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Posts Tagged ‘Bookworm’

 

I’m a little bit staggered by this, but I have somehow read 50 books (so far!) this year (a total of 14,287 pages, according to Goodreads). And by read I mean completed – there have been I-don’t-even-know-how-many books that I have started and abandoned. I have no qualms about stopping reading a book I’m not enjoying. My to read pile is high enough without spending time labouring through something that’s not right for me.

Part of my reading success this year is down to discovering the joys of BorrowBox. I’ve rekindled my love for libraries too, and BorrowBox lets me borrow ebooks and audiobooks as well. And quite a few of the 50 books I “read” were actually listened to, but I’m more than happy to count them.

Seeing as I’ve read so much, I thought I’d round up my top 10 favourite books of the year. It’s a pretty balanced mixture of fiction and non-fiction, new releases and well-loved re-reads, and includes works targeted at all ages of reader.

In true Top of the Pops style, we’ll count down from 10 to the hotly contested top spot.

10. Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers by Louise Harnby

A very sensible start to the countdown, this very practical guide gives new freelancers a step-by-step plan to launching their business. Fiction editor and proofreader Louise Harnby also has a fantastic website (and podcast) which is endlessly fascinating and extremely informative. I’ve been freelance since 2013 but am planning a relaunch next September when my youngest starts school, and am currently studying proofreading with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Watch this space!

9. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

This was a re-read prompted by watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix series. You probably know her central idea about only keeping items which “spark joy” and I would love to do a thorough sweep of my house to get rid of everything which definitely does not do that. I’ve taken to folding my clothes as she suggests but I haven’t started thanking my socks yet. I just wish she would write a follow-up aimed at families with young children!

8. The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

I love a good YA novel and “devoured” this one (sorry) quite quickly. The basic premise is this: four founding families of a small town surrounded by spooky woods somehow trapped some sort of bloodthirsty monster in a kind of “Upside Down” and since then the members of said families have (or in some cases, don’t have…) various supernatural powers which they use for good or ill. I would have liked to see more loose ends tied up instead of just setting it up for the sequel, but the tactic has worked because I’m looking forward to reading The Deck of Omens when it’s published next year.

7. The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

I’m a huge fan of Elly Griffiths and her Ruth Galloway series and it was a toss up whether to include this one or Ruth’s eleventh and latest outing The Stone Circle. The Stranger Diaries is a standalone thriller with well-observed characters, multiple narrators and plenty of red herrings along the way. I thought I’d cracked whodunit but at the denouement the real villain of the piece came rather out of left field. It’s a very atmospheric book and would probably suit a dark and stormy winter night more than a summer read.

6. The Institute by Stephen King

I’ve read quite of lot of Stephen King and generally prefer his works which fall outside the straight horror genre, like this one which is more of a thriller. The Institute of the title is a state facility where children identified as having particular psychic powers are imprisoned, experimented on and ultimately put to work for covert ends. It was full of detail and seemingly unrelated storylines converged neatly into a thought-provoking finale.

5. The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy by Penelope Lively

Another re-read, this time a well-loved favourite from my childhood. I was a big Penelope Lively fan as a child, and even now the titles give me a little thrill – The Whispering Knights, Astercote, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, A Stitch in Time and so on. But my favourite was always The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, so much so that I have two copies from when I temporarily couldn’t find my original. It’s a deliciously creepy tale set during a stiflingly hot summer when an ancient Horn Dance is being revived as entertainment at a village fete. But sinister forces are unleashed as tempers fray and the Wild Hunt rides again…. Ooh, I feel like I could read it again right now!

4. Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff

This was the second of three 9/11-related books that I read this year. It reads like a thriller, weaving together personal stories from that terrible day and giving a heart-breaking insight into the real-life tragedies. It was packed with details and the power of the human spirit shone through. I could hardly put it down.

3. Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett

Very much a surprise entry in my top ten! I hardly ever read “old” books – I’ve never even read any Jane Austen! – and I did not expect to enjoy this. However I am ridiculously proud of my North Staffordshire roots and I decided that I had to read some of Arnold Bennett’s Potteries works. I found the early chapters hard-going but I persevered (unusually for me!) and before long I was completely invested in Anna Tellwright’s struggle for independence. I thought about it for a long time afterwards and even downloaded Arnold Bennett’s complete works on Kindle (and will read some more at some point!).

2. See You In September by Charity Norman

This was an unputdownable, twisty novel about an ordinary young British woman who gets sucked into a cult in New Zealand. It was so well-written that you could easily see how Cassy would be drawn into it – although sometimes I wanted to throttle her! – and right up to the final pages I couldn’t tell how it was going to end. It was interesting to see the impact that Cassy’s choices had on her family back home in the sections from her mother’s perspective. I love it when I stumble across a page-turner (this was a random download from BorrowBox that I found when looking for something else) and it completely transported me out of my life to the shores of Lake Tarawera.

1. The Only Plane in the Sky: The Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M Graff

This is the book which had the biggest impact on me by far this year. YouTube’s algorithms threw up an interview with the author into my recommend videos and I downloaded the Kindle version straightaway. Like everyone old enough to remember, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the 9/11 attacks. But there was so much I didn’t know about what happened that day, and this book paints an incredibly vivid picture from multiple perspectives in an “oral history” presentation style. You’re hearing from people directly, in their own words – some who lived to tell the tale, and heartbreakingly, others whose last words were captured on answer phone messages or phone calls with their loved ones. I was so gripped by this 512-page book that I read it in just four days in September, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

What were your favourite reads this year?

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple of re-reads this month, and a long book which I couldn’t put down….

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury

The first of my re-reads! I felt in need of a reset with my three-year-old and was hoping Janet could help me with this. I’ve been a huge fan since I interviewed her for the Green Parent and I always think “what would Janet do?” when faced with a parenting conundrum. In short, she advocates respectful parenting, treating babies and children as people from the very beginning and trusting their innate abilities. She’s got a super podcast too.

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M Graff

Like everyone old enough to remember, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the 9/11 attacks. But there was so much I didn’t know about what happened that day, and this book paints an incredibly picture from multiple perspectives in an “oral history” presentation style. You’re hearing from people directly, in their own words – some who lived to tell the tale, and heartbreakingly, others whose last words were captured on answer phone messages or phone calls with their loved ones. I was so gripped by this 512-page book that I read it in just four days.

Angel is Airborne: JFK’s Final Flight from Dallas by Garrett M Graff

Still buzzing from The Only Plane in the Sky, I downloaded another Garrett M Graff book linked to one of my specialist subjects, the assassination of JFK. At just 61 pages, this Kindle Single naturally had a much narrower scope, and while I did learn some new information, I found it a bit repetitive.

Candlenight by Phil Rickman

Another re-read, although this time I listened to the audio version. I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment in Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series and decided to go right back to the beginning with his first novel. It was……OK. I really enjoyed listening to the spoken Welsh and it had plenty of spooky moments. But you can certainly see how Phil’s talents as an author have developed over the years!

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Apparently I’m particularly susceptible to Facebook advertising – and the algorithms have completely got me pegged – because the two books I finished in August both originally popped up as ads in my feed.

Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

I’ve recently stepped down from a demanding volunteer role and found myself suddenly with extra time on my hands. Make Time helped show me ways to prevent this precious commodity from just running through my fingers, with down-to-earth, sensible advice that is generally easy to put into practice. I particularly liked the idea of the daily highlight to help with focus and a feeling of momentum. The two Google alumni authors seem to genuinely like each other, and I often felt like I was listening in to a conversation between friends. It’s an easy read and I found it gave me a boost when I was feeling a little adrift.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

I love a good YA novel. I “devoured” this one (sorry) quite quickly but ultimately didn’t find it completely satisfying. The basic premise is this: four founding families of a small town surrounded by spooky woods somehow trapped some sort of bloodthirsty monster in a kind of “Upside Down” and since then the members of said families have (or in some cases, don’t have…) various supernatural powers which they use for good or ill. The writing style was quite jarringly “woke” in some places and I wanted to see more loose ends tied up instead of just setting it up for the sequel, but I suppose the tactic has worked because I will almost certainly read The Deck of Omens when it’s published next year.
And because I’ve been procrastinating on Twitter instead of typing this post (apologies to the authors of Make Time……) I have just seen that Christine Lynn Herman describes the series as “ensemble cast novels about angry teenagers in the woods with messy magic” and my 40-year-old self is here for that!

 

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I used to do a regular round-up of the books I finished every month, but I’ve really fallen out of the habit of writing/ blogging over the past 18 months. But I am back!

Without further ado, these are the books I finished in July 2019:

theforgottenvillage

The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

I bought this as a Kindle cheapie (at the time of writing this it’s 99p on Kindle or £2 for the paperback) because I fancied reading something easy which didn’t need much thought. The premise looked interesting – the mystery at the heart of a village requisitioned by the Army during World War Two, and the modern woman who decides to solve it – and I was glad I downloaded it on a whim. The present-day heroine, Melissa, was very likeable and I was really rooting for her relationship with Guy. In fact I found myself far more invested in the story than I expected and ended up reading up about real-life requisitioned villages. The resolution was suitably satisfying and I’d give it a solid four stars.

Thestrangerdiaries

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Another Kindle bargain, but this one wasn’t a gamble because I’m already a huge fan of Elly Griffiths and her Ruth Galloway series. The Stranger Diaries is a standalone thriller with well-observed characters, multiple narrators and plenty of red herrings along the way. I thought I’d cracked whodunit but at the denouement the real villain of the piece came rather out of left field and didn’t strike me as believable. Maybe I need to read it again forearmed with the knowledge. It’s a very atmospheric book and would probably suit a dark and stormy winter night more than a summer read. Recommended!

salemfalls

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

I came across this one in a charity shop and picked it up somewhat against my better judgement – I either love or hate Jodi Picoult’s books (see Books I Finished in January 2017 for one I REALLY loved). This book had lots of twists and turns as it tackled rumours, lies, rape and witchcraft, and you aren’t always sure who you should be sympathising with. I guzzled it down but somehow it hasn’t really made that big an impact on me. Warning: don’t do what I did and read the last page early. Big mistake!

Also on the go (I have a terrible habit of reading too many books at once):

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The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

I can honestly say that I haven’t read anything like this book before. I’ve seen a lot of commentary online saying that it’s just a retelling of Alice in Wonderland but as far as I can see the similarities don’t go much beyond a girl called Alice finding herself in a form of fairyland.
If it’s important to you to like the protagonists in books you read you might struggle with this one, because Alice is quite hard to warm to – but you do find out why during the course of the book. It’s really a book of two halves, split into before and after Alice (and the reader) find out the truth about the bad luck that has dogged her and her mother Ella for her whole life. At around the halfway point I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it anymore, but I’m glad I pressed on, because it’s a memorable read which raises a lot of interesting questions about fate, predestination and free will. (Thanks to NetGalley for the free copy)

31 Songs – Nick Hornby

A re-read of a much-loved book by the author of my all-time favourite book, High Fidelity (which I’m currently listening to as an audiobook). My affection for the book 31 Songs – Hornby’s meditative musings on meaningful songs for him – actually comes second to my love of the album that goes along with it, which is a great compilation of familiar and more obscure tracks. It not only includes Bruce Springsteen (LOVE Bruce!) but also introduced me to the gorgeous Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne and Hey Self-Defeater by Mark Mulcahy, which would probably be one of my Desert Island Discs. So yes, I enjoyed reading the book again but revisiting the soundtrack CD (which I bought way back in 2004) was even better.

The Griffins of Castle Cary – Heather Shumaker

Can’t say too much as it’s not published until next year, but I had the enormous honour of being a test reader for this one! It’s the first fiction book for one of my favourite parenting authors Heather Shumaker, who I interviewed for The Green Parent a couple of years ago. Here’s her blog post where she talks about her new book, and here’s my interview with her about her book It’s OK Not To Share.

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