Saturday 30 December 2023

My 2023 reading

So, I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a good one? Ours was very much a family Christmas, quite busy, so I've just emerged blinking into the... well... not sunlight... it's December in the UK after all... more like damp and drizzle with the likelihood of more storms on the horizon... possibly even a tornado or two now, apparently!

December was, as predicted, not a hugely productive reading month, but that's fine. I read 5 books, 3 of them managing to be Christmassy in theme.

96. A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers

97. Who Killed the Curate? - Joan Coggin

98. Home Cooked - Kate Humble. Seasonal living in a farmhouse with recipes included. Delightful.

99. Haunter at the Hearth - edited by Tanya Kirk. To be reviewed but this was a better than average collection of Christmas themed weird stories published by The British Library.

100. Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon - James Lovegrove. I saw this on Lark's blog, thought it sounded fun, and grabbed it for my Kindle. It was fun too. All dark brooding castles  and weird goings on in the wilds of Yorkshire. Lovegrove has written a lot of Holmes and Watson stories, I've read one other and plan to read more as I'm a bit of a Holmes and Watson mood at the moment. 

So I made it to 100 books read this year... for the second year in a row. I didn't intend to, I intended to slow down but it just didn't happen. Oh well, perhaps I just need to read what I read at a pace that just happens and stop trying to fix what ain't broken. 

Of the 100 books 22 were non-fiction. That's ok, not brilliant but not terrible either. I completed the Mount TBR challenge and read 24 books that had been moldering on my tbr mountain since the dawn of time. I read 14 books for Susan at 'Bloggin' 'Bout Books' Bookish Books reading challenge. I also read 17 science fiction or fantasy books, which was one of my personal challenges for 2023. I consider that a success. (For 2024 I've set myself all kinds of personal challenges but more about that in another post.) 

According to the Goodreads thingy, I've read nearly 34,000 pages, the shortest book being To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers at 135 pages and the longest, The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb at 906. Apparently that gives me an average of 339! Who knew?

A few favourite fiction books:

I'm going to do non-fiction in a separate post, partly because of the length of this post but also because I read some good ones and they deserve their own post.

So, another year of reading under our belts. It's whizzed by. It's not just me, everyone says so. It's quite alarming really so I'm choosing not to think about it and concentrate instead on having a good reading year in 2024. Again, I will do a separate post.

Happy New Year to everyone who reads my humble blog, whether you comment or not. I hope you all have an excellent 2024, finding lots of wonderful books and having loads of fun reading them.

Thursday 14 December 2023

A quick catch-up

As always, this time of year proves to be pretty busy so I thought I'd do a very quick catch-up on what I've read so far in December.

First-up, A Closed and Common Orbit is book two in Becky Chamber's 'Wayfarer's' science fiction series. If you haven't read book one and are inclined to, probably best not to read any more of this review because there are *spoilers*.

So, at the end of book one the AI that runs systems on the space-ship 'Wayfarer' is transferred into a human 'kit'. It's so realistic that you can't tell she's not human. She becomes 'Sidra' and this is the story of how she moves to another planet with 'Pepper' and how she settles into day to day life. Pepper was at one time Jane23 and in this book we have a dual time-line, learning who Jane 23 was and what happened to her as a child and teenager. For me, it was Jane's story that grabbed me. The situation on her home planet was somewhat shocking but I loved her story and what saved her. I'm not a great fan of the AI sub-genre of science-fiction but this book proves that I should stop saying, 'I don't like' and just try different kinds of books that I'm not sure if I'll enjoy. Because nearly every time I do that I end up with a pleasant surprise. An excellent read and I already have book three for 2024.


Next, Who Killed the Curate, a vintage crime yarn by Joan Coggin.

A whirlwind romance sees Lady Lupin Lorimer married to a vicar, Andrew Hastings. She's staggered that what she thinks will be a quiet existence in rural Sussex is anything but and she's expected to be on this committee and that and even run the girl guides! Being young and more than a bit silly this is quite a challenge. When her husband's curate is found dead on Christmas Eve there's even more of a challenge as the police try to find out who poisoned him. Lupin, along with two society friends and Andrew's MI5 nephew, decide to help the police find the culprit. But there are so many suspects, due to the curate's secret life, that this proves to be an almost impossible task. This is probably one of the funniest books I've read all year due to the author's very amusing turn of phrase in her writing. I honestly laughed a lot. Unfortunately, I did feel she overdid Lupin's ditziness... to the point where she was borderline too annoying to want to read about. Toned down a bit this would have got 5 stars from me because of the humour and good characterisation as regards the supporting cast... although it was a bit hard keeping track of who was who. Plus, 40% in is a tiny bit of a long wait for a dead body... But a good, fun, Christmas murder mystery. 

Also just finished:

Home Cooked by TV presenter, Kate Humble, is a delightful book of seasonal recipes and ruminations about the changing seasons in the UK. She collected the recipes from friends and family and they all get credited, even a neighbour, 12 year old Freddie, who is apparently an expert on ice-cream making. Loved this and will definitely be trying a few of the recipes.

I seem to be currently reading four books. Not sure how but these are they:


Haunters at the Hearth, edited by Tanya Kirk, is a book of Christmas weird stories published by the British Library. I'm about three quarters of the way through and so far it's rather good.

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove is a book I read about HERE on Lark's blog. Only just started it really but again it's good.

Vesper Flights is a book of nature writing essays, concentrating on birds, by Helen MacDonald. Really superb and beautifully written.

This is Nature Tales for Winter Nights, edited by Nancy Campbell. It's a delightful compendium of exerts from books, by all kinds of authors, that are connected in some manner to Winter. This I'll probably let float over into 2024 as I'm in no hurry to gobble up its gorgeousness.

Well, I hope you're not too crazy busy in the run up to Christmas and that you're finding time to read good books. 

Friday 1 December 2023

Books read in November

Well, the forecast snow amounted to several small flurries as we set off on our short journey to the hospital, yesterday afternoon, so I was glad about that as the M5 in a blizzard did not particularly appeal for some reason.  I think we were on the edge of the couple of inches that got dumped on Cornwall, so it was bitterly cold with a biting wind, but little to no snow.

So anyway, that's the weather report for today (which is a cold, crisp, sunny day for those interested in that kind of thing, ie. me.) So... books. I read seven in November. It was a nice varied month with three crime stories read, a couple of autobiographies, and a couple of paranormal/horror books. These are they:

89. Behind the Sequins by Shirley Ballas. This is an autobiography by the head judge on the iconic British show, Strictly Come Dancing. It was a rags to riches story of one very determined woman and how she became a world ballroom/latin dancing champion.  It was quite simple really, she worked her backside off to succeed and all power to her. I enjoyed her book. 

90. Murder While You Work - Susan Scarlett

91. Journey to Munich - Jacqueline Winspear

92. Doorway to Dilemma - edited by Mike Ashley 

93. Rotten to the Core - T.E. Kinsey

94. A Game of Ghosts - John Connolly 

95. A Spoonful of Sugar - Brenda Ashford. The author became a Norland Nanny in the late 1930s and had only been qualified a short time before war broke out. She then ended up looking after nursery children while their mothers worked in munitions factories, plus there were also a lot evacuees. This was a gentle book but quite important in that it reminded the reader that even nannies did their bit in the war and that the women who worked in the war effort could not have done so without the likes of Brenda Ashford to look after the children. I learnt quite a lot from this one. There was sadness of course but Brenda had the wonderful, 'Keep calm and carry on' attitude of the day and I admired her greatly.

So, a decent reading month all in all. I seem to have majored on the theme of WW2, which is appropriate for November, but I found it quite inspiring and one of my personal challenges for 2024 will be to read more. There's so much I don't know about that conflict. 

I'm not sure that I have a favourite November book as the seven ranged from good to excellent so no duds. But if forced, it would be this:

For me there is no author like John Connolly and no hero (anti-hero?) like Charlie Parker. I hope he never stops writing this creepy, very thought-provoking series. If he does I think I'll just have to go back to the beginning and start again. 

My current reads number two:



A Closed and Common Orbit is book two in Becky Chambers' 'Wayfarers' sci-fi series. I liked book one a lot and, although I've just started book two, I think it has a lot of potential.

And this:

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald is a book of nature writing essays majoring on birds. The writing is just beautiful. 

So, onwards into December. It tends not to be a major reading month for me because it gets busy, but I have a few Christmassy books I'd like to read and some short stories... we'll just see how it goes. Happy December reading and I hope everyone is avoiding all the nasty colds and bugs that seem to be rife at the moment.