Monday 16 September 2013

A-Z Bookish Survey

This meme has been floating around for a while (Jamie always makes the best ones!), and loads of my favourite bloggers have already done it, including Katie, Hanna, Bex, Alley, Sarah and Laura.  Now it's my turn!  You know I can't resist a bookish survey...

Author you've read the most books from:  Probably Enid Blyton, as a little girl.  I read everything I could get my hands on of hers, including her short stories for younger children, Noddy, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, through The Secret Seven and The Adventurous Four to The Famous Five, St. Clares, Malory Towers...  My favourites were the Cherry Tree Farm and Willow Farm books, which taught me a lot about woodland wildlife and farm animals.  So many series featuring picnics and ginger beer, so little time!

Best sequel ever:  Ummmm.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?  That basilisk was bloody terrifying, zooming around in the pipes hissing about killing people, and Gilderoy Lockhart is just FABULOUS.  Seizure, the second book in the Virals series by Kathy Reichs, was excellent too - all Indiana Jones-style underground adventures and pirate treasure!

I can't even look at this GIF without laughing!

Currently reading:  Psycho by Robert Bloch.  Yes, THAT Psycho.  There's a new 2013 edition with a suitably freaky cover, and I bought the four Psycho movies in a box set to go with it.  It's great so far, but it definitely preys on the mind a bit.  Nothing says 'autumn reading' like a sudden urge to give myself nightmares...  :)

Aaaaah, Norman's so sweet...  Shame about the mother thing, really.

Drink of choice while reading:  Usually either coffee (normal at work, decaff before bed) or Twinings chai tea with milk and a little blob of honey.  In winter I sometimes have Ovaltine or hot chocolate instead.  Anything to keep warm in our cold shop!

Ereader or physical book:  I tried a Kindle, but I hated it and sold it on again for a fraction of what I paid for it.  Total waste of good book money!  I hated not being able to see the cover, I hated not being able to flick backwards and forwards easily, I hated the nasty generic type on the page, I hated not having the 'spatial awareness' of knowing roughly where I saw something ("about a quarter of the way through, on the left hand page"), I hated not feeling the physicality of the book in my hand, I hated not being able to peek at the top of my book to see how far my bookmark had progressed over the day...  Maybe I should have known better, running a second-hand bookshop and all, but I'm now firmly back in the paper camp and there I intend to stay.

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in high school:  They would probably never have dated my pudgy teenage nerd-self, but I always liked boys who were dark, clever and a little bit different.  Off the top of my head, my crushes could have included Ben Blue from the Virals series, Lochan from Forbidden, Dash from Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, and Jacob Black.  I'd definitely have crushed on Kevin Khatchadourian (yes, THAT Kevin - he's described as handsome, smokily exotic, smart and enigmatic, after all), but I'd probably have ended up shot full of arrows for my impertinence.

Glad you gave this book a chance:  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  I'd never had much interest in it, thinking it'd be dry and not my sort of thing at all, but I picked it up from the library and gave it a go.  It turned out to be my favourite book of 2012 and one of the best, most immersive and compelling books I've ever read!

Hidden gem book:  Eating for England: The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at Table by Nigel Slater.  People love his cookery books, and his memoir Toast is pretty well-known, but nobody really seems to have heard of this one.  It's structured a bit like Toast, in little mini-essays about different food-related topics, but it's more of a charming and whimsical celebration of British food and food culture.  Also, the cover has colourful rock on it, which makes me immediately think of summer and sunshine and donkey rides on the beach!  A fantastically nostalgic read.

Important moment in your reading life:  I suppose, going back to basics, the biggest moment was when I was reading The Wishing Chair as a little girl and the whole 'reading silently' concept suddenly made sense.  In that instant my reading changed completely because I didn't have to talk aloud any more and could read more quickly.  I remember it just suddenly working, like a jigsaw piece had slotted into place!

Just finished:  We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.  It's been a long time since I read a book whose characters and situations were so very real to me - I've been boring my poor mum to tears all week, bending her ear about bad parents and damaged children and the school shooting culture...  Fascinating, compelling, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read.  It's the best book I've read this year - and when I can finally get my thoughts together, there's a five star review on the way!

Kind of books you won't read:  Ummm.  Mostly I live by a 'never say never' rule with books - but I won't read Christian fiction or books about living the Christian Way.  I have it rubbed in my face enough, being an atheist in a rather conservative church-centred town, so I don't need to read about it too.

Longest book you read:  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  Not that it felt like 1200 pages, it was absolutely gripping!  It was also the first book I ever reviewed on this blog, which means I have a bit of a soft spot for it anyway...

Major book hangover because of:  Lord of the Rings.  I read straight through The Hobbit and all three LOTR books, so I was completely emotionally invested by the end and had been mentally inhabiting Middle Earth for several weeks.  I'd also seen the first LOTR movie in the middle of all this, immersing myself even MORE.  I think when I finally came to the end and closed the book, I didn't read anything else for a good week or more, just because I knew full well that nothing could top that.

Post LOTR-feels: I haz them.

Number of bookcases you own:  Just one, in the new house.  I used to have at least four, plus extras in piles and boxes, so the downsize has been quite dramatic!  Of course, that doesn't mean I've done away with all my books - it just means they're staying in their plastic storage boxes for now, half in my bedroom, half in my dad's spare room a few minutes away.  If I read and release one from the shelf, another one moves up out of a box to take its place!

One book you've read multiple times:  The Cat Who Came In From the Cold by Deric Longden, the first in his series of funny cat-based autobiographies about life up north with his wife (the writer Aileen Armitage) and an ever-shifting crew of feline friends.  My mum bought me this one when I was about eleven and they've been some of my favourite comfort reads ever since!

Preferred place to read:  The first thing I did in my new room was set up a little reading corner for myself.  Well, it's not quite a corner yet - the ACTUAL corner is still full of yet-to-be-unpacked crap - but I'll keep shuffling it backwards until it gets there!  It's under the main light, so it's nice and bright (I might put a lamp behind it once the corner's cleared), and I have a comfy wicker chair (when Domino isn't hogging it) and a Myakka table of solid wood, shaped like a stack of books!  Perfect for reading with a cuppa and a snack in peace and quiet...

Quote that inspires you:  "Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you." - From The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  I think it's a beautiful way of explaining how an individual reader brings his own life, his own memories and values and even deep inner secrets, to the table when reading a book.  A person sat next to him reading the same book won't have the same reading experience; if he rereads that book years down the line, he'll have changed and his response will differ yet again.

Reading regret:  Ummm, I don't know!  The only thing I can think of is starting a duff book on holiday last year and wasting three days of luxury reading time pressing through about 20 pages.  Poolside holidays are all about reading and good food and sunshine for me, so I was a bit annoyed with myself for not switching books faster and moving on!

Series you started that you need to finish:  I have to pick just one?!  Haha, I'm so bad with this.  Unfinished series I'm currently hoarding include The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, the Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter and even The Hunger Games trilogy - I read the first book and never carried on, for some reason...  A lot of the series I've stalled on are kinda fluffy reads - mostly YA and paranormal novels - so they're good for idle days off, readathons and holidays.  I WILL finish them eventually!

Three of your all-time favourite books:  Okay, I tried really hard, but I could only narrow it down to four: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  All favourites of mine that I've read and reread, and will continue to reread over the years to come!

Unapologetic fangirl for:  Chuck Palahniuk.  Rant completely blew me away, and Snuff was pretty daring too.  I've been steadily collecting more of his books ever since (Fight Club being the most famous, of course), because they're exactly the sort of twisted, depraved, darkly funny, rather provocative novels I love.  I'd pay good money to hear Palahniuk talk, I hear he's a fantastic speaker and a pretty amusing interviewee!

Very excited for this release:  I'm looking forward to the Hyperbole and a Half book that's coming out at the end of October.  Allie Brosh's website is hilariously funny and very insightful, so hopefully the book will be fantastic too!  I've preordered it already.  As a devoted fan of The Secret History I'm also looking forward to Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, though I'll probably wait for the paperback edition next year.

Worst bookish habit:  Buying too many books!  I can buy as many books in a week as I'll read in three months, which is inevitably either going to wind up with Mount TBR collapsing in a giant avalanche and killing me (what a way to go!), or having to cull a ton of books unread years down the line, which is a total waste of money.  BUT I JUST CAN'T HELP MYSELF!

X marks the spot! Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:  I've got all my potential Halloween-y reads on my bookcase at the moment, so that I don't have to go delving through boxes looking for suitably freaky books every five minutes.  The 27th book, counting left to right from the top, is Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane.  I've heard such good things about this one!

Your last bookish purchase:  This morning I found a copy of Hester Browne's brand new shiny book, The Runaway Princess, on the market for £2.99.  I couldn't believe it - I looked for it in Waterstones the other day and couldn't find it, yet there it was, already going cheap with a remainder sticker on it...  The nice lady gave it me for £2.50, because I'm the crazy girl who runs a bookshop round the corner yet still stops by her stall every other week to say hello and look through the new stock!

Zzz-snatcher. Which book kept you up way too late?  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier had me absolutely glued to the pages into the wee hours of the morning - quite a surprise, given that I'd expected it to be a bit dull!  I was also reading The Shadow of the Wind for most of the night - finally closing it as dawn broke, just as Daniel finished reading HIS copy of The Shadow of the Wind at sunrise IN The Shadow of the Wind.  Very meta!

I feel your pain, Joan... *world's smallest violin etc etc*