First a little disclaimer: this was an unusual year for me, mostly because my father was sick most of it and finally passed away only two months after I became pregnant. Apart from how those two events affected everything else, they affected my reading a great deal. We recently moved to a new (and more baby-friendly) apartment, which also disrupted my reading routine.

All this to say that my attention spam for part of the year was probably at a 4-year-old level and my tolerance for sad stories almost non-existent. I suspect most of the books in this list are a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing and mostly a question of bad timing.

thedovekeepersThe Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

How can a book about something as dramatic as the Masada massacre be so… bland? Only managed to read the first narrator’s chapter but her continuous winning and complaining were driving me nuts. The guilt, the pathos… the SIN! O.O

I found this great quote on an Amazon review that sums up my feelings:

It seems like Hoffman could never have her character say something simple like “I was tired”. No, it had to be, “I was tired like the grasshopper is tired after the month of eating has passed and it has morphed into a cocoon of a demon, which my Mother had foreseen in her dreams and which would define my destiny.”

And the repetition. Yes, life in the desert is hard and dull, but jeeez… I kept thinking about the amazing things Dorothy Dunnett did with the same setting in Scales of Gold.

Uma-Casa-na-Escuridão1Uma Casa na Escuridão by José Luís Peixoto

José Luís Peixoto is one of the golden children of modern Portuguese literature and this was my first book by him. I was warned about how dark, sad and depressing it was, but I still wasn’t ready for the experience.

Sometimes I think that Anglo-Saxon literature has ruined me for Portuguese books. When I go back to Lisbon I’ve the feeling that all best-sellers are either by the melancholic authors who love to dwell on the inescapable misery of the human condition or pink historical novels loosely based on true events.

I really need to do more research about what’s around – 2013 was supposed to be my Back to My Literary Roots Year, but with the baby coming who knows how much reading time I’ll have?

TheNavysWar1812_large1812: The Navy’s War by George C. Daughan

One of book in the History category of the Armchair Audies. The book was clearly well researched by a naval historian in love with his field of expertise, and I’m sure anything of importance about America’s first great naval war was there, but my attention wandered off once too many times while listening to it the hospital’s waiting room.

There were almost none of the personal histories that I so love in historical non-fiction, Daughan focusing instead on political and military macro-strategies.

It’s not you, it’s me!

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five-red-herringsFive Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers

May Sayers forgive me, but I just couldn’t finish this. I tried to labor though all the mind-boggling permutations of Scotland’s train schedules (swear I did!), but admitted defeat half-way through.

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jamrachs-menagerieJamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

I so wanted to love this one. Seemed right up my alley. I was already well into it when I realized that I preferred doing things like organize my DVD collection or pay bills than go back to it. Maybe some other time?

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m.dobbsMaisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Another I thought I’d love, but alas, we didn’t click. Not even sure why, after all these months.

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There were also books that don’t really belong to this list because I only allowed them about 15 pages before deciding they weren’t what I needed at the time. I’m determined to give most of them a second chance:

  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente and Ana Juan
  • Vernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre
  • The Charioteer by Mary Renault
  • Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer
  • Mayombe by Pepetela
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