Thursday 31 December 2009

Books for 2009

Well, it's that time of year and everyone seems to be doing it so here's the run-down of the books I've read this year. In one way it's been a good reading year for me, numerically anyway. I've read 76 books and that's the most I've managed since I started keeping a record I think. And I did read an awful lot of good books this year. 'Good' and even 'very good'. But the number I would call absolutely 'wonderful' were not that many. I suppose that's just the way it goes... wonderful books are, after all, a bit rare and I am in no way complaining. I enjoyed most of my reads this year and there were very few actual disappointments.

Anyway, this is what I read from 1st. January to date:

1.. City of Illusions - Ursula K. le Guin
2.. Bitten - Kelley Armstrong
3.. In the Woods - Tana French
4.. The Jewel of Seven Stars - Bram Stoker
5.. Runemarks - Joanne Harris
6.. Moon Called - Patricia Briggs
7.. The Valley of Secrets - Charmian Hussey
8.. The Reaper - Peter Lovesey
9.. Remember Me? - Sophie Kinsella
10.. Blood Bound - Patricia Briggs
11.. Larklight - Philip Reeve
12.. A Fatal Inversion - Barbara Vine
13.. Truckers - Terry Pratchett
14.. Crossed Wires - Rosy Thornton
15.. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
16.. Here, There be Dragons - James A. Owens
17.. The Sedgemoor Strangler - Peter Lovesey
18.. Morrigan's Cross - Nora Roberts
19.. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
20.. Diggers - Terry Pratchett
21.. The Good Thief - Hannah Tinti
22.. Touchstone - Laurie R. King
23.. Solomon Time - Will Randall
24.. The Circle - Peter Lovesey
25.. Daughter of the Blood - Anne Bishop
26.. Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper
27.. Wings - Terry Pratchett
28.. Last Rituals - Yrsa Sigurdardottir
29.. The Corinthian - Georgette Heyer
30.. Infernal Devices - Philip Reeve
31.. Snow Blind - P.J. Tracy
32.. Henrietta's War - Joyce Dennys
33.. New Moon - Stephanie Meyer
34.. Grey Souls - Philippe Claudel
35.. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
36.. Trains and Buttered Toast - John Betjeman
37.. The Accidental Sorcerer - K.E. Mills
38.. Father Brown - G.K. Chesterton
39.. The Shape of Water - Andrea Camilleri
40.. The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
41.. Skulduggery Pleasant - Derek Landy
42.. The Terrcotta Dog - Andrea Camilleri
43.. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
44.. The Rubadub Mystery - Enid Blyton
45.. Birds, Beasts & Relatives - Gerald Durrell
46.. The Rat-A-Tat Mystery - Enid Blyton
47.. We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson
48.. Endless Night - Agatha Christie
49.. On Hitler's Mountain - Irmgard Hunt
50.. Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror - Chris Priestly
51.. Inspector Ghote's First Case - H.R.F. Keating
52.. The Cruellest Journey - Kira Salak
53.. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
54.. A Christmas Journey - Anne Perry
55.. Good Behaviour - Molly Keane
56.. The Man in the Picture - Susan Hill
57.. The Ring O' Bells Mystery - Enid Blyton
58.. The Alchemyst - Michael Scott
59.. Relics - Pip Vaughan-Hughes
60.. The Coffin Trail - Martin Edwards
61.. Tales of Terror from the Black Ship - Chris Priestley
62.. Howards End is on the Landing - Susan Hill
63.. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies - A. McCall Smith
64.. Blue Shoes and Happiness - A. McCall Smith
65.. No Such Thing as Dragons - Philip Reeve
66.. Not So Quiet - Helen Zenna Smith
67.. The Snack Thief - Andrea Camilleri
68.. The Cruellest Month - Louise Penny
69.. A Gathering Light - Jennifer Donnelly
70.. The Sunday Philosophy Club - A. McCall Smith
71.. The Cipher Garden - Martin Edwards
72.. The Sea of Trolls - Nancy Farmer
73.. A Christmas Guest - Anne Perry
74.. Night Watch - Terry Pratchett
75.. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate Dicamillo
76.. The Land of Silver Apples - Nancy Farmer

I haven't quite finished the last book but expect to today.

As usual with me it's rather an eclectic mix of fantasy, horror, crime, YA, novels, and a very little non-fiction (though not nearly enough.)

I went through and picked out my favourites and ended up with 15. Which are:

1.In the Woods by Tana French - terrifically atmospheric crime yarn.
2.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - beautifully written YA horror.
3.The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - scary but brilliant dystopian tale.
4.Touchstone by Laurie R. King - historical crime, complicated and clever.
5.Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve - book 3 of his fantastic Mortal Engines series.
6.Grey Souls by Phillipe Claudel - WW1 story, beautifully written.
7.The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue - changeling fantasy.
8.The Secret History by Donna Tartt - psychological type crime yarn but much more than that.
9.Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley - YA horror along the lines of M.R. James.
10.The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - gothic yarn that is creepy, atmospheric and very nicely written.
11.The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards - first of a crime series set in the Lake District. Excellent.
12.Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley - most ghostly stories from this author.
13.Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith - what life was like for the female ambulance drivers in WW1. Everyone should read it.
14.A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly - coming of age story set in the forests of New York state in the early 1900s.
15.Night Watch by Terry Pratchett - Sam Vimes triumphs again!

If I absolutely had to pick a favourite from those 15 it would be:

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly. This was one book I really did *love* this year. Beautifully written with a main character, Mattie Gokey, who was engaging, loyal and intelligent. A wonderful read.

Non-fiction favourite - a tie:

On Hitler's Mountain by Irmgard Hunt
Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

I loved both of those too.

Favourite new author:

Chris Priestley.
Closely followed by Nancy Farmer and Martin Edwards.

Biggest disappointment:

There weren't many to be honest but this one really did not live up to my expectations:

Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts

So that's it. Another reading year has come and gone and I'm happy with what I read. I feel like I want to do something a bit different next year but I'm not sure what. Perhaps read a few less books but concentrate more on what I'm reading. I especially would like to read a few more classics, some Victorian 'gothic' style lit perhaps, get into the crime genre a bit more. And then there's my massive tbr pile...

HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!

Monday 28 December 2009

7 things I love (aside from books)

Pat over at Here, there and everywhere just did this 'seven things' meme so I'm nabbing it - seven things you love then, seven things you don't love.

I'll start with 7 things I love. (As Pat said, I'll leave out my husband, kids and grandkids as that goes without saying).

1. TV. I know, I know... there is some real rubbish on these days. Reality stuff I won't give houseroom to, soaps, 'so called' comedies... But there are also some real gems. The BBC still does fantastic travel documemtaries, cookery shows and intelligent quiz shows. It also makes excellent dramas such as Merlin, Dr. Who, Torchwood, and period dramas such as Emma, Cranford, and no one does Dickens better imo. If you're looking to spend Christmas money on a dvd you could do a lot worse than order Bleak House or Little Dorrit. I love them all.

2. A real fire. When I was a kid nearly everyone had a real fire. Then central heating became the norm and people did away with real fires in favour of gas ones. Since we've been married we've lived in six different houses and only in the first and then last two houses have we had a real fireplace where we can lay in and light a real fire. Honestly, in the depths of winter there is nothing better than settling down for the evening in front of one with a good book or a good TV show.

3. Sainsbury's grapefruit and lemon tea. I hate coffee and am not much of an ordinary tea drinker either. Truthfully, I like fizzy drinks far too much (Dr. Pepper being my fav.) So in order to stop myself drinking way too many carbonated drinks I drink grapefruit and lemon tea from Sainsburys. It has a nice sharpness and is very refreshing and also soothing when you have a cold.

4. Movies. I'm not a huge movie buff but I am pretty keen on seeing latest releases such as Harry Potter or Star Trek when they come out. The next one I'm dying to see is the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Hoping to see that on Wednesday.

5. My computer. Or rather the access it gives me to online friends via things like my blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. When it plays up I'm automatically unhappy and it's been playing up a little this Christmas. :-(

6. Savoury snacks. I really don't have much of a sweet tooth, I just don't eat cream cakes and so forth, but I do have a real weakness for anything savoury - sausage rolls, salted peanuts, crisps, homemade cheese straws. It's unlikely I will ever be thin.

7. The sea. I was brought up by it and it's in my blood, the smell, the sound, and just the simple act of being able to see it every day. We live inland now but Devon is a maritime county and luckily you're never all that far from the ocean. We live about 45 minutes from the coast and I get to see the sea fairly often.

Now 7 things I don't love.

1. Mushrooms. I just really hate them.

2. Medical programmes on TV where they show you operations.

3. The heat. Anything much over 80f and I'm no good to anyone. I'm better with extreme cold than I am extreme heat.

4. Some reality TV shows such a Big Brother and I'm Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. I just don't see the point.

5. Bad service in shops or restaurants.

6. People who are noisy in cinemas... rattling sweet papers, wandering around, talking through the film. GRRRRRRRR!

7. People in front of you on a flight who put their seat into the recline position and leave it there for the entire 7 hour flight. Why do I always get this?

Enough grumpiness... I hope everyone had a nice Christmas? I did but am also not sorry it's over. Some quiet reading time today would be lovely.

Thursday 24 December 2009

It's Christmas!


We have family arriving today so I doubt I shall be around very much. Just wanted to wish everyone who visits this blog a very Merry Christmas, while I have a moment. I hope your holiday is all that you wish for and more. I'm really behind with reading my regular blogs so am looking forward to catching up with everyone in a few days. Happy Christmas!

Monday 21 December 2009

Night Watch

I can't believe it's been more than two weeks since I posted here about books! Obviously, the time of year is responsible. I'm always optimistic that I'll get all the Christmas stuff done early and have time to read and every year it's the same - I just don't. But anyway, I have been reading a little so here's my first book for the Terry Pratchett reading challenge that runs through 2010, Night Watch.

Sweeper gave him a long, thoughtful look. 'Y'know,' he said, 'it's very hard to talk quantam using a language originally designed to tell other monkeys where the ripe fruit is'.

Sam Vimes is chasing a killer, a man named Carcer. He is evil through and through and has already killed one night watch officer. Passing through the Unseen University on the killer's trail something happens and both Sam and Carcer are transported back to when Sam was a very young policeman on the beat. The sergeant who taught Sam all he knew has been killed, which was not supposed to have happened, so Sam has to pretend to be John Keel in order that his young self learns what he needs to know and keeps on the straight and narrow. But there is still a killer to apprehend and things become further complicated when said killer joins the police force himself. How can Sam bring him down without revealing who he is and where he has come from? And then there's a little matter of a revolution that's about to happen...

Classic Terry Pratchett this one. A pacey plot that keeps you on your toes with all the time travelling details. *Lots* of his usual humour - clever use of language and wry observations on what makes us humans tick.

Legitimate First (a gravedigger) watched them go as they walked away. Sergeant Colon felt he was being measured up.

'I've always wondered about his name,' said Nobby, turning and waving. 'I mean... Legitimate?'

'Can't blame a mother for being proud, Nobby,' said Colon.

Spare and understated - Terry Pratchett always knows exactly how much to say to ensure maximum impact of a joke like that. It's a rare talent and it's impossible to overstate how very much I'm in awe of it. He's never spiteful or nasty, the digs are always gentle and tolerant and so, so true to life. Wonderful.

This is book six in the Sam Vimes 'Night Watch' series of Discworld books. They could easily be read as a series without reading the rest of the Discworld books and would especially appeal, I think, to lovers of crime novels. The first book in the series is Guards! Guards! but *my* next one will be Thud! Reading the synopsis on the inside cover, I'm already looking forward to reading it!

So that's my first book for The Terry Pratchett 2010 challenge which is being hosted by Marg at Reading Adventures. Always nice to get a new challenge underway.

Friday 4 December 2009

Three short reviews

Rather busy at the moment still. I've been reading but not reviewing much and am three books behind so it's time for another batch of quickish reviews. First up, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith.

Isabel Dalhousie is a single woman, a divorcee, in her forties, living in a nice part of Edinburgh. She's a woman of means who has no need to work, her 'job' being that of editing a philosophy magazine. One night, after an evening of classical music, she is a chance witness when a man falls from the upper circle of the theatre, to his death. To all intents and purposes it appears to be an accident but, looking closely at the scene of the accident, Isabel decides it is not and sets about investigating the mystery.

This is the first book of McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series. It's no good comparing these to his Mma Ramotswe books because they are not the same - though it seems some people on Amazon expected them to be. Isabel is a sophisticate and, if the truth be known, a bit of a snob. She's quite likeable though, as she goes about her business observing people and philosophising about life (in that respect I suppose she is a 'bit' similar to Mma Ramotswe). We meet her neice, Cat, and hear about her failed love life and how Isabel dislikes her current boyfriend, and Grace, Isabel's opinionated housekeeper who is devoted to Isabel. All good fun and I easily liked it enough to continue with the series, have got book two on my library pile right now as a matter of fact.

Next - The Cipher Garden by Martin Edwards.

Some years ago Warren Howe was murdered. He was a landscape gardener and was hacked to death with his own scythe in the garden of a client. Warren was a habitual womaniser and not a pleasant character; there are several suspects but the case was never solved. Fast forward a few years and someone is sending short poison pen letters about the case, including one to the new cold case police dept. in The Lake District, headed by Hannah Scarlett. The case is reopened and, with the unoffical help of historian, Daniel Kind, Hannah sets about solving this difficult and emotive case.

Another excellent 'Lake District' mystery from Martin Edwards. A good crime yarn but also quite a lot about the personal lives of both Daniel and Hannah. I like the way the author is clearly leading up to something with these two and am quite happy that he's taking his time about it. It's good on setting too, The Lake District is beautifully described and it's quite easy to imagine yourself striding out on some of the wild, exposed fells. The title refers to Daniel's garden which he discovers is hiding a secret as he tries to bring it under control. I expected that to play more of a role I must admit, it being referred to in the title, but that aspect was interesting nevertheless. A good second book and I will definitely be continuing with the series.

Lastly a Young Adult fantasy, The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer.

Jack lives with his mother, father and younger sister, Lucy, in the north of what is now England, somewhere around the end of the 7th century, AD. He's just an ordinary boy, loved by his mother but treated a little unfairly by his father who is besotted with sister, Lucy. Until he is taken on by the local bard as his apprentice and then it seems he is not so ordinary after all. The bard is from Norway and has lived there with the Vikings, until expelled for a reason Jack is not told. When a Viking raid occurs just a few months into Jack's training, Jack and Lucy are captured and taken across the North sea to the court of one of the viking kings, Ivar the Boneless and his half-troll and shape shifter wife, Frith. Jack mistakenly casts a spell on the unpredictable and bad tempered queen and has to go on a quest to save his sister. It's the adventure of his life... and might even *cost* him his life.

Thoroughly enjoyed this tale of bards and Vikings, 'berserkers', trolls and Norse mythology. It was great fun and very well written indeed. I actually thought Nancy Farmer was British because she made no mistakes whatsoever with the speech of the 'English' children, but it turns out she's American. Very nicely done. Lots of adventure, some humour, and some interesting references to Norse mythology and real Viking history. I have book two - The Land of Silver Apples - on my current library pile and am really looking forward to reading it.