Tag Archives: Annual Reviews

Books of the Year

3 Jan

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Over the past few years I’ve done a books of the year list from what I read over the prior 12 months.  At the start of this year I began blogging reviews of each book as well as charting how I leave the books I’ve read for strangers to find in public places.  Sadly my passion to keep that blog going wavered after I got to 98 books and still only had a response from one person who had found a book I’d left.  I’ll keep leaving them but as I pass the 100 mark I’m less hopeful.  Anyway……here is this years list.  There have been some brilliant read in there.  My love of Keigo Higashino and Haruki Murakami continued to grow thanks to some superb entries from them.  Overall I must say I think both on quality and quantity (I failed to reach a book a week for the first time in 3 years) this was a poorer year than the last.  2016 though eh.  Am I right!

The Best 

Journey Under The Midnight Sun – Keigo Higashino

Disclaimer – Renee Knight

The Taliban Shuffle – Kim Barker

I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh

Hear The Wind Sing – Haruki Murakami

The Second Coming – John Niven

Murder On The Orient Express – Agatha Christie

I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Nomad – Alan Partridge

The Best of the Rest

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

The Amateurs – John Niven

The Actual One – Isy Suttie

Fade Away – Harlan Coben

The Let Downs

Jonathan Unleashed – Meg Rosoff

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Bullet Points – Mark Watson

The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth

Full reading List

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada (1)

Reasons to stay alive – Matt Haig (2)

Disclaimer – Renee Knight (3)

Personal Days – Ed Park (4)

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy – John le Carre (5)

The Girl In The Red Coat – Kate Hamer (6)

The Taliban Shuffle – Kim Barker (7)

11/22/63 – Stephen King (8)

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson (9)

Kill Your Boss – Shane Kuhn (10)

Jonathan Unleashed – Meg Rosoff (11)

The Amateurs – John Niven (12)

Hear The Wind Sing – Haruki Murakami (13)

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (14)

Pinball – Haruki Murakami (15)

The Second Coming – John Niven (16)

Concussion  – Jeanne Marie Laskas (17)

Murder On The Orient Express – Agatha Christie (18)

Bullet Points – Mark Watson (19)

Shoot The Messenger – Shane Kuhn (20)

Stay Close – Harlan Coben (21)

The Actual One – Isy Suttie (22)

I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers (23)

Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby (24)

Deal Breaker – Harlan Coben (25)

Hitman Anders and The Meaning of It All – Jonas Jonasson (26)

Prey – James Carol (27)

The Long Dry – Cynan Jones (28)

Drop Shot – Harlan Coben (29)

Fade Away – Harlan Coben (30)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson (31)

I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh (32)

Ways To Disappear – Idra Novey (33)

The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth (34)

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (35)

The Girl With a Clock For A Heart – Peter Swanson (36)

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami (37)

Journey Under The Midnight Sun – Keigo Kigashino (38)

Animal: The Autobiography of the Female Body – Sara Pascoe (39)

Back Spin – Harlan Coben (40)

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman (41)

The Decagon House Murders – Yukito Ayatsuji (42)

A Midsummer’s Equation – Keigo Higashino (43)

Nomad – Alan Partridge (44)

The Green Man – Kingsley Amis (45)

 

Hath Booker Prize 2015

15 Dec

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My good wife got me this amazing book mark.  If you know me you’d know how much I love the number 53.  Sadly the Gryffalo got hold of it one day and it has not been seen since!

Last year I aimed to read a book a week and successfully hit that target.  Knowing that I was going to be undertaking a diploma this year I decided not to set myself a target but to just enjoy reading as often as time would allow.  I still managed a decent return and for the most part in reading books I very much enjoyed, in fact I ended up totaling 63 books.  I have posted infrequent reviews of the odd book here and there but I thought I’d collate all the books into a final end of year post here.

As always with my end of year posts if there are any books you are interested in let me know and I am happy to send them on to you.  Otherwise I will just do my usual thing of leaving them in random public places for strangers to pick up.

The Pick of The Best (in order of preference):

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The Humans – Matt Haig (1) I’m not going to claim this is the deepest or most cultured book I read this year but it was one that just gripped me.  The plot was enjoyable and it made me think a lot about human nature and my own relationships.  To many it may appear a tad bit superficial but for me it was a really excellent read.

Terms & Conditions – Robert Glancy (2) The first book of the year that I considered a contender.  Very funny and well paced.  Highly recommended.

Moriarty – Anthony Horowitz (3) One of the last books of the year I read and the final book to crash into the picks of the best. Great plot, with a lovely twist at the end.  Well paced and thoroughly entertaining.  I may even be a little harsh not having this higher up.

Chop Chop – Simon Wroe (4) I didn’t expect the plot of this book to take the turn it did but enjoyed it.  The authenticity of the characters and settings in particular were great.

Money – Martin Amis (5) This was recommended to me at the end of last year and I bought it in January.  For some reason I just couldn’t get enthused with it.  It wasn’t until many months later when I had no other books at hand did I crack on with it.  Delighted I did as there are some utterly fantastic characters here.  Lorne Guyland is up there with the best.

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami (6) Beautiful short story collection. Each and every one hit a spot with me. I enjoyed all the Murakami books I read this year but this was probably the pick.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson (7) This book completely changed my attitude to social media, for the better.  I wish everyone was forced to read it before being allowed on twitter.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (8) This is just a lovely, charming and whimsical read.  At times bordering on the ridiculous but none the worse for that.

Honorable Mentions:

The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simson: Time passing and easy-going feel good book.  As enjoyable as the first in the series.

Sharpe Objects and Dark Places- Gillian Flynn: Much improved on her more critically acclaimed and popular Gone Girl offering.

Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino: Another very intelligent and well crafted locked room mystery from my favorite Japanese author.

The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler: Some of the best one liners and quotable witticisms I’ve read for some time. Whispers of Oscar Wild.

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey: Possibly the first book of 2015 I really enjoyed.

After Dark, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & South of the Boarder, West of the Sun: Haruki Murakami: Any one of Murakami’s novels I read this year could have made the best list and the rest deserve at least an honorable mention.

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith: I’ve really liked the Cormoran Strike series and this was a really good addition to it.  If they get the casting right it could be really good news that it has been commissioned as a TV series by the BBC.

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari: Part social study, part comedy.  Really interesting and funny look at modern day relationships. Made me both wish I had read it during my single days and extremely glad I am married.

Kill Your Friends – John Niven: Pretty brutal and explicit, often sensationally so, but none the less enjoyable in a Trainspotting/Money/American Psycho sort of way.

The Let Downs:

Half the Kingdom – Loe Segal:  Messy and confusing narrative. The book feels like a mashing together of the train of thought from far too many characters.  It just didn’t work for me.

Paper Towns – John Green: This wasn’t a particularly bad book really but I massively enjoyed ‘The Fault in our Stars’ last year by the same author and this just wasn’t close to that standard.

The Facades: Eric Lundgren: This book had a lot of hype and expectation.  I can imagine other people reading it and thinking it was stunning.  I just found it rather self-indulgent and uninspiring.

The Art of Killing Well – Marco Malvaldi: This just didn’t click with me. I found it really hard to get interested in it.

The Ring and the Opposite of Death: Roberto Savian: I really wanted to like this book.  There was a lot of hype about the author but it just didn’t do anything for me. It seemed messy and forced. Perhaps it lost something in the translation from Italian but either way one to miss.

Blackwater – Joyce Carol Oates: I am intrigued by the whole Kennedy family and as this was a loose fictionalization of the Chappaquiddick incident I thought it would captivate me.  Sadly I felt as if it was poorly written and a bit drawn out, which is particularly odd given it is a short book.

Pygmy – Chuck Palahniuk – Some people think this is some of Palahniuk’s finest work.  I hated it.  There’s a deliberate use of incorrect English throughout to give a voice to the lead character.  I’m hardly one to critique such things but I just couldn’t get passed it.  Made it a dreadful read for me.

The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett – This was a good sliding doors style concept.  However three alternative timelines made for a confusing read at times and I’m not sure it was worth the payoff.

Full reading list in the order I read them:IMG_0899

The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler (1)

Breaking the Chain – Willy Voet (2)

The Uncommon Reader – Alan Benett (3)

Trash – Andy Mulligan (4)

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey (5)

Cat Out Of Hell – Lynne Truss (6)

Saturday – Ian McEwan (7)

The Ring and the Opposite of Death – Roberto Saviano (8)

Half the Kingdom – Loe Segal (9)

The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide (10)

Holes – Louis Sachar (11)

Trash – Andy Mulligan (12)

Terms & Conditions – Robert Glancy (13)

Malice – Keigo Higashino (14)

Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino (15)

Paper Towns – John Green (16)

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (17)

The Facades – Eric Lundgren (18)

Random Deaths and Custard – Catrin Dafydd (19)

The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain (20)

Who is Tom Ditto? – Danny Wallace (21)

Casino Royal – Ian Fleming (22)

Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming (23)

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop – David Adam (24)

The Last Treasure Hunt – Jane Alexander (25)

Chop Chop – Simon Wroe (26)

True Grit – Charles Portis (27)

The Humans – Matt Haig (28)

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson (29)

Dept. Of Speculation – Jenny Offill (30)

The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simson (31)

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (32)

BlackWater – Joyce Carol Oates (33)

Don’t Try This At Home – Angela Readman (34)

The Manual of Detection – Jedediah Berry (35)

Naive. Super – Erlend Loe (36)

Hotel Alpha – Mark Watson (37)

After Dark – Haruki Murakami (38)

Fadeout – Joseph Hansen (39)

The Art Of Killing Well – Marco Malvaldi (40)

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn (41)

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami (42)

A Class Apart – Gareth Evans (43)

South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami (44)

Every day – David Levithan (45)

Sharpe Objects – Gillian Flynn (46)

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami (47)

Money – Martin Amis (48)

NYPD Red – James Patterson (49)

Walking Dead – Compendium 2 – Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard (50)

Pygmy – Chuck Palahniuk  (51)

Reykjavik Nights – Arnaldur Indridason (52)

NYPD Red 2 – James Patterson (53)

The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett (54)

After The Crash – Michel Bussi (55)

A Boy Called Hope – Lara Williamson (56)

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith (57)

NYPD Red 3 – James Patterson (58)

Walking Dead – Compendium 3 – Robert Kirkman, Stefano Gaudiano, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn (59)

The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas – John Boyne (60)

Moriarty – Anthony Horowitz (61)

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari (62)

Kill Your Friends – John Niven (Book 63)

Music I’ve Discovered This Year

14 Dec

I would never claim to be cutting edge when it comes to music.  Far from it in fact.  I have an eclectic taste and tend to like most things but largely listen to mellow stuff while working and hip hop while training.  I’m not someone who goes to gigs but I have, thanks mainly to Spotify, listened more and more to a range of music this year and more frequently.  My ‘year on Spotify’ review says that I have listened to 610 hours of music in 2015.  Not sure if that is a good or bad thing though.  I try not to sit in front of the TV with the children so, while they do both watch it from time to time, I tend to have music on while we are all playing.  I’ve also discovered the real joy of walking for pleasure and active recovery from training this year and music has played a big part in that.

Below is a few of the songs/bands that have stood out with me this year.  Some are new/not very well known. Others may be very common and dated but I either discovered or re-discovered them in 2015.

Artists / Bands

Yelawolf – I came across Yelawolf as the song ‘Till It’s Gone’ was featured on the trailer for the Jonny Depp film ‘Black Mass.’  I loved that song and so dipped into his album ‘Love Story.’  There are some other great songs on the album, in particular ‘Empty Bottles,’ ‘Fiddle Me This,’ and ‘Best Friend,‘ and it has become a staple on my spotify.

X Ambassadors – I discovered these the way many people may have through their song ‘Renegades’ being featured on the JEEP advert.  Thanks to spotify I also managed to get introduced to other brilliant songs in their collection.  I especially loved ‘Love Songs Drug Songs,’ ‘Unconsolable’ and ‘Shining.’

Phillip Phillips – One of the best things about Spoitify are the host of random playlists that exist.  I stumbled across one called ‘I’m tired’ and found a host of really good songs and artists.  One of those was the ridiculously named Phillip Phillips.  He has a great tone to his voice. ‘Raging Fire’ and ‘My Boy’ in particular stood out for me.

50 Cent Generally I listen to folk music, soft stuff.  However, when I am at the gym its mainly hip hop and rap.  With that I have rediscovered 50 Cent this year.  Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is one of the best rap albums ever.  So many good training songs on there.

Kaleo – My good wife is a fan of the show Mistresses and one of Icelandic group Kaleo’s songs, ‘All the pretty girls’ was featured and I loved it.  Spotify only has another two of their songs available, ‘Way Down We Go’ and ‘Vor i Vaglaskogi.’ The latter in their native language.  All three are beautiful.

Matt Corby – Random YouTube videos led me to a Norwegian version of Corby’s song ‘Brother’ on their version of the Voice. I loved it, as I do the original.  I also really liked Corby’s songs ‘Resolution’ and ‘Made of Stone.’

Oh Honey – As stated above I do like a bit of folk music.  Listening to a random folk playlist on Spotify I came across Oh Honey and checked out their back catalog.  I really liked what I heard.  Some lovely background music for lazy Sundays at home.  Standout tracks for me are, Until you let me,’ ‘It can’t rain forever’ and ‘Sugar, You.’

Kwabs – Kwabs debut solo album ‘Love + War’ this year was a great addition to my music.  ‘Forgiven,’ ‘Perfect Ruin’ and ‘Walk’ are the picks for me.

Oasis – You know what they received a lot of unfair criticism for the later albums.  I never appreciated it at the time but the likes of ‘Heathen Chemistry’, ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ and even ‘Be Here Now’ may not have had the raw appeal of ‘What’s the Story’ and ‘Definitely Maybe’ but taken as stand alone albums they are genuinely decent.

Songs

Prisoner 1 & 2 (Lupe Fiasco ) –  This song was featured on the ‘Creed’ movie trailer and I just thought it was brilliant.

Gold (Kiiara) – This was song of the week in September on Radio One.  I never listen to Radio One so it was remarkable I caught it but thankfully I did.  Unique and catchy.

Gold – Thomas Jack Remix (Gabriel Rios) – I randomly stumbled across this song after a Youtube playlist took me there automatically after listening to the above.

Lean On (Major Lazer) – I spend a couple of nights controlled crying Llew at the start of the year.  Which is to say I spent the best part of 48 hours awake.  This was pretty much on repeat during that time.

Are You With Me (Los Frequencies) – My summer song for the year.

Bloodsport (Raleigh Ritchie) – Nice chilled melancholic tune I heard on a summer’s day while sitting in the car waiting for Llew to wake from a nap.

Blue Monday (New Order) – Is there a better crafted pop song than this? Every second of the 7+ minutes is gold.

Elastic Heart (Sia) – I love this song, especially the piano version on Spotify.

Nevermind (Leonard Cohen) – This was used as the title track for the second series of True Detective.  Haunting.

Homeostasis (Nostalgia) – Powerful song that builds really well.

I’m Home (Cee Major) – I love this song.  It has been one of the staples of my lunchtime walks throughout the year.