Sunday, 28 April 2013

Books for 2013... What I've read and what's on my wishlist

The best books of 2013?

I did a post along these lines last year and it proved popular (and by that I mainly mean that I still get a lot of hits from people searching for the third Cicero book by Robert Harris. And no, I still don't know exactly when it's coming out, although apparently it will be this year!) I've also been reading a lot of new releases recently and have been getting really into finding out about absolutely brand new books. There's something about identifying and reading a really good book before anyone else gets to it - I get a real buzz from it (similar to how I used to feel about discovering obscure bands when I was younger - is this a sign of ageing?!) Anyway, I wanted to make this into a bit of a master post about 2013 releases I've read and those I'm looking forward to. Although my wishlist is already far too extensive, I'm always keen to see what new books others are coveting, so please feel free to add any titles I've missed in the comments!

Cooking With Bones by Jess Richards - last week (Amazon link)
Two sisters, fleeing the city of Paradon, find their way to a village by the sea, where Old Kelp's cottage - and her recipe book - await them. When an act of terrible violence stirs and sets free the secrets of a generation, only one can reveal the truth...
I read Jess Richards' debut, Snake Ropes, earlier this year and thought it was fantastic: intriguing and completely unique. I've already bought and started this follow-up and it's excellent so far. Fingers crossed it keeps up the high standard and is even better than Richards' first novel.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne - last week (Amazon link)
1867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night. There are no parents, no adults at all, and no one to represent her mysterious employer. Later that night in her room, a terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong...
I'm a sucker for anything ghostly and creepy, and although I haven't read any of the author's previous work, this particular story sounds right up my street. I can never get enough of haunted country houses, although having spent my monthly book budget on Cooking With Bones, I might have to hunt for it at the library.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - 23rd May (Amazon link)
Julia Percy's world has fallen apart. Her enigmatic grandfather has died and left her with a closely guarded secret, one she is only now discovering - the manipulation of time. In terrible danger from unknown enemies, Julia flees to the sanctuary of Falcott House. Here she meets Lord Nicholas Falcott: together they realise how little Julia knew about her beloved grandfather, and begin to understand his ominous last words...
I'm really intrigued by the premise of this - time travel, mysterious underground organisation, dark family secrets - and if it's executed with the right kind of style and finesse, it could be absolutely excellent. I must admit, though, that the fact it keeps being described as a 'historical romance' and the comparisons to The Time Traveler's Wife (which I attempted to read three times and just could not get into at all) are making me a bit unsure of whether it'll be my kind of thing. I just hope it's more about the history/mystery and less about the romance. I have an advance copy via NetGalley and it's hovering around the top of my to-read list, so I guess I'll find out soon!

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell - 6th June (Amazon link)
New York City, 1924. Rose Baker works as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. When the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct, Rose finds herself falling under the new typist's spell, and it's not long before Rose's fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession. But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out?
I've been curious about this for ages, although funnily enough, it originally caught my eye purely because the cover uses the same photograph as one of my favourite books, F.G. Cottam's Dark Echo. I love the sound of the Prohibition-era NYC setting and the obsessive friendship at the heart of the plot. Sounds like it could be a good unreliable narrator (or unreliable protagonist) tale.

The Professor of Truth by James Robertson - 6th June (Amazon link)
Twenty-one years after his wife and daughter were murdered in the bombing of a plane over Scotland, Alan Tealing, a university lecturer, still does not know the truth of what really happened on that terrible night. When an American intelligence officer, apparently terminally ill and determined to settle his own accounts before death, arrives on his doorstep with information about a key witness in the trial, a fateful sequence of events is set in motion.
I've read one of James Robertson's books - The Testament of Gideon Mack - in the past and loved it, but never got round to trying anything else by the author. I didn't know this was being released until I spotted it in a Goodreads giveaway. I entered said giveaway and won an advance copy of the book from the publisher, although it hasn't arrived yet! Having enjoyed Robertson's writing before, I feel fairly confident it'll be good and I also feel there's a bit of a Paul Auster vibe to the plot.

The Memory of Trees by F.G. Cottam - 30th June (Amazon link)
Billionaire Saul Abercrombie owns a vast tract of land on the Pembrokeshire coast. By restoring the original forest that covered the area before medieval times, he believes he will rekindle the spirits of ancient folklore. But the re-planting of the forest will revive an altogether darker and more dangerous entity - and young arboreal expert Tom Curtis will find himself engaging in an epic, ancient battle between good and evil.
Cottam is one of my favourite authors and I know I can rely on his ghost stories to be compelling, entertaining and scary. By now, I've read enough of Cottam's books to know it's practically guaranteed I will really enjoy this!

Hunters in the Snow by Daisy Hildyard - 4th July (Amazon link)
After his death, a young woman returns to her grandfather's farm in Yorkshire. At his desk she finds the book he left unfinished when he died. Part story, part scholarship, his eccentric history of England moves from the founding of the printing press into virtual reality, linking four journeys, separated by the centuries, of four great men.
I've already picked up on a lot of buzz about this intriguing debut, which has been described as a combination of family autobiography and historical fiction. I don't think I've read anything I can really compare this to, and whether or not I will like it will probably depend very much on the author's style, but I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - 29th August (Amazon link)
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover and is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.
Another debut novel that's already being talked about quite a lot: the plot outline of this one really reminds me of a couple of books I read last year and really liked - When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones, and The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. That said, there's enough originality in this premise to make me think the story will have more to it than the kind of twist that's been done before.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl - 29th August (Amazon link)
On a damp October night, Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her death is ruled a suicide, but veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding her death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of Ashley's father: cult horror film director Stanislas Cordova. McGrath is slowly drawn into Cordova's eerie, hypnotic world as he pieces together the answers.
Marisha Pessl's first book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, was published in 2006 to great fanfare: this is her sophomore offering. While I wasn't exactly the biggest fan of Special Topics (as my review here shows), I did think it demonstrated the author's talent, and I've been keeping my eye out for something else from her ever since. The plot of Night Film sounds fascinating and the pre-publication reviews have been excellent, so I'm rather excited about this one.

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe - 5th September (Amazon link)
London, 1958: unassuming civil servant Thomas Foley is plucked from his desk at the Central Office of Information and sent on a six-month trip to Brussels. His task: to keep an eye on The Brittania, a brand new pub which will form the heart of the British presence at Expo 58 - the biggest World's Fair of the century. Expo 58 may represent a glittering future, both for Europe and for Thomas himself, but he will soon be forced to decide where his public and private loyalties really lie.
I've read quite a few books by Coe and have really liked them all - they always draw me in and usually make me laugh. This will be the first historical novel I've read by the author, so I'm looking forward to seeing how his satirical, comic style will translate to the 1950s setting.

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield - 10th October (Amazon link)
William Bellman's life at first seems blessed, but one by one people around him - first distant relatives, then his children, then his wife - begin to die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's grave - where he finds the stranger waiting. This man has a proposition for William: a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black"...
Another second novel - Setterfield's debut The Thirteenth Tale was a surprise hit in the US, so fans have been waiting eagerly for her follow-up and here it (finally) is. I'm really excited to see this one's a ghost story - given my enjoyment of this genre in general and the fact that The Thirteenth Tale was great fun, I'm sure it's bound to be a good read.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - 22nd October (Amazon link)
A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.
Donna Tartt is, of course, the author of my favourite book EVER, The Secret History. It goes without saying that I am very interested in The Goldfinch, although just the fact that Tartt's written it doesn't necessarily guarantee that I'll love it - I never finished reading her second novel, The Little Friend, though I've always meant to give it another go. However, the plot of this sounds extremely promising, especially the phrase 'art underworld'. I have very high hopes - as, I'm sure, do many others.

So that's what I'm excited about reading in the near future... But I've read an awful lot of books published in 2013 already, and thought it might be helpful if I summarised those (with quick links to my reviews) for anyone who's looking for some good new fiction. If this is all a bit tl;dr, an asterisk after the title means I particularly recommend the book!

January: How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (3rd); The Burning Air* by Erin Kelly (17th); The Friday Gospels* by Jenn Ashworth (17th); The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice (17th); The Engagement* by Chloe Hooper (24th); How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti (24th)
February: The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz (7th); Orkney* by Amy Sackville (7th); The Night Rainbow* by Claire King (14th); The Girl Below* by Bianca Zander (28th)
March: Jellybird by Lezanne Clannachan (14th); Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley (14th); The Quickening* by Julie Myerson (28th); The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland (28th); Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley (28th)
April: Reconstructing Amelia* by Kimberly McCreight (2nd); Accidents Happen by Louise Millar (11th)
Forthcoming: The Asylum* by John Harwood (20th June)

And finally, here are some 2013 books I have lined up ready and waiting to read - some I've bought and some courtesy of NetGalley! Indiscretion by Charles Dubow (5th February); Gone To the Forest by Katie Kitamura (14th February); Schroder by Amity Gaige (7th March); A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (11th March); How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (28th March); The Darkling by R.B. Chesterton (3rd May); Sisterland by Curis Sittenfeld (6th June); Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson (6th June); Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes (20th June).

Wow. When I look at it in list format, that is A LOT OF BOOKS. There are YET MORE that I'm mildly interested in, but I think my blog might have exploded if I'd tried to include those in this post too.

NB: all the release dates given in this post are for the UK only and are correct at the time of writing this post... I'd imagine some of them are likely to change!


  1. 80% of these are going on my to-read have seriously good taste! Where do you go to find new books to be excited about? (Not that I realllly need anywhere other than Goodreads, my book spending has been out of control lately!)

    1. It's a combination of loads of sources really! Goodreads, book blogs, the reviews section of the Guardian, Times and various magazines (Marie Claire is suprisingly good for recommendations), We Love This Book and Newbooks magazines and their websites, NetGalley, and the new & forthcoming releases section on Amazon. I also often search for new books by authors I've enjoyed in the past, to make sure I don't miss anything!