2016: My Year in Books

January 9, 2017

For the second year running, I managed to average one book every two weeks. Not bad, huh?

For the record, here’s the list:

  1. Kafka on the Shore by Harumi Murakami – Off to a flying start, one might say. One Murakami down the hatch and things can only get better. I mean, Murakami is awesome… but one per year is about all one can manage without losing one’s marbles.
  2. Revival by Stephen King – He’s the boss! Every book of his is a masterpiece!
  3. The Green Mile by Stephen King – Ok, he’s still the boss, but it’s difficult to take two slightly similar books of his one after the other. Still, an unforgettable book.
  4. The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry – I picked this one up at the library just because I liked the title and the blurb. Weird but interesting book.
  5. Disgrace by Jussi Adler Olson – Good book, but not great. I’ve read others by this author (Mercy, Redemption), and all of them are good, but not great.
  6. The Help by Kathryn Stackett – Oddly enough, I enjoyed this very much. Again, I picked it up at the library in a “what’ve-I-got-to-lose” kind of way because I don’t really go for this period nor for serious black/white discrimination kind of themes… but it was extremely interesting and kept me hooked.
  7. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – I read this only because it was by JK Rowling, and I enjoyed it immensely.
  8. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri – Not such an enthralling book.
  9. The Third Twin by Ken Follet – Ok, I picked this one up at the library only because it had “twin” in the title. And after all, Ken Follet, so it should be ok. It turned out to be too old-fashioned and rather superficial – both characters and plot lacked depth. At the time it was written, it might have been more cutting-edge, I suppose.
  10. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon – I’d read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time more than a decade ago, and I picked up this book just to see what the author was up to these days. Turned out to be quite an interesting book about a somewhat weird (but believable) family.
  11. Flesh and Blood by Jonathan Kellerman – A run of the mill serial murderer book.
  12. Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud – I loved the Bartimaeus series, so I was looking around for something by the same author and this is what I found. Once I read the first of the series, I was hooked. Fantasy, but such fun!
  13. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie – Another slightly-weird-family with a wedding in the offing book. The third this year! Quite interesting.
  14. Gone by Lisa Gardner – Apparently I quite enjoyed this book, but I can’t for the life of me remember anything about it, so it must have been rather forgettable. I read it in July.
  15. Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud – A delightful book a step up from Enid Blyton. Well, I don’t think one ever entirely outgrows Enid Blyton, so why not? A 14-year-old boy runs away from his protected and sheltered home to fight a war and cover himself in glory.
  16. Tar Baby by Toni Morrison – Good lord, why do I even try to read these literary books? This book drove me crazy. Started off so well, I loved it, and then it went on and on and completely lost the plot and my interest as well. And ended with a whimper, to top it off.

17, 18, 19. Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud – Ah, great, back to light, easy, fun reading. And like desert after veggies, I got myself a triple helping. The Whispering Skull and The Hollow Boy and then, to my chagrin, I had to wait several weeks for The Creeping Shadow. In fact, not all the books are equally good… but all of them are good.

20. Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchet – Two fabulous fantasy writers collaborating on one book? How can it not be awesome?

21. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – The third book in the series. I didn’t like this one that much – too much relationship stuff going on and too little whodunit.

22. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters – Again, an odd choice for me, because I stay away from books about the Second World War. This one wasn’t depressing (the war was just in the background, really) but it was just way too weird with way too many lesbians. Why do I even pick up these books?

23. The Gunslinger by Stephen King – I’d been waiting to get my hands on the first of the Dark Tower series but when I finally did, I didn’t like it. Most upsetting, given that I was expecting to like it. The combination of Western and Fantasy (or plain weird, in Stephen King’s case) just didn’t work for me.

24. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu – Probably the most memorable book of the year (which is saying a lot, given that it’s competing with Lockwood & Co, to say nothing of Kafka on the Shore). I loved the first half of the book, but then it began to demand a little too much willing suspension of disbelief even for Sci-fi. The first half was so interesting, though, that I will probably pick up the next book in the series.

25. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin – Alright, this really is a children’s book, but it’s a delightful read. I loved the way the story was woven in and out of a fairy tale, complete with dragons and kings and the man in the moon. Beautiful!

26. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Another amazing book and possibly a contender for most memorable book of the year. Fantasy again, yes, but the setting is fabulous. Also, along with Good Omens, it’s a book that I need to go back and read a second time to understand all that’s going on. A great book to end the year on.


New Year, Old Resolutions

January 3, 2017

They’ve been on my list for the last ten years at least – not resolutions so much, they’re more of a wish list:

  • Two kids
  • Two books
  • Two dogs

Well, the dogs mysteriously turned into cats along the way, but that apart, the last entrant on that list came into my life in 2014, when my second book, Adopted Miracles, was published.

There’ve also been, for a very very long time, another two items on that wish list:

  • Improve at tennis
  • Lose weight

The score on that front is not so great. But you can’t have everything, after all, and it is and always has been a question of priorities. And while I might not make it to Wimbledon in this lifetime, my tennis is not so bad (Davis Cup level at any rate).

So, what’s on my list for 2017?

Well, cats don’t make too many demands on their parents, apart from regular feeding, but when it comes to kids it’s another matter. You’re never quite “done” with them, are you? You can never really strike that one off the list as achieved.

But, while that part of life goes on for the next few decades, there’s another area where I can shoot at a moving goal-post: my books. The third one’s ready to hit the stands any day now. And what a journey it’s been.

The idea for Survivors rattled around in my head for a couple of years before I finally started to write it. And although I wrote it in a single stretch of about three months, as I did with my other manuscripts, in a way the germination of the idea and even some of the research for the book took place over a period of months before I started writing. I was done writing it in early 2012 and it’s the only one of my three works that have been published so far, that found a publisher within a matter of weeks. That, for a change, was the easy part.

After that, it’s been a long, tedious wait to see my book finally come to life.

And now it has! At last! It’s good to start the year with a new book hitting the stands, so no complaints on that front.

Meanwhile, however, I’ve been busy… and consequently there are another four unpublished works in the queue. No, I haven’t found a publisher yet. Oddly enough, having had something published doesn’t seem to make the search for a publisher any easier. According to my erstwhile agent, it might even work against you, if your existing books died in obscurity.

So here’s my wishlist for the coming year.

  • Edit three of my existing manuscripts
  • Find a publisher for at least one
  • And of course, lose weight and improve at tennis.

That’s a tall order. By the time I finish office work and housework for the day, I barely have enough energy left to drag myself upstairs and collapse in bed. Making time to edit my manuscripts and snag a publisher is a difficult-to-impossible task. And when I do manage to spend the time I need to on those tasks, I’m too tired to drag myself out of bed at 5.15 a.m and reach the tennis court by six. So definitely, all three of those objectives aren’t achievable in one year. And if I have to pick, I know where my priorities are (and always have been).

But, well… lots to look back on and lots to look ahead to. Whoever said “the years to come seem waste of breath; a waste of breath the years behind” (or words to that effect) should have tried writing books. (Come to think of it, maybe he did.)

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