Blabbing every book I’ve read in 2023 – Part I

If all goes well I will finish 2023 with 45 books read and here’s a list and a short review of them all.

Everybody is posting their end of the year reviews around this time, this year it seems there is no overlap between my list and President Obama’s, but I’ve also read some great books. This one goes up before Christmas, when hopefully I will add many more pages, although unfortunately in Hungary we don’t celebrate Christmas like the Icelanders, where they spend Christmas reading. After listening to this podcast episode recently, I was ready to make arrangements to move to Iceland immediately. If only I wasn’t dreading the cold so much.

I plan this post to be a three-parter, and the beauty of writing it is that at this time I am not quite sure what the final number might be, I’ll share it when we get to the third one. My initial plan was 35 books this year though, so even 41, where I am at the moment would be quite a success. Let’s see what they were.

  1. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My first read of 2024 was this half-wartime, or rather after wartime story, set in Guernsey, England, afther WWII. It is about the love of reading and connecting through books, and the story has a great vibe to it. I actually got interested in visiting Guernsey too. I also watched the movie after finishing the book, but I liked the vibe of the book more!

  1. Pattermann Kinga: Intuíció a gyakorlatban

Intuition in practice, written by a Hungarian coach and development consultant. In the book club I follow, January’s theme is traditionally some form of self-development. The title says it all, this one is about using our intuition in practice, and offers very practical assignments to learn to do that. I didn’t not like it, but I also didn’t find it as helpful as I expect from a book of this kind. I guess it wasn’t because it’s not good, but I’ve read and learnt a lot of that stuff already, I think there wasn’t enough new knowledge in it for me at this point.

  1. Sheila O’Flanagan: The Hideaway

I’ve read this one in early February during a four-day trip to Alicante, Spain. I was specifically looking for a story set in that region of Spain, I found this one, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s not an everyday chick lit, but not very deep either, about an English woman who was involved with a man in what she thought was a serious relationship, only to find out the man had a family all the while. She travels to her Spanish friend’s villa to recover after she finds out the truth in the strangest way (I’m not going to spoil that). There are enough mentions and references about her surroundings in Spain to be enjoyable reading while actually being there. That was when I decided to make a habit of always trying to read a book matching my destination when traveling.

  1. Gabrielle Zevin: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

This was the February book club pick of the book club I follow. One of the best books I’ve read this year, and one that I actually wouldn’t have chosen myself. It is the story of two young people who are video game developers, who started out as friends and were always on the edge of becoming more but never actually have, while they reach worldwide success with a videogame they create together. The dialogues are actually deep and the story itself is great.

  1. Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks

This classic was on my reading list forever and I’ve actually read it in the span of several weeks while reading other stuff in the meantime. It is a story of a very traditional German family, about the sons’ obligations to keep up the family business that many times come before their hearts’ desires. I can see why it’s a classic, it is really a great read.

  1. Colleen Hoover: All Your Perfects

The very first CoHo I’ve ever read. I know, I am so out of our time. I actually liked it, the story, the characters, the way it is created to be a page-turner. I have yet to read another one from her, I do have one or two on my Kindle, but judging from this one only, I found it just all right, and didn’t actually get the whole buzz around the author.

  1. V. E. Schwab: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I very rarely read fantasies, but this was something that keeps you in its world for a long time and actually makes you think about things in life. In short, this girl, Addie LaRue wanted to get away from her dull life in 18th century French so much so that she made a pact with the devil. It let her get away from marrying someone she didn’t want to and also from living her whole life in a boring village. She got eternal life, but with the price of no-one ever remembering her, that is not being able to create a living with owning things and connecting with people. A long, but interesting read.

  1. Rejtő Jenő: Vesztegzár a Grand Hotelben

This was actually a book club pick joint with the next one, but I read different editions that had them in two different copies. This first is one of the most popular from the famous Hungarian novelist, creating movie-like scenes with fast paced, humorous storytelling. Although I’ve never become a real fan of Rejtő, I do get the depth of his popularity and love his writing.

  1. Rejtő Jenő (P. Howard): Tigrisvér

This is one of the lesser known novels of him, a very American western story with convicts and cowboys and really, as many dead people left behind as in any of those cowboy movies. It was all right, but too much fantastic elements for me, like the protagonist miraculously surviving several gunshots and injuries while people around him falling dead by the minute (again, just like a typical cowboy movie). 

  1. Kovács Eszter: Köszi, jól

This is a very practical book about yoga and meditation written in everyday language to busy people who are having a hard time finding easy methods to slow down. I wasn’t new to yoga or meditation, so I haven’t learned many new things, but it was an enjoyable read nevertheless.

  1. Guillaume Musso: Holnap

The thing about Musso’s books is that I enjoy reading them, sometimes can’t even put them down (even while I would have to write my thesis instead), but once I’m done I’m finding it hard to recall details of the story or even names of the characters. This was a page-turner no doubt, I remember its vibe, how I felt like almost being there in the scenes, a great Musso-like realistic fantasy-fiction.

  1. Annie Ernaux: A hely / Egy asszony

This was again a book club pick, from Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux, La place is the story of her father, Une femme is of her mother, both stories involving her own growth story and her relationship with her parents. It is a deep psychological read about understanding our parents’ and our own stories once we grow older and they are gone.

  1. Sue Monk Kidd: Szárnyak nélkül szabadon

This is a story of an American female revolutionist set in the 1800s, she was from a traditional Southern family where neither being a female thinker, nor going against your family’s traditions were accepted. It is half fiction half based on the real life story of an abolitionist and women’s rights advocate. Great read.

  1. Stacey Halls: Mrs. England

I had great expectations about this one given all the hype, and although it was good, it could not live up to what I’ve anticipated. I loved the vibe of the faraway England village estate, and the sort of eerie setting of the story, but I kept waiting for something dramatic to happen, which never did. Except for the very end of course, but still I kept missing something. Would still recommend though.

  1. Valérie Perrin: A vasárnap koldusai

This was the first one I’ve read from the author, again, as a book club pick. I’ve read it almost front to cover on one rainy day and enjoyed it very much. It really sets a certain mood with the very French life philosophy all over the story. I found all the characters interesting, and I do get the buzz around this one. I still haven’t read more from Valérie Perrin, but looking forward to.

To be continued. Stay tuned for the next 15 books of my 2023 reading list, coming in the next few days.

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