Tag Archive | Matt Dunn

A to Z Reading Challenge 2011

Ok, so I’m a little late doing this, sorry, but better late than never eh!

In late 2010, I heard some people talking about reading novels from A to Z. I thought, what a brilliant idea, and decided to set myself a challenge of doing exactly that in 2011. As I was writing a blog about it, it occurred to me that other people may have the same idea. I googled A to Z Challenge and found this site – A to Z Challenge I didn’t have to start one all by myself!

I started with no plan at all, except to read the A to Z (author surname) in order, and stick pretty much to just those 26 books. In 2010 I’d read about 24 books, so knew I wasn’t going to be able to read many more than the 26.

Of course as time went by and I made my way through the challenge, I found there were other books I really wanted to read that either were a letter way further down the line, or that had a letter I’d already read, or already planned what I was going to read for it. I let myself read a couple of other novels – but only if I REALLY wanted to needed to.

I did cheat a little. Kinna. I didn’t actually finish 26 novels. There were 3 letters that for different reasons I didn’t finish the novel.

Letter L was Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee, I started it and was enjoying it, but it was all about sex, when this girl had it, where she had it and how much she thought about it. Nothing really wrong with that, but I do most of my reading on the tube, I felt embarrassed reading it on the tube, so picked up M, and told myself I’d read L at home. I never got round to it.

Letter O was a really good book – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I got it from the library (a god send, I couldn’t have afforded 26 books in 1 year on top of the ‘really want ones’), and took it to Sweden when I went. I’m not sure if it was on the flight, at the hotel, or our friends’ house, but somewhere I lost it. Typical. I ended up having to pay it in the end anyway. I’d gone on to P while I was away, and just never got the opportunity to go back to it. At some point, I would like to buy it, or borrow it and finish reading it.

Letter Z was a hard one, which I started before a few other letters. I unexpectedly finished the novel I was reading on a Sunday and didn’t have a chance to go and get the next letter. Boyfriend came to the rescue and gave me a Z – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was sci-fi which isn’t my choice, but I’d borrowed a couple off him in the years previously which I quite enjoyed. Lord of Light was not another one though. I just couldn’t get into, or really understand it. I gave it 50 or so pages, but couldn’t go on. When I gave it back to boyfriend, he said he’d had a hard job getting into it. Sigh.

So, I didn’t make 26 novels, but I started them all. In my book I finished it – yay!

Also, I didn’t review all, or add any of my review to the site, but to be honest, I didn’t find the website too easy to navigate, and lets face it, all I need is a little excuse and I won’t do something. I guess technically if I didn’t check-in, I didn’t really do it. In my mind I did though!

I’m really glad I did the challenge, I read a lot of authors that I’d never had done otherwise, and you know me, I love a challenge. But, I’d never do it again. I found it WAY too constrictive, and because I knew I couldn’t really read many other books, I felt guilty when reading one that wouldn’t go towards the challenge. There were times when I just HAD to read other books – like The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon and Faking It by Lotte Daley – and there were many, many more times when I wanted to read another book, but just couldn’t. There were also quite a few letters where I was so torn over which novel to read. M was a good example, I had about 3 books with the letter M on my TBR shelf at home. So what did I do? I went out and bought another. Typical! It was New Moon (Twilight) by Stephanie Meyer.

I discovered some brilliant authors because of the challenge though – Jeff Abbott, Allison Brennan, Ilana Fox Rob Ryan, Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and Minette Walters. Weird – most of the new good authors write thrillers… what does that tell me? I say I prefer women’s lit (chick-lit), but it’s a close call. I did discover new chick-lit authors, but when I discovered them, I read them out of sequence and out of the challenge because I just HAD to read them there and then (Ali McNamara and Lotte Daley)

I know all the books are listed on my ‘Books’ page, but here’s a list of them – from A to Z. Just for fun, I’m putting a comment and rating out of 5 after each one – not something I usually do. The ones which I have reviewed have the links to the actual review.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – brilliant. Can’t wait to read the other ones in the series – 4.5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern – Prefered her earlier stuff, but still pretty good – 4/5 (I couldn’t choose between the As, so read them both)

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – Loved it, love his work – 5/5

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – So happy I discovered her. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series 4.5/5 (ditto the comment re A for B)

The Famous Writer’s School by Stephen Carter – Not what I imagined. 2.5/5

Ex-Girlfiends United by Matt Dunn – Little slow 2.5/5

Past Mortem by Ben Elton – Good, he’s done better, but still good – 4/5

Spotlight by Ilana Fox – Didn’t expect to, but loved it 4.5/5

The Love Verb by Jane Green – As usual loved it – 4.5/5

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes – Slow 2/5

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro – Couldn’t get over the cultural difference – 2/5

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Once got into it, really enjoyed – 4/5

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Loved every second – 4.5/5

Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee – what I read was good. I will finish it at some point 3/5

Twilight: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – Not as great as Twilight, but still good. 4/5

One Day by David Nicholls – Took a long time to get into it. Had me crying like a baby at the end though. 3.5/5

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell* – I need to finish this – 3/5

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks – as always a brilliant read from Ms Parks  4.5/5

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – took ages to get into the story – 2.5/5

Trans Am by Rob Ryan – fast paced, gripping – 4.5/5

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton – loved. Better than her first (and, you know –New York) – 4.5/5

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Brilliant 4.5/5

Die for You by Lisa Unger – Not what I expected in a really good way. 4/5

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine – slow, slightly boring. 2.5/5

The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Excellent – 4.5/5

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu – Really enjoyed it 4/5

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto* – again, couldn’t get over the cultural differences 2/5

Lord of light by Roger Zelazny – just couldn’t get into it – sci-fi really isn’t my thing – 1/5

All in all, it was a good year, but I’m glad it’s over and I can read what I want to read, not what’s next on the list!

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Quite A Lot of Thoughts for A Thursday Night

I worked an early shift today. On the way home I decided NOT to go to the gym (I was meant to be going out so wasn’t supposed to be going anyway – that’s my excuse). My housemate wasn’t going to be in for an hour or so, so I thought I’d get my Fiction Friday story done. And a blog. And did I? Bet you can guess!

First I got sucked into making dinner. Then my new novel (Until it’s Over by Nicci French – I literally haven’t been able to put it down today. How come no one told me about her before?). Then when I was going to start writing I remembered I wanted to make Brownies for work tomorrow (it’s one of the team’s last day so thought it would be nice – plus I’ve been promising I’ll make something for well over a year now!). So now at gone 10, I’m starting a blog. Dunno if I’ll get as far as doing the Fiction Friday thing, I might just add a little more to the ‘Holiday’ scene I wrote yesterday.

Oh wow, yesterday. Yesterday was of course the Chick Lit Evening at Brixton Library. Now for those of you that aren’t familiar with London – Brixton is pretty far South. I live near-ish Tottenham which is pretty far North, and I work somewhere in the middle. So yes, it was well out of my way. But was it worth it? Hell yeah. Lisa Jewell, Jenny Colgan, Matt Dunn, Jojo Moyes, Kate Harrison and Rebecca Chance were all there. First they each did a reading, then answered questions from one of the library staff then the audience. There wasn’t as big turn out as I imagined there would’ve been, but that was almost a good thing, there weren’t 100s of people asking questions, and I had a really good view from the 3rd row.

Every extract from the novels that were read were great, I’m telling you there’s some new novels on my TBR list now! All the authors seemed honest and funny and like they genuinely wanted to be there. It was great. Just sitting listening to them talk about how they started writing, or how they got agents, or where they get their ideas from really inspired me to write more. I don’t want to be famous – I’m not all that good being in the lime light (hence I hide behind this NTWG front) but how awesome would it be to sit on a stage with 5 other people and talk about doing the job you love. Seriously – I want to do it!

Brixon library got a cake and on top of it were pictures of each one of each of their books. It was amazing. I’ve got a picture I’ll post of it when I download it from my phone.

At the end they had a boo signing. I really wanted to go up for a chat, but didn’t have any of their books to get them to sign, and we’re well past the time of the month that I can splash out on books. I’m actually really annoyed at myself cause I’d just finished a Kate Harrison book (Brown Owl’s Guide to LIfe – great book!) which I should’ve taken to get signed. Oh well. Next time.

The highlight of my evening was when Lisa Jewell caught my eye and must’ve recognised me from last time I met her (in April I think at another one of these author things I won a ticket to – just her that time) cause she smiled and lipped hello. At least I think it was at me anyway, ha ha.

So that’s 1 of my fun book/author things for the next two weeks. On Monday I’m going to a ‘How to Get Your Book Published’ night put on my a London Magazine Stylist. I had to pay for this one which I was pretty outraged at (not really, just all the other things I’ve been to have been free – but this will probably be the most useful). When I saw it advertised I ummd and ahhed about it, but, Lisa Jewell’s going to be there (I hope she doesn’t think I’m her new stalker) and so is Sophie Kinsella. I had to go didn’t I? Plus, champagne and canapes. HAD to!

Then on Wednesday I’m going to Rowan Coleman’s book launch party for The Happy Home for Broken Hearts. Saying that, I’ve not been confirmed on the list, but she said first 40 people to review one of her novels and I was the 2nd or 3rd, so pretty confident about that one.

The winners of the Rowan Coleman Short Story Competition were released today. I didn’t come top 8, but with over 300 entries I didn’t really expect to. She’s going to post the winning stories on her site over the next few days, so I’m going to read and learn from them. I’m so glad I entered, it made me realise that’s entering isn’t all that scary, even I can do it. Next step is magazine submissions I guess. Gulp!

When I was at work today I decided I’d write my Fiction Friday piece. I read the prompt and knew exactly how to start it. I was going to use Kate from Holiday again, cause I really like getting in her head and I’m there a lot of the time at the moment anyway (all my daily writing is her), and I knew where it would fit into the story (even if it’s not used in the novel itself). But then I started thinking more about it. Bad move. I then came up with a couple of ideas of where to take it. Then I couldn’t decide which one to use. The result was I didn’t write it. Damn it.

Then of course I decided to set a challenge for my Twitter friends. Well, not so much a challenge, more I asked for some help. Last night I replied to a couple of comments on here. That took my comments up to 666, which kinna freaked me out a little. By lunchtime today, it was still on 666. I’m not really superstitious or anything, but just didn’t like being stuck on there. I didn’t want to comment on anything myself for the sake of it, so I asked for help. And put an incentive out there too. I said I’d name a character in my Fiction Friday piece after the next person to comment on my blog. Bless Walt from WaltinPA – he commented (Thank you so so much Walt). I’ve got a couple of ideas of who ‘Walt’ is going to be. I wonder which one I’ll go with… Oh I’ve just thought, if I go with one I might be able to get my favourite word ever in it – ‘cantankerous’. Excellent.

I feel like there’s something important I was going to blog about and can’t remember what it was. Maybe one day I’ll plan a blog so this doesn’t happen.

Oh I know. My job! From sat around doing nothing today, I’ve managed to get a couple of people suggesting jobs to me, that I think I’d be in a pretty good position of getting.

The first one is for the company I work for now. My boss suggested it last week and I said no way – for about a week every 2 or 3 weeks I’d have to be in work at 7.30am. I’d have to leave my house at 6.30am. I’d therefore have to get up around 5.30am *shudder* I am NOT a morning person. My boss obviously wants to keep me cause she said she’d have a word with the manager over at that site to see if they’d like someone on the late shift (9.00 – 6.00pm) predominantly. Today she came back and said yes. Now because it’s a different site and the way my company works, I’d have to apply for it, but I think I’d be in a pretty good position to get it! Result. Except I hate the company I work for. But a job’s a job right.

Until. I was chatting to someone at the site I work at (a different company) and he mentioned he’s looking for an administrator. I said no straight away, but thought about it and thought it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. The money’s a little less than I’m on now, but it’s 2 1/2 hours LESS work a week do now, and 5 hours less than this other job I’m looking at. And finishes at a nicer time.

Either way, I’m not going to be able to spend as much time at work writing, blogging, tweeting etc which is a shame, but I’ve had a good run of 18 months doing it. I think if I get an iphone or something similar I’ll be able to still tweet and keep up to date with blogs and stuff. And if I get either of these jobs I’ll be finishing earlier so hopefully I’ll be able to get more done in the evening. Especially as the next few months will probably see quite a significant change in my living arrangements, meaning I’ll be more able to work in the evenings. But that’s a story for another time.

I’ve just realised how long this blog is, sorry to keep you so long. If you’ve even made it this far!!