December 2017 Books

December-books

I didn’t actually realise that I hadn’t read anything in December that wasn’t a festive story, but they all were! I was trying to tick off ‘Read five Christmas books’ from my 36 Before 36 list, and with these and Last Christmas in Paris that I finished in November, I’ve ticked it off!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
This has been on my Christmas reading list for years, but somehow I have just never got around to it. This year, I reserved it at the library nice and early. In age old Poirot fashion, the story involves the murder of a wealthy old man, whose family have convened at their old family home for Christmas. It’s not the best Poirot story that I’ve ever read, but as ever, it involves a convoluted plot, plenty of red herrings and imposters, and a clever reveal. It’s well worth adding to your festive reading list for the future.

Christmas at the Dancing Duck by Daisy James
With a specific festive book goal in mind, I resorted to Kindle bargains when some of my library reservations didn’t arrive in time. This was one of those bargains, though that word suggests a piece of quality work for a small amount of money. I hate being overly negative, but this book was not for me. Granted, you have to expect a certain type of book when you’re dealing with a cover like this, but it was sloppily written, had annoying characters, and a silly conclusion that I saw coming a mile off. It wasn’t for me, sadly!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Horniak
Christmas books so often revolve around family coming back together, and not getting on, and that’s exactly what happens here. When Olivia returns home from Sierra Leone, where she’s been treating victims of Haag Disease, she has to go into quarantine with her family for a week. This is a family with secrets, who don’t actually seem to enjoy spending too much time together, so the forced proximity is not welcome. We get alternating points of view throughout the novel, so we are able to empathise with the family members, even if I spent most of my time wanting to knock their heads together. This isn’t a criticism however; I don’t have to like a character to find them well-written and engaging.

The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver
I bought this at the same time as Christmas at the Dancing Duck, and after that one failed to set my world on fire, I didn’t hold out great hopes for this one either. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the story of two sisters who have grown up mostly separately after the divorce of their parents saw them living apart. Ella has forged a successful career in London and lives well with her upper class husband, while Maddy, the younger sister, has lived in Greece with her mum, living a simple life as a waitress, but dreams of fame as a singer. Through a contrivance of events, the sisters swap places for Christmas, and have to work through their own issues, which thankfully are not all relationship and men related. It’s a predictable ending, and the story won’t stay with me, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it.

Books in 2017 – 41

36 Before 36 – Read five Christmas books

A love letter to… 2017

A Love Letter to...

Dear 2017

Well now. You’ve kicked my arse. Seriously, whether it’s because it was a tough year, or simply because I am just getting older, I’ve never felt as tired at the end of a year as I did with you.

Between a broken limb, a number of hospital visits for other family members, work stress, and a phone down a toilet, it really has been quite the twelve months. (I know you may think it silly to put the loss of a phone in such a list, but it really was quite the inconvenience.)

With the rough, however, there has been, of course, plenty of smooth, and I’ve had some really good times. There were no new family members this year, for the first time in five years (I think). But 2018 will see our number grow again, and in the meantime, all the young members of the family continue to be truly amazing.

In other events, I went on holiday to Dorset with Hannah, and finally visited Gold Hill. I visited Cambridge for the first time, and then went back two more times. I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour for the second time, and visited Lavenham, a stunning little village about half an hour from where I live (a wonderfully Instagrammable place). I finally got the chance to go to the Olympic Stadium, and see a night of the Para Athletics championship. I went to two weddings, one was to celebrate with an old school friend, and the other with a work friend. And I went to Disneyland Paris! I had to do it with a broken wrist, but did it I did (?) and I had a lovely time.

Work was tough, probably harder than it’s ever been, with ever more to do and what feels like an ever decreasing amount of time in which to do it. But life would be boring without a challenge, and I’m looking forward to a brand new year to get stuck into. In amongst all the hard work, my job took me back to Manchester and Glasgow, two cities that I like but would like the chance to explore outside of work, and also on a work outing to try some archery. I was terrible at it, of course, but it was good fun. I even went along to a beer festival with my colleagues, despite a) not liking beer, and b) not liking socialising that much. It was good fun!

Once again, I spent much of my year visiting London for various different events, most notably my monthly engagement at the BFI Southbank taking in Mark Kermode’s regular event. It’s been another amazing year of guests, with the likes of Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Toby Jones. Yep, Toby Jones. I was also lucky enough to go along to a different event to see THE TOM HANKS talking about his book, which was amazing and surreal.

So aside from some truly awful moments, both personally and on a global level, there was much to be celebrated in this year of years. I have a feeling that 2018 might be more of the same, but I’m willing to give it the same chance I gave you, 2017. Thanks for the memories…

Love Jane

A Love Letter to… is an ongoing series (that I tend to update once a year.)

January 2017 Books

January

Not a stellar start to the year for reading in terms of numbers – I was hoping to start as I mean to go on with plenty of reading, but January got away from me. Luckily, in terms of quality, it was a good month; three really good books!

The Dry by Jane Harper *
This is the story of a murdered family in a small farming town in Australia. The inhabitants are already having to deal with the years-long drought that is devastating their livelihoods, so when the family are murdered in an apparent murder-suicide by the husband and father of the victims, tensions run high. Into this comes Aaron, childhood friend of the chief suspect; as a police officer he is drawn into the investigation, and finds secrets from years ago resurfacing. You can read my full review here; it’s a taut and tense thriller with the brutality of the drought conditions adding to the oppressive atmosphere.

The One Memory of Flora Banks *
Flora Banks has anterrograde amnesia, preventing her from creating new memories. She remembers everything since before she was ten, but since then, she relies on information that her mum gives her via a book to discover who she is; she had a brain tumour that caused her memory problems, but she has a best friend and parents who love her and who will always look after her. This has been her life for seven years, but when she kisses a boy on a beach, she suddenly finds herself with a new memory that she is able to retain. She is in love with the boy from the beach, and despite her limitations, she ends up on a journey to Svalbard to find him. This is a beautiful story, and though it might seem as though it’s a lazy YA book about a boy and a girl, it’s really not. It’s a journey of self-discovery for Flora, and although she thinks she has set out to find a boy, what she’s really done is set out to find herself. As cliched as that may sound, the story is anything but. It even turns itself into a bit of a thriller at the end, and it’s well worth a read. 

English Animals by Laura Kaye *
19 year old Mirka is Slovakian, drawn to the UK to escape a family situation at home. She finds herself in the employ of an upper-middle class couple at a country house, helping them with their new taxidermy business. To say too much about the story would be to give things away, but the story follows Mirka for a year as she becomes a part of this couple’s life, and things take a turn. Written from the perspective of Mirka, a woman whose first language is not English, emphasis is place on the otherness of people like Richard and Sophie, the couple for whom she works. Read my full review here.

Books marked with an asterisk were sent to be by publishers for a review.

Because my start of the year posts never got written, I never got around to rounding up last year’s reads, or setting myself a target for this year. I still might right a round up of 2016 in books, but for now, I’ve decided on 75 again. I didn’t manage it last year, but I’m nothing if not a tryer.

Books in 2017 – 3