Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Reading with Betty Pam

I’m 52 years old. I’m currently a paralegal, after having been through a couple of previous careers. I am married to Professor Arthur Shropshire. We have two Pledges of Affection, Stephen and Jonathan, ages 32 and 25. Stephen has a daughter, Irelyn, age 8 and the LIGHT OF MY LIFE! and a son, Mase, age 6. Pledge #2 has two sons, Oakley who is 2 and Stetson who is almost 1. 
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The Professor and I share our home with 3 dogs, 6 cats and 6 outdoor cats. We have been caring for a colony of feral cats for several years. Some of the younger cats had always lived around the house, so last fall, after several disappeared within a week, we built a catio for them to keep them safe from critters and vehicles on the highway. We are serious about our animals! 

I feel like I share the same story with so many romance readers. I loved prowling through my grandmother’s house (now that I’m a grandmother, I know that all grandkids do this), and I found a box of books in her closet. I was probably about 9 and already was an avid reader. The box contained Harlequins and Harlequin Presents. I sneaked one home and read it; returned it to the box with no one the wiser. Eventually, I read the entire box in that way. At least one of them was a Betty Neels - The Magic of Living - and I began looking for her books at every library sale, book store, etc. 
I think nearly all the Bettys know my favorite Betty book is The Promise of Happiness, aka Becky and the Hot Hot Baron. I wrote an impassioned argument in favor of it during the 2017 Best of the Betties Tournament. It’s a quintessential Cinderella story: this desperate and destitute young woman, running away to save her pets from the evil step-brother; and then a knight (well, a Baron) in shining Rolls riding to her rescue; and then watching the cold, haughty Baron fall in love with this mousy girl - it’s just classic.
We like classic.
My least favorite Betty? Oh, boy. There are only 3 of Betty’s books that I actively dislike. I’ve raved enough about Sir Paul in The Right Kind of Girl, but other than THAT LINE, it’s really a charming book. I think my least favorite is one that we never seem to talk about - Paradise for Two. Prudence is ill-tempered and constantly snips at Haso; Haso is an arrogant jerk most of the time; the aunts are spoiled, selfish and thoughtless. The ending is nice, but very abrupt and just not enough to redeem the earliest unpleasantness for me, although there is one line that is a gem. Prudence and Christabel (the Veronica) are taking verbal shots at each other and Haso murmurs “something that sounds like ‘Fifteen all.’” 
I love many aspects of Betty’s books, but I think the main thing boils down to the fact that I’m old fashioned, and I’ve finally reached an age where I feel like I’ve earned the right to own it. Betty’s world is one of good manners and decorum; one where virtue and honesty and honor and modesty are celebrated and rewarded. 
I don’t really have a favorite genre; I’ll read just about anything except horror. Here are a few(!) of my favorite books: 
● Children's/Picture book: Anything by Beatrix Potter; the Winnie the Pooh stories. Charlotte’s Web - I have a vivid memory of lying on the sofa and sobbing when Charlotte is saying goodbye to Wilbur; I must have been about 7 or 8. 
● Classics: A Tale of Two Cities - actually, just about anything by Dickens. I have a love for 19th century literature; those Victorians knew how to use the English language. Persuasion is my favorite JA novel. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a fabulous coming of age story and quintessentially American, I think. To Kill A Mockingbird - obvious, I know. Watership Down – I was shocked at how much I loved it. 
● Mystery: Both of Anne Perry’s Victorian series. I adore the Lord Peter Wimsey stories, especially the ones with Harriet Vane. Anything by Agatha Christie - I really love the Golden Age authors - Josephine Tey, S.S. Van Dine, Rex Stout, Earle Stanley Gardner (I see myself as Della - lol!). The Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman is about a widow of a Certain Age who is feeling a bit lost and contemplates stepping off a roof, feeling that no one would miss her. Instead, she drives to CIA headquarters and through a comedy of errors, becomes a spy, traveling the world, meeting new and *interesting* people and perhaps even a new love-of-her-life.
We love Second Chance romance, too.
● Sci-fi/Fantasy: This is a fairly new genre to me, with the exception of Tolkien, that I only began exploring a few years ago. Fahrenheit 451. Swan Song by Robert McCammon; the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. I recently found the Murderbot series by Martha Wells about an AI; most of them are longish novellas with some short stories thrown in, and I have devoured all of them. 
● Biography/Autobiography: the Diary of Anne Frank, the Night trilogy by Elie Wiesel - very dark but so REAL, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller; Helen Keller’s Teacher by Margaret Davidson; Hiroshima Diary by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya. You may notice most of these are WW2 related. 
● Non-fiction: C.S. Lewis’s books on Christianity (I’m rereading Mere Christianity right now); The “Time-Traveler’s Guide” books by Ian Mortimer; anything on WW2. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, who is, IMO, America’s best gift to Britain. 
● YA: The Witch of Blackbird Pond - I loved that book so hard. Any of Madeleine L’Engle’s books; I’ve read all of Louisa May Alcott’s books umpteen times. 
● Other: I’ve been a huge Ken Follett fan since I read “Key to Rebecca” in high school, and Pillars of the Earth may be my favorite all-time novel. I’m not-so-secretly addicted to spy stories. P.G. Wodehouse is a favorite by lots of Bettys, including me (and thanks to Betty Melissa Hudak for sending me several titles). My favorite book so far this year is, hands down, The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge. 
● Poetry speaks to my soul. A few of my favorites include Shakespeare’s sonnets, Emily Dickinson, Robert Herrick, Rupert Brooke and of course, Betty’s favorite John Donne. I was thrilled to see his effigy at St. Paul’s! 
My five Desert Island books would be The Bible, the Oxford Book of English Verse, The Pickwick Papers (it’s very long and very entertaining!), The Count of Monte Cristo (ditto), and a Betty. 
In winter, I do most of my reading in my library. In summer, I read outside a lot on the patio. 
My TBR pile. Bwahahaha. I own between 2000 to 3000 books, at least half of which I’ve not yet read. Nevertheless my “immediate” TBR includes the rest of the Thrush Green series which I’m rereading through; Donne: A Reformed Soul by John Stubbs; A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright; Lark Rise to Candleford; and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.
Betty Pam's TBR pile was getting out of control.
I cannot do audiobooks because I fall asleep or get distracted by my own thoughts. I don’t really have memories of being read to, except later on at school. I know my mom read to me from the time I was born, but I soon learned to read and insisted on reading to myself. My mom says I started reading at age 3 but I have no memories of not knowing how to read. 
Second grade was a big year for me, book-wise. I remember a book called Sabotage, an adventure/spy story that I have looked for for years. My school library also had a lot of the woodland stories by Thornton Burgess and I read them all several times. I remember I got a little trophy because I read 256 books that year, and come to think of it, I suppose I’ve consistently read about 200 books every year since then. That’s a lot of books (about 8,800). 
I hate recommending books, especially for people I don’t know well, however, the ones that I recommend the most, and with the most positive feedback are: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; The Mrs. Pollifax series; and The Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross (it’s about a Southern Lady (capital “L” on purpose) who has just been widowed and is introduced, by her husband’s mistress, to her husband’s love child. What happens next is equally hilarious and touching.)
Thanks for letting us rock out to your jams today, Betty Pam!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Betty Pam! Alas, neither of my grandmothers was a big reader, so no magic box of books in a closet, I had to discover Betty on my own. I'm also a big fan of 'The Promise of Happiness'. Love the family pictures!