Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger?
A Year in the Life of a Determined Reader.
‘Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger?’ I hear you ask (or maybe not, but roll with me for a moment.)
‘Does thou not read anymore? To post no book reviews?’
Why no, loyal reader. If anything, I read too much and have too many books and too little time.
It is the year 2018, the year in which I must read the books I have chosen for this 365 days, or wallow in shame for all eternity.
Disclaimer: I blame a fellow bookseller.
A reading journal seemed like a fun idea when the idea first swept by me. I have no artistic talent, so it wasn’t going to be one of those gorgeous, arty, stylish journals no matter how hard I tried (although I was determined to put at least one drawing in there, for the sake of pride.)
A couple of years ago Andy Miller gave a talk on my creative writing course about his book ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’. A left the talk full of plans – I was going to read ‘The Odyssey’, and ‘Middlemarch’ would not defeat me after the first paragraph.
Alas, life got in the way, ‘The Odyssey’ was put on a back bench until after my studies, ‘Middlemarch’ was put in the loft, and bookselling and blogging introduced so many other books to me, ones that I had to review promptly, that I forgot about that promise I’d made to myself.
That is until this year, when on the 1st January 2018, my Kindle broke.
Now I am a very firm lover of the book in its original form, but for my work as a book blogger, my Kindle was an important part. My reviews came from reading egalleys from Netgalley and publishers, and I never got into reading on the Kindle App on an iPad or phone, so Kindle was the way I did it.
What to do, I asked myself. Debating on whether to buy a new Kindle (after only two years of the last one!), I stared at one of my many bookshelves.
I have a lot of books. Alright, I know people always say that. People come into the bookshop I work in and claim the same. I soon get out of them, that their idea of ‘lot of books’ is actually a pile next to their bed. My ‘lot of books’ I have accumulated in my 25 years of life, and 3 1/2 years as a bookseller consist of 10 full size bookcases double-stacked, dozens of full cardboard and heavy duty plastic boxes in two lofts, the same in a garage, in boxes under my bed, under the spare bed, in my wardrobe, in my locker at work…you get the idea. If me and my bookseller boyfriend put all our books together we’d have a nice little library.
And still I buy more.
So I decided in that moment, 2018 would not be the year of the kindle, but a year of getting through some of the books I have bought and that have sat patiently on my shelf (or in boxes) for longer than they ought to have.
I started with 18 books that I have to read this year – with some others in between, as my Goodreads reading challenge is to read 60 books.
Below is my ‘To-Read 2018’ and my ‘2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge’ when I first started. Follow the link here to see how I’ve been progressing in my journey.
And as we say at work: Books, Books, Books!
And Happy Reading!
What can I say?
Is there any way to explain such a deviation in form?
Especially from one such as me who has avoided writing poetry since the traumatic unearthing of that dreadful Christmas poem I wrote at age 8? (And no, that shall not be posted here, and yes – thanks Mother for scarring me for life with that reminder of my childhood writing.)
Again, what can I say?
Something awoke in me and demanded to be heard.
Write about what you know, they say.
Write what’s in your heart.
So, I wrote about the war.
No, I’ve never been in a war.
No, it’s not something I have any intimate knowledge of.
But yes, it is something that’s close to my heart.
And will I post it here; probably not.
I’m not brave enough for that.
Disclaimer: I blame NaNoWriMo.
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Music
Release Date: June 15th 2017.
The new novel from the author of the number one bestseller The Versions of Us.
One day. Sixteen songs. The soundtrack of a lifetime…
Alone in her studio, Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ten years, the singer-songwriter is picking the sixteen tracks that have defined her – sixteen key moments in her life – for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album.
In the course of this one day, both ordinary and extraordinary, the story of Cass’s life emerges – a story of highs and lows, of music, friendship and ambition, of great love and great loss. But what prompted her to retreat all those years ago, and is there a way for her to make peace with her past?
Daughter. Mother. Singer. Lover. What are the memories that mean the most?
Book Review ~ ‘Greatest Hits’ by Laura Barnett ~ 5 Stars!
Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us was one of my favourite books of 2015; so much so I have a copy in both Hardback and Paperback. So it was with much excitement and a little trepidation that I entered into Barnett’s second novel Greatest Hits. How will she create such a heartfelt story, one with as many twists and turns as she did before? But I needn’t have feared. Greatest Hits is a completely different story, but in it’s own way, just as fantastic as The Versions of Us.
Greatest Hits is an immersive reading experience, which takes us through the life of fictional singer Cassie Wheeler. A famed star, whose music and personal life had been at the forefront of the media for years before she disappeared from view, everyone is wanting to know when her next album will be released. As a middle-aged Cassie returns to her studio for the first time in years, she listens to and chooses the songs that best chronicle her life’s road as she takes herself and the reader down memory lane.
Laura Barnett writes with such an understanding of human emotion that in the space of 400+ pages, as a reader you feel as though you too have experienced all that Cassie has. She no longer becomes a character that you are reading about, but another part of you that you never knew you had. Throughout Cassie’s life, through her loves, losses, successes and failures, all are expressed through Barnett’s powerful prose, and the meaningful lyrics of the songs that Cassie chooses as those that have shaped the person she is.
Greatest Hits is a reading experience that melds music and literature in a way that few people have achieved before. With lyrics by both Barnett and singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, readers can also hear the sixteen of Cassie’s records in song on Williams’ album Songs from the Novel Greatest Hits.
Songs from the Novel Greatest Hits
~ Kathryn Williams ~
~ Waterstones UK ~
~ Website ~
Summer in San Remo by Evonne Wareham
Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: 16th July 2017
Publisher: Choc Lit
Anything could happen when you spend summer in San Remo.
Running her busy concierge service usually keeps Cassie Travers fully occupied. But when a new client offers her the strangest commission she’s ever handled she suddenly finds herself on the cusp of an Italian adventure, with a man she thought she would never see again.
Jake McQuire has returned from the States to his family-run detective agency. When old flame Cassie appears in need of help with her mysterious client, who better than Jake to step in?
Events take the pair across Europe to a luxurious villa on the Italian Riviera. There, Cassie finds that the mystery she pursues pales into insignificance, when compared to another discovery made along the way.
Book Review ~ ‘Summer in San Remo’ by Evonne Wareham ~ 5 Stars!
Summer in San Remo is the perfect summer read! If you are feeling stuck in a slump in rainy Britain, then this is the perfect book to transport you to sunny Italy! Romantic, fun but with hints of mystery throughout, this is the a book you devour!
We’ve all had strange requests in our jobs, but our heroine Cassie takes the cake. Having to find a husband in a day would be something she’d laugh at before, but as her ex-boyfriend has left her penniless, she’ll take any job she can. Cassie was a real laugh, and I loved following her story. She was a strong character, but felt all the more real to me by her willingness to scrape low. She didn’t just wait for something easy to come along, and she knew that to get her and her business out of the black, she’d need to do some not so great things.
Enter Jake. Oh what a gem. I adored his relationship with Cassie. The sparks flew and they had the best scenes together. Flirty, fun and warm, it was heartwarming to read. Both have problems in their lives, but together they put aside their past differences and get to heart of their mysterious job in San Remo – because there are mysteries to solve, and it’s these two who have to do it.
Escape to San Remo this summer with Evonne Wareham’s fantastic warm novel of love and mystery. You won’t be disappointed.
*Review copy kindly provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Where Rainbows End by AnneMarie Brear
Genres: Historical, Romance.
Release Date: 23rd May 2017.
Publisher: Choc Lit
Can she hold on to her dreams?
It’s 1850 and the Noble family have travelled to the other side of the world to start a new life after scandal drove them from their native England. Pippa Noble is determined to reclaim their honour by making her father’s plan for an outback farm reality, although her ambition is frowned upon by a society that has very set ideas about a woman’s place.
Pippa learns the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the bush, sometimes with devastating consequences. And when unfortunate circumstance leads to Pippa tending the farm alone, it is the friendship of neighbouring estate owner Gil Ashford-Smith that helps her through.
Then an unexpected visitor from England arrives, putting Pippa’s dreams in jeopardy. But she refuses to let go. She will hold onto her family’s land, even if it means losing everything else.
Book Review ~ ‘Where Rainbows End’ by AnneMarie Brear ~ 5 Stars!
AnneMarie Brear’s Where Dragonflies Hover was one of my favourite historical reads of last year, and with Where Rainbows End Brear has made the list for 2017 too!
A beautifully written historical novel Where Rainbows End brilliantly depicts early Australian life in the colonies through the eyes of a foreigner, and having never been to Australia myself I lived and learned through the eye of our heroine Pippa as she takes it upon herself to bear the struggles of building a new life in a beautiful, yet harsh and unknown land.
Pippa was the kind of heroine I love. Her fierce devotion to helping her family have the best new beginning, and her willingness to shoulder the burdens herself in order to achieve her dreams made her strong, likeable, and also inspiring. The relationships she forges with those around her, including the respect she earns from the workers on her land, and the others in the area will make you proud of her, as though she is someone you know yourself.
What I loved most about this novel was the perfect timing of the ultra slow-burning romance between Pippa and Gil. The novel takes place over a number of years, and the characters change so much throughout the time after overcoming some of the hardest battles, and through it, Pippa and Gil grow as friends, part and regret as love and jealousy comes to one before the other feels it, and all the while a hope grows in the reader that they will find a way to be happy together.
My only disappointment was that it ended so soon! The last chapter ends so quickly, that you turn the page hoping for more. But this is a firm 5 star read, and a fantastic book for anyone who loves heartfelt historical fiction.
New Boy: Othello Retold by Tracy Chevalier
Genres: Adult, Historical, Retellings
Release Date: 11th May 2017.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes the fifth installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, a modern retelling of Othello set in a suburban schoolyard
Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.
Book Review ~ ‘New Boy’ by Tracy Chevalier ~ 5 Stars!
In ‘New Boy’ Tracy Chevalier has created an incredible retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello that creeps up on you, and lingers in the mind long after you’ve turned the last page.
The never altering routine of a school playground is thrown into disarray when 11 year old Osei arrives at his new school. Why does this young boy cause such an uproar? Because this is 1970s Washington, and Osei is black. The themes of race and segregation of the time are heartbreakingly portrayed in this retelling where not only is Osei victimised for the colour of his skin, but so is the young Dee, a white girl who chooses to befriend him.
Chevalier’s decision to base this story in a school was so clever, as nowhere else in a modern setting would the trail of lies, rumours and jealousy be so rife as in a school playground where, as is truthfully stated by one of their teacher’s “kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime.”
I adored this retelling of Othello, and many parallels can be found between this and the current Black Lives Matter movement in America. I strongly recommend this book, as the issues raised are made even more black and white by their being portrayed and noticed by children who can only have picked up their casual racism from the careless comments of adults.