Well who would have thought it? I’m 7 today. Or rather Linda’s Book Bag is 7 – I’m actually 60, and hurtling towards 61, but the less said about that the better! It’s seven years ago today since I put out my first tentative blog post and little did I know how big a part of my life blogging would become.
At times it’s overwhelming and I feel completely stressed by blog tours, deadlines, requests and preparing blog posts aside form actually reading the books, but I wouldn’t change it because of the sheer joy in reading, making new friends and being part of a wonderful bookish community. I would, however, like to thank every author, publicist and publisher who offers or sends me a book, usually unsolicited, and who trusts me with their hard work and effort. I don’t review everything I’m sent. I can’t. As I set up this post, I have received 8 books today, only one of which I was expecting and there are insufficient hours in the day to read everything. But I must acknowledge the blood sweat and tears that go in to getting a book to a reader. Thank you for them all.
I want to celebrate slightly differently this year, by looking back over the books I have enjoyed the most each year I’ve been blogging and with a small giveaway.
What I’d like you to do, is take a look at my books of the year posts by clicking the links below and deciding which of the books featured you would like most to read – it doesn’t have to be my top read of each year. Post a comment below telling me and I’ll put your name in the hat. If you’re the person chosen at random, I’ll send you either an e-copy or paperback depending on your preference and availability. Simple! It’s open to anyone worldwide as I’m delighted that Linda’s Book Bag has followers in over 200 independent states and countries.
You’ll find my favourite reads of 2015 here (in a pretty ropey post. I think I’ve got better!). My overall favourite read of 2015 was Jakob’s Colours by Lindsay Hawdon and you can read my full review here.
Inspired by the lost voices of the Romany Holocaust this heartbreaking and tender novel will appeal to readers who loved Sophie’s Choice, Schindler’s Ark and The Book Thief.
Austria, 1944. Jakob, a gypsy boy – half Roma, half Yenish – runs, as he has been told to do. With shoes of sack cloth, still bloodstained with another’s blood, a stone clutched in one hand, a small wooden box in the other. He runs blindly, full of fear, empty of hope. For hope lies behind him in a green field with a tree that stands shaped like a Y.
He knows how to read the land, the sky. When to seek shelter, when not. He has grown up directing himself with the wind and the shadows. They are familiar to him. It is the loneliness that is not. He has never, until this time, been so alone.
‘Don’t be afraid, Jakob,’ his father has told him, his voice weak and wavering. ‘See the colours, my boy,’ he has whispered. So he does. Rusted ochre from a mossy bough. Steely white from the sap of the youngest tree. On and on, Jakob runs.
Spanning from one world war to another, taking us across England, Switzerland and Austria, Jakob’s Colours is about the painful legacies passed down from one generation to another, finding hope where there is no hope and colour where there is no colour.
2016 was a particularly tricky year for me and reading became a much needed escape. You’ll find my 2016 books of the year here. My overall favourite read that year was The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney and you’ll find my full review here.
THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY I DISCOVERED I NEVER REALLY KNEW YOU
When Jess’s daughter, Anna, is reported lost in an avalanche, everything changes.
Jess’s first instinct is to protect Rose, Anna’s five-year-old daughter. But then she starts to uncover Anna’s other life – unearthing a secret that alters their whole world irrevocably . . .
THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY YOU TORE OUR FAMILY APART
The perfect emotional and absorbing story for fans of Jojo Moyes and David Nicholls.
Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad… the girl who cannot leave.
Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations, until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.
Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…
I did things slightly differently in 2018, moving to an ’emotional gut reaction’ scoring system out of 100 for my reading and as a result ended up with three books of the year here. They were You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac reviewed here:
You and me, we have history.
We have a child together.
We have kept secrets from each other for far too long.
This summer, in the beautiful hills of the Dordogne, it is time for everything to change.
Peace Lily by Hilary Robinson, illustrated by Martin Impey, a children’s book, and you can read my review here.
Ever since she was small, Lily wanted to be a nurse. Her dream becomes real when she takes the brave decision to follow her childhood friends, soldiers Ben and Ray, to the dangerous battlefields of Western France. Will she ever see them again?
Peace Lily is the fourth story in the award-winning series by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey, set during World War 1. It not only pays tribute to the valuable contribution of women to the war effort but also shows how, after the chaos and distress of the long and painful battle, peace is eventually found both on land and in hearts.
The final book in this delightful and moving series brings all four stories together in a celebration of life and in the eternal hope of a new beginning.
And a certain Fionnuala Kearney again with The Book of Love! You can read my review of The Book of Love here.
One love. Two people. Twenty Years.
From the moment they met, Erin and Dom loved each other too much, too quickly. Everyone said it wouldn’t last. But they knew differently.
A wedding present, a notebook, brings them together through the good times and the bad. On the blank pages of their love story, they write down everything they can’t always say – the secrets, the heartbreak, the highs and lows. It’s where they see the best and worst of each other.
Falling in love is easy but staying in love is where the story begins…
This is The Book of Love.
2019 was a jam packed year and once again I failed to choose just one book as my overall favourite and again there was a repeat author in my choice! You’ll see all my favourite reads of 2019 here. The two books that really stood out for me were the short story collection Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner, reviewed here:
‘Witches sail in eggshells,’ I heard Meg say from behind me, and I looked back. She was pounding the shells, hard, with the palm of her hand on the flat of a knife.
Bewitched by ‘the sort of girl who’d batter your heart like a thrush with a snail on a stone’, a woman overlooks the one who really loves her.
A seaside community is overwhelmed when the sea begins to expel its life forms. But the villagers would rather raise the sea wall, whatever the cost, than confront their past mistakes.
A woman’s beloved garden withers as the baby inside her flourishes. When the pregnancy reaches its end, the progeny is not as she expects.
A widower feels like his life might have been a quiet nothing, but he’ll end it with the flight he’s always dreamed of. Even that fails, but instead of indignity, in the attempt he finds peace.
Perceptive, intriguing, and beautifully told, Chloe Turner’s debut collection explores the themes of love, loss, the little ways we let each other down, and how we can find each other again.
And Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac, appearing for the second year in a row! My full review is here.
One morning in early summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy.
Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.
Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.
But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.
The dazzling new novel from Richard & Judy book club author Catherine Isaac, Messy, Wonderful Us is a story about the transforming power of love, as one woman journeys to uncover the past and reshape her future.
Well 2020 wasn’t quite what we expected was it? Looking back, here, I managed to do more in a pandemic than I might have expected. Books became even more important for us all and – you’re beginning to expect this now – once again I failed to choose just one as my book of the year. This time my top two reads were Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton reviewed here
Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.
It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.
It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.
It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.
And Amelia Henley’s The Life We Almost Had reviewed here.
This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.
Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.
Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.
Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…
A beautiful and emotional love story that asks, how far would you go for a second chance at first love? Perfect for fans of The Man Who Didn’t Call and Miss You.
I don’t know about you, but I found 2021 a really difficult year. Despite all kinds of opportunities for which I should have been grateful, I was definitely depressed and struggled to engage in life, so books were a glorious escape (along with the motorhome). You’ll find my books of the year here. However, the one I loved the most was the wonderful Always, in December by Emily Stone and you can find out why I adored it so much in my full review here.
Heartbreaking. Life-affirming. Truly unforgettable. Always, in December is the timeless, stay-up-all-night love story you’ll take straight to your heart.
If you loved One Day, Me Before You and the hit movie Last Christmas, this is the perfect book for you.
Josie Morgan never looks forward to December. It’s always a reminder of the life she lost, twenty years ago. Now, she always switches off the radio when Christmas music comes on. She always wants to tear down the tinsel her flatmate insists on pinning up. And she always posts a letter she knows will never be read.
Max Carter never expected to find himself stranded in London just days before Christmas. He never expected it would be so hard to say goodbye to a woman he hardly knows. Then again, he never expected to fall in love.
But, this December, when Josie’s letter leads her to Max, a chance encounter will change their lives in the most remarkable way. And their story is only just beginning . . .
From London to Manhattan, from Edinburgh to the English countryside, Always, in December is a romantic journey that’s impossible to forget.
So there you have them. My favourite books of the last 7 years. I hadn’t realised how much an emotional response is so important to my enjoyment of a book.
I hope that you’ll find a book you love that you’d forgotten about or had been previously unaware of. If you’d like to go in the hat to receive your chosen book from those I’ve featured, just leave a comment. If for some reason the comment box doesn’t work for you, you can always tell me on Twitter @Lindahill50Hill, Instagram @ljh50hill or comment on Facebook. Good luck.
Entries close at UK midnight on Friday 11th February 2022.
I wonder which book, or books, will end up on my list in 2022. Any suggestions?