What I Read in May

This month’s reads are primarily fiction, as befits the beginning of summer! I just made it to my goal, finishing book six while visiting my husband’s family in Baltimore.  A couple of these books were provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review–I will let you know which ones those were below.

Curtain by Agatha Christie is an old favorite. My daughter picked up a copy for me from a used bookstore. Before our house burned down I had amassed an almost complete collection of the works of Agatha Christie, which is around 80 titles in all. I still have most of them but they are covered in soot and stored in the garage, so it has been awhile since I have read them.  This is one of two titles that the author put into safe storage during the Blitz in case she was killed.  Those works (the other was Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple’s last case) were published upon the author’s death which thankfully did not occur till the 1970s.  Written at the height of her powers, this novel is much better than works written later but published earlier.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a Christmas gift that I have been reading for awhile. Read it if you are a writer! It’s a little goofy at times but I found kernels of wisdom therein.

Seeking Tranquility by Amy Schisler is one of the free books I mentioned. It’s a Catholic romance novel, something I used to wish for back when I was reading a lot of Christian romance novels under the Steeple Hill/Love Inspired imprint. She puts the setting–Chincoteague Island–to great use.  Faith is part of the story for sure, but it’s more a natural backdrop than the entire focus of the story. And the story was absorbing with everything from NASA to the mob with a side of wild ponies.

The Heretic’s Apprentice by Ellis Peters is the next Brother Cadfael mystery and this one is more overtly theological than most, centered as it is around issues of what Catholics are required to believe and what is open to discussion. I am over halfway through with this series now and I am going to be so sad when I finish them.

The Vows We Keep by Victoria Everleigh is the second book I received for free. It’s another Catholic romance starring a former priest whose re-entry into the dating world is adorably awkward. I enjoyed the characters and the story and especially the twist ending that I totally did not see coming.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray was pure delight.  Several of Jane Austen’s characters from various books are gathered for a house party (hosted by Emma Knightly) when who should show up but the odious Mr. Wickham! Everyone has a motive for murdering him so when he turns up dead two of the house guests decide to play detective. These sleuths are the author’s creation, being children of Austen’s characters.  One of them is clearly autistic, and I really appreciated the way he was portrayed. This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year and I wish she would write another one like it.

As ever, I’m linking up with An Open Book! Be sure to check out other great reads there!


What I Read in March

Well, this will be a short post!  I completed only four books in March, and if Emily hadn’t made a trip to the library the last week of the month, it would have been two.  We visited Boulder this month, which meant four days in the car, but that does not really seem like enough of an explanation, does it?

First up is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, which I read for the Fountains of Carrots book club.

Have you ever read a book in high school or college, did not think much of it, and then read it later and were blown away? That was my experience with this book. I barely remembered it from my 20th Century Catholic Fiction class, which I took in my very last semester at Georgetown in 1989. Now I found parts of it to be some of the best pages I have ever read. Some books you really have to have some experience under your belt to understand, in my opinion. I copied some quotations into a notebook I keep and when I re-read them I get chills.  Seriously, this book’s exploration of the effect of having been raised Catholic is not to be missed if you are interested in such things.

Next we have A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler, this month’s read for my in-person book club at my next door neighbor’s house.

We all HATED this book. Not that it was not interesting. Not that some parts of it are well-written. Not that we did not care about at least some of the characters. But the ending. It was just wrong. Unless you want to be wrecked and in tears, don’t read it. It is not worth it.

Emily brought me The Confession of Brother Haluin by Ellis Peters, and I read it in two days.

Y’all already know how much I love the Brother Cadfael series. This one kept me guessing almost to the end.

Then I moved on to Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas, which I devoured in one afternoon.

This was the last of the Wallflowers series, the story of four girls who make a pact to help each other find husbands. If you’ve never liked romance novels, you won’t like these. If you used to like them, but kind of grew out of them (as I have), you probably will enjoy them for an afternoon or two of diversion.

This month is going to be better. I should finish three Georgetown book club choices for one thing, and a couple of other books I was reading last month as well. Will I make the six book goal? That remains to be seen!

Don’t forget to click below for other great reads at An Open Book!


What I Read in May

Y’all, I read TEN books this month!

I kicked it off with Anne’s House of Dreams. You know, I never realized before how wildly varying in style the Anne books are. In contrast to the primarily epistolary structure of Anne of Windy Poplars and the episodic structure of Anne of the Island, this one has much more of a narrative structure, which I enjoyed.

I bought White Fragility last year when everyone else was buying it. I’ve since realized that there’s something problematic about getting my racism education from another white woman, but I still found valuable insights here.

I did not find Boundaries to be as good as I was expecting. It was very elementary and I don’t personally  need Biblical reassurances that it is okay to set boundaries. Still, it confirmed some of the things I have already been working hard on for awhile.

I have been reading The Silmarillion via the Tea with Tolkien book club. Although I did not have time to participate in the discussions, I found the weekly podcast episodes summarizing each chapter to be super helpful. This was my second read of this book, which sat largely untouched on my shelf most of my life because it was so challenging, and I think I really have a handle on it now. It is so beautiful.

I read Anne of Ingleside this month too, which brings to a close my reading of the Anne books from my childhood (the two short story volumes were not included in this boxed set.). Two books remain to read, mostly about Anne’s children, but they were out of print when I was a little girl and I did not read them until I was an adult. This volume is again more episodic. I “get it” more now because Anne’s midlife musings are way more relevant to me these days!

I ordered The Psychic Hold of Slavery a couple of years ago after attending a discussion led by the authors at one of my Georgetown reunions. It was a challenging, academic read–a collection of essays examining the issue of why Black people cannot just “move on” from slavery, through lenses of poetry, novels, television, art, and movies.

I took to heart a lot of what I read in Health at Every Size, which debunks the notion that you have to be thin to be healthy, and promotes body acceptance and rejection of the modern diet culture. As someone with a life-long struggle in these areas, I found this message welcome.

I almost did not get to read a a Brother Cadfael book this month, but
Emily brought me one right before John and I went to visit our middle son, Teddy, in Boulder, and I read Dead Man’s Ransom in the hotel.  I continue to relish this series and I am relieved there are still so many left to read.

Amazon Prime offers subscribers one free e-book each month. I always take advantage but not being a big fan of e-reading I save these books for airplane rides.  I read The Darkest Flower on the way to Boulder. Besides being a fun legal thriller this one also offered some food for thought regarding legal ethics and the legal profession that felt relevant (my husband is a lawyer and I’m his assistant).

And finally, I read The Next Wife on the flight home. While I was entertained by the story throughout, I really don’t like books in which everyone is horrible. I want to be able to root for someone!

Thanks for following my reading adventures. I am as usual linking up with An 
Open Book. By clicking below you can find other great reads!


What I’m Reading These Days: Booktober and More

I’ve always been that girl with her nose in a book.  Yet somehow in recent years I have realized that I am spending more and more time reading news online and less and less time sitting down with a good book.

This month I decided to do something about that.  I have made an effort to sit outside on the porch for a little while every day with a book.  My days of reading a book every day are not going to return any time soon, and I did not even make a dent in my massive stack of books-to-be-read (not to mention the ten or more typed pages of books I want to read but do not own); but I am pleased with what I did manage to get through in 30 days.

First up:

I belong to the best book club in the world.  Why? Because it meets next door; there is always plenty of good food, wine, and conversation; and no one gets mad if you have not read the book.  This month, though, I did read and enjoy this discussion of how hardship builds community, which I found especially interesting in light of the current polarized state of the world.

I joined an online book club this month too, Booktober sponsored by The Myth Retold.  Participants voted between two books in each of four genres, read one each week and discussed them in a private Facebook group.  Week one was the first in a series.  Brother Cadfael’s first adventure involved a quest for relics of a saint to bring glory to his medieval monastery–and, of course, murder.  I loved this glimpse of the Middle Ages and plan to read the rest of the series.

I have been doing a lot of anti-racist reading/listening/learning in online groups, so this read was especially timely.  I think I read it all in one sitting.  I learned a lot–especially just how exhausting it is to deal with microagressions. That was a term I kind of bristled at the first time I heard it, but Brown really made me understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end. This book also made me consider how I take my Black friends for granted by thinking that I can ask them whatever about racism without considering whether that is a role they really want.

This was an historical fictional account of a former aristocrat and an idealistic attorney caught up in the French Revolution.  It was diverting enough but ultimately did not really have any staying power–it is already fading quickly from my mind.

This, on the other hand, was my favorite Booktober choice by far.  On the one hand, it was a hard read because being poor in Brooklyn in 1912 was not joke.  But the characters were so well-drawn, the setting so well-described, the stories so true that I did not want to put it down and I have been telling everyone how much I loved it.

Since the pandemic began, our family has been watching a lot of movies.  Lockdown gave us the opportunity for uninterrupted marathon viewings in which we had long wished to indulge, such as watching every Harry Potter movie in succession.  Having done this I was inspired to do what I had never done:  read all the books in succession.  Some of them I believe I had only read once.  It was fun to read the earliest ones with foreknowledge.  I love a well-planned series and it is fascinating to see the clues to the ending that are present from the very first book.  The Order of the Phoenix is not a favorite but I liked it more after having just watched the movie, since the book is vastly superior.

The same is true of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I also read in October.  I had forgotten a lot of the details and it almost felt like reading it for the first time.

Reading seven books in one month, some of them quite long, is no small accomplishment in my current busy life, especially considering that I also read a slew of online content.

I hope to report back at November’s end having read the last Harry Potter book, my book club’s selection for the month, and the pick from another online book club, at least.

I’m linking this up with An Open Book, which you can visit by clicking the button below.

Book Review: Patience of a Saint

Greeley 2
It might seem a bit odd to review a book that was published almost 30 years ago and that I’ve read many times before.  But having recently re-read Patience of a Saint by Father Andrew Greeley, who died in 2013, I wanted to talk about him and his writing.
patience of a saint
In 1987 I wouldn’t have been able to understand or appreciate Father Greeley’s work.  I’d read about him, of course–what Catholic hasn’t been horrified at the idea of a priest writing “racy novels” with actual sex scenes? (Such very mild and tasteful scenes, by the way.)  I’m sure at the time, without having read any of his books, I disapproved.  I’m sure I thought that a priest ought to have better things to do than write sexy novels.  I’m sure I assumed it was notoriety the man was after.
Of course, Father Greeley, a sociologist as well as a priest, was doing other things too.  In addition to his priestly duties, he was cranking out scores of non-fiction books in his field.  But he considered his novels a ministry too, something that is obvious to me when I read them now.  In his own words: “I wouldn’t say the world is my parish, but my readers are my parish. And especially the readers that write to me. They’re my parish.”
Anyone who reads Father Greeley will see that he loves Chicago, the Irish, and the Church.  That doesn’t mean he won’t point out what he thinks their flaws are!  And I don’t always agree with his perception of the Church’s flaws–I’m no authority on Chicago or the Irish!  But always the love is there, and his conviction of the truth of the Church and of the power of the love of God to transform people’s lives.
Red Kane, a somewhat dissipated Chicago journalist, is a perfunctory Catholic when Patience of a Saint begins.  A conversion experience comparable to St. Paul’s on the Road to Damascus propels him reluctantly into a reformation of his life which simultaneously delights and threatens his friends and family.  He comes to realize that “if one party in a relationship undergoes a transformation, then the other party in that relationship must be transformed too,” and that this is scary for those around him who have grown comfortable with the roles they were used to playing.
In a climax that is foreshadowed throughout the novel, Red’s family decides he has had a nervous breakdown and they send for the men in the white coats.  In the end, in what to me was a particularly moving passage, Red asks himself where he can go for help.  “The answer was still obvious.  The only institution in the world that could help him now was the Roman Catholic Church–the real Catholic Church.  Send in the first team.”
I’ve read many–not all, by a long shot–of Father Greeley’s novels.  He’s a good writer, not a great one.  He does have what to me is crucial–the ability to anchor his novels firmly in a particular place and time.   Chicago and its environs are intrinsic to his books.  His characterization is terrific, his dialogue not so much, although to me in Patience of a Saint it rings most true.  But most important is that his books are deeply Catholic, even the “sexy parts.”  It’s a misunderstanding of and a disservice to Church teaching to claim that Catholicism believes sex is bad, or base, or dirty.  Greeley’s novels elevate sexual love within marriage almost to a sacramental level–the ultimate act of self-giving that reflects God’s love for us.
Greeley 1

A Literary Survey

I love this kind of post.  (You know that, right?  Because I’ve totally done it before.  And also here.  And also here, and probably elsewhere!)  This time I stole it from my friend Maggie.  You can read her version here.  (And then read more of her blog because she is FABULOUS.  Many of her posts are like prose poems.)
  • Author you’ve read the most books from (the grammatical construction of that question is NOT MY FAULT):  Isn’t that an interesting question!  If we could count Carolyn Keene as an actual person, and only one person, then she might win, since I once had about 50 Nancy Drew books.  I’ve read all 23 of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone mysteries (three letters left in the alphabet!).  No, wait!  I know, it’s Agatha Christie!  She wrote around 80 books, and I have almost all of them.
  • Best Sequel Ever: don’t ever read a “sequel” to a classic novel that you loved written by some new person after the copyright on the original expired.  Just. Don’t. Do. It.  ACTUAL good sequels I have read:  Little Men and Rose in Bloom (both by Louisa May Alcott), Innocent by Scott Turow, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (both by Madeleine L’Engle)  I’m sure there are more that are not rising immediately to mind.
  • Currently Reading: I’m embarrassed to admit I am not in progress on anything at the moment.  My problem is I get so absorbed in my books that I neglect everything else in order to read.  So sometimes I have to neglect reading in order to get things done.  I am SUPPOSED to be reading Something Wicked This Way Comes for my book club.  I had better get on that!
  • Drink of Choice While Reading: Coffee.
  • E-reader or Physical Book? Physical book.  Bet you could have guessed that!
  • Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Jamie Fraser comes to mind. 😉  Seriously, just about anyone would have done, I was so desperate at that time.
  • Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Pillars of the Earth, which my sister kept badgering me to read.  It was WONDERFUL.  Now she is badgering me to read the sequel.
  • Hidden Gem Book:  While I wouldn’t exactly say they are hidden, when I hear people talking about the Anne of Green Gables books I always put in a plug for the Emily of New Moon series by the same author, which in many ways I like even better, with their hint of the supernatural and a heroine who is in my opinion more flawed than Anne.
  • Important Moment in your Reading Life:  Either when my mother first pulled out the giant card with the word MOMMY on it in red, when I was about two years old, thereby initiating me into the wonderful world of reading, or when after all my books burned up, and I couldn’t even bring myself to read for an entire month, I started reading and collecting books again.
  • Just Finished:  I recently finished W is for Wasted, Sue Grafton’s latest.  Before that I read How Shakespeare Changed Everything, and before that it was Damned by Chuck Palahniuk .  Oh, and I also re-read The Runaway Jury somewhere in there, just for fun.  I know, John Grisham, but the plots are engaging.
  • Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Anything that is going to scare me.
  • Longest Book You’ve Read: I read some Civil War novel in high school that was around 1,500 pages long.  If you consider (as did its author!) The Lord of the Rings to be one book, that’s 1,200 pages and I’ve read it out loud!  Also Gone with the Wind is 1,034 pages and I’ve read it uncountable times, the first when I was only 8.
gwtw cover
  • Major book hangover because of:  Even though everyone else is saying it too, I’d have to go with Harry Potter.  I read the last book from midnight to 6 a.m., then immediately read it again.
  • Number of Bookcases You Own:  Pre-fire, we owned at least fifteen, from floor-to-ceiling built-ins to nightstand sized.  I always dreamed of a library in which to put the boxes of books stored in the garage, but I don’t need that any more. 🙁  We have purchased only two pieces of furniture for this house (all the rest was given to us), and one was a bookcase (pictured above).  Scattered throughout the house are four others, and then the sooty books are on a couple of utility shelves in the garage.
  • One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: SO MANY.  I love re-reading old books more than reading new ones, honestly.  It’s so comforting.  In fact, any book I keep will be re-read!
  • Preferred Place To Read: In my wonderful spa tub.
  • Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: “It’s a known fact . . . yuh got to go there to know there.  Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh.  Two things everybody’s got to do fuh theyselves.  They got to go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.” (From Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston)
  • Reading Regret: That working, exhaustion, and the internet keep me from reading as much as I used to; and the loss of my favorite, most comforting books in the fire.
  • Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): If I like a series and all of it’s out, I’ve already read it!  I would like to re-read the Sookie Stackhouse series from the beginning, though.
  • Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  (And y’all know that’s really an impossible question, don’t you?)
  • Unapologetic Fangirl For: The Lord of the Rings
  • Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:  I guess the next thing to get excited about is Patricia Cornwell’s next book.  There aren’t many books I buy new, but I always buy hers.
  • Worst Bookish Habit: I just can’t seem to get into bookmarks.  I’ve stopped dog-earing the pages but now I leave the book lying open.
  • X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:  Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (not really necessary in this Internet age, but nice to have on the shelf)
  • Your latest book purchase:   W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton.  Usually I get her latest as a Christmas gift but I saw it in Kroger on sale and couldn’t resist.  I don’t buy books, in general–I get them from McKay’s, or the church book swap, or as gifts.
  • ZZZ-snatcher book: (last book that kept you up WAY late): See above.  However, I will stay up way too late virtually any time I read something at all absorbing, which is one reason I have been avoiding absorbing reads lately!
And there you have it!  Feel free to play along in the comments or on your own blog if you have one!  I’d love to read your survey.


Reading Aloud: It's Not Just for the Kids

David Copperfield.
Gone with the Wind.
The Lord of the Rings.
The Lords of Discipline.
The Hobbit.
The Dark is Rising series.
The Chronicles of Narnia.
A Tale of Two Cities.
Little House on the Prairie.
What do the above books have in common (besides being awesome, of course!)?
They are all books that I have read aloud in their entirety.  This might make you think I am a great mother, carrying on the bedtime reading well past the early childhood years.  You’d be wrong.
Because I did not read these books to my kids–I read them to my husband.
I don’t remember how it started, but way back when we were first married–maybe even before–I started reading aloud to John, sometimes at bedtime, often on long car trips (there were many in those days), and even just sitting in the living room, when we got so absorbed in a book we just didn’t want to stop.
I picked the books–favorites of mine that I wanted to share.  Sometimes I picked authors–like Dickens–that John was doubtful about, just so I could prove him wrong. 🙂
We continued this even after we had kids.  I can remember sitting out on the balcony of our last apartment, reading David Copperfield and feeling sad at the end of the nearly 1,000 pages, because we were going to miss the characters we had spent so much time with.
I remember sitting in the living room of our first house, reading Gone with the Wind by the light of the Christmas tree, and hearing little Emily in the hallway, listening in.  It was a great way to spend time together, doing something special without leaving the house, which would have required a babysitter.
What I can’t remember is exactly when we stopped, or why.  It was probably about ten years ago.  Maybe we got too busy, having four kids and lots of outside activities.  Maybe it was too noisy on car trips and we had to focus on amusing the kids instead of ourselves.  Maybe we were so tired at bedtime that we just fell asleep.  For sure, part of it was that Emily got old enough to babysit, and we were able from then until recently to leave the house whenever we wanted to spend time together without the kids.
But now that has changed.  The big boys are still at home, but not much.  They have active social lives that keep them out of the house most of the time on weekends.  If we want to be assured of a babysitter for a special occasion, like a wedding or an anniversary, we have to make a plan with them in advance (because we are not THOSE people, who expect their teenage kids to take care of their little siblings no matter what–we always ask.).
William is 11–old enough, in our opinion and his, to stay alone at home for an hour or two, in the daytime hours.  But he is not old enough to be responsible for seven-year-old Lorelei, day or night.
So we are spending more time at home in the evening than we have in years.  And it occurred to me that reading aloud would be a much nicer way to connect than playing on our separate computers all night.  I’ve been wanting to read Jane Eyre to John for some time.  Then Wuthering Heights.  I can’t wait!
[UPDATE:  I’m embarrassed to admit that we couldn’t get through one chapter.  We can’t stay awake while reading in bed anymore.  However, I’ve gotten back into the reading aloud groove in order to help William with his school English assignments.  In the past year I’ve read him War of the Worlds, Frankenstein, and Unbroken.  And right now I’m reading The House with a Clock in Its Walls to the whole family.]

55 Reading Questions

I have a Tumblr, which you can find here.  I don’t do much with it; I think I’m not really in the demographic it’s meant for, but I signed up so I could see what my daughter posts.  And recently I happened upon this list of questions from timaspublishing via bookaddict24-7.  Y’all know how much I love to read so I thought this would be fun. (It’s self-indulgent, I know.)
55 Reading Questions
1. Favorite childhood book?
2. What are you reading right now?
Well, this is a little embarrassing.  I can’t recall the name of it and I will no doubt forget all about it within 24 hours of reading it.  It’s one of my guilty pleasure books, a Love Inspired Suspense paperback that I got for free by temporarily joining their book club.  (Update:  That’s what I WAS reading when I started writing this.  Since then I’ve read Up Country for my book club, The Horse and His Boy which I found laying around the house somewhere, and probably more that I can’t remember.  I’m actually currently reading Freakanomics.)
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None.  I only do libraries in the summer.
4. Bad book habit?
I’m actively training myself in the use of bookmarks right now.  I usually leave my books lying open and face down.  I have, however, stopped bending the corners of the pages down. [UPDATE: Mission Accomplished.]
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nothing (see above).  I think my privileges are probably suspended at the moment anyway.  I am just terrible about returning books on time.
6. Do you have an e-reader?
Nope, and I don’t want one.  Hope I never cave on this. (Update:  My birthday has come and gone and now I own an iPad with an app on it that opens the doors to the wide world of e-reading.  I have a friend who only e-publishes a lot of her work and I want to read her stories.  Don’t look to find me curled up with my iPad reading Gone with the Wind any time soon.)
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One at a time.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
No.  I would not be reading right now, I’d be working.  Or perhaps doing dishes.
9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
I have probably read 50 books or more this year and I don’t keep a list.  I don’t recall actively hating any book but most of the romances are pretty forgettable.
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Probably The Quiet Game.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Never.  Why would I take something that’s a pleasure and make it unpleasant?  Besides, my zone is pretty big.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
See above!  I like stupid romances, mysteries, suspense, religious books, parenting books . . . I especially like legal thrillers.
13. Can you read on the bus?
As a child I did it all the time.  These days I would get sick.  I can only read on the interstate (not, of course, while driving).
14. Favorite place to read?
In my bed. [Update:  Not any more.  I can no longer see well enough to read in dim light.  And I’m too tired to read at night.  New answer:  front porch.]
15. What is your policy on book lending?
No problem.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I used to but I’ve stopped.  I don’t want to mutilate the books I’m keeping and I want the ones I’m getting rid of in good enough condition to be accepted by the used book store.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Not since college.
18. Not even with text books?
LOL.  See above.  It was hard for me even to get used to doing that.  I know people make notes in books and sometimes it seems like it would be a good idea but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
19. What is your favourite language to read in?
English.  I am proud of having at one point been able to more or less read books in French but now that my French, Latin, and Old English texts are gone I doubt I will be replacing them.
20. What makes you love a book?
A gripping page-turning story.  Characters I get emotionally involved with.  A sense of place and time.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I will recommend non-fiction books that made enough of an impression on me to actually influence what I DO (or try to do).  As for fiction, that depends on what the people I’m talking to are looking for.
22. Favorite genre?
Legal thrillers/mysteries.
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Spiritual/Theology.  I have tons of them but most days my brain is too tired.
24. Favourite biography?
You know, I get these but never seem to get through them.  I had a lovely one of St. Thomas More that I read part of, and another enormous one about Dickens.  These were in the to-be-read pile pre-fire.  I cannot remember when I’ve read one as an adult.  Now, as a child, I read tons.  There was a shelf in the school library with somewhat simplified stories, always starting with the famous person’s childhood, and I loved those.  I was especially fond of Helen Keller and read every book about her I could find.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
I’m sure I have.  My husband is a big fan, and he had a couple of shelves full.  But I can’t really remember any, unless you call parenting books self-help books.   In general, I’m suspicious of any books that promise smooth sailing and a happy life in a few easy steps.  Life is hard and I don’t know any shortcuts.
26. Favourite cookbook?
I’m not a huge cookbook collector.  Mostly I don’t use recipes.  The two go-to books I relied on were the 1970s edition of The Joy of Cooking and the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  If I needed to make a pie crust or cook a lobster tail that’s where I turned for advice.  I had a couple of beautiful cookbooks with gorgeous pictures and never got around to making a single thing out of them.  The exception to all this is Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, which I loved loved loved and made almost every single recipe in.  I even broke my writing in books rule to put personalized comments on the recipes, how we liked them, what changes I made.  And later I bought the author’s second book on making soups.  These are books I will definitely be replacing, because not only are the recipes good, they are spiritual books filled with interesting and inspiring stories.  And the premise of the bread-making book is that making bread is a spiritual experience–the author examines his conscience as he mixes his dough each day. [UPDATE:  I did indeed get a new copy.  I highly recommend it.]
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Couldn’t tell you.  Can’t remember.  I guess I wasn’t that inspired.
28. Favorite reading snack?
N/A since I usually read in bed.
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
For me, it’s usually the opposite.  I’m suspicious of hype.  I did not read the Harry Potter books for years because I figured a book everyone was making such a fuss over was probably lowbrow (I’m an intellectual snob.).
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I don’t really seek out critical comment in advance.  I read what looks good to me.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Since I don’t have a huge reach and am not likely to end anyone’s career with my opinion, I enjoy it.  [UPDATE: If someone gives me a book to review, I would be unlikely to give it a scathing review–that just seems ugly.  I generally try to find some nice things to say about it to balance out my critical comments.]
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I guess Madame Bovary, in French, for a college French Lit class.  It was exhausting and took forever, and I had to cheat and read the last few chapters in English.  And then after all that suffering I hated the book anyway.
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I wouldn’t say I’m nervous but I know I should read things like War and Peace and Ulysses and the thought makes me exhausted.
35. Favorite Poet?
Oh, William Wordsworth, definitely, courtesy of Professor Betz and his Sophomore Honors English course.  Professor Betz was my advisor in college.  He’s a renowned Wordsworth scholar who spends summers hanging out in the same places Wordsworth did.  I find that when someone is that passionate about a subject, he cannot help but transfer some of that passion to his students.  I’m also fond of William Blake and all the Romantic Poets.  I love Poe.  I can appreciate modern poetry, but I will always prefer the kind that rhymes.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Probably around ten.
37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
Not too often, occasionally at the end of the summer when I know that if I don’t I will probably never remember and will end up with another enormous fine and be stuck without the use of my card until they have another one of those days where I can trade them cans of food to erase the fines!
38. Favorite fictional character?
How can I answer that? I don’t think I can.  There are so many characters that I love.  Today I will go with Will McLean from The Lords of Discipline, arguably my favorite book of all time.

39. Favourite fictional villain?
I’m supposed to like the villains?  Today I will go with Rhett Butler.  I know, he’s a scoundrel, not a villain, but I really do think he gets off lightly.  Scarlett would never have gotten into so much trouble if he hadn’t egged her on.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Something I’d like to read aloud in the car.  This used to be a favorite pastime of mine and my husband’s.  I also bring all the magazines I’m behind on.  Because I read ALL THE TIME, I have no need for a special “beach book.”  I ALWAYS find time to read, so it’s not a priority on vacation and I might actually watch t.v (which I don’t do at home) instead!
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
I gave up reading for Lent in the second grade.  Dumb idea and I was miserable.  It sure was a sacrifice though.  I did not read a book for about a month after the house burned down.  For one thing, all my books burned up.  I was also overwhelmed and exhausted.  Too, there was some kind of weird element of, “My books are all gone.  I can’t read any more.”  I didn’t even FEEL like reading.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
I can’t think of one.  I know I had a few that I put down halfway through but I always planned to get back to them.  And that’s rare.  Usually if I’ve gone to the trouble to start I will finish.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Nothing.  It’s a problem.
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The Lord of the Rings films.  I can remember mourning as a child that it would be impossible to bring those books to the screen, but they did it and did it well.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Umm . . . most of them?  I know that you have to make changes when bringing a book to life on the screen.  But when I cannot understand WHY the changes were necessary, I don’t like it.  The first thing that comes to mind is “The Secret of Nimh,” loosely based on Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, one of the best children’s books ever.  WHY was her name changed to Mrs. Brisby in the movie?  Why did the rats look like terrifying otherworldly creatures instead of, you know, rats?

[UPDATE: The Hobbit.]
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I may have spent around $100 at Christmas time.  But that’s not typical.  I get almost all of my books used.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I might look at a book a little first to decide whether to buy it.  But once I’ve got it at home I don’t skim it.  Why would I want to spoil the surprise?
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
I would have to be either very frightened or very bored.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes, I like to keep series together of course, and I had a whole bookshelf devoted to series.  I had all the “best” books in the living room, and they were loosely grouped around themes–literature, language, coffee table . . . I kept the things that I hadn’t read yet, or were very special to me, on the bookshelf in my room.  Things are different now, with stacks on the table in my room, the classics we got at the used bookstore at Spring Hill in our one book case in the living room, kids books in the playroom, and soot-stained books in the garage.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I used to keep a lot more than I do now.  Now I only keep them if it’s a series I’m collecting or I really, really love them.  Otherwise they go to McKay’s or the church Book Swap.
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
If I was, they are gone now.
52. Name a book that made you angry?
Breaking Dawn.  Waste of money.  Waste of time.  Waste of potential for the moral uplift foreshadowed in the earlier books in the series.  Basically badfic and wish fulfillment.
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
The Harry Potter series.  Did it EVER exceed my expectations.  The Sue Grafton ABC murders.  These are EXCELLENT.  I thought they’d be gimmicky but they are first class.

Photo Credit

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
11/22/63.  I DID like it, but not as much as I thought I would.  It had some problems that I think Stephen King gets away with because he’s, you know, STEPHEN KING.
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
I call it a guilty pleasure but really, what’s to feel guilty about?  I like to read Love Inspired Christian romance novels which I can almost always get for free through book club offers.  I like to read them because they are mildly entertaining but I have no trouble putting them down, whereas if I get involved in a good thriller I may be up half the night or neglect other things I need to be doing.  And I prefer the Christian ones even though the spirituality can be a bit ham-handed, and even though they are always non-denominational Protestants (one of these days I am going to write a Catholic one, or get my daughter to do it!) because there are no sex scenes in them.  No, I don’t have moral objections to love scenes in novels, but after all the romance novels I consumed as a teenager, they frankly bore me.  And it’s also nice to read about characters who have the same moral values that I have in that area.
Okay, if you got this far, now it’s your turn.  Answer some or all of the questions, either in the comments below, or in your own blog post (post the link in the comments)!  I’d like to hear what YOU have to say about books and reading.