I read a lot growing up. As I was “the weird, poor kid”, it often felt like my only reprieve from the constant assault of my peers was the escape I found in stories. But they weren’t just hiding places for me, they were where I could make discoveries about myself, form opinions about the broader world around me, and get the one thing I was lacking more often than not: hope.
It’s probably not surprising then that I love Alexandre Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I discovered it in high school, maybe my sophomore year. There’s so much to love about that book; it wasn’t simply about the revenge aspect. Watching Edmund Dantes’ transformation from hapless romantic in a bright, beautiful world, to someone beaten down, hopeless, and utterly alone, to a wealthy benefactor and avenging angel, to his final epiphany as he sets his feet upon the path of healing is amazing to experience. Edmund’s world is richly drawn with one of the most intricately woven plots any reader will ever find in any story from any time in history. What I loved most about the book is the redemption and solace Edmund finds in the end. The final sentences of the story left me with such a feeling of completion it still stays with me to this day.
That’s a book many people have read. It’s hardly an undiscovered gem, but I will continue to adore THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO until the day I die.
There’s another book I always think of when this “favorite book” topic comes up. It goes back quite a bit further into my youth than my discovery of Dumas, so far that I can’t accurately tell you how old I was when I read it. Maybe 8? I don’t know many people who know it, but everyone should.
SHADOW CASTLE by Marian Cockrell was another multiple read book for me. So much so that on days where I was supposed to be cleaning up or something else entirely, I would run across it, pick it up, and end up sitting wherever I found it (in a random corner of a room, in my closet, in front of our bookshelf of piano books, etc) for hours. I’d inevitably read it from cover to cover each time, awed by the magic of the tale. The synopsis is this: “In the middle of a deep forest is an enchanted valley and a castle where only shadows live, shadows of kings and queens who have waited for hundreds of years for the spell cast upon them to be broken. One day, a girl named Lucy follows a little dog through a tunnel into the valley and meets the mysterious red-haired Michael, who takes her into the shadow world to meet Prince Mika and his mortal wife Gloria, their children and their children’s children, and to learn the magic that will lift the spell.”
It was one of my first introductions to fantasy and fairy tales outside of watered down Grimm Brothers and Aesop’s fables. The story is beautiful and true to itself in every way. The exquisite innocence of SHADOW CASTLE leaves you aching for that kind of simplicity in real life. I always left the last page feeling cleaner, like stepping out of a stifling room into crisp, fresh air. It’s what this book does to you: it returns a little piece of childhood to the reader. You can remember what it was like to daydream and lose yourself in the sunshine of a warm spring day. More adults need to know this story. More children need this in their lives. I rank this book up there with A WRINKLE IN TIME and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA in required reading lists for my kids. It’s more than fun and whimsy. It is ESSENTIAL to know this sort of purity in a story. You can’t keep a light in your heart if you never find one to begin with. That’s what this book is to me; a candle in the window when everything else is dark.
These two books will always spark a deeply emotional response from me. They couldn’t be more different, but I will cherish them equally forever.
Starla Huchton (http://www.thedreamersthreadnovel.com/) released her first novel, The Dreamer’s Thread, as a full cast production beginning in August 2009. Her first foray into podcasting went on to become a finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards. Since her debut, Starla’s voice has appeared in other podcasts including Weiner Blut and Erotica a la Carte. She is also a voice talent for DarkFire Productions, and narrates several of their projects, including The Emperor’s Edge,This Path We Share, and others. Her writing has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte podcast, the Farrago Anthology and, most recently, the Tales from the Archives podcast. Starla’s artistic endeavors continue into music as her dulcet tones have provided sweet crooning for various podcasts produced by Alex White, Koru Studios, and Imagine That Studios. From beautiful Monterey, California, Starla pursues a degree in Graphic Design while agent shopping her new Steampunk project, Antigone’s Wrath.
Also, if you have a naked book (as per Mainframe), Starla is the lady to talk to. Check out her website at: http://www.designedbystarla.com/. You won’t be sorry.