Book Post Series: Sarah, of Angelus Domini

 Sarah of Angelus Domini
About:  Sarah is an avid reader, especially of sci-fi, youth fiction, and British detective fiction written before 1970.  When she is not reading, she is generally slaving to finish up her BA in English literature, sewing something prettiful, or hanging out with her sisters (she has a lot of them).

Fun Fact:  Sarah never crushed on real-live-guys as a kid, but she did fall for a few real-fictional-guys.  Some of the top contenders were Faramir, the Beast, Hazel, Ivanhoe, and Nathaniel Bowditch (technically he really existed).  These days she would like to meet a guy just like Peter Wimsey ― but without the monocle.

... And without further Ado ...

What are you reading right now?

For school: Richard II, by Shakespeare, Bloody Murder: From the Detective Novel to the Crime Novel, a History, by Julian Symons, Emma by Jane Austen.  For God time: A Modern Girl's Guide to Studying the Bible, by Jen Hatmaker.  For fun: I am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley. 

Do you like it so far?

It?  Oh dear.  Well, meh/somewhat/so far/very much/ohmygoodness always!

What would you consider your favorite book?

I have the darnedest time picking favorites ― on a good day, I can narrow the list down to my 'top ten'.  But presuming that we're talking about fiction, and imagining that a one-and-only favorite book must be one that has stood the test of time (i.e. we have history), and say that 'favorite' means I'm always up for a re-read, then I guess my favorite book would be…Watership Down by Richard Adams.  Yes, it is about rabbits.

Why is it your favorite book?

Oh, such a good question!  Let me try not to answer it too thoroughly…  I'll give you three reasons, how's that?

1) The premise.  It's like Beatrix Potter meets Robin Hood meets some sort of epic Greek myth.  Younger brother, Fiver, can sort-of-kind-of see the future.  He gets a vision that destruction is coming for the entire warren (that's 'village' in rabbit-speak).  Older brother, Hazel, and a few others believe him, but nobody else does.  Small band of misfits sets out to find a new home together.  They encounter death and danger, harrowing escapes and stirring victories.  Eventually, due to consummate leadership, incredible cleverness, and sheer dumb luck: the misfits find a new home!  Hooray!  …and that's when you realize two things.  First, you are completely absorbed, even though this is a book about rabbits.  Second, that you don't want the book to be over ― and it isn't.  You've only read one-third of it.  And the rest is even better.
2) The characters.  They're not rabbits.  I mean, they are, but you forget.  They leap off the page, as real as any human characters ever written.  Hazel, the good big brother and reluctant leader.  Fiver, the tortured seer.  Bigwig (don't judge), the loose cannon.  Blackberry, the lapine equivalent of Einstein.  Dandelion, the story-teller.  Pipkin, the runt.  For myself and my sisters, Hazel has become a 'type' ― we find him in other stories, and use him as a term when we recommend books to each other.  "You'll really like the protagonist.  He's a 'Hazel'."
3) The self-sufficiency.  Watership Down is a world unto itself.  Everything it needs to exist ― its people, geography, language, legends, and perils ― are clapped between its two covers.  Richard Adams never wrote another decent book besides this one, I'm sorry to say, but I think maybe it's because he put all his best material in one place.  And that's pretty impressive.

How did you find it?

My mom read it aloud to myself and my siblings.  Multiple times.  She would offer to read other books and we would turn her down in favor of a re-read.

What five books would you recommend to a stranger?

It really depends on the stranger.  Let's invent one, shall we?  We'll call her Emma.  Or Rory.  She'll be in her 20s/30s, and I will deduce from hearing her gush about Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Douglass Adams that she enjoys British literature of all varieties.  Fortunately for her, so do I!  So I would recommend:

·         Watership Down, by Richard Adams
·         The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Shaffer and Barrows
·         Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy Sayers
·         Beauty, by Robin McKinley
·         The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchett

Have you ever bought a book for the cover alone?

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  Well, not exactly, but I picked it up for the cover alone, read the front flap, skimmed the first few pages, and then bought it.  I must admit that I pictured how cool I would look reading it, and that was a significant factor in my decision.  Fortunately, it was a really great book!

Do you like to read books out loud?

I really do!  Blame my theatrical proclivities, and my mom (who is genetically responsible for those proclivities).  Growing up, mum would read aloud to us all the time, and she would make every book into a one-woman play: she would shout, she would cry, she would do accents.  Her proudest achievement was reading that chapter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where everyone is in a huddle, debating whether or not to let Harry compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and there are two Russians (old and young), two Frenchwomen (old and young), a old Scottish guy, three old Brits (two male, one female), and two young Brits (Harry and Cedric).  It took several years of re-reading that series, but she was finally able to switch between voices without making a single mistake or losing an accent.  Tough act to follow, but I'm working at it.  Currently I'm reading The Fellowship of the Ring aloud to my 12-year-old sister and 9-year-old brother over breakfast, and A Red Herring Without Mustard aloud to my mom whenever we're in the car together.

What book(s) made the biggest impression on your life?

Besides the Bible?  Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.  This book helped the truth of the Christian faith to come alive and make sense for me when I was just beginning to wonder if I still believed all that stuff I'd been told as a little kid.  Lewis has a knack for communicating complex truths, proving that true genius doesn't lie in a scholar's ability to obfuscate the plain and bamboozle his peers, but in his ability to simplify and then communicate his scholarship to a twelve-year-old.  Lewis isn't describing a Christianity that must live in a church-shaped greenhouse to survive, he's describing a way of life.  Anyway, it's my top reading recommendation to any Christian.

Do you have any favorite children’s books from your childhood?

Picture books: everything by Kevin Henkes (Owen, Chester's Way, Chrysanthemum, etc.), the George and Martha series by James Marshall, and The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Goden and Barbara Cooney.

Chapter books: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, and Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene.  Also Elsie Dinsmore, but the less said about that the better.
What book made you laugh the hardest?

Such a good question!  Probably The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett ― and the effect hasn't worn off with subsequent volumes.  My favorite character in the series is Death.  He speaks in all capital letters, goes about his work with benign inevitability, and likes cats.

Some good Pratchett quotes 
(from no particular book, in no particular order): 

“Many people could say things in a cutting way, Nanny knew. But Granny Weatherwax could listen in a cutting way. She could make something sound stupid just by hearing it.”
“Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.”
"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”
"In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”
“Susan hated Literature. She'd much prefer to read a good book.”
“It was quite impossible to describe.  Here is what it looked like.  It looked like a piano sounds shortly after being dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and it felt Paisley. It smelled like the total eclipse of the moon. ”
“Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.”
“His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few.”
“It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.”
"People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."”
"I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?"  Death thought about it.  "CATS," he said eventually, "CATS ARE NICE.”

Cry the most?

I don't usually cry over books ― though I frequently cry over movies.  During my angsted pre-adolescent days I had a penchant for sentimental Victorian literature over which I'm fairly certain I often wept ― when the Indian gentleman found Sarah Crewe in A Little Princess, when Beth died in Little Women, and most especially when Elsie touchingly forgave her tyrannical father Elsie Dinsmore.  I think there may be a maudlin bit of Anne Shirley in all of us, but all the same: I'd appreciate it if you'd keep this confession to yourself.  (Editor Note: I feel as if I shouldn't have posted this, but the answer was just brilliant ... so, mwahaha!)

Which author do you quote most often?

Dr. Seuss.  No, really.  From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere ... Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one ... Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind ... Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

See?  The man was a genius.

Also G.K. Chesterton:

Happiness is a mystery, like religion, and should never be rationalised .... Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten ... Don’t you see, the law really is right in a way, after all.  If all men matter, all murders matter.  That which He has so mysteriously created, we must not suffer to be mysteriously destroyed. 

What book would you like to see made into a movie?

Watership Down.  But not really, because I have a nasty suspicion they won't do it justice.

Who would be in your ideal cast?

They'd have to be voice actors, I guess.   Perhaps  James McAvoy as Hazel, Colin Morgan as Fiver,  Gerard Butler as Bigwig, Martin Freeman as Blackberry, Matt Smith as Dandelion, Jamie Bell as Pipkin, Benedict Cumberbatch as Silver, Michael Kitchen as Holly, Arthur Darvill as Strawberry, Paul Bettany as Bluebell, Cary Mulligan as Hyzenthlay, Richard Armitage as Blackavaar, and Ciaran Hinds as Woundwort.  Also Hugh Laurie as the doctor and Miffy Englefield as Lucy (those would be the only two human roles).

If you were to write a book, what would the genre be?

Probably fantasy, because I like to make my own rules.  In a fantasy world you get to lay down the landscape, build up the skyline, mold both deities and mortals, and outline the culture, politics, and battle lines.  Not only can you describe the present, you can create the past.  If you wish for a dragon, lo, he appears ― and so long as you obey your own rules once you have made them, your world is your oyster.  It's a big job, and it takes a good memory and a lot of scratch paper, but it's liberating.  I shall tell you if my sand-box play ever comes to a finished novel.

Do you listen to books on tape?

On occasion, but not typically.  I prefer the voices inside my head.  (oh dear, that came out wrong…)

What do you consider the best title of any book?

Can I pick three?

·         The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Best 'Classy')
·         Guards!  Guards! (Best 'Humorous')
·         Spindles End (Best 'Fantasy')

If you could write like any author, who would you choose?

In terms of style?  Dorothy Sayers.  She juggles description and dialogue in such a visual way, and her narrative is a lovely blend of wit and formality.  "Never, never, never shall we do anything like other people. We shall always laugh when we ought to cry and love when we ought to work, and make ourselves a scandal and a hissing."  Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy Sayers

What is your favorite reading spot?

The beach.  Oak Island, North Carolina, twelve houses from the southern end of the island, and eight yards from the water's edge, to be precise.

What book is a good conversation starter?

Harry Potter.  I haven't yet met anyone who has read Harry  Potter who didn't find something to love about it, and for those people who've never read it ― they probably have an opinion too.  It's just one of those series.  Since I'm a Christian and not all Christians respond well to dear Potter, lots of people ask me why I read it and then it's a nice segue to a deeper discussion of the themes and characters.

If you could be a character in any book, who would you choose?

Beauty from Beauty, Robin McKinley's retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  I'm more likely to admire male characters in books, for some reason ― I don't often meet female characters whom I feel were written well ― but Beauty has intelligence, spunk, selflessness, and humor.  Seems like a good combination to me.

What’s on your reading list for 2012?

·     Lots of Shakespeare for school.  Also Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton, Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett, Pawn, by Steven James, Pandora Hearts, by Jun Mochizuki (a manga series), and The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (the woman just can't stop writing!)


  1. "People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."”
    "I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?" Death thought about it. "CATS," he said eventually, "CATS ARE NICE.”

    HAHAHA. I haven't laughed this hard in ages.

  2. Haha! Success. I live to turn people into Pratchett fans. We really must read one sometime -- perhaps "Mort"! Death takes on an apprentice, and everything goes wrong. Or possibly "Hogfather", in which Death gets to play Santa. :D

    Speaking of which, it's always hard to find a drawing of Death looking the way that he SOUNDS, rather than super-nasty(which is how one would expect any skeleton in a black cloak to look), but I thought this was kind of creepy/adorable: http://aville.deviantart.com/art/Death-of-Discworld-47097486?q=boost%3Apopular%20discworld%20death&qo=14

  3. this was captivating, witty, and overall, fantastic. i can't wait to check out some of the books she mentioned.

    awesome guest post! one of my favorites.


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