A Year of Books 2013

January
1. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

February
2. Happily Ever After – Harriet Evans
3. The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen
4. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

March
5. Harvesting the Heart – Jodi Picoult

May
6. The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult
7. How to be a Writer – Stewart Ferris

June
8. The Girl on the Stairs – Louise Welsh
9. The Adventuryes of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

July
10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

August
11. Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
12. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday
13. Casper the Commuting Cat – Susan Finden

September
14. Skins: Summer Holiday – Jess Brittain
15. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling
17. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling
19. Gone (Gone #1) – Michael Grant

October
20. Hunger (Gone #2) – Michael Grant

November
21. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
22. The Dinner – Herman Koch

December
22. Super Secret Novel – Super Secret Author
24. Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops – Jen Campbell
25. Divergent – Veronica Roth
26. One & Only – Viv Daniels
27. Quidditch Through the Ages – J.K. Rowling
28. True Lies, A Guide to Reading Faces, Interpreting Body Language and Detecting Deception in the Real World – Stu Dunn

Looking back, did you read more books than you thought you would this year, less than you thought, or about what you predicted?
I definitely read more books than I intended to. I set myself a challenge of two books per month, on average, and by the summer I was behind. I really thought I’d have trouble achieving my goal, let alone beating it by four. In all fairness, two of the books were easy going/short/not novels, but with the length of some of the other books, it sort of evens out.

What was your favourite book this year?
I started the year out well, with some really decent books under my belt within the first few months. It’s so hard to choose a favourite, however, so here are a few:

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Sometimes a book leaves you feeling like the world has shifted in the days, weeks or months that it takes for you to finish reading it. It happened in 2012 when I read The Book Thief and it happened again almost twelve months ago when I picked up this wonderful offering from a new author. Not only is it written with such exquisite language, but the storyline and characters are interwoven in such a beautiful way. It’s a shame the author is taking her time with a second novel.

The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult
I’ve always loved Jodi Picoult’s work. I’ve also always loved novels about the Second World War and the holocaust. Put the two together and you’ve got a perfect mix, right? More than right. Add in a bit of baking, top it off with a character who wrote a story and it’s like my ideal story. I knew from the summary that The Storyteller was going to be something special, but by the end I’d not only found a favourite of the year, but a favourite of a lifetime, and a favourite of Jodi Picoult’s too. Authors can sometimes lose their way when they churn out book after book; Jodi Picoult has gone in the opposite direction. She just got even better.

The Adventuryes of Tom Sawyer/The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Several years ago I purchased a tiny, red, hardback book of Tom Sawyer and left it on my bookshelf to collect dust. I’m not sure what made me decide to read it, but I picked it up one day and I don’t regret doing so (even if the hot summer and red cover made the colouring dye my hands). It took a short time for me to get into the language used, but by the end of Tom Sawyer I was desperate for some more of Tom’s story. It was a little disappointing that Huck Finn wasn’t about Tom Sawyer, in fact had very little of the character I’d previously enjoyed so much, but in the end it simply gave me a better understanding of a character I’d known little about. They were a wonderful addition to my reading repertoire.

Super Secret Novel – Super Secret Author
I can’t really say much about this one because it’s all secret. When the Super Secret Author eventually gets her book finished and published, I will be first in line to sing her praises. I’m already here ahead of time doing it as incognito as possible. When the time comes, you must pick up this amazing piece of literature (and that was just the first draft).

What’s your least favourite book this year?
Whilst I started the year out well, I ended the year in pretty bad shape. I don’t know what happened, I just picked the wrong books I suppose. Here are a couple of my least favourites:

Happily Ever After – Harriet Evans
I found the writing style of this book frustrating and the storyline felt like it was more events for the sake of events rather than a carefully woven story. I’d rather this book hadn’t happened.

Divergent – Veronica Roth
There were moments in this novel which I enjoyed, but a small selection of moments is not enough to carry a novel as holey as a slice of leerdammer. The world lacked an understanding of human nature that I found unforgivable and there were problems with characterisation, too. Even the characters I liked were damaged beyond repair by events of the book. I found Veronica Roth’s interpretation of suicide to be just as unforgiveable.

One & Only – Viv Daniels
This was probably the worst written book I’ve ever read. Whilst Divergent was technically good, this “novel” lacked the standard of writing I expect from a published novel. It skipped forward two years after just a couple of chapters, something which felt completely pointless. It also failed to understand real human interaction. The author might have had enough scientific knowledge to carry student scientists, but there was something missing…probably another few drafts! Thankfully it was a free book.

Book that was better than you expected?
The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult
Whilst I knew the novel was going to be brilliant, I just didn’t realise how much I would adore the story that Jodi Picoult has created. It’s very rare, in my experience, for an author to surpass their earlier works with something so stunning. If I had to recommend one Jodi Picoult book to anyone, it would be this one (and Nineteen Minutes).

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday
I’d heard of this book a long time ago and had absolutely no idea what it would actually be about. Naturally, it is about salmon fishing, but when you get into the nitty gritty, you realise it’s about so much more. Whilst there were some issues with the novel, it surpassed my rather low expectations. For a book that I only picked up to experience the epistolary aspect of the novel, it was certainly better than I’d ever hoped.

Book that could have been better?
One & Only – Viv Daniels
I’m not sure how much work actually went into the publishing of this book. I fear it’s one of the many self-published ebooks. Whether it is or isn’t, the book lacked one thing: a good editor. The premise wasn’t half bad, it was the poor quality of writing and lack of understand of real people that made it the book it was instead of the book it could have been.

Characters you liked
The Night Circus: I’m not sure there was any character I didn’t like in this novel. They were all brought to life in such a beautiful way. I think my favourites were probably the twins and Celia.

The Land of Decorations: Judith.

The Storyteller: Sage and Minka.

The Adventuryes of Tom Sawyer/The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn (I know, kind of obvious).

Harry Potter: Hermione and Ron have always been favourites and rereading the first four books only made me fall in love with them all over again.

Gone: Dekka, Brianna, Astrid, Pete, Lana, Edilio.

Characters you disliked
One & Only: most of the characters were quite weak and one dimensional, none other than Tess’s father.

Gone: Drake. I find him overly ridiculous at times, I’d be happy for him not to be there at all.

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