Best of...

Kindle Unlimited Review of the Year

Back when I first tried Kindle Unlimited, I promised to keep you posted on how long I kept it for and the sort of value for money I was getting out of it. I’ve not always been great at remembering to do that, but as I did last year, now we’ve finished another year, here is the lowdown on 2022.

If my Goodread shelves are correct, I read 39 books via KU last year – which doesn’t included another few that I started and then abandoned. It averages to just over a month, although some months I did more than that, and others less. The months where it got a bit patchy include when I had Covid as well as my bout of shingles and then obviously that massive Meg Langlsow binge that I’m still on! I’ve almost always got the maximum number of books on loan – as I have a bad habit of borrowing things when I see them with the intentions of reading it later and then… getting distracted!

I’ve used it to try out – and then reject in some cases – new cozy crime and historical crime series, which would have come under my rules about too hard to tell if they’re worth paying for from the sample rules, but I would have been annoyed if I’d paid for them when I got to the end! And yes I know I did pay for them if I got them in KU, but you know what I mean. On a practical financial angle, 18 of the 29 were British Library Crime Classics – which tend to retail at about £3 a book in ebook so that’s half the cost of the year of KU covered right there! And a lot of them were very good with some of them ending up as Books of the week – like Til Death Do Us Part, The Incredible Crime, Death of a Bookseller and Green for Danger – others have ended up in various Recommendsdays – including the specific BLCC one.

Aside from the BLCC masses, there are a few short stories, but almost everything else has been cozy crime or historical mystery books, which is exactly why I wanted KU to start with – mostly they don’t take me long to read, but the actual kindle price is over my maximum, or at least over the maximum that I’m prepared to pay for something I can read in an afternoon. They also help me tick of states in the 50 States challenge – although (spoiler alert) as we saw yesterday, I didn’t manage to complete it last year. But 2023 could be different…

So all in all, I reckon I’ve done ok on the KU value this year – but I need to monitor it slightly more carefully, particularly when it comes to how much the stuff I’m reading would be to buy to make sure it stays worth it.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

Surviving the 'Rona

Goodbye 2021…

Well, here we are. The last day of another year. Or at least it will be when you’re reading this. I don’t think any of us quite expected that 2021 would be even more exhausting than 2020. In fact I’m not sure any of us thought that it was possible to be even more tired than we were last year. And yet. At the end of 2020, with vaccines against covid arriving I think we all thought that by the end of 2021 things would be back to normal again. And now, we’re all wondering if things will ever be normal again. But you have to hold on to something don’t you, and I’m holding onto the fact that I’ve now been jabbed and boosted, we did go on holiday (twice!) this year and that I made it back into the theatre as well. So I’m still in a better place than this time last year – even if omicron is causing some problems right now. Consider this the pandemic evolution of the old Obsessions of the year posts.

I think that the general ennui of 2021 can be seen in my reading habits. I’ve read slightly less books than I read last year – but then in March I traded in my commute to London to a short walk to the spare room when I changed jobs and lost my train reading time. I only had about a month and a half of regularly being back in the office this autumn but I never really got back to my regular nights away from home for work – so I lost that reading time in the evening too.

I’ve also read a lot less physical books this year than you would expect considering that I’ve been at home so much with so much access to my to-read bookshelf. But then I have grown somewhat obsessed with my kindle streak in recent months and you know what I’m like when I get something in my head. And of course it continues to be much easier to binge a series by clicking on the buy next button on Kindle and reading it straight away than it is to wait for the next one in the series to turn up.

I have re-read a lot this year – some books more than once. And I only allow a book to count on the list once each year – even if I’ve read – or listened to it more than once. And if we were including those in the list we’d be way over last year’s total because I’ve done most of the Peter Wimsey cannon more than once, along with a lot of the Amelia Peabody books, several of the Inspector Alleyns and my favourite Georgette Heyers.

And that leads me on to another of the trends of the latter part of this year – my retreat into the familiar. I think I said last year that I was spending a lot of time reading romance and cozy crime because I knew that they would work out already in the end. But since the summer I’ve been listening to the same audiobooks over and over again. I think after nearly 2 years of pandemic living I’ve started clinging to the familiar in the same way that I frequently do the ironing watching the same Miss Marples or Inspector Alleyns that I’ve watched dozens of time before. And that’s how we got to a point where I wrote a magnum opus about Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.

So here’s to 2022. May it be better than 2021.

Authors I love, Best of..., book round-ups

Best books of 2018

It’s nearly the end of the year and I promised you some extra posts looking back at the year didn’t I?  Well, here’s my look at five of my favourite books of the year.  Looking back on my Goodreads stats to write this, I realise that I’ve been very stingy with the 5 stars this year – which has made this very tricky to write because there are a lot of 4 star ratings and I’ve had to workout which ones were my real favourites.  And because of the way this blog works, you’ve heard about most of these before – either as Books of the Week or in other roundup posts – because when I like stuff this much, I tell you about it!

A Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Copy of Another Day in the Death of America

This was part of my pre-Washington reading and although I read a lot of good books in that particular reading jag, this one has really stuck with me.  A snapshot of all the children and teens killed by guns on just one day in America, it is meticulously researched and will break your heart.  If you are in any doubt about the scale of gun deaths in the US, this will put it all into perspective -this is just a normal day – no mass shootings, just ten dead young people ranging in age from 9 to 19.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

Paperback copy of Five Children on the Western Front

Lets get all the sad books out of the way to start with.  This is a middle grade continuation/follow on to E Nesbit’s The Five Children and It book.  I think I read the 5 children (maybe even more than one of them) after the 1990s BBC TV series was shown and it had never occurred to me that these were the children who would be the young men and women of the Great War – and of course when Nesbit was writing the books, she had no idea what was in their future either.  This is really, really good, but also quietly devastating. There are a lot of Second World War middle grade books, but not so many (or at least not that I’ve come across) Great War ones – this is a very good addition to the genre.  It came out a couple of years ago, but reading it this year with the centenary of the Armistice, felt very timely.  It wasn’t my BotW at the time -I was in a historical crime groove back in at the start of the year, but I’ve recommended it a few times since and it’s quietly crept up my list of best reads of the year.

The Victory Disc by Andrew Cartmel

Copy of Victory Disc

The third in the Vinyl Dectective series is right up there as one of my favourite detective stories of the year.  This time our unnamed hero is on the hunt for records by a wartime swing band.  The Flarepath Orchestra were contemporaries of Glenn Miller, but their recordings are incredibly rare.  After one pops up unexpectedly, the Detective and his gang are asked to track down the rest.  But there are still secrets and lies at the heart of the band and soon a great deal of danger is threatening the gang.  This wasn’t a Book of the Week at the time – because it’s the third in the series and you’ll get the most from them by reading them in order.  The first in the series, Written in Dead Wax was a BotW last summer though – and I thoroughly recommend starting with that.  My Dad has read these and practically snaps my hand off to get the next one from me!  Good reads doesn’t have any details for a fourth yet, but I’m hoping that we’ll get more adventures in vinyl in 2019.

Anyone for Seconds by Laurie Graham

Regular readers know how much I love Laurie Graham (and if you don’t, here are the posts to prove it) but I remember saying to a friend before this came out that if she was going to write a sequel to one of her novels, this wasn’t the one that I would have picked.  How wrong I was, because this is my favourite of her contemporary novels in ages.  It snuck out a bit under the radar in August and I nearly missed it. We rejoin Lizzie Partridge, the heroine of Perfect Meringues, some twenty years after we last met her.  Lizzie was a TV-chef on the regional news, but after The Incident she has mostly worked in print.  But when her last paying gig is pulled, Lizzie decides to run away in the hope that it’ll get her some attention.  But no-one notices.  It does however, set in train a series of changes in Lizzie’s life.  It was a BotW and it’s still one of my favourites this year.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

It was a long wait for a new book by Jasper Fforde – my big Fforde discovery and binge actually happpened before I started this blog, but Early Riser was worth it and it was a BotW.  Set in a world where humans hibernate for four months every winter, this follows the adventures of one man in his first year as a Winter Consul – one of the people who watch over the sleeping masses.  This is completely standalone from his other books, but if you’ve read other Fforde novels you’ll spot that this world has some elements in common with Thursday Nexts.  It’s fantasy and sci-fi but at the end of that spectrum that I like.

The Birth of South Korean Cool by Euny Hong

Copy of the Birth of Korean Cool

And another non-fiction book to round out this list.  Euny Hong’s family moved back to South Korea in the 1980s when she was at school so she is ideally placed to take a look at how South Korea turned itself into a big name on the world stage through the course of twenty years. This is a really, really interesting and readable guide to the Korean pop-culture phenomenon and the policy behind it. Although some of the section dealing with North Korea is now slightly dated that doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the book. I would happily have read another 100 pages.   It had been on my to-read list for ages – but I finally got around to getting hold of a copy after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics at the start of the year (although it took me another few months to get around to reading it!). I’ve recommended it a number of times – and used knowledge I learned from it to look smart when talking about K-pop with younger colleagues.  A winner all around!

Let me know what your favourite books of the year have been in the comments – and coming up over the next few days we’ve also got my reading obsessions of the year – and how 2017’s obsessions have lasted as well as the books that I’m looking forward to in 2019.So here you are, six of my favourite reads of 2018.  There were a few five star reads this year that aren’t on the list – but they are very much from favourite authors – new installments in the Wells and Wong series and from Gail Carriger and the Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang that I’ve already talked about so much already over the years that I’d be boring you to tell you about them again.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, cozy crime, historical, Series I love

My Big Obsessions of 2015: Revisited

As we all know, I am the bingiest of binge readers, so before I post my 2016 obsessions post, I thought it might be fun to revisit my obsessions from last year to see if I’m fickle and flighty, or true to my obsessions before you point and laugh at all the ways I’ve been derailing my efforts to shrink the to-read pile this year!  NB links to series are to Goodreads and links to individual titles are to Amazon as I’ll be here all week if I link to all the different sellers and Goodreads will give you links through to retailers via the individual book pages that way.

Janet Evanovich

So after binging on Evanovich last year, the pace has slowed somewhat in 2016.  From 30 books last year, to 6 this year.  And that’s not because I’ve gone off her – just that I’m running out of books to read.  I’m up to date in the Lizzie and Diesel and Fox and O’Hare series, I’ve read another of her backlist romances and the first book in the new series (didn’t like it sadly, but it’s the first real big failure I’ve had from her).  I’ve only read one more Stephanie Plum, although I have book 20 waiting on the pile, so I’m still a few behind in that, but that’s because I’m waiting for the prices to drop/paperbacks to appear.

Deanna Raybourn

I’ve been very good at rationing myself with Deanna Raybourn this year.  She doesn’t turn out as many books as Janet Evanovich (who does?!) so I’m very aware that if I’m not careful I’ll find myself with a long wait to read more from her.  I’ve now read all of the Lady Julia books and novellas, but I still have a couple of  her standalone books waiting for me to read.  I loved the first Veronica Speedwell (A Curious Beginning) – and have managed to get the second one, A Perilous Undertaking, from NetGalley – it’s out in January so I’ve just started reading it in the last week as a post-Christmas treat to myself for being back at work.  Now you may remember that this time last year I did a bit of bulk Raybourn purchasing because the prices had dropped – and I’m delighted to report that at time of writing the same things seems to have happened again – and you can pick up the first Lady Julia, Silent in the Grave, for 99p and none of the others cost more than £2.99. A Spear of Summer Grass has also dropped in price – making it cheaper than when I bought it last year gnash – and most of the others are cheaper too.  Tell you what, I’ll just leave the link to her Amazon kindle title list here.

Historical Romance

So, after spending 2015 searching out new historical romance authors, this year I have tended to stick with authors I’ve already read, with a few exceptions.  I also think that although I’ve read about the same amount of romances over the year, I’ve read more contemporary romances and less historicals, partly because of all the bingeing on historicals meaning that I’ve run out of cheap backlist titles and unless I can get them through NetGalley the new releases are more expensive on Kindle than I’m prepared to pay for a book that is only going to take me a few hours to read, so I wait until they go on offer/second hand prices sort themselves out.  I also think I’ve got pickier about the tropes that I’m prepared to read.  So unless it’s an author that I know I usually like, I tend to avoid Highland romances, pirates, amnesia, accidental pregnancies, secret babies, tortured heroes and heroines and to a lesser extent reunited romances (it depends what it was that split them up first time around) in historicals – and in contemporaries too, although you don’t get a lot of pirate or highland contemporaries – and going straight for my catnip: disguises, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, marriages of convenience, rakes, guardians/wards (a la Regency Buck, not creepy old men and young girls obviously) and fake engagements.

Cozy Crime

I said last year that I felt more cozy crime reading coming on in 2016 and I was right.  I have read *so* much cozy crime this year.  So much.  I’ve worked my way through various of Henery Press’s offerings on NetGalley, carried on with Jenn McKinlay‘s series (when prices allowed), tried various crafting-based cozies and quite a few with journalists as main characters (some successful, some less so), some with vicars, a few with police as main characters (more unusual in the genre than you’d think), wondered how many bodies need to turn up outside a cafe/bakery to make the business unviable and even dipped my toe into paranormal/ghostly cozy crimes.  I still have the rule about how much I’ll spend on them (which is pretty much the same as with historical romances) so I’ve read a lot of first in series (which tend to be cheap/free) and then added the rest to my ever-growing Amazon list to wait for the prices to drop on the sequels.  I’m still working out which sort of plots work best for me, but I reckon by the end of 2017 I should have got it sussed.

Historical Crime

As with 2015 I’m still searching for those elusive books that will scratch my Daisy Dalrymple/Phryne Fisher itch.  We haven’t had a new Phryne for 3 years now and I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever get any more (the TV series is Not The Same) which fills my heart with dread, so I’ve read pretty much all of Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman books this year (I read one in 2015 when I happened up it at the library) to try and cheer myself up but as they’re set in modern day Melbourne they are really quite different.  I’m pretty much up to date with Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series now thanks to a string of them popping up at The Works, and the latest Sidney Chambers appeared on the shelf of books at work too although I find that they’re a bit out of my favourite time period now they’ve hit the 1960s.  I’ve filled in pretty much all the gaps in Flavia de Luce and Dandy Gilver now so I’ve had to cast my net further.  The results have been somewhat mixed.  I like Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames series, but the third book has only just come out, so there aren’t enough of them and Frances Brody’s Kate Shackleton series has grown on me.  I’m still searching for another good 1920s or 1930s-set murder mystery series now I’ve exhausted all the obvious options.  I’ve read one of Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series and have another on the pile so it’s too early to tell if I like them, but if I do, Bowen’s Molly Murphy series might be my next stop.  Luckily, I was sent some of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series that I hadn’t already read to read and review (on Amazon) so I’ve filled my historical crime gap with some actual genuine Golden Age crime instead.

So there you have it – a look back at last year’s obsessions and an insight into what happens after you’ve binged on an author and can’t get your fix.  Any suggestions for historical romance, cozy crime or historical crime books or series that I might like are gratefully received.

Coming tomorrow: My 2016 obsessions…


fiction, reviews

My Favourite Books of 2015

It’s that time again, where I look back at what I’ve read in 2015 and try to pick out some highlights.  It’s been a tough task as I’ve read a lot of books and so many of them have been really very excellent. As many of them have already featured here as Books of the Week, I’ve linked back to that review where relevant – and added my thoughts about why this has made the list rather than reviewing afresh.  I’ve also tried not to repeat myself too much with things that I’ve recommended recently – a lot of my other favourites from the year – that would have featured here too can be found in my Christmas gift idea posts – particularly in Books for Her.

Wonder by RJ Palacio

I loved this when I read it back in March – and it has stayed with me.  Auggie’s story is touching, funny and a little bit heartbreaking. I’ve recommended it several times and had nothing but positive responses.  Reading the also excellent One at the end of 2015 reminded me how much I enjoyed Wonder and how many really good YA books there are out there, that also teach grown-ups a thing or two too.  If you haven’t already read it, it’s in Amazon’s 3 for £10 promotion again.

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Ms Carriger’s fabulous steampunk world was one of my discoveries of 2014, and in 2015 I was thrilled anew by the start of her new series – Prudence.  An unconventional heroine, a dirigible painted to look like a ladybird, India, werewolves, other were-creatures and much more. I’m working my way through the Parasol Protectorate (the preceding series) audiobooks at the moment, but I know I’ll get to Prudence too.  And the last Finishing School book was pretty spiffing too.

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

From the start of a series to the end of an era.  It wouldn’t be a round-up of my favourite books of the year without the final Terry Pratchett novel and the end of Tiffany Aching’s story.  I’ve already written at length about my thoughts about the late Sir Terry and this was a Book of the Week as well.  I want to read it again – but my copy is currently with my sister – who was next in line after my father.  I am listening to the audiobook as well, but it makes me cry in public so it’s slow progress!  I’ve been watching the repeats of Sky’s adaptations of Colour of Magic and Going Postal over Christmas (and crying over Sir T’s cameos) and I’ve still got everything cross we get some more Discworld on TV.

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens

My thoughts on boarding school books and murder mysteries are well known.  And Robin Stevens’ series continues to combine all the best bits of both.  There were two released this year – but I think First Class Murder is my favourite – because who wouldn’t love Murder on the Orient Express meets Mallory Towers/St Clares.  Hazel and Daisy get taken on a train trip by Hazel’s father and get entangled in another death.  They’re desperate to help solve it, but Mr Wong is not at all keen on the idea. What more could you want.

Stealing the Show by Christina Jones

And my final pick is this fabulous romantic comedy set in and around the world of a travelling fair.  This is one of Christina Jones’s older books but has recently been re-released in ebook form.  I loved the setting – and was totally fascinated by it.  Jones’s father was a circus clown and she writes brilliantly about the itinerant lifestyle of a travelling show folk.  The romance is star-crossed and and fraught with complications and with a deeply satisfying conclusion. And it explained a fair bit about where the fun-fair that pops up in in a lot of the later books comes from!

So there you are.  Five of my favourite books of 2015.  I can’t wait to start making new favourites in 2015.  Please share your favourites from last year in the comments – I’m always looking for recommendations (despite the size of the pile) and I’ve found people in real life are often hesitant to suggest books for me – perhaps because of how many I read they’re worried I’ll have read them already.  So rather than trust the Goodreads and Amazon algorithms for what to read next, I’d love to hear from you – after all if you keep coming here to see what I’ve written, you may well have the same sort of tastes as me!


Authors I love, books, cozy crime, historical, Series I love

My Big Obsessions of 2015

As you may have noticed, I am a total binge reader when I discover an author I like and promptly buy up their back catalogue (or borrow it from the library) to fulfill my desperate craving for another fix.  This does not help the state of the to-read pile or my bank balance and can make me look a little unhinged.  So here – for your amusement – are my big obsessions of 2015 and a few examples of the ridiculous lengths I’ve gone to…

Janet Evanovich

Can it really be true that I only read my first Janet Evanovich novel in April?  Goodreads assures me that it is so and thus it must be.  Since my first taste (Wicked Business), I’ve read 18 Stephanie Plums – and all four between the numbers fill-ins, the other two Wicked books, two Full books, two Fox and O’Hares and a standalone romance. So that’s 30 Janet Evanovich novels in less than nine months.  This is why people think I’ve got a bit of a book problem.

Janet Evanovich books
I’ve read so much Janet Evanovich this year, I’ve a whole shelf of her books – non-matching of course!

Deanna Raybourn

I read Silent in the Grave back in January – and since then I’ve read three more of the Lady Julia series – with a fourth waiting for me on the shelf.  And the only reason that that has been waiting is because the price of the next one has been so expensive.  And ditto her standalone novels.  But in a piece of glorious serendipity, they’re all on offer on Amazon Kindle at the moment – so last night I spent just under £20 on 8 (!) books and novellas – buying up the rest of Lady Julia, the first Veronica Speedwell and two standalones and their prequel novellas.  Now that is what I call obsession…

Deanna Raybourn books
Only four of my Deanna Raybourn’s are here – Silent in the Grave is on loan to Little Sis!



Historical Romance

My love of historical romance has continued this year.  In fact it’s turned into more of a quest – to find more authors who write my favourite sort of smart, witty, sexy romance novels.  Because this is the problem with being a binge reader.  You find someone that you like, you binge on their back catalogue and then you have to start following their publishing schedule like everyone else does – so you might have to wait a year before you can get another fix from them.  So you need another author to read. In 2015 I’ve read some really good, some really bad and a lot of in between. Among the good were Sabrina Jeffries, Kerrigan Byrne, Johanna Shupe and Courtney Milan.  I’m not going to mention the bad!  There’s loads more I want to read – listening to the DBSA podcast each week will do that to you – but the prices of those sort of American-published romances are often really quite high over here – and fall into the same buying rules as the cozy crimes. So often I play roulette with NetGalley – requesting new releases there and hoping I like them.  Sometimes it pays off – the aforementioned Byrne and Shupe for example – and sometimes it doesn’t…

Cozy Crime

I’ve always had a soft spot for the “lighter” end of the crime market, but I’ve really been rattling through various cozy murder mysteries this year.  I’m still reading Donna Andrews (three of them this year) – but now I’m closer to the end of the series the books have got more expensive to buy and I have rules about what I’ll spend on a book that will only take me a couple of hours to read.  So as a consequence my net has spread wider.  Jenn McKinlay’s become firm favourite and there’s a bunch of other series I’ve dipped into too (again thanks to NetGalley) – to varying success.  I feel more coming on in 2016.

Cozy crime books
All my Donna Andrews bar one are out on loan, but the McKinlay collection is growing!


Historical Crime

This is often the meeting of two of my other obsessions – Cozy crime and Historical romance.  The Daisy Dalrymple and Phryne Fisher series were two of my discoveries of 2014 – and now I’ve read all of them, I’ve been searching for more – and not just those set in the 1920s and 1930s.  That’s how I discovered Deanna Raybourn and started that obsession.  But as well as Lady Julia, there’s Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily and James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers. And then there’s the ones which are more crime-y and less romance – like Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver, Carola Dunn’s Eleanor Trewynn.  And no romance at all – like Flavia de Luce (because she’s a child!). So many good books.

Historical crime books
I thought the light shining behind them was a nice touch…

So there you are.  My five big obsessions of the year. Of course some would argue that books in general are my biggest obsession of them all. And they’d be right.  There’s nothing like sitting down with a book and being transported to another world to make life seem better.  You can live so many different lives and visit so many different places by reading a book.  And then there’s the friends that you can make – real people I mean – because of books and the book community.  The ones that you chat to on Twitter, the ones you meet at author events and who turn into proper friends and everything in between.  Long may my book obsession continue.

Happy 2016 everyone – and thank you for reading my bookish wafflings. I hope you’ve enjoyed them – and I’m sure that there’s more where they came from.

Authors I love, books, reviews

2014 Highlights: Discoveries

Every year there are a couple of authors I discover and then rattle through their back catalogue – in 2013 it was Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books and Ann Granger’s Mitchell and Markby series.  So now we’re at the end of 2014, I had a look back at who my big discoveries have been this year.

Armistead Maupin – I read seven of Maupin’s Tales of the City books this year and only the fact that the others haven’t yet been published in covers that match the ones I already have stopped me buying the rest – my mania for sets and the size of the to-read pile have trumped my need to know what happened next for once!  This is another case of me kicking myself for not reading them sooner.  Several people I work with were so excited when The Days of Anna Madrigal came out in January that I had to go and see what it was that they were so enthusiastic about.  And I’m so glad I did – but equally perplexed that I hadn’t come across them before – this year I’ve seen so many articles about them or references to them in so many places, that I wonder if I was stupid not to have got on this band wagon earlier.  I lent Tales of the City to The Boy – and he rattled through it and loved it too.  Please Transworld, can we have Mary Anne in Autumn and The Days of Anna Madrigal in the same style as the others soon?

Angela Thirkell – I’ve now read all of Angela Thirkell’s books that have been reissued by Virago and am in the tricky position of trying to work out whether to start looking for the rest in second hand editions or wait for more reissues.  They are exactly the sort of book that appeals to me – witty comedies of manners set in a period of history that I love (hence my passion for Golden Age detective stories).  Having read Nancy Mitford’s novels this year as well (finally got around to them!) which are similar in some ways, I think I actually like Thirkell more – her characters are more sympathetic even if the world is a little too soft focus and happily-ever-after at times.

Gail Carriger – I discovered Ms Carriger and her works much later in the year than these other two – and have rattled my way through her back catalogue at breakneck speed.  Since I read a copy of her first Finishing School YA novel through NetGalley in late September I’ve read practically everything she’s published – that is to say two more Finishing School books, four Parasol Protectorate novels and three short stories.  I’m saving the last Parasol Protectorate novel and the novella prequel though – because I don’t want Alexia’s story to be over.  Unless something dreadful and disillusioning happens in Timeless, I suspect Carriger is going to join the list of authors that I pre-order as soon as the titles are announced so that I get their books asap.  She’s also my first venture into the world of Steampunk – and so who knows 2015’s discoveries could feature more authors from this area of fiction.

So thank you 2014 and here’s to 2015 and its discoveries – who knows what I’ll be raving about in twelve months time – it really could be anything!

reviews, Uncategorized

2014 Highlights: What I’ve been reading

The end of another jam packed year of reading has arrived – the December stats will be out tomorrow – with the final total for the year and all the usual gubbins and you’ve already had my Books of the Year, but it felt like there were a few more things that I needed to mention that didn’t fit into either of those posts.

I’ve had a look back over the years books, made a tally chart and tried to look for patterns.  It was tricky.

My most read author of the year was Charlaine Harris – I finished off the final couple of Sookie Stackhouse novels this year – read all of the Lily Bard series and started the Aurora Teagarden ones.  I find Charlaine Harris’s books very easy to read – particularly at times when I’m tired and can’t concentrate on the heavier stuff.  A lot of her books have been reissued off the back of True Blood being on TV – and have subsequently turned up in the discount book stores, charity shops and second hand retailers at very cheap prices – which accounts for her position as most read (although she was only a couple of books ahead of her nearest rivals for that title)  – because I wouldn’t describe her as one of my favourite authors.

The first book I finished in 2014 was Kerry Greenwood’s Murder and Mendelssohn – the latest book in the Phryne Fisher series – which were one of my discoveries of 2013 – I read all the books in the series in about six months flat (whilst reading other stuff at the same time).  This year I’ve read all them all over again (which doesn’t count towards my book total for the year) – and if anything I like them more than I did the first time.  They are perfect reading for nightshift train journeys – or for recovering from nights afterwards.

It seems apt that I started the year with a murder mystery – as they are very much a theme in this year’s reading.  I’ve read eleven of Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn books this year – and ten Meg Langslow mysteries.  There’s some Josephine Tey, some George Gently and various other bits of series involving detection – like Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series and Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver books.

I’ve also read half a dozen or so Carola Dunn books of various types and a similar number of M C Beaton’s books (in her various guises and from several different series) – some mysteries, some romances.  I have to say that I’ve tired of M C Beaton’s historicals – I find increasingly that they’re very formulaic and not very satisfying.

In 2014 I’ve also expanded my historical romance horizons.  I’ve been a fan of genre giants Eloisa James, Julia Quinn and Sarah MacLean for some years now – but in the last twelve months I’ve expanded my horizons a little with the help of Goodreads, recommendations from authors I like already and a few Facebook reading groups.  Some have been good, some haven’t been at all – but I’ve enjoyed seeing what else is out there and firming up my list of things that I don’t like in historical romances!

What I haven’t done this year is read enough non-fiction.  And I’m blaming my nightshifts for that – typically non-fiction requires more of my concentration than the fiction options waiting on the pile – so when I’m tired it tends to be the easier reads that get picked up.  I need to try and do something about this in 2015.

But the thing that stands out is how many good books I’ve read this year – either I’m getting better at picking books (and giving up on the rubbish ones) or there are a lot of seriously good books out there.  Less than 15 percent of my reading may have got five stars – but more than 100 books got four stars – and another 100 got three.  So the majority of the books that I’ve read, I’ve rated good or better.  Not bad going.

Here’s to a brilliant year of reading in 2015. Maybe it’ll be the year I get the to-read pile down and improve by award winning novel hit rate.  Here’s hoping!

books, reviews

The Books of the Year Post

It’s that time of year again – where I look at the list of books that I’ve read this year and reflect on what my favourites have been.

At time of writing, I’ve given 39 books 5 stars on Goodreads* this year – here are my favourite five.

The Rosie Project – I read this right back at the start of the year on my birthday holiday in Rome.  I’ve since lent it to my sister, my parents and now my best friend from school.  I can’t see how anyone could fail to fall in love with Don – and his quest to find love and help Rosie is truly laugh out loud funny.  Certainly everyone that I’ve lent the book to so far has loved it.  The sequel, The Rosie Effect, doesn’t quite scale the heights of the original, but it is hard to compete with genius.

A Hundred Pieces of Me – I may have been a weeping wreck by the end, but I loved Lucy Dillon’s story about Gina.  I was very careful in my Goodreads review not to give too much of the plot away – because it really would spoil it – but this is well worth your time. In fact, this was one of the very first books I read this year (book 5 to be precise) and it’s stuck with me right until the end. Curl up in front of the fire – with a box of tissues – and a nice hot drink and enjoy.

Unfinished Symphony of You and Me Lucy Robinson’s latest book nearly had me in tears on the train at several points – some tears of laughter and some… not.  Sally’s journey to become an opera singer is unputtdownable – and Barry-the-mad-housemate is a hoot.  Read my ravings about this from August here.  Since reading this, I’ve read one of Lucy Robinson’s other books (also brilliant) and have her other previous book waiting on the shelf.  I’m also really looking forward to reading her next book (The Day We Disappeared) when that comes out in March.

A Place For Us – This was another recipient of my overly emotional/sleep deprived ravings (find them here, here and here), but I seriously did love this book in its serialised form – the whole thing is due out in the New Year (January 15th) – and I really hope that it does fabulously well.  The Winters are a flawed but fascinating family – and Harriet Evans does such a great job of making you care about all of them – even the ones who seem initially less appealing. This beat the final Cazalet book into this list – partly because it felt to me like a sort of modern successor to them.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys – Viv Albertine’s autobiography has really stuck in my mind since I read it.  She is so honest about herself and her motivations – in a way that you often don’t get in memoirs.  I picked it up because I don’t know much about the punk scene – but ended up being more interested in her post-punk life as she tried to work out what she wanted to do next and how she could balance her ideas and ideology with what society expected her to be doing. Women like her opened up so many opportunities for those of us who have followed – but this book wears that very lightly.  Sad and difficult in places, it was fascinating and compelling.

Honourable mentions to Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, What Would Mary Berry Do?, Fanny and Stella, The Grand Duchess of Nowhere and It’s Not Me, It’s You all of whom could so easily have been on this list.

Today’s links are mostly Foyles – because these are books you want to have actual copies of that you can lend – but you can also find my five top picks (and some of my other favourite books, new and old) over on my My Independent Bookshop page where you can buy and support local indies.

* That works out to somewhere around 14 percent of what I’ve read this year getting top rating.