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?

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

rebel-of-the-sands-cover

Title: Rebel of the Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Pages: 358

Goodreads link

My rating: 4/5

Okay, I’m going to hold my hands up here and confess that I bought this book because of the cover. I’m so ashamed! But, to be fair, it is a stunningly beautiful cover with gold foil and the kind of blues that you want to spend the rest of your life looking at. Even if I hadn’t read Rebel of the Sands, I would have just kept it on my shelf for its cover alone.

Right, enough about the cover! Mind you, I do have one large piece of beef about the cover: it’s got one of those irritating and unremovable circles with ‘Like Katniss? Love Rey? Meet Amani’ written on it. Ga! I hate these things! Could you announce any louder that you’re being a me-tooing, bandwagoning, other-people’s-work-leeching publisher? It’s nothing to do with the author, but it’s lazy marketing on the part of the publisher. And the fact that I can’t remove this really burns. It doesn’t even need it! The marketplace is flooded with strong, butt-kicking heroines. The blurb on the back of the book is enough to tell me Rebel of the Sands features another one. I don’t need to be patronised by the obvious!

But, in reality, that little unremovable circle sums up a problem that I have with Rebel of the Sands. The desert setting and Middle-Eastern flavour were a big selling point to me for this one. It’s not unheard of, but it’s pretty rare in this genre, and I was hoping to find myself breathing in one heck of a lungful of fresh air. But actually, apart from the setting, there is quite a healthy helping of deja vu here.

Strong heroine with a few broken bits meets handsome stranger who rescues her from a dire future and takes her to a place where she discovers she has magical powers and a mythical parent and might be the key to ridding the world of evil. Oh, and by the way, the handsome stranger turns out to be a prince. Shucks.

I’ve heard it before. In fact, I’ve heard it a thousand times before, in every other female-oriented YA book.

However, there are some redeeming features to Rebel of the Sands, and these are the reasons I gave it so many as four stars despite my rant. Firstly, the writing is excellent. It pulls you in right from the first chapter, and it was really the opening few chapters that kept me churning through to the end despite my growing disappointment in an over-hashed plot line. Amani has an engaging point of view, and it’s this point of view that brings me to another feature I liked: gender discrimination. No, I don’t mean I’m in favour of gender discrimination, I mean that Hamilton really explores a world where women are treated with great inferiority compared to men. It’s the kind of exploration that gets my hackles up and has me hissing and spitting in my head. It’s a long way from Western countries, but it’s important that we stay aware of inequality around the world and that especially young readers have a taste of how it is for others. When you are looking through the eyes of woman in an unequal world, it makes you want to appreciate what you have more and fight harder for those who don’t have it and keep fighting until genuine equality is achieved. Forget the story, this is actually one of the key takeaways of this book for me, and sometimes there are more important things in a book than the superficial plot.

I will be reading the other books in this series because I think (at least, I hope) there will be more important things to come. And who knows, maybe the story will acquire some novelty, and I’ll be even happier. You can’t know what a pie tastes like until you’ve eaten it, after all.