If you could live in the age and setting of a book, which book, and why?
I always loved the Arthurian Legends and fancied myself in Dark Age Britain. I know it would be a brutal life and, compared to today, nasty and short too and I’d undoubtedly be a grubby serf not a noble lady! My favourite books of this genre are T H White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, which begins with The Crystal Cave.
Does it annoy you the book finishes well before 100% because the author mentions their other works at the back of the novel. Do you mind if the author includes a synopsis or even an excerpt?
It does, on the whole. I never mind a synopsis, or the blurb, but on the occasions when I’ve thought I had 12% still to go (there’s a kindle reader’s statement!) and the plot should still be thickening, it’s suddenly the end and I’ve got a chapter I don’t want to read. Even if I want the author’s next book, I really don’t want it now.
Are you put off if you see a book is part of a series? Or does that entice you, knowing that if you like it there are more books to enjoy?
Not at all. As a keen reader of fantasy, I love a series. I have also recently read some modern crime trilogies and far from putting me off, I appreciate the chance to get deeper into the story and to get to know the characters better. I sometimes think it must be harder to sell a series because you need the reader on board for the long haul. The author is asking for commitment on the reader’s part but the reader also looks to the author for a good outcome. I’ve never got over the total disappointment, after slogging my way through 6 thick books of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, to get to the end which I will not divulge (spoiler!). I felt totally let down. I have gradually learnt to trust authors again though!
Do you read the Look Inside before purchasing? Always? Sometimes, depending on the reviews? Never?
Only occasionally and generally if the author is completely new to me. If I have a recommendation from another reader who I know shares my taste, I will read the blurb and then generally go for it. If I’m not sure, or the reviews seem to be contradictory (why not? No two people are the same) then I might Look Inside. I can tell from an excerpt that long if I’m really not going to get on with the book.
Do you read for hours at a time, or in short bursts, or a mixture of the two?
In the day it tends to be short bursts but I read most evenings from tea-time to bed-time and then again in bed! I discovered recently that I don’t know how to work my own television! I never put it on but occasionally stop reading to watch something special. If it depended on me though, it would rust away in the corner! I love and relish the opportunity to have a really good soak in a book.
How important are reviews of a book to you? Would they influence your choice to buy it?
I do look at reviews but I look cannily, I think. If a book has lots of good reviews, I check to see if the reviewer has reviewed anything else. If it comes from a regular reviewer then I’ll take it at face value. If there’s a string of five star reviews from people who only have a single review to their name, then I take them to be his mates, his mam and his gran! Reviewers with a bit of experience behind them – not necessarily top reviewers but with more than a dozen, say, are more likely to make me want to read the book. I like it when they use the work ‘enjoyed’ !
Do you think you remain unbiased when reviewing books by people you know or interact with on the internet?
I hope I do. I try to. You have to ask yourself why you are reviewing a book. I’m doing it primarily to let other readers know what I think of the work. A review is only one person’s opinion and we all look for different things in our books. If I tell people that I thought a book was amazing because I like the author, then I’m doing the readers no favours and ultimately I’m doing the author none either. Readers will find it’s not as good as I made it out to be and won’t take my other reviews seriously; authors will think they are writing books I like when they aren’t. Eventually no-one will believe me! I have to say that usually I find a book I love and then get to know the author afterwards. It’s usually that way round.
How do you feel about leaving negative reviews?
It’s a hard thing to do. When I’ve loved a book I want to shout about it and I can write a review quickly and enthusiastically. I love reviewing good stuff. Because I choose books I expect to like then I often do enthuse about them. Why would I choose to read something I don’t think I’ll like? Sometimes though, something about the blurb or someone’s recommendation will entice me in and I find to my dismay that I really don’t get on with it. It’s maybe poorly written or the plot’s thin and predictable. Maybe the characters are wooden and unconvincing. I read a book recently where the man and wife talk to each other as if they’re addressing a committee meeting. I will finish it, and give it a chance but if I really feel it’s poor then I have to say so. Sometimes I’ve been awake for hours at night trying to think of ways to say it. It’s not fair to fellow readers to suggest a book is good if I don’t think it is. I would always say why I didn’t get on with it though. I think those reviewers that say ‘This book is a load of rubbish’ help no-one. You don’t help an author to let him/her think the book is good when it isn’t. You also don’t help the good authors if you try and class them all the same so as not to cause offence. I would always hope to be helpful.
Are you more lenient with regards mistakes if you know a book is self published, or do you believe the authors should have hired an editor to make sure it's the best it can be?
I notice mistakes. It’s just the way I am. However, I prefer to point them out to the author privately unless there are lots, or it’s a matter of poor style, in which case I might suggest the book needs an editor. I am aware that when I pay £2 or less for a book, the author isn’t being paid enough to afford an editor. Traditionally published books have the resources of a publishing house to ensure they don’t come out with errors (doesn’t always happen though!). Indies aren’t on a level playing field and I’m always pleased when fellow readers are prepared to help them out too. Even really good authors can’t proof read their own work. You read what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote.
So, to answer the question (!) I don’t expect perfection but I’m happy to help.
If something an author did upset or bothered you, would it stop you reading more of their work, even if you've read their stuff before and enjoyed it?
I’m not sure how this would apply. I would judge the book by the standard of the writing and the imagination of the author rather than any perceived view of his or her morality. I don’t need to like an author as a person to enjoy reading his/her work. Generally though, you get a feel for the person behind the book and I might be a bit shocked if I found they were up to no good!
So that's what I'm all about. Thanks Joo - it was painless really!