My Year in Reading and Other Bookish Things

I actually managed to knock over a whole lot of my reading list this year, at least two or three books a month, including re-reads. I am, quite frankly, surprised at myself (and insufferably pleased with myself I might add) that I not only managed to get through a large quantity, I branched out a lot and read a good variety. It is no mean feat that I get through a book that (if not an Enid Blyton) does not grace me with the presence of a dragon.

Non Fiction: I have finally started reading my non-fiction books. I have progressed from buying nice history books and gazing admiringly at them, and then shelving them, to actually reading them (and this is where I am most insufferably pleased with myself)and even finishing a few.

I have actually finished about five Tudor History related books, which were reasonably short, only 300 pages or so, purchased about another ten or so, and am currently reading four of them. In stages. Some authors I have discovered, are intensely boring (Retha M. Warnicke comes to mind) while others are a breeze. Starkey is particularly easy to read, although I did buy his gargantuan copy of The Six Wives of Henry VIII which will probably take me six months to get through.

Unfortunately for as many that I read, there is twice the amount that I want to buy. I am attempting to stick to Anne Boleyn for now (although I squeezed a book in on Jane Parker/Boleyn) The sheer volume of material written on a woman there is so little known about is staggering.

Best Authors so far, David Starkey and Julia Fox. Not based on who I think are the best historians and exhaustive back-up evidence, because I am not a historian, but simply because I enjoyed them the most. I will keep reading through all six of Henry’s wives over the next year or two.

Leading to some not so satisfying…

A Foray Into Historical Fiction: A failure of epic proportions. I’m sure there is plenty of fantastic historical fiction. Having only read Philippa Gregory and a handful of other random titles I’m not really an expert in the genre. Gregory is not a great writer (that would be no shock to her detractors of course) but I always enjoy her books for what they are, and for the actual subjects she chooses.

I decided that I would surely like some other Tudor historical fiction. The local remainder shop usually has a few hanging around. I bought a couple of Suzannah Dunn which I only managed a page or two of and they’re now languishing somewhere. I might have tried them again if I didn’t read one of the biggest travesties in historical fiction to ever be written. That would be Emily Purdy’s The Tudor Wife.

I’m not expecting fiction to be completely historically accurate, but after the author wrote a list of questions for discussion in the back of the book, after claiming that the speech she wrote for Jane Parkers execution was the one she actually made, I very nearly put the book in the dishwasher.  The worst being the supposed lesbian love affair between Kitty Howard and Anne of Cleves. Although I am not sure if that was worse than Jane Boleyn having an illegitimate child with Cromwell.

I would like to get my hands on every copy of that book and pelt them at the author.

Now for some more satisfying reads…

In Children’s Books

Besides my usual re-reads of classics I didn’t get through a lot of new ones this year. Cassandra Golds needs a special mention for her wonderful books. The Three Loves of Persimmon, which I actually read on New Years Day,  won the 2011 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for young adult fiction. I am looking forward to reading The Museum of Mary Child, which is an older books of hers, and I’m sure it will delight me as much as the previous two I have read.

The Pig Plantagenet was my absolute favourite new discovery this year. I read it in my Week of the Pig where I also finally read The Sheep Pig and finished off with my favourite pig Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.

The new Malory Towers books, simply good fun. I’ve read them all at least six times now, they’re my current read-while-I’m-having-dinner-after-work books.

I finished Redwall books seventeen through to book twenty, which were, of course, spectacular. High Rhulain was my favourite of the lot. I always love a heroine in a Redwall book, especially an ottermaid. There is only two Redwall books left for me to read, and I can’t bring myself to do it yet.


In Fantasy

I finished the Soldier Son series by Robin Hobb. I was halfway through book three when I put it down the first time. Craig, Mel and I had the honour of meeting our Queen, Robin Hobb this year, and after Craig had a brief discussion with Robin about the Soldier Son books I was suffused with guilt and told myself I was a terrible fan for not having read them.  She surprised (and pleased) me with a wonderful happy ending. After waiting six books for Fitz to get his happy ending I was thrilled, and I actually whooped aloud in glee, much to Craig’s amusement.

Yes I am a sucker for a happy ending. Which brings me to…

Thrice Damn You George: I knew something was wrong when Craig, who finished a Dance With Dragons before me, was scowling at my book while I was reading it. I was sighing through something or other, when Craig abruptly announced he was not reading any more of his books. There was no point, George had ruined everything. As I know my partner well enough after all of these years, and I immediately guessed what George had done. This lead to me scowling darkly at the book for the remainder of the time I was reading it. Not only is George never going to finish the damn series the way it is going, he is running out of main characters to kill off, so he introduces new random characters to kill off after a few chapters.

Of course he is still one of my favourite authors and I will faithfully await the next book. Where I am sure he will prove me wrong.

And the problem with having read the books before the television series is made…

Utter tripe. Thank you HBO, I think we have seen everyone’s boobs twelve times over now. I’m sure season 2 will be better as HBO likes to lure people in to a new show with a lot of sex and gets to the actual storytelling in the second season. Although the century-long lesbian sex scene in one episode was actually an episode written by George. Which is not surprising.

My New Favourite Authors:

For a little less grim, and immensely more enjoyable, there is the Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin by Rowena Cory Daniells.  An excellent story, brilliantly paced and just pure magic. I adored these books, which I picked up at Supernova after meeting Rowena.

Mary Victoria : Just in case I have not raved quite enough about these books, I will do it again. The absolute best new author I have read in the last decade and what I know are among the best fantasy books I will ever read.

If you have read The Chronicles of the Tree, vote for Samiha’s Song for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy HERE

And in Brief…

Best Hero: Jon Snow in a Dance With Dragons

Best Anti-Hero: Tyrion Lannister in a Dance With Dragons

Best Heroine: Jedda in Oracle’s Fire by Mary Victoria (sorry Samiha!)

Best Samwise: Zero in Oracle’s Fire by Mary Victoria

Best Villain: Ramsay Bolton from a Dance With Dragons (how I hope he dies a grisly death)

Best Animal Friend: Piro’s pet Foenix from the Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin.

Best Children’s Books: The Pig Plantagenet by Allen Andrews and Jennie by Paul Gallico

Best New Treasures For My Shelf: A James and the Giant Peach First Edition (yes I kept it!) and a Marmaduke and Margaret First Edition by Pixie O’Harris from Craig for Christmas.


And A Farewell To Our Heroes…

Sara Douglass





Anne McCaffrey





Diana Wynne Jones





Russell Hoban





Dick King-Smith






And one more for Brian Jacques…
“In our imaginations we can go anywhere. Travel with me to Redwall in Mossflower country”