HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!
Reviewing 2016 and resolving for 2017.
My favourite books of the year.
We’ll start with non-fiction:
A Slip of the Keyboard/Terry Pratchett – autobiography mixed with articles and speeches about writing.
The Establishment (And how they get away with it)/Owen Jones – a look at modern Britain and the problems in our politics, media, etc.
An anthropologist on Mars/Oliver Sacks – case studies of patients with interesting conditions such as visual problems and autism.
Thinking in Pictures/Temple Grandin – autobiography by the famous autistic writer/speaker/designer of animal handling facilities
The Road to Little Dribbling/Bill Bryson – more humour from the American who see Britain through fresh eyes.
Gryphons/Alyx Jae Shaw – sprawling sci-fi with romance, coming of age, excitement, and social commentary (see more details at https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/gryphons-a-review/)
Return on Investment/Risk Return/Aleksandr Voinov – really gripping novel and sequel set in the world of banking; I suppose it might be seen as an m/m romance but it’s so much more.
The Second Footman/Jasper Barry – fascinating story of a young bisexual man who seeks revenge for family disasters in nineteenth century France.
Have you seen her?/Karen Rose – I will try anything by Rose – formulaic thrillers with an undercurrent of romance, yes, but they invariable grip me.
I will also read anything by Kate Elliott (sci fi/fantasy) and Lindsey Davis (history/historical thrillers) but have not come across anything new recently (which is not to say there isn’t anything).
Temeraire/Naomi Novik. Dragons in the Napoleonic Wars.
Gay Amish Romance/Keira Andrews. Detailed and intriguing look at the US sect.
Nightrunners/Lynn Flewelling. Fantasy series with m/m elf/human partners as spies.
Fall of the Gaslit empire/Rod Duncan. Steam-punk politics and mystery for a woman who passes herself off as her (non-existent) brother to get work as a private investigator.
The Magpie Lord/KJ Charles. Witches, magic and mysteries plus m/m romance in an alternate regency England.
Open series (so I’m looking forward to more):
Rivers of London/Ben Aaronovitch. Magic and policing with a diverse cast set mostly in modern London.
October Daye/Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy with a parallel fairyland accessed from San Francisco.
Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries/Ashley Gardner and Jennifer Ashley. Captain Lacey turns private investigator on his return from the Napoleonic wars with injuries that preclude further military service.
Dowser Series/Meghan Ciana Doidge. Fun magic and mystery in modern US.
Merrily Watkins series/Phil Rickman. A woman vicar in the Welsh Border country (English side) is persuaded to take on a second role as diocesan exorcist. Great mysteries, a scattering of supernatural hints, and some wonderful characters to ‘invest’ in. I don’t like the author’s one-off novels nearly as much and perhaps that’s why – I like following Merrily and her family and friends.
Seraphina/Rachel Hartman – fantasy, and a new ‘take’ on dragons.
What I’m currently reading: (and yes, I usually have more than one book ‘on the go’)
The Folklore of Discworld/Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson. A really good look at folklore in both our world and Terry’s Discworld, and how ideas spread, mutate, etc. (Paperback in the lounge.)
Pwning tomorrow – an anthology of short fiction from the Electronic Frontier. Like most anthologies the contents are mixed but there are some excellent stories building on current IT trends to posit a chilling future. The EFF want their book widely shared and you are encouraged to donate and download at: https://supporters.eff.org/donate/pwning-tomorrow (On my Kindle so available to take out.)
The Secret History of Fantasy ed Peter S Beagle. Another mixed collection with some gems and some interesting commentary by Beagle and Le Guin. It contains one of my all-time favourite stories by Gaiman: a new twist on Snow White. (Paperback upstairs for bedroom or bathroom reading.)
Monks and wine/Desmond Seward. Engrossing account of how, where, when and why monks contributed to the history of wine in Europe and elsewhere. (Hardback upstairs for bedroom or bathroom reading.)
Well now – non-fiction of all kinds and then huge helpings of fantasy, dragons, murder, and romance. Yes, that about sums up my reading tastes. I read 118 books in 2016, two of which were re-reads. That’s over two a week and I also read novel length fanfiction so I suppose it’s quite a lot!
My favourite films/shows/DVDs of the year:
2016 doesn’t seem to have been the year of the cinema for me and although I’ve watched quite a lot of films on DVD the only one that stands out is:
Pride. A fantastic (and true) story of how some LGBT people from London campaigned alongside the Welsh miners during the miners’ strike.
2016 seems to have been a desert in terms of my theatre going, too. though we have booked for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time at the Salford Lowry theatre later this month. (At least partly because we know one of the cast and there’s a party after the first night…)
I’ve been catching up on series:
Game of Thrones Season 4. Season 5 was in my Christmas presents so that’s sorted – and I’m not bothered by spoilers because I have read and love all the books so far and just wish he’d get the story finished. For anyone who doesn’t know it – politics, murder and mayhem in an alternate universe that is loosely based on the Wars of the Roses with added magic and monsters.
Lewis Season 8. Season 9 (the final one) was also among my gifts. Again, for the unaware, murder mysteries set in Oxford.
The West Wing Seasons 6 and 7. I had never watched the final seasons though I’ve owned them for years. This was a fascinating way to access American politics and their electoral process through a fictional but very real series and it truly helped me (a Brit) to set the US election in some kind of context.
Ripper Street Season 3. Victorian policing in the aftermath of Jack the Ripper. I loved the series and the acting but it has become very dark. Season 3 ended quite satisfactorily for me and I think I will give later seasons a miss.
I’m hoping to try Yuri on Ice (Japanese anime m/m romance) and Westworld (cowboys and robots series based on the film, which I liked) – both highly recommended by friends. I really wish there would be more Spiral (Parisian cop show), and am hoping for another season of The Bridge (Swedish/Danish cops this time).
Actors I would watch in anything:
Aidan Turner though I can’t say I particularly liked And then there were none (January 2016)
My classical favourites are unchanged: Mendelssohn and Bruch violin concertos followed closely by Rodrigo Concierto De Aranjuez. I’m always surprised by my choice because I would have said the piano is my favourite instrument, but there we are.
Current favourites in non-classical (i.e. things I play a lot) include Cohen’s Hallelujah, Jagger’s Streets of Berlin and Hozier’s Take Me To The Church. All musically interesting, angsty and hard to pin down.
My ongoing fandoms: (Why yes, I am a still, and probably for ever, a keen consumer and producer of fanworks.)
These are the ones I will always read in and sometimes write in:
Harry Potter – various pairings or none but I usually prefer it when the characters have left school.
Lewis – and my writing is a crossover with Harry Potter. I don’t usually read anything under 1000 words, but I do follow all the challenges, secret santas, etc. even when I don’t contribute.
The Hobbit/LotR – I can get lost in long Hobbit fanfic for days but my own writing tends more to the LotR end of the story.
I’ve read all the Professionals Big Bang fics this year and will still read novel length works but tend not to bother with anything under 1000 words. I haven’t written anything recently.
Stargate Atlantis. I have downloaded all the longer stories in the secret santa and am looking forward to luxuriating. I really ought to finish my own WIP…
Bandom – there’s a dearth of long AU fics – the kind I adore – since the bands started to disintegrate. I have never written in the fandom but some of my all-time favourite reading is there.
Hawaii 5.0 I love the longer fics but have lost interest in the show – too much stress on family problems and not enough on the tight team ensemble/casework that attracted me in the first place. I’ve written the guys into a spoof crossover but I find writing American characters difficult.
Star Trek. I like most of the characters and enjoy the sci fi component. I don’t write it myself because the combination of mostly US cast plus technical detail looks hard to manage.
My most popular works according to AO3 are still
The Paths of the Living (LotR and my first/only threesome/incest story)
First (Rome, and perhaps the story I’m most proud of.)
The Crying Game (Grimm, written for a challenge and unlikely to be followed – I wrote a ‘first time romance’ for them, including a case to solve, and that, says my brain, is that.)
I continue to be a bit of a fandom magpie. Working for AO3 as a staffer brings me into contact with a lot of fandoms I would not usually consider and I will try anything once! That and icon making (which I find relaxing) are my other main contributions to being a fan. I didn’t manage any conventions this year but did have meet-ups with fannish friends from various places – Portugal, Germany, England, and Finland (although she lives in UK and I saw her in Portugal). There was to be a meeting with a US friend who was visiting UK but when we saw the rail prices and timetables we gave up. One sad note was the loss of a Pros artist friend in Japan, in January 2016. It wasn’t just the rich and famous who disappeared from our lives.
Altogether a satisfying year in terms of reading, watching and listening, and I hope 2017 will be as interesting and full of mostly excellent surprises.
I’ve decided that quality is better than quantity – and more likely to be achieved. So I thought long and hard about what I didn’t do in 2016 and what I want out of 2017. I ignored the ongoing things that we all promise ourselves every year like healthy eating or tidying the shelves. Here are my three resolutions, which I am calling the 3 Ps.
1. Publish, publish, publish. There are two novels and a novella languishing on my hard drive which are doing nobody any good at all. Last year I managed one novel, some poems on WordPress, some flash fics on WordPress and Dreamwidth and some fanfic on AO3. Must do better!
2. Post, post, post. I can hardly believe how few posts I managed in 2016. I must try harder, prepare stuff in advance, cross post to various social media, and regard it all as marketing myself as well as my work. I have very little idea of why it doesn’t happen but I am determined to make more effort!
3. Photograph (and photoshop). I love making e-cards, icons, banners, online jigsaws and my own book covers. I find it really relaxing and have the quite costly tools to do it properly. However, somehow it gets crowded out of my life and I don’t want that to happen!
I suppose I had better look back at this at the end of the year!