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!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reading with Betty Suse

Well, hello there.

My name is …… well it depends who you are and when in my life you met me!  I have answered to: Susan,
Sue, Susie, SueSue and Betty Suse, with a few cheeky variations during my early adulthood. My current
preference is Suse, but as my father always said “You can call me anything you like, as long as you don’t call
me late for my dinner.”
The Betties were desperately seeking Susan.
I began reading Mills and Boon – I’m British, can you tell? – when I “borrowed” my mum’s when I was about
14. I progressed to visiting the local library and borrowing 10 Mills and Boon books at a time, mainly in
secret, I didn’t want my friends to find out that I actually read anything, never mind the fact that they were

I can’t remember my first Betty Neels, in fact I don’t think it actually registered due to the volume of books I
got through. I just knew that anytime I picked up a Betty Book I knew it was her about 2 pages in.

They just seemed from another era – and believe me, I started reading them in the late 80s, and that is now
considered to be another era, according to the kids I teach! They harked back to “better days”, days with
characters who weren’t stripping their clothes off and getting married because “they had to”. I personally
have nothing against those books, but falling into a Neels book felt like a cushioning from the real world- if
romance books can be considered the real world.
Betty Keira, too, liked to relax.
Yes, the heroines are, in the majority, almost pure innocents, and the heroes are just too good to be true. The
fact that on more than one occasion the heroine called her true love by his surname or title until the very last
page amused me. I must have a healthy dose of cynicism because the books are, and to be honest I suspect
always were, too good to be true. Today they write about billionaires, industrial and financial tycoons and
princes of fictional lands, at least Betty rooted her heroes firmly in real life, albeit a privileged, hard working
real life that she had some knowledge of.

I know that Mills and Boon brought out their anthology of Betty Neels before I turned 30, and monthly I
would buy the two that were published- this took quite some time.

During this time I can remember visiting Amsterdam, and whilst not knowing where exactly I got my
references from, I would spot places, signs and buildings and just know them- the Begijnhof was a particular
case where I was on Spui and spotted the sign. I almost ran down the passageway, knowing there was a
hidden treasure to find. It was just as peaceful as Betty described.

My favourite book is Esmeralda. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the fact she doesn’t recognise
his feelings; he does anything, including trying to reignite the feelings of the man she was absorbed in, to
make her happy. But I also enjoy the marriage of convenience stories, including The Little Dragon and The
Secret Pool (boo hiss from many!)
Betty Keira appreciates any Little Dragon boosterism.
My favourite books in the suggested genres are:
The children's/picture books I recommend are:  Friend or Foe by Michael Morpurgo or any Harry Potter.
Michael Morpurgo’s Friend or Foe is a little known book about two evacuated boys being rescued by a German airman whose plane had crashed, and how they helped him and began to realise that people who fight wars are still human. It questions the idea of who is your enemy?.
As for HP – I prefer The Order of the Phoenix, mainly due to the fact that I read it in 36 hours as I knew that on the Monday morning at least one of the children in my class would tell me which character died at the end. I was right- a child ran in screaming “It was Serious Black, it was Serious Black”. When asked if they’d enjoyed the book the response was “No, I got my brother to look at the back of his and find out who died so I could tell you”!
Just as an extra I love “When I grow up” by Tim Minchin. Basically the lyrics of the song from “Matilda”- but they are very perceptive and make children think about the realities of growing up.
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My favourite classic is Pride and Prejudice.
I was 12 years old when I fell in love with the David Rintoul/ Elizabeth Garvie BBC production. It was on at 6pm every Sunday. Unfortunately, the final episode was on the “Sunday School Sermons” day, when I had to go to chapel at 6pm. SO……. I missed the last instalment. I was beside myself and my mum promised to buy me the book. She took a bus to the local town the next day, after work and purchased a Penguin paperback copy, which, as a 12 year old, I read in 3 days. Only then was I happy! I have loved it ever since.
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The future is so much cooler without scheduled television.
I have since watched the tv version I missed and loved it, I still have it on video, but no video player! I was very upset when they made the Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle version, but it grew on me (to say the least).
My favourite mystery is, basically, any Agatha Christie
I love Murder on the Orient Express.
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The Sci-fi/Fantasy books that have stuck with me are The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
Hitch Hikers was the book of my teenage years, funny, weird and always put me to sleep when I was unable to – but amusing and hilarious! I was once on a cruise round the Norwegian fjords and when asked why I had come, by a fellow passenger as we took photos of Geiranger fjord I replied “To see if Slartibartfast really did leave his signature in the fjords”. The poor guy looked confused, but the bloke a few metres away started to laugh and leaned forward to wink at me over the rail.
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Good Omens, well, what can I say? A demon and an angel try to stop Armageddon. I love it. Buy it for god-children, friends, colleagues and have even been known to stop and walk back to people sitting on benches reading it to have discussions about it’s awesomeness! Plus, Amazon/BBC have just made it into a series with David Tennant as the demon and Michael Sheen as the angel. Bring on the summer.
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I enjoy biographies and autobiographies of musicians, royalty and historical figures. But, to be honest, it’s not my favourite genre.
When reading non-fiction I like travel books and anything by Bill Bryson- Neither Here Nor There and The Lost Continent are still my favourites, early and fresher.
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The book I would take if I was stranded on a deserted island apart from the books above are:

Winnie the Pooh- it’s not just for children.

Most of my reading is done in bed, my Betty books are now on my ipad and I love to feel relaxed when reading. I can of course cope with sun loungers by the pool on holiday and a reclining armchair!

The books in my to-be-read pile include a biography of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and American Gods by
Neil Gaiman.

I find Neil Gaiman to be so wonderful and wanted to link to this wonderful story 
about Impostor Syndrome he shared on his blog.
I don’t listen to audible books any more as they stopped putting CD players in cars and I’m awful at
downloading stuff. Plus, my commute is ten minutes and I like the time to listen to music. I enjoyed thrillers
when I did listen, because they kept me alert.

My memories of being read to include a 1971 reel to reel tape recording of my dad and I reading an alphabet
book, where I can be heard reading “U is for underwella”.  It’s amusing to listen to 47 years later.

Pride and Prejudice ignited my adult reading, as you can see above. However, I enjoy a lot of comedy/
compilations of newspaper columns by a variety of writers- nothing too serious mainly a cynical/ amusing
take on the news/ issues of the day.

But, Betty is my go to stress reliever. I’ve read them all, quite a few times. Just to immerse yourself in
BettyWorld is to put the day right. Happy Reading fellow Betties.
Betty Keira does not withhold her winks when the occasion warrants it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Reading with Betty Lauri

Introduce yourself-
I am almost 61 years old, I currently work as a NP in a Urology practice, however that may change soon.  Before that I worked as a NP for Reproductive Endocrinologist who specialized in Infertility. Before that I was a Labor & Delivery nurse on a High Risk OB unit for 13 years and before that I was in the Air Force for 14 years as a military linguist (Russian).
Betty Keira has some Russian questions when you get a second.

I am married for 38 years, have 2 sons, one in the USAF and one going to Army BCT the end of this month.  The one in the AF is married to a lovely Japanese woman and they have a son who will be 8 in July.  I miss seeing them but now I get to go to England every year to visit.  

When did you start reading Betty Neels-
I don't know, I read Harlequins in High School but don't remember any specific Betty books.  I may have picked some up at the BX when we were in Japan.  I know I got some when we moved back to Indiana at 1/2 price books, that was in 1991.

What is your favorite book(s) and why?-
Fate is Remarkable, because I love the story and the hero & heroine. That he went to the ends of the earth to find her.
Hugo van Elven was not going to let a little thing
like an impassable mountain stand in his way.

Least favorite and why?-
The one with the alcholic sister, because of her and her brother. I did love the descriptions of Norway though.  

What appeals to you about Betty Neels novels and why do you find yourself attached to them?- I
 like them because they remind me of a gentler pace of life and that there are happy ever afters. I also love her descriptions of settings, clothes and foods.  She makes things come alive.  I got my interest in the Netherlands and parts of England from her books.

What is your favorite genre(s) to read?- 
Fiction, I will read anything. I have very eclectic reading tastes. I love Jan Karon's Mitford Series. I have all the books and I go back to them often. I like books with Asian characters, WWII stories, spy novels, etc.

Do you have a favorite book in any of these genres?
  • Children's/Picture book- Ferdinand, Angus series, Goodnight Moon, Mike Mulligan's Steamshovel, Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings, Frog and Toad series.  The old fashioned books.

Betty Keira approves.
  • Classics- Steinbeck
  • Mystery- Alexander McCall Smith and The Number One Ladies Detective Agency series.  These remind me of an African Betty story.  There is a delightful Veronical that reappears a lot.
  • Sci-fi/Fantasy- Not into this however I did read the Dune series and C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet group when I was dating my now husband.
  • Biography/Autobiography- Billy Graham's Autobiography
  • Non-fiction- Mostly travel books
  • YA- I read the Hunger Games and a series that had a group called Abnegation and other groups, heck maybe they were part of the Hunger Games. Didn't make a big impression on me.
What are the five books you would you take if you stranded on a desert island? - 
Bible, A Betty book, Jan Karon's Bedside Companion, one of the books with Father Tim's favorite sayings and a huge Rick Steves travel book on Europe.
Where do you do most of your reading?-
Bed or the downstairs sofa.

What books are in your to-be-read pile?- 
Empress Dowager CiXi, the latest Alexander McCall Book

Do you listen to books? No, I tried listening to The Book Thief and could not get into it. I thought the characters would be different voices and not just one person reading the book.

Do you have any memories of being read to or reading with others?-
Not of being read to but reading to my boys and grandson.

What book was the first one to ignite your interest in reading? 
Dont rememenber but probably the Dick and Jane books in school. And I had a wonderful first grade teacher who really ignited the interest, parents who let me read anything the libray had. I read Leon Uris and Michener in High School.

What's a book you find yourself constantly recommending?
None really because the people that I work with now don't care about reading. But at my prior job the MD and I shared an interest in the Alexander McCall books.
Betty Keira doesn't understand people who don't care about reading.