Looking Backwards and Forwards


Happy New Year everyone. I hope you ended the year as happy readers? As you can see from the tweet above I can’t say I’ve read everything I wanted to read in 2015, not by a long shot, but the more  I think about what I actually read the more I think I’ve read some great books though that was when I was actually reading.  From July, when I started one particular book by what used to be a favourite author (I don’t know how I feel about reading them again as the book  broke my trust – I know that sounds dramatic), towards November, when I devoured Fox Glove SummerI only read the books for Hear … Read This! I told a few people privately that my mojo had gone but I think it’s worth mentioning now as a counter to the ‘I’ve read 1 million book’ posts and tweets that have popping up all over the place. It’s also the reason that the blog is stripped back and it’s been extremely quiet.  Reading for me is escapism and I struggled to escape into reading due to the book who remain nameless. 

Oddly I did keep buying books in the hope the mojo would come back. And now that is has I’m hoping to gather up some speed again. But I’m going to be more willing to let authors go but not be scared to celebrate those books that made me happy – The Floating Admiral is a great example as the rest of the gang HATED it.

Actually have a list of memorable books I read in 2014:

  • Artful by Ali Smith
  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
  • The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
  • Under the Skin by Michel Faber
  • Dreams and Shadows by  C . Robert Cargill
  • A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr,
  • The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
  • Slow River by Nicola Griffith
  • The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher
  • The Cold Commands by Richard Morgan
  • The Line of Polity/Brass Man by Neal Asher
  • The Gospel of Loki  by Joanne M. Harris
  • Broken Homes/Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
  • Brenda and Effie Forever by Paul Magrs
  • Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins
  • The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas
  • Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
  • Speedy Death/The Mystery of a Butchers Shop by Gladys Mitchell
  • Elric: Fortess of Pearl by Michel Moorecock

 I’m pretty proud of that.

Speaking of proud The Readers Podcast, which I started with Simon Savidge, had me back for a guest appearance to share books from the first six months of 2015 I’m looking forward to. I’m sharing a slightly tweaked list here:

Jan

Alice and the Fly by James Rice – Hodder

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.

Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher – Tor

One Man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed…

Thorvald Spear wakes in hospital, where he finds he’s been brought back from the dead. What’s more, he died in a human vs. alien war which ended a whole century ago. But when he relives his traumatic final moments, he finds the spark to keep on living. That spark is vengeance. Trapped and desperate on a world surrounded by alien Prador forces, Spear had seen a rescue ship arriving. But instead of providing backup, Penny Royal, the AI within the destroyer turned rogue. It annihilated friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction, and, years later, it’s still free. Spear vows to track it across worlds and do whatever it takes to bring it down.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate. But after competitors attacked, she needed more power. Yet she got more than she bargained for when she negotiated with Penny Royal. She paid it to turn her part-AI herself, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret. The Dark AI had triggered a transformation in Isobel that would turn her into a monster, rapidly evolving into something far from human.

Spear hires Isobel to take him to the Penny Royal AI’s last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and he becomes a target for her vengeance. And as she is evolves further into a monstrous predator, rage soon wins over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt, before he becomes the hunted?

Feb

Kim Kardashian’s Marriage by Sam Riviere  – Faber

The 72 poems in Kim Kardashian’s Marriage mark out equally sharpened lines of public and private engagement. Kim Kardashian’s 2011 marriage lasted for 72 days, and was seen by some as illustrative of celebrity life as a performance, as spectacle. Whatever the truth of this (and Kardashian’s own statements refute it), Sam Riviere has used the furor as a point of ignition, deploying terms from Kardashian’s make-up regimen to explore surfaces and self-consciousness, presentation and obfuscation. His pursuit is toward a form of zero-privacy akin, perhaps, to Kardashian’s own life, that eschews a dependence upon confessional modes of writing to explore what kind of meaning lies in impersonal methods of creation.

The poems have been produced by harvesting and manipulating the results of search engines to create a poetry of part-collage, part-improvisation. The effect is as refractive as it is reflective, and disturbs the slant on biography through a bricolage of recycled and cross-referenced language, until we are left with a pixellation of the first person.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman Headline

In this new volume, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction-stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013-as well as BLACK DOG, a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods.

Trigger Warning is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explores the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story-a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane-Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year-stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

Autumn Republic by Brian McCleellan 

The capital has fallen . . .

Field Marshal Tamas has finally returned to Adopest, only to find the capital in the hands of a foreign power. With his son Taniel presumed dead, Tamas must gather his beleaguered forces and formulate a plan to defeat the Kez – no easy task when you’re outnumbered and can’t tell friend from foe.

The army is divided . . .

With their enemy bearing down on them, the Adran command is in disarray. Someone, it seems, is selling secrets to the Kez. Inspector Adamat is determined to flush out the traitor, but as the conspiracy unravels, he will learn a horrifying truth.

And all hope rests with one man . . .

Taniel Two-Shot, the powder mage who shot a god in the eye, is on the run. He possesses the sole means of defeating the Kez, but to do so he must evade treachery at every turn. If he fails, Adro will fall.

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough – Gollancz 

This is an exceptional, contemporary, heart-breaking novel.

Toby’s life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

March

 The Faces of God by Mallock – Europa Editions

Murder and depravity are Police Commissioner Amde Mallock’s daily bread. As far as he is concerned, mankind has been thoroughly abandoned by God, and the visions that haunt him do nothing to disabuse him of this notion. But nothing he has encountered has prepared him for the sudden appearance of a serial killer dubbed “”””The Makeup Artist.”””” The bodies of the killer’s first victims, found in four separate neighborhoods of Paris, are monstrous works of art, baroque masterpieces of depravity. As Mallock investigates, he is shocked by the level of devilish behaviour

 The Mirror of Melody Black by Gavin Extence – Hodder

Life has its ups and downs. From the author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods comes a dark, painful and witty novel about a woman whose life is spiralling out of control.

You’re going to find some of my actions frustrating. I’m hard to live with, maddening, uneven – I get that. But I can’t stand around listing my faults or we’ll be here for ever. All I ask right now is that you indulge me. For as long as it lasts, this is going to be one hell of a ride.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link – Canongate

Fantastic, fantastical and utterly incomparable, Kelly Link’s new collection explores everything from the essence of ghosts to the nature of love. And hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the pyramids . . .

With each story she weaves, Link takes readers deep into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed universe. Strange, dark and wry, Get in Trouble reveals Kelly Link at the height of her creative powers and stretches the boundaries of what fiction can do.

 The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased.

The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards – some strange and other-worldly – but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.

May
 
Starborn: The Worldmaker Trilogy by Lucy Hounsom – Tor UK

When Kyndra accidentally breaks a sacred artefact at her village’s coming-of-age ceremony, she finds all hands turned against her. Then, following too swiftly for coincidence, a madness sweeps her home, along with unnatural storms. An angry mob blame her and she fears for her life – until two strangers, wielding a power not seen for centuries, take her to safety. They flee to the sunken citadel of Naris, but worse dangers will lie ahead, amongst the underground city’s politicians, fanatics and rebels. But in its subterranean chambers, she will find her true path – facing betrayal and madness to find it.

Kyndra, like every reluctant hero, has a choice: seize her destiny with both hands or walk away, perhaps dooming a whole world to fall. Starborn is about a girl coming of age, but it’s also about heroism. Its strengths, burdens, responsibilities and – not least – its consequences.

 The Case of the Hail Mary Celeste by Malcom Priyce – Bloomsbury

It was Tuesday the second of December 1947 when Jenny the Spiddler walked into my office: almost a month before they nationalised my mother.

Jack Wenlock is the last of the Railway Goslings: that fabled cadre of railway detectives created at the Weeping Cross Railway Servants’ Orphanage, who trod the corridors of the GWR trains in the years 1925 to 1947. Sworn to uphold the name of God’s Wonderful Railway and all that the good men of England fought for in two world wars, Jack keeps the trains free of fare dodgers and purse-stealers, bounders and confidence tricksters, German spies and ladies of the night.

But now, as the clock ticks down towards the nationalisation of the railways Jack finds himself investigating a case that begins with an abducted great aunt, but soon develops into something far darker and more dangerous. It reaches up to the corridors of power and into the labyrinth of the greatest mystery in all the annals of railway lore – the disappearance in 1915 of twenty-three nuns from the 7.25 Swindon to Bristol Temple Meads, or the case of the ‘Hail Mary’ Celeste.

Shady government agents, drunken riverboat captains, a bandaged bookseller, a missing manuscript, a melancholic gorilla and a 4070 Godstow Castle engine – the one with a sloping throatplate in the firebox and the characteristic double cough in the chuffs – all collide on a journey that will take your breath away.

 The Day Shift by Charlaine Harris – Gollancz

It’s a quiet little town, perched at the junction between Davy Road and Witch Light Road, and it’s easy to miss. With its boarded-up windows, single traffic light and sleepy air, there’s nothing special about Midnight . . . which is exactly how the residents like it.

So when the news comes that a new owner plans to renovate the run-down, abandoned old hotel in town, it’s not met with pleasure. Who would want to come to Midnight, with its handful of shops, the Home Cookin diner, and quiet residents – and why?

But there are bigger problems in the air. When Manfred Bernado, the newest resident in town, is swept up in a deadly investigation suddenly the hotel and its residents are the least of the towns concern. The police, lawyers and journalists are all headed to Midnight, and it’s the worst possible moment . . .

June

 Stallo by Stephan Spjut – Faber

In the Summer of 1978, a young boy disappears without trace from a cabin in the Dalecarlian woods of Sweden. His mother claims he was abducted by a giant.

The previous year, in the Sarek National Park, Laponia, a wildlife photographer takes a strange picture from his small airplane, of a bear running over the marshes. On its back sits a creature. It looks like a small monkey, but the photographer claims he has taken his first picture of a troll.

Twenty-five years later, and back in Laponia, Susso runs a web page dedicated to searching for creatures whose existence have not yet been proven: the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot. But Susso’s true obsession is Trolls. When an old woman claims that a small furry animal has been standing outside her house, observing her and her five year old grandson for hours, Susso picks up her camera and leaves for what will become a terrifying adventure into the unknown.

Because what if there really are trolls out there, and they’re taking our children?

Any you like the look of? I’ve got a longer list. A much longer list. And I’ve got books that came out in 2014 that make 2015’s reading  a year to look forward to immediately:
 gavreads_2015-Jan-01
Have I got any resolutions? Only to have read a list of books I’ve enjoyed by the end of the year.

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