January 2, 2014

A Literary Drill

Yes, it's true: I succumb to peer pressure.  On the second day of the new year I feel I ought to be posting something rather splendid and Scarlett O'Hara-like about tomorrow being another day; however, Jenny beat me to the punch in her usual dashing, sensible manner.  Instead, I'm going to follow her footsteps and Mirriam's and, as a kind of follow-up to my last post, babble on a bit about books in fifty-five questions.

1. Your favourite book as a child? Jenny waffled between two of the Chronicles of Narnia, so I feel a little guilty saying that my favorite was either Detectives in Togas or Mother West Wind’s Children, both of which I read far too many times. But it could have been worse, you know. It might have been The Secret of the Twisted Dark Chimney of Tunnels and Traps with Scary Organ Music (aka Nancy Drew).  

2. What are you reading right now?  The Man in the Iron Mask. Woe is me. Also Ethandune and the second half of Gleanings from Paul, which I started a significant while ago.  

3. What books do you have on request at the library? None. I have a certain theoretical appreciation for libraries, but never use them except for research.

4. Bad book habit. Telling others, or myself, that I will read a book and promptly losing interest in said book.

5. What do you currently have checked out from your library? Thankfully nothing. I had a horrible panicky moment in which I thought maybe I’d forgotten to return books to the university library.

6. Do you have an e-reader? No.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or do you tend to read several at once? I’m generally reading several concurrently, although I try not to double fist. I like to have an upstairs book (or two) and a downstairs book.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? I doubt it. Since starting a Goodreads account in 2009—or rather, since beginning to keep up with it in 2010—I think I’ve tried more consciously to vary the type and genre of the books I read. However, the blog itself has had very little impact that I can see.

9. What was your least favourite book this year? I was none too fond of The Comedy of Errors, but it was mercifully short. I would probably have to say Death Comes to Pemberley, which I hoped but did not really expect would be good. It was not horrible—I read to the end—but the author was unable to grasp the spirit of Austen or her characters. You cannot accurately convey the charm of Elizabeth Bennet by commenting repeatedly on her fine eyes.

10. What was your FAVOURITE book this year? Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III. No, not really, though it was a darn fun read. Since Jenny already mentioned The Grand Sophy, and it is beginning to be a cliché, I’ll say Rebecca. I was not expecting to like it half as much as I did, and it was a treat to be plunged into a classic about which I knew nothing. Haven’t had that happen to me since Jane Eyre.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Shouldn’t number 12 come before number 11? Anyhow, since my comfort zone tends to be a moral spectrum rather than a genre, I admit to not reading outside of it as often as I perhaps should. Of the thirty-six-ish books read this year, I’d say five or six were outside my comfort zone, with the farthest out being Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? I’m not sure I have a well-defined comfort zone so much as a well-defined discomfort zone. I try to stick my nose into various genres (alright, so I’m bad at science); however, I tend to lose heart when the protagonist has no redeeming qualities, when the romance has been done rubbishly, and when the plot takes place underwater. Honestly, I have yet to get through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

13. Can you read in the car? Unequivocally no. I found it hard work reading in an airplane, even when doped up on Dramamine.

14. Where is your favourite place to read? I like reading in my armchair, especially when Buster is on my lap and not being too invasive. Bed, however, is the best place.

15. What is your policy on book-lending? Lending books never ends well. They’re inevitably lost or damaged. Conversations with me usually go –

Moi: “Hey, have you read this? YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS. Read. The book.”
Them: “Okay, okay. Can I borrow it?”
Moi: “What, are you crazy? I’ll buy you a copy.”

16. Do you ever dog-ear in books? No.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? I underline more than I write in margins, but I’ll do both in non-fiction works.

18. What about text books? That depends on whether or not I intend to sell them back at the end of the semester.

19. What is your favourite language to read in? Don’t I wish I had a choice!

20. What makes you love a book? Well that’s a huge question. I think characters come first: I can enjoy a book, even admire it, if the characters are all miserable, but I can’t really love it. Otherwise, I think it varies. Sometimes it is whimsy; sometimes it’s humor; sometimes it’s gut-wrenching endings. I do love intricacy and subtle foreshadowing, and little details that link scenes or books in a series and that you might miss the first time through.

21. What would inspire you to recommend a book? If it has made me laugh uproariously, or if it has staggered me and made me lose sleep, I’ll jaw about it to anyone who will listen and then try to dig up someone who would actually appreciate it. Fortunately I’ve got two sisters, and between them I can generally find someone to hop on the bandwagon.

22. What is your favourite genre? Robert Louis Stevenson. Wait, that’s not a genre? Phooie. I don’t think I have a favorite genre, really: I read a lot of classics because for some reason I think it’s fun to listen to Dumas rattle on about Morpheus and sleep-inducing poppies, but classics span quite a range. I try to read pretty widely, returning with regularity to histories, historical-fictions, and fantasies (usually children’s, ‘cuz I’z fouryearsold).

23. What is a genre you rarely read but wish that you did? Science. I will return to you, Arthur Custance! I promise!

24. Favourite biography? I greatly enjoyed The Forgotten Spurgeon, which is only partly a biography. Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra, as my introduction to reading-history-for-fun, holds a special place still. However, I tend to read more histories than outright biographies, and if I were allowed to fudge a little I’d say Thomas Costain’s Pageant of England as a semi-biography of the Plantagenets.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? No. I don't think so.

26. Favourite cookbook? One with shiny photos of yummy food.

 27. What is the most inspirational book you have read this year? Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

28. Favourite reading snack? I tend not to eat snacks while I read. I inevitably get something on the pages.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. I am not entirely sure what this question means. Is it asking when the last time was that I read a book due to hype and was disappointed? Or is it asking when the last time was that I wanted to read a book and my excitement was killed by everyone’s blathering on about it? I know of no instance for either scenario. The most hyped book I read recently was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and my opinion on that had nothing whatsoever to do with the feelings of the General Populace.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? The only critical reviews I tend to read are the ones that get pasted on the back of the book, and which always seem to have been carefully edited to sound positive. And then I don’t generally go comparing my opinion with theirs. (Because my opinion is obviously THE BEST.)

 31. How do you feel about giving negative reviews? If the book is by an author still living, I dislike giving negative reviews for fear they’ll see it and be mortally offended and hate my guts. If the book is by an author now dead, it’s often considered a classic and I try not to register my opinion (because in this case nobody cares). It’s all one and the same, really. You can still tell which books I don’t like because I fail to post reviews on Goodreads.

32. If you could read a foreign language, which would you choose? Latin, I think. It would be useful when read those obnoxious theologies where the author feels it necessary to throw out archaic proverbs without translating.

33. What was the most intimidating book you've ever read? Nicholas and Alexandra was intimidating at the time. Probably shouldn’t have been. But it was.

34. What is the most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Because it is big, and possibly quite dark, and probably outside my comfort zone—and also because I fear I might like it too much. Because I’m odd like that.

35. Who is your favourite poet? Poetry is another thing I ought to read more of and don’t. However, I am very fond of Tennyson.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
we are not now that strength which in old days 
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are: 
one equal temper of heroic hearts 
made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

36. On average, how many books do you have checked out of the library at any given time? Probably a dozen when the time rolls round to begin writing papers.

37. How often do you return books to the library unread? Never…?

38. Who are your favourite fictional characters? Buckle up, ladies and gents! Alan Breck Stewart (Kidnapped & David Balfour); Uncas (The Last of the Mohicans); Hawkeye (ditto); Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle); Sherlock Holmes (…); Muggles (The Gammage Cup); Sir Percy Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel)…

39. Who is your favourite fictional villain? “Eugenia Wraxton,” said no one ever. Actually, looking over my list, I find most of my favorite novels have antagonistic forces rather than a single villain. Lord Feverstone (The Space Trilogy) is a good one; Inspector Javert (Les Miserables) is also well worth mentioning.

40. What are the books you are most likely to take on vacation? Howl’s Moving Castle. Probably a Stevenson. Also probably The Conquering Family, because it’s the only one in the series I have yet to read, and whatever I may be reading at the time.

41. What is the longest you have gone without reading? “You’re sick of reading? That’s like being sick of BREATHING.”

42. Name a book that you could not or would not finish. Patrick: Son of Ireland by Stephen R. Lawhead.

43. What distracts you easily when you're reading? Buster.

44. What is your favourite film adaptation of a novel? “North & South.” I enjoyed it far more than the book, which is a rare treat: I think Gaskell would have been pleased with the director’s ability to flesh out a novel she felt herself was too rushed.

45. What is the most disappointing film adaptation? The new “Chronicles of Narnia.” I know the old BBC films are, well, old, but in their puppet-style they were far more faithful to the spirit of the books.

46. What is the most money you have spent in a bookstore at one go? I am famously cheap and have a terrible time in bookstores. I buy my books online, and only drop $15 when it’s something like Preble’s Boys.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? If it’s a book about which I know nothing, I occasionally flip through. If there’s an unpleasant scene, you always land on it.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through? I have this terrible sense of obligation to finish the books I pick up. I rarely put them down unread, unless the lack of morals makes me lose connection with the characters.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Too organized. They are perfect at the moment, and I hate the idea of rearranging them so as to fit in the books that are currently languishing about my room.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you're done with them? I keep just about everything. If they’re really terrible, I throw them away; if they’re cheap blah books, I shuffle them off somewhere; and if I don’t know what to think of them, I keep them and stare perplexedly at them every time we cross paths.

51. Are there any books you've been avoiding? Jonathan Strange… George Washington… Wuthering Heights… Man, I’m avoiding a lot of books.

52. Name a book that made you angry. The Scarlet Letter, perhaps. It’s been a while since I read it, but I seem to remember being mildly peeved.

53. A book you didn't expect to like, but did? To Kill a Mockingbird. American classics are not usually up my alley.

54. How about a book you expected to like, but didn't? The Black Arrow. I love Stevenson, but that novel was a bit of a letdown: I read it this year and am already vague on the plot. Besides, he portrays Richard III (Duke of Gloucester, actually) as a sadist. You’re putting a real strain on our relationship, Stevenson!

55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading? Daddy-Long-Legs. I suppose that’s not really fair: I do feel a little guilty, seeing as I’ve read it half a dozen times already. Still, I think it’s my favorite pleasure read.


  1. I think we neither of us finished Patrick or The White Mare for the same reason. And I swear - I SWEAR - if there is a sex scene in the book, you ALWAYS flip right to it.

    I swear.

    George Washington, nobody cares about your lonely soul.

    1. We strive toward a [Georgette] Heyer goal.

  2. Hahahaha. Daddy-Long-Legs is peachy. I love it. It makes me feel like arching my back like a cat and making a purring noise and hugging the whole world in a sudden feeling of expansiveness. And I agree with you: if there's a bad scene, usually you can find it by flipping through. Words like "Sudden Heat" and "Slow Heavy Kiss" seem to litter the pages like blinking red being very helpful in letting you know "don't tread here.'

    1. I FORGOT TO MENTION MASTER JERVIE. He is definitely one of my favorite characters - don't you love how, on a second read, you can totally tell how jealous he is of Jimmy McBride? - but he's easy to miss owing to the one-sided nature of Daddy-Long-Legs. Oh well: the list is lacking Marguerite Blakeney and Charles Rivenhall and Tommy & Tuppence, as well, so Master Jervie is in good company.

  3. Ha, you have a Buster too—only I'm guessing yours is a cat? Mine's a dog, but he has some cat-like tendencies. If I'm reading or writing on the floor and he wants attention, he walks right onto my book.

    I wish I could borrow just a pinch of your Stevenson appreciation to sprinkle on my youngest sister—she read Kidnapped this fall and by the time she finished I was practically putting my fingers in my ears whenever she brought up the subject. I mean, Stevenson's not my favorite author, but gee whiz, David wasn't all that bad! :)

    1. Yes, my Buster is a tabby cat! And while your dog has some cat-like qualities, my cat has some dog-like qualities. He's more personal and affectionate than the average cat, I think. He also plays hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo, which is just the cutest thing ever.

      Aw, man! Stevenson is under-appreciated, I tell you what. David is, admittedly, more of a foil for Alan than anything else, but he's got guts, all the same. More so in the book than in the film. Personally, I like that he's not much more than your average guy shoved into an adventure and forced to grow up. (And how can you not enjoy the battle in the round-house?)

  4. North and South is to be my January read, as soon as I finish My Ántonia for school, but the reviews I've received have been mixed. So far, I know to expect an exorbitant amount of death, but some of the quotes I've seen floating about seem like they will make up for some of Gaskell's drearier parts. "Wait and hope, dear Maximilien, wait and hope!"

    Would you mind if I used this questionnaire on my blog as well? I like the looks of it. ^.^

    1. Pffffft. At least two people have done this questionnaire before me; I think even Mirriam didn't invent it. Do please take it and fill it out!

      You may very well enjoy North and South. I think possibly I was not in the best mood for reading a novel of the Industrial Revolution, and it did seem to me that Gaskell took a strange, morbid pleasure in killing off character after character; besides, I was spoiled by the film. However, I liked Margaret very much and it was nice to get a closer look at her. You read it and let me know what you think! ^.^

  5. The Secret of the Twisted Dark Chimney of Tunnels and Traps with Scary Organ Music were my favorites as a ten year old - one a day was the prescribed, and I kept to it quite religiously!
    I can never make myself pay much for book either - especially since most of the time it's a book I haven't read, and if I don't know how I'll like it well by George why would I pay a fortune for it?
    Oh the skimming trick! It worked very well in keeping me away from Wicked - but it could have just been that that book was particularly satured with sensual scenes. That's just like a man!

    Alright, my turn! With any luck I'll finish answering these questions & posting them on my blog before the week's out.

    1. I admit to reading too many Nancy Drew mysteries as a child: I think I had to be forced onto a diet, which is sad. There is something so terribly addictive about them, I tell you! You're completely willing to ignore the fact that there is always a title called "Trapped!" (in which Nancy & Co. get trapped - dur), that the villain always has something Mysterious about him, that Ned always rescues Nancy, that the convertible is always changing color. The little-girl brain cells scream in frantic delight anyhow and you keep reading more.

      Government plot, most likely.

  6. I've been a bit skeptical about Death Comes to Pemberley, despite also being rather curious. "You cannot accurately convey the charm of Elizabeth Bennet by commenting repeatedly on her fine eyes." Good line, that. Explains why Miss Bingley never liked Lizzy, even after all her chats with Mr. Darcy on the topic. :D

    1. I was willing to give it a shot, and it was not half as bad as it could have been. It was just that Ms. James tried to capture the characters and the result fell flat. She is not Austen, and that should be the end of it. But again, it's not the world's worst effort, and I seem to recall rather faintly there being a few amusing lines. Maybe...?


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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