Featured in the Book Blogger Spotlight today, I’m delighted to introduce you all to the witty and urbane Jake, from Jake is Reading.
First of all, Jake, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog!
Well I quite like reading, but you knew that already.
I’m originally from Australia and now live in London with my partner. He is an actor so we spend lots of time seeing shows, watching films, or sitting at the pub arguing about them.
I trained as a registered nurse in Australia but I’m still trying to get registered here. I worked at a laboratory for a few years and now I’m a healthcare assistant.
What got you hooked into book blogging to begin with?
I kept seeing ‘I received a free ARC’ come up in Goodreads reviews, so back in March I did some research and signed up to Netgalley. For a few months I was sending my reviews into the void that was my unused Twitter account until I came across @Girldavereads on a Netgalley thread. I learned about Book Twitter – and how to actually use Twitter – by seeing her activity in my feed. A few months later I was paying for a domain name and a website logo.
What is it about speculative fiction that makes this your go-to genre?
I think it’s the escapism. Speculative fiction is a playground for a writer’s imagination, something I’m far more interested in than crime or things I could encounter in every-day life. While I know there are thousands of fantastic books out there, it’s the sheer creativity and scope of spec fic that gets me excited.
What have you read recently, that’s outside your comfort zone?
While not necessarily outside my comfort zone, I recently read Afterland by Lauren Beukes and The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay. Both are dystopian pandemic novels that you’re more likely to find on the Literary Fiction shelf than the science-fiction/fantasy section. While not the type of story I would usually read, I really enjoyed how both books used exciting speculative elements to talk about real-world problems.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors, and why?
Eek I’m never good at these questions because my answer changes depending on my mood or what I’ve read recently.
For sheer number of books read I would say Robin Hobb. I’ve read most of her Realm of the Elderlings novels and a few books that she published as Megan Lindholm, many of them being favourites. I was only a casual reader for a couple of years but her writing really reignited my passion and I’ve been an avid reader ever since.
I think my reputation as a SFF blogger would be called into question if I didn’t mention J. R. R. Tolkien. While sci-fi has a long list of classics and notable works, Tolkien will always be the father of fantasy. Lord of the Rings was the first of its kind and I would say he has had as much influence on the genre as the mythologies he drew from.
In grade four or five our teacher read us The Hobbit, one of my first experiences with SFF. I can still remember sitting on the edge of my seat as he read the scene with Bilbo and the trolls!
I have to mention China Miéville who is a writer of weird fiction, a term that seems to have fallen out of vogue with the boundaries of SFF constantly changing, but it does describe his work well. He kind of just writes whatever he wants without any consideration for genre labels, and so many of his books are incredible. It’s this type of originality of imagination that I love about spec fic.
Another author who had a big influence on me is Tamora Pierce who is a well-known writer of medieval YA fantasy featuring awesome female protagonists. It’s no secret that SFF was once very much written by men for men, but thanks to Tamora and other writers like her my experience with SFF has been more inclusive.
I remember emailing her when I was eleven about my book idea, and she actually replied with some writing advice! I still haven’t written Dragon Blood and I’m pretty sure I’ve now missed the boat with that title.
I’m going to cheat for number five and just throw a bunch of author names at you who’ve written other books that I really love: N K Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Hannu Rajaniemi, JY Neon Lang, Alex White, Yoon Ha Lee, Robert Jordan and Adrian Tchaikovsky.
What’s one of your Top 5 fantasy reads and why?
I’m going to go with Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith even though I haven’t read any of his other work. I found this book in a second-hand shop when I was in high school and absolutely loved it, so it has always felt quite sentimental. The story is a blend of humour, sci-fi and fantasy but with quite a dark streak. I think I’ve re-read it three or four times, and it’s the only SFF book that I’ve managed to convince my other half to read!
What’s one of your Top 5 SF reads and why?
Umm can I recycle my previous answer? Probably Perdido Street Station by China Miéville, because it is similarly a blend of dark sci-fi and fantasy.
Interesting, I’m learning a lot about my preferences with your Q&A!
Audio books: Yes / No?
For me it’s a no. At one point I joined Scribd and was listening to shorter books (less than six hours) while I was cooking or cleaning, but I realised that I was rating them a lot lower than I would have if I’d read the book. I think having someone read to me sets the tone for a book in a way that I would prefer to have control over. An exception to this is Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children audiobooks which I loved.
What will make you DNF a book: bad characterisation, weak plot, lack of world building?
I’ve become pretty good at picking books that I know I’ll like, so I can’t remember the last time I DNF’d a book! For me the ending of a story is just as important as the beginning or the middle, and there have been a few times recently I considered putting down a book, but when I reached the end I was glad I’d persevered.
The last book I regretted reading was because it was just a little… boring? Not liking any of the protagonists didn’t help, and there were no story elements that were creatively exciting to me.
And finally, what aspect do you like most about book blogging?
Reviewing is the most writing I’ve done outside of work, so to gain a bit of confidence with that has been great. Although most of my grammar and punctuation is still guess work, I’m now slightly less terrified every time I share a post (was that sentence meant to have a comma??).
I also get a thrill every time an author or publisher I love interacts with me online. I recently did my first author interview and received my first physical ARC, both of which were SO exciting! And now I’m an interviewee on your blog!
I’d also assumed when I started blogging that I’d get a few civilian followers (plus my Mum) and that would be that, so discovering the book blogging and self-publishing community has been fantastic.
Also, free books!!
Jake is a science fiction and fantasy book blogger who spends most of his spare time either reading or stalking rescue cats online.
He posts reviews of upcoming and back list books on jakeisreading.com and loves unique, inclusive stories from publishers like Orbit and Tor.com.
Jake lives in London with his partner. They both really, really want a cat.