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On to the next installation of the Summer Reading Series. Today, we have Jennifer. I think you’ll be just as fascinated with Jennifer’s interview as I was. Some really terrific, well-thought responses. Thanks, Jennifer!

KC: What book are you currently reading? What format are you reading it in? Are you liking it?

JENNIFER: Currently I’m reading The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, in trade paperback, at the table – it’s dense enough that a chapter a day, about, is a good amount. And yes, I’m enjoying it a great deal – my parents just came back from a trip to the Galapagos, and I’ve always been interested in evolution.

I’m also reading Westward Weird, an anthology edited by Martin Greenberg. So far there’s been one decent story, two uninteresting and one bad (subject and writing) – I’m saving Seanan McGuire’s for last, because I trust that one to be really good. That’s mass market paperback, from the library.


And when I’m out and about, I’m reading Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Dragon Ship, the next book in the sequence, just came out and I have it – wanted to get back into that series and make sure I remembered everything that’s going on. Both Ghost Ship and Dragon Ship are ebooks – epubs from Baen, being read on my phone (Samsung Note running Android, in the FBReader app). It’s a wonderful series, that I’ve been hooked on since it started to be published in the 80s – it went dormant for a good while, but is now being written and published (by Baen Books) again (yay!).

KC: What’s the title of the last book you read that you absolutely loved? What did you like about it?

JENNIFER: Hmmm. According to my ratings and read dates on Librarything.com, it was Justin Morgan Had a Horse, by Marguerite Henry. Remembering it now (several months later), it strikes me as a sweet story but not all that strong, but apparently right after reading it I considered it seriously wonderful. Well, I guess I’ll have to read it again and see why.

Some recent very good books are The Shifter by Jean Johnson, One Salt See and Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire, and The Complete Little Orphan Annie Vol 6 by Harold Gray.

Usually what appeals to me is strong characterization. That is, characters that have reasonable motivations for their actions, and don’t feel like the author’s puppets (why did she do that? Because the author needed her to do that to advance the plot. The fact that she’d argued strongly against a similar action two chapters ago – never mind!). Good plot and interesting setting help too, but bad characters will overwhelm those while good characters in cardboard settings are still interesting.

KC: What’s next in the hopper? Do you plan your reading in advance or do you usually just look around for something else once you’re finished a book?

JENNIFER: What I usually do is get into a series, or books by an author. When I finish that sequence, I look around for something new (and usually rather different). I’m actually in the “middle” of two series right now, but neither one is being particularly attractive, so I got diverted by Westward Weird and Ghost Ship (which leads me into another series. But I’m not going to reread the whole thing, just Dragon Ship).

KC: Do you have any favourite book covers?

JENNIFER: Not…really. There are some covers I like, but very few that I like on their own – I like them, mostly, because they remind me of a good book. Also, if I read a book with one cover and it’s reissued with a new one – I like the old one. For instance, I greatly prefer the original Ace Agent of Change:

to the new one:

The new one’s probably more elegant or something, but it doesn’t convey the story nearly as well, to me.

Similar with Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small books. Lady Knight

This is my cover:

But I think this one is actually better:

The newest cover I’ve seen actually features the neck. Sheesh!

KC: Your all-time favourite TOP 5 books?

JENNIFER: Oh. Wow. I don’t think I could. My favorite books at any time depend on my mood – what I’d want to read right then. Some classics that have stuck with me for ages – Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time; A Point of Honor by Dorothy Heydt; Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther; Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling; Prehistoric America by Anne Terry White (this is a random assortment, I deliberately tried to choose very different ones, from among my rated-five-star books on LibraryThing).

KC: If you could pick one book that you would love to see adapted to a movie, which one would it be? Why?

JENNIFER: Um. David Weber’s On Basilisk Station would be great, IF (and it’s a big if) they could actually follow the book. It’s got a lot of action and space battles and exciting stuff; also (this is what would probably get skipped) emotional growth and culture clashes, and characters interacting with one another and making subtle differences in the other character’s viewpoint. There are a lot of books like that – many of my favorites spend a lot of time inside one (or more) character’s head, which is very difficult to depict in a movie. Unless you want to go seriously surreal, which wouldn’t fit the action of the story…

KC: Favourite books as a child?

JENNIFER: The only book I still have that I had as a child is Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. I loved (and still love) Terhune’s dog books, Black Beauty, most of Marguerite Henry’s books (horses) (are we seeing a theme here?). Oh, Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books. I think I had the first two or three as a child; I’ve now read all of them, and own almost all (still missing one. Or I just got it. I just got it – so I have all of them (that I want. No thanks on Peter Duck and Missee Lee)). Tom Swift, Rick Brant, books by Gerald Durrell, the Adventure books by Willard Price (bring-em-back-alive with teen protagonists). Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey. I had a few favorites back then, too…We were in Iran during the revolution. We had to inventory our possessions because we were leaving them behind – I couldn’t count all my books (it was too boring) so I estimated by counting the books in a foot of shelf (two different feet), averaging the results, and measuring my shelves. By that estimate, I owned over a thousand books at that point (I was 11); as I said, the only one I still have, that I brought with me out of Iran, is Swiss Family Robinson. I’ve re-gotten many, and forgotten many.

KC: Think of a book you really liked. Maybe one you liked so much you would consider re-reading it. Now…what’s the title of that book and what would you change about it, if you could?

JENNIFER: Um. Consider re-reading it? I re-read constantly. I can’t afford, in money or shelf space, to get enough new books to feed my reading speed – I can finish an average paperback in 1-3 hours. The library doesn’t get all the books I want, nor soon enough. And when I’m tired or sick, I don’t want to take a chance on a maybe-good new book when I can re-read one I know is good and appeals to me at the moment. That aside…hmmm. I can’t really think of a book that I liked that I’d want to make any real changes to. There probably are some that I would have liked if… but I can’t think of any at the moment. Heh. Lord Foul’s Bane or anything else by Stephen Donaldson, with characters that didn’t drive me into a depression reading them! He has such interesting concepts, and such awful protagonists…

KC: Who are your three favourite fictional characters? What drew you to them?

JENNIFER: Wow. This one’s as bad as the favorite books. Hmmm…Lord Peter Wimsey, because he’s sensible – not just “logical”, but sensible. And very perceptive, and fun to “talk” to – I’d love to have a meal with him, even though I’d probably miss a good many of his jokes and references.

Puck – Robin Goodfellow. From several depictions, not including Shakespeare’s – Rudyard Kipling’s and Mercedes Lackey’s, primarily. He’s not nice, exactly (way too dangerous for that) but if he takes a liking to you he can give you some very good adventures. And an interesting person.

Jo March. Sometimes I want to shake her, but her determination to make herself on her own terms is admirable. And she doesn’t let that determination blind her, when a different path opens up. I’m not sure I’d like her in person, but she’s very interesting to read about.

KC: The best book that was never written? If you could order your dream book, to your own personal specifications, what would the story be about? What would absolutely have to be in it?

JENNIFER: If I could order my dream book and know what was in it, I’d write it! Which I can’t do – I can make stories, but they tend to start in the middle and dribble off. Most of what I like about reading is stretching my mind, encountering other people’s views on things and not just getting my opinions regurgitated. So – I don’t really have a dream book that was never written. I’m just waiting for the next one by half a dozen authors…

KC: Do you have any favourite genres that you stick to? Or do you just read what looks good to you—without really caring about the genre?

JENNIFER: My primary genre is science fiction and fantasy – I don’t distinguish between those, for the group. An individual book is one or the other (or occasionally both – Blue Adept, for instance), but I shelve them all together. They have the same “flavor”, to me. Beyond that, I read just about anything. Mostly genre books, in fiction – romance, animal books, mysteries, historical fiction. In non-fiction, I read science – including mathematics, biology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, archaeology and paleontology… – cookbooks, craft books (woodworking, fiber work (knitting, weaving, knots), leatherwork, clay, drawing, origami…), computer books, history, biography. I read children’s books in most of those categories and genres – some real kid’s books, some young adult (and am frequently flabbergasted by what’s considered YA!). Graphic novels, comic strip collections. I have about 50 feet of shelving full of SF&F. Romance is about 10 feet, animals about 10, mysteries about 12, non-fiction (all categories) about 25 feet, and so on. I double-shelve, and I still have quite a few boxes (about 20) of books I haven’t read yet, or read so long ago I can’t remember if I enjoyed them, so I can’t get rid of them but I don’t have room on the shelves. I’m working on it!

KC: You’re going on a vacation. Do you pack books, an e-reader, or just take your cell phone to read on an e-app?

JENNIFER: A couple paper books, for when my phone runs out of juice. I have about a hundred books, of all sorts, on my phone (in FBReader), so that generally covers me whatever mood I find myself in. I don’t have an ereader – I can’t convince myself that a single-use gadget is worth it, and e-ink drives me nuts (too slow!) so the extended battery life of an e-ink device doesn’t come into play.

KC: Last question—Do you have ONE favourite author? If so, who is it? If not, give us a few of your favs.

JENNIFER: Nope, like the other favorites it depends on my mood. I’ve mentioned a lot of authors above…here’s a few I haven’t mentioned yet – Janet Kagan, Robin McKinley, Colonel S.P. Meek, Diane Duane, Diana Wynne Jones. A few particular favorites that I’ve mentioned before – David Weber, Rudyard Kipling, Mercedes Lackey, Gerald Durrell, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (together is best, but their individual works are excellent too), Tamora Pierce.

KC: Thanks so much for participating! It’s been a pleasure. Such wonderful responses! You’ve given us so much to think about. And so many books to look into. Thank you! 

JENNIFER: Thank you! It’s been fun – and hard work

Where you can find Jennifer:
Twitter: @jjmcgaffey

Jennifer’s primary social site, “though that’s technically not what it’s set up for. It’s a cataloging site that grew a social side…full of interesting people and fascinating conversations”, is Librarything. “We’re doing a ReadaThing, a sort of relay-race readathon, at the end of the month – check it out HERE!” –

Jennifer’s website is guenean.com, which she is currently building.