Publish and be damned!

by tosca on Sunday, January 31, 2010

I don't have love letters, I've never met a duke and I'm sure as heck no courtesan. So why the post title? I'm going to publish my Feb romance reading list - and I don't care what you think. Of romance or my choices :)

I 'came out' as a romance reader late 2008 and, even then, only because I took over Danielle's newsletter when she went on leave. With much misgiving (her leaving and my taking it over). What did I know about romance? I don't even believe in it for myself. With some trepidation I did some research (i.e. asked Google) and ended up at GoodReads hunting around for a group of people I could relate to. Found the Romance Readers Reading Challenges group and have never looked back. Now, as a matter of course, I'm quite blatant about the fact that I read romance (on the train, on the bus, at my desk, online, in hardcopy, on the lawn, in my house, at your house). Now, a year and a half later, I enjoy editing the newsletters and I enjoy romance novels in all their gloriousness. The good, the bad and the butt-ugly. If my library romance newsletters are any good it's thanks to the people and topics in this forum! So there.

2010 January monthly challenge - each month you're given 10 categories that will allow you to pick 10 books to read:
1. Book starts with "F" - A Fine Passion by Stephanie Laurens OR Forbidden by Suzanne Brockmann
2. Birthday book - To the Limit by Cindy Gerard (book 2 in the Bodyguards series) from LibraryLass
3. Geography: Indiana - Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare
4. Favourites pick - Menagerie Manor by Gerald Durrell (he is my idol)
5. Valentine's Day - Sometimes When We Kiss by Linda Goodnight OR Kiss and Tell by Diney Delancey
6. Black History Month - tbc
7. Romance genre: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance as edited by Trisha Telep
8. President's Day - Savannah: Or a Gift For Mr. Lincoln by John Jakes OR Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
9. International Friendship Month - Intercourse by Robert Olen Butler as recommended by my friend Phillippa (subversive library staff member and book babe extraordinaire)
10. Reader's Choice - tbc

Read the month challenge : February - take the letters of the month, and find a book where author surname starts with this letter or a book title that starts with the given letter:
F - A Fine Passion by Stephanie Laurens
E - Edmund Bertram's Diary by Amanda Grange OR The Edge of Desire by Stephanie Laurens
B - Bare Necessities by Marie Donovan
R - The Rake's Wicked Proposal by Carole Mortimer OR Runaway Miss by Mary Nichols
U - Undressed by Heather Macallister
A - At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh
R - A Rake's Vow by Stephanie Laurens OR Rational Romance by Melinda Hammond
Y - Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase

February pick it for me challenge - randomly assigned giver/givee pairings where random books are chosen and suggested (pairs view each other's bookshelves for ideas):
Fantastic recommendations by BJ Rose - 8 in all and I have to narrow it down to 1 from:
* Julie Garwood: The Prize
* Saving Grace
* Linda Howard: The Touch Of Fire
* Son of the Morning
* The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
* Sharp Objects: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
* The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
* The Sunday Philosophy Club

God defend New Zealand - 1 NZ book a month:
February: All Black's Kitchen Gardens by Tim Jones – nonfiction

That's my list for this month. Eep o_O

God defend New NZ book resolution...

by tosca on Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sweeping statement (which are always the worst, aren't they?): I don't read a lot of NZ authors as an adult because I don't like them much. As a child, yes. As a teen, absolutely. As an adult - next to nil. If I see an NZ sticker on the spine in the library I quite happily cruise right on past. In fact, if it weren't for the library bookclub I wouldn't read any. Last year I read 'Mr. Pip' by Lloyd Jones and this year, so far, I've read 'The 10pm Question' by Kate de Goldi and 'Ruined' by Paula Morris. I enjoyed 'Ruined.' So much so, in fact, that I've decided to read 1 NZ book a month.

Why my unpatriotic stance? At the risk of looking dozy, I don't really identify with a lot of NZ books. Which sounds totally daft because I edit our romance newsletter and neither do I identify with a Greek gazillionaire tycoon nor an impossible virgin secretary, yet I read those quite happily LOL Maybe, then, it's that I identify too much. It's like...I don't read romance stories with Maori or African-Americans because the character voices - and the possibilities - would feel too much like I was looking into my sibling's backyard (although considering mainstream romance includes anal which has become the new oral eek). That would strike too close to home. It could *gasp* happen (not the anal-as-oral but the voices being 'familiar'). And I think I'd prefer to have it all one step removed (one giant leap backward for my peace of mind...).

This year I decided to get out of my comfort zone a bit (or maybe step back into it, I'm not totally sure yet) and pick 12 (ok, I lie, I picked 14 in total, maths was never my forte) books across kids, teens and adults (fiction and nonfiction) to try. In any one month I read anywhere from 20-30 books, so fitting in another 1 or 2 could be interesting. Or awful. I'm about to find out. There are no re-reads on this list - every book will be a first-time read for me - as if I were an impossible virgin secretary but yet not o_O

I had no clue which author, book, genre etc. to start with seeing as it had been years since I'd read NZ-anything and queried that on twitter. @senjmito suggested starting with NZ authors I follow. Which seemed so logical I couldn't help but laugh. So, I'm starting Feb with one of his books :) Here's my list - all links lead back to the Manukau Libraries catalogue ('cause that's where I work d'oh):

January: Ruined by Paula Morris – teen fiction
January: The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi – teen/adult fiction
February: All Black's Kitchen Gardens by Tim Jones – nonfiction
March: Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley & Gavin Bishop – junior fiction
April: The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan – teen fiction
May: The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones – adult fiction
June: Jerusalem Sonnets by James K. Baxter – nonfiction
July: The Fat Man by Maurice Gee – junior fiction
August: Violence 101 by Denis Wright - teen fiction
September: The Christ Clone by David McLeod - adult fiction
October: We Will Not Cease by Archibald Baxter – nonfiction
November: Bow Down Shadrach by Joy Cowley - junior fiction
December: I am not Esther by Fleur Beale – teen fiction
Depending on time constraints I hope to re-read the two titles below. They're books I first read years ago and enjoyed so much I happily re-read them about once every two years:

No Ordinary Sun by Hone Tuwhare
The Haunting by Margaret Mahy

I will probably tweet my thoughts about each book as I'm reading so you'll get sick of me really quickly (quicker than usual, that is) and will post updates as I go along. All books on the list above have been added to my TBR (to-be-read) list in GoodReads, with 'The 10pm Question' and 'Ruined' crossed off. YAY.

The Smart Bitches asked 'Is anal the new oral?' and I want to know - is it...?

by tosca on Monday, January 25, 2010

Maybe my definition of romance is in serious need of an upgrade :) What I really want to know is - to borrow a question from the Smart Bitches book 'Beyond heaving bosoms: the Smart Bitches' guide to romance novels' - is anal the new oral? You may snicker and wince (lord knows I did reading it) but I'm finding this is popping up in a lot of male/female books I'm reading. And I ain't choosing these books on purpose, not with that little gem in mind. I make the distinction male/female because I also read a large number of male/male romance novels. In that genre I'd expect to find the 'new oral,' so to speak. I'm not a prude so I was surprised to find that a few of my library books I picked up last week (about 4 or 5 in total), all male/female novels, also contained the new oral in practise.

I read Cheyenne McCray's 'Luke: armed and dangerous' over the weekend because I'm a sucker for a cowboy story (go on, tell me those chaps don't make you happy!). Wowsers - plenty sexual tension, plenty of sex play and it was all maybe a little bit too much for my tiny mind. The hero/heroine decide to get it on in the office in the stables (I know - horses, hormones - I don't get it myself) and he leaves his stetson on (ok, that part I get) and his chaps (yeah, I get that part, too) and, after the obligatory round of missionary position (sheesh I hope my mum doesn't read this) they decide to try the 'new oral'. With barely a how-do-you-do. At that point my eyebrows reached my hairline and my eyes slid sideways and I thought to myself, 'Is this the new romance novel now? And when did I miss that happening?' 'Cause it's not something you'd miss, huh. I mean, it's not like a 'Whoops!' moment, is it? And, while I'm on the subject, is it something we can expect to find in a Mills & Boon? Hell, is it there already and I missed that, too? Seriously, is it or isn't and if you know can you leave a comment!

So, thanks Ms. McCray for blowing my tiny mind - and for making me realise how easily shockable I am LOL I didn't think that was possible. I think I really am going to have to pay more attention when I read. Maybe I'll get to the point where I won't think it's unusual enough to comment on. Is that a good thing? I'm still not sure. Until then, I'm gonna be asking, is anal the new oral in male/female romance novels? Is this like a bra burning moment and did I miss it that, too? Hmm...

The half-Greek, quarter-Brit, one third-Dutch tycoon megazillionaire alpha playboy's pregnant boss's mistresses second-cousin's virgin secretary...

by tosca on Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ok, so the title of my post is half in jest: 'The half-Greek, quarter-Brit, one third-Dutch tycoon megazillionaire alpha playboy's pregnant boss's mistress's second-cousin's virgin secretary' but I'm pretty sure that if I read a book with that title it'd live up to it! Read a few Mills & Boon novels (what I call Boonies) over the last couple of weeks or so that made me realise that I want all of them to totally live up to their name. Like, so totally! But I am not having much luck. I'm finding 'almosts' which are ok, but if you know of one where the story delivers the promise of the title 100% I'd like for you to leave the title/author as a comment so I can go read them. Pretty please and thank you.
I don't care how outrageous the titles are. It's a Boonie and I've come to expect quirky and slightly shocking. What I want is for the story to back that up. I have read lots that do, and yay. Maybe I'm picking up the wrong ones lately. Help!

The boss's bedroom agenda by Nicola Marsh - nice light read although I did think that the heroine could well have been sued for sexual harassment had she been a male. Eek. I liked the hero. Slightly geeky CEO of a museum (do museums have CEOs? shows how much I don't know) who falls (well, it was mutual falling) for an impulsive, flighty, shoe-a-holic and press gangs him (ok, she didn't have to press him hard) into an affair while assuring him that she can maintain a professional manner by day. Uhh don't know about anyone else but I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that. That little trick where you imagine people naked, imagine how much worse the giggles would be when you have seen the other person naked. Egads. So, the title half-lived up to its name. He was the boss, yes. He had the agenda - not really. She did. Enjoyed the book anyway :)

Bedded for pleasure, purchased for pregnancy by Carol Marinelli - quick read, as most Boonies are, but left me feeling that the story didn't match the title. Yes, there was bedding and yes there was pleasure and yes it was all mutual and, while money may have changed hands (or at least bank accounts) for a 'fake fiancee,' no money changed hands for a pregnancy. It's not that I wanted to think he treated her like a womb-style convenience store and paid for a baby (well, I don't think that's what I wanted) but I wouldn't have been expecting that if it had been called...oh hell, I dunno, how about the truth: 'He slept with her for the hell of it and she was desperate and needed money to pay off her compulsive gambling brother's debts and so became a 'fake fiancee' for a cool $1,000,000.' Now that would tell me what I was getting right off the bat, yes ma'am.
I still intend to carry on finding titles that are the real deal. What use is my romance newsletter without it and oohh I think I just found a theme for the Feb Mills & Boon section: Boonies that deliver - satisfaction guaranteed. And not in a dirty sense although that could be another theme, too. Hah.

Twittering your Facebook - or is that Facebooking your Twitter...?

by tosca on Thursday, January 21, 2010

I already knew that I could set my twitter status to update my Facebook status at the same time - only sometimes I get comments from friends/family who say, 'Wtf? Eh?' Especially when I'm having an ongoing conversation with other tweeters. It can get confusing. Found out today that I can be selective (ooh err I know - me, being selective, go figure) about which tweets I send to FB.

@andyy has this handy little Facebook app called Selective Tweets. It's easy to set up and start using. If you already have the FB Twitter app remove or disable it first, and then use this one. For each tweet you want to send to update your Facebook status simply add a hashtag and fb at the end, like this: I can update Facebook via Twitter #fb

You can also tweet within Facebook using the Twitter app - although I don't think you can have both the Twitter app and the Selective Tweets app - or at least, not that I could see. It's not that attractive - really, it's not, and if you don't judge books by their covers like me then you won't give a damn - to look at but it does do the job. Sometimes quick and dirty does it as easily as flashy (or so I've been told). It's in beta stage at the moment so clicking 'Update' once doesn't necessarily work. You may end up clicking it about 4 or 5 times like me :)

It's also possible to publish your Facebook page updates (not status updates) to Twitter, too. I wouldn't 'cause hello I don't have a 'page'. I only have a 'profile' - basically, profiles - individual users like me - have friends, and pages have fans. Thanks Susan Gunelius from for explaining the difference :) I found this handy dandy YouTube clip by Howard Yermish who shows you how to accomplish pushing page updates to Twitter via Facebook. Do I know who he is? Nope, and it doesn't matter, all I care about is that his video made sense, was easy to follow and was available when I needed it. YAY Howard.

And that's what I learnt today. Tomorrow I'll probably learn nothing and pretend otherwise OR because I learnt so much today, spread it across tomorrow's feel good buzz, too!

The unfortunate incident of the 'F' word in the audiobook (and the resulting giggles, snorts & guffaws)...

by tosca on Saturday, January 16, 2010

I don't have good luck with audiobooks. I definitely remember listening to them as a child, so it's not like I've never heard them before. But somewhere between Dr. Seuss stories on tape and being 34 yrs old today I lost them. Or they lost me. Maybe we lost each other. I think it's more likely that I still associate them with kiddy books and kids learning to read and can't make that bridge between child and adult. I used to listen to Sunday Stories on the radio, years ago, and I loved those! They were my favourite part of Sunday morning! The only adult audiobook I've enjoyed to date was 'It's only a show' by the very funny Garrison Keillor. Probably because it was a mix of radio jingles, songs, readings etc. with a cast of people (as opposed to one reader doing three very bad accents).

Last year I tried giving them a go. Thought it would be interesting to hear some romance novels read aloud. Requested 'Into the fire' by Suzanne Brockmann (from the very popular Troubleshooters Inc. series). The very first 2 mins, in fact probably the opening sentence, the 'F' word is used and I get the giggles. Which turns into snorting. And then rapidly deteriorates into an outright guffaw. It was just so blatant! I'm an adult who curses as often as I breathe (maybe more hah) yet it took me aback and seemed...slightly baldfaced. Couldn't get past the first 2 mins and that was the end of that audiobook.

Thought maybe it was just me and tried another one. This time 'The hollow' by Nora Roberts. No use of the 'F' word. YAY! But very strange sounding accents. Not-so-yay. In fact, the voices were too distracting and, before long, the giggles started up. And so endeth audiobook experience number two.

Tried again, this time with 'Swallowing darkness' by Laurell K. Hamilton. As far as the books are concerned I'm not enjoying them as much as earlier ones. Mostly because I get confused with all of the menage scenes and, I don't know about anyone else, but when a book becomes mere sexual gymnastics in your head you end up going to sleep sitting up in your chair still. Was a bit hesitant - if I couldn't handle the 'F' word read aloud how the heck was I going to handle ménage scenes? Apparently really easy - too easy, in fact. I spent the day wandering around the branch listening to the reader's very soothing voice. So soothing that I zoned out for the rest of the day. Couldn't remember what happened in the story, or what any of the characters may or may not have done/said/intimated/kissed. Another bad audiobook experience.

As it stands at the moment I am still desperately looking for an audiobook I might even vaguely enjoy. Just last week I tried 'Twenty wishes: a Blossom Street book' by Debbie Macomber. Ordinarily I like her books but this one...I kept dozing off in the middle of it. The Mexican accent was awful - I couldn't stop wincing and groaning every time he/she spoke. And a few of the statements got my back up whereas, if I'd read them, I may not have minded so much.

I've just gotten a copy of 'Three singles to adventure' by Gerald Durrell (he is my idol) and I'm hoping like heck that this lives up to the book experience. I'm going to keep trying to find something I like - I don't give in easily...much.

Stanza, stanza...wherefore art thou? Or at least...wherefore art thy working copy...?

by tosca on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A few months ago I used Stanza on my ipod touch to read ebooks ( when I had a macbook - before I killed it 'playing' with it - now we never speak of it except in hushed tones). Liked Stanza. Loved it. Wanted to marry it. Raise its babies. Today...I'd like to take to it with a hammer.

It works. It doesn't. It works. It doesn't. Mostly it doesn't. If it were a boyfriend I'd be happy with the hot and cold, hell, I'd expect it. But this isn't a boyfriend (it gives more thrills for less money hah). It'll let me share (between my desktop pc and my touch) a few books at a time and then it'll stop going and I'll have to uninstall it just to reinstall it again, then upload a few books to it, then uninstall it just to reinstall it again, then get the picture. Yeah, you get the picture and I don't get the ebooks. Oi. And right now it's been 'Searching...' for my shared books for 10 mins. It's giving me a complex.

I've never been a believer in the idea that ebooks will replace the printed word and, right about now, I'm so freakin' glad about that. There's a downside and an upside: downside - will have to wait in queue like everyone other damn library customer for the popular books 'cause usually I'd buy 'em in ebook format; upside - I save money on ebooks. That's it. Bleah. Mobipocket on my blackberry has never let me down - it just won't let me bookmark. This is not my week for ebooks hah.

Bitten by the BBC type-listy book bug...

by tosca on Monday, January 11, 2010

Nothing flash, just with it being a new year and all I'm prob going to come across screeds of top reads lists etc. One that caught my eye was the BBC's 'The big read - top 100 books' in particular. I have read most of them although there are a few I hadn't, so those will be on my TBR list for 2010 - you'll know them by my rather pithy comments in brackets (. Italicised titles are ones I've read:

BBC's The Big Read - Top 100 Books
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (have read book 1 - does this count as 1 book or 3 then?)
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller (have shelved it heaps and never read it eep)
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks (it looks depressingly long)
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson (umm nope not yet), not read it)
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (started it, never finished)
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett (oh, it looks like a very long book)
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute (meant to, good intentions and all that)
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh (read only part of it, never finished it)
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher (I prob judged it by it's cover and never touched it)
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth (started it, never finished it)
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome (never heard of it, does that make me a pillock?!)
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett (I detest Pratchett, had a friend who used to quote him at me, ugh)
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles (this didn't even make my 'tbr' list - what is it?)
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Gaiman is the one saving grace here)
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett (more bloody Pratchett - ok I'll try them!)
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind (say what?)
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell (sounds rude - is it?)
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett (*groans* aww jaysus, I get the hint, already)
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins (never read it 'cause I look bad in white heh)
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson (read 1 of hers and this ain't it)
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake (I don't like to read what I can't pronounce heh)
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (couldn't get past the title)
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson (I'm sensing I should read her books)
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett (bloody Brits and their fondness for Pratchett)
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton (meant to, just never got to it)
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson (my sibling said this is a good 'un)
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie (read others of his but not this one)

My mother swears up and down that I must be a changeling because she couldn't stand the classics. As a kid I used to dream that my biological parents were coming to get me. I'm 34 and I'm still waiting. Does it make me look dumb when I know my parents ARE my biological parents? LOL

2009 - on reflection...

by tosca on Sunday, January 3, 2010

I apologise in advance for the long post. You don't have to read it and I won't care if you don't. Thanks for the idea Eyre (although hers is more thoughtful because she's that kind of person) - that and she has fantastic pictures of half-naked men. Wowsers.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
First overseas trip and it was a humdinger of a choice, too. New Orleans for Mardi Gras (the 'Come out and play in New Orleans' clip is how it really was for me there).

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year
I think I only had 4: travel overseas, swear less (note I didn't put 'stop swearing altogether'), apply for a particular job and be more patient with people. First one yes, second one yes, third one yes and fourth one not so much. Meh. I'm still convinced most people are incredibly stupid, and willingly so. I don't usually make resolutions because I'm not disciplined enough to see tasks through, so last year was a first for me. This year I have 4: visit Brisbane (Australia Zoo), see Neil Gaiman's talk (March 2009), buy a mandolin or banjo and learn to play, pick up the guitar again - this time with actual lessons instead of goofing around. I tend not to do deep and meaningful when it comes to goals.

3. How did you spend New Years' Eve?
Was meant to be a bad movie night with the nephews and then the plans got changed somewhat when my younger brother came down and took them with him. So I spent it making up a Bourbon Peach Cobbler (admittedly more of the bourbon went in to me than it did the cobbler but hey, know me before you judge me)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend died of cancer. She was 40 years old. I miss her.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Patience. Empathy. Clarity of thought. Purpose.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 18th. The day Trace passed away (which was also, weirdly, the day I had a job interview).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
It wasn't on my own. It was with colleagues. We've increased our subscriber numbers for our NextReads newsletters and our Reviews section on the website leaves me giddy with excitement everytime I see it. Personal achievement? First overseas trip all on my own - look ma, no hands!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not being supportive of siblings, probably. Two in particular. Amped out at one - and I'm not apologising for it. Long overdue although not handled well. The youngest said she was pregnant - no father in sight, won't say who it was and my first response was, 'I can't do it. I can't raise any more children.' Not my greatest moment. Am looking forward to baby shopping. Something about all of those cute clothes gets to me. That's about as clucky as I get.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Beginning of the year it felt like I always had a freakin' cold, shoot, one went on for 3 damn months in spite of tonnes of antibiotics *rolls eyes* Just couldn't kick it. Then, when the website project was over, it just went away. Psychosomatic? Meh.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I'd like to say return tickets to New Orleans/Memphis but got those in August 2008. It would have to be seeing a palm reader in Marie's Laveau's House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street in the Vieux Carre (French Quarter). How's that for pickiness?

12. Where did most of your money go?
Books. Coruba. Dinners with friends. New Orleans (it was worth every cent and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat).

13. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Poker Face by Lady Gaga. Not that I like her music/image. More because the market was saturated by anything Gaga-related and that, more than anything, made that song (and her music in general) stick in my head.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Hanging out with the nephews - nothing like the boys to make me realise all the adult stuff is sometimes just so much rubbish.

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Complaining. Less talk, more action.

16. What was your favourite TV program?
NCIS (has been for the last 2 or 3 years) and Being Human.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate's such a terrible word - it puts out such negativity in the world. The answer is yes, I do. A first cousin and her partner broke into my home. If I see her again it'll be too soon. It does convince me some people are totally stupid - they stole my safe...and didn't take the instruction manual to open it. Last I heard they still hadn't managed to crack it. I get the last laugh, truly I do, because inside is just the crappy junky jewellery pieces I never wear. Anyone who knows me knows that I wear lots of crap plastic beads and stuff so those ones must be real bad.

18. What was the best book you read?
I remember what my 2008 pick was. Haven't really decided. Read over 100 books in 2009 and can't, at this point in time, pick one. I've got it! 'I can't keep my own secrets: six-word memoirs by teens famous & obscure: from Smith magazine' edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith. A book with nearly 800 authors (aged 13-19) where they tell their state of mind (or life view) in six-words. Powerful and compelling and, when you think about it, so simple yet so damn hard to do. Since having read it I try and think what six-words I'd use to describe where I'm at everyday. My idea of kicks and giggles.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Greatest? Nope. New bands/musicians I've been listening to, yes. Most recommended by siblings: House of Shem, Sweet & Irie, Three Houses Down, Gin. All NZers. I would like to learn to play bluegrass - either banjo or mandolin (maybe both) and, as a result, have found I really like Earl Scruggs' music. I also found out that Steve Martin plays a freakin' mean banjo and toured with Earl Scruggs' and others as 'Men with banjos who know how to use them.' Lead me to reading his autobiography, as well (Martin's that is, although nary a mention of his ability to play banjo, strangely enough). Re-discovered a love of Zydeco music that I got to test out and hear more of while in New Orleans.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?
I'm drawing a blank here. Have watched as many films as I've read books in the last year. And probably cried during most of them - I'm an inveterate movie-crier. Damn hormones.

21. What did you do on your birthday?
Long weekend of annual leave. Mooched around, read oodles of books and generally unwound. That is my idea of heaven.

22. What kept you sane?
Loud music and lots of it. Books. Great people. Weekly quiz night with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (we intend to win the national pub quiz champs this year and take out top spot at Finn McCool's). Regular dinner nights with friends. Lots of coruba.

23. Who did you miss?
Joanna. First cousins born 3 days apart who were exceptionally close as children. Didn't keep in contact so much as adults although we always had our birthday phone calls. A tradition for just over 20 years. In May 2008 I didn't get my phone call. By August I knew why. I miss her still and she's been gone a year and a half now.

24. Who was the best new person you met?
Online or IRL? Online: far too many to name. And all who've led me to some very eclectic music, movies, websites and books with their innumerable links, thoughts and ideas. IRL: can't think of anyone. Is that too sad that I get more enjoyment out of the bits of eccentric stuff I see on Facebook, Bebo, Twitter than from actual people in real life? Meh.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
Be present in the moment. Give the person you're with all of your attention - when your mind races ahead to formulate answers before they've finished speaking, you miss what they're really saying. Take a deep breath before speaking. Listen - sometimes when people speak they just want to be heard.