Alphabooks: D is for Drink

D: Drink of Choice While Reading

On one hand, I can and do drink anything whilst reading: water, a gin and tonic, chocolate milk, ginger beer,Cupboard Gatorade, coffee, wine, whiskey, pop, or any given cocktail.  If I’m already drinking something as I pick up a book, or if I get thirsty whilst reading, any beverage will do.

But then again, that is a scandalous falsehood.  For tea is the obvious drink.  Our kettle’s always on the stove, cabinets of tea and mugs directly above it.  The mugs big, solid, and so abundant that there’s always some standing ready no matter how many I’ve left, empty or nearly so, in my bedroom.

Tea typesOn one hand: any kind of tea will work.  Black, green, herbal; English Breakfast, Earl Grey, or spiced orange; blends like Lady Londonderry, Monk’s Blend, Enchanted Forest, or my Sherlockian teas (especially John Watson and, surprisingly, Anderson).  Harney & Sons Royal Wedding tea is delightful.  Cuppa Joy is delicious.

But then, which do I reach for first, and last, and most often in between?  What do I actually make when I need a break from a story, and sip as I sit back down?


Generally, Tetley with heavy whipping cream and a bit of sugar.

Creamy teaYou know that Melpomene and Urania would both commend cream tea to you!  It is a most august and wondrous tradition.

What’s your go-to reading refreshment?

Happy Birthday, YouTube

YouTube has been in existence for 10 years now.

This makes me wonder if there’s a way to convert solar years to internet years, because ten years on the internet is pretty much forever, right?  There are times when I have to stop and ponder the fact that, in fact, this particular service has not existed as long as I have, that the entirety of my childhood and most of my adolescence were spent without it.  Not to mention that which has followed in its train: widespread GIFs.  Vines.  Videos on Facebook.  Videos EVERYWHERE.

Then there’s the plenitude of it.  That one site can be the place to listen to music and share performances, to give DIY instructions, to find TV shows or movie clips, to document one’s family, to vlog, to share cat videos…

How did we exist without a convenient spot for cat videos for so long?!  The mind, it boggles.

Other folks, in celebration of ten years of cat videos, have made lists of YouTube’s most-viewed offerings.  While I’ve nothing against the surprised kitty, Sweet Brown, David after the Dentist, or NyanCat, I figured I’d share a different selection.  These aren’t quite “videos you must watch to be my friend,” but they’re close.

And like unto it (kind of):

British ads are better:

Here’s a viral throwback:

And then there’s this delight:

Honorable mentions go to Axis of Awesome’s 4 Chords; Eddie Izzard’s Death Star Canteen sketch (with Legos!); OK Go’s song So Here It Goes; and In Demand.

What YouTubes have you made all your friends watch?

Alphabooks: C is for Current

C: Currently Reading…

Currently reading

The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman
Postman regards childhood as a social construct, one which arose due to changes in how Western society passes along information: the printing press drastically expanded how many books were published; more information was shared in print rather than orally; thus an emphasis on literacy and the creation of schools to make children literate. Postman maintains that schools segregated children from adult life in an unprecedented way, and further, that printing enabled adult knowledge to be a secret thing. The secrets and shames which had defined adulthood, however, are now increasingly open to younger and younger people, as electronic media make them available to anyone. This expansion of what children can know, in turn, changes both how children act and how they are treated.

Agatha Heterodyne & the Hammerless Bell by Kaja Foglio
Agatha and company (including Gilgamesh Wulfenbach and Tarvek Sturmvoraus) attempt to repair the fractured Castle Heterodyne, while others in Mechanicsburg and Sturmhaltan attempt to figure out what’s going on, and whether Agatha is possessed by the (eeeeeeevil) Other.  Featuring my very favorite mysterious BAMF, Airman Higgs (are you human?  A construct?  Half-Jäger?  WHAT ARE YOU, SIR).

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Re-rereading. I think I started this a couple weeks back when I was in need of catharsis. It’s very, very good for that.

Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics by C.S. Lewis
Taking my unread Lewis off the shelf the other day reminded me of this book’s existence. It was Jack’s first published work, which means that the poems were composed when he had abandoned his childhood faith. Walter Hooper’s introduction includes snippets of several letters to provide a comprehensible background to the poems’ composition and publishing. “A cycle of lyrics” indicates that the poems are not meant to be read in isolation, but are to be taken together and understood as one work:

In my coracle of verses I will sing of lands unknown,
Flying from the scarlet city where a Lord that knows no pity
Mocks the broken people praying round his iron throne,
– Sing about the Hidden country fresh and full of quiet green,
Sailing over seas uncharted to a port that none has seen.

Mr. McFadden’s Hallowe’en by Rumer Godden
A friend recommended Godden’s China Court to me, but though I’ve gotten a copy, I started this book first. So far, an untrained horse named Haggis is running around and getting into trouble.

Not pictured, because I’m reading it online: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
So far I have learned that one must take care in how one instructs or commands a robot. Also: “Mathematical squiggles on paper were not always the most comforting protection against robotic fact.” I expect to be both amused and troubled by QT-1, the skeptical robot.

Not pictured, because I’m listening to an audiobook: Changes by Jim Butcher
I really don’t want to be spoiler-y about this, so I’ll just say that Harry Dresden is on a unique new quest with a tremendously exciting magical GPS. Also, the Red Court vampires are up to something.

What are you reading?

Alphabooks: B is for Best Sequel

B: Best Sequel Ever

I’m trying my level best not to be frightened by that superlative. The best sequel I can think of (at present) is not, in the strict sense, a sequel at all: that is, it is not a plot which takes place, in its entirety, after the events of an earlier book.

But it does follow it. It follows right along, the captain to a major. Or lieutenant-general to his general, as the case may be.

EGEnders Shadow

Whatever rank might be appropriate, I mean Ender’s Shadow. This is a parallax, or parallel story, following the setting of Ender’s Game: an alien invasion is headed for Earth, children all over are tested to see whether they can be trained into commanders at the off-planet Battle School, and the closer the invasion gets, the faster the training schedule. But rather than fixing on Ender Wiggin (boy soldier, innate commander, deadly victor), it focuses on Bean (starving orphan, genetically improbable, genius).

It could be said that Bean follows in Ender’s wake; it could also be said that Ender’s path would not have gone where it did unless Bean followed him, directing certain aspects of Ender’s years in and after Battle School: a most ingenious paradox. Bean’s place among Ender’s crew, in turn, came about because of events well before Ender’s Game began.

The thing is, Ender’s Shadow is not the only story following Ender’s Game. Both books are followed (chronologically and entirely) by a series, and in each series – the Ender Saga and the Shadow Saga – Card takes the world he’s designed and carries it to its logical conclusion. The political storm brewing in Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow is carried out on Earth in the Shadow Saga: when the Battle School students are returned to Earth, they are immediately used as strategists for the political powers-that-be there. The Ender Saga runs a different direction: traveling at relativistic speeds makes for a story that continues 3 millenia later.

Certainly the trappings of the story – instant interstellar communication, faster-than-light travel, genetic manipulation, non-human intelligences, etc. – help make it fascinating.  But the extraordinary thing about these stories is the philosophical questions they raise, and how they plumb the depths of understanding, sacrifice, friendship, love, and life.

Alphabooks: A is for Author

A: Author You’ve Read the Most Books From

I’d had the thought that, in order to keep myself from being too perfunctory about it, I’d avoid talking about books or authors I’d discussed in previous years.

So I sat awhile in uffish thought, before consulting GoodReads, my library checkout history, and my bookshelves.

All this to find that some things don’t change, and no one’s managed to shift my all-time favorites from being all-time favorites.  Especially not the champion of them all: C.S. Lewis.

Not pictured: Screwtape Letters and Surprised by Joy, which (shockingly) I do not own.

Not pictured: Screwtape Letters and Surprised by Joy, which (shockingly) I do not own.

From the Chronicles of Narnia, to his apologetics, to the Cosmic Trilogy, to his poetry and essays – I’ve read some 27 books of Jack’s, and still have a few more volumes of letters and essays awaiting me on my shelf.

Allegory of Love is at the bottom right.

Allegory of Love is at the bottom right.

Runners-up include Neil Gaiman (15.5, if Good Omens is ½ and the 10 sections of Sandman as separate volumes); Dorothy Sayers (13); Jim Butcher (11.5 at present); Orson Scott Card (11); Shakespeare (11 plays I’ve read; more that I’ve seen); and J.K. Rowling (10).

What author have you read the most of?

Alphabetical Promptings

Back in the Egotistical heyday of 2011 and 2012, we set up a couple of challenges for ourselves.  2011’s challenge gave us fodder for every single day of May; 2012 split up 10 weeks between 5 of us.  We’d schemed a bit in 2013 to follow a similar paradigm with different themes, but alas, the engine of thought never quite sputtered to life.  2014 likewise lay fallow.

But recently I found an alphabetical list from Perpetual Page Turner, and thought it was just the thing for this spring.  My plan is to respond to a prompt every weekday of April and May (more or less).  Feel free to join me; since you can be as brief or as detailed as you like, you may only require a single post!

Here are the prompts:

A. Author You’ve Read The Most Books From
B. Best Sequel Ever
C. Currently Reading
D. Drink of Choice While Reading
E. E-Reader or Physical Books?
F. Fictional Character You Would Have Dated In High School
G. Glad You Gave This Book A Chance
H. Hidden Gem Book
I. Important Moments of Your Reading Life
J. Just Finished
K. Kinds of Books You Won’t Read
L. Longest Book You’ve Read
M. Major Book Hangover Because Of…   (i.e., a story so intense or engrossing that you can’t quite get over it or emerge from that world for awhile)
N. Number of Bookcases You Own
O. One Book That You Have Read Multiple Times
P. Preferred Place to Read
Q. Quote From A Book That Inspires You/Gives You Feels
R. Reading Regret
S. Series You Started and Need to Finish
T. Three Of Your All-Time Favorite Books
U. Unapologetic Fangirl For…
W. Worst Bookish Habit
V. Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other
X. Marks The Spot (Start On Your Bookshelf And Count to the 27th Book)
Y. Your Latest Book Purchase
Z. ZZZ-Snatcher (last book that kept you up WAY late)

Book stack

In which I justify my fangirl nonsense with Elizabethan verse.

I kind of love the Hobbit movies. They’re not perfect, and they’re not the book, but I’ve really enjoyed them on their own terms. That even goes for their completely revisionist, frankly nutty portrayal of an elf/dwarf romance between Tauriel and Kili.  I rolled my eyes and sighed, and then found myself on that ‘ship faster than you can say, “She walks in starlight.”  Nope, it doesn’t make sense, and Tolkien would probably hate it, but darn, they are adorable.

This semester, I’ve been taking a class on Spenser, and we’ve read a good deal of his chivalric romance, the Faerie Queene.  It’s been fun to read, and I can even see its influence on other authors, including Tolkien. (For instance, Spenser loooves alliteration.  And he is incapable of mentioning dungeons without making them “dungeons deep.”)  In Book Three of the poem, Arthur’s squire Timias encounters the beautiful huntress Belphoebe, with whom he falls in love.  When they meet, Timias has just vanquished three vile foresters, taking a mortal arrow wound to the leg in the process, and Belphoebe finds him unconscious in a mire of his own blood.  (There is a lot of gore in Spenser.)  Moved to pity, she gathers healing herbs from the forest and uses them to purify his wound.  “Elvish medicine!”  I thought when I read that. “And apparently tobacco is the Spenserian version of Athelas…”  And then, because I am a dork, I identified all the parallels between this scene and Tauriel’s healing of Kili in The Desolation of Smaug.  Furthermore, because I am a dork with access to internet screencap databases and plenty of excuses for doing this instead of real work, I put together a Hobbit/Faerie Queene illustrated crossover, if you will.  Lord only knows what Tolkien would think.  After all, C.S. Lewis once described him as someone who “can’t read Spenser because of the forms [and] thinks all literature is for the amusement of men between thirty and forty.”  Sorry, Professor T., but literature is also pretty amusing for fangirls between twenty and thirty.

Faerie Medicine

With Apologies to Tolkien and Spenser (Or Perhaps Not)

(From Bk. 3, Canto V of The Faerie Queene)

Shortly she came, whereas that woefull Squire
With bloud deformed, lay in deadly swownd:
In whose faire eyes, like lamps of quenched fire,
The Christall humour stood congealed rownd;
His locks, like faded leaues fallen to grownd,
Knotted with bloud, in bounches rudely ran,
And his sweete lips, on which before that stownd
The bud of youth to blossome faire began,
Spoild of their rosie red, were woxen pale and wan.

Deadly Swownd

Continue reading

Death of a Battery at 5:30 AM

Death of a Battery at 5:30 AM

Had it happened in the driveway,
We might have been forewarned,
Delayed our start till after the rain
Began to coat the road and land,
Or before salt trucks fired headlights,
And bridges sent cars widely sliding
In wild spirals of tire and ice,
Fingernails, wheels, rails colliding.

Drifting, tenebrous, flakes settled down
Against still shadows in cadence.
Breath turned vapor before speech,
Blood slowed, the flares burned out
And cold pressed round our patience,
Which is when the battery died.