Book Tag: Confessions

A pair of burgundy boots rest on a bookshelf of fantasy novels

Forgive me, friends, for it’s time for another book tag – and I confess I have a lot more Opinions, because this tag unexpectedly provoked some strong reactions! I adopted the tag from Mayri, who got it from The Book Nut, and it all started over at Laura’s Book Reviews (now defunct).

Which book, most recently, did you not finish?

I have several categories of DNF: from no thanks, not for me at one end of the spectrum to various shades of DNF for now. While I used to be steadfastly of the Mastermind school of readers (I’ve started, so I’ll finish), I now give myself the freedom to put a book aside if I’m not feeling it. Some books need a certain frame of mind; but in the case of my most recent DNF, it’s a technical/neurological challenge – the review copy is only readable on my iPad, which is giving me migraines. So while I was really enjoying This Is Our Undoing (Lorraine Wilson’s near-future dystopian debut), it went back on the virtual shelf and I’ve focused on physical books instead. Yes, blogging also sets me off – that’s why it’s been quieter than usual around here since June.

The last book I DNFed with no intention of going back to it? Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, which failed to grab my attention in spite of a great pitch and rave reviews. This is definitely a case it’s not you, it’s me – with a side of I’d probably enjoy this more on TV (see also: The Martian, The Collapsing Empire – some books just don’t work for me as books, although at least I finished those two).

Book cover: This Is Our Undoing - Lorraine Wilson

Which book do you love to hate?

If the book has teen protagonists and a love triangle, just count me out. Again – no shade on these books; they make many people very happy – but I don’t get it, and the resultant eye-rolling gives me a headache.

Similarly, if it’s an epic fantasy or grimdark series written by a bloke and largely about blokes, and has fanboys (or the author) defending its depictions of rape, sexism, homophobia and/or racism because it makes this <checks notes> fantasy world <gazes stonily to camera> more ‘accurate’ or ‘believable’ in some way <glaring intensifies> then yeah. That one. But especially if it’s by R Scott Bakker. Actually, that’s unfair. I don’t love to hate Bakker’s work; I just plain hate it.

Which book would you throw into the sea?

Other than Bakker’s? There’s no book – oh wait, no, sorry, of course there is. I would cheerfully cast Who Moved My Cheese into the waves, although I might apologise to the sea afterwards. In fact, I’d happily do without any book described as ‘a motivational business fable’. Boil it down to a pithy insight and pop it on one of those trite posters some people share unironically. And do not – ever – move my cheese. Although that has nothing to do with my attitude towards change and everything to do with my love of cheese.

Which book is your guilty pleasure?

I’m not sure I still subscribe to the idea of a guilty pleasure when it comes to books. For years, I considered all my favourite books guilty pleasures – as an adult, I was made to feel that reading SFF was childish and nerdy; not something you readily admitted to in public (especially in a professional environment) – and now the world has enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, the MCU and Game of Thrones and decided SFF is socially acceptable after all, I’m not going to sit here and throw shade on other (sub)genres. Reading is cool. Enjoy what you enjoy.

I guess my closest thing would be books I enjoyed that turn out to have been written by authors who have toxic attitudes or behaviours that I just can’t stomach. Forget discussions about cancel culture or death of the author; my rule is very simple – if I wouldn’t buy them a cuppa, I’m not going to put my money in their pocket or promote them on this little corner of the internet. But I might still reread them if they’re already on my shelf.

Which book have you read the most?

Some of my favourite books have been on my shelf since I was a kid. I’m in my 40s now, so that’s a lot of opportunity for rereads, and you can be sure I’ve reread them a lot. At this point, I can’t say which would take the prize, so equal honours to The Dark is Rising, The Chronicles of Prydain, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, A Wizard of Earthsea, and Katharine Kerr’s Deverry saga. More recently, All Systems Red and the Wayfarers books have featured prominently in my rereads – they’re already batting well above average for number of reads vs date of publication and I’m hankering to reread A Closed and Common Orbit because Ed mentioned Owl the other day. OWL.

Which book made you the angriest?

I have twice – that I recall – written hatchet job reviews after finishing books: one of The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman, and the other either Myrren’s Gift or Odalisque by Fiona McIntosh (yes, having hate-read one McIntosh, I read another in case it got better. Look, the blurbs sounded great and I was on holiday; I bought both books on spec and lived to regret it). But although I was deeply disappointed by all three of these books, they didn’t make me as angry as The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, which read like a checklist of all the reasons I tend to avoid classic SF.

Which book made you cry the most?

Book cover: I Still Dream - James Smythe (I honestly have no idea but it's blue an orange and curvy)

Making me cry is a sure way to my heart. Aliette de Bodard and Becky Chambers do it all the time. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger made me cry so hard that my beloved came rushing in to check I was okay (I was not okay). I Still Dream by JP Smythe made me cry so often that my beloved stopped rushing over to check I was okay, although he freely offered hugs as needed to make it better. He’s good like that.

Which book would you hate to receive as a present?

I’d love to say any book is welcome, but it would be a big, fat lie. Still, I’ll almost certainly be super polite and discreetly regift it later unless you try to give me The Prince of Nothing or Who Moved My Cheese – I think I’ve made it quite clear where I stand on those 🙃

Which book cover do you hate the most?

Outright hate? Not so much a specific book’s cover as a principle of cover art: major changes in art direction halfway through a series. WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO US PUBLISHERS? One of my favourite reads of the year is getting a sequel this week and the cover art is nothing like the (generic space opera, but classily so) art of book one. Hmph. I don’t love the new style – it feels very old-school – but my main grievance is that it WON’T MATCH. Ahem.

Which book could you not live without?

I can’t pick just one and you can’t make me. So clearly I’m going with my Kindle, which fits in my handbag (…woah, hang on. Handbag? I can’t remember the last time I used a handbag. Maybe to go out to a swanky restaurant in the before-times? Damn) and can encompass multitudes.

Fancy making your own confession? Tag yourself in and link back so I can come enjoy them!