Books 2009

January
  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.

February

  1. Names My Sisters Call Me – Megan Crane. Superior chick lit.
  2. Excellent Women – Barbara Pym. Pym was one of the finds of the year and her characters are an answer to Gissing’s Odd Women.
  3. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier (audio, and going very slowly)
  4. Mr Fortune’s Maggot – Sylvia Townsend Warner.
  5. Le Divorce – Diane Johnson. A better book disguised as chicklit.
  6. Mapp and Lucia – E F Benson. I swear these two are getting worse and worse.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Death in a Strange Country – Donna Leon

March

  1. Hearts and Minds – Rosy Thornton
  2. Plain Truth – Jodi Picoult. Nope, never reading anything else by Picoult either. What dreadful, by the numbers guff.
  3. Contentment Cove – Miriam Colwell
  4. The Moon and Sixpence – W Somerset Maugham. Borrowed from Emily. Maugham always better than his books sound like they will be.
  5. 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‘).
  6. 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.
  7. 20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill. Good stuff! Nothing as gripping as his novel, but a nice variety of stories.
  8. 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.
  9. The Orchard – Drusilla Modjeska.
  10. 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.
  11. Mariana – Monica Dickens. Utterly charming autobiographical novel about a young girl’s growing up.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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’.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Gossip Girl – Who cares? Argh. Argh. And double argh.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.

April

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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’.
  6. 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?)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. The Corner that Held Them – Sylvia Townsend Warner.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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).
  17. 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.

May

  1. Cakes and Ale – W. Somerset Maugham.
  2. English as a Second Language – Megan Crane. Good, frothy chicklit, set in England and with a good ear for dialogue.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britan Between the Wars – Martin Pugh.
  6. The Reavers  – George MacDonald Fraser
  7. 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).
  8. The Headhunters – Peter Lovesey.
  9. Murder in Mind – P. D. James (audio)
  10. 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.
  11. Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller
  12. 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?
  13. Making Conversation – Christine Longford. Persephone.
  14. Incendiary – Chris Cleave. Bloody brilliant. Harrowing, dark, gruesome, funny, heartrending, hopeful and bleak.
  15. Drood – Dan Simmons. Do I have to?
  16. Seven Types of Ambiguity – Elliot Perlman. Nope, not finishing this either
  17. The Lives of Christopher Chant – Dianne Wynne Jones. When grown up literature lets you down, turn to the kid’s stuff. Most satisfactory.
  18. The Morville Hour – Katherine Swift. Beguiling. I think I might move to Shropshire.
  19. Frederica – Georgette Heyer. A perfect read for a sunny afternoon. Marvellous Regency froth.

June

  1. 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.
  2. The Aeneid – Robert Fagles (transl). But, of course I had to read the Aeneid again. Great translation.
  3. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (audio). Loved the book, loved the audio. A well deserved Audiobook of the Year.
  4. The Underground Man – Ross MacDonald. Like Chandler but not as good.
  5. The Worshipful Lucia – E.F.Benson. And so I come to the end of the Lucia stories. She is indomitable.
  6. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson. Oh, I knew it was Merricat all along.
  7. The Spare Wife – Alex Witchel – Um. Tired on the train fodder.
  8. The Slaves of Solitude – Patrick Hamilton. Great stuff; laugh out loud funny, but underneath, grim and awful.
  9. 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.
  10. Netherland – Joseph O’Neill. Eh. Narrator was an insufferable arse. Suspect author of same.
  11. Hangover Square – Patrick Hamilton – Good, but gloomy, despondent stuff. Netta Longdon is one of the most horrible female characters, too.
  12. Sleeping Arrangements – Madeleine Wickham – froth and sugar.
  13. The Franchise Affair – Josephine Tey. It’s a classic, innit? And with good reason.
  14. 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!
  15. The Village – Marghanita Laski. Good companion piece to Austerity Britain. Upper class holdout against the turning tide of social equality.
  16. A House in the Country – Jocelyn Playfair
  17. 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.

July

  1. Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce.
  2. Cocktails for Three – Madeline Wickham.
  3. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – J K Rowling
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J K Rowling
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Notes from the Underwire – Quinn Cummings. Not laugh out loud funny. Maybe snigger. I think I prefer her blog.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. The Greengage Summer – Rumer Godden.
  15. Isabel’s Bed – Elinor Lipman. Dodgy chick lit masquerading as lower end literature.
  16. 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?
  17. 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.
  18. Beyond Reach – Karin Slaughter. Airplane fodder, Jeffrey dies.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.

August

  1. 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.
  2. The Bronte Project – Jennifer Vanderven. I’ve already forgotten.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings
  8. Queen of Sorcery – David Eddings
  9. Magician’s Gambit – David Eddings
  10. Castle of Wizardry – David Eddings
  11. Enchanter’s End Game – David Eddings. And thus concluded the Belgariad and a few days of nostalgia reading.
  12. Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban
  13. Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer (audio)
  14. Darkness and Light – John Harvey (audio)
  15. Thirty Three Teeth – Colin Cotterill
  16. Disco for the Departed – Colin Cotterill
  17. 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.

September

  1. The Crow Road – Iain Banks.
  2. 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.)
  3. The Complete Midshipman Bolitho – Alexander Kent. Sigh. I tried but really, back to Patrick O’Brian I go.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. The Book of Air and Shadows – Michael Gruber.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates. Marvellous, and all what Emily done said, because that’s what made me read it.
  12. War Damage – Elizabeth Wilson
  13. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  14. Exit Music – Ian Rankin (audio)
  15. 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.
  16. 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?

October

  1. 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)
  2. Gone to Ground – John Harvey.
  3. Weightless – Jeanette Winterson
  4. Girl Meets Boy – Ali Smith
  5. The Partisan’s Daughter – Louis de Bernieres
  6. Angel – Elizabeth Taylor
  7. 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.
  8. The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood
  9. The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry 1)- Guy Gavriel Kay
  10. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende
  11. Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger
  12. The Wandering Fire (Fionavar Tapestry 2)- Guy Gavriel Kay
  13. The Longest Road (Fionavar Tapestry 3) – Guy Gavriel Kay
  14. Silk – Caitlin Kiernan
  15. The Complaints – Ian Rankin
  16. Henrietta’s War – Joyce Denys
  17. The Brontes Went to Woolworths – Rachel Ferguson
  18. Ashenden – W Somerset Maugham
  19. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel.

November

  1. The Gates – John Connolly. A bit too YA for me, but quite entertaining.
  2. The Shadow of the Shadow – Paco Ignacio Taibo II. Bookclub book and I found it tiresome and rated it a 5.
  3. 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.
  4. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  5. No Tomorrow – Vivant Denon. LT Early Reviewer copy.
  6. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn (audio)
  7. Death in the Stocks – Georgette Heyer.
  8. 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.
  9. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen.
  10. Easy Meat – John Harvey
  11. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales – Ludmilla Petrovsheskaya.
  12. 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.

December

  1. 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.
  2. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky – Patrick Hamilton.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The Maltese Manuscript – Joanne Dobson
  6. Roxana – Daniel Defoe
  7. Home Repair – Liz Rosenberg
  8. Phineas Finn – Anthony  Trollope
  9. The Casting of the Runes and Other Stories – M R James
  10. Aurora Floyd – Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  11. Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock
  12. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobbs
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3 thoughts on “Books 2009

  1. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    Eeoin – Sadly, not so much this year, which has been rather tumultuous. But I’m heading back to regular form.

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