Category Archives: 2014

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


My Year In Books: Worst Reads of 2014

There are blessedly few of these and only one truly bad book. I have had the very good fortune of reading some wonderful books this year, which can be read here.

And I mean bad in every way. The writing was cliched and repetitive. The characters were laughably two dimensional. In fact some barely had that many dimensions! The plot was nonsensical with more holes than a colander. The descriptions were pedestrian.

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst book I read this was Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain.


Do not waste your time on it!

I’ll also grumble quietly about The Long War by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett and Blackout by Mira Grant, not because there were terribly bad just rather … underwhelming.

I wonder what it says that two of my least successful reads were co-written. I hope the both Messrs del Toro and Pratchett were minor contributors to these disappointing projects.


One more co-written book which was so bad I did give up on it was Dragons Of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I’d picked it up – well downloaded it – as a trip down memory lane having warm memories of it from reading it as a kid. Alas, some things should not be revisited. Banal. Tedious. Formulaic.

A small part of my childhood died as I read it.


My Year In Books: Best Reads of 2014

It’s that time of year again: the last day before New Year. As with last year, it’s time to look back and consider the books I’ve read.

This post will deal with my favourite reads this year. Worst reads (of which there weren’t that many!) will come later – follow this link to see them! So this is, I suppose, like the Booker Prize… Except that there’s no money on offer… And that these are books read in rather than published in the last year.

So not very much like the Man Booker at all really! Although there will be some overlapping books.

Right let’s aim for a top five.

#5 The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker was actually my first read of the year! Beautiful depictions of immigrant cultures to New York and compelling on many levels: sociological, fantastical, personal and a rollicking good plot!


#4 Room by Emma Donoghue. A powerful and poignant story of a mother and child brought up in the most appalling situation as captives. Donoghue said she wanted to create that story at a distance from the horror and terror of the kidnapping when rituals had been established and tedium set in. And the most beautifully realised child’s voice I’ve read.


#3 Harvest by Jim Crace which was a Man Booker nominee in 2013 – as Room was in 2010. An absolutely astounding evocation of a moment in time and a wonderfully breathy summery feel to it which makes it wonderful to recall in this grey weather.


#2 The History Of The Rain by Niall Williams.

I really did love this book, a Man Booker longlist nominee. I loved the poetry of the language, the literariness of it, the humour and humanity.

Just absolutely wonderful.


#1 The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton.

I only came upon this book and Catton because of her Booker-winning The Luminaries which was also wonderful. But for me The Rehearsal was sublime. It was coruscating and complex and writhed like a snake under the reader’s eyes. Exquisitely discomforting.


Ahhh… But now I’m already worrying about this list. Am I happy with the order? Should The Luminaries have been included? What of all the other books that were great but I’ve not included.

So a handful of honourable mentions, perhaps?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Good Omens by Messrs Pratchett and Gaiman


Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

Ooooo David Mitchell!

I do love your voices! They are just about perfect for audiobooks, which is how I’m reading it. Or receiving it? The verb choice for the act of engaging with a story seems increasingly fluid for me as I often start a book on paper, continue it aurally and finish it in an e-reader.

Anyway. I digress.

So far I’ve loved Holly Sykes, the teenage runaway. She has been thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to following her life.

Hugo Lamb, the broadly sociopathic Cambridge undergraduate I was less enamoured of. I don’t think I was necessarily meant to like him but I found his language a little too forced and he lacked authenticity for me. As a Cambridge graduate myself, I don’t think I met anyone like him or his companions. Which may simply bode well for my mental state!

Currently, I’m on the third section. The Wedding Bash. Bless Ed Brubeck in the opening section: the gentlemanly knight on a rusty bike. I’m far less happy with him in this section: he seems a different character, as desperate to leave Holly and their child as he was to find her earlier. Maybe it will be explained. I’m willing to give Mitchell time.

I’m also loving the recurrence here of characters from and references to Mitchell’s other work: Hugo Lamb is the obnoxious cousin of Black Swan Green‘s Jason; Ed Brubeck writes for Spyglass from Cloud Atlas; and Elijah D’Arnoq from the Chatham Islands may be a recurrence of Mr D’Arnoq from the same novel, Cloud Atlas.

This interweaving of characters is undoubtedly fun – with a genuine penny-dropping moment when Hugo Lamb revealed the connection. But it’s nothing new. Mitchell himself did it throughout Cloud Atlas and it’s actually rather common in fantasy writing. Which brings me rather neatly to the fantasy elements. The are the weaker part of the novel for me. Mitchell is great at narrative voice and character, a natural ventriloquist. The Horologists and the Anchorites, for me, got in the way of the human voices and human dramas. And this is me speaking as a self-confessed fan of fantasy.

Again, maybe Mitchell will mould it all together.