I cannot believe it has come to the point where I am reflecting, writing and reviewing about a years worth of books read. And as I begin typing this I have no idea how I am going to approach it. Do I go with genres or authors? Kindle books or review books? I think I will just go with the flow please join me for the ride if you will.
Well do I have a book of the year? Yes but there is more than one? How could there not be? If you are going to push me then I am going to say Rachel Joyce – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. A wonderful story which was a slow burner for 2012 and now that it has been picked by Richard and Judy and winning awards towards the end of 2012 it is going to be blasted into 2013 for everyone to read! M.L. Stedman – The Light Between the Oceans. A beautiful story which made me cry and also makes you question the actions of the characters, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Simon Kernick - Siege. A thriller I read in a day, I was hooked, I had to keep turning the page. James Runcie - Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. The beginning of a set of books which feature a crime solving Canon, starting in the 1950s and moving through the decades. The books are also a delight to hold and own, they will look good all together on a shelf. Marika Cobbold – Drowning Rose a beautiful story which stands out for me because of the way it deals with grief and guilt and how it can people very differently.
Why these five? Well why not, but they are actually all new authors to me for this year and in the case of two of them debut authors as well. I hope to read more of their work in 2013.
So what of authors I have read before, there are favourites in there of course and it is just easy to mention them Trisha Ashley, Debbie Macomber, Veronica Henry and Katie Fforde who is fast becoming a favourite and I do not know why I have not read any of her books before! Again these are authors I intended to read even more of in 2013. If you want some great women’s fiction then any of these authors are a definite choice.
But there are some authors who I was left feeling a bit blah about – Marian Keyes new novel did not quite hit the spot with me, although in fairness it has been a while since I read any. It was a very brutally honest book which is perhaps why I was not quite comfortable with it. The same could be said for Dawn French and Oh Dear Silvia. A clever book, but for not as good as her first. But I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with. Some were complete misses and I think special mention must go to the 2012 publishing sensation E.L. James – Fifty Shades of Grey. At this point I just want to add a yawn! A rather large one. I read it, I was one of the masses (though it was a book club choice) and I stopped at book one, I actually stopped a few times in book one, to read something, anything in fact better written!
Now I want to rave about Lucinda Riley and her novel for 2012 The Light Behind the Window. I loved it, I do so with no payment from her or her publisher, just in case you think this is a case of sock-puppeting. This is simply just a reader enthusing about a particular author and their books. And I know I mentioned her at the end of 2011, but there you go. Her books have been such a great read nothing else gets done. Now interestingly media communications with authors have pushed me in some interesting directions reading wise and I am fairly laid back in giving most things a go. This was the case with Emma Burstall who contacted me as I had read her previous other two novels, and asked whether I would read her newest – The Darling Girls. Of course, the premise sounded good and it was my sort of book to be reading. I do hope someone takes this book up for printing as it is currently only available on Kindle and I am sure many would love to read it. Ironically, if I may digress it was Emma Burstall’s first book Gym and Slimline which sort of got me into reviewing in the first place. I contacted a magazine to see if I could be one of their reviewers (I have only ever reviewed one book for them) they sent me this book to read. Once it was published I stuck my review on Amazon and it was around that time I decided that I wanted to review every book that I read. And so four years later I am still doing it and it progressed into this blog about two and half years ago. Finally my third choice in this particular category of no definite name is Sadie Jones – The Uninvited Guests. It really captures the big country house, Edwardian standards, the beginning of a different sort of youth, and a mysterious element all of its own that it is a wonder and a puzzlement when you read it. It sticks out for the simple reason that if you have read Sadie Jones other work this could be a little way out there! Her fourth book is to be set in the world of theatre in the 1970s. How exciting to never know where an author is going to take you?
See when you start writing these review posts the words flow and then you go back and look at the books you read and you think well I really must mention them too – so please bear with me, the end is in sight and I have not even covered crime yet! A December read which has made it into this post is Kathleen Tessaro and The Debutante and it is here that I reflect that I have read for me very little in way of historical fiction in 2012. This book gave me the taste of it all again, especially when there is the dual narrative, in this case the nineteen thirties and the present day. Then I was back in time with Judith Kinghorn and the First World War, I look forward to her new book. Mention must go to Emyila Hall another book with a dual narrative which was so different and refreshing!
And now thoughts turn to crime. I have a tendency to focus a lot on what is called the ‘cosy’ variety of crime. Body counts that do not normally exceed 2, no blood and guts, simple tales, with a bit of a village twist (Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton), community feel (Joanne Fluke and her Hannah Swensen series) and historic setting (Carola Dunn and the delightful Daisy Dalrymple series). Of course the Queen of Crime is always a must read – Agatha Christie.
Then there is crime that has more than one body count (Simon Kernick – The Last Ten Seconds), slightly more graphic (Mo Hayder – Hanging Hill) , based on television programmes (Ann Cleeves – Silent Voices (Vera)) (Cath Staincliffe – Dead to Me (Scott and Bailey)), popular authors (Tess Gerritsen – The Surgeon) and American settings (Barry Lyga – I Hunt Killers).
It has to be said if it was not for publishers sending me books, the latter paragraph of crime would certainly have gone unread. I have been a bit more adventurous in that department in 2012.
So if there has been a lack of historical fiction this year, there has certainly been a lack of autobiography, despite many on my shelf. This is the staple read of my dad, and he is at the point, once his Christmas presents have been read in wanting more books to read. I need to crack on with a couple in 2013. I have a thing about needing to read the book before I lend it out! Strange I know.
Now probably what is strange to many people, is the lack of ‘classics’ that I read. (Do visit Savidge Reads, where Simon has discussed this in great length in 2012) I always feel rather a cheat in saying I am a voracious reader, when what I read sometimes cannot be classed as hefty tomes. However, I have come to the conclusion that reading these novels should be an organic process and when the time is right to read them, I shall if I so desire. That is how I have now read Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre and Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey. Not bad for me, even if I do say so myself. Now my other perhaps gap in reading knowledge is the many books I see on blogs about lesser well known women writers, blogging certainly brings them back into the forefront. So when I came upon Mary Stewart – Thornyhold in a charity bookshop I thought it was fate that brought us together. Such a great read, now I know what many of the blogs I follow have been going on about! The other is Elizabeth Taylor which Verity introduced me to and I read Mrs Palfrey at The Claremont. Again a book so beautifully written that I realise that there is so much more out there for me to discover with these less known authors and that blogging is enriching my reading every day.
So now for the statistics – I have read 110 books this year, including short stories, which is less than last year, but feels like more! Anyway it was more than 50 which really has been my aim these last few years. In 2013 I need to readdress this number. As for books on the Kindle it was 29 (31 last year) so it counts for about a quarter of my reading which I think is pretty good. I seem to go through stages of reading rather a lot on there, to tailing off and then picking it back up again to see what I have on their to read. The Kindle has a place in my reading life that is for sure.
And for unfinished books that simply stands at 1. More because of it being a hefty tome about The Mitford Sisters than not enjoying the reading matter. I think it could be a higher number, because I do persevere with some books when perhaps I should cut my losses and go “no this book is not for me, let me read something else”. Do I need to address this more in 2013?
So there you go my year in books, and actually I have not covered all the authors I have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to (I did not want to make this post any longer than it was!) and also I have really only touched on the challenges I set myself (see previous bracket!) so in the coming days I will be reflecting on all of this and of course doing plenty more reading.
May I say a Happy New Year to you all and I hope you continue to visit my blog and enjoy it as much as I enjoy the cathartic process of writing the posts and constructing it all. I hope I have inspired some of you to try a different book than you would normally do.