Yes, it’s that time of year again, only this year I’m offering a different round-up to my usual offering. In the past, along with many other bloggers, I’ve listed my Top 10 (or in my indecisive year – 15) books of the year. This year I’m passing on that option. Not because I haven’t read any worthy books, but rather because I’ve read so few to make a fair comparison. The reasons for this have already been well documented so I’ve no intention of regurgitating it here (for those not in the know, see here). I’ve managed a paltry (by my standards) 33 this year, although with a fair wind and a couple of hours this evening I’m hoping it might hit 34! Of those at least 12 are still waiting to be reviewed, and they include some crackers. So in the interest of balance and fairness I shall give a montage shout later to all the books that have entertained, informed, delighted, transported, shocked and generally made me happy this year.
So what are you going to do? I hear you cry! Well I decided to offer up a general book and blog review of my year, and, looking back, despite all the difficulties it has been a pretty good one – so here goes.
Book launch for Whiskey, Tango Foxtrot by Gina Kirkham
In July, I toddled off to Waterstones in Liverpool to attend the launch for Gina’s second book, featuring the exploits of PC Mavis Upton. I’d attended the launch for her first book, the hilarious (and yet also touching) Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong, in May 2017. On that occasion I finally had the chance to meet the Urbane author I’d been having my funny, offbeat and sometimes surreal late night Twitter conversations with. Since then, we’ve met up again and had many more funny and offbeat conversations (thankfully not always in the public domain) and I’m happy to now call her a friend. I was therefore delighted to see Gina taking the stage again to bring book two into the world. Having ‘sold out’ of books at the previous event, I was pleased to see that Waterstones had learnt their lesson, and Gina was kept busy signing books to the delight of the once again, supportive and impressive turn out. The books are as funny and warm as Gina, and I wholeheartedly recommend them. Sadly the review of the first and reading of the second fell victim to my annus horribilis but that will be rectified.
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – Harrogate
A busy month for me in July as I also attended the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. This was my second attendance having loved it so much last year. I’ve already written up my review of this so rather than repeat, I’ll share the link and leave you with a mini montage of my memories. Needless to say, my accommodation is already booked for next year. My OH will be putting in an appearance next time and my friend Sheila will be coming along with another friend, so the more, the merrier!
East Riding Festival of Words
While the festival took place over several days and venues, my interest was in the Dead Good Day series of panels which took place in Beverley on 20th Oct. The day was hosted by crime author (and fellow Hullensian) Nick Quantrill, another one who didn’t move quick enough to escape the Five on Friday net! The day was a brilliant series of panels featuring some of my favourite’s namely Stephen Booth, Doug Johnstone, Luca Veste, Stuart Neville, Chris Brookmyre & Marisa Haetzman (aka Ambrose Parry), Val McDermid, Mark Billingham and David Mark. If that wasn’t enough the day was rounded off in the evening by a concert featuring the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. A fabulous day for what has to have been the best £25 I’ve ever spent (just don’t mention the book purchases). In addition I got to meet up again with the lovely Anne Cater and her partner.
A Year of Firsts
My First Author/Blogger Meet Up
While I’ve clearly met other authors and bloggers at various book events, I’d never attended an officially designated author/blogger meet up. So in September, putting on my bravest face and wearing my ‘I’m not nervous at all’ attitude I caught the trains to Stoke on Trent. Here I met up with my fellow attendees at the event hosted by Kerry Ann Parsons and Steph Lawrence at the North Stafford Hotel. Needless to say it was a lovely event. I met some old friends which settled my nerves and enabled me to present a fairly normal and competent face to my new ones – although maybe they should be the judge of that. Happily the next one is already in my diary for the New Year. Should you fancy joining us it’s at the same venue on 16th February between 11am and 4pm if you want to drop in.
My First Book Cover Quote
This year saw my first ever cover quote – I was delighted, excited and proud in equal measure. Thank you Liza Perrat for the privilege and trusting me to grace the cover of The Swooping Magpie. It’s a great read and you can read my review here.
First ‘interview’ appearance on another blog
Many thanks to Caryl over on Mrs Bloggs’ Books who kindly invited me to a special Christmas Afternoon Tea. I’ve never featured on anyone else’s blog before (other than a blog post link) so it was really special to be asked. It made a change to reveal my thoughts on something other than books (or my health) and I really appreciated the invite.
Nomination and Award in Annual Bloggers Bash Awards
I was surprised, not to mention, delighted to have been nominated for the award of Most Inspirational Blog in the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. When the results were announced I was even more delighted to have been awarded second place. As my friend and fellow (far more prolific) blogger Alison Drew came first, it was an honour. Many thanks to all who voted for me.
Most viewed blog post
My most viewed blog post (not just this year, but ever) was a piece I posted in June called Privilege vs Entitlement. It came about as a result of various episodes of blogger bashing (not to me personally) and a week of various blogger related Twitter storms. I normally scroll by and don’t get involved, but just occasionally I feel the need to vent and this was one of them. It wasn’t planned, it was an off the cuff response typed up while I waited for my friend to arrive before we went off the theatre that night, then away on a reading retreat for the following two days. It clearly hit a nerve and the number of positive responses it invoked was heartening. Less so was the thought that perhaps I’m wasting my time planning and preparing posts lol.
Favourite personal achievement
This was an easy one, it has to be the growing success of my First on Friday features. When the first one went live in August 2017, it had been the result of producing a Q&A that was a little bit different. I didn’t anticipate that it would still be running well over a year later, and for the past 3 months become a weekly rather than fortnightly feature. My biggest excitement had to be asking Linwood Barclay and not being turned down. The fact that he did a ‘special’ mini version for me was just epic. Having so many great crime authors at Harrogate agree to take part and actually follow through has also helped to grow the audience for the feature. I know many people now look forward to reading the varied responses and it has introduced readers to new authors which is a result. I shall be endeavouring to maintain the feature and have a list of authors in the pipeline, so here’s to 2019!
My Reading Year
As previously mentioned this will be a pictorial shout out to the lovely books I’ve read this year. All of them worth a read.
October saw the demise of the Bookchoice subscription service offering both e-book and audio book choices. This had been a fantastic service offering excellent choices and value for money. From the beginning I’d never really understood how the model could work as I didn’t see where the money was being made. Perhaps it needed a much bigger take up for the economics to pan out, I see that it’s still operational in other areas. It was good while it lasted and left me looking at other ways to part with my money. This year saw me take up two new (to me) book subscription services.
The Unbound Reading Club
This was a new initiative launched in the summer by Unbound, a crowdfunded publishing initiative. Essentially they are a team of publishers, writers, editors, designers – you name it – helping people bring their ideas to life. They take care of the whole process, from manuscript editing to shipping the first editions. As a reader I’ve previously looked at their website and considered helping an author achieve their dream of having a book published. What has normally stopped me, is the number of available projects and sheer indecision. Then along comes the Unbound Reading Club and problem solved. This is a feature that allows procrastinators like me, to help make books happen without having to make a direct choice.
The cost is a £25 per year and for that you’ll receive a free e-book per month. The selection so far has been interesting and varied and I’m more than happy with the choices. A fuller review of the service can be found here. Meanwhile, have a look at the books I’ve received so far.
Reading in Heels
The Reading in Heels subscription box costs £10 per month (plus p&p of £2.40) and comprises a paperback book, the expert edit and membership of the digital book club. Rather controversially they chose to sell their service by telling subscribers to expect the best in contemporary, literary fiction – never chick lit or crime… This of course was not well received in some quarters, but it was one of the reasons I decided to subscribe. However, before you all take umbrage, it’s precisely because I do read crime and chick lit (though I hate the term) that I chose to subscribe. By avoiding these genres I felt this service was more likely to offer me something I hadn’t already bought. The expert edit is a monthly surprise of 3-4 beauty and lifestyle treats. This latter is a little extra that I really look forward to, and really adds to the value of the box.
I’ve not done formal unboxings of the offerings so far, but fellow blogger Karen, at Books and Me! has so I’ve linked to her posts for October, November and December to give you an idea of what to expect.
So that was an over view of my year. If you’re still with me so far, many thanks – I think you deserve a stiff drink now! I very much appreciate all the love and support my little blog has recieved over the year. I used to think of myself as a reader that wrote reviews and not a blogger, but as the reviews have been few and far between and people still keep coming back, maybe I can call myself a blogger after all. It puts me in some very good company and it’s a happy place to be.
All that’s left is to wish you all the very best for the coming year. I’m sure it won’t be without it’s challenges or opportunities (depending on your viewpoint) – damn I promised not to mention Brexit, but whatever it brings I hope it includes good health, happiness and lots of reading!