Tuesday 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013

So here we are, at the end of another year. I hope you've all had a very merry Christmas. Mine was very short, as I was working on Christmas Eve, then was back in Boxing day through to the end of Saturday 28th, but I'm having part two of my Christmas break now. I'm feeling utterly exhausted - somehow it feels doubly tiring working when you know you should be on holiday than on a normal week - and Christmas feels like a distant memory, but I'll show off my bookish Christmas presents nonetheless.

From my Secret Santa at work: 

I love these "sprouting" bookmarks, they are adorable! And I think that the book holder could prove very useful for keeping my page open when I read while eating my lunch.

From my sister:

Dedicated To... compiled by W. B. Gooderham. This book is a collection of inscriptions found written in the front of second-hand books. I love second-hand books with writing in them; they are a little piece of history, and each one tells a story.

From Ellie:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I could not resist this book, but as it was not yet published in the UK, Ellie sent it to me as a lovely surprise. I read this book on Christmas day and Boxing day, and it's absolutely wonderful: the story of a shy, nerdy girl in her first year at university, juggling the real world with fanfiction-writing in the run-up to the release of the final book in her favourite series. Wonderfully identifiable - a proper review is coming soon.

From my parents: 

Doctor Who: The Vault. Treasures from the first 50 years. I haven't really looked at this book yet, but it's a gorgeous, massive collector's book for any fan of the show, going through the series year by year, Doctor by Doctor.

Other books: 

A Steroid Hit the Earth was a present from my friend Sharon, while F in Retakes was a stocking present from my parents. Both are hilarious books full of hilarious errors, one in published material (especially newsletters) and the other from exams. Good for a giggle

From my friend Hannah:

I haven't seen much of Hannah the last year or so. She's one of my best friends from university, now married to Paul, one of our former housemates, and she, like me, works in retail. She sent me this wonderful personal library kit, so that I can keep track of who I've lent books to, and (in theory) they will remember to return them to me. (Also, I always wanted to use one of those library stamps.)

I also got some book vouchers, which I will save up to have a big splurge in the new year (once I've got my to-read pile down a bit.) All in all, a good year for bookish presents. I am very satisfied.

Top Ten books of 2013

  1. Redshirts - John Scalzi. I read this just as I was discovering Star Trek, which was perfect timing. Hilarious, fourth-wall-vaporising, embarrass-yourself-laughing parody of science fiction TV in general and original series Trek in particular.
  2. Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt. A heartfelt story of growing up, love, loss, family and art. 
  3. The Universe Versus Alex Woods - Gavin Extence. Thought-provoking, encouraging, funny and sad in equal measures, a wonderful, lovable character and a beautiful friendship between a teenage boy and an elderly curmudgeon.
  4. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline. A treasure-hunt set within the world of a computer game, packed full of nerdy references, a real edge-of-the-seat adventure.
  5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman. The first adult novel from Gaiman in eight years, I finished reading the book the same day it was released, and went right back to the beginning to start again. A thoughtful, magical novel about childhood, family and identity, the power of memory and surviving in a messy world.
  6. The Casual Vacancy - J. K. Rowling. Rowling leaves Hogwarts far behind her in her first novel for adults. The Casual Vacancy is a grim read, dark and furious, Dickensian in her passion for social justice. Not a pleasant book, but a very important one.
  7. The Fictional Man - Al Ewing. All about storytelling and humanity, fiction and reality, and where to draw the line. Engrossing and hilarious, another book to be read in public at your own peril.
  8. The Rose Petal Beach - Dorothy Koomson. Koomson's novels, though definitely very feminine, belay their pastel-coloured covers. The Rose Petal Beach was a thriller to be compared with Gone Girl. I got far more emotionally invested than I was prepared for.
  9. Watchmen - Alan Moore. This graphic novel is a deconstruction of the superhero genre, dark but fascinating for its worldbuilding and storytelling. 
  10. After the Fall - Charity Norman. A story "of families and secrets, and the futility of running from the past," the author kept me on my toes, surprising me and avoiding the trap of predictability. I read it with suspicion, but Ms Norman got past the emotional barriers I'd put up, with unforeseen, devastating plot twists.
Other new story worlds discovered:
  • Dollhouse. Was it really only this year that I discovered this? Joss Whedon's science-fiction series about an illegal organising dealing in programmable people started off engaging me intellectually rather than emotionally, but by the end of series 2, I was shouting at the TV in almost every episode. 
  • Les Miserables. The book, the film and the music took over part of my brain at the beginning of the year. I saw the film twice, once before and once after reading the book. Far from being the best novel ever written (and in serious need of a good editor), nonetheless Les Miserables is a massive epic of humanity (and one you can really hum!)
  • Star Trek. This year I became a most reluctant Trekkie (I considered Dungeons and Dragons and Star Trek the point of no return when it came to nerdiness.) I watched the reboot movies, and the characters and the possibilities grabbed my attention and sent me right back to the original. Oops.

Other highlights of 2013
  • Obviously, the top of the list was meeting my favourite messy-haired fantasy author, Neil Gaiman, when he came to Portsmouth this summer. It was a pretty much perfect day, starting with Neil walking right past me as soon as I got off the hovercraft in Southsea, continued by meeting one of my blog and twitter friends in person, quite by chance, and then having my hat complimented by Neil himself! 
  • Meeting Ellie and buying up half her bookshop, when on holiday in the Peak District this year. It is a fine bookshop, and I'm sad that she's selling it, but happy for her that she's escaping the crazy customers and hectic six-day working weeks. Next time I'm up north, perhaps we can invade other bookshops together!
  • The Peak District holiday in general: exploring caves, getting lost, falling over in the Chatsworth cascade waterfall-staircase, long walks with gorgeous scenery, and imagining myself to be in The Lord of the Rings. And more ice creams than I care to admit to.

  • The Isle of Wight Festival: I spent a relaxing day at Seaview path, sitting on the grass and listening to music, culminating in Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," and then, the crowd moving en masse towards the Big Top, all chanting "one way, or another, I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha..." like a pack of zombies. 
  • Snow! Yes, the winter went on far, far too long this year, but the first snow day was good fun.
  • Visiting my friend Anna in Cardiff! It was good to catch up with her in her own environment, and I always enjoy visiting new cities. This trip included a visit to the Doctor Who Experience, free "milkshakes" (ahem) at TGI Friday's when the waitress got our orders wrong, and sampling as many different food places as I could. (Highlight had to be the crepe shop's "I'll have what she's having" crepe with strawberries, chocolate and cream.)

  • Barbecues on the beach. We didn't have a spring this year, but summer made up for the last few years of wash-outs, and I spent much of June, July and August in the sea and eating sausages and burgers on the rocky beach at Gurnard.

So, that was my 2013. How was yours?

Happy new year to you all, and best wishes for 2014.


  1. I love your Best Books list - so many of those I want to read desperately and one I have read and loved (Alex Woods). Also a bit jealous of Dedicated To... and the personal library set.

    Have a happy new year, Katie!

  2. Alex Woods is so good! Looks like you had a brilliantly bookish Christmas - that personal library set is pretty amazing.

    Happy new year and I hope your 2014 is just as good as 2013! I know I have big plans for the year.


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