My reading life - what I read in 2017 and aims for 2018

Posted: Jan 1st 2018, 12:52pm By: Anne


2017 was an excellent year for reading for me. I read 408 books in the year which is not as many as I have in previous years but still an impressive number ! I mostly accomplished this by doing little else apart from reading, reviewing and blogging and spending most of my evenings and weekends with my nose between the pages. I didn’t participate in any book challenges during the year so the books were mostly my choice based on preference and recommendations.

I read a variety of different genres and stretched myself l little more than usual. I finally got seriously into historical novels and have read those by Karen Maitland and Hilary Mantel among others. I have also spent a lot of time reading Regency romances for which I have acquired a taste – they are great, escapist reading.

21% of th ...

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The Best Non-Fiction Books I read in 2017

Posted: Dec 31st 2017, 4:07pm By: Anne


One of my ambitions for 2017 was to read more non-fiction books and I have certainly achieved that. Among the 54 I read were some excellent, entertaining and informative books. A lot of them were histories and biographies and these predominate in this list – it was definitely a challenge to get this down to ten titles.

Here are the ten best non-fiction books I read in the year – they are not necessarily newly published but were all new to me :

1. “Dead Wake” by Erik Larson is a book about the sinking of the Lusitania during WW1. It is interestingly told and follows some of the passengers through their ordeal. The author presents the facts about what the ship was carrying and who knew where it was as well as why ships took so long to come to their aid. Riveting.

2. “Blood ...

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The Best Fiction Books I read in 2017

Posted: Dec 30th 2017, 8:05pm By: Anne


It’s been a good year for reading – mind you, every year is a good year for reading and 2017 has been no exception. I have had to put quite a lot of thought into finding only ten good books to put in this list. It could certainly have been a lot larger (and, in fact, it was for most of its formation. I have to say that with a different wind blowing I might have come up with a very different, but just as excellent, group of books.

This list differs from many others in that it consists of books which I read during the year. They were not necessarily first published in 2017. It also reflects the wide variety of my reading – I do like to range among the genres.

Anyway, after much thought here are the ten best fiction books I read in 2017 (non-fiction to follow) :

1. “The Final Empire ...

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I is for Instalove - not exactly realistic

Posted: Dec 23rd 2017, 1:57pm By: Anne


I first published this blog two years ago - I stand by it !

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Many books tell their story over a defined time period. It may be a long one (a lifetime or over several generations – although this may be spread over a number of volumes) or a short one (think of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf who both have written books set only on one day). Romance novels often set their stories over a summer or a Christmas period or one year, and crime and mystery novels over the period of an investigation.

If you are writing a book set over a short period and want your main characters to fall in love you have a bit of a problem because things don’t always work that quickly in real life especiall ...

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H is for heroes and why I read about them

Posted: Oct 4th 2017, 9:42am By: Anne


I first wrote this blog a couple of years ago but I stick by what I said. I do enjoy complicated literary fiction and all sorts of other books but for sheer enjoyment give me a book with a main character who is standing up for right and overcoming barriers - and I am delighted to say that many more of them are women now ....

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We need to hold out for a hero Bonnie Tyler tells us as she lists his best qualities. “He's gotta be strong, And he's gotta be fast, And he's gotta be fresh from the fight”

In fact if you listen to her song he’s got to be a very unusual person – which is probably why the Stranglers lament that there are no more heroes any more.

We have two ...

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H is for hacking and its increasing use as a plot device

Posted: Sep 27th 2017, 10:54pm By: Anne


I wrote the blog post below a year or so ago and I'm no less fed up now with the use of information mined from computers used as an easy way for teh author to move the story along. In fact, it is being used more and more ...

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At some point in any crime/thriller/suspense novel the investigators will need to find out some information about the criminals or people who they think may be involved. This is usually a pivotal moment in the plot in that it will bring the plot nearer to its resolution. The information may come from a forensic breakthrough or from a confidential informant but more and more it comes from someone hacking into computers or electronic records – this especially applies when ...

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H is for historical novels

Posted: Aug 16th 2017, 9:53pm By: Anne


When I wrote the blog below, about two years ago, I was new to historical novels having ignored them for most of my reading life for the reasons I give. I have to say that I am now a historical novel reader ! I have overcome most of my issues and although I shall almost certainly never read a Philippa Gregory novel I have found some great new stories - take a look at my reviews and you will see them. Historical fiction is not a major part of my reading diet but it is becoming a more important part.

I particularly recommend the following which I have read in the past few months (as well as those I mention in the original blog) :

"Serena" by Ron Rash - set in the logging industry in America

"The Sealed Letter" by Emma Donoghue - love and divorce in Victorian England

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H is for holiday reading

Posted: Jul 19th 2017, 11:27pm By: Anne


We're off to France in the next week or so and I am just about to gather together my holiday reading. We're going by car so I can pack as many books as I want as well as my trusty Kindle. It has been fun choosing what to read and I was reminded of my trip to Rome and the blog I wrote about what I read there - I hope to have as many good reading experiences as I obviously had on that holiday !

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I have just returned from a few days away and, when packing, was faced with the usual holiday reading dilemma – how many books to take and which ones should they be ? I was going abroad so I definitely needed to be sure that I packed enough volumes as new books might be hard to obtain in English if I r ...

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G is for gender in books and publishing

Posted: Jul 15th 2017, 9:48pm By: Anne


In 2016 64% of the books I read were by female authors - I made quite a good guess when I originally wrote this blog in 2015 !

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It is pretty well established that the publishing and literary world is sexist. If you look at the number of number of books published by male and female writers, the gender of the winners of literary awards, the number of women in senior positions in publishing houses and even the numbers of reviews of books by women in literary publications (and the number of reviewers who are women) it all points to the same conclusion. Women have fewer opportunities and less power than men in the book world (and elsewhere too, of course, but I’m not blogging about that here).

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G is for good and great books

Posted: Jul 12th 2017, 10:47pm By: Anne


I originally wrote the blog below about a year ago. Looking at it again I feel that my definitions are still solid for me but I would say that I now read more "good" books and that fewer of them are classics than I originally supposed.

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There is nothing like reading a good book. But how do we define what a good book is ? We probably each have our own views and I suspect that if we discussed them we would have some differences of opinion about the definition. My fellow blogger, Debra, gave her view in a recent blog and she feels (not to put words in her mouth) that a good book is one which you enjoy. Whilst I agree I would also like to take her simple explanation and make it more complicated be ...

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G is for Good and Evil and the area that lies between

Posted: Jul 10th 2017, 10:29pm By: Anne


This blog was originally posted over a year ago

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The never ending struggle between good and evil is the basis of much of our mythology and theology as well as the foundation of some excellent fiction. In fact, some genres are almost entirely concerned with it. It’s an attractive idea to work with as you can set up confrontation and then play with great peril for your characters whilst your reader is pretty sure that right will prevail, despite probably some death, treachery and self-sacrifice along the way.

The epic fantasy genre (think “Lord of the Rings”) is where we see this theme most often used. Early books in the genre were quite straightforward and the evil characters ...

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Michael Bond

Posted: Jun 28th 2017, 3:24pm By: Debra Found


It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Michael Bond. His well loved creation, Paddington Bear, was a part of my childhood. I know he created other characters but it was Paddington I loved.

I was fortunate enough to have several Paddington Bear books from quite a young age and the library provided the rest. I loved them. They were fun in a very innocent sort of way.

Then along came the TV series. They were just short little episodes which were created in a sort of two-dimensional drawing style. Michael Hordern provided the somewhat dour and very straight faced sounding voice to accompany Paddington's antics. I must have been around 7 or 8 when they started and they were a perfect addition to the books. The series and the books went hand in hand.

Paddington remained one of ...

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G is for guilty pleasures - books you might be ashamed of reading

Posted: Jun 21st 2017, 5:16pm By: Anne


Since I first wrote this blog which I am republishing here I have acquired a taste for Regency romances - I'm not ashamed of that either !!

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To call something a guilty pleasure implies that there is something sinful about it – that perhaps it is not entirely good for you. For someone on a diet a guilty pleasure would be a cake or some chocolate; something too small to completely eradicate the effect of the diet but something that might have a minor effect and which shouldn’t really be eaten in the circumstances.

Sometimes people refer to a type of reading that they undertake as a guilty pleasure. They are thinking of a type of reading which they think isn’t really serious and is some ...

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F is for Five ways to fit more reading into your life

Posted: Jun 14th 2017, 9:59pm By: Anne


I read a lot of books - here are my handy tips (first published last year) on how to fit more reading into a busy life ..

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Quite often when people hear that I read a lot they tell me that they don’t know when I find time for so much reading. Sometimes they say it in such a way that they imply that if I am doing that much reading there is something important that I am not doing – they could well have a point ! But it is true that with busy lives we all have to make choices about what we do in our limited free time and I prioritise books and reading ahead of other choices.

I do think, however, that people have a tendency to find time to do what is really important in their lives a ...

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F is for the first line of books and its importance (or otherwise)

Posted: Jun 10th 2017, 8:32pm By: Anne


I first wrote this blog about a year ago and it still holds true - I am still just about to write that blog on prologues !

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that any discussion about the first lines of novels will include a quotation from Jane Austen – and there it is. The first line of “Pride and Prejudice” is probably recognised by more people than have read the book and the same applies to other well known first lines. Every Christmas there are an abundance of literary quizzes which often include one requiring you to identify the first line of well known novels and I am very good at this despite not having read many of the books from which the quotations are taken.

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F is for feisty females and other tired stereotypes we can do without

Posted: Jun 7th 2017, 10:22pm By: Anne


This impassioned plea for novelty and innovation was originally written over a year ago. I might add a few more stereotypes and themes to the list of those I am tired of but the message of the blog still holds true.

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If I never see the adjective “feisty” applied to a woman again in a book it will be too soon. I also include in this abhorrence the associated descriptions of “spitfire” and “crackerjack” which you see in American novels. It’s not the words particularly that are the problem but the fact that the so-called feisty female is one of those stereotypes which pop up in novels with sad regularity. As soon as our heroine is described in this way you know that she will speak he ...

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D is for the "Da Vinci Code" effect

Posted: Jun 5th 2017, 10:08pm By: Anne


Since this blog was first published over a year ago we have had "Girl on the Train" to add to the list which I think was very much influenced by "Gone Girl" - I wonder what will be next. Whatever it is I can guarantee that in a few year's time it will be filling the charity shops with used and unwanted copies !!

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There are some books which just seem to catch the public imagination and to become part of our popular culture. There are fewer of them than there are films which do the same thing but when it does happen it can become quite an amazing phenomenon.

Examples recently of books which achieved this feat include the Harry Potter series which has been by far the greatest example ...

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D is for disability and its underrepresentation in novels

Posted: May 22nd 2017, 9:46pm By: Anne


I would add to this republished blog JoJo Moyes book "Me Before You" - a book that annoyed me so much I had to skim read the second half. That is a book about a man with a disability in which every other character has a narrative voice except the man with the disability - and the story revolves around him. I rest my case ..

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About one in four people in Britain have an impairment which amounts to a disability. This includes all manner of different conditions from deafness to eczema, from cystic fibrosis to learning difficulties, facial disfiguration to heart conditions, from mental health conditions to diabetes, and many more. This would seem to suggest that, therefore, one in four characters ...

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D is for Did not finish and why

Posted: May 20th 2017, 11:39pm By: Anne


I find that I am more and more likely to give up on books as I grow older and I have made my peace with the inner voice that tells me that I am a quitter ! Here is a blog I wrote over a year ago which is still true

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Once upon a time I always finished books. I read each page to the bitter end whether or not I was enjoying it. I regarded books as tasks and felt that somehow I had failed if I didn’t get all the way to the end. Other people have told me the same – that if they start a book they always finish it.

Well, I am delighted to find that I have changed. I am not sure when it happened, and maybe it was a gradual process but I realised that life was too short to invest time i ...

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E is for electronic reading - I love my Kindle(s)

Posted: May 17th 2017, 9:39pm By: Anne


Last year about half my reading was done electronically and that pattern appears to be continuing this year - this republished blog still seems to reflect the situation as I see it.

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There are people around who swear that once upon a time I said that I would never buy an e-reader because of my love for paper books. I am sure that I never said this but even if I did my opinion changed completely the day that I got my first Kindle. I have been an enthusiast for electronic reading ever since.

Whether or not you have succumbed to the lure of electronic reading you cannot deny that it has changed the reading world and every month or so there seems to be an innovation which adds a new twist ...

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