Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My reading for 2014

Time now to think about the sort of reading year I had in 2014. In some ways, it has to be said, it was a hugely successful year for me. For the first time ever - at least since I've been keeping a record - I've managed to read 100 books in one year. I'm quite a slow reader so, to be honest, I never previously thought it was possible for me to do this. The point at which I realised it might be possible was in June when I saw that I'd read 57 books already and that if I carried on that way I would wind up with a total of 100 or more. I started to run out of steam in September. It was inevitable really, 10 books a month is hard to keep up. And the last couple of weeks with Christmas and so on it's been really hard to concentrate on reading. 'But' I got there.

So what now? Well, nothing. I have absolutely no intention of ever trying to do it again. Why? Because it's a pretty pointless exercise really. I read because I love reading and books. Not to clock up numbers. It's a bit like the differance between Twitchers and Bird-watchers. The former have lists and collect birds to fill their lists. The latter just go out and watch any bird because they love them and that's the way I feel. Next year I will read less. Not necessarily less words and pages but probably less books. It seems like a peculiar thing for a book lover to say, but it is so. But that speculation is for another post. In the meantime these are the books I read in 2014:


1. Spilling the Beans – Clarissa Dickson Wright
2. The Long Winter – Laura Ingalls Wilder
3. Space Plague – Zac Harrison
4. Consider Phelbas – Iain M. Banks
5. The Yellow Dog – Georges Simenon
6. Darke – Angie Sage
7. Strictly Ann – Ann Widecombe
8. Shards of Honour – Lois McMaster Bojold
9. Tentacles – Roland Smith
10. The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer


11. Have His Carcase – Dorothy L. Sayers
12. Lock 14 – Georges Simenon
13. Letters from the Horn of Africa – Sandy Curle, ed. By Christian Curle
14. The Mad Hatter Mystery – John Dickson Carr
15. Sundiver – David Brin
16. A Voyage Long and Strange – Tony Horwitz
17. Good Evening Mrs. Craven – Mollie Panter-Downes
18. Maigret in Holland – Georges Simenon
19. A Moment of Silence – Anna Dean
20. A Greedy Man in a Hungry World – Jay Rayner


21. The Nine Tailors – Dorothy L. Sayers
22. Touch Not the Cat – Mary Stewart
23. Sisters of Sinai – Janet Soskice
24. West with the Night – Beryl Markham
25. Fer-de-Lance – Rex Stout
26. The Middle-Aged Mountaineer – Jim Curran
27. A Gentleman of Fortune – Anna Dean
28. A Woman of Consequence – Anna Dean
29. Among Others – Jo Walton
30. Madame Maigret’s Own Case – Georges Simenon


31. Thirtheenth Child – Patricia Wrede
32. Huntingtower – John Buchan
33. The Red House Mystery – A.A. Milne
34. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
35. Lost Things – Jo Graham and Melissa Scott
36. What Makes this Book so Great – Jo Walton


37. Cuckoo’s Egg – C.J. Cherryh
38. The Man in the Queue – Josephine Tey
39. A Fete Worse than Death – Delores Gordon-Smith
40. Death by Silver – Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold
41. The Outcast Dead – Elly Griffiths
42. The Last Continent – Terry Pratchett
43. Detective Stories from the Strand – ed. Jack Adrian
44. The River of Adventure – Enid Blyton
45. Demon in the House – Angela Thirkell


46. Alanna: The First Adventure – Tamora Pierce
47. The Moving Toyshop – Edmund Crispin
48. Death in the Clouds – Agatha Christie
49. The Fair Miss Fortune – D.E. Stevenson
50. More than Love Letters – Rosy Thornton
51. The Turkish Embassy Letters – Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
52. Buried for Pleasure – Edmund Crispin
53. The Sixth Lamentation – William Brodrick
54. The Burning Soul – John Connolly
55. Out of the Deep I Cry – Julia Spencer-Fleming
56. Up with the Larks – Tessa Hainsworth
57. Holy Disorders – Edmund Crispin


58. Sovereign – C.J. Sansom
59. Charlotte Fairlie – D.E. Stevenson
60. The Rendezvous and other stories – Daphne du Maurier
61. The Library Book – Ed. Rebecca Gray
62. Sanctus – Simon Toyne
63. The Overloaded Ark – Gerald Durrell
64. Helliconia Summer – Brian W. Aldiss
65. Lorraine Kelly’s Scotland – Lorraine Kelly
66. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley
67. A Shilling for Candles – Josephine Tey
68. For the Time Being – Dirk Bogarde


69. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built – Alexander McCall Smith
70. Wild Strawberries – Angela Thirkell
71. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
72. Anthem for Doomed Youth – Carola Dunn
73. Letters from Skye – Jessica Brockmole
74. Elizabeth and her German Garden – Elizabeth von Arnim
75. Watson’s Choice – Gladys Mitchell
76. They Came to Baghdad – Agatha Christie
77. Fortunately, the Milk – Neil Gaiman
78. Come, Tell Me How You Live – Agatha Christie Malloran


79. Hag’s Nook – John Dickson Carr
80. Silver Borne – Patricia Briggs
81. The Twenty-third Man – Gladys Mitchell
82. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris
83. A Coven of Vampires – Brian Lumley
84. Night of the Living Deed – E.J. Cpperman


85. Love Lies Bleeding – Edmund Crispin
86. The Unburied – Charles Palliser
87. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush – Eric Newby
88. Clouds of Witness – Dorothy L. Sayers
89. The Sittaford Mystery – Agatha Christie


90. The Hills is Lonely – Lillian Beckwith
91. Laurels are Poison – Gladys Mitchell
92. Surgically Enhanced – Pam Ayres
93. Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie
94. Point of Hopes – Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett


95. Point of Knives – Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett
96. Recipe for Love – Katie Fforde
97. Once Upon a Christmas – Sarah Morgan
98. A Christmas Hope – Anne Perry
99. Gone West – Carola Dunn
100. A Christmas Grace – Anne Perry

Basically, for me, 2014 was the year of the vintage mystery. I had a 'lot' of fun with Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge, (reading 25 books for it in all) and while I'll not be doing it in 2015 I will certainly return to it another year. I discovered authors I'd never even heard of and the experience definitely enriched my reading for 2014.

I didn't do brilliantly with non-fiction - 21 this year - but then I never seem to. I fancy I did slightly better in 2013 but not much. On the other hand, the 21 I did read were all pretty good.

In no particular order, here're my top 5 non-fiction:

1. A Voyage Long and Strange - Tony Horwitz
2. Sisters of Sinai - Janet Soskice
3. What Makes this Book so Great - Jo Walton
4. Come, Tell me How You Live - Agatha Christie Malloran
5. The Hills is Lonely - Lillian Beckwith

I'll do a top 12 for fiction.

1. The Long Winter - Laura Ingalls Wilder
2. Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers
3. Among Others - Jo Walton
4. The Outcast Dead - Elly Griffiths
5. Charlotte Fairlie - D.E. Stevenson
6. Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers.
7. Helliconia Summer - Brian W. Aldiss
8. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
9. Letters From Skye - Jessica Brockmole
10. Point of Hopes - Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett
11. Out of the Deep I Cry - Julia Spencer-Fleming
12. The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

I'm not going to choose favourites. This is partly because there was no stand-out fabulous book this year. And secondly, I liked all of these books for different reasons.

And just to whet my own appetite for next year's reading, here's a shelf of books I hope to get through next year:

If I get to the end of the year and have read most of these and nothing else, I shall still be a happy bunny.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading in 2015 to all those who pop in and read my ramblings whether you comment or not.


The last few books of the year

I have five or six posts that I need to do here and most will have to wait until the New Year because of lack of time at the moment.

Anyway, this will be my final 'review' post of the year and I have three books to do short reviews of. First up, Gone West by Carola Dunn. This is my book 36 for Bev's Mount tbr challenge.

Daisy Dalrymple is heading for The Peak District of Derbyshire to stay with an old school friend. The friend, Sybil Sutherby, is secretary to writer of westerns, Humphrey Birtwhistle, who lives on a very isolated farm with his family. The family include all manner of odd-bods, from his unmarried brother and sister to his American wife and their son, and a pretty cousin and two of her admirers. Sybil has invited Daisy because she thinks there is something sinister going on in the house. She's not sure but she thinks somebody might be trying to do away with Humphrey. Daisy hasn't told her husband, Alec, a Scotland Yard detective, the real reason why she's visiting. Hopefully it will all come to nothing and she won't have to. Hopefully...

Another fun adventure with Daisy Dalrymple sleuthing away in The Peak District this time. It was all a bit Cold Comfort Farm with strange relatives and primitive conditions galore. Very enjoyable and a nice sense of place. Book twenty in the series so I only have one book left to read. Oh woe!

Next up two novellas, both by Anne Perry: A Christmas Hope and A Christmas Grace.

The Amazon blurb: London, 1868. As the Christmas season begins, Claudine Burroughs feels little joy in its endless social calls and extravagant events. Working at a clinic for desperate women has opened her eyes to a different world. Then her two worlds collide. A prostitute smuggled into a grandiose Christmas party is found brutally beaten. Poet Dai Tregarron stands accused. But Dai insists he was trying to protect her from the violence of three young men. Claudine believes him, but with society closing ranks against him, how can she prove his innocence without risking everything?

This wasn't a bad Christmas mystery but sometimes I have trouble connecting with the characters in Anne Perry's books - they don't always feel real. Plus, the situations sometimes feel a bit forced or contrived... and this was one of those occasions. The background stuff was quite interesting, mainly due I think to the fact that anything about Victorian London interests me but otherwise, sorry, a bit pedestrian.

The Amazon blurb: Emily Radley's Christmas plans are shattered when she learns that her aunt is dying. Although estranged from her, Emily decides that she must journey to Susannah's home in Ireland to assist her in her final days. When she reaches Connemara though, it is evident that Susannah has more on her mind than her health. Then Daniel, the lone survivor of a ship wrecked in a violent storm, seeks refuge in Susannah's house. Determined to understand why the village is not welcoming its new arrival, Emily discovers strange parallels with the unsolved death of another young man, Connor, many years before. Susannah, desperate to find out what happened to Connor before she dies, urges Emily to investigate. And as she does, Emily learns that some people will do anything to keep their secrets safe.

I had a very different reaction to this Anne Perry Christmas novella. The characters and their situation felt a bit more real somehow and, more than that, so did the setting. I can only assume the author knows the west coast of Ireland very well because she made it come alive in this story. Fabulous descriptions of the ocean and storms that come in off the Atlantic, the isolated village and wild countryside: wonderful. That alone made me bump my Goodreads rating from a 3 star to a 4.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Catching up

Naturally at this time of year things are a little busy. I've managed to read a little but am behind on reviewing what I've read. So this is a catch-up post with several really brief reviews, just to get myself up to date.

First up, Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde.

Zoe Harper has won a place on a TV cookery competition, one specialising in baking, (similar I suppose to The Great British Bake Off). On her way to the country house where the competition is to be held Zoe comes across Gideon Irving who has put his car into a ditch. She realises he's a judge for the competition but somehow can't help falling for him over the next few weeks. It's against the rules of course, how can he not be biased if he's involved with a competitor? Zoe's room mate is Cher who is determined to win at all costs. Zoe needs to keep her involvement with Gideon a secret from Zoe, while still concentrating on winning the competition, *and* trying to help out the pregnant couple who own the country house. Could things possibly be more complicated?

Not my favourite, Katie Fforde by any means. I found the idea that a competitor would knowingly jeopardise her position in a cookery competition, a bit far-fetched. And really... no matter how you look at it... it *is* cheating. I don't mind suspending disbelief when reading a romance but this was just plain silly. That said, it got a bit better towards the end and I was glad I'd persevered. Other Katie Ffordes have been much better than this.

Next, Point of Knives by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnet.

A father and son, suspected of being 'summer-sailors', ie: pirates, are both murdered on the same night and Philip Eslingen is found standing over them. Philip helped Nicholas Rathe solve the mysterious disappearance of over eighty children in Point of Hopes and the two became romantically involved. They then split up when their respective bosses ordered them to because of conflict of interest. Eslingen's innocence is easy to prove but there still remains the question of the two dead men. Philip and Nico join forces once again so solve the murders.

I like this series a lot. Point of Knives is actually a novella sandwiched between the first book, Point of Hopes and book two, Point of Dreams. It's unusual for a fantasy series to focus on a same sex relationship but it makes a refreshing change. This is not an explicit book but the romantic aspect does come more to the fore than in the first book. I enjoyed it very much and liked that aspect of it more than the murder mystery, though that was good as well. I'm now looking forward to reading Point of Dreams early in the New Year.

Next, Once Upon a Christmas by Sarah Morgan. This in my book 35 for Bev's Mount TBR challenge.

Seven year old Lizzie has written to Santa to request a daddy for Christmas. Her mother, Bryony, is dismayed. She's been in love with Jack, a best friend to her two brothers, for most of her life. Jack treats her like a little sister and will never love her in the way she wants, so it seems she will have to start dating. But Jack's reaction to this is unexpected. He interferes, puts obstacles in her way, is a confounded nuisance in fact, until Bryony is at her wit's end. How will she ever find a dad for Lizzie if Jack continues to behave in this manner?

The answer of course is pretty obvious, as it should be with a Mills and Boon romance. LOL! I won this in a book draw last year and saved it for this Christmas. It's actually two books in one. Part one tells Bryony and Jack's story, part two tells the story of Helen, Bryony's best friend from London, who comes to stay in The Lake District after her fiance runs off with another woman, just weeks before the wedding. I have to say I enjoyed both books quite a lot. The reason for this is that the setting of a snowy Christmas/winter in The Lake District is absolutely delightful. The author clearly knows the area well and also knows about the work of NHS doctors and nurses and especially those who volunteer for mountain rescue work. I found it fascinating to be honest and the romance added a nice touch even though you'd have to be pretty stupid not to know who is going to end up with whom. A perfect read for the time of year.

So that's me caught up. I'm currently reading one of Anne Perry's Victorian Christmas Novellas, A Christmas Hope but doubt it'll be reveiwed now until after Christmas.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vintage Mystery Bingo Wrap-up

One of the challenges I've really enjoyed doing this year is Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge.

I decided to have a go at the Golden card and for this it was necessary to read books that were published pre-1960.

I have to say, it's introduced me to all kinds of authors whose books I'd never read before and sometimes authors I'd never even heard of. I started out wandering all over the golden bingo card, having lots of fun for several months just filling various categories willy-nilly. Eventually I could see several bingo lines that were close to being finished but in all I read 25 books for the challenge and that included 3 bingos. These are they:

Bingo 4th. horizontal line:

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946) (A locked room mystery) (read June 2014)

The Mad Hatter Mystery by John Dickson Carr (1933) (An author never read before) (read in February 2014)

Watson's Choice by Gladys Mitchell (1955) (A book with a man in the title) (read in August 2014)

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey (1929) (A book with a professional detective) (read May 2014)

Detective Stories from the Strand edited by Jack Adrian (stories all pre-1960) (A short story collection) (read May 2014)

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie) (1923) (A book set anywhere other than US or UK - read in place of medical mystery) (read November 2014)

Bingo 5th. horizontal line

Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin (1948) (An Academic Mystery) (Read in October 2014)

Laurels are Poison by Gladys Mitchell (1942) (A book with a method of murder in the title) (Read in November 2014)

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie (1931) (A country house mystery) (read October 2014)

Lock 14 by Georges Simenon (A mystery that involves water) (1934) (read February 2014)

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers (A book set in England) (1932) (read February 2014)

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin (A book by an author with a pseudonym) (1945) (read June 2014)

Bingo 3rd. vertical line

Hag's Nook by John Dickson Carr (A book with a spooky title) (1932) (read September 2014)

A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey (A book that has been made into a movie) (1936) (read July 2014)

Fer-de Lance by Rex Stout (A book with an amateur detective) (1934) (read March 2014)

Watson's Choice by Gladys Mitchell (1955) (Book with a man in the title) (read August 2014)

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie (1931) (A country house mystery) (read October 2014)

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie (1935) (A book that involves a method of transportation) (read June 2014)

Many thanks to Bev for hosting such a thoroughly enjoyable challenge.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Show me your book stash post

Carolyn of Riedel Fascination has challenged people who're doing one of her challenges to 'show me your book stash'. In other words take photos of your books wherever they are, on shelves, in piles, propping up the piano, whatever, and put them into a blog post. So, I've duly been around the house and taken some photos of my book shelves.

So here we go then. This first one is a pic I took of the books I intend to read for the 2015 Mount TBR challenge and is one of the shelves here in my study:

Next, another shelf here in my study, mostly a few of my horror books but also a few others:

These are at the top of the stairs facing you as you go up. Mainly reference books, non-fiction, poetry, my Cornish books, but also a few large heavy books that need sturdy shelves to hold them. These shelves were in the house when we moved in.

Next, one of two bookcases in my grandkids' bedroom (the other holds my grandkids' books and you can just see the corner of it). This one holds most of my favourite 'read' books, fantasy, sci-fi and crime. It's double stacked in places but I do still have some room on it.

Another set of shelves here in my study, sundry books with a few classics and Persephones on the bottom shelf.

Lastly, this bookcase is in my bedroom and holds more of my favourite books, Georgette Heyer, Daphne du Maurier, Enid Blyton etc.

So those are most (not all, *cough*) of my bookshelves. Hope you enjoyed this trip around my house looking at some of my book stash.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Sci-Fi Experience

Delighted that Carl is starting his annual Sci-Fi Experience early, as he did last year. I always enjoy this one as it reminds me that one of the very first genres I fell in love with as a teenager was science-fiction.

(Artwork by Stephan Martiniere.)

The 'Experience' runs from the 1st. December, 2014 to the 31st January, 2015. Participants can read as many science-fiction books as they like: one or many, whatever takes your fancy. The important thing is to 'enjoy' your reading.

Carl's sign-up post is here:

I have several books I'd like to get to this year.

1. Heliconia Winter by Brian W. Aldiss. I've read the first two books in this series and loved them, this'll be the perfect opportunity to finish the trilogy.

2. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. I know little about this book other than it's considered a classic in the space opera section of the sci-fi genre. Sounds like it might be my kind of thing.

3. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Many, *many* years ago I read Niven's Ringworld and was blown away by it. Weirdly I don't think I've read a single other book by him since. And this is again supposed to be a classic.

4. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. This one's been on my tbr mountain for 'years'. Time I got around to it.

If I manage to read just a couple of those I'll be a happy bunny. I suspect, December being, as it is for everyone, busy for me, that the majority of my reading for the Sci-Fi Experience will take place in January. Thanks again to Carl for hosting.