Ten Books That Changed Me with Ellie Marney
Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about books! Because honestly that’s a topic I could talk about all day…although I’ll try to confine myself to ten. When I think of books that changed me, I don’t think of purely comfort reads – I think of books that rocked my world, and spun my head around and maybe altered my understanding of what it means to write in my worlds of YA and romance and crime. So here’s my (slightly abbreviated) list:
1.Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A confession: I am slightly obsessed with this book. And not just the book, but all its iterations – movies, TV series, the works. I actually participate in a group-watch of various versions of Pride and Prejudice on Twitter called #DarcyWars, in which we watch ALL the versions to discover who made the best Darcy (and the best Lizzy, the most dastardly Wickham, etc). So far this year we’ve seen the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier version (Larry as Darcy – swooon), the Kiera Knightly/Matthew McFadyen version, the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version (by far the best, come on) and also the Bollywood version, Bride & Prejudice, with Aishwarya Rai (radiant as Lizzy) and Martin Henderson (not so great as Darcy), as well as Lost in Austen, and a planned watch of Death Comes To Pemberley….well, you get the idea! So yes – um, a bit obsessed. And you’re welcome to come join us!
2.The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
This will seem a very strange segue, after rhapsodising about Austen, but this could be my favourite book of all time (see? I am betraying my crime-writer leanings here after all). The story of Clarice Starling’s hunt for a killer of women, and her descent into the dark valleys of human evil with her terrifying guide, Hannibal Lecter, along the pathways of the mad… I first read this book when I was at university in my twenties, and now I re-read it about once a year, to remind myself what incredible writing looks like, and how suspense and tension can be created in a story which is, after all, just words typed onto a page.
3.A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson
When I first decided to write a book with teenage sleuths who investigate a murder mystery and subsequently fall in love, I had no compass to guide me. There didn’t seem to be many other books out there about teenage detectives, apart from Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I really had to search for something – anything – that contained an inkling of the kinds of stories I was interested in writing. And then I discovered A Pocketful of Eyes, and realised I wasn’t alone! Lili Wilkinson writes about teenagers with sensitivity and humour and intelligence, and all her books are absolute rippers (her latest one, After The Lights Go Out, is fan-bloody-tastic). I’ll be forever grateful to this book for showing me that YA romantic crime could be done, and done with style.
4.Beard Science by Penny Reid
I love Penny Reid’s books – I mean, I LOVE them. And even though this story, with Cletus Winston and Jennifer Sylvester, is the one I most often go back to (Cletus! So smart, and yet such an adorable doofus!), I could just as easily have included almost any one of Penny’s books on this list. Happily Ever Ninja, or Love Hacked, or Neanderthal Seeks Human, or any of the other Winston Brothers books, or any of her Irish Rugby series books with LH Cosway… Seriously, I don’t think Penny Reid can write a bad book, which is probably just as well for us readers!
5.Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Yes, I’m going to say it – Twilight changed me. It changed the way I thought about YA, and romance, and the combination of those two things. And it wasn’t only me who was changed – it changed the way the whole world’s way of thinking about YA romance. It spawned a franchise, and ignited an entire generation’s romantic frenzy, and for so many girls, it was their entry not just into romance but into reading. For that, I think it deserves some props. I remember picking the first book up in a rather desultory way, and then being absolutely compelled to finish – and then I went out to the nearest bookstore I could find and bought the rest of the series. I know there is a lot of criticism of Twilight, on a number of grounds, but when your readers are that engrossed? That’s great writing.
6.City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
I know I said I wouldn’t just turn to comfort reads for this list…but I must confess that Cassandra Clare is one of my go-to comfort reads authors. Having a crappy day? Just got fired from your job? Too sick to get out of bed? Just want to be lost in a world of magic and firelight and romance? Cassandra Clare is your ticket. I can pick up any of her books and immediately be swept away. City of Bones is the first in her first Shadowhunter series, The Mortal Instruments, but all the books in that world are incredible. They’re the kinds of books you never want to end, because the world in them – and the amazing characters – are just so breath-taking.
7.The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
Oh. My. God. Did I know I was going to be so utterly delighted and devastated and enthralled by this book when I first picked it up? Well…I knew it was a big bestseller, but NO, I was entirely unprepared for how much I would love it. It certainly changed my ideas of what you could write into a YA love story and get away with! The story of scandalous rake Henry ‘Monty’ Montague’s somewhat, er, detoured Grand Tour of the Continent, accompanied by his best friend Percy (who may just be the love of his life, but shhh don’t tell!) and his unorthodox sister Felicity, is something you will want to savour as you read it. If you haven’t grabbed it yet – go, go! You do not want to miss this one!
8.The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
She’s a stalwart of Australian YA, and beloved in the United States for something entirely different – her luminous fantasy series, the Lumatere Chronicles – but Melina Marchetta is a writer of insight and distinction. This story of rough diamond Thomas Mackee, bruised and heartsore after trying to erase the memory of a terrible family trauma, and how he slowly comes to heal with the help of his friends, always leaves me gasping and shedding a tear and feeling all the feels. I love all of Marchetta’s books, but this one has a special place in my heart (and I must have re-read it a thousand times while writing my own rough diamond boy, Harris Derwent in No Limits).
9.Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Ahh, come on! I know it’s not really a romance – it’s a tragedy! – but who hasn’t been moved by this story? Two teenagers, falling for each other in the worst possible circumstances… And the words! Oh, the glorious words! That moment when the lovers meet, and Romeo tells Juliet that ‘My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand/To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss…’ Whoo boy! *fans self* It was heady stuff when I read it in high school, and I think it’s aged pretty well!
10. Every Breath
Yes, this book changed me, because the moment it was signed for publication my life changed! Before Every Breath, I was just a regular mum and teacher, who dabbled in writing stories when her children went to bed (and often before they got up in the morning). After Every Breath…well, I now have nine books to my name – including the Circus Hearts series, when the final book releases in November – with more on the way, and a career as an author. I’m still a mum and a teacher! But my life has gone in a number of very interesting directions since my first book was published, and I will always love my first book-baby.
Which leads me back to my current book, Circus Hearts: All The Little Bones – the story of a teenage trapeze artist and an apprentice strongman, on the run from the law, who take refuge in a big-city carnival… So you can see my love of blending romance and crime stories hasn’t faded! All The Little Bones is the first in my Circus Hearts series, and with each book I get a little more caught up in the romance between the characters and the glamour of the circus…
And if you’d like to win a Kindle download of Circus Hearts: All The Little Bones, please leave a comment with the story of a book that changed you. Open international – show me what you’ve got!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this list of Ten Books That Changed Me, and thank you so much for having me to visit – have a lovely week, and happy reading!
Circus Hearts: All The Little Bones – available on all platforms here