Books I Read in 2014

1) Northern Lights – Philip Pullman – 02/01 – 04/01
2) The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman – 05/01 – 06/01
3) The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman – 08/01 – 10/01
4) Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch – 12/01 – 25/01
5) The Fifth Woman* – Henning Mankell – 25/01 – 28/01
6) Labyrinth – Mark T Sullivan – 29/01 – 31/01
7) 1984* – George Orwell – 01/02 – 12/02
8) Boy Trouble at Trebizon – Anne Digby – 06/02 – 06/02
9) Rivals – Jilly Cooper – 08/02 – 09/02
10) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling – 13/02 – 13/02
11) Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling – 14/02 – 14/02
12) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling – 14/02 – 15/02
13) Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling – 15/02 – 19/02
14) Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling – 20/02 – 23/02
15) Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince – JK Rowling – 23/02 – 24/02
16) Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling – 25/02 – 01/03
17) Imajica* – Clive Barker – 03/03 – 26/04
18) Half Moon Investigations – Eoin Colfer – 12/03 – 20/03
19) The Naughtiest Girl in the School – Enid Blyton – 24/03 – 24/03
20) The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor – Enid Blyton – 25/03 – 35/03
21) Sagas of Warrior-Poets* – unknown author/s – 27/03 – 11/04
22) Hacker – Malorie Blackman – 09/04 – 09/04
23) Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman – 14/04 – 23/04
24) The Brides of Rollrock Island* – Margo Lanagan – 27/04 – 01/05
25) A Game of Thrones* – George RR Martin – 01/05 – 10/05
26) A Clash of Kings* – George RR Martin – 11/05 – 19/05
27) A Storm of Swords: Steel & Snow* – George RR Martin – 19/05 – 26/05
28) A Storm of Swords: Blood & Gold* – George RR Martin – 27/05 – 02/06
29) A Feast for Crows* – George RR Martin – 03/06 – 15/06
30) A Dance with Dragons: Dreams & Dust* – George RR Martin – 16/06 – 28/06
31) A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast* – George RR Martin – 28/06 – 07/07
32) The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde – 07/07 – 11/07
33) Lost In A Good Book – Jasper Fforde – 12/07 – 20/07
34) The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch – 05/08 – 13/08
35) The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie – 14/08 – 03/09
36) Long Way Round – Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman – 17/08 – 20/08
37) The Sleepover Club at Kenny’s – Rose Impey – 01/09 – 01/09
38) Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie – 04/09 – 21/09
39) The Chalet School & Barbara – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 05/09 – 06/09
40) Ruey Richardson at the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 14/09 – 14/09
41) Theodora and the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 17/09 – 18/09
42) Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery – 18/09 – 20/09
43) Last Arguments of Kings – Joe Abercrombie – 22/09 – 02/10
44) Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch – 02/10 – 10/10
45) New Mistress at the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 04/10 – 04/10
46) Feud in the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 05/10 – 05/10
47) The Watcher in the Shadows* – Carlos Ruiz Zafón – 12/10 – 14/10
48) The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch – 16/10 – 02/11
49) A Problem for the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 19/10 – 19/10
50) The Chalet Girls in Camp – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 23/10 – 23/10
51) Jo of the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 26/10 – 26/10
52) The Gospel of Loki* – Joanne M Harros – 03/11 – 12/11
53) The Chalet School at War – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 10/11 – 10/11
54) Dracula* – Bram Stoker – 17/11 – 21/11
55) Shadowmagic* – John Lenahan – 23/11 – 26/11
56) The Prince of Hazel & Oak* – John Lenahan – 26/11 – 02/12
57) Chalet School Fete* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 27/11 – 27/11
58) The Chalet Girls Grow Up – Merryn Williams – 28/11 – 28/11
59) Three Go to the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 01/12 – 01/12
60) The Sons of Macha* – John Lenahan – 03/12 – 07/12
61) The Cuckoo’s Calling* – Robert Galbraith – 07/12 – 10/12
62) The Highland Twins at the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 03/12 – 10/12
63) The Atheist’s Guide to Xmas* – Various – 11/12 – 16/12
64) The Head Girl at the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 11/12 – 13/12
65) A Bear Called Paddington – Michael Bond – 14/12 – 14/12
66) Butterflies in November* – Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir – 16/12 – 19/12
67) From the Dead* – Mark Billingham – 19/12 – 22/12
68) Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 22/12 – 22/12
69) Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – 23/12 – 25/12
70) A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch – Jill Murphy – 26/12 – 28/12
71) Stardust – Neil Gaiman – 28/12 – 28/12
72) Matilda – Roald Dahl – 29/12 – 29/12
73) The Chalet School and the Island – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 29/12 – 29/12
74) Lavender Leigh at the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 31/12 – 31/12

* new reads

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

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First things first, it’s impossible to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time in 2014 and have anything like the same experience as when it was first published in 1897. This book is nearly 120 years old and in that time, it has permeated our collective consciousness to the point that almost everything about it has become cliched. People who write about vampires these days deliberately avoid the old Dracula mythology or they subvert it or they hang a lamp on it.

Which isn’t to say that the book has become in any way farcical, only things that seemed bewildering then, like the wreath of garlic flowers around Lucy’s neck, seem perfectly logical now. Nor is it to say that Stoker invented vampires or the myths surrounding them, only that this book popularised them.

Onwards, with spoilers. I thought you couldn’t spoil a 120-year-old book that has become more myth than literature but it turns out that although everyone knows Dracula, Transylvania, garlic, mirrors, bats, Mina Harker and Van Helsing, I for one had no idea how the actual story went.

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The Once & Future King by TH White

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When I was eleven or so I won a prize at school. I can no longer remember what the prize was for but I remember that it was book tokens and I went into Ottakers and spent what felt like a huge amount of money on a huge, grown-up beautiful book, which I devoured and loved fiercely as a teenager and have discovered I still very much love. The Lies of Locke Lamora is my favourite book of recent years; TH White’s The Once and Future King is my favourite book of all time.

The Once and Future King, technically, is five books. You all know of the first one – The Sword in the Stone which became a Disney film. It’s part historical (in as much as it can be when Arthur probably never existed and Merlyn certainly didn’t, or at least he wasn’t a real wizard), part fantasy, part philosophy and a tiny bit comedy. It was very much a literary step up for me at that age. I don’t really remember what I was reading then other than Watership Down (never again!), the Animals of Farthing Wood series (never again also!) and Enid Blyton but I was one of the best readers in my year and by eleven or twelve I was definitely beyond Malory Towers and the like. Maybe the YA of the time. Had I discovered Jilly Cooper by then? Probably not quite. I think most of my schoolmates were reading Goosebumps around then. I never did because I’ve never liked horror. But The Once and Future King was a proper serious big grown-up book and quite what made me not only successfully read the thing at that age but also love it, I don’t know.

It starts off with King Arthur’s childhood, when he’s an adopted and semi-feral child better known as Wart and moves through Arthur’s life – coronation, marriage, the Round Table and the adventures of assorted members and ends with his death, hence the title. Merlyn, Arthur’s teacher and mentor, figures highly throughout. He lives backwards through time and can therefore comment on Arthur’s country using points of reference from the twentieth century – there is at one point a quite blatant discussion about Hitler. Merlyn is somewhat short-tempered, his magic is a little less than reliable and he has a talking owl called Archimedes who does not like being called Archie.

My favourite character as a teenager was Lancelot, who is brave and kind and ugly and wonderful and also full of angst and pain, not least because he’s having an affair with Arthur’s wife and is head-over-heels in love with Arthur himself. Lancelot takes everything very seriously, he’s very religious and he was probably incredibly hard work to be around. Arthur’s mind is mostly on how best to rule and how to solve the problems of various wars, battles and feuds around his Round Table, which stars a wonderful cast of knights ranging from the villainous to the angelic to the downright daft.

My other favourites – for they come as a group and you can’t pick one of them out – are the Orkney kids. Four red-headed Scottish boys, all stuffed full of Oedipus complex who love and hate Arthur. There’s their leader, the eldest, the big tough guy with a heart of gold, Gawaine. There’s Agravaine, the bully and the coward and the skittish one. Gaheris who, to be fair, doesn’t get to do much apart from up the numbers. And Gareth, the youngest and fairest and sweetest. They spend a lot of the second book scuttling around, telling stories in the dark, having adventures in an attempt to impress their mother and I just really enjoy them.

Last year, when I had a fortnight in a tent in Iceland, I took it with me as an excellent book for being chunky enough to last a while, not so chunky that I’d get sick of it and one that I already knew I liked. I’d get into the tent before it got cold and lie there reading this book and most nights, I dreamed about knights. If I’d known it was going to have that effect, I’d have taken Sagas of Icelanders and dreamed about Vikings. Only twice can I think of times when I’ve dreamed about books, both times nightmares. When I was about fourteen – and therefore more than old enough to know better – I had a nightmare about Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets. Not the film, the book. I won’t see the film. It contains a scene that’s too emetophobe-unfriendly. And in 2011 I had a nightmare about Christopher Brookmyre’s Pandaemonium, which, to be fair, was fairly high octane nightmare fuel. But no, nice dreams about knights in armour with swords. Nothing more specific. When I was eleven, that book looked like a massive thing and now it’s about standard fantasy size and much more readable than a lot of fantasy.

So, in short, I really love The Once and Future King and have done for a long time and I highly recommend it (but please don’t tell me if you don’t like it because I want to remain under the illusion that everyone loves everything I love).