I only began blogging in February 2015 so 2016 was going to be THE YEAR. I would read at least three or four books a week and get the blog really buzzing with reviews.
Well, you know what they say about the road to Hell, and what a hellish year it’s been. I wasn’t even going to compile an annual round up, but then I thought that wasn’t fair to the wonderful authors I have met and read this year, so this blog post is a celebration of the books that have affected me most along with an explanation of why I probably haven’t got round to your book yet, for which apologies. There are so many books I wish I’d read that are sitting on my TBR, but life hasn’t allowed it.
So, the Hill household began 2016 anxiously awaiting the lymph node biopsy results from my husband’s cancer surgery on 10th December 2015. We couldn’t settle to anything much and reading took a back seat. However, there were two books I thought were outstanding. The first was In A Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca MacKenzie, reviewed here and Amanda Prowse’s Another Love, reviewed here. Both took me on emotional journeys. It was my privilege to interview Amanda later in the year too.
After a couple more anxious weeks we finally got the results we wanted. Steve’s biopsies were all clear and he was cancer free. With that huge relief I felt able to read a bit more and my favourite book that month was The Ballroom by Anna Hope which I raved about here and which almost became my Book of the Year. I loved the sense of history behind the prose.
So, life was back on track and all was going to be fine after all. Wrong. Having been quite ill all the second week my Dad was rushed into hospital on 11th with life threatening sepsis as his gall stones hadn’t been diagnosed. We were told that ‘Anyone else his age would have succumbed by now’ and not to expect him to live. However, he survived and spent several weeks in hospital.
Whilst Dad was recovering we had the awful task of telling him that, on 17th March, our much anticipated great niece Emma Faith was still born at full term. Our (emotionally and geographically) close knit family was devastated. With an inquiry to be carried out we couldn’t have Emma’s funeral, so again I found settling to reading difficult. Luckily I had already been thoroughly entranced by The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace and had reviewed it here.
Once we got through Emma Faith’s funeral on 15th April, and leaving aside the terrible car accident my cousin had where he was lucky passers-by pulled him clear before his car went up in flames, I was able to read a bit. I found Lyn G Farrell’s The Wacky Man absolutely stunning. You can see why here.
When I’m not reading I love to travel but as life kept getting in the way at least I was able to do so vicariously through Isabelle Broom’s wonderful My Map of You, reviewed here.
Well, well. 2016 wasn’t all bad after all. Off to Japan and Taiwan on holiday so there was little chance to catch up on reading as we were so busy. However, I’d previously loved Amy Snow (reviewed here) by Tracy Rees and was delighted when I found her follow up novel Florence Grace was just as good and I reviewed it here. Tracy also wrote a guest post for the blog you can read here.
At last, a month where we were at home, no-one was taken ill with life threatening injuries or illnesses and I could read. Read I did! It was back to my normal reading habits for a whole month, devouring several books a week. I was intending on choosing a book of the month, but there were so many stunning books read that month I’ll simply list my favourites with links to their reviews:
A gorgeous trip to Cuba with Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley reviewed here and a dip into history as well as passion.
The amazingly well researched and written The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs reviewed here along with a fascinating guest post. I had no idea about James Joyce’s daughter until this fantastic book.
Also in June as I was sitting in a field at Burghley House waiting to see my idol, Bryan Ferry, in concert for the umpteenth time, a message came through to say that I had won the Best Book Review Blog in the Bloggers Bash Awards. I was amazed and very proud.
Having been proud of my Bloggers Bash award I was thrilled to find in July that I had posted 500 blogs on Linda’s Book Bag in 14 months of blogging. Well, you know what pride comes before don’t you?
We’d been in Valencia for a few days and returned home to find my wonderful Dad had had a massive stroke the evening before. He was completely paralysed except for his left forearm, left thumb and two fingers. He could swallow only pureed food and thickened liquids, seemed unable to see properly, he was doubly incontinent and couldn’t speak. He was also in terrible pain. Sometimes he appeared to know us and sometimes he didn’t. We spent between three and six hours a day supporting Mum and visiting him in hospital which was going to be our daily routine for the next 17 weeks. All reading time pretty much disappeared but I had read the fabulous The Trouble With Henry and Zoe by Andy Jones on holiday so reviewed it here.
Before I’d gone away I had read Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney ready for the blog tour and that was another of my favourite books in 2016 that almost became a Book of the Year. Here is my review.
There was another book that really spoke to my soul this month; The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney – but more of that later.
Life had its pattern now. Visit Dad, support Mum (especially as it was her birthday month too) and deal with the hospital and authorities. I found it almost impossible to find time to read and only really picked up the wonderful Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley because it was thin and looked like a quick read! It was brilliant and I reviewed it here.
Dad still wasn’t improving and neither was life or the time I had to devote to reading and blogging. Steve had another, thankfully benign, growth removed and we waited anxiously for the results. That said, two of the books I read in September were amazing. One is ostensibly a children’s book, Fir For Luck by Barbara Henderson but which is an enthralling historical read for all ages, reviewed here, and the other was also an historical story, this time by William Ryan, The Constant Soldier, reviewed here. Barbara also wrote a smashing guest post for Linda’s Book Bag about publication day that you can read here.
What an emotional month. My niece shares her birthday with my Dad on 1st so not only had she and her husband lost their little girl, there was the reminder on this day of the link between birth and family. Also in October, my parents had their 65th wedding anniversary, having first met when Mum was 4 and Dad 8 was and he gave her his teddy because she was upset. With Dad still in decline this was not easy.
However, I was beginning to get used to the daily routines now and reading a little more with two books really standing out for me this month. I loved Lily’s House by Cassandra Parkin, reviewed here and Sue Moorcroft’s The Christmas Promise, reviewed here because both had an emotional pull. I’d been highly entertained by an interview with Sue in which she told me about her ‘compost heap’ approach to planning and you can read more about that here.
I haven’t catalogued all the deaths of family and friends this year in this blog post, but I began the month with a funeral which kind of summed up how the year had been. It was to get worse. On 9th November at 12.38 PM my Dad died with me and my sister with him. His funeral was on 24th with another friend dying that very day. Dad’s passing was a relief as he was no longer suffering and at last time was regained for some reading.
Two books really stood out for me in November. The first was a wonderful homage to Shakespeare, For the Love of Shakespeare by Beth Miller which has such a lively style it cheered me up considerably and which I reviewed here. The second was another brilliant historically based novel from Cesca Major, The Last Night, reviewed here along with an interview with Cesca. I had previously loved Cesca’s The Silent Hours my review of which can be found here.
So, another funeral over this month, the third in four weeks, and I’m ending the year with a book of the month by an author I featured at the beginning of the year – Amanda Prowse. This time it is The Food of Love and another highly charged emotional read, reviewed here.
So, whilst I read very little in 2016 compared with my normal habits, the books kept arriving – sent by hopeful self-published authors via email, by post from publishers and established authors whom I’ve read or featured before and the pile has grown to well over 700 awaiting reading. This is why I probably haven’t read your book. And I’m sorry. I understand the importance of reviews. But life took over this year as you can see – and I haven’t told you all the people we’ve lost, mostly to cancer, this year. I’m aiming to get back on track and read as many of these books as possible in 2017.
Authors are always welcome to a guest post or interview whilst they are waiting for a review that may, or may not, ever happen.
Despite 2016 genuinely being the worst year of my life, I want to finish this blog post with a positive – my Book of the Year 2016.
Book of the Year
There were many contenders for my Book of the Year. I think 2016 has seen some exceptional texts published and I’m only sorry I haven’t read them all. But there is one book that has resonated with me so captivatingly it has to be my book of the year, and that is The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney. It isn’t my favourite psychological or historical genre. It isn’t the most literary book I read. It isn’t even the most entertaining book I read. But The Day I Lost You is the book that most touched my soul – and that’s what makes a great book for me.
Thank heavens I read, and reviewed here, The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney in the first half of July. I’d never have coped had it come later in the year. I read this with tears streaming down my face almost from beginning to end. Its emotion touched me and I have thought about The Day I Lost You almost continuously throughout all the events that have happened this year. It is heartbreaking and matched my life in 2016 perfectly.
I would like to thank the fantastic blogging community for all your wonderful support this year. I hope you had a better 2016 than I did and that 2017 is a gloriously happy, healthy and bookish year for us all.
Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year