Goodbye 2016 Hello 2017

This year has been one of personal highs and lows for me. It’s been a year that has seen me read less than I’ve ever read only managing 75 books. I usually aim for a minimum of 100, but I lost my mojo early in the year when we lost our beloved dog and it never really came back. Health issues for family and friends further compounded my lack of motivation. I think I adopted lots of  book related diversionary tactics instead of reading and joining Twitter was one of them. This by default has been one of the highs of my year. I became much more involved with other bloggers, authors and publishers in a way that I hadn’t anticipated before. As a result of this I branched out from just reviewing and introduced a new Time and Place feature on the blog. I still feel I’m a reviewer pretending to be a blogger but I’m getting there.

What I have noticed this year is a change in what I’m reading. I’m becoming less and less attracted to the over hyped, must reads and more attracted to the quieter books with depth and  heart. That’s not to say I’m averse to reading the mainstream bestsellers, just less sucked in by marketing hype. I’m also noticing an increasing  tendency to force  books into a particular niche and genre to meet the latest trend. This year has been the year of the psychological thriller and I’ve discovered I’m not always a fan. It seems to me that to get yourself ‘seen’ in an increasingly crowded field the content has to stand out. For some this seems to  mean making the content more extreme and graphic, I’ve read things that just make me uncomfortable and are verging on the voyeuristic that’s not my idea of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I can read dark and graphic, but gratuitous torture, rape and brutality are aspects of the world I’m wanting to escape from, not turn to for pleasure. (Yes, I’m turning into my mother!)

So what books have stood out for me this year. I’m not faffing about with a limited list of 10, 12 or any other arbitrary figure. I’m just going with the one’s I loved when I read them and are still memorable now. I am prepared to stick my neck out though and go for a top  5.

With apologies for rubbish formatting as what it shows when published is not what shows on my screen 😦

Trouble with Goats and Sheep

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

England,1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

As I’ve only recently finished this book I’ve yet to write my review but it is one of the easiest 5 stars I’ve ever awarded. I loved everything about it. I was transported back to 1976 in an instant with all the cultural references; I was delighted by Grace and Tilly; and totally gripped by the story which was so expressively and beautifully told. An absolute gem of a book.

Museum Of You

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

The story of widower Darren and his 12 year old daughter Clover. No over-hyped plot lines, no dramatic twists, just brilliant characterisation and evocative writing. The author writes about the ordinary and everyday  minutiae of  love, life, friendships and relationships in such a way as to really get to the heart of what makes things tick.

You can find my review here.

Be Frank With Me

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne

Be Frank With Me, in common with several other of my “best” reads this year, is quirky, clever and funny and yet contains an underlying vein of sadness and social comment on what it’s like to be different or accepted. What it also screams out is “Read Me”, because the characters are an oddball mix of troubled, eccentric, enthusiastic and sheer delight in the case of Frank.

 You can find my full review here.

What Milo Saw

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Milo is a 9 year old boy, with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition which means he sees life through a pin hole, but often spots the things that others don’t. He loves, his Mum, his Gran and his teacup pig Hamlet, and lives at home with them after his father left them for “The Tart”. Life isn’t easy since the split, but Milo is comfortable in his little world that revolves around those he loves the most.

You can find my full review here

Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

On the face of it, the book is a tale of a small provincial town coming to terms with an impending war and a slowly changing society. It is a long time since I read a book that had me so enthralled I felt I was experiencing the action and emotions of the characters, but this book made me do that. From giggling out loud to stifled sobs, this book really had an effect that will long stay in my memory.

You can find my review here

The following selection in no particular order are the rest of my stand out books of the year

mountain-in-my-shoe

The Mountain in my Shoe by Louise Beech

This is a story well told, with realistic characters and a gripping plot. It explores the nature of relationships and the damage that bad ones can cause. But ultimately  it offers hope and redemption through the love and support of others, whether they be family or friends.

You can find my full review here

The One in a Million Boy

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

While we meet our ‘boy’ briefly early in the book, he soon disappears, but leaves a lasting impression on all those who came into contact with him, and leaves the reader wishing we could have spent a little longer with him.

You can find my full review here

If I Could Tell You

If I Could Tell You by Elizabeth Wilhide

This is a wonderful period piece that presents a portrait of a relationship in turmoil and how society viewed adultery/divorce.

You can find my full review here

A Year and a Day

A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom

For once the blurb is on the money, this truly is a – heartwarming and heartbreaking story about love and life in one of Europe’s most romantic cities, Prague.

You can find my full review here

Exposure

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets.

When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested.

You can find my full review here

Falling

Falling by Julie Cohen

This book tells the story of 3 generations of women, Honor, a feisty 80 year old academic, who is mother in law to Jo. The relationship between Honor and Jo has never been a warm one but it deteriorated further on the death of Stephen, Jo’s husband and Honor’s son. The final cog in the wheel is Lydia, Jo’s troubled daughter. This book also features Marcus my own ‘book crush’ for this year.

You can find my full review here

Theseus Paradox

The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

July 2005: in the midst of Operation Theseus, the largest police investigation that the UK has ever known, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan begins to ask difficult questions that lead to the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend and his sudden suspension from the Metropolitan Police.

You can find my full review here

Secret Diary of ...

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen…

This is Hendrik’s account of life as experienced in his North Amsterdam care home – warts and all. What I thought would be an episodic ramble though the year turned out to be so much more. Despite the act is is written in diary format, it didn’t feel disjointed and clunky, there was a fluidity to the writing that made it flow.

You can find my full review here

curious-charme-of-arthur-pepper

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Arthur Pepper is a no nonsense Yorkshireman, coming to terms, very slowly with the loss of his beloved wife Miriam. This is a lovely, heartwarming story and Arthur’s charms prove to be both literal and figurative. It is a story with real soul, that gets you involved and has you yearning for a positive outcome.

You can find my full review here

Blood Lines

Blood Lines by Angela Marsons

How do you catch a killer who leaves no trace?
A victim killed with a single, precise stab to the heart appears at first glance to be a robbery gone wrong. A caring, upstanding social worker lost to a senseless act of violence. But for Detective Kim Stone, something doesn’t add up.

You can find my full review here

My Names is Leon

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.

You can find my review here

So those were my favourites and I’m looking forward to seeing what gems 2017 has to offer. 

Going forward

Like many other readers/reviewers/bloggers I’ve been appraising what I do (and don’t do) and while I’m not one for resolutions I have been thinking about how I’d like to work going forward. So what follows are not set in stone resolutions, but rather guidelines I’m aiming to follow.

  • Read more of my own books. I have a monstrous tbr full of wonderful books I want to read and they are constantly being pushed down the pile by books I’ve agreed to review. I’d like to read at least one of my own books a month. As I joined the Urbane Book Club in November I’d also like to actually read some of my titles.
  • To achieve the above, I need to curb my NetGalley addiction and learn to say No more often when I get requests to review.
  • Spend less time on social media, which just eats into reading (and work)  time. I appreciate that Twitter in particular, is a forum for meeting blogging colleagues/authors/publishers and sharing and supporting but it can become addictive. So if my blogging friends see me sharing less, please don’t take it personally. I’m just not able to keep up with what everyone is posting. The time I spend scrolling through posts, trying to keep up blog entries and trying not to  offend by missing someone is exhausting! Some days I daresay I’ll be more active than others but something has to give. I’m already juggling my own FB page, Twitter and blog, without trying to juggle everyone elses.

Wish me luck, I have an idea that sensible as my aims may sound they’ll not be as easy to achieve in practice.

So what do I have scheduled this month (in addition to actually working)? 

Well I still owe 4 reviews for books I’ve already read and they are

In addition I’ve got the following scheduled to read and review for the month

 

In December I joined Keith Foskett’s Book Launch Team so I’ll also be reading and reviewing his latest book due this month – Travelled Far.

travelled-far

Of course all of these are in addition to my NetGalley backlog which I’m not prepared to commit to paper (needless to say an 80% ratio is a pipe dream) and as I’ve got books scheduled through to March/April I’m really not in a position to take on any further requests.

So that’s my round up. Thanks for sticking with it if you’ve got this far and all the best with your own life and reading hopes, ambitions and plans for 2017.

happy-new-year-greetings-with-written-text

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36 thoughts on “Goodbye 2016 Hello 2017

  1. Great post, Jill. It won’t surprise you to know that I have all of your top reads. I’ve read a few of them and have the rest on the pile.

    I agree social media is a great drain on time. Sometimes I spend time sharing other people’s posts instead doing what I should be doing – reading and writing my own posts! Unfortunately, I’ve always been a bit addicted to spending time on the computer so it’s not exactly unexpected.

    I don’t know what being on Keith Foskett’s launch team entails but it sounds great and I hope it goes well for you.

    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d be disappointed in you as my book twin if you hadn’t 😉 I have several of Keith Foskett’s books as my ‘proper’ walking these days is limited to reading about other’s doing it and Keith is a serious walker. He was looking for people interested in reviewing his books and I was happy to step forward – so it’s just reading and reviewing nothing more (and nothing paid). Have a great 2017!

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    • Thanks Janet, I think the first step is acknowledging the issue. I never really had this problem until I got involved in Twitter, until then I felt I was in control and now I think I let it control me. First world problem really. But by setting it down it means I’ll deal with it (including your review – I’ve confessed to all now that it’s overdue!) 🙂 All best wishes x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like you I am planning to read more of the books I already own this year and to also cut down on Netgalley. I know what you mean about Twitter/social media – it is so easy to get sucked in and before you know whats happened two hours have passed by

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now I’m so happy I got approved for The trouble with goats and sheep!!!!! 🙂 I had been wanting to read that one for so long!

    Feliz año 2017 🙂 And I totally understand what you said about social media, sometimes we don’t have the time to read so much and read all the posts and share them! Don’t worry 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just created my Twitter account this year as well. Though I love it, I admit it creates for time management issues for me. (I did not meet my Goodreads challenge this year.)

    You’ve given me more great books suggestions, as always. I’ve actually had The Trouble with Goats and Sheep on my shelf for a while. I really need to work it in the queue. (Which is the story of my life…)

    Great post, btw. And I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. I do hope, when the time is right, you’ll consider adopting again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hope you’ll like it. The setting and cultural references are very English and surburban so hope it has the same appeal. We would love another dog, but are trying to move house as well which complicates things. If we sell and have to rent until we find what we want many rental properties don’t allow pets. I couldn’t bare to put a rescue dog back in kennels. But things usually have a way of working so we’ll see. How are your babies doing?

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  5. I’ve just read your post and I’m now wishing I had requested some of your ‘highlights’ from NetGalley. It looks like I’ll just have to buy The Trouble with Goats and Sheep!

    It is so difficult; there are just so many great sounding books to choose from (or at least request). Thanks to NetGalley I have read a lot of books that I probably would have walked past in the bookshop or library.

    I suspect we have fairly similar tastes – I have read a few of your highlights plus I have read A Boy Made of Blocks and Good Me, Bad Me. I really liked A Boy Made of Blocks and I hope you enjoy it too.

    Here’s to a happy and healthy 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel the same when I read everyone else’s lists – too many books too little time. I need to start being more choosy and less acquisitive to stand a chance of getting through my tbr. Looking forward to what I’ve got scheduled. All best wishes for 2017 and happy reading.

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  6. Jill, I’ve had some of the very same thoughts regarding my reading preferences this year. So many of my favorite reads were character driven stories that really touched me in some way and the others were classic mysteries, none of that overly violent, gory stuff. I’ve decided I don’t really care for psychological thrillers which seem so overly hyped and gimmick this year. I’ve just downloaded The Trouble with Goats and Sheep from my library, it looks like a great read! Good luck to you on your reading goals this year and so sorry about the loss of your dog last year. It’s so hard to lose our best doggy friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. HYN, Jill!
    I agree 100% with everything you said about the hype within the current trend for ‘grip lit’. It appears that sensationalism is more important than decent writing… enough said! And yes, I’m turning into my mother, too.

    Fear not, your blog looks most professional!

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    • HNY to you too Terry, glad I’m not on my own. I wonder whether it seems worse than it is, because we see the same things being shared and plugged so maybe that over exaggerates things. That said, my feeling about the content still stands. But I guess we’re all different so each to their own, I’ll just read what I want and not what everyone keeps exhorting me to read.

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  8. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. I lost my cat in March and it put me in a mood when I did not feel like commit to any books. I turned to Twitter instead and discovered time flew a lot faster with it 🙂 Lots of fabulous books 🙂 The Mountain in my Shoe, Blood Lines and The Museum of You are all on my TBR 🙂
    I wish you all the best for 2017, may the year be filled with books and joy. It was a pleasure to meet you online in 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Twitter was the same for me, took my mind off things, but started to become addictive and totally took over. I’m trying to wean myself off gradually. despite not reading as much as usual, I’ve really enjoyed most of what I’ve read which is the main thing. All the best Donna xx

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  9. You’ve made some interesting choices here Jill. I’ve added several to my TBR. (God knows I needed a few more. LOL) I envy your review commitments as I’ve now over 130 in my review queue. I AM WEAK!
    Today I received three additional requests from authors and was strong enough to say no to all three. I hope I can keep it up. I vow I will not look at NetGalley’s new titles – only submit reviews. The exception would be of course, if I am invited to review something by a publisher. That doesn’t count right?
    All the best in 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think my total review commitments stands at 65 and I’m definitely getting tougher with myself about accepting new requests. NetGalley was my downfall and I have quite a backlog. I request far fewer these days, and only for books way in advance so I stand a fighting chance of reading it on time. Good luck with working through your review pile and may 2017 be kind to you x

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post, it was lovely to read about your favourite books of the year. I see we both picked a couple of the same books as our top ones. 🙂 I’m going to be adding the ones in your top picks that I haven’t read to my wish list as they all sound really good. I hope you manage to stick to your guidelines – I put much less pressure on myself since my blogging break in the summer and I’m enjoying blogging much more because of it. I hope 2017 is a happy one filled with brilliant books! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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