Books read

2018

January

  1. A Very Short Introduction to Classical Mythology – Helena Morales. Because I’ve registered on a short course on Ovid and this was on the reading list.
  2. Ovid’s Metamorphoses – trans. A. D. Melville. As above.
  3. Autumn – Ali Smith. I am only the person who doesn’t like Ali Smith. I mean, this was fine but, eh.
  4. Ovid’s Metamorphoses – Genevieve Lively.  This is readings of the complete work, which was really interesting and did help me a lot in understanding the structure of Met. as well.
  5. A Room Full of Bones – Elly Griffiths (audio). I’m slowly working my way through the Ruth Galloway series, so great to discover that I like them on audio as well. Gotta say, the supernatural elements of this one have me raising a quizzical eyebrow (Cathbad venturing into the Dreaming to save Nelson, who’s been cursed and is in a coma that is baffling the medical profession), but hey, at least the drug smuggling, horse training plot is ok.
  6. Dying Fall – Elly Griffiths (audio).
  7. The Outcast Dead – Elly Griffiths (audio).
  8. Brilliance – Markus Sakey.

February

  1. The Ghost Fields – Elly Griffiths (audio).
  2. The Woman in Blue – Elly Griffiths (audio).
  3. A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab.
  4. The Aeneid – trans. Robert Fagles.
  5. The Lie of the Land – Amanda Craig.
  6. Force of Nature – Jane Harper.

2017

  1. Blue Door Venture – Pamela Brown.
  2. Truly, Madly, Guilty – Liane Moriarty (audio).
  3. Dragon’s Claw – Peter O’Donnell. Because it turns out I didn’t want to read anything on my TBR pile, I wanted to read about Modesty Blaise instead
  4. Real Tigers – Mick Herron. These are all fab.
  5. Amy & Isabelle – Elizabeth Strout.
  6. Snow Blind – Ragnar Jonasson. For me, this suffered from being a first novel and in translation. It was good but a bit thin.
  7. American Housewife – Helen Ellis.
  8. Daughter of the Wolf – Victoria Whitworth.
  9. Watch Her Disappear – Eva Dolan.
  10. A Dance to the Music of Time (vol 1) – Anthony Powell (audio).
  11. Haunted Castles – Ray Russell. A lovely collection of Gothic tales, how had I never heard of him before?
  12. The Last Voice You Hear – Mick Herron (audio). Second in the Oxford series and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. There’s always the nice Oxfordness, of course (namecheck of Borders! I liked that Borders), and Zoe is an indomitable character.
  13. Giving up the Ghost – Hilary Mantel. In a lovely, pale yellow, clothbound Slightly Foxed edition that is the perfect size for one’s hand. I feel, when reading it, that I should be on a steam train somewhere in the 40s, possibly at risk of getting a smut in my eye.
  14. All Passion Spent – Vita Sackville-West.
  15. Thus Was Adonis Murdered – Sarah Caudwell.
  16. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John Le Carre.
  17. The Smell of Summer Grass – Adam Nicolson.
  18. Little Men – Louisa May Alcott.
  19. The Wrong Knickers – Bryony. In all honesty, I went to London and forgot to take a book and this was what I could find in Smith’s at Marylebone for the return journey.
  20. Diamond Star Halo – Tiffany Murray. I didn’t even know she’d written more than Sugar Hall. Loved the characters and the prose of this but actually would have liked more of it, as a great big sprawling family saga.
  21. Resistance – Owen Sheers. I heard the movie being discussed on Front Row years ago, but never saw it playing anywhere. Not a huge fan of counter-factual stuff but the small scale of this sounds interesting. And it was, although tending inevitably to tragedy.
  22. Harriet – Jilly Cooper. I don’t even remember when I last romped through all these quick romances. This was a junk food snack.
  23. Daughter of the Empire – Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts – Much as above. Surprised by how much I remember as I went along. Don’t need to read the rest of the trilogy.
  24. Night Waking – Sarah Moss.
  25. The Bird Tribunal – Agnes Ravatn. Lordy.
  26. Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift.
  27. St Clare’s – Enid Blyton. Picked up a three vols in one and had a happy hour or so on Sunday afternoon revisiting my youth. Remembered very little of it, I always preferred Malory Towers.
  28. Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored – Philippe Georget. A grand thing about a day out on your own is all the reading time you get as well as being out. Consequently, I read on the train, over lunch, during the interval at the theatre so there were only a handful of a pages to get through when I got home. Loved this, character driven police procedural.
  29. Madame Solario – Gladys Huntington. This is dragging for me, so I’m going to have to blitz it to get through it.
  30. Good Clean Fight – Derek Robinson.
  31. Skating to Antarctica – Jenny Diski.
  32. Spook Street – Mick Herron. Another outing for Jackson Lamb, another day survived for the Slow Horses. Well, most of them. I’m glad to see Catherine Standish back.
  33. And the Rest Is History – Jodi Taylor (audio). There are times when all the driving that my job brings with it is a good thing, and those times are mostly when there’s a good audiobook to be listened to.
  34. The Dry – Jane Harper (audio).
  35. A Dance to the Music of Time, 2nd movement – Anthony Powell. I listened to vol 1 again on audio and fell straight back under the spell, so I shall work my way through the rest.
  36. The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway.
  37. A Dance to the Music of Time, 3rd movement – Anthony Powell. On audio.
  38. Every Dead Thing – John Connolly. My first foray into the Charlie Parker novels, and I liked it but it didn’t quite live up to expectations.
  39. Die Trying – Lee Child. My second foray into Jack Reacher novels, and I’m firmly hooked on these.
  40. The Water Rat of Wanchai – Ian Hamilton. Which I had to import from Amazon US, which means that these are going to be tiresomely tricky to get hold of. I liked it, Ava Lee is actually a nasty piece of work, accomplished and ruthless.
  41. The Girls – Emma Cline. This one did live up to the hype, perfectly encapsulating that teenage need to be seen, and the blind gratitude that can go along with that.
  42. The Stopped Heart – Julie Myerson. God, it took me weeks to read this. It was the sense of impending tragedy that did it, which must mean the author was successful in building up the suspense. I just didn’t want to know what happened, so I resisted the book. So then that meant that I read it in a really disjointed way, so it never came alive for me. Effectively I read it doing there reading equivalent of sticking my fingers in ears and singing ‘La la la, I can’t hear you’.
  43. Full Dark House – Christopher Fowler (audio). The first in the Bryant & May series, and the last for me. I did like the idea that it started at the end, with one of the now elderly detectives investigating the presumed death of t’other one (I’m afraid I couldn’t remember which was which). Meanwhile, it also replayed their first case together, with the two stories intertwining. But blimey, there were some real pacing issues, at least to my ears. Bloody great long bits that went nowhere at all. Plus there were some really obvious overlooked clues (the door that’s always locked and yet you’ve got a mysterious character prowling around the theatre, oh give me a break).  And Fowler did that thing when, in order to avoid too much repetition of a character’s name, he used a noun instead. So, ‘the chorine’ or ‘the tycoon’. I hate that. Yeah. No.
  44. The Clocks in This House all Tell Different Times – Xan Brooks.
  45. A Dance to the Music of Time, vol 4  – Anthony Powell.
  46. Heliopolis – James Scudamore.
  47. Autumn, All the Cats Return – Philippe Georget.
  48. Boy A – Jonathan Trigell.
  49. Crisis – Frank Gardner. I was on holiday and ran out of books and had to read the boyfriend’s.
  50. Betrayal – Will Jordan. As above.
  51. The Power – Naomi Alderman (audio).
  52. Tripwire – Lee Child.
  53. The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett.
  54. Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? – Paul Cornell.
  55. Freya – Anthony Quinn.
  56. A Way through the Woods – Nigel Balchin.
  57. Maplecroft – Cherie Priest.
  58. Darkness Falls from the Air – Nigel Balchin.
  59. Rather Be the Devil – Ian Rankin. I’m enjoying Malcolm Fox’s gradual falls from grace the more time he spends with Rebus. Also, oddly glad to see Big Ger out of retirement.
  60. Shelter – Sarah Franklin.
  61. The Widow’s Confession – Sophia Tobin (audio).
  62. The Crimes of Winter – Philippe Georget.
  63. The Land of the Green Man – Caroline Larrington.
  64. The Letter of Marque – Patrick O’Brian.
  65. A Presumption of Death – Jill Paton Walsh (audio). A faux Peter and Harriet book, and tempting thought it is to want their story to continue, Walsh is not Sayers and knows it. This was tethered to previous characters, notably from Busman’s Honeymoon but it was still only a faint echo of the real thing.
  66. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women – Siri Hustvedt. I’ve read a couple of her novels but hadn’t realised she was also a lecturer in psychiatry. The introduction to the book is intimidating enough, so I’m thinking I’ll be dipping in and out of this one.
  67. The Thirteen Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian.
  68. The Nutmeg of Consolation – Patrick O’Brian.
  69. The Children of Cherry Tree Farm – Enid Blyton.
  70. The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief – Lisa Tuttle.
  71. Clarissa Oakes – Patrick O’Brian.
  72. The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian.
  73. Seven Days of Us – Francesca Hornak.
  74. The Hundred Days – Patrick O’Brian.
  75. The Gunslinger – Steven King. Meh. First vol in the 7-book Dark Tower series, which I was pretty excited about. But, I had to force myself through this like I was doing homework. So nope.
  76. The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss.
  77. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith. Well, I watched the first episode on TV and thought re-reading it would be quicker. But I may watch the rest as well, if I remember.
  78. The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith. Inevitable, after the above.
  79. Uprooted – Naomi Novak.
  80. Love and be Wise – Josephine Tey. How came an unread Tey to be hiding on the bookshelves?
  81. Sylvester – Georgette Heyer (audio). Which I liked much better this time around although somewhat disconcerted at first when I realised the narrator was Adam from The Archers.
  82. Why We Die – Mick Herron (audio). The penultimate Zoe Boehm story and I like her very much.
  83. The Long and the Short of It – Jodi Taylor (audio). Hurrah, the St Mary’s short stories all collected in one volume.
  84. The Disciples of Las Vegas – Ian Hamilton. The second in the Ava Lee series, and really, she’s getting tougher. Not sure I like Ava, but she is ruthlessly effective at getting information out of people. I didn’t really think she’d start cutting off fingers…
  85. The Visitor – Lee Child. My birthday read, on the train, over brunch, over a sneaky mid afternoon glass of champagne.
  86. Echo Burning – Lee Child.  Because one dose of Jack Reacher isn’t enough… Not my favourite but still unputdownable.
  87. Whisky from Small Glasses – Denzil Meyrick. The first DCI Daley book, and probably the last for me. I found it perfectly competent but there’s nothing new here.
  88. The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – Mindy Mejia. A somewhat desperate airport buy that turned out to be a surprisingly good read. I’ve got more of a soft spot for the buried secrets of small American towns than small Scottish ones, it seems.
  89. Smoke and Whispers – Mick Herron. The last Zoe Boehm novel and it’s not a spoiler to say that I don’t know if she’s dead or not. The book starts with a body in the Tyne that is near enough in appearance and wearing Zoe’s clothes, with Zoe’s belongings. But, Zoe’s old friend Sarah starts digging… I’m mid way through and I can’t call it.
  90. The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K Leguin – Ursula K LeGuin.
  91. Tales from Earthsea – Ursula LeGuin.
  92. The White Silence – Jodi Taylor (audio). Oh, sigh. I really wanted to like this and it started off as promising. But. It was a mess. I get that Elizabeth Cage is on a journey of self-discovery, but did she have to be such a pathetic character to start with? And then there was a whole chunk of dream sequence following a bang on the head. Twists within twists, fine but the ole’ Dallas approach? Sigh again.
  93. The Party – Elizabeth Day (audio). Oh I do love an unreliable narrator, and this novel had one, plus his wife whose own story acted as a bit of a corrective.
  94. Without Fail – Lee Child.
  95. Swing Time – Zadie Smith.
  96. House of Birds – Morgan McCarthy.
  97. Electric Dreams – Philip K Dick.
  98. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick. Well, with a new Bladerunner movie coming out, what was I supposed to do?
  99. Sirens – Joseph Knox (audio).
  100. Crazy, Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan. Birthday present from Marcy, nice, fun read for a wet Sunday afternoon.
  101. The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson. Borrowed it from a colleague at work and while it’s been a bit slow going, now I have to read the rest of the trilogy.
  102. Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson. Which I romped through and am now waiting for my colleague to catch up, and for vol 3 to come out.
  103. The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell. Huge, gothic sigh. My pet hate in historical novels is when the characters seems like modern day people dropped in to a rickety historical setting. Before anyone writes a novel in an historical setting, they should read Hilary Mantel. Then, most of them should give up. This could have been creepy enough except that both the narrative and the meta-narrative felt as flat as the boards on which the companions were painted. Great production values for the hb though, it’s a beautiful looking book.
  104. The Vanishers – Heidi Julavits.
  105. Bridge of Birds – Barry Hughart. Oh, how many times have I read this? I gave my copy to a charity shop years ago, and had to buy a second hand edition as a replacement. I almost expected to see my own name in the front of it. A satisfying Chinese fairy tale.
  106. Oathbringer – Brandon Sanderson. So that wrapped up that trilogy, not exactly neatly. Felt like one took a long time to get going, and also that a load of minor characters introduced in the first couple of volumes then also had to be shoehorned into the grand finale. Still, all jolly entertaining stuff.
  107. Winter Warriors – David Gemell. Unaccountably, this was my first Gemell and lent to me by a colleague (who also introduced me to Sanderson). I had a timely return train trip to Cardiff, which allowed me the perfect amount of reading time. Liked this, it is just me who appreciates it when not every one of the plucky band of unlikely heroes survives?
  108. Sister – Rosamund Lupton (audio). A nicely done thriller, with Beatrice called home from the US because her younger sister, Tess, is missing. Tess is subsequently found to have committed suicide – or was it murder? Well, of course it was, but as the police don’t think so it falls to Beatrice to investigate. There are plenty of red herrings, Beatrice is a potentially unreliable narrator and a good twist at the end. I did get a bit fed up of their amazing sisterly bond, but maybe that’s realistic.
  109. How to Find Love in a Bookshop – Veronica Henry (audio). Started off promisingly, degenerated to a very weak story. Charming naif inherits bookshop from unworldly father, mean local property developer wants the premises and bribes his handsome-but-weak stooge to somehow seduce her into selling. That sub-plot never gets going but is held in the wings until needed. Meanwhile, various local inhabitants find love via some vague connection with the bookshop. Eyeroll,
  110. The Tollgate – Georgette Heyer (audio). Ages since I read this one and it’s not her strongest but setting that aside, it does have some great characters and pleasingly cold blooded solution to the problem of the dodgy ones.
  111. The Collected Memoirs – Julian MacLaren-Ross. Who was the model for X Trapnel and apparently did indeed always carry a cane. Great, engaging stuff, about his unconventional boyhood, early years trying to write, time in the army and life in Soho. 40s and 50s London always sounds glamorously seedy, suspect it was just plain seedy. Some of the army stuff reminds me of both Greene and Powell, possibly unsurprising since he was definitely a fan of Greene.
  112. Flaneuse – Lauren Elkin
  113. Women & Power – Mary Beard. Well, obviously. And yes, the ways that women are silenced and have been date back to the Romans and beyond absolutely stacks up for me. Hard for it not to when simply by being a woman you get to live the experience.
  114. Different Class – Joanne Harris. I had no idea she wrote ‘literary psychological thrillers’ but there you go. I found that the character of Straitley undercut the thriller bit somewhat, but I’m always disturbed by characters who like killing animals and particularly so when you get their narration. The twist was a bit meh but this was fine.
  115. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper.
  116. House of Cards – Michael Hobbs.
  117. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci – Diane Wynne Jones.
  118. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci vol 2 – Diane Wynne Jones.
  119. The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett.

2016

  1. Early Warning – Jane Smiley.
  2. Slade House – David Mitchell. Better than Bone Clocks.
  3. The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles.
  4. The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley.
  5. The Ministry of Fear – Graham Greene.
  6. The Children Act – Ian McEwan.
  7. Troubles – J. G. Farrell. I didn’t realize this was the first volume in the Empire trilogy. I read The Siege of Krishnapur (vol 2) years ago, and I can see the relationship between them, in tracking the ending of an era and the head in the sand blindness to reality of some of the representatives of Empire. Troubles has the same dark, deadpan humor I remember, without quite the same level of tragedy.
  8. Love All – Elizabeth Jane Howard. I think Picador are doing the author a disservice by blurbing her books as though they’re chicklit. I raced through this, which was a pleasingly complex and beautifully written discourse on love, family relationships and sacrifice.
  9. Tell No Tales – Eva Dolan. Bought this in pb, entirely forgetting that at some point last year I bought and read the hb. I must have lent it to someone. As soon as I started reading, I knew it was familiar, but a good set up to go into vol 3!
  10. Venetia – Georgette Heyer. Comfort reading.
  11. Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer. Ditto.
  12. Over Sea, under Stone – Susan Cooper. Ditto.
  13. After you Die – Eva Dolan. Third in the Zigic and Ferreira series and I think it’s my favourite so far. Good to see the Hate Crimes Unit dealing with something other than racially motivated attacks, and also to see them broadening their area of operations to a more rural spot.
  14. Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian. Took a day off and visited old ships at Portsmouth; I hadn’t read Aubrey/Maturin when I visited before, so I immediately headed back to the series. And once you’ve started, it’s hard to stop…
  15. HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian.
  16. The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian.
  17. Disclaimer – Renee Knight. Ok, I didn’t so much read this as force my way through the first 57 pages and then give up in total despair. It is so, so bad.
  18. Curtain Call – Anthony Quinn.
  19. The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks. Because the way trailers work for me is: ‘Oh, I think that’s based on a book’. Watches trailer. ‘That looks good, I think I’ll read that.’
  20. American Gods – Neil Gaiman.
  21. Just Between Us – Um, don’t remember the author. Just bought it to read on the ‘plane and forgotten it already.
  22. The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge. Wow, was this disappointing. I just never bought into it, and I always struggle with literature set in an historical period that then has characters who seem totally out of place.
  23. Front Lines – Michael Grant. Loved this counter-factual history that assumed women got to fight in WWII. Looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
  24. The Long Life – Elizabeth Howard. Howard never disappoints and I particularly liked the structure of this, as each section went further back in time throughout the heroine’s life. It’s a painful story of a painful marriage, but lays bare the realities of women’s choice, and lack of choice, at the time.
  25. A Sort of Life – Graham Greene. My Blackwell’s book of the month, and a nice bit of biography. Very surprising to me that Greene wasn’t successful – I’d always assumed his place in the canon had been contempory with his writing career, but not at all.
  26. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline. Fun read about a dystopian future where everyone spends most of their time in the OASIS, a virtual paradise that’s an escape from everyday life. A teen hero has to track the clues to win ownership of OASIS after the creator’s death, and save it from the evil corporate that wants to take it over. Lots of 80s references and heavily gaming influenced but I’m interested to see what’s made of it in film.
  27. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware. This is the second novel from this author that I’ve read, and I’ve been lucky enough to score both in ARC copies. I thought this was better. It had the hallmarks of a classic whodunnit, set on a cruise ship with a limited cast of characters. Throw in a narrator who may or may not be unreliable and I stayed up until I’d finished it. I had my suspicions, but there was a suitable tense ending. I can see the film already…
  28. Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet  – Daisy Dunn. The author was speaking as part of the Oxford Literary Festival, so I went along and was very pleased to dip a toe back into classical waters. I quite liked the book but I did feel that the author had let her theory run away with her, and some of the translations of the poems feel a bit clunky. Still, it was good to read more about Catullus as a person than I have before, and it was good to have a reminder of what exciting times he lived in. It may be time to revisit Syme.
  29. Dune – Frank Herbert. I first read this when I was in my mid teens and I’m interested to see if it stands the test of time. I was also shocked to find out how early it was written: 1968, predating not only Neuromancer, but Star Wars!
  30. Just One Damned Thing after Another – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook. I don’t even remember how I stumbled across this series, it might have been an Audible recommendation. As can be seen from the list below, I’m hooked.
  31. A Symphony of Echoes – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook.
  32. A Second Chance – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook.
  33. A Trail through Time – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook.
  34. No Time Like the Present – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook.
  35. The Woman Who Ran – Sam Baker.
  36. Golden Age – Jane Smiley.
  37. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?  – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook.
  38. Foundation – Isaac Asimov.
  39. Treasure Island – R.L. Stevenson.
  40. The Nether World – George Gissing.
  41. Lies, Damned Lies and History – Jodi Taylor. Audiobook.
  42. The Penguin Book of Short Stories – Philip Hensher (ed.). Dipping in and out of this.
  43. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. Just like first time round, heartbreaking.
  44. The Hive – Gill Hornby
  45. Gods Behaving Badly – Marie Philips.
  46. London Falling – Paul Cornell.
  47. Greengates – RC Sheriff.
  48. The Janus Stone  – Elly Griffiths.
  49. Because of the Lockwoods – Dorothy Whipple.
  50. The Severed Streets – Paul Cornell.
  51. The House at Sea’s End – Elly Griffiths.
  52. Swan Song – Edmund Crispin.
  53. The Virgin in the Garden – AS Byatt.
  54. Still Life – AS Byatt.
  55. Lightning Rods – Helen Dewitt.
  56. The Woman Upstairs – Claire Messud.
  57. The Wolf Border – Sarah Hall.
  58. Uprooted – Nina Lyon.
  59. Inglorious -Joanna Kavenna.
  60. The Shepherd’s Crown –  Terry Pratchett.
  61. The Past – Tessa Hadley.
  62. Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty.
  63. Babel Tower – AS Byatt.
  64. I See You – Clare Mackintosh.
  65. The Camomile Lawn – Mary Wesley.
  66. The Whistling Woman – AS Byatt.
  67. Ragnarok – AS Byatt.
  68. A Field Guide to Getting Lost– Rebecca Solnit.
  69. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit. The title essay of which should be required reading for everyone. Because, seriously, is there a woman alive who has not experienced that?
  70. Even Dogs in the Wild – Ian Rankin.
  71. Magician – Raymond E Feist. I thought I’d just read the first one again. Nope.
  72. Silverthorn – Raymond E Feist.
  73. A Darkness at Sethanon – Raymond E Feist.
  74. The Good Liar – Nicholas Searle.
  75. Did You Ever Have a  Family? Bill Clegg.
  76. Labyrinth – Kate Mosse.
  77. Scruples – Judith Krantz. Because I had a sudden urge to re-read it and a friend found it for me for my birthday. Trashtastic.
  78. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit.
  79. The Magus – John Fowles.
  80. Sharpe’s Tiger – Bernard Cornwell.
  81. The Secret of Nightingale Wood – Lucy Strange.
  82. The Philosophy of Law: Very Short Introduction
  83. The Trespassers – Tana French.
  84. The Outrun – Amy Liptrott.
  85. The Girl with all the Gifts – M.R. Carey
  86. The Coffin Trail – Martin Edwards.
  87. The Grown Up – Gillian Flynn.
  88. A Kestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines.
  89. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen.
  90. Down Cemetery Road – Mick Herron.
  91. Moskva – Jack Grimwood.
  92. The Hanging Tree – Ben Abraamovitch.
  93. The Blood Card – Elly Griffiths (audio).
  94. Missing, Presumed – Susie Steiner (audio).
  95. The Rule of Law – Tom Bingham.
  96. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (audio).
  97. The Summer before the War – Helen Simmons (audio).
  98. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett.
  99. Slow Horses – Mick Herron.
  100. Dead Lions – Mick Herron.
  101. Holding – Graham Norton (audio).
  102. Goodwood – Holly Thursday (audio).
  103. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper. Traditional Christmas read.
  104. Greenwitch – Susan Cooper.
  105. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling.
  106. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K Rowling.
  107. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling.
  108. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling.
  109. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling.
  110. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling.
  111. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling.
  112. The Crystal Singer – Anne McCaffrey.
  113. Killashandra – Anne McCaffrey.
  114. Crystal Line – Anne McCaffrey.

2015

  1. Patience – John Coates. This was a lovely, gentle re-read to ease me back into actually using my brain. Along with Maureen Lipman, who wrote the introduction, I am hopeful that Persephone will bring more of Coates’ work back into print.
  2. The Old Wives’ Tale – Arnold Bennett. Well, this was a treat. It’s the story of Constance and Sophia, two young girls in the C19th who, on the face of it, have very different lives. Constance stays at home, marries the assistant and inherits the family shop, never leaving her home town. Sophia runs away with a wastrel seducer, and lives her life in Paris until she’s reunited with her sister. The novel deals with their histories independently until they’re back together in old age. It’s small lives, rich in detail.
  3. Mrs Hemingway – Naomi Wood. Enjoyed this very much, and I could care less about Hemingway. It has a section from the perspective of each of his wives, and EH himself doesn’t come out of it particularly well.
  4. Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne.
  5. Skylight – David Hare. Quick scamper through the text after enjoying the play so much. I can still hear Bill Nighy saying his lines.
  6. Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel. Which was great, if rather distressingly believable and did make me wonder if a survival skills course would be a good idea? I liked the way the before the ‘flu and after the ‘flu stories joined together.
  7. Life after Life – Kate Atkinson. I’d heard and read so many good things about this book and yet I was quite resistant to the concept of it. And then it turned up as my January book from Blackwell’s and I read it in a  day, most of that a single sitting. I did think it was great, although I did get a bit bored with the war chapters. But the concept was fascinating, and I liked the changes wrought on Ursula as her lives began to clash.
  8. Slowly down the Ganges – Eric Newby. I’m dipping into this and enjoying it so far, but appear to be reading it at the same pace as he travelled the river. Update: I gave up about 50pp from the end because it was all getting a bit samey. Newby isn’t for me. He comes across as mostly just grumpy and dissatisfied with everything (fair enough, under the circumstance, India sounds horrible) but then, don’t go on trips like it.
  9. A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson. See review.
  10. Wilkie Collins – Peter Ackroyd. Delightful, although slight autobiography. Got to admire a man who kept two mistresses
  11. Hens Dancing – Rafaelle Barker. The first in a run of quick re-reads while I was tired and trying to decide what to read next.
  12. Strong Poison – D L Sayers.
  13. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer.
  14. Frederica – Georgette Heyer.
  15. Number 9 Dreams – David Mitchell.
  16. Unnatural Death – Dorothy L Sayers
  17. The Unfinished Clue – Georgette Heyer.
  18. The Guermantes Way – Marcel Proust.
  19. The Beast Must Die – Nicholas Blake.
  20. A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett.
  21. The Shiralee – D’Arcy Niland. Put back into print by Fox, Finch & Tepper, the new imprint launched by Mr B’s Emporium in Bath, and a fine job they’ve made of it. The shiralee (burden) of the title is a 4 year old girl, whose father took her away from her adulterous mother, more with the intent of punishing the mother than out of any love for his daughter. Now she walks with him from town to town, as he sees it getting in his way and slowing him down. He’s tough on her, forcing her to keep walking when she can barely stand; and yet, despite himself, he begins to admire the way she does keep up with him. Her absolute dependence on him and faith in him gradually win him over. It’s an unsentimental story, very redolent of place and time, with a genuinely tense ending.
  22. The Silver Bough – Lisa Tuttle. Small Scottish town of Appleton, which has an odd historical past with strong themes of folklore and magic running through, reaches some point of crisis due to the return of Ronan Wall to his home town. Ronan was supposed to marry Euphemia about 50 years ago, when she was crowned Apple Queen, and they should have shared the magical apple in a ritual that would have tied them together and secured the town’s ongoing prosperity and happiness. They didn’t, both left the town and it’s been downhill ever since – the apple orchards on which the town’s success were founded withered and were eventually dug up. But now Ronan is back, trying to mend old wrongs; Ashley, Euphemia’s American grand daughter has arrived in town; and there are a couple of other ‘incomer’ women, also likely candidates for latest Apple Queen. I kind of liked this but it felt a bit lightweight and predictable. I didn’t really feel the dread and menace that the town’s drifting into a magical realm was meant to evoke, probably because there was never any doubt that the resolution would be positive.
  23. The Ship – Antonia Honeywell.
  24. During the Reign of the Queen of Persia – Joan Chase. A matriarchal clan in Ohio in the 50s, consisting primarily of a mother, her daughters and their daughters, seen through the eyes of the four youngest members of the family. It’s told in the first person plural and the collective ‘we’ voice doesn’t fragment even when describing the actions of individuals within the group. To me this felt as though ‘we’ included the reader but also became something like a Greek chorus observing and commenting. At the heart of it is the illness and death of Aunt Grace, but as a counterpoint, the book is as much an exploration of America’s shift from farming to commercial enterprise as it is a slice of family history.
  25. Some Luck – Jane Smiley. Galloped through this, the first part of Smiley’s proposed trilogy that will cover the last 100 years of American history. I enjoyed it and I really like the episodic structure, but I think the downside is that I feel I’m getting snapshots, rather than really understanding the characters.
  26. The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters (audio). Which I’m enjoying for the period detail but I’m finding the whining annoying. Update: Ugh, abandoned this with hours left, because the characters were just too stupid to be born.
  27. Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett. Well, it had to be done, and I realised I’ve been out of the Discworld for too long. In this one, Verence invites a family of vampires to his daughter’s christening, and they turn up planning to take over Lancre. Granny Weatherwax has something to say about that.
  28. Thinking of You – Jill Mansell. Just a quick Saturday morning re-read.
  29. Excellent Women – Barbara Pym. Re-read.
  30. Whispers Underground – Ben Aaronovitch. Re-read.
  31. Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovitch. Re-read.
  32. Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch. Re-read. Better second time round, actually.
  33. Lady of Quality – Georgette Heyer. Been wanting to read this one again for ages, so finally succumbed and picked it for a lazy Saturday afternoon.
  34. The Village – Marghanita Laski. Re-read.
  35. The New House – Lettice Cooper. Re-read.
  36. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson. Re-read.
  37. The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty (audio). I don’t know why it is that the blurbs of her books always put me off, because I always enjoy the books themselves. I should start picking them up without bothering to check.
  38. Less than Angels – Barbara Pym.
  39. A Glass of Blessings – Barbara Pym.
  40. No Fond Return of Love – Barbara Pym.
  41. Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett.
  42. Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett.
  43. Maskerade – Terry Pratchett.
  44. Island Summers: Memories of a Norwegian Childhood – Tilly Culme-Seymour.
  45. Anna of the Five Towns – Arnold Bennett.
  46. Astonish Me – Maggie Shipstead.
  47. Three Strange Angels – Laura Kalpakian.
  48. Anno Dracula – Kim Newman.
  49. A Change for the Better – Susan Hill.
  50. Ladies and Gentleman – Susan Hill. Some monstrous characters in both of these books.
  51. Tell No Tales – Eva Dolan. This series is building so well.
  52. The Secret Place – Tana French. I listened to this when it came out but was happy to grab it in pb.
  53. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen.
  54. The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer.
  55. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran. A couple of very funny lines, but mostly meh.
  56. A Dark Anatomy – Robin Blake. Had high hopes of this C18th crime duo but just couldn’t get into this and then found the solution entirely unbelievable.
  57. The Wake – Paul Kingsnorth. Loving this so far. Astonishing achievement and not even having to read it out loud to myself to get my head around the ‘shadow tongue’.
  58. A Song for Issy Bradley – Carys Bray.
  59. Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer.
  60. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion.
  61. These Old Shades – Georgette Heyer (audio).
  62. Private Life – Jane Smiley. Found this disappointing, in that it didn’t seem to go anywhere although the historical background was good.
  63. The Incarnations – Susan Barker. Ditto.
  64. In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware. Really liked this, even though I guessed the murderer and victim fairly early on. It kept me reading to find out how it was going to play out.
  65. The Bees – Laline Paull. So far, so ok, but I think I need to give it a solid block of reading time. Nope, forced myself through to the end but meh.
  66.  Stonemouth – Iain Banks. Great stuff, must read more Banks.
  67. The Third Wife – Lisa Jewell. Bit of a departure from Jewell’s standard chicklit fare (which I regularly acquire and enjoy), with far darker undercurrents. I liked it but I do think the ending was rather trite. Maya, who was the third wife, became more of a plot device than a character and it felt like she deserved more than that.
  68. Life Drawing – Robin Black. Loved this, and the ending was totally unexpectedly chilling.
  69. The Table of Less Valued Knights – Marie Phillips. Which was ok but not as funny as Gods Behaving Badly.
  70. Mirror Sight – Kristen Britain. I’ve abandoned this some not very many pages in. I can’t remember what happened in the previous books and I don’t care.
  71. So Much for That – Lionel Shriver. When I started this I thought it was going to be good but relentlessly depressing, given that it’s about one woman’s battle with cancer at the expense of her husband’s lifelong dream and roughly $2 million; while his best friend’s life goes very wrong at the same time. In fact, it was oddly uplifting, despite also being a deep dive into the horrors of American healthcare (familiarity with which is one of the reasons I’m so keen on the NHS) and the ultimate unfairness of a system that really does seem to punish the good guys who play by the rules. It was also a close look at a far from perfect marriage that is nevertheless reforged in its final year.
  72. Love and Fallout – Kathryn Simmonds. I picked this up because of the Catherine O’Flynn quote on the cover, and I only read O’Flynn because she was so charming at Stories Aloud. I liked the flipping back and forth from the Greenham Common days to present day, and the clear prose. On the strength of this I’d pick up more by Simmonds if I saw it.
  73. Treasure – Clive Cussler. Oh, Dirk Pitt. If only you were a character, instead of a collection of impossible attributes. Suspension of disbelief is vital to make it through a Dirk Pitt novel. Also, suspension of critical faculties. I’d have been more bothered by the sexism if any of the characters were other than stereotypes, but as the whole thing is an hilarious male fantasy, the women didn’t get treated any worse than the President. Although I’d still like to know: what does ‘she moved with a sensual vivacity’ actually mean?
  74. Bodies of Light – Sarah Moss. I keep seeing that she’s an under rated novelist and based on what I’ve read so far, that’s true. This feels as though it’s heading into dark family territory.
  75. The Good Son – Paul McVeigh. Got this as a Not the Booker recommendation and raced straight through it. Great narrative voice, draws you straight in. Some very funny moments, some tragic moments, all beautifully balanced.
  76. Riders – Jilly Cooper. How long has it been since I first read Riders? I don’t remember but all the furore over the new cover made me nostalgic. It’s more horses and less sex than I remembered and I still wouldn’t go near Rupert Campbell-Black.
  77. Still Midnight – Denise Mina. Bought this in Glasgow, realizing I had no real literary associations for the city and couldn’t recall having read anything set there. I found this disappointing, very slow going, usual unliked DC being misunderstood and shot down at every turn, un-engaging characters and a wholly unlikely romance at the end of it. I had to force myself to finish it when I was only 60pp from the end. But: the writing was good, it was the first in a series, and Mina has great review so I’m minded to suspend final judgment until I’ve tried out another.
  78. The Big Music – Kirstin Gunn. I’m worried that this might be a bit non-linear and steam of consciousness for me, but I do really want to give it a go. Update: no, abandoned this.
  79. Kitchens of the Great Midwest – J Ryan Stradal. Blackwell’s sent me this as a treat, and I loved it.
  80. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagahira. So, this has turned out to be a real Marmite book for people, with Scott Pack getting so annoyed he’s decided he won’t even read reviews by critics who liked this anymore. I’m on the pro side. I can see, and agree with some of the criticism that has been made: it’s overlong (although I love a long novel and am more apt to decry modern authors’ tendency to go short); Jude suffers so much abuse it must be more than is realistic for one person; at least a couple of the four friends are sketched in rather than being rounded characters. It’s not the great American novel. And yet, I was totally gripped when reading it and on a couple of occasions so upset that I had to put the book down and walk away.
  81. Wise Children – Angela Carter. An engaging romp of a novel, that I’m still thinking about a few days later. I particularly liked the way Uncle Perry would swoop in, the deus ex machina, and resolve the situation just as tragedy threatened. Dora’s narrative voice was funny and ribald.
  82. The Cold Dish – Craig Johnson. Apparently this series is the basis of a TV show, which I may even dig out and watch. Cold Dish is the first in the series and I’ll definitely be reading more. Walt Longmire fulfils some of the characteristics of the archetypal detective: when the novel opens he’s a loner (widowed 4 years’ previously), cutting himself off from his friends and living in semi-squalor in a half-complete house. He’s laconic in a way that is reminiscent of Marlowe, and he’s a tough guy who doesn’t know when to quit. As this novel develops, he starts to turn his life around, and his support network starts to confirm itself around him: his deputy, Victoria, and his best friend Henry Standing Bear. The murders are almost incidental to Walt’s own character development, and this is a great introduction to a series.
  83. I Remember – Joe Brainerd. Such a simple concept and so effective. The book is literally a collection of incidents, places, people, things, sensations, experiences etc that Brainerd remembers, and each sentence begins ‘I remember’. It’s simultaneously lulling, because that repetition sets up something of a rhythm but also nostalgic or funny, or dirty as well. The book was published in 1975 and yet there are examples that made me think ‘I remember that too!’, or which I’d heard American friends reminisce about (Oreo cookies and milk). So the particular becomes general and then a window into shared experience.
  84. The Girls – Lisa Jewell. (Audio). Jewell is clearly shifting genres and fair play to her for trying. But The Girls felt like it was trying to do too much at once: explore the murky world of teens, the reality of their emotions that are often written off by adults, the state and compromises of grown up relationships, mental health, the elderly, the peculiarly public life of living in those particular flats… Alright, already, pick a theme, lady! This didn’t work for me in a number of ways, but mostly because of the structure. Starting with the discovery of Grace’s body, it then tracked back to explore what led to that situation. Which. Took. Ages. And then the whole mystery was solved in about a day. So the structure seemed used solely to bring some suspense into an otherwise not all that suspenseful story. It felt gimmicky, and if you need that gimmick then your story isn’t up to it. The second major off-putting element was the inclusion of Pip’s letters to her father, and it may be that this played fine in print and it may be that they’re authentic. I don’t have kids so I can’t tell. But the audio version was painful and if I hadn’t been driving most of the time, I’d have skipped those bits. What Jewell does so well is the relationships and secrets within families. There was a lot of that here, and it was actually more absorbing than the ‘mystery’. A fined down version could have done without Clare and her family entirely and focused on Adele and her lot. Now those girls were odd, and a long, hot summer in which Adele’s world crumbled as past secrets came to light would have been more compelling. I think Jewell could write it – so is she keeping herself in the disposable fiction section, or are her publishers reining her in?
  85. Pattern Recognition – William Gibson.
  86. Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self – Claire Tomalin. I liked the first half of this but found that the material from the diary was over-stretched by being handled chronologically and then thematically. Pepys doesn’t come out particularly well but I’d like to read the diaries themselves, and it did get me interested in that particular historical period.
  87. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain. This was basically a history of my people and I found it illuminating. A lot chimed with what I’ve figured out for myself along the way, or suspected, e.g. the need for quiet time for sustained thinking, in fact the very preference for sustained thinking being at odds with current working environments. It was interesting to read about about why the ‘hail fellow, well met’ type became the epitome of what a successful business person looked like. (There are a lot of plausible sounding males around my current job, who talk a good game and deliver jack shit, which leaves the rest of us scratching our heads a bit.) I also remember the pain of the forced joining in I was made to do a child, when I’d much rather have been lot to my own devices. So it all stacked up for me.
  88. Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovitch. Re-read.
  89. The Glass Ocean.
  90. We Are Now Beginning our Descent – James Meeks
  91. The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick.
  92. The Crooked House – Christopher Kent.
  93. The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets – Sophie Hannah.
  94. The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks.
  95. Winter Street – Elin Hildebrand.
  96. A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale.
  97. Send for Paul Temple – Francis Durbridge.
  98. The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths.
  99. The End of Vandalism – Tom Drury.
  100. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov.

2014

  1. Rough Shoot – Geoffrey Household. Rogue Male was better, and now I think I’ve read enough Household to be going on with.
  2. Blackveil – Kristen Britain. Because despite the fact that I don’t love this series and I find the heroine annoyingly uneven, so that she makes obvious mistakes solely to forward the plot, I still kind of want to know what happens.
  3. The Hundred Days – Patrick O’Brian
  4. King of the Badgers – Philip Hensher. Which was quietly terrific, and creepy and sad and now I’ll really never trust Neighbourhood Watch again.
  5. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty (audio). I almost abandoned this because at the beginning, I wanted to smack Alice. Then I got drawn in. I still found her annoying but the idea of forgetting 10 years of your life was interesting. Would it be that you’d just lost the information, or that you lost the aspects of your personality that those years had formed?
  6. Bedsit Disco Queen – Tracey Thorn. I was never a huge fan of EBTG, but this got reviews on Twitter so I was waiting for the pb. I ended up reading aloud the bits that made me laugh, and thoroughly enjoying the rest.
  7. One Fine Day – Mollie Panter-Downes. I found this oddly dense for such a very short novel, which I think is down the disjointed way in which I read it. It ought really to be tackled in a single sitting. All the action, which is mostly internal and dialogue anyway, takes place in a single hot summer’s day, soon after the end of WWII. Stephen and Laura are adjusting to being back together, and to the reality of a house that’s too big to manage without servants.
  8. The Examined Life – Stephen Grosz. A rare foray into non-fiction, but Vintage have come up with the Shelfhelp scheme, a reading list of 12 books for the year with the aim ‘New year, same you – just slightly better read’. This was January’s book, and for me it was a quick read, but I envisage going back to it. It’s slices of case history from the author’s psychoanalytical practice, and as such there’s no story and there are no final resolutions. I found if fascinating to dip a toe in the water of so many people’s lives at their variously troubled times. Grosz doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, is sometimes stalled and has his own problems to deal with too, which makes the interplay also of interest. I find it oddly comforting that there aren’t any answers.
  9. A Commonplace Killing – Sian Busby. Apparently based on a true crime, and it was ok as an immediate post-WWII thing but if you want the real tawdry unpleasantness, then Patrick Hamilton is your man.
  10. Saints of the Shadow Bible – Ian Rankin (audio). Rebus back on form, reporting to Siobhan and working uneasily with Malcolm Fox. Wouldn’t have seen that one coming, and if anything I felt as though there was more character development for Fox in this novel than in his stand-alones.
  11. Blue at the Mizzen – Patrick O’Brian.
  12. The Unexpected Consequences of Love – Jill Mansell (audio).
  13. The Last Banquet – J C Grimwood
  14. The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
  15. Black Swan Green – David Mitchell.
  16. Orkney – Amy Sackville.
  17. Five Days – Douglas Kennedy (audio). This is so, so good that I might buy it in print as well so I can enjoy reading it. The writing is articulate and precise, piling up in sub-clauses that intensify rather than mystify meaning. I’m recommending it to everyone. Update: Except that it kind of fell off a cliff half way through. Curses.
  18. Fallen Blade – Jon Courtenay Grimwood.
  19. The London Train – Tessa Hadley.
  20. Night Film – Marissa Pessl
  21. Never Mind Miss Fox – Olivia Glazebrook
  22. Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay
  23. Boy, Snow, Bird – Helen Oyeyemi
  24. The Owl Who Like to Sit on Caesar – Martin Windrow.
  25. Misfortune – Wesley Stace
  26. The Harpole Report – J.L. Carr
  27. Clever Girl – Tessa Hadley. Completely different to the Hadley I read last month, and much more interesting than the blurb makes it sound, because that only covers the beginning of the story. The confusions and messes of ordinary life are all laid bare, but with understanding. Reminded me slightly of the tim, An Education, although that protagonist avoided early pregnancy skewing her life’s direction.
  28. The Dynamite Room – Jason Hewitt. Not your average first novel and for my money, better than Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall (both authors are alumni of the Bath MA in Creative Writing),The opening is eery and gripping, nicely setting the sense of isolation that pervades throughout. This is a different take on WWII, with a mystery at its hear that gradually unfolds and is more surprising in its ‘why?’ than it’s ‘how?’. It’s a poignant reminder of how war changes individuals, and how desperately they may want to get away from what they’ve become. I don’t know if the echo of The Return of Martin Guerre was intended, but that was a different war in a different time.
  29. Tis Pity She’s a Whore – John Ford. Not the lightest holiday reading but prep before seeing the play. I liked it but I still found the characters easy fall into incest unlikely. The performance helped, by casting Annabella as a heedless teenager (and by cutting the dodgy sub-plots). As with Joss Whedon’s Much Ado about Nothing where everyone is drunk and it all makes a lot more sense, Annabella as teenager thinking only of the moment and then unable to find her way out of trouble except by presumably hoping that ‘something will turn up’, both made sense of her actions and underlined the tragedy.
  30. The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini – Benvenuto Cellini. This was the fun holiday read, the first autobiography to be more than a dry list of deeds. I’m sure no more accurate than contemporary autobiographies but Cellini recounts his training, travels, commissions, work and travails with gusto. He’s always the maestro, and he’s always right, making him a hard artist for any prince or king to put up with.
  31. All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld. The first delivery from my Blackwell’s curated TBR list! I liked the structure of this, shifting back and forth in time and unwinding back to the even that started Jake on her path to the current isolated island and a few sheep to farm. It’s brutal in places, plain prose leaving the reader nowhere to hide, and Jake both tough and vulnerably paranoid. Lloyd, a figure with his own burden that is too heavy for him to carry, staggers into her life accidentally but ultimately fortuitously.
  32. The Last, Unfinished Voyage of John Aubrey – Patrick O’Brian. I didn’t read the manuscript part but I’m content leaving Jack and Stephen looking forward to further travels and their families. All good things must come to an end.
  33. Wildwood: A Journey through Trees – Roger Deakin. Part diary, nature, social history and folklore, ecology notes, travel writing. Deakin has a great way with metaphor, and with piling up his nouns in some of the pieces. I was flicking to the internet for visuals to match the descriptions of Paul Nash’s works, and noting fellow authors to follow up on.
  34. Sandman 1: Nocturnes and Preludes – Neil Gaiman. I don’t have a  great track record of making it through comic books, but Sandman just seems like something I ought to read. So I gave it a go. The usual problems were there, but mitigated a bit, so I could follow the text and I didn’t pay much attention to the artwork. I liked the quick change of genres throughout, but by the end I felt I’d snacked rather than consumed a meal. Still, I’m interested enough in Morpheus, and particularly in Death, to read more over time.
  35. The Human Comedy: Selected Stories – Honore de Balzac. From which so far I have read ‘Facino Cane’, ‘A Passion in the Desert’ and ‘Sarrasine’. This will be one to dip in and out of, but of course a great reminder that I ought to read more Balzac.
  36. What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt. Which I loved, and am so pleased to have found a new author.
  37. The Wild Places – Robert MacFarlane. Serendipitous reading, as it’s dedicated to Deakin and he crops up as one of MacFarlane’s friends. There’s a chapter investigating holloways too, and I’m interested in those ever since reading Rogue Male (which also gets a mention). I do feel that MacFarlane has a bit of a tendency to   make assumptions about how ‘we’ all feel, and he can be a bit over-written for my taste, so sometimes I thought he was finding his way via the writing. I am also comforted by his conclusion, though: that the wild, harsh landscapes have a daunting and frightening implacability about them and that, when human life disappears from the earth, the wild will take over again.
  38. The Beautiful Indifference – Sarah Hall. (The Blackwell’s Curated Reading List #2) I had womanfully resisted what was, after all, a very slight paperback, but I really wanted to read these stories. So I was delighted when it turned up in this month’s surprise package. The stories were terrific, all very different settings and voices in such sharp, sparse writing. I felt that the namelessness of places and often the women too, lent a dreamlike quality and I kept reaching for a pen to note some of the language: the ‘wet crackle’ of champagne, the ‘benthic silence’ of a lake.  Now I’m very keen to try one of her novels.
  39. The Secret Hangman – Peter Lovesey. A lazy afternoon re-read, which I pretty much romped through.
  40. The Outcast Blade – Jon Courtenay Grimwood. vol 2 of the Assassini. Starting to feel as though the story is coming together a bit more. Also, liking that some formerly powerful characters are dead.
  41. They Were Counted – Miklos Banffy.
  42. The Hive – Gill Hornby.
  43. Death on the Cherwell – Mavis Doriel Hay. A nice, classic murder set in Oxford.
  44. The Exiled Blade – Jon Courtenay Grimwood. vol 3 of the Assassini, which wrapped things up neatly, if a bit abruptly.
  45. The Bone Season – Shannon Stone. Interesting concept and totally fine, but really, I think I am done with the feisty, outsider heroines who have special skills and battle against the odds and for whom the regular narrative realities break down so that they don’t die way too early in the franchise. I mean, series.
  46. Sixty-One Nails – Mike Shevdon. Perfectly competent trashy fantasy lit, in an ‘Ooh, I’ve read Neverwhere, I can totes riff on that’ kind of way. Main stumbling block for me is that the hero is a twit and there is absolutely no reason that Blackbird would be interested in him at all. Vol 1 in I don’t know how many and it doesn’t matter because I have no need to read further.
  47. The Unknown Ajax – Georgette Heyer. Well, I needed something to read while I was figuring out what to read.
  48. The Long Dark Night – Peter Lovesey. Found three Loveseys for a fiver. Bought them. I never know what’s going on in a Peter Diamond mystery. Good, now I know where Julie went.
  49. Natural Causes – James Oswald (audio). Which I liked, except for the supernatural element which I thought was going to be explained away as not being supernatural and then wasn’t. Which provoked my ‘No, really?’ response to the ending, because it seems a cop out.
  50. The Vault – Peter Lovesey. Good, now I know how Ingeborg ended up on the force.
  51. The Tooth Tattoo – Peter Lovesey.
  52. Fevre Dream – Georg R R Martin. GRR does vampires.
  53. The Deaths – Mark Lawson. How the other half lives (in a shitload of debt and precariously), this was like the dirtier, nastier version of The Hive. Lawson neatly skewers any number of pretensions. In one lovely little scene, a character does a victory dance of schadenfreude, because their delivery of ridiculously over-priced coffee for their ‘CappucinGo’ machine includes some of the limited edition special, whereas a neighbor missed out. Middle class problems laid bare.
  54. When We Were Orphans – Kazuo Ishiguro. Which I liked more for the writing than the story. I wasn’t sure how seriously I was supposed to take Christopher’s obsession with finding his parents, it was like a grown up version of the fascination he and Akira had with the servant’s room. They concocted an unbelievable story that each half-believed in, enough to continue convincing the other. The characters around Christopher seemed complicit in encouraging him to investigate the obviously ridiculous theory about his parents’ disappearance. The truth, when finally discovered, was as prosaic as a room simply containing an old servant’s belongings.
  55. The Man in the Queue – Josephine Tey.
  56. Don’t Point that Thing at Me – Kyril Bonfiglio. I am grateful for any book that gives me the expression ‘a traffic warden’s catamite’ and the word ‘ecdysiast’. Art theft, thuggery, bluffing, double bluffing, secret services and insults to his bespoke tailoring. It’s a wonder Charlie Mortdecai survives it all.
  57. An Education – Lynn Barber. What fun times Lynn Barber has had. I enjoyed the film An Education, and on reading the memoir remain equally baffled as to what her parents were thinking.
  58. Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout. I actually meant to buy Amy & Isabelle, but came out with this by mistake. All I vaguely knew was that Olive was a horrible character, which, although there are examples of her compassion and understanding, on balance I think she was. But I like episodic novels and I liked the snapshot views of the other characters in town, and the way that Olive and Henry’s story was interweaved.
  59. & Sons – David Gilbert.
  60. The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith. I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I liked this too. I think Rowling writes a good detective story and I’ll be happy to see more of Cormoran Strike.
  61. Kai Lung’s Golden Hours – Ernest Bramah. Whenever people have asked what I’m reading and I say this, they give me blank looks. But it’s such a treat, such delicious, sly humor that is all about the language.
  62. The Years – Virginia Woolf. Which I bought while visiting Charleston, as I’d been put under the Bloomsbury spell again. I wasn’t optimistic because I struggle with Woolf, but actually, I finished it, and actually, mostly I enjoyed it. And when I wasn’t enjoying it, I still admired the writing.
  63. Middlemarch – George Eliot. The first Eliot that I remember and it was great, so now I shall embark on my Eliot. I moved from hating Dorothea to feeling very sorry for her. Nicely done, George!
  64. Do No Harm – Henry Marsh. Non-fiction sent me by Euan as a wild card for this month’s Blackwells delivery. Marsh was a brain surgeon so this is a collection of his cases. It’s good but rather bleak, so I’m interspersing it with cheerier stuff.
  65. Hens Dancing – Raffaella Barker. Picked up because I was attracted by the title and the cover, turned out to be superior chicklit that made me giggle around. I read it mostly sitting in London sunshine, sipping white wine and feeling like summer.
  66. The Faerie Queen – Edmund Spenser. So, I have committed to reading this at the rate of one canto a day, and I’m already four cantos behind. It’s been a busy week. The good thing is that I am hooked, and so it’ll be no chore to catch up today. If only the damn thing weren’t so huge, I’d carry it around with me for lunchtime reading.
  67. Speak, Memory – Vladimir Nabokov. I started underlining the good bits and great words, and then gave up because I’d have underlined the whole thing. Must now read more Nabokov and probably re-read Lolita again.
  68.  Augustus – John Williams. Well, this was brilliant, for me better than Stoner. I was gripped from the opening pages and I loved the multiple perspectives, so that it wasn’t a straightforward and chronological narrative. Also, great to be reminded of names I haven’t thought of in years – Tibullus, Propertius, Maecenas. So, I bought some Livy and I will have to read Virgil’s Eclogues.
  69. A High Wind in Jamaica – Richard Hughes. Not as disturbing as Lord of the Flies, until the completely chilling bit at the end. In essence, children captured by ‘pirates’. Which group is the most morally deficient?
  70. French Decadent Tales, trans. Stephen Romer. Oh those French and their decadence. This was a good mix of the mad (man falls in love with hair. Yes. Hair.), spooky, the odd and the people getting their deserved comeuppance. I particularly liked ‘The Bath’ by Octave Mirbeau. Chap decides he needs a wife because he’s basically too lazy to get his arse out of an armchair in the evening and she would be able to bring him things and look pretty. Carefully chosen wife watches him drown in an over-heated bath. You go, girl!
  71. Switch: How to change things when change is hard – Chip and Dan Heath. Ok, I’m reading a business book by someone called ‘Chip’ and it says New York Times No 1 Bestseller on the front. I know, I know. It talks about the elephant, the rider and the path. It’s a short step from here to Chicken Soup for Those Who Broke a Nail. But, this was recommended by a friend of mine who is not a whack job so I will give it a fair hearing. I will.
  72. Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham. I find The Midwich Cuckoos far more unsettling, but this was good stuff, of course, throwing up some interesting questions.
  73. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty (audio). I’m forcing myself to take a break between Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies on audiobook, to break my guilty lit crush on fictional Thomas Cromwell (I know, morally v dodgy etc). So, I’m liking this much more than What Alice Forgot, I think mostly because Madeline is a great character and Alice was bloody annoying. Also, of course, there’s a murder to be revealed and that’s much more interesting than finding out if someone gets their memory back.
  74. Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel (audio). After my brief back, I was straight back in there with Thomas Cromwell. I actually didn’t love this narrator as much as the one for Wolf Hall, but I still raced through the audiobook.
  75. Waterlog – Roger Deakin. Very much like Wildwood, except about water.
  76. The Secret Place – Tana French (audio). I’m a fan of Tana French and this didn’t let me down. I liked the structure of the alternate chapters from past and present weaving the narrative together, and that familiar theme of a special relationship breaking down. I just about remember the powerfully enclosed relationships girls can have, how impossible it seems that anything can break them. Good to see more of Frank Mackie as well, I hope he’ll be back in future novels.
  77. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins.
  78. Daughter – Jane Shemil. So, ok but I’m still not sure that the narrative structure was necessary to add to the tension. Particularly as it was clear from the outset that the missing daughter wasn’t dead, because if she had been then there’s no way a narrator couldn’t mention it without being unbelievable. But, I did like the way the cosy, family life just unravelled when under investigation.
  79. My Brother Michael – Mary Stewart. This so did not stand the test of time. More of a love story than a detective story, but not much of either.
  80. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell. Fab, loved all the stories and twists and interweavings.
  81. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell. Meh. A version of Penelope for a slightly younger audience.
  82. The Weissmans of Westport. Sort of a reworking of Sense & Sensibility but not totally faithful, which made it more interesting.
  83. The Invisible Ones – Stef Penney. This was disappointing, because I loved The Tenderness of Wolves so much. I felt that the poisoning was pointless and didn’t really go anywhere, and the surprise wasn’t much of one, in the end. Too many clues all the way through.
  84. The Hypnotist’s Love Story – Liane Moriarty (audio). I have accidentally become a Moriarty fan. I like this, particularly because there seemed a real chance that it might not work out, only partly because of Saskia.
  85. The Professional – Robert B. Parker.
  86. The Cutting Season – Attica Locke. I finished it, but I didn’t really get into it because of the boneheadedness of the main character. Yes, the police were being idiots and didn’t trust her, but that’s because she kept not telling them information that was vital to the investigation apparently so she could sort the whole thing out herself, in order for a dramatic but surprisingly tension free denouement. Pfft.
  87. Shotgun Lovesongs – Nicholas Butler. Fabulous, I want to move to that town and hang out with Lee, Hank and Beth.
  88. The Amber Fury – Natalie Haynes. This was a bit disappointing, after all the reviews, and seemed somehow too unlikely and too much of a set piece. I think also, I’m just about out of patience with multi-part narratives and non-linear chronologies and diary extracts and it’s all starting to feel a bit gimmicky. Could someone just write a straightforward novel?
  89. The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell. I liked the first half, and particularly Holly Sykes. But the Crispin Hershey chapter almost made me lose the will to live, and the whole battle between the good eternals and the bad eternals was WTF, and the last chapter was depressing. Although probably also predictive. So, on balance, disappointing.
  90. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton. What? No. Well reviewed all over the place, I thought it was kind of a mess.
  91. The Dogs of Littlefield – Suzanne Berne.
  92. The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes (audio). Absolutely fine, should have read it rather than listening to it because it didn’t need that much time devoting to it. A book for a rainy afternoon when you want a bit of troubled romance en route to happily ever after.
  93. A Breach of Security – Susan Hill. A Simon Serrailler short, filling a gap while I either wait for the latest in pb or get it on audio.
  94. Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy – Gagne and Hopma (eds). Dipping a toe back in the bracing waters of academic writing, and I could feel lazy brain muscles being stretched. On balance, I think I disagree with Bierl’s confusion in his chapter on the maenadic chorus in Bacchae. But Laura Swift on the chorus in Medea and Ion gave me a lot to think about; and now I must re-read Ion.
  95. The Soul of Discretion – Susan Hill (audio). This went into extra bleak territory of both child abuse and rape, and in places it made for some tough listening. But it was good, if haunting and I suddenly realized I had no confidence about how the ending would work out, so that made it really tense. This is such a consistently strong series.
  96. The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow – Mrs Oliphant. Of the two novellas in this slim volume, I preferred the second, Eleanor and Rose. I knew what was happening in both the stories but the how it unfolded worked.
  97. Aphrodite’s Workshop for Reluctant Lovers – Marika Gobbold. Trash read, and not a patch on Marie Philips when it comes to introducing Greek gods into contemporary life. It was a perfectly acceptable way to spend an afternoon, and I can’t really add more than that because I don’t remember anything much about it.
  98. The Flame Trees of Thika – Elspeth Huxley. Yes, fine, I bought this partly because it’s a glorious orange cloth-covered hardback from Slightly Foxed. One of those books you eventually get around to reading because you’re surprised you haven’t already.
  99. Her – Harriet Lane (audio). My problem with this was that while Nina was a horrible nutter, Emma was such a total drip that I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for her. The story was told from both perspectives, which led to a lot of repetition; and it didn’t get going until about the last 10 minutes. And then the ending was ambiguous.
  100. Vince & Joy – Lisa Jewell. Emergency re-read.
  101. 30 Nothing – Lisa Jewell (audio).
  102. A Wreath of Roses – Elizabeth Taylor. I really thought I hadn’t read this but then it seemed vaguely familiar all the way through. Beautifully written as ever from Taylor, but massively depressing.
  103. I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh. Small print: Clare is a friend of my sister’s. I’ve met her once and we occasionally tweet each other. This is Clare’s debut novel and of course I had to support her and buy the book. The set up is straightforward: 5 year old boy killed in hit and run, in which the driver doesn’t stop. Or is it straightforward? Of course, there’s more than meets the eye and I really didn’t see the twist coming. I started reading this on the train, was annoyed when I had to put it down for the evening, picked it up as soon as I could and went to sleep thinking ‘But it couldn’t be her… so is it him?… or wait, was it…?’ Then I got up in the morning and polished off the rest. I had some quibbles, and I didn’t quite buy the Ray & Mags relationship, which seemed a bit sketched in.  But the book kept me reading, and provided a satisfactorily tense ending. I’d buy more.
  104. Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch. Skipped happily through this one Saturday morning, nice to see Peter finally getting it together with Bev, and to see an answer to the question, ‘What have the Romans done for us?’ Kept the fae at bay with their nice straight roads, that’s what. This was fine but it felt like an interlude, and it didn’t seem to do much to move the main story arc along. Either the next book will prove this one was crucial, or the cynical might think the publishers are eking out the series for the dosh.
  105. Mystery in White – J. Jefferson Farjeon. Which I sort of thought I might keep for my Christmas read, but it became my Sunday afternoon read instead. Assorted group of travelers on a train heading to their various places for Christmas get stuck in a snowstorm. They leave the train to try to get to a branch station, but only make it as far as welcoming, but mysterious house. Why are the fires lit and tea ready but no one there? And who left the bread knife on the kitchen floor? The mysteries and atmosphere pile up with the snow.
  106. Long Way Home – Eva Dolan. I’ve wanted to read this since I saw Eva Dolan at Stories Aloud, so was glad I finally found the pb. It’s a good crime novel, very well constructed and without the maverick, loner cop at the heart of it. It’s also a window into a sub-culture that doesn’t get a lot of attention, that of the immigrant workers suffering misery at the hands of those willing to exploit their vulnerability. Dolan writes with assurance and fluidity, and I’m interested to see where Zigic and Ferreira go next.
  107. Grass Green – Raffaella Barker.
  108. Balancing Act – Joanna Trollope. This felt a bit lightweight to me, I think because the device of the long lost father turning up felt contrived. It seemed that the family set up could have imploded without him saying things like ‘Maybe I’m just what you all need’. I found I couldn’t tell the daughters and their husbands apart and there wasn’t space to go into their lives enough to make them interesting.
  109. Venetia – Georgette Heyer (audio). Newly available on audio and Damerel is my favourite rakish hero, so I couldn’t resist.
  110. Sugar Hall – Tiffany Murray. Proper creepy stuff.
  111. The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman, ill. Chris Riddell. Great re-telling of both Snow white and the Seven Dwarves and Sleeping Beauty, and beautifully illustrated. The book is a lovely object.
  112. Count the Stars – Helen Dunmore. I thought this started really well and then went nowhere and it didn’t add anything to what is known of Catullus’ relationship with Lesbia from his poetry. He loved her, he hated her, she was bewitching, she was a bitch.
  113. Northanger Abbey – Val McDermid. I have recently had a conversation with Mr W in which we decry the fake Austen industry, and then I went and fell for this. I will say that I find Catherine Morland hard work anyway, but when she’s moved to modern day, her nitwittery becomes unforgivable.
  114. The House in Norham Gardens – Penelope Lively.
  115. Dragon’s Claw – Peter O’Donnell
  116. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  117. Sense & Sensibility – Joanna Trollope
  118. Arabella – Georgette Heyer (audio)
  119. Nos4R2 – Joe Hill. Abandoned c. 150pp in because it’s just not working for me.
  120. The Financial Lives of the Poets – Jess Waters. Abandoned about a third in because it’s not gripping me.

2013

  1. Parade’s End – Ford Madox Ford. Easing in the new year with a light read, then. I have all 4 vols in one, and I’m not sure I can cope with too much of WWI, so let’s just start with Some Do Not… and see how it goes. I’m kinda hoping this will be the WWI equivalent of Sword of Honour.
  2. The Surgeon’s Mate – Patrick O’Brian. I’d forgotten about Jagiello, bless him.
  3. Ancient Greece in Film and Popular Culture – Gideon Nisbet. Kind of fun, and sort of  a primer in ‘reading’ film and TV. Am now very relieved I don’t have to watch Alexander, or 300.
  4. Patience – John Coates.
  5. Small Gods – Terry Pratchett.
  6. First among Sequels – Jasper Fforde.
  7. 1974 – David Peace. Gripping from the first page, but only one for those who like their violence, racism, sexism, corruption, and police brutality. Welcome to the 1970s.
  8. Wreath of Roses – Elizabeth Taylor.
  9. Religio Medici – Thomas Browne.
  10. The Ionian Mission – Patrick O’Brian
  11. The Court of the Air – Stephen Hunt.
  12. The Woman Novelist and Other Studies – Diana Gardner
  13. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs. One of those gimmicky books that’s pretending to be good, but isn’t. Although, there were some good lines buried in there, and I wouldn’t automatically discount any future books by Riggs. But y’all skip this one.
  14. The Light Years – Elizabeth Jane Howard. First in the Cazalet chronicles, and I’ll certainly be reading the rest of them.
  15. The Northern Clemency – Philip Hensher
  16. Treason’s Harbour – Patrick O’Brian. Am fairly sure some dastardly French person is plotting horribly against Stephen in this one; but even more sure he will see through the plot and problies turn it against them. Jack will make the occasional dodgy quip.
  17. Take a Chance on Me – Jill Mansell. I’d have liked this more if all the characters hadn’t been in their 20s and 30s and still acting like teenagers.
  18. Simonetta Perkins – L. P. Hartley – Is kind of Lucy Honeychurch’s story, if she had been more self-aware.
  19. The Making of a Marchioness – Frances Hodgson Burnett. This was on TV around Christmas, and I watched part of one episode and then decided I’d rather re-read the book. So I did.
  20. Persuasion – Jane Austen. It was an Austen kind of day.
  21. Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Jill Mansell. Audiofroth. Mansell is penalised for over-use of the word ‘starfish’ to describe a baby’s hands. One of the sub-plots was a bit weak and unnecessary but hey, it kept me listening.
  22. The Out of Office Girl – Nicola Doherty. Print froth. Asst editor Alice is sent to Sicily to work on a celeb book with a Hollywood star. Of course. She gets the book, she gets the man, no surprises here but decently done and as light as a souffle.
  23. A Question of Identity – Susan Hill. The latest Serrailler, on audio.
  24. The Dwarves of Death – Jonathon Coe. Bought this for the title, thoroughly enjoyed it. Engaging narrative voice, and a surprise ending.
  25. The Standing Pool – Adam Thorpe. Which I was kind of expecting to be much nastier than it was.
  26. Dolly – Susan Hill. Another good, spooky tale. As if dolls aren’t creepy enough anyway.
  27. Gold – Chris Cleave.
  28. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman. On audio, read by Neil. You can tell it’s an early work but it still stands up. Switched to finishing in print for the last 100pp.
  29. Black Narcissus – Rumer Godden. The first of Godden’s adult novels that I’ve read and I liked it a lot. Reminds me of Warner’s Mr Fortune’s Maggot for the effect of place on those who go there with a mission.
  30. The Land of Decoration – Grace McKeen.
  31. A Time of Gifts – Patrick Leigh Fermor
  32. Bricks and Mortar – Helen Ashton.
  33. The Ballad and the Source – Rosamund Lehmann. Nice old Virago Modern Classic I got from the Slightly Foxed bookshop. Sybil Anstey is a monster.
  34. Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson. In an attempt to slow myself down I know have the entire Baroque Cycle. Let’s see how this goes.
  35. The Far Side of the World – Patrick O’Brian.
  36. A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness. This was several shades of awesome, multi-layered and tragic.
  37. Unicorns vs Zombies – Holly Black and Justine Larbalastier (eds). I guess it’s a handy gimmick for the YA market to pitch one supernatural thing against another. Doesn’t work for me, but maybe unicorns don’t sell on their own? Anyway, some good stories in here: Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan. Worth a flick through.
  38. This Isn’t the Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You – Jon McGregor. Picked this up at Stories Aloud in Oxford, after a reading of the first story from the collection.
  39. The Everyman Book of Ghost Stories – This has been by my bed, so I can dip into it before I go to sleep. ‘Ghost’ seems to be shorthand for any story in which there’s some sort of supernatural influence, but this is a great collection.
  40. The Poison Tree – Erin Kelly (audio). I’m not sure if it was the audio that made this feel particularly tortuous, or if the print would have been just as bad. But generally I find that audio magnifies the problems with the print: the spoken word seems to highlight just how unlikely the dialogue is, or how unnatural the characters’ actions are. I like novels that are set across split times, but weaving together past and present narratives and sustaining suspense without being too heavy-handed is a tough call. Kelly’s not up to the job. The foreshadowing was in neon, and the sequence of events leading up to both crises was clearly set out, step by painful step. Even more annoying,   neither had to happen; they were provoked by characters making stupid, plot-driven decisions at key points. This is the kind of novel that only works when the inner works are not so apparent.
  41. The Closed Door and Other Stories – Dorothy Whipple. The title story is just heart-breaking, in that particularly Whipple way. Several of the stories are a reminder of just how limited women’s lives were, dependent at the very least on family not getting in their way.
  42. Levels of Life – Julian Barnes. I will probably be the only person in the world not to have loved this; but I didn’t. I thought it was thin.
  43. Duplicate Death – Georgette Heyer. A re-re-re-read, but I was sick.
  44. A Blunt Instrument – Georgette Heyer. See above.
  45. The Reverse of the Medal – Patrick O’Brian. This is where the series really gets going, for me, oddly enough when Jack gets kicked out of the Navy. Two great scenes in this book: the first, where Jack’s illegitimate son turns up, and despite being African is clearly his spitting image; the second, when Jack is in pillory, with a crowd of sailors from across the country protecting him and cheering him on.
  46. What was Lost – Catherine O’Flynn. Picked up recently at Short Stories Aloud, on the recommendation of Ms G and because the author was there and I liked her. Under normal circumstances I’d have ignored this entirely, which would have been a shame. The two, connected narratives are simply and deftly handled, with episodic interludes adding an additional layer to the story. Girl detective, Kate Meaney, goes missing when she’s 10; 20 years later, two workers at a shopping mall where Kate used to do a lot of her detecting, are reminded of her story.  Both frozen in their own lives, their meeting is a catalyst that jolts them back into action, and in doing so provides the key to solving the mystery of Kate’s disappearance.
  47. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of Night – James Runcie. Of which I saw the elegant spine in someone else’s TBR list and was immediately interested (nice job, Bloomsbury!). Bless the lovely Ms F, she lent it to me. Second in the Grantchester Mysteries.
  48. Burning Bright – Ron Rash. A short story collection from the other author at the recent Stories Aloud. Terrific stuff.
  49. The Cove – Ron Rash. Enjoyed the stories, so straight on with the novel. Goodness, but this had a heartbreaking ending.
  50. May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes. Unputdownable, and now I’ve finished I need to read everything else she’s written.
  51. The Daylight Gate – Jeanette Winterson. Witchcraft. Always madness about men’s fear of what they don’t understand, especially when embodied by women. This was great, I hope Hammer do justice to the film. The Woman in Black didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
  52. The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler.
  53. Ulverton – Adam Thorpe. Damn, I’d forgotten how good this is. Take a bow, Mr Thorpe.
  54. Letter of Marque – Patrick O’Brian. Oh, this is a good one. It is around book 11 that the series really gets going; this is book 12, and after Jack hit his lowest point by being dismissed the naval lists in the last one, all is recovered: reputation, post-captaincy and fortune. Plus, Stephen’s on again, off again marriage with Diana is back on; which, while I hate Diana, makes me happy for Stephen.
  55. The Orphan Choir – Sophie Hannah. Which was proper spooky, and which I liked because I couldn’t tell if Lou was nuts to start with, going nuts or normal. And then because I couldn’t tell where the threat was coming from, or even if there really was one. This was another one from the new Hammer/Random House imprint, which I’ve been enjoying so far, and has therefore become that rare thing: an imprint to pay attention to.
  56. The Panopticon – Jenni Fagan.
  57. Fludd – Hilary Mantel. I remembered really enjoying this but I thought it was darker and more elemental. What I hadn’t remember was that it’s very funny.
  58. The Village School – Miss Read.
  59. Brother of the More Famous Jack – Barbara Trapido. Which I have read a bazillion times before, but I went out without a book, then I bought this for Marcy, then I found myself somewhere with a glass of wine. So I re-read the Trapido and it’s still really good.
  60. A Month in the Country – JL Carr. Odd little masterpiece that it is. I picked it up again as a re-read while I’m trying to figure out what to read next.
  61. Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty. So, the Twitter was alive with recommendations for this, and like an idiot I went and read the prologue in the store. And then had to buy it and read it. Suspense, crime, courtroom drama and so well done. Couldn’t put it down.
  62. Before I Met You – Lisa Jewell.
  63. Dissolution – C J Sansom
  64. The Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman – Elizabeth Buchan
  65. The Swimming Party – Madeline Wickham
  66. Now and Then – Robert Parker
  67. The Godwulf Manuscript – Robert Parker
  68. Joyland – Stephen King. ‘When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. By the time you’re sixty, take it from me, you’re fucking lost.’
  69. Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
  70. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. Just do yourself a favour, and read it. Plan for one sitting.
  71. The Thirteen Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian.
  72. Where D’You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple.
  73. Gaudy Night – DL Sayers
  74. The Nutmeg of Consolation – Patrick O’Brian
  75. The Carrier – Sophie Hannah
  76. Broken Homes – Ben Aaronavitch
  77. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
  78. Our Spoons Came from Woolworths – Barbara Comyns
  79. Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway. Which definitely stood up to a second reading but I demand more Mercer Cradle.
  80. Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan. Booky, geeky fun. Best not to pay too close attention to the central craziness and just go along for the ride.Stoner – John Williams. Brilliant stuff.
  81. The Red House – Mark Haddon. Fine at the time, forgettable.
  82. The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes Meh. I require a little more information on how the time travel thing works, and how the talismans manage to keep taking Harper back to the same girls. All a bit glossed over for my liking, and therefore unconvincing. Kept waiting for it to do something interesting, but it didn’t.
  83. Clarissa Oakes – Patrick O’Brian. I found I remembered absolutely nothing about this at all. Not one of the liveliest but still perfectly readable.
  84. Wreckers Must Breathe – Hammond Innes
  85. In the Spring Time of the Year – Susan Hill
  86. Wild Strawberries – Angela Thirkell
  87. The Black Moth – Georgette Heyer (audio)
  88. Making Time – Elizabeth Jane Howard. Vol 2 of the Cazalet chronicles, which I’m really enjoying.
  89. The Wine Dark Sea – Patrick O’Brian.
  90. The House We Grew up In – Lisa Jewell.
  91. Naked Heat – Richard Castle. Couldn’t quite resist this, but don’t think I’ll be reading more. Rather just watch Castle.
  92. Instructions for a Heat Wave – Maggie O’Farrell. Perfectly drawn.
  93. The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian.
  94. Black Sheep – Susan Hill. Brief and tragic.
  95. Polgara the Sorceress – David Eddings. Yes, things are precisely that bad that I took refuge for a day in dodgy fantasy.
  96. The Headhunters – Peter Lovesey
  97. The Black House – Peter May (audio)
  98. Confusion – Elizabeth Jane Howard. Vol 3 of the Cazalet chronicles, which are all I really want to read at the moment.
  99. Casting Off – Elizabeth Jane Howard. Vol 4 of the Cazalet chronicles.
  100. A View from the Harbour – Elizabeth Taylor
  101. First Rider’s Call – Kristen Britain
  102. The High King’s Tomb – Kristen Britain
  103. The Yellow Admiral – Patrick O’Brian
  104. Rogue Male – Geoffrey Household. And why did I not know of this before? Hats off to Mr B’s Emporium for getting it back into print, and in a very nice edition, too. It’s a small classic of the spy-suspense genre. Compelling, chilling, claustrophobic and pitiless.
  105. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
  106. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
  107. All Change – Elizabeth Jane Howard. And thus ends the Cazalet chronicles, leaving me with a big reading hole to fill.
  108. Lasting Damage – Sophie Hannah
  109. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  110. Penelope – Rebecca Harrington
  111. All My Friends are Superheroes – Andrew Kauffman.

2012

  1. Any Human Face – Charles Lambert. Crime novel set in ‘the Rome that tourists don’t see’. Which, pretty much makes it anywhere, really. It was fine, but the bits I really liked were the sub-plot stuff. I want to know more about Alina! More on Alex and Roger! Oh, I guess we’re back to the photos.
  2. The Somnambulist – Essie Fox. I’m abandoning this at p. 261 because it is melodramatic awfulness conveying no real sense of the period it’s supposed to be set in. And the heroine is a nitwit and the other characters are made from cheap cardboard. And I’ve read versions of the same thing at least 3,759 times before. I want my fucking money back but I wouldn’t sell this to anyone.
  3. Diary of a Nobody – George and Weedon Grossmith. Ah, bless Charles Pooter and the long-suffering Carrie.
  4. Blindfold Games – Alan Ross. I seem to be reading an awful lot about cricket, and how the wonders of cricket can be expressed in poetry. But we’re building up to WWII.
  5. Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller – Jennifer Kloester. It has taken me a week to drag myself through this not very weighty item, all the while feeling very sorry for Heyer that she hasn’t had a better biographer. The only reason I finished the book was that I wanted some of the information in it to be transferred to my head; but I resented that actually reading it was the only way for that to happen. As it turns out, Heyer doesn’t provide much material for a biographer to work on, and when the writer is as dull and plodding as Kloester she could use all the help she can get. Stick to the novels.
  6. The Risk of Darkness – Susan Hill. Book the third in the DCI Simon Serrailler series, and jolly good too. I like the way the series is unfolding and not just in the stock ways, either. Lots of good characters who get as much attention as Serrailler.
  7. Before I Go to Sleep – SJ Watson. Not a bad debut mystery thriller; the destination becomes obvious but the journey is still good.
  8. Detection Unlimited – Georgette Heyer.
  9. Death in the Stocks – Georgette Heyer.
  10. The Duke’s Children – Anthony Trollope. So far, I am feeling very sorry for the Duke, who is a jolly decent old stick. I hope his children buck their ideas up. So, now I’ve finished this, I’m thinking old Planty Pall is going to wind up pretty happy with Frank and Isobel joining the family. And I suspect even Gerald will turn out ok. The question is – what can follow the last of the Pallisers?
  11. Uncivil Seasons – Michael Malone. As a fill in re-read, but damn, I’d forgotten how good Malone is. Probably because I found his last novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, very disappointing. Can’t go wrong with Justin and Cuddy, though.
  12. Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway.
  13. The Lottery – Shirley Jackson. Book of short stories, and good lord that woman knows creepy.
  14. The Evolution of Inanimate Objects – Harry Karlinsky.
  15. 11/22/63 – AKA That Stephen King book that has an American style date as its title, making it impossible for me to remember. But I’m enjoying it, nonetheless. It seemed to take me an age to read this, and I put it down to the fact that I’m not all that interested in Kennedy’s assassination. So I enjoyed this for the writing and the sub-plots but in honesty I’d have preferred a novel about the town of Jodie, with Deke and Ellie, Jake/George and Sadie. I thought they were such great characters.
  16. First Lady – Michael Malone.
  17. Time’s Witness – Michael Malone.
  18. Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter. For book club and about the first book I’ve read for it that I’ve liked. Fevvers is a great character, hatched not born, spinning her own fairy tales of which to be heroine, creating her own fate, child and maiden to Lizzie’s crone. A confidence trickster whose glory is renewed by its reflection from those around her.
  19. The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch. Another book club book. It’s been years since I read any Murdoch, and I like this so far. The narrator is such an awful, pompous ass I am really hoping he’ll get some kind of comeuppance.
  20. Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman – A.W.Hornung. Just dipped in again because I was in between books. Realised that there is something disturbingly amoral about Raffles, and for all he’s the gentleman thief, he’s not to be trusted an inch.
  21. The Vows of Silence – Susan Hill. There were times when I almost didn’t want to keep reading, didn’t want to know about any more murders because the vignettes of the victims made them so real. They could have gone off to have novels of their own, so there’s a real sense of lives brutally cut short. In this one, a gunman is terrorising the women of Lafferton, while Simon is also dealing with a family tragedy. Again, Hill does that thing where she keeps her plot lines neatly balanced between the personal and the professional.
  22. The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes.
  23. The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey. Marvellous sense of place, loved the retelling of the fairy story and enjoyed how the story balanced on the magical realism line.
  24. Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban.
  25. Crampton Hodnet – Barbara Pym. Quick re-read while wondering what to read next. I’d forgotten how funny it is, and how spot on about North Oxford.
  26. Bone & Cane – David Belbin. Which was fine but I didn’t love it, and I didn’t really buy the relationship between Nick and Sarah. The whole early Blair thing was good but the sum of the novel wasn’t enough for me to want to read more. Can definitely see this as a TV series, though.
  27. The Outcast – Sadie Jones. Large print, wide spaced on thick paper to bulk out the book, which if anything, could have done with being shorter. It was ok, but however relentlessly miserable you’ve got to read real 50s novels for the genuine sense of inescapable claustrophobia.
  28. The Mystery of the Butcher’s Shop – Gladys Mitchell. I forced myself through this but didn’t like any of the characters (least of all Mrs Bradley) and the murder was entirely far-fetched. Mitchell goes on the pile of classic crime I don’t like, along with Ngaio Marsh.
  29. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets – Eva Rice. Galloped through this, all the while feeling as though I’d read it before. Mostly because it’s entirely derivative, so pretty much, I have. But there’s a host of books do the ‘quirky heroine comes of age in the 50s’ thing better and less forgettably.
  30. The One You Really Want – Jill Mansell. Of the 5 books I read last week, this was the one I enjoyed most while I was reading. Mansell is becoming my default writer of chicklit. I’ve read 4 or 5 and they are reliably good, with real characters and just the right level of unbelievable romance about them. Pure froth, and that’s exactly what I needed.
  31. Gaudy Night – DL Sayers. And yes, I have read this a bazillion times but it was one of those days when Peter Wimsey is exactly the right company. And I still envy Harriet her ivory chessmen and am gutted that they are trashed. Also, I play a secret game of measuring my literateness by the number of quotes I can recognise in a Wimsey novel. It is not many. I am not very literate. Sigh.
  32. The Parasol Protectorate – Gail Carriger. This book was rubbish, but even more annoyingly it didn’t need to be quite so rubbish. If the author had canned the whole faux 19th century thing, it might have worked much better and I wouldn’t have been subjected to her leaden attempts at amusing, coy or, Gods help me, amusingly coy 19th century style prose. It’s as though she couldn’t bear to let go of the idea of the parasol, and then had to find an historical setting so she could include it. Other than that, werewolfy, vampirey nonsense, with a squabbling couple at the center who have all the emotional maturity of grapefruit.
  33. Every Contact Leaves a Trace – Elanor Dymott. I thought this was great. Richard’s wife, Rachel, is brutally murdered one night when they’re visiting their old Oxford college. The novel is both Richard’s attempts to find out what happened, and also to come to terms with it. It’s told in a mostly first person narrative, in long sentences, with a seeming rambling structure that actually holds together very well. Stories unfold, loop round on each other, intertwine and meander quite definitely to their end point.
  34. Busman’s Honeymoon – DL Sayers. Well, obviously, having just re-read Gaudy Night!
  35. Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett. Gosh, it’s been ages since I read a Pratchett. There was a time when I was a regular but I gave up around Moving Pictures, I think. So I borrowed this from a friend on a whim, and it was delightful. I’d forgotten that TP is just downright good with words, and wordplay. More Pratchett, please!
  36. Rivers of London – Ben Aaronivich. A detective story with a bit of magic to it, you say? Oh, go on then. Peter Grant, just off being a probationary constable and therefore lowest of the low in the Met, is standing watch over a murder scene in Covent Garden one night when he sees a ghost. Who witnessed the murder. Cue a fair amount of supernatural activity + regular policing and all put together reasonably well. Plus, one of the heroes got seriously hurt in a not-the-usual-plot-direction kind of way, and when authors are willing to do that to their main characters they’re usually going to do other interesting stuff as well.
  37. Moon over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch. So that was enough to make me read book 2 in the series (of course it’s a series), in which it turns out that something is feeding off jazz musicians in Soho and in which the evil magician who may be the Big Baddy for some novels to come is introduced.
  38. The Pledge – Friedrich Durranmatt.
  39. Pilcrow – Adam Mars-Jones. Which I found out about here: http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/dovegreyreader_scribbles/2012/03/-pilcrow-adam-mars-jones.html, and then @john_self chimed in, so that was that. It was terrific, such a solid and sustained piece of writing that I have to keep reminding myself it’s fiction. I’ve read less convincing autiobiographies. You’d think that a book that started with its protagonist, John Cromer, on complete bed rest for a couple of years would be dull, and yet I found it a page turner from the start. The best news is, there are two more volumes to come.
  40. Sword of Honour – Evelyn Waugh. I have the all-in-one Penguin Classic hardback edition, so it’s difficult for me to tell where the breaks in the trilogy are. I’m just reading the whole thing straight through, and it’s a triumph of that sort of dark comedy, to which military bureaucracy lends itself so well and easily. And yet I can’t quite figure out Guy Crouchback, who is a thoroughly decent chap and at the same time, almost a cypher around whom stuff happens, without it ever really happening to him. (In which respect he’s much like Nicholas in A Dance to the Music of Time.) Anyway, this is much better war Waugh than Brideshead. Does Guy have the same remoteness as Charles Ryder? I think he might.
  41. They – Rudyard Kipling. This is a collection of three stories of suspense and I haven’t done it justice. For a start, I gulped it down one lunchtime and I had trouble adjusting to Kipling’s style after Waugh’s. So I will have to go back at some point. Of the three stories, though, ‘They’ was my favourite, although it was obvious from the outset what the twist was.
  42. North & South – Elizabeth Gaskell. I must read more Gaskell, because I like her writing. This was chiefly good for the north-south split and the descriptions of life in a mill town. Could have done without the tiresomely inevitable love story bit of it.
  43. The Shadows in the Street – Susan Hill (audio). I lost a reading week somewhere after Sword of Honour, and just remembered it was because I was listening to this instead. Book 5 in the DCI Simon Serrailler series, and they are proving consistently good, even if I did guess the murderer.
  44. The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach. Which I read on a ‘plane and was good but not great, and I didn’t think really went anywhere in the end. (And I’m finding that about some contemporary American fiction at the moment: this, Admission, The Marriage Plot. It does what it does competently-to-very-well, but that’s it.)
  45. Harriet – Elizabeth Jenkins. Based on a real life murder, known at the time as the Penge murder, this beat out both A Handful of Dust and Frost in May for a literary prize. I’ve read both and that’s stiff competition. This was chilling, particularly so in the way that the murderers slide towards their crime of starving Harriet (and her child), each step that goes unchallenged by their tacit complicity making it easier to take the next step.
  46. Bulldog Drummond – Sapper. A filler, I was finding it very hard to find something to follow Sword of Honour.
  47. Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel. I’m 25 pp in and pissed off that I have to go to work instead of staying in my hotel room until I’ve finished it. As with Wolf Hall, just immediately gripping. Update: loved it; find Thomas Cromwell fascinating.
  48. More Like Her – Liza Palmer. Ok, but I think it could have benefited from slowing down. Everything (the friendships, relationships, increased self-awareness) happened so fast it seemed unbelievable.
  49. After the Party – Lisa Jewell. Which I’ve been avoiding reading because it’s the sequel to Ralph’s Party, which I know I really enjoyed. Turns out, I read it so long ago I barely remembered anything about it. Reliable Jewell, chicklit with some oomph to it.
  50. Danny, the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl. There are loads of pheasants round here. Trying my hand at poaching would be bad, right?
  51. Palladian – Elizabeth Taylor.
  52. The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles. I liked the writing more than the story, which was disaffection turns to death and madness. And I had a real problem with the third part, [spoilers ahead!] in which Kit runs away into the desert and seems to come to terms remarkably swiftly with her ensuing rape. Or is it supposed to be a measure of her madness and the extent of her collapse? [end of spoilers]  Even allowing for the 1949 pub date, it jarred. I’d read more Bowles, though.
  53. Mountains of the Mind – Robert Macfarlane. Adept and readable history of the development of the Western fascination with mountains, interspersed with the author’s personal reflections on his own mountain climbing exploits. So he really knows what he’s talking about.
  54. London Belongs to Me – Norman Collins.
  55. The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones.
  56. The Whole Day Through – Patrick Gale. Which I bought because I like books in which all the activity happens in one day; after all, when you take thoughts and emotions into a day, sometimes it can feel like a lifetime. I really liked this, and the way it swerved unexpectedly, from the simple action of a letter being posted.
  57. A Cab at the Door – V.S. Pritchett. On balance, I’m glad I picked this up second hand from Blackwell’s and didn’t fork out the price of the Slightly Foxed edition. I mean, yes, it was interesting to read about growing up poor in pre-WWI London, and with ghastly parents to boot. But Pritchett is such a whiner.
  58. Lolly Willowes – Sylvia Townsend-Warner. Re-read, but good because I then went walking slap in the middle of Lolly’s territory.
  59. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson. One of those books that I should have read with a pencil to hand so I could mark passages, but fortunately, it’s short enough I can go back and find them. So much packed into a slight volume. Dark and funny and sad and resonant.
  60. Notes from an Exhibition – Patrick Gale. With which I was obsessed and so grabbed at any opportunity to read a page, a paragraph, a sentence. I loved the structure and the incomplete unfolding of the characters’ lives, diving into bits that weren’t necessarily connected except by Rachel as wife, mother or primarily, as artist; who was herself so selfish and inwardly focused that it wouldn’t occur to her to share except through her art.
  61. The Cherry Tree – Adrian Bell. Completing the trilogy I started last year. I still think Corduroy is the best volume but in the end I did like this one. Wonderful writing about the countryside.
  62. Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man – Siegfried Sassoon. One of those books that I’ve been seeing in bookshops for years and thinking ‘I must read that’. So I finally picked it up in my last trawl at Blackwells. And it was well worth the read, despite the fact that I know nothing about riding, hunting or cricket and any actual catching of foxes was incidental to the joy of riding. Not sure I can face the rest of the trilogy because WWI breaks my heart, but maybe.
  63. Dusty Answer – Rosamond Lehmann. Her first novel, and a slightly scandalous best seller in its day. I wonder what it was like living in a time when, you know, actual literature sold really well? (In 90 years’ time will someone be looking back fondly on the literariness of Fifty Shades? Shudder.) Anyway, I found this an oddly sad and unhopeful coming of age story, sort of lonely at the core and with no real signs that the heroine, Judith, is going to be allowed to be happy. Then again, it was written in 1926 and the shadow of WWI hangs over most of the characters. it’s not surprising that there’s a dissonance between a romantic young woman and her male peers who lost their youth to the war.
  64. Ring of Bright Water – Gavin Maxwell. Which is billed as all about the otters, but really they don’t come into it until the second half, and are a welcome leavening touch. Although I also get the sense that Maxwell himself is interesting enough if he’d reveal a bit more. He could certainly chuck in the odd surprise along the lines of ‘Anyway, I popped off to spend some time with Wilfred Thesiger and the Marsh Arabs…’. I’m sorry, what? Or, ‘some years ago I built a world-class collection of wild geese which went to form the basis of Slimbridge…’ As you do. The otters are the stars of the show, though,  joyful creatures.
  65. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. I don’t know where you’d find another pair of such fucked up, unreliable narrators, except perhaps in another Gillian Flynn book. And that’s a compliment. You can’t trust either of them an inch, and every word they say has to be sifted and weighed, and then you do that again when you get the counterpoint story. Unravelling of a happy marriage, or uncovering of a mutual, multi-layered web of deceit?
  66. Maskerade – Terry Pratchett. Borrowed it, read it, returned it the same day and then borrowed the next one. I do love Granny Weatherwax.
  67. Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett. And the problem (or not) with Pratchett is that he’s terribly addictive and I could so easily fall straight into a few weeks of reading nothing else. This would be great but I’d have very little chance of adjusting to the real world when I came out of the reading fug, and it’s hard enough anyway. So, I am rationing myself and it’s back to Isherwood’s Berlin Stories.
  68. Berlin Stories – Christopher Isherwood.
  69. Alys, Always – Harriet Lane. So, our creepy heroine and narrator, Frances, finds the eponymous Alys in the wreckage of her car, and parlays the dead woman’s last words into a connection with the bereaved family. One glimpse of their comfortable life is enough to set Frances off on a plan to have a bit of that for herself. She doesn’t reveal much about herself and she keeps her cards close, so although I thought I knew where this was going, I wasn’t entirely sure, because Frances is disturbing enough that it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if she slipped completely off balance (and, after all, I have recently read Gone Girl). No spoilers, and I kind of felt as though the second half drifted a little because the tension wound down, but I still had to know what happened.
  70. A Mystery for Ninepence – Phyllis Gegan. Nostalgia re-read of the same Collins Seagull club hb I had as a kid. A total bargain for 4 quid. Not quite as gripping as I remembered it, but then presumably it used to take me longer than 75 minutes to read it.
  71. A Question of Proof – Nicholas Blake. My first introduction to amateur detective Nigel Strangeways, and probably my last encounter. I didn’t hate it the way I hated the Gladys Mitchell I read earlier in the year, I just didn’t find it particularly interesting, or care about the murders, or take to Nigel himself. And I’m a bit miffed that I paid 8.99 for a reissued paperback that had been badly proofread. Bad Vintage!
  72. The Old Ways – Robert MacFarlane. So I half liked this, and half found it really self-indulgent. But the bits I enjoyed were really good, so it kind of balanced out.
  73. Broken Harbour – Tana French. As I was reading this I thought about how deceptively well written it was, in that it’s possible to glide over so damn many well crafted sentences because they don’t get in the way. I found this the weakest of her novels to date, which is to praise with faint damns because French being weak is aspirational for other writers. Still, it didn’t quite come off for me; but again, I really wonder how I’d have felt if I hadn’t read Gone Girl, which basically has me distrusting every seemingly straightforward narrative and happy wife.
  74. The Forrests – Emily Perkins. Bought this on the strength of Novel about My Wife, and am rather struggling with it (as can be seen by the fact that I read the two above in between cracking on with this.) Abandoned, on the grounds that it’s just very, very dull.
  75. Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy L Sayers. Quick palate cleanser, before moving on to…
  76. Some Kind of Fairy Tale – Graham Joyce. Meh. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t publishable quality either.
  77. Master & Commander – Patrick O’Brian. Still struggled through the first 100pp, which contains more nautical information than I am remotely interested in. It’s a good job I knew about the goodness ahead.
  78. The Worm Forgives the Plough – John Stewart Collis. About 70pp in so far and loving it. Collis is such an engaging, likeable, interested  and observant interlocutor. Rather than a straight narrative in the Adrian Bell style, he writes vignettes which frees him up to focus on anything or anyone that catches his fancy.
  79. Post-Captain – Patrick O’Brian.
  80. HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian. Damn that Villiers woman.
  81. Moonlight Mile – Dennis Lehane. No spoilers, but I was glad to find out what happened with Patrick & Angie.
  82. Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple.
  83. Republican Party Reptile – PJ O’Rourke.
  84. The Children of Green Knowe – LM Boston. Really must get the rest of the series one of these days.
  85. If No One Speaks of Remarkable Things – Jon McGregor. Birthday present from Ms G and not my usual sort of novel, so it took me a while to get into it. I generally like a good, straightforward linear narrative, which I ascribe to the same thing in my head that is baffled by poetry and modern art; and I need the characters to have more distinguishing characteristics if I’m going to be able to identify them. But that’s actually not the point of this novel, which is rather that stuff is happening all around us, all the time, to the people we see in passing every day and barely notice. So I found that the dramatic event to which the book was building was by being represented as a conjoined focus, was simultaneously anticlimactic; the disparate perspectives that temporarily joined up meant that the event (sorry for vagueness, trying to avoid spoilers) still happened at a distance from the reader. And because the parallel narrative had already moved beyond that point and used it as a past point of reference, I felt my distance was doubled. Absolutely effective, but on the whole, I think I prefer immediacy.
  86. The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian. I love the fact that at the beginning of the month a new O’Brian arrives by post. Sweet, sweet deal with Blackwells.
  87. It Must Have Been Something I Ate – Jeffrey Steingarten. A collection of essays that he wrote for Vogue and which seemed to hit the spot when I needed something bite-sized and none too taxing for Frankfurt Book Fair (so when he started digging into the chemical stuff, I skim read or moved on). Steingarten is a bit precious and name-dropping, and his editor needs to slap him down about using ! , but mostly he’s amusing and he does write well about food. Probably best served in monthly portions rather than read consecutively, and I think I come down more on the side of Elizabeth David’s practicality over Steingarten’s gourmandish rhapsodizing. You will simply never get me to care that much even about hot chocolate, let alone multiple varieties of salt, but I may give his potato gratin recipe a try.
  88. Strong Poison – Dorothy L Sayers. Spot the comfort reading…
  89. The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer.
  90. The Reluctant Widow – Georgette Heyer.
  91. Charity Girl – Georgette Heyer.
  92. Desolation Island – Patrick O’Brian.
  93. White Boots – Noel Streatfeild.
  94. Girls in White Dresses – Lauren Close. Which got good reviews as being very funny as far as I can tell, but I’m finding leaden. She writes about things that ought to be amusing, but somehow they’re not. Hmm.
  95. Standing in Another Man’s Grave – Ian Rankin. Ah, happy place. I think that was a very good Rebus novel, with John himself sitting awkwardly on the outer edge of modern policing and yet still getting results. That must have really pissed off Malcolm Fox, but I don’t like him anyway. Nice to see Big Ger slightly losing his touch as well. Feels as though Darryl’s got mileage, so I hope that there is more Rebus to come. Let’s face it, he’s not retiring.
  96. Cedilla – Adam Mars-Jones. The sequel to Pilcrow, and just as engrossing.
  97. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins. Because, Penguin were doing a flash sale on Twitter, and therefore I got 40% off the clothbound hardback. It is a thing of beauty and joy, so much so that I would carry it with me just for a glimpse of prettiness during my days. Even if I didn’t lurve it completely for its novelistic brilliance.
  98. The Fortunes of War – Patrick O’Brian.
  99. The Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness. Wow, this was boring, thank the gods I bought it half price. Harkness is one of those authors who sacrifices plot and pace for the sake of cramming in Every. Single. Detail of the historical research she’s done, and just about every historical character too. I’ll definitely be skipping vol 3 when it’s out.
  100. The Man in the Picture – Susan Hill. Ooh, spookiness. My favourite kind of ghost story and kudos for easing four (count ’em, four) separate narratives into one slim book, without the pace or the prevailing sense of unease letting up at all. Nicely done.
  101. The Matchmaker – Stella Gibbons. Just started it, and it’s going to be fine but not up to Cold Comfort Farm. But then, nothing else I’ve read by Gibbons has been, although I live in hope. Update: Really, I finished this out of duty but I can’t say I give a toss about any of the characters. I think Alda is supposed to be charming but she’s not, Jean is a wimp, Sylvia is ghastly. And none of them come alive on the page. It’s like flat champagne.
  102. Lonely Hearts – John Harvey. So, I was sick and couldn’t think or concentrate, which meant that comfortable re-reads were the order of the day. Hence the list of Harveys that follows. Gotta say, though, Charlie Resnick is good company if you’re sick.
  103. Rough Treatment – John Harvey.
  104. Cutting Edge – John Harvey.
  105. Off Minor – John Harvey.
  106. Wasted Years – John Harvey.
  107. Linnets and Valerians – Elizabeth Goudge. Also a re-read.
  108. Maddy Alone – Pamela Browne. V excited to find this, and the rest of the series, back in print because I loved The Swish of the Curtain. This wasn’t as good but I think I’d have loved it if I’d read it at the right age. I’m pretty sure I’ll still read the rest out of a sense of completeness.
  109. A Perfectly Good Man – Patrick Gale. Damn, but the boy can write. This is the third of his novels I’ve read, and I like his episodic, non-linear structure that moves back and forth through time and across characters. The novel is like patchwork and you don’t get the complete story about anyone, and maybe not even all the important bits; which feels right, because that’s life. The story is built up indirectly, approached sideways on, which means the trajectory is uncertain and what seems tangential might be central.
  110. Green Rider – Kirsten Britain. My Christmas plan of reading the complete Malory Towers set went awry when I left it too late to buy the set. So, instead, I turned to fantasy for my Christmas Day trash read. Feisty female character, quest, bit of magic. Perfectly acceptable, didn’t require any brain engagement, wasn’t painfully badly written (ok, other than the odd sentence) and I’ve no desire to read further. That’s a win.

2011

  1. The Casino – Margaret Bonham. And so the reading year is off to a great start with this collection of short stories, first published in 1948. They are my favourite kind, often centred around a small, domestic event with their importance dependent on the interplay of characters (it scarcely needs pointing out that this is a Persephone Book, does it?). Bonham does a good job in drawing out human weakness, as in ‘The River’, in which a father’s loving patience with his young daughter momentarily snaps; or ‘The Professor’s Daughter’, where a precociously imaginative girl runs rings around Miss Jenner, the snobbish spinster in reduced circumstances who has offered to look after her. But these are balanced by Harriet in ‘Inigo’, who much to her surprise and despite being unmarried, finds herself adopting a baby.
  2. Lanark – Alasdair Gray. Right. I’m a few chapters into Book 3 (the first book) and so far it’s all very odd and allegorical, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on. It might be the beginning of Lanark’s journey to being human. I don’t think I’m enjoying it, but I’m sort of fascinated. Will have to intersperse with stuff I understand.
  3. Winter Tales – George Mackay Brown. I had put these aside for winter, and now it is. They are perfect lunchtime reading, being mostly very short and always sparely beautifully written. A spark of light on a dark winter’s day.
  4. Bulldog Drummond – Sapper. On ‘The Final Count’, which for a change is a first person narrative, although sadly not written from Drummond’s perspective.
  5. The Cherry Tree – Adrian Bell. Because I left Sapper at work last night, so I wouldn’t read instead of doing other things I had to do instead; and picked up vol 3 of Bell to take to bed with me. Slightly dodgy beginning, I think, but seems to be settling down a bit.
  6. Nightingale Wood – Stella Gibbons. Yes, I know, I only read this last year. It was the perfect antidote to that training course I was on.
  7. Elegance – Kathleen Tessaro. This started off much better than I thought it was going to be, and then rather lost its way, I think. Unhappily married woman has to figure out who she is, which she does partly with the help of friends, and partly with an old handbook to achieving elegance.
  8. Detection Unlimited – Georgette Heyer. Nothing better on a cold afternoon than an unread Heyer to go with the tea. This one was a bit laborious, and the romance was only there for the sake of it, but still very satisfactory to see Inspector Grant get his man.
  9. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand  – Helen Simonson. Which I liked enormously, although not entirely sure about the ending which seemed suddenly to veer into soap opera territory. Major Pettigrew himself is utterly endearing.
  10. Treasures of Time – Penelope Lively. So far, so meh. The plot might be all right but the treatment is so heavy handed, and the set up looks very much as though it’s going in a familiar direction. Family secrets are doubtless to be revealed, but the foreshadowing is so unsubtle that by p. 58 I don’t think there are any surprises ahead. Am mostly reading on to find out how Nellie will triumph over ghastly Laura.
  11. I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith. Which is one of my all time favourites and the perfect comfort read for the end of last week.
  12. Room – Emma Donoghue. Again with the ‘meh’. It’s an interesting enough story but I absolutely didn’t buy the narrative voice and I don’t think the novel managed to sustain it’s own internal logic.
  13. Living Dead in Dallas – Charlaine Harris. Absolutely dreadful, much like her first. This one was research, but as there’s about a para in total about the maenad, I shan’t have to touch it again and can concentrate on the TV series instead. Result!
  14. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – Alan Garner. Which I haven’t read in a whole lot of years and had largely forgotten. I don’t think there’s anyone else who writes like Garner, is there? Terrific stuff. Oh, but don’t buy the HarperCollins 50th anniversary edition because there are so many typos it really gets in the way of the story. Probably if you get an older version, the publisher will have bothered to pay for proofreading.
  15. The Passage – Justin Cronin. I got about 100 pages into this last summer, but I was still at the point when I couldn’t concentrate. Picked it up again yesterday and have blasted through most of the rest. Entirely derivative and yet still compulsive junk food reading.
  16. The Moon of Gomrath – Alan Garner. Even better than Weirdstone, much more complicated plot and not such a straight, linear narrative. And again, just plain wonderful writing. Also, fewer typos. May have to explore Garner’s later stuff.
  17. Nocturnes – John Connolly. Which is a collection of creepy, scary short stories; and in particular, the first one I read ‘Some Children Wander’. I never liked circuses, or clowns, anyway.
  18. Thursbitch – Alan Garner. Part of which is written in what I suspect is extremely accurate 18th century dialect, and therefore I am only grasping at the meaning. But is is a treasure of a book.
  19. The Man Who Sold Death – James Munro. Which opens with an explosion and pretty swiftly goes on to establish that John Craig, for whom the car bomb was intended, is not a nice man. Well paced, well written so far.
  20. Conceit – Mary Novik. About John Donne’s daughter, and I’ve been a bit pick-up-and-put-down with it so haven’t really developed a flow. Not very drawn in so far.
  21. The Thirteen Treasures – Michelle Harrison. Which was ok, except for the bits that made no sense at all, and the fact that the title had very little to do with the book. So that a couple of things that seemed relevant turned out to be meaningless. Which is not getawayable with, even if it is a children’s book and even if there is going to be a sequel.
  22. Admission – Jean Hanff Korelitz. Portia Nathan is an Admissions officer for Princeton. She spends most of her time immersed in the files of the students applying, focusing on them to the detriment of paying attention to her own life. Until, seemingly out of nowhere, it all starts to unravel. No surprising destination here, but the journey was very readable.
  23. Anglo-Saxon Attitudes – Angus Wilson. This is all the fault of Slightly Foxed, who had an essay on Wilson in the Summer issue. It made him sound much more readable than I had ever supposed.
  24. The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss. Dear Pat, I do hope you are not going to turn out to be the next George R R Martin, making us wait years for the next book. By the time this one came along (and that was not an unduly long time, mind you), I had pretty much forgotten vol 1. Didn’t matter, though, this one romped along and I soon picked it up. And just as I was thinking ‘Enough of the University, already’, lo! that’s just what happened. Precocious Kvothe, learning all manner of arts and building a myth around himself. Where will it all end? Something has to drag him out of that inn.
  25. Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada. For which I will put on my unpopularity hat and say ‘Meh’. For bookclub, skim read it, seemed enough. Translationese and it all seemed terribly familiar from, um, anything else I’ve read about WWII Germany. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it suffers from Stieg Larson syndrome (all hype, no substance) but it’s another one of those Books the Success of Which I Do Not Comprehend.
  26. Assassin’s Quest – Robin Hobb. Which I got all excited about, having raced through the preceding vols in the trilogy, but am finding a slog. Possibly because the narrator is an IDIOT, who, if given a choice between taking the stupid path and doing something that won’t end in death/pain/severe discomfort, unhesitatingly behaves like a COMPLETE MORON. Update: I have abandoned this within 100pp of the end because the alleged hero is simply too stupid to bear, and it is simply incomprehensible that his companions haven’t clubbed him on the head and left his body in a ditch.
  27. A Small Death in Lisbon – Robert Wilson. Meh. Ok, my original rating was unfair and probably had a lot to do with the pick up and put down way I was reading this. On Friday night I glued myself to the sofa and blasted through the remaining 350 pp. I still don’t love the beginning, and I think that set up could have been as effectively achieved in a different way. But when the action switched to contemporary Lisbon, and the detective plot line kicked in, I was hooked. So ultimately, very satisfactory.
  28. Cotillion – Georgette Heyer. On audio and utterly delightful.
  29. Fanny Hill – John Cleland. I got bored half way through, just as with reading de Sade. However, I keep getting this confused with Moll Flanders, so at least I won’t be lying any more when I say I’ve read it. Defoe kicks Cleland’s ass, though.
  30. Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer. Also on audio.
  31. The Reluctant Widow – Georgette Heyer. Yes, all right, it’s an addiction. I admit it.
  32. The Convenient Marriage – Georgette Heyer. As above.
  33. Good Behaviour – Molly Keane. Liked the writing more than the book; shortage of sympathetic characters, too many horrible ones.
  34. South Riding – Winifred Holtby. And a lot less depressing than The Crowded Streets, although I could have done without the triumphal ending.
  35. Hostages to Fortune – Elizabeth Cambridge.
  36. The Expendable Man – Dorothy B Hughes. Which was ace, a really taut, tense thriller. Mostly, you know how these things are going to go: guy is framed, guy finds out who really did it, guy gets girl. Nothing quite so predictable here.
  37. Deaf Sentence – David Lodge. Made me laugh a bit but didn’t really come together for me. Wasn’t entirely happy with the switch between first and third person, didn’t like Alex Loom, her disappearance seemed a bit pat. More like a series of vignettes than a novel, although I know deliberately episodic.
  38. Hyddenworld – William Horwood. Started well, but then, meh. Author interjecting his own anti modern society rants under cover of characters; writing downright wince making in places; everyone seemed to discover how to shift between portals pretty easily for a skill that had been lost for, like, ever. Shan’t bother with the rest of the series as they appear.
  39. Midsummer Night in the Workhouse – Diana Athill. Terrific stories, relentlessly realistic, skeweringly true.
  40. The Way to Paradise – Mario Vargos Llosa. Bookclub book about Gauguin. Interested to see how it stacks up against Maugham.
  41. Lizzie Dripping – Helen Cresswell.
  42. Instead of a Letter – Diana Athill. Confirming my belief that she is quite a find as an author and that I must read everything.
  43. In Praise of Savagery – Warwick Cairns.
  44. Forgetting Zoe – Ray Robinson. So, if you have Room unread, take it back to the store, get a refund, and buy this instead. If you read Room, then I share your pain, boredom and general sense of ‘OMG, this could have been so much better’. Damn right it could, and that’s the book that Ray Robinson wrote. FZ is scary, oppressive, multi-layered, upsetting, insightful, moving and challenging, and in terrific prose too.
  45. Holy Disorders – Edmund Crispin.
  46. Out of Africa – Karen Blixen
  47. The Making of Us – Lisa Jewell.
  48. Starter for Ten – David Nicholls.
  49. Tea with Mr Rochester – Frances Towers. I liked these stories a lot, slightly unsettling gems that they are. They are mostly about the dark, dreamy, literary daughters of the house, who keep their secrets to themselves.
  50. A High-pitched Buzz – Roger Longrigg. Which I wrote about here.
  51. The Image of a Drawn Sword – Jocelyn Brooke. What he said. My copy is another nasty Faber Finds, but does have the Anthony Powell intro. I found the novel quite unsettling, because of what seemed to me its creeping descent into at best a nightmare, at worst a form of madness.
  52. Authenticity – Deirdre Madden. Honestly? Disappointing after Molly Fox’s Birthday.
  53. The Tapestry of Love – Rosy Thornton.
  54. Mortal Love – Elizabeth Hand.
  55. Sea Room – Adam Nicolson.  A love song to The Shiants, the islands Nicolson owned until he gave them to his son in 2005. A fascinating blend of the personal, historical, religious, geographical, geological and so on. Lots of good stories.
  56. The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson. Book club book. So far (and I am fewer than 100 pages in), I am entirely uninterested in Julian Treslove. He seems to be something of a maudlin twit.
  57. Tiny Carteret – Sapper. In which it is revealed that Tiny Carteret is sort of like Bulldog Drummond, except for being rather a chump.
  58. A Dance with Dragons – G.R.R. Martin. Back on form after the disappointment of book 4 (‘Really? Another chapter about Cersei screwing someone?’) and a lower death count of major characters than I was expecting. Despite having forgotten about some major plot strands (well, maybe. I mean, at this point, who can tell?) I fair romped through this and now I WANT BOOK SIX.
  59. Tony & Susan – Austin Wright. I liked the structure, I liked the interweaving of the narrative and metanarrative and the beginning kept the tension well ratcheted; and then it all fell apart for me at the end because I simply didn’t believe that Tony was that person. Even in extremis.
  60. The Tennis Party – Sophie Kinsella. Entirely competent fluff about a mixed group of friends getting together for a weekend of tennis and revelations. Read it in about an hour and a half.
  61. Some Hope – Edward St Aubyn. I’ve seen lots of good reviews about St Aubyn’s latest At Last; only to find that it’s a follow up to an earlier trilogy but never quite getting round to finding out what the Melrose trilogy actually was. Fortunately, it was kicking around in my local independent bookshop on Friday (the Bookhouse in Summertown), all three books neatly captured in one volume. I had no idea what to expect of Some Hope, but it turned out to be a grim, gritty and bitingly funny read, with definite echoes of Waugh. David Melrose is certainly the most monstrous character I’ve read in some time.
  62. Phineas Redux – Anthony Trollope. I don’t know why the blurbs for Trollope are always so effectively off-putting but they really are. Of course, now that I’m reading, I’m getting the full benefit of Trollope’s depth, humour and perspicacity into human nature.
  63. Skeleton Hill – Peter Lovesey. It’s been a while since I read a Peter Diamond, and I think he’s mellowed. Plenty of red herrings and reliably good stuff.
  64. The Man Who Was Thursday – G. K. Chesterton. What? And also, no. Shut up now, you’re being tiresome.
  65. Living Proof – John Harvey. For a writer this good, his book are surprisingly difficult to find. The latest DCI Charlie Resnick in crime-ridden 80s Nottingham.
  66. Conference at Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons. Lacking the frothy brilliance of CCF, and I think a bit indulgent on the part of old Stella. But, it was good to know Flora was happily married, and a nice touch that Seth is going bald.
  67. Scream – Colin McCreery. Remind me that if this is ever made into a film, I don’t need to see it. I’ve been blanking on McCreery’s name for days but wanting to read another book with DCI Mark Lapslie, who is now being treated for his synaesthesia, and thus less of a loner. There’s a lot of very unpleasant torture in this, so not for the faint hearted but it was a gripping story. Even if I did guess the murderer. Glad I read it on a sunny afternoon.
  68. Oxford Exit – Veronica Stallwood. My introduction to the Kate Ivory series, and a decent enough mystery. Plus, there’s always the Oxford angle too. In this one, some one is stealing books from the Bodleian (gasp!). Kate’s interesting enough, if rather overplaying the ‘woman must be single to maintain creativity’ angle; but there’s clearly something brewing with her and the chauvinist copper.
  69. Horns – Joe Hill. Which was weird. I rather liked the premise that this guy wakes up after a rough night to find he has horns that have the effect of making everyone around him tell him the bad things they want to do. Even worse, if he touches anyone he finds out all the bad things they’ve done. So, Ig sets out to find the person who raped and brutally murdered Merrin, his teen sweetheart.
  70. Freak of Nature – Phil Whitaker. The freak(s) in this case being John and Mick McDonald, conjoined twins. Or are they? There’s a lot here about the nature of identity, the construct of the self, self-perception versus external perceptions, and a lot of interesting questions got raised. Unfortunately, they weren’t well explored or answered, and the central love triangle was weakly handled. By the end, I had the feeling that Whitaker (a doctor by trade) really wanted to write a scientific paper rather than a novel. Also, there was that ‘novel within a novel’ thing, but when the character in the novel about conjoined twins is writing a fictionalised biography about his life as a conjoined twin, it goes beyond meta and into ‘Right, I really can just skip those chapters, then.’
  71. The Blue Book – A.L. Kennedy. Which I did not read t’other weekend when I was snaffling downs books at a rate of knots, because Kennedy deserves to be savoured. The Blue Book is savoury, sharp, spicy and sweet, and to read it was to be tumbled as a pebble in a torrent of words that are sad and hopeful and true.
  72. Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting – Penelope Mortimer.
  73. Miss Buncle’s Book – D E Stevenson.
  74. Oxford Remains – Veronica Stallwood. So did not work for me. I’m giving up on Stallwood now. It might just be coincidence that I picked the two mysteries where part of the narrative is written from the suspect’s perspective. But in both books, the suspects’ part felt exactly the same, which was slightly more literary than the main narrative but without an independent voice to distinguish them from each other.  And I have to come down on the side of Kate Ivory being too annoying.
  75. Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell. I found this in a lovely bookshop in Bradford-on-Avon, and couldn’t resist the coloured, cross-hatched illustrations. I had no idea what to expect of the book, but it’s utterly charming!
  76. A Game of Hide-and-Seek – Elizabeth Taylor. For 50p at a National Trust second hand bookshop. Written in 1951, this seems to have more of an edge to it than other Taylors I’ve read.  So far, so good, and yet the characters are less sympathetic than I usually find with her, and the chronological jump is a little more jarring. Well written, of course, and beautifully observed, yet somehow lacking warmth.
  77. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern. A beautiful object, but it didn’t live up to the hype for me, I found that the slow build up didn’t go anywhere. And the ending felt a bit rushed and unsatisfactory.
  78. The Tiny Wife – Andrew Kaufman. Fab, fab book, also a beautiful object but despite being a fraction of the size, packing far more magic than The Night Circus. A thief takes an item of sentimental value from a queue of people waiting in a bank, and odd, tragic, funny or oddly tragi-comic events ensue.
  79. The Canal – Lee Rourke. Go here, and read what John Self said, because he’s right.
  80. King Crow – Michael Stewart. All the way through this, I couldn’t make up my mind about it. It is, as promised, part birding manual, part crime thriller. Again, I felt it fell apart a bit at the ending, and the twist was less of a twist and more of an ‘Oh, that makes sense’ moment.
  81. Derby Day – D.J. Taylor. With a great cast of characters, not all of whom got the air time they deserved, if you know what I mean. I think the author could have done more with them. However, a nice story of Victorian Derby Day plottings.
  82. Mother’s Milk – Edward St Aubyn. The next in the Melrose trilogy has Patrick falling apart again, this time with alcohol rather than drugs to help him.
  83. At Last – Edward St Aubyn. So, wrapping up the trilogy. I really wasn’t sure about this, because the setting is all at Eleanor Melrose’s funeral (Patrick’s mother), but in fact it’s short and taught enough for that to work.  And what I forget is St Aubyn’s humour, there are genuine, perceptively drawn comic moments.
  84. Persuasion – Jane Austen. This was my birthday book for me, because I suddenly wanted to read it again. One of my favourites.
  85. The Woman in Black – Susan Hill. I read a good chunk of this sitting in the park in the middle of a beautiful, hot autumn day. And was damn glad to be out in the sunshine. Eery and awful and horrible.
  86. Westwood – Stella Gibbons. I love the Vintage reissues at the moment, but I’ve been disappointed with everything other than Cold Comfort Farm. So I rather ploughed through this, not loving it but not hating it either.
  87. A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness. Got it for about 4 quid in Waterstones because I’d already spent whatever you have to spent to qualify for the half price book. I’m a sucker for things set in Oxford, particularly if those things are supernatural. This turned out to be the first part of a trilogy, which I didn’t know until I was a good way in and it was obvious that things weren’t going to be wrapped up in the remaining pages. Vampires, witches, daemons, old feuds, new love affairs, time travel, magic… And quite well put together, or at least, not jarring enough to make me stop.
  88. Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins. Recommended to me by Raych, Mr W and Zoesmom, so it was inevitable I’d get there. I liked it enough to barrel through the rest of the series. Set in a postwar future America, divided into districts ruled over by a Capitol. Every year, the districts send Tributes to participate in The Hunger Games: live, televised ‘games’ in which the point is for only of them to come out alive. Katniss is a good heroine, likeable but nowhere near perfect and the concept is frighteningly believable.
  89. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins.
  90. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins.
  91. Under Heaven – Guy Gavriel Kay. A man receives a gift of such fabulous wealth that in the deeply political court of which he’s part, it can either mean his passage to power or certain death. Politics, poetry, courtesans and fighting.
  92. A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan. I was totally expecting this to be another of those massively hyped books to which my reaction is ‘meh’. But I loved this, the way the individual narratives looped and linked together, the movement through past, present and future and the snapshots of so many different lives that were all connected in some way. There were so many points when I thought ‘That is such a good description’. Egan seemed to find exactly the right word every time.
  93. Safe from the Sea – Peter Gedye. Conjured a real sense of geographical and emotional remoteness. One of those ‘son reconnects with distant father’ stories, but well done of its type.
  94. Millie’s Fling – Jill Mansell. I’d run out of books and jetlag was getting me up early, so I borrowed this from Zoesmom’s shelf. Entirely charming and down to earth heroine with a good voice made this superior chick lit.
  95. Rumour Has It – Jill Mansell. So I bought another one to read on the ‘plane, and I didn’t like this as much but it was still fun, easy to read and the language didn’t clunk.
  96. Zone One – Colson Whitehead.
  97. The Nebuly Coat – John Meade Falkner. Nice bit of suspense, even if one could guess the ending.
  98. The Midwich Cuckoos – John Wyndham. Not as creepy as I remembered it being from many years ago, when I think I borrowed it from the school library. But, on other hand, interesting questions raised.
  99. The Impossible Dead – Ian Rankin. And it’s no good, I just don’t care about Malcolm Fox and I don’t find that these books have the same spark as the Rebus novels.
  100. Florence & Giles – John Harding.
  101. Tell Me Everything – Sarah Salway.
  102. Who is Mr Satoshi? – Jonathan Lee. I think I liked the writing more than I liked this particular story, so I’d definitely look for more by Lee.
  103. The Prime Minister – Anthony Trollope. Book 5 of the Palliser Chronicles, and poor old Planty Pall ends up as PM of a coalition government. Glencora is determined to rule indirectly through her entertaining and turns Gatherum Castle upside down to do so, to the Duke’s charge of ‘Vulgarity’. Meanwhile, silly Emily Wharton makes a huge mistake in marrying horrible Ferdinand Lopez.
  104. Mistress of the Art of Death – Ariana Franklin. A re-read.
  105. The Serpent’s Tale – Ariana Franklin. And a follow up re-read.
  106. A Village Affair – Joanna Trollope. Bought specially for a Friday night read, to be light but not trivial. Did the job well. Alice Jordan, married with 3 children and about to move into the house of her dreams, suddenly wakes up to an undefined something missing in her life.
  107. Sleepyhead – Mark Billingham. My sister has been recommending Billingham to me for ages, I was exploring Jaffe & Neale in Chippy and lo! the first Billingham I picked up was the start of the series. And it was fine. Interesting to have a murderer who was trying to preserve his victims in a state of living death. Didn’t shoot out any lights for me, but I’ll probably read more. Always good to have a fallback detective series.
  108. Last Rites – John Harvey.
  109. The Squire’s Daughter  – F.M. Mayor.
  110. The Man Who Loved Children – Christina Stead. I’m about 100pp in and all the characters are unpleasant. And not in a gawking, car crash kind of way, but more in a ‘I don’t want anything to do with you’ kind of way. Sigh.
  111. The Sleeping Beauty – Elizabeth Taylor.
  112. Detection Unlimited – Georgette Heyer.
  113. The Bloodhounds – Peter Lovesey
  114. The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides. Liked this a lot but have to agree with the comments of various friends who said it was pretty fluffy.
  115. Pieces of Modesty – Peter O’ Donnell. On which there is little more to be said except that every teenage girl should have Twilight ripped from her hands and be made to read Modesty Blaise instead, so that they could read about a good role model rather than a puling idiot.
  116. Family Britain – David Kyneston. At least, that’s the theory. I’ve had this ARC kicking round for more than a year. I should probably get on with it, then.
  117. Detection Unlimited – Georgette Heyer.
  118. Lazybones – Mark Billingham.
  119. Sleeping Arrangements – Madeleine Wickham. Trash re-read while ill
  120. Christmas at Tiffany’s – Karen Swan. Trash read while I’m ill and perfectly acceptable light fare. Amazing how a woman with no real income can flit around the globe so easily, wish I knew how it was done. Have you noticed how the heroines in chick lit novels are getting older? It’s now acceptable to be unmarried at 30. Maybe by the time I’m 50 it’ll be acceptable to be unmarried at 40.
  121. Frederica – Georgette Heyer.
  122. A Taste for Death – Peter O’Donnell. And a couple of other Modesty Blaises too.
  123. Comfort & Joy – India Knight. Comfort read.
  124. The Various Haunts of Men – Susan Hill. Exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for, and I kind of liked the oblique approach to introducing Simon Serrailler. I guessed the murderer, but still, a real shock at the end.
  125. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana – Umberto Eco.
  126. The Pure at Heart – Susan Hill. Second in the Serrailler series, and while I didn’t like it as much as the first one, I did quite enjoy the fact that the mystery wasn’t all neatly solved, and that there are plot arcs carrying on between the titles. Definitely a series to pursue.

2010

  1. The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan. This is Raych’s fault, because she reviewed book 12.1, thereby bringing the whole series to my attention. Clearly by the end of 2010 I’ll have read all that are available. Perfect plane fodder, for a start.
  2. Dune Road – Jane Green. Wow, this was really perfunctory. Way to mail it in, Jane.
  3. Over the Holidays – Sandra Harper. Light, unremarkable.
  4. One Fifth Avenue– Candace Bushnell. Unpleasant two-dimensional rich people buy, scheme and sleep their way through life.
  5. The Great Hunt – Robert Jordan.
  6. The Truth about Melody Browne – Lisa Jewell. Unlikely story but as usual, Jewell’s characters speak and act like normal people.
  7. A Place of Greater Safety – Hilary Mantel. Fab, fab, fab humanising of George-Jacques Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre, and general unpicking of the French Revolution. And all the while, of course, with course set irrevocably for an unhappy ending. Shudder.
  8. Ross Poldark – Winston Graham. By the end of the book I still hadn’t really warmed to Ross Poldark, although I like Demelza. Might give the next one in the series a go but if the general aura of unhappiness and wretchedness remains, I won’t go further than that.
  9. The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters. Hurrah for no lesbians! Boo for an ambiguous ending! I really enjoyed this while I was reading it, but then found the ending entirely unsatisfactory and a lot of an authorial cop out. If Waters ever really gets her writing shit together I think she is capable of an excellent book, but she isn’t there yet.
  10. Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin – Nicholas Ostler. Reading this gradually but very much enjoying the approach. Ostler’s take is that the history of Latin is really the history of Europe, since the language is about the only thing that there’s been there all along.
  11. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, vol II – Diana Wynne Jones. Included ‘The Magician’s of Caprona’ and ‘Witch Week’; and both fell short of the ‘Lives of Christopher Chant’ for me.
  12. Sound the Retreat – Simon Raven. Another vol of Alms for Oblivion (#5), and the more I read the more I love Raven for his wonderful prose and his unblinking directness. I’m wondering if that near orgy scene in the Chinese restaurant is based on personal experience? In this book, Peter Morrison is an officer cadet in India, just at the time that England is trying to get out as quickly as possible. Faced with a threat to his career and his honour, he manages to extricate himself and still fulfil various army, personal and moral duties, all without really breaking any rules. And by proving to be someone to whom the shit won’t stick, sets the stage for his future career in politics.
  13. The Judas Boy – Simon Raven. Alms for Oblivion #6. Poor Fielding Gray, so well intentioned, so incapable of resisting a classic Greek profile. And thus the nasty, cunning American Earle Restarick lures him away from investigating what really happened in Cyprus (proxy war of the US vs Britain) and into the arms of a meretricious, but beautiful young Greek boy instead.
  14. Places Where They Sing – Simon Raven. Alms for Oblivion #7. Change of scene to academia and what will the poor old college do with that cool quarter of a million quid it just got? While the dons scheme and squabble, a couple of unfortunate and slightly Marxist students get caught up in the plans of the unscrupulous Mayerston, who is determined to wreak havoc in the college. All Raven’s female characters are either bitches or tarts (public school + army, Simon?) but Hetta Frith is about the only one he seems to have liked.
  15. A Test of Wills – Charles Todd. Hurrah, a new detective series. This is the first Inspector Rutledge book and a pretty solid start. It’s 1919, Rutledge has returned to Scotland Yard after the end of WWI, keeping his shell shock a secret and hoping to pick up his career. He gets packed off to investigate a nasty shotgun murder that might have been committed by a celebrated war hero.
  16. Come Like Shadows – Simon Raven. Alms for Oblivion #8. Fielding Gray is acting as script writer for a film company making a version of The Odyssey in Corfu. Nymphet starlets abound and Gray has plans to siphon off extra funds into a Zurich bank account. I expect there will be the usual buggery, whoring and skullduggery too. [Update: I was wrong about the buggery.] Elena – shades of Hetta? Not sorry to see the end of Angela Tuck.
  17. A Long Shadow – Charles Todd.
  18. Bring Forth the Body – Simon Raven. Alms for Oblivion #9. Somerset Lloyd-James is found dead in his bath, apparently having committed suicide. Capt Detterling and Leonard Percival join forces to find out what caused his death, Detterling out of personal curiosity and Percival in case it’s anything potentially damaging to the government that he might need to hush up. And despite L-J being an obnoxious toad throughout the entire series, at the end I felt sorry for him. As a side note, what did poor Tom Llewellyn do to end up with that ghastly daughter?
  19. The Survivors – Simon Raven. Alms for Oblivion #10. And I was quite sad to wrap up the series, but I’m sure I’ll be reading it again. This one set in Venice, where Tom Llewellyn and his daughter (who turns out to be called Tullia!), Daniel Mond, Fielding Gray, Detterling, Max Freite, Lykiadopoulos have gathered for various reasons of their own. Gray uncovers a mystery, Tom looks after Daniel, the truth about Patricia’s increasingly odd behaviour is revealed (so that’s why Baby Llewellyn was so obnoxious! Blimey)and Lyki tries to raise a fortune by operating a baccarat table. Plus there’s the usual amount of sex and manipulation.
  20. Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia – John Dickie. This has been on my wishlist since 2004. So far it’s a fascinating, careful and detailed history that is also managing to be very readable. Also, kind of astonishing that the mafia could have such reach from as early as the 18th century. And now that I’ve finished, also kind of horribly depressing. I love Italy, but I suppose the Italians get mafia fatigue in the same way that England got Northern Ireland fatigue. It is not a good sign when people manage to stop caring that the good guys are being blown up in their cars, or shot coming out of their homes. It is not a good sign when even the bad guys recognise that the murdering has gone too far.
  21. Ruby’s Spoon – Anna Lawrence Pietroni.
  22. A Blunt Instrument – Georgette Heyer. So satisfying! I do like the way that the victims are always so unpleasant that no one minds that they are dead. The family members can then spend their time being witty and entertaining rather than upset. I particularly appreciated Neville’s shot that Helen North ‘…floated away on a sea of golden syrup…’ because it’s absolutely spot on. The wonder is that a woman quite that sappy ever managed to generate IOUs from some gaming hell in the first place. Also, have realised that Georgette Heyer is terribly addictive. No sooner do I put a book down than I want to read another one.
  23. Modesty Blaise – Peter O’Donnell. Didn’t I just read this a couple of years ago? Yes, I did. But y’know, I was looking for entertainment for a couple of hours and I found the film on Netflix. And the film was horrible, so I decided just to re-read the book instead. I’m thinking it’s time for a remake: Kate Beckinsale as Modesty (she can reuse the leather outfit from Underworld) and Daniel Craig as Garvin (he can reuse the abs from Casino Royale).
  24. A Taste for Death – Peter O’Donnell. As above. Apparently, O’Donnell is as addictive as Heyer.
  25. Pieces of Modesty – Peter O’Donnell.  This was the only Modesty Blaise that Blackwells had, so of course I bought it. Short stories, not my favourite but not bad.
  26. The Doctor’s Wife – Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Sort of halfway through this, but it’s going well. And it’s sympathetic to poor Isabel, who is suffering from all the dangers of novel reading, which seem to be much akin to the contemporary dangers of reading women’s magazines and watching Hollywood movies and then using those as a basis for romantic expectations.
  27. Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of a Great English Dynasty – Catherine Bailey. As predicted, travelling and reading did not mix well. I’m just getting into this and it’s a bit sensationalist, but fun all the same. Unexpectedly found myself far more interested in the history of the mining industry than in the family stuff, although still appalled that the estate was devastated out of what does look much like spite. Must find out about the decline of the mining industry and suspect David Kynaston will inform me.
  28. The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith. Great stuff, but I can’t spend too much time in Ripley’s head.
  29. An Unsuitable Attachment – Barbara Pym. Yeah, not her best. Echoes of her other books, so rather like reading a palimpsest.
  30. The Children’s Book – A S Byatt. Which I admired and liked, but did not love and found ultimately unsatisfactory. Tied in oddly with Black Diamonds, because of some overlap in period and politics.
  31. Grave Goods – Ariana Franklin. I’m finding that I’m getting more interested in reading about Henry II than in Adelia. So, it’s off to find a biog.
  32. Autumn Journal – Louis MacNeice. ‘Close and slow, summer is ending in Hampshire…’ Europe descends into war, Louis falls in love and out, gun emplacements are set up on Primrose Hill and surely it’s worth fighting for a better, fairer future? Even for a misogynistic old bugger like MacNeice.
  33. Wish Her Safe at Home – Stephen Benatar. Early birthday present from Emily, who had the bright idea while we were all in Philly that we should simply buy books and exchange them then. So we did. This was bloody good. Rachel Waring inherits a house from her aunt, leaves her unhappy London life and begins a gradual descent into happy madness rather than ‘the glooms’. As she’s the narrator, you are right there with her. Sad, and chilling.
  34. Duplicate Death – Georgette Heyer. I’ve forgotten, because this was a fluffy holiday read. I know I enjoyed it at the time, though.
  35. God is an Englishman – R. F. Delderfield. Pretty good stuff. Not packing the surprising emotional wallop of ‘To Serve Them All My Days’ but I’ll read the next one at some point.
  36. The Gorse Trilogy – Patrick Hamilton. Thankfully, not as relentlessly bleak with such dark humour as other Hamilton. Gorse is a sort of Ripley character, although he has yet to progress to murder it’s clearly on the cards for the future. In the meantime, he’s separating shop girls from their savings just because he can. Hamilton keeps the reader fully informed, so you always know what Gorse is planning, but there’s a certain fascination in watching his schemes come to fruition nevertheless. And Hamilton is a brilliant social observer, so the intricacies of interactions are extremely well done.
  37. High Wages – Dorothy Whipple. Good lord, but Whipple can put one through the emotional wringer. This was lighter than others of hers that I’ve read (They Were Sisters was positively traumatic), but it’s not a walk in the park either. If you like Whipple, read this.
  38. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie. Erm, yeah. Got 74 pp in and ground to a halt.
  39. Rachel Ray – Anthony Trollope. One of the lightest of Trollope’s that I’ve read. Entirely enjoyable.
  40. Over Sea, Under Stone – Susan Cooper
  41. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
  42. Greenwitch – Susan Cooper
  43. The Grey King- Susan Cooper
  44. Silver on the Tree – Susan Cooper
  45. A Great Deliverance – Elizabeth George. Which was my own choice for bookclub, because I’ve liked the TV series. It was meh. Overwritten, and both Lynley and Havers are currently thin characters but they might get some dimension as the series progresses. I think they’ve got potential, I just wish someone else was writing them.
  46. No Wind of Blame – Georgette Heyer. I’m faithful to old GH, but I’ve got to say, this was a bit pants. All the characters were shadows of more rounded characters in her other detective novels, and the plot was argh. It was like reading a GH novel written by a lesser writer. Or one who was it mailing it in because her editor had demanded just one more book. *cough Jane Green cough*
  47. The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather – Alexandra Potter. Originally spotted in a bookstore in Lititz with Marcy and Emily, and then Marcy bought it and lent it to me. What would you say to your 20ish self if you could go back and meet them? Charlotte wants to protect herself from sunbathing, smoking, pleather trousers and unsuitable men. I would tell me to wear shorter skirts, party more and do a lot more sleeping around. But on the plus side, I would also tell me to cut up the credit cards. Not that it would do any good, because, being me at 20ish, I wouldn’t listen to anyone because I know best. As I still do, obviously. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m telling me much the same now. Crap.
  48. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro. Look, I know I’m the last person on the planet to get round to reading this, and that’s partly because everyone says it’s really good, which usually means it’s mediocre and hyped to the gunwales. But, erm, this is really good. Also, I’m on a deadline, because it’s borrowed from a colleague and I can’t face the embarrassment of returning it unread.
  49. Phineas Redux – Anthony Trollope. For a start, I’m sorry Phineas’ wife died before childbirth, but I suppose it was the only way he could return to London. I suspect unhappiness ahead.
  50. In Praise of Older Women – Stephen Vizinczey. The anti-Lolita, in which Andreas elucidates his fascination  and erotic adventures with women in their mid to late 30s.
  51. Swan Song – Edmund Crispin. I have a feeling that this is one of Crispin’s later ones and therefore lacks the sparkle of The Moving Toyshop or Holy Disorders. Glad to see Fen still has Lily Christine, but something a bit perfunctory about his reckless driving in this one. Reminds me a bit of The Gilded Fly.
  52. To Bed with Grand Music – Marghanita Laski. What a despicable creature Deborah Robertson is, and how unfortunate for her husband and son that she should have the soul of a whore and yet be wife and mother. But interesting to read a novel written in 1946 and set during WWII in which the characters are not suffering nobly and being all patriotic and martyred. I have a faint sympathy with preferring hats, nail polish and American lieutenants to rationing and life in the country.
  53. Nightingale Wood – Stella Gibbons. Did not reach the dizzying comic heights of Cold Comfort Farm, but was thoroughly frothy and enjoyable as well as engagingly well-wrtten.
  54. Of Love and Hunger – Julian Maclaren-Ross. The author was apparently a living definition of the word ‘louche’, and lived the sort of life that Patrick Hamilton wrote about. One hopes it was rather less depressing, though. Thus far, Richard Fanshawe is failing to make a living selling vacuum cleaners, owes money for rent and Woodbines and has just popped his watch (21st birthday gift from his father and it’s obvious he’ll never redeem it). He’s been asked to look after his friend’s wife while said friend goes to sea. Since Sukie is a sulky, sultry looking brunette, I see a tawdry affair conducted in cheap boarding houses and teashops ahead. She’s a handful and he’s an amoral, self-serving bastard, so I’m not sure who I feel most sorry for. Fans of Hamilton, step right up. Update: that’ll learn me, the affair wasn’t nearly as tawdry as I’d expected and in fact I felt sorry for Fanshawe.
  55. The Crowded Street – Winifred Holtby. Oh god, the horror of life when a woman’s only option was get married or stay at home. And not that long ago either.
  56. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn.
  57. Frenemies – Megan Crane. Which Marcy lent me, because I think when we were stuck on the GW Bridge for several lifetimes a few weeks back, we were talking about THE DRAMA and accompanying intensity of life in our twenties and how we wouldn’t go back to that for any money. Frenemies is all about THE DRAMA, and Crane writes engagingly. I particularly like that she writes dialogue in a way that people might really speak, although it seemed to take Gus an inordinately long time to wake up and notice Henry.
  58. The Scenic Route – Binnie Kirshenbaum. Meandering along nicely. I like the rambling style, the interjections that seem like (are?) quotations of the sort that we all keep in our heads. Thanks, Emily!
  59. Sabre Tooth – Peter O’Donnell. Perfectly satisfactory Blaise novel.
  60. The Mind Readers – Margery Allingham. Sigh. No. I am sorry to say that I preferred Albert Campion before he married Amanda (although I have nothing against her). I just find the post-war novels far less successful.
  61. A Gun for Sale – Graham Greene. A hired assassin is set up after his last job, and attempts to find the people responsible for selling him out. Bleak. Doomed.
  62. A Note in Music – Rosamond Lehmann. Oh, this was good, a clear step on the way from Invitation to the Waltz to Echoing Grove. Now I must read Dusty Answer (her first) and continue to marvel at her writing. So many passages that are worth quoting, and a nice dissection of the ups and downs of married life when someone arrives to throw the situation into relief. Also some lovely, scattered moments of connection between people.
  63. The Soul of Kindness – Elizabeth Taylor. The first of hers that just hasn’t really worked for me. Couldn’t quite get it to gel.
  64. The Very Thought of You – Rosie Allison. Started and then stopped about 40pp in because it was so hilariously bad. And will not be picking up again. I mean, come on, when people are running from the Germans and I find myself laughing out loud at the writing, you know it’s a dog. Although, actually, I should have trusted my instinct, which was not to get beyond the first page.
  65. Riders – Jilly Cooper. Like, OMG, how can I resist Rupert Campbell-Black again after all these years? Although now I remember that I prefer Billy, hate Janey, can’t stand Helen and on balance think Dino might be the best of the lot. Must watch the TV series!
  66. Another Self – James Lee-Milne. I’m mostly interested in him for his involvement with the National Trust. This was just a bit precious for my liking.
  67. The New House – Lettice Cooper. See what I done wrote here.
  68. Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary – Ruby Ferguson. Struggled a bit with this one, it felt a bit paper thin and lightweight. I liked the character of Rose and I’d have like to know more about her from her own perspective, not via the third person. Plus there were some annoying style tricks (repeated references to Time flicking back through his book, for example) that felt very artificial.
  69. The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman. Loved this. Multiple perspectives on the gradual decline of a newspaper, told via the linked stories of various members of the staff. Thought each of the stories held its own and a couple were incredibly poignant.
  70. Jane and Prudence – Barbara Pym. I particularly liked that Jane was so utterly hopeless as a vicar’s wife.
  71. From Aberystwyth with Love – Malcolmy Pryce. The third in the Louie Knight series, and I’m not sure the joke will carry this far. We’ll see.
  72. Sex and Stravinsky – Barbara Trapido. A bit sketched in, which was possibly intentional if she was taking the line of having stock characters as in Pucinella. (Might help if I knew anything at all about that opera, or in fact, any opera.) Sort of borderline fairytale (the Merry Fellow in the hut in the woods?), unbelievable coincidences, star-crossed lovers, Witch, Evil Sister. So all enjoyable enough but sort of pointless, and I found it impossible to warm to any of the characters. Jack in particular seemed more like a device than a character. Which again, possibly the point. Ending just too neat, even with the ‘Afterword’ to cancel out the Happy Ever After effect.
  73. A Room with a View – E.M. Forster. Revisiting an old favourite. A perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon, sitting on the balcony, with fresh strawberries and a glass of white wine.
  74. East Lynne – Ellen Wood. A cautionary tale for misbehaving Victorian wives. Beautiful Lady Isabel becomes convinced her husband, Archibald Carlyle is in fact in love with neighbouring Barbara Hare. Jealousy to the point of madness pushes Isabel to run away with Frederic Levison, abandoning home, husband and children for a life of misery, punishment and repentance. Meanwhile, did Barbara’s brother, Richard, really kill Afy’s father in the cottage in the woods that night? And if not, who did? The first half of this romped along, the second dragged a bit, and it was all quite predictable but in an enjoyable enough sort of way.
  75. Jerusalem – Patrick Neate. Tearing through this for Thursday. Except when not. And not loving it so far, argh.
  76. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m only a few pages in and I’m already loving this. Such beguiling writing, humour and pathos.
  77. Little Women – L. M. Alcott. Because I am truly spoilt and Marcy sent me this (along with 2 other of the Penguin cloth classics).
  78. Skippy Dies – Paul Murray. Just do yourself a favour, buy this and read it. But remember to block out a chunk of time else you too will be annoyed by having your reading interrupted by work. (http://theasylum.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/paul-murray-skippy-dies/)
  79. Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen. I heart Colonel Brandon.
  80. Winter Tales – George Mackay Brown. I’ve read a couple and they are excellent, but I’m putting them aside to be read in the proper season. So on with…
  81. Bulldog Drummond – Sapper. From Mr W. My only disappointment with Hugh Drummond is that he married That Sap, Phyllis. Other than that, he’s a cross between Campion, Whimsey and Bond, which can be no bad thing. All manner of villains get their comeuppance, of course, including the filthy Boche; but the arch-criminal, Carl Petersen, and the beautiful Irma escape. Well, of course, or what else is a bored war hero always ripe for a spree going to do with his time? Do use the noggin, old flick.
  82. Things the Grandchildren Should Know – Mark Oliver Everett. Who is E from Eels, and has had fairly upsetting life. But seems to be getting over it. So I kind of liked this and also, I agree with his philosophy (or he unknowingly agrees with mine), which is that you’ve to take the lows so you can appreciate the highs. And then you’re really living.
  83. The Assassin’s Prayer – Ariana Franklin. And I’m having a horrible thought that this is going the same way as the last one, which is into highly unlikely territory in a pre-choreographed way. Adelia rows with Rowley, who she really, really loves but they are just so different because he wants to quash her independence but she’s a doctor and therefore above things like washing her hair and wearing other than sackcloth; Henry makes an unreasonable request because he can, because he’s the king, but he’s also kind of cool so despite herself Adelia still ends up admiring him (and slightly fancying him). Adelia ends up in danger and then out of it and only her unconventionality saves her and Rowley is all ‘Oh my god, I’m so angry with you because you are safe, which means you put yourself in danger in the first place and why can’t you just stay at home and do needlework like a real woman?’ And really, it’s all a bit Stephanie Plum meets Henry II. Except that Rowley isn’t as hot as Morello and there’s no Ranger.
  84. The Words of War – Marcus Cowper. ‘Cos if one of your mates writes a book and then you wangle a signed freebie, you sort of have to, don’t you? Slightly shocked to find that I still retain a few scraps of knowledge about WWII. This is a collection of first hand accounts, nicely put together, and I like that it covers the whole war. Obviously not in detail but it certainly gives an idea of the horrendous scope of thing, which is somehow too easy to forget when one just reads about a particular theatre, campaign or battle.
  85. The Black Gang – Sapper. The second vol in the Carl Petersen Quartet, in which our hero, Hugh, has formed his chums into a little group dedicated to tackling the nasty Bolsheviks who are trying to infest dear old England. Unfortunately, totty-headed Phyllis gets herself captured and Hugh must barter the diamonds to get her back. Will Petersen keep to his part of the deal? There’s always a satisfyingly high body count around Drummond, which I much prefer to the wretched blights merely being handed over to the forces of law and order.
  86. The Continental Op – Dashiell Hammett. Betrayal! Deception! Sardonic narrative! Repeat.
  87. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte. Oh please, we all know Jane Eyre is a subversive little minx. And once again I am knocked out by how bloody brilliant this book is.
  88. Faithful Place – Tana French. Who does it again. I’ve been alternately sniggering at and then heartbroken by this novel all evening, and I plan to stay up until I finish it.
  89. Cyrano de Bergerac – Anthony Burgess (transl.) We all know the story. Need to re-read to gather thoughts about this translation, but it didn’t read like translationese.
  90. The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brian. When the second, or was it the third recommendation came my way, I decided to give this another shot. So far enjoying the book far more than I did the audio version. Absolutely and completely deadpan.
  91. Royal Assassin – Robin Hobb. Vol 2 of the Farseer trilogy, gulped down in a day. Royal scheming continues apace, the Red Raiders are still raiding, Verity goes off to find the Eldringen and Regal grabs increasingly more power to himself. Where did Ketrricken get to, will Fitz be reunited with Molly and who or what is the Fool? You’re right, I should buy vol 3.
  92. Molly Fox’s Birthday – Deirdre Madden. A gem of a book, beautifully written. The narrative voice is not that of Molly herself, but a playwright friend of hers who has borrowed her house. Molly is the famous one, the actor (never actress), the named one; so the structure of the novel reflects their fictional reality because isn’t the actor the person in the spotlight? The meandering, reflective narrative spins around Molly, her friend’s relationship with her and the nature of friendship itself. How much we think we know of others, how little we really do.
  93. The Wasteland and Other Poems – T.S. Eliot. Of which comprehension is flickering at the edge of my consciousness, but needs a helping a hand from a good critical commentary. Because I know nowt about owt.
  94. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus – Louis MacNeice (transl.) At least this is familiar territory! Now I want to read the Oresteia all over again too.
  95. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
  96. The Third Round – Sapper (3rd vol in Petersen quartet)
  97. Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky
  98. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  99. Henrietta Sees it Through – Joyce Dennys. Henrietta is an absolute treasure.
  100. The Stone Book Quartet – Alan Garner
  101. The Woman Who Waited – Andrei Makine. Wonderful.
  102. Brick Lane – Monica Ali. Another one of those novels that is less than the sum of its parts. I thought bits were really well written, although it was a bit immigrant experience by the numbers. But when I’d finished it, I didn’t have much of an impression left.
  103. The Pedant in the Kitchen – Julian Barnes. Mildly amusing and snack sized.
  104. The Weather in the Streets – Rosamond Lehmann.
  105. The Brimming Cup – Dorothy Canfield.
  106. 84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff. Which I loved! For years, I’d been put off by what I’d seen of the film, which I kept thinking looked decidedly on the syrupy side. The book was not syrupy at all. Bless.
  107. The Blue Flower – Penelope Fitzgerald.
  108. Corduroy – Adrian Bell
  109. Silver Ley – Adrian Bell
2009
  1. The Monsters of Templeton – Lauren Groff. It passed the time, it was quite readable, I expect I’ll have forgotten it by tomorrow.
  2. Sprig Muslin – Georgette Heyer (audio)
  3. The Surgeon’s Mate – Patrick O’Brian
  4. Queen Lucia – E F Benson. I am pretty sure I read this when I was a scrubby teen or thereabouts, but I recall precisely nothing. This time round, much amusement. Lucia is horrible, of course, but in an entirely familiar way and Benson skewers her pretensions with such nicety that I almost (but not quite) felt sorry for her.
  5. Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne du Maurier (audio). Disaffected noblewoman Donna, meets unnamed French nobleman-turned-pirate who hides his ship and crew in a creek on her husband’s estate in Cornwall. Cue glorious, overblown, doomed romance. ‘Is that not so, William?’ ‘Yes, milady’.
  6. The Ministry of Special Cases – Nathan Englander. Which turned out to be an overpraised first novel and although the writing was all right, would have been better as a short story or novella.
  7. Lucia in London – E F Benson. In which Lucia conquers London, of course, but at the expense of poor Peppino’s health. All readers are destined to be Luciaphils, I think, and I worry that I will start to say ‘No!’ in a Riseholme way when anyone imparts exciting news to me.
  8. Thames: The Biography – Peter Ackroyd. Thoroughly enjoying this book, which takes a thematic approach and is organised into handily snack-sized chapters. Ackroyd is such a good writer and researcher, and one of the few who doesn’t then have to cram in everything he knows. Reading Thames is like being punted lazily downriver on a sunny afternoon, and letting one’s mind wander in accord with the scenery but somehow gaining information at the same time.
  9. The Odd Women – George Gissing
  10. The River King – Alice Hoffman
  11. Dog Handling – Clare Naylor. A trifle of a book. By which I mean, sponge base, jelly and custard. All the right layers in the right order but too much is bad for you.
  12. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy (audio). Funnily enough, when I first read this when I was in my early teens and borrowed it from the school library, I was firmly on the side of the poor aristos and fell madly for Sir Percy. And failed to notice that the characters keep starting their sentences by saying ‘La’ or ‘ Odds fish’, and that the poor Baroness couldn’t afford a thesaurus so that she could look up other words for ‘inane’, ‘childlike’ and ‘merry’.
  13. The Starter Wife – Gigi Legrange Grazer. This was made into a TV mini-series, heavily sponsored by some sort of moisturising cream. ‘Nuff said.
  14. Miss Mapp – E F Benson. Mapp is worse than Lucia, I think. Although it’s a damn close call.
  15. To Love and Be Wise – Josephine Tey
  16. Diary of a Provincial Lady – E.M. Delafield. Completely charming and funny, and very much of its time.
  17. Provincial Lady Goes Further – E.M. Delafield
  18. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  19. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale. Absolutely terrific read because as well as being about a gripping murder case, was also fascinating from a social history perspective too: the rise of the detective force, the erosion of the barrier between public and private life for the wealthy, the role of the press.
  20. A Suspicion of Death – Peter O’Donnell. Before there was Charlie’s Angels, before there was Emma Peel… there was Modesty Blaise. Your original sexy, kick ass, action female, with a brain to boot.
  21. Names My Sisters Call Me – Megan Crane. Superior chick lit.
  22. Excellent Women – Barbara Pym. Pym was one of the finds of the year and her characters are an answer to Gissing’s Odd Women.
  23. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier (audio, and going very slowly)
  24. Mr Fortune’s Maggot – Sylvia Townsend Warner.
  25. Le Divorce – Diane Johnson. A better book disguised as chicklit.
  26. Mapp and Lucia – E F Benson. I swear these two are getting worse and worse.
  27. Agent Zigzag – Ben MacIntyre. Fascinating WWII espionage stuff. Eddie Chapman, small time crook, gets arrested in Jersey just before the German invasion. Offers his services to the Germans as a spy; gets accepted, trained and parachuted into England where he immediately offers to become a double agent. A real mix of high adventure and low farce. Chapman is not a likeable or heroic character, which in a way makes the book even more interesting.
  28. The Serpent’s Tale – Ariana Franklin. A good sequel to a good first novel. Franklin really dishes up a sense of abiding dread, fear and claustrophobia.
  29. Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Loved the split between Lucy Audley’s appearance and her nature, making it easy for her to fool everyone. Found Robert very interesting as an early amateur detective type, forced along by an unknown exterior force even though he knew that every step he took was leading to misery and possible disgrace for his family.
  30. 2666 – Roberto Bolano. Could take a while. Am currently trapped in the litany of crimes that is part 4. Must…plough…on… Ok, survived. Am now taking a break before hitting vol 3/book 5. Finished! And my overall reaction is a ‘meh’. Also that I’m never reading anything else by Bolano. He’s up there with Pynchon.
  31. The Box of Delights – John Masefield. Oh how delightful this was, I may even seek out the BBC adaptation on Netflix. Another one of those classic children’s books that I did not read as a child and wish I had because I would have been enchanted. Kay Harker meets old Punch and Judy man who entrusts to him a Box that has the power to make him very small, make him very swift or if he opens it, to transport him into other places where he meets people like Herne the Hunter (why did Herne drop out of fiction?). But the Wolves are Running and Kay must protect the box as well as saving the local clergy from the menaces of Abner Brown’ gang.
  32. Fledgling – Octavia Butler. This was an interesting take on the whole vampire thing, reinventing them as genetically different people who can coexist peacefully with humans and don’t kill unless they have to. Between the vampires themselves there is a question as to who is pure or not.
  33. Death in a Strange Country – Donna Leon
  34. Hearts and Minds – Rosy Thornton
  35. Plain Truth – Jodi Picoult. Nope, never reading anything else by Picoult either. What dreadful, by the numbers guff.
  36. Contentment Cove – Miriam Colwell
  37. The Moon and Sixpence – W Somerset Maugham. Borrowed from Emily. Maugham always better than his books sound like they will be.
  38. The Vesuvius Club – Mark Gatiss. Action, adventure, licentiousness, camp as a row of tents and enjoyable enough but still vaguely unsatisfying. Mind you, I was engulfed in a cold-induced fog when I read it, so that could be me and I’ll try another Lucifer Box novel before a final decision is made. And on the plus side, I did like the puns (‘I’ve never been a fan de cycle‘).
  39. The Night Battles – M. F. Bloxam. LT Early Reviewer copy. Didn’t quite come off for me. Great at depicting the sultry, unspeakable heat of a Sicilian afternoon, the claustrophobia of a small town and all that, but the supernatural element didn’t make it through from the folklore.
  40. 20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill. Good stuff! Nothing as gripping as his novel, but a nice variety of stories.
  41. Invitation to the Waltz – Rosamund Lehmann. It is really bugging me that I can’t remember what this reminds me of (probably half the Persephone list). I loved it, small in focus but so telling in the detail.
  42. The Orchard – Drusilla Modjeska.
  43. Goldberg: Variations – Gabriel Josipovici. Lord, how I struggled with this. I can’t do this sort of writing at all, it leaves me completely cold.
  44. Mariana – Monica Dickens. Utterly charming autobiographical novel about a young girl’s growing up.
  45. Little Bee – Chris Cleave. Best book of the year, I think. An astonishing piece of writing – sad, wise, funny by turns, and makes important points about our complicity in the fate of refugees, without in any way lecturing the reader.
  46. The Floating Admiral – D.L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton et al. Written by the Detective Club, which seems to have been an actual group of UK detective fiction writers. Rather like a parlour game, they all wrote a chapter each. The result is more interesting as the result of an experiment than as literature but still, they did manage to make it hang together.
  47. An Episode of Sparrows – Rumer Godden. Such an odd children’s book, even for the time (1950s). Interesting on class, guilt and what is the right thing to do? Very sad about the (inevitable) crash back down to reality as a result of aiming too high, out of one’s place perhaps. Vincent’s deliberately upmarket restaurant in a rundown neighbourhood mirrors Lovejoy’s painstakingly created garden behind a bombed out church, and both are doomed. But how marvellous that the novel ends with Lovejoy promising to herself that she won’t be docile and ‘good’.
  48. Why Shoot a Butler? – Georgette Heyer. Entertaining and light, with a detective hero who could have walked right out of a Regency romance if only he were wearing breeches. Predictable, but in such an enjoyable way.
  49. Flesh & Blood – John Harvey. Hurrah! A new detective fiction writer discovered. Will have to look into the Resnick novels, but in the meantime, Frank Elder was pretty good company. Well plotted, good dialogue, gripping story. Slightly too pat ending, perhaps, but that was forgiveable for the whole. Believable red herrings and well constructed characters.
  50. Gossip Girl – Who cares? Argh. Argh. And double argh.
  51. Bess of Hardwick – Mary Lovell. Good old Bess, and a very readable biog, although possibly a bit on the biography lite side. Finally, though, although I know a lot about the Elizabethan period and about Bess’s building projects, the woman herself never came alive.
  52. Because She Can – Bridie Clark. Is it even legal to rip off another book so obviously? I’ve read a few chapters and I feel as though I’ve read this before. And I haven’t but I have seen the film The Devil Wears Prada, and this is basically the same thing. I’m giving up on it, because I can.
  53. The Unfinished Clue – Georgette Heyer. I’m only a few pages in and already glad that Sir Arthur is going to biffed off pretty swiftly.
  54. The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer. Haven’t read this one in years and suspect it will never be a favourite. But, charming enough in its way.
  55. Gold – Dan Rhodes. In fact, this was charming and funny and bitter sweet. Miyuki Woodward goes on holiday to the same Welsh village she’s been visiting for years, and spends her days reading and her evenings drinking pints in the local pub where she gradually gets to know some of the locals. I am now nostalgic for the crap food that Miyuki feeds herself: Spicy Nik Naks, swiss rolls, Monster Munch.
  56. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson. This better pick up. I am underwhelmed so far. I mean, it’s all right. Update: Ok, so somewhere in there was a taut, suspenseful detective/thriller story just trying to get free. Unfortunately, it was so tightly swaddled in an uninteresting sub-plot of financial shenanigans that it didn’t have room to breathe. Which is a shame, because I think it had potential.
  57. Roommates Wanted – Lisa Jewell. There’s a particular tone to Jewell’s books that is very identifiable. Her characters are always normal people, who have normal conversations and whose lives get screwed up and sorted out in recognisable ways.
  58. The Boleyn Inheritance – Philippa Gregory. Wow, she really couldn’t be bothered with this one, could she? The subtext seems to be ‘mailed it in’.
  59. Lonely Hearts – John Harvey. First in the Charlie Resnick series, set in Nottingham in the 1980s. Charlie’s endearing, Harvey has a good ear for dialogue, and the characters are all more than bit players. I’m liking this series (and who can resist Bloody Brits Press?)
  60. Little Brother – Cory Doctorow. So, this has had rave reviews absolutely everywhere, but it’s a bit ranty and didactic for my liking. But, good story and scarily, the idea of the US shutting down in the wake of a terrorist attack, arresting absolutely anyone they feel like and torturing individuals who object to the regime change isn’t all that unbelievable.
  61. The Rain Before it Falls – Jonathan Coe. The structure of this didn’t work for me because it seemed too much of an artificial device. Rosamund, in her 80s and near her death, takes out a selection of photographs and then tells her life story via reflecting back on them, all the while taping for the benefit of her niece. A family secret is revealed, and there’s a framing narrative of the niece, Gill’s, relationship with her own daughters but I felt distanced from it all. In fact, I was far more interested in Gill than Rosamund and her past.
  62. The Twelve and the Genii – Pauline Clarke. How delighted was I to find this in Waterstones? I practically did a little song and dance right there on the spot. I read this book once as a kid, and it’s stayed with me but has been out of print until recently. The eponymous Twelve are painted wooden toy soldiers, who once belonged to the Bronte children and who come to live, imbued with their history from the stories that the Bronte’s wrote for them. They are endearing characters, brave, resourceful and independent. The Genii are Max and Jane, the children who find the soldiers and help them return to their home.
  63. The Corner that Held Them – Sylvia Townsend Warner.
  64. The Midnight Folk – John Masefield. Kay embroiled with Sylvia Pounce and Abner Brown and his gang who by means of witchcraft and trickery are stealing from the nearby houses. Kay is drawn in by an array of animals who visit him at night to lead him on adventures, and eventually, to stop Brown.
  65. The Echoing Grove – Rosamund Lehmann. On the back of ‘Invitation to the Waltz’ this was not at all what I was expecting and I think I’ll have to re-read it when I’m not jetlagged. It’s a story of marriage and infidelity, told from the perspective of the individuals involved, and switching back and forth through time. Rickie and Madeleine are the unhappy couple, and for an added element of betrayal, Rickie’s affair is with Dinah, his wife’s sister. At the opening of the novel, Madeleine and Dinah are meeting for the first time in about 15 years, constrained, jealous and resentful, each of them privately privileging their own story with Rickie. It’s not a comfortable novel but it is a thorough exploration of love, passion and need.
  66. Cover her Face – P D James. Next bookclub book. After years of avoiding James for no good reason, I found this a good, solid debut and I’m interested to read more. Nice little locked room murder, with the whole family having good reason to bump off the nasty piece of work that was the victim. Dalgleish was also a pleasant surprise.
  67. Juan in America – Eric Linklater. Thanks to Emily for this, who first recommended it and then lent it to me, although I had returned her copy and bought my own by the time I got round to reading it. So, very funny adventures of a descendant of Don Juan in America, with animadversions on American society that rang true to me today. Meanwhile, Juan adventures his way round the country, aided at every turn by women who find him irresistible, and hampered by their jealous men.
  68. To Serve Them All my Days – R F Delderfield. Unexpectedly engrossing and at times genuinely moving. David Powlett-Jones is a young soldier returned from 3 years in the trenches during WWI, shell shocked and with a limp. As a form of therapy he is packed off to a Bamfylde School in Devon as a history teacher, where he unexpectedly discovers that teaching is his vocation. Against a backdrop of inter-war upheavals and political unrest, David’s life unfolds amid the stories of the boys he teaches and the lives of his colleagues.
  69. Traffic – Tom Vanderbilt. Still thinking about this, months later. Informative and interesting on why we drive as we do, how roads are laid out to restrain driving at speed, and what can be done to make drivers and pedestrians interact more safely. Also, gives some blunt stats on how dangerous it is to talk on a phone or text while driving. Anyone who drives should read this and get a grip on their bad habits (come on, we all think we’re better drivers than we are).
  70. Wideacre – Philippa Gregory. Absolutely hilarious to start with, but the joke of such awful writing doesn’t stand up to that many pages. I think Stephanie Meyer learned her cut and paste technique here; but hey, it seems to have worked for both of them.
  71. Cakes and Ale – W. Somerset Maugham.
  72. English as a Second Language – Megan Crane. Good, frothy chicklit, set in England and with a good ear for dialogue.
  73. Ysabel – Guy Gavriel Kay. On holiday in France with his photographer father, Ned Marriner gets drawn into the story of Ysabel and the two men who love her, Phelan and Cadell. Except that the three are 2600 years old and their story has been repeating through the years since the Celts fought the Romans, with each time a different woman lost to become Ysabel. This time, it’s his father’s assistant, Melanie, who is lost, but Ned has the chance to break the pattern and reclaim her if he can find her before Phelan and Cadell do.
  74. Frost in May – Antonia White. Nanda Grey, 9 years’ old and daughter of a recently converted Catholic is sent to Catholic school to be raised in the faith.
  75. We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britan Between the Wars – Martin Pugh.
  76. The Reavers  – George MacDonald Fraser
  77. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen + some upstart. I want this to be made into a film, with Colin Firth as Darcy. And lots of zombies and fighting. I see that woman from Underworld as Elizabeth and Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (the famous zombie slayer).
  78. The Headhunters – Peter Lovesey.
  79. Murder in Mind – P. D. James (audio)
  80. Old Dogs and Anarchy – Colin Cotterell. Another in the Dr Siri Paboun series, set in Laos. And just as well done and funny as the first one I read.
  81. Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller
  82. The Four Corners of the Sky – Michael Malone. I bought this in hb because I have enjoyed most of Malone’s other books. I ignored the cover, the blurb and my own instinct telling me this didn’t sound like a story I would usually be interested in. Alas, I was right. It wasn’t. And there was some surprisingly clunky prose in there too, which I’d usually let go in a lesser writer but I have high expectations of Malone. I was disappointed. The story seemed contrived for no reason, and not to the same level of high absurdity as was reached in Handling Sin. Please may I have more Justin and Cuddy?
  83. Making Conversation – Christine Longford. Persephone.
  84. Incendiary – Chris Cleave. Bloody brilliant. Harrowing, dark, gruesome, funny, heartrending, hopeful and bleak.
  85. Drood – Dan Simmons. Do I have to?
  86. Seven Types of Ambiguity – Elliot Perlman. Nope, not finishing this either
  87. The Lives of Christopher Chant – Dianne Wynne Jones. When grown up literature lets you down, turn to the kid’s stuff. Most satisfactory.
  88. The Morville Hour – Katherine Swift. Beguiling. I think I might move to Shropshire.
  89. Frederica – Georgette Heyer. A perfect read for a sunny afternoon. Marvellous Regency froth.
  90. Lavinia – Ursula Le Guin. Very nice indeed, great to read her story since she is barely mentioned in the Aeneid. But so sad, and reminded me why I always find the Aeneid so hard to read.
  91. The Aeneid – Robert Fagles (transl). But, of course I had to read the Aeneid again. Great translation.
  92. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (audio). Loved the book, loved the audio. A well deserved Audiobook of the Year.
  93. The Underground Man – Ross MacDonald. Like Chandler but not as good.
  94. The Worshipful Lucia – E.F.Benson. And so I come to the end of the Lucia stories. She is indomitable.
  95. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson. Oh, I knew it was Merricat all along.
  96. The Spare Wife – Alex Witchel – Um. Tired on the train fodder.
  97. The Slaves of Solitude – Patrick Hamilton. Great stuff; laugh out loud funny, but underneath, grim and awful.
  98. The Likeness – Tana French – I listened to this last year, and then Hobgoblin made me want to read it too. Just as good in print.
  99. Netherland – Joseph O’Neill. Eh. Narrator was an insufferable arse. Suspect author of same.
  100. Hangover Square – Patrick Hamilton – Good, but gloomy, despondent stuff. Netta Longdon is one of the most horrible female characters, too.
  101. Sleeping Arrangements – Madeleine Wickham – froth and sugar.
  102. The Franchise Affair – Josephine Tey. It’s a classic, innit? And with good reason.
  103. Austerity Britain, 1945-51 – David Kynaston. Excellent, illuminating, fascinating, history, based muchly on personal accounts, Mass Observation surveys, and a cracking job of interpretation on the part of the author. And it’s the first in a series!
  104. The Village – Marghanita Laski. Good companion piece to Austerity Britain. Upper class holdout against the turning tide of social equality.
  105. A House in the Country – Jocelyn Playfair
  106. The Runaway – Elizabeth Ann Hart – Possibly the first Persephone book I haven’t liked. I know Olga is supposed to be delightfully whimsical, imaginative and all that, but I thought she was the most annoying brat.
  107. Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce.
  108. Cocktails for Three – Madeline Wickham.
  109. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer.
  110. The Daughter of Time – Josephine Tey. Read this before I had read any of the other Grant novels. Now find this one disappointing, rather shoe horned in and unconvincing.
  111. The Balkan Trilogy -Olivia Manning. Reading with appalled fascination and hoping Harriet starts standing up to Guy. Really hoping something happens to ‘dear old Yaki’, who I cannot bear.
  112. Cutting Edge – John Harvey. The third in the DI Charlie Resnick series, and Harvey is definitely holding it together. Plus – Bloody Brits Press. What’s not to like?
  113. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – J K Rowling
  114. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J K Rowling
  115. Day – A L Kennedy. Started off well, then went downhill. Suspect the fragmented plot was intended to reflect the protagonist’s state of mind, but if so it’s too obvious a device. I really wanted this to work but it didn’t. The build up was to an inevitable event and then the book just went flat.
  116. Heartsick – Chelsea Cain. Nice spin on the serial killer plot with the detective in charge of the case being captured, tortured, killed and then resuscitated by said killer. She gets imprisoned, he recovers but remains in thrall to her. Interested to see where this series is going.
  117. Notes from the Underwire – Quinn Cummings. Not laugh out loud funny. Maybe snigger. I think I prefer her blog.
  118. The Battle at the Villa Fiorita – Rumer Godden. Well this was kind of bleak. I thought that the children would come round to their mother’s new lover, not succeed in splitting them up. So the end was awful, since you just know she was going back to an unhappy life and turning her back on the love of her life.
  119. Still Waters – Nigel McCrery. Another interesting premise, with a synaesthetic detective who because he tastes sounds is rendered nauseous by the usual CID office. The murderer was a bit predictable, if pleasingly macabre, but there was enough to make me dig out the next one.
  120. The Greengage Summer – Rumer Godden.
  121. Isabel’s Bed – Elinor Lipman. Dodgy chick lit masquerading as lower end literature.
  122. Sweetheart – Chelsea Cain. Gretchen escapes! Captures her detective again! She saves him again and by the end of it they’ve reached a deal. She won’t murder if he doesn’t commit suicide; and he won’t commit suicide if she doesn’t murder. How fucked up is that?
  123. Off Minor – John Harvey. What I don’t understand is how Charlie keeps pulling the women. Something to discuss in bookclub. Another good outing for Harvey, anywaym, who has achieved admirable consistency.
  124. Beyond Reach – Karin Slaughter. Airplane fodder, Jeffrey dies.
  125. Almost a Crime – Penny Vincenzi. This was patchily written and padded out. It may have been supposed to be taut but it really wasn’t. There was absolutely no tension at all. And far too many subplots distracting from the main narrative. On the other hand, it was more ‘plane fodder so I was almost grateful for 400+ pages of waffle. What it boils down to is that something tragic almost happens but doesn’t.
  126. Fractured – Karin Slaughter. You guessed, I was still on the ‘plane. Which is the only reason I was reading this. Mother returns home to find daughter bloodily slaughtered on upstairs landing and man standing over her holding knife. Possessed with enraged strength, mother kills man. BUT THEN – it turns out he wasn’t the murderer, and the girl isn’t her daughter, and plot complexity ensues.
  127. Night Soldiers – Alan Furst. My first Furst and how about this for a turnup? Recommended to me by used not to read fiction at all husband. And, he was right. Night Soldiers is a spy/WWII thriller, about the adventures of a young Bulgarian, Khristo Stoianev who joins the NKVD in the pre-war years.He moves from Russia, to Spain, to Paris and finally ends up in America, inveigled along the way into plots and counterplots. Sometimes he does his own plotting, sometimes he is a pawn in the hands of any number of intelligence operations. Khristo isn’t paranoid – he is always being watched, followed or manipulated.
  128. The Bronte Project – Jennifer Vanderven. I’ve already forgotten.
  129. Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings (audio). God, I loved this series when I was a teenager. I’ve been toying with the idea of re-reading it, but worrying that it might be crap, which is why I settled on audio. Actually, that makes no sense, because even if it’s crap it’ll only take me a couple of hours to speed through print, whereas the audio version is 5 hours. Anyway. Am being a bit bemused by the narrator’s accent but the story is tootling along nicely.
  130. Bloodchild – Tim Bowler. YA proof copy I found kicking around the office, must be one of our authors. Too repetitive, story took ages to get where it was going.
  131. Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan. This was fab. Go and read what Raych has to say about it, for she is basically a much better reviewer and writer than I am. And also because her review is the reason I shelled out for a hardback, no less. And it was worth it.
  132. The Remorseful Day – Colin Dexter. So maybe because I was reading this on the beach while becoming red and stripey and holding the book up in the air to block the sun from my eyes, but it was a bit of a letdown. I feel as though Colin Dexter was trying to wrap up too much in one go: Morse’s death, Lewis finally coming into his own, Strange accepting retirement and the intro of an up and coming fast track PC. As well as all that, there were three murders crammed in and a cold case and it all a bit too much. But I really did like the inclusion of the old cod Latin pun Numquam ubi sub ubi (Never where under where = never wear underwear). ‘Cos what the TV show doesn’t tell you is what a lecherous and tightfisted old sod Morse was.
  133. Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings
  134. Queen of Sorcery – David Eddings
  135. Magician’s Gambit – David Eddings
  136. Castle of Wizardry – David Eddings
  137. Enchanter’s End Game – David Eddings. And thus concluded the Belgariad and a few days of nostalgia reading.
  138. Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban
  139. Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer (audio)
  140. Darkness and Light – John Harvey (audio)
  141. Thirty Three Teeth – Colin Cotterill
  142. Disco for the Departed – Colin Cotterill
  143. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins. Love, love, love this. Structure, unreliable narrators, crime unsolved by detective, fact that the logical answer isn’t the right one, Moonstone eventually restored to India which kind of suggests that it didn’t belong to Rachel at all, thank you very much. I think our Wilkie was being a bit subversive.
  144. The Crow Road – Iain Banks.
  145. Cotillion – Georgette Heyer (audio). Freddy Stanton might be my favourite in the sub-category Heyer’s Young Heroes. He is charmingly practical, and just imagine a man who really could tell you what not to wear, but then romantic when it counts. (Overall winner in the Heyer’s Heroes stakes is Damerel, obviously.)
  146. The Complete Midshipman Bolitho – Alexander Kent. Sigh. I tried but really, back to Patrick O’Brian I go.
  147. The Writing Class – Jincy Willett. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, and it almost made me want to join a writing group to see how true to type the characters are. And then I realised there would be the writing part, which would be awful. I guessed the murderer, but it didn’t matter.
  148. Sunshine – Robin McKinley. Superior vampire lit, I think, in that McKinley can actually write, and her heroine is, at least initially, realistically repulsed and not just all ‘Oh you’re so brooding and sexy and interestingly pale, please bite me’ (cough, Sookie Stackhouse, cough).
  149. The Book of Air and Shadows – Michael Gruber.
  150. Underground  – Kat Richardson (audio). The usual mistake – this would be better, because faster in print, and it’s not the sort of thing that benefits from paying attention to every word.
  151. Dance Night – Dawn Powell. What Dorothy said, because to give credit where it is due, her post persuaded me to read the book, and then Dor lent me her copy.
  152. Brat Farrar – Josephine Tey. I had quite forgotten the details of this, except that Brat was not the bad guy. Breeding will out, and there’s always the potential for a dodgy strain to show up in the bloodline.
  153. A Gate at the Stairs – Lorrie Moore. Hang on, a novel about a young woman that did not have a cut-off female body on the cover? A novel not subtitled ‘A Novel’? Literary  madness. This was excellent. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 quid, just read this.
  154. Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates. Marvellous, and all what Emily done said, because that’s what made me read it.
  155. War Damage – Elizabeth Wilson
  156. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  157. Exit Music – Ian Rankin (audio)
  158. The Black Angel – Cornell Woolrich. I wasn’t liking this particularly, because Angel is annoying, and then I started thinking of it from the ‘does the end justify the means angle’ and it got a whole lot more interesting.
  159. Alms for Oblivion, vol 1 – Simon Raven. Incorporates the novels: The Rich Pay Late; Friends in Low Places; The Sabre Squadron; Fielding Gray. And is so far (3/4 way through), like a bawdier, less literary version of Anthony Powell. Am enjoying. Now, where are the next 6 books in the sequence?
  160. Fielding Gray – Simon Raven. Oh Simon, why are you so horribly out of print? What is wrong with people? (By people, I mean Random House/Vintage)
  161. Gone to Ground – John Harvey.
  162. Weightless – Jeanette Winterson
  163. Girl Meets Boy – Ali Smith
  164. The Partisan’s Daughter – Louis de Bernieres
  165. Angel – Elizabeth Taylor
  166. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace. This one could take a while, but I’m only reading it at weekends. Too heavy to take on the train. I will be reading this book for the rest of my natural life, and very likely beyond.
  167. The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood
  168. The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry 1)- Guy Gavriel Kay
  169. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende
  170. Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger
  171. The Wandering Fire (Fionavar Tapestry 2)- Guy Gavriel Kay
  172. The Longest Road (Fionavar Tapestry 3) – Guy Gavriel Kay
  173. Silk – Caitlin Kiernan
  174. The Complaints – Ian Rankin
  175. Henrietta’s War – Joyce Denys
  176. The Brontes Went to Woolworths – Rachel Ferguson
  177. Ashenden – W Somerset Maugham
  178. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel.
  179. The Gates – John Connolly. A bit too YA for me, but quite entertaining.
  180. The Shadow of the Shadow – Paco Ignacio Taibo II. Bookclub book and I found it tiresome and rated it a 5.
  181. Remember Me? – Sophie Kinsella (audio). With which I am strangely obsessed despite finding Lexie really quite annoying, and not sure if that is really the point because Lexie pre-amnesia would have been all ‘This is my plan for tackling this problem and figuring shit out’ and Lexie post-amnesia is all ‘I don’t remember, I don’t remember’, flounder, flounder.
  182. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  183. No Tomorrow – Vivant Denon. LT Early Reviewer copy.
  184. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn (audio)
  185. Death in the Stocks – Georgette Heyer.
  186. Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris. Yes, I succumbed and it was better than I thought it was going to be, but I’m not reading any more.
  187. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen.
  188. Easy Meat – John Harvey
  189. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales – Ludmilla Petrovsheskaya.
  190. Can You Forgive Her? – Anthony Trollope. Happy sigh. This was just what I wanted, and I’m relieved to hear from my secret source that Glencora and Plantagenet reappear in subsequent books in the series. Anyway. Will Alice marry trusty, reliable, handsome John Grey, who truly loves her? Or ne’er  do well, scarred, feckless George Vavasor, her cousin? She can’t make her mind up and keeps getting engaged and disengaged and engaged again, wilfully ignoring the advice of her ‘grand relations’ and making a total hash of things as she does so. Silly Alice.
  191. Wake the Dead – John Dickson Carr. My first of his, and although it was very much more about the intellectual puzzle of the mystery than the characters, it kept me entertained.
  192. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky – Patrick Hamilton.
  193. Pearls Before Swine – Margery Allingham. Bought this earlier today, all excited because it was a Campion novel I hadn’t read. Except it isn’t, the silly Americans have just renamed Coroner’s Pidgin. I read it again anyway.
  194. The Yellow Room – Mary Roberts Rinehart. Completely fine, standard stuff, churned out by the yard I should think. Reminds me a bit of Contentment Cove.
  195. The Maltese Manuscript – Joanne Dobson
  196. Roxana – Daniel Defoe
  197. Home Repair – Liz Rosenberg
  198. Phineas Finn – Anthony  Trollope
  199. The Casting of the Runes and Other Stories – M R James
  200. Aurora Floyd – Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  201. Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock
  202. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobbs

2008

  1. The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella. Unrealistic nonsense, as advertised.
  2. Poltergeist – Kat Richardson. The second in the series and I think that’s enough.
  3. A Question of Blood – Ian Rankin. Another Rebus novel. I like Rebus; he has a disturbingly flexible moral compass, which meant that I really wasn’t sure if he or hadn’t committed the crime.
  4. Artists in Crime – Ngaio Marsh. Eh. Might give Marsh another go since she’s supposed to be the Grande Dame of crime, but this was not a good start.
  5. Speak, Memory – Vladimir Nabokov. I simply don’t know how reliable this is. In a way, it’s too literary for me to really trust the narrator and I felt I was reading another novel. Will have to be revisited.
  6. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wife – Sigrid Undset (started at book 2, read the first vol last year). I’m really enjoying this trilogy, although at sea in the history and politics of vol 2.
  7. The Following Story – Cees Nooteboom. I liked this very short, almost dreamlike book. It opens with a man who went to bed the previous night in Amsterdam but wakes up in the morning in a hotel room in Portugal. And not just any hotel room, but one where he slept with the wife of one of his colleagues many years ago. He may or may not be dead, he doesn’t know. And then the story circles round, a simple one of love, jealousy and revenge.
  8. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross – Sigrid Undset. I think vol 1 was my favourite of the trilogy, when Kristin was young and passionate and reached out for the man she wanted. It seemed inevitable that such bright, hard happiness wouldn’t endure, and it doesn’t. Still, at the end of this volume, it seems that Kristin has found peace in her choices.
  9. In a Summer Season – Elizabeth Taylor. Perceptive and note-perfect in observation.
  10. Charity Girl – Georgette Heyer. Ok, so a bit predictable and with characters who had wandered in from other Heyers, bearing only a thin disguise. But still, it was charming.
  11. Hester – Margaret Oliphant
  12. Christ Stopped at Eboli – Carlo Levi. Great writing about Levi’s year of exile in southern Italy, seeing first hand how little politics can mean to the disenfranchised. Whether under the Romans or Mussolini, the life of the peasants barely changed.
  13. Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah. A disposable ARC, made for a light evening’s read.
  14. Inkheart – Cornelia Funke. A man reads accidentally reads characters out of a book and is then left dealing with the aftermath. Books and bookishness abound.
  15. The Man in the Queue – Josephine Tey. I’ve read Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair and Miss Pym Disposes, but this is my first (and the first) Inspector Grant novel. Now I must read all of them.
  16. Death at La Fenice – Donna Leon. Hooked. I’m hooked. As if it’s not enough that this was a good mystery, the setting is spot on.
  17. Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy L Sayers.
  18. The Mists of Avalon – Sigh. Chick lit wrapped in gynae-mysticism. I’m not sure how long I can bear it. Very disappointing. Update: I finished it, although there was a certain amount of skim reading involved. I’m still baffled – it’s not good fantasy, it’s certainly not a good historical novel, so why? Why?
  19. The Country of the Pointed Firs – Sarah Orne Jewett
  20. Inkspell – Cornelia Funke. Ok, now I’m fed up with the way that none of the characters ever learn from mistakes. Ever. And they, mostly, not very likeable.
  21. Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe (audio) – I am loving this. Moll is such a strong female character but so amoral that I am amazed the book was published at the time. Her moral compass shifts so entirely that she is able to justify or excuse all of her actions – her harlotry, bigamous marriages, continued incest, abandonment of children, thievery, deceit. Even when she professes sincerity, the reader (or listener) cannot trust her.
  22. Dracula – Bram Stoker (audio) – I listened to this earlier in the year and it was romping good fun. The reader was excellent at distinguishing between characters, although I did feel that ‘friend John’ was perhaps a bit gloomy. But then, the man lives in an asylum so I suppose I can cut him some slack. Poor Jonathan Harker – robbed of his own bit of unearthly delights, then cuckolded by Dracula while he is still in the room. No wonder his hair went white.
  23. Mrs Craddock – W. Somerset Maugham – so far, so good. I do like Maugham’s late introductions to his early works. They are somewhat disingenuous but he seems genuinely upset at the callowness of his own work. When he wrote this, he was clearly not too far from the version of himself who appears as Philip Carew in ‘Of Human Bondage’.
  24. The Glass Key – Dashiell Hammett – the very definition of elliptical writing.
  25. A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray (audio) – I am drawn to YA stuff, particularly when it has a fantastic element to it. And then the heroines turn out to be downright annoying. Must remember to read these books rather than listen to them, so that I can skim the teenage whining.
  26. The Palace Walk – Naguib Mahfouz – just started but I was drawn in immediately. Sadly, this is on hold while I finish copyediting. Found this completely enthralling, and have bought next two in trilogy for train reading. Mostly, I think how awful and circumscribed the women’s lives were. I did cheer when Yasin’s wife left him (and his father).
  27. Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier (audio) – marvellous sense of atmosphere.
  28. Undertones of War – Edmund Blunden – this needs concentration, but I’m finding Blunden’s deliberate lyrical, pastoral archaising very effective in portraying the horror of WWI.
  29. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson – How many times have I read this now? But it is so satisfying. A really lovely Cinderella story, charming, endearing and funny.
  30. The Tenderness of Wolves – Stef Penney – I raced through this and found that, for once, the reviews were right. The location was fascinating and incredibly real, I liked the multiple perspectives and although I guessed one of the twists, I found the conclusion quite satisfying. It’s a murder-detective-adventure-romance-historical novel.
  31. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – This is Emily’s fault. She mentioned it and then I had to go and buy it. I remember how much I disliked both Mary and Colin when I was a child, and yet kept reading anyway. Puffin Classics have done a handsome new edition, too.
  32. Blue Remembered Hills – Rosemary Sutcliff (Slightly Foxed Editions) – This was such a pleasing memoir, in which Sutcliff recounts her life up until she was about 20. Despite a lonely childhood spent suffering from children’s arthritis and attendant operations, which left her crippled for life and tied to a demanding, depressive mother, there is not a trace of self-pity. Instead, she reveals the quiet joys that she found. I would like to have known her.
  33. False Colours – Georgette Heyer – ah, so satisfying a read. As light as one of Lady Fancot’s disgraceful gauzy nightgowns.
  34. Busman’s Honeymoon – Dorothy L Sayers – This was the first book to give me hope about marriage.
  35. Mistress of the Art of Death – Ariana Franklin – I loved this, couldn’t put it down and even though I guessed the murderer and accomplice (which I rarely do, so it must be screamingly obvious) the ending was great. Had I been on my own in the house I would have been pleasantly spooked. I may have to buy the next one in hb.
  36. Justine – Lawrence Durrell – I am on the fence about this. On the one hand, it would be so easy to parody, because it is so borderline (?) pretentious. On the other, there is some wonderful writing. I will have to proceed with the rest of the Quartet before I can make a decision.
  37. The Jewel in the Crown – Paul Scott – Really enjoying this, far more than I thought I would. It has unexpected touches of humour. Better than Forster.
  38. The Black Book – Ian Rankin. Early Rebus, but all are good. This one with more humour than most.
  39. Leonard Woolf: A biography – Victoria Glendinning – fascinating, and very readable. I think I am more interested in Leonard than Virginia. I had no idea that he was such a political thinker and writer, and so involved with the Labour party.
  40. Virginia Woolf: A biography – Hermione Lee. Fantastic biog,absolutely riveting and rescues VW from just being a depressed mad woman to being an author who was plagued by mental illness.
  41. A Game of Thrones – George R R Martin. Curses – the beginning of a new fantasy obsession. Vast scope, teeming with characters, some of whom are brilliantly nasty, and bad things happen to good people.
  42. The Village in the Jungle – Leonard Woolf. Sad, bleak and probably true. Depicts the presence of the British as simply another natural hardship in the villagers’ lives.
  43. Sweet Danger – Margery Allingham. Either you are along for the ride, or you aren’t, and I definitely am. Love the humour, Amanda Fitton is a great character and Campion has grown up a bit by now.
  44. The Riddle of the Third Mile – Colin Dexter. Grumpy, miserable, dipsomaniac, tight-fisted Morse. Why is he such a good character?
  45. The Secret of Annexe 3 – Colin Dexter
  46. A Clash of Kings – George R R Martin. The plot thickens. The country collapses into civil war. A stupid girl sees her dreams trampled; another learns to fight; and dragons are reborn out of fire and death.
  47. Lonely Werewolf Girl – Martin Millar. So, werewolves are alive and well and living in Scotland, except for one rogue girl who’s in London, being tracked down. Fortunately she makes friends with some humans and a fire elemental with a shoe obsession.
  48. Last Bus to Woodstock – Colin Dexter
  49. Death is Now My Neighbour – Colin Dexter
  50. Threshold – Caitlin Kiernan- Not sure what I was expecting of Kiernan but this was great in a southern gothic, urban fantasy kind of way. I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending but I liked the characters and the forboding atmosphere.
  51. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver – This gave me much to think about. Eva got on my nerves, but so did her husband. Was she an unreliable narrator, or was Kevin really so awful? Was she remembering events from the past and then fitting them into the story to make a coherent narrative that would explain Kevin’s actions, or was she remembering accurately? Disturbing reading, and (I think) a bit of a cop out ending.
  52. Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman – This author can do no wrong. I particularly liked the story about the cat defending the family from the devil. I love Gaiman’s whimsicality; not a twee, cutesy whimsicality, but a disturbing, mischievous sort.
  53. A Storm of Swords – George R R Martin – Yet more unexpected plot twists as characters die off all over the place. Tyrion is still alive, though, and is fast becoming one of my favourites. I really like that I have literally no idea what will happen next.
  54. Lolly Willowes – Sylvia Townsend Warner – So, after 20 years of good service and dutiful behaviour as a maiden aunt who can always be relied on, Lolly moves to the country and makes a pact with the devil so that she can be left alone by her family. There are biting words here underneath a gentle level of humour.
  55. Period Piece – Gwen Raverat – Entirely charming, just as promised by Slightly Foxed. This is Raverat’s recollections of her childhood in Cambridge and is funny and sharp.
  56. Hangman’s Holiday – Dorothy L Sayers – good old reliable Peter. Am not a fan of Montague Egg, though.
  57. Sailing Alone around the World – Joshua Slocum – In the mid 1890s someone gave Slocum, a retired sailor, a sailing boat that was high and dry in a field in Massachusetts. He rebuilt it, by hand, and then over the next 4 years sailed around the world, with only a spider and the ghost of a sailor from the Pinta for company. An utterly charming tale. (My edition is a new hardcover from Shambala Press, and they have done a lovely job: end bands, ribbon marker, brown paper endpapers, and not a typo. Very satisfactory.)
  58. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower – Marcel Proust. The usual entrancingly dreamlike writing. It’s just that Marcel himself is such a twerp. Of course Albertine isn’t going to kiss you, freak boy!
  59. Beat not the Drums – Charlotte Jay. Bits of the writing were good, bits were terrible. The characters were all unpleasant, and the heroine was annoying. This story (of a man who may or may not have committed suicide, and what led up to his death), set in Papua New Guinea, should have been stronger than it was.
  60. The Silver Swan – Benjamin Black (audio). Narrated by Timothy Dalton who is doing a fine job. Again, as with Christine Falls, I am mesmerised by the detail and precision of the writing, the layering of minutiae that makes every scene, thought, emotion and action seem so true.
  61. The Day of the Scorpion – Paul Scott (vol 3 of the Raj Quartet). The more I read of Scott, the more I am convinced that he is a shamefully neglected author. Of course, he’s writing about India from the perspective of the ruling class there, but he’s doing it with sympathy and what seems genuine understanding of a multi-dimensional problem that extended far beyond the need for England just to leave India. He can be a pitiless writer. This quartet is like Forster compounded.
  62. Chalice – Robin McKinley. I picked up an ARC of this YA novel at ALA (enough acronyms yet?) It was a fast, charming read although slightly repetitive but if there was a sequel I would pick it up. The Chalice in question is a young woman, the chalice-bearer and potion-maker to a troubled kingdom whose previous Master died in a violent event. Since the lands are imbued with awareness, the trouble is almost literally ripping them apart: sudden chasms open, walls fall down, barns collapse as the land itself is restless and pained. As the new Master (called back from the Fire priesthood that has burnt away a significant portion of his human-ness) adjusts to his role, the Chalice struggles to bring the land back to peace, simultaneously coming to terms with her own new role and the politics she must deal with.
  63. The Lemur (audio) – Benjamin Black. This is his first standalone detective type story, and I must say I found it very disappointing. It moved from being unbelievable, to being predictable. I really didn’t believe in the main character, John Glass, who seemed terribly adrift in the world for someone who had been a war reporter. Allowing for the unpredictability of human character, he still didn’t ring true. Black’s writing was as good as ever, but somehow this one felt hollow.
  64. The Brief Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz. Actually I only half read this and I have put it aside with no qualms at all. The fact that I started it, forgot I was reading it, bought two new books, read them both, and only remembered the existence of this one when I saw it lying on the bench tells me that I wasn’t in any way gripped by the story. And all the Spanish got on my nerves (although I concede that the fault is mine in not knowing any Spanish.)
  65. The Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill. A last minute purchase because it was by the till in Borders and only $7.99. I only mean to flick through it, but no, there went my Sunday. I was immediately gripped by the story, and suspect I’d have been quite spooked if it hadn’t been the middle of the afternoon.
  66. Wicked Lovely – Melissa Marr. Another quite satisfactory YA novel. The heroine is chased by the king of the faeries, who believes she may be the summer queen who will join with him so that they can defeat the winter queen. Trouble is, he’s believed this before: the girls who love him enough to take the test are fated to become winter girls, who must stay until their replacement comes along; the girls who avoid the test become summer girls, a careless, beautiful harem. Fortunately Aislinn has enough tricks up er sleeve to avoid either fate. Caveat: the ‘Hey girls, don’t get drunk and sleep with someone without knowing it’ message was a bit heavy-handed for my liking.
  67. Uniform Justice (audio) – Donna Leon. This is the second Commissario Guido Brunetti novel I’ve read, and it has confirmed my previous good opinion. Brunetti is surely alone among detectives in being a happily married family man without a drinking problem? He is also a wryly cynical, humorous, thoughtful, honest (in Italy!), good guy. And makes very pleasant company.
  68. Out of Africa (audio) – Karen Blixen. I love this book anyway, but Julie Christie’s reading is really bringing home how elegiac it is.
  69. My Grandmothers and I – Diana Holman-Hunt. The latest Slightly Foxed book, an entertaining memoir of a rather ghastly childhood being shuttled between two grandmothers who were both bonkers in their own way.
  70. The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly – after recommendations from Emily and Hobgoblin, how could I refuse? I gulped this down on the train, and at lunchtime and was properly spooked by the Crooked Man.
  71. The Sun over Breda – Arturo Perez-Reverte. A little more Alatriste, a little less self-indulgence, please.
  72. Up High in the Trees – Kiara Brinkman. I think this was really well done, but I didn’t particularly like it. Enough of tales of dysfunctional families narrated from the child’s perspective. Is it a genre that really needs adding too? I don’t think so.
  73. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski. Terrific, mesmerizing, funny, sad, lovely writing. Buy it, now, don’t bother waiting around for the pb.
  74. Marrying the Mistress – Joanna Trollope. Takes the story of the older man deciding to marry the younger woman who has been his mistress for 7 years and stretches it into a story about family dynamics. I always think Trollope does dialogue well, her characters say things that real people would say.
  75. Dressed for Death – Donna Leon. Another Guido Brunetti mystery, very well done. This time a man is found dead with his face bashed in, dressed in a cheap red dress and expensive red satin heels. So clearly he was a transvestite prostitute. Or was he? What I also like is that I feel as though I’m getting an insight into real Italian life, culture, politics and above all, corruption.
  76. Deja Dead – Kathy Reichs. So, these get great reviews and I thought I’d give the series a go. It was utterly predictable from page one, and not in a comfortably playing with the genre way either. Stock characters in stock scenarios having stock reactions.
  77. Vince & Joy – Lisa Jewell. Ah, a bit of London life. Chick lit at its finest, and not pretending to be anything else. Liked Vince, liked Joy, liked that they had completely ordinary lives that got screwed up just because shit happens. These characters are like some of my mates.
  78. The Post-Birthday World – Lionel Shriver. Not as good as it’s cracked up to be, IMHO. I mean, I enjoyed it, liked the narrative structure, the idea of alternate lives, that you can change your destiny with one minor decision. I’ve felt that opening of paths ahead of me. But I think I got a bit bored with Irina-who-marries-Ramsey being so entirely sex obsessed; and I’d liked to have known more about Laurence and his relationship with Bethany.
  79. Death of a Ghost – Margery Allingham. Hurrah for Felony & Mayhem Press reissuing Campion. I haven’t read this one before, and it was a bit odd. Albert Campion not as manic, and not much mystery involved since he susses the murderer fairly early on. But how to prove it?
  80. Death in a White Tie – Ngaio Marsh. This is the second Marsh that I’ve read and now I don’t think I’ll read any more. To me, it’s all a bit of a pale imitation of Sayers and Alleyn’s (fake Peter Wimsey) love scenes with Agatha Troy (fake Harriet Vane) are really painful to read. The middle of this book was fairly dry too, just lots of witness interviews. And I guessed the murderer. Sigh.
  81. Palace of Desire – Nahgib Mahfouz – second vol in Cairo Trilogy. Much of this centers around the youngest son’s infatuation with the friend of a sister, so there are long passages extolling her virtues and beauty and the sensation of being in love in general. But it also continues the family saga, the difference between private and public life, and the hypocrisy.
  82. The Demon Princes – Jack Vance. Well, blimey. This was recommended to me by a usually reliable source, and I really don’t know what to make of it. The writing wasn’t great. The over-arching plot of the trilogy is that Kirth Gersen is travelling from planet to planet in search of the five demon princes who destroyed his world and his family. In familiar fashion, Kirth has spent his life so far working and studying to be the ultimate assassin. The first book recounts how he finds and kills the Star King. The story just gets going, which I kind of like, but each chapter is headed by fake excerpt from various histories or records of this set of worlds. (a) I hate this and (b) they were typeset very badly in the copy I have, so it was difficult to tell where the chapter actually started.
  83. The Quincunx – Charles Palliser. What a marvellous, rollicking read this was, if you like Victorian inheritance mysteries where no one can be trusted. Over 700 pages, no event fails to have later significance, and no words spoken can be disregarded. Is John Huffam paranoid or is there really a surprising pattern to his life? I must admit to not being able to keep straight the relation between Houghams, Mompessons, Maliphants, Clothiers and Palphramond but it didn’t really matter.
  84. Novel about my Wife – Emily Perkins. This was a good, fast read in which screenwriter is trying to write a novel about his wife but which turn more into his account of the events that led to her death. Was she really being followed, or did she go mad?  (And a nod to Bookslut for the recommendation)
  85. An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England – Brock Clarke. Sort of the usual dysfunctional family story but pushed to an extreme that to my mind just about works (man kicked out by wife for hiding the fact that he was in prison for burning down a house, while a couple were still inside it; alcoholic parents with family secret that is about to be revealed). I particularly like books in which the conversations and thoughts are those that real people might actually have, complete with the halts and dead ends. It’s hard to pull off but Clarke managed it. Sam Pulsifer is a floundering hero who piles mistake on mistake, but while you watch him take the wrong path yet again, it’s all too easy to understand why.
  86. A Division of the Spoils – Paul Scott. Final volume in the Raj quartet. The title refers both to a painting of Queen Victoria that is mentioned throughout the set, and also to the handing over and partition of India itself. With the ending, the series comes full circle, starting and ending with an Indian man being killed by mutineers. While Scott is certainly not all ‘up the Empire’, he doesn’t shy away from the fact that a large part of the Indian question was the internal struggles between Hindus and Muslims that were only being kept in check by the British presence.
  87. A Feast for Crows – George R R Martin – Vol 4. So, this was good as far as it went but disappointing in that half the characters didn’t make an appearance at all. And there was too much of Cersei. So, where is vol 5, I ask.
  88. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – Cherie Priest. Great southern Gothic. A child who sees ghosts, family secrets to be unravelled, and a final battle with a remnant of the past in the Florida swamps.
  89. Carbonel, King of the Cats – Barbara Sleigh. I had the other two books when I was a kid but I didn’t think I had read this one. But then it did seem familiar. I like the blend of magic and reality, and the way adults are so accepting of some of the odd happenings around them. Carbonel is more annoying than I remember, but I suppose that is royalty’s prerogative.
  90. Low Red Moon – Caitlin Kiernan. See my review here: https://musingsfromthesofa.wordpress.com/2008/09/10/southern-gothic-weekend/
  91. The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. Loved this, absolutely loved it. It made me laugh out loud on the train. Jam-packed full of ideas, it’s a love, adventure, mystery, friendship, war, coming-of-age story, with mimes and ninjas, narrated by an unnamed hero. Hoping for more soon from Nick Harkaway.
  92. Deerbrook – Harriet Martineau. https://musingsfromthesofa.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/deerbrook-by-harriet-martineau/
  93. Small Island – Andrea Levy. I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this, then found that the ending felt a bit rushed. It covers what I find to be an embarassing part of British history, focusing on the immigration of West Indians to England in the years after WWII, and the resentment and fear with which they were mostly treated. The characters were lively and entertaining, and their stories seemed real.
  94. Autobiography of a Wardrobe – Elizabeth Kendall. Liked the idea of this but think if fell down a bit in the execution. I’d have liked much more detail about the clothes themselves and the changing fashions through time and what influenced those changes. And more depth about what the particular items she wore meant for B, how she chose to represent herself.
  95. Black & White and Dead All Over – John Darnton. The exact point when this book wandered irredeemably into the realms of Scooby Doo was p. 132. At which point, all the other irritations that I had been letting lie (the ridiculously named characters; the dodgy opening from the perspective of a character who then disappeared; the heavy foreshadowing; the heavy handed set up of blindingly obvious red herrings; and the general air of smugness that lay over the whole damn thing like a mouldy blanket) got to me too.
  96. Doctor Thorne – Anthony Trollope. Vol 3 of the Barsetshire chronicles, introducing a whole new cast of characters. I was forewarned that this wasn’t one of Trollope’s best, and although it was enjoyable enough, the plot did seem somewhat circular in the middle, probably because the central event (the possible engagement of heir Frank Gresham, to illegitimate and dowryless Mary Thorne) wasn’t much of a fulcrum. Especially as it was obvious from the beginning that everything would turn out ok.
  97. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman. This had about the scariest beginning I’ve ever read in a children’s book. As usual, a great story, sad, funny, beautifully written. I’ll have to pick up the UK version because the few changes made to Americanise the book were both pointless and wince-making – the book in no way talks down to its intended audience, which rather makes me wonder why the publishers then think that kids can’t cope with the word ‘nappy’ instead of ‘diaper’. Anway, Bod grows up in a graveyard, raised by the ghosts and his undead guardian, Silas, who instil in him most of the virtues as well as teaching him useful tricks like being able to Fade and cause Fear (or, when he gets a bit more advanced, Terror). I particularly liked the scene of the Danse Macabre; and also the way in which the names and epitaphs on tombstones were used.
  98. The House Sitter – Peter Lovesey. So, a few weeks ago I was in Posen’s on the way home from work, looking for something to read on the train home. And I found a few books by Peter Lovesey, published in the US by Soho Crime. I picked up Bloodhounds, and thoroughly enjoyed it. DI Diamond is a detective of the grumpy type. Bit of a loner, doesn’t deal well with authority, but gets results. A good character, good story and a good plot, plus I really liked the English setting and straightforward language. A bit of vernacular is sometimes a relief to the eyes. I’ve got The House Sitter on audiobook and so far it’s living up to the expectations raised by Bloodhounds. An unknown woman has been found strangled on a beach, so the first mystery to solve is who she is, followed by and who killed her.
  99. Framley Parsonage – Anthony Trollope. I have to say, this one got off to a bit of a slow start. I didn’t much care for Mark Robarts, so it was hard to feel too sorry for him when he fell into the clutches of Sowerby. The heroine, Lucy, seemed a little two-dimensional, and the hero, Ludovic Lufton, was a bit of a wimp (despite having a fab name). But somewhere around p. 250 it all picked up and romped home. Plus, I was very pleased that Miss Dunstable found someone who was absolutely not interested in her ‘oil of Lebanon’ millions. Now, where’s book 5?
  100. Ink Exchange – Melissa Marr. Another YA book on audio and why do I do that to myself? And why are some of the faeries, who are hundreds of years old, still acting like lovelorn teens? This book could have been a fraction of the length if the author hadn’t borrowed the old ‘cut and paste and extend the franchise’ trick from Stephanie Meyers.
  101. Dr Who and the Feast of the Drowned – Stephen Cole (audio) All right, all right, I was idly looking to see if David Tennant had recorded any audiobooks, and he has but only Dr Who. But, this one was written by my friend’s husband; I was at their wedding. So, a double reason for interest. I think Stephen did a great job in capturing the feel of current Dr Who, particularly in its humour and in the Dr– Rose relationship.
  102. Diamond Dust – Peter Lovesey (audio).
  103. Miss Pym Disposes – Josephine Tey. I have read this before and remember a much more all-pervading sense of malice that I found lacking this time. But still, a good, strong story and perhaps unusual because technically, the amateur detective fails, and the murderer gets away with it.
  104. Fleshmarket Alley – Ian Rankin. A nice, solid Rebus to wash the nasty taste of miserable John Darnton away. This one deals with the murder of an illegal immigrant, the problems in the Detention Centre, racism in Edinburgh, with a sub-plot of a missing girl. As ever, Rebus finds his way through it with a good helping of whisky and cynicism.
  105. Strip Jack – Ian Rankin
  106. The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett. Oh, this was lovely. I wrote about it here.
  107. The Falls – Ian Rankin
  108. A Glass of Blessings – Barbara Pym. I read this and a couple of other Pyms close together and was intending to write about them all together. I will get round to that, but in brief, this was great. At first seeming so light, and then unravelling to provide more and more depth and complexity to what had seemed an easy domestic tale.
  109. Resurrection Men – Ian Rankin
  110. The Haunting – Shirley Jackson. All right, all right. Damn good I thought, very creepy. I would not have wanted to be on my own in the house reading this, even though my house is friendly and welcoming and not leprous and evil like Hill House.  So: horrible and clearly haunted house – check; unreliable and possibly nutso to start with narrator – check; mixed bag of other characters who all seem untrustworthy in their own way – check; creeping sense that something will go horribly wrong but you can’t stop reading anyway – check. Need I go on?
  111. Crampton Hodnett – Barbara Pym. What a marvellous title! I’m sure that if I had grown up in a literary family, one of the expressions for a fib would have been to accuse someone of ‘telling a Crampton Hodnett story’.
  112. No Fond Return of Love – Barbara Pym.
  113. In the Woods – Tana French. So, stupidly, I started listening to The Likeness before I had read this book, which meant I had to stop listening one day and run to the bookshop at lunchtime, in the rain, to buy In the Woods. Which I really, really liked for the creepiness and humanness and vernacular writing and great sense of place and good characters, not to mention the fuckedupness and the astute acceptance that shit happens and you can’t always have all the answers.
  114. The Likeness – Tana French. (Audio) From the outset I was worried that this was going to go all ‘The Secret History’ on me, and it did, a bit. And she did go on a bit about how glorious and beautiful and perfect the four students were, but it did make the falling apart rather sad. And also the whole eery likeness was a bit too hard to take. But still, I was willing to do so, for the much the same reasons as all the positives of ‘In the Woods’. I don’t know where this possible series is going, and I kind of hope that Cassie gets some better cases soon.
  115. The Good Fairies of New York – Martin Millar. I have run alongside the Millar bandwagon, reaching up for that helping hand, but it’s no good. I’ve given it my best shot and I cannot leap aboard, and now I am standing in the road, watching the bus hove out of sight. The fairies were exactly like the werewolves in Lonely Werewolf Girl, except less violent.
  116. The Small House at Allington – Anthony Trollope. Utterly and completely charming. Crosbie such an unpleasant but ordinary man. I think I have worked for Sir Raffle Buffle. And poor, bravely tragic Lily. Plus I got this in a delightful old OUP World’s Classics hardback, which is almost pocket sized.
  117. The Razor’s Edge – W Somerset Maugham. I didn’t like the way the author inserted himself into the story as one to whom vast tracts of it were then recounted. I just don’t find it convincing that anyone narrates word perfect conversations from the history of their life for the past x years, and thus its an annoying device. And again, objectionable female characters.
  118. The Last Chronicle of Barset – Anthony Trollope. A very satisfactory conclusion to the series. Cheer for Mr Crawley; hiss for Madalina; sigh for Lily and John; drop a surreptitious tear for Septimus Harding; and applaud for Grace and Major Grantly.
  119. Don’t Look Now – Daphne du Maurier. Always the unusual, off kilter, spiralling out of control, nature gone astray type stuff. Very disturbing.
  120. Happy All the Time – Laurie Colwin
  121. Collected Short Stories vol 1 – W Somerset Maugham. Is provoking much thought on Maugham’s themes, which he returns to repeatedly in his novels and short stories. Also his (a)morality. Need time to frame all this.
  122. Grief Lessons – Anne Carson
  123. Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian. Watched the film (blah), and of course had to pick up the book again. Now I fear that the whole series will come upon me once more, because I went straight on to…
  124. Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian
  125. Up at the Villa – W Somerset Maugham – disappointing; I’m not sure if this is an early work but it reads like one. I found it unbelievable and more like a play than a novel. Somehow very static.
  126. HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian
  127. The Unburied – Charles Palliser – Also disappointing, compared to The Quincunx. I thought quite clumsily complicated and the mystery of the death of Mr Stonex was no mystery at all.
  128. Emma – Jane Austen (audio)
  129. The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian
  130. The Dangerous Edge of Things – Candida Lycett Green. Not very well written, and chiefly interesting for the historical portrait of a village in the late 40s. No electricity!
  131. Interworld – Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves. Fab fab fab, adventuresome stuff.
  132. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont – Elizabeth Taylor. Very, very sad.
  133. An Infamous Army – Georgette Heyer. I did enjoy meeting old characters again, but they were rather cardboard cut outs of their first fictional selves. Let’s face it, Heyer wanted to write her Waterloo novel and so forced a love story around it. I am sure she is accurate and her battle descriptions are horribly vivid, but the Barbara-Charles device doesn’t work, and in no way matches the standard of
  134. The Coroner’s Lunch – Colin Cotterill
  135. The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian
  136. The Ministry of Special Cases – Nathan Englander
  137. Gods Behaving Badly – Marie Philips
  138. The Fortunes of War – Patrick O’Brian
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