Stories: Short & Sweet

It’s no secret i’m a lover of short stories. I’m also aware that a lot of other people aren’t. My love of short stories is so easy and natural that it baffles me a little why other people don’t seem to enjoy them as much as I do. I can’t understand what it is about them that’s unappealing. This left me wanting to articulate the reasons I think short stories are brilliant, so I had a go.

Most obviously, there is less commitment in reading a short story, and therefore a much quicker pay off. I can read a short story in minutes. I can experience the wonder, the tragedy, the humour, of a single narrative much more swiftly than with the commitment of reading an entire book. Even if I don’t enjoy the story, I haven’t wasted hours or days of my life reading it. They’re like chapters of a book, but with an entire set up and conclusion in each.

You get to the good stuff quicker because the whole story is the good stuff. Novels can take pages and pages and chapters and chapters to really get your teeth into, but short stories are wham and you’re there. Linked to this is the fact they draw you into the world and the characters so much quicker—you’re made to care and get invested from the get go, which leaves you no time to get bored.

Every word has to count in a short story. They’re not the place to wax lyrical about unimportant side notes or superfluous details. Everything mentioned in a good short story will add something to the narrative. It might be plot, character, mood—whatever the important things are to get across, and whatever it is the author is trying to convey in the small time they have your attention. It all matters.

My very favourite kind of short stories often have some sort of twist or unexpected revelation at the end. Something that makes you view the whole story in a new light, and makes a second read a whole new experience. It’s almost like you get two stories in one, and it can add such depth to such a short narrative. Of course, novels can have twists and turns and revelations, but re-reading short story is a much simpler task. There have been times i’ve finished a short story and gone straight back to the beginning to start it again. As much as i’ve loved any novel, i’ve never wanted re-read it immediately.

I find short stories can often make the reader work harder. The more thought and attention you put into a short story, the more satisfaction you get out of it. Novels can often over explain, or spell things out too much over time, but short stories won’t make it that easy for you. They give you all the pieces, but you might have to ponder on them before they fit together. They might, for example, not answer all the questions the story raises. They might leave the ending ambiguous or open to interpretation. I love endings like that anyway (be it novel, film, TV, whatever), but in a short short it forces you to take stock of the information you have been given and find new and extended meaning in it.

I just really love short stories okay? But don’t just take my rambling, biased word for it. Let these wonderful quotes persuade you to reading more short story collections…

A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.

– Stephen King

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.

– Edgar Allan Poe

Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them.

– Paolo Bacigalupi

A short story is confined to one mood, to which everything in the story pertains. Characters, setting, time, events, are all subject to the mood. And you can try more ephemeral, more fleeting things in a story – you can work more by suggestion – than in a novel. Less is resolved, more is suggested, perhaps.

– Eudora Welty

A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.

– Neil Gaiman

My advice would be this: Don’t get all up in your head thinking short-short stories have to be poetry without the line breaks. Don’t put on your beret. Just tell a story, an actual story. Quick, while they’re still listening.

– Rebecca Makkai

A short story…can be held in the mind all in one piece. It’s less like a building than a fiendish device. Every bit of it must be cunningly made and crafted to fit together perfectly and without waste so it can perform its task with absolute precision. That purpose might be to move the reader to tears or wonder, to awaken the conscience, to console, to gladden, or to enlighten. But each short story has one chief purpose, and every sentence, phrase, and word is crafted to achieve that end.

– Michael Swanwick

Fifty Shades of Blackout Poetry

I remember when I first came across blackout poetry. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Writing a poem from scratch had always felt quiet intimidating to me. Sitting with a blank piece of paper and my own mind, conjuring meaningful words, placing them in a rhythmic order, and having the whole thing tie up and make some sort of abstract sense… I’m better with prose. But having a page full of words, and pulling from that certain words to create short poems or single poetic lines… maybe even I could manage that!

My foray into blackout poetry started when I picked up an old Point Horror book for 50p. It wasn’t easy, and took me at least 15 minutes, but i’m quite pleased with what I managed…

Belinda thought she could turn out differently
She hated the world, the people
The stupid was too much
If only. If only. If only,

Along with having a go myself, I did like to search for, read, re-blog, and pin other people’s blackout poems. It was this way that I discovered the tumblr blogs Fifty Shades of Black and 50 Shades of REGRET, both of which focus of creating blackout poetry for the notorious book Fifty Shades of Grey.

From here, an idea began to form.

My sister is, for some reason I have still to fathom, a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey. She loves the books, has been to see the film (films? I can’t bring myself to google if and when the sequels were released), and, most astonishing of all, is not ashamed of this.

So, a year or two ago I make a decision. I had the fabulous idea to take a copy of Fifty Shades, and create blackout poetry with the whole thing. I would wrap this up and present it to my sister for her birthday. I am a genius.

I only hit a few snags.

First of all, I couldn’t bring myself to pull the book from a charity shop bookshelf and take it to the counter. I just… couldn’t. In the end, my mum picked up a copy for me. Phew! Secondly, I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to compose the damn poems. I wasn’t going to just cobble it half-arsed by throwing random words together—they had to make some sort of sense. And if the writing took ages, so did the blacking out of the words I didn’t want. In my infinite wisdom I decided to forgo plain old blackout, and broke out my colourful sharpie collection to turn these little poems into literal works of art. Thirdly—and really, this is the one that did me in—actually having to read the book was just an exhausting, cringe-worthy experience. I ended up giving up after 50 pages.

On the plus side, my sister got an already started blackout poetry art project for her birthday! She loved it, and has composed a few more since her birthday. However she’s a busy working mother with a multitude of hobbies, so she hasn’t yet finished the entire book.

The project was a lot of fun, though. I’d enjoy doing it again without the time pressures, and with a book I’d actually enjoy reading! I’ve picked out a few of my favourite of the blackout poems below. Of course, with it being Fifty Shades, a few of them are a bit… risqué. Let me know what you think of my efforts, and let me know if you’ve done any blackout poetry.

I scowl with frustration at
my wayward semi
I can’t blow this

I take him in
I swallow and try to look professional
But he looks vaguely disappointed

I’m free
No man can limit me

I frown, I huff
He doesn’t talk
I check my watch
“I’ll see you later”
I leave

He’s fascinated by a sandwich
I scowl at him
A sandwich?

I watch him disappear
I’m glad he’s leaving me
It’s a lost cause

I flash a brief dazzling, unguarded, natural, all-teeth-showing, glorious smile.
But I don’t trust him

You make me weak
You push and pull me
I’m suffocating

His eyes are large
He’s watching me
He does not see me

Book Spine Poetry

Book Spine Poetry I loved this idea when i saw Rosemawrites do it over at A Reading Writer, and i just had to give it a go myself.

The idea is to browse your bookshelves, pull down any inspiring titles and pile them up until their spines write little poems. It was both harder and easier than i thought! For random silliness that makes no sense, it’s great fun. Except for all my weirdness, i do still like things to work. How do you think i managed?

This really was an interesting and enjoyable thing to do with my books, and i heartily encourage everyone to try it. Feel free to leave me your best book spine poems in the comments, or make your own post and tell me about it.

Books + creativity = ♥


Explorers of the New Century


Florence & Giles
Free Fall
off the map
The Two of Them
Alone Against Tomorrow


The Doors of Perception
A Sense of Wonder
Wild Abandon

Book Hauling

I’ve decided i’m being too careful, too precious and too controlled with this blog. I don’t post much save reviews and memes and TTTs for fear of posts not being “good enough” or something. And it’s a load of crock. I have a “random” category for a reason, and i’m going to start using it.

And so, this post.


One of my recent bookish resolutions was to buy fewer books. So of course i’m going to talk to you about the newest books that have come into my possession! I decided it would be nice to have accompanying photos, so broke out the 50mm lens, a bunch of fairy lights and some props. AM I DOING IT RIGHT?

Now, not all of these are books i bought. Some were Christmas presents, some are borrowed, and yes, some i did buy… but not that many, i swear!

IMG_8623Undermajordomo Minor is a book that’s been on my wishlist since before it was released. That so very rarely happens; i’m not one to chase new releases or request advanced reading copies or anything like that. But Patrick deWitt is apparently an exception. This is his third book, and i adored his first two. Adored them enough to click “to read” on his third without even reading the synopsis. He is a witty, entertaining and readable author. The fact he sticks to short chapters really, really helps too (must keep reading!). This was a high priority on my wishlist, and happily my parents got it for me for Christmas. Bless them, they had no idea what they were buying, but they knew it would make me happy. I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck into this one!

IMG_8627I’ve only read one or two Charles Dickens, many years ago at school. I don’t really remember them at all, but what i do remember is one of my teachers recommending i read The Pickwick Papers. I never did read it, but for some reason it stuck with me all these years. Stuck enough for me to add the book to my Classics Club challenge. This book has been lent to me by my mother-out-law, who owns an entire Charles Dickens collection. I’m fearful of cracking its beautifully untouched spine, but not enough to stop me from reading it. I’m making this book a priority in the first half of the year, both to get it ticked off my classics list, and to get it back to its owner.

IMG_8630The Scorch Trials has been on my radar since i finished The Maze Runner. I wanted to give it a go, because i very much enjoyed the story of the first book and am interested to see how it continues. However, i wasn’t so keen on the books that i was going to rush out to buy the sequel. Serendipity did its thing, and i found this copy, in excellent condition, in a secondhand shop on new year’s day for one single measly pound! I couldn’t not buy it! I’m saving this for when i need a light, easy and quick read, where i know what to expect and am prepared for the poor quality writing.

IMG_8647The third and final book in the Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy, i had The House of Many Ways on my wishlist and received it for Christmas. I haven’t yet read, though do own, the second book, Castle in the Air. I loved the first book so so much, and it was such a joyful lighthearted read, that i’m sure it won’t take me to long to get through the two sequels. I’m sure i’ll be able to finish the series this year, if i choose to prioritise them; i’ll certainly be finishing this series before starting on any new ones!

I’d never really given much thought or notice to Wodehouse until recently, when i read some of Annie’s favourite Wodehouse quotes over at Curious Wren. They were an utter delight and i knew i had to get my hands on some Wodehouse fairly swiftly. I hadn’t known where the hell to start though; the man wrote a lot of bloody books!


The decision was taken out of my hands when in that same secondhand shop on new year’s day i spotted a mint condition copy of Full Moon, again for the bargainous price of £1.00. I snapped it up, only later looking up which number of which series it’s from–seventh book in the Blandings Castle series. Me being me, i can’t jump into a series at book seven, so i promptly order the first book in the series, Something Fresh, to begin the series proper.

IMG_8696I watched the I, Robot film years ago not long after it came out. I liked it well enough; it had an interesting sci-fi theme, posing some interesting questions and with a bit of action to boot. But still, it was a shiny hollywood film, playing it too close to bland and safe. From what i’ve heard, the film took one aspect of the book and ran with it in a different direction. So, i’m hopeful that a) the book will still hold surprises for me and b) will be far and away more interesting, dark and thought-provoking in comparison to the film. Also, check out that amazing cover! Really, that’s the sole reason i bought it; i didn’t want to miss out on the book cover perfection.

IMG_86761Best for last? I do have the biggest, comfiest soft spot for John Wyndham. He is without a doubt, and with a couple of regretful second-placers, my absolute favourite. I’m still buying and working my way though his books, because i just… never want them to end. Consider Her Ways is a collection of short stories, and if it’s anywhere near as good as The Seeds of Time (of course it will be, pfft), then i will be deliriously happy. I’m a big fan of short stories and the biggest fan of John Wyndham, so when the two cross over, i get bookish perfection. This has been on my wishlist for a little while (pacing, pacing), and i was lucky enough to get if for Christmas this year. The warm comfort i feel inside at the unread Wyndham books on my shelves is a special one. The best kind of anticipation.

And with that, i hope to not buy another book for a good long while! I shall stop looking for books to add to my to read list, i shall not browse or my own wishlist, i shall not step foot inside a bookshop without good reason (like buying for someone else!). I shall not buy books!

Sigh. Even Dave isn’t buying it.


Book Blogger “Test” (?)

testI’ve seen this about on quite a few blogs, and decided to jump on the band waggon. It looked like fun. Though i’m still puzzled by the “test”… What are we getting tested on? How do we pass or fail? Who’s marking? If we’re getting tested on pedanticism, i have so obviously passed. But whatever, on with the “test”…

What are your top three book pet hates?
I actually think i’m quite laid back. There might be things i don’t like doing myself, but it doesn’t bother me if other people do (folding corners, highlighting, making notes, etc). If i buy a second hand book that someone has done that to i actually like it.

1. When people aren’t as excited about a book as i am. Particularly people i know, or whose opinions i respect. If they don’t like a book as much as i do i get torn between worrying about my own views on the book, and doubting my respect for theirs.

2. Long and/or unnumbered chapters. Okay, i don’t “hate” this, but when chapters are pretty long, it drives me mad not knowing how many there are. I find it frustrating reading books with most chapters longer than 25 pages. I’m a bitty reader. I read on the bus, while i’m waiting for my dinner to cook, for half an hour in bed before sleep, 15 minutes in the morning before i get up. And i hate having to stop in the middle of chapters all the time.

3. When there looks to be at least 30 pages left of a book, but then the story ends suddenly and it turns out those 30 pages are preview chapters of another book. I hate that, and out of spite, i never read them.

Describe your perfect reading spot.
Late Autumn or early spring. An open window. A slight breeze. A comfy chair. A cup of tea.

Tell us three book confessions.
1. I judge books by their covers. It is a confession if i have no shame? I like a nice looking book cover, and when i know nothing else about a book, i will pick up the ones that look nice and avoid the tacky ugly ones.

2. I can’t stay up all night reading, no matter how good a book is. A book has never kept me up all night. I have never had to keep reading a book until i finished. No matter how much i might want to carry on reading, when i get tired, i have to sleep.

3. I find it hard to not finish a book. Even if i’m not enjoying a book, i find it really hard to just stop reading it. I have done it twice this year, for the first time in many years. It’s hard when i like some things about the book, but not enough to make me want to read it, and it becomes a chore and i don’t like that feeling, but it’s really difficult for me to give up.

When was the last time you cried during a book?
I had to check my read list for this. I don’t cry overly often. It has to be a book that i’m emotionally invested in and where i truly feel for the character(s). Or a book that is just trying to make the reader cry. Turns out i was quite emotionally invested in The Hunger Games, because Mockingjay was the last book i cried while reading (but then the epilogue happened, and i was just annoyed).

How many books are on your bedside table?
One. The one i am currently reading. All my books have places, and it is on shelves unless i am reading them.

What is your favourite snack to eat while you’re reading?
Something i can eat with one hand that i don’t have to look at. Biscuits or crips or fruit. Finger food.

Name three books you would recommend to everyone.
I’m not sure i would. There are books i think everyone should read, but i wouldn’t necessarily be recommending them; i know not everyone will enjoy them.

1. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

2. Days of War, Nights of Love by CrimethInc

3. Anything by Christopher Brookmyre and John Wyndham

Show us a picture of your favourite bookshelf on your bookcase.
I wrote a whole blog post on my bookshelves recently.

Write how much books mean to you in just three words.
How much they mean to me or what they mean to me?
‘How much’ would be: A fucking lot.
‘What’ would be: Freedom, adventure, comfort.

What is your biggest reading secret?
Isn’t this the same thing as those three confessions i already told you?
I think maybe the biggest thing about myself that bothers me is that i’m still hung up on actually owning books. I like owning them. I like seeing them on my bookshelves. I like having them to hand if i want to look something up, or have a sudden urge to re-read one, or even just hold one. It makes life difficult because a) space, b) money and c) i love libraries, but i’m not using them.

Blitzing the Bookshelves

BeforeWith my current books to bookshelves ratio, i had simply assumed organisation an impossibility for my books. The most organised i got was sections for read, sections for general to-read and one small bookshelf for my next planned 20 reads. The bulk of what you see there in my first photo is my general to-read section. It’s a mess. Or, it was…

I got it into my head recently to sort out my bookshelves. Even if i couldn’t organise them 100% to my liking, i thought there surely had to be a better way than haphazardly piled and precariously balanced. This idea didn’t have to sit with me long before i was pouncing on my books and pulling them from the shelves.

BooksAnd so, last Saturday afternoon i soon found myself amongst a sofa piled with books. I didn’t think too much about how i wanted to try to organise things–that way lay madness. I just went for it. I decided to stop segregating the books i’d read away from the many books i had to read. I can remember what i have and haven’t read (and if i can’t, well, goodreads was invented for a reason, right?). So i piled up the books according to author, with several larger piles of authors i only have one book by. There was so many, i couldn’t fit them all on the sofa (or on the floor near the sofa, and still leave myself enough room to manoeuvre), so a few piles had to remain on the selves for me to work around.During

After01The next step–the best step, as far as i’m concerned–was putting them all back again! I couldn’t resist some read/to-read divide, apparently, but when i have so many single books with no other by that author to pair them with, they are naturally drawn to each other (in my neat and tidy liking head). So, the top shelf ended up being largely (though not entirely) books i’ve read. The rest, i think, went by something resembling favouritism. With John Wyndham and William Golding taking pride of place as the front row on the second shelf. (I can’t even remember what’s behind them now. This might not end well…) Because yes, my books to bookshelves ratio is still too skewed to allow for a single row of books per shelf. It is a burden i will bear until i finally get my library.





I did also make better use of a small bookcase that had held the 50 books i read in 2012, until half of them were gradually removed and scattered around the house for some reasons i don’t even know. Now it holds (one row per shelf of!) authors i own more than just a few books by. It occurs to me now i may have put these in reverse order favouritism, but whatever, Hiaasen’s books are brightly coloured and jolly and nice to look at.


The many and wonderful Brookmyre books got housed atop my partner’s bookshelf, as they are, technically, his. (We may share our lives together, but mingling our book collections is a commitment neither of us may ever be willing to make.) (That’s a lie, i mingled some, in my commitment to keep authors together.) The lack of the rest of this shelving unit is because my partner’s bookshelf is still a mess, and i don’t want that contaminating this beautiful post.


For completeness’ sake, i also include a photo of my diddy shelf which contains the next 20 books i plan to read. Which for some reason are in order from right to left.

To Read

And finally, the books i have decided to say goodbye to. Whether loved or hated, these are simply books i know i will never read again. Now it’s time for someone else to enjoy them. And this may be the largest number of books i have got rid of in one go–i usually hate parting with books.


And that was my recent book blitzing adventure. I feel enormously satisfied. For days afterwards i kept wandering into the living room, simply to admire my shelves. My biggest worry now is what will happen the next time i visit a bookshop and come home with half a dozen new books…

A to Z Book Questions

a-z1Following almost every book blog i have read in the past few days, i have decided to jump on the bandwagon and do this A-Z Book meme question thing that originally started at The Perpetual Page Turner.

Author you’ve read the most books from:
Christopher Brookmyre, at 15 books. This surprises me exactly zero. The best part? I read them all last year.

Best Sequel Ever:
I have to say The Devil In Amber, the sequel to The Vesuvius Club, by Mark Gatiss. I stumbled across The Vesuvius Club and was drawn in by the cover. When i noticed Mark Gatiss was the author i snapped it up (i love The League of Gentlemen). I instantly fell in love with Lucifer Box, and the sequel was a huge joy when it came out. I was sad when the third instalment turned out to be the last.

Currently Reading:
Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen (an acceptable substitute while i’m out of Brookmyre books to read).

Drink of Choice While Reading:
Tea, if and when it’s cold enough. Otherwise fruit juice/squash or beer. Or hot chocolate, if it’s christmas time.

E-reader or Physical Book?:
Nothing beats the physical book for me. It’s a visceral thing to me. A book just feels right in my hands. I’m not anti-e-readers, and i would consider getting one myself in the future; they’re practical and convenient, but they’re just not the same.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:
I didn’t date at school… I probably would’ve have had a crush on someone like David from The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly; quiet with his nose always in a book.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
The Beach by Alex Garland. I’d seen some of the film (the shark and the blood… i couldn’t finish it after that scene) and saw the book in a charity shop and decided to see if i could stomach it in text any better. I could and i bloody loved it.

Hidden Gem Book:
Tiny Deaths by Robert Shearman. I came across this book while staying with friends. It was laying on the sofa and i just picked it up and started reading. It’s a compilation of short stories about death. I read only the first story, but when i got home i had to buy my own copy and finish the book. It’s wonderful!

Important Moment in your Reading Life:
My partner (after at least a year of trying to) finally convincing me to read a book by Christopher Brookmyre. It was then that i really immersed myself in reading. I devoured all Brookmyre’s books in between random others, joined goodreads, began reviewing, started this blog…

Just Finished:
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft. Can you call it finishing when you don’t get to the end? It was awful.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:
Boring ones? I don’t know how to categorise them. Ones about women and their humdrum lives until things get shaken up by the attractive young gardener who moves in nest door. Normal life and romance books? I don’t lead an average life, and i don’t really want to read about someone living one, either.

Longest Book You’ve Read:
According to goodreads, and eliciting no surprise from me: IT by Stephen King at 1,116 pages. It could also be my most re-read book. I was obsessed with it as a youth.

Major book hangover because of:
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. This was an out of the blue recommendation from my partner when i (predictably) couldn’t choose a book to read. I fell into this world head first. I whizzed through it and didn’t really wanted it to end. The last 20 pages were a bit of a let down, but i was still living in that world several books later.

Number of Bookcases You Own:
Seven bookcases. One is for cooking/gardening/household books. One small one holds the 50 books i read in 2012. One holds my partner’s books. One holds two shelves of books, three shelves of tat. Two hold a couple of hundred books that i own (one case two/three books deep). One is empty, needing to find a permanent home before i can fill it.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
Endless Night by Richard Laymon. I found this book randomly on a free/honest exchange bookcase while on holiday. I had never heard of Richard Laymon before, but it was a horror book, and i’m a sucker for those. I read it and loved it so much i left another book behind so i could bring it home with me. It became my new IT and i read it and re-read it a lot.

Preferred Place To Read:
Somewhere comfy. Mostly bed, or a big soft armchair. In winter i can often be found reading while sitting on the floor with my back to a radiator.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:
Just reading my favourite quotes on goodreads has me welling up, here! My favourites seem to veer from very random and seemingly meaningless to overly deep and tear-inducing. I have to admit some of my favourite and meaningful quotes are from books that i did not like that much overall. One of my favourites for many years is from High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, which i really, really disliked as a book. But anyway:

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.

Reading Regret:
Man and Boy by Tony Parsons. Worst. Book. Ever. (And falls very very close to those “normal life” books i avoid so ardently.)

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series):
Do The Lord of the Rings count if i’ve only read The Hobbit? Otherwise i have a ton of Poirots left to read, and all but one Sherlock Holmes.

Three of your All-Time Favourite Books:
Picking favourites causes me physical pain. Choosing right now, i will say The Sister’s Brothers by Patrick deWitt, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak aaaaand… All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye by Christopher Brookmyre.

Unapologetic Fangirl For:
Christopher Brookmyre. Though currently i’m mostly flailing over John Whyndam. I’m pacing myself with his books though, because, you know… there won’t be any more.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
None that i can think of, to be honest. Can i say the next Brookmyre book that involves Jack Parlabane, even though there is no official word on this ever even happening?

Worst Bookish Habit:
Still being hung up on needing to own books. Or being obsessively over protective of them (seriously, i put them in protective bags when they leave the house).

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
Bah. My main bookcase is double/triple deep in books! Okay, fine, starting at the back top left… Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham.

Your latest book purchase:
It has actually been a while since i’ve bought any books (gasp), but i think it was The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson from a charity shop in town.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
Hmmm, i like my sleep too much for (even the best of) books to keep me up when i know i need to sleep. I also find reading when i’m tired very hard. It’s more likely a book will make me go to bed early so i have longer to read before i need to sleep! I’ll have to say The Book Thief, because i just did not ever want to put that book down.

55 Book Questions

question-mark-on-paper1. Favourite childhood book?
Has to be The BFG by Roald Dahl. I remember my mum reading it to me before bed when i was little. A few years later, when i could read, i would read it myself before bed.

2. What are you reading right now?
Weaveworld by Clive Barker. It… is a struggle, to be honest. It’s not bad, but it’s not exciting me. I don’t really want to keep reading, but i am a stubborn bastard and will preserve.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None. I should get books from the library more, but i am hung up on owning books. Also, charity shops are addictive.

4. Bad book habit?
Hmm. I’m really not sure i have one. I treat my books very carefully. I even put them in protective covers when i carry them in my bag. The worst i can think of is not minding if the spine cracks… I would say ‘buying too many’, but i don’t believe in ‘too many books’ and even if i did, i wouldn’t say that’s a bad habit.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nil. I suck, i’ve covered this.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No. I am not opposed to them, or even having one myself, but i just love physical books. So, an e-reader is not a priority to me right now.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I prefer to read one book at a time, but i can read two if they’re short and/or simple enough books.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not really. I started a book blog specifically for and about my reading. It just makes the joy of reading a book last a little longer.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far?)
Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen. His books are trashy and easy to read, but the gender stereotypes and bias in this one particularly erked me.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year?
Oh, gosh, ultimately it has to be The Book Thief by Mark Zusak. I laughed, i cried and i loved every word. BUT, honourable mention to the very close second place: Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. It was three books ago now, but it’s still with me; i still want to be reading it. It would have been perfection were it not for the pointless last 20-odd pages.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I’ll read whatever sounds good to me, has more than just bad reviews or books that are recommended to me for whatever reasons. Some of my favourite books are books i knew nothing about, but read because they were recommended. I don’t know if that counts as ‘out of my comfort zone’, but…

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
…I’m not sure i have a comfort zone. Classic, easy to categorise books i often read would be cheesy horror (King, Laymon), and more recently older horror and sci-fi (Poe, Wyndham). I also have a penchant for utopian/dystopian novels. I will read anything by Banks, Brookmyre or Golding. For me, reading is an eclectic pleasure. I don’t understand why you’d only read, say, Danielle Steel books… you’d essentially be reading the same book over and over again.

N.B: I have never read a Danielle Steel book, she was just the first prolific author i thought of who had connotations of ‘samey’ to me. And hey, even wikipedia agrees: “Her formula is fairly consistent, often involving rich families facing a crisis, threatened by dark elements such as jail, fraud, blackmail and suicide.”

13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes, but bus rides i take often aren’t long enough. I do read on the train and coach when travelling further afield, though.

14. Favourite place to read?
In bed, before sleep most nights and in the morning at the weekends/days i’m not at work. During the day i favour a big comfy chair.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I am protective of my books and wary of them being mistreated. I will lend books to people i trust will respect them and respect the fact that they are someone else’s, not necessarily in terms of property, but in terms of being loved.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No? No. I dog-ear magazines, newspapers and catalogues, but never books. It doesn’t take much effort to root out a scrap of paper to use as a bookmark.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Not generally. I have (lightly) written in pencil in books used for study (and then rubbed it out). I have a couple of books i have two copies of, and one of these copies i have taken to highlighting and writing comments on. For reasons.

18. Not even with text books?
At uni, with my own and with library books, i wrote in pencil lightly enough for it to easily rub off later.

19. What is your favourite language to read in?
English, as i would not get very far if i read an entire book in another language. I do enjoy books that incorporate a little of other languages, though. For example Poirot books, when he speaks a bit of French, or The Book Thief with German. BUT, i also don’t like the foreign language to be blatantly translated in the text; give me context to work it out or let me google it. If you’re just going to translate it straight away, then why bother at all?

20. What makes you love a book?
I can’t answer this. So much stuff. A well written book; show me, don’t tell me; a natural easy use of language. Characters; whether i love them or hate them, so long as i feel something towards them; so long as they are real. Story; i have to care about what’s going on; i have to be interested or intrigued or invested; i have to be in, apparently. Humour and emotion help, also.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
To be honest, i don’t like recommending books. If i love a book, i want everyone else to read it and love it as much as i do. But, chances are, not everyone will love it. And it crushes me when i recommend something (not just books) to someone and they either don’t like it at all, or just think it’s okay. If someone isn’t going to appreciate something as much as i do, i’d rather they didn’t bother… ? I don’t even know. I am irrational about this.

22. Favourite genre?
Please see question 12. I don’t have a ‘favourite’ genre, i have many genres that i enjoy, and wouldn’t want to choose one over the others. In a book shop there will always be several sections i will have to look at.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Hmm. In recent years, i’d have to say more academic books, specifically in relation to horror films and/or gender. I did a lot of this kind of reading at college and university, but haven’t read any in years. I have a few books of this type on my wishlist, but i think people are put off buying them as presents?

24. Favourite biography?
I’m not even sure i’ve ever read a biography. Unless wikipedia counts? It just not my thing. I’ve read fictionalised books of true events, but never ‘a biography’.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
No. Unless you want to count Days of War, Nights of Love? Which actually, i would like to.

26. Favourite cookbook?
Vegan with a Vengeance. My brother bought me this book, and really, he is the best at buying me amazing books i didn’t know i wanted. I’m not a huge follower of recipes; not to the letter, anyway. I use them more as inspiration.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Hmm, depends on your definition of ‘inspirational’. I would say none, so i am forced to widen my personal definition in order to answer. I’ll say American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It was much less boring than i worried it might be, and explored the subject of Gods and belief in an interesting way, even (especially?) for an atheist.

28. Favourite reading snack?
A cup of tea and a biscuit. I’m a weather/temperature dependant tea drinker (i sweat at just the thought of a cup of tea in midsummer), but when it’s cool enough, nothing goes better with a book than a cup of tea.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Hmm, i can name a few. ‘Hype’ might be a strong word for it, but it’s the preconceived ideas and opinions on popular books. The first is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It’s heralded as some sort of rite-of-passage book for young adult females. The reviews i read before i read the book seemed to veer between the two extremes; people either loved it or they hated it. I therefore expected to either love it or hate it. I did neither. It was just okay. Another was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Again the reviews were split, with many people actually debating and arguing about it. Half of people seemed to criticise it highly for its hideously Anglicised use of German, unrealistic young characters and wishy washy representation of Nazi concentration camps. The other half defended the book vehemently, claiming the story and its emotional impact more than make up for any inadequacies that can surely be overlooked to enjoy the book. I just didn’t feel strongly enough about the book to care about it either way. The idea of the book was good, but it was so poorly executed it was a joke. I couldn’t argued for or against it.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I don’t really read official critics’ reviews. I mostly read readers’ reviews on goodreads, amazon or similar. And i don’t read them to take what is said seriously, i read them to get a feel for the book. If someone says they didn’t like the book because, say, there was too much dialogue or not enough exposition, it makes me think, ‘oh, i might like this book!’ Reviews are personal things i think. It’s not a case of agreeing or disagreeing with someone else, it’s a case of did we both generally like or dislike the book? And there will always be people to disagree with.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I give honest reviews. If i don’t like a book, i will say so, but i will say why i didn’t like it. The reason i dislike a book could be the reason someone would else like it, so even a “bad” review could lead to someone wanting to read the book. I hate reviews that are simply, “This book was crap,” or “I loved this book!” Good for you, but that tells me absolutely nothing, and seems like an utterly pointless “review”.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
Dutch. Mostly only because i do actually want to learn Dutch. Not sure where i’d get books written in Dutch from, though…

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I… don’t know. And again, what’s your definition of ‘intimidating’? I’m not sure it’s possible to be intimidated by a book. You can stop reading if it’s too daunting. The closest thing i can think of are books that are very very good, but take a lot of effort, and a lot of attention to read. The last one like that i remember reading was Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley. I really enjoyed it, but it was hard work reading it. So much so that i could only read so much at a time before needing to take a break and do something else.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Long books. Regardless of subject matter or how well written they are, the longer the book the more intimidated i am. It’s quite ridiculous, because i’ve struggled to finish short books and flown through long books; it is all about the subject matter and how well written it is. I suppose i just fear getting stuck reading a long book that i’ll struggle with (like the one i’m reading currently, for instance).

35. Favourite poet?
I’m not hugely into poetry, and am not well versed (well versed, see what i did there?) in the subject. I like Poe and Eliot. I was recently introduced to Cummings.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
None. We’ve been over this.

37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread?
Never, but i also haven’t checked out a library book is years.

38. Favourite fictional character?
This… you really expect me to pick just one? The first two (yes, two) that come to mind are Zellaby from The Midwich Cuckoos and Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray, and that’s because i can imaging them sitting down having afternoon tea together and philosphising into the night. Honourable mentions to Jack Parlabane, Angelique De Xavier, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, Charles Carter and Lucifer Box.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
This one is easier. The award goes to Simon Darcourt from A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away and A Snowball in Hell by Christopher Brookmyre. He’s hilariously self-centred, egotistical and astonishingly unself-aware. Honourable mentions to The Sisters Brothers and Billy Christ (though he’s more of an antihero, does that count?)

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Anything by Christopher Brookmyre. His books are perfection. Easy to read, but incredibly well written. Funny, engaging, plot-driven, well-rounded characters and often fantastically outlandish.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Well, i could be a pedant, take this question incredibly literally and say there hasn’t been a day in which, since i learnt to read, i haven’t read something. But if we’re talking books… maybe a year? I used to read a lot, then i read regularly, but not necessarily often. Then i stopped reading at all for a while, and now i read a lot again.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
This hasn’t happened for a while. The last book i stopped reading was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, because i could not get into the narrator’s voice. Often, with first person narrative, if i don’t like the character or their voice, i find it hard to enjoy the book. Thankfully, i eventually gave Catcher another go, and loved it the second time. The only other book that comes to mind that i barely started before having to put down because of the first person narrative style was Angela’s Ashes. That was over 10 years ago, but i haven’t attempted it again since.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Someone talking to me. Not someone talking generally, like i can cope with a TV being on, or in a busy environment, but if someone is saying something to me while i’m trying to read, i end up distracted from both reading and listening and make a half-arsed job of both. I also can’t listen to music with lyrics that i know and like. I will only end up wanting to stop reading to sing along.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
I will have to say Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. My opinion may be influenced by the fact that i saw the film before i read the book, but whatever. As i read the book i could see and hear the film and i really saw how they had taken the book and turned it into that film. It fit. Honourable mentions to Shawshank Redemption and Of Mice and Men.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The Shining by Stephen King. Another case of film-before-book, but i never liked the film, and did not understand why so many people loved it so much. Then i read the book, and i disliked the film even more. It missed the mark so incredibly badly. There is so much more to the story in the book, and a large part of that takes place inside the minds of the characters, which is something it is nearly impossible to get across on film without a narrative voice over. I’m sure there are plenty, plenty more, but The Shining always sticks with me, for some reason.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Probably not all that much. If it’s a bookstore selling new books at full price, i likely won’t buy any, to be honest. I’m much more a second hand or, at the very least, cheap book buyer. In charity shops i can maybe spend £10-20 on books in one go, but i would get at least 5-10 books for that price, so it isn’t really that much to spend.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Hmm, if i’ve bought a book without knowing much about it i will flick through and maybe read a random paragraph, to get a quick feel for the writing style, but that’s about it. It’s once i start reading a book (and 99% of the time, a book i’m really enjoying and really invested in) that i have to watch myself, because i will get tempted to skip ahead to see what happens. (I manage to stop myself only about 50% of the time.)

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
I’m not sure i ever have. I’ve stopped reading books very early on if i can’t get into them, but if i’ve invested enough time to get halfway through… i’m not sure i would ever stop. I have briefly considered it two or three times, but never actually managed to convince myself to stop. Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger was a bloody slog, by god that man can waffle (he also freely admitted that fact right at the start, so…). Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe was repetitive and dull for a while, but eventually cleared up. And The Spire by William Golding. I thought about giving that up through a few early chapters, but never seriously. For me, it seems that once i reach the halfway point of a book, the second half flies by much quicker than the first half, so even if i am fed up of a book halfway through, i’ll still read the second half quicker.

Hang on, i did stop about halfway through Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I made no conscious decision to stop, but i did stop. He hadn’t even got on a boat yet, and i was getting impatient, i think. But, a few years later, i started it again and managed to finish it!

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?
Ha. I would like to keep my books organised, but currently a lack of shelves prevents me from doing that. I actually have books shelved two-deep in my largest bookcase. The only hint of organisation is books grouped by authors and, when i can manage it, chronologically by release date. That might sound organised to a lot of people, but to me that is barely started.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I can only give up books that i know i will never want to read or reference again, ever. In my life, i can think of only three. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont and Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill. I enjoyed all these books very much, just not enough, or in the right way, to ever want to read them again.

I know the chance of me re-reading all the books i’ve read is very slim, when i have about twice as many unread books, but i don’t care. The possibility is there, i need the books!

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Nope. I look up at my bookcase and think, ‘Yep, i still want to read all of those.’ I’m currently consciously choosing to not read books in a series, like The Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games. That’s because i know i will want to read the whole series in one go, but i like to be more varied in my reading. At some point i will need to give up on one of those two things, or i will never get around to reading them.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Hmm. I can’t think of a book that made me out-and-out angry. The most annoyed and frustrated i have been made by a book was due to Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. It was a pointless story that had no plot. It was based on the author’s real life experiences, but came across only as self-involved pretentious drivel. The author veered between ‘I was crazy’ and ‘I was never crazy’, seemingly wanting the allure of being crazy, but also the righteousness of being able to say ‘they fucked my whole life up’. It really wound me up!

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Why would you read a book if you didn’t expect to like it? This question seriously puzzles me. Every book i have picked up to read i have chosen to read because either i thought i would like it, or someone else thought i would like it. I have never started reading a book i expected to dislike.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
I’m going to re-interpret this question as “A book you didn’t like as much as you expected to?” And answer with Espedair Street by Iain Banks. It was just very normal and unexciting, compared to The Wasp Factory, Walking On Glass and The Bridge (yes, i’m reading them in chronological order). I enjoyed it well enough, it just wasn’t as interesting as i had expected.

55. Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Anything by Christopher Brookmyre, Stephen King or John Wyndham. Three differing genres, styles and eras, but i love every word they’ve written.