I am a Reader, not just a Writer.
My reading addiction developed as a child, but really blossomed in junior high. Since I process through internalization, stories helped me figure out the outside world that I was slowly becoming more aware of. I tested my mettle vicariously through the various situations faced by the characters of the books I read. For a while I was reading 2 or 3 books a day (on average--some days I didn't read at all and other days I read more), and the used bookstore became my mom's best friend for birthdays and Christmas gifts for such a voracious reader. From age 11 to 16, I lived most of my life through books or by writing my own stories.
I consumed a lot of horse stories as a child, clinging to my horse crazy stage longer than most girls. While I did have secret crushes on boys by the time I was 13, I didn't publicly admit that I might actually dream more about boys than horses until I was 16 almost 17. (Of course, you also have to factor in the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" phenomenon which had just begun and was quite popular in my youth group. We didn't talk much about guys because the Josh Harrisites had made it verboten.) Anyway, some of my favorite stories were The Black Stallion series; anything by Marguerite Henry (of King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague fame); Springtime of Khan and Summer by the Sea by Marian Flandrick Bray; the Green Grass of Wyoming (the third of the My Friend Flicka trilogy); and a few random paperbacks like The Wild Mustang by Joanna Campbell, Perdita by Isabelle Holland, and Mr. Bones. I tried reading the Saddle Club books, but well, they were boring (too much tween friendship drama; the horses seemed to be props and setting factors). The Thoroughbred series, a VERY welcome addition to the tween horse world, came on just as I was growing out of middle grade and YA books, so I did enjoy the first 5 or 6 of those before I outgrew them. The two famous horse books I didn't enjoy were Black Beauty (waaaay too sad and too preachy) and National Velvet (I think I read it too young to appreciate it. Too much girl and not enough horse).
There wasn't much in the way of horse literature in the Young Adult (YA) or even the Children's section at the local Christian bookstore in the late 80s, early 90s. The Golden Filly books (and it's subsequent spin-off series) by Lorraine Snelling hadn't been published until after I had moved on to adult fiction. I think that's why I started writing my own--I know I complained enough about it to my mom, who had a fairly strict filter for what regular (ie, non-Christian) library books I could read. (How I started writing is for another post).
Non-horse books that I liked (yes, I did read a few stories without an equine as a primary character) are Frank Peretti's Cooper Kids, various books by Beverly Lewis, the Chronicles of Narnia (of course!), the Jennie McGrady books by Patricia Rushford, and the Mandie books (when I was 12). Christy by Catherine Marshall might just be my fav book in the world (and yes, there are three different horses in the story, one of them playing a more prominent role than many of the people characters. But that's not why I like it. Really.)
As I got older and finally was willing to read something other than horse books or the random adventure story, my mom let me read some Grace Livingstone Hill, Janette Oke and Lori Wick. I gobbled them up, not so much because the stories were interesting (although there were a few I liked), but because I think I was reading at a higher level than what most of the horse stories were aimed at. By the time I was 15, I was pretty much only reading adult fiction--unless I found an exceptional YA book (like those by Nancy Rue). While they are good writers in their own way, GLH, Oke, and Wick just don't cut it for me anymore. Maybe because my tastes aren't as tame as they once were (the exciting Thoene novels ruined me) or maybe because I'm not interested in just romance. I enjoy adventure, suspense, and international stories (or the occasional sci-fi/fantasy) that happen to have relationships. Rarely do I find romance alone to hold my interest. Unless it's my very own Mr. Amazing Dude. ;-)
So what do I read now? Well, as an adult, I do read both fiction and non-fiction, but this post is about fiction. :-) In the past few years, I have greatly enjoyed books by Susan Meissner, Siri Mitchell (both her chiclit and her serious stuff), Nancy Rue, and Christa Parrish. (If you read any or all of these authors, you'll notice some similarities: they primarily write in first person, and draw introspective, strong female lead characters). If I'm in a more intense mood, I'll pick up Brock and Bodie Thoene or Francine Rivers.
If I need lighter fare, I LOVE Robin Jones Gunn (probably for nostalgic reasons as her Glenbrooke series was the first non-equine series I really clicked with as a teen. In a very cool way through her books, Mrs. Gunn encouraged my faith in God to grow. I don't reread many of books, but I've gotten A LOT of mileage out of her stories over the years. Her books are my exception to the "don't really romance novels" rule. I'm flooded with warm, happy memories just typing this!)
I think if I was a teen today, I'd probably be all over Jenny B Jones. Her blog is just hysterical (and she's a younger writer like me). :-)
Do you have any favorites you'd recommend? Post a comment and I'll check them out. I've become a picky reader, but I will try books that come highly recommended.