30 Day Book Meme: Day 18

Favorite beginning scene in a book

It’s a cliche (and one hardly befitting a rock’n’roller like m’self) but I have to go with Pride and Prejudice.

I know, I know.

But! It is easily one of the snarkiest openings ever. Austen’s narration is so incredibly bitchy toward the women scheming to catch themselves (or their daughters) a wealthy husband, how can one not love it? Plus, Mr. Bennett is one of my favorite father characters of all time, and he’s at his finest here.

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”


“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

It’s subtle, and not everyone’s cup of tea, but boy howdy is it right up my alley. Shameful, I know. I shall now go listen to my Essential Judas Priest collection to reestablish my rockingness.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 17

Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)

Not sure I have one. I don’t have all that many collections of short stories (at least, not compared to how many full-length novels I have). I will say that the Chicks in Chainmail series have a fond spot in my heart for their silliness and their portrayal of the all-too-rare female warrior fantasy badass.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 16

Favorite poem or collection of poetry

Definitely Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, illustrated by Edward Gorey. I used to do puppet shows of some bits, reciting the poems and moving puppets around. For a while, I could recite all of “Macavity, the Mystery Cat.”

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw–
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!

The illustrations are charming, and the poems are delightful. I spent a lot of time in college reading all kinds of poetry, and quite liked it (I wrote my Honors Thesis on the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester), but this was my first poetry love, and will always be special to me.

You have to love a book with cats who are pirates, supercriminals, daring acrobats, and all kinds of awesome things.

30 Day Book Meme

Your “comfort” book

I’m not sure I really have a “comfort” book these days. When I’m stressed, I often go back to books I’ve read and loved before, like one of the Discworld books, or I’ll read a new-to-me mystery or fantasy novel. It’s more a genre thing than a specific book thing.

Things I want from a book when I’m stressed and want to feel better: humor, suspense (without killing off people I like), and a straightforward-enough plot and writing style (or to have previously read the book) so that I can get lost in the book without having to stop and think too hard. I love reading slow, interesting books (like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Lord of the Rings), but not when I’m depressed/stressed/whatever. When I reach for something to read to make me feel better, it’s gotta be exciting.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 14

Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)

This one’s easy: Lord Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, from the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. I’ve mentioned him in a previous post, but he bears mentioning again. As it says in Guards! Guards!:

You need a special kind of mind to rule a city like Ankh-Morpork, and Lord Vetinari had it.

But then, he was a special kind of person.

Lord Vetinari is a terribly practical sort of person. His interest is the continued smooth running of the city; everything is in service to that. He has essentially no life outside his work, has an incredibly austere lifestyle (which makes him impossible to blackmail), and has the knack of listening in a way that forces you to keep talking — especially if you’re about to say something incriminating.

Here’s an example of why I am such a fan of Lord Vetinari, also from Guards! Guards!:

One of the Patrician’s greatest contributions to the reliable operation of Ankh-Morpork had been, very early in his administration, the legalizing of the ancient Guild of Thieves. Crime was always with us, he reasoned, and therefore, if you were going to have crime, it at least should be organized crime.

And so the Guild had been encouraged to come out of the shadows and build a big Guildhouse, take their place at civic banquets, and set up their training college with day-release courses and City and Guilds certificates and everything. In exchange for the winding down of the Watch, they agreed, while trying to keep their faces straight, to keep crime levels to a level to be determined annually. That way, everyone could plan ahead, said Lord Vetinari, and part of the uncertainty had been removed from the chaos that is life.

And then, a little while later, the Patrician summoned the leading thieves again and said, oh, by the way, there was something else. What was it now? Oh, yes…

I know who you are, he said. I know where you live. I know what kind of horse you ride. I know where your wife has her hair done. I know where your lovely children, how old are they now, my doesn’t time fly, I know where they play. So you won’t forget about what we agreed, will you? And he smiled.

So did they, after a fashion.

He becomes increasingly awesome as the books go on,  and continues to impress me.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 13

Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)

Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda. She was warm in every wind and weather, but he was always cold. His hands were as cold as his smile and almost as cold as his heart.

This one’s easy: The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber is one of my oldest and most beloved YA books. It was clearly written to be read aloud, and the language is gorgeous. It’s also poetic enough that I can recite whole passages. And it’s got plenty of dark and gruesome stuff sure to enchant the kiddies in it! Consider the description of the villainous Duke of Coffin Castle:

…he was always cold. His hands were as cold as his smile, and almost as cold as his heart. He wore gloves when he was asleep, and he wore gloves when he was awake, which made it difficult for him to pick up pins or coins or the kernels of nuts, or to tear the wings from nightingales. He was six feet four, and forty-six, and even colder than he thought he was. One eye wore a velvet patch; the other glittered through a monocle… the Duke limped because his legs were of different lengths. The right one had outgrown the left because, when he was young, he had spent his morning place-kicking pups and punting kittens. …

His voice sounded like iron dropped on velvet.

The story concerns the Princess Saralinda, imprisoned by the Duke, and the prince who comes to save her. A prophecy says that only a prince “whose name begins with X, and doesn’t” can rescue her, so surely it’s impossible! But no, Prince Zorn of Zorna has been traveling under the name of Xingu, and he comes to save her. Add in the creepy monster the Todal (it makes a sound like rabbits screaming), the mysterious Gollux (“I only resemble half the things I say I don’t,” he explains; “the other half resemble me!”), and a woman who weeps gemstones and you have the makings of an awesome fairy tale.

It languished in out-of-print status for ages, but has recently been republished, with a spiffy intro by Neil Gaiman. Go get it!

30 Day Book Meme: Day 12

A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times.

Wow. I think I’ve read a lot of books and series more than five times. How to pick?

I think I’ll go with the book I own the most editions of: Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Let’s see… I own it in paperback, hardcover (with illustrations by Edward Gorey), and I have two different annotated versions. Who’s hardcore? That would be me. I also own a copy of the play, and several books about the story in one way or another.

It all started when I went to see a production of the play back in sixth grade. I can’t really pinpoint what it was that struck me, I just knew  I was obsessed. I read every book involving vampires, fiction and nonfiction, I could get my hands on, including a lot of garbage. But I kept coming back to the original. Dracula. I’m not alone in my high regard for the first-ever modern vampire. Heck, I’ve met kids who refer to vampires as “draculas.”

Pro tip: if you meet me in person, do not get me started on the history of vampires in fiction and folklore. I will talk your ear off. I’ve forgotten more about vampires than most people ever learn in the first place.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 11

A book that disappointed you.

Rather than an individual book that disappointed me, I’m going to write about a whole damn series that did.

That series is the Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. I know plenty of people who love them, but I had high hopes from the first book that they were going to be a kickass series about a mystery-solving necromancer and instead I got a series that has devolved into being about a superwoman who can do anything and the increasingly ridiculous things that happen so that she will have serious enough bad guys to challenge her and an excuse to have lots and lots of sex.

I really liked the first book, Guilty Pleasures. It was basically a supernatural mystery. Not fantastic writing, but enjoyable. I liked the unusual idea of the protagonist being someone who animated the dead and executed vampires for a living. The next couple books were okay, although once the love triangle between Anita, Richard, and Jean-Claude developed, I started rolling my eyes. I’ve never liked the whole love-triangle device. And then Anita started getting new superpowers in every book and I just… lost interest. I haven’t heard anything about the newer books to make me change my mind.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 10

A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving.

This one’s easy. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (yes, I am secretly a pretentious Anglophile, and I read the UK edition, with the original title and vocabulary).

I didn’t read it when the books first hit the US because I was in college and didn’t see any reason to make time for the latest kids book fad. However, in creative writing my senior year, I was writing a lot of fantasy, including stories about a young student sorcerer, and my classmates gently suggested I read the Harry Potter books, if only to avoid accidental imitation.

Once I got around to reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised — I went into it, as I remember, with some hesitation. Wildly popular book series often annoy me (do not get me started on Twilight. I didn’t write about those books for day 5 because I didn’t trust myself to keep my post anything resembling short), and I was afraid Harry’s exploits would be no exception, but I found it surprisingly charming. Taken as a kids book, and as a first novel, it’s top-notch.