1. Do you consider yourself a mood reader?
Yes, and I’ve disliked a book simply for having read it at the wrong time before (it happened with Jade City by Fonda Lee, which I DNFed twice then loved); that was why I struggled so much with ARCs. The other way around seems to happen less often, and is difficult to tell apart from a simple case of Suck Fairy. The only case of which I’m certain is The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, which I read while getting into my favorite genre (adult sci-fi) and deeply loved but found hollow on reread (because part of my love for it was… probably transferred from other great science fiction novels I was loving at the time; I don’t know if that makes sense). It was good, just not that good.
2. Do you set TBR lists and do you stick to them?
Yes, I set TBRs, and no, I often don’t stick to them. I love lying to myself!
3. Do books affect you emotionally? Does the mood of a book rub off on you?
Yes, a lot, I’m an emotional sponge – that’s why I avoid sad books unless I know I’m also going to be so in awe of them that it barely registers. If it’s going to be sad, it has to be otherworldly, else I’m not going to finish the book. I’m already good at focusing on the negatives and at becoming sad for no reason, pain is cheap and easy to come by, I don’t need a book to also make me sad if that’s the only thing it’s going to give me. (Despite this, I’m not really drawn to happy stories either, and my experience says that if something has been described as “hopepunk”, it will get on my nerves.)
4. When you’re feeling sad, what do you read? (Or do you not read when sad?)
When I’m really sad, I don’t read; apart from that I don’t notice anything different (I’m always kind of sad? Who knows. What are “feelings”)
5. Most often, do you use reading to escape, to learn, or to critically reflect?
I don’t really have a goal, I mostly read out of curiosity (the main reason I rarely reach for sequels unless I loved the first book is that I already know what to expect…) and every story that works for me is good for different things. My favorite stories are, again, the balanced ones that are good for more things at the same time, but I won’t look down on mostly escapism (what, for example, Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic was to me) or things that aren’t escapism at all (like Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi).
6. What is a book that made you laugh out loud?
I remember that by the end of the first time I read Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee I had laughed so much that my ribs actually hurt. I wouldn’t describe it as a happy book, but I’m not sure I ever read something that made me happier. According to my sense of humor, the funniest thing to ever exist is very competent characters doing extremely unwise things that somehow kind of work. This book starts with the novel’s antagonist kidnapping a spaceship fleet and only gets worse. Also, reading a whole book while rooting for the antagonist even though you like the main characters is a very interesting experience. Raven Stratagem is chaos made book. I love everyone in it.
7. What is a book that has made you cry? Or, if you don’t cry, one that really moved you?
Crying can be a bad sign; the book that made me cry the most had a surprisingly homophobic twist and I read it when I was just realizing I was gay; there are many ways to be upset and that wasn’t a “good” one. Anyway, apart from that – I can say that some of my favorite books made me tear up in joy at some point (some books I remember that did: Crooked Kingdom, Raven Stratagem, The Wise and the Wicked) and that’s my favorite kind of crying, but there are also times in which I actually cry because of pain and it’s not for the wrong reasons. The book I remember the most for this is Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente in the section There Are No Firebirds in Leningrad.
8. What is a book that you didn’t even know how you felt about?
All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil. There are books that have been called out for “romanticizing” abuse when they clearly weren’t (see Never-Contented Things) and that I defend without question, there are authors who have been accused of extremely serious things for what then turned out to be bullshit reasons (see what happened to Tamsyn Muir and Isabel Fall) and I have no problem with saying that either; in a culture that is obsessed with policing stories about trauma in ways that ultimately only hurt survivors that’s something I always try to remember.
The thing about the controversy with All of Us With Wings is that this time it isn’t based on blatant or borderline-bad-faith misinterpretation of the text, but on the very role of stories, because this was – as far as I remember – showing a relationship between a 17-year-old and her 28-year-old employer in a somewhat good light. Given the author’s note at the beginning, I’m not sure I can accept an easy answer about this story being inherently harmful by existing, and that might mean I need to reexamine a lot of things to have an answer (but it can’t be a Simple Theoretical Exercise given my own personal baggage, ha.) For now, it stays there, awkwardly hanging in the corner of “I don’t know what to say about this”.
9. Are you more likely to read on a sunny day or a cloudy day?
Right now, I’m not likely to read at all! I don’t think it makes much of a difference for me, but I’m more likely to feel more strongly if I’m reading while it’s darker outside. It makes things feel more real and reality less close.
10. Do you usually “set the mood” when you read? Music, lights, smells, etc?
No, not really, that would take too much effort.
11. Can you leap from book to book or do you need buffer time between them?
I can leap from a book to another; the biggest obstacle for me is always starting the book, but that doesn’t seem to be influenced by other books.
I’m not tagging anyone because I’m tired and lazy, but don’t let that stop you if you like the questions! What is the book you’ve had the most confusing feelings about? Have you read any of these?