Books I read in 2017

Last year was much like a rollercoaster. I already knew beforehand that things would be messy throughout the year, so I was rather cautious when setting goals for myself. That was especially true regarding reading: I only set to read twelve books last year. That’s the way I am, I like to keep my expectations low. And somehow things worked out pretty good for me last year. Maybe because I wasn’t feeling much pressure or maybe because I was feeling extremely motivated with a second baby at home. Whatever the reason, truth is that I outdid my expectations and I read twenty-two books in 2017. It could be much better, I know, especially considering that I took a long summer holiday and didn’t read much during the hottest months of the year. But I’m okay with it.

As usual, I read quite an eclectic mix of books. Some good and some nay; many long books and a few shorter ones; and mostly fiction. One of the highlights of my reading year was to finish the Harry Potter series and what an end it was. I am sad it took me so long to finally read them, but at the same time, I’m happy I did it now, when I can fully appreciate them. There have been a couple of disappointments as well. One of them would be Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory, which had been on my TBR list for a while – it wasn’t that bad but the blurb was rather misleading and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have, had I known that it was solely a somewhat fictional biography of Margaret Tudor, queen of the Scots. Another disappointment was A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, but I was prepared for that one. The second installment of that series was so terrible that anything would be good in comparison and keeping that in mind, A Conjuring of Light wasn’t that bad.

Anyway, enough about bad books. Let’s focus on the good, better and best. Here’s my top five of 2017.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling.

1984 by George Orwell.

I am aiming higher this year and I want to read at least twenty-four books in 2018. I have already started with Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff, a retelling of Homer’s Illiad. And next on my list are Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, White Fang by Jack London and Death’s End by Cixin Liu.

I also want to read more short stories and novelettes but being realistic, time is already scarce for so much reading and writing, so let’s see where this year takes me.

I still have to do a round-up post with my favorite flash and short stories of 2017. But in the meantime, happy reading!

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A year in review

Today is the last day of the year and I can’t think of a better moment to look back and reflect on everything that has happened this year. 2017 has been a good year. I could have been better. But it could always be better, so I’m not going to complain. Not at all.

I haven’t had much time to write or read – at least not as much as I would have liked – and yet I feel rather accomplished. I think I have the right to feel so. I ought to feel so. After all, 2017 has been my rookie year as a writer. 2017 has been the year when I first got published; it’s been the year when first believed that I could really be an author. I mean, I was already a writer, I’ve probably been a writer most of my life. But now I know that I can take my passion further, that I might have what it takes. Or at least some percentage of it.

I had set myself some goals at the beginning of the year and while I haven’t met all of them, I am more than happy with the outcome. I knew that this year would be a busy one, so I didn’t have too many expectations and perhaps not being too ambitious has paid off. I wanted to read twelve books this year – that’s a meagre one per month – and I didn’t do bad at all with twenty-two books. I will tell you more about my favorite books of the year in another post, though. I had also made some writing resolutions, which you can read here. I only fulfilled half of them but as I already said, I feel very, very accomplished. Anyhow, let’s see what’s happened this year.

I didn’t finish the first draft of the novel I had in mind. In fact, I didn’t even try. I was way too busy to focus on something so big and I really don’t think I will be able to do this any time soon. I just don’t feel ready yet. And funny thing, the more I learn about the craft of writing, the less ready I feel. Maybe there will be a point along the learning curve where these negative feelings will melt away and I will be ready to write a masterpiece. Hopefully.

I did write twelve short stories, though not one every month. But it’s the total number what counts, isn’t it? I rewrote and edited some of those stories and I sent a few out there, into the big unknown. And some of them got published! I couldn’t even believe my eyes when I first got a mail saying that one of my stories had been accepted for publication. All in all, I had two stories published at 365 tomorrows (plus one forthcoming any day soon), two other stories published at Everyday Fiction, and two other stories out there at Zer0flash and one of them got a honorable mention at their monthly flash fiction contest.

I haven’t blogged as regularly as I would have liked to but with one post a month, I consider that I didn’t do too bad. I’m hoping to get better at it this year. Especially now that I have moved sites and I am the proud owner of my own domain.

And finally, I think I have gotten better at writing. I am polishing my writing skills one story at a time. Sentence by sentence and word by word. And I want to keep on getting better because the more I know, the more I realize how little I know.

And that was 2017 in a nutshell. I still have to think of my goals for the year about to begin. I think I will do it tomorrow while I lay on the beach. Until then, have a good evening, my friends. And all the best for 2018.

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What I read {December 2017}

Very quick post, as I am busy enjoying a much needed family holiday in sunny Tenerife. Yep, we are this lucky! Not only are we spending Christmas on a subtropical island, but the weather is being incredibly good and we’re planning on starting 2018 at the beach … but first let’s get done with 2017.

December has been a rather good month regarding reading. And a beautiful one. My picks for this month were a mix of classics and christmassy reads and I have enjoyed all of them. All three books are potential rereads in the future, so I’m not going into much detail today.

BOOKS

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

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Letters to Father Christmas, by J. R. R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

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I haven’t read that many short stories lately. That should definitely change in the near future, though to be honest, I am already spotting a pattern in here. I start the year dutifully, reading A LOT but as the months go by my reading dwindles, especially once I reach the number of books I set to read at the beginning of the year. And it happened more or less the same with short and flash stories. Maybe I should aim for consistency and not only quality. Anyway, here’s a story I particularly enjoyed this month.

The Weatherman, by Saniya Heeba (Daily Science Fiction)

 

And that’s all for the time being. See you in 2018. Have a blast tonight!

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Wrapping up the year

Even though I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to write/edit/submit, I am quite satisfied about the way things have gone around here. I am planning on writing a year review post soonish (probably on 2018 already) but in the meantime, here’s a post with the latest news on my writing journey.

I think it is safe now to say that 2017 has been my rookie year as a writer. Or better said, as a published writer. So far, I have published four stories, plus I got a honorable mention at a competition last month. Not bad. And just in time for Christmas, I have another story out there. And it’s a christmassy one. It is my entry for this month’s competition at Zer0flash (yep, I liked it so much that I went and wrote another story this month). You can read Santa Hits on Grandma here. Also, I have another flash story forthcoming at 365 tomorrows, which might be out any time, hopefully sooner than later.

December has been a particularly fruitful month, as I managed to write, edit and submit four short stories. And all that while juggling with two overexcited kiddos and packing for a three-week holiday. Kudos to that. But there are, as usual, bits and pieces I couldn’t finish, so I already have quite some things on my list for 2018. First on my list is editing a short story I wrote in November and second, finishing the first draft of another story which has been on my mind for quite some time now and I began writing in September or October. Hopefully I’ll get through the revision of the former in January and the first draft of the latter in February – I know I’m up to a busy start of the year so I don’t have much hopes to get both done in January, but who knows. I often get way more done when I am extremely busy than when I don’t have anything on my plate, as it happened last summer.

Also, I would like to try and translate the stories I published this year into Spanish and see if I can find them a home somewhere else. I really don’t know how this will work out. I am not the best writer in Spanish, even though it is my mother tongue. Maybe it’s because I no longer read much in Spanish, but I feel that my writing in Spanish is really stiff. It could be that I just needs some practice … and lots of reading. Anyway, this is only a tentative idea. Translating is a much different business than writing and I’m definitely a newbie at that.

Other than that, I haven’t really thought of any concrete goals for the next year yet. I might think about it in the upcoming days. I know I would like to finally make it into the pro-paying publications but that’s not entirely within y power. The only thing I can do is write, write, write and hope for the best.

Well, I think that’s all for the time being. And as I am on holidays on sunny Tenerife, I think this will be all until next year. So have a holly, jolly Christmas! And a cup of good cheer!

Love,

Irene

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A story and some photos of Dublin

Three years ago I lived in Dublin for half a year. It was probably one of the most bittersweet times in my life. Bitter because I was in a long-distance relation during that time and that sucks. And sweet because Dublin is, well, grand and I truly enjoyed my time there.

Three years later, I still find myself reminiscing about my time there quite often and finding Dublin a most inspiring city. And sometimes that inspiration materialises in a story or poem. And one of such stories is Whispered Words in Dublin. It has already been out there for quite some time but I only realised it was already published at Zer0flash a few days ago … yes, I can be that thick. Anyhow, you can read Whispered Words in Dublin here. Scroll down and down, my story is nearly at the end.

Zer0flash magazine runs a monthly flash fiction competition and Whispered Words in Dublin was my entry for November’s competition. The prompt was to write a story about an inanimate object which suddenly starts talking. And guess what?! My story was highly commended. I was the runner-up! Not bad for my first try at their competition. I’m very happy about it. Congrats to all the winners. Great stories.

And back to Dublin, here are a few pictures of my time there. Hope you see what I see in Dublin. Hope you’ll be as mesmerised as I was and wish you could go there, return there, and stay longer. Just like the character in my story did.

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And funny thing, I am right in the middle of a first draft of another story set in Dublin. I better get off and write.

Cheers,

Irene

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What I read {November 2017}

December is definitely my favourite month of the year. It is cold outside and cosy inside. And while many people go crazy Christmas shopping, I spend the weekends baking biscuits, which are the perfect company for a mug of hot chocolate. And mug of hot chocolate and a book, that’s it. So, yes, December is also the perfect time to spend many evenings reading without feeling any remorse for not being enjoying the nice weather or whatever it is going on outside (the only valid excuse would be a visit to a Christmas market, which is always a must around here).

I have already reached my target for this year, which was to read a meagre twelve books, so I’m in no rush. But my TBR pile keeps growing and growing, so I’m happy to have some more time now to get down to it and I am planning to do some Chrismassy reads in between. In fact, I’m currently busy with A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. But enough about current happenings. Let’s focus on what I read last month, which wasn’t too much but still, there are some interesting books and stories in the mix.

BOOKS

The Dark Forest, by Liu Cixin. It’s been a while since I read The Three Body Problem, so I was a bit lost at first with The Dark Forest and it took me a while to pick up steam. But when I did, i couldn’t put it down. Coincidentally, this happened around page 200 or so, shortly after the end of the first part of the book, which is rather tedious and cheesy at times. But the rest of the books is pretty good. Had me thinking about many a philosophical dilemmas afterwards.

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Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. A much loved and hated classic which I had neglected until now. I’m happy I finally found some time to read it, as I’m on the love side. However, and probably quite oddly, I wasn’t fully taken by the charms of Elizabeth Bennet. I favoured her sister Jane much more as a rounded character, even if she is rather plain. Mr Bennet and Mr Darcy were also very fine gentlemen in my opinion.

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SHORT STORIES

  • Losing Saffy, by Kim Kneen (365 tomorrows)
  • I won at NaSuHeMo!, by Marissa Lingen (Daily Science Fiction) – I had a big laugh reading this one. If you have ever inflicted yourself some pain by doing a NaNoWriMo and wished you had never gotten there; whether you have won or lost, you surely deserve to smile once or twice while reading this goofy story.

 

And this is all for today. And it might be all for a long while, since I am moving! Yep, I purchased my own domain and you can find me now at Irene Montaner. Be pretty and drop by. Say hi if you feel like.

Have a jolly December!

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What I read {October 2017}

Hi there! Another month is gone and there are only two more. So it is time for another recap on what I read last month. I’m going to be very brief this month because my laptop’s screen has broken and I can only see what I’m writing on the sides of the screen but not in the middle. So no reason to ramble if I cannot make sure that my ramblings are correctly written. Thus, without further ado, here’s what I read in October.

BOOKS

A Conjuring Of Light, by V.E. Schwab. I feel like I have been reading this sine forever, though in the end it only took me three months and a half (and I wasn’t reading it for nearly two of them). It was ok; slightly worse than the first book intros series and better than its predecessor. All in all, it was a decent end to the Darker Shades of Magic series.

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Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory. I went very quickly through this one. It wasn’t particularly good but it was a page turner nevertheless. The reason why I problaby didn’t enjoy it wholeheartedly is because I never warmed up to the protagonist, Margaret Tudor (wife of James IV of Scotland). It still made an interesting read.

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The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay. Another classic I’ve read this year. I don’t have much to say about it – I feel a bit meh about reading drama just for myself … maybe I should try reading it aloud.

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SHORT STORIES

The Seven Deadly Genes, by Candice Lim (Daily Science Fiction, October 2017)

Glass, by Adam Dean (Daily Science Fiction, October 2017)

What I Told My Little Girl About The Aliens Preparing To Grind Us Into Hamburgers, by Adam Troy-Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2017)

And finally, a link to a podcast I found rather interesting by Gabriela Pereira, founder of DIY MFA. I’m a regular visitor to her site, which is always full of great advice for aspiring writers, and also a subscriber to her newsletter, which is how I found out about this podcast interview she had recorded for TCK Publishing. She talks about certain strategies that might help you become a better writer and also goes a bit about how she came up with the idea for her site and how it is structured.

And that’s all for today. Enjoy a cosy November!

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