Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Five Poisoned Apples" Writing Contest!

Rooglewood Press has just announced their theme for this year's fairy tale retelling contest!

Rooglewood Press invites you to join the adventure of the Five Poisoned Apples creative writing contest!

This is the final contest that Rooglewood Press plans to host, and it looks like it will be a lovely one. (Just look at that cover!) Contestants must write a retelling of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" that is between 5,000 and 20,000 words in length. Submission forms are due December 16th, 2017, and the finished stories must be emailed to Rooglewood Press by December 31st, 2017. Further details, obviously, are available at the above link. 

As a lover of fairy tale retellings, I adore the concept behind these anthologies. By focusing on one fairy tale at a time, these books provide a greater range for creativity and a more complete look at their chosen fairy tales.

As a contestant and winner of the previous contest, Five Magic Spindles, I highly encourage aspiring authors to enter. I learned more from writing Out of the Tomb than from any other writing experience. (First because of the word count limit--when you're trying to tell a novel-length story in 20,000 words, you learn to make every scene count--and later from the editing). Even if you don't win, retelling a tale and finishing a story is an invaluable writing experience. 

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" has tons of potential as a retelling. Assassination attempts, unlikely allies, betrayal, magic, disguises, true love, housework...there are a lot of dramatic elements to play with. Or comedic elements. Or horrific elements. You decide which direction to go. It's your retelling!

The most important advice I can give to potential contestants is: Be creative. Everybody knows this you've got to work hard to surprise your readers. Come up with a conflict that goes beyond "Will Snow White live happily ever after?" Mix up characters, approach it from a different angle, create bold new settings or pick a strange new genre. Believe me, I never thought that "gender-swapped sci-fi Sleeping Beauty starring aliens" would be selected for the last anthology...yet I loved writing it, and the editors didn't find it too strange to fit into the book. As long as you fit the pieces of "Snow White" somewhere into this year's story, you can have tons of fun with your retelling. Snow White in the modern day? Snow White in Antarctica? Snow White and the Seven Giants? Snow White as a murder mystery (with a title like Five Poisoned Apples, it seems fitting)?. Snow White starring cats? Who knows what your story could be? The sky's the limit!

So, have at it, writers! Take the challenge and retell the fairy tale. Be creative, have fun, and write a great story!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Writer's Tag

Hello, everyone! Remember me? Yes, I'm still alive. I've just been too busy to blog or to write much. But my schedule has cleared up for a while, giving me more time to blog...and to write. I've seen The Writer's Tag on plenty of blogs, and most recently saw it on Hamlette's blog. I want this blog to be more than tags, but I've been meaning to make some posts about writing, so this seems like a good way to start. 
Without further ado...
1. What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

I write science fiction and fantasy, especially fairy tale retellings. I would like to write in other genres, but I find that a story idea has to have a fun worldbuilding element in order to maintain my interest. Even my contemporary ideas have a fairy tale connection for my imagination to seize upon.

I write mostly in past-tense third-person-limited, but I’ve also done past-tense first-person, first-person epistolary, and a fragment of second-person future-tense. My style is relatively no-frills, mostly because I am wordy, and then I get bored rereading it, so I cut out the extra words.
I like writing about royalty, politics, and culture clashes. I love to write about people changing their worldviews and/or moving beyond traumas. I love to write family relationships, friendships, and romances built on friendship. I especially like romances and friendships between a practical, logical woman and a more emotional man. I like to explore questions of morality, philosophy, and religion. I also like to make up silly worldbuilding details. 

2. How long have you been writing? 
I’ve been writing for about twelve years now. (I feel old…).

3. Why do you write? 
Because I want to dig deeper into fairy tales and other stories that I love. Because I have characters and worlds that I want to explore. Because I want to explore questions within my own life. And because if I don’t write these books, no one else will.

4. When is the best time to write?
I get excited about writing in the morning, but I most often write late at night and in the very early morning hours. 

5. Parts of writing you love vs. parts you hate.
I love when story ideas start generating new ideas, and pieces start falling into place, and what started as a single image or concept suddenly becomes a vast new story and world. I hate when I reach that point, think, Yes, this is my next story, and then I start to write and realize that I only have two named characters and half of a plot and writing this story will be a lot more difficult than I thought.
I love when I’m in the middle of writing and unexpectedly come up with a new concept that makes the story more interesting and fills plot holes that I hadn’t even noticed in my outline. I dislike when my story takes ten times longer to write than it should because these new concepts keep throwing me off schedule.
I hate writing first drafts, because the story in my head is grand and bright and layered and the first draft is flat black-and-white words. I adore revising, because it allows me to develop those deeper layers and sculpt the story into what it’s supposed to be.  

6. How do you overcome writers block?

Usually I step back from the story and work on a different idea for a while. Which is why I have about twenty-five stories fighting for my attention right now, so I do not recommend this method. I also find songs that fit the mood of my story and use random things in my life for inspiration.
Since the Pinterest storyboard party, I've started using Pinterest boards more seriously, and it’s amazing. It helps me hold onto the mood and overall atmosphere of the story—so it feels like something I’ve already read and am just remembering. It helps to keep my enthusiasm up and even generates new ideas.
7. Are you working on something at the moment?  

I am unexpectedly working on a space opera retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” (It’s an idea I abandoned ages ago, but last week I started making a Pinterest board and suddenly found myself with an outline. My other stories feel betrayed.) I’d also really, really, really like to work on my non-magical fantasy in my Seafarers universe, but I’ve hit rock-hard writer’s block on that one. Hopefully, if I can finish this story, it will boost my confidence to try that one.

8. Writing goals this year? 

I want to finish at least the first draft of two works, one novel-length and one novella-length. Ideally this will be the space opera “Beauty and the Beast” and my Seafarers story, but I can’t be sure. I might wind up writing a space opera “Snow White” that takes place in the same universe as the “Beauty and the Beast” one, or another one of my ideas might suddenly jump up and demand attention. 

Not going to tag feels like everyone has done this tag already! But if you haven't done it yet and would like a turn, feel free to join in the fun!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pinterest Storyboards

One of my New Year's resolutions was to blog more. Since I'm making my first post of 2017 in the latter half of February, you can see how well that's going. However, Elisabeth Grace Foley is hosting a Pinterest storyboard party that invites authors to share their visual inspiration for stories they've written or hope to write. That sounds like fun, and seems like a good way to ease myself back into blogging, so I've joined in!

I tend to gather images as inspiration fairly early in my writing process. (Actually, I've started saving them to my computer, rather than Pinterest--less chance of distraction that way). My storyboards are a hodge-podge of images and ideas to draw from as I plan the story, not necessarily a strictly accurate picture of the story that springs from it.

That said, here are my storyboards!

The first is from a high fantasy novel with the working title Star of the Sea. It revolves around an arranged marriage between a woman who comes from a culture that lives on sailing ships and a prince from a small land nation. There's a lot of focus on culture clash and religion, and the story draws inspiration from The Little Mermaid, Joan of Arc and the biblical story of Joseph. My Pinterest board contains ocean images and sailing ships, as well as clothing and jewelry from Ancient Rome, Byzantium, and medieval times as I try to nail down the visuals for the three main cultures of the book. This story's run into some plotting issues, and is currently on the back burner, but I hope to return to it later this year.

My second board is from Stargazer, a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" that takes place on a space station. This board is kind of crazy, because I have sci-fi concept art for the space opera aspects, fairy tale pictures for the retelling aspects, and lots of random pictures of girls to inspire the looks of my twelve princess characters. This is another story I hope to write later this year, once I resolve some plot and pacing issues.

My final board is from The Fairy's Daughters, another retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". It was inspired by Rilla of Ingleside, and takes place in a fairy tale version of post-WWI Prince Edward Island that has fairies, sea monsters, giants, sylphs, mermaids, pixies, and all sorts of other creatures and characters. I wrote 75,000 words of the story before I abandoned it to work on my entries for Five Magic Spindles. Coming back to it after that experience, I realize that the story needs a complete rewrite, and I'm not certain that I'll ever finish it. However, I still love this universe and I really like this Pinterest board, so I want to share! Who knows, I might return to it someday (and this board is reigniting my enthusiasm for it).

Elisabeth's storyboard party continues until tomorrow. Stop by her blog to see the other great storyboards, and join in if you feel so inclined.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

This has been an interesting reading year. I read over 90 books (most of them short, as I struggled to keep up with my Goodreads Challenge), but I was in a bit of a reading slump for a good portion of the year, and had trouble finding books that really kept my interest.

I'm linking up with the Broke and the Bookish for this week's topic of "Top Ten Books Read in 2016". I was a bit afraid that 2016's lack of reading enthusiasm meant I wouldn't find ten books that rose above the others. Instead, I had the opposite problem, and couldn't narrow it down to only ten. So instead, you get my Top 12 books of 2016.

Listed roughly in the order I read them:

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery

One of L.M Montgomery's lesser-known works, and in my opinion, one of her best. After Jane's parents separated, she went to live on the Canadian mainland with her mother in her grandmother's dreary house. When Jane is invited to spend the summer with her father on Prince Edward Island, she blossoms as she's given more freedom and discovers the beauty and happiness of the island. Jane of Lantern Hill tackles some slightly darker subjects than Montgomery's other books, giving it a bit more realism, but is also a bright, sunny, cheerful and charming bit of escapism. (Bonus: Jane enjoys housework so much that I became enthusiastic about cleaning). 

A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson

A middle-grade fantasy version Lord Peter Wimsey. (This book was tailor-made for my tastes.) In a fantasy version of 1930s Canada, Isaveth (a sort of twelve-year-old Harriet Vane) works with a mysterious boy to clear her father of charges of murder. All the characters--down to secondary and tertiary characters--have memorable and distinct personalities, and Isaveth's relationship with her sisters is heartwarming and realistic. The worldbuilding is great, with two different, non-mystical magic systems and more cultural details than I expected from a middle-grade books. I especially liked the author's exploration of religion (Isaveth's family follows their world's version of Judaism and is oppressed for it) which was sensitive and added a lot of depth. 

Masque by W.R. Gingell

A fantasy murder-mystery version of "Beauty and the Beast". The plot gets tangled in the end, and there are some unbelievable events in the middle, but it's one of the best retellings I've ever read, with great characters, unique twists on the tale, and a well-built world. It also encouraged me to seek out other indie books, which have included some of my favorite reads of the year.  

Revenge of the Sith novelization by Matthew Stover

This is a novelization of a Star Wars prequel. It should be drivel, a simple cash grab. Instead, it's beautiful literature. It uses literary devices and poetic language to delve deep into characters and themes and the battle of good versus evil. It made Anakin Skywalker's fall tragic, made me cry over Obi-Wan's despair, and just plain made me jealous that a Star Wars novel is so much better than anything I could ever write. I listened to the audio version narrated by Jonathan Davis, and his spectacular voice acting brings all the characters to life and adds a lot to the book (I think I like his version of Obi-Wan better than Ewan McGregor's). 

Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

Mike Jackson and his eccentric friend Psmith graduate from public school and must work at a bank in London, where they get caught up in all sorts of craziness. Mike and Psmith's friendship is one of the greatest in fiction--Psmith livens things up when Mike gets too dull, and Mike pulls Psmith back down to Earth when he gets too over-the-top. This book isn't the pure farce of Wodehouse's later works, but it's still a fantastically funny book, while also providing characters I care about.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

The ending was underwhelming, but I was drawn into the world and characters of Mistborn. I loved Vin, the young thief discovering her magical abilities, Kelsier, her charming, morally-gray mentor, and the colorful cast of characters they interacted with as they worked to dethrone the evil overlord.
The Andari Chronicles by Kenley Davidson

I've already done three posts about this series, so I won't say much more. But these four books fit my tastes perfectly. They're creative fairy tale retellings with layered characters, fascinating political intrigue, and just a touch of magic. I've already read Pirouette twice, and really want to reread Traitor's Masque and The Countess and the Frog soon.

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I'm not as enamored of the Queen's Thief series as some fans are, but these books are fantastic, and this is the best of the bunch. We watch Gen struggle to adapt to new roles in a nation that's hostile to him, through the eyes of a guard who thinks he's a blundering foreign idiot. This book has some of the most stunning plot twists I've ever read.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I didn't fall in love with this book the way I did some others, but it's the only book I've read this year that lacks obvious flaws. The Emperor's Soul accomplished everything it was trying to do. It follows a woman who must use her knowledge of a stamp-based magic system to recreate the mind and memories of a brain-dead emperor--the greatest forgery of all time. The main character and a government official have some fascinating conversations about the nature of art and truth, and there's an exciting climax that leads to a thought-provoking ending.

 Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag

This book breaks tons of writing rules and has lots of flaws. The main character's motivations and actions make little sense, the world-building's not well-explained, some plot twists are confusing, I don't buy into the villain's "love" toward the main character, and the ending is violent and confusing and disappointing. Yet somehow these flawed parts make a beautiful book. Its lyrical prose and loving descriptions of a beautiful world drew me in, and turned this into one of the most captivating and immersive reading experiences of the year.

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

I can't stop thinking about this book. Sayers explores the nature of the Trinity by comparing it with the creative writing process, making for a fascinating exploration of theology and art. The metaphors provide useful ways to approach writing, and new ways to think about God. Dorothy's a delightfully spunky narrator who doesn't suffer fools, and the book also has some behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Lord Peter Wimsey series.

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

For twenty years, Tolkien wrote yearly illustrated letters to his children from Father Christmas. The world-building--complete with elves and ancient Cave Bears and wars against goblins--provides a charming and fascinating North Pole. But it was almost more fun to read between the lines to piece together the life of the Tolkien family as the children grow up and Christmas is affected by the Depression and World War II. The love and devotion that went into these letters is astounding. This is probably going to turn into a yearly reread.

What were your favorite books of the year, readers? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Reads

Halloween's ended, Thanksgiving has passed, and now we're well into December and its Christmas preparations. I've got my Christmas shopping done, and I hope to find a little bit of time in the next few weeks to curl up by the tree with some Christmas-themed books. I've already finished a few of them, but I still have a decent-sized list that should carry me through to Epiphany.

The Grift of the Magi: A Heist Society Novella by Ally Carter

I've aged out of the target audience for these books, but I was still excited to stumble unexpectedly upon a new Heist Society novella, showcasing a new adventure for Ally Carter's team of teenage thieves in which they try to steal back a Faberge egg that's been stolen from a charity right before their Christmas auction. The story's frothy and unrealistic and would probably work better as a TV episode than as a book, but it was still nice to get back in with the characters.

Some Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens

Is there any author as Christmassy as Charles Dickens? The man's almost single-handedly responsible for spreading the modern notions of Christmas. I read this a couple of weeks ago, wanting to experience some of Dickens' non-Christmas-Carol Christmas writings, and found it charming. Some of the writing is saccharine and overwrought, but the stories are all sweet and seasonally appropriate. (Except for that one with the sad ending that made me yell at the book, but all the rest are cute).

The Seven Poor Travelers by Charles Dickens

The frame story of this short story/novelette revolves around a young man who provides a Christmas meal to six poor travelers at a charity that provides free lodging. This part's plotless, but it's brim-ful of Christmas atmosphere, and is my favorite part of the story. The middle section ou contains the story that the young man tells the travelers, all about his uncle who joined the army and had various life-changing adventures. This part's interesting enough, but a bit melodramatic and not at all Christmassy, and I was glad to get back to the seven poor travelers.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

I found this at a library book sale for a dollar. The dust jacket is 60% of the reason I bought it--in person, it's silvery and shiny and like Christmas in physical form. In this mystery, a young aristocrat travels to spend Christmas an English country village, where she investigates several maybe-not-accidental deaths. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book, and it is possibly the lightest book I've ever read--even though about four or five deaths have occurred so far, it remains sparkling and enjoyable and without an ounce of depth. A frothy Christmas confection.

Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron

The Christmas season is my favorite time to read mysteries, and this one stars Jane Austen! All I know is it places Jane in Bath at Christmas time, where she investigates a murder. 

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien

One of the cutest premises ever! Every Christmas, Tolkien wrote his children letters from Father Christmas, telling them all about his life at the North Pole, complete with illustrations and even writings in the Elvish alphabet! I've been wanting to read these for a long time, and luckily my library has a collection of the letters. The few pages I've read so far are adorable, and Tolkien's building one of my favorite versions of the North Pole.

The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

Rather than re-reading A Christmas Carol yet again, I want to branch out and read some of Dickens' other Christmas novellas, and general consensus points to these as two of the finest. The Chimes is actually a New Year's story that's reported to be somewhat spooky, and The Cricket on the Hearth is a Christmas tale told from the point of few of, yes, a cricket living on the hearth. 

The Flying Stars by G.K. Chesterton

This Father Brown story has become my Boxing Day tradition. In this short story, Father Brown foils the great thief Flambeau's attempt to steal some jewels from an unsuspecting family at Christmas time, and maybe even saves his soul in the process. A fun, clever and heartwarming tale that's about much more than just solving a mystery. 

That's my planned Christmas-themed reading. So tell me, readers, what are your favorite Christmas stories? Do you plan on a Dickens binge? Have you read any of my planned reads or do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments, and have a great Christmas season!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spooky Story Challenge

A few weeks ago, Jenelle Schmidt announced a Spooky Story Challenge for Halloween. I am the world's biggest wimp when it comes to scary stories, but I thought this sounded like a fun way to stretch some new writing muscles. I've delayed (I wrote one story and hated it, and waited a while for a better idea to come to me), but now, in the last few hours before the deadline, I've come up with this little thing.

This story was partially inspired by Jenelle's prompt of It was under the bed/in the closet. Now that I've written it, part of me thinks it's too silly, and part of me thinks it's too dark, but I'm going to be brave and post it anyway. It's definitely different from anything else I've written.

Enjoy! And be sure to follow the link to read the other spooky stories!

                                                               Bedtime Stories

Maddie's bedroom was made of pink and fluff. Her mother had thought Maddie was made of similar materials. Until the November night that the little girl cheerfully announced (as she pulled her head through her fuzzy heart-and-kitten-speckled pajamas), "There's a monster under my bed."

Maddie did not say this the way little girls were supposed to, with wide eyes and a quavering voice and a tear-streaked face. She grinned as she spoke the words that should have struck terror into any six-year-old's soul.

This unsettled Heather--she'd thought Maddie was a much sweeter and more sensitive child--but as she helped her daughter pull her arms into her pajama sleeves, she decided to view this as a positive development. This was much better than a child who ran screaming into her mother's bedroom at four in the morning. 

So Heather replied cheerily, "Oh, really, pumpkin?"

Maddie nodded enthusiastically. "He wanted to eat me, but I fed him my Halloween candy, and now we're friends."

Imaginary friends with the monster under the bed. Maddie had always been a creative child, and here was a creative excuse for why her Halloween candy had disappeared so quickly. Heather didn't push for the truth. A child was permitted some post-Halloween indulgence.

Heather held back a smile. "It's nice of you to share with your friends."

"That's what Monster said. He swore fealty to me."

Where did Maddie pick up this vocabulary? At this rate, Maddie would be Ivy League bound.

Maddie explained, "That means he's my special helper."

Heather toweled the last drops of moisture from Maddie's head. "He sounds like a very nice friend. But now it's time for bed."

Maddie scrambled beneath her pink butterfly comforter without complaint. "I get two stories tonight."

Heather chuckled as she turned off the overhead light and turned on the bedside lamp. "All right. But only two."

After Heather's recitations of The Pony Dance and Kittens in the Kitchen, Maddie needed a glass of water. Then she needed three more stuffed animals, and then a trip to the bathroom. By the time Heather tucked Maddie beneath the covers again, it was fifteen minutes past bedtime. 

"Now a story," Maddie insisted.

"You already had two."

"I get a story after I get tucked in. I'm tucked in now."

Heather put on her stern face. "No, Maddie. It's bedtime. You had your stories. Now it's time to sleep."

Maddie sat up and displayed her tantrum-preparation face. "I want a story."

"No. Good night."

Heather turned off the bedside lamp. Maddie shrieked in protest.

Something grabbed Heather's ankle. Heather looked down, and saw a thick arm protruding from beneath the bed ruffle. The moonlight glittered on the black scales, and two-inch-long claws scraped Heather's skin.

A deep liquid growl of a voice slithered through the room and soaked into Heather's bones. "Stay..."

A scream stuck in Heather's throat. Her body froze, but her mind raced. Run, run, scream, what is it, beast, danger, monster. 


Maddie stopped screaming. She peered over the bed and smiled at the arm. "Thank you, Monster." She looked up at Heather, and the moonlight glittered in her eyes. "Monster wants a story, too."

Slowly, mechanically, Heather turned on the lamp. She chose a picture book from the shelf. The claws remained around her ankle. Blood dripped onto the carpet. Heather read the text of Crazy Cupcake Catastrophe one strangled word at a time, each breath feeling like her last.

She finished the book and did not die. " Monster happy?" she whispered.

Maddie nodded. "It's our favorite. Good night, Mommy. Love you."

Maddie snuggled into her pillow. The claws unwrapped from Heather's ankle, one onyx tip after another. Heather turned off the lamp, staggered into the hall, and tumbled unconscious onto the carpet.


Heather finished the fifth bedtime story of the night and kissed Maddie's forehead. "Ready for bed, sweetie?"

"I'm hungry," Maddie said. "I want ice cream."

The last six months hadn't destroyed all of Heather's motherly instincts, and her lips began to form the word, "No." Fortunately, before she could speak, her survival instincts froze the words in her throat. Her wounds had only just healed from Monster's last retribution for a refusal.

"What kind?" Heather asked.


Heather raced toward the kitchen.

"With rainbow sprinkles!" Maddie called after her.

Moments later, Heather handed Maddie her bowl of ice cream, then set a second, larger bowl next to the bed for Monster. The claws--so much larger now--pulled the bowl beneath the bed, and gulping, growling, scraping, slurping noises came from behind the pink ruffle.

The sound made Heather want to curl in on herself, and her skin tingled with the memory of those teeth on her flesh. She barely--barely--kept herself from screaming, and with deep, shuddering breaths slowed her racing heart. The monster would spare her. A meal of sugar stilled its hunger for flesh.

But if Maddie found a reason to complain...

No, she wouldn't think about that. She'd done everything right. She wouldn't bleed tonight.

Maddie slurped up the last multicolored scoops of chocolate sludge and placed the bowl next to the lamp. She wiped her face on her fuzzy pink pajama sleeve. Heather squashed her desire to clean the last sticky remnants from Maddie's face. Maddie didn't like her face washed, and so Monster didn't like it either.

"All done?" Heather asked.

Maddie nodded. "Thank you, Mommy. I love you."

The black claws stroked Heather's ankle.

"Monster loves you, too," Maddie said.

Heather kissed Maddie's forehead and turned off the light.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday-Ten Books I Read on Recommendation

I've decided to take the plunge and join in on Top 10 Tuesday. Top 10 Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish, and today's topic is to list books that you read because of book blogs, hype or recommendations from friends. I have lots of books that fit this category, because I'm much more likely to read a book if I hear someone else praise it first--and this method has helped me find most of my favorite books. 
Little House on the Prairie- This was the book recommendation that shaped my childhood. My mother had loved the TV show when she was growing up, and encouraged me to read the books. I started with Little House on the Prairie, since that was the one the TV show was named after, and I read the entire series multiple times through my childhood.

Ella Enchanted- For a time, this was the cool book for every girl at my elementary school. It was my first encounter with fantasy world-building, and the book stuck in my imagination. Several years later, it served as my inspiration to write fairy tale retellings, and I now reread this book about once a year.

Pride and Prejudice- Every girl I knew went crazy for the 2005 movie. I didn't understand the hype--I hated romances and I thought the movie was boring and sappy. But all my friends were reading the book, and I knew it was one of the biggest classics in literature, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. When I read Mr. Bennet's sarcastic comments about his wife's nerves, I knew I'd found a new favorite. No one had told me it was a comedy! I soon read through all of Austen's work, and she remains one of my absolute favorite authors. (Plus, I no longer think romances are stupid).

The Blue Castle- Heidi on the Surlalune Fairy Tales blog put this in a list of Valentine's Day recommendations, and called it a rare romantic retelling of "Bluebeard". It's now probably one of my top five favorite books. The story is sweet and funny and uplifting, Valancey and Barney's romance is the most adorable thing ever, and the descriptions of the forest make me want to move to Canada.

Daddy Long-Legs- When The Lizzie Bennet Diaries became an internet sensation, I stumbled upon a discussion of what book the company should adapt next. One person suggested Daddy Long-Legs, and when I mentioned that I'd never heard of it, they insisted that I needed to read the book immediately. So I did, and was instantly enchanted by Jerusha's surprisingly modern narration style and the sweet story. (And this would totally be perfect as a webseries).

The Hunger Games Series- I would never, never, NEVER, have read this series of my own volition. The concept of children fighting to the death sounded horrifying. But the hype grew and grew, and once I saw the movie trailer, I knew I had to read the books. I was surprised to find a thrilling but surprisingly deep exploration of morality and the media, and I read through the series in about a week.

The Lord of the Rings- One of my friends was a major Tolkien fan in high school, and though I had no interest in fantasy then, over time, her praise and the general hype for the series convinced me to plunge in. It took me months to read, but it was worth it.

Gaudy Night- I'd heard this one praised for its romance between equals, but I wasn't able to make it past the first few pages of Harriet staring out a window at Oxford. Then I started seeing praise and fanart for Harriet and Peter's relationship in some of the earlier books, which intrigued me. When I had the chance to buy Gaudy Night at a thrift store for -50 cents (long story), I took the chance, and found a book that stunned me with its depth and made me a Dorothy L. Sayers fangirl.

Psmith series- This was another case of being drawn in by the enthusiasm of a small fandom. I loved the Jeeves and Wooster stories, and the Psmith fans convinced me to check out this earlier P.G. Wodehouse series. The Psmith books are very different from Jeeves--they're less of a complete farce--but they have a charm of their own. Psmith and Mike's friendship is one of my favorite things in all of fiction.

The Queen's Thief Series- Now we come to my current reads. This series had been on my radar for a long time, but when I saw the excitement surrounding the announcement of the coming fifth book, I couldn't stay away any longer. I'm about a third of the way through The Queen of Attolia, and I'm stunned by the intricacy of the world-building, the characters, and the political intrigue. I hear that it gets even better from here, and I'm very excited!

Aaand, that's ten!

How about you, readers? What books have you read because of recommendations? Have you been pleased or disappointed? Do you prefer to have outside input on what you should read or to follow your own instincts? Please share in the comments!