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WARNING: This is really long. But I don’t care.

Last Thursday night, I pulled into the parking of BookPeople (Austin’s beloved indie bookstore) 20 minutes before an author event and signing. As I parked my car, I yelled “WHERE IS EVERYONE HOW IS THERE SO MUCH PARKING AVAILABLE DON’T YOU KNOW SHANNON HALE IS HERE?!” Then I laughed at myself and thought about how I arrived at this moment.

*cue the flashback harp sound and wavy line effect*

It was 2003. I was 18 years old. Since I was 16, I spent most of my free time roaming around the Barnes & Noble five minutes from my house. On this particular day, I was wandering around the childrens/YA section, and noticed a book on an end cap. The cover was a pretty, simple, crackled illustration and I couldn’t decide if I liked at first. I picked it up, and flipped through the pages. The pages felt nice. It looked interesting. I read the first line and liked it. I was broke, so I wrote down the title and author in my notebook and soon checked it out from the library.

The book was The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and it changed my life. I just didn’t know it yet.

I read The Goose Girl before I read Harry Potter. As I sit here, sifting through my life, sorting out what has influenced and changed me, the Shannon Hale and J.K. Rowling piles seem about equal. They are very different piles of influence, but the effect they have had on me has been profound.

You know those quiet people who are so wonderful you sometimes take them for granted? That is Shannon Hale to me. Yes, I have given The Goose Girl as a gift multiple times. I have bought each of the subsequent books of Bayern in hardcover the week they have been released. I have named her as a favorite current author and I have read her blog since, well, she started one. But it wasn’t until this year that I realized how much The Books of Bayern and Shannon Hale mean to me. Part of me is still processing it, and so I can’t quite talk about it all right now, but re-reading The Goose Girl for its 10th (!!!) anniversary this summer finally opened my eyes to the ginormous and lasting impact Shannon Hale has had on my life.

So imagine me when I see the tweet announcing her upcoming book tour and Austin is one of the stops. Did you imagine me screaming? Because I did. Did you picture me sending capslocked tweets about it? Um, yeah. Now  imagine me picking up my Bayern books from my parents house (because most of my books are still in my old bookcases in my old room) and getting teary eyed. Seriously.

*squiggly lines and end of flashback music*

So there I was, super early to the Tween Panel with plenty of time to sit and freak out. This is where is pays to have unlimited text messaging and a best friend who will listen to your crazy. And this is when I learned, yet again, how awesome book people can be. There wasn’t a lot of people there early and the authors were late to come back from dinner, so it gave me a chance to chat with the other people waiting about how long we had been reading Shannon’s books, and to actually touch and hold an ARC of her new book, Dangerous (out next year!), a book blogger had brought along. It was great.
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Eventually the authors arrived and more people showed up and it was a great panel with interesting questions and thoughtful, funny, fascinating, answers and full of good stories. It seemed to go by so fast and before I knew it, we were queueing up to get our books signed. I was trying SO HARD to stay calm and cool and collected. But I knew. I knew I was going to get up to that table and cry. I waited and watched as Shannon spent time with each fan (the younger kids this event was really for, and us older ones who grew up with Isi and Enna), talking to them, signing every book and taking pictures. Suddenly I realized *I* wanted a picture. I fumbled around my purse for my phone, clutching my five books close, and when I pulled it out and opened up the camera app, the mom behind me asked “Oh! You want me to take a picture of y’all when you get up there?” YES! Please! Thank you! And then I chatted with her and her daughter about our favorite Shannon books. Mom and daughter in the pink shirts, you guys were awesome and you helped make my night.

AND THEN IT WAS MY TURN. And I talked to Shannon Hale. And I was only about a 3 on the Christine awkward scale. And the pink shirt mom took my phone and started taking pictures while we were talking and Shannon was signing “because those pictures are always great, you’ll love them.” And I do.

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I gushed. I rambled. I cried. I tried so hard not to loose it, but I totally almost did and so I just cried. And she asked me questions and I answered. I told her I gave the Goose Girl out as a gift more than any other book and she said she probably owed me some royalties. I told her something I haven’t told a lot of people and we chatted about that. And it was wonderful. And then it was time for a picture.

Me: “Okay, you know that super cheesy smile you make when you’re 3 years old?”
Her: “Yeah?”
Me: “Can you do that smile?”
Her: “OH, YEAH!”

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It’s my new favorite picture.

I got my books signed. I got to talk with Shannon Hale. I got my cheesy smile picture. And I got a hug. I didn’t even have to ask for it. I think she just knew it was what I wanted most of all.

I cried the entire drive home. Because sometimes you don’t realize what an impact a person has made on you until years later. Sometimes you don’t get the chance to tell them–to thank them. Sometimes you will never meet them.

But sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll get a hug.

Thanks, Shannon Hale.
Christine H.

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Twitter pal, fellow Newsies lover and book blogger Kim of Reflections of a Book Addict recently tagged me in post in which she asked me and other bloggers questions about books and other randoms. I’m supossed to tag eleven other bloggers and come up with eleven new questions, but guys, I’ve had this in my drafts for over a week, so I’m just going to publish this now, okay? If you want to answer these questions on your own blog, please do and let me know! I’ll read it and tell you I think you’re swell. Because if you are still reading my blog, you are indeed a lovely, lovely person.

What is the one book you recommend to people over and over?

 Persuasion for everyone who thinks Pride and Prejudice is the only book Jane Austen wrote. I am also working to spread the gospel of YA books and have been shoving The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner in the face of everyone I know.

Why did you start blogging?

I was bored with a lot of time on my hands. Hahaha, okay, that is only partially true. I had been reading blogs for a few years and I decided I wanted to join in with all the fun. I’m glad I did. I would have never met Kate and Kate is swell.

If you had all the money in the world and could travel to ONE place, where would it be and why?

ONE place—just one? Kim, why are you trying to kill me? I have a bad case of Wanderlust and would be happy to travel anywhere in the world (and universe, once that option becomes available). But if I can only choose ONE, it has to be Egypt. I have been in love with that place since I was a tiny baby Christine and I would happily spend months traveling up and down the Nile, visiting museums and archaeological sites and tombs and markets and OH MY GOSH SOMEONE TAKE ME THERE RIGHT NOW.

Who is your favorite author?

AustenDickensTolkienWallace. Can you imagine what that book would look like? It would probably be so amazing you would go insane once you finished it because you couldn’t handle its genius. I just figured out what the Infinite Jest is—a film adaptation of the book written by AustenDickensTolkienWallace.

Since I can’t pick one all-time favorite, I’ll say that my favorite living author at the moment is John Green. Not only for his books (one day, maybe I’ll write about how much I loved The Fault in Our Stars and what it means to me), but for the community he and his brother Hank have fostered over on the YouTubes. I wish the Nerdfighter community had been around when I was a teenager, but I am so happy and thankful it exists today for the teens I know. I have mad respect for that man and I think he’s cool.

If you had to give your blog a color to describe it, what color would you give it?

Green with white polka dots. My blog is a print.

What book started your love of reading?

Probably this book.

I literally can’t remember a time I did not love to read. Thanks Mom.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Books about books. That one goes out to The Brother.

Is there a film adaptation that you think was better than the book? What film?

I can’t think of one. I do think the film version of The Virgin Suicides is the perfect companion to the book.

Where is your favorite place to read?

I’m partial to the couch in The Brother’s house whilst he and BFF X play video games. Otherwise, I’m quite fond of my bed, under the covers. Or on a bench outside. Actually, I don’t think I have a favorite place to read. Wait—at the box office when I’m working, because then I am getting paid to read and I feel like I’m living the dream.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure read?

Re-reads of books I love and know by heart. There are so many books out there I have yet to read, so I do sometimes feel guilty for reading Harry Potter for the 20th time. But it makes me happy, so oh well. Who cares.

Do you prefer solids or e-books?

Solids. I am learning to like ebooks and I enjoy checking ebooks out of the library, but I still prefer to carry around a physical book.

That was fun Kim! Now if anyone has books they want to recommend me, leave a comment! You know I always need new books to read.

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Dearest Darling Dickens

Don’t looked so shocked. You knew I would be back. And look, I’ve written twenty blog posts in my brain—I just haven’t transcribed them to the Interenets yet. Give me time. I’m down to two jobs now and the holiday season is behind us, so we’ll have plenty of free time. That noise you just heard was the universe laughing at me.

Once upon a time, Christine was twelve. It such a long time ago. I had a pen pal and she lived in New Zealand. We were both homeschooled and our mom’s decided we should read a book together for school or something. Honestly, the details are a little fuzzy, and maybe I was thirteen, but regardless a book was chosen and that book was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

Dickens AKA The Love of My Life

You might have heard of him.

Anyways, I read David Copperfield and I fell in love. I fell in love with the characters, the language, and the beautiful, wonderful, rambling sentences that only Dickens could write. Seriously, the man could go on and on and I love to read him go on and on and it may be where I picked up my rambling tendencies and maybe, just maybe, that is why I had to name my blog something with the word “rambling” in it. Because that is what I do and I learned from the best.

The first Dickens I bought was David Copperfield. It was a lovely vintage edition that was part of a massive set that was on sale at the local Half-Price bookstore. I saved up my babysitting money and would go back and pick out another book from the set to add to my collection (or coerced my mom into buying them for me, like I said, my brain is a little fuzzy on the factual details). But one day I returned to find they rest had all been bought! Oh the sadness. The OCD part of my brain was heartbroken to know I would not able to have a complete and matching set.

And then a lovely illustrated copy of A Tale of Two Cities was bought for another English assignment. When I visited my pen pal in New Zealand when I was fifteen, I bought five Dickens books that were compact, soft-bound leather, with the tinest print and perfect for carrying around whilst traveling. And that is when my ecclectic, mis-matched, vintage Dickens book collection really began. Now, whenever I travel, I check out used bookstores for old and interesting copies of Dickens work to add to my collection. I added Sketches by Boz on another trip to Auckland and Nicholas Nickleby was picked up…in Texas, somewhere. When I visit the Strand in March with Kate (because that is happening, I’ll tell you about it later), I’ll be sure to look for a copy of Great Expectations, because I really can’t believe I don’t already own a copy.

My Dickens Collection

I know I’m a day late, but I want to wish my beloved Dickens a very happy 200th birthday. I wish he was still around to celebrate it with me. I do love him so.

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I fell in love with the Penguin Couture Classics that were released back in 2009, but somehow I missed the memo that three more books were added to the collection around Christmas last year. I’ve wanted to replace my cheap copy of Jane Eyre for quite some time so I will definitely be picking up a copy of the above couture edition. Lovely lovely!

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Oh Happy Day!

Oh dear friends, life has gotten very busy & complicated (1. When is it not? and 2. More on this later) but today was a very happy day. It was riding in a Dharma van and blasting Shambala kind of happy, because the final season of my beloved LOST was released on DVD today. Now my collection is complete and I can begin my re-watch with Jay & Jack, ’cause that is how much I love this show and that is the kind of nerd I am.

Today was also a happy day if you are a lover and reader of books as the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy is out today, hurray! If you like young adult books set in a dystopian future with lots of action, suspense, political drama AND love triangles (sort of, kind of), then get thee to your local library or bookstore and read The Hunger Games. Such fun.

Excuse me while I go watch all the bonus features on LOST before I stay up way past my bedtime reading Mockingjay (if you are reading it too, don’t tell me anything! I haven’t cracked the spine yet). It’s a good day to be a nerd.

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Jane Austen is My Hero

Today marks another anniversary, although this one much sadder than yesterday. On this day 193 years ago, Jane Austen breathed her last and the world was a bit duller for loosing one so great so soon. I highly recommend reading Austenprose’s excellent round up of reflections upon Jane Austen’s death and Cassandra’s (Jane’s beloved sister) letter to her niece informing her of Jane’s death.

I may start a re-read of either Emma or Persuasion (my two favorites) tonight in honor of Austen’s memory. Somehow, watching a film adaptation doesn’t seem fitting.

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I haven’t been reading much lately—just going through one of those phases, I suppose—but I have been looking at pictures of books, bookshelves and bookcases.

I don’t usually go for fancy bookmarks, but I love these velvet pieces.

I wish I could incorporate this into my house. This is awesome.

I love the lining! Books like fresh air on occasion.

Love. Love. Love.

The leaning tower of books!

{all images via bookshelves.tumblr.com}

So, read any good books lately?

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