Being Janus-faced: Looking backwards to look forwards

Well… here it is. It’s 2021 already and despite a new year ticking over, it doesn’t feel as if that much has changed… yet. But there is hope on the horizon, whether that be the roll-out of a vaccine, a change of President in the Whitehouse, and an election year here in Australia. Even so, borders are opening and shutting like swing doors on a saloon, and folk are still going in and out of lockdown, even though, Down Under, we’ve done so well to combat the virus – none more so than our gallant Victorians. Thank you.

Rest assured, I’m not about to launch into a political tirade. I might not stop! Nor am I going to write about Covid-19 or the situation in the USA (as much as I might want to do both those things). What I really want to write about is books. Well, the power of stories, really.

For so many of us, last year was one of high hopes and/or despair and gamut of emotions in-between and which we’re still processing. It was a roller-coaster, there’s no doubt – professionally and personally for everyone.

For me, I had a new book released on the cusp of Covid breaking out and, like so many other creative artists, felt its impact as promised tours and promotions, signings and all sorts of events were cancelled. I think I joked half way through last year that for those in the creative industries, “cancel culture” took on a whole new meaning. My fellow writers, singers, actors, musicians, painters, dancers, we all lost gigs and income. What replaced these to some degree was ZOOM events and there’s a great deal to be said for those (as well as disadvantages) and I know I enjoyed attending so many and “meeting” and interacting with people I might never have otherwise as well as attending concerts and exhibitions etc. I also want to do a shout out to the generous authors who welcomed others onto their pages and extended their extensive social networks to help lesser known writers get some traction. You are wonderful!

As for personally, apart from my husband having a terrible health scare in the middle of the year and from which he is still recovering and our brewstillery, like thousands of other small businesses, taking a major kick, I lost two darling cats, one on the 30th of December, the other only weeks before that. My heart is still cracked. Also, one of my very close family members has been given a terminal diagnosis. But I don’t want to talk about that – not yet. Too hard. Then, The Brewer’s Tale, published in 2014 in Australia/New Zealand, was released in the USA as The Lady Brewer of London in December – yep, just as the virus and the President were competing for headlines and people were just trying to survive both. All of this contributed to the shitness that was 2020.

But this blog is not about that… well, it is a little bit, clearly. It’s also not about acknowledging the good that came out of last year, though I do and am so damn grateful – the friendships, the kindness of others, sometimes complete strangers. How we DID connect, despite the fact the ability to physically meet was largely taken away. How we swooped in and helped or called out to those we didn’t know, reached out to people we not have otherwise and learned about them and ourselves in the process. It’s testimony to our better natures, resourcefulness and, for all we bitch about it (or is that just me?), the internet. Again, I digress…

This blog is actually about me making up for being a really crap book reviewer in the latter half of last year and to sort of make up for it and to bring you up to speed on not only some great books I read, but also (if you’re interested) on where my own writing and book-related stuff is.

So, the reason I let reviews fall by the wayside a little wasn’t that I was not reading. Oh. No. On the contrary … All I can say is that books and writing were my salvation last year. As I said above – the power of stories to move, entertain, shape, escape, allow us to vicariously walk in others’ shoes, understand that this too will pass and experience fictively other’s resilience – sometimes in much harder situations is immeasurable. Books were what I turned to over and over when the going was tough or not – well, them and Netflix and Prime (The Boys, Star Trek: Discovery, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Queen’s Gambit, The Crown, Bosch, Goliath etc. etc. – so many wonderful series!). But because of what I said above, I found any heart-space I had left, any valuable time, I devoted to starting my next book – The Escapades of Tribulation Johnson – and editing the one that’s to come out later this year – The Good Wife of Bath: A (Mostly) True Story (I’ll be able to do a cover reveal soon – wait until you see it! It’s absolutely gorgeous! I am really excited) and reading without pressuring myself to do proper reviews (I did star them on Goodreads and other platforms where possible).

I do love sharing when I read great books (I won’t review ones I really don’t enjoy – sheesh! There are so many others prepared to chow down and point out all the flaws and negatives they found in a book, describe how much they loathed it, as if the author went out of his or her way to ensure it greatly displeased the reader – to personally offend them. Ouch, that hurts! I won’t contribute to that kind of reviewing, but I will critique; I hope fairly and generously). Anyhow, I thought I’d do a quick recap of some of the books I did love but didn’t review the last few months and then start 2021 as I mean to go on.

Anyhow, that’s my explanation for being slack. But I also wanted to wish everyone, wherever you are in the world – in lockdown, liberated, able to resume your usual life or rolling with the punches for all our sakes (and thank you), healthy, struggling physically, mentally or emotionally (huge hugs), a better, kinder year than the last in every way. And, if you’re struggling, can I recommend some good books to help you? There are so many out there and frankly, there’s no better way to escape the present, look forwards and backwards simultaneously and reflect safely, than by opening the pages of someone else’s fabulous story and stepping into it.

Books I didn’t properly review but loved in 2020.

Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series. (I read them all – ten of them)

My goodness. How had I not read this woman before? How did I not know about the wonderful Will Trent and his partner in solving crime, Faith, his indominable boss, Amanda, and his various complex personal relationships. Magnificent books. Every. Single. One. I think I rated all 5 stars!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

O.M.G. This and Dictionary of Lost Words were my pick for last year. This was such an original, compelling, heart-wrenching and clever book about a young woman who, 300 years before our time, makes a pact with the devil(?) and gets to live life on her terms as an immortal. Or is it her own terms? Just sublime.

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

It seems to have become fashionable to pile on on J.K. Rowling aka Galbraith, but I do like this series so much and really, really enjoyed this latest instalment in the adventures – that should probably be misadventures – of Cormoran and Robin.

The One by John Marr

A clever satire on modern dating. What would you do if genetic testing could put you together with your perfect match, “the one”, regardless of whether you were single or in a committed relationship? Would you do it? More importantly, would you be prepared for the results? Fantastic.

Follow me on Goodreads for other fabulous reads and here on my website for my reviews. I will try to be better at providing them… that is, until life and my own writing throw up some more challenging hurdles to leap! Onwards and well, onwards!


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