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Here’s to 2017

stockvault-large-colorful-fireworks114130Well whatever your thoughts about 2016 it has, inevitably, passed and here we are looking forward to 2017 and what that might bring.

I thought this might be a good opportunity, even if it’s just for my own benefit, to take stock of what I read / blogged in 2016 so this time next year I have a comparison. According to Goodreads I have read 51 books – which is what I would expect – I know I usually read about one a week and with the house move I’ve had a couple of weeks where I’ve hardly read a page.

As well as completing 51 books I consigned one to the ‘abandoned’ shelf, have carried over 6 that I had already started and still haven’t finished and started a further three – so I’m technically currently reading 9.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-17-43-29

 

My ‘to read’ numbers are a little frightening. According to Goodreads, which is how I try to keep track, I have a total of 288:

  • 146 on my bookcase (although this is theoretical as a lot have yet to be unpacked)
  • 41 on my kindle
  • 101 (intentionally) in boxes although I hope to get to them eventually.

This compares with a total of 250 in March when I commented following a post of Cleo’s.

I don’t commit to a reading challenge each year, blogging can feel like enough of a chore sometimes without making the reading feel challenging too!

As far as my blog is concerned I posted reviews of 39 books – confirming my suspicion that I am permanently behind and never manage to write / post the reviews at the same speed at which I read.

As well as the book reviews I tried two new things on the blog this year. The first was a series of features on those people who are behind the scenes but are all involved in getting great crime fiction to our shelves / e-readers. This was a popular feature which I will be pressing on with – I have some more interviewees lined up I just need to write the questions for them to answer.

I also built on my ‘Debuts to look out for in 2015‘ with a monthly post featuring forthcoming crime fiction / thriller debuts. Although this was a great way of focussing attention on these new releases it became far too difficult to maintain in the latter part of the year. Perhaps I’ll just do a single ‘2017’ post.

Overall the traffic to my blog has increased, which is great and thank you to all the people who have read, liked and commented. Here’s to more of the same in 2017!

So do you have plans, challenges or goals for your reading and / or blogging in the next year?

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Well here we are!

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-20-53-29It wasn’t the smoothest move in the history of the world but I’m now living in my fourth ever county. While it’s not all gone to plan it’s a relief to have got the move done and have the chance to think about what’s next – THE MOVE has been such a big, looming event that it’s been impossible to see past it. Apparently it’s Christmas soon…

I was a reader before I was a blogger and have always had a lot of books; we’ve not unpacked any yet and there are close to 100 boxes still to go (hopefully not all books – there is an elusive cushion I’m still looking for). First we need to buy more shelves so a trip to Ikea is in order, but of course the days before Christmas aren’t the best time to pick. We’ve been here just a week and have managed to get a couple of rooms organised so we can escape from the heaps of boxes filling the other rooms. Small steps…

But at least we’ll have some time off in the next few weeks so we should have the opportunity to get more rooms sorted. And once there are some books unpacked then it’s back to the blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping up

Moving house by Derek Mayes

Moving house by Derek Mayes

I’ve not been the most regular or reliable of bloggers. I always have a book on the go and if you check my Goodreads you’ll see that there often a few that I’m part way through but my reviewing can never keep up with the speed at which I read – even though I’m not a particularly prolific reader. There are currently around a dozen books that I’ve read but have yet to review – a situation that makes me feel perpetually guilty! So this post is to serve as a warning that if things go to plan this is a situation that is likely to get worse before it gets better.

With a bit of luck this won’t jinx things but we anticipate that before Christmas everything we own will be packed into a lorry and shipped to a whole new county (county not country – I’m not that brave!). It will be an exciting time and a big change for us but the list of things we need to do to make it happen seems never-ending and getting 12 book reviews posted to my blog is getting further and further down the list.

I’m currently trying to clear the backlog but while I will carry on reading and do intend to review the books I read it’s hard to say when a more ‘normal’ service might be resumed. Watch this space!

Not quite a top 10 …

It hasn’t escaped my notice that many people are writing posts reviewing their year’s reading and compiling a list of their top ten (or so) books. I can’t complain at the books I’ve read in the last year (according to Goodreads there were 42) but there were just two that really stood out for me.

The first was a mix of crime fiction and psychological thriller set on the Falkland Islands in 1994 – Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton. This was a skilfully woven story told very cleverly from multiple points of view and with a set of characters that I found engaging (bucking the trend for characters we love to hate – or just hate).

The second was Life and Death by Michael Robotham. A thriller set in America this went on to win the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in September. With a visual quality to the writing and great attention to detail this was a compelling read with an unusual premise.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive lists of crime fiction suggestions then you can’t do better than check out Ayo’s list on Shots (shotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk). There are definitely a few there that I will try to fit in during 2016.

Coincidence …?

I’m in the midst of writing a review for a book in which I’ve said ‘the premise is an unusual one’ and when I started the review this was true, however it shares a lot in common with my current read. The books were published within weeks of each other and I’m in no way suggesting that there is any connection, copying, collusion or anything in any way underhand – it’s just pure coincidence. And I’ve noticed how frequently this seems to happen. Through a purely random choice of what to read next I’ve often spotted surprising coincidences from the small, such as two books using the same unremarkable US location, to a more fundamental plot device.

Synchronicity, coincidence? Has this happened in your reading? And can you figure out the two books I’m referring to at the beginning of my post (if it helps they were both published in 2013).

Two reviews and a trip to Paris

July saw us take a weekend break in Paris, so with this in mind I had tried to find some suitable reading before our trip. The first book that sprang to mind was Ernest  Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”. I really enjoyed Naomi Wood’s book featuring the lives of his wives and there had been a few references in that to his time in Paris. A Moveable Feast is a memoir (of sorts) of Hemingway’s time in Paris in the 1920’s. This was a period when authors and artists such as Gertrude Stein, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and of course Hemingway, migrated to Paris. The book is lots of short stories which paint brief sketches of Hemingway’s time there and his relationship with some of the other notable names that were part of his circle, as well as some about his life with Hadley, his first wife.

Shakespeare & Co - current location

Shakespeare & Co – current location

 The book is certainly an easy read and evokes the time and the place. The stories varied in length and some were more, well, straightforward, than others. Let’s just say that a few of the stories are extremely odd.

You can Google for some renowned quotes from the book but the line that I will take away is, speaking of Ralph Cheever Dunning, “For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle.”

The book was put together after Hemingway’s death by his last wife and it was based on a manuscript that he had been working on.  I’m sure that there is a great deal to interest scholars in the book and the version I have makes much of the fact that it includes some unfinished sketches which weren’t previously published.  All of which leaves me with the niggling feeling that what I’ve been presented with as Hemingway’s work isn’t necessarily something that he thought was ready for publication. There are some quotes at the end which are described as fragments of handwritten drafts and these show the different spin on just a few short sections that Hemingway was both writing and discarding.

We didn’t manage to see very much of the Paris Hemingway talks about but we did squeeze in a visit to the current incarnation of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop.

My other Paris-related read was a new title – The Lying Down Room by Anna Jaquiery, published in April this year. This is the debut novel by Jaquiery, a journalist of French-Malaysian descent. The book has a contemporary Parisian setting, with a backstory set in Russia. The book introduces us to Chief Inspector Serge Morel, who reminded me of both Commandant Camille Verhœven (from the Pierre Lemaitre books) and Camilleri’s Montalbano.

The mystery concerns an elderly woman who is discovered dead in her bed, which on the face of it is not particularly mysterious, however she has been carefully dressed and made-up. The police are keen to interview a man and a mute boy who have been approaching other elderly women, and for a long time this is their only lead. While progress is slow the sad and dark backstory provides some tantalising clues that may lead to an explanation of the murder, and a story which draws Morel and his team out of Paris and into the French countryside.

This is one of those murder mysteries where the characters are as important as the plot and Morel certainly delivers what you would expect of a detective – he has a troubled personal life (an obsession with an old flame), concerns about his father’s health, and an unusual release for his stress in origami. He is paired with an intelligent and feisty young female detective, Lila, who acts as a good foil.

The book provided some of the flavour of Paris that I was looking for, as well a being a thoughtful crime novel. Morel is definitely a detective that I want to read more about (how fortunate that this is the first of a series!). Thank you to the publisher for a review copy.

Tour Eiffel

Tour Eiffel

So Paris – how was that? The first word that springs to mind is hot! It was well above he average for the time of year and as we only had a few days we needed to crack on and fit a lot in – no time for lounging about in the shade! We managed to see many of the sights, walked around 8 – 10 miles each day and had a mixed experience of the food and drink. Surprisingly I did manage to miss out on one item on my ‘To Do’ list – I didn’t have a glass of champagne! I guess I need to go back…

Blogging – one year on

I am about to celebrate (if that’s the right word) the first anniversary of my blog. So I think that allows me a moment to reflect on what I’ve learnt during the year.

I’ve always been an avid reader and my father was instrumental in encouraging me to read a lot of the same fiction he enjoyed, so after the early years of Blyton, Ransome and Nesbit I was reading McBain, Chandler and Tey! I’ve never lost my love of a good “whodunnit” and the daily commute provides a regular opportunity to read. But blogging has given me a slightly different perspective. I don’t think that in the past I have given much consideration to what made a good book (or not) and what aspects I like or don’t like in what I read. In the past it would be finish one book and move onto the next, but the committment to writing a review means I give a lot more thought to what I’m reading. I didn’t study English Lit very far at school – I actually hated all that analysing and reading meaning into things, so perhaps I’m a latecomer to what others take for granted. What I hadn’t realised before was that there were so many varied ways of actually telling the story and in a genre like crime fiction this can have a real impact on the reader’s experience. I’ve developed more of an appreciation for writers and how they craft their story.  

And it’s not just that I’ve found out more what I read, I’ve also learnt:

  • that if you like an author there’s a fair chance you could get to meet them
  • that “bookish” people aren’t “bookish” at all – you only have to look on Twitter, blog comments, or go to an event at Goldsboro books!
  • that there are a huge number of awards for books
  • that for every person who agrees with you about a book there’s another one who thinks the complete opposite

and finally

  • that I’m never going to have time to read all the books I would like!

I’d be interested to know what others feel they’ve learnt from blogging.