The Book Nook

Here you'll find my snippets and thoughts on all things bookish. If you want to read a proper review / what other people thought, you can click on the link in some titles

2014:

72. City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
I wasn't sure of this when I started as it had been a few months since I downloaded it with the intention of reading it before/during my visit to India. But I soon warmed to this story of Dalrymple's year in Delhi and his willingness to explore the many idiosyncracies lying beneath Delhi's colourful surface. A nice read, particularly if you have been, are going to or are just interested in this fascinating country.

71. Warlock by Wilbur Smith
Many years ago I started reading this Egyptian series from Smith and right now, I don't know why I stopped because I loved both River God and The Seventh Scroll. Anyway, I have finally found my way back via Warlock, a thrilling and epic tale of power, betrayal, war and passion. The warlock of the title is the mighty Taita, the powerful magus who has appeared throughout all of the books to date and as always, brings his supernatural power and wisdom to whatever prevailing struggle must be faced. Un-put-down-able.

70. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
What a great read. Completely unexpected (and set in Amsterdam to boot)! Nella Brandt arrives at the home of her new husband, Johannes and as she stands at the door and looks over Herengracht, she knows that life will never be the same again. And the ensuing weeks prove her right although not at all in the way she suspected. Great reading - 4 out of 5 stars.

69. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
Nemesis is the second in the Oslo trilogy featuring the socially inept Inspector Harry Hole and it doesn't disappoint. There's some carry over from Book 1 (Redbreast) in a number of ways, particularly around the women in Hole's life but it is the grisly story in its entirety - its twists and turns - that held me firmly in its grip. Gritty crime at its best - I'm off to download the next one (Devil's Star). 

68. Master Of The Game by Sidney Sheldon
An oldie but a goodie. It's been years since I have read a Sidney Sheldon and today it proved the perfect fodder for a few hours poolside under the palm trees. The thing I loved best was that pretty much every protagonist was flawed and at times (sometimes all the time), inherently unlikeable. The story whizzed along with plenty of machiavellian twists and it just proved to me that after all these years, Sheldon's books still have 'it'. Easy and enjoyable reading.

67. Everville: The First Pillar by Roy Huff
A cheap and cheerful Kindle deal quite sometime ago got this downloaded onto Audrey - it was quite an easy read but the writing didn't really flow and the story felt a bit under-developed. The presence of more pillars in the story makes me wonder whether there are more in the series but I won't be lining up for more. 2 stars.

66. Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
After reading Americanah earlier this year (and loving it), I was looking forward to reading this but not sure what to expect. This novel drops the reader right into the years before and during the civil war in Nigeria and the experiences of a number of characters, all interlinked but each with his/her own story. Adiche has this ability to create a page-turner without needing to create a particular dramatic moment and her catalogue of characters create a wonderful sense of the 'whole' being greater than the sum of their individual parts. Wonderful reading.

65. The Nemesis Program by Scott Mariani
Another Ben Hope adventure bites the dust and it was all a bit try-hard for me. The linked review likens it to Alex Ryder novels (which I don't know but the review does appear in the children's books section of The Guardian) so I wonder whether I'm just reading well below my age.

64. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C Morais
This first came to my attention through movie posters throughout the tube alongside the recommendation of a friend in the US who'd seen it. I somehow missed getting to a screening when it reached the UK but remained intrigued enough to let the book be my guide. It's a lovely story, tracing Hassan Haji's years in Bombay, London and finally Paris as he finds and nurtures his culinary passion. An easy and absorbing read.

63. How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
I am a Moran fan - I love her journalistic witterings, I love seeing her speak at events, and I loved How To Be A Woman (this year's #28)...but I didn't love this one. It was okay but I just felt that what worked as a personal anthology didn't really fly as a novel and much of reading it felt inauthentic - a little like trying too hard - bit like Dolly Wilde actually!. Three out of five stars.

62. Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas
I was first introduced to Tsiolkas in his controversial novel, The Slap in 2011 (#40). Barracuda returns us to Melbourne's immigrant community through the eyes of Daniel Kelly, a working class boy who defies his social 'class' with an extraordinary talent for swimming. It is another strong and confronting novel both in its themes and its language, evoking both nostalgia for the Melbourne I left and the oneness with the water I've have had the joy of experiencing for myself. I saw Tsiolkas interviewed last year and I do find it hard to reconcile the considered and thoughtful interviewee with the author that writes everyday hate and prejudice so vividly and well. A great read. 

61. Disappear by Iain Edward Henn
The mystery surrounding the re-appearance of Brian Parkes 18 years after he vanishes lies at the heart of this crime thriller. The work of the police and Parkes' wife and daughter to uncover what happened is interspersed with dialogue from a faceless serial killer and although I guessed the killer well before his unveiling, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book. Good poolside reading if you are looking for a pacy page-turner to while away your holiday.

60. Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Millions of Monarch butterflies mysteriously find their way to the Appalachian hills on the Turnbow family's property to form the backbone of this wonderful story and Dellarobia Turnbow's burgeoning relationship with this flame-coloured phenomenon and its caretakers - from Dr Ovid Byron right through to her son, Preston - lies at its heart. Kingsolver unravels a poignant and beautifully crafted story of discovery and I found myself drawn irresistibly into both the plight at the centre of the book and the various characters' dreams of something more emerging towards its conclusion. Five out of five stars.

59. The Chocolate Wars by Joel Glenn Brenner
This was a recommended read from a course I attended for work recently.  The Chocolate Wars charts the history and histrionics of chocolate and in particular the paths of Mars and Hershey. Both businesses were born from the visions of somewhat fanatical, autocratic men whose personal credos remain, in one way or the other, at the heart of these modern monoliths. A fascinating  - and mouth-watering - read.

58. The Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory
This is the third in the Cousin's War series and tells the story of Jacquetta, mother Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen) in book two. Jacquetta comes to England as the Duchess of Bedford and following the death of her husband, marries his squire, Richard Woodville and becomes a integral part of Margaret d'Anjou's royal household. The story takes us right up to the meeting of Edward 1V and Elizabeth and charts the rise and fall of the fortunes of the key characters of the houses of York and Lancaster. As always from Gregory, an engaging and enjoyable historical read.

57. The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
What a story! I loved this classic tale of narcissism - not at all what I expected either! The writing got a bit flowery for me about two thirds through but in spite of this,I really enjoyed my first 'Wilde'.

56. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
I love Morton and The Distant Hours just reinforces my fan-dom. Not only is she one of the best at managing different narrative threads in different times but there's always something to be discovered which makes this book a gentle thriller of sorts. A page-turner until the very end, I can't wait for the next one!

55. Waiting For Sunrise by William Boyd
This was my first Boyd and I expected more from this. It felt convoluted and directionless - a random story that may have revealed the truth in the end but was ultimately a disappointing read.

54. An Officer And A Spy by Robert Harris
I love the way Robert Harris takes an event in history and twists and turns it to say 'what if it happened like this?' This is based on the wrongful conviction of Alfred Dreyfus in France in the late 19th century (Dreyfus was framed for passing secrets to the enemy by the powers that be in the Ministry of War) and the efforts of officer turned spy, Georges Picquart, in uncovering the extent of the set up and his fight to expose the perpetrators of this injustice. The review indicates this a much closer cataloging of real events than some of Harris' other tomes but this did not spoil the reading for me. In fact not knowing what really happened meant that I was desperate to find out whether, in the end, justice was served. A fabulous read.

53. Against All Odds by Paul Connolly
Paul Connolly, celebrity personal trainer and fitness expert, is a dad of two boys living comfortably in Billericay, Essex. But his start in life was not as most of us would expect from looking at him now. Abandoned as a baby, Connolly spent his childhood in St Leonards Children's Home in East London, a cesspit of mental and physical abuse. His autobiography tells of being saved by boxing as a youngster, how its focus and discipline kept him from being sexually abused by those in power and provided an outlet for the rage he carried into adulthood. He also tells of being shocked by being one of the 2 from his 8 dormitory companions who survived to create a happy life - the kids he had known had become involved in drugs and/or committed suicide, a tally that finally brought the police to his door and the perpetrators of the horrors of his childhood to justice. While advocating the importance of hard work and making the right personal decisions, Connolly's story also left me feeling how lucky he was to find a way out. Important reading.

52. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
A different story which starts from the middle. Rosemary has a brother and a sister who have both disappeared from her family. Brother Lowell leaves of his own accord, walking away with his principles tucked solidly under his arm. But the disappearance of Fern is an entirely different affair and the story of this unusual family unit makes for an interesting read. It's currently short-listed for this year's Booker Prize so it won't be long before we see what the official judges think.

51. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
I'm off to see James Ellroy interviewed in a few weeks and The Black Dahlia seemed the best place to start in getting to know this crime writer. The Black Dahlia is a gruesome, gritty story that goes well beyond the true-crime basis (still unsolved), the mutilation and murder of Elizabeth Short in LA in 1947. Ellroy clutches at his protagonists, revealing their secret layers bit by bit until everything is eventually out on the table at the very last page. A complex and enjoyable read, despite being a little drawn out.

50. The Son by Jo Nesbo
This is the first novel of Nesbo's that I've read outside the Harry Hole series and it was brilliant. It's every bit as gritty but the morality of the criminal is not so black and white and as always the final piece falls into place in the closing pages of the book. Pacy, gripping and a big fat 5 stars.

49. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
This is such a moving story but admittedly it did take me a while to get to the book after loving the movie several years ago. A poignant look at how intertwined personal histories can have such a profound impact in the future. Needless to say, I loved the reading every bit as much as the viewing.

48. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I had heard good things about this from a colleague and so picked it up at Seattle Airport for the long trip back to London via Houston. I finished it just as we were landing at Heathrow. It was fascinating and had me thinking about the potential introverts around me. As with all of these things it is never black and white and so there were many times I recognised some of my introvert tenancies (solitude!) amidst all of the extroversion. The subtitle says it all - in a world that can't stop talking, this is essential reading.

47. The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) by Robert Galbraith
Robert Galbraith is the crime-writing pseudonym of J.K.Rowling and in her private eye protagonist Cormoran Strike, I sensed a little smidgen of Hagrid going on. This novel was quite an enjoyable read with the character of Strike balanced out by the plucky Robin, his temporary assistant, and a smorgasbord of English stereotypes. I wasn't terribly surprised to find out whodunit so it's a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

46. The Pagan Lord (Warrior Chronicles 7) by Bernard Cornwell
Warlord Uhtred's back again, this time set on regaining his beloved Bebbanburg after a decade of peace finds no need of his warring skills. I will have no spoilers here on Gidday but needless to say as with all books in this series, the story weaves about and builds up to the battle to be fought in the final chapters. Loved this one particularly - maybe something about Uhtred talking about his 'advancing years' in his middle 40s early on struck a chord!

45. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Well up to the halfway mark it was getting close to a 4-star read but then it went on and on and on until I couldn't wait for it to be over. Pulitzer Prize winner blah blah...more like rambling and pointless. 2 stars.


44. Burial Rights by Hannah Kent
Based in the north of Iceland, Burial Rites is based on the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman condemned to death in the early 1800s for her part in the murder of two men. She is sent to the Jonsson family to await her execution and is assigned to Toti, an assistant reverend who is charged with preparing her soul for God. It's a dark story yet as it unfolds, there are moments of unexpected warmth and humanity. 4 stars.

43. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is a lovely read: A tale of opposites attracting but told from the unique perspective of genetics professor Don Tillman. Don tends to operate at the rather structured end of the Asbergers/Autism spectrum in life and when Rosie (she of the project in the book's title) crashes disruptively into his life, he finds himself reviewing his schedules, structures and his pre-ordained requirements for a happy life. A highly recommended, feel-good read.

42. Hybrid Reality by Parag Khanna & Ayesha Khanna
Subtitled Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization, this is from the TED Books series and explores not just how technology has changed the way we live but that in order for governments, business, society and individuals to thrive, we should embrace a conjoined evolution. Not quite resistance is futile but when you consider some of the examples discussed - from ASIMO to Watson, Facebook to Klout, it is clear that technology's transformative impact on our lives is far from over. The review is quite scathing but I quite liked the opportunity to ponder 'what if?' for a while.

41. Broken Angels by Graham Masterson
My second in Masterson's Katie Macguire series did not disappoint (see #10 earlier this year for thoughts of White Bones). It's gruesome crime at its best with the sense throughout that the perpetrator is closer than you think. Another gripping page-turner.

40. Philomena by Martin Sixsmith
I saw the movie not long ago and while I would not normally follow it up so soon with the book, it focuses on the story of the son and therefore more is of a companion piece to the movie (which focuses on the mother's search for her son). Just in case you don't know the story, Philomena Lee was forced to relinquish her claim to her son when entering Sean Ross Abbey as an unwed mother in the early 1950s and watched helplessly as 3-year-old Anthony was driven away from the abbey with his nursery friend, Mary to live in America. The book follows Anthony's life as he becomes Michael Hess, how he struggles with his sense of not quite belonging in his new life, with intimacy, self-worth and his internal conflict between his homosexuality and his role in a Republican administration that suppressed knowledge of the AIDS epidemic and condemned it as a 'just punishment'. A worthwhile read regardless of whether you've seen the movie.

39. The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner
This is an oldie having been published in 1999 but it moves along at a good pace with a few sharp twists and turns thrown in. While I enjoyed the romance, it wasn't really necessary for the story. I'm starting to feel that many authors can't help but add this, regardless of whether it forwards the plot. Anyway, I rate this a solid 3 star read. 

38. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I watched the film last weekend and inspired by the stillness I found myself feeling afterwards, I downloaded the book. It's a wonderful catalogue of Liz's journey and the contribution that the interactions in her life make. I think this a right place, right time book - if I had read this a few years back, it may not have moved me in the way that it did now. Luckily with it stored safely on my Kindle, I can dip back in to some Eat Pray Love at any time in future.

37. Death of Kings (Warrior Chronicles 6) by Bernard Cornwell
It's been a while since I've been immersed in this series (having been distracted by the Game of Thrones series) but it was great to be back among Uthred's inevitable war-mongering. Death of Kings recounts the struggle for power following the death of Arthur - alliances are made, unmade and made again and as always, there's a blood-curdling battle to finish off this installment. There's also a sense of Uthred's own mortality creeping in with his enemies' barbs about the 'old man' (at 45!). As always, a great read.

36. Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
A strange/interesting story that weaves in and out of dreams and myth - for me it was a bit too fanciful and all over the place. A nice enough read but not a real cracker.

35. The French House by Nick Alexander
CC meets Victor and a month later ups sticks to join him in the derelict farmhouse he has inherited in the south of France. Rural dreams are soon challenged and it becomes a bit of a bumpy ride. Fluffy and formulaic but enjoyable enough.

34. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
The story opens in a courtroom. The details are blurred but it is clear that something significant has happened in the moments before that shifts the atmosphere from our protagonist's perspective in the witness box. And then the story winds back to where it all began, the significance of the title is revealed and the details are slowly uncovered as we piece together the events leading up to the trial. The steady drip of detail makes this a really suspenseful read. I loved it.

33. The Emotionally Resilient Expat by Linda A. Janssen
When fellow expat blogger Linda released The Emotionally Resilient Expat in 2013, I downloaded it to my Kindle...and it's taken me a year to get to it. This is no reflection on Linda's guide to engaging, adapting and thriving as one of life's cross-cultural nomads. The Emotionally Resilient Expat is full of helpful tips and poignant anecdotes. There are also snippets from Linda's own experience which she writes so vividly, it's like I was standing right beside her in the kitchen as she sliced those vegetables. I can see that would be one of those books that can be dipped into time and time again wherever you are in your expat journey and I suspect it's also a good resource for non-expats to get a sense of the culturally nomadic in their own lives. 

32. A Clash Of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Number 2 in Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series is every bit as cracking a read as the first. With its by-character chapters, the story picks up on the various protagonists from the last book and brings some other ones to the fore to create a intricate story woven of quite diverse threads. As with the first book (A Game Of Thrones - 2014 #19), I sometimes found myself thinking 'what is the point of this person?' but by about two-thirds through the book, a wider picture started to emerge and the characters started to at least 'rub shoulders' story-wise if not actually cross paths. Another excellent ending which inspired me to download the next one in the series.

31. Temptation by Douglas Kennedy
I usually love Kennedy's books but I was quite disappointed with this one. It felt trite and moralising and the characters lacked the depth I normally like so much. I hope it's only a one book aberration and that I will be re-enamoured of the next Kennedy I pick up.

30. New Coastal Times by Donna Callea
I didn't enjoy this one. I felt like it was just a whole lot of random witterings without any real plot and I just couldn't empathise with any of the characters. Quite frankly I was glad it was over.

29. Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
What a fantastic read. Americanah follows the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze as these two Nigerians make their way in very different worlds. I particularly loved Ifemelu's blog and her perspectives on being a NAB (non American black) in America. This is an absorbing and thoughtful story steeped in colour and character and as far as I'm concerned, a must read. Five stars.

28. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
This had some pretty good reviews and having followed her column in The Times Weekend magazine and seen her do a reading from the book last year, I was looking forward to reading Moran's feminist views. The first few chapters I found a bit confronting particularly her liberal use of the 'c' word in one chapter but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and by the end, I was really enjoying Moran's forthright views on womanhood. Her chapter on choices around motherhood was a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended.

27. Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester
Lanchester brings the story of Tom Stewart to us as both the tale's narrator and as a resourceful protagonist who charts his course through life in Hong Kong and the changes wrought by the second world war. It doesn't reach the heights of Capital (which I rated a five-star read last year) but I thoroughly enjoyed this perspective of Hong Kong over the second half of the 20th century. 

26. My Dear I Wanted To tell You by Louisa Young
I found out about this novel via London's Cityread initiative and quite enjoyed it. The cast of war-time characters is largely familiar but I found Julia the most poignant - the girl who feels she's been bred for no purpose other than her looks. Her struggle to find purpose brings a different dimension to what would otherwise have been a fairly typical war-time story.

25. The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer
So I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either. It's an interesting read as through the eyes of 19-year-old Matthew, we deal the death of his brother some years earlier and his current mental illness. I think it's quite a brave book and can see why it won the Costa Best First Novel prize for this year. Three and a half stars from me.

24. Red Joan by Jennie Rooney
As an elderly woman, Joan is interrogated about her part in sharing secret's with Stalin's Russia during the war many years prior. Her flashbacks throughout this interview paint a picture of an uncertain young woman at the mercy of others far better at manipulation and subterfuge than she but you never lose sight of the sense of responsibility she feels for her actions.

23. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Great premise - if you lost the memory of the last 10 years of your life what would that be like?  The last chapter milks it a bit to tease - but it all finished a bit too quickly for it to be a really cracking read for me.

22. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
It says it's the first Oslo series - well it's my third Harry Hole, having read The Leopard (2011 #44) and The Snowman (2012 #3) previously. This is an exciting, pacy crime thriller. It aint pretty - most Harry Hole books aren't - but I love the gritty, uncompromising nature of these books and I'm off to see Nesbo interviewed next month so I might find time to squeeze in another Nesbo read before then. Yay!

21. Sweet Tooth by Iain McEwan
I struggled until about half way through this and then it seemed to pick up a bit. A good twist at the end - made me think about going back and reading it again to see it with the twist in mind. 

20. The State We're In by Adele Parks
Enjoyable chick lit with a nice twist in the tail. Pack this in your beach bag.

19. A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Wow wow wow! This is excellent reading. If you like epic tales and can handle the fact that bad (and bloody) things happen to good people, you should read this. In the meantime, I'm off to find number 2 in Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series.

18. Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding
The diary style still annoys me (I didn't like this in the original Bridget Jones nor in Candace Bushnell's Sex in the City) but Renee Zellweger has done such a great job in bringing this shambolic character to life on the big screen that as I was reading, I could hear her breathy ramblings right at my shoulder. Chaotic and fun and a nice sequel to the two earlier books. ps...spoiler in the article that links from the title.

17. The Kill Room by Jeffrey Deaver
You just can't go wrong with a Deaver. This is quintessential Rhyme and Sachs - action-packed reading with lots of lovely twists and turns. Jeffrey never disappoints.

16. Persuasion by Jane Austen
A re-read inspired by a literary debate a few weeks back which pitted Austen against Emily Bronte. I've had the set of Jane Austen's novels for years yet have read this one, her last, least of all. Shame on me - it's wonderful!

15. Glass Tiger by Joe Gores
I really enjoyed this. A gritty mystery - although it's a less a who-dunnit and more a how-dunnit - that keeps the pace and pressure up throughout and combines a swathe of interesting characters to great effect. Definitely off to find more Gores.

14. Take A Look At Me Now by Miranda Dickinson
Fun and flirty and inspired me to put San Francisco on my travel bucket list.

13. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of His Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This is quite enjoyable but too far-fetched for me to really love it. Allan Karlsson climbs out of the window to avoid his 100th birthday celebrations and this books charts his travels in the weeks following as well as dipping back into his rather checkered - and unlikely - past. It seems to be a book 'of the moment' as I noticed the girl next to me on the plane was half way through her paperback version and a work colleague mentioned yesterday she's just finished it. For my part, I feel it's done and dusted and a little over-rated.

12. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
An interesting story following the main character Ursula over the course of her life and over the period of the first half of the 20th century. It jumps back and forward throughout and sometimes I felt the thread(s) of the story got a little confusing but an enjoyable read nonetheless.

11. The Garden Of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
Such a lush, rich story and so beautifully written. I loved this tale of crossed cultures and finding peace at last. No wonder it was short-listed for a Man Booker Prize. My second of his books (the first being The Gift of Rain last year #26) - I am definitely a fan.

10. White Bones by Graham Masterson
Well this is a bit of a thriller with an Irish twist. The story races along entangled in Celtic mythology and even though I sort of knew whodunnit from early on, it didn't detract from my enjoyment. Definitely gory...but gratifying in a good way.

9. Lean In: Women. Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
The thing that stands out most for me in this book is the tone. I had stopped reading business 'improvement' books a few years back, finding many of them preach-y but there's an honesty and 'real-ness' in Sandberg's telling of her path to becoming Facebook's COO and her story makes the advice that I've  heard before more palatable. In the end Sandberg admonishes us to step forward rather than hanging back - and that's men as well as women - to ensure that we bring all the voices to the table.

8. The Secret Olympian
Subtitled 'the inside story of the Olympic experience' and anonymously written, this reveals the good, the bad and the ugly about the relentless and single-minded focus required to get there, the struggle between reveling in just 'being there' versus the all-or-nothing sense of opportunity and the aftermath - of the Games themselves but also of a career that does not really foster a rounded preparation for life as we mere mortals know it. Aside from the author's own experiences, there are also lots of interviews/snippets from other athletes who competed in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. All in all quite a fascinating read.

7. Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry
I really enjoyed this tale of teenage starred-crossed lovers. I found myself turning the pages furiously desperate to know what really happened. Unexpected and riveting reading. 

6. The Snow Child by Eowen Ivey
This a is lovely and heartwarming story about a girl who brings joy to a childless couple in their darkest moments of doubt. Filled with great characterisations particularly Esther, not your typical 'girl next door'. Not quite a 4-star but more than a 3 - but since other review sites don't 'do halves', I will round it up to 4 stars.

5. Inferno by Dan Brown
What a great read. I'm exhausted...it's been really hard to put down during my pre-bedtime reading 'window'. It also made me want to go to Florence again and just wander around looking at it all. This may have just tipped Angels & Demons off as my favourite Brown read. Fabulous. 

4. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
A surprisingly enjoyable read about a three women coming to terms with an event long ago that unites them inextricably. It's also set in Australia (which normally brings up lots of nostalgic attachment for me) but the story takes precedence so it really could have been set anywhere. I'll be looking out for more Moriarty in the Kindle bookshop. 

3. Postcards From Across The Pond by Michael Harling
Reading this brought back such funny memories. It may have been 10 years ago and we may have come across different 'ponds' but it would appear the feeling of discombobulation is the same. A great expat read...because as a non-expat you might enjoy it but as an expat you'll just simply 'get it'

2. The Gilded Edge by Danny Miller
This crime tome set in 60's London is a great read. The twists and turns kept me turning page after page in an effort to second guess where it was all going as Detective Vince Treadwell dipped in and out of both the aristocratic and 'under' worlds to solve this double murder. 4 stars.

1. As They Slept by Andy Leeks
London commuter Andy Leeks decides to prove how valuable commuting time can really be by committing to fill his time by writing something on every commuting journey he makes over a 3 month period. It's an easy read and an eclectic mix of observations, soul-searching and general ramblings - exactly what commuting is made of. And he got the first in a series of 4 knocked out. Smart.

2013:  

53. The Radleys by Matt Haig
I saw Matt Haig interviewed a few months back about his new book The Humans and The Radleys was mentioned a few times throughout. I'm not a huge fan of the whole vampire genre ie. Twilight series et al but this is told from a different perspective and I found myself turning page after page in my eagerness to find out what would happen next. I'd really recommend you give this one a go.

52. A Day At The Office by Matt Dunn
This is a fun lightweight read - perfect for a chilled out holiday or dipping in and out on your commute!

51. House of Malice by Scott Mariani
Having read Mariani's Ben Hope series, I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a horror tale full of things that go bump in the night. The writing is evocative and the story's ok but I think horror is just not my genre.

50. What Have I Done? by Amanda Prowse
Not a 'nice' story but Prowse tells Kate's story powerfully. Undermined and abused by her husband Kathryn Brooker presents a smiling face to the world until the day she decides she's had enough. There's a great combination of flashbacks throughout the book and it gives potency to the story in later years, reminding me of where Kate had come from as she rebuilds her life.

49. The Girl In Room Fourteen by Carol Drinkwater
Short, sweet and exactly what I needed after the last two reads. This Kindle Single is a tale of lost romance and its eventual resolution is all wrapped up at the end in a big lemon-y bow.

48. Umbrella by Will Self
Umbrella was short-listed for last year's Booker Prize and I read enough interesting things about it to be tempted. However I didn't know the story before I started and I think that made this book a tough and confusing experience for me. I also don't think this is a good one if you are dipping in and out either (like I tend to while commuting) as it's a real 'stream of consciousness' style of writing with interwoven stories across different times. The reviews are generally positive and also honest about this being hard-going. It's probably best read in big chunks or maybe even one long sitting if you can manage it.

47. Bringing Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
I read Wolf Hall a couple of years ago (and loved it) so Cromwell was a familiar protagonist. But I didn't enjoy this book anywhere near as much and felt like I was wading through treacle for most of it. Drowned in detail I think - hope the third in the trilogy gets back on form. 

46. A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard
This was an early 'Audrey' download and having resolved to actually get the number of unread books on said Kindle down to 3 pages, I found this one on ahem...page 5! It's a good read about a controversial subject, crossing many social boundaries over the years that the novel spans. As always with tales that move back and forward in time (and not always to the same years), it requires a little attention to keep up but it's not too difficult to keep the thread loosely in hand. Not quite a 4 star read - perhaps a three and a half instead.

45. Bolero by Joanie McDonell
Nick Sayler is a reformed man and spends his days as a PI. When this case of forgotten identity drops into his lap, he finds himself confronted by a past he's been busy trying to forget. A lightweight, by-the-pool read. 

44. Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
This is quite new out and a great read. It's a tale about family dynamics - all of those undercurrents that the world doesn't always see but that drives each member's role within the family unit. Fractured and fascinating.

43. You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
An easy peasy read with a neat tied-up-with-a-bow ending. Nice, don't expect anything too taxing though.

42. The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow
I quite enjoyed this Kindle Daily Deal find. Nice and light with a few twists and turns. And a fascinating peek at the silk industry.

41. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Quite a lovely story. It meanders a little and I did find myself wondering where we were all going but it's a very human story and a neat ending without it seeming trite. Vintage Anne Tyler.

40. The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion
Four strangers (well, pretty much anyway) on a road trip each carrying their own baggage. It was ok...I guess. But I just found it all a bit contrived. Two out of five stars.

39. The Forgotten by David Baldacchi
John Puller adventure number two is Baldacchi at his brilliant best. It's pacy, with a few twists and turns along the way and although you know it will all work out in the end (these stories always do), there are many moments when you wonder how? Some may question the realism but I say just buckle up and enjoy the ride!

38. The Mitfords: Letters From Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Moseley
This felt long. Very long. I read about the Mitfords several years back and thought I would enjoy this more than I did. Maybe I'm just not the letters type.

37. The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
I've returned to Gregory's Cousins' War series after reading the first two books a couple of years ago and I'm glad to be back. Following the same theme of revealing the women behind the throne during one of the most turbulent periods in English history, this follows the tale of Anne Neville, the daughter of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick who made, unmade and made again kingly plans on a pretty regular basis. It's gripping and a great way to enjoy the political machinations of both England's last Plantagenent kings and their 'opponents', the House of Lancaster and the Tudors.

36. Empire: How Britain Made The Modern World by Niall Ferguson
So this one has taken me about 3 weeks to read. Not because I didn't love it  (I did) but more the challenge of finding decent stretches of time to immerse myself in it as opposed to dipping in and out. And time like that has been at a premium of late. This is really great reading and actually reminds me a little of 'Paris: A Secret History' which I read in May this year (#18). Fascinating and a bit controversial if the reviews are anything to go by.

35. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Wow wow wow this is great! I don't even want to say any more in case I spoil the plot. Read it!

34. The China Bird by Bryony Doran
A gentle read. I found myself wondering what it was all about at first, loved the story and then found the end a little lacking. In what I don't know but it's a three out of five stars from me.

33. Thoughts from a Grumpy Innovator by Costas Papaikonomou
I've met Costas very briefly a couple of times at conferences so when he was asking for reviewers on LinkedIn I put myself forward as a) I might learn something and b) I'm never short of an opinion. This a great little book for keeping on your desk, full of soundbites that had me nodding in agreement, prickling with deja vu or shrinking a little inside at my ongoing foibles on the innovation playing field. More often than not, it was all three. A gentle reminder for innovators - in title, deed or spirit - that new-ness is exactly what it says. It's never been done before and that 'making it up as you go along' is part of the deal. 

32. The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
Not really a traditional pacy Baldacci and while it was a nice read, I think he should stick to the more action-packed thriller-style adventures. There are just other writers who do this stuff better.

31. Take Two by Stephen Leather
Quite a fun read with a twist albeit obvious. I'd recommend this as a by-the-pool read or if you're looking for a break between more heavy-going tomes.

30. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this many years ago but after seeing the movie recently (the Baz Luhrmann version), I decided to revisit it. I still found the cavalier-ness of Tom & Daisy appalling and although Nick Carraway talks about the great hopefulness he sees in Gatsby, all I saw a spoiled and deluded man. It's just a slightly tragic book, its excesses captured perfectly by Luhrmann.

29. The Burning Land (Warrior Chronicles 5) by Bernard Cornwell
Since this year's #10, I've been pining for a bit of medieval bloodshed and this doesn't disappoint. Caught (as always) between his divided loyalties, Uhtred flies Alfred the Great's royal flag on the battlefield again as Cornwell begins to build the narrative bridge between the dying king and his heir apparent. As gripping as ever and thank goodness Cornwell is continuing this series with #7 released this year. Phew! 

28. Race Against The Machine by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
While I enjoyed the premise of this book - an exploration of the relationships between humans and technology in this new digital age - I found myself falling asleep after a couple of pages each time I went to read it. I wanted to love it and don't really know why I couldn't stay interested.

27. Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Easy peasy by-the-pool reading but made me realise how much they changed of The Devil Wears Prada for the film...for the better. Enjoyable enough.

26. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
An epic story with a quiet and tortured soul, The Gift of Rain tells of Philip Hutton, a English-Chinese boy, and his time living in Penang during the turmoil of the end of Chinese rule in Malaysia and the Japanese invasion during WWII. Loyalties are tested on all fronts during this tale and our protagonist is forced to confront - and resolve - his turbulent past many years later. In the meantime, the use of some wonderfully evocative language by Tan really brings the beauty of Hutton's homeland to life.

25. Sons of the Profits by William C. Speidel
Subtitled There's No Business Like Grow Business - The Seattle Story 1851-1901, Speidel's meander through the Emerald City's seamy and capitalist past is fascinating. Founded on the tidal flats of Elliott Bay in 1851, Seattle has fought for its place as the Pacific North West's premier city. Undermined by the development of its neighbours, in particular Tacoma, Seattle's ambitious sons showed an unremitting talent for money-making,  bringing the mountains down to fill the tidal flats on which the town was built, carving a railroad network to serve the mining communities and generally profiting from enterprises ranging from prostitution to outfitting the chancers to (and from!) the Klondike gold rush. A great read written by one of Seattle's own sons.

24. Abide With Me by Ian Ayris
This is written in pure 'East-End-ish' so if your sensibilities are likely to be offended by swearing and gritty prose, this may not be for you. But that would be a shame because at the heart of this tale is a protagonist finding his way through a difficult and vastly different adolescence from that which most of us experience and making the choices that, in his world, seem to be almost a foregone conclusion.

23. The Armada Legacy by Scott Mariani
Number 8 in the Ben Hope series is set in the jungles of South America and is as fast-pace as ever. Entertaining reading. Actually perfect poolside fodder with the only strenuous movement required being how fast you want to turn the pages.

22. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
There was nothing bad about this book but it didn't inspire me/set my heart on fire either. 3 stars (out of 5) for this tale of two crackpots.

21. One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre
This is typical Brookmyre for me - crime told from everyone's point of view. This includes the criminal(s) who in usual fashion, blunders around making a mess of what at the start, seemed to be a pretty sound plan. A bit slow to start but things pick up as cross and double cross abound with the reticent school reunion attendees doing battle to save their skins.

20. The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
This is an easy, pleasant-enough read. A story that intertwines 17th century with modern day Venice, it's perfect for packing in your beach/pool bag for a not-too-taxing diversion from doing...well nothing very much. 3 out of 5 stars.

19. Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris
The third in the Chocolat-The Lollipop Shoes trilogy, this finds Vianne, Anouk and Rosette travelling back to the village of Lansquenet to 'ride the wind' again. Secrets and adversaries, both old and new, abound as Vianne gains a new perspective of the 'outsiders' as an 'insider'...almost. I read this voraciously, perhaps even greedily with the peach juice dripping down my chin, at every opportunity!

18. Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey
A loan from a French friend whose Russian fiance refers to this as definitive Paris reading, The Secret History is a fascinating trawl through the history of this diverse and extraordinary city. Even better was that I was reading it while visiting and actually turned the final page on the Eurostar coming back to London. It was a wonderful parallel journey which breathed new perspective into this city's proud and whimsical people and the revolutionary spirit which flows through their veins. 

17. Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom
I love Sansom's series featuring 16th century lawyer Matthew Shardlake so I was looking forward to trying out his new political thriller, albeit in a completely different time and place. It's a bit of a slow starter but persevere. The dramatic tension builds and you'll find yourself turning page after page eager to find out what will happen. A nice twist in the final paragraphs too.

16. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
I didn't really know what to expect but this book really is a pilgrimage. A wonderfully written, beautifully moving story of the things that happen when you step just a little outside everyday routine. One step leads to another and another and another and all there is to do is to pay a little attention to the life all around.

15. Lost At Sea by Jon Ronson
This is a series of tales about the weird and the wonderful that Ronson has come across during his career in journalism. There are UFOs, robots, kidneys, hot dogs and superheroes...and even a story about Robbie Williams. OK so maybe it is just plain weird but it's really entertaining reading.

14. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
What a brilliant read. This tale criss-crosses the generations chapter by chapter in true Morton style until the final secret is revealed.

13. Killing The Shadows by Val McDermid
It's been years since I last read a McDermid. I loved them then. I love them now. This one - to coin an Aussie phrase - is a bl**dy ripper!

12. The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris
Four years after Chocolat, Harris follows Vianne and Anouk to Paris, to a little corner of Montmarte, where the shadows have gathered and chocolate weaves its marvellous magic again.

11. Cover The Mirrors by Faye L. Booth
Not really convinced by this one. It's not the worst I've read but it's not great either.

10. Sword Song (The Saxon Chronicles 4) by Bernard Cornwell
Another ripping tale of medieval warmongering as Uhtred fights for love and London. On with number 5 I say!

9. The Innocent by David Baldacci
Another brilliant Baldacci. They are all good but I liked this one even more than usual.

8. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
So the trilogy's done. And it was enjoyable. But I found the final leg in James' trifecta at best predictable. At worst, ridiculous.

7. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
Quite a nice read and not too taxing with the fairytale ending kept intact.

6. Capital by John Lanchester
This is a fantastic read. Lanchester draws our attentions to an affleunt South London suburb and gives us a forage into the minutae of 'a year' in the life of Pepys Road - the residents, the workers and their myriad of associations. A mysterious series of postcards creates a winding thread throughout but it is the living rather than the whodunit that held me enthralled. I'm off to see Lanchester interviewed next month (March) as part of The Guardian Book Club - can't wait!

5. London By Tube by David Revill
Subtitled A History Of Underground Station Names, this book does what it says on the tin by taking the reader - in alphabetical order - to each of the 268 stations on the network. It's absolutely fascinating and I am certain I'll be dipping back in for a refresher from time to time.

4. Winter: A Berlin Family by Len Deighton
I haven't read a Len Deighton for years and it was good to 'be back'. This intricate tale occurs during the first half of the 20th century, weaving its tendrils through two World Wars and their devastating aftermath. Absorbing reading.

3. The Cypress Tree by Kamin Mohammadi
This is a wonderful read and a real insight into a culture I had previously given little thought to. We often read expat stories about those who choose to emigrate (even as a 'trailing spouse' so to speak) but imagine the heartbreak of being forced to leave, to feel that your new culture contravenes the old one and that, as a result, you have to wear two faces. A must read.

2. Under The Weather by Tony Bradman
A series of stories about climate change written from a child/teenager's point of view. An easy read but if I'm really honest, I found myself getting bored with what felt like the same thing over and over. Not very PC I know but there you go.

1. The Moment by Douglas Kennedy
Over the last couple of years, I've become a fan of Kennedy but much to my surprise, when I looked back it's been over a year since I read A Special Relationship so I was delighted to find that The Moment kept the Kennedy flame alive. He breathes such life and complexity into his characters and draws you into their stories so completely that it's really hard to stop and turn the light off when sleep beckons!

2012:

65. The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling
A rather good read about an everyday community. Finely drawn characters in whom we sense a myriad of people we know are what make the story of community (mean) spirited-ness. Long'ish' but worth the read.

64. First Family by David Baldacci
Baldacci always writes a cracking tale and this one is no exception. Two murderous tales twist and turn throughout with the outcome being a rather satisfying one. (No spoilers peeps - we don't do those here at Gidday.)

63. Uptown Girl by Olivia Goldsmith
Light fluffy and fun - a perfect holiday read.

62. Lords of the North (The Saxon Chronicles 3) by Bernard Cornwell
I am really enjoying this series - it's a great way to learn a little bit more about England's early history without all the droll fact-finding. This one finds Uhtred leading the Saxon army north to defend his monarch's realm with hopes of regaining his own at Bebbanburg. Great storytelling.

61. The Expats by Chris Pavone
What a brilliant story. So many twists and turns in this thriller it was hard to see where it would all end...which kept me turning the pages right up to the last page. Put this on your Must Read list - especially if you are an expat!

60. Fifty Shades Darker by E L James
Another enjoyable read. It's not going to win any literary prizes but I can see the global appeal of the story and the sex. Ms James maybe prize-less but she's laughing all the way to the bank. Good for her!

59. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I loved this. Eloquent and at the same time fantastical, I felt myself led into Morgenstern's magical world from the first pages. Her writing sparks the reader's imagination - I imagine that each reader's journey through this tale will be as different and unqiue as they are themselves to each other. Absolutely wonderful.

58.  79 Park Avenue by Harold Robbins
There's nothing like a trusty tale from Harold Robbins to provide an excellent holiday read...although I seem to remember them being a little more titillating than this one. Knocked this one off (pardon the pun) in one day whilst lying by the pool. Yes it's that type of book.

57. The Last Pope by Luis Miguel Rocha
So this one was a much better read - pacy and suspenseful with just the right amount of twisting and turning. Methinks Rocha should have stopped with this one. (Ref. 56)

56. The Holy Assassin by Luis Miguel Rocha
I read the synopsis on the back cover and by rights I should have enjoyed this more. But it just dodges and weaves a little too much before a bit of an unsatisfactory ending. I'm currently reading the prequel which may improve things...or not.

55. Secrets by Freya North
A really enjoyable read. Light and not too fluffy.

54. Savages by Shirley Conran
Conran wrote this cracker many years ago and after my recent revisit to Lace (2012 #38), I decided to take another dip into Savages. Loved it...again! 

53. The Settlers of Catan by Rebecca Gable
This book is actually based on the board game of the same name designed by Klaus Teuber and later published in Germany in 1995. The tale itself is really engaging, following the journey of a beseiged community as they strike out into the unknown to build a new life for themselves. What makes the story so interesting is the whole cycle of birth, death and renewal throughout - of villages, communities, beliefs and even bonds of friendship and love. A great discovery and highly recommended. 

52. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James
Well I've read it and enjoyed it. Yes it's titillating but certainly nothing new. I remember reading Harold Robbins many years ago and it seems that nothing much has changed on the erotically-charged fiction front. I will no doubt read the others in this series but to be honest, I don't know what all the hype is about.

51. Suicide Run by Michael Connelly
A series of short stories featuring the grizzled and fabulous Harry Bosch. Like an irresistible selection of crime canapes. Brilliant.

50. One Last Love by Derek Haines
An easy read - sweet and touching.

49. The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Chronicles 2) by Bernard Cornwell
This is the second in Cornwell's Alfred the Great series (the first I read was number 36. in 2011's reading list) and I cannot believe I got distracted by other bright shiny objects for so long, Such brilliant storytelling, weaving historical events with 'novel' style. Off to download number 3.

48. Touch by Mark Sennen
This is a rather gripping tale - not always (or even often, for that matter) pretty but the verdict is a good one. My first DI Savage and definitely not my last!

47. Pantheon by Sam Bourne
A bit long-winded to start - well actually for the first half - and quite good in the end. But it did feel like reading two different books.

46. Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
A truly extraordinary story. Inspired by a chance meeting in New York, Thomas Keneally brings this unlikely champion of people and humanity to life. Having been to Krakow recently and stood in both Oskar Schindler's factory in Lipowa Street and in Plac Zgody in Podgorze (where the ghetto Jews boarded the trains for Auschwitz) gave this read extra poignancy. Highly recommended.

45. The Dinner by Herman Koch
Let me start by saying that I read the English language version, not the original Dutch one so there's no need to get all excited about any newly discovered linguistic abilities here at Gidday HQ. What you should get excited about is this book. A brilliant story with too many shades of grey (no, not that kind) to count. Thought-provoking and absolutely un-put-down-able.

44. Zero Day by David Baldacci
I love David Baldacci's books and for the life of me I don't know why I stopped reading them. John Puller is a fantastic protagonist with a bit more grit than my other literary infatuation, Ben Hope (I've read a few of these over the last year). So Mr Baldacci I am back...and with a vengeance!

43. Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson
A fun frolic in South West London - which also goes to show that the answer to happiness is usually right under our noses!

42. Snow Wars by J M Rumfitt
This paperback has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. Now I've finally read it, I can report: good reading, action-packed and several times throughout, I was unsure as to who the good guys really were. Right up my alley and just released on Kindle.

41. Unsuitable Men by Pippa Wright
I needed a light fluffy aeroplane read and this absolutely fitted the bill. It made me a little perturbed that this is what might be in front of me once I begin 'dating in earnest' again but there are some hilarious dating moments. Done and dusted in 24 hours and perfectly enjoyable.

40. Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah
I started reading the rather heavy going Rise and Fall of the Third Reich a little while ago and while it's fascinating, I've had to give myself a little mini-break. So seeing Sophie Hannah's latest on offer in Tesco was very opportune. Kind of Cruel is another gripping read from Hannah (I read A Room Swept White a couple of years ago and loved it) although this time, just like PC Simon Waterhouse, I 'knew' who it had to be - I just couldn't work out how. Highly recommended reading.

39. The Sacred Sword by Scott Mariani
Another Ben Hope adventure done and dusted. Exciting and pacy - just like the others. If you like light and easy action adventure type stories, the Ben Hope series could be for you.

38. Lace by Shirley Conran
The original, and the best, bonkbuster, Lace has lost none of its allure almost 30 years later. My Kindle edition had information on who the real life Kates, Pagans, Maxines and Judys were for Conran and her son Jasper even providing some inspiration. Fascinating!

37. Women and Children First by Gill Paul
This story takes the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912 adds a few fictional characters and creates a heart-warming tale of survival and compassion. An enjoyable read.

36. Bitter Water by Gordon Ferris
My second Ferris this year (see 24. for my first) and loved it every bit as much. There's a grittiness to the stories that I really enjoy and I'm looking forward to my next one.

35. Golden Lies by Barbara Freethy
Oh dear. Trashy, trashy, trashy. And not in a good way.

34. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
So with the reading of Mockingjay, The Hunger Games Trilogy is done. My favourite still remains Book 2 - Catching Fire - but the three stories provide such different perspectives of Katniss Everdeen that I wonder whether my fave would have lost something if I hadn't read the other two. Catching Fire is in essence a revolutionary tale but the subtexts of personal agenda and trust leave the reader guessing until the end. And who does Katniss end up with? Now that would be telling...

33. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I LOVED this. More than The Hunger Games. So much that I've gone straight on to Mockingjay. Back soon...

32. Bound to Sarah by Craig Brennan
This tale charts the lives of a husband and wife from Liverpool across the seas to the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land. I've never read a novel that had this rather infamous part of Australia's history as its theme and I enjoyed the story of Pat and Sarah. So all in all it was a quite satisfying yet strangely patriotic experience.

31. The Tea Planter's Daughter by Janet MacLeod Trotter
This is one of those sweeping saga stories where the protagonists fall on hard times and recover with dignity and courage to be swept away at the end by the one they crossed swords with at the start. It's a formulaic but an enjoyable read and rather good for the soul. But I must be off and polish that glass slipper...now where did I leave it last?

30. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
OK so it was hard to get into and I felt frustrated most of the time, feeling like it was all just going in circles. This may have been the author's intention - you know, like a Catch 22 - but quite frankly I won't be rushing back for another read.

29. The Shadow Project by Scott Mariani
Ben Hope adventure number 5 done! Phew! What a ride...

28. The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
Freud meets fiction and what a combination. Based in the early 1900s around Freud's visit to America, Rubenfeld adds the fictional Dr Stratham Younger and a string of attacks on women to the mix. Underpinning the activities born out by quite a convoluted criminal mind is the debate between Freud, the father of psychoanalytics and his protogee, Carl Jung, best known for his work on the interpretation of dreams. Given I studied psychology at uni, I absolutely loved this combination!

27. Compromised by Derek Keyte, Danielle Keyte
Set in the time of IRA vs Sinn Fein vs everyone else who had a view on the state of Ireland, a rookie soldier goes missing one evening and is rescued from the clutches of the PIRA within a few days. But what's great is that the story continues on to focus on the aftermath as he adjusts to life beyond the original events. Riveting.

26. The Penal Colony by Richard Herley
This is a brilliant read. Challenged by both the environment and his own past, protagonist Routledge learns more about himself and what brings him fulfilment in the most unlikely setting. Really glad I chose Herley and his story early in my Kindle life!

25. The Lost Relic by Scott Mariani
That's Ben Hope adventure number 6 done and the Mariani minibreak has done me the world of good. Loved this cracking tale and it was great to see a fiery female - in the shape of Darcey Kane - give him a run for his money in the spy stakes. ps. I have just realised that I missed number 5 - The Shadow Project. So much for reading them in order!

24. The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris
Ex 'polis'man Douglas Brodie returns from the second world war filled with demons and the desire to cast off his old life. But a desperate call from the past finds him tracking down the truth from Glasgow to the wilds of Scotland and Northern Ireland and back again. A whodunnit that reveals itself early but keeps you guessing with the whys and wherefores right until the end.

23. Hostile Witness by Rebecca Forster
This legal thriller kept me guessing right up until the final page. I spent the book doing the rounds of each suspect, nailing them in my mind only to find that the next chapter had my attentions focussed somewhere else. Protagonist and lawyer Josie is atypical and slightly unlikable and I think the story is better for that. And the best thing of all? It was FREE on Amazon so downloading to Audrey was as quick as you like! I do love my Kindle...

22. Invisible by Lorena McCourtney
This is my first dip into an Ivy Malone Mystery and at first, I wasn't sure about this LOL (Little Old Lady) and her stories. But I quite warmed to this spirited protagonist about a third of the way in and enjoyed following her somewhat rambling trail to seek the truth.

21. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I haven't read this since High School English and I'd forgotten its capacity to shock. The ferocity of the savagery amongst the young British school boys that Golding conjures up is unbelievably powerful and I'm still left at the end of the story wondering whether it was all some great human 'experiment'. Unforgettable - still.

20. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I read this in two sittings, it is that unputdownable. There's a lot of hype around the movie but I wanted to let my imagination form my own judgement. It reminds me a little of William Golding's Lord of the Flies (which I'm reading next) 'sexed up' for the Runescape generation. After all, the arena reads like a game and the Capitol are the controllers of the action.

19. Hide In Plain Sight by Marta Perry
An enjoyable couple hours spent reading this. It was an Amazon freebie and I was a little concerned that it might be overtly religious with the story following the reluctant return of the prodigal daughter to the family (Amish) fold. But actually it was quite a good balance - enough for me to glimpse and be interested rather than fighting a deluge of worthy sentiment. A bit one-dimensional character-wise but good anyway.

18. The Heretic's Treasure by Scott Mariani
Ben Hope adventure number 4 done and dusted. The commuting landscape still disappeared as I devoured e-page after e-page but I didn't find the female characters all that engaging in this one. Perhaps having read the one about the love of his life previously, this felt a little trite and I'm sure there could have been more substantial motivation for Hope's eventual triumph over evil. Good but not quite as good as the others.

17. Fatherland by Robert Harris
A thriller set in the middle of quite frankly an enormous concept, a world dominated by a Germany that won the war. I got onto this after seeing Robert Harris interviewed at the Guardian Open Weekend in March 2012 and it was a fantastic read. Harris wrote (or almost didn't as he explained in the interview) Fatherland 20 years ago and I'm glad he did. It's thought-provoking and thrilling at the same time, with many twists and turns and a slightly hard edge. After all, this could have been 'life as we know it' instead of the world we know now.  

16. The Tangled Web by Lacey Dearie
Light and easy does it. Perfect beach holiday reading.

15. Louis by Derek Haines
Having followed Derek Haines on Twitter for a little while, I took advantage of his recent generous offer to download one of his books for free and Louis was a great choice. Louis was born in Cairo in a life (and with another name) far removed from where we find him at the end of the story. In between, he adopts many names, manners and lives as a 'servant of Whitehall' and while the pace of each sojourn is exciting, at the end both he and the reader wonder what it was all for. An excellent read.

14.  Dear Coca Cola by Terry Ravenscroft
This is a series of amusing written exchanges between the author and the Customer Service departments of many well-known brands. It's a quick easy read (I was done in an hour) and from the ubiquitous Coca Cola of the title through to Mrs Baxter's test kitchen, the variety of responses was astonishing. It would appear there are indeed some very good Customer Service people in the UK - they just don't work for Tesco!

13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I love this book. Every time I read it, I feel moved throughout and incredibly satisfied at the end.  I first read it as a teenager as part of the English Literature syllabus at High School and I keep coming back to it every few years. There's always lots of talk about the film version(s) but nothing measures up to the imagery wrought by Bronte's brilliant pen. A true classic.

12My Last Blind Date by Susan Hatler
Short, cute, funny.  It was all over in about 15 minutes and I was left with a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

11. The Eighth Scroll by Dr Laurence B. Brown
As I started this one, I did wonder whether I had been reading too many 'religious' thrillers of late what with foray with the Borgias at number 6 and my Ben Hope addiction going strong. This is a good read and I wasn't disappointed. But I think I need to read a few more genres before coming back to this one - three since the last thriller obviously wasn't enough!

10. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Another great story from this Aussie (see 8. in 2011 for thoughts on my first Morton). She moves effortlessly between present and past and I really enjoyed this tale of 'upstairs, downstairs' between the classes.

9.5 or 2011 - 55b. Seven Daze by Charlie Wade
After reading The Bailout last year (see no. 51) and having enjoyed some of his other writing, Charlie approached me to 'proof' this new story and give some feedback prior to publication. Having read the majority pre-Christmas, I was just waiting for the last few chapters before getting the word out. Charlie writes with 'a twist' (bit like a good gin and tonic) so I need to keep schtum on any plot spoilers but it's a brilliant read and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he finds a publisher for this gem soon. In the meantime, keep an eye on his blog Spies, Lies and Pies for updates on Seven Daze as well as checking out some of his other stuff.

9. Dannii: My Story by Dannii Minogue
I have been a Dannii fan since she first appeared on Young Talent Time in 70s Australia. Not only was it refreshing to read her story and understand the times she seemed to soar above then drop off the radar, but her reminisces about her childhood in Australia were wonderful...we had an above ground pool too! I loved this one.

8. Anne Devlin: The Bravest of the Brave by Micheal O'Doibhilin
I have a family connection to the Devlins of Ireland through my mother's side and so when we visited Kilmainham Jail on a visit to Dublin early in 2012, saw this little booklet in the museum bookshop and met Micheal O'Doibhilin himself, it was a must buy. And a fascinating read.

7. The Doomsday Prophecy by Scott Mariani
The third Ben Hope tale - I've decided to read the series in order to get the whole picture in the right chronology but on its own, it's another cracking read. On with number 4 I say!


6. The Borgias by Christopher Hibbert
This one was hard to get into. A bit dry and slow at the start but by the time I'd finished, I felt I'd actually enjoyed my first dip into the infamous Borgias. Borgias 101 - done!


5. So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
The title says it all peeps. Despite all the 'rave reviews, my fourth Shriver may make me hesitate before picking up another. Hard work for a trite ending.

4. The Fashion Police by Sibel Hodge
The story was quite good but the characters irritating and the pseudo-swearing of protagonist, Amber Fox just made her seem even less authentic as a character. (For example, she says, 'crappety crap'. I mean - really?) Well, it was a Kindle freebie. Nuff said.

3. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
After reading The Leopard last year (see number 44) I was delighted to find this one in the bookshop at Istanbul Airport (I forgot to check Audrey's battery pre-trip and she temporarily died on me). I don't find Harry Hole a particularly sympathetic character but I don't dislike him either - which means the story stays at the forefront for me rather than the character. And it's another cracking read.

2. The Mozart Conspiracy by Scott Mariani
The second in the Ben Hope series and another enjoyable easy ride!


1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Having escaped from an Australian prison and spent eight years in the Bombay underworld, Roberts bases this novel on his real experiences. His writing is amazing, conjuring up the sights, sounds and smells of his beloved Bombay with every page and I smiled every time he encountered the wonderful Prabaker, the 'very excellent first number Bombay guide' with the enormous smile. This book may have even opened my previously closed heart to the possibility of a visit to India. Stay open-minded for an experience unlike any other - this is an expatriate tale of a very different kind.

2011:

58. French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
Light and fluffy holiday read. Enjoyable enough.

57. Perking The Pansies: Jack and Liam Move To Turkey
I have been reading Jack's blog for a few months before I read this book so I wondered what to expect. The first part was not an easy read for me, reminding me of my first year in London when I was determined not to be pigeon-holed as the stereotypical 'Walkabout' Aussie. Jack and Liam's winding path through the Ignorati, the VOMITs, the Emigreys is not unIque to the hills of Anatolia but this adds richness to where we find them in the final chapters. A must read for expats, travellers and life's adventurers - big and small.

56. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
What an amazing amazing book. Everyone should read this. And don't stop at the end of the last chapter either. Make sure you turn a few more pages and read about Kathryn's own experience and her inspiration for the book. Extraordinary and unputdownable.

55a. Seven Daze by Charlie Wade
So for those of you who have been wondering about this one - it was billed as a 'secret reading mission' until now - I am pleased to draw back the curtains and present Charlie Wade's Seven Daze. Head up to 2012 number 9.5 for more...

54.  The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Good start, bit slow in the middle and a slide to a slightly tragic end (in a pathetic character kind of way). Not bad but not entirely enamoured either.

53.  Vienna Blood by Frank Tallis
An interesting crime thriller set in Vienna in 1902. I loved all of the Freudian references and even though you find out who dunnit about three quarters of the way through, it was still fascinating to read on and find out how Leibermann and Reinhardt finally bring the killer to ground.

52.  Passenger 13 by Scott Mariani
The prequel to number 47 on the list. The commute just disappeared into the background while immersed in this.

51. The Bailout by Charlie Wade
Charlie Wade has been a 'blogging' discovery for me (I've been following his blog Spies, Lies and Pies for a while now) so when he published this, Audrey was at the ready for a download. I loved it - like in a 'oh crap here's my train/bus stop and I'm not quite ready' kind of way - and then it finished quite suddenly. Needless to say I feel incomplete and would like a sequel please Charlie!

50.  A Special Relationship by Douglas Kennedy
My third Kennedy this year and another fantastic read. This guy really has the ability to get under the skin of his female protagonists!

49.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A bit of a re-read here but since I haven't read it since Year 11 English Literature, I think it counts towards my challenge. I'd forgotten how irritating the first Cathy in the book is but still closed Audrey at the end feeling like I'd enjoyed the saga all over again.

48.  Glitz by Louise Bagshawe
Cover to cover in 4 hours. What a shame I wasn't basking by a pool, cocktail waiters at my beck and call...sigh!

47. The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani
The first in the Ben Hope series and my first Mariani. Definitely not my last. A great way to while away the commute.

46. Antony and Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough
A long read (particularly since being a hard back precluded it from commuting) but enjoyable and definitely worthwhile. I love reading anything based on history and this was a fantastic re-telling of some of history's most famous fascinations - Antony with Cleopatra, Cleopatra with power, Octavius (who became Augustus) with Rome.

45. Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence
Wow! I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and not just because of all of the salacious details either. A great story about self-discovery and the classes more than anything.


44. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
'They' say Nesbo is the next Larsson. I say not. This is a unique style with intricate twists and turns until the final page.  A real find. Will be back for more.

43. My 1st e-book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women (and Good Wives) was indeed a re-reading but I took the opportunity to read the other two in the series - Jo's Boys and Little Men - for the first time. A wonderful way to start my love affair with Audrey!

42.  Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
I do like a good crime read and Brookmyre's are just a bit left of centre to make them interesting.

41.  Pompeii by Robert Harris
Excellent fictionalised account of the eruption of Vesuvius (which I climbed in the late 90s) and the subsequent destruction of Pompeii (which I had visited two days prior) in AD79.  Very enjoyable.

40.  The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
This is not an 'enjoyable' book.  Now that that is out of the way, rest assured I would still recommend it.  It is confronting, opinionated and thought provoking - it's an insight into the reader themselves.  Just watch your opinions firm up and then waver as you learn more about each of the people involved.

39.  A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French
Well no, not really.  Not even a tiny bit.  I love Dawn French but the marvellous-ness just wasn't there for me.

38. The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Frantzen
Eureka!  Another amazing discovery.  Franzten rocks!  Bring on the next one.

37.  Stephen Fry in America
Oh oh oh what an amazing journey this was!  Mr Fry manages to apply his uncommon intellect to the curiousities of America's 'every-men' and comes to the conclusion that there really is no such thing is an 'American' but rather a unique and sprawling diversity that any other nation would have to seriously stretch themselves to get even close to.  Wonderful and on the shelf for revisiting.

36.  The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles 1) by Bernard Cornwell
The first in this series about Alfred The Great - fantastic.  Am now off to read the rest!


35.  The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
I've not read much Russian or Chinese-themed literature so I quite enjoyed this double-dose of 'expanding my cultural horizons'.  Enjoyable rather than breath-taking so I give it three and a half out of five stars.

34. Twice Shy by Dick Francis
Another neat and horse-y book from Francis.  Easy reading.

33. Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
I loved reading this.  Bryson has a way of bringing the poignant eccentricites of the British to life and just reminded me of the things I love about living here. 

32.  Night Music by JoJo Moyes
An easy read about victory over the small, everyday battles with self and the search for peace.

31.  Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel 
Never thought I'd see the day when I warmed to Thomas Cromwell - just goes to show, two sides and all of that.  Great read!

30.  Leaving The World by Douglas Kennedy
My second book of his after discovering him earlier in the year (see 5.).  As un-put-down-able as the first.  A heart-wrenching page turner.

29.  The Blair Years by Alistair Campbell
I read it.  All 700+ pages of it.  And I expected to have stronger opinions throughout than I did.  But the thing that struck me most was how many extraordinary events occurred over a 10 year period, and how few of them I would have spontaneously remembered.  Whether you think it's the gospel truth or just more propaganda, this is a thought-provoking look at the events that shaped a distinctive decade in world politics.

28.  The Dressmaker by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck
Easy reading, simple story - very nice!

27.  Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
I love Michael Connelly.  Detective Harry Bosch is just grizzled enough to be interesting! And this triad tale kept me guessing right until the end.

26.  Becoming Queen by Kate Williams
This book focuses on Queen Victoria's formative years and the early years of her reign right up to the birth of her second child Prince Edward.  Fascinating!

25. The Sacred Art of Stealing by Christopher Brookmyre
It took me 3-4 chapters to get into this (graphic sexual references while commuting are, erm...shall we say 'challenging') but once I was in, I loved it.  Very cleverly written and I loved how, as the story went on, the layers kept unfolding until all of the characters' relationships and raisons d'etre made sense.  Will definitely read more of his stuff.

24.  Tyrant by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Excellent fictionalised account of the reign of Dionysius I and his campaign to win the island of Sicily.  I don't know how much was true but it's well worth a read!

23.  Double Fault by Lionel Shriver
I love Lionel Shriver.  She has this really uncompromising style which is not so much a 'hit you between the eyes' but more a 'let's not sugar-coat the feelings/motives/actions of our protagonists' approach.  This book left me reeling and it all seemed to end rather suddenly, leaving me feeling a bit like she just 'up and left' before our conversation finished.

22.  The Danger by Dick Francis
Another great read and actually part of an omnibus of two stories by Francis (do two stories make an omnibus or is there another word for it?) so expect a comment on another Francis adventure soon-ish!

21.  Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear by Dan Gardner
A REEEEEALLY interesting read. I love to read things that make me think about what makes people tick. Click here for just one of my little musings...

20. Filthy Rich by Wendy Holden
A good holiday read...just the right length/weight for lying by the pool/beach and dipping in and out at leisure.  Although a significant proportion of the chapters seemed to be dedicated to getting all the characters 'set up' before actually getting to the heart of the story...which then finished rather suddenly! But enjoyable nonetheless.

19.  The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Another great historical easy-read from Gregory.  Having read the companion novel, The White Queen (about House of York Queen, Elizabeth Woodville) late last year, the venality of Margaret Beaufort in pursuing the Lancaster legacy took me somewhat by surprise and I've been left with one rather enduring thought - read both books to get the balanced view!

18.  The Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver
How I love a good crime thriller and Deaver is up there with the best of them.  Spending time between the covers with Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs as they track their latest killer is just more excitement than a girl can stand on a morning commute.  And the end just twisted and turned and twisted again...

17.  Persuasion by Jane Austen
A lovely book and the only Jane Austen novel I hadn't read - until now.  All 6 sit on my bookshelf in hardback and this one certainly earned its place amongst the others.  A tip though - read it in the Spring sunshine on a Saturday afternoon when you can completely lose yourself in the meandering and magic prose of Austen.

16.  Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence
Fantastic look at the woman who wrote some of the brilliantly-crafted and best-loved novels of all time.  Her glorious writing stands the test of time and this biography shines a light into the nooks and crannies of her own life that found their way into the pages of her six timeless classics.

15.  Atlantis by David Gibbins
I normally love Atlantis-themed novels but this was just too far-fetched.  Enjoyable but only a 3 (out of 5)-star read for me.

14.  Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
I had forgotten what a cracking read a Dick Francis novel is - a bit like a more substantial John Grisham or a James Patterson with longer chapters.  Great for whiling away the long commute!

13.  Billy by Pamela Stephenson
Having seen Billy Connelly live about 10 years ago, I was curious to read this.  Heart-warmingly relayed by his NZ/Australian wife (and doctor of Psychology), this is full of vintage Connelly antics and really put the pieces of the 'anything but biege' Connelly puzzle together for me.

12.  The Best of Times by Penny Vincenzi
Long, convoluted, lots of detail and a predictable happy ending...but mainly just really long.

11.  Radiance by Shaena Lambert
A novel about all things human - judgement, morality, prejudice and attachment. One minute, I sat in judgement from one perspective then in a flash, I found myself judging my own perception and opinions. Thought-provoking.

10. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
So that's it. The Millenium Trilogy done. Number three was political - and challenging as a result - but unreservedly satisfying in the end. The series stays on my bookshelf bestowed with the honour of 're-read' status.  

9.  Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
A really gripping storyline but overtly gory and sometimes I had to really steel myself to read on. Not for the faint-hearted!

8.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
What an unexpected joy this turned out to be! Although I had to make sure that I read it in chapter blocks - a couple of times I stopped midway through (had to get off the train, fell asleep etc...), then forgot which timeframe I was reading and got completely confused about who was doing what! But I'd definitely add this to your list.

7.  The Prodigal Spy by Joseph Kanon
I really enjoyed this one - all the twists and turns. I ended up suspecting everyone in this tale of two-faces...

6.  Hot House Flower by Margot Berwin
An odd read - sort of like the Celestine Prophecy but in Exotic Plants...the jury's out on this one.

5.  The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy
Not a new book at all but passed on by a friend as she cleaned out her office desk...and glad she did. I feel like I've 'discovered' a new author to read.

4.  Paths To Glory by Jeffrey Archer
A great 'what-if' retelling of history...not a huge Archer fan but I highly recommend this one.

3.  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
A surprisingly great read...a fascinating commentary on 'the classes'.

2.  The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
As amazingly unput-down-able and great as the first one.  Can't believe I waited (aka was being perverse about following 'the crowd') so long to read these.

1.  Sir Elton: The Definitive Biography of Elton John by Philip Norman
Great, great biography - and quite poignant in light of their recent adoption.
Post a Comment