Reading 2011

This time with the most recent at the top in a sensible manner!  The books read in 2011, they make the list if I completed or tried and failed.  Some will just get a quick write up here, others will get a spiel on the main page and I will link them to this page too.


Stitches by David Small – Oh the sad, lonely tale of a young guy growing up in a truly dysfunctional family.  Beautifully done in a spare style which draws you along on the journey of the authors terrible upbringing.  Awesome book.

I’m aiming for 100 books this year – now I have written it in a public place I will have to perform!  That is a big ask because often the books I am fatally attracted to are rather forebodingly large – but I will do my best.  My actual reading list is on Goodreads and you can find it here.  

The Word Spy by Ursula Dubosarsky – Such a cute book, clever word puzzle and a great easy to read look at the English language.

The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo  – continuing on my Jo Nesbo binge.  This is excellent, the man can write a thriller which will keep me turning the pages in a most speedy manner.  This was just great.

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran – fantastic read, highly recommended.  Blog post coming soon on it.

Department 19 by Will Hill – Sigh, it has been so well written up, I expected it to be very very good, it was okay.  Clever vampires, lots of blood, gore and violence.  The guys will love it, I was a bit disappointed.  Oh well.

In the Sea there are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda – wonderful story, heartbreaking and gritty. A poor boy aged ten on the run journeys all the way from Afghanistan to Italy.  Based on a true story.

Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton – hilarous piss take of famous literary, popular culture and historical figures.  Favourites include Ann of Sleeves, and the Batman stories.  Superb.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman – You want quirky, then read this guy.  This is a bizzare and weird little book and I really enjoyed it.  It was offered in the weird and wonderful section of Kobo and I keep finding treasures of all kinds there.

Scot Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Brian Lee O’Malley – haven’t seen the movie but if it is as good as the graphic novel it will be excellent.  Must get onto book 2.

The River Runs by David Hill – a lovely book of the coming of age variety about a young boy, growing up in the country and intimidated by an awful bullying cousin who has far too much power over him.  Great adventure story for boys but I’ll really have trouble convincing them to read it.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo – Harry Hole (who would never be called this in an untranslated book is my new flawed hero.  This book is highly recommended, complex and beautifully written.

Flip by Martyn Bedford – Great book for teenagers.  Great for boys or girls.  The idea of waking up in someone elses body is very cool.  Yes, it’s been done before but it is really well executed here.  This book had me completely hooked from the first sentence I really wanted to just sit down and get it finished in one big hit.  Great characters, real family life, well written.  A sensitive boy teenager but not soppy and the story held together really well.  You need it in your library. 

Bird And Sugar Boy by Sophie Laguna – Oh this book.  Post coming.

The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal – post on the main page is coming.  Find it here.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett This book is one of my top reads for the year so far, I think I’ve said that before in recent times.  Post on the main page looming.

The Travelling Restaurant  by Barbara Else Oh this is sooooo cute.  It is an old fashioned adventure, full of pirates and daring do.  This was a joy to read and I loved the characters and look forward to the sequel, is there a sequel?

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner.  This is my young adult pick of the year so far.  There is a big story in this smallish book.  A young guy takes up a job with the local undertaker.  He is obviously troubled and has to take care of his Mum who has lost her mind – but it is unclear at first exactly what has happened to her.  He dreams and when he dreams he sleepwalks and this is not a good thing. There is humour in a bleak situation and this poor guy has so much to deal with but it is handled so well by Scot Gardner.  This might well be his best book yet, and that is saying a lot.

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.  A book by these guys is always going to be quirky and interesting.  Great concept, a girl leaves a notebook with a challenge on the shelf of a bookshop and hopes someone will find it and respond. Ely is that guy.  This is a smart, indie novel and will appeal to the quirky students who want something a little unusual.  It is a good read.

The Wolf in the wardrobe by Susan Brocker This is a great little book for young young adults.  Lots of things going on in here.  Boy finds a wolf which has been badly treated and is injured, he nurses it back to health but has to hide it from his family who will not welcome it.  Lots to talk about in this book and would be a good read aloud to discuss in class.  Great story.

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman – This is a lovely book.  Actually more about the rise and fall of the industry during the 90s than about the cookbooks but they are an intrinsic part of the story nonetheless.  The writing is gorgeous, engaging and not the chick lit style book that i expected when I bought it.  This is one of those books you don’t want to end because you are so caught up in the story.  The feeling of the book was what I liked the most. Read it.

Dirt Bomb by Fleur Beale – Fleur Beale simply cannot write bad books.  This one is perfect for any boy between the ages of about 12 and 16, but I bet there are others who will love this too.  It is real, there is action and I’ve already had a copy stolen from the library.

Boys don’t cry by Malorie Blackman – this is a fabulous book.  The story of a teenage boy who had a one night stand which unbeknownst to him leaves his girlfriend pregnant.  He answers the door one day to find her there with their baby.  She leaves him with it and all of a sudden his life is changed forever.  This is a deeply moving book.  The characters are so well drawn and the issues are explored from everyone’s point of view.  Excellent read, highly recommended for teenagers of both sexes.

A tale etched in blood and hard black pencil by Christopher Brockmyre – this one is a bit different to Christopher Brockmyre’s usual books.  Enjoyable, but I didn’t love it quite as much as the usual ones.  Hard yakka at times reading Scottish vernacular but also very very funny.

The Bone Tiki by David Hair – An excellent New Zealand novel for young adults.  I was totally hooked from the first page.  I ‘m going to recommend it to our English department as a potential text for junior classes.  Lots of action, war, fighting, tension and it ties in a very modern story with Maori mythology in very cool ways.  It is really complex in the way it links the modern world to a kind of Maori parallel universe but it works really well.  Highly recommended.

A life of Gorge River by Robert Long – In my bid to read more non-fiction I decided this was a contender.  Will review on main page.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse – I’ve been wanting to read this for years.  It came out about the time that Dan Brown was doing his thing with the Da Vinci Code, and has the ancient story linked with the modern story going on. This is a big engrossing read.  It is in part a history of the Cathar religion and of the persecution of those who were in any way other than Christian as the Crusaders swept through France. This is connected with the discovery of an ancient cave in France on a modern archaeological dig.  It is a great big book, with a great big story and I couldn’t wait to get back into it every night as I settled down for my evening read.

Bossypants by Tina Fey – this is fun.  Review on the main page.

There is no dog by Meg Rosoff – sigh.  Wanted to love.  Really wanted to love it.  But didn’t love it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry  – This is a great and wonderful book and I am delighted to have found it – thanks Miriam.

The child thief by Brom – review (ish)  on the main page.

The Radleys by Matt Haig – review on the main page, suffice it to say here that it is fun, quirky and the vampire story you read when you don’t want a vampire story.  Very good book.

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett – It’s been ages since I read one of the lovely Mr Pratchett’s books and I really enjoyed revisiting him.  Not so keen on the soccer story but it is classic Pratchett and so wittily clever.

Room by Emma Donoghue.  There is a review on the main page.  Suffice to say here that I thought this book was awesome.  One of the most enthralling books I have read in ages.  Read it.

Septimus Heap Magyk by Angie Sage  Not particularly given to magic fantasy books I found myself really enjoying this story.  It is a great adventure full of daring do and magic, ghosts and wizards.  An excellent choice for the kids who need something to move onto from Harry Potter and his type.  There is plenty of action and the author keeps you glued to the book with an endless series of adventure and monsterous creepy stuff for the Heap family and friends to deal to.  This is the first book in the series.

Timoleon Vita come home by Dan Rhodes Dan Rhodes seems to always write about lonely people who search for something they’ve had, but have now lost.  Usually it is someone who made them happy.  In this case it is a dog called Timonleon Vita, lost by a lonely gay man who searches for solace in the arms of flighty lovers who will leave him distraught and be mean to his dog. It is unusual, lovely and so so sad.

Trackers #1 by Patrick Carman – Smart little concept book for teenagers.  You start reading in the normal way, at the front, then you have to flick through to the transcripts of the videos at the back.  It is about a team of teenagers who are uber clever with gadgets and who get hooked into a ‘game’ where they get duped into doing something they really don’t want to get involved with.  Great book.  There are the actual videos online and codes to unlock them.  This is one of the heaps of these kind of things that are coming out just now (think the 39 Clues) which are linked to online further resources.  Highly recommended to teenagers.  I have the next one so am keen to read that too.

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk This is the bookclub book this month and I read it in a day.  This book exudes the middle class mother’s dissatisfaction with life and motherhood by exploring a day in the lives of several women who all live with their families in the suburb of Arlington Park.  They take their kids to school, they work, (or they don’t) they look after their husbands and try to maintain a semblance of a relationship with them while they are worn out of the dull existence of the suburban wife.  Every day being the same as another, vacuous shopping trips, vacuous dinner parties with boorish husbands.  Been there done that?  You will consequently relate heartily to this book.

Life Sucks – Graphic novel.  This is so very cool.  I have bought a bunch of graphic novels for school including of course some Batman comics and some that go with teenage novels (Anthony Horowitz etc) but this is altogether more engaging I think.  The story of a guy who mans the all night convenience store because he is a vampire, he can’t go out in daylight so a night shift is the perfect solution.  He falls for a normal human girl and the story is basically about his quest to get a date with her.

The curious case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald Well, I needed a short book to listen to while I was paining the final walls of the kitchen and this seemed like the perfect length and all the reviews were good.  I hated the movie, still haven’t made it to the end.  However, the story was just great, the writing was totally lovely and I was completely absorbed.  Excellent.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell This is a fabulous book.  I listened to it on audio book while painting the kitchen and I learned all manner of things about success, chance and how they work together to make some people successful.  The whole 10,000 hour thing was really interesting too.  Practice makes perfect!

My Booky Wook by Russell Brand I bought this for school after the guys and I had been talking about how funny he is.  Hmm big mistake, this book is not going in the library on account of his constant use of the c… word and the constant focus on his drug use.  I’m really wanted this to be as funny as the standup but it really is like a diary of his early years.  The writing is really uneven and occasionally you can see that the editor has let him have his head rather much.  Anyway, it was okay!

Smiling Jack by Ken Catran – Oh dear!  I actually threw the book across the floor after investing three nights reading in it.

Solar by Ian McEwan – Sigh.  I don’t know what it was about this book.  Despite moments of outrageous laughter it just didn’t quite gell for me. Will try to remember to review on the main page.

Eighth Grade Bites by Heather BrewsterThe Chronicles of Vladimir Todd No 1.  Sigh, you would have thought there would have been enough vampire series.  But it turns out there is plenty of room for another.  To be honest I only read it because the cover looked a bit dodge, and one of the year 13s was disturbed by the content, so I thought I’d better.  It is fine, stick it in your libraries, I quite liked Vlad and the adventure is harmless.  It is a little bit faulty on some details but oh well, a year 10 boy won’t notice I’m sure.

As The Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong This book was the winner of the major book prize in New Zealand last year, and the win was deserved.  This story of the Chinese who came to New Zealand at the turn of last century, how they were treated, the discrimination they faced, the way they made the ‘locals’ feel.  It is also the story of a woman and her family and the times they were living in and the journey of their family.  Then what happens when a woman falls in love with one of the people she is supposed to have nothing to do with and the affect this has on her life, this is a big story told with beautiful language and with lots of warmth, understanding of the times she is writing of and with a deep understanding of the challenges facing the migrants she writes of.  I loved it enormously.

Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes Continuing my little love affair with Mr Rhodes and his wonderful quirky and slightly bizzare books, this one I could not buy in town so purchased for my kobo.  It was a treat.  I will read it again.  For certain.  If you haven’t read Dan Rhodes you are missing a treat.  This one is set in a bizzare museum where people feel compelled to take their lives.  Sounds impossibly grim, it isn’t at all, it is a sad, sweet tale of lost love and death.  Read it.

I am number four by Pittacus Lore, the pen name of authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes is a great book for teenagers.  It is going to be a huge hit at school.  Alien children come to earth with their guardians to get away from the marauding invaders of their planet.  But the bad guys follow them and are knocking them off one by one.  With special powers and kick ass skills Number 4 has to kick the asses of the bad guys.  Cool fun.

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon – Oh this lovely lovely graphic novel.  Lovely humanization of robots.  Sad, happy and lovely.  This was just a wordless gorgeous book – ooohh look it’s making me gush!

The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley – Well I wasn’t expecting this.  This is kinda uber cool retro sci fi.  Interesting characters with unpredictable loyalites and even though you could see the resolution at the end coming, it was really enjoyable and surprising.  Loved the flaying scene!  Made me want to read some more sci fi, unlike the Ursula le Guin I read last year which made me think the opposite.

The thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David MitchellDavid Mitchell is, in my opinion a truly great writer.  This book is a hard slog though, until you get to the middle. It deserves a review on the main page.

The Passage by Justin CroninOoooooooo this is a doozy.  I really have to write it up on the main page.  I am promoting this book to anybody who will listen.  Yes it is huge, yes it is a big commitment but you really should go there.

Ethan Frome by Edith WhartonI listened to this book while I painted the lounge the other day.  I was really surprised how short it was, I hadn’t realised.  What a great story, and partly this was enhanced by the reader.  She was just fantastic, lovely accent and great timbre.  The story, so sad, poor Ethan, a life made miserable by the women in it.  This is a terrific novel.

The Underdog by Markus ZusackWhat a great little book.  Markus always writes great bloke boy characters.  I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, we used to have a teacher who read it to her boys in class and she always loved it.  I’m definitely going to read the sequel when I get a gap in the piles of books beside me.  I think this author may be in my top ten.  I am the messenger is totally one of my faves, should be a compulsory read for all people who teach boys and I’d love to see it as a set text.  I think the guys would love it and the issues it brings up are really excellent.  Lots to work with there.

The Maze Runner by James DashnerThis book has a less than ordinary start, made up swearwords and words just do not do it for me.  But – it is worth persevering with it.  The story gets really exciting and interesting as it develops.  Great book for boys who like dystopian novels.  Yes, there are flaws but it is pretty good over all.  First in a series.

Trick of the dark by Val McDermid

Great start to a years reading.  This book took me a bit to get into, I’m used to Val starting off with a huge bang and carrying me on.  I had to work a bit harder with this book to get into the story but once there I was set.  Review on the main page here.

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages and then my new friend Julia loaned it to me and so it just seemed wrong not to read it then.  It is totally different to what I had expected.  Very odd and I found it interesting that it was so popular considering it is such an odd story with so many hidden depths.  There is poetry and philosophy galore in this book and I thought about it  lot after I’d finished it.  The notes that accompany the book in this edition explain some of the story behind it.  I enjoyed reading it.

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