Sunday, 1 January 2012

My 2011 in Books!

Yes, it's that time of year again!  Time to review everything we've read over the last twelve months; time to see whether our findings surprise us, depress us or just make us proud; time to offer up our favourites for our readers' wishlisting pleasure...  So, without further ado, let's get on with a couple of stats, then the all-important 'And the award goes to...' section!  You can click on the title of any of the books to read my full review.

Total fiction: 38
Total non-fiction: 21

Male authors: 25
Female authors: 34

Adult books: 42
YA books: 17



Atonement - Ian McEwan
One of the most absorbing, poignant and beautifully observed novels I think I have ever read.  It tells the story of two lovers, Robbie and Cecilia, and of Cecilia's little sister Briony, whose moment of childish self-importance will tear them apart.  I savoured every last page, revelling in the epic sweep and tiny human moments, and have been heartily recommending it to all and sundry ever since!

To Touch a Wild Dolphin - Rachel Smolker
This wonderful book describes Smolker's long love affair with the friendly wild dolphins of the now-famous Monkey Mia, on the West Australia coast.  She describes how she stumbled upon the dolphins, how she set about her dolphin research project, what she has discovered over the last couple of decades, and what life was like for her in Shark Bay.  The dolphins come alive under her pen, and her writing is just beautiful.

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
It took me a while - and a lot of impatient coercement from various fellow readers - but I finally read the first installment this year!  And wow, it was worth the wait.  An emotional rollercoaster of a read, I flew through it on the edge of my seat, and finished the last page in a kind of stunned disbelief, exhausted from the intensity and emotion of the Games.  Now I just need to read the other two...

The author takes us on a journey through a year in her reading life.  A devoted reader both for work and for pleasure, she sets herself the goal of reading a book a week for a year.  Along the way she writes about her life and family, her reading habits and foibles, and of course, about the books she's been enjoying.  Delicious lazy-day reading for bibliophiles!

Faceless Killers - Henning Mankell
I'd heard a lot about the famous Kurt Wallander, and seen a couple of the Kenneth Branagh television adaptations too, but I'd never actually read one of the books!  This is the first of the series, and alongside a gripping police procedural plot, introduces us to Wallander's troubled family life, his loneliness - and his intelligent, kind and just approach to his work.

Percy Jackson - Rick Riordan
Yet another YA series I've seen flourishing, but haven't actually read!  I finally read The Lightning Thief this year, devoured it pretty much whole, and wished I hadn't waited so long.  I love the premise of modern-day gods and demigods, mythical creatures and epic battles, and have already picked up the next book in the series to carry on reading in 2012.  Great fun!

The Last Werewolf - Glen Duncan
Sleek, matte black dustjacket; exquisitely understated lettering interspersed with the phases of the moon; gold shiny sprayed page ends.  A simple, beautiful object indeed.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, from Perfume - Patrick Süskind
He is pure, twisted and driven evil, yet also strangely enticing and childlike.  With his incredible nose for scent, Grenouille is truly fascinating.

Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough
Opening with the haunting ballad of Long Lankin, this is one of the best young adult novels I read this year.  With its family secrets, forbidden churchyard, and of course, the menace on the marshes, it really got under my skin.  One or two moments actually turned me cold with dread!  Creepy, atmospheric and impossible to put down.

Bloodstream - Tess Gerritsen
Part of my first real foray into thriller writing, I'd expected this to be a little formulaic and bland.  I couldn't have been more wrong - it was a taut, exciting, emotional and shocking ride, as a new town doctor tries to find a medical cause for a spate of deadly violence perpetrated by the local teenagers.  A memorable read, and definitely not my last Gerritsen.

Passion - Lauren Kate
After enjoying Fallen and finding Torment even better, I was really looking forward to this third installment of Luce and Daniel's story.  Skipping back through Luce's past lives was a fun idea, and some of the sections were interesting, but others were dull, confused or downright cliched.  Hopefully Fallen in Love and Rapture will be better...

Bumped - Megan McCafferty
Another huge disappointment.  After all the hype from across the pond, I expected an brilliant and original dystopian novel.  In actual fact, I found it very muddled - particularly the 'godfreaky' parts - and got sick of the incessant baby puns after about ten pages.  Dystopian society or not, could these kids talk about nothing else, ever?

Atonement - Ian McEwan
There's something about beautiful, intense, sweeping novels that entice the reader to become deeply invested in the characters, so much so that when anything goes wrong it breaks your heart...

The Princess Bride - William Goldman
Completely brilliant from start to finish!  From the characters to the settings to Goldman's interruptions throughout his 'abridgement', everything about this book is comedy genius.  I knew I was onto a winner when I couldn't stop smiling even through the first few pages of the introduction, and sure enough, it's one of my favourite reads of the year!

~ Reflections on 2011 ~

I feel like I've had quite a good year of reading, despite my relatively low total number of finished books.  I seem to have balanced quite well between male and female authors, read a good chunk of non-fiction, and finished a good few substantial reads to offset the easier stuff.  I started the year really well, with a series of 24-hour read-a-thons driving my reading forward and getting me good and motivated.  Sadly I then hit a complete reading slump during the summer, which slowed things right down again.  It was probably a fairly hefty contributing factor to my not completing my Books to be Read Challenge too, which I'm disappointed about.  That said, the books I DID finish for that challenge turned out to be some of my favourites! 

I think one of the highlights of the year for me - though one of the hardest to pull off - was my three-week Page to Screen event over the summer (links to all the reviews, articles and editorial pieces are listed in this summary post).  It was a great celebration of books and their screen adaptations, and my guest bloggers pulled out all the stops with some brilliant contributions.  I was absolutely exhausted by the end but it was worth it!

Outside of the blog, 2011 was a pretty important year.  My sister has gone into her final year at university so there are big changes ahead as she moves towards graduation and her future.  I've moved back into the family home for a while to stay warm and toasty over the winter, which has been a little strange but quite nice.  Lots of reading time curled up in my room with the cat, and fair amount of 'Oh, you're having something yummy for dinner?  Why no, I didn't have any plans - don't mind if I do!'  And perhaps most importantly - particularly for the blog - is that we've signed a new lease to keep our bookshop premises for another three years.  My inner Bernard Black will run free a while longer!

~ Thoughts for 2012 ~ 

Hmmm.  Well, first up, let's say something about challenges.  After my failure to complete either of the ones I signed up to in 2011, I have nevertheless opted in again for 2012.  I'll be taking part in Hanna's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Book Challenge and Adam's TBR Pile Challenge (I'll try to do better this year!), as well as my own Mixing It Up Challenge.  If you haven't already seen it, you can click on the link for more info and to sign up, and my challenge post with my ideas and categories is here.  On top of those, I'll be working some of the books into my 12 in 12, Books off the Shelf and 75 Book challenges over on LibraryThing.

That might sound a bit much, especially given this year's failures, but they all serve a purpose!  Hopefully they'll persuade me to read some of the classics I didn't get to this year (a pitiful one classic novella in 2011), clear some books off my groaning TBR shelves, and look around at all the different and wonderful subjects and genres I've got waiting for me - the non-fiction, the award winners, the literary fiction - instead of always veering towards the easiest and quickest titles.  I'd also like to stay well on top of my review reading this year, so a little structure wouldn't hurt.  I'm going to use a diary to start noting publication dates so I can prioritise better.

I'd really like 2012 to be a more motivated year.  A little less internet, a little more book time.  Picking up a book behind the counter at work instead of wasting hours flitting from article to article on the laptop.  Getting little admin jobs done for the shop, for the blog and at home instead of letting them build into a day-long epic task.  Clearing out more junk, taking books I've finished with to the shop, and generally getting things organised in time for our move.  You get the idea.  I'm ready to get started today!  



  1. It seems you had a good reading year. I have to read some of the book you listed. Good luck with your goals for 2012 and I hope it will be a good year for you! Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks Pepca! Maybe this will be the year I actually keep to my goals instead of crashing and burning by March! :)

    I actually only just realised, looking at this list, how many of my favourites were books I'd chosen among my 12 for Adam's Books to be Read Challenge - The Hunger Games, Atonement, The Princess Bride and The Lightning Thief were all from there. I guess it just goes to show - it's worth taking the plunge and stopping at these long-shelved books, instead of keep skipping over them!

  3. Ooh, I loved Atonement! I cried a lot so I'm not surprised to see it as your weepiest - excellent choice! Have you seen the film? It's actually a reasonable adaptation and still quite the tear jerker.

    There are a couple on your list I keep meaning to read too - The Hunger Games and The Princess Bride. I keep vainly hoping that I'll be able to use my points on BookMooch to get them but my patience is kind of wearing out now. I found Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief on my library's ebook site and grabbed it straight away - I'm reading it now and love it! All I need now is a book on Greek mythology!

  4. Hello! We are WELL stalking each other today, I love it! :P

    I haven't seen the movie yet - I have it on DVD but I was determined to wait until I'd read the book. Now I'm back in the family house over the winter and I daren't watch it here because someone ALWAYS walks in just as I burst into tears. Totally ruins my movie mojo. I think I'll wait until I'm safely home alone sometime!

    THG and TPB are both well worth getting hold of, however you do it! Glad you're enjoying Percy Jackson, I think he was one of my favourite finds of 2011. I actually rather liked the movie too, even though it didn't get good reviews. Some bits made MORE sense in the film, even. I'll be reading more Riordan this year, definitely!

  5. What a great year of books! I'm a huge Tess Gerritsen fan, but haven't read Bloodstream yet. I'm also going to add Long Lankin and Faceless Killers to my tbr list in goodreads. Happy New Year!

  6. Yay! I love these posts :) Is it bad I'm actually looking forward to doing mine? Haven't had chance yet because I've been ill, but I love all those glorious statistics! :D

    Hey, you have a great ratio of non-fiction to fiction. I'm awful at doing that. I keep meaning to, but I only ended up with 15% or so and that sucks.

    I'm borrowing Atonement off a friend (tomorrow, in fact!) due to your review. She didn't like it but that's probably because they made her study it in school!

    Ah, So Many Books, So Little Time. To this date it's still my snarkiest review ever!

    Perfume is on my reread list this year, although I read it not so long since. I didn't like any of his other books much, but this one was brilliant. And you're right, Grenuoille is fascinating!

    Haha, I think of you every single time I see Bumped, online or offline! Probably not the best advertisement for it, but never mind!

    Sorry for the stream of consciousness comment, but there was so much I wanted to say!


I love comments almost as much as I love chocolate buttons. AND THAT IS A LOT.