Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014, a somewhat tardy wrap-up

Yes, 2014. I know that feels like years ago now. 
Total: 181. This sounds fantastic until you realise 56 were 'Nancy Drew' books and 88 were re-reads. And 1 (one) was just a tiny little essay. Then again, those 56 books were a brilliant and nostalgic journey back into my past as a reader; and those 88 re-reads have made me the placidly sane (lazy) person I am today. That makes 93 new-to-me books (some of those Nancy Drew books had not been read before, just to confuse things). The 1 essay was written by an adult for adults, and I think I need that statistic. ;-)

How did I read them? 165 e-books to 16 tree-books. 
This preference has not stopped me buying real books - I just haven't read them.

female writers: 93

male writers: 32

ghost-writers: 56, predominantly female

number of writers I had to google to sex: 2

non-fiction: 6. Terrible. TERRIBLE.

crime/mystery/espionage: 122. 
In its own way, also terrible. But so enjoyable.

And the hits (and misses)?


Favourite non re-read (fiction):
The Golden Child - Penelope Fitzgerald (I actually reviewed this one)

Favourite non re-read (non-fiction):
Love Lessons: A Wartime Journal - Joan Wyndham 
Wonderful diary of a very silly and selfish young woman in WW2 who nevertheless manages to capture a remarkable moment in London life among the bohemians during the Blitz. 

Favourite re-read:
Death in Kashmir - M. M. Kaye
An old favourite. In the dying days of the Raj, something sinister is afoot in beautiful Kashmir. Can innocent (and pretty) Miss Parrish decipher the clues or will she too perish in mysterious circumstances? And who is that handsome polo-playing aide-de-camp...? Perfect escapism. 


New-to-me book most likely to be re-read:
Parnassus on Wheels - Christopher Morley. What could one love more than a bookshop in a caravan? Despite my profound devotion to indoor plumbing, this book was gorgeous - see a work in progress' review. The sequel, sadly, was a bit of a letdown. 

Favourite new-to-me author:
Mrs. Georgie Sheldon. Ah, how much do I love you, Mrs. G.S. Er, except for that one I did not finish (a first for me!) on Christian Scientists. But, apart from that hiccup, if you're looking for an old-fashioned serial type semi-sensationalist romantic novel featuring innocent young women, worthy young men, mistaken identities, presumed deaths, sudden poverty, incredible wealth, loads of travel, and some really silly plots, then she is for you. Thanks to fleur in her world for starting me off on these with Mona, or The Secret of a Royal Mirror and True Love's Reward: A Sequel to Mona. Just be careful that you (unlike me) start one where Part 2 is actually still in print... I read: The Heatherford Fortune; His Heart's Queen; Geoffrey's Victory, or The Double Deception; Virgie's Inheritance; Threads Gathered Up; The Masked Bridal.


Most satisfactory most-hyped book:
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell. God, wasn't it horrible being a teenager? I miss the 80s too. Anyone want to make me a mix-tape? 

Least satisfactory most-hyped book:
Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter. This book should have made me so happy - Italy, the dolce vita, etc. - but I just felt manipulated. Also messing with real people makes me uneasy.


Worst title: 
Dumps: A Plain Girl - L. T. Meade. There's nothing that education and regular meals won't fix, however. 

Best double-entendre:
Biggles Takes it Rough - Capt. W.E. Johns


Book most likely to make me never pick up the author's works again:
Tono-Bungay - H. G. Wells. Should have worked - patent medicine, upstairs-downstairs relationships, early experiments in flight - but so tedious. I have few Socialist tendencies, I'm afraid.

Book most likely to be thrown across the room:
The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese - Kathe Lison. I love cheese. I love France. I do not like entirely gratuitous descriptions of what people look like, as though this is a Dan Brown book. So, she's a bit wrinkly? Who CARES? She can make cheese so good it'd make statues swoon. This book also fits into another non-fiction pet hate category of mine, namely 'authors who insert themselves into narratives about other far more interesting people and subjects'.


Craziest plot:
The Second Wife - Irving Wallace. Loved this - insane espionage plot and some really bad sex. I miss the Cold War. Recommended by clothes in books

Book producing weird feeling of déjà vu despite having never read it before:
In a Glass, Darkly - Helen McCloy. Eventually I tracked this feeling down to having read the plot of this book in its earlier incarnation as a short story in Maureen Daly's My Favourite Mystery Stories, a book we keep in the loo.

Most memorable appearance by a cat:
Rogue Male - Geoffrey Household. Proper spy novel with lots of lying in dirty holes being manly. Also, a cat. 

Number of deaths from consumption/TB:
I think only one, and that was "quick consumption", best friend of the plot-driven Victorian author. Thus, The Masked Bridal (1894): "...Edith was informed that Gerald Goddard had died only the week previous of quick consumption, and his body had been quietly interred in Greenwood, according to his own instructions."


Most rape-y:
Sabre-Tooth [Modesty Blaise 2] - Peter O'Donnell. I liked the first one (Modesty Blaise) a lot - strong female character, lots of silly gadgets and madcap plots. The second was a bit grim.

Don't read if you're alone and the electricity supply isn't certain:
Some Must Watch - Ethel Lina White. This was also a fantastically creepy B&W film called The Spiral Staircase (1945). Then again, what do you think will happen if you take a job as a lady's companion in the middle of nowhere?


Most gratuitous use of a robot as a plot device:
The Crooked Banister [Nancy Drew] - 'Carolyn Keene'. I'm sure whoever ghost-wrote this one had been getting their inspiration from magic mushrooms. 

A characters who can play the bag-pipes? 
Nancy, of course: The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes - 'Carolyn Keene'.


A nice young man:
T. Tembarom - Frances Hodgson Burnett. Lovely, lovely read - innocent young American Mr Tembarom wreaks havoc on the aristocracy when he inherits a stately estate in conservative old England. 

Book most likely to make me look intelligent if read on a bus:
Pnin - Vladimir Nabokov. A rather wonderful take on the academic novel. Poor Pnin - nothing ever goes right. This is my second Nabokov (after Lolita), and certainly not my last.

Best sensationalist novel:
Her Father's Name - Florence Marryat. I reviewed this one. Cross-dressing! Heaving bosoms! Ladies smoking cigars! 

Book providing the solution to the burning question of what sort of pie Mr Drew likes best?
In no. 29 (Mystery at the Ski Jump) it is "Apple with lots of cinnamon". In no. 56 (The Thirteenth Pearl) it is lemon meringue pie. I think we can agree that this inconsistency is an instance of shocking editorial oversight.

So, roll on 2015. And, somewhat belatedly, Happy New Year!


  1. I think yours is the most diverse list I've seen. 56 Nancy Drew books is a very impressive total! I had completely forgotten (but am not surprised) that Nancy is a virtuoso bagpiper. Ijust finished a book with TWO quick deaths from consumption - snuffed out like candles in the author's words. I am adding Mrs Georgie Sheldon & T. Temberon to the reading list. Happy bookish new year!

    1. I've already had one near miss from consumption and a bag-pipe playing heroine in my reads for 2015, so I feel that I'm starting off well! (And neither Nancy.) T. Tembarom was such a delight - I know you like "innocent abroad" type themes, so I hope you enjoy it.

  2. What a wonderful wrap-up! Books are rushing up and down the TBR even as a type ....

    1. So many of my favourite reads last year came from your recommendations, Jane, so I am happy to be able to return the favour!

  3. A post well worth waiting for. I think I enjoyed Beautiful Ruins a bit more than you, but its not his best of the ones I have read so far. Rogue Male waits for me somewhere. I like the sound of the Wallace one also but maybe too much in the tubs already.

    I did have a rude joke to tag onto the Biggles book but had better restrain myself.
    Welcome back......next post scheduled January, 2016?

    1. January 2016 is probably optimistic! ;-) I don't think restraint is necessary - I myself own several copies of 'Biggles Gets His Men'.

    2. Ok then - I was going to ask if this was the Biggles book which featured the two Scotsmen - Ben Doon and Phil McCavity? I'm unsure if this will travel well over the net as you really need to say it out loud with a Scottish accent!

    3. *Brilliant*
      Aye, I was only in Scotland a couple of years ago (rained constantly. It was summer...), and one of my loveliest friends is Glaswegian (do they even speak English?), so I can translate oh so easily... But my innocent little ears... ;-) Years ago someone told me that the way to check that your teacher/tutor read your whole essay all the way through was to slip in 'Biggles Flies Undone' onto the bibliography and see if anyone notices. I really think W.E.Johns missed an opportunity there!

  4. Love, love, love this list! It's diversity, its whimsy, its quantity and its wonderful categories! I'm working on mine -- it should be up now; I haven't read nearly as many books! But last summer when I came home from the lake, I brought a Nancy Drew and a Trixie Belden home. Haven't read them yet, but will... and I can't wait!

    1. I loved Trixie Belden way back when (Dark Ages, I think...!) and have most of them stashed somewhere. I wonder how well they stand up to re-reading: they were rather more realistic than Nancy -- I found Trixie far more refreshing with her freckles and mistakes and all those hated chores she had to do.

  5. What a great selection of books you read last year! I have a copy of Death in Kashmir and am hoping to read it soon, so I'm pleased to hear you enjoyed your re-read.

    1. Thanks, Helen - Death in Kashmir is one of my favourites - I'd also recommend Death in Kenya (though we may not necessarily agree with the characters thoughts on colonialism) and I also love Death in Cyprus where she really captures another moment, like Kashmir, just before politics will destroy a way of life.

  6. A very entertaining write-up and I loved the categories! I think the cover illustrator for The Crooked Banister did some of the Three Investigators books I have - I'll have to check. And you've reminded me to read more of those this year. Have a good reading year in 2015!

    1. Oh, yes, I've got some of those Three Investigator covers - they do look similar, especially in the colour-drenching style. That's another excellent series - I sometimes suspect that so many of the 'facts' I 'know' may come from Jupiter Jones!

  7. I adore your wrap up - well worth the wait as Col says. Who else is talking about the great pie scandal of Nancy Drew? You've really taken me back to some of the funnest bits of my childhood - like the all out brawls my brother and I used to have over who got to read the Biggles books mum brought home from the library first - though I don't remember any giggling at the titles - perhaps we didn't understand double entendres back then

    1. There's that terrible moment, isn't there, when you realise that you can never think innocently about a book again. I often thought as I read through Nancy Drew, 'didn't they ever go to the loo?' Also there is a heap of mean stuff about Bess being fat and needing to diet that I just never picked up as a kid. Whenever there's a pie on the scene, she gets a telling off. Terrible... Just eat the pie, Bess! Whatever sort it is. ;-)

  8. Oh I love your list. The books and the categories. Such fun categories. This really was a list worth waiting for - as someone else said. I'm very keen on reading Parnassus on Wheels. I discovered it as well on Danielle's blog. So many goodies on this list

    1. Thank you! Parnassus on Wheels really was a delight - and I suspect we can all think of a time when we wanted to chuck in housework and take to the road!

  9. Joan Wyndham Joan Wyndham Joan Wyndham!! I'm so pleased to see her getting some love! I read Love Lessons by absolute chance, and it unexpectedly became one of my favorite books ever. You know she wrote other books about her life? Two of them are duds, but the one about the years right after Love Lessons (Love Is Blue, it's called) is nearly as funny and charming as Love Lessons is. I'd recommend it, if you can find a copy!

    1. Happily I managed to buy Love is Blue at the same time, so I have another treat in store for this year, Jenny - really looking forward to some more. I know I said she was "silly" but, really, what I mean is more like 'with that total self-involvement of the young'. I'm looking forward to how military service will sort her out!

  10. I keep thinking about giving Eleanor and Park a go, maybe I will now. I really enjoyed reading your round-up. Glad you read so much that you enjoyed last year.

    1. Thanks Lindsay - it was a bit of a naughty year in terms of 'lack of motivation for self improvement', but an excellent year in terms of 'reading whatever I want'! ;-)

  11. Delighted to see your very particular round-up. Clearly Mr Drew is a weather-vane to trends and fads, how distressing to discover his lack of constancy. Maybe that's why Nancy is looking for order in an unreliable world..? ;)

    I wish you many hours of happy escape, shapely detectives and less H G Wells for 2015. :)

    1. Thanks Alex! Poor Nancy, everyone's trying to bring in some order:

      "'I’m convinced there is at least one secret entrance into this house, and maybe more. I think our next step should be to try to find it—or them.'

      'We’d better wash the luncheon dishes first,' Aunt Rosemary suggested."

  12. What a year! And what a list! Especially "Biggles Takes It Rough" - cackle!!

    Happy 2015 - I can see from your list below you're already making good progress!

    1. Thanks Michelle - I really should read more of my 'real' books this year which lie about the house making me feel naughty for just adding to the piles and not reading. I suspect we all know that feeling tho'!

  13. Loved this post; a lot of fun. 93 is awesome in itself! On the googling for gender, I do that too and it feels a bit embarrassing not to know, sometimes. But then the whole 'initials are used by women so as to obscure gender' isn't relevant and then there are the unisex names... says someone with a unisex name...

    1. It does make me wonder - were I able to read without knowing anything about the author - if I could even pick the sex! Enjoy your reading year, Charlie.

  14. I need alerts - I missed this completely. What a great list. I think I need that FH Burnett book, and several others. You are nicer than me, I just got annoyed with Joan Wyndham, probably unfairly. And now my new project for the year - consumption watch! I want to do one too, shall we have a competitive vicious consumption-off, or shall we just lazily compare notes in 2016? I think the second.

    1. I think the lazy version - wouldn't want to tax our frail female frames... *coughs* I've already had one consumption so far, but it didn't kill her - does that count? There was blood. But it was an obvious marker of Too Good To Live.

  15. "What could one love more than a bookshop in a caravan? "
    A bookshop on a narrowboat, perhaps. There is (was?) one on the Grand Union Canal in London.

    1. I think there's also quite a famous barge bookshop somewhere on the canals near Manchester? I have to say, though, I get terribly seasick even on a pontoon!

  16. Love the way you organized this wrap up! Especially like Books to Be Thrown Across the Room!

    1. Thanks jenclair! I do wonder what will happen when I meet an e-book I can't throw. How shall I sublimate my rage?! ;-)


{READ IN 2018}

  • 30.
  • 29.
  • 28.
  • 27.
  • 26. The Grave's a Fine & Private Place - Alan Bradley
  • 25. This is What Happened - Mick Herron
  • 24. London Rules - Mick Herron
  • 23. The Third Eye - Ethel Lina White
  • 22. Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mewed - Alan Bradley
  • 21. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley
  • 20. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley
  • 19. Speaking from Among the Bones - Alan Bradley
  • 18. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
  • 17. Miss Ranskill Comes Home - Barbara Euphan Todd
  • 16. The Long Arm of the Law - Martin Edwards (ed.)
  • 15. Nobody Walks - Mick Herron
  • 14. The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith
  • 13. Portrait of a Murderer - Anthony Gilbert
  • 12. Murder is a Waiting Game - Anthony Gilbert
  • 11. Tenant for the Tomb - Anthony Gilbert
  • 10. Death Wears a Mask - Anthony Gilbert
  • 9. Night Encounter - Anthony Gilbert
  • 8. The Visitor - Anthony Gilbert
  • 7. The Looking Glass Murder - Anthony Gilbert
  • 6. The Voice - Anthony Gilbert
  • 5. The Fingerprint - Anthony Gilbert
  • 4. Ring for a Noose - Anthony Gilbert
  • 3. No Dust in the Attic - Anthony Gilbert
  • 2. Uncertain Death - Anthony Gilbert
  • 1. She Shall Died - Anthony Gilbert

{READ IN 2017}

  • 134. Third Crime Lucky - Anthony Gilbert
  • 133. Death Takes a Wife - Anthony Gilbert
  • 132. Death Against the Clock - Anthony Gilbert
  • 131. Give Death a Name - Anthony Gilbert
  • 130. Riddle of a Lady - Anthony Gilbert
  • 129. And Death Came Too - Anthony Gilbert
  • 128. Snake in the Grass - Anthony Gilbert
  • 127. Footsteps Behind Me - Anthony Gilbert
  • 126. Miss Pinnegar Disappears - Anthony Gilbert
  • 125. Lady-Killer - Anthony Gilbert
  • 124. A Nice Cup of Tea - Anthony Gilbert
  • 123. Die in the Dark - Anthony Gilbert
  • 122. Death in the Wrong Room - Anthony Gilbert
  • 121. The Spinster's Secret - Anthony Gilbert
  • 120. Lift up the Lid - Anthony Gilbert
  • 119. Don't Open the Door - Anthony Gilbert
  • 118. The Black Stage - Anthony Gilbert
  • 117. A Spy for Mr Crook - Anthony Gilbert
  • 116. The Scarlet Button - Anthony Gilbert
  • 115. He Came by Night - Anthony Gilbert
  • 114. Something Nasty in the Woodshed - Anthony Gilbert
  • 113. Death in the Blackout - Anthony Gilbert
  • 112. The Woman in Red - Anthony Gilbert
  • 111. The Vanishing Corpse - Anthony Gilbert
  • 110. London Crimes - Martin Edwards (ed.)
  • 109. The Midnight Line - Anthony Gilbert
  • 108. The Clock in the Hatbox - Anthony Gilbert
  • 107. Dear Dead Woman - Anthony Gilbert
  • 106. The Bell of Death - Anthony Gilbert
  • 105. Treason in my Breast - Anthony Gilbert
  • 104. Murder has no Tongue - Anthony Gilbert
  • 103. The Man who Wasn't There - Anthony Gilbert
  • 102. Murder by Experts - Anthony Gilbert
  • 101. The Perfect Murder Case - Christopher Bush
  • 100. The Plumley Inheritance - Christopher Bush
  • 99. Spy - Bernard Newman
  • 98. Cargo of Eagles - Margery Allingham & Philip Youngman Carter
  • 97. The Mind Readers - Margery Allingham
  • 96. The China Governess - Margery Allingham
  • 95. Hide My Eyes - Margery Allingham
  • 94. The Beckoning Lady - Margery Allingham
  • 93. The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham
  • 92. More Work for the Undertaker - Margery Allingham
  • 91. Coroner's Pidgin - Margery Allingham
  • 90. Traitor's Purse - Margery Allingham
  • 89. The Fashion in Shrouds - Margery Allingham
  • 88. The Case of the Late Pig - Margery Allingham
  • 87. Dancers in Mourning - Margery Allingham
  • 86. Flowers for the Judge - Margery Allingham
  • 85. Death of a Ghost - Margery Allingham
  • 84. Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham
  • 83. Police at the Funeral - Margery Allingham
  • 82. Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham
  • 81. Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham
  • 80. The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham
  • 79. The White Cottage Mystery - Margery Allingham
  • 78. Murder Underground - Mavis Doriel Hay
  • 77. No Man's Land - David Baldacci
  • 76. The Escape - David Baldacci
  • 75. The Forgotten - David Baldacci
  • 74. Zero Day - David Baldacci
  • JULY
  • 73. Pilgrim's Rest - Patricia Wentworth
  • 72. The Case is Closed - Patricia Wentworth
  • 71. The Watersplash - Patricia Wentworth
  • 70. Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth
  • 69. The Listening Eye - Patricia Wentworth
  • 68. Through the Wall - Patricia Wentworth
  • 67. Out of the Past - Patricia Wentworth
  • 66. Mistress - Amanda Quick
  • 65. The Black Widow - Daniel Silva
  • 64. The Narrow - Michael Connelly
  • 63. The Poet - Michael Connelly
  • 62. The Visitor - Lee Child
  • 61. No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories - Lee Child
  • JUNE
  • 60. The Queen's Accomplice - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 59. Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 58. The PM's Secret Agent - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 57. His Majesty's Hope - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 56. Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 55. Mr Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 54. A Lesson in Secrets - Jacqueline Winspear
  • 53. Hit & Run - Lawrence Block
  • 52. Hit Parade - Lawrence Block
  • 51. Hit List - Lawrence Block
  • 50. Six Were Present - E. R. Punshon
  • 49. Triple Quest - E. R. Punshon
  • MAY
  • 48. Dark is the Clue - E. R. Punshon
  • 47. Brought to Light - E. R. Punshon
  • 46. Strange Ending - E. R. Punshon
  • 45. The Attending Truth - E. R. Punshon
  • 44. The Golden Dagger - E. R. Punshon
  • 43. The Secret Search - E. R. Punshon
  • 42. Spook Street - Mick Herron
  • 41. Real Tigers - Mick Herron
  • 40. Dead Lions - Mick Herron
  • 39. Slow Horses - Mick Herron
  • 38. Everybody Always Tells - E. R. Punshon
  • 37. So Many Doors - E. R. Punshon
  • 36. The Girl with All the Gifts - M. R. Carey
  • 35. A Scream in Soho - John G. Brandon
  • 34. A Murder is Arranged - Basil Thomson
  • 33. The Milliner's Hat Mystery - Basil Thomson
  • 32. Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? - Basil Thomson
  • 31. The Dartmoor Enigma - Basil Thomson
  • 30. The Case of the Dead Diplomat - Basil Thomson
  • 29. The Case of Naomi Clynes - Basil Thomson
  • 28. Richardson Scores Again - Basil Thomson
  • 27. A Deadly Thaw - Sarah Ward
  • 26. The Spy Paramount - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 25. The Great Impersonation - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 24. Ragdoll - Daniel Cole
  • 23. The Case of Sir Adam Braid - Molly Thynne
  • 22. The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene
  • 21. The Draycott Murder Mystery - Molly Thynne
  • 20. The Murder on the Enriqueta - Molly Thynne
  • 19. The Nowhere Man - Gregg Hurwitz
  • 18. He Dies and Makes No Sign - Molly Thynne
  • 17. Death in the Dentist's Chair - Molly Thynne
  • 16. The Crime at the 'Noah's Ark' - Molly Thynne
  • 15. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
  • 14. Night School - Lee Child
  • 13. The Dancing Bear - Frances Faviell
  • 12. The Reluctant Cannibals - Ian Flitcroft
  • 11. Fear Stalks the Village - Ethel Lina White
  • 10. The Plot - Irving Wallace
  • 9. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • 8. Give the Devil his Due - Sulari Gentill
  • 7. A Murder Unmentioned - Sulari Gentill
  • 6. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
  • 5. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed - Sulari Gentill
  • 4. While She Sleeps - Ethel Lina White
  • 3. A Chelsea Concerto - Frances Faviell
  • 2. Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul - H. G. Wells
  • 1. Heft - Liz Moore
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