Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What I've Been Reading: 2013

Well! This is a round-up of my reading year. Rather than doing one for December, I thought I'd go one more and do a round up for the whole year. According to good reads, I have read a grand total of: 100 books, equating to 34,511 words. Fun to have statistics like that! (Actually, to tell the truth, I had read 99 books, so I quickly read another one today!)

So, here are E's book awards for 2013.

MOST UNEXPECTEDLY GOOD READ

 
This was set as a book for A and J's book club and I read it to accompany them in a sense, although I wouldn't be present at the meeting. I didn't expect to enjoy it at all, if I'm honest. I've never really read thrillers before, and they just haven't appealed. However, this was gripping, I enjoyed Robert Harris' pacy writing style, and the gritty story was very compelling. I have to confess that I didn't understand (and still don't) just about anything to do with hedge funds, but it didn't really matter in the end!
 Runner up: The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday


BEST DEBUT NOVEL


We all spoke about NoViolet Bulawayo's debut We Need New Names here, and I truly think this was a spectacular debut.
Runner up: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt


BEST TRILOGY

Did you really think I would be able to choose? Completely impossible. Chaos Walking was absolutely fantastic (really, really good) and The Hunger Games, of course, brilliant. I couldn't choose between them - similar genres, but such different books. I suppose that the Chaos Walking series is probably better written, but The Hunger Games is probably more compelling. Either way, they are both fantastic. I FINALLY got to see The Hunger Games DVD in November, and hopefully J and I are going to catch Catching Fire at the cinema before the run finishes. AND I hear that Chaos Walking will be made into films too... Not that I prefer films to books by any means, but it is fun to see adaptations (unless they're terrible...) Still, nothing will replace the pictures in my head.



MOST OVERRATED BOOK


(even the picture is smaller!)
Well, I realise this isn't a this year's release, but it was long-listed for the Man Booker and was one of those books that was reviewed and received lots of accolades for a while. The only question I have is: why? It's irritating, saccharine and, ultimately, pretty boring. Wouldn't recommend to anyone. Very disappointing indeed - although my expectations weren't all that high.
 Runner up: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday


BEST LIBRARY BOOK
 
Another tie, I'm afraid. I loved Veronica Roth's Divergent that I read over the summer, and I also loved Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. Very very different books - but both wonderful finds. Divergent was pacy, exciting and a page turner. State of Wonder was ponderous, thought provoking, but still oddly compelling. Both were moving. Both had characters I believed in, both had characters I liked and characters I found difficult. Both had characters that I grew to think of differently as I understood them more. And both were well written. I would recommend them both - although the audiences would be probably be quite different!


Runner up: Every Day by David Levithan


MOST DISAPPOINTING BOOK
Unfortunately, after Divergent being such a great read, I just couldn't get into Insurgent in the same way. I've written about it previously and my disappointment. I think that if Divergent hadn't been so good, I wouldn't have minded so much; it was the expectation that made it a failure for me. It is probably a perfectly good book in its own right, but as a sequel to such a brilliant book, it falls flat. Still, the middle book in trilogies are often the weak point, so I will persevere to read the third one (but I think I'll wait until it comes out in paperback!)
 Runner up:  A Mercy by Toni Morrison


BEST GIFT
Okay, this one was hard. I have received some truly wonderful gifts this year, and I toyed with quite a few: Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour, Annabel Pitcher's Ketchup Clouds, Isabel Greenburg's The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, Atwood's Blind Assasin, Josephine Hart's Lifesaving Poetry... to name just a few. But in the end, it had to come to one that I got right at the beginning of 2013. I narrowed it down by remembering that the most important thing about a book is how much you enjoy it, not its literary value etc. So:
Brilliant, brilliant book. Can't express how much I loved it. This was actually a large part of me getting back into reading properly again, as I have managed to do successfully after a good 5-6 years of barely reading 3 or 4 books a year. Magical realism at its best - beautifully constructed, convoluted and executed. Looking out for more by Morgentern. (Was this her debut? I didn't consider it in that category...)
 Runner up: An Encyclopedia of Early Earth; The Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood


BEST HISTORICAL BOOK
Does this count as historical, or mythological, or pure fantasy? Don't care - brilliant, brilliant book. It was positively painful to read it if I'm honest but I couldn't put it down. One of those books that I felt a true and consuming sense of loss for a few days after reading it. Recommended to EVERYONE.


BEST BORROWED BOOK

I realise most people will have discovered this years ago when it first came out, but this was my first time reading it. Fantastic. Horrific, but fantastic at the same time. I felt what was going on in this book and it was positively painful to feel along with these characters. Sensitively written and a very interesting perspective and way of looking at such a difficult subject.
Runner up: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes; A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling



BEST 'LITERARY' BOOK

I think this was published last year, but it was my favourite 'literary' read. I read The Posionwood Bible years ago and have been sort of too scared to read another book by Kingsolver because it was so fantastic that I didn't want to sully that. (I also haven't reread The Poisonwood Bible).  Despite my reservations about the sheer 'American-ness' of this book, it is an absolutely beautiful read.
Runner up: Harvest by Jim Crace; A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki



BEST JODI PICOULT BOOK

(And, yes, this does deserve its own category because I have read so many!) Songs of the Humpback Whale is fantastic, and I have written about it in more detail here.
Runner up: The Storyteller



FUNNIEST BOOK

Just read it. You'll know what I mean. I want the sequel.
Runner up: Lost in Translation by Charlie Croker


BEST E-BOOK

After swearing I would never get into this e-reader business, I have succombed in the last month. J bought me back an ipad-mini from Hong Kong and I downloaded a Kindle app. I'd love to say that I hate it but... Well, I definitely prefer real books, the smell, the feel, the look of them, but there is something to be said for the convenience of an e-reader. I can read in bed under the covers without turning the light on! I can get anything at the click of a button (which is quite dangerous - I bought eleven books the other day, although it only cost me £13.50!) and they're often much cheaper. Also, if I commuted, or went on holiday, the convenience factor would feature highly. So... very reluctantly, I like my e-reader. I still prefer books. Most definitely. But I no longer shun electronic books. (Although I'm a little embarrassed at liking it).
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was on offer for only 99p (!) so I almost had to buy it! After my intense love of Chaos Walking, I had high expectations. It's nothing like Chaos Walking at all - it's also aimed at younger readers, which I don't mind - but the depth of emotion is the same. It is raw and painful and really quite dark considering the age it's designed for. Very glad to have read it. (AND I have the latest Patrick Ness waiting to read too! This time, in real book format - a beautiful hardback that was a Christmas present from A and J.) 
Runner up: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (not GOOD exactly, but great fun).


WORST OVERALL BOOK

I still find it hard to believe this was published, let alone sold so well. Absolute drivel: boring and badly written.
Runner up: Ruby and the Stone Age Diet by Martin Millar


BEST BOOK OVERALL

... are you kidding? How on earth do you expect me to choose?!? Lots of good reads, some mediocre and a few outstanding or terrible. A good reading year.

If you've read all this so far, well done! What are other people's reading highlights of the year?

E xx

Edit @ 23:23: I just finished another book (The Saddest Little Girl in the World by Cathy Glass) so that brings my grand total to 101 books! Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A few days after Christmas

And so, this lunchtime we went up the hill behind 2,CC. 

What a lovely bright and still day it was this morning! 
I returned from a run, made orange pumpkin soup and A and I went back out and up.

A breeze had come up in the meantime, and so we looked for a place with a little shelter, some dry rock to sit on, and yet still in the bright sun.
We found it two hundred metres due south of the trig point on the top of Wavering Down, a place of some family significance for the inhabitants of 2,CC. When we first moved here eighteen years ago one of the first walks we did was up the hill. We had heard that the Mendips were famous for exciting caves, and with T being seven and E four years old, we wanted to find a suitable not too challenging cave. We found it pot holing its short way under a rock and exiting in a short cliff.
That was where A and I went back today.
We took the storm kettle



and a supply of small dry wood (it's been pretty wet and there was a moderate frost last night, so not promising for finding fire materials). I had just finished making the soup, and wrapped it in a blanket where it made for very hot carrying in a backpack.

The kettle lit immediately. boiled in less than five minutes for our tea, and then we warmed the soup back up in a saucepan balanced on the bottom of the fire kettle. 

Very satisfactory!





And as you can see, there were views all round




Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve

All are finally together at 2 Coombe Cottages, sat around the merrily blazing stove watching the twinkling Christmas tree. It's taken a lot for everyone to be here - A and E had an epic 7 hour drive from Lomdon, T has come from Cambridge and J and J came from Lyme. But we are all here in the warmth, with the cats, to celebrate our coming together.

I prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day personally, and advent even more.

There's the last minute wrapping...


As well as last minute finishing of presents...


Checking and rechecking the Christmas card list... No, I haven't forgotten anyone...



Looking at the glowing Christmas tree...


And being together.






Sunday, 1 December 2013

Happy Advent


Happy Advent everybody!

(images courtesy of Pinterest)

xx