Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Year That Was

My Favourites for 2012

My Favourites for 2012

This year I reviewed 50 books! That was my goal at the start of the year, so I feel quite smug (admittedly some of them were light and fun – Wicked Business)

A few of my favourites were


Next year I want to read the books in my pile! I’m not really concerned about the number of books I read, but I am worried about the large stack of unread books taking up space!

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Standing in Another Man’s Grave – Ian Rankin


I like reading Ian Rankin’s novels. I’ve been a Rebus fan for ages and I’ve read one of the Malcolm Fox novels. This has a bit of both although Malcolm Fox isn’t portrayed very sympathetically.

Here’s the blurb …

It’s twenty-five years since John Rebus appeared on the scene, and five years since he retired. But 2012 sees his return in STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE. Not only is Rebus as stubborn and anarchic as ever, but he finds himself in trouble with Rankin’s latest creation, Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh’s internal affairs unit. Added to which, Rebus may be about to derail the career of his ex-colleague Siobhan Clarke, while himself being permanently derailed by mob boss and old adversary Big Ger Cafferty. But all Rebus wants to do is discover the truth about a series of seemingly unconnected disappearances stretching back to the millennium. The problem being, no one else wants to go there – and that includes Rebus’s fellow officers. Not that any of that is going to stop Rebus. Not even when his own life and the careers of those around him are on the line.

I enjoyed this novel the crimes were complicated and Rebus as obnoxious as ever (I think if I worked with him I’d be on Malcolm Fox’s side!). There is a lovely sense of place – lots of driving around remote Scottish places and it appeared cold and wet (which was quite lovely – it is going to be 41°C here today so you can appreciate how much I liked reading about something cold!). I also enjoyed the references to the round abouts in Perth because my Perth is also afflicted with round abouts!

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but Rebus had a hunch as to the identity of the criminal and stuck stubbornly to his idea despite the lack of evidence. I don’t feel convinced myself (perhaps I didn’t pay enough attention earlier?).

Anyway I am sure this won’t be the last Rankin novel I read.

More reviews …


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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday


I saw the movie and was very keen to read the novel. Although having now read the novel, I can say the novel and movie are very different. Not that is necessarily a bad thing, but it was unexpected.

Here is the blurb …

This is the story of Dr Alfred Jones, a fisheries scientist – for whom diary notable events include the acquisition of a new electric toothbrush and getting his article on caddis fly larvae published in ‘Trout and Salmon’ – who finds himself reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fishing to the Highlands of the Yemen … a project that will change his life, and the course of British political history forever. With a wickedly wonderful cast of characters – including a visionary Sheikh, a weasely spin doctor, Fred’s devilish wife and a few thousand transplanted salmon – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a novel about hypocrisy and bureaucracy, dreams and deniability, and the transforming power of faith and love.

I loved this novel. I loved the structure – the memos, emails, diary entries and transcripts – a modern epistolary novel. The story was told from the point of view of many different characters, which was often very funny and sometimes a bit sad. This was a funny novel despite covering serious themes. I will be reading more of Mr Torday’s books and I think I will even watch the movie again.

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Animal People – Charlotte Wood

I haven’t read any of Charlotte Wood’s work and this is a good starting point, quite short and easy to read.

Here is the description from Charlotte Wood’s website …

A sharply observed 24-hour urban love story that follows Stephen Connolly – a character from Wood’s bestselling novel The Children – through one of the worst days of his life.

On this stiflingly hot December day, Stephen has decided it’s time to break up with his girlfriend Fiona. He’s 39, aimless and unfulfilled, but without a clue how to make his life better. All he has are his instincts – and they may be his downfall.

As he makes his way through the pitiless city and the hours of a single day, Stephen must fend off his demanding family, endure another shift of his dead-end job at the zoo (and an excruciating workplace team-building event), face up to Fiona’s aggressive ex-husband and the hysteria of a children’s birthday party that goes terribly wrong.

As an ordinary day develops into an existential crisis, Stephen begins to understand – perhaps too late – that love is not a trap, and only he can free himself.

Hilarious, tender and heartbreaking, Animal People is a portrait of urban life, a meditation on the conflicted nature of human-animal relationships, and a masterpiece of storytelling.

The novel invites readers to question the way we think about animals – what makes an ‘animal person’? What value do we, as a society, place on the lives of creatures? Do we brutalise our pets even as we love them? What’s wrong with anthropomorphism anyway? Filled with challenging ideas and shocks of recognition and revelation, Animal People shows a writer of great depth and compassion at work.


First, I haven’t read The Children and it doesn’t matter – this book stands on its own. I enjoyed it, although I have to say the main character, Stephen, is quite unattractive. This is a simple story full of ordinary events – a team building exercise (does anyone like these activities), a birthday party where the birthday girl completely loses the plot (the description of high spirits slipping into hysteria is spot on) – but ordinary events can be a catalyst for change. Will things change once Stephen’s boss (and friend) at the zoo moves onto a management position? What happens to Fiona and Stephen?

The setting is fabulous – I can feel the heat beating down and that terrible sweaty, soggy feeling when you have done something physical on a hot day.

If I ever make it through my current to be read pile, I will get hold of The Children.

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Toby’s Room – Pat Barker

I haven’t read any of Pat Barker’s novels. I always intended to, but somehow never managed it. I am glad I finally read something!

Here’s the blurb …

Toby and Elinor, brother and sister, friends and confidants, are sharers of a dark secret, carried from the summer of 1912 into the battlefields of France and wartime London in 1917. When Toby is reported ‘Missing, Believed Killed’, another secret casts a lengthening shadow over Elinor’s world: how exactly did Toby die – and why? Elinor’s fellow student Kit Neville was there in the fox-hole when Toby met his fate, but has secrets of his own to keep. Enlisting the help of former lover Paul Tarrant, Elinor determines to uncover the truth. Only then can she finally close the door to Toby’s room. Moving from the Slade School of Art to Queen Mary’s Hospital, where surgery and art intersect in the rebuilding of the shattered faces of the wounded, Toby’s Room is a riveting drama of identity, damage, intimacy and loss. It is Pat Barker’s most powerful novel yet.

 The writing is beautiful – not a misplaced word. The characters are well-written (in all their selfish, obnoxious glory). The sense of time and place was well done and I found the bits about re-constructing the soldiers’ faces to be fascinating – if quite confronting.

I will definitely try to read more of Barker’s work (although I have an enormous to be read pile at the moment!).

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