After a couple of years when we all struggled, I’d hoped that 2022 would see an improvement in the general state of things. Well, without getting too political, our current government (and I use that term loosely) seemed to have other ideas and then Putin threw his hat into the ring. I have never felt more impotent, depressed and saddened by the current state of affairs. One antidote for me, was to escape into books, and boy did I escape!
I used to set myself a target of reading 100 books per year, I rarely made it, and over recent years I struggled to reach half that. Last year saw an exceptional 95, but this year has just been off the scale. As I write this I’m looking at a total of 188, and I’m hoping to add a couple more before the year ends – ever the optimist! I also found myself listening to audiobooks which helped add to that total. I’m not getting into the debate about whether listening constitutes reading, in my opinion it does. Try telling anybody who can’t physically hold a book, or has sight issues that ‘listening’ to a book doesn’t count.
My reading has always been a bit eclectic with a mix of historical, crime, general and romance. This year it changed dramatically as I fell down a Romance rabbit-hole that I’ve yet to emerge from. It started in part as a result of last year’s Christmas reads, I clearly had a love hangover and decided to take a hair of the dog approach. However, that didn’t prove to be working and I became totally addicted to wanting more and more HEA’s or Happy Ever Afters in jargon speak. I’ve become fairly fluent in romantic jargon and tropes since then, not all fit for polite company – my fling with rock stars and hockey players taught me quite a few things!
I did still scratch my crime itch by attending my Harrogate this year and I did admit to an author that I felt a bit of a fraud as I’d hardly read a crime novel this year in my search for happy endings. They said that crime also offered happy endings in that invariably the criminals were caught and punished. I didn’t like to point out that in between they’d probably killed or maimed a fair few people in the process – so that didn’t quite give me the same vibe. I’m sure my range will broaden again, but let’s be honest, as long as we’re happy reading what we’re reading what does it matter.
As well as my reading being off the scale so was my purchasing. The fact that I publish a daily blog of bargain reads doesn’t help. I tempt myself as much as I tempt others. However, I long ago accepted I’d never read all that I buy and I’m happy with that. Knowing I have a loaded Kindle (or rather, a heavy Cloud) and my bookshelves are full makes me happy. Books are my hobby and my solace.
Books were not the only thing that were on the up, I also had a much improved ‘blog’ year. This was partly due to the fact that I changed my monthly Kindle deals post to a daily one. Maybe next year I can try and introduce something more innovative and entertaining than just largely producing book lists. Anyway, here’s a few stat’s to keep my inner bookkeeper happy.
- Number of (existing) Blog Posts 186 (as I delete my daily posts at the end of each month this doesn’t reflect the total number of posts over the year)
- Number of Visitors 24,752
- Number of Views 65,539
- Number of Books Bought 382 (last year 272)
- Number of Books Read 188
- Number of Pages Read 58,587
As many other bloggers will confirm, over the years we get very good at knowing whether a particular book will suit us. On that basis, there are very few books I read that I dislike. On the rare occasions I get it wrong, I stop reading. There are always some books that will resonate more than others, we’re all different.
Now that I no longer review, I hope that my monthly shout-outs are taken as an endorsement, as I don’t include anything I disliked. Although I don’t award stars, using Amazon or Goodreads means that they have become a given. On Goodreads, which I largely keep up to date purely as a catalogue of books held and books read, the bulk of my reads are given 4 stars. For other bloggers they might be 5 stars, but I’m still of the mindset that I need to hold back for those reads that just stand out a little bit more. For me, that might mean they made me more emotional; they stayed in my head a little longer than others; they made me think, or simply, that I put the book down with a sigh and felt emotionally satisfied. It does not mean that the other books were lacking. Since I fell in love with love, nearly all of the reads left me happy and it’s harder to get picky about feeling all the ‘feels’. If anyone is interested you can follow me on Goodreads here.
My Books of the Year
For my books of the year I’ve not gone for a book of the month, or a top 10, 15 or 20. I’ve simply included all the books I read in the year that I gave 5 stars to on Goodreads at the time of reading. They are listed in order of the date I read them.
All the Fun of the Fair by Caroline Hulse
One summer her sister never came home from the fair.
This summer she’s determined to find out why.
The fair is the only good thing that happens every year. And Fiona Larson is the only kid in town who’s never been.
She’s pretended to go – but she’s never been allowed. Because, before Flora was even born, her sister died there.
This year everything will be different.
And Fiona Larson will find out what really happened.
Set in the summer of 1996, All The Fun of the Fair is a bittersweet, nostalgic, hilarious and heartbreaking mystery
See my review here
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Sometimes you have to start with what’s lost to truly find yourself…
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood at her father’s feet as he and his team gather words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.
One day, she sees a slip of paper containing a forgotten word flutter to the floor unclaimed.
And so Esme begins to collect words for another dictionary in secret: The Dictionary of Lost Words. But to do so she must journey into a world on the cusp of change as the Great War looms and women fight for the vote. Can the power of lost words from the past finally help her make sense of her future?
The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Cherry Blossom Mews is a miraculous place. It’s somewhere that finds you, rather than the other way around.
Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.
Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.
Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.
Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.
A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe
When we go through something impossible, someone, or something, will help us, if we let them . . .
It is October 1966 and William Lavery is having the night of his life at his first black-tie do. But, as the evening unfolds, news hits of a landslide at a coal mine. It has buried a school: Aberfan.
William decides he must act, so he stands and volunteers to attend. It will be his first job as an embalmer, and it will be one he never forgets.
His work that night will force him to think about the little boy he was, and the losses he has worked so hard to forget. But compassion can have surprising consequences, because – as William discovers – giving so much to others can sometimes help us heal ourselves.
Impossible by Sarah Lotz
One day, NICK and BEE cross paths over a misdirected email. The connection is instant, electric, they feel like they’ve known each other forever.
Nick buys a new suit, gets on a train. Bee steadies her nerves, gets a pep talk from her best friend Leila. This is it.
Except it isn’t.
Because as they prepare to meet under the clock at Euston station, the universe throws in a twist you’d never see coming . . .
The Lovers and the Dustman by Lynn Bushell
“Why can’t I have two wives?”
The two women artist Stanley Spencer loved most were his wife and fellow artist Hilda Carline and his muse, gay vamp Patricia Preece. The problem was, he wanted both of them together. As an artist, wasn’t he entitled to have two wives?
The result was scandal, madness and some great art.
Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession
Leonard and Hungry are two quiet friends who see the world differently. They use humour, board games and silence to steer their way through the maelstrom that is the 21st Century.It is the story of two friends trying to find their place in the world. It is about those uncelebrated people who have the ability to change the world, not by effort or force, but through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life.
Six Days by Dani Atkins
Two people. One love story. Six days.
He loves me… He loves me not… He loves me…
Gemma knows that she and Finn are destined to be together. They are soulmates. But then, on their wedding day, he never arrives at the church.
Gemma is convinced Finn wouldn’t abandon her like this, even though he has disappeared once before. But back then he had a reason. She feels sure something terrible has happened, but no one else is convinced. Even the police aren’t concerned, telling Gemma most people who disappear usually turn up in a week… assuming they want to be found, that is.
For the next six days Gemma frantically searches for Finn, even though every shocking revelation is telling her to give up on him. Before long, even she begins to doubt her own memories of their love.
How long can she hold on to her faith in Finn if everyone is telling her to let him go?
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
One stressed out single mum + one lost stranger = one unexpected love story . . .
Jess Thomas has two jobs and two kids and never enough money. And when life knocks her down she does her best to bounce right back. But no one told her it’s okay to ask for help.
Ed Nicholls is the good guy gone bad. He had it all, then one stupid mistake cost him everything. Now he’ll do anything to make it right.
Ed doesn’t want to save anyone.
And Jess doesn’t want saving.
But could they add up to something better together? . . .
Strictly Come Dating by Kathryn Freeman
Saturday nights are strictly for dancing…
As the glitter ball shimmers and sequins flash, forty-year-old Maggie remembers the pull of the dancefloor. But now, as a newly divorced mum of two, Maggie’s certain her dancing days are over. Or are they…?
Encouraged by her friends, Maggie dusts off her silver stilettoes and enrols for dancing classes, all she needs now is the perfect partner.
Enter Seb. Young, carefree and hot as hell, Seb is definitely a perfect 10! Even though everything about him is outrageously inappropriate! But as Seb sweeps her across the dancefloor every week, Maggie begins to see a new side to him; kind, caring, funny, strong.
And Maggie realises that he’s the only one she’d like to foxtrot with…perhaps even forever?
The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain
‘Albert Entwistle was a postman.It was one of the few things everyone knew about him. And it was one of the few things he was comfortable with people knowing . . .’
Living alone since the death of his mam, 64-year-old Albert Entwistle keeps himself to himself. So one frosty December morning, just back from delivering mail full of the Christmas cheer that no one now extends to him, Albert is surprised to find himself in receipt of a letter.
The contents shock him. With no friends, and nothing to look forward to, his future suddenly seems lonely and frightening.
It’s not the first time that Albert has received a letter that will change his life. But, as the snow starts to fall, this time around he’s spurred into action. The time has come for him to face the secret he’s been keeping for fifty years . . .
With a new year fast approaching, Albert needs to be brave and go after what he wants, however much it scares him. And he will begin by looking for the man that, many years ago, he lost – but has never forgotten . . .
Join Albert Entwistle as he sets out to find the long-lost love of his life, and has an unforgettable and completely life-affirming adventure on the way.
Ten Years by Pernille Hughes
Becca and Charlie have known each other since university.
Becca and Charlies have also hated each other since university.
Until now. Until Ally’s bucket list. The death of their loved one should mean they can go their separate ways and not look back. But completing the list is something neither of them can walk away from.
And sometimes, those who bring out the worst in you, also bring out the very best…
Over the course of ten years, Becca and Charlie’s paths collide as they deal with grief, love and life after Ally.
Not since Emma and Dex in One Day and Will and Lou in Me Before You will you root for a couple as much.
Wishing on a Star by Mandy Baggot
A single mum. A superstar athlete. A Christmas like no other.
Anna Heath is divorced, a single mum and trying desperately to keep her life in order. Despite her friends’ best efforts, Anna has stopped looking for love and is determined to give her daughter, Ruthie, a Christmas to remember.
Sam Jackman has just been dealt with life-altering news, and all he could think to do was run. He’s left his American football team back in the US, stuck a pin in a map, and landed in Richmond, London.
When Anna and Ruthie literally bump into Sam on the snow-speckled streets, he finds himself being welcomed into their lives. But what begins as a night on the sofa turns into the start of something special…
All I Want for Christmas by Joanna Bolouri
What if the love of your life was your best friend’s girl?
When Nick loses his job and is dumped by his glamorous but demanding girlfriend, he is forced to grudgingly accept work as a Santa at a local Christmas grotto. As his friends are getting married or promoted, Nick spends his days being terrorised by unfriendly elves and cried on by snotty, spoiled children.
Then he meets 4-year-old Alfie. All Alfie wants for Christmas is for his mum, Sarah, to be happy again. Moved by the boy’s selfless wish, Nick arranges a date between Sarah and his best friend, Matt. But as Sarah and Alfie become part of all their lives, Nick realises that happiness for Sarah and Matt might mean heartbreak for himself.
It was hard to choose just one book of the year from the above, so I’ve gone with two. Coincidentally, they both involve the fictionalisation of real events or people. The first, draws on the awful disaster that took place at Aberfan, something I can remember well and the second is a fictionalised tale of the artist Stanley Spencer and the women in his life.
So that’s my reading review of 2022. Thank you all for your friendship and support over the past year, the bookish world really is the best. Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and healthy 2023.