The past year, December reads and New Year’s resolutions

Whoa, it’s the last day of 2006 already? At the risk of sounding trite and unoriginal… where did the year go? It’s sure had it’s ups and downs and looking back, happily it seems there were many more ups than downs. For example:

1. Having my dad move in with us. The kids love having granddad around and aside from cooking a mean salmon and potato wedges on the grill, he’s an awesome babysitter.

2. Turning 41. (BTW, this was no biggie and call me weird but I really didn’t mind turning 40 at all, either. Turning 26 was the big one for me – suddenly you’re officially nearer 30 than 20 – gak! And I seem to recall turning 29 was a real bummer, too, even though I can’t quite remember why. But 40? Nah, it was awesome! Hubby is turning 40 this year – yes, I am a cradle-snatcher – so I’m having fun planning his big celebration to remember, too. Perhaps a cruise? Or a lovely hotel on a sandy beach somewhere in the islands? I know, I’ll take him to the Romance Writers of America conference! Hmmmm… maybe I won’t get away with that but one can always dream, anyway.)

3. Taking up Ceroc dancing again after a rather long hiatus – think 10 or so years – and loving it! (I do confess I met my hubby at a Ceroc class in 1989 and I was his dance teacher for while. Awwwww… ain’t that sweet? Actually, it is really kinda romantic, now I come to think about it :-))

4. Selling up and buying another house, both of which unfortunately meant dealing with real estate agents and lawyers – don’t get me started!

5. Moving house. This was an unexpectedly great experience thanks to the best moving company ever. I never ever EVER want to sell or buy another house again but I might consider moving again. Maybe. As long as I had the same moving company, the same two brilliant women who helped me pack and the same three guys who packed all our stuff in the truck and then unpacked it all at the other end.

5. Finalling in the Clendon and the Golden Gateway in the same week! (With a manuscript that I really only entered because I wanted some feedback as no-one had got around to reading it for me and I suspected I was rather delusional when I thought it might be okay. Just goes to show, huh? That ms ain’t doing much good scrunched up in that bottom drawer or peeping bashfully out from amongst the billions of other files on your computer. Go on, take a chance and send your baby out there!)

6. Attending my third RWNZ writers’ conference (my second as conference treasurer). The guest speakers were amazing and the conference went (almost) without a hitch. They just keep getting better.

7. Winning the Clendon Award and giving my acceptance speech at the conference awards dinner – can’t think of anything to top that right now! (Alright, well maybe a publishing contract?)

8. Being interviewed by a local newspaper. Since there was a photographer involved and I can’t wear makeup, I was sure I’d look an absolute fright and might be held responsible for giving small children nightmares. So since the photo didn’t turn out half bad after all, a resounding ‘thank-you!’ and cyber kisses of gratefulness go out to the photographer, James, who somehow made a silk purse out of a veritable sow’s ear.

9. Losing our beloved 17-year-old cat and then having the SPCA find her for us an entire 10 days after she disappeared.

10. Getting through the lead-up to another Christmas with a minimum of stress, angst, tears and credit card bills.

11. Realizing my kids still believe in Santa and spending a wonderfully laid-back and relaxing Christmas Day with another family who were also on their own for Christmas – what more could one ask for? (Well, actually, a few more book vouchers for birthday presents – hint, hint – would be really appreciated since I’ve devoured all my planned holiday reading and have had to resort to re-reading old favourites. Luckily, I have quite a few to choose from so I’m not going spare just yet. You have been warned.)

And speaking of books, here’s what I’ve been reading this month. As I mentioned before, some of these listed are books I’ve already read, because being a serial reader (pun intended), as soon as I buy another book in one of my ongoing collections, I go back and re-read the first book, the second and sometimes even the third (or in the case of Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series, try books 1-10 AND a prequel!) of the series again. I guess it sure means I get good value from that $24.99!

Top pick this month ended up being five top picks (hey, I was distracted by Christmas, okay?), all with a historical bent. The first three are a fantasy trilogy set in the time of Bonaparte and Nelson: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, by Naomi Novik. They’re all utterly charming books and infused with this kind of undefinable ‘something’ that makes them really special and still have the power to make me smile. If I could bottle this ‘something’ and sell it I’d be rich! (I understand our very own Peter Jackson – obviously a very discerning man – is going to make a movie out of ‘His Majesty’s Dragon’. I can’t wait!!!) Men should enjoy this trilogy, too, as it’s chock-full of naval strategies and heaps of war references.

My fourth top pick is a historical paranormal called The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe. It’s incredible and utterly breathstealing… whoa, baby! I’m completely in awe – paranormal romance fans, you HAVE to read it! (And I’ll be re-reading it sooner rather than later. This one’s definitely a keeper.)

And fifth, but definitely not least, is a book I bought for hubby’s Christmas stocking by Bill Bryson; one of my favourite writers. It’s called ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ and is all about his childhood and growing up in Iowa. Hubby insists that you really have to be male to understand what’s so hilariously laugh-out-loud hysterical about it. I thought it was great, too, even though I did a lot of my laughing on the inside coz I just didn’t feel like being stared at by passersby strolling along the street on their way to the Pauanui General Store. I now have an insight into why most boys deem scabs, incendiary devices and getting into trouble by doing truly stupid things so much an essential part of growing up. A must-read for any parent with a son.

And here’s the full list of my December reads:

-Undead and Unemployed, Undead and Unappreciated, Undead and Unreturnable, all by Mary Janice Davidson
-Master of Swords by Angela Knight
-Minion, The Awakening, The Hunted, all by L.A. Banks (Yes, I know I read The Awakening last month but after buying books 1 and 3, of course I had to read them all in THE RIGHT ORDER :-) )
-How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks
-Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
-Two for the Dough, Three to Get Dead, Four to Score, Hard Eight, by the incomparable Janet Evanovich (and before you say anything, I’ve already read High Five, Hot Six & Seven Up, and I will read them all in the correct order at some stage… probably next time I’ve got the flu, am stuck in bed for a week and can therefore indulge in all 8 books, one after the other. Ahhhhh the anticipated bliss. Almost worth getting deliberately sick for!)
-Warprize, Warsworn, by Elizabeth Vaughn
-The Heatseekers by Zane
-The CEO’s Contract Bride by Yvonne Lindsay
-Faking It by Jennie Crusie
-Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie (Interesting the way she’s known as Jennie in the UK and Jennifer in the US. What’s with that?)
-Time After Time by Constance Day-Flannery

Currently I’m tackling ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and now that I’m no longer distracted by hubby’s loud guffawing over The Thunderbolt Kid and just having to know why he’s laughing and thereby pausing in my reading to insist he read me whatever excerpt he’s finding so funny, I might have a chance of actually finishing it!

Happy New Year’s Eve 2006, everyone! Time for me to turn off the computer, crack open the French bubbly and go teach my kids to make pizza for dinner. But before I go, I did mention a New Year’s Resolution so I’d better make one up in a hurry. Ummmmm… it’s the same as the coaster on my desk. That’s to ‘never never NEVER give up’ – writing, that is!

:-) M

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