Jane of Lantern Hill / Pat of Silver Bush by LM Montgomery

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When I was ten or eleven or maybe a bit older, I discovered Anne of Green Gables. I promptly discovered the rest of the series and drove my local bookshop crazy ordering them all. Many years later, my grandparents had a Golden Wedding anniversary and all the cousins came over from Canada. My grandmother had dementia by then but she and her girl cousins sang “We’ll Meet Again” as if they were teenagers. And one of the cousins brought me two books. I don’t know why – did Granny know I liked Anne of Green Gables? Probably not, and almost certainly not in the state of mind she was in. I don’t remember the cousin bringing my sister any books. She brought me Rilla of Ingleside – which I already owned – and Emily Climbs, which I didn’t. That’s the middle of the three Emily books and it was only a few short years ago that I finally read books one and three.

I was sort of vaguely aware of The Blue Castle, although I’ve never read it but until I spied it in a bookshop, I had no idea that Jane of Lantern Hill existed, and likewise with several others that I now have on my Kindle. So these are new LM Montgomery books to me as an adult and I Have Thoughts.

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Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

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I picked Mistborn: The Final Empire up because I’d recently been to the Gollancz Festival and this book was one of four given a special hardback edition to celebrate their tenth birthdays. I’d already read and loved The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (my favourite book of all time, and one I just can’t put into the right words for a blog) and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. The fourth in that set is The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd, who turns out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met/been shoved into a conversation with but the book itself is one I haven’t managed to convinced myself to try yet.

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How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton

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I was on Brownsea Island this weekend, where Scouts and Guides were born, and I spied this book at the gift shop by the jetty. I’d been thinking about it only that morning on the way down to the ferry, defending Guides in my head against imaginary people protesting that “Guides is for goodie-goodies” on the basis that Guides was started by the rebels and the non-conformists who caused scandal in society and on the basis that they did a lot during the war. Seeing the book that very day, I had to buy it.

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The School at the Chalet by Elinor M Brent-Dyer

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Last year, I read a lot of Chalet School books. I read them in the bath, mostly. They’re small, slim little books meant for children – meant for children of my mother’s generation, maybe even earlier.

There are sixty-something in the series, depending on how you count them, starting in the 1920s and continuing until at least the 1960s but Brent-Dyer didn’t really keep up with the rest of the world and they never really move beyond their 1940s upper-middle-class sensibilities. It’s about a girls’ private boarding school, started in Austria before moving to Guernsey during the war, before discovering that wasn’t such a good idea and moving to Wales and finally back to the Alps in Switzerland.

Last week, I reread the first one. Madge and Dick Bettany, twins of twenty-four, suddenly need to find something to do to make some money and look after their twelve-year-old sister, who is delicate. Dick works for the Forestry Commission in India but it’s out of the question for the girls to go with him, so Madge decides, being as poor as they are, to buy a huge chalet in Austria, formerly a hotel, and open a school. It’s an idea destined for spectacular failure in the world I live in, and yet by the end of the first term, Madge has eighteen pupils and four more ready to start next term.

The Chalet School begins its tradition of mountain mishaps right from the beginning – a violent storm that comes out of absolutely nowhere and benights the entire school in a herdsman’s hut, and a fourteen-year-old taking on the most serious mountain in the region, which doesn’t seem to require anything more technical than ability to walk uphill for six hours and cross a very short section of path which is narrow and next to an abyss. It really doesn’t sound too terrible to me but Grizel and Joey come to grief on it and Joey nearly dies. Joey frequently nearly dies. I’m so glad her daughters turned out a bit hardier than her.

These books are ridiculous and they are definitely, unmistakably a product of their time. I don’t know that they’ve aged well. And yet there’s something in them that inspires so much fondness among so many people.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is the first real post on my shiny new book blog, the others having been imported untidily from my travel & adventure blog, I Am A Polar Bear. So yay?

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In the corner of the world I live in, people really like Neil Gaiman and it feels like such a cliche to add my voice to that. But the first book I read in 2016 was his American Gods and then, idiot that I am, I thought I’d go and read more about it. I soon learnt that there are in fact plenty of people who are not fans so I’ll write about it after all.

American Gods is a huge doorstopper of a book and I own the Author’s Preferred version, which has 12,000 extra words sprinkled throughout it. I’m not generally a huge fan of enormous books like that. By the time I’m halfway through, I’ve forgotten the beginning and I’m starting to wish the book would just finish already. But American Gods works as a big book. That might – or might not – be because no one, not even the author, really knows what it’s meant to be. It’s a bit fantasy, a bit scifi, a bit horror, a bit thriller, a bit murder mystery, a bit road trip, a bit coming-of-age story and that’s borne out by the fact that it’s won the Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards, which are literary awards for three different genres.

It’s a big book and a big twisting story that wanders across the USA, it has some horrible moments (one that I spend two-thirds of the book dreading and then hastily skip over when it finally arrives), it’s magic and mystery and belief and murder and fantasy and truth… and I love it. I don’t know what exactly appeals to me so much but I’ll go back to this book pretty regularly. I like some of Gaiman’s other books but none of them have my heart the way this one does, except Good Omens, which is quite the literary gateway drug.

Book Analysis 2015

I like to keep track of how many books I read (I’ve been doing it since 2008) but I’ve not really done much analysis other than an occasional, vaguely guilty realisation that I read a lot of of kids’ books. So first, some statistics and then some Q&A I got from Google.

Total:
2008 – 78
2009 – 44
2010 – 29
2011 – 48
2012 – 73
2013 – 64
2014 – 74
2015 – 100

Number of new books:
2008 – 38 (49% of total)
2009 – 12 (27% of total)
2010 – 13 (45% of total)
2011 – 22 (46% of total)
2012 – 31 (42% of total)
2013 – 22 ( 34% of total)
2014 – 27 (36% of total)
2015 – 52 (52% of total)

Number of kids’ books:
2008 – 35 (45% of total)
2009 – 21 (48% of total)
2010 – 17 (59% of total)
2011 – 19 (40% of total)
2012 – 38 (52% of total)
2013 – 26 (41% of total)
2014 – 38 (51% of total)
2015 – 49 (49% of total)

Number of scifi/fantasy books (sorry to lump these together; sometimes it’s not easy to pick which one a book fits into)
2008 – 52 (67% of total)
2009 – 12 (27% of total)
2010 – 12 (41% of total)
2011 – 19 (40% of total)
2012 – 34 (47% of total)
2013 – 34 (53% of total)
2014 – 38 (51% of total)
2015 – 40 (40% of total)

Number of crime books:
2008 – 0
2009 – 0
2010 – 2 (7% of total)
2011 – 11 (23% of total)
2012 – 8 (11% of total)
2013 – 9 (14% of total)
2014 – 3 (4% of total)
2015 – 18 (18% of total)

Number of non-fiction books:
2008 – 6 (8% of total)
2009 – 5 (11% of total)
2010 – 0
2011 – 2 (4% of total)
2012 – 3 (4% of total)
2013 – 2 (3% of total)
2014 – 2 (3% of total)
2015 – 2 (2% of total)

Number of plays:
2008 – 0
2009 – 2 (5% of total)
2010 – 0
2011 – 0
2012 – 1 (1% of total)
2013 – 2 (3% of total)
2014 – 0
2015 – 0

And now some questions:

1. Best Book You Read In 2015? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2015 release vs. backlist)

I will never not love The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch but my favourite new book – either Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad, Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World or Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

02. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I finally got round to reading Jesse Burton’s The Miniaturist, which people have raved about and which looked beautiful and… I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Or The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, which I had hugely hyped up by the bookseller and which just didn’t really work for me.

03. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2015?

Don’t laugh. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, both because it turns out I’ve never actually read it and because I had no idea that it was going to go the way it did.

04. Book you read in 2015 that you recommended to people most in 2015?

Actually literally recommended to people is probably The Saga of the Volsungs. Let me do so again: it’s a genuine original Viking saga from nearly a millennium ago and it’s basically the blueprint for Tolkien. It has the original cursed ring, the original dragon on a hoard of gold, it has my favourite ever “fantasy” heroine, Gudrun, it has Odin messing with mortals for the fun of it, it has sassy werewolves, it has Valkyries, it has everything – if you like your Tolkien-esque fantasy, this is where it began.

05. Best series you discovered in 2015?

I don’t know that I discovered it in 2015 because I’d read a few books before but I got into Discworld a little bit. A bookseller and NaNoWriMo acquaintance recommended me the Witches series when I thought I’d just start at the beginning and force myself to try and like it – and I genuinely did enjoy the Witches, enough to go out and buy the next five books on the strength of the first. As far as a new series goes, I very much enjoyed Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series, only I’m stranded without the third book because I’m determined to have it in a paperback matching the first two and it’s not out until March.

06. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

I don’t know if I read much by anyone new. Well, I did but none of it is really up there as new favourites. I suppose Susanna Clarke is new and I did enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I’d heard it can be hard to get into so I thought I’d watch it first to make it easier. I still haven’t seen so much as five minutes of the TV series but I had no problem reading it.

07. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

No, see, I read for pleasure, so I don’t go seeking things that I’m not comfortable with. I suppose I’m not all that comfortable with exactly how many Chalet School books I read (25) but that’s not the question. I thought Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was going to be out of my comfort zone but no, apparently not.

08. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2015?

The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham, I think. I was reading that at a comedy club in Guildford (not while anyone was on stage!) and getting very into it.

09. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Scott Lynch, Scott Lynch, Scott Lynch. I daresay I’ll reread quite a few Chalet Schools. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods – that gets reread pretty regularly. It’s satisfying to my soul.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

The Discworld Hardback Library books are very nice-looking. Robert Galbraith’s books manage to be bright and jewel-like while being very dark at the same time, which I like. Garth Nix’s books are beautiful. And so are Neil Gaiman’s preferred text books – the black ones with the coloured metallic art. And finally, I’ve never seen an unpretty cover on His Dark Materials, although I’m very partial to the particular ones I’ve got.

11. Most memorable character in 2015?

After a year in which I’ve read too much Chalet School, Mary-Lou Trelawney stands out a lot. Granny Weatherwax. Thursday Next. Harry Potter & co. Kurt Wallander.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

I’m not very good at this question. I’ve heard people talk about the writing style of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, so I guess that’s a candidate. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Neverwhere (does that mean it last year I read Anansi Boys? Stick that on the list for 2016 then).

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2015?

Well, Witches Abroad in that it finally brought me into the Discworld fold. There’s one I’ve read in the last couple of months, and I can’t find it, that had me awake and musing over it every night for about a week. Alexander Armstrong’s In the Land of the Midnight Sun because it made me think that if he could write that book I could write that book (31,500 words thus far and still growing, if slower than it was).

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

Eoin Colfer’s WARP: The Reluctant Assassin because I’ve had it ever since it came out – in hardback, because I was so desperate to read it. Charlie & the Great Glass Elevator, as mentioned.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

 

Again, I don’t really do this but have Gudrun’s Crowning Moment of Awesome from towards the end of The Saga of the Volsungs (spoilers!)

 

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest must have been The Chalet School and Rosalie, a wee little booklet originally published as a short story in an annual, I think. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is probably up there for longest, with possible competition from American Gods. Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies is a huge book but that’s just the edition I own (I have no idea how they squish it into a normal-sized paperback without either shrinking the text hugely or deleting chunks). Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix is pretty big.

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

…No-oo, I don’t think there was anything. I did ask my sister about The Miniaturist (“am I missing something or did you also not think that was as brilliant as it was made out to be?”). Clariel by Garth Nix could have had a big reveal and a big shock if I’d paid more attention to the original trilogy but that passed me by.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2015 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

I am fond of the ever-exasperated love/hate between Granny Weatherwax and Magrat Garlick. Tom Thorne and Phil Hendricks. Gudrun and Atli oh god Gudrun and Atli.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The vast majority of books I read were from authors I’ve read previously. The Lies of Locke Lamora? Can I have that one again? Half the World is a new one I really liked, by an author (Joe Abercrombie) that I already knew.

20. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Witches Abroad. Left to my own devices, starting Discworld at the beginning, I would never have got as far as Witches Abroad without being personally recommended it. Does “the BBC making a big shiny miniseries out of it” (even if I never actually got around to watching it) count as a recommendation, because I enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2015?

Girls Own, colonial-era boarding school children’s books. The Chalet School, plus a couple of LM Montgomery, plus What Katy Did At School plus one of Anne Digby’s Trebizon books. If you filter that lot out, it’s probably fantasy (again, kind of skewed towards the child-friendly end of the spectrum, I think).

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

I do have a soft spot for Locke Lamora, of course. Lord Asriel from His Dark Materials sort of feels a bit like a Heathcliffe type, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call him a crush. But neither of them are new. I suppose I’d forgotten Anne Rice’s Lestat is written to make you adore him and I did adore him so much as a teenager. Lancelot from The Once and Future King and Lestat from The Vampire Chronicles, that was teenage me.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

I’m not sure what this question means. Best new book of 2015 or best first-time author? I don’t think I have any authors new in 2015 and I’m not certain how many books. Half A World was new in 2015 and that was very good.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2015?

Well, anything by Neil Gaiman for a start. Harry PotterNorthern Lights. The Bones Beneath. Did anything give me nightmares? I sort of think something might have done – or at least that it couldn’t get it out of my head at night. I wonder what that was? The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith definitely had some… vivid (graphic!) scenes.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2015?

Discworld is fun. Harry Potter is fun, especially around the middle of the series. Thursday Next is fun. I find Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike books fun, perhaps strangely.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

Ished a few tears over Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum but the only book I can’t go back to because I cry too much, believe it or not, is one of Jeremy Clarkson’s. It’s a collection of his newspaper articles and one of them is about Concorde’s retirement and I can feel tears stinging the back of my eyes just thinking about it.

27. Book You Read in 2015 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

Well, I think more people should be reading and talking about Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series. Same goes for Joe Abercrombie and his everything but especially the Shattered Sea series because it’s marketed as YA and gets overlooked by people who would read his adult stuff.

Books I Read in 2015

  1. What Happens in London* – Julia Quinn – 03/01 – 03/01
  2. Tickling the English – Dara O Briain – 03/01 – 17/01
  3. American Gods – Neil Gaiman – 05/01 – 20/01
  4. The Chalet School Wins the Trick* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 05/01 – 05/01
  5. A Rebel at the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 06/01 – 06/01
  6. The New House at the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 07/01 – 07/01
  7. Peggy of the Chalet School* – 10/01 – 12/01
  8. The Rivals of the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 16/01 – 16/01
  9. Witches Abroad* – Terry Pratchett – 20/01 – 22/01
  10. Jo Returns to the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 22/01 – 23/01
  11. The New Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 23/01 – 24/01
  12. A United Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 24/01 – 24/01
  13. The Chalet School in Exile* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 25/01 – 26/01
  14. Swallows & Amazons – Arthur Ransome – 25/01 – 11/02
  15. Carola Storms the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 29/01 – 31/01
  16. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde – 13/02 – 17/02
  17. Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde – 18/02 – 25/02
  18. Mary-Lou at the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 20/02 – 21/02
  19. Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde – 26/02 – 04/03
  20. The Silkworm* – Robert Galbraith – 04/03 – 07/03
  21. Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde – 09/03 – 13/03
  22. Good As Dead* – Mark Billingham – 14/03 – 14/03
  23. The Dying Hours* – Mark Billingham – 16/03 – 18/03
  24. The Redbreast* – Jo Nesbo – 19/03 – 01/04
  25. The Chalet School & Barbara – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 21/03 – 22/03
  26. The Bones Beneath* – Mark Billingham – 28/03 – 29/03
  27. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch – 29/03 – 21/04
  28. Visitors to the Chalet School* – Helen McClelland – 04/04 – 05/04
  29. The Dogs of Riga – Henning Mankell – 07/04 – 13/04
  30. The Lottie Project – Jacqueline Wilson – 18/04 – 19/04
  31. Prince Lestat* – Anne Rice – 21/04 – 30/04
  32. Five On A Treasure Island – Enid Blyton – 27/04 – 27/04
  33. Five Go Adventuring Again – Enid Blyton – 27/04 – 27/04
  34. Equal Rites* – Terry Pratchett – 30/04 – 02/05
  35. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – 04/05 – 04/05
  36. Wyrd Sisters* – Terry Pratchett – 05/05 – 07/05
  37. Cloud Atlas* – David Mitchell – 08/05 – 14/05
  38. The Miniaturist* – Jesse Burton – 14/05 – 20/05
  39. Lords & Ladies* – Terry Pratchett – 21/05 – 25/05
  40. Anne of the Island – LM Montgomery – 21/05 – 24/05
  41. The New House at the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 25/05 – 25/05
  42. Maskerade* – Terry Pratchett – 26/05 – 27/05
  43. Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch – 27/05 – 08/06
  44. Rainbow Valley – LM Montgomery – 29/05 – 31/05
  45. A United Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 31/05 – 31/05
  46. All Fun & Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye – Christopher Brookmyre – 09/06 – 13/06
  47. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky – Patrick Hamilton – 15/06 – 25/06
  48. Half a King* – Joe Abercrombie – 25/06 – 27/06
  49. Half the World* – Joe Abercrombie – 27/06 – 02/07
  50. Clariel* – Garth Nix – 03/07 – 08/07
  51. Sabriel – Garth Nix – 09/07 – 14/07
  52. The Saga of the Volsungs – 20/07 – 22/07
  53. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell* – Susanna Clarke – 25/07 – 10/08
  54. The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson – 09/08 – 09/08
  55. Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch – 11/08 – 16/08
  56. First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde – 17/08 – 20/08
  57. The Children of Willow Farm – Enid Blyton – 19/08 – 19/08
  58. One of Our Thursdays Is Missing – Jasper Fforde – 21/08 – 24/08
  59. The Night Circus* – Erin Morgenstern – 22/08 – 24/08
  60. Faceless Killers – Henning Mankell – 24/08 – 26/08
  61. The Woman Who Died A Lot – Jasper Fforde – 24/08 – 01/09
  62. Plugged* – Eoin Colfer – 01/09 – 06/09
  63. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman – 05/09 – 10/09
  64. Sleepyhead – Mark Billingham – 11/09 – 17/09
  65. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling – 17/09 – 18/09
  66. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl – 19/09 – 19/09
  67. Charlie & the Great Glass Elevator* – Roald Dahl – 19/09 – 20/09
  68. Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling – 20/09 – 23/09
  69. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban – 24/09 – 26/09
  70. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling – 27/09 – 01/10
  71. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix – 02/10 – 05/10
  72. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince – JK Rowling – 06/10 – 09/10
  73. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling – 10/10 – 12/10
  74. The Night Watch* – Sergei Lukyanenko – 13/10 – 24/10
  75. The Land of the Midnight Sun* – Alexander Armstrong – 17/10 – 25/10
  76. Summer Camp at Trebizon – Anne Digby – 26/10 – 26/10
  77. Scaredy Cat – Mark Billingham – 27/10 – 04/11
  78. A Leader in the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 31/10 – 31/10
  79. A Feud in the Chalet School – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 01/11 – 01/11
  80. Northern Lights – Philip Pullman – 05/11 – 08/11
  81. Snowblind* – Ragnar Jonasson – 07/11 – 21/11
  82. The Chalet School & Rosalie* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 08/11 – 08/11
  83. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch – 09/11 – 20/11
  84. The Chalet School & Richenda* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 13/11 – 13/11
  85. What Katy Did at School – Susan Coolidge – 15/11 – 15/11
  86. Career of Evil* – Robert Galbraith – 22/11 – 23/11
  87. Screwed* – Eoin Colfer – 24/11 – 28/11
  88. Shocks for the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 23/11 – 23/11
  89. Changes for the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 26/11 – 26/11
  90. The Chalet School Triplets* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 29/11 – 29/11
  91. Before the Frost* – Henning Mankell – 30/11 – 03/12
  92. Jane and the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 30/11 – 02/12
  93. An Event in Autumn* – Henning Mankell – 04/12 – 04/12th
  94. Summer Term at Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 05/12 – 05/12
  95. The Troubled Man* – Henning Mankell – 06/12 – 10/12
  96. Two Sams at the Chalet School* – Elinor M Brent-Dyer – 11/12 – 11/12
  97. WARP: The Reluctant Assassin* – Eoin Colfer – 12/12 – 18/12
  98. Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch – 18/12 – 27/12
  99. Emily Climbs – LM Montgomery – 27/12 – 29/12
  100. Once Upon A Time In the North* – Philip Pullman – 30/12 – 31/12

* new reads

My first foray into Discworld

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There are few things in the world which are universally agreed. But one of them seems to be that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are fantastic, which is why it’s always seemed so wrong that I’ve not been able to get into them.

I read Hogfather back in around 2006 or 2007, when it was adapted for TV. I was indifferent to it; I neither loved it nor hated it. I just read it. I also have a couple more sitting on my shelves. Small Gods (which I understand is a bit of an odd-one-out in the series), which I came across when a friend played the audiobooks all the way from Canterbury to Priddy (via the M4 and Bristol, which even he had to acknowledge is not a sensible way to go) and most of the way back. I enjoyed listening to it but I failed completely to engage with the book and eventually it just drifted out of my hands. And Thief of Time which I must have tried in late 2007 when I was going through a very long application process to become an apprentice clockmaker, which starred Jeremy Clockson and of which I couldn’t get past the second page.

I felt like I was missing out on Discworld.

This year, like most years, I received a book token for Christmas. This is supposed to be a boring, unimaginative present that you give when you either have no ideas or don’t know the recipient very well. I love book tokens. I love going into a bookshop with a piece of plastic and exchanging it for whatever book catches my eye. I feel like I can buy a book I wouldn’t normally choose with a book token. This time – as you’ve already guessed – I decided I was going to give Discworld another go so I found The Colour of Magic and took it to pay for it. But I sort of know the girl behind the counter, one of our local NaNoWriMo group, and she suggested that although you can read them in order, you don’t have to and she thought I’d prefer the witches – go and see if we’ve got Witches Abroad. That’s the kind of service I like in a bookshop, personalised recommendations which prove correct.

I devoured Witches Abroad in 48 hours, some of which I spent at work or asleep or watching a film. I wanted to pick it up and go back to it. I was interested in it and I enjoyed it. Finally, fourth time lucky, I understood what it is people see in Discworld. It was clever, it was fun, it was readable – it was more or less everything I like in a book. If the other Witches books are anything like it, then I’ve found a new favourite series. And if I like the other Witches, then maybe I’ll give the City Guards a go and see if I like Angua as much as I hope I do.

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

Dracula by Bram Stoker

dracula

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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