Twenty Questions Book Tag

Well, this is exciting. This is officially my first book tag, which I have half-inched off the lovely Lauren at Books are Only the Beginning. Prepare yourself for an insight into my soul …

How many books is too many books in a series?

This is probably the question I’ve pondered over the longest. I think it really depends. Some series I’m happy to finish after three books, some I’m happy to keep reading through twelve or fifteen or fifty books. Erin Hunter’s Warrior series, for example, just goes on and on and on (I currently have about thirty books), and I’m very happy to keep consuming every volume. But then, something like The Hunger Games is perfect as a trilogy. I guess it’s the same as films vs. TV series. Some stories/worlds lend themselves to lengthy serialisation, while others do best as fewer feature-length instalments. So, in effect, I can’t give you a good answer to this question. One answer does not fit all!

How do you feel about cliffhangers?

I bloody hate them! Unless, of course, I can move straight on to the next book. I’m like that with TV series too. I can’t watch them “live” on TV, one episode a week. I have to wait until the entire run has finished, buy the box set and binge my way through the lot. If a book is part of a series, I tend to start in after a few of the books have come out, but I rarely read straight through as series, one book consecutively after another, because I’m desperate to resolve cliffhangers in other series!

Hardback or paperback?

Oh, how I’d love to afford to buy all my books in hardback, but alas. Most of my books are paperback, but if I read a paperback series and really like it, I might also buy the hardbacks. For example, I have His Dark Materials in both the original paperbacks I read back in the day and the beautiful twentieth anniversary hardback editions. What really peeves me, however, is when a series starts out just paperback, then the publisher realises they can make more money by releasing a hardback first for the rest of the series, but because I have all the previous books in paperback, I can’t just switch to hardback and have half paperback, half hardback. That would upset my shelves. So I end up having to wait six months to a year to get the paperback version. Very tedious.

Favourite book?

I haven’t found it yet.

Least favourite book?

Yikes. I don’t think I have one. I didn’t get on with Watership Down, not because of the dying rabbits, but I actually found it really dull. It probably has its merits. But I don’t think I’ve actually hated a book so much as to declare it my least favourite. It’s more a case of books being forgettable, so if I do have a least favourite, I’ve probably forgotten it.

Love triangles, yes or no?

NOOOOOOO! I’m not a fan of romance anyway. I’m more of an action and mystery girl, with more interest is worlds and parameters than relationships, particularly romantic ones. I want to change the world for everyone, not just two people (or three in a triangle). Plus, I think it’s really quite dangerous to portray unrealistic romantic scenarios to young women and girls. It encourages them to reach for the unreachable and place excessive importance on romantic involvement when there is a lot more to life and their potential in other areas of it. And don’t forget, somebody in that triangle is going to get hurt, and should we really be encouraging girls to aspire to damage others?

The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

Snow Like Ashes. I did actually finish this one book, but it is part of a series, and there’s no way I’m reading any more. I still devote time to wondering how this utterly unoriginal and dully written twaddle got a publishing deal (and such a nice cover!). You can read my review of Snow Like Ashes here. I don’t think I have ever not finished a book … If I have, I don’t remember them. I like to give everything a fair go, and I like to read to the end to give a book a fair trial, but I will abandon a series if the first book doesn’t do it for me.

A book you’re currently reading?

I’m currently reading Echoes by Laura Tisdall. Turns out she grew up just down the road from where I live! I’m about a third of the way through, and so far I’m hooked. I’m really relating to the main character, who has problems with over-sensitivity, like me, and the story is about the hackersphere and mysteriously vanishing hackers. It’s wonderfully refreshing!

Last book you recommended to someone?

Hmmm. Well, the last book I reviewed was Rebel of the Sands, and I would recommend reading that. Alas, I don’t have many (or any) friends who also read the same kind of books I do, so I don’t do much recommending out loud.

Oldest book you’ve read?

Well, I was made to read Beowulf when I was about eleven in school. Didn’t follow it at all, totally confused the whole way through. This is the problem with introducing “the classics” to children too young. If it’s inaccessible and they don’t relate, you risk turning them off the classics forever. I think that’s what happened to me.

Newest book you’ve read?

Probably La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman actually. There are very few books that I would actually rush out and buy on release day, but I had that one pre-ordered. I’ve just realised I haven’t done a review of it. Oops!

Favourite author?

I haven’t found him/her yet. There are some authors I like better than others, but I haven’t found myself to be devoted enough to anyone to call them my favourite. But that’s the problem with me, I’m always looking, probably for the impossible. I feel like my theme song is “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2. I am never satisfied, which I know is a bad thing, but that’s the way I’m built.

Buying books or borrowing books?

Oh, buying. Definitely, buying. I am extremely particular about the condition of my books. It makes me physically sick to see broken spines, bent covers and dog ears, and it can often feel like no one else seems to share this reverence and respect for books. It is also for this reason that I NEVER lend my books to anyone. I’ve done it in the past, and I was badly bitten and had to replace my copies. I wouldn’t even let anyone touch my books, to be honest.

A book you dislike that everyone seems to love?

Pretty much any neo-gothic romance type book with unrealistic love interests and swooning, weak females that need to be physically held up by unrealistic males. Or any literary type book, you know, the kind that manages to waffle on for hundreds of pages without actually having any plot. I just don’t get it.

Bookmarks or dog-ears?

I cannot even begin to express how much pain the defacement of books causes me. Bookmarks. Bookmarks. Bookmarks. There is no other alternative. And I love bookmarks in their own right. I have a small collection, and if I go anywhere and find an interesting bookmark, I have to have it. Chances are I’ll like it too much to actually use it, but that doesn’t matter. I have a small stock of “usable” bookmarks that I do use as actual bookmarks.

A book you can always re-read?

Anything Jane Austen. I know it’s a cliche, but aside from brilliantly woven plots and Austen’s trademark tongue-in-cheek, archetype-ribbing, I re-read an Austen novel whenever I feel like my language is getting a bit plain and unoriginal. It instantly upgrades by vocabulary and the way I construct sentences, so it does actually serve a purpose.

Can you read while hearing music?

Unfortunately not. I would love to be able to multitask my hobbies, but my brain seems to be attuned to rhythms and melodies, and it becomes completely absorbed by them. I certainly can’t listen to music that I know the words to. It seems singing has a greater priority in my brain than reading! The best I can do is listen to background noises, like forest sounds or river sounds or thunderstorm sounds.

One POV or multiple POVs?

Definitely one. How I struggled through Game of Thrones! Fortunately, I listened to GoT rather than read it. I probably would have given up if I’d read it. I just hate having to sit through POVs that I don’t particularly like in order to get back to the POVs that I do like. It makes me start to resent books. Plus, I really like to get to know a character right down into their deepest depths, that’s where I can start caring about them, and I don’t think you can really do that if you’re skipping about over multiple POVs. I’m like that in real life too. I’d far rather have a handful of very close friends who I know very well than a large group of acquaintances.

Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

Oh, how I’d love to be a quick reader! What I wouldn’t give! Unfortunately, I’m a plodder. I like to read “aloud” in my head as if I was being read to by a narrator, to really absorb every tiny detail. It may have something to do with my line of work in proofreading and copyediting, but I’m a details person. Plus, I just don’t have the time to sit and read for a day.

A book you’ve read because of the cover?

Again, Snow Like Ashes, and, boy, did I regret it! I also got Rebel of the Sands because of the cover, probably one of the nicest covers I’ve seen, but that wasn’t such a disappointment. I have to say, I’m quite susceptible to a nice cover, so wrap your turds in pretty wrappings and I’ll read it. I would like to say, however, that I’ve read plenty of great books with crappy covers that I absolutely hate displaying on my shelves, so it balances out.

~

Phew! Thank you if you managed to get through all that! It was actually lots of fun, so I’ll do more of these in the future. If you want to do this book tag yourself, here are all twenty questions without my wafflings in between:

How many books is too many books in a series?
How do you feel about cliffhangers?
Hardback or paperback?
Favourite book?
Least favourite book?
Love triangles, yes or no?
The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?
A book you’re currently reading?
Last book you recommended to someone?
Oldest book you’ve read?
Newest book you’ve read?
Favourite author?
Buying books or borrowing books?
A book you dislike that everyone seem to love?
Bookmarks or dog-ears?
A book you can always re-read?
Can you read while hearing music?
One POV or multiple POVs?
Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?
A book you’ve read because of the cover?

We Have to Talk about Warrior Cats

Tears still run down my delightfully swollen face as I write this, muttering something darkly about “those ****ing books”. I told myself I wouldn’t cry. I tell myself this every time I open one of these ****ing books. And then I just end up blubbing uncontrollably.

I’m talking about the Warriors books, a micro-library of novels written by several authors under the collective pseudonym of Erin Hunter. So here’s the thing: they are middle-grade books and the characters are all … well … cats. I know, I know, not your kind of age group and not your kind of characters (sorry, no faltering heroines and no smouldering, dark-secret-bearing heroes either). But let me tell you something potentially quite shocking and controversial … The Warriors books are some of the best books I have ever read, for children, young adults or adults. They are shamelessly sitting right near the top of my desert island books list. If the world were to end tomorrow, I would grab Harry Potter and Warriors – okay, I would need quite a large bag to accommodate them all, but there’s no baggage allowance in the apocalypse.

I’ve been a fan of Erin Hunter’s books ever since they first came to Blighty. I was working in a bookshop at the time during my sixth form years, and in the staff room was a table piled high with proof copies (this must have been 2003/4, which makes me really old!). I used to ferret around for young adult titles, but on that fateful day, a bright orange proof copy with the silhouette of a cat jumped into my hands. This book is about cats? I wondered to myself. How good can that be? The answer was very. Very good indeed. I was hooked from the start when a young pet cat called Rusty is taken in by a clan of wild cats who live in the forest. As he is trained to become a warrior, he has to fight not only the prejudices against him, but the dangers that threaten the clan’s existence.

Correction, I wasn’t just hooked, I was completely in love. These books embody that lost sense of a connection to nature that gives me daily pain. They are about survival, friendship, betrayal, fulfilling potential, fear, courage and understanding. And they are brutal. Oh, here come the tears again. Don’t think that just because they are middle grade that they are soft and fluffy and everyone rejoices in a happy ending. They are brutal. Like, Game of Thrones brutal, only for cats. I have the exact same mantra reading these as I do Game of Thrones: “Don’t get attached to anyone!” Of course I do. How can I not? They are cats after all! I don’t get anywhere near this upset over human losses as I do when one of those brave cats sacrifices themselves or is tragically killed for some preventable reason. The episodes those cats go through are the kind of plots you have to be mentally prepared to endure. In fact, I have to take quite lengthy breaks in between devouring two or three books at a time to rest my emotions. Do not read if you are feeling fragile! Middle grade they may be, but patronising they are not. There are no pulled punches here.

After the first book, Into the Wild, was released, the Warriors books seemed to go into some kind of publishing hiatus in the UK, which vexed me hugely. I began to think I was the only human on Earth who truly understood the value of these stories. But then, a few years later, Amazon obliged, and I was able to buy imports from the US. And I’ve been devouring all things Warriors ever since. Here’s my current collection, occupying an entire shelf by themselves.

warriros-shelf

And this just about scratches the surface (no kitty pun intended). These are just the main storyline books, which come in sets of six. There are numerous other novellas, manga books, guides and story collections available. If only I had unlimited funds! I’ve just finished the boxset on the left, Dawn of the Clans, which are stories about the origins of the clans, so a prequel to Into the Wild. I’m not going to tell you why I’m blubbing, but I will tell you this: just read them. Or even just read Into the Wild, and if you are the right kind of person, then you’ll understand why I will never stop spouting on about these books. The Erin Hunter team has written other series about dogs and bears, but I’ve tried them out and I didn’t like them as much. They really are middle grade in tone, but you’ll find no such patronising writing in Warriors. Just stories that verge on the emotionally unbearable and characters that will stay with you for a lifetime. It’s a wonderful, huge and constantly giving world to fall into. Thank you, collective authors of Erin Hunter. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And as a fresh wave of tears surge down my cheeks, I bid you happy reading and leave you with a link to find out more.

www.warriorcats.com