The Lewis Man by Peter May
The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
The Blackhouse by Peter May
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
Mysteries Of Winterthurn by Joyce Carol Oates
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
The Good Neighbor by A J Banner
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
House Of Silence by Linda Gillard
The Risk Of Darkness by Susan Hill
The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home
The Pure In Heart by Susan Hill
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
Harvesting The Heart by Jodi Picoult
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Darkest Past - Haunting Tales by Benedict Ashforth
Abbot's Keep by Benedict Ashforth
The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
Wreckage by Emily Bleeker
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying by Marie Kondo
Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier
The Clanachan Bereavement by Mark Ryder-Jones
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
The Ice-Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson
Dark Matter: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Shepherd's Cross by Mark White
1st Oct - 1st Jan 2015 (abandoned/forgotten about!) - Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
17th Sept - 30th Sept (abandoned) - At A Time Like This by Catherine Dunne
15th Sept - 17th Sept - Good Harbor by Anita Diamant
9th Sept - 15th Sept - Change Of Heart by Jodi Picoult
11th Mar - 9th Sept (abandoned, again) - Songs Of The Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
7th Mar - 10th Mar - Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
I had one Kate Atkinson book - When Will There Be Good News? - which it turns out is the third one in a series featuring the character Jackson Brodie. Well, if there is a series, you can't possibly read them out of order, can you? So when Chris asked me a couple of years ago what I wanted for Christmas, I gave him a list of books which included the other three Brodie novels. Kate Atkinson has written a few other books as well, and I got a bit confused for a while thinking that they were all from the same series, and that I still didn't have the first one, but a quick look on Wikipedia confirmed that I had them all, so I chose this one as my next read.
I really enjoyed Case Histories. It introduces us to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator. He takes on three apparently unconnected cases, whilst also dealing with his own complicated lifestyle. The cases deal with death and missing persons, but there is a lot of humour throughout. Although we learn a bit about him and his past in this book, there is clearly a lot more to Jackson that we've yet to find out, so it's just as well that there are another three books to go!
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5th Mar - 7th Mar - Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
I've had this book a while. I can't remember where I bought it, probably just a random charity shop somewhere, but ever since, I've kind of been a bit scared to read it. I know that sounds silly. But the thing is, my lifelong ambition is to write a novel. And I was scared that this book might be the novel that I've always wanted to write.
It's about a woman, Rose, who takes refuge in an island community - an island off the West Coast of Scotland. She's haunted by her past, so when she meets Calum, who has his own demons, she has to decide whether she has the courage to leave her past behind her and move on with the rest of her life.
The author lived and worked in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk for many years, before finally moving to the Isle of Skye where she began to write full-time - she's basically living my dream!
As it happens, this isn't quite the book I've always wanted to write, but it's not far off. I wouldn't have thought to write a plot like this one. But all the ideas I've had for stories usually involve a person or persons moving to the Highlands of Scotland. They always say that you should write about what you know, and also write the kind of book that you'd want to read. And (I may have mentioned this before) I love reading books that are set in the Highlands/West Scotland. If I ever do get around to writing my bestseller (ha!), I hope that I can do the same justice to the Scottish landscape and people, that Linda Gillard does in this book. Her description of the area is beautiful and lyrical - I've never been to Uist (where Rose lives) but I felt like I was there. And although I'm someone who has never been able to impersonate 'accents', her dialogue was written so well that in my head I read it with a lovely Scottish lilt!
Once I'd gotten over my initial fear that this book might be 'my story', once I'd told myself that, if I do write my story, it won't be plagiarism of this one, I relaxed into it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it was one of the books from my Empty Shelf Challenge, I won't be parting with this one. Instead, it'll go back onto my 'Scotland' shelf.
25th Feb - 3rd Mar - A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood
My first swap on Read It Swap It for about three years. The plot sounded intriguing, and the author is a local! After losing her soldier husband, Cass takes her son Ben back to the village where she grew up, moving into a newly-renovated mill. I think the village is fictional, but it's nestled under Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District. She finds that most of the locals aren't very friendly or welcoming, her sons behaviour changes dramatically for the worse, and then the blizzards come and they're completely snowed in, facing an evil that she can barely comprehend.
It was a page-turner, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped. The story went in a direction that I didn't like, and I found the ending a bit too convenient.
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26th Jan - 25th Feb (abandoned) - Star Of The Sea by Joseph O'Connor
I've only abandoned this one temporarily. I do think I could get into this story if I persevered; I think this time around I was just a bit too distracted by other things, and I wasn't giving it the full attention it needs.
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7th Jan - 26th Jan - The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman
This story features the women of the Sparrow family who each, on their thirteenth birthday, acquire some kind of special, unique ability. Stella can see a person's probable future, ie. how they are going to die. Probably. I can't tell you much more about the story, because I can't say it was particularly memorable. It was obviously interesting enough for me to keep reading to the end, but it took me nearly three weeks, so it was hardly a page-turner.
The first Alice Hoffman book I read was about a man who had apparently been raised by wolves, and who suddenly found himself trying to adapt to life in a small American town. It reminded me a bit of Edward Scissorhands, because a woman takes him into her home and tries to protect him from her nosy neighbours. I loved it, and I fully intend to read it again one day to see if it's as good as I remember. None of the other Hoffman books have lived up to that one yet.
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3rd Jan - 6th Jan - Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
You can't go wrong with Jodi Picoult. I haven't read all of her books (yet), but I've read a fair few and they all seem to follow the same pattern. There is some kind of moral/ethical dilemma which usually finishes up being thrashed out in court. So, on the one hand, you know exactly what you're getting. And on the other hand, you know exactly what you're getting. Do you see what I mean? You know that each novel is going to be similar to the last in it's format, but I don't mind that, I find it quite reassuring. Every dilemma is quite different however, so I know it's still going to be a flippin' good read!
Keeping Faith deals with a child who suddenly starts talking to God, and seemingly performing miracles. But is there another explanation? Is she just attention-seeking, following her parents divorce? And how should her mother deal with the situation? Put her in front of the media to let them prove or disprove the happenings, or hide her away?
I picked the book at random from my #EmptyShelf (which is really my Full Shelf) so it was a bit of a coincidence to read two books in a row which deal with religious matters. Like the one before it, Keeping Faith doesn't really give you any answers (how could it?) but it does give you plenty to think about, and I felt that the ending was appropriately vague.
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You're probably thinking I've made a mistake, and forgotten to record all the books I've read since August 2013, aren't you? Ha, well, no, there is no mistake here - there really is a ridiculously long gap where I read no books whatsoever (unless you count looking at patterns in crochet books, but I don't). I did start another book straight after The Chocolate Run, got a few chapters into it... and then finished it a couple of days ago. And here it is:
25th August 2013 - 2nd Jan 2014! - Can't Wait To Get To Heaven by Fannie Flagg
Fannie Flagg is the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe. If you're familiar with that book, or the film, and you like it, then you'd probably like this too. It's a story of life in a small town in America, and focuses on the aftermath of the death of one of the town's best-known and much-loved residents. I know that might sound a bit depressing, but it's actually quite the opposite, and laugh-out-loud funny in places. 'Heaven' features quite strongly, but not in a preachy way - it kind of makes you think about your heaven, whatever that may be, and it's really heartwarming and uplifting. Without wanting to get too deep, I've never been able to make up my mind about things like heaven, the afterlife, what happens to you when you die. I'm not saying that this book has suddenly given me all the answers, but it's certainly one way of thinking about it. I don't know why it took me so long to read it, because it's a genuinely lovely story, with great characters who really come to life (even the dead ones!)
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24th August-abandoned - The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson
I've read a couple of Dorothy Koomson's novels in the past, and enjoyed them. I think she's a Londoner, but she went to university in Leeds, and her books tend to be set in that city (where I was born and bred), so I enjoy reading about places that I'm familiar with. I started reading this book but very quickly felt a bit disappointed and disillusioned with the same formulaic plot that you get in a lot of chick-lit (which is not a genre I usually go for). Amber is a commitment-phobe - her best friend Greg is a womaniser. They've just slept together for the first time. Greg (despite Amber referring to him as a 'tosser') is perfect, an absolute hunk of a guy. Yawn! Aren't they always?! I was moaning to Chris about this, saying that the main male character is perfect and drop-dead gorgeous, and he looked at me with a big grin and said "that's how it is in your life!". I think he was a bit offended by how much I laughed, and for how long...
Anyway, I got to about Chapter 4 with this and I just don't think I can take any more of Mr Predictably Perfect, so I'm going to abandon this one, I'm afraid.
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12th August-not finished - The Plague by Albert Camus
After a long break I decided to have another go at reading something, so I picked this one out. It wasn't a good sign when I was nodding off just a few pages into it, although that was due to my end-of-the-working-week tiredness rather than a reflection on the book itself.
I had a bit of a dilemma when deciding whether to carry on reading it. I have books by favourite authors that I can't wait to read, but I feel like I want to save them for a time when I can really enjoy them. I also have books that I'm less bothered about, but still want to read, and then probably pass on to my colleague at work. I can't decide whether to read those sort of books first, to get them out of the way, or to read my favourites first, because you shouldn't really save things for 'the right time' in case that time never comes, if you see what I mean? But if I read all my favourites first, will I just be left with books that I don't really like?
I decided that I was going to go down the route of 'favourites first', so The Plague has gone back on the shelf for a later attempt.
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19th April-not finished - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
What is my problem with this book? Why can I never finish it? There is a bookmark in it from the last time I read it - I made it to page 162, but this time around I only got as far as page 64, and it's been sitting on my bedside drawers since April, untouched. I just seem to have some kind of mental block with it, but I'm determined to finish it one day, so it's going back on the bookshelf and I'll try again another time.
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30th March-2nd April - First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan
I think I discovered Ian McEwan through Enduring Love, a book about two men who witness a fatal accident, and which was made into a film starring Daniel Craig and Rhys Ifans. I can't remember if I read the book first, or saw the film, but if I'm honest my interest in it was based mostly on the morbid fascination of a man falling from a hot air balloon. I know. I acquired a few more McEwan books, but none of them have really grabbed me since. I tried to read Atonement, and found myself skipping huge chunks of it just to get to the end, and I think I read one called Saturday, which was just so-so. First Love, Last Rites is actually a collection of eight short stories. I'm writing this review in August so I'm having trouble remembering any of them, but I'll do my best.
It began quite promisingly, with a story called Solid Geometry which involved a mathematician discovering that he could make himself disappear by folding his body into itself - it sounds, of course, impossible, but in the context of the story it was kind of believable, and his method was later used by the main character to, shall we say, dispose of somebody! I enjoyed Solid Geometry, it reminded me a bit of the kind of stories that were on Tales Of The Unexpected. So I was pretty horrified to find that the next story was about a 14 year old boy who raped his 10 year old sister. I can't remember anything about the third story, but the fourth one was about a theatre director who was staging a play where he wanted a group of naked people to simulate sex. He seemed to think this was perfectly respectable, but when one couple got a bit too 'enthusiastic', he was disgusted with them and kicked them out of the show. The fifth tale was another disturbing story about a paedophile. The next was about a man who liked to shut himself in a wardrobe, and I'm afraid I can't remember the last two. The only story I found quite enjoyable was the first one - the rest of them were either just bizarre or downright disturbing, and not really the kind of subject matter I want to read about.
I've still got a few more Ian McEwan books to read, but I can't say I'm looking forwards to them...
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23rd-29th March - Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
We had our first, and, so far, only holiday in Cornwall a few years ago. Whilst there, I read Jamaica Inn and Rebecca - both fab - and picked up a few more DdM novels, although this is the first one I've read since then. It's effectively just an historical romance - feisty woman falls for dashing hero type of plot, but it was enjoyable, and quite humorous in places. Lady Dona discovers a French pirate ship hiding in a creek on her land, but rather than raising the alarm, she decides she quite fancies a bit of an adventure with the handsome captain and his crew. Meanwhile, the Cornish gentry are horrified that they are being plundered, and are determined to catch the pirates responsible. One of these men, Lord Godolphin, is trying to warn Dona that there have been rumours of local women suffering at the hands of "these damned scoundrels" to which she replies "You may find they did not suffer at all but, on the contrary, enjoyed themselves immensely". Although the plot was quite simple and predictable, there were some very likeable characters, and I did enjoy this book.
Incidentally, yesterday evening I was sitting in the armchair with Millie on my lap. She's very timid when she's downstairs and it's not often that she'll sit like that, so I didn't want to move and disturb her. I commented to Chris that I wished I had my book to read, and he offered to go and get it for me. I told him where it was upstairs, and said "it's called Frenchman's Creek". Completely deadpan, he just raised an eyebrow and said "I'm sure they do... it depends how they walk..." I don't know why but I absolutely cracked up at that, I had a proper case of the giggles.
16th-23rd March - To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Thought I'd do cover photos this year too! As I mentioned in a post on the main blog, I hadn't made a good start on my reading plans this year, so I've pulled out 12 books with the aim of at least reading those, and hopefully it will spur me on to get through a few more. So this was the first one I chose from 'the pile'. I don't know when or where I bought this, but I suspect the 'why' is because it centres on a family holiday on the Isle of Skye. I'm basically a sucker for any story set in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Unfortunately, even that fact wasn't enough to persuade me to see this novel right through to the end - I abandoned it (no plodding my way through like a martyr any more - if I don't like it, I don't read it!). I know Woolf is seen as one of the literary greats, but I just couldn't get on with her style of writing. Sentences just seem to go on forever!! This is just from page 1: "Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallize and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss." I mean, I get what she's saying, but I've had to really think about it and quite possibly read it more than once to get my internal voice to 'say' the line how it's meant to be read, if you see what I mean? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a book that makes me think (about the subject matter) but I'm not too keen on books where I have to try and figure out what each sentence means. Reading is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, not an effort. Anyway, it's about a family, the Ramsays, holidaying on the Isle of Skye with some guests. The youngest son James wants to go to the lighthouse, his father doesn't. Years later, after the ravages of war, they finally make the journey to the lighthouse under different circumstances. In between, there are lots of long sentences.
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27th-30th Dec - Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman - Read whilst also ploughing my way through Henry James. If you've read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, this is 'her' story, as imagined by Sally Beauman - a kind of prequel, but not to be read first. Quite a page-turner actually, and I think, although it explained a lot and filled in a lot of blanks, it still ended with lots of unanswered questions. And we still never get to find out the name of the second Mrs de Winter!!
23rd Nov-31st Dec - The Turn Of The Screw and Other Stories by Henry James - I saw a TV adaptation of The Turn Of The Screw which was quite chilling, and that's why I wanted to read the story. I didn't find it as creepy as I was hoping, and the other three weren't really my idea of good ghost stories either.
20th October - A Slipping-Down Life by Anne Tyler - another one abandoned, possibly to have another go at, possibly not
15th-20th October - The Rise And Fall Of A Yummy Mummy by Polly Williams - 'chick lit' and not usually my cup of tea, I'm surprised I finished it really
6th September - Indigo by Alice Hoffman - abandoned, for now
5th September - Green Angel by Alice Hoffman - I started and finished this in the same evening, but it is only 116 pages long!
14th July - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Started reading this on my Kindle, but haven't got very far. I've got so many 'real' books that need reading, I should probably save the kindle for holidays (less to pack).
21st-29th June - Fifty Shades Of Grey by E.L. James (Kindle). Leeeetle bit embarrassed to admit that I fell for all the hype and read this! Note I read it on my kindle, so that nobody could see what I was reading though ;-)
15th June - Songs Of The Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult - I love Jodi Picoult's novels usually, but I couldn't get into this one, so it's been abandoned for now. I will have another go though
11th-14th June - Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
6th-10th June - A Change In Altitude by Anita Shreve
24th Feb - The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale - I read most of this, but then not far from the end I got a bit bored with it! It's very heavy on facts, figures, names, dates etc and it all got a bit much!
12th-23rd Feb - Blackmoor by Edward Hogan
6th-11th Feb - Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
29th Jan - Beneath The Skin by Nicci French - I abandoned this, for some reason!
26th-29th Jan - His 'n' Hers by Mike Gayle
23rd-25th Jan - Killing Me Softly by Nicci French.
4th Jan - Flashback by Michael Palmer - I was reading this at work, but got bored and didn't finish it - gave it to a colleague who, when she's read them, donates a few books at a time to the hospital fundraising office. So it went to a good place!