been quite as transported by any book as I was that day. I was so engrossed, you probably could have walked up in front of me wearing a Winnie the Pooh costume whistling Dixie and I wouldn't have noticed you. I was obsessed. 

     What did TKAM teach me? Well, for one thing, it taught me that not all classics are boring! It taught me not to throw a temper tantrum when I have to read a book for school that I wouldn't have chosen myself (because pssssst, I might end up LOVING it to the HEAVENS). I learned so much from Scout and Jem. I learned that just because you're licked from the beginning of time doesn't mean you shouldn't get back up and try anyway. It also reinforced my feelings on swearing in books -- I don't like swearing, but sometimes it's necessary. I don't want to ever condemn a good book for having language, because maybe the language is meaningful to the story. (Now, there is definitely such thing as unnecessary language in books, and that's what I really hate.)

     TKAM taught me that there's just one kind of folks -- folks.


#3 Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

     I remember reading this book very well -- it was Spring of 2014, I was hosting my Period Drama Fashion Week here on the blog, and I was just getting to know my very best friend ever, so it was a very exciting season of my life. (I also remember getting my Downton Abbey piano book in the mail, putting a hold on The Blue and the Gray at the library, and listening to Celtic Woman songs.) Sixteen Brides was just a random book I snatched from the shelf because I thought the cover was pretty. It ended up being the best Christian book I'd read in years, which made me happier than a tornado in a trailer park.

     Sixteen Brides delighted me so much because it could have been so sappy, but it wasn't. It was WONDERFUL. I became friends with the women (don't worry, there aren't actually sixteen of them to keep track of), I laughed with them, I shared their struggles. The writing was infused with the pioneer spirit; the women's grit inspired me. I remember reading the book at church between services, at the dining room table one night before supper, on my sister's bed in the afternoon. It was the kind of book that bounced into my life right when I needed it and gave me joy.


#4 Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane

     AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

     I still get chills thinking about this one.

     I think I first found it on Goodreads, actually. The series intrigued me, because duh, Williamsburg! so I looked for the books the next time I went to the library and AHA, they had them! (Isn't that the best feeling in the world, when you're looking for a book and you actually find it?) It was an ugly little orange binding, nothing extraordinary from the outside, but then I started reading it one afternoon in the haymow....and BOY HOWDY. Still to this day, I have not found one historical book about the American Revolution that grabbed me so much. This book was like fireworks; canon smoke; autumn sunrises; it was AMAZING. I fell in love with Julian Day, Elswyth Thane was inaugurated as my second-favorite author, and I vowed that if I one day wrote a novel about the Revolution that was HALF as good as this, my life would be complete.


#5 Softly and Tenderly by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck

     If there was ever a book that came along at just the right time I needed it, this is that book. It was last March, and I was in a funk. Life was hard. I was bored with myself. I needed some new joy. I don't even remember why I wanted to read this, because I don't think I'd started listening to Sara Evans yet....anyway, it doesn't matter. What I remember clear as a bell is that I needed this book. When I read it, I felt as though it had been written just for me. And man, does this book get you right in the feels. It was serious and funny and happy and somber all at once -- just like country music, come to think of it. ;-P It was like a salve to my weary soul, a God-given gift.

     Softly and Tenderly taught me that true love fights. It taught me the power of forgiveness, and what's more the power of God. It also taught me that God can reach anyone, no matter who you are.

^^^:
Heehee.

     On another note: thanks so much to everyone who filled out my survey! It occurred to me after the fact that I would have liked to have a place where you could put your name so I would know whose answers were whose, but oh well. (I could tell who some of you were anyway. For instance, some weirdo wrote that they'd like to see me write a post on an analysis of quantum string theory written in elvish, and I'm pretty sure that can only be one person.) I appreciate your comments and suggestions, and I'll take them all into consideration! You're all darling squirrels. :-)

What are some books that have made an impression on you?

40 comments:

  1. Hi! I think I've posted on your blog before, maybe, but I've been following for awhile and figure it's probably time I actually responded!

    Anyway, I love it when people share the books that have impacted them throughout their life. In your list I've only read TKAM, but I'm now curious about "Dawn's Early Light," but my library doesn't have it so I may have to track it down some other way.

    I may do a post similar to this one o my book blog too. It's good to revisit those books that we have so passionately loved!

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    1. Hi Carissa! You have commented before, I'm pretty sure -- it's nice to have you here. :-)

      Oh, I recommend trying whatever you can to track down a copy of Dawn's Early Light. It's amazing. It's quite possibly my favorite book ever, so....yeah. ;-P I'd love to read your post!

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  2. I ordered Dawn's Early Light the second I read your first paragraph explaining your love for it! lol!! Like seriously...it sounds stupendous! I laughed so hard when I read the picture above, then I clasped my hand over my heart and dramatically repeated the words. My sister looked at me oddly. lol!
    I also noticed you've been pinning some Poldark pics. ;) my phone screen saver is a photo of him right now...lol!!!!

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    1. Haha, really?! That's awesome. (Reminds me of someone else I know....*coughcoughMEcough*) You'll love it, I think.

      AND OH MY GOODNESS POLDARK. YES. I've only watched the first episode so far (it came as a bonus with our Downton Abbey season 6) but I'm HOOKED. I need to get my hands on the first season! So you've seen it too?

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    2. I literally just closed your blog because I was checking to see if you had responded yet! lol! Then, I got an email notification that you just did. :D

      Hahaa! I can't wait to read it! Oh yeah?? ;) I would think we are rather alike. I haven't meet many other girls who like westerns as much as me. lol!

      oohhhhhh....poor you! We literally just finished the LAST episode last night. oh it was so sob worthy. You'll understand once you do watch it. Warning though, there are some *clears throat* certain scenes that need to blindly fast forwarded. :P But, the rest of loveliness overcomes that. I can't wait for you to it! Don't do any youtube clip watching - it will RUIN it! lol!! You be sure to tell me once you watch Ross Poldark - correct? ;)

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    3. AHHHHHHH!!! I'm so glad I found someone to swoon over Poldark with!!! (My mom and sisters don't know what to do with me. All I've been doing is thinking about Ross Poldark in his long black coat and his curly black hair. I'm sunk.) I can't wait to watch more of it! And yes, I will definitely let you know. ;-) Don't worry, I never watch youtube clips. Oh, and thanks for the warning. I'm hoping to go to the library today and see if they have season 1, so my fingers are crossed....

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    4. OH MY - YES. AND HIS JAWLINE. *collapses into a fit of swoons* Just warning you though, he's kinda a Mr Darcy. you hate him, then you love him. That's how the best guys are, right? ;) Haha! Smart girl! I'm not always as smart :P :P anyways..... oooh, I really hope your library has it!!

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  3. My five are 1) Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day. I don't think it was the first book ever read to me, but it's the first one I remember and set me on a path to loving books.

    2) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and by extension The Lord of the Rings and other high fantasy.

    3) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Which of course led to the other Chronicles of Narnia and then a life long love of pretty much anything by Lewis.

    4) The Holy Bible.

    5) The Book of Concord: The Lutheran Confessions

    Perhaps no explanation needed for 4 & 5. :)

    Bonus book: Persuasion by Jane Austen. The first book I read by her, in my mid-40's no less, but which is my favorite Austen novel and which got me enthused about her other novels.

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    1. YOU LIKE "WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY" TOO????????????????

      Oh, my gosh--I'd almost forgotten how much that story influenced me as a kid. It was one of my very, very earliest favorites. Like you said, it set me on the path to loving books the way I do today.

      Richard Scarry was a genius. 'Nuff said.

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    2. Yep, read a whole lot of Richard Scarry as a child. :)

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    3. I actually don't think I've read *anything* by Richard Scarry! Isn't that scary?

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  4. (I might steal this idea. Just saying.)

    1. Yes, Candle in the Darkness is AMAZING. Gahhhhh. The first LA book I read (While We're Far Apart, I think) opened up a whole new world to ME, too. :-)

    2. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIIIIIRD. AMAZING BOOK. Interesting what you said about swearing - I definitely do think it can make a book more realistic - although I don't like it when it's brushed off as 'normal' and 'the-good-guys-swear-so-it's-all-good'-way. (Also, even if it IS realistic, in some cases it can be too much.) (Not in TKAM, though.)

    3. Sixteen Brides was good; but I didn't love it. :-/ OHH BUT REMEMBER WHEN YOU RECOMMENDED IT TO ME. That was like, our sixth email.

    4. YEAH. OH YEAH.

    5. Have yet to read this 'un. :-)

    And hey, you are NOT a slow reader. Next to the average person, you're fast. :-) (Poor thee. That's what happens when you have me as a close friend. :-P)

    ~ Naomi

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    1. (That's okay. I figured you would.)

      Right? It's amazing to think back to the first time I read Candle in the Darkness....my life began that day. ;-P

      I've gone back and forth with my feelings about swearing in books. I definitely do not like it when it's brushed off as 'normal', like you said -- because I think it IS wrong to take God's name in vain. But sometimes it can be very powerful too, and strong feelings sometimes need strong language. So, I guess I'm still not exactly sure how about it. (I don't know that I'd ever use that kind of language in my own books.) I understand characters swearing if they're in a war or something -- if they're just being stupid, that's when it bothers me.

      Yes, I know. ;-) AND YES OF COURSE I REMEMBER THAT. And you send me a picture of your copy with "recommended by Emma Jane" written on the inside cover. #memories (GASP I used another hashtag! What is happening to me?!)

      Really? That makes me feel better -- I feel like a slow reader. It's probably mostly your fault.

      ~Emma

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    2. SAME. About swearing. We'll have a long deep discussion about that one day. :-)

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  5. And darling squirrles? I like it.

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    1. I thought I'd like to have some special term of endearment for my readers. You are now officially squirrels.

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  6. Aww shucks darling squirrels what a high compliment =D
    AMEN to the To Kill a Mockingbird!

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    1. Evie, I'm glad you think so. ;-) And YES!

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  7. Never read any of these. Not even TKAM. And yes, I grew up in the South, and yes, I know I'm neglecting my duty shamefully. Maybe one of these days ;-)

    I loved this post, though--I know just what you mean about books that influenced who you've grown up to be. I have a ton of those--books that shaped my character and the way I think about things. I owe a LOT to them, y'know :-)

    Here's just a few:
    1. "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" and all the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia. I can't even tell you how much these mean to me. They're just . . . GAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I first read them in third grade and . . . I think it's pretty safe to say that they've been a pretty huge force in my life. :-)
    2. The original "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Love these books. My original favorite fandom from way before I knew what a fandom was.
    3. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." I first read this when I was nine or ten, and a lot of it scared me, but at the same time, I loved it. It kindled a life-long fascination with mystery stories.
    4. "The Valley of Fear," also by Conan Doyle. Okay, so this really isn't a great book and I don't recommend it; but for some inexplicable reason, it's the book that made me really decide to one day become a writer. I owe a lot to it--even though it's twisted and violent and melodramatic. So . . . yeah. ;-)
    5. The "Father Brown" stories by G.K. Chesterton. No words, people. None. Just . . . phenomenal. That's all.

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    1. For some reason, the book length Holmes stories didn't really appeal to me aside from The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I love. The Sign of Four is also good, but A Study in Scarlet & The Valley of Fear, probably won't read those again.

      Although it was Encyclopedia Brown that started my love of mysteries.

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    2. Jessica, you've GOT to read TKAM. Seriously. I say this because I care about you. ;-)

      I never got into the Narnia books myself, but I LOVE Little House. Everyone should read those as a child; they're food for the soul.

      Sherlock Holmes still scares me a little bit, though I'm told the books are amazing. Sometime when I exhaust my to-read list I might check one out.

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    3. No, I definitely think that (with the exception of The Hound of the Baskervilles), the short Sherlock Holmes stories are better than the novels. "The Lion's Mane" is my personal favorite--beautifully crafted atmosphere. It's also the very last Holmes story Conan Doyle wrote, which is slightly ironic.

      Emma--haha, yes, I should really read TKAM. I've just got to find the time. (I also need to find the time to read Les Miserables, so, y'know ;-) )

      I can't say whether you would enjoy Sherlock Holmes or not. I've always loved the stories, but everybody's different . . . I find them exciting and fascinating and occasionally profound. Plus, they're very British. And the descriptions are cool. And--oh, yeah--there are some cool mysteries to be solved :-)

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  8. Oh! This was a sweet post, Emma. Your description of To Kill A Mockingbird! Ahhh! That is SUCH a good book! And, yeah, anyway! Who would EVER be distracted from a book like that by a costumed Winnie the Pooh whistling Dixie??? ;) Haha! (You're funny, Emma!)

    I've read Candle in the Darkness, too, but I've never actually heard of the other three. It's cool how #5 came a long just when you needed it. :) Oh, and that last quote you included. Heehee. You're SO kind. ;)

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    1. Miss March, I'm glad we share sentiments on TKAM! It really is THAT engrossing. ;-P

      Oh, you have! *high-five* That was my first favorite book ever, and I still love it dearly.

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  9. Hmm... no, I think you still read more books than me. ;) I've been reading every day, but I'm still only 1/3 a way through The Three Musketeers, after two weeks already. (Mind you, most books I read are hard going and thick - like Dickens. :P)
    I really love the idea of this, although when I come to dwell upon that thought, I KNOW there are books that take me back to a certain period in my life, but I can't think what they are. Honestly, I can remember what I thought about and approximately what age I was when I read all my books, so they are ALL rather sentimental to me. ;) At the moment, I can't recall which were more so...
    But ANYWAY. Your list was lovely. Even though I haven't read any of those yet. ;P
    I've heard of all these titles (mostly from you, I think, haha) but the only one I know a LOT about is TKaM. And THAT is what I'm going to read Very Soon. :D (You'll be hearing more from me about that later, I'm sure... just give me a few months. I'll get there eventually.)
    HAHA! An analysis on quantum string theory written in elvish! ;D My, that person has a marvellous sense of humour. (One person does come to mind, when I think of it...)
    And darling squirrels?! I'm so touched. :D (You know we don't have squirrels here. Fun fact. We have possums. They're not nearly as cute.)
    As for books that have made an impression on me, DEFINITELY "Little Women" (and "Good Wives")! That made a great impression. It's still my favourite book. :D And "Life Without Limits" also made a big impression. I can't think of anymore... mostly because I'm super tired and sleepy, and should be in bed. ;)
    ~Miss Meg

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    1. Really?! But I read mostly short young-adult books, and you read big thick tomes by Dickens and Dumas. I'm not sure that counts. ;-P

      I hope you get to read TKAM soon, because it really is one of zee very best books ever written. (In my opinion. And lots of other people's opinions too.) And ooooh, I look forward to hearing all about it. ;-)

      Yeah, that answer was from my cousin. He's an incorrigible nerd and he likes to tease me because I'm so dumb. (I don't even know what quantum string theory IS, much less how to analyze it.)

      You don't have squirrels? Huh, I didn't know that. We have possums too, but the only time you ever see them is when they're lying dead in the road.

      I have yet to read Little Women! I want to though. I've heard of Life Without Limits (and you sent me a quote from it ;-)) and it does look super inspirational. Haha, it seems like every time you write a comment you say it's late and you should be in bed. ;-P Go to bed, Miss Meg!

      ~Emma

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    2. Yes, I guess Dickens and Dumas really do make a difference in reading time. ;)

      Yes, my brother told me TKaM was good, although somewhat mature, but he said since I master Dickens well enough it would be no problem. ;) The swearing was all that put me off, but apparently it's not that bad...

      Haha! Isn't quantum string theory to do with physics? I don't really know, but it just SOUNDS complicated. ;P (And to anaylise it and present it in elvish is really just the cherry on top of the cake, isn't it?)

      Nope! No squirrels! Some of my cousins visited America (last year, I think it was), and they were excited to get a picture of one 'cause they're always thought of as adorably little and cute animals that we don't have here. :D We have possums climbing around every night - you just have to peer outside and you'll see two guilty eyes glowing in the dark, on the bird feeder. :P

      You should read "Little Women". ;) And yeah, sorry about always saying that... it's true! :P (Except for right now. It's only 4 PM.) Yesterday I was at the beach visiting friends all day, so I didn't have a chance till late at night to write. ;)

      ~Miss Meg

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  10. (Sorry, I do realize this is very random.)

    I'm considering creating a blog in a few years... I dunno.

    Is Blogger the best place to do it? Is it free? Are there many pros/cons?

    I was just wondering. :)

    -The Girl with the Gold Pen

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    1. Hi! That's okay, I'm happy to answer your question. I personally think blogging is amazing fun, so I think it's awesome that you want to start your own! ;-) I've had good success with Blogger, but I also read some Wordpress.com blogs and I think that's really cool too. (Both of them are free, I'm pretty sure -- I know Blogger is free.)

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    2. Yeah.... it looks like a lot of fun. I don't know if I'll be good at it, but I'd like to take a whack at it. :) (I don't know if I'll even have time for it in the future. It all depends on how everything works out. Some major changes are happening to my life.)

      ANYWAYS.... back to the point.

      So I was reading up on some blogging tips, how to start a blog, etc. Then I stumbled upon a
      lady saying she got sued for (unknowingly) putting someone else's picture on her blog. Do you by chance know how that all works? Putting pictures from movies is probably okay.

      -The Girl with the Gold Pen



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    3. You won't know until you try!

      Oh, yikes! Well, I don't think that happens very often -- and I don't think many people would sue you just for unknowingly putting one of their pictures on your blog. In fact, I had an experience like that -- I used a picture I found on pinterest that I thought was public domain, but then a girl emailed me and said it was a picture of her (!!!) and could I please take it off? It was pretty embarrassing. ;-P But she was super nice about it and didn't seem too upset. Using pictures from movies and most photos from pinterest is perfectly fine. I don't get too much into the copyrights of stuff because I don't post a whole lot of my own photos, but besides that one time I've never had a problem with people stealing my stuff or accidentally using a picture I wasn't supposed to. So don't let that discourage you!

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    4. Oh gee. :o Well, that's great that she wasn't too upset.

      -The Girl with the Gold Pen

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  11. I loved this! Some books that have made a deep impression on ME are:

    Bert Breen's Barn. I love the laid-back style of storytelling.
    Mustang, Wild Spirit Of The West. I seriously relate to the protagonist - and LOVE her fight and determination.
    Mansfield Park. This is an odd one, but the book really made me THINK.
    Rifles For Watie. The hero is just so awesome. A real good guy.
    The Little House books. I loved the "open" lifestyle and the optimistic attitude. Something better is always around the corner. Gotta remember that :)
    The Narnia books. Really stirred up my imagination.
    Then, o'course, the Hardy Boys. Just part of my childhood. Are they/ were they a part of yours?! :)

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    1. Oooooh, I've never heard of Bert Breen's Barn, but for some reason it sounds like something I would really be into. And I REALLY want to read Rifles For Watie because of you. ;-P Ahhhh, the Little house books are so cozy and comforting. I never really liked the Narnia books -- but that was probably because I don't care for fantasy (plus I have this odd personality quirk where I tend to dislike the things everyone else raves about, and Narnia's super popular with lots of people I know).

      The Hardy Boys -- YES! I love The hardy Boys! I've actually only *read* one, I think -- our library had the first two books on tape, so we listened to those over and over again. I had such a huge crush on Joe Hardy.

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    2. Yes! I think you would REALLY like Bert Breen's Barn. And oh! You had a crush on Joe Hardy? I LIKE HIM TOO. Well, I've probably read like almost all fifty books - comes of having brothers :P

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  12. THIS POST. I liked it a whole lot :D

    Okay, I really need to read Softly and Tenderly. And CitD was one of my first "quality" CFR reads, I think :) I think I'm going to reread that one soon. Oh, OH, and the part when Josiah talks to Charles. I just canNOT, I tell you.

    I may steal this post one of these days. Just so ya know ;)

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    1. Well, thanks! :-D YES, you should read the Songbird books. (I don't know why the series is called Songbird -- doesn't really make any sense. But anyway, they're all amazing. Softly and Tenderly is the second one, but it's the one I read first, and I kinda recommend reading it first actually.)

      *sniffle* Now you're making me emotional. ;-) Ohhhhh, when I think of how that book impacted my twelve-year-old life....aaahhhhhhh.

      That's okay! I steal posts all the time. People steal posts from me. We're all thieves. It's all good.

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  13. It must have been you who got me to read Sixteen Brides, then! Ohhhh, such a good book. Not sappy, not gloppy, not militant-feminist, just really well written. I aspire to write something as good. Thank you for the recommendation!

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    1. Yes, I remember! And then I was so tickled when you read it and loved it as much as I do. ;-) It's getting to be that time when I reeeeeaaaaally want to read it again, but unfortunately I lent it to my great-aunt last fall and she's down south and I don't know when she's coming back...*bites nails*...

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