This is the first time I've come across this tradition! I've got my 2016 challenge page open in another tab, and there's the WHOLE POINT of GoodreadsThis is the first time I've come across this tradition! I've got my 2016 challenge page open in another tab, and there's the WHOLE POINT of Goodreads right there, or at least one of its points. I can look at the books I read in chronological order and map my reading against what was happening this year--fascinating.
Oh look, there were the books that kept me sane while I was sorting out our house and disposing of about 75 percent of our crap pre-move. At the same time as performing this sysiphean task, I was finishing the novel I was writing as I really wanted to get another book out in 2016--How Department Stores Are Carried On was research, and a pretty good adjunct to Au Bonheur Des Dames, which I read at the end of 2015 as I was writing the final draft. I read Strange meeting, which I last read as a much younger woman, because I was selling all of my fiction (I KNOW, but our new house is small) and I...just wanted to read it again, I'm not sure why. A sort of farewell to my youth in general, I think. I miss my books and hope that people have bought them and are reading them...sigh.
I also read a lot of business/author/entrepreneur books at that point, my absolute favorite being The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. I've moved into reading more books of this sort as my fascination with the business and craft sides of being an author grows, so this is a continuing theme. I finally managed to get through a Kate Morton (on audiobook) and then read Black Rabbit Hall, which is a Kate Morton with decent pacing.
The rest of 2016 was remarkable for the amount of red tape I was wading through (this wasn't an easy move), a slightly surreal situation with visas that has left my husband stuck over the other side of the pond (soon to be resolved, I hope!) and my parents' health issues, which have been mightily traumatic and depressing and will only end when, well, they end. This is what happens when your parents live long lives, people. I can see how my reading got a little bit disjointed, although there are themes in there. I had to revise my challenge down from 75 to 50 because I just wasn't getting the time to read.
Most of my fiction is now read on the Kindle or as an audiobook, unless for some reason I acquire a book for review. I got to do my first print feature article, which will be out next year (on The Victoria Letters: The official companion to the ITV Victoria series and Victoria). My book club in Illinois wouldn't let me leave, so there are some book club reads in there, some of which I wasn't crazy about. I'd bought some paperback ARCs with me, the ones I wanted to read because they related to my own writing--Hanging Mary was the best of that bunch, a really nice piece of biographical fiction.
2016 was also the year I finally read a Deanna Raybourn book, having had her name come up several times as a "comp", i.e. author who writes books that appeal to my ideal readers. Silent in the Grave was the book in question, and I turned one of the Illinois book club members into a Raybourn fan! I read my second Linda Gillard book, Untying the Knot, and confirmed my impression that this woman is a superb writer. I read the enhanced iBook edition of Game of Thrones (no link because there are a gazillion pages of editions and I can't find it) and am now thinking of doing my own enhanced editions one day...I have to say that GoT sounds way better in my head than in the Roy Dotrice audiobook--I just hated him as a reader. I'll get round to the rest of the enhanced editions in 2017, I hope. The illustrations are awesome.
I ended 2016 with a Barbara Cartland splurge, having found a 4-book-compendium freebie while I was looking for something completely unrelated. I used to read my Gran's Cartland books as a kid, and wondered how I'd feel about the Pink Lady now. She's wildly politically incorrect and a very inconsistent writer, but I've got to admit that even now, Cartland is a page-turner. If you can stomach horrific mid-20th-century attitudes toward non-whites and disabled people, I'd recommend her. I actually want to rewrite A Duel of Hearts because, OMG, the Secret and how it was handled made me want to bite her. But she died in 2000, leaving 700 or so books behind her, and I can see why--my guess is that she wrote the first draft, tossed it to the editor, and moved on. That, to me, is the definition of pulp fiction.
But I digress. And hasn't that been the theme of 2016? My head has been all over the place this year and my reading bears witness to that. Onward to 2017!...more
Spoilerish review, but I can't discuss it otherwise. TL;DR is that it's a good but rather overly earnest book. A big hit in the 1890s, apparently, soSpoilerish review, but I can't discuss it otherwise. TL;DR is that it's a good but rather overly earnest book. A big hit in the 1890s, apparently, so it must have resonated with its audience. The premise behind the novel is the divide between the natural world of honesty and wholesomeness and the twisted, stunted world of society--if that sounds very D.H. Lawrence to you I'd agree. Perhaps Lawrence was drawing on the same zeitgeist or perhaps he was actually influenced by this book--I'm not enough of a Lawrence expert to say.
(view spoiler)[The plot is that Jessamine, a very young woman of almost unearthly beauty, is being groomed by her aunt/guardian to marry a rich, titled, older man. The wrongness of this path is killing her, or at least turning her into a neurotic invalid. She calls in Dr. Cornerstone, the embodiment of wholeness and wholesomeness, who basically tells her to suck it up and think of how much good she could be doing in the world if she didn't spend all her time thinking of herself.
Great advice! Next thing we know, Jessamine has run away from evil London society and is living in a cottage in the Scottish highlands, trying to be useful and not superfluous. Of course as she's a young and beautiful woman love throws a spanner in the works, and Jessamine falls in love with an honest, wholesome peasant farmer. But how can she, a girl brought up in the highest levels of society, marry a peasant? Jessamine struggles with the temptation to just sleep with him and have his children (who would, of course, be wholesome) but she knows that would be wrong for both of them. So she runs back to London, marries the rich, titled old guy, and pays for his decadence (and probably syphilis) by producing deformed, backward children with no moral sense. (hide spoiler)]
The moral of the story is hammered in with a very large mallet, but it does tell you a lot about the preoccupations of the fin-de-siècle with decay, degeneration, determinism and all that. The text is surrounded with an equally earnest attempt to provide an informative edition; unfortunately, some of the notes are off the mark, but if you're not in the least bit familiar with any literature before about 1980 you might find some of the notes useful....more