Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Year in Books 2016

Wow, what a year of reading I've had. Not only some corkers published this year, but some oldies and some re-reads and of course some challenges. Within my year of books was a small reading challenge. There were twelve categories to complete and I'm pleased to have completed all twelve; the final challenge completed this morning at about 9.45am. Nothing like cutting it close. I will highlight the books read for the reading challenge in red, and state their criteria.

So for now, here's my year in books. I hope it provides some ideas and inspirations. For each month I will select my favourite book - highlighted in blue - and explain why. And fingers crossed I've surpassed last year's total of 105 books. In case you didn't know, Rants loves to read!

Books I read in January

  1. The Traitor: Seth Dickinson
  2. Ketchup Clouds: Annabel Pitcher (Kindle)
  3. The School for Good and Evil (Book #1): Soman Chainani (Kindle)
  4. All the Light we Cannot See: Anthony Doer (Kindle)
  5. Alias Grace: Margaret Atwood
  6. Everything, Everything: Nicola Yoon (Reading Challenge - A book you can finish in a day.)
  7. Deeply Odd (Odd Thomas #6): Dean Koontz
  8. On Writing: Stephen King
January was a good mix of library books and kindle books. There was also a mixture of genres, adult books and YA. And choosing a favourite from this great haul was tricky, but I think Anthony Doer's tale of two teenagers and their separate, yet eventually interconnecting plight through World War 2, just pips Ketchup Clouds for the top spot. There are so many layers to the story. You see the war from both sides: French and German, yet at the heart of it is the hunt for a cursed diamond. It is simply and beautifully put out there and will stay with you. 
But, if you haven't read any Annabel Pitcher yet, please, go, do it! She's amazing. I had the joy of seeing her at YALC this year too.

Books I read in February 
  1. Allegiant (Divergent #3): Veronica Roth
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (HP #4): J.K. Rowling (A re-read for HP Book Night)
  3. The Sleeping Prince (The Sin Eater's Daughter #2): Melinda Salisbury (Reading Challenge - A book published this year.)
  4. Monster: C.J Kruse (Kindle)
  5. MaddAddam (MaddAddam #3): Margaret Atwood
  6. Fangirl: Rainbow Rowell (kindle)
  7. A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2): Soman Chainani (Kindle)
  8. Prince of Thorns: Mark Lawrence
February was a bit of a series reading month. I love a good series. I completed another section of the reading challenge and racked up another few kindle reads. Top honour this month goes to the goddess of dystopia: Margaret Atwood, with the final installment of the MaddAddam trilogy. This woman is so terrifyingly accurate that you feel this is not so much a dystopian future, but a dystopian tomorrow. I can't recommend Margaret Atwood enough. She is amazing!

Books I read in March
  1. Aquarium: David Vann
  2. Death Comes to Pemberley: P.D. James
  3. Saint Odd (Odd Thomas #7): Dean Koontz
  4. Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1): Cassandra Clare (kindle)
  5. The Ghosts of Sleath: James Herbert (Reading Challenge - A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF.)
  6. Kindred Spirits: Rainbow Rowell
  7. Stormbreaker: Anthony Horowitz
  8. Movers: Meaghan McIssac
  9. The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy #3): Marie Rutkoski (Kindle)
  10. See How They Run (Embassy Row #2): Ally Carter
March was a great month. I finally finished Odd Thomas' literary journey. Thank you Dean Koontz. The final installment of Marie Rutkoski's incredible Winner's trilogy came out. And the new Cassie Clare series hit the shelves. But, I also tried a few authors I hadn't read before and was pleasantly surprised. Choosing a winner from this month is so hard, so I'll procrastinate on that a little longer and talk about The Ghosts of Sleath. Finally a book that actually scared me, and it was my partner who chose it for me, after finding it in a second hand book store. Cheers A. Alright, I'll choose a winner. Of the four I had it narrowed down to, I have chosen the first book I read in the month: Aquarium. This dark tale is addictive. It's so truthful and heartbreaking. The setting, the family saga, the protagonist and her journey into her sexuality, it's beautifully done. 

Books I read in April
  1. White Teeth: Zadie Smith (Reading Challenge - A book you've been meaning to read.)
  2. S: JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst (Reading Challenge - A book you own but have never read.)
  3. The Book Thief: Markus Zusak
  4. We are Completely Beside Ourselves: Karen Joy Fowler
  5. The Courilof Affair: Irene Nemirovsky
  6. The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon #1): Francesca Haig (Kindle)
  7. The Lottery and Other Stories: Shirley Jackson (Reading Challenge - A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.)
  8. The Weight of Water: Sarah Crossan
  9. I'd Tell You but I'd have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1): Ally Carter
  10. Tape: Steve Camden
  11. Salvage: Keren David
Well, I ticked off a few of my reading challenges this month. Not too shabby. I also started another two different series, and discovered the YA section at Holborn library, opening up so many possibilities. This month's favourite book is by the wonderful Sarah Crossan and is the portrayal of a Polish immigrant and her attempts to fit in to her new life in Britain. Written entirely in free verse, it is concise, every word poignantly picked, nothing wasted or embellished, just the honest truth and it is beautiful!

Books I read in May
  1. Brooklyn: Colm Toibin
  2. Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club #1): Holly Borne (Kindle)
  3. One: Sarah Crossan
  4. When I was Joe: Keren David
  5. The Bees: Laline Paul (Kindle)
  6. The Last Wild (The Last Wild #1): Piers Torday (Kindle)
  7. Almost True: Keren David (Sequel to When I was Joe)
  8. The Jerusalem Puzzle: Laurence O'Bryan
  9. Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov (Reading Challenge - A book that was banned at some point.)
  10. Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck (Reading Challenge - A book published before you were born.)
  11. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1): Alwyn Hamilton (Kindle)
  12. The Butterfly Garden: Dot Hutchinson (Kindle)
  13. The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank (Kindle) (Reading Challenge - A book that you should have read in school.)
May was definitely my most prolific month, with 13 books read. Clearly I couldn't get enough literary sustenance. And I was flying through my reading challenge with only three challenges to go. The best of the month went to Anne Frank and her diary written during World War 2. The photographs and end notes were so poignant and it is a book I had been meaning to read for years. Thank you Anne for sharing your story with us. 


Books I read in June
  1. Bluebeard's Egg: Margaret Atwood
  2. Half a War (Shattered Sea Trilogy #3): Joe Abercrombie
  3. In Twenty Years: Allison Winn Scotch (Kindle)
  4. The Deptford Trilogy: Robertson Davies
  5. Finding Audrey: Sophie Kinsella
  6. Adorkable: Sarra Manning
  7. The Uglies (The Uglies #1): Scott Westerfeld (Kindle)
June was a lighter month on the amount of books, though the Deptford Trilogy was humongous and it was actually three books in one. I couldn't decide on the top honours this month, so it is a shared honour between two YA books with fantastic heroines, great plots and really addictive reading. Thank you Sophie Kinsella and Sarra Manning. And I've seen you both speak at YALC which is very nice. 

Books I read in July
  1. The Pretties (The Uglies #2): Scott Westerfeld (Kindle)
  2. Amok: Sebastian Fitzek (Audible)
  3. The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1): Genevieve Cogman (Kindle)
  4. Death or Icecream?: Gareth P. Jones
  5. The Apple Tart of Hope: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
  6. The Girl of Ink and Stars: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  7. A Kestral for a Knave: Barry Hines
  8. How Hard Can Love Be? (Spinster Club #2): Holly Borne (Kindle)
  9. Demon Road: Derek Landy
This month was quite YA heavy, which is not surprising with the Young Adult Literature Conference (YALC) taking place every July. Again I raided Holborn YA section and tried out a few new authors to boot. And my winner of the month for best book is definitely the second book in Holly Borne's Spinster Club series. You laugh, a lot. You become addicted to the fast paced story and the great characters. This is a feminist YA series about young girls realising they do have power and they are worth something and their ideas matter. It is about equality for all and it couldn't be done without cheesy snacks. 

Books I read in August
  1. Way Down Dark (Australia #1): James Smythe (Kindle)
  2. Cuckoo Song: Frances Hardinge (Kindle)
  3. Falling into Place: Amy Zhang
  4. Cell: Stephen King
  5. The Demolished Man: Alfred Bester
  6. Suite Fracaise: Irene Nemorovsky
  7. Relentless: Dean Koontz
  8. Under the Ivy - The Life and Music of Kate Bush: Graeme Thompson (Non-Fiction)
  9. Kook: Chris Vick
New books galore here in my birthday month. I must mention Suite Francaise. It is a beautiful book, especially the first section which details the every day comings and goings of a town at war. So simple and elegantly expressed. It was a high contender for book of the month, but was just pipped by Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song, which I loved. This dark tale of a changeling, an imposter in the family, was greatly executed. 

Books I read in September
  1. Metamorphosis: Franz Kafka (Kindle)
  2. The Passage (The Passage #1): Justin Cronin (Re-read) (Reading Challenge - A book you've already read at least once.)
  3. The Twelve (The Passage #2): Justin Cronin
  4. Tiger Eyes: Judy Blume
  5. Monsters: Emerald Fennell
  6. The Masked Truth: Kelley Armstrong
  7. Frontlines (Frontlines #1): Michael Grant
  8. The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3): Justin Cronin
September was epic in terms of me finally completing the Justin Cronin trilogy. Wow. It meant I also got to re-read the first book, which not only put me right back in his world, but ticked off another reading challenge. The sheer scale of the work and the generations it encompasses are almost inconceivable. And yet, he did it. It is a masterful vampire trilogy, with none of the tropes you'd expect and everything you would not expect. I cannot shout it's praises enough. Sneaking the best book this month though, is my first ever Judy Blume read. Yes, I know, I should have already read them all, but I haven't, and I found Tiger Eyes in the library and I loved it!

Books I read in October
  1. My Uncle Oswald: Roald Dahl
  2. Mockstars: Chris Russell (Kindle)
  3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Shirley Jackson
  4. Ulysses: James Joyce (Reading Challenge - A book that intimidates you)
  5. Railhead: Philip Reeve
  6. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: J.K. Rowling
My month of least literary yield, though I think you'll forgive me as Ulysses was one of them. And man did that take some reading. I will confess to not having a clue what was going on half the time, but it was a challenge and it did intimidate, and now it just baffles me a little. The book of the month had to be: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It is short and sweet and dark and consuming, and I will be reading it again soon. 

Books I read in November
  1. Jonathan Unleashed: Meg Rosof (Kindle)
  2. Skellig: David Almond
  3. The Art of Letting Go: Chloe Banks (Kindle)
  4. The Lie Tree: Frances Hardinge
  5. A Song for Ella Grey: David Almond
  6. Boys Don't Cry: Malorie Blackman
  7. Black Ice: Becca Fitzpatrick
  8. How Not to Disappear: Clare Furniss
  9. The Ghosts of Heaven: Marcus Sedgewick
  10. The Glass Demon: Helen Grant
Eight of these ten books were from either Holborn or Kentish Town libraries, showing how great their YA sections are. I love reading David Almond. I always feel right in the story from the first word. Both books of his I read this month were five star. I also very much enjoyed The Ghosts of Heaven. A really interesting premise and the three stories could be read in any order. But this month the top honours go to Chloe Banks. Her novel: The Art of Letting Go was refreshing. Older, mostly elderly characters, but so full of life, and full of secrets. The complex relationships and webs of deceit are carefully woven. Highly recommended. 

Books I read in December
  1. Remix: Non Pratt
  2. Dangerous Lies: Becca Fitzpatrick
  3. Artichoke Heart: Sita Brahmachari
  4. The Psychopath Test: Jon Ronson (Non-fiction)
  5. What's a Girl Gotta Do? (Spinster Club #3) Holly Borne
  6. L'Ultimo Caravaggio: Federica Campanini (An Italian book read over several weeks of my Italian course.)
  7. The Heart Goes Last: Margaret Atwood
  8. Rebecca: Daphne Du Maurier
  9. Paradise Lost: John Milton
  10. The Trouble with Women: Jacky Fleming (Non-fiction/humour)
No kindle books this month, but a nice mixture of non-fiction, YA, a book in a different language, and a couple of classics. Paradise Lost completed my reading challenge for the year, with a book I have previously abandoned. I have only abandoned two other books in my adult life and they were Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell) and Labyrinth (Kate Mosse), and I couldn't find them, so Mr Milton guided me through the final step of the reading challenge. Challenging it was, but complete it is. And because it's the last day of the year, I'm going to indulge my inability to  make decisions and have a couple of winners this month. Becca Fitzpatrick's tale of a teenager in witness protection was so well paced and the characters really jumped out. The way she creates sexual tension between characters as well, is phenomenal. I really enjoyed this book. The Psychopath Test is non-fiction that reads like fiction and is hilarious and terrifying and brilliant. And The Trouble with Women is a humorous, illustrated gem of a book, poking fun at the blatant sexism through history. You will roll on the floor with laughter. 

And so, it is finally over. I sometimes wish I didn't read quite as much, then this blog wouldn't take as many hours to write. But alas, I am a book worm and I am super proud of that fact. 

Drum roll please..........My final tally of books read this year is: 109. Woo hoo! I can't believe I beat last year's 105. So I guess, next year the target is 110.

Thank you for reading. If you managed to get through all of it, then you deserve a mighty big glass of bubbly tonight. Whatever you're doing, I hope you are with friends or family, or both. You don't need much for new year, just a person or people you love, some food and some festive cheer. That's almost it for 2016 guys. (Yes!) See you on the flip side. 

Rants out.

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