Sunday, 13 January 2019

A year in books - 2018

I love reading, I've talked about this quite a bit before. I have a fabric covered A5 notebook where I write down every book I read. I started it in March 2008 so 10 and a bit years ago. In case you are interested, in March 2008 I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Graft by Martina Cole, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and Double Fault by Lionel Shriver.

I often flick through my notebook at the lists of books. I can picture where I was reading some of them, they remind me of holidays and days out or of people who lent them to me or the joy of discovering a new author or of visiting particular book shops or of being part of a book group.

I don't write reviews in my notebook or give the books a mark out of ten or a certain number of stars. That isn't really for me. I just like a list and I find it satisfying to see all those books listed. I do count up how many I have read at the end of the year but not for any kind of competition with myself, it is just out of interest. It also makes me reflect on how the year went and what kind of books I read. Did I prioritise reading books? Did I read lots of magazines instead? Did I spend more time reading blogs or using social media? Did I read lots of great big thick books or conversely loads of thin ones? None of it matters, I read to please myself, but I do find it interesting.

In 2018 I read 73 books. I read some thick ones and some thin ones. I read new fiction, old fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult titles and children's books. I read historical fiction, memoirs, crime, cosy crime and diaries. I loved spending time with these books in 2018.


London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes is a fantastic piece of 1940's social history, covering information that the author used in her articles that she sent to an American newspaper during the war. The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey has a dual timeline of the present day and the 1930's and is a great read. The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin is an atmospheric murder mystery set in Georgian London. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is a true story about the man who tattooed the numbers on his fellow inmates arms and his time in the camp. It is a tough read and an important one.


Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls is a great read following 3 young women and their involvement in the fight for the vote. Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore is set in the late 1700s and is a portrait of a marriage, radical texts and architecture. I didn't love it which surprised me as I usually enjoy her writing. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe was written in 1958 and portrays the lives of 4 young women in a New York publishing house. It was interesting but it also annoyed me. Every Day and Another Day by David Levithan tell the story of a character who wakes up every day in another person's body. The books show two sides of the same story and were a good read. Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish, full of her poetry and reflections was the book I enjoyed most that month.


The Lives of Stella Bain by Anita Shreeve follows Stella as she pieces her life back together after being found in first world war field hospital with no memory. London Calling and British Bulldog by Sara Sheridan are books in the Mirabelle Bevan crime series set in 1950's Brighton. I really enjoyed them. Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys is historical fiction based on a true event in 1945. A group of young refugees are trying to walk past the fighting to a port to safety. It is a great book. I enjoyed the poems and illustrations in Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. How To Hang A Witch is set in Salem and follows a group of descendants of those involved in the original witch trials and the goings on in their town. I really enjoyed it. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson follows two young people who know they were born the wrong sex and is fantastic.


The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith was not a favourite. The Graces by Laure Eve was a great tale about teenage friends and witchcraft. The Dollmaker Of Krakov is a great book, a mix of fairy tale and wartime fiction. The Stars At Oktober Bend is a beautiful and poetic tale about a girl recovering from a traumatic event and a brain injury. Light After Light by Victoria Gatehouse was one of my favourite poetry collections last year. Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman follows a young girl who when freed from slavery has to pass as a boy and join the army in order to survive. An interesting and powerful read. I love Hollie McNish's poetry in Plum. We Were Liars by E. Lockheart follows the goings on of a group of teenagers over one summer. The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslie Walton is full of beautiful imagery and is fairy tale like.


Under the Rock by Ben Myers is the story of a place, local to me, and the effect it has had on the people living there. Beautifully written and fascinating to me as I learnt more about where I live. The Dry by Jane Harper is gripping Australian crime. The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall is set in Paris in 1938 and follows two sisters with a secret. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell is just brilliant. A creepy, uneasy story featuring a house full of secrets. I had to finish it on a sunny afternoon as I was too scared to read it at night anymore! Invitation To A Bonfire by Adrienne Celt I disliked. Simon Vs The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli is very good. Simon is not openly gay and he is being blackmailed at school whilst dealing with friendships and a potential romance. Where The World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean is a wonderful read with a really strong sense of place. It is based on a true story about a fishing party from the Scottish Island St Kilda being stranded on a sea stack for months when their annual bird hunt goes wrong. The Break by Marian Keyes is a lovely read and funny like you would expect.


Private Papers by Margaret Forster looks at a family through the eyes of four daughters and a mother. It was interesting but not my favourite of hers. The Goose Road by Rowena House looks at a young girl trying to save her family farm when her brother is away at war. This leads to her having to drive a flock of geese across part of France. It was a great read. One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is a clever story about a group of teenagers under suspicion for killing their classmate. It is told from multiple points view and is a good book. The Wondering by Mira Bartok was disappointing and I did not enjoy it. Sealed by Naomi Booth made me feel sick whilst I was reading it and I mean that as praise. Dystopian horror in a very clever story. Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein follows Tash dealing with her memories from when she was younger involving her imaginary friend and a missing little girl. It is a very good read. Heathcliff Adrift by Ben Myers is a poetry collection imaging what Heathcliff experienced after his time with Cathy. Lovely poetry. The Adventures of John Blake by Philip Pullman is a graphic novel which is not my usual thing but I quite enjoyed it.


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland was a bit of a struggle and I didn't enjoy it. Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon is a raw and honest look at her mental health issues and is well worth a read. Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber covers love, loss, friendship and the Palm Springs desert and was a good read. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is a fairy tale like story which I wanted to love and didn't quite. The House On Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve is brilliant, historic crime fiction set in Victorian London with a trans main character. I loved it. Betty Church And The Suffolk Vampire by MRC Kasasian I did not love.


Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen follows a Jewish girl who is spying at a Nazi boarding school and passing secrets to a secret agent. It was very good. The Lost Witch by Melvin Burgess I did not enjoy. The Corset by Laura Purcell was excellent, creepy and gripping. Ruth, a seamstress on trial for murder, talks to prison visitor Dorothea about sewing murderous thoughts into the clothes she makes. I loved it. Raising Sparks by Ariel Kahn is a well written story set in Israel. It follows Malka and Moshe, their religious upbringing, their friendship and difficulties and Kabbalah. The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas has an interesting concept but I didn't enjoy it.


Clean by Juno Dawson is a great 'issues' book that deals with drug addiction, rehab, teenage friendships and family issues. To War With Whitaker is the diary of Hermione Whitaker from her time spent overseas in the second world war. It is fascinating and she was a very determined woman. Before The Fire by Sarah Butler deals with teenage friendship, grief, poverty, lack of ambition and social issues. It is a good read.


Girl Heart Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe was one I did not enjoy. Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody is the first of her Kate Shackleton detective stories. It is set in a mill village in the 1920s and looks into the disappearance of the mill owner. I really enjoyed it. Dragon Daughter by Liz Flanagan is a brilliant story featuring dragon eggs, dragons, dragon riding and an ancient island. The main character is a very fierce and determined girl and I loved the story. The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister ed by Helena Whitbread are fascinating to read. Anne Lister lived at Shibden Hall, an estate near Halifax, in the 1800s. She was a land owner, traveller, reader, employer, diarist and a lesbian. Many of her diary entries were written in code, when these were eventually transcribed they were found to reference her love affairs. She was an amazing, interesting woman. Her story will be on the BBC soon as Gentleman Jack by Sally Wainwright.


I am on a learn all I can about Anne Lister mission so I read more about her this month. Gentleman Jack by Angela Steidele is a biography chronicling Anne's life and the women that she loved. I learnt lots and really enjoyed it. Presenting The Past and Nature's Domain by Jill Liddington also told me more detail about Anne's Life. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge is a spooky great read set in the English Civil War. Makepeace learns as a child to defend her head from ghosts that try to enter it. When she finds out more about her creepy family history she needs these skills. A Medal For Murder and Murder In The Afternoon by Frances Brody are the second and third Kate Shackleton books and I really enjoyed them. The Mermaid's Singing is the first Val McDermid book I have read and it was a good read and I will be reading more. It follows Tony Hill a psychologist and profiler and Carol Jordan, a detective, in their first case. Not pictured is The Moss House by Angela Clare which is a fictional account of the relationship Anne Lister had with Ann Walker, they lived together as a married couple. I was lucky enough to read this as a manuscript. It will be published later this year.


Splinter The Silence by Val McDermid is another Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book and it is a good read. The Quality Street Girls by Penny Thorpe is a bit too romance for me but I wanted to read it as the Mackintosh factory, where Quality Street were invented and made, was in Halifax and I wanted to know more local history. They are still made in Halifax. The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers is a beautifully written, fascinating look at a gang of coiners (forgers) who operated in the Calder Valley in the eighteenth century. I loved it. Educated is Tara Westover's memoir about growing up in a strict Mormon family with a father prepping for the end of days and an abusive brother. It was a very interesting read, difficult in places. The Lingering by SJI Holliday is a great story, I really enjoyed it. It is part ghost story, part psychological thriller set in a commune based in an old institution on land linked to witchcraft.

So that was my 2018 in books. I got some super books for Christmas and some book tokens and am looking forward to more reading this year.

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