Hello. I’m here at the blogface, peering hazily at the date on my last post and blowing a layer of dust off my keyboard (because obviously I have a special blogging keyboard which isn’t used for any other activities). It has been too long fair blog readers. Apologies, and with no further ado, let’s get some blog posting done.
As it’s getting near to Christmas and the end of the year and all that sort of stuff I thought you might like an end of year book review sort of thing. It’s a post that would be very timely if these were all books published during 2016, but they’re not. They’re books I just happen to have read during 2016. Ah well, I’m sure we can all agree to go with the flow a bit on that one.
Anyway I’ve read lots of things this year. Here are some of my favourites that I would heartily recommend to you all… I will acknowledge that a lot of these are by writers I know. That’s a problem if you’re an author, particularly if you’re involved in organisations like the RNA or Society of Authors – you tend to meet a lot of writers. All of these are books I genuinely enjoyed though – trust me; I have very honest blogging fingers.
S0, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my super-short bite-sized books of 2016 reviews…
Falling by Julie Cohen
This *might* be my book of the year, if I don’t become distracted by one of the other books further down the list. The characterisation is incredible – the story follows three generations of women and they’re all beautifully drawn. I fell especially in love with Honor, the grandmother, and Lydia, the teenage daughter. They both felt like characters I haven’t seen a gazillion times before in commerical fiction. It’s really a very good book indeed.
Please Release Me – Rhoda Baxter
This is a book where you start off reading and you’re thinking ‘Ok, I get what sort of book this is…’ and then all of a sudden it takes a fantastic turn and you’re reading something quite different and quite unique. It’s funny and clever and I sort of don’t want to describe the story too much because I don’t want to spoil it, but Sally and Grace are fantastic main characters, and the plot is wonderfully not-average.
We Are All Made of Stars – Rowan Coleman
I cried. A lot. A lot of the action of this one is set in a hospice and you get glimpses of the different patients’ lives, stories and regrets. It’s beautifully written and the main plot strands are fantastic, but it’s the glimpses of those different lives that tips this from being good to great for me. It’s a wonderful book, but make sure you have tissues to hand before you start reading.
I Don’t Want To Talk About It – Jane Lovering
It was the setting and the theme of this book that got me really excited. Essentially, and without veering into spoilers, it’s a rom-com about loss. I firmly believe that comedy is a completely appropriate way of dealing with big, dark, horrible things – it’s possible that I watched too many episodes of M*A*S*H at a formative age – and this book does that beautifully. And it’s set in Yorkshire as many of the best things are.
So there’s a smattering of my reading this year – I also very much enjoyed Little Girl Lost by my writing/tutoring partner-in-crime, Janet Gover, and a little-hyped tome, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling. That’s the book of the play scripts that serve as a sequel to the Harry Potter book series. I’m not sure why they chose to do it as a play this time – I can only assume that the original books didn’t do that well. Yes. That’s almost certainly probably it. I know some readers struggled with the script format, and obviously it’s conceived to be watched rather than read, but if the budget doesn’t run to a trip to the West End then I’d say the book is well worth reading.
Apart from Harry Potter, my reading this year does seem to have been very ‘commercial women’s fiction’ dominated. So please leave any recommendations for next year’s reading, particularly stuff in other genres, in the comments…
It cannot be denied that this little blog can, on occasion, be a place where I have a little rant or moan about one or more of the irritants I have noticed around me. Those irritants range from major (Michael Gove) to minor (excessive book promotion on twitter), but I have had a little moan about them all.
Today, however I’m adopting a different approach and taking a few minutes to concentrate on the positives and extol the virtue of us each doing a Good Thing. It’s easy to look at the world, see all the problems around us and conclude that it’s way way too big for any one lonesome soul to make a difference. It’s easy to feel a little bit defeated and conclude that when it comes to changing the world it’s easier all round not to try. Recently, however, two things have passed by my butterfly brain that have made me want to whoop and holler in praise of those of us who do try.
The second thing, which for reasons of narrative build, I shall tell you about first, was this tweet from Citizens Advice:
Around 100 people become volunteers with us each week! If you want to make it 101.. http://t.co/vKtJsUKY30
— Citizens Advice (@CitizensAdvice) August 21, 2013
100 people becoming volunteers every week with just one organisation. That’s incredible. Think for a second about how many people must give their time for free across the country, not just in Citizens Advice Bureaux, but in charity shops, schemes to help the elderly, play schemes, animal shelters, homelessness charities, youth groups and all the other random and diverse things people do to help their communities and to help people across the world. Jolly well done all of them, and if you are one of them, really jolly well done you.
The second thing that made me want to run across the internet and give the person involved a big ol’ high five, was this project from Rowan Coleman. Rowan has decided to donate all of the royalties from her next book, a novella titled Woman Walks Into A Bar to Refuge, a charity that works with victims of domestic abuse. According to her blog, she’s aiming to raise £10000.
In my non-writing life I have worked directly with people who were living with domestic abuse, or with the aftermath of past abuse, and I was struck, every single time, by how utterly normal those women, and occasionally men, were. Domestic abuse isn’t something that happens to people who are weaker, or less confident, or less able than us. It happens to people like us. I really hope that the good thing that Rowan is doing makes a difference to some of those people.
So, here’s my suggestion, lets all follow the example of those rather wonderful volunteers, and of Rowan Coleman, and agree that this week we shall do a Good Thing. One Good Thing, for example, would be to hop over to Amazon and pre-order Woman Walks Into A Bar. Another would be to do a spot of volunteering. It is, of course, entirely up to you. Personally I have already ordered Rowan Coleman’s novella, so my Good Thing will be to fill in the final paperwork to donate my brain to the good people at Parkinsons UK to help with research into Parkinsons disease. Obviously they only get my brain after I’ve died. I’ll be using it up until then, sometimes as much as two or three times a week. I’ve had the final forms on my desk for months. This week I shall actually finish filling them in and send them back. Easy. One Good Thing done.
It is, of course, possible that you are not really into doing Good Things and are working more of an Evil Genius lifestyle vibe. In which case, maybe you could still try a Good Thing just for variety. You never know. You might like it. Either way, lets be a little bit celebratory, shall we? So please, tell us about the Good Things you do, or are going to do forthwith.