Well, December has been a busy old month, hasn't it? Between book selling events, work and friends Christmas 'do's' and children's parties, I've spent most of the month wondering how I can split myself into multiple versions of myself and get everyone where they need to be at the right time! I've still managed to squeeze in some reading time, but it's been snatched here and there until we got to the Christmas holidays when I finally got chance to just relax and lose myself in a few books. The 7yo has beaten me hands down on this month's book count - thanks in no small part to his school deciding they were going to reset the word count on the reading scheme in February next year and he is absolutely determined to reach a million words before they do it!
At the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of clearing my reading 'wish list'. With hindsight, this was an utterly ridiculous goal, given that I have other things to do apart from read, but even though I knew I had a lot of books on it, I genuinely didn't give much thought to how much reading that actually involved me doing, particularly if I wanted to still be able to read spontaneously as well. As a result, partway through the year, I amended the goal to 'read everything that went on the TBR pile before 2020.' This was much more realistic and I have actually achieved this, albeit at the last minute, when I realised there were still a handful of 'to buy' books that were pre-2020 that I'd forgotten all about! It became even more 'made it by the skin of my teeth' when I fell ill over Christmas and couldn't even find the energy to read.
I've spent the last couple of days categorising and updating the reading list for next year, having tried to avoid adding to it by not watching any book related programmes this year. I can now have an indulgent few days watching them all and gleefully rubbing my hands at the thought of all those new books to look forward to!
Tomorrow I'll be setting out my reading goals for 2023, but for now, here is my final reading roundup of 2022.
Books read this month: 11
Annual Total: 162
TBR Pile Checklist:
Kindle Unlimited: 0
Library List: 36
Not In Library/On Kindle already/On bookshelf: 66
Total: 102 (down from 198ish in January and now also includes books I've bought this year)
The Ice Twins – SK Tremayne (genuinely nerve-wracking thriller. Was most put out that I had to take the short one to school, 20 pages before the end. Knew I was never going to be able to settle down to working until I knew how it ended, so finished it over a cup of coffee! Both parents are pretty unlikeable characters – constantly making excuses for their poor behaviour, but unusually, I enjoyed the book anyway!)
The Eight – Katherine Neville (one of my favourite kinds of books: a historical thriller. It’s a split timeline that deals alternately with the splitting up and hiding of the chess set and the subsequent challenge to reunite the board and pieces. A gripping story, with a multitude of twists and turns, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
One False Move – Robert Goddard (Another of his books set partially in Cornwall and a rare older one that I’d not read before. Thoroughly enjoyed it and it provided everything I’ve come to expect from the master of crime-thriller novels. Crosses, double crosses, plot twists and characters with elastic morality. Brilliant.)
Baking Bad – Kim M Watt (dragons and the WI may not be the most obvious of book bedfellows but as a partnership they kind of work. It took me quite a while to get into this book and I almost abandoned it a couple of times, but I was quite glad I’d persevered with it by the end. I think the problem was that although it’s the first in the series, it doesn’t feel like it. There was no explanation of how the dragons ended up befriending the WI ladies and I felt right from the start that I was missing pieces of the puzzle. I enjoyed it, but could so easily have not finished it.)
The Queen Of Bloody Everything – Joanne Nadin (I think it was the wrong time of year for me to read this as some of the plot struck far too close to home. I found it difficult to engage with the characters, but still found myself bawling my eyes out. It was well written and I think I’d have enjoyed it more if I’d read it at a different time.)
Swing Time – Zadie Smith (Audiobook. Really enjoyed this, particularly as it was one of those rare books where I completely ‘got’ all the film references that were made. Betrayal was a theme throughout and I found it interesting comparing what was considered to be betrayal by the different characters.)
A Ladder To The Sky – John Boyne (From the perspective of a writer, this was a little scary, because we all magpie ideas all the time. It comes with the territory. We also often claim that we write because ‘we have to’. There is no choice in the matter. Without our writing we are unhappy creatures. This novel examines those notions and considers what happens when they’re taken to extremes. The result is truly terrifying. A superb book though.)
Samuel Pepys The Unequalled Self – Claire Tomalin (Read this for Arthur, who loves Pepys. Turns out he wasn’t a particularly nice man and would probably have been targeted by the #MeToo movement in the 21stcentury. Had to be selective in what details of his life I shared with the little one.)
Women And Power A Manifesto – Mary Beard (Any book that can make the 17yo say that he now ‘kind of gets’ what I’ve been banging on about for the last few years – the discrimination women still face and the underlying misogyny of many of the attacks on females on social media platforms like Twitter – has got to be good. Beard succinctly explains why women have historically been denied power and why the fight for equality continues today.)
The Duchess – Amanda Foreman (Biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I had no idea that Lady Elizabeth Foster – the Duke of Devonshire’s mistress – was one of the Hervey’s of Ickworth. I also hadn’t equated the timelines of English and French history and hadn’t realised that Georgiana was around during the French Revolution and had been very much acquainted with some of Marie Antoinette’s closest friends. It’s a very sympathetic portrayal of Georgiana.)
Death At The Opera – Gladys Mitchell (A Mrs Bradley mystery. Loved the TV episode and enjoyed the book, but they were vastly different beasts. Diana Rigg’s Bradley is far more glamorous and sophisticated than the one in the book and bar the identity of the victim and the setting, the book and TV episode have nothing in common.)
The Mitford Affair - Marie Benedict (picked up as a book to review. It's been so long since I chose it that I'd completely forgotten the blurb. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting - perhaps some fictional adventure featuring one or more of the Mitford sisters? As it transpired, the plot centres around the events of the 1930s when Diana left Bryan Guiness for Oswald Moseley and the subsequent love affair with facism. The story is narrated alternately by Diana, Nancy and Unity and is a fictionalised account of real events. Full review will follow on 17th Jan.)
Book of the Month?
Katherine Neville's The Eight kept me hooked from start to finish and it was so convincing tht it made me research the Montglane chess set - it appears to be essentially fictional - and for me this is the best kind of historical thriller. At its heart is a fiction based on a legend based perhaps, on a tiny fact. The sequel is now on my 2022 TBR list.
Books of the Year
My reasoning when selecting these books was that I wanted to pick ones that not only had an impact on me at the time of reading, but which stayed with me throughout the rest of the year.
Fiction: Bonnie Garmus' Lessons In Chemistry
I identified so much with the lead character in this, that even now I'm still cross she wasn't included in a book about notable forgotten women in history. Just because she's fictional, doesn't mean she shouldn't have been included! Lol.
Children's Book: Louie Stowell's Loki
Arthur's absolute favourite book of the year. He sulks if I make him listen to any audiobook at night except this or the sequel. I really enjoyed it when I listened to it as well, so it's a win for both of us.
Non-Fiction Book: Janina Ramirez's Femina and Sandra Lawrence's Miss Willmott's Ghost are the two books I've been recommending to everyone this year. It usually takes me much longer to read non-fiction than it does fiction, but in both these cases, I motored through the books at my usual rate. Both are excellent and I would highly recommend them to everyone! Interestingly, although they are about vastly different topics, they both shine a light on women who have, for the large part, been forgotten in contemporary society.