Bookshelf tag – I’m it!

I’ve been tagged by Marcia Meara, whose answers you can find here. It works like this:

“Answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five other bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.”

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

Actually there isn’t. Goodness, my first answer is boring. Now I’m sad.

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.

One? Just one? Well, I guess I have go to with good old Lord of the Rings then, which when I was 8 or 9 years old made me a fantasy reader for life.

More recently, although still many years ago, I was generally bored by biographies until I started reading Allison Weir. I believe The Six Wives of Henry VIII was the first of hers I read. I enjoy historical fiction, though, so that was kind of a natural progression.

I can’t think of anything recently that’s inspired me to read a genre I haven’t before, but that’s because I’m pretty much a genre floozie. I’m not sure there are any I haven’t read before.

3. Find a book you want to reread. (Question 3 is suspiciously absent from Marcia’s list, but I found it on Stella’s.)

I reread books regularly, specifically books with very well-drawn settings that give me that sense of being transported elsewhere: Rebecca, Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series.

Oddly, it’s not necessarily the same list as my favorite books, although of course I wouldn’t reread it if I didn’t love it. But rereading for me is more about the world than the characters or story. Jane Eyre is probably my favorite book of all time, but I don’t reread it as often as some others.

4. Is there a book series you’ve read but wish that you hadn’t?

Heavens, no. Why would anyone wish they hadn’t read something? I suppose that happens in the sense of wishing you hadn’t wasted time on something, but if I felt that way about the first book, I wouldn’t go on to read the whole series.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Well, can’t I just save my Kindle, so I’m saving a bunch at once? Or scoop a whole armful off a shelf? It seems unlikely I could only save one. But if my fingers are burning off and I can only balance one book on my elbow, I’d go for Jane Eyre, because poor Jane’s had enough destroyed by fire.

I don’t actually have any expensive or special editions of anything, so from a collector’s standpoint, I wouldn’t weep for the physical objects themselves. Apart from all that wasted paper, that is.

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

Again with the just one! It’s very cruel. I’m just going to ignore the “just one” instruction from now on, okay?

I’d have to go back to all the children’s books that meant so much to me in my youth: Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, Narnia. Anne Shirley, I will always love you.

I also have fond memories of waiting on my front porch for the last Harry Potter book to arrive, then spending the entire rest of the day eating fudge and reading it, having delegated all household and child-rearing chores to others. It was like a holiday.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

I’d have to say all the childhood books named above. They made me love books and reading, which is something that has shaped my entire life.

8. Do you have any autographed books?

Nope. But I’m considering stalking Marcia long enough to find out where she lives and break in to steal that autographed copy of Rebecca she has. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.

Maybe this doesn’t count, but I’ve got the covers of my original childhood copies of The Horse and His Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Anne of Green Gables all framed. As for which entire book is oldest, I’m honestly not sure. They’re all looking pretty beat up. I’m one of those people who eats while she reads and stains the pages with chocolate, and dog-ears her pages, and makes a tragic mess of the binding. (You can see why I love my Kindle.) I don’t mind my books being lived in.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

Not really. I don’t read the ones I don’t think I’ll enjoy. I’m trying to think if I felt forced to read anything in college and then ended up liking it, but as far as I recall, I pretty much looked forward to all of those too, because I’m a dork. Except Moby Dick and Notes from Underground. I never imagined I’d enjoy either of those, and I was right.

Tag time!

I’m going to tag Servetus. I’m not sure she’ll do it, as her blog is themed and this won’t fit, but she’s all scholarly and stuff, so I’d be curious to read her answers.

I’m also going to tag Paula Light.

And Roy.

And Lisen Minetti.

And Lyda.

Mostly because those five seem like they’d have very different answers, and I imagine variety and discovering new books is part of the point. I’d tag Don too, but I’m pretty sure he’s busy burningburning.

Thanks for thinking of me, Marcia!

Things writers can learn from Skyrim

Video games aren’t known for their high quality storytelling. They tend to be derivative and clichéd and trope-embracing. You want to give people something familiar to work with as they jump in to play, and while you’ve got to have both story and backstory, you don’t want any of it to be particularly hard to figure out. Nobody wants to spend more of their gaming time trying to work out who Jon Snow’s mother is than actually killing stuff. Or, in the case of me and Skyrim, decorating their house, because I really only kill stuff in support of my search for a really good vase to put between the shelves in my library. Stop judging me!

But plot and characters aside, setting is where video games like Skyrim shine. Forget that it’s a story about killing dragons by scolding them really loud. That world feels real. And yeah, because graphics. But also because a lot of effort has been put into making you feel like your story isn’t even most of what’s going on in that world, let alone all there is to it.

Very few of the NPC’s in that game are nameless. They have more specific and personal things to say than “Death to all who oppose us!” when you click them. (Not that I object to “Death to all who oppose us!” I always answer my door with either that or “The reckoning is at hand!”) They have histories and petty arguments with their neighbors and quests of their own to deal with.

Same goes for every town and city. They’re not just sets you’re passing through so you can sell all the junk you’ve picked up. (Or, you know, stolen. From corpses.) They’ve got politics and threats and complicated histories. Okay, and sometimes also vampires, which annoy me as a story element, but I’m not saying the game is perfect either.

The point is, Skyrim always feels like a place that was living before you came along, is continuing to live all around you as you go through your storyline, and will keep right on living after you leave. And I wish I saw this done more often, and better, in novels. I don’t mean high fantasy – people who write high fantasy pretty much know they’ve got to create a whole world – I mean everything. Horror. Romance. Thrillers. I wish the authors of stories about accountants drinking coffee set them in meticulously constructed worlds.

Not that it’s easy. It can be very hard to toe the line between providing enough detail to make the reader feel like they’re there, and boring the stuffing out of them by spending two paragraphs describing a chair. And every reader has a different threshold. But I love reading about what they ate at the Hogwarts Halloween feast and Joffrey’s wedding feast. I love all the bits of history Tolkien scatters around. I love Derry and Castle Rock and the way Stephen King takes the time to flesh out even the most minor character, and I love everything Jasper Fforde does, ever. I love Tom Bombadil. There, I said it.

The common thread there is that I don’t want to read your book, I want to fall in. And nothing kills immersion like shrinking your world down to the size of your story.

Fall is for fantasy

51io0QNtvmL._SX260_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Maybe because the Renaissance Festival comes to my region in the fall, or because the weather gets cooler and it’s a great time to curl up with a book, or just because of Halloween and haunted houses and witches. Whatever combination of these factors makes it so, this is a time of swords and sorcery and castles and stuff.

And not just books either. All sorts of things, including food. Back when more of my family played WoW together, we’d have Azeroth themed nights in which our adventures were preceded by some Westfall stew (because fall is also for stew) and homemade cherry pie. Come to think of it, why hasn’t anyone written a Warcraft cookbook? Or have they and I just don’t know about it? We need one of these.

And then sometimes we do a Harry Potter thing at Halloween, with pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes and so forth. Harry Potter is great for the sweets. Not much in the way of stew though.

For this year, I just ordered A Feast of Ice and Fire. I’m thinking: October. Crisp air, crunchy leaves. And lemon cakes. Then more lemon cakes. I haven’t got much farther in my planning than that. Because when you think of Westerosi food, lemon cakes is the first thing, right? Come on. THEY’RE HER FAVORITE. Fiery Dornish peppers comes a close second though. I’d actually like to see some stats on how often these phrases are mentioned.

According to the description, one of the clever things about this cookbook is that it includes both medieval and modern versions of many recipes, and suggested substitutions for those things you just don’t tend to stock in a normal kitchen in the real world. I kind of wish there’d been something like that when I was making those gooey spider cakes.

More on A Feast of Ice and Fire when I’ve actually made one.