Looking back on the books of 2016

This is another overdue blog post, but one that I’ve really been looking forward to writing. I read 31 books in 2016, of varying quality, but overall it was a good reading year. I tried to branch out, accepting a total of eight review copies from publishers – which is a lot for me these days. Of these the highlights for me were (links go to my reviews):

The last of these is not out until May 2017, so my review will come a little closer to the time. It was offered to me by Georgina Moore at Tinder Press and I am very glad I accepted. It is a wonderful blend of crime fiction and historical fiction based on real events, coupled with multiple narrators (all unreliable) and some really beautiful writing. In case you didn’t know, it’s about Lizzie Borden, and I loved it. You can read more here. And just look at that beautiful cover!

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(image via goodreads.com)

I read a lot of history books in 2016, both fiction and non-fiction. One other historical novel I must highlight is The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. I’d been intimidated by its length (over 900 pages) but finally gave it a go earlier in the year – and I was not disappointed. It is a fictional autobiography of a former Nazi officer which the author spent five years researching, and it is one of the best novels I have ever read. Not only is it brilliantly written but it is deeply philosophical and challenging, and I greatly admire Littell for somehow managing to write it.

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I read a handful of other books about the Second World War and three of the best were written by and about women, real women of the War who faced huge challenges and trials but who remained strong and determined throughout. The first of these was Gone to Ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon. The book is a compilation of her stories (recorded on tape and put together by her son) from her time living in Berlin during the War as a Jewish woman. She lived ‘underground’, in hiding, using an alias and constantly moving. It is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Similarly, I also read A Woman in Berlin. It is an anonymous account of the last few months of the War by a German woman living in Berlin. She is not persecuted as Jalowicz Simon was, but her whole life is destroyed and she suffers immensely. It is a harrowing but necessary book and shows the cost of the War on ordinary German people that often gets overlooked. I read these two books close together and wrote about them in one blog post (linked above) and they have really stuck with me. I think they are vital reading for anyone considering the experience of women in Europe during the Second World War.

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Another book that fits into that category is If This is a Woman by Sarah Helm. It’s a massive book so I waited until it was out in paperback before I read it, the delay making my expectations quite high – and they were all met. It is the first book dedicated to the story of Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration camp built specifically for women, and it was one of the most incredible books I have ever come across. I had read If This is a Man by Primo Levi so I had some idea of what to expect; but of course each story is unique, and these women all had incredible stories. Sarah Helm is to be hugely admired and respected for telling these stories, for doing the research and making sure each name is mentioned, each life is honoured in some way. I will not soon forget this book. I should note that in America the title is simply Ravensbrück.

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Towards the end of the year I wanted to branch out from history, and so I read The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, which was just brilliant. I was already a fan of Jackson’s writing but I’d never actually read any of her short stories. Some of these are still quite fresh in my mind (least of all the title story) and I am desperate to read more. Luckily I was given two more volumes of her short stories for Christmas, so I have those to look forward to. These were Let Me Tell You and Dark Tales.

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The other highlights of my reading year, which I don’t have space to write more about here, were:

I have enjoyed reading other ‘best of 2016’ posts – it was a good year for books – and I look forward to a great 2017 filled with marvellous things to read. I am on my second book of the year at the moment and frankly I am dying to get back to it, so I shall finish here. Happy 2017!

 

A little update!

Hello dear readers! My apologies for my absence. Life has been a wee bit crazy in the last month or so, but we have finally moved into our new house and things are evening out… I actually have the time to sit down and write a blog post! Yay! I’m sitting at the dining table in our new house, and I could not be happier about it.

Anyway. I have read a few books since my last post, and I have lots of reviews to write! Here are some of the books I have read recently that you can expect to read about here soon:

  • Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
  • The Ice Child by Camilla Lackberg
  • In the Labyrinth of Drakes and Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

I am also going to do a belated Best of 2016 post very soon, so watch out for that too! I’m currently reading Josephine Wilkinson’s book on Katherine Howard and loving it, so I’ll write about that when I have finished it. I also received a few books for Christmas, and expect to get a couple for my birthday, so I’ll post about that those as well. So lots to come! Your patience will be rewarded!

In the meantime, happy reading and happy new year!

Oh is it Christmas?

Hello all just a quick note to say Merry Christmas!

I’ve been a bit off grid as I was away in Copenhagen until Christmas Eve and this is the first moment I have had to myself since then! Not that I’m complaining, we have had a lovely Christmas.

I recently finished After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell, and I’m about to choose my next book! I also have a Best of 2015 post in the works will will appear soon…

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and will have a very Happy New Year!

Hello again!

As you may have noticed I’ve been a bit absent of late, having left blogging to the side to make way for the business of Christmas, and time at home with family. I’m still in that phase of the year, but have been seeing some great posts from my fellow bloggers and felt the urge to get back in the swing of things!

A LOT of people have been doing end of the year posts rounding up their favourite things of 2014, their top books etc, and I have been thinking about whether I want to do this. I did a Best of 2013 post, and a Best of 2014 So Far post in the summer, so it would make sense to do a  Best of 2014 post and highlight my favourite books of the year. Perhaps that will come later this week, or in early January – to be honest I’m not sure what my favourite books of the year would be! I’ve had a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the quality of what I’ve read this year, as there have been some gems but also some disasters…

Anyway, the point of this post was to let you know I’m still alive and reading, with some posts planned. I didn’t really want to write about Christmas this year, and recently most of my social media output has been updates on food and my niece and nephew! The business and social events of this time of year (that makes me sound so popular and braggy!!) have meant that I haven’t had as much time as normal to read, so I’ve not been through as many pages as usual.

The book I finished most recently was The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth – the story of Dortchen Wild, the wife of Wilhelm Grimm. My review of that will be coming shortly!

Amazingly I only got one book for Christmas – My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst, which I’m reading at the moment and very much enjoying. I also got the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore (yes, the Johnny Depp film was based on it…) so I’ll be reading that in January. It’s pretty huge so it may take me some time! But I WILL blog about it as I go, and when I finish it.

So, thoughts on The Wild Girl will be up soon, and I’ll get back into the swing of things in the new year. Did you all have a merry Christmas?