As the current year finishes and we move into the New Year, I yet again question how quickly the year has passed. I’m now up to my fourth New Year, New Me blog post in the many years I’ve been irregularly updating you with tidbits of my life, writing tips and more.
2016 was the year for people to say “It’s the current year”! I heard it used everywhere, mainly in political, social justice and general infotainment circles. “We’re not neanderthals,” we said, despite neanderthals not being akin to cavemen like everyone thinks. “It’s 2016. We should be civilised!” Far too many celebrities and normal folk have passed on this year—the saddest for me being Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher. But I digress. In a few hours—for Australians at least—we’re moving onto the new Current Year, 2017. So, thankfully for many people, 2016 is almost over!
Looking back on my 2016, I didn’t have any novels published, but I did spend much of my time honing query letters, sending out submissions to short story journals, publishing houses and agents alike. I kept up a steady stream of blog posts, with my most popular one being this one from February, in which I critiqued the mass media and its role in a certain anti-gamers movement. I also did succeed in my goal of reading more. In 2014, I read only four and a half books. In 2015, that went up to nine books. I know, for a writer, I don’t read an honest lot. I’m trying to improve that. Rereading the Harry Potter series yet again doesn’t count. However, this year I got up to a record 13 books, which I know isn’t a lot to most readers, but is a record for me to be proud of. I’m nowhere near reading as much as I did back when I was a kid and read most of the 50-something Animorphs books, plus all the prequels and sequels and choose-your-own-adventures, over the course of a few years. I didn’t review all of them across the year, so here’s a quick round-up of my Books of 2016:
On Writing by Stephen King, was my first read of the year. I started this book at the end of 2015, and took far too long to finish it, in a ironic twist. The review is available here. 3.5/5
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I’ve been interested in the concept of minimalism since 2013, when I came across the blogs 365 Less Things, Zen Habits, and the more radical The Minimalists. In that year, I read The Power of Less by Leo Babauta, but I found The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to be more precise, quicker to the point, and easy to follow. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the topic. Despite finding her way of referring to objects as like people as and saying “goodbye” to items that don’t “spark joy” rather zany, I found it a great read. I mentioned it here. 4.5/5
The Executioners by John D. McDonald. I discovered this book because of my love of the 1962 movie made about it, Cape Fear. Despite its dry style, reminiscent of books in its era, I found The Executioners a quick, enjoyable read. I reviewed it here. Time to find the movie and watch it again! 4/5
The Widow by Fiona Barton. I was interested in this book before I read it, but Stephen King’s recommendation on Twitter sealed the deal. Comparing it to The Girl on the Train doesn’t do it justice—it’s so much better. The characters were all interesting, you wanted to know what was happening, boy, The Widow was a great book, and I can’t wait for Barton’s new book, The Child, which I’ll be reading soon as it comes out! I reviewed it here. 5/5
From Minor to Major by Sue Townsend. This is an omnibus of the first three Adrian Mole books, plus a series of newspaper entries and others that count as a fourth. I first read the second Adrian Mole book The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole when I was a kid and discovered it in my mother’s bookshelf. Back then, I only thought there was the one book. Then I discovered the later book The Cappuccino Years, and was amazed to find a whole series. This year, I read the first ~four books in an omnibus, and it was great to relive the nostalgia of the egotistic asswipe Adrian Mole, especially when I thought he was an untold genius when I was younger. I reviewed it here. 4/5
The Wilderness Years by Sue Townsend. More of the same on the “young genius” with an ego the size of the entire galaxy, and his young adult life, including the greatest poem to [never] exist, Pandora’s Nipple, a terrifying example of Adrian’s ego and his “thoughts” on the far-more-successful love of his life, Pandora Braithwaite. More of the same as the previous books. 3.5/5
The Missing Wife by Sheila O’Flanagan. I’m not usually a fan of O’Flanagan’s genre—chick lit and commercial fiction—but my mother, who’s a big fan, told me about The Missing Wife, and I immediately fell in love with it. Apart from the unbelievable ending, O’Flanagan’s novel was a great, quick read with interesting characters and a lot of plot twists that made you want to keep reading. And I kept reading because I was nervous of Vince finding Imogen. I reviewed it here. 4/5
Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight by Peter Walsh. I read this book around the same time I was on a weight-loss mission, as a sort of inspiration, while also reading a guide on minimalism. While an enjoyable read with some good exercises to follow, I didn’t find its clearing-clutter guide nearly as useful or interesting as the Marie Kondo book I read in April. While I liked Walsh’s casual way of addressing the reader, and not taking itself too serious, I just found it wasn’t the perfect guide. The best tips you get are from personal trainers, people! 3/5
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (J.K Rowling). I bought this book years ago second-hand at the Salvation Army, and had it in my bookshelf unread until November, when the movie loosely based on it came out in cinemas. It’s only a quick read at 40-odd pages, and I read half of it before the movie came out, and the rest in the days afterward. It’s not a necessity to read this “non-fiction” book before the movie, as a lot of creatures in the movie aren’t in the book, and vice-versa. The book only gives away in its introduction that Newt is married to Porpentina (Tina) in the 1990s, so if you didn’t want to know they get together, well, whoops, spoiler alert. I like the definitions of the creatures, though I wish there could be more written about them. After watching the movie, though, I think Fantastic Beasts is a lot better than the Harry Potter movies, and it’s not just because of Eddie Redmayne! Honest! 3.5/5
The One Who Got Away by Caroline Overington. I reviewed this here just a few days ago. This is the novel that made me sick of Gone Girl knock-offs. I kept reading it because I wanted to know Loren’s fate, but it just wasn’t written interestingly enough to make it as good as its predecessors. 2/5
There were also three books that I gave up on this year, and those were Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Life of Elves by Muriel Barberry, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. With Gone Girl, I just found its literary thriller style too heavy, and just dragged too much, and opted instead for the David Fincher movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also started The Life of Elves because Barberry’s previous book The Elegance of the Hedgehog, is my absolute favourite book. I only got about 20 pages into this magic realism novel before I gave up. Doesn’t mean I won’t read more of Barberry’s books! I had high hopes for Cursed Child, but the script was a sad letdown. I read up until that awful scene with the trolley lady revealing she was basically immortal and her cauldron cakes can be turned into grenades. I immediately put the book away and it’s stayed in my bookshelf ever since. I’ve also started two other books that I may review in 2017, depending if I finish them: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford. I love the movie of We Need to Talk About Kevin, especially its shocking ending, and in the case of Fight Like a Girl, I’m only reading it to see how someone like Ford thinks and rationalises her hateful behaviour. But that’s for 2017!
As we come to a close for 2016, I hope you’ve completed, or at least started in someway, your goals for this year. If you didn’t don’t despair: There’s always another year for that—and that’s [insert current year]! Hope to see you here in 2017!