Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Classics Club: One Year (and a bit) In

After a few years of pondering, in January 2014 I finally signed up to The Classics Club.  I wasn't at all sure that I'd really be up to (or inclined to) up my classics intake to the ten a year that would be required to meet the challenge of reading 50 books in 5 years but when I actually took a second to check in on how things were going, it turned out that I'm actually doing ok.  

Out of the 50 books on my list, I've read 10 books.  Right on target!  What a handy coincidence.

Out of those 10 books, I actually only physically read 3.  I listened to the rest while commuting.  I won't deny that it's been strange adjusting to "reading" in a new way.

This year's titles have been (in alphabetical order, not rating order, because that would be too difficult):

Ray Bradbury  Something Wicked This Way Comes  (Review here)
Charlotte Bronte  Villette  (Review here)
Daniel Defoe  Robinson Crusoe  (Review here)
Charles Dicken  Bleak House
Alexandre Dumas  The Count of Monte Cristo
F. Scott Fitzgerald  The Great Gatsby
Thomas Hardy  Tess of the D'Urbevilles
Nathaniel Hawthorne  The Scarlet Letter
Shirley Jackson  The Haunting of Hill House
Jules Vergne  Around the World in Eighty Days (Review here)

It's been a really mixed bunch - sure, that's largely been led by the eclectic mix of titles that my local library's audiobook site has but it's also because the list itself is a fairly random one.

The Highlights

My top three were easy to choose: Villette, The Haunting of Hill House and Around the World in Eighty Days.

Villette wasn't an easy read and I wasn't convinced by it at first but I really enjoyed it overall.  Lucy Snowe makes the book.  Her narration is deceptive and shifty but I loved that she spent the whole book striving for modest independence.  All she wants is a stable job, financial security and somewhere of her own to live but she struggles for even that.  It sounds dreary.  It isn't.  It's wonderful in its subtlety and I'm still not sure I've read any other book that I felt said as much about the author as this did.

The Haunting of Hill House was super creepy.  I haven't read anything else by Shirley Jackson but I definitely will be.  Her writing is fantastic and the opening paragraph is one of the best ever:
"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone"
And the ending is perfection.  The intervening pages are equally great and reading about the brooding house and its effects on its hapless inhabitants made one particularly gloomy train journey rather unsettling indeed.

Around the World in Eighty Days was just fun.  It's kind of silly and is basically the story of a rich man scurrying around the world to try to win a bet.  But there are ridiculous obstacles and one great big drawn out case of mistaken identity and it's fast-paced so you should read it because it's entertaining.

The Low Points

Ha - too easy!  Tess of the D'Urbevilles.  I disliked that book so, so much.  Tess drove me crazy but as frustrated as I was with her, I was roughly one thousand times more incensed by Angel, her darling husband.  I couldn't bear the main characters, there were far too many descriptions of fields (swede fields predominantly) and the ending was just...not good.

Then again, I finished Tess, which is more than I can say for the oh so terrible The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.  That book was awful.  So awful, I couldn't face trudging through the whole million pages of it.  It's not funny, it's not charming and it's not interesting.  It is not good.  So I stopped reading it.  Much though I am sure it breaks the rules, I also dropped it from my list.  My intention in creating the list was to make sure I read a bit more expansively, not to make myself miserable so I'm happy with the decision. I replaced it with War and Peace so it's not as though I'm going easy on myself.

To keep up the good work, I'll be tackling one of the longest books on my list, War and Peace, from 1st February (which is scarily soon!) as part of Hanna' readalong - head HERE if you want to topple the Russian classic too!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Giveaway Winner: 'The Eye of the World' by Robert Jordan

Image from here
Congratulations, Shamara!

The random wijamy over at Rafflecopter picked you and you're the soon-to-be-owner of a shiny new copy of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan!

In case it wasn't obvious from my original post, I really love this series so I'm very much hoping that it will have a new fan soon!  I'll be emailing shortly and will pick another winner if I don't hear back within 48 hours.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again



Sunday, 18 January 2015

Audiobook Review: 'Heartburn' by Nora Ephron

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs" is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron's irrepressible heroine offers some of her favourite recipes.

Review

I'll be honest - I expected a lot more from this book.  Ephron's essay collections seem to be popular all across the blogosphere and I'm a fan of Sleepless in Seattle so I had high hopes.  Misplaced high hopes.  Heartburn is ok.  The writing is witty and sharp but there were some pretty fundamental flaws that stopped me from being able to really enjoy it.  Thankfully the blurb mentions one of them so we can get this highly-likely-to-be-slightly-ranty review without me having to bore everybody with spoiler warnings.

If I'd paid more attention before downloading this audiobook, I think I would have noticed that it wouldn't be for me.  I was about to get stuck into glossing a window, however, and in dire need of entertainment so I really just went for whatever the library had handy that wouldn't be too heavy.  But the warning was right there.  Rachel Samstat's husband is cheating on her while she is pregnant (seven months pregnant) and she spends at least part of her time trying to win him back.  That's right - the man declares himself in love with another woman while she is heavily pregnant with their second child and her response isn't to beat his cheating arse into next week, it's to see how she can make him love her again.  I couldn't understand Rachel's motivation and couldn't really get behind her so it all got a bit frustrating.

As a person borderline obsessed with food and cooking, though, I did like the healthy endorsement of comfort eating and the smattering of recipes.  There weren't actually any recipes that I wanted to make (which is handy because I generally only heard the recipes while driving when noting ingredients is tricky) but I still liked listening to 'Rachel' talking about the food that was important to her and the recipes that marked certain key events or times of her life.

I'm not really sure what else to say.  It was sort of funny in places but the bunch of wives gossiping about other people and their lives were the worst kind of women.  Maybe the whole thing is just dated.  Maybe twenty years was enough to stop this book being the sort of romantic comedy that has you weeping into your ice cream on a Sunday afternoon and turn it into one of those ones that you watch when you're hungover and hate yourself for spending the time on.

The whole experience was saved by the fact that I listened to it rather than reading it.  I listened to the Books on Tape audiobook, which is read by Meryl Streep who is perfect.  True, she played Rachel in the 1986 film adaptation and so had a bit of an edge at knowing the character but it still made the slightly irritating story actually enjoyable in places.  The performance saved the book from being a two star washout.  

Overall:  Underwhelming.  There are some fun moments if you're a foodie and there were a few titters but otherwise it's pretty average.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished: 06 January 2015
Format:  Audiobook
Source:  Borrowed from my library's audiobook site
Genre: Fiction
First Published:  1st January 1983

Friday, 16 January 2015

Review: 'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars


"To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists. 

Just goes to show"

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and every evening. Every day she passes the same Victorian terraces, stops at the same signal, and sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof terrace. Jason and Jess seem so happy together. 

Then one day Rachel sees something she shouldn't have seen, and soon after, Jess disappears. Suddenly Rachel is chasing the truth and unable to trust anyone. Not even herself.

Review

When I first read about this book's premise, I knew I had to read it.  Not to sound like too much of a creeper but who doesn't love a bit of people watching?  When you catch the same train, run the same route or visit the same coffee shop every day, it's hard not to imagine that you know the people that you see on a daily basis or to *maybe* make up your own ideas about what they're like.  The Girl on the Train takes that idea and twists it into something sinister. 

This is one of those books that's almost impossible to review.  There's a lot things that makes this novel something that's really rather good but unfortunately a lot of them are things that I really think you should find out for yourself.  They're maybe things that you could find out from other bloggers' reviews, sure, but I don't want to be the one (or one of the ones) that you're disappointed in when (like me) you read something and realise that the whole novel would have been more interesting if it had been a surprise.  Suffice to say, this is one of those thrillers where you almost never feel as though you have a handle on what's going on.  I have a huge weakness for those thrillers.

I think that Rachel is someone you can either really feel for or someone you hate.  Personally, I couldn't help but sympathise with her.  She's tragic in so many ways and utterly infuriating but my heart broke for her.  I can see why she might irritate some readers and I had my moments of frustration but overall, I just felt an immeasurable amount of pity for her.  What really sold her to me, though, was how damn unreliable she was.  If there's one thing that I love, it's a narrator you can't ever quite believe.  As far as mysteries and thrillers go, there is nothing that builds tension quite like reading half a story.  Rachel's existence is shrouded in lies, black-outs and doubt.  Her confusion is believable and isn't half as difficult to rationalise as narrators that have memory problems, for example, so Hawkins doesn't have to rely on a loosely described brain disorder or frustrate readers with slightly inconsistent explanations about the narrator's flaky powers of recall.  It just fits.

The other characters I was less sure about.  There were some that were compelling and some that made me want to punch something.  I loved the revelations about 'Jason and Jess', the couple that Rachel sees from the train, but I was much less convinced about others.  Obviously pinning your life's happiness on strangers that you've never met is a questionable life choice but the process by which Rachel learns so much more about her 'happy couple' ideal is somehow still quite sobering.  There are a few things that make this a novel for the 21st century but I think Rachel's need to connect at any cost is one of them.

So far so great.  I'm convinced that if The Girl on the Train had been about 100 pages shorter, I would have been throwing on my Caps Lock and hollering at you to get yourself to a bookshop as soon as possible just so that you could experience it for yourself.  As it is, though, I found that there were some chapters that were quite repetitive.  The various layers of deception were what kept me reading but there were a few occasions where I needed something new.  Nothing is ever quite right but eventually the same kind of confusion and the same frustrations become a bit wearing.

The Girl on the Train is a book made for devouring in chunks.  Not because there are gaping plot holes that should be skimmed over but because in many ways you won't be able to help it.  I won't pretend that it's perfect but it's really, really good.  I didn't see the ending coming (although to be fair I never do).  I thought it was spot on and I don't think there's really much more you can say for a book in this genre. 

Overall:  The Girl on the Train is a decent thriller. It's entertaining and it's a good book but it's not a game changing one.  That's really all there is to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished: 21 December 2014
Format: Paperback
Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review - thanks, Transworld!
Genre: Thriller
Pictured Edition Published:  The Girl on the Train was released on the 15th January by Transworld

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Whittling down the Box of Shame: The First Ten

When we moved house just over a year ago, I dutifully (if a little resentfully) tucked all of my books up into boxes and loaded them up into the van.  We're slowly working our way around the rooms of the new house and decorating them one by one but it's taking us some time to get to the smallest of the bedrooms, which will ultimately be the study/reading room.  It's up soon (next but one) but we're not quite there yet.  

Anyway, we've started on the next spare room this weekend, which has meant that we had to move the furniture out and into the Future Study/Reading Room.  Which meant making room.  Much though it killed me a little bit, the read books moved up into the attic (TEMPORARILY).  The unread books were the subject of much debate.  I was adamant that they would stay accessible, Boyfriend was adamant that they had to go out of the way while we finish up the decorating.  The unfortunate thing about this whole exercise was that the Box of Shame was the subject of the discussion.  The entire very large box shown on the right is unread books.  Not all of the unread books that I own (shamefully) but enough unread books that if I read nothing but the books in this box, I'm pretty sure I'd still have reading material spare in a couple of years,

There are books in that box that I'd forgotten I owned.  Books that I've owned for years.  Although it's exciting in many ways, it really does make me feel as though I need to stop buying new books for just a little while and start looking to the Box of Shame, so called because I *may* have been using it as a means of bringing in books and mixing them up so that people don't notice.  Maybe.  Ahem...

Boyfriend and I have struck a deal to solve the "problem" (and he is unmoveable on such things so will be helping me keep on top of it): I can have ten books out of the box at any one time.  When I've read those ten books, they will be returned to the attic and I can pick ten more.  Kind of like a more inconveniently enforced seasonal TBR pile.  Obviously, picking ten was ridiculously difficult, especially with someone that doesn't appreciate books looming over me and telling me to "just pick".  But "just pick" I did and these are my first ten:


The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time series: Book 2) by Robert Jordan
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
Steelheart (The Reckoners series: Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
The Quick by Lauren Owen
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I've gone for a mixture of recent arrivals and older books, a bunch of different genres and a blend of YA and adult so that hopefully there will always be something that I fancy.  The Great Hunt obviously isn't new or indeed unread (and its being included in the ten was a bone of contention that I have moved past) but I'm saving it so that I have something to balance out War and Peace if a miracle happens and I get ahead of the read-along schedule (ha) or if I need a brief respite from all of the Russian names!  

I'll see you for the next ten soon, hopefully!  I know that I'm not the only one trying to get on top of the number of unread books that I own - if we stick together, I'm pretty sure we can do this!!  Come on, us!  :)

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Book Club Chatter #1: 'Bossypants' by Tina Fey

For all that I love reading, I've never actually been in a real live book club so when a colleague asked if I wanted to join the work book club, I was keen.  I also felt like I should make more of an effort to be sociable with the people that I work with and if I'm going to socialise with anybody, it might as well be the people that like books enough to want to meet once a month to talk about them.  Rather than reviewing my book club books, I decided that I'd just do a sort of book club discussion recap.  Since yesterday was the first meeting I made it too, this is my first Book Club Chatter post.   

Last month's pick: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

What I didn't really think through when I agreed to join the book club was the practical side of having a specific book to read once a month.  The first month I ended up disgruntled - the book club had chosen We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler before I was invited to join, hot on the heels of Hanna's less than glowing review.  I wasn't actually planning on picking up WaaCBO at all.  Regardless, I bought it, read it, thought it was sort of ok but had a few points that really bugged me and then MISSED THE MEETING because of a client call (Hanna, you shush).  Not amused. 

So I don't really know what anybody else thought and I can't relay the discussion but I felt as though Fowler had had a good idea that was stretched too far and that it tried too hard to be an Important Book with a Message.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that the rumours of the next book being Boris Johnson's biography of Winston Churchill (which I would have had to refuse to buy because I will never pay my actual money over to that man) weren't true.  They weren't.

This month's pick:  Bossypants by Tina Fey

This being chosen delighted me mostly because I'd already read it (and reviewed it).  I know.  That isn't the point.  But I'd just tried to read The Pickwick Papers and endured We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for what transpired to be no reason and I think I would have cried if I'd had to read something else that I wasn't keen on that I hadn't chosen.  So I was glad it was Bossypants for the wrong reason.  Sue me.

It also happens that I really like this book and I'm happy for any chance to bang on about just how much.  Getting to do that in a pub with some people that seem as though they will be jolly good reading companions was just an added bonus.  One person did muse over whether I was "cheating" by listening but the audiobook fans outnumbered the "traditionals" so all was well.

Out of the six people that turned up, three (including me) were Fey fans and three weren't convinced.  Given that I'd never been before, I had no idea who was going to like it and who wouldn't.  Had I guessed, I'd have got it wrong, which I suppose is the good thing about a book club!  Although generally the three of us that liked it had watched 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live or were Mean Girls fans, one person who hadn't really seen any of the things that Fey is most famous for still liked parts of it so apparently it is as generally great as I'd thought, although admittedly less interesting in the latter half if you aren't familiar with the names or programmes that Fey is talking about.

Strangely, one member of the group didn't like it because she found the language off-putting.  I don't know what it says about me but I didn't even notice the language as particularly bad so I haven't a clue whether that's even a valid criticism.  Clearly if you're particularly sensitive about swearing, this book might not be for you.  A health warning that it would never have occurred to me to give on my own, which I suppose is the point of a book club.

Much though I love it though, writing out this post kind of makes me realise that it possibly wasn't the best book club choice. Beyond the "I liked it" and "I didn't like it", there wasn't much to say.  I rabbited about how I loved Fey's account of a photo shoot.  One of the other girls preferred her stories of growing up and her early work with improvisation.  Mainly, though, we just talked about Tina Fey, which I suppose is the difficulty with choosing an autobiography of someone fairly uncontroversial.  It was really nice to sit around chatting about books, though, so overall I'm glad I did stick it out after the Fowler experience!

Next month's pick:  TBC, although 'thriller/horror' is the chosen genre 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Wheel of Time Re-Read #1: The Eye of the World

It's impossible for me to be objective about this series.  I first read The Eye of the World when I was in high school, I think when I was about 13.  It was my first real brush with epic fantasy and I completely loved it.  For a long time, every time I had a voucher or it was my birthday or whatever, I'd dodge into the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section of the local Waterstones (because I was an awkward teen and was embarrassed about reading fantasy) and snatch up the next Wheel of Time instalment.  Eventually, I'd read all of the books that were published and I had to wait with everybody else for the next book to be released.  And therein lies the reason for my re-read.  Eventually, the gap between me picking up each book became so long that I felt as though I was losing track of the plot and I read a couple of the books without really appreciating what was going on.  So I kept on buying them, intending to catch up one day and see the series through but never got round to it.  2015 is where that changes.  I really want to see where the story ends and I own them all so there's no excuse.

Book One: The Eye of the World


The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: I love this series.

I'd actually forgotten just how much and, in particular, how damn much I loved the first book in particular.  As the series goes on, it introduces far more political wrangling but The Eye of the World is more about establishing the main characters and the overarching story with hefty doses of peril, narrow escapes, revelations and general adventuring goodness.

In short: Rand al'Thor, Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon are minding their own business in their village, Emond's Field, when their peace is rudely interrupted by a marauding bunch of trollocs (which are as disgusting and troll-like as they sound) that seem to be intent on kidnapping the three for no apparent reason.  In their bid for safety, the three flee the terror with Moiraine, an aloof Aes Sedai (able to wield the One Power, the series' brand of magic), her Warder, Lan, and Egwene al'Vere, another villager who sort of tags along because she fancies a bit of adventure.  Mayhem, magic and world-threatening chaos ensues.

The writing isn't perfect, I'll grant you, and it can feel a bit repetitive when it comes to character descriptions (you may gather that those from Emond's Field are known to be stubborn, unless you're stupid and miss the hundred or so references) but what it lacks in finesse, it more than makes up for in excitement.  Even though I sort of knew what was coming, I was hooked.  From the moment the trollocs turn up, the characters are bumped from one impending disaster to another, sometimes all together, sometimes not.

And the WORLD!  There's so much world-building in these books.  Each town the characters visits has a background and feels different to the ones that went before it.  There's a rich history hinted at in The Eye of the World that is built on in later books.  The Aes Sedai is full of factions and mysteries and secrets and the One Power is just plain cool (I was a teenager when I first read this book, allow me to regress!).  Some might criticise them for being a little heavy-handed with the fantasy tropes but I just don't care.  I don't 100% agree but even if I did, I still wouldn't care.  Those things are classic for a reason.

Have I impressed on you how much I loved this book yet?!  Just in case I haven't, I'll try another angle:  I almost never re-read and I was wary of embarking on this particular re-read "project" in case I wound up hating a series that has held a dear spot in my heart for 15 years and that takes up a significant amount of shelf (or box, if we're being accurate) space.  I'm an idiot.  I adored re-reading it.  I loved seeing cameos from characters that I knew would later have an important role to play and seeing hints at future plotlines, which I obviously didn't appreciate the first time around.  I still found the story completely addictive and even a decade and a half after my unwitting induction into fantasy, the series remains my favourite epic fantasy series.  There, I said it.  I've read a lot of series since I first picked this book up and I still love Wheel of Time the most.  If you've got staying power, get it, read it and love it too.

Next up:  The Great Hunt

Ok, if you've made it through to the end of my over-enthusiastic gushing over The Eye of the World, I really feel as though I should share the Wheel of Time love.  If you fancy getting in at the ground level, you can enter below to win a copy of the first book.  Open to entrants from anywhere that Book Depository will ship for free - good luck!  If you don't want to lug around an 800 page paperback and are more electronically inclined, I'll try and gift a Kindle copy to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014 End of Year Book Survey

Hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner
I'm trying to ignore the fact that I have to actually dress properly and go to work tomorrow and also the fact that I am still a little the worse for wear after an over-indulgent New Year's Eve at 5.30pm and looking back over 2014 (again) seems like as good a way to do that as any!  As with last year, I'm sort of a day late and I'm declaring a clean state on the books I read last year but didn't get round to reviewing.  If you're really curious about my annual ramblings, 2012 and 2011's offerings are here and here.  You're welcome.

2014 Reading Stats

Number of books I read:  59
Number of re-reads:  0 officially, although I have read most of 1!
Genre you read the most from:  Fantasy, I'd guess...

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?
(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

I recently posted my top ten books of 2014.  If I had to pick one of them as my absolute favourite, it would be Wake by Anna Hope (which I reviewed here).

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

World War Z by Max Brooks.  I read it as part of RIP IX but I just didn't get on with it at all.  Although I am in awe of the level of detail, I found the journalistic tone and sheer volume of different perspectives kept me from really connecting with it and I found it quite...well, dull, if I'm being honest.  There were some good moments but all told I wasn't a fan and I'd expected to love it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

It's sort a tie between Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  Both had great moments that I was lucky enough not to know about before going into them.  They were both really great books that didn't quite make the top ten cut but were close.  

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

I don't know if this counts but this year, after much nagging encouragement from me, Hanna finally read (and thankfully also liked!) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  I've also banged on about The Humans by Matt Haig but nobody's read that yet.  Fortunately, I'm a patient book pusher!


5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.  One of the best fantasy series I've started in a long time. Given that I started it, read the sequel and the latest instalment all in this year, I'm just going with that as my whole answer.  I don't think I've actually wrapped up a series this year...whoops?

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2014?

Sarah J. Maas, I think.  See above.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

A tie between The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and NOS4R2 by Joe Hill.  Genuinely enjoying horror is a relatively recent phenomenon for me so I still kind of see it as "out of my comfort zone". 

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Cruel Summer by James Dawson.  I loved this book - it was a complete throwback to the Point Horror books I read as a teenager but it was sharp and witty and managed to surprise me so it was everything that made Point Horror great and then some.  The kind of book you should read in one sitting.

9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

None.  I've embarked on my first re-read in years so that I can make my way to the end of the Wheel of Time series but generally speaking, I never re-read.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?


11. Most memorable character of 2014?

In a good way, Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series.  In a bad way, Charles Manx from NOS4R2.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

I'm not sure it's quite life-changing but Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley had the most real life impact.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I came across a complete spoiler for this book a few weeks after I'd finished it so I'm lucky that I managed to read it before then.  Even without that, I can't believe I've never read this classic Christie before this year.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

From Wake by Anna Hope:
"And whatever anyone thinks or says, England didn't win this war. And Germany wouldn't have won it, either."
"What do you mean?"
"War wins." He says. "And it keeps winning, over and over again."
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2014?

Longest:  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas at 1,276 pages (I listened to it on over 40 hours of audio)

Shortest:  Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell at 119 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.  Many tears were shed.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

I don't want to spoil anything so I'll just say the relationships in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.  Oh, also Eleanor and Park from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

All of the friendships in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.  They warmed and broke my heart.


20. Favourite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Another tie.  I really must learn to choose between things.  This has actually made me realise how shockingly few books I've actually read by authors I've read previously!  My favourites were Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

I don't think any this year. I've read books because of recommendations but they were generally ones that I think I would have read anyway.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Meh.  Nothing springs to mind for this, either!

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

I read one 2014 debut this year - Wake by Anna Hope.  So that.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Here's where we start to get repetitive!  The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I don't think this series would have been half as good if it wasn't for the fabulous worldbuilding.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines.  Hanna bought it for my birthday a couple of years ago and I finally got round to reading it this year.  It was so much fun!  Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty band together to save Cinderella's Prince Charming.  The characters were amazing versions of the Grimm fairytale characters and it was packed full of magical creatures and adventure and I loved it.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

Oh, loads. I'm a big book crier.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

For me, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Conan Doyle is obviously best known for Sherlock Holmes but I really enjoyed this vintage adventure story and am so glad I wandered off the Conan Doyle beaten track.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Gosh, how dramatic!  I was very moved by Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein,  Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy crushed my soul for a very different reason - sheer awfulness.  It took me months to battle through and the ending is stupid.  Finishing it nearly killed me.  Now who's being dramatic?

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

Probably The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco.  It was a take on Japanese mythology that was completely new to me and I really found the change in culture refreshing.  I want more of that in 2015.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

A few, actually, looking back.  I bear each and every single one of these much animosity:  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (bloody ridiculous and full of characters that all have the same name and nonsense); Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy (I do not want to read about swede or about women that are their own worst enemies); The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (I have never been so irritated by a book's complete lack of direction and plot or by something so mind-numbingly pointless and tedious).  Blimey, what a sour note to end on!

So that was my 2014!  I hope you all had a tremendous years and are having a healthier start to 2015 than I am!  Which bookish gems did you come across in 2014 that I should be digging out in 2015?

Happy New Year, friends :)