Year in Review
a closer look at the carefully curated reviews and recommendations of 2017
This year has been full of a lot of changes for me, and the majority of them have been for the better. All in all, I’m very pleased with how 2017 has changed me and brought about its challenges and blessings. I began this blog on January 1, 2017 – full of high hopes and aspirations. I hosted a successful blog about a decade ago; readers came from all over the world to share in my family stories and my creative concoctions. I still hold a lot of those readers in my heart today, as they have transitioned from strangers into friends. Would you believe I even had the pleasure of actually reading and reviewing a book from one of those old friends this year? It’s so funny how things come around in a full circle. You only have to keep your eyes and your heart open. And I’d love it if you’d humor me and my candor for just a moment . . .
I took nearly a decade off from my web presence. I moved from Oklahoma back to my home state of Texas. I went through an extremely nasty and convoluted divorce. I re-entered the work force after ten years of being a devoted stay-at-home mother. I met a great guy (off the Internet!) and fell in love. I got married. After two years of trying and a subsequent miscarriage, I finally got pregnant and carried a baby to term. My husband and I bought our first home together. We took a family vacation. The last decade has been very full, and I was finally ready to come back into the world of writing on the web.
It’s not an easy thing, to be a writer. It’s incredibly difficult to put anything that you create out there for the public to see and to judge. For writers, it’s as if we are placing journal entries or personal diary pages on platforms that can be used to scrutinize or praise in equal measure. We lay ourselves bare, and we do it because we must. For writers, forming words and phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages allows us to become whole. No matter the cost to our egos.
I have kept this in mind with each and every book I have read and reviewed this year. There have been some highs (Rhett Butler’s People, for one) and some very deep lows (The Cellar – ugh). I have made beautiful bookish friends in a community that is (for the most part) so welcoming and embracing of its members. I have made a few enemies – i.e. The Teddy Bear Chronicles and the drama that came from my low review and an author who felt she was entitled to the review she wanted instead of my honest one. I was humbled by the outreach from fellow reviewers, by publishing houses who took a chance on me, and by faithful readers who chose to use my recommendations and discover wonderful new authors and books.
I never expected my blog to grow as it has. From 1 Instagram follower I grew to nearly 1,000. I average more than 20 views per day from all over the world. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that I went from ZERO views. I have cultivated relationships with publishing houses and publicists, with authors and with other reviewers. And I did it all on my own, which is something I am very proud of.
It’s hard to make the time to read every day, no matter that it’s my passion. I have a 14-year old, a 12-year old, a two-year old, a new puppy, an old dog, two cats, a husband (and a partridge in a pear tree). There is not much time for me in any given day. But I’ve made it. I wrote two blogs a week, I have read 69 books, I have published my work across dozens of platforms. I’ve shared my blog with my husband and my daughter, guiding them in posts and art design of photographs, and my pride was so full of light as I watched them succeed. I’m still learning every single day, still evolving. This website is mine. It is something that makes me smile.
I thank you – my readers. You make me better. Cheers to 2017.
Below you’ll find a list of the books I’ve reviewed and recommended this year, along with links to their particular blog post. They are in order by rating, and as I set my new goal for 2018 (reading 75 books!) I encourage you to make one of your own. Reading keeps your mind sharp, and it helps you wind down. Nothing can replace it. Feel free to join me on Goodreads (my user name is The Belle) by making your goal for the new year and sharing the books you read along the way.