Books 2013

January

  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.

February

  1. Religio Medici – Thomas Browne.
  2. The Ionian Mission – Patrick O’Brian
  3. The Court of the Air – Stephen Hunt.
  4. The Woman Novelist and Other Studies – Diana Gardner
  5. 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.
  6. The Light Years – Elizabeth Jane Howard. First in the Cazalet chronicles, and I’ll certainly be reading the rest of them.

March

  1. The Northern Clemency – Philip Hensher
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Simonetta Perkins – L. P. Hartley – Is kind of Lucy Honeychurch’s story, if she had been more self-aware.
  5. 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.
  6. Persuasion – Jane Austen. It was an Austen kind of day.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. A Question of Identity – Susan Hill. The latest Serrailler, on audio.
  10. The Dwarves of Death – Jonathon Coe. Bought this for the title, thoroughly enjoyed it. Engaging narrative voice, and a surprise ending.
  11. The Standing Pool – Adam Thorpe. Which I was kind of expecting to be much nastier than it was.
  12. Dolly – Susan Hill. Another good, spooky tale. As if dolls aren’t creepy enough anyway.
  13. Gold – Chris Cleave.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. The Land of Decoration – Grace McKeen.
  17. A Time of Gifts – Patrick Leigh Fermor
  18. Bricks and Mortar – Helen Ashton.

April

  1. The Ballad and the Source – Rosamund Lehmann. Nice old Virago Modern Classic I got from the Slightly Foxed bookshop. Sybil Anstey is a monster.
  2. Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson. In an attempt to slow myself down I know have the entire Baroque Cycle. Let’s see how this goes.
  3. The Far Side of the World – Patrick O’Brian.
  4. A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness. This was several shades of awesome, multi-layered and tragic.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Duplicate Death – Georgette Heyer. A re-re-re-read, but I was sick.
  12. A Blunt Instrument – Georgette Heyer. See above.

May

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Burning Bright – Ron Rash. A short story collection from the other author at the recent Stories Aloud. Terrific stuff.
  5. The Cove – Ron Rash. Enjoyed the stories, so straight on with the novel. Goodness, but this had a heartbreaking ending.
  6. May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes. Unputdownable, and now I’ve finished I need to read everything else she’s written.
  7. 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.
  8. The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler.
  9. Ulverton – Adam Thorpe. Damn, I’d forgotten how good this is. Take a bow, Mr Thorpe.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

June

  1. The Panopticon – Jenni Fagan.
  2. 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.
  3. The Village School – Miss Read.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Before I Met You – Lisa Jewell.
  8. Dissolution – C J Sansom
  9. The Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman – Elizabeth Buchan
  10. The Swimming Party – Madeline Wickham
  11. Now and Then – Robert Parker

July

  1. The Godwulf Manuscript – Robert Parker
  2. 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.’
  3. Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
  4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. Just do yourself a favour, and read it. Plan for one sitting.
  5. The Thirteen Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian.
  6. Where D’You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple
  7. The Ruins – Jess Walters
  8. Gaudy Night – DL Sayers

August

  1. The Nutmeg of Consolation – Patrick O’Brian
  2. The Carrier – Sophie Hannah
  3. Broken Homes – Ben Aaronavitch
  4. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
  5. Our Spoons Came from Woolworths – Barbara Comyns
  6. Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway. Which definitely stood up to a second reading but I demand more Mercer Cradle.
  7. 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.
  8. Stoner – John Williams. Brilliant stuff.
  9. The Red House – Mark Haddon. Fine at the time, forgettable.
  10. 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.

September

  1. Clarissa Oakes – Patrick O’Brian. I found I remembered absolutely nothing about this at all. Not one of the liveliest but still perfectly readable.
  2. Wreckers Must Breathe – Hammond Innes
  3. In the Spring Time of the Year – Susan Hill
  4. Wild Strawberries – Angela Thirkell
  5. The Black Moth – Georgette Heyer (audio)

October

  1. Making Time – Elizabeth Jane Howard. Vol 2 of the Cazalet chronicles, which I’m really enjoying.
  2. The Wine Dark Sea – Patrick O’Brian.
  3. The House We Grew up In – Lisa Jewell.
  4. Naked Heat – Richard Castle. Couldn’t quite resist this, but don’t think I’ll be reading more. Rather just watch Castle.
  5. Instructions for a Heat Wave – Maggie O’Farrell. Perfectly drawn.

November

  1. The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian.
  2. Black Sheep – Susan Hill. Brief and tragic.
  3. Polgara the Sorceress – David Eddings. Yes, things are precisely that bad that I took refuge for a day in dodgy fantasy.
  4. The Headhunters – Peter Lovesey
  5. The Black House – Peter May (audio)
  6. Confusion – Elizabeth Jane Howard. Vol 3 of the Cazalet chronicles, which are all I really want to read at the moment.
  7. Casting Off – Elizabeth Jane Howard. Vol 4 of the Cazalet chronicles.

December

  1. A View from the Harbour – Elizabeth Taylor
  2. First Rider’s Call – Kristen Britain
  3. The High King’s Tomb – Kristen Britain
  4. The Yellow Admiral – Patrick O’Brian
  5. 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.
  6. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
  7. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
  8. All Change – Elizabeth Jane Howard. And thus ends the Cazalet chronicles, leaving me with a big reading hole to fill.
  9. Lasting Damage – Sophie Hannah
  10. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  11. Penelope – Rebecca Harrington
  12. All My Friends are Superheroes – Andrew Kauffman.
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