October 2015



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A reading meme to keep from reading

I'm "on vacation" at the Ex's farm this week, and I've been reading so much this week that I was almost cross-eyed and needed to do something different. I'd already gone through all 12 zillion channels on his television (still nothing on!), taken the kittens outside twice (enough to make them beg to become outdoor cats, and insist they'd happily take their chances with the neighbourhood fox if it meant they got to chase grasshoppers All Day Long), and was almost forced to CLEAN when I saw that [info]winterlover had posted a book meme. Saved in the nick of time! Hoorah!

55 questions about books:

1. Favorite childhood book?
So tough to answer. I was passionately in love with Marguarite Henry’s horse books – I loved Misty of Chincoteaque, Star of Assateague, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, etc. I also would’ve given anything to be Jo March.

I still have my very beat-up copies of my horse books. <3

2. What are you reading right now?
I have a ton that I’ve started, but I’m actively reading (as in “are open within arms reach”) Y The Last Man and The Lonely Empress. Also, since starting this meme, The Haunting of Hill House.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
*cuts/pastes the whole list*

The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 By Taylor, Fred (Book - 2006) Position:4 on 2 copies
Blindness By Saramago, José (Book - 1997) Position:7 on 13 copies
Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey By Weir, Alison (Book - 2006) Position:12 on 10 copies
The Road to Mayerling: Life and Death of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria By Barkeley, Richard (Book - 1958) Position:1 on 1 copy
White Male Heart By Nicoll, Ruaridh (Book - 2003) Position:3 on 1 copy
Y, the Last Man: [Book 8], Kimono Dragons By Vaughan, Brian K. (Book - 2006) Position:3 on 6 copies
Y, the Last Man: [Book 10], Whys and Wherefores By Vaughan, Brian K. (Book - 2008) Position:4 on 9 copies
Y, the Last Man: [Book 9], Motherland By Vaughan, Brian K. (Book - 2007) Position:4 on 9 copies
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can't Stop Talking By Cain, Susan (Book - 2012) Position:573 on 60 copies

Also a few films:
The Eagle (DVD - 2011) Position:86 on 23 copies
Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series (DVD - 2008) Position:63 on 13 copies
The Crown Prince (DVD - 2007) Position:10 on 5 copies
The Trotsky (DVD - 2010) Ready for pickup YAY!!!

4. Bad book habit?
Worst habit is starting, losing momentum, putting it aside and not getting back to it.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Y, the Last Man: [Book 5], Ring of Truth By Vaughan, Brian K. (Book - 2005)
Y, the Last Man: [Book 6], Girl on Girl By Vaughan, Brian K. (Book - 2005)
Y: The Last Man. [Book 7], Paper Dolls By Vaughan, Brian K. (Book - 2006)
Slings and Arrows: Season One (DVD - 2006)
The Eagles Die: Franz Joseph, Elisabeth, and Their Austria By Marek, George Richard (Book - 1974)
The Lonely Empress: A Biography of Elizabeth of Austria By Haslip, Joan (Book - 2000)
The Haunting of Hill House By Jackson, Shirley (Book - 2006)
Stardust By Gaiman, Neil (Audiobook CD - 2006)
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking By Hertzberg, Jeff (Book - 2007)
A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888/1889 By Morton, Frederic (Book - 1979)

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Nope! I prefer books.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I always have a few on the go, but if I’m really absorbed by a story I’ll read nothing but that one until I’m done.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
If by “blog” this means LJ/IJ, then yes, absolutely. I used to read at least a hundred books a year, maybe more when I was volunteering at the library. Leaving the library and discovering fanfic happened almost simultaneously, and after that my book consumption went way down to maybe a book or so a month. I really got back into reading last year, when I was commuting in London. And I’d like to keep it up, if I can.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
Besides the erotica I proofread? *shudders* It would have to be Deadline by Mira Grant. I’d heard such good things about this (and her previous book, Feed) that maybe my expectations were too high. I ended up being very disappointed by awkward writing and poor characterisations, which really hurt what was an interesting plot idea. I was also soundly unimpressed with Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Holes in logic that you could drive a Zamboni through and such a North American aversion to mentioning that bogeyman of “class” that his analysis got downright silly.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Oh wow, how do I choose?!! I loved Mike Carey’s Lucifer series, and Robin Hobb’s Assassin series, and I can’t get Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle out of my head – I fell so very hard for characters in all of these books.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
What does this mean? I think I have a pretty broad “comfort zone.” How often do I read things that squick me? I try to avoid bad writing, I suppose, with lines like “leering as I was”, or stories with poor or stereotypical characterisations, or cringe-worthy stories about teen prostitutes and plucky masseuses. But other than that, I like being challenged by what I’m reading – and I love when I get that awareness, that click, of connecting with it on a really high emotional and/or intellectual level. Does that even make any sense?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
LOL I still don’t know what this means. I read whatever I’m curious about/obsessed with at the moment. A few weeks ago it was ships that talked; now it’s the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And I’ll go back to reading “high literature” at the exact moment I get my hands on Bring Up the Bodies, when everything else in my life will be put on hold.

13. Can you read on the bus?
No, nor in cars, but I can on trains, planes, and boats.

14. Favorite place to read?
Absolute favourite place? I really loved reading on the Tube when I could just shut the entire world out, especially those times when I’d get so involved in my book that I didn’t even realise my stop was coming up. Apart from that, I love lying in the sunshine and reading – I’m not one of those people who can read in bed because I just fall asleep. ;)

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Policy? LOL. Well, after a thorough background check with glowing references and a security deposit…

Seriously, if I love a book, I want the people I love to read it. Nothing is making me happier right now than knowing that the Liveship books I bought in London (that [info]aldiara recced) went on to [info]spaghettitoes and now are in [info]amo_amas_amat’s hands. And that everybody’s loving them!

When I’m in used bookstores I do keep my eye out for hardback copies of my favourite books (because I’m a sucker for hardbound books) and buy those for my personal library – I’d probably not lend those out as freely, but I’ve probably still got the paperback somewhere if anybody wanted.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No. I used to, but stopped that several years ago. Now I collect bookmarks – I still can’t find one when I need it, but I can usually remember the page I was on.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
When I was in university, I often wrote in the margins of my textbooks. With fiction, no, I never do. Someone’s scribbled notes all over the last volume of Y: The Last Man and it’s really irksome.

18. Not even with text books?
Dude, were you not listening? I used to write brilliant stuff in the margins. Now I’ll flip through and not remember what the heck I was talking about, but it’s nice knowing I used to be smart. ;)

19. What is your favourite language to read in?

20. What makes you love a book?
Memorable characters are the most important thing for me. They have to feel real, although they don’t have to be likeable – A Confederacy of Dunces will always be among my top books even with the most despicable “protagonist” ever. I like my plot to grow out of their qualities and motivations – whether they’re facing an epic quest to destroy a ring, struggling to regain a ship wrongly stolen from them, finding themselves almost unwittingly at the king’s right hand, or questioning the wisdom of service to an unworthy master. I love to play in the fantastic – a well-developed magical world is always a plus – but I’m equally fond of stories about those moments in time when what’s known is slipping away and people are grasping for new handholds. Not much to ask for, really.

And if this happens, it's the absolute best:

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Most often, it’s because I know someone will like it for a certain reason – either it’s a subject matter I know they’ll appreciate or characters I know they’ll love. Sometimes I just force books on people (like I did with Your Money Or Your Life) because it’s something I think everybody should read.

22. Favorite genre?
I don’t really have an answer to this. Fantasy epics? Booker Prize winning novels? Historical fiction? Canadiana? Westerns? It really depends on what I’m in the mood for at the moment. I guess the only genres I really don’t enjoy reading are mysteries, horror and romance. And I’ve struggled through some hard sci-fi that I didn’t really enjoy, so I don’t seek that out (but I read and often enjoy what’s been recced to me).

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
LOL what is up with these questions? If I wished I read it, I would.

24. Favourite biography?
It’s hard to narrow this down, but There but for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs by Michael Schumacher and Maud Gonne by Nancy Cardozo both stand out for helping me gorge on obsessions past; I suspect The Lonely Empress by Joan Haslip is going to fit in there nicely.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Sure, who hasn’t? I just don’t find them particularly useful.

26. Favourite cookbook?
At the moment, I’m loving the Artisan Bread book, but my most-used go-to cookbook is still Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day by MoosewoodCollective

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Dark Summit inspired me to stay at sea level.

28. Favorite reading snack?
Popcorn, wine, the usual.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I don’t know if hype was to blame, but I hated Life of Pi. I think just because it wasn’t a very good book, but everybody seemed to be raving about it.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Honestly, I don’t often read book reviews, other than from my friends on Goodreads. I just don’t think anybody in Canada could have avoided hearing hype about Life of Pi.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Fine, I don’t see it as very different than giving a bad review to a film that I didn’t like. I want to share with my friends what I like/don’t like.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

Here, have a picture of hairporn Elisabeth so you'll understand.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Das Kapital – and no, I certainly can’t claim to have read the whole thing, but a friend and I did an independent study course in grad school where we read a good chunk of it. It was actually pretty amazing.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Anything by Thomas Pynchon. Someday.

35. Favorite Poet?
Billy Collins. Just read his amazing Aristotle or my favourite, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Usually 5-10.

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
Rarely. I usually renew them if I don’t have time to read them within the allotted time. Although just a few weeks ago I had to return A Place of Greater Safety just because I had too many other books on the go and knew I would not be able to squeeze in its massiveness.

38. Favorite fictional character?
WHAT? OK, I’ll take a stab at this: Faramir, Morgaine, Wart, Jo March, Gaudium, Malta Kupris, Billy Rabbit, Elaine Belloc, Arkady Renko, the Marquis de Carabas, Ignatius J. Reilly, Momo, Pussy Braden, Janie Crawford, The Royal Porcupine, Thomas Cromwell, The Fool, Mazikeen, Constance Blackwell, Death, Quoyle, Remedios the Beauty… I could go on all day.

39. Favourite fictional villain?
Grima Wormtongue, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, Baron Harkonnen, Nurse Rached, Ice Candy Man, Kitty Butler, King-in-Waiting Regal, Mordred (in pretty much any incarnation), the Marquise de Merteuil. And is Merricat Blackwell considered a villain?

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
I’m on vacation right now, and I brought a pretty typical selection: The Eagles Die: Franz Joseph, Elisabeth, and Their Austria, Y, the Last Man: [Book 5], Ring of Truth, Y, the Last Man: [Book 6], Girl on Girl, Y: The Last Man. [Book 7], Paper Dolls, Swordspoint, The Lonely Empress: A Biography of Elizabeth of Austria and The Haunting of Hill House. I’ve only finished the first three so far.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
As I mentioned earlier, when I got heavily into reading and writing fanfiction, I read a lot fewer published books. But I think the longest I’ve gone without reading at all was while working on EKP. There was just no time!

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The Time-Traveler’s Wife. What a terribly written book – I felt like I was reading a bad RPG.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Kittens. Naps. Phonecalls. Twitter.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I really love what they did with The Hunger Games. And the 1995 version of Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds will always be one of my favourites.

Oh, hello, you two!

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The Scarlet Letter has to be the most appalling remake ever. Starring Gary Oldman, Demi Moore and a finch dipped in Kool-Aid.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Oh, those trips to Powell’s when I used to live in Seattle!

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Never…wait, I take that back. When I got bogged down in The Eagles Die, I did flip through to see what was coming up in the next chapters. But usually, no. And never in a skim-before-reading way.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Boredom or distraction, most likely, not always having to do with the book itself. Sucky writing. But even then, I’ll usually keep going if the plot is engaging me. (I’m looking at you, Mira Grant.)

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I have rough categories on my shelves, for instance all my Marxist and South American studies books are together, all my feminist theory books are together, all my Irish history/society books, travelogues are together, and of course all the work-related books have their own shelves. Beyond that, I squeeze things in wherever they’ll go – in other words, fiction’s organised by size. ;)

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I like to share books, but I like to have them too. And I like libraries. It’s all very fluid.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Avoiding, no. There are lots that I haven’t had time for yet, but I’ll get there.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Cold Mountain. I still seethe just thinking about that book.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
I’m going to say Sandman, not that I didn’t expect to like it – it had been recced to me by enough trustworthy people that I was pretty sure I would – but I didn’t expect to love it that much. It was my first experience with graphic novels and I wasn’t sold on the format. Once I started, though, I couldn’t get enough.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
A Fine Balance. I’d heard such great things about it, and I usually love stories about India. I found this one so utterly desperate and hopeless that at the end of it, I felt hollow. In a way, I suppose it was a powerful experience, but not in an empowering sense.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Fanfic. :D


Awww, horse books. I had a phase of those too, though it didn't last very long.

OMG I lust your library. Seriously. If mine was like that, I wouldn't be spending near as much money on books. What a great list!

The Robin Hobb covers make me happy :D I need to get a second set of my favourites that I'm willing to share. That way everyone wins.

GUH, Elisabeth's hair. That is my favourite portrait of her. How is it so long and curly?? *paws*

LOVE your answer to what makes you love a book. Yes yes yessss. And best .gif ever.

Time Traveller's Wife hate FTW. Srsly, wtf was good about that book?

Ooooh, I need to find that version of Persuasion. I'd only seen the Sally Hawkins version this year and loved it, then read the book (which was, for inexplicable reasons, the only Jane Austen novel I hadn't read before) and now it may be my favourite of the lot. *goes a-hunting*

Obsessions rule. Are we getting paid per page read yet???

Clearly you need to buy a cabin in the woods and just read all the time while the kittens catch grasshoppers. Just make sure it has internet.
I was just saying to [info]winterlover that I had not only the horse books, but also the matching figurines. I think my parents agreed to get them for me because otherwise I'd have whined more for a real horse.

You do need a second set of books! I love getting people to read what I have, but it does suck when you have loaned something out and need it again.

You MUST see that version of Persuasion! I like Sally Hawkins version too, she is adorable, but I think this one is more true to the book. And Ciarán will always be my Captain Wentworth. I made Anna watch it when we were in Bath and then go around and show me all the places it was filmed. <3 If you can't find it a copy of it, let me know and I will upload it for you.

Oh, that cabin in the woods sounds dreamy! The kittens would love it so much!
Oh, I enjoyed that read so much, though it reminds me bitterly of what I miss out in life at the moment :(

Ok, ignore my whiny self, have this instead: First of all, I am still full of admiration for your bookshelves that only contain works that you really enjoyed and might reread at a later point, and that looked so impressive with all those pretty hardcovers. I really have to get rid of a lot of birthday present junk on mine and stick to the things that I really hold dear.

I loved what you said about what makes you love a book. I have never thought about it that profoundly, to be honest, but this captures it perfectly.

About "A Fine Balance". You might remember (or not) that I own this book, in the German version, too. It was given to me because of my infatuation with all things Indian. I didn't dare to admit that I was seriously underwhelmed by it and I put it down poor translation. It didn't hold the promise on the blurb at all. And I hated the end. And that's not because fictional suicide is generally not one of my favourite things, I can go along with it if I can see the reasons and feelings that lead to it. Which was not the case here.
So seeing that I'm not the only underimpressed one here makes me sort of happy.

Finally, your list of favourite characters made me want fo apply for this (also fictional) reading sabbatical right away. Your mention of the Marquis de Carabas reminded me of the fact that I still need to read 'Neverwhere'. I was so intrigued by the mini-series when I watched it way back then, and you reccing me the book made me so determined to discover this hidden, parallel, underground London in its written form, and I still haven't got around to it :CCC

One day, Lil, one day....
LOL don't be bitter! You could always quit your job and live hand to mouth while depleting your savings, not knowing what the future will hold. Then you'll have all the time you want to read!

I loved your bookcases too! You had such an amazing collection, and so many of the books that I love!

A Fine Balance was such a disappointing book! I kept expecting some kind of redemption - that's not a requirement, mind you, but it kept hinting that it was coming and I kept waiting for it. But no, it just kept getting worse ... and worse ... and worse ...

Neverwhere, otoh, is a real gem. And it won't take you too long to read either, it's a short one. When we rule the world, it'll be included as part of the official London A to Z!
I enjoyed your - very prettily illustrated - list of answers!

I like being challenged by what I’m reading – and I love when I get that awareness, that click, of connecting with it on a really high emotional and/or intellectual level.
It totally makes sense. I like reading just to tune out of the real world, but I also like books who make me aware of that world.

In my old flat I used to sort the books by colour. Looked very pretty, but the A to Z sorting makes them easier to find now.

Oh, Momo is mentioning "Neverwhere"" It's in my shelf, waiting to be read, since you reccommended it to me.
I like reading just to tune out of the real world, but I also like books who make me aware of that world.

Aw. What a perfect way of putting it. This!
I like reading just to tune out of the real world, but I also like books who make me aware of that world.

Yes, exactly. It's rewarding to read things that really aren't in my comfort zone, or aren't things that I originally thought I'd be interested in. I've found some of the best books that way!

I LOVE the idea of arranging books by colour! I might have to do that, it sounds so lovely!

And oooooh yes. Neverwhere, read Neverwhere! You will love it to bits!!
I probably should not admit this as a Canadian but I HATED Life of Pi - could not even make it more than halfway through :S I actually had no desire to read it and had it forced on me by all these people raving about it and ugh!!!!!!
I am impressed by your library usage - I always have good intentions but our local library for some mysterious reason likes to randomly purchase incomplete series of books ie) books 2, 4 and 5 out of a series of 6 and that makes me want to tear my hair out. I am a danger to myself in bookstores so my, late as usual, discovery of fanfic online has opened up a whole new world of reading for me :D
Your post has now inspired me to go and dig out a book from my pile of stuff I mean to read - so much to read so little time!
Why was Life of Pi so popular? WWWHHHYYYY? And yes, I got so sick of hearing about it - there must have been people who were just too embarrassed to say they hated it.

Gah those random series are so annoying! Ottawa does that too, or more frequently it will have a series with one of the books only available in French. NOT HELPFUL.

But enjoy the fanfic - that totally interrupted my reading patterns for a few years. There is some really amazing stuff out there, all for free!