TEN BOOKS THAT CHANGED ME with Alli Sinclair
Raiders of the Lost Ark by Campbell Black
As an impressionable twelve-year-old, I was fully immersed in this action-packed world. With history and adventure weaving together, Raiders of the Lost Ark took me to places I had never dreamed of. I read the book before I saw the movie (which I still love) and it instilled in me a sense of wonder about ancient cultures, major moments in history and how it can still have an effect on our every day lives years later. Of course, as an adult, I now realise this story was more fiction than fact, but it still served a purpose – setting me on a road to learn about other cultures and to travel to exotic destinations. This is the book that made me get a passport and start plotting out all the places I would visit when I was old enough to travel by myself. Happily, I have ticked off all those destinations and I am continuously adding more to the “must see” list.
The Seamstress by Maria Duenas
This debut novel by Spanish writer Maria Duenas captivated me from the first page. The story starts in 1935 as Europe is in turmoil and a young girl is thrown into adulthood before she is ready. She suffers betrayal and must find a way to save herself from the trouble she’s attracted. The only way to do this is to use her skills as a seamstress but as she moves in the circles of high society with a raging war around her, she’s drawn into a world of espionage and she has to make a life-altering decision. For me, this story showed me how weaving in aspects of history can give a story authenticity – something I strive for in every book I write.
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
Set in 1849 in Chile, the heroine of this story makes a perilous journey to northern California to follow the man she loves. She’s adventurous, independent and highly unconventional for her time and what begins as a search for love turns into a revelation about herself and what it means to be free. Allende’s characters aren’t always likeable but they are captivating and their flaws give them a realistic quality. Allende writes strong characters who follow their hearts, despite the suffering they endure before reaching their goal. By studying Allende’s characters, it’s helped me find the confidence to write about people who may not always be loveable, but certainly intriguing.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
When first released, A Suitable Boy was the longest English novel in history. It’s a massive undertaking to read as the story is told over decades and has multiple family sagas (there’s a timeline and family tree at the front of the book). Full of complex and engaging characters set against an exotic backdrop, the family saga within the pages has helped me write my own, by dissecting what family means to each character and how the actions of one person can affect multiple generations. There is something magical about Indian writers and I am constantly seeking out new-to-me authors from this culturally rich country.
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Any of Michelle Moran’s work could be listed as books that have changed me but I’ve chosen Nefertiti because this book showed me how choosing the right character to tell the story has a significant effect. In Nefertiti, the story is told by her little sister, who witnesses the rise and fall of one of the most fascinating Egyptian queens. Had this been written from the point of view of Nefertiti, the events would remain the same but the experience for the reader would be entirely different. Michelle Moran has taught me the importance of choosing the right character to tell the story.
Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater
Alexander Frater follows the monsoonal rains from the Kerala backwaters in southern India to Cherrapunji, in northern India—known as the wettest place on earth. Frater connects beautifully with the people he meets and he writes for all senses, giving the reader a full immersion into one of the most captivating countries on Earth. His rich descriptions and respect for the cultures he writes about has inspired me to dig deep in my own stories so my readers are fully immersed and feel all their senses are involved.
The Trixie Belden Series by various authors
When I was a kid, I was very much into girl detective stories and I loved Nancy Drew but I connected with Trixie Belden so much I wanted to be her. Just like Trixie, I had an annoying brother (fortunately I don’t think that anymore!). She had red hair and freckles, was into horses, had a really interesting best friend and she solved mysteries. Determined, intelligent and kind, Trixie never gave up until she had her answer. Even though I have lived in four countries and moved way too many times to count, I still have my complete collection of Trixie Belden books that I will never part with. They are such a huge part of my childhood, I could never let them go.
Sweet Valley High Series by Francine Pascal
This series introduced me to the romance genre and came at a perfect time in my tween and early teen years. I loved following the story of twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield and their friends. There were lots of romantic interests amongst the recurring cast of characters, and of course there was always drama, drama, drama! Perfect for teen me. The series was published over a period of twenty years, overseen by Francine Pascal and a band of ghost writers, and as much as I would like to say I’ve read all 603 books, I haven’t. I would love to know if anyone has! I look back now and realise some of the plot lines were rather questionable: Elizabeth’s best friend is paralysed in a plane crash then miraculously recovers; Elizabeth falls in love with a werewolf in London and Jessica dates a vampire (this series isn’t paranormal so it wasn’t really expected!); and the twins were babysitters to a royal family. I look back now and realise how ludicrous some of these storylines were but at the age I was when I read these books, I loved them, as did my friends.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
This book was one I had to start three times before I finally finished it. Salman Rushdie’s writing is quite unique and it took me a long time before I finally clicked with his “voice”. I’d heard so many good things about this book so I took it with me to Argentina, where I was climbing the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua. At nearly 7000 metres high, this mountain climb was long and hard and so a book came in handy on the no-climbing days. I only had room for one so I decided to take Midnight’s Children, figuring if I was ever going to read it then it would be high on a mountain in the Andes. Boy, am I so glad I took it with me. I persevered and was rewarded by an amazing book set in India centres around the Sinai family, whose son Saleem is born after midnight when India gains independence. Children born between one and two am on this night are born with special powers, and Saleem, with his telepathic powers, summons the other children born at this time to meet and reflect on the issues affecting them and the country. Historically correct and blending magical realism, this amazing book takes the readers on an incredible journey. For me, this book brings back so many lovely memories of sitting high on the mountain, the Andes sprawling below and being transported into another place and time when I travelled through India.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Yet another book that includes magical realism (I’m sensing a theme, here!), Like Water for Chocolate is about a young girl in Mexico named Tita, who is in love with Pedro. Unfortunately, she can’t be with him because her mother is following family tradition by the youngest daughter (Tita) not marrying and having to care for her mother until she dies. In order to stay close to Tita, Pedro marries Tita’s older sister and, of course, major drama ensues. As Tita was born in the kitchen, she has a close connection with food and her emotions are infused into the food she prepares and affects the people who eat her meals. It’s a delightfully heart wrenching, warm, magical story that has stayed with me since I read it for the first time in 1989. If you love Chocolat, you’re bound to love Like Water for Chocolate in all its tragic beauty.
Beneath the Parisian Skies
A sweeping saga about love, truth, grief and passion — and what it takes to fulfil a dream.
Ballerina Viktoriya Budian narrowly escapes Russia with her life. She arrives in Paris determined to start afresh with the famed Ballets Russes but her newfound success is threatened when her past returns to haunt her. Forced to choose between love and fame, Viktoriya’s life spirals out of control and the decision she makes seriously affects the lives of many for years to come.
Paris, present day
Australian dancer Lily Johansson returns to Paris, the city that broke her heart and destroyed her ballet career, hoping to ease the guilt over her fiancé’s death and to make amends with her estranged sister, Natalie, a ballerina with the Bohème Ballet. Terrified of loving again, Lily nevertheless finds herself becoming entangled
with talented composer Yves Rousseau.
Meanwhile, vying for the role honouring Viktoriya Budian, Lily’s sister Natalie develops an unhealthy obsession. As Natalie’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, Lily fears for her sister’s safety and sanity. When Natalie goes missing, Lil and Yves set out on a desperate quest across France to find her and, along the way, battle their own demons.
Could the search for her sister lead Lily to realise that ballet — like love and life — should not be abandoned so easily?
FREE NOVELLA – PARISIAN SKIES
Alli has written a free e-novella that is the prequel to Beneath the Parisian Skies. To download it, use any of the following links:
About the Author:
Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author of books that combine travel, mystery, and romance. An adventurer at heart, Alli has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains and immersed herself in an array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages. Alli’s stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery. Alli volunteers as an author role model with Books in Homes, promoting literacy and reading amongst young Australians.