Thursday, 2 February 2012

Bookshelf Snooping - Joanne Hall

1. Your childhood favourite
It’s not very fashionable to admit now, but I was really into Enid Blyton.  All her adventure series (though not the Secret Seven, they annoyed me), but the Famous Five, the Five Find Outers, the “Castle of Adventure” series.  Ok, I realise now they were essentially all the same plot and she was churning them out like MacDonalds make hamburgers, but I was about seven and I liked the idea of kids going off and doing Stuff without the intervention of parents.  Also, I lived in the country, so it was easy to take a packet of sandwiches and disappear for the day and have adventures of my own without my parents worrying too much.  This was the early eighties, I guess it was a different world then...

2. Your current favourite
I’m going through an heroic fantasy phase – I say going through, but really I’ve always liked heroic fantasy, and the books that are coming out now seem more gritty and real.  It’s also nice to see female characters playing a bigger role in modern heroic fantasy, I went back over a few David Gemmell books recently and it was alarming to me that I’d never noticed how the women were generally relegated to a washing / cooking/ healing role.   I’m loving “Song of Ice and Fire” (who isn’t!), and Joe Abercrombie, and I recently bought “Wolfsangel” by M D Lachlan which looks great, so I’m looking forward to that.  And for light relief between all the slaughter I’m re-reading Lloyd Anthony’s “Chronicles of Prydain”, which I haven’t read since I was about ten.  They’re remarkably grown-up in their tone, and they’re making me want to go back to that classic British fantasy that came out in the 60’s, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner.  So I might read some more of that next!

3. Your top five authors
My top five of anything is subject to change without notice.  My top five authors this week are Isaac Asimov, David Gemmell, Joseph Conrad, Neil Gaiman and Diana Wynne Jones.  Ask me next week and it’ll be someone different.

4. Book(s) you’re reading now
I’m currently reading “P J Harvey – Siren Rising” by James Blandford.  It didn’t start off too promisingly; it falls into the trap of a lot of unauthorised music biographies of speculation laced with “facts” grabbed off Wikipedia and old quotes from the music press.  It got more interesting when he started talking about the late 80’s Bristol music scene and began to sound like he had done some proper research.  It’s one of those books that could go either way.

5. Book(s) you’ve pretended to read
I have pretended to read books, to sound clever *hangs head and mumbles*  That was when I was in college and I had no confidence.  I’m happy to say that I’ve now read most of the books I’ve pretended to read in the past, and most of them were books I wanted to get around to reading!  Can’t think of many titles, but “Lipstick Traces” by Greil Marcus was one of them, and I still haven’t read that.  It is on my wish list though!

6. Book(s) you’ve bought for the cover
I’ve never bought a book just for the cover.  If the cover’s good I’ll look at the blurb.  It’s a combination of good blurb and good cover, a decent blurb can make up for a bad cover, but it doesn’t work the other way round!  I remember picking up my first Terry Pratchett (“Wyrd Sisters”) because I’d never seen a cover like that – this was when Josh Kirby was still doing them, I think I was about fourteen – but I bought it because the blurb made me laugh.  Then my mum borrowed it because the blurb made her  laugh...

7. Book you’re a champion for
At the moment, I’m championing Stephanie Burgis’s wonderful Kat Stephenson Regency fantasies.  They’re like Jane Austen meets Dianna Wynne Jones, and I can’t wait to see how the series pans out.  I’m buying them for my goddaughter in the hope that she too will grow up and want to cut off all her hair and run away to be a highwayman.  If she does, I’ll know I’ve done something right!

8. Book that changed your life
“Dragonflight” by Anne McCaffrey.  A friend lent it to me when I was twelve (I say lent, I never gave it back).  It made me want to ride dragons, and, more importantly, it made me want to write about dragons, and it opened up a whole previously unexplored genre to me.  I blame “Dragonflight” for, yeah, pretty much everything...

9. Book you most want to read again for the first time
“The Robots of Dawn” by Isacc Asimov.  I think it might be the only book that I finished and felt so sad that it was over that I went straight back to the beginning and read it through again.  That’s a rare feeling, and it’s impossible to recapture on a second / third / fifteenth reading.

10. Book you turn to for comfort
“Winne the Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner”.  I still have the same copies I had when I was four, which are hardbacks, though they lost their covers years ago.  It’s like reading a hug.

11. Favourite line from a book
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere” – Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.  Such a succinct, smart way of saying “Oh dear, the end of the world just happened, and you missed it.”  Even now, when I’m wandering down the street and it’s a Wednesday that looks a lot like an early Sunday morning, I get a little unnerved...


  1. Loving the latest, grittiest heroic fantasy too here. Those books from Stephanie Burgis also sound interesting. That's what I like about this bookshelf snooping, lots of ideas and insight into authors I haven't read yet. I wish I still had my childhood books too!

  2. Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn't find a contact email for you.

    I recently put out an ebook of my writing, called The New Death and others. It's a collection of short pieces, mostly dark fantasy.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing a review on your blog.

    If so, please email me: Let me know what file format is easiest for you, and I'll send you a free copy.

    You can download a sample from the ebook's page on Smashwords:

    I'm also happy to do interviews, guest posts, or giveaways. Just let me know what you'd prefer.