I spotted this 'game' over on CleopatraLovesBooks a few weeks ago, and had to see how well I'd done with my reading this year. I started off thinking 'Oh, yes, I can tick off every square', then ran into problems when I could only think of one book to cover three categories, but with a little shifting around I managed to find at least one for each. Most are books that I've reviewed this year, and clicking the link will take you there.
A Book With More Than 500 Pages
Let's start with one of the troublesome categories. I thought I'd read quite a number of long books this year, but most of them, when checked, turned out to be an annoying length of 460 or 480 pages. I could only think of Dan Simmons' The Terror for this slot, but I wanted to include it as the 'bottom of the TBR pile' book. Fortunately, last week at Book Club we were discussing the titles we'd read this year, and The Bone Clocks was mentioned ... there it was, my over 500 epic!
The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell; It's a weird, complex story, darting about over time and probably better on a second read after you're got the outline of the plot clear in your head.
A Forgotten Classic
I've been a little 'loose' with my interpretation of classic, but, while not something from the Victorian era, this is certainly an old book, first published in 1995 and the beginning of Robin Hobb's Fitz and the Fool series which has run to, I think, fifteen novels, and will conclude next year. I don't think Hobb's fans have ever forgotten it, but it's been sitting neglected on my kindle for a couple of years or more, so I think it deserves that title.
Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb; fantasy meets political intrigue.An excellent beginning, and now I'm looking forward to discovering the rest of the series.
A Book That Became A Movie
Another troublesome square *sighs* I was on the verge of picking Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere which has been made into a TV series, when a movie website suggested I might like this film - and I realised I'd read the book.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith; it does 'what it says on the tin' really. Austen's words are interspersed with zombie blood and guts to comic effect. It was an amusing read, but not one to revisit.
A Book Published This Year
As I'm a book reviewer/blogger obviously a lot of what I read is newly published, so I had a lot to choose from.
All We Shall Know - Donal Ryan is going to be making it onto my Top Ten of the year so it's only fair to include it here. Melody Shee is thirty three, alone, pregnant, frightened, angry and riddled with guilt - and amazingly brought to life in the first person by a male author!
A Book With A Number In the Title
I tried really hard to find an alternative here as this is the 'number in the title' book chosen by CleopatraLovesBooks, and just choosing the same one feels like taking an easy option, but I couldn't find another which fitted! The One-in-Million Boy by Monica Wood is the story of a special eleven-year old boy, his relationship with 104 year old Ona Vitkus, and obsession with Guinness Records.
A Book Written By Someone Under Thirty
This was the most troublesome to track down. Most authors don't go around shouting about their ages, so I needed to check on Wikipedia or their publishers' web site, and then quite a few authors just slipped over the magic figure of 30 by a year or two. The easy way would have been to have followed CleopatraLovesBooks again, and chosen Barney Norris and Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, fortunately Stefan Mohamed and his super-hero Stanley came to the rescue with Ace of Spiders
A Book With Non-human Characters
I'd quite a choice here - ghosts, vampires, cats but I've settled on fantasy debut Infernal by Mark de Jaeger. It's not clear at first who or what the book's hero Stratus is, but it's pretty clear he's not fully human. I'll let you read it to discover his secret - beware though, even for a fantasy novel it's rather violent.
A Funny Book
I'm not really a reader of laugh-out loud funny stories so this is the nearest I could find. The Radleys by Matt Haig is ostensibly a story of vampires hiding in suburbia, but in many ways it's a humorous observation on all of our (middle-aged, middle-class) lives - sort of like The Office but with blood!
A Book By A Female Author
This is another category for which I had a wide range of books to choose from but Carys Bray's second novel The Museum of You is one of my favourites this year. Bray's first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, told of a family coping with the loss of a child, and that theme of loss is here again in the story of 12 year old Clover struggling to get to know and understand her mother who died shortly after she, Clover, was born. Sad, yes, but funny and heart-warming too.
A Book With A Mystery
I read a lot of crime books so this was a difficult one to pick out but with a girl, covered in scratches and wearing only a man's shirt, running into a busy road, causing a car crash and then disappearing again, I think Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary has the 'mystery' element well and truly covered.
A Book With A One Word Title
Again a lot of choice for this 'square' so I've picked a recent read, short but with huge impact - Cove by Cynan Jones A man out at sea in a kayak is struck by lightning, left drifting, out of sight of land, sense of direction gone. The personal story of one man or a metaphor for all of us?
A Book of Short Stories
There were several I could have picked, but this collection of eight stories inspired by the lives of refugees in the Calais 'Jungle' is a must-read. Commissioned by Peirene Press, the authors Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes spend time in the camp talking to refugees, aid workers and locals, before setting pens to paper (or fingers to keyboards) to bring their stories to life.
A Book Set On A Different Continent
Again, I had several options - The Terror (Antarctica), Michelle Paver's Thin Ice (mountaineering and ghosts in Asia), any number of books set in the USA - but I've picked a dystopian quest/thriller Wolf Road - Beth Lewis, set in post-apocalypse North-West Canada. There were so many things I loved about this story - wilderness survival, the 'quest for home', strong female leads, and a buried secret to haunt the heroine.
A Book Of Non-fiction
Turns out I don't read much non-fiction, so didn't really have a choice. Weatherland by Alexandra Harris is an excellent book though - concerned not with weather itself but how it's been seen through the words and paintings of poets, writers and artists over the centuries - from Anglo-Saxons huddled round their Great Hall fires keeping the winter cold at bay through the Romantics delight in storms and extremes, to modern writers exploring climate change. It's a long read, just under 400 pages, but interesting whether you read it cover to cover, as I did, or dip in here and there.
The First Book By A Favourite Author
I discovered Elly Griffiths through her second series set in the 1950s world of magic and theatrical illusion, and sort of stayed there, vaguely intending to read her earlier series centred on forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway sometime or other, but always wanting to start with the very first book, The Crossing Places not jump in part way through. Then I picked up a free e-version of it on my phone, found myself killing time one evening and started reading. I loved it - and now have seven more to catch up with!
A Book You Heard About Online
Fell by Jenn Ashworth is an atmospheric story of home and family, regrets and reconciliation, in which middle-aged Annette returns to her childhood home to clear it out and sell up, but the ghosts of her parents have different ideas. It isn't a 'ghost' story as such - it has a much firmer rooting in reality, just laced with something otherworldly, much like Sarah Winman's A Year of Marvellous Ways or Lucy Wood's Weathering, both of which were among my picks of last year
A Best-selling Book
Not just a best-seller here, but a debut novel too. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon is set in the heatwave of 1976; as pavements melt and tempers fray, Mrs Creasy goes missing from her home, and everyone immediately lays the blame on the strange man at number 11. Seen through the eyes of ten-year old Grace, it makes you think about the way anyone a little 'odd' can be ostracised and victimised by the rest of us who consider ourselves 'normal'.
A Book Based On A True Story
I've read quite a few books this year that have started out as true stories but what particularly appealed to me about Jo Baker's A Country Road, A Tree was its 'hero'. Having 'suffered' Samuel Beckett's books at school I'd rather had the impression of him as a dull guy, interested in words and meanings, geeky in a literary sort of way, but not anyone you'd want to end up talking to at a party - Jo Baker's story sheds light on a very different side of him; still that odd, literary chap but one with an unsuspected quiet courage.
A Book At The Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile
I've been making a bit of an effort to clear the huge piles of unread books from around the house, so eventually got round to reading this, The Terror by Dan Simmons which has been waiting for SO long, easily over three, maybe even four, years, so it must count as from the bottom. The story follows the doomed Franklin expedition of 1845 in its search for a sea-route from the Atlantic across the north coast of Canada to the Pacific ocean, but mixes fact and horror; as the ships end up trapped in Arctic Ice, something shadowy and shapeless is lurking and picking off crew members one at a time ...
A Book Your Friend Loves
My elderly neighbour is a great fan of crime novels, but the cosier, less violent sort, which she tends to read once, then pass on to friends and family. So a few months ago, she gave me three of the Hamish MacBeth series by MC Beaton, including Death of a Witch. To be honest, although I liked the TV series starring Robert Carlyle (though perhaps mainly for the Scottish scenery) the books didn't really grab me. I think my tastes in fictional crime are rather different - I prefer something grittier and urban, to this comparatively light-hearted approach.
A Book That Scares You
I nearly chose David Mitchell's Slade House for this square, but he's already represented once by The Bone Clocks (over 500 pages), so I've chosen this YA fantasy thriller The Creeper Man - Dawn Kurtagich. Two young girls flee to their aunt's house in the woods hoping to find safety, but something or someone is out among the tress, creeping ever closer ... It might be aimed at a younger readership but I found it every bit as frightening as many an adult horror story!
A Book That Is More Than Ten Years Old
Another 'trickier to pin down than you'd think' category, much like the 'author under 30' one but this time, books were proving to be too young. Fortunately, Neil Gaiman wrote Neverwhere in 2005, although it's been re-released this year with a new cover, illustrations by Chris Riddell and an additional short story. It's set in the parallel city of London Below, with a range of fascinating, fantastical characters, is a non-stop adventure, full of danger and excitement, twists and turns - and I loved every page!
The Second Book In A Series
Possibly the biggest cheat of all my responses, as I couldn't track down an actual second story of a series but went for a second book. The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2, edited by Teika Bellamy, is a collection of short stories, and doesn't continue series-like from the previous volume. They are alike in being stories of magic and otherness, reinvented fairy tales and the like; is that enough?
A Book With A Blue Cover
The book I've chosen here could have fitted in so many squares - based on a true story, non-human characters, heard about on the web, and, of course, blue cover.
A Ghost's Story by Lorna Gibb is the story of superstar spirit, Katie Green, a favourite of the seance parties of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. It's not a scary book, but it did make me wonder more about the nature of 'ghosts'.
Last and by no means least You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris
The author's wife was among those killed by terrorists at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris last November, and a few days later he took to social media, not to encourage hatred against or fear of the French Muslim population but pledging himself to live life to the fullest, and to refuse to have his life defined by one random act. A story of overwhelming, almost unbearable grief but one with a positive note of hope.