Between The Sheets…My Year In Books

It’s a bright shiny Saturday and I have a mountain of chores on my to-do list at Gidday HQ today but I couldn’t help but dwell a little longer between the sheets this morning to finish my 4th book of the year so far, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret. (Yes I know – four already!) I have been reading it for the last few days on my tube ride in and out of London and I just couldn’t start my weekend without knowing how it all turned out in the end. 

My literary start to 2014 has been a good one with three cracking 4-stars and a pleasant 3-star to kick off the year. And having returned to my commuting routine, I thought it was a good time to review 2013, my year spent flicking through Audrey‘s e-pages. 

Looking back through the list, it was an interesting spread of surprises, themes and disappointments. I ‘favourited’ new writers and revisited old ones, I read about places in fact and in fiction and as is wont to happen along the way, I found myself both disappointed and delighted by my bookish meanderings.

The 5-star favourites were few and fabulous. In February I roamed the streets of South West London in John Lanchester’s Capital (2013 #6), revisited a long forgotten fave in March, author Val McDermid and Killing the Shadows (2013 #13) and went nuts in August for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2013 #35). And the theme through all of these? Who really dunnit.

You might be thinking one of two things at this point. She’s extremely discriminating or she’s really stingy with her stars. With 5-star ratings I am – something has to really make an impact to get one of the these so this trilogy comprises the stand-outs of the year. But it’s not all about the stand-outs – I had a myriad of great reads during 2013 with 26, or 48%, of my 54 reads warranting a 4-star rating. So perhaps not so stingy.

At the other end of the spectrum, I awarded eight 2-star and one 1-star rating, the latter being #38 in 2013’s Book Nook, Charlotte Moseley’s The Mitfords: Letters from Six Sisters. Having read about the Mitford girls several years ago, I was so looking forward to reading this book of letters. But I struggled and strained right up to the final page, confused by pet names and left bereft of the enchantment I’d hoped for. It felt like it went on forever. Maybe I’m just not a letters kind of girl.

And of the eight 2-stars, I was most disappointed by Hilary Mantel’s Bringing Up The Bodies (I made the comment ‘drowned in detail’ in the Book Nook 2013 #47) and the damp squib that was Fifty Shades Freed (#8) which was anti-climactic to say the least. 

Returning to the 4-stars, four of the 26 writers accompanied me on journeys near and far starting in January with David Revill’s London by Tube: A History of Underground Station Names (#5) now stored on Audrey for dipping back in to now my daily commute has gone ‘tubular’. In May, I tucked a borrowed Paris: The Secret History (#18 by Andrew Hussey) into my backpack and read page after page in the glorious Paris sunshine and in June, I was inspired by my visit to Seattle-A in – yes you guessed it – Seattle to buy Sons of the Profits: There’s No Business Like Grow Business by Seattle’s famous son William Speidel (#25). And then it was back home to old London Town in September with Niall Fergusson’s controversial (as it turned out when I read the reviews) Empire: How Britain Made The Modern World (#36).

And last but not least, there were the delightful surprises. Since my entry to Kindle-dom, I have a rule that I will not pay more for an e-book than I would for a ‘paper’ book (and given Tesco across the road offers 2 for £7 on paperbacks…well, you do the maths). This means I’m often found digging around Amazon or Kindle’s Daily Deals for a complete unknown…which can end up being an absolute diamond.

As far as the diamonds go, I stepped into an extraordinary expat story with The Cypress Tree, Kamin Mohammadi’s tale of growing up in Iran and then leaving the home of her childhood for London (#3). I took a walk alongside Harold Fry to be reminded of the joy in small everyday things (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce #16). I discovered a new string in CJ Sansom’s bow with his post-civil-war tale in Winter In Madrid (#17) and I was moved by Tan Twan Eng’s story of war-torn Malaysia in The Gift Of Rain (#26). And to round off the year, I came back to London to meet The Radleys (#53), a truly surprising find given vampire tales are not a genre I usually enjoy.

So that was 2013, my year in books. As always, feel free to have a browse through the Book Nook tab for my thoughts and links to reviews on all of my literary meanderings. I’ve actually set myself a target of 54 books again for this year – a little more than one per week. So stay tuned. As I mentioned, 2014 is already off to a cracking start!

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