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January 17, 2014

an awful lot of bookish questions


This has been floating about recently (well, last month...ish) on The Penslayer and Tea and Bree and other such lovlies.  It looked like a proper waste of time fun, and you know how I love boring you all with lengthy answers to lengthy questions.  So I'm going to bore you now. 

1.  Your favourite book as a child?  The Chronicles of Narnia are the approximate origin of my love of words.  I was 7 and a half when I reluctantly took my fingers out of my ears and let mom try to hammer literacy into my stubborn head.  Tangible things (like play-doh, for instance) and pictures were the thing for me.  I didn't words.  Words were boring.  But then Narnia showed me that words could be pictures, play-doh, whole worlds, and other things besides.  They were the the door at the back of the wardobe into books for me, really.  I still love them like I love few other things.  Then, besides that, the Lara and the Grey Mare series were a close second, and who didn't love Magic Tree House?

2.  What are you reading right now?  The Harp of the Grey Rose by Charles de Lint.  It's been sitting unopened on my shelf since my birthday last year.  It was high time I read it.  It's reminiscent of The Chronicles of Prydain, but not so humourous.

3.  What books do you have on request at the library?  
None, at the moment.  Don't tempt me.  I've far too many to read at home.

4.  Bad book habit.  
My aversion to required reading.  I'll choose to read Dickens, Shakespeare, Dante, or whatever, and I'll give it my best go.  But if you told me that I had to read it, my brain would automatically place that book on my mental Shelf of Supreme Archenemies.  

5.  What do you currently have checked out from your library?  
Not a one.  

6.  Do you have an e-reader?  No.  But I really wouldn't mind one.  

7.  Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or do you tend to read several at once?  
I am equipped with a mind notoriously one-tracked.  I don't have the ability to give any sort of proper attention to two books at once.  I even have trouble eating and reading at the same time ("You don't know what I suffer!").  So just one, for maximum comfort and efficiency.  

8.  Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?  
Don't think so.  

9.  What was your least favourite book this year?  
Tahn by L.A. Kelly probably.  Which really wasn't bad.  The first half was good.  Then everything got all just sticky-sweet and saintly.  (review)

10.  What was your FAVOURITE book this year?  
(clarification: "this year" means 2013)  The Silmarillion, probably.  That was grand indeed.  The Spear by Louis de Wohl was also nothing short of magnificent.  (review)  De Wohl always is, but this one especially so.  The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff is wonderful.  Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant is also noteworthy.  So are The Chronicles of Prydain (I've read the first 3 only). The Screwtape Letters must be mentioned, as a well.  Let's see...anything else?  A Tale of Two Cities and Pride & Prejudice, maybe.  Code Name Verity (review) would be on there if we were counting the books I've read in 2014, as would The Queen of Attolia (review).  They were both brilliant.  Especially Code Name Verity.

11.  How often do you read out of your comfort zone?  If I have one, my reading comfort zone is very large. 

12.  What is your reading comfort zone?  Why didn't you ask this first?  I do tend to stay within the vast and vague confines of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, the occasional sci-fi (there's barely any in house, so I'm a touch deprived), and classics.  I don't seem to have read much YA, or thriller/adventure/action/suspense/whatever you call that sort, but I'll read anything that looks like it might be worth my time, really.  

13.  Can you read in the car?  
One line of text used to be enough to make me feel sick for hours, but now I can read quite well in the car (most days, anyway).  That makes life so much more convenient.

14.  Where is your favourite place to read?  
Propped up on a pillow in the corner of my bed is ideal, but busy restaurants, packed malls, and social events are almost as good.

15.  What is your policy on book-lending?  
Don't wreck it any worse than I would and you may just see your next birthday.

16.  Do you ever dog-ear in books?  
Only by accident.  

17.  Do you ever write in the margins of your books?  
I don't have the sort of soul that lets me write in books and then sleep at night.

18.  What about text books?  
If it's a math book, I'm suddenly Michelangelo and Shakespeare all at once, but even textbooks don't get written in much.

19.  What is your favourite language to read in?  I have a special sort of fondness for being able to understand what I'm reading, so English usually works just fine.

20.  What makes you love a book?  
Vivid prose, real characters, and an engaging plot are the main aspects.  It if it makes me see colours, or really think, or bite my lip in concern, or gasp in surprise, or choke with laughter, that's a beautiful thing.  If I need to stay up 'til 2:30 because I just can't let it go, I applaud it.  

21.  What would inspire you to recommend a book?  If I love it, I'll recommend it.  And I guess, even if I didn't really like it, I'll recommend it to someone if I think they might.

22.  What is your favourite genre?  Historical fiction and fantasy both deserve that position.

Where do I want to go today?
23.  What is a genre you rarely read but wish that you did?  Science fiction.  I be sore deprived. 
24.  Favourite biography?  Haven't read many of those that can strictly be called biographies, to be honest.

25.  Have you ever read a self-help book?  
Not really.

26.  Favourite cookbook?  Ah.  Cookbooks.  The books for cooking.  The books chosen especially to cook things.  Cook's books.  Those books.

27.  What is the most inspirational book you have read this year?  The Spear, I guess.
28.  Favourite reading snack?  Chocolate.  But anything works.  
29.  Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.  I do so hate to admit it, but I rather think I would have appreciated The Hunger Games more if it wasn't the world's current obsession-point.
30.  How often do you agree with critics about a book?  Well, there are good and bad reviews of every book, aren't there?  

31.  How do you feel about giving negative reviews?  Perfectly fine, actually.  I don't like to bash a book.  People put hard work into writing that book.  But if I don't like it, I have nary a qualm about being brutally honest.

32.  If you could read a foreign language, which would you choose?  French would be useful.  Latin would be cool.  Greek would be fantastic.  German would be brilliant.  Anglo Saxon would be magnificent.  

33.  What was the most intimidating book you've ever read?  The Lord of Rings.  To my 12-year-old self it was a veritable walk to Mordor and back again.  I was not at all the sort of reader I am now.  It took me a most of a year.  

34.  What is the most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin?  Les Misérables is daunting, to say the very least.

35.  Who is your favourite poet?  I'm not overly well-versed in poetry, to be honest.  But I do like Robert Frost.  And I love Tolkien's poetry. 

36.  On average, how many books do you have checked out of the library at any given time?  Usually around 3 or 4, when I do have any checked out. 

37.  How often do you return books to the library unread?  Only very seldom.

38.  Who are your favourite fictional characters?  Oh dear.  This question.  Faramir, Aragorn, Samwise Gamgee, and Éowyn (LOTR), Sir Percy (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Sydney Carton (Tale of Two Cities), Justin (The Silver Branch), Eugenides (The Queen's Thief), Edmund, Puddleglum, Lucy, Reepicheep, and Eustace (Narnia), Halt (Ranger's Apprentice), Sherlock Holmes, Beleg (The Children of Húrin/The Silmarillion), Elizabeth Bennett (P&P), Rudy Steiner and Max Vanderburg (The Book Thief), Anne With An E, maybe Julie Beaufort-Stuart (Code Name Verity), and possibly Uli von der Flue (The Golden Thread) are all on the large list of characters that infested themselves in my heart.  And those are just the ones from books.  

39.  Who is your favourite fictional villain?  If were just talking books (which we are), Smaug and Jadis are both pretty excellent.  I don't know... I have more favourite villains from the screen.

40.  What are the books you are most likely to take on vacation?  Something easy and fun.  A P.G. Wodehouse or Ranger's Apprentice will do.  Or Narnia.

41.  What is the longest you have gone without reading?  I used to go weeks and months in between books.

42.  Name a book that you could not or would not finish.  There are a few mediocre books my sister has taken out of the library and I never got through, but the most notable case I Just Can't Finish is The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.  After a month I had just dragged myself to the halfway point.  Then I had to stop.  I don't ever remember being so bored.  But everyone else seems to have found it thrilling.  I'm so confused.  Maybe I'll give it another go someday.

43.  What distracts you easily when you're reading?  Some days I can really zone out of the world and get well and truly lost in a book and can only be brought ought by death in the family or french fries, but other days I have the attention span of a dog in room full of squirrels.  

44.  What is your favourite film adaptation of a novel?  The Lord of the RingsThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Pride & Prejudice 1995 are my favourites.  Not to mention The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982.  I also really like The Eagle.  The Book Thief was really, really good.  I love Sense & Sensibility 2008.  The Hobbit: AUJ is excellent (and I don't actually hate DOS) but it's not notably brilliant as an adaptation. 

45.  What is the most disappointing film adaptation?  Ugh.  There are so many.  

46.  What is the most money you have spent in a bookstore at one go?  I'm not a huge spender at bookstores, to be unreservedly honest.  My Christmas and birthday lists are usually made up almost entirely of books, and when people don't know what to get me, they generally opt for a Chapters giftcard.  So I can usually walk into bookstore and only spend around $15 (besides giftcards).

Love this
47.  How often do you skim a book before reading it?  Several times, generally.  I put way too much time and thought into choosing a book to read.  I really do.

48.  What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?  If it's incredibly dull.  Like, so dull, I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of bleak, grey dullness.  Or excessively inappropriate.  

49.  Do you like to keep your books organized?  They must be organized.  By genre and by author.  

50.  Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you're done with them?  If I really don't like it, then I might let a used-book store have it.  But if it's really pretty, I might just keep it anyway.  It looks good on my shelf, you know.

51.  Are there any books you've been avoiding?  Thick-as-a-brick classic literature and extremely popular YA novels, collectively.

52.  Name a book that made you angry.  Mockingjay is the only book I remember ever actually throwing violently on the floor.  Boggs got blown up, Prim got blown up, Finnick got his head bloody ripped off... Not that I didn't like it.  I did.  But bloody heck.  

53.  A book you didn't expect to like, but did?  Little Women (aggressively shoved at me by Mater), Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter (again with the aggressive shoving), The Golden Thread by Louis de Wohl (I was sure it was going to be boring...which I guess it was, technically   grandma told me as much when I aggressively shoved it at her (aggressive shoving runs in the family, apparently), but de Wohl does his characters in such a way it's a delight to behold) all rather snuck up on me from behind.  Oh, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was brilliant.  I wasn't expecting brilliant.  

54.  How about a book you expected to like, but didn't?  I barely pulled myself through Robin Hood by Henry Gilbert, I was surprised to find.  The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw was drudgery, in stark contrast to Mara: Daughter of the Nile, which is one of my favourite books.  I loved Around the World In 80 Days and couldn't put it down, but 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, though cool as all heck, d r a g g e d o n f o r e v  e   r.  Same story with El Dorado by Emmuska Orczy (one of the sequels of The Scarlet Pimpernel).

55.  Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading?  Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan.  Hilarious and cheering.  The character relationships are the  b  e  s  t.  And Heist Society by Ally Carter, as well as the Kingdom and Knights of Arrathtrae series by Chuck Black.  

January 11, 2014

• s c a t t e r e d •

s c a t t e r e d by Nessima Tavariel on Grooveshark

i.  I'm 17 now. (By the way, it's an egotistical and boastful tradition of mine to remind you every. single. year. that I came beet-red and screaming into this grubby-but-shining world on the same day (January 3rd) as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien did 105 previous, plus I was endowed with the same first two initials (and my parents did it all by accident) just to make you all hate me.  But putting all pride aside, I'm 17 now.)  And that's a frightening thought, to say the least.  I'm still just a little kid.  A little kid who's holding on to a fear of loud noises and elevators, can't drive a car or do math, virtually incapable of both making and keeping friends, and has absolutely no idea what she should do, or even wants to do, with her life.  

ii.  But she has considered being a spy.  Or an expert in how-bout-we-don't-take-life-seriously-because-serious-is-boring-and-tedious-ology.

iii.  “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making're Doing Something.” ― Neil Gaiman

iv.  But I won't do anything, because I'm afraid of making mistakes.  I'm afraid of messing up.  Messing anything up.  That's why I don't I don't do anything.  Because I'm afraid I won't do it right. (Jordan knows.)

v.  But that's actually the dumbest, most ridiculous thing in the world.  It isn't logical.  Or even fun.  It's the most debilitating and paralyzing of inhibitions.  

vi.  “Better to be a laughing-stock than lose the fort for fear of being one.” ― Rosemary Sutcliff, The Eagle Of The Ninth

vii.  If your grandpa wants to take you flying, but airplanes are also on your ridiculously long list of Things That Make My Very Bones Tremble With Stone-cold Fear right alongside clowns and raisins disguised as chocolate chips, you have to say yes before you can think to say no.  The sky is too high not to try to climb.   Plus, the odds of surviving unscathed are heavily in your favour.  And even if you did go plummeting to meet a gruesome demise, you'd have done it the same way Amelia Earhart did*.  And that's a thrilling thought, if not a comforting one.

viii.  For a person who actually doesn't care even the slightest, teeniest, most minuscule bit what people think, I sure care an awful lot.

ix.  There's a moderately large stack of well-dusted but entirely blank notebooks sitting on my bottom shelf.   They're empty because I'm afraid I'll wreck them.  Wow.  Yay for metaphors.  

x.  You need dreams and desire and passion to really get anywhere in life (or at least out of your parents basement), don't you?  I don't have any of those, as far I know.  I mean, I make things like I actually need to or I'll explode, and I'll always have an unexplained and intense fascination with things and people that are long past and very dead, and very occasionally I bleed words like blood.  But mainly I'm pretty indifferent to stuff.

xi.  Apathetic.  That's what I am.   

xii.  Also the most horrendously inconvenient combination of an OCD perfectionist who'd like to be a optimist and intensely lazy procrastinator who's on the pessimistic side of realistic (or maybe it's the other way around).  My mind is both ridiculously orderly and unbelievably chaotic. It's like there's two different Mes inside of me.  And they absolutely hate each other

xiii.  “You can't get a suit of armour and a rubber chicken just like that. You have to plan ahead.”  ― Michael Palin

xiv.  There is an important moral to that, I have no doubt.  

xv.  When people say "Live life to the fullest", what does that mean exactly?  It probably means don't do nothing, or at least to not be afraid of doing anything, doesn't it?  Bah humbug.

xvi.  This year should be very much devoted to learning how to live and breathe for God.

xvii.  To feel is great gift.

xviii.  As are the patterns of shadows and light in the sky and on leaves in the wind and on linen and skin, the way light sings when it hits a spider's web, raindrops on your window, ink stains on your hands, music that pours itself out like a living, breathing creature, the smell (particularly of a forest) after a rainstorm, silence after noise, stories that stick in your mind and fit in your heart, and people who are sincere and have that certain quality of rawness to them, and a lot of other things.

xix.  I may not know a whole lot about the world and life, and I can't claim to have seen much of either, but I'm a good 92% sure that your sense of wonder (that thing you see in small children that makes them question what rainbows are made of and why they only come along with damp bikeseats and mudpuddles, and never lets them get tired of blowing bubbles) is not a thing to loose if you can help it.

xx.  Sincerity is really hard.

xxi.  Faith is really hard.

xxii.  Everything important is really hard.

xxiii.  You should probably look at the stars once in a while.  Starlight and constellations, like beautiful music, good stories, pretty colours, and stubby-tailed puppies, is something the soul can inhale like lungs inhale air.

xxiv.  It honestly feels like a couple months ago when I said what ho to 2013 after the dumb year of 2012. (2013, by the way wasn't much better, but it had more of an aura of Hope to it.)  One always feels so dashed obliged to make one of those ruddy lists of New Years Resolutions, doesn't one?  (And preferably full of the comforting clichés, like "eat healthier, get active, try new things, &c...")  Hmm.  Resolutions.  Can't say I fancy 'em much.  But there are, I'm sure, things I jolly well try to remember which I keep forgetting.  Things like:

  • be kind: the world may not be kind back, but at least you can't say you were asking for it
  • be brave: the world holds no place for the rabbit-hearted
  • care: there's a shortage of people who care in the world - it would be a pity not to be one of them
  • you could comment more often on other people's blogs: your stupid tumblr dashboard can wait a minute
  • God really should be way higher on your list of priorities
  • in general, you really should be less of a selfish, stuck-up, insincere, know-it-all, loud, overbearing control-freak
  • people may be, generally speaking, pretty dreadful, but some are pretty cool and you should keep that in mind
  • try not to poison your dog this year
  • notebooks shouldn't be empty 
  • when people want to talk to you, don't act like you don't know how, because you do, you daft banana
  • you are so incredibly small, and in the whole scheme of things, you probably don't matter much, but never assume you don't    just in case
  • you have so very many books to read
  • "life's for the living, so live it, or you're better off dead" (if you can figure out what the heck that even means)
  • and for heaven's sake, girl    get some sleep

*Assuming, of course, that my "she flew through a wormhole in space and is now having a whackload of fun testing high-tech aircraft in some far corner of the universe" theory is incorrect.