I had fully intended to review each book as I read it, however as the months passed by I decided to wait and do a general summary and recommendation list of my completed reading list at the end of the year. So here goes!
1. The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton
I first read one of Kate Morton’s books, The House at Riverton, the year before and became hooked on the timeline changes. Although perhaps a daunting length for some, Kate’s style is brilliant at creating characters you can engage with and she weaves the different timelines together well. She seems to favour this style across most of her books, so whether I will tire of it after reading the next one on my book shelf, The Distant Hours, time will tell, but I would definitely recommend The Forgotten Garden.
2. Viking: Odin’s Child – Tim Severin
I enjoy historical fiction and took a chance on this title; I was not disappointed. I was however left searching charity shop book shelves for most of the year before I found book 2! Part of the Viking trilogy, it follows the journey through the life of a young Norseman along with mythology and the eventful tales of his life and wanderlust. Again, I would recommend this to lovers of historical fiction although if you don’t like the more gruesome side of history, it may not be to your taste.
3. Aleph – Paulo Cohello
The first of Paulo Cohello’s books on my reading list for 2013, Aleph is one of the most recent of his books. Following the story of different people, often on spiritual journeys, Paulo’s books are compelling and give you something to think about even when you put the book down or have turned the final page. I have to admit I am a fan and addicted to his books, but I always pass them on to somebody else to read afterwards as they can be great for inspiring some self discovery and contemplation, about yourself or life in general. The book follows Paulo’s own journey of self discovery as he tries to reconnect with a world he is feeling increasingly removed from and ultimately challenges you to face up to life’s inevitable ups and downs.
4. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept – Paulo Cohello
The second on a theme, By the River follows Pilar, a young woman who wants to find deeper meaning in her life. She meets a former school friend who is now a spiritual teacher and the reunion is set to change her life. If you enjoy books that inspire and follow the personal transformation of their characters, this is only a short book but gives you food for thought.
5. No Great Mischief – Alexander McCleod
Having enjoyed Viking but not yet possessing the next installment, I embarked on this title as it is also historical fiction and follows the story of Calum McDonald’s family and their flight from Scotland to Nova Scotia where they eventually settle. I personally didn’t connect with the narrative style in the same way as Viking or other books I have enjoyed, finding it a little more brash. I have always been a bit stubborn in that if I get past the first chapter, I don’t like to give up on a book, but I wouldn’t recommend this ahead of many other books.
6. Fever Hill – Michelle Paver
Part of the Daughters of Eden trilogy, Fever Hill focuses on the story of Sophie, the sister of Madeleine and aunt of Belle from the book I read at the end of 2012, incidentally the third in the series, The Serpent’s Tooth. Moving between different time periods, the book is set between Jamaica’s sugar plantations and the UK and follow on from each other developing on events of the previous story. Each book focuses on one of Sophie, Madeleine and Belle, and each have their own dark twists in the lives of their heroines. These were probably my favourite reads of the year and come highly recommended.
7. The Shadow Catcher – Michelle Paver
The Shadow Catcher is the first in the trilogy with Madeleine as the central focus and begins with her childhood and the birth of her sister Sophie. Plunged into a life cast as black marks on the family name, they are taken in by an Aunt and move to London. There the real story begins and you become drawn into their story and will want to read the entire trilogy – even though I did so in reverse!
8. The Devil and Miss Prym – Paulo Cohello
A dark stranger comes to a sleepy village in the mountains where nothing ever changes with a bargain. Compelling and effective at making you feel drawn in to the village’s predicament, The Devil and Miss Prym is an interesting look at what happens when somebody disturbs the peace just because they can. Again, a relatively quick read, the themes stay with you and can spark some interesting discussions.
9. Write on! The Writer’s Help Book – Adrian Magson
Having some ideas about different types of writing I’d like to develop, I found Adrian Magson’s book at my local library. Broken down into easy to digest chunks with useful advice that can be applied to all types of writing (and some to life in general) I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who is itching to write or struggling to kick start the year, be it blogging, short stories or even essay writing.
10. Scaredy Cat – Mark Billingham
This was a tough going book, taking me longer to read than any other book I remember, ever. I don’t often read horror thrillers but liked the sound of the story from the blurb. Coming to read the book however, the main character was quite repellent and the subject matter was rather darker and more explicit than I had anticipated, making it a book I didn’t read before bed, and mainly ploughed through sitting in the sun back in July. I probably wouldn’t choose another title by the author as a result, but if you’re looking for something with plot twists and characters that are very well developed (even though they do leave you glad you don’t live in London) it could be worth a try.
11. Confessions of a Conjuror – Derren Brown
The second of Derren’s books I’ve started but the first I’ve completed. Unlike his other book, Trick of the Mind, which I tend to dip into and read a bit here and there due to its practical application and fun mind games contained within the pages, Confessions is more biographical so a more logical read from cover to cover. Telling the story of his route into magic and mystery, you get an insight into the self deprecating, almost self loathing at times, nature of the man and how he came to be where he is today. Recommended to me by a friend, I would definitely pass the recommendation on. I don’t usually read biographies but this was fun, fascinating and the pace was just right (although there were an awful lot of footnotes to navigate making the reader work to stick with the story!)
12. The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton
Kate’s second book of 2013 on my list, and just as long as the first. But just as enjoyable too. I think The House at Riverton takes the top spot of the books by Kate I have read, but I still have the Distant Hours on my list for 2014.
13. Brida – Paulo Cohello
A young girl who has explored many aspects of magic is on a quest for knowledge. Her story sees her embark on a path to enlightenment and finding balance between following her desire to become a witch and the relationships in her life. Possessing the same inspiring and magical way of writing found in all Paulo’s books, I would place Brida among my favourites of his books, and would put it as my favourite of his books I read during 2013.
14 – 16. Easy Bake Coven, Hungry Hungry Hoodoo and Pickup Styx – Liz Schultz
Never having read anything on the Kindle before now, I had no book beside the bed and found this as a free download. A fantasy story about a girl and her coven who finds out she’s really a changeling elf whose life is in danger, I didn’t have high hopes but became hooked. Part of a trilogy, the other two titles were promptly downloaded once this one was finished. One big drawback was the poor attention to detail in the editing process. I cannot speak for the print copy, and know I am pernickety but the level of spelling errors, missing words and duplicated words in all the kindle books did begin to annoy me and it was only my need to get to the end of the story that kept me going. My other criticism would be that although a trilogy, the 3 books are very short so splitting them up and charging for them separately did feel a little bit unnecessary, but maybe that’s because I’m used to 3 part heavy weight tomes from Ms Morton!
17. Secrets – Liz Schultz
Despite my displeasure at poor editing in Liz’s other e-books, a free copy of the first of the Guardian trilogy tempted me too much to say no. A pre-cursor to the Easy Bake books, it features Olivia and Holden, two of the characters who appear, although are not prominent, in the other trilogy. As a result, some of the story was obvious to me in how it would play out, but I could get past that without too much trouble. Again, poor editing (I’m a perfectionist, what can I say), which is a shame because it doesn’t reflect well on the author, but I will probably turn to some of my other titles on the book shelf before downloading the other two in this trilogy in case I can find print copies, and also because the storyline isn’t quite as compelling as the previous trilogy.
18. Viking: Sworn Brother – Tim Severin
Coming full circle almost, it seems fitting to end with one of the same trilogy as I started with. Tim’s style is brilliant and even though bloody in some places, the characters are engaging and well portrayed and you really enjoy going on the journey with Thorgils. Mentions of previous events in the first book are brief keeping repetition to a minimum, which is great for a refresher without adding unnecessary length to the word count. The chapters themselves are a little on the long side, and as a reader who prefers to complete a chapter at a time, this can be a little disruptive but it doesn’t spoil the book. I’m tempted to crack on with book 3 to start the year, having found it a few weeks before Christmas, however might keep it there as motivation to read my first title quickly. It’s definitely a series I would recommend, and I will likely seek out Tim’s other fiction series, Pirates, for something a little different to my usual subject matter in the future.
As you can see my reading list has been a little biased this year, with trilogies, books from the same authors and a lot of historical novels set throughout different time periods. I’m aiming for a little more variety throughout 2014 and to break the 18 book record of 2013, but as long as I enjoy some engaging adventures with quality characters, I’ll be happy.