©2017 GEMMA HUMPHREY

Books that changed my life

January 10, 2018

 

I've always been a BIG reader.

 

I was the child who would read the back of the cereal box at breakfast, who got punished by being sent to her room without her book whenever I misbehaved, who had more books than friends in high school, and who, to this day, finds herself reciting licence-plate numbers in her head as she drives to work.

 

Books are my go-to when I'm stressed, sad, angry, tired. When the real world gets too much for me to deal with, and I need to hide, to decompress, to wind down. 

 

My need to collect them borders on obsessive, and the shelves in my home office groan under the weight of all those new worlds, friends, and journeys for me to discover -

 because there is nothing more comforting than knowing I will always have something to read.

 

So I think it's safe for me to say, I've read a lot of books in my lifetime.

Hundreds. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands.

(Edit: Author is known to exaggerate on occasion.)

 

I've forgotten loads - probably more than I should have - but there are some that will forever stick in my head. 

 

Lets start at the beginning. 

 

10 Little Ponies

 

I had a lot of books as a child, but the one I remember most was called ten little ponies. It was made of thick card, and each page had a cut out at the top, like the dividers you get in binders, each depicting a different image of a pony.

 

The story was simple: ten ponies who each go off to complete a task, such as pulling a cart or competing in a race. The book counted down the number of ponies, one per page.

 

We lived in Bognor Regis at the time, but my dad had a new job in Eastbourne, meaning he had to stay with my grandparents during the week and only came home to us at the weekend. And so, every Sunday night, once I’d had my bath, got into my pyjamas and snuggled into bed, Dad would sit next to me, and pull ten little ponies from my bookshelf.

 

“Ten little ponies,” he’d begin, solemnly, “see how their coats all shine. One goes off to pull a cart, and then there are nine.”

 

Dad was the best reader. He had a different voice for everything, and ten little ponies was no exception. It didn’t matter how many times he read it to me, he would always bring me to tears with his rendition of the penultimate page, his voice dropping low, his words becoming slow, as he read:

 

“One lonely little pony, all alone in its pen…”

 

I would bravely fight tears for that little pony, knowing that I only had to hold out until the next page, when all the ponies would return, and they would all be together again.

 

It was our ritual. Our little moment before he would have to leave for the week, and, as much as I looked forward to it, I dreaded it in equal measure.

 

I think that’s why it sticks in my memory like it does, why I remember it so clearly. It wasn’t so much the book as the time I got to spend with my dad, and the comfort it brought me as a child. It will always have a special place in my heart – and in my keepsake box, up in the loft, where the book remains to this day.

 

The Sadlers Wells Collection

 

 

Who didn't want to be a ballerina as a child?

 

I have no idea where I got this book from, or why I started reading it, but I was enchanted from the very first chapter. 

 

Now, for someone who  is the furthest thing from petite or graceful,  this dream was a very, very long way off. But, that is the great thing about books.  Even if I would never get to train at Sadlers Well in reality, through this book, I got to be a world famous Prima Donna, adored by millions. I tucked this dream close to my heart as a child, and, as an adult, only let it out to watch silly dance movies with little-to-no plot (one of my many guilty pleasures!) and I attribute it all to this one book.

 

Room 13

 

This book has hidden in the corners of my mind since I was young - probably only 8 or 9 years old - and it was only very recently (as in, the last 10 minutes) that I finally figured out what it was called. (It's amazing what throwing a list of random words like 'vampire, school trip, 13' into google will achieve!) 

 

It gave me nightmares for weeks, (EDIT: Author wishes she was exaggerating!) yet, the moment I finished that final page, I turned to the front, and read it again. 

 

And again... and again...

 

This was THE book that that started an obsession with vampires that lingers to this day - although it has been dulled by the glut of vampire books that have become available over recent years. I loved everything about it, and it lead me to the next books in my list...

 

The Point Horror Series

 

 Now, this is a bit of a cheat, since its not one book, but a group of books by different authors, all published under the same title. 'Point Horror' books were all the rage when I was younger, and I think I almost had them all. (Not quite, much to my eternal shame!) 

Some were amazing, and stick in my mind, like The Mall, The Body, Trick or Treat, and Teachers Pet, to name a few, but the three I remember the most are next on the list.

 

The Forbidden Game Trilogy

 

These books were something else, something new, and opened my eyes to a whole new world - that of the Bad Boy.

 

His name was Julian, and, to a girl of 10 or 11, he was the epitome of perfect. It was love at first read.

Although The Forbidden Game was originally part of the Point Horror franchise, they were written by L. J. Smith, who went on to write the hit series The Vampire Diaries - a series so popular it was turned into a TV show that lasted for 8 seasons. (Which I watched every episode of.) If you've seen the Salvatore brothers (Hello, Damon!) then you'll understand. 

 

 

 

It was only shortly after this, that my preferred genre took a bit of a u-turn. 

 

I remember it clearly. Me and my mum - another avid reader, and whom I attribute much of my love of books to - were spending some quality time together, watching a re-run of a BBC period drama that had aired a few years before, and I was so enthralled by the characters, that I immediately checked out the book it was based on from the local library. 

 

Pride and Prejudice

 

I love this book. And not in the pretentious 'My favourite book is a classic' kind of way, but in a genuine saccharine, teen-crush kind of way. 

 

But it wasn't Mr Darcy - the brooding, intelligent man who looked achingly good in a wet shirt (Qualities, by the way, I think all men should possess, as a result!) who made my heart dance - but Elizabeth.

 

Eliza Bennet was perfect. Intelligent, witty, and beautiful, she was everything I wanted to become, and more.  The way she stood up for herself, the way she refused to 'dumb down' in order to fit into society, and, most importantly, the way she glided around in such ridiculously beautiful dresses, captured my heart and my mind.

I read Pride and Prejudice cover to cover, over and over -  and it became the beginning of a romance with period novels which has yet to fade.

 

There's a bit of a gap after this. Reading must have taken a back-seat through the angst-ridden years I was a teenager. It wasn't until I was out of college, and living with my then-boyfriend and a couple of other friends, that the next book on the list made its way into my life. 

 

 Magician

 

Magician was lent to me by then-boyfriends best friend, who was an avid fantasy reader. He told me it would blow my mind, and change me for the better - and it did exactly that. 

Until that point, I'd always considered Fantasy as an old mans genre. Orcs and Elves, Magicians and giants - despite my love for fairy-tales and folk stories of old, when it came to 'Fantasy books' I was just never interested. 

Magician changed all that. 

 

It was a big book. Daunting to start - but I read it in 48 hours, before demanding to borrow the next in the series.

 

And I'm STILL reading this series - the final (Magician's End) having been released a few years back (It's still in my TBR pile - I can't bring myself to close this particular chapter of my life just yet) and it was the beginning of, what is now, a deep-rooted appreciation for everything fantasy. (Thanks, Patch. xx)

 

Twilight

 

 

Ahh, Twilight. Never has there been such a book as polarising as this.

 

I was late to read Twilight, discovering it just before 'Eclipse' was released. It was lent to me by a dear friend, at a time when my life was ... changing. 

It was a bad year. I lost family members and childhood friends, was made redundant at work, and needed to find a new place to live. Even the family dog died that year. 

 

And so I escaped into a little town called Forks, and fell in love with a vampire. 

 

I must have read those books a hundred times. (EDIT: Author isn't exaggerating.) , over and over, until the pages were torn and battered, covered in tea stains, and likely tears too. (I have a fresh set now - which are PRISTINE!) and when the first film came out, me and a friend spent the whole day in the cinema, watching it on repeat. (I had a Cineworld Unlimited card back then. Those where the days...!)

It became my lifeline, and I was obsessed, clinging to this fantasy world until my own world finally righted itself, and I finally moved on with my life, and with my reading. 

 

If you mention Twilight today, people sneer. Unfortunately for Bella and Edward, that ship sailed long ago. Now Twilight is only ever in the spotlight when bad writers feel the need to remind themselves that even badly-written books can get huge, if all the stars align just so...

 Stephanie Meyer has been ridiculed for the Twilight Saga - but I doubt she cares very much, as she will go down in history as the author who started a revolution. 

 

Before Twilight, Young-Adult books were just another genre, designed with a specific age group in mind, and read, mostly, by said age group - generally aged 11 - 18 years of age. 

 

After Twilight, Young-adult became a franchise, a phenomenon, with movies and merchandise and harcore fans who identified themselves as 'Twilighters', 'Potterheads', 'Initiates', and 'tributes' (to name a few), could recite the books word-for-word, and had posters of their favourite ships stuck to their walls. 

It wasn't just young-adult's reading it anymore, either. People of all ages were boarding the Twilight-train, and it gained speed every time. 

 

 

The glut of Young-adult books that followed was, to me, a beautiful thing. I no longer had to skulk into the children's section to sniff out the one or two titles that would come out each year - because this genre that I so loved (then, a woman in my very early 20's) finally had the recognition it had deserved for so long.

Spotlights were shone on the authors who popped out of the woodwork, eager to ride the tidal-wave that Twilight had set in motion, new titles being released at such a rapid rate that I could hardly keep up, until, one day, the unimaginable happened, and it finally, FINALLY got its own section in waterstones!!!

 

 

Now, Young-adult is finally being recognised as something more than books for children. The stigma is being lifted and, although I still get funny looks when I tell people that I, a woman of 31 (EDIT: Now 32!!)  not only read, but write 'young adult fantasy fiction' - I no longer care. 

 

The genre has grown, matured and developed with its readers, becoming more complex, more submersive, more amazing.

It's even introduced a new genre - New Adult - which is still in its infancy, but growing in popularity every day. 

 

So it's because of this, because of what Twilight did for me, that it will always hold a special place in my heart - and I'm not afraid to admit it!

 

 

I could go on writing this post for hours. Days. Years. So many, are the incredible books I've read. Harry Potter, Elantris, The Dark Tower Series, The Mortal Instruments. The Infernal Devices, Vampire Academy, Fallen, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone - just to name a few. 

 

But since I intend to start a book review post, this will have to do, for now. 

 

I hope you've enjoyed my little jaunt through my formative years as much as I have, and would love to hear about the books that changed your world, too. 

 

Until then, much love, and Happy Reading. xxx

 

 

 

 

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