Monday, 31 December 2012

Year End Book Round-Up 2012

Last few reviews of the year, plus a tally of what I've read and what I'm still reading.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
This was a thoughtful present from my sister, and actually one that I read way back at the start of the year. I liked it so much that I wanted to write a long and glowing review, but I never felt able to do it justice.

Seven-year-old Henry Day is kidnapped by fairy changelings - each one once a human child who was stolen, and experienced the drowning ceremony that changed them into a feral hobgoblin of the wild forest. Henry is renamed Aniday by the changelings, and is forced to learn to live as one of them, gradually losing his memory of being a human child. He is replaced by a changeling who assumes his form and his life, rediscovering the human self that he lost so many years ago. Both Henrys feel drawn towards their old selves, and try to rediscover who they once were. Donohue's story is original and memorable, and his writing beautiful: lyrical and haunting, with real depth. This is a real fairytale, and one deserves re-reading. Donohue has written other books, and I think I'll be adding these to my wishlist.

A Game of Thrones  
A Clash of Kings  
A Storm of Swords part 1  
A Storm of Swords part 2
by George R R Martin
I got entangled in the web of A Song of Ice and Fire. I watched Season 1 of Game of Thrones on DVD, and I couldn't wait, I had to know what happened next. So I borrowed the full set of books and - uncharacteristically for me - read them all. Well - I will read them all. I'm currently speeding through book four. Great works of literature they are not: the quality of the writing varies, and the whole thing is rather sprawling, and could do with some serious proof-reading and pruning. But they are good. That is to say, they are clever and compelling, and twisted, and oh-so moreish. And, most importantly, I am very much enjoying them. I was warned, before I started reading, that I shouldn't get attached to any of the characters, and gosh this was timely advice. I won't spoil it for anyone (and please don't spoil it for me!) but be prepared for a grisly death or two. The sixth book is - apparently - forthcoming, and I imagine that once I finish book five I will be jumping up and down and shouting for it along with all the other readers of this sequence. Come on George, get a move on!

The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills
Shortlisted for the Booker, this is a very black comedy about a team of Scottish fence builders who just can't get it right. Warped realism with an undercurrent of conspiracy, this is a book that makes you wince before you laugh. I enjoyed it, but only just!

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
I love magical Christmas stories. I can absolutely suspend my disbelief and buy into all kinds of mystical happenings and joyful revelations. But only if they're well-written. This, sadly, despite its apparent popularity, is not. Nor is there really anything magical here. It's all very stilted and matter-of-fact. And the revelation? That spending time with your children is precious. Now, this is a book that has - according to reviews on Amazon - touched a great many hearts and helped many people, and I can't argue with that. There's nothing really wrong with it. It's just really not very good.

Looking back over my blog, it appears that I have read a total of 32 books over the past year, and dipped into several more. Here's a list:

The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis
Hidden Turnings edited by Dianne Wynne-Jones
The Human Mind by Robert Winston
Friends Like These by Danny Wallace
Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Coalescent by Stephen Baxter
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
Skellig by David Almond
Yes Man by Danny Wallace
The Luberon Garden by Alex Dingwall-Main
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods - A. S. Byatt
Earth is Room Enough by Isaac Asimov
The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya
Awkward Situations for Men by Danny Wallace.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Fair Exchange by Michèle Roberts
The Desperate Diary of a Country Housewife by Daisy Waugh 
Ordinary Miracles by Grace Wynne-Jones
In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson 
Mars by Ben Bova
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
A Game of Thrones  by George R R Martin
A Clash of Kings  by George R R Martin
A Storm of Swords part 1  by George R R Martin
A Storm of Swords part 2  by George R R Martin
The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

Dipped into:
A Good Old-Fashioned Future by Bruce Sterling
Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg
The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer
Somebody's Baby by Charlotte Vale Allen

My Top 3, and the ones that I would highly recommend, are The Stolen Child; The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear; and Cloud Atlas. Grab a copy if you can!

I always have more than one book on the go, and I'm currently reading A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin, and Our Ancestors by Italo Calvino.

I'm also working my way though several books of sci-fi short stories: New Legends edited by Greg Bear; The Golden Road edited by Damon Knight; Luminous by Greg Egan; and The Year's Best Science Fiction No. 5 edited by Harry Harrison & Brian Aldiss. I'll add reviews of these in 2013 - a whole new year of reading!

Happy New Year everyone!

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