100 Books Challenge

One of my personal resolutions is to read 100 books in 2012. I'm not terribly discerning so don't expect to see much Dickens, Trollope, Hardy, Camus or Dostoevsky here! I did read quite a few books from the BBC Big Read list back in 2004 but they were mainly the 'less challenging' ones, shall we say...Harry Potter, anyone? :D
I bought quite a few of the listed books though so I'm going to try to get through them. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists seems to ring a bell - I think I started it, got to maybe page 8 and decided it was too much hard work when there was the latest John Connolly to hand (love, love, LOVE his books!!! And he is a really nice guy too...). I am also going to read up my stock and not buy any books at all this year. Not sure how long that'll last. Thing is, I have about 300 books on my TBR (to be read, of course!) list and I really need to thin them out. One of the things we do at my place of work to raise funds is hold book sales so if I can power my way through some I can donate them. We sell paperbacks at 3 for just £1 so we're not talking about making big bucks but it all helps.

I thought I'd list the books as I read them, maybe give a one or two-line opinion and a link to the Amazon page. Most of my books are from charity shops and I rarely buy new. I'm also on ReadItSwapIt, though I haven't used it for a while. It's a great resource for obsessive readers who don't want to spend a lot of money!
And before I start this project, I should explain that I normally have several books on the go at any one time...a couple by my bed, one in the bathroom (isn't reading in the bath heaven?), one in the front room and maybe one in my bag. I like to be prepared :D. Just don't ask me what a book was about any more than two days after I've read it - I'm afraid it goes out of my mind almost immediately. I think it's an age thing....

So, without further ado, I shall begin.

1. Yes Sister, No Sister by Jennifer Craig.

Started 4/1/12. The author was a trainee, and then a qualified nurse in early-50s Leeds. This was passed on to me by Babcia because we enjoyed the 'Call The Midwife' series of books. A dramatisation of Call The Midwife is due to start on BBC soon but I don't think I'll watch it - Miranda Hart looks well-cast but I think she's excruciatingly untalented. Finished 6/1/12. OK I suppose. It seemed to finish really abruptly. There is a clearly fictional event described in detail near the end although it's supposed to be a memoir - are they not usually true? - however I see the author has been picked up many times on it over on Amazon comments. Am passing it on to Nadine, our Matron, then it'll go to our library. 2/5

2.  The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough

Started 6/1/12. This is an embroidered telling of Mabel Stark's life. She was a real life tiger trainer, the world's first; and if what I've read so far is anything to go by it's going to be a great tale with an incredible heroine. At the mo it's a little like what I read of 'Like Water For Elephants'. I got half-way through and took a rest from it, then the film came out and I know I will never finish it now because I will keep imagining that simpering, sweaty looking Robert Pattison all the time (sorry to any Edward Cullen fans out there!).

3. Piper by Helen McCabe

Started 12/1/12.  This is described on Amazon as a Gothic horror and has an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars (though I'm not sure how); a reviewer describes it as an 'interpretive exploration' of the Pied Pied legend. It's set concurrently in 1988 post-Ceaucescu Transylvania and New Hampshire.
Finished 16/1/12.  I didn't find it remotely scary. I thought it was muddled and the New England-set section was just plain corny. The central character of Pip, the young hero, is interesting but some events are just hinted at making it hard to work out what the author was telling us. There's a sequel with a grown-up Pip apparently but even though it might explain a few things I don't think I'll bother. Life's too short. 2/5

4. Under An English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe

Started 19/1/12.  I have to confess that I love books to do with WWII, especially ones that combine romance and battle scenes. The first adult books I ever read were Sven Hassel's 'Penal Division' series (Wheels of Terror...SS-General...Liquidate Paris...Blitzfreeze), a strange choice for a 12-year-old girl but my family have always been catholic in our reading habits - and they piqued my interest in the war. My love of war AND romance was stimulated by Sarah Harrison's 'The Flowers of the Field', to such a degree that I was determined to join one of the forces when I was old enough. That idea didn't last.
Finished 24/1/12. Over the years I have read lots of WWII novels but I must say that this was just about my favourite. Everything about it is brilliant - the characters, the descriptions, the story...it's got drama, romance, Yanks - it's just such a fab read. You don't have to enjoy books about the war but I defy anyone not to get caught up in Heather and Hooper's romance and not to root for the crew of Misbehavin' Martha. 5/5

5. The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris

Started 28/1/12.  I was a big fan of True Blood, especially the first series. After I'd watched that I read all the Sookie Stackhouse books that were published at the time and became disillusioned with the TV series. Yes, I'm one of those people who wail 'but it's not the same as the book!' whenever a book is televised (see 'Yes Sister, No Sister', above). Anyway, I got so annoyed with the show that I didn't even bother to watch the series finale of Season 4.
Finished 30/1/12.  This book is a really good reference - it gives a biography of every single person mentioned in the books and which books they appeared in. It also has a stand-alone novella featuring Sookie and Sam; some recipes; a map of Bon Temps so you can place everywhere and other assorted bits and bobs. This was my birthday present from Red, a fellow disillusionee. Interesting and fun. 4/5

6. Liz Jones' Diary by Liz Jones

Started 22/2/12.  I have read Liz Jones' column in the Mail on Sunday for a long time now. Sometimes I am infuriated by her neediness and lack of self-esteem and other times I feel so sorry for her. The diary covers the five years in which she met and married her far younger (now ex-) husband, writer Nirpal Dhaliwal. You'll wonder how two such totally opposite people ever got together and how they stuck with each other for so long.
Finished 24/2/12. It's pretty funny in parts and pretty sad in other parts. I recommend it as a quick read....you don't have to be a regular reader of Liz's to appreciate this very human story. 4/5

7. Bad Penny Blues by Cathi Unsworth

Started 26/2/12.  Despite stating that I wasn't going to buy any more books this year I was intrigued by this and bought it off Amazon. I'd read another of Unsworth's books, 'The Not Knowing' and enjoyed it, and I love noir, especially British noir which is what this is. It's based on a series of real life murders in the late 50s/early 60s which were perpetrated by the never-apprehended 'Jack the Stripper'.
Finished 2/3/12.  The very thing that appealed to me about this book (the true-life events) was the thing that diminished it for me in the end. I can't help thinking that it's kinda lazy writing to base so much of your story on real life characters but still call it fiction. Despite that complaint there were parts of Bad Penny Blues that scared me with their creepiness - there's a bit of supernaturalism in there - and the scene-setting is fantastic, as is the sense of time and place. 4/5

8. My Life In Orange by Tim Guest

Started 9/4/12, on holiday. I remembered reading a write-up of this book in the Mail on Sunday a couple years ago and sticking it in my ideas notebook for future reference. It's one boys story of his life until the age of about 10 - how he is dragged all over the world by his Bhagwan-following mother, living in communes and being cared for by whichever adult happens to be around.Finished 11/4/12, still on holiday. I found this book very interesting. I remember hearing about the Bhagwan when I was younger but had never given any thought to what the life of a 'cultist', for want of a better word, might be like. I can only feel sorry for young Tim and was left thinking that however much of a believer his mother was she needed a good slap from somebody to wake her up to herself, before she toted her poor child from pillar to post. It made me quite cross, actually. 3/5
9. The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith

Started 10/4/12, on holiday. I've read some of the books in this series (The Isobel Dalhousie series) before but had given up on the last one I started because it was just too twee and I found the heroine too wishy-washy. I'm not sure why I decided to give this one a go...possibly the blurb, plus it was only 49p in a charity shop.
Finished 12/4/12, still on holiday. Not bad, short and sweet. The heroine is still as indecisive as before but now she's whiny too, and I'm still envious of her lifestyle. Still, overall an easy way to pass the time. 3/5

10. The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies

Started 25/1/12. This was another book that I'd read a review of and thought sounded interesting. There are three stories, loosely woven together, set in wartime Wales. After reading 'Under An English Heaven' I was in the mood for another WWII book and settled on this one. It had some great reviews.
Finished 18/3/12....oh dear. Almost two months to read this. It didn't stink but I just wasn't gripped AT ALL. The three different strands didn't mesh together, for me, and the section with Rudolf Hess was totally unneccesary. I really didn't feel anything for the characters and didn't care about what happened to them. Very dry. 2/5

11.  At Her Majesty's Pleasure by Robert Douglas

Started 20/3/12. Apparently the third book in an autobiographical trilogy this one covers the author's time as a prison officer and where he is in his life now. When he first started in Birmingham Jail the death penalty was still in force.
Finished 26/3/12. Pretty good - the chapters are short and the author moves easily between those set in the prison and his home life. He's Glaswegian so his dialogue is written in dialect but I soon got used to that. Robert Douglas seems to have seen a lot of life; my only complaint is that the last twenty years of his story were telescoped into ten or so pages - even so I will keep an eye out for the first two books he wrote. 3/5

12.  Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie

Started 1/5/12. This book is a kind of travelogue by broadcaster and professional Northerner Stuart Maconie. It's supposed to be about why the North is better than the South.
Finished 10/5/12. Oh dear - I somehow managed to finish this but I'm not sure how. As a Northerner I've got no illusions about the place so I wasn't expecting it to be an 'everything there is wonderful' kind of book (though it mainly was) but I did expect it to cover all of the North and not just the bits Maconie has links to. Yorkshire gets about 10 pages, despite it being the biggest county in the UK! This book is more about class than geographical differences and so it's a big fat fail for me. Far from 'move over Bill Bryson' (as per the blurb) Maconie isn't fit to suck up the tiny floating turd Bill encounters on his first night in an English seaside guest house*. Avoid. 1/5
*Notes from a Small Island
Oops! Need to get a wiggle on....it's May already and I've only read 12 books!!!!!

13.  Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen

Started 6/5/12. I've read some of Tess Gerritsen's books before and thought they were okay (though she's no Henning Mankell or Jo Nesbo) so I picked this up in a charity shop.
Finished 28/5/12. Took me a while to finish this despite it being right beside my bed. The tagline is 'She's too scared to live....but too afraid to die' but that could apply to two different characters and I wasn't sure which it was. This was a cross between romance and thriller and neither genre was written particularly successfully - you never had any doubts that there waould be a happy ending all round and the heroine (feisty, ethnic pathologist who has fought her way out of 'the projects') will end up with the self-made, handsome WASP zillionaire. Just like real life..... 2/5

14.  Anne's Song by Anne Nolan

Started 15/5/12. This book was sent to me by Babcia - I'm guessing she enjoyed it and thought I would too. It's the autobiography of Anne Nolan, the eldest of the singing Nolan Sisters.
Finished 17/5/12. This book is written quite simply and I'm guessing Anne wrote it herself rather than with a ghost writer. She talks about how the Nolans became famous but a big part of the book is taken up with her father's sexual abuse of her as a little girl. I understand that this has caused a rift amongst the sisters and also partly caused the break up of her marriage (though her husband sounds to have problems other than his reaction to her ordeals). I found this to be an interesting but ultimately sad book. Anne, as so many victims before her, seems to bear the brunt of the blame for her abuse, despite her being just a child at the time, because her father was adored by the other girls and by most people he met from the sounds of it; and also because she didn't speak up at the time. None of us know how we would react were it us, and maybe Colleen et al would do well to remember that. Anne has ended up the loser all around. 3/5

15. Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh

Started 20/5/12. Saw this in a charity shop and thought it looked interesting. Must have been watching 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' the night before.....
Finished 20/5/12. Started AND finished in one day! Don't do that very often but it's not too long and I was having a lazy day. It's the story of a Roma gypsy boy who doesn't come out and say it but is gay and how this difference made an already fated-to-be-difficult life even harder. He is physically abused very badly by his dad, an ex-bare knuckle fighter who wants Mikey to follow the family tradition, and sexually by an uncle who at first appears to be unlike the rest of the sparring, swindling, law-breaking gypsies. It was okay but I wouldn't be bothered about reading the sequel. As an aside, it seems odd to me that in any books about gypsies I've read, the protagonist is always related to 'The King of the Gypsies' Just how many Gypsy Kings are there? 3/5

16.  Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Started 30/5/12. I'd seen this guy's name in the radio guide as somebody who was very funny so I picked this up in a charity shop (of course). It's a series of..not quite short stories, although they do tell a tale. More like monologues - not unlike blog posts really.
Finished 31/5/12. Really funny - one or two had me laughing out loud. In the second half of the book the author talks about moving to France to live with his partner and his efforts to learn the language whilst in the first part he describes his childhood speech therapy sessions (he has a lisp), amongst other things. Worth a look. 4/5

17. Broken Silence by Danielle Ramsay

Started 22/5/12. Picked this up in a charity shop and thought it looked fairly okay - a debut crime thriller set in the North East of England. In need of something reasonably mindless to read in the bath I started this and finished it in a couple days.
Finished 24/5/12. Not bad at all for a first effort. There are some things that are a bit cliched - the detective is a heavy drinker with personal problems who is a childhood pal of the local Mr Big and grew up with all the local skanks; some of the writing is a bit histrionic too but overall I enjoyed it. Enough to download the follow-up onto my phone immediately. 4/5
18. Vanishing Point by Danielle Ramsay

Started 24/5/12. Read this on my phone - my first downloaded book! Like I said, it's the follow-up to Broken Silence. The (anti) hero is DI Jack Brady once again and this novel features Eastern European sex traffickers in Whitley Bay.
Finished 26/5/12. I think I preferred this book to the first one, though you really need to have read that one to 'get' this one. The writing is still a bit overly descriptive but the plot was interested if a bit unresolved, imho. I'm sure I'll read the next episode when it appears. 4/5

19. Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey

1 comment:

  1. Aah I hadn't seen your book page! Blind as a bat as well as having o memory to speak of.

    I'll keep checking in here now.

    I agree about Miranda Hart - not only untalented but unbelievably irritating too and I can't stay in the room if she's on the telly. I just end up shouting at the screen. I'll pass on the midwife book because now I'll just associate it with the Hart woman. :)


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