Books · Yearly Reading

A Year of Reading: 2021 – Final Stats

A final look back at the books I read in 2021. It’s a bit late, but c’est la vie!

Total books read: 119

This is about normal for me. I have periods I don’t read that much and ones where I read verociously, so the spread is pretty uneven. Normally I read a lot in summer, but in 2021 it was my summer that was slow reading. I read the highest number of books in January (14) and the lowest in August (6).

Fiction v Non-Fiction v Poetry, etc

I read 74 fiction books and 30 non-fiction books. That is a good balance for me. I also read nine books that I consider poetry, but only one anthology and three short story collections. Oh, and two graphic novels. I definitely want to read more poetry and short stories in 2022.

Physical v eBook v Audio

I read 67 books in physical format (23 hardbacks/44 paperbacks), 29 eBooks and 23 audio books. Of the 23 audio books 16 I also owned in physical form. This was the first time that my reading exceeded my buying, so my TBR has reduced across the board. Yay me!

Book length:

The most common length of book was between 300 and 400 pages. I read 20 that were less than 200 pages as well though! I read only 2 books over 600 pages and none over 800. Clearly big books were not my bag in 2021. Maybe in 2022. My shortest read (at 63 pages) was a poetry book called Peace Flows From The Sky by Susan Polis Schutz. My longest book was The Empire of Gold by S A Chakraborty at 782 pages.

Year published:

I read only 8 books that were published in 2021. I read 1 book that was published before 1699 and 5 from the 1800s. By far the biggest category was books published between 2011 and 2020 (75). I find I am less bothered with keeping up with new releases.

Star ratings:

I think I got better at choosing my reads as I had 46 books that I rated 6/7 stars. 13 books I rated 7/7 and I consider favourites. There were 24 books rated 4/7 and 29 5/7.

I DNFd only 2 books in 2021 and there was one book I decided not to rate.

Some author and language stats:

I read more female authors than male in 2021 (69 v 47). Most books I read were by authors born in Europe with the majority – 44 – from the United Kingdom. 46 Authors were born in North America with almost all of them (45) from the USA with one lonesome Canadian author. I read 8 books by authors born in Africa and 11 from Asian born authors, one lonesome Australian and 2 Brazilian authors. There were quite a few authors (often translated works) from the Middle East, which I have been enjoying a lot. Clearly I need to read more South American works. I am also concentrating on reading a few Russian classics in 2022.

Random stats

I read 16 translated books. I only read 12 books that could be considered Young Adult or Middle Grade. Of the 23 audio books I listened to, 18 were non-fiction. Contemporary and Historical fiction were my most read genres with Fantasy and Memoirs not far behind.

***

I am excited for this year, but I am making a rather slow start! 😂

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (J K Rowling)

This was good, but why do I feel like nothing much happened?

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy
First published: 2005
Edition: Hardback, published by Bloomsbury in 2005

Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts begins, and it feels like a reassuring place to return to after the strange events of the summer. Disappearances, murder and an ominous chilling mist which swirls through both the Muggle and wizarding worlds are harbingers of more-sinister purpose. Voldemort’s army is swelling, and with it the Death Eaters are growing bolder and more deadly.

***

It had been quite a while since I read the fifth Harry Potter book, but it was easy to dive right back in, mainly because my daughter had been reading the Harry Potter books in the meantime. When she got to this one, I figured I better read it as well.

I enjoyed the experience of reading it, but though I did not get bored at any point, I did feel like nothing much was actually happening in this book. There was a lot of trying to get information and also, as our characters are sixteen/seventeen now, love becomes more important to them, which was both amusing and slightly awkward.

It does feel like Rowling’s writing has matured again in this one and it definitely reads a bit more complex. Some reasonings behind decisions still felt a bit iffy and I did not always quite believe it enough, but overall I enjoyed her writing here.

Some major events do take place toward the end of the book, which did pull at my heart strings and I am actually quite looking forward to diving into the final book next month.

This is not my favourite Harry Potter, but I did enjoy it.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reading Challenges

Back To The Classics Challenge 2022

Because I am hoping to read more classics this year I figured this challenge, hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate would be a great motivation.

The categories and the book I have chosen for them are as follows. There is far more information in Karen’s blog post, so do check it out if it is interesting to you!

1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899

The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol (1836) – read: January 2022

2. A 20th century classic. Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1972 and posthumously published.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

3. A classic by a woman author.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)

4. A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer. 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)

5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author.

Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (1959)

6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). Examples include Murder on the Orient Express, Crime and Punishment, In Cold Blood.

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (1936)

7. A Classic Short Story Collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. The book can have a single author or can be an anthology of multiple authors. 

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier (1940)

8. Pre-1800 Classic. Anything written before 1800. Plays and epic poems, such as the Odyssey, are acceptable in this category. 

The Aeneid by Virgil (about 19 BC)

9. A Nonfiction Classic. Travel, memoirs, and biographies are great choices for this category.

The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789)

10. Classic That’s Been on Your TBR List the Longest. Find the classic book that’s been hanging around unread the longest, and finally cross it off your list!  

Around The World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1872) – read: February 2022

11. Classic Set in a Place You’d Like to Visit. Can be real or imaginary — Paris, Tokyo, the moon, Middle Earth, etc. It can be someplace you’ve never been, or someplace you’d like to visit again.

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie (1964)

12. Wild Card Classic. Any classic you like, any category, as long as it’s at least 50 years old!

Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dosteovsky (1864) – read: February 2022

Books · Reading Plans

2022 Reading Goals/Plans

Some goals will be the same as I had for 2021, but I think I want to make add some that are a little bit more specific for the coming year.

(As always, I have put my Goodreads target to 50)

1. Prioritize my 2022 TBR

I will post my 2022 TBR in the days to come. Because my biggest weakness is my Kindle book collection, for 2022 I will put 22 digitally owned books on my list. It’s a bold move!

2. Continue my Balancing My Books, and tie my book buying to it.

I actually got a lot out of doing this over the last year. It did curb my book buying and made me realise exactly what comes in and what goes out so to speak. Though I am very happy with the books I did buy in 2021, I want to try and cut it down even more until I have reached a more ‘normal’ TBR. I am thinking of allowing myself to buy a book for every two or three physical books I read. And one Kindle book for every four digital books I read. The latter I think will be ok, as I actually did not buy that many Kindle books over the course of 2021. I will see how I get on with that.

3. Read new books quickly

I would like to read new books within a month unless there is a specific reason why I am saving it for later. This goes for both physical and digital books!

4. Don’t be afraid of series and big books!

I would definitely like to delve into reading more series in 2022, especially (epic) fantasy, and I need to stop being scared of reading big books! I want to add an overview of the series that I have on my shelves that I have not started yet or want to re-read at the bottom of my series page.

5. Use my TBR game if I have no specific book I want to/have to read.

Late this year I created a TBR game to help me choose a book when I felt uninspired. This was a fun way to pick a book from my shelves. I have adjusted it a bit, but if I decide I need to change the categories again, I will. I am considering of choosing a few books like this every month, but let’s start by taking it one book at a time when I feel I need a helping hand.

6. When buying books consider:

  • I don’t like that many YA books these days
  • translated fiction
  • impulse buying is seldomly good – sit on it before getting a new book
  • when buying used consider whether I will actually read it soon (exceptions for classics maybe?)
  • don’t believe the hype – someone else’s hype is not yours!

***

(Now some additional motivational things that I won’t be too strict about:)

7. Read three Russian classics

I don’t think I have ever read any Russian literature and I feel ready to dive in, but one step at a time. I am leaning towards reading the following books (but they may change and recommendations are welcome!):

  • Notes From Underground (Fyodor Dostoevsky) 1864 – This one is only short and it will be a great way to dip my toes into Dostoevsky’s work. I am not sure he will be for me, but I have heard good things about this one, so I think it’s a good place to start.
  • Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) 1877 – Yes, this is a big book, but of all of Tolstoy’s books this one appeals the most to me. It’s intimidating for sure, but I think it’s time.
  • The Overcoat (Nikolai Gogol) 1836 – This is another short one, but it’s one people seem to love and that I am curious about. Offsetting the big Tolstoy book with a couple of shorter ones makes this doable.

8. Read five novels by an author (not including series).

I would like to read five books by Elif Shafak in 2022. I have read two of her books (The Architect’s Apprentice and Forty Rules of Love) and I have enjoyed them both a lot. She is an author I would definitely want to read more of.

9. Read three books in Dutch.

I have a terrible habit of not reading books in my own language. I have one shelf full of books in Dutch and I hardly ever look at them. I want to go through those and pick out some I actually want to read. I may do a try-a-chapter with a few of them. If there any I really don’t think I will ever read, I will remove them from my shelves and donate them. If I read three this year, I will be happy.

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Architect’s Apprentice (Elif Shafak)

A very enjoyable well researched tale set in Istanbul

★★★★★★☆

Title: The Architect’s Apprentice
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Fiction / Historical
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

Sixteenth century Istanbul: a stowaway arrives in the city bearing an extraordinary gift for the Sultan. The boy is utterly alone in a foreign land, with no worldly possessions to his name except Chota, a rare white elephant destined for the palace menagerie. So begins an epic adventure that will see young Jahan rise from lowly origins to the highest ranks of the Sultan’s court. Along the way he will meet deceitful courtiers and false friends, gypsies, animal tamers, and the beautiful, mischievous Princess Mihrimah. He will journey on Chota’s back to the furthest corners of the Sultan’s kingdom and back again. And one day he will catch the eye of the royal architect, Sinan, a chance encounter destined to change Jahan’s fortunes forever.

🐘🐘🐘

There is something about Elif Shafak’s writing I loved in the first book by her I read (Forty Rules of Love) and it is the same thing I love here. Her writing is full of detail and descriptions and yet manages not to get bogged down in them.

Here she spins a tale set in 16th century Istanbul, weaving fact and fiction together expertly. In her note at the end she explains why she chose to change some actual events and yes, it works. It works really well.

In many Middle Eastern tales love rarely ends in happily ever after. Maybe to have love and lost has more poetry to it than just to love. I think more than a touch of this premise runs through this story as well. I really enjoyed our main character’s journey as he goes up in life, as we follow in him through the years, even decades.

Love in many forms run though this story; Jahan’s inappropriate love for a sultan’s daughter, the love for his white elephant Chota and the love for his master, the royal architect.

And in the meantime we learn about the mosques in the city, why they were built and for whom. I loved the details about the building work.

Interestingly enough, kind of by coincidence I was reading a non-fiction book about the history of the Middle East as I was reading this one and it really helped me grasp some of the historical context.

I plan to read more from this author soon. I really enjoy her writing.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Life (Keith Richards)

An eventful life that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable memoir


★★★★★★☆

Title: Life
Author/Narrator: Keith Richards Narrator: Johnny Depp/Joe Hurley
Genre: Non-Fiction/ Autobiography/Memoir/Music
First published: 2010
Edition: Audio book

With The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the songs that roused the world, and he lived the original rock and roll life. Now, at last, the man himself tells his story of life in the crossfire hurricane. Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records, learning guitar and forming a band with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. The Rolling Stones’s first fame and the notorious drug busts that led to his enduring image as an outlaw folk hero. Creating immortal riffs like the ones in “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women.” His relationship with Anita Pallenberg and the death of Brian Jones. Tax exile in France, wildfire tours of the U.S., isolation and addiction. Falling in love with Patti Hansen. Estrangement from Jagger and subsequent reconciliation. Marriage, family, solo albums and Xpensive Winos, and the road that goes on forever.

I read this for a book club and although it took me a long time to listen to, I enjoyed the ride.

Rolling Stone Keith Richards is iconic, whether you like him or not, and I feel that in his memoir you find out exactly why. He tells his life story with flair and humour, without arrogance or grandure, and man, has he lived a life!

Whether everything told this is memoir is accurate remains the question, as he must have been under the influence for much of these events. However, he certainly tells his stories well and I do not really care how accurate they are.

Much as I enjoyed the glimpses into his eventful private life, the bits I enjoyed most were the bits where he talked about music. When he talks about chords and guitar techniques and the way some of the most famous songs in the world were written, I was glued to the words. I loved his passion and his pure understanding of music and what it means to him. Also, when he talks about other artists he has worked, you can feel his love and admiration for them.

It was interesting hearing him talk about the Stones and especially with the passing of Charlie Watts recently, when he talked about him it brought a smile to my face. Although he tells his side of the story of his difficulties with Mick Jagger and sometimes puts him in a bad light, he always seems to find excuses for him as well.

This autobiography was a bit too longwinded in places, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A note on the narration: The audio book is narrated partly by Johnny Depp, partly by Joe Hurley, going back to Johnny Depp and finished by Keith himself. Every time I found the swap of narrator a bit jarring for ten minutes or so, but I did get used to all of them. My favourite narrator was Keith himself, but although the American accent threw me at first, I really enjoyed Depp’s narration as well.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 13 May 2020

It’s a cloudy day. My daughter has gone back to school for the first time in two months. It feels odd. I miss her! I have enjoyed all this time together. She goes to school two days a week now with homeschooling the rest of the week.

We will see!

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am still listening to Wilding by Isabella Tree. It’s incredibly interesting and challenges a lot of theories on conservation and what nature means, whilst documenting what happened when they let their estate go wild. Amazing read/listen.

I am slowly making my way through Meet Me In The Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York: 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman. I am enjoying the experience of reading this, but I have not reached for it all that often in the last week. I will try and prioritize it a bit more, because the little I have read was really well done.

Finally, I am reading Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson. which is billed as a romance book, but 50% in I am pleasantly surprised that this appears much more than that. We follow two time lines, one in 1979 (my birth year!) and one in 2012/2013. We follow two people in their late forties reconnecting from afar through music. It’s full of nostalgia. Halfway through, I do wonder where it’s going from here. So far, I really connect with it.

Thomas, Angie - The The Come UpWhat did I recently finish reading?

I only finished one book since last week, but it was a good one! This was On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. It was six out of seven stars for me. I really enjoyed that one!

What will I be reading next?

I may continue reading books with a musical theme. This Savage Song by V E Schwab is an option or maybe Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel, which is the first book in The Vinyl Detective series. It depends on my mood, as always!

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Seeker (Veronica Rossi)

Rossi, Veronica - Riders #2 Seeker

★★★☆☆☆☆

Title: Riders #2 – Seeker
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: Fiction/YA/Paranormal   Pages: 347
First published: 2017
Edition: Paperback, published by Tor Teens in 2017

Daryn must rely on her instincts, her intelligence, and on blind faith to lead the riders who are counting on her in search of Sebastian. As they delve into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems and where Samrael is steadily amassing power, Daryn faces the ultimate test. Will she have to become evil to destroy evil? The very fate of humankind rests in the answer.

Now, I was hesitant to pick this follow-up to Riders up, as I was not exactly the biggest fan of the first book. However, since it is a duology and I already had this book on my shelves I did so anyway, to at least have the closure.

I still had issues with the writing style. It feels juvenile, even for a YA book. Sentences like ‘they laughed for five minutes’ just do not do anything for me. There were too many sentences like that, which made me roll my eyes a bit.

However, I did find that the plot was stronger than the writing itself and I enjoyed this book a little bit better than the first. The relationship between Gideon and Daryn is well enough developed, eventhough I feel Marcus’ and Jode’s personalities are severely underdeveloped.

I know I am not the target audience, but normally I can really enjoy YA. However, I really feel this series is best suited for teens, who will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did. It’s not a bad series, but the writing simply does not hold up to adults reading this.

3 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Holding (Graham Norton)

Norton, Graham - Holding

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Holding
Author: Graham Norton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Mystery
First published: 2016
Edition: Kindle e-book

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

I was not sure what to expect from this novel. I know Graham Norton as a charming talkshow host, but I was a bit reluctant to read a novel written by him. However, I kept hearing good things, so decided to to give it a try anyway. I am grateful I did.

This is quite a well crafted novel, set in a tiny village in rural Ireland. The characters feel like people you could meet every day and are well developed.

It is a quiet storyline, so although there is a mystery involved, at its heart it is about the people rather than the solution. I really enjoyed that, but I tend to like quiet character-based novels. If you do not, then this may feel a little dull.

I really enjoyed the characters, the writing and the story as a whole and I am looking forward to reading more by Graham Norton. I would definitely consider this debut novel a resounding success.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 18 September 2019

Apologies for being a rubbish blogger at the moment, but life is sort of getting in the way! I hope to catch up with all of you over the next week or so. Fingers crossed I will have a bit more time on my hands. IMG_1384-0

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am about to finish Becoming by Michelle Obama, which I have been listening to on audio. I have only an hour to go, so I hope I will finish it today. I loved it!

I am almost 500 pages into Knife of Dreams, book 11 in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. This is a re-read. About 300 pages left.

Finally, I am reading Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, which I am also loving!

I am very tired today (after a very broken night sleep due to mice gnawing away in my ceiling!), so I doubt I will read much today.

What did I recently finish reading?

Since last Wednesday I have finished A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, which I did not really like that much, and Sleep by C L Taylor, which was really good bar a few minor flaws.

What do I think I will be reading next?

Next I will read either Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie or Never Greener by Ruth Jones.