After subjecting a series of readers to my questions I thought it was about time I actually answered them! They were actually quite hard!
Welcome to Alexandra (Alex)
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Buckinghamshire but I now live in Bristol (South West UK for the non-Brit followers)
On average how many books do you read in a month?
That really depends on my mood. I tend to have a book by my bed, usually something with short chapters to read before sleep, often oddly enough true crime! On my Kindle I have a novel, plus sometimes a paperback to read on the bus if I am alternating between books. A re-read will take me perhaps a week or so but a new novel will take a while longer. I would say between three and five average sized novels a month is my usual quota. If I really lose myself in a book I can read a novel in a couple of days, however due to work, writing and other commitments this is rarely possible.
What are your recollections of reading as a child?
I come from a family who have always loved to read and I was encouraged to do so from a very early age. As children we were often told stories by my late grandmother and my father and there were a good selection of books in the house. The earliest stories I can remember reading for myself were Thomas and Friends by the Rev Awdry, which are still very popular today. I love Flower Fairies, Willard Price, Narnia and books about ponies…
Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life?
Books educate, often subliminally. For me I have to exercise my brain a lot more reading than, for example, watching TV. TV or a movie present me with visual and audio stimuli and, for some part, the effort of imagination is removed. The characters are there before me and I can simply tag along for the ride. A book means I have to imagine the scene from the author’s descriptions, I can come up with what I think the author envisaged for the characters. Everyone will see it slightly differently, which is wonderful. Reading is a great way to discover new worlds, and new experiences. In a book all things are possible, even the impossible.
Reading also helps me relax, I can lose myself for a while and, as I said, it keeps the brain ticking.
What genres do you prefer and why?
I like fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, erotica, historical and fantasy romance, crime/mystery and true crime, plus classics and historical non-fiction, natural history and science.
History teaches us a lot about our own society and ourselves! I studied Roman history during my diploma and I still read some Roman and British history text books.
True crime and mystery intrigue me, why do people behave as they do, how are these perpetrators caught, why does history repeat itself? I like the macabre, the weird and unusual and a lot of what I read is quite dark. I think in many ways this goes with my love of history as I tend to focus more on the …less pleasant side.
Fantasy and sci-fi let me experience new worlds, fantastical creatures and people and the scope of creativity within these genres is immense. I love it!
Do you have a favourite book or author?
Not just one! I love Phantom of the Opera, The Count of Monte Christo, Lord of the Rings, Dune, War of the Worlds, Dragon Age, Ellis Peters, Terry Pratchett, Oscar Wilde, the Brontes and the list goes on.
I like Philippa Gregory, David Starkey and John Van der Kiste as they bring past into now. Their writing is not overly technical or boring.
Terry Pratchett makes me laugh so much. That man is a master of humorous fantasy. The adventures are exciting, amusing and the characters are great. It is very easy to associate them with real folk. J
Tolkien has such a believable world in Middle Earth. The history is very rich and although Lord of the Rings itself covers a short time span events from the past play a significant role. So much mythology is incorporated, and I think LOTR had influenced a lot of fantasy, as in its turn was influenced by older stories. Friendship and loyalty play a goodly part and of course good and evil.
I have read the Count of Monte Christo on several occasions. France was going through many upheavals and this history is pivotal to the story. There is revenge, deep delicious revenge and although Edmund Dantes does go through a little bit of a crisis of morality I find myself really wanting him to get his own back on those who wronged him. Edmund Dantes is a bit of an anti-hero, he is charismatic, devious and to be honest a bit of a bastard. He is also kind and generous to his friends.
I do try and support other indie authors and I really enjoyed the War of the Blades series by JD Hallowell, The Dreamweaver’s Journey by Diana L Wicker and many others. There is a lot of talent in the indie author world and my reading tastes have widened. There are so many good books which are, perhaps, not mainstream but still very enjoyable.
What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books?
I tend to buy e-books – mainly because they are cheaper and take up less space. I do still buy occasional paperbacks, especially from authors I really like. We don’t have much space and I have a back and shoulder problems so NOT having to carry around a bag of books helps me a lot. I prefer non-fiction and text books as paper books. Anything with a lot of appendices or such like I find much easier if I can flip back and forth. I still haven’t found all the features on my Kindle yet!
I have a few audio books but I don’t often listen to this medium, however they can by very enjoyable, especially on long journeys.
How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know? Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice?
I find a lot through Good Reads and the Facebook groups to which I belong. I do have certain authors whose books I will look out for and if I am in a book shop I will search the shelves for new options in the genres I like. I don’t live close to a library and as I have such a terrible memory I forget to return the books…
I don’t tend to put a lot of store in reviews as a reader. I prefer to form my own opinions but occasionally I guess they do influence me. I recently bought a history book, because it actually had a one star rating, the reviewer had thought it was a novel and the review was so poor I decided to give the book a chance. One person can love a book and the next person can hate it, with an equal passion. Pick any popular book on Amazon and most likely it will have a good selection of reviews, from 1 star to 5 stars and everything between.
When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look? What makes you turn away?
Synopsis first for sure! Even if the cover isn’t great I will certainly take a closer look if the blurb interests me. I don’t like generic covers, it may not be the case but it makes me think if the cover is generic the book will be. Although I can see why authors use the style of a popular book to try and promote their own. Really if I have bought your book it is YOUR book that I want, that said a really bad cover is a bit of a turn off.
I want a book which excites me, which makes my brain fizz and my blood pound. Or at the least feel like that was time well spent.
I can overlook typos and minor editing anomalies, so long as they aren’t overwhelming, at least if the story is good. I read a book last year and the spelling and actual writing wasn’t great, the author actually used the wrong character name and I was very close to stopping but I found the story so enthralling I persevered. I do have to say it is not only indie books with errors. I have found plenty of typos and mistakes in mainstream books.
I don’t like shallow characters and I do like rich world and character building. Well-constructed worlds make a lot of difference in whether I care what happens. I have a vivid imagination and I like to picture things in my head but because I have a poor memory it helps to have a good background. I read a fantasy book earlier in the year with almost no world building, very little information about the characters and it lost me pretty early. I found myself simply not very interested in the story. I read a lot of classics and authors like Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas are VERY info heavy but they are wonderful authors. The enduring books do seem to have a great deal of background and world building, Lord of the Rings, Les Miserables, Count of Monte Christo, Narnia, the Odyssey…
I don’t like prejudice in books, by that I mean I dislike a book whose subject is prejudicial. I don’t read religious books. I don’t read a lot of modern romance, preferring historical or fantasy romance. Books educate, even novels, and if that education espouses intolerance then I avoid it. Books can be very influential, a source of hatred and of adoration.
Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline?
Yes. There are a number of bookshops which have closed in my own town. It is sad but times change. E-books are cheaper, instantaneous and do not need a spare room in the house to live in. From my own point of view I tend to shop online, partly as I don’t like crowded places so I avoid busy shops. The cost of rents in high streets is expensive and many shops and businesses are failing, unfortunately.
There is something great about wandering around a book shop and I love second-hand bookshops. Some real bargains can be found. Last time I think I came back with a whole bag full…