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To celebrate the sixth anniversary of her book review team, book blogger extraordinaire Rosie Amber has listed the fourteen most popular books over the past six years in two posts (Part 1:here and Part 2:here). Reading again about these old book friends takes me back to a time…

Remembering BC (Before Covid)

We still had Paris, and Paris still had Notre Dame.

It was 2014, and the world was small enough for me to pop over to any place I wanted to go. Madrid. Paris. Moscow. Venice and Florence. Scottish islands and rural India and London glitter. I even squeezed in a quick trip back to the States that year. All I had to do was buy a ticket and head to the next place I dreamed of. And I did a LOT of dreaming.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was writing blog posts. I started the blog because I needed to be a writer. So I wrote a book and plenty of clever people said novelists need blogs to provide shiny PR for their books. It should, they said, be full of content about books and writing as a process, and… and… And you know what? Talking about the process of writing is not only boring, but the only people who’d read it are other writers, not always potential buyers readers.

So I started writing about other people’s books. And I started reading other people’s book blogs. There was one in particular, written by Rosie Amber, that grabbed my attention. I did some reviews for her Book Review Challenge. I admired her style and her creativity. Basically, I wanted to be her when my blog grew up.

So when Rosie asked me to be part of her book review team, I thought it sounded easy, and fun, and a great way to get free books. But I didn’t realize I’d get so very much more. We’d just moved to Glasgow, where I didn’t know a soul. But through Rosie I met an entire community of bloggers and readers. We chatted online, read each other’s posts, and blogged our book reviews.

Rosie’s team in Glasgow, 2016

In the years since then, I’ve reviewed over 70 books as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, while my fellow team members reviewed hundreds more. And a wonderful, unexpected thing happened. Rosie’s bloggers turned from an online group into a team. We chatted, met up, shared our stories. We became friends.

Rosie’s team does the Peak District, 2019

That was then. This is now.

Then the coronavirus hit and the world hit the “off” switch. All the things I loved—visiting with family, traveling to exotic new places, meetups with friends—stopped. For months now, we’ve sheltered in place. I kept busy with projects like making facemasks. Video chats replaced hugs and kisses. Passenger ferry service to our little island was only available for emergency ‘essential’ trips. Strangers turned from potential blog fodder to potential virus spreaders.

Now we watch as our little island economy melts down, as my friends and neighbors face devastating blows to their income and businesses, as we wonder what will survive if our tourist-based economy doesn’t have any tourists. But we’re scared. We tell each other about mainlanders trying to sneak onto the ferry (clutching their golf clubs and hiding in vehicles).

They say lockdown will be lifting, but I’m having a hard time picturing things going back to ‘normal’. I’m afraid of people who don’t wear masks. I look at movies and all I can think is how close all those (maskless) people are to each other. I’m afraid of people who come closer than two meters. I wear blue gloves to shop but still take antibacterial wipes to the shopping trolley before I use it because…I’m afraid.

We’ve just had our first visitor, a friend and neighbor who lives alone. She came to play music with the Hub—chairs set a careful distance apart. They had a wonderful time, but it was weird to have someone in our house after all these months. She’s a friend, but I stayed upstairs.

I’m going to have to go to Glasgow soon to get my tooth taken care of, but even the thought of it makes me a bit nauseous. I’m desperate to see my grandchildren but… they live in the city. And as for travel—the thing I’ve always loved most—I just can’t even think about it.

American Airlines wrote to say our frequent flyer miles are about to expire unless we book a trip by September. We don’t have to travel, just book the trip. But I can’t even plan it without picturing myself in some exotic locale surrounded by germ-infested potential serial killers people who aren’t wearing facemasks, while I’m desperately trying to ask GoogleTranslate how to say, “Could you please move two meters away from me?”

Abbey Road AC (After Corona)

But there is one thing that hasn’t changed. Books. My online friends are still there, my book friends are still waiting to meet me, my old favorites are waiting for another read.

And there are new friends waiting too. Wouldn’t you like to be part of Rosie’s team? You won’t need a facemask, you won’t have to worry about social distancing, and germy golfers from the mainland won’t try to sneak up on you. But you will get to read some great free books, and better still, you’ll get to be part of a team. You’ll get to be friends.

So please check out Rosie’s list of the most popular books we’ve reviewed over the past six years. And while you’re there, you might want to consider joining us here.