It’s coming up to the end of another year and this is my fourth Christmas running this blog. I didn’t know when I started just how much fun I’d have with it, how many people I’d meet, and how many authors and book lovers I’d come to know because of it. I remember writing my first ever post and wondering who on earth would ever read it. People have told me that blogging is “on the way out”, but as far as I can see, in the book world blogs are alive and thriving, which is great to see!
I’ve discovered a lot of great books through book bloggers that I wouldn’t otherwise have found. Since 2016 is almost over, I thought I’d share some books I’ve read this year and loved.
First up is The Death of Lyndon Wilder and the Consequences Thereof, by E.A. Dineley (also known as Libby Dineley)
I absolutely loved this book from start to finish, and I have no idea why it’s not more widely known. Fans of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen (two of my own favourite authors) would all love it. It was first published in 2013 but I only heard of it this year when my aunt lent me her copy. She thought I’d like it…and I did!
The story starts – as the title suggests – with the death of Lyndon Wilder, the oldest and favourite son of Lord and Lady Charles Wilder, who are both absolutely distraught and plunged into bitter mourning. Lyndon has died in the Napoleonic wars, and his younger brother, Major Thomas Wilder, is now forced to leave the army he loves and return to run the crumbling estate. The reader sees the Major arrive from the viewpoint of Anna, the governess, and her young charge, Lyndon’s little daughter Lottie, who are both peeping down into the entrance hall from the landing. The house has been in deep mourning for far too long and is unnaturally dark. The Major strides in and throws back all the shutters. I thought it was a great entrance, and for the rest of the book I was totally charmed by the hero, the governess, and a whole cast of extremely well-drawn characters. E.A. Dineley has thoroughly researched the period and the historical detail adds greatly to the story. There is so much else I loved – the witty dialogue, the intricacies of the plot, the surprises in store, the gentle unfolding of the love story. This book is much more than a charming read – it deals with themes of loss and mourning, raising children, dyslexia, social inequality, the role of women in society, the brutal nature of war, male friendship, and growing up. I laughed out loud at some parts, and some scenes moved me to tears.
I was really glad to discover this book. I read the sequel – Castle Orchard – straightaway, and I do hope E.A. Dineley writes some more. I hope my recommendation gains her lots more readers because she deserves them.
Another book I enjoyed this year is The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks
James Rebanks’ family have farmed the same area in the Lake District for more than six hundred years, which in this era of globalisation and movement of people is absolutely astonishing. I literally don’t know a single family whose children even live in the same area any more, let alone have lived in the same place for generations.
Here’s the blurb to the book: Some people’s lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks’ isn’t. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, he and his family have lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been for hundreds of years. A Viking would understand the work they do: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the gruelling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the fells.
This isn’t a romantic story of life in the countryside – James Rebanks tells it all, from bunking off school (he couldn’t see the point of it) to fist fights outside the local pub. It’s a totally absorbing read, moving and lyrical in parts. I learned so much about the Lakes that I previously took for granted. I’m used to being around sheep farmers as I live on the edge of the Yorkshire moors – I feature a sheep farm in my book A Way from Heart to Heart – but I hadn’t until now appreciated the extraordinary knowledge that is passed down for generations, just how important it is to keep these traditions alive, and the way farmers feel they are invisible in the landscape. There’s also the social snobbery – farming is hard, dirty work, and yet it’s looked down on by many people. Rebanks made me smile when he made the ironic comment that after he went to Oxford he was able “to pull middle-class birds”. It was a wry smile, though. (I hate snobs.) Anyone who reads this book will have a lot more respect for farmers and a lot more knowledge of the customs of the countryside. It was a fascinating read.
And now for something completely different! Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty.
This is the first book by Liane Moriarty I’ve read, and I’m definitely going to check out her other books. The book was a complete surprise, in a great way. I read it because Liane Moriarty is so massively popular and I wanted to find out why. Now I know! Her characters are completely believable and have a real depth. She is a very clever writer. This story hinges around the events at a barbecue and is told from several points of view. This is the page-turning quality – you want to find out just what happened – but the characters themselves are really well drawn. The story revolves around two women – Erika and Clementine – who have been unlikely friends since childhood. Are they really friends? And if they are so unalike, why are they still seeing each other? Liane Moriarty made their relationship totally believable. The relationships between the characters are beautifully observed and I couldn’t put the book down until the very end.
Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret is on my Kindle now, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.
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These are just three of the great books I’ve read this year. I get lots of recommendations by following book bloggers, and I’m really grateful to people who take the time to post reviews.
I hope you like my selection. If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to know what you thought of them. And if you have any recommendations regarding books you’ve read this year, I’d love to hear them!
And lastly, wishing everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas!