For those of you not following along from the beginning, here’s my whole 30 Days of Books challenge in one place. If you’ve done (or are doing) the challenge, link me! I want to know!
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?
Here is where I have to be really grateful that I’ve restarted my GoodReads account, because now I don’t have to go hunting for all the books I’m currently reading. :D
The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkein, from my own collection. On behalf of my roommate, who hasn’t ever read the series and hasn’t the time to read it on her own, I’m reading Lord of the Rings aloud in the evenings. There was a long hiatus in there, but I recently started again. (It’s taking forever to get through Treebeard.)
You Killed Wesley Payne, by Sean Beaudoin, from the library. I am still uncertain of how I feel about this book, except that I can’t stop reading it.
A Betrayal in Winter, by Daniel Abraham, which I bought because I didn’t want to wait for the library copy to come in. Excellent.
How to Write a Damn Good Novel, by James N. Frey, which I saw recommended and found in the used bookstore the very next day.
Medieval Gentlewoman, by ffiona Swabey, from the library. I am using this as research for one of those Damn Good Novels I a going to write.
And that’s it for the 30 Days of Books challenge! I’ll post a recap shortly. Now I need a new meme to keep me occupied. Anybody got any suggestions?
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Morpheus, in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Using a graphic novel series is not cheating, Sandman is as epic as any novel. And it has the benefit of containing simultaneously the saddest and most satisfying character death. I have now spoiled the Sandman virgins enough for one post; if you have not yet read the series, go out and read it immediately. You may wish to start with Volume 2, if you are not generally a comic book reader, but you will want to read Volume 1 eventually anyway. Get the new recolored editions, if you can, they’re a vast improvement over the originals. Come back when you’re done. Spoilers will commence behind the cut.
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
The Chronicles of Narnia. They were the first books I ever bought with my own money; I saved for weeks to get the full set from the local bookstore, and when they didn’t have every one on hand, I had them order the missing volume and waited until I could get them all at once. (I have no idea how old I was…eight?) I still have that set, too, nine ratty old paperbacks falling apart at the seams, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the worst shape of them all (I loved Reepicheep).
I don’t think I realized until much, much later that they were Christian allegory. Fortunately, during the part of my life where I would have been most annoyed to find out that fantasy books I loved were Christian allegory, I didn’t reread them at all. Then I discovered Tolkien, and then I discovered that Tolkien and Lewis were friends, and I read them again and still loved them. I adored the old BBC adaptations of the first four books (although I rewatched them in college and am a little mortified by my childhood crush on Sam West’s Caspian), and I’m even relatively fond of the new movies, although I haven’t seen Dawn Treader yet. I’m afraid they’ll butcher my favorite book. The current practice of numbering the books in chronological order instead of publication order is clearly blasphemy.
I can’t reread them unconditionally any more; The Horse and His Boy makes my skin crawl, as does the theology in The Last Battle. And I’m highly sympathetic toward Neil Gaiman’s “The Problem of Susan.” But a few months ago I bought a wardrobe. And yes, I do check the back of it every once in a while. Just, y’know, in case.
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Boats. I had to think about it for a while, but once I realized I had to get Patrick O’Brian into this list somehow, I remembered: I’ll buy just about anything with a boat on the cover. I’ve read some pretty terrible novels this way, but just as many good ones, and I never get bored of them, even though most boat novels are set during the Napoleonic Wars and consist of sailing about and occasionally shooting at people. I love ’em.
I read a lot of boat-related nonfiction, too: pirate histories are a favorite, because outside of the piracy epidemic in the Caribbean, the early 1700s is not really a time period that’s written about a lot, and I find that interesting. Histories of the Napoleonic Wars, too, and up through about the American Civil War. (After that I kind of lose interest.) I have a biography of Cochrane sitting on my to-read shelf; he’s the outrageously successful Navy captain that both Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey are based on. Somewhere back there, too, is a history of the first naval expeditions to Australia, and one of these days I’m going to read Voyage of the Beagle, I swear.
The ALA newsletter linked a while ago to the amazing The Private Library blog’s series on piratical literature, and from there I found their equally wonderful seafaring literature series. And the to-read list grows, and grows, and grows…
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice. Yes, I was a vampire fangirl at one point. I over-identified with Lestat something horrible in The Vampire Lestat, with his sense of revalation about the vast meaninglessless of the universe (and about the Church). What, I was sixteen. I loved the complexity of the universe she’d created, though, one in which the laws governing the existence of vampires had more to do with the vampires’ own beliefs (such as Armand’s certainty that the only proper thing to do was to live in a crypt under Paris and bemoan his fate) than with any laws of the universe. I even loved all the backstory in Queen of the Damned and the random, hilarious body-swapping in Tale of the Body Thief.
I lost it at the end of Memnoch, though. Time travel was one thing; Lestat at the Passion of the Christ was stretching it a little, but Armand randomly immolating himself on the steps of the cathedral because Lestat came back and told some ridiculous, unbelievable story? That was the first time I ever threw a book across the room in frustration. (The second time, for those of you who are curious, was the end of Clan of the Cave Bear, in which the ridiculous Mary-Sue of a main character invents the bra, in approximately 3000 BC. The third and most recent time was when I realized that they were actually not kidding about the scenes set in England in Left Behind. Both of those books, however, I read for classes.)
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
I’ll take the letter of this one instead of the spirit and actually pull books from my “to be read” shelf instead of sampling from my to-read list as well. You do not even want to know about my list.
Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. The only reason I haven’t started this one yet is I have now reached hailing distance of having no more Bujold left, and I want to draw it out as long as possible while I can.
Library Wars Volume 1: Love and War, Kiiro Yumi & Hiro Arikawa. It’s shojo manga! About militant anti-censorship librarians! I admit, I’ve never actually read any shojo manga before. (Shojo is the stuff aimed at girls, with a lot of romance and relationships; my preferred poison is shonen, the stuff aimed at boys, full of fight scenes and wisecracks, or seinen, aimed at young men, which tends toward either more realism or more dramatic science fiction type stuff.) I’m looking forward to this one, though. Militant anti-censorship librarians!
Chicks Dig Time Lords, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea. One of my friends got this for me for Christmas – it’s an anthology of essays by women about the glory and wonder that is Doctor Who. (People apparently think that women don’t like science fiction, thus giving rise to this project. I will never understand why.)
Sarah Monette, Unnatural Creatures. This is a special-edition chapbook of four published but uncollected Kyle Murchison Booth stories. The original collection is The Bone Key, which I urge everyone who’s ever liked ghost stories to go out and buy right now. (Although it is being rereleased shortly, so you may want to wait until the new edition comes out.) I’ve read two of the stories in Unnatural Creatures already, but there are two in here entirely new to me. New! Booth! Ghost stories!
The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths by Pat Brown with Bob Andelman. I may have mentioned previously on this blog that my favorite television show is Criminal Minds, now suffering from an excess of studio mismanagement but previously an exquisite drama about criminal profilers. It’s given me a fondness for profiling books and serial killer stories (and a low tolerance for badly-written fictional serial killers). And hey, this one isn’t by John Douglas.
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Aral Vorkosigan’s advice to Miles in A Civil Campaign. It’s a whole scene, not just a quote, but I think I can extract the essence of it with judicious ellipses.
“Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. … There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That’s soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating.”
Miles stared away for a minute into the middle distance. “So what you’re telling me boils down to the same thing Galeni said. I have to stand here and eat this, and smile.”
“No,” said his father, “you don’t have to smile. But if you’re really asking for advice from my accumulated experience, I’m saying, Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.”
There’s a lot to be said for that kind of attitude. For one thing, it allows you to tell the difference between embarrassment or shame that really matters and the kind that’s just uncomfortable. And it does so while acknowledging that the uncomfortable parts are not good — they’re just less not good than the other kind. I would like to be as wise as Aral Vorkosigan some day. Then again, I would hate to go through everything he did in order to get there…
(The joy of ebooks: I was able to search, copy & paste that in less than two minutes. Okay, they do have their benefits. But I’m buying the hardcovers, anyway.)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Horatio Hornblower, from C. S. Forester’s novels. I started off on the Hornblower kick with the BBC/A&E series from the late 90s, a beautifully filmed and well cast set of stories that were not really based very strictly on the books at all. When I started reading the books, though, I discovered that I wasn’t put off by the differences between them and the movies as much as I was put off by Hornblower himself. He’s self-absorbed and a little dense. He worries to much. He obsesses over “the loneliness of command” and vascillates between treating his only real friend, Lieutenant William Bush, as a trusted companion or as a useless hanger-on. (And then when Bush dies, in Lord Hornblower, without leaving behind a body, Hornblower contemplates building a pyramid of skulls in his memory. I don’t even.) The only book I still read is Lieutenant Hornblower, because that’s the one from Bush’s point of view. Horatio Hornblower is definitely one of those people who is better from the outside of his head than from the inside.
I do reccomend the TV series, though, particularly the second season, Mutiny and Retribution. Great stuff.
A close runner-up for the title is Tony Hill, from Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. In the television adaptation, Wire in the Blood, Tony’s a rather appealing absentminded-professor type. In the books you get his internal thought process, in which he feels entirely too sorry for himself while worrying about whether or not he’s going to turn into a serial killer one day. If only, Tony. If only.
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Jack Aubrey & Stephen Maturin, in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. I love these boys. Stephen is kind of a jerk, he’s not very good at interpersonal relationships, and he spends most of the time in his head, while Jack is profoundly physical, extremely (almost excessively) friendly, and the kind of gullible that falls for a new scam every time he sets foot on land. And they’re best friends.
They do kind of fill in each others’ weak spaces; Jack (and indeed all the sailors) are continually amazed at how Stephen cannot seem to learn the first thing about ships despite spending half his life on them, while Stephen has the kind of cunning and political savvy that Jack couldn’t care less about. And they are both more than their stereotypes make them out to be; Stephen spends a good deal of time idiotically in love with a woman even more heartless than he is, and Jack is capable of carrying on a conversation about advanced mathematics with a Frenchman.
And they’re best friends. It’s such a simple and profound thing that there’s hardly even any more to say about it. They love each other, and that’s that. There’s a beautiful scene toward the end of the series — I can’t remember which book — where they’re back at Jack’s house for a while, and Stephen can’t sleep, and he hears violin music being played in the garden. Jack and Stephen have played together on ships for years, violin and cello respectively, but Stephen’s hands had been broken once when he had been captured by the French, and they never really healed properly. And listening to Jack play alone, after all those years playing together, Stephen realizes that Jack is a much better player than he had ever realized, and that Jack had been playing down his own skill in order not to put Stephen to shame. It’s such a powerful and bittersweet scene that speaks so much to the connection between these two.