Today on Chuck A Book, I am so pleased to welcome Louise Morgan, author of Blood and Feathers, published by Solaris.
1) The best book you have ever read.
Not everyone would agree with this one, but for me it's "Life: A User's Manual" by Georges Perec. My mother bought it for me when I was a teenager (probably as a joke) and I loved it. It's the story of an apartment building in Paris, and everyone who lives there - but the way the story's told is like nothing I'd ever read before (or since, really). The structure is really unusual, but the characters are so interesting and their lives are so well-described that you don't even notice how twisty it all was until you get to the end… and when you do, you want to pick it back up and start all over again.
2) A book you loved from your childhood.
- Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising". I remember reading this for the first time and being utterly transported by it. There's something so incredibly magical about the story of Will, who discovers that he is one of the Old Ones, caught up in the middle of a battle between the light and the dark. It's full of rich description and wonderful people, and there's a seam of darkness and danger that runs through it which I fell completely in love with. I read it when I was about Will's age at the start of the book (I must have been 10 or 11, and who at that age doesn't want to find out they're special somehow?) and I've reread it a dozen times since.
3) A book that made you laugh.
- "Babylon Steel" by Gaie Sebold. There's a lot going on in this novel, which is set in what you'd think of as a classic fantasy world. There's sword-fighting and politics and tension between different races and religions… but it's done with such a light touch that it stands out. While it's not overtly comic (it has some very interesting things to say about women in fantasy, and a really positive attitude about some challenging subjects) the supporting characters are brilliant. They're endearing and believable and very, very funny.
4) A book you could not finish.
- The dubious honour of the DNF goes to "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. And aaargh. I wanted to love this book, I really did. As it was, I couldn't even finish it. The story of a man's recovery from a horrendous car crash which has left him badly burned, it details both his treatment and his visits from a mysterious woman who claims they know each other from a past life. There are amazing ideas hidden in this book but they seem to have got lost somewhere along the way and I just couldn't get along with it.
5) A book that made you swoon.
- "The Three Musketeers". Athos, for all his bad temper and decidedly iffy attitude to many things, was one of my first literary crushes. Even if you discount him, this story has history, intrigue, spies, danger, brotherhood, comedy and lots and lots of fighting. What's not to love?
6) A book you can’t wait to read.
- "The Demonologist" by Andrew Piper. From what I've heard, everything about this book is the equivalent of catnip to me, and is making me decidedly grabby-handsy. Mention "Paradise Lost" and you'll immediately have my attention. Throw in Venice as a location, and a mystery to boot and I'll basically fall over myself trying to get at the book. I think it's fair to say I'm keen to read this one!
7) A series you have read and loved.
- The "Watches" series by Sergei Lukyanenko. The whole series revolves around the tensions between two opposing supernatural groups (collectively known as the Others). The Watches are, essentially, charged with keeping the peace between them: the Night Watch police the Dark Others, while the Day Watch keep an eye on the Light Others. They're big, sprawling books for an urban fantasy series (which, thinking about it, they probably are) but they also satirise bureaucracy in general, and Russian in particular. A lot of people got put off them by the film adaptations of the first two books - "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" but if you like your urban fantasy a little darker and are tired of the same settings, they're definitely worth a read.
8) A book that made you cry.
- Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife" had me in pieces for about the last third of the book. I was so utterly invested in Henry and Clare's story and desperate to know how it ended that when I finished it, I was bereft. It's also the only book which has ever made my husband cry.
9) Your guilty pleasure book.
- I tend not to see any book as being "guilty" - people should feel that they can read whatever they want. That said, I do tend to get mocked by friends for happily reading Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" (I've not really got on with his others, but I do have a soft spot for that one) and for my favourite of the Twilight series, which is "Eclipse". (Yes, and it's Jacob…)
10) A book that took you out of your comfort zone.
- Reading Haruki Murakami's "IQ84" was an interesting experience for me: it's very different from the kind of book I'd normally go for, and I'm still not entirely sure what I think of it (despite having finished it about a year ago!) It might not be my thing, exactly, but it's stuck with me - and while I couldn't say that I loved it, I still remember it… and that's exactly what extraordinary writing should do.
Thanks Louise. I have to admit to being slightly freaked out by your choice of book in the first question. Life: A User’s Manual is one of those unusual books you don’t ever imagine anyone else owning. I bought it when I was teenager but I still haven’t read it. I think I might need to now.
If you would like to know more about Louise Morgan: