2017: One Year One Hundred (108) Books

As 2017 draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder at how amazing this year has been for me in terms of books. Despite a more than erratic reading schedule, which was pushed back time and again to accommodate other things, I did meet my reading target of 108 books. But that’s not all. In addition to all the wonderful books I discovered and read, there are three things that happened for me, specifically around books, that call for special mention this year.

The first is how, by a genius stroke of luck, I won the Stacy Alesi & ITW International Book Giveaway which delivered seven new International thriller releases (translation – not yet released in India), all signed by the authors, at my doorstep. To know more about what it is and how it happened, click here.

Screenshot_20170909-172933

The second was the joy I discovered in adult coloring this year and how I was able to pair it with books. It all started with a book in which blue roses featured almost as prominently as a character in the story and I was so fascinated that I had to colour them. And almost suddenly, I turned into, what I call, a colouring addict.

If you’ve been following me on this blog and/or on Instagram, you would have seen that most of my posts on books are paired with a colored sketch of something that matches the book’s theme. Now, I’ve read enough posts and articles on the internet on how adult coloring is lame and if at all one wants to do something creative, Bullet Journaling is the trend. I, however, beg to differ. As much as I enjoy the beauty of BuJo, I love the therapeutic calm of colouring. I have also paired books with some papercrafts, but colouring is what I enjoy best. Do drop by for a visit here and let me know what you think.

Screenshot_20171227-132236 PhotoGrid_1496393241174

The third and most recent reason of joy was my experience at a books-by-weight sale. A friend convinced me to accompany her to one, even though I wasn’t too keen. But I decided to check it out anyways. Long story short – I went and bought a truckload of books. Yes, a truckload. No exaggeration. (If you remember my Instagram post: that number listed there was accompanied by another bigger number that was added later and not disclosed on Instagram).

So, while I now have a roomful of books that would fulfill at least the next three years of my reading requirements, I have also, sadly, blown away my entire book budget for these next three years. All I can hope now, for buying new books (because I can’t stop myself from doing that, no matter what), is the mercy of book gifts and gift vouchers. If you don’t know, my birthday is in March,  but I accept gifts all year through 😀

IMG_20171129_173812_741

With all this bookish amazing-ness, I am now ready to reveal the books that made it to my list of favourites this year. But before I do that, I do ask for your patience because there is one important thing I need to get out of the way. Statistics.

Of the 108 books I read in 2017 – I have collated some reading statistics from my list of books. Why, you ask? Well, because I love doing this. Naturally, I had help getting some of these figures from Goodreads’ Year in Books.

So here we go:
Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,606 pages. It shows a drop by about 1,800 pages from last year.
Shortest book = Tit for Tat by Archana Sarat (an ebook of flash fiction) at 36 pages
Longest book = Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham at 736 pages. Surprisingly, I read it in a few hours and it was amazing. An entire story told by way of emails only.
Most popular book = The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Number of Non-Fiction books = 16. Up 4% from last year.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 48. Up 10% from last year. This is a conscious effort on my part to read more such books.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 8. Down 1.8% from last year.
Number of books by debut authors (fiction novels) = 15. Of these, 4 feature in my list of favourites this year.
Number of books reviewed = 17 with detailed reviews on the blog. There were 19 others whose Instareviews were posted only on Instagram. But Goodreads carries short reviews of all 108 books.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 57
Most books read in a month = 18 in November. With only one month left, I was desperate to catch up.
Least books read in a month = 1 in February. I was too busy writing, I think.

Brunch Book Challenge 2017 Landscape Resized

And now, once again, for the third year in a row, I pick my favourite books of the ones I read in 2017. Here is the list, categorised by Indian and International authors, in Fiction and Non-Fiction:

Indian Fiction (in random order)
1-In the Light of Darkness.jpg1. In the Light of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez
I loved how the author brought this heartening story of Susan and Meera to life . The struggles and sacrifices the characters endure should be a reminder to all women that they always have the strength inside them to fight their way towards a better life. That the struggle will only heal them and make them stronger.

28-Baaz - Anuja Chauhan

2. Baaz – Anuja Chauhan
She has been my favourite author ever since I read her first book and this time she wows with a story set during the ’71 war, starring a determined young woman, and a hero who, beside being deliciously swoon-worthy is an Indian Air Force pilot. Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan’s tribute to our men in uniform.

3. The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan32-The Association of Small Bombs - Karan Mahajan.jpg
The book begins with a bomb blast in a South Delhi marketplace in the late 1990’s, and in it’s aftermath, folds within itself the lives of various characters.
The author’s prose is captivating, despite the grief and agony his characters experience. He presents a perspective that is evident and yet so easy to disregard. The book makes you introspect about why things happen and how they impact an individual’s decisions.

34-Cantilevered Tales - Jayant Kripalani4. Cantilevered Tales – Jayant Kripalani
The author says, he overheard a group of people talking about saving a water body from some unscrupulous builder and started keeping tabs on them. This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. This, is a literary masterpiece, laid out with generous servings of wit and humour, as evident from the writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme chosen.

40-Revelations of an Imperfect Life - Sankhya Samhita5. Revelations of an Imperfect Life – Sankhya Samhita
A young woman finds herself stuck in a perfunctory marriage and in an impulsive moment, decides to leave her indifferent husband. The characters are delightful, written with such perfection, despite each of their flaws, that after a point you can feel them being a part of your life. The prose reads like a song – every note mellifluous with picturesque descriptions. The expressions captivate you with the gorgeous play of words.

63-I Quit Now What - Zarreen Khan6. I Quit! Now What? – Zarreen Khan
This story of a young, single woman, going on a sabbatical, is a fun read, with the perfect mix of dreams, fantasy and practicality. In addition to her overt subtlety, the author writes with a definite flair for humour. It comes naturally to her and she infuses it at the right places, often coupled with eye-rolling sarcasm that makes you roll on the floor from laughing so much it hurts.

65-‎The Windfall - Diksha Basu7. The Windfall – Diksha Basu
Diksha Basu presents a hilarious tale of a middle-class Delhi family struggling to fit into the mould that comes with their new-found wealth. A tug of war between values and aspirations. If you’re looking for a better-than-good book that will spread warmth in your heart after reading it, I recommend this one.

97-When I Hit You - Meena Kandasamy8. When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – Meena Kandasamy
When I Hit You is seething with rage. It is painful and devastating. It is also powerful, courageous and inspiring. It is a lesson. Of the signs that should be identified. Of hope. Of strength. Of being the woman not the world wants you to be, but what you want to become.

International Fiction (in random order)

Thrillers Square Resized.jpg1. Gregg Hurwitz, K. J. Howe, Brad Parks, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Ben Coes, Joseph Finder, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, David Lagercrantz, Reed Farrel Coleman, Andrew Gross, David Ignatius, Matthew Dunn
This selection of thrillers writers has been my favourite this year, some of which I have been following closely and others that I discovered thanks to TheRealBookSpy. (For more, read all about my #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge here.)

66-Britt-Marie was Here - Fredrik Backman
2. Britt-Marie was Here – Fredrik Backman
This Swedish author who first wrote A Man Called Ove has been another favourite for the eccentric, yet endearing, characters he writes. His books are my sunny stories, for they warm my heart.

David Walliams Resized.jpg3. Grandpa’s Great Escape, The Boy in the Dress, Gangsta Granny, Billionaire Boy – David Walliams
I came across this children’s author on Twitter and, out of curiosity, picked up Grandpa’s Great Escape. I loved it so much that I got seven more titles by him. But since I have to choose, these four are my favourite. And yes, I do occasionally read children’s fiction as well. We are, after all, only kids at heart.

73-‎The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
I read this for a book club meeting and found it to be immensely hilarious and surprisingly relevant for today’s time, despite having been published in 1979. With a dry and subtle sense of humour, this books takes its time but eventually grows on you when you realise it is not a book but a way of life.

102-‎The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson.jpg5. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
I have come to realise, after reading all of Jonas Jonasson’s books (another new favourite Swedish writer on my list, that there is a world out there where things happen for a reason, or for no reason at all. His characters are charming and his plots are preposterous. But, you see, things are what they are, and whatever will be will be. And for that reason alone, I can’t help falling in love with his books. Do also check out The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All.

101-Holly's Inbox - Holly Denham6. Holly’s Inbox – Holly Denham
This is a one of a kind novel which I discovered in the non-fiction section of the books-by-weight sale I went to last month. It is a light hearted page turner with a narrative that is completely written by way of emails. It is an absolutely delightful read and I am now looking to get my hands on its sequel.

Indian Non-Fiction (in random order)
4-Kohinoor


1. Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

An intensively researched account of the story of the world’s most infamous diamond which has been shrouded in a fog of history and mythology for centuries.

27-Bag it All - Nina Lekhi.jpg2. Bag it All – Nina Lekhi (as told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli)
The journey of the woman behind Baggit, the famed eco-friendly handbag brand, who planted the seeds of a tiny project at the young age of 18 when she failed her First year of Commercial Art. What started in one half of the children’s bedroom in her parents’ house, only as a means to move forward from her failure and to prove herself, has today grown into a 100+ crore company.

52-Sonal Mansingh - Sujata Prasad
3. Sonal Mansingh: A Life Like No Other – Sujata Prasad
A mesmerising account of her passion to dance and to life, her worship and also her struggles, to achieve all that she has. Reading her biography makes you feel that hers is really a life like no other.

72-Kissing the Demon - Amrita Kumar
4. Kissing the Demon: The Creative Writer’s Handbook – Amrita Kumar
With the repertoire of her experiences spanning four decades, the author lays out a simple and effective method to traverse the seemingly arduous path of pursuing Creative Writing, either professionally or as a hobby.

International Non-Fiction (in random order)

55-Why Won't You Apologize - Harriet Lerner1. Why Won’t You Apologize? – Harriet Lerner
It explains how a wholehearted apology means valuing your relationship and accepting your as well as the other person’s responsibility without any hint of evasion, excuse or blame. It teaches you to lead with your heart, have the courage to apologize and the wisdom to do it meaningfully.

61-Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter.jpg
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
Using simple examples, the author explains the fundamentals in making money work for you, instead of you working for money.

76-‎The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love - Per J. Andersson3. The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love – Per J. Andersson
This is an inspiring account of PK’s journey through life, of overcoming obstacles that began with being born an untouchable in India, amidst hunger and poverty, to travel 7000 miles to find and marry a Swedish woman of noble descent whom he loved.

92-‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fck - Sarah Knight
4. ‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck – Sarah Knight
In this book, the author helps identify things we don’t care about (Step 1) and shows how not to spend time, energy and/or money on them so that we can use those finite resources in what we really do care about. (Step 2). A simple concept to separate Annoy from Joy.

If you want to check out the complete list of books I read in 2017, you will find it here.

My review and rating for these books is available on my Goodreads account.

I also tweet about the books I read, in as much as 140-280 characters allow. You can always find me writing about the latest book to catch my fancy at https://twitter.com/AshieJayn.

For books with detailed reviews published on the blog, check out the links in the above mentioned list carrying all 108 names.

As for 2018 – I am all set for a brand new year of joy and have my bedside TBR all set to begin reading at the start of the new year. But another, more important target I have this year is to start setting up our family library. All these books I have read or am yet to read (from the truckload collection) do not deserve to be put in storage. They need a proper home and that is what I intend to do. Hopefully, 2018 will be the year for it.

If you like the selection of books listed above, do share with your reader friends and write to me, in the comments below, about your favourites. Let’s share some book love!

Here’s hoping you have all had an amazing 2017 and I wish you a Bookish 2018, full of love, joy and some great books. Remember, read for yourself. Not to conform to other’s expectations. Most importantly, read books that make you happy!

Note: This blogpost was a top post on Indiblogger.in and appeared on their homepage.Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Advertisements

My 2017 Reading Challenge Part-2 (RealBookSpyReadingChallenge)

In addition to my third round of reading one hundred books in a year, I decided to take up an additional reading challenge in 2017. One conducted by TheRealBookSpy – my go-to website for discovering all the latest international thrillers – because, let’s face it, I am a thriller novel junkie and no one does it better than TheRealBookSpy – Ryan Steck.

It so happened in early January, that one of the website’s followers tweeted in jest that he was taking the “Real Book Spy Reading Challenge”, following which it was introduced as a full-fledged, official challenge by the team at TheRealBookSpy.

The challenge meant that every month TheRealBookSpy would publish a monthly reading guide with a list of new releases in the thriller genre for that month. The challenge was to pick a title from each list, read the book and tweet about it.

In order to qualify, one had to read from a minimum of eight of the twelve months in 2017.

The real challenge for me, though, was to get my hands on these books when over 90% of the titles were international releases which means they are not released in India. So I would add them to my amazon wishlists and wait till the kindle prices dropped to affordable amounts.

With all of that, I managed to read fourteen books from eleven of those reading guides. If I count only the thrillers this year from the total list of 108, I read 26 thrillers in all. I was lucky to have won some of these titles in the Staci Alesi & ITW International Book Giveaway a few months ago, all of them signed by the authors.

For a complete list of the books I read as part of this challenge, see below (the month listed against each name is which reading guide it was picked from). To know which of these made it to my top reads of 2017 – click here.

Real Book Spy Reading Challenge 2017 Square - Resized

1. The Nowhere Man – Gregg Hurwitz (January)
2. The Freedom Broker – K. J. Howe (February)
3. Say Nothing – Brad Parks (March)
4. The Fix – David Baldacci (April)
5. One Perfect Lie – Lisa Scottoline (April)
6. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins (May)
7. Trap the Devil – Ben Coes (June)
8. The Switch – Joseph Finder (June)
9. The Late Show – Michael Connelly (July)
10. ‎The Cuban Affair – Nelson DeMille (September)
11. ‎What You Break – Reed Farrel Coleman (February)
12. The Saboteur – Andrew Gross (August)
13. The Quantum Spy – David Ignatius (November)
14. Act of Betrayal – Matthew Dunn (October)

Are you also one of those readers for whom thrillers are the bread and butter of reading? If yes, well, what are you waiting for? I would love to know which are your favourite thriller novels. And they don’t even have to be 2017 releases 🙂

Before you go, don’t forget to check out my complete list of 108 books that I read this year (if you haven’t already), by clicking here.

My 2017 Reading Challenge Part-1

Another year comes to an end and, though I struggled to keep up with my reading targets, I have successfully completed my challenge of reading over one hundred books for the third consecutive year.

I also reviewed some books on this blog during the course of reading, the links for which are in the list of titles below. Some of these reviews have been published on Writersmelon and Women’s Web as well.

So without further ado, here is a complete list of the 108 books I read as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge, which is an extension of the Brunch Book Challenge, run by the Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch from January to December, 2017.

To know more about the books that found a special place in my heart and made it to my top reads of the year – click here.

And. . . do checkout the second part of my 2017 reading challenge, here, which was all about thrillers!

Brunch Book Challenge 2017 Portrait Resized

1. In the Light of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez
2. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick
3. Lanka’s Princess – Kavita Kané
4. Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand
5. When Love Finds You – Yashodhara Lal
6. Finding Juliet – Toffee
7. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad – Twinkle Khanna
8. White Collar Blackmail – Peter Ralph
9. The Nowhere Man – Gregg Hurwitz
10. An Unsuitable Boy – Karan Johar with Poonam Saxena
11. Cabbing All the Way – Jatin Kuberkar
12. Power Down – Ben Coes
13. Coup D’Etat – Ben Coes
14. The Last Refuge – Ben Coes
15. Eye for an Eye – Ben Coes
16. Independence Day – Ben Coes
17. Unns-The Captivation – Sapan Saxena
18. That’s News to Me – Manjula Lal
19. Chronicles of Urban Nomads (Anthology) – Edited by Sutapa Basu
20. Turtle Dove – Divya Dubey
21. First Strike – Ben Coes
22. Mock, Stalk & Quarrel: A Collection of Satirical Tales (Anthology) – Edited by Indrani Ganguly
23. The Freedom Broker – K. J. Howe
24. A Thousand Unspoken Words – Paulami DuttaGupta
25. The Dove’s Lament – Kirthi Jayakumar
26. Mission Overseas: Daring Operations by the Indian Military – Sushant Singh
27. Bag it All – Nina Lekhi (as told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli)
28. Baaz – Anuja Chauhan
29. Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas – Edited by Rhiti Bose and Lopamudra Banerjee
30. Kunti’s Confessions and Other Short Stories – Compiled by Women’s Web (This is an anthology that includes a story I wrote)
31. Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous – Sunetra Choudhury
32. The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan
33. Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored – Rishi Kapoor with Meena Iyer
34. Cantilevered Tales – Jayant Kripalani
35. Write India Stories – Edited by Vinita Dawra Nangia
36. The Tree with A Thousand Apples – Sanchit Gupta
37. Crossed & Knotted – Edited by Sutapa Basu
38. Confessions on an Island – Ayan Pal
39. In a Dark Dark Wood – Ruth Ware
40. Revelations of an Imperfect Life – Sankhya Samhita
41. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
42. Say Nothing – Brad Parks
43. The Fix – David Baldacci
44. One Perfect Lie – Lisa Scottoline
45. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
46. Trap the Devil – Ben Coes
47. The Switch – Joseph Finder
48. New Market Tales – Jayant Kripalani
49. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie Kondo
50. Em and The Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto
51. The Sellout – Paul Beatty
52. Sonal Mansingh: A Life Like No Other – Sujata Prasad
53. Shadow in the Mirror – Deepti Menon
54. Rain: A Survivor’s Tale – Sriram Subramanian
55. Why Won’t You Apologize? – Harriet Lerner
56. The Late Show – Michael Connelly
57. A Strange and Sublime Address – Amit Chaudhuri
58. Onaatah of the Earth – Paulami DuttaGupta
59. The Last One – Alexandra Oliva
60. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
61. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
62. The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks
63. I Quit! Now What? – Zarreen Khan
64. ‎Jukebox (Anthology) – Edited by Priyanka Roy Banerjee
65. ‎The Windfall – Diksha Basu
66. ‎Britt-Marie was Here – Fredrik Backman
67. ‎The Alphabet Killer – Prachi Sharma
68. ‎The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson
69. ‎Tit for Tat: A Collection of Thriller Shorts – Archana Sarat
70. ‎Dark Entries – Ian Rankin
71. ‎Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan
72. ‎Kissing the Demon: The Creative Writer’s Handbook – Amrita Kumar
73. ‎The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
74. ‎Museum of Memories – Amrita Mukherjee
75. ‎When They Spoke: Tales by Inanimates – Edited by Arpita Banerjee
76. ‎The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love – Per J. Andersson
77. ‎The Colours of Passion – Sourabh Mukherjee
78. ‎A Window To Her Dreams – Harshali Singh
79. ‎Grandpa’s Great Escape – David Walliams
80. ‎The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams
81. ‎Awful Auntie – David Walliams
82. ‎The Excoms – Brett Battles
83. ‎Into the Firestorm – Kat Martin
84. ‎Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All – Jonas Jonasson
85. ‎The Cuban Affair – Nelson DeMille
86. ‎Demon Dentist – David Walliams
87. ‎Gangsta Granny – David Walliams
88. ‎The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
89. ‎Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
90. ‎So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish – Douglas Adams
91. ‎Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
92. ‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck – Sarah Knight
93. ‎Leaving the Sea – Ben Marcus
94. ‎Billionaire Boy – David Walliams
95. ‎Mr. Stink – David Walliams
96. ‎Ratburger – David Walliams
97. When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – Meena Kandasamy
98. ‎The Woman Who Saw the Future – Amit Sharma
99. ‎Dear Customer Services: Letters From the World’s Most Troublesome Shopper – Terry Ravenscroft
100. ‎Elixir – Sinjini Sengupta
101. ‎Holly’s Inbox – Holly Denham
102. ‎The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
103. ‎The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye – David Lagercrantz
104. ‎A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English – Shappi Khorsandi
105. ‎What You Break – Reed Farrel Coleman
106. The Saboteur – Andrew Gross
107. The Quantum Spy – David Ignatius
108. Act of Betrayal – Matthew Dunn

Have you read any of these books that you also loved? What books have you read this past year? I would love to hear about your favourites. Do share in the comments below so I can build my TBR for 2018 🙂 .

#MyFriendAlexa – A Wrap-Up

The month of September passed by in a frenzy with the multiple activities I decided to squeeze into my schedule for these thirty days. My Creative Writing classes picked up pace with quite a few recommended reading and writing assignments. Then I had my own reading to catch up on (especially since I am running way behind schedule) and some much needed writing.

Out of everything, one activity I was most looking forward to was the second season of #MyFriendAlexa – a campaign run by Blogchatter that I signed up for in August. The aim of this campaign is to help participants improve their Alexa ranking by following a dedicated blogging schedule which includes reading a variety of blogs and posting new content (a minimum of eight posts) on your own blog in a span of one month.

However, I soon realised that as excited as I was to be a part of this and pick up some tips and tricks to the secret of blogging on the way, this was going to be a lot of hard work.

Despite the blog reading and posting schedule I had mapped out for myself at the onset of the campaign, I found myself falling behind even before the first ten days were up. I did somehow manage to pull through the first two weeks by putting up four blog posts and following the recommended reading list.

By the time the third week rolled in, I was so caught up with everything happening simultaneously that I could barely manage finishing my daily blog reading. Putting up my own blog posts seemed far from possible.

So, I gave up on Week 3 and decided to step back. There was absolutely no way I could turn this into success. But then, at the end of that week, I felt terrible for not standing up to the challenge I had signed up for. I decided it was time to take the bull by its horns in Week 4. That meant covering up for the time I had lost, by posting four new blog posts in the last week.

PhotoGrid_1506864258240

Today, I feel thrilled that I was able to complete my challenge successfully, even it it meant putting up the last blog post on the last day.

I started the campaign with a Global Alexa Rank of 11.83 million and no India rank. At the end of the month, the campaign has shown a 90% improvement in my Alexa rank – As of 1st October 2017, my global rank was 1.27 million and India rank at 41,876 and this is continuing to drop with each passing day.

MyFriendAlexa 31stAug17  MyFriendAlexa 31stOct17

This is how the ranking changed during the course of the campaign:

Alexa Rank Progress.jpg

My experience with the Alexa campaign has been very informative and entertaining. I have learnt much along the way and discovered some wonderful blogs. Of course, Blogchatter has been a great support in help me blog better.

I now look forward to using the knowledge I have picked up during this campaign in taking Aquamarine Flavours to new heights. Here’s to a new beginning of better blogging!

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

Jukebox: A Short-Story Anthology from Writersmelon | Book Review

There are these lines in the song All I Want by Joni Mitchell, from her album Blue:

I wanna be strong, I wanna laugh along,
I wanna belong to the living.
Alive, alive, I wanna get up and jive,
Wanna wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive.

This is as close as it gets to how I feel when I read the stories in Jukebox – Writersmelon’s newest anthology – a product of fifteen best short-stories handpicked from Melonade 5, their annual nationwide writing competition.

Each of these stories is written by a fresh, new voice: The story you wish was never narrated to an eight-year-old. A cold December morning and a lone gravestone that changes a woman’s life. A teenager who, struggling to deal with the challenges in her life, believes she is cursed. An ageing alcoholic superstar who finds a magical cure for his baldness. The love story linked to a missing earring. A teacher’s faith in her student that bears fruit fifteen years later. These are just a sampling of what the book has to offer.

Categorised in three sections – Suspense, Humour, and Romance – these stories take the reader on a journey where the characters’ lives would have been very different, were it not for the choices they made. They display the protagonist’s strength in drawing courage from within. To do the unthinkable, the supposedly taboo, or to simply follow their heart.

Screenshot_20170925-183735

I can’t deny the fact that I was caught in the web of this jukebox right from the first page.

Abhishek Mukherjee’s ‘Story’ had me biting my nails from the sheer anticipation of what his protagonist was unravelling. His pointed questions to his mother, about his father’s murder, were something you wish no child had to ask. Mukherjee narrates it with the innocence and curiosity of an eight-year-old.

In ‘A Deep Fried Love Story’, Diptee Raut weaves an interesting tale of fat, fried, and love on fire. A woman’s chance sighting of a delicious snack in the hands of a man, puts both man and woman on the fast track to love. The absurdity of such a normal encounter is what endears this story to you.

Purba Chakraborty describes a teacher’s affection for a student unlike others in ‘Her Favourite Pupil’. Her leap of faith in pushing him to test his limits backfires and she ends up losing him. This story is as inspiring as beautiful, and reading it brought tears to my eyes.

‘One Day in December’ by Deboshree Bhattacharjee Pandey is so full of spine-chilling suspense that I am still reeling from the shock of how it turned out in the end.

Avishek basu Mallick begins ‘Lizard Grass’ with a disclaimer that is difficult to ignore. His tongue-in-cheek humour and the obvious reference to reality makes this an absolutely hilarious read.

I could go on to review every story but it wouldn’t do justice to them. There is something unique and special about each one of them.

I did feel that some of the stories could have been edited better, though Priyanka Roy Banerjee has done a remarkable job with most.

Even so, once you pick it up, you will find yourself lost within its gripping tales, losing all sense of time. This jukebox sure carries a delectable selection for aficionados of all genres.

Title: Jukebox
Author: Various
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858543-3-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About Writersmelon:  They are a leading community of book lovers, constantly buzzing with ‘real conversations’ around Books, Authors, and Writing.
Budding authors & bloggers can explore interesting writing opportunities to review books, contribute articles, or cover a book related event in their city.
Writersmelon has a unique approach for new release books, combined with other professional services which have been widely appreciated with glowing testimonials from authors, their agents, and reputed publishing houses.
They also run a nationwide writing competition – Melonade – which is an attempt to provide a platform to young and upcoming writers from all walks of life. It gives them an opportunity to get judged & reviewed by some very respected & widely read authors and  showcase their stories.
With hundreds of entries received every year as part of Melonade, the best stories are published as an anthology, the first of which was First Brush on the Canvas.
Jukebox is their second anthology, edited by Priyanka Roy Banerjee and with a Foreword by Preeti Shenoy. 
Follow Writersmelon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also check out their website http://www.writersmelon.com/wm/ for some great articles.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

#MyFriendAlexa and Why I Signed Up for It

As I approach the second anniversary of Aquamarine Flavours, I can’t help but reminisce at how the blog has evolved since it first went live. I started it with the hope to discover a new passion, after having spent over twelve years in the apparel industry. And somewhere along the way, Aquamarine Flavours steered me in the precise direction I was meant to go.

I have been reading voraciously since the past two years, an activity I sorely missed before, and gradually began to experiment with writing as well. Over time I have had my short stories published online and in literary magazines. Earlier this year, I was selected as a contributing author of an anthology of short stories published by Women’s Web – my first published book.

Recently I also forayed into reviewing books and editing manuscripts, the latter providing me a new insight into the art of creative writing.

Aquamarine Flavours has been my platform to share all of this with the outside world, and while I have received a lot of encouragement from friends and readers, I have always wondered how to take it to the next level.

A few weeks ago I was part of a Creative Writing Retreat organised by BlogChatter and during one of their sessions I discovered the Alexa Ranking system. Upon checking the statistics for my blog, I was shocked to discover how far behind it is in visibility.

As of 31st August 2017, my Global Alexa Rank stood at 11,823,468 and (gasp) I don’t have an India rank at all. (Faints.)

So here I am, taking the plunge in committing to take my Alexa Rank to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa and #BlogChatter – The world’s second and India’s first campaign based on Alexa rank and associated tools.

If you like what you see on Aquamarine Flavours and are not following yet, I invite you to join me here (see link to follow on the right sidebar) for some great content. Your support will go a long way.

Thank you!

Screenshot_20170902-164748

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

Managing the Obsessive-Compulsive Reader in Me

You love reading and would rather be tucked in your favourite spot with a good book, or perhaps half a dozen of them, for some quiet company.

Trouble is, you are always on the lookout for new books, even when you have plenty of unread ones to get through. You can’t help but pop into a bookstore for a little window shopping every now and then, and somehow end up emptying your wallet at the cash-counter. You struggle to keep up with all the books that you want to read. So naturally, you have a TBR that is growing every day.

If you happen to have a TBR that looks like mine, then you too are afflicted with Reading OCD.

tbr-books-to-find

As any book lover would know, this is incurable. But there may be a way around it.

To find out how I manage my Obsessive-Compulsive Reading Disorder, read my article published on Writersmelon.

If you’re looking for some book recommendations, checkout my favourite reads from 2015 and 2016.

How do you manage your TBR? I would love to learn your tips & tricks. So go on, share some booklove in the comment section below.

A Bookish Love Story in 2016

Book wise, 2016 has been a great year. I have discovered and read some marvellous books that have left a profound impact on me. Books that I will continue to revisit, to refresh my memory of the stories they tell and my experiences of reading them.

Those of you who know, I read many, many books. I consider it no less than a personal achievement to be able to cross a count of over one hundred books, for the second consecutive year.

brunch-book-challenge-2016-landscape-resized

I am often asked how I manage to do it. It’s simple, really. I make it a point to read a little every night before I sleep. 50-100 pages is more than enough for me. Unless a particular book has me in its clutches and refuses to let go. Of course, I also read whenever I can manage during the day. Which is why I always carry a few books on my tablet, phone, or as paperbacks, wherever I go.

Some may think that reading books at such an insane pace is not really reading. It is just a count. A statistic. Well, I beg to differ. For me, every book gives me an opportunity to travel into a world I may not otherwise be a part of. It makes me question myself how I would react were I thrown in a similar situation. It allows me to fall in love with some delightful characters and, at the same time, strategise my move (hypothetically, of course) when stuck in a difficult situation.

As someone once said, “It is not about how many books you read, but what you do after reading them”.

Every story has the power to make you dream and to teach you lessons you may not learn in real life. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open and enjoy the journey.

About the 100+ books I read in 2016 – Here is a quick overview of some interesting reading statistics upon completion of my reading challenge. (I pulled some of these off Goodreads’ Year in Books):
Total number of books = 108 (plus a short story that was a bonus read of sorts, to a thriller novel in series).
Total number of pages = Approx. 32,300 pages. An average of less than 85 pages a day. Quite workable.
Shortest book = The Lively Library and An Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund (Novella) at 96 pages
Longest book = The Sialkot Saga by Ashwin Sanghi at 588 pages
Most popular book = To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Need I say more?
Highest rated book on Goodreads = Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat. This also features in my list of top favourite books this year.
Number of Non-Fiction Books = 11. At only 10% of my total reading, I would like to read more non-fiction next year.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 37. More or less, this was steady at the percentage of books read in 2016 as compared to 2015.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 10. Definitely need to add more of these next year.
Most books read in a month = 17 in September. I was also reviewing quite a few books this month.
Least books read in a month = 3 in December. This month has mostly been taken up in meeting writing deadlines, which clearly ate into my reading time.

As last year, I again decided to pick my favourite books of the ones I read in 2016. So, without further ado, here are my top reads from this year – categorised by Indian and International authors, in Fiction and Non-Fiction:

Indian Fiction (in random order)

12-chander-sudha

1. Chander & Sudha – Dharamvir Bharati (Translated by Poonam Saxena)
This was deeply moving and intense, especially considering the era it was written in. Also, Poonam Saxena’s translation of this novel, originally written in Hindi, is exquisite in the way it keeps to that old world charm.

 

 

35-the-private-life-of-mrs-sharma

2. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma – Ratika Kapur
With a simple, realistic prose, it takes you through a woman’s mundane family life – her desires and actions, until suddenly everything gets out of hand. Then, it delivers a knockout punch that leaves you reeling with shock. I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams, that this is how it would all end.

 

63-ghachar-ghochar3. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag (Translated by Srinath Perur)
The most action you get to read here is about the ant infestation in an old home where dealing with it becomes a way of life. Yet the story seems to pull you into a knot with its simplicity as you continue to read, wondering where it is heading. Until it ends with a strong note of a deep sinister reality. Ghachar Ghochar is one those books that leave you mystified and spellbound at the same time.

73-0302

 

4. 03:02 – Mainak Dhar
This is an action-packed thriller that starts off as compelling Sci-Fi. As you turn page after page, you forget it is written by an Indian Author. With a multi layered dimension to the unfolding mystery, it also deals with social hierarchy with respect to wealth, in the face of tragedy.

 

108-birds-of-prey

5. Birds of Prey – Archana Sarat
A Debut Author’s remarkable portrayal of a subject that plagues our society, handled with the tenderness and sensitivity it craves. Birds of Prey is as horrific in the crime it reveals, as it is subliminal about the state of our society.

 

 

ashwin-sanghi-thrillers

 

6. The Bharat Series – Ashwin Sanghi
In a twitter chat, I once had the opportunity to ask the author – What brought the innovative idea of writing thrillers that travel & connect through centuries. He answered – Because historical patterns repeat themselves. And we are much more connected in the ancient than we imagine.
One has to have read his books to understand how he manifests this idea in his stories to create blockbuster mythological thrillers. Until I read his books, I couldn’t have imagined how much I would love them.

 

 

International Fiction (in random order)
moni-mohsin

1. The Butterfly Series & The End of Innocence – Moni Mohsin
Whether it a poignant reminder of The End of Innocence or the grammatically deprived adventures of Butterfly Khan, Moni Mohsin’s writing is bound to have you hooked.

 

intl-thrillers

 

2. David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Joseph Finder, Ian Rankin and John Sandford
I need to read their books to satisfy the thriller junkie in me. They are my bread & butter of reading.

 

 

 

keigo-higashino

3. The Devotion of Suspect X, Salvation of a Saint & A Midsumer’s Qquation – Keigo Higashino
This Japanese Author starts off his novels with a murder that almost takes place in front of the reader. Then he goes about an investigation that beats any other murder mystery hands down.

 

kevin-kwan

4. Crazy Rich Asians & China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
He proved that Crazy Rich Asians are the same everywhere. Be it China, India or anywhere else.

 

 

fredrik-backman

5. A Man Called Ove & My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman
This Swedish Author had me going back to his books over and over again despite the heartache they put me through. These books shall remain with me forever.

 

11-the-martian

 

6. The Martian – Andy Weir
If you really want to enjoy the story, read the book before you watch the movie. You’ll thank me later.

 

14-to-kill-a-mockingbird

 

7. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
A classic. I don’t know how I managed to deprive myself of it all these years. I loved everything about this novel. Can’t say so about the sequel though.

 

37-me-before-you

 

8. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
This one almost had me fooled at the blissfulness of love, before it ended with a heart-breaking reality. A truly beautiful love story.

 

40-what-alice-forgot

 

9. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
I categorised this one as devastatingly beautiful & devilishly romantic. A friend suggested it to me, saying this was a book she wished she had written. After I read it, that was exactly how I felt too.

 

42-orphan-x

 

10. Orphan X – Gregg Hurwitz
Think Super Hero, think Orphan X. One man who is all your favourite superheroes combined. All I can say is that the sequel can’t come out soon enough.

 

60-most-wanted

 

11. Most Wanted – Lisa Scottoline
Another terrific book recommended by a friend, it unfolds an unimaginable possibility while a woman struggles to start a family. The author narrates both the pain, and the thrill of the plot with equal finesse.

82-dying-for-christmas

 

12. Dying for Christmas – Tammy Cohen
At one point I thought I had made a huge mistake picking up this book. But once I got through the difficult part, it was an intense psycho-crime thriller that goes beyond the darkest you can imagine. Think way beyond Gone Girl and the Girl on the Train. Read only if you have the heart and stomach for it.

84-the-woman-in-cabin-10

 

13. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
A pure murder mystery that, believe me when I say I am not exaggerating, almost gave me a heart attack. A heart-stopping thriller!

 

85-first-comes-love

 

14. First Comes Love – Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin has this way of exploring relationships in her stories that make you look at your own life, and the people in it, in a new light. Another author I have come to love.

 

100-whered-you-go-bernadette

 

15. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
This book is so hilarious that you don’t, not for a single moment, want to stop reading it. Told by a fifteen-year-old girl, it also reveals a poignant relationship between a family and the circumstances that lead to a mysteriously interesting turn of events.

 

104-the-chopin-manuscript106-the-copper-bracelet16. The Chopin Manuscript & The Copper Bracelet – The collaborative writings of Jeffery Deaver & Others
This was my first time listening to an Audio book. I picked it up when I read a post on Joseph Finder’s Facebook wall, of this collaborative novel he had written. I started with the Chopin Manuscript and was hooked to it. Alfred Molina’s narration is stupendous. It led me to listen to the sequel, The Copper Bracelet, also narrated by Alfred Molina. Needless to say, I am looking into getting an Audible subscription next year.

 

International Non-Fiction (in random order)
13-if-someone-says-you-complete-me-run

1. If Someone Says “You Complete Me”, RUN! – Whoopi Goldberg
Now this a book I think should be mandatory reading for girls and young women. The legendary actress gives us a peek into her private life to teach some valuable lessons of life.

 

31-leading

 

2. Leading – Alex Ferguson (with Michael Moritz)
A chronicle of the rise of Manchester United through the practices they embraced. It teaches Leadership and Management through football.

 

39-the-perfection-of-the-paper-clip

 

3. The Perfection of the Paper Clip – James Ward
A history of the invention, development and improvement of basic, everyday stationery items. How could a stationery aficionado like me pass up an opportunity to read this?

 

105-sully-my-search-for-what-really-matters

4. Sully: My Search for What Really Matters – Chesley B. Sullenberger
With all the hype surrounding Tom Hanks’ film, I wanted to read about Sully, the pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson without any loss of life. In his autobiography, he reveals the man behind the hero and the experiences that equipped him to avert one of the biggest disasters in aviation history. Again, book before film.

 

If you’re interested, you can find a complete list of all the books I read in 2016, here.

My review and rating for these books is available on my Goodreads account.

I also tweet about the books I read, in as much as 140 characters allow. You can always find me writing about the latest book to catch my fancy, at https://twitter.com/AshieJayn.

This year I started reviewing books, although occasionally. These reviews are published on this blog as well as on Amazon and Goodreads. I hope to keep at it next year as well.

I was recently approached by a published author to beta-read the manuscript of her next novel. It was a first for me and sounded extremely exciting so I accepted. It’s been a few days into the exercise and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

As for 2017, I am armed and ready with a fresh new set of books to start the year with. New paperbacks have arrived and the tablet has been loaded with eBooks.

If you like this post, do share with your reader friends. And tell me all about the books that you fell in love with, in the comments below.

I hope you have had a wonderful 2016 and I wish you a Bookish 2017. Read all the books that make you happy. They don’t necessarily have to be classics or award winners!

My 2016 Reading Challenge

With the year coming to a close, I am finally bringing down the curtain on my reading for 2016.

Here is a complete list of the 108 books I read as part of the Brunch Book Challenge, run by the Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch from January to December, 2016.

To know more on the books that found a special place in my heart – click here.

brunch-book-challenge-2016-portrait-resized

1. The Diary of a Social Butterfly – Moni Mohsin
2. The Return of the Butterfly – Moni Mohsin
3. Tender Hooks – Moni Mohsin
4. The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
5. It’s Your Life – Vinita Dawra Nangia
6. The End of Innocence – Moni Mohsin
7. The Rozabal Line – Ashwin Sanghi
8. The Year of the Runaways – Sunjeev Sahota
9. Arranged Marriage: Stories – Chitra B. Divakaruni
10. The Room on the Roof – Ruskin Bond
11. The Martian – Andy Weir
12. Chander & Sudha – Dharamvir Bharati (Translated by Poonam Saxena)
13. If Someone Says “You Complete Me”, RUN! – Whoopi Goldberg
14. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
15. Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee
16. Extraordinary Powers – Joseph Finder
17. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
18. China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
19. One Amazing Thing – Chitra B. Divakaruni
20. Trigger Mortis – Anthony Horowitz
21. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
22. Tweenache in the Time of Hashtags – Judy Balan
23. An Evening in Calcutta and Other Stories – K A Abbas
24. Before and Then After Stories – Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
25. How to be a Literary Sensation – Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
26. Suchitra Sen: The Legend and the Enigma – Shoma A.Chatterji
27. The Success Sutra: An Indian Approach to Wealth – Devdutt Pattanaik
28. Matchbox: Stories by Ashapurna Debi (Translated by Prasenjit Gupta)
29. In Search of Mary: The Mother of all Journeys – Bee Rowlatt
30. The Way Things Were – Aatish Taseer
31. Leading – Alex Ferguson (with Michael Moritz)
32. High Crimes – Joseph Finder
33. Vanished – Joseph Finder
34. Buried Secrets – Joseph Finder
34b. (Additional Bonus Read) Plan B: A Nick Heller Short Story – Joseph Finder
35. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma – Ratika Kapur
36. Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella
37. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
38. After You – Jojo Moyes
39. The Perfection of the Paper Clip – James Ward
40. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
41. Brooklyn – Colm Toìbin
42. Orphan X – Gregg Hurwitz
43. Chanakya’s Chant – Ashwin Sanghi
44. One Fifth Avenue – Candace Bushnell
45. The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai
46. The Fool’s Run – John Sandford
47. The Empress File – John Sandford
48. The Devil’s Code – John Sandford
49. The Hanged Man’s Song – John Sandford
50. Knots & Crosses – Ian Rankin
51. Destiny of Shattered Dreams – Nilesh Rathod
52. Making It Up As I Go Along – Marian Keyes
53. The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino
54. Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino
55. A Midsummer’s Equation – Keigo Higashino
56. Shelter – Harlan Coben
57. Seconds Away – Harlan Coben
58. Found – Harlan Coben
59. Guilty Minds – Joseph Finder
60. Most Wanted – Lisa Scottoline
61. The Last Mile – David Baldacci
62. The Lively Library – Niranjan Navalgund
63. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag (Translated by Srinath Perur)
64. Everyone Has a Story – Savi Sharma
65. A Broken Man – Akash Verma
66. Imagine Me Gone – Adam Haslett
67. The Krishna Key – Ashwin Sanghi
68. The Paradise Guest House – Ellen Sussman
69. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
70. Girls in White Dresses – Jennifer Close
71. Devil in Pinstripes – Ravi Subramanian
72. Tell Me A Story (Anthology) – Edited by Ravinder Singh
73. 03:02 – Mainak Dhar
74. A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
75. Hedon – Priyanka Mookerjee
76. Breaking Free – Neha Nayak
77. Graffiti – Joanie Pariera
78. The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle
79. #GirlBoss – Sophia Amoruso
80. Siracusa – Delia Ephron
81. The Singles Game – Lauren Weisberger
82. Dying for Christmas – Tammy Cohen
83. The Girls – Emma Cline
84. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
85. First Comes Love – Emily Giffin
86. The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford
87. A Forgotten Affair – Kanchana Banerjee
88. Ms. Communications – Myra Kendrix
89. The Weekenders – Mary Kay Andrews
90. The Other Widow – Susan Crawford
91. Just Married, Please Excuse – Yashodhara Lal
92. The Ex – Alafair Burke
93. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman
94. Dangle – Sutapa Basu
95. This One is Mine – Maria Semple
96. Desperate in Dubai – Ameera Al Hakawati
97. Nowhere Girl – Umera Ahmed
98. Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
99. Safe Haven – Nicholas Sparks
100. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
101. More Than Just Friends – Faraaz Kazi
102. Nutshell – Ian McEwan
103. Rekha-The Untold Story – Yasser Usman
104. The Chopin Manuscript – Jeffery Deaver & Others
105. Sully: My Search for What Really Matters – Chesley B. Sullenberger
106. The Copper Bracelet – Jeffery Deaver & Others
107. The Sialkot Saga – Ashwin Sanghi
108. Birds of Prey – Archana Sarat

Have you read any of these books that you enjoyed? What other books have you read this past year? I would love to hear about your favourites. Do share in the comments below so I can start building my TBR for 2017 🙂 .

Looking Back at 2015: My Year in Books

Time to pack away memories of old,
While we wait to unwrap what the New Year beholds.
The promise of a future that fulfils your dreams,
Hey 21st Century, Happy Sweet Sixteen!

A brand new year has dawned and while I look forward to all the excitement it promises to bring, I can’t help but look back at the wonderful year that went by, and rejoice in all the achievements it gave me. And to think that I didn’t even fulfill any resolutions!!!

Let’s be honest. Resolutions aren’t for me. I can make all the lists I want at the start of the year. But history has proven that the enthusiasm experienced in penning them down, lasts for only about a fortnight.

So I decided a long time ago, to not make any resolutions go forward. No preset targets, thank you very much. Instead, I will strive towards something and celebrate whatever I accomplish at the end of the year.

One such agenda that has been foremost on my mind for almost a decade, has been to reacquaint myself with a reading habit.

Up till college and even the earlier years of my professional career, I always managed to pull out time to read. I admit it wasn’t quite like it used to be when I was in school. Back then, we would time the days, graduating to the hours it took to finish a book. However, as life got busier and responsibilities heavier, I regretted being unable to read as voraciously as I used to.

In the last eight-nine years, I must have read, maybe ten books. (This figure is safely padded, in case I missed a title. So you get the drift.)

I did read a handful of Mills and Boon which are not included in this count – primarily because, well, they’re Mills and Boon! Reading them is like reading a magazine. You can finish one in as less as one hour. Believe me, I’ve timed it.

Fun Fact – I hadn’t read a Mills and Boon until 2007. And the reason why or rather how I actually did read one was because it came free with an issue of a home décor magazine.

So what inspired me to read again?

One of the largest national daily newspapers – The Hindustan Times, started a reading challenge in 2014 through their Sunday magazine – HT Brunch. The challenge was to read 24 books in the year and tweet your progress.

I couldn’t take part in 2014. But I decided to jump on the next train, with the 2nd edition of the challenge in 2015 – of reading 30 books. So I went online, ordered some books that were being talked about and set off on a roller coaster.

Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I even found about a dozen dusty old paperbacks that I must have bought sometime in 2008 but never got down to reading. Long story short, I had finished reading 30 books before 6 months were up.

But that wasn’t the end. I was enjoying myself so much that I kept looking for new books – checking out bestseller lists, searching through publishers’ websites, visiting bookstores – both online and brick/mortar, for more reading material.

Twitter was also a great place for books. @HTBrunch published recommendations every few weeks. #BrunchBookChallenge revealed book titles other people were reading and what they thought about it. I was introduced to dozens of authors I had never even heard of and became part of an exciting new world – finding new books and meeting authors whose work I read and shared reviews of.

So at the end of the year, I had read 105 books in all. A staggering number I never thought I could achieve when I first set out. In fact, I read as many as 21 books in one month (that was in June and July, when New Delhi was at it’s hottest).

A A ACollage resized

The fiction genres I read included Rom-Coms; Thrillers – Crime, Legal, Psychological, Spy, even Romance; Young Adult; Historic Fiction; Pure Romance. In the non-fiction category, I read books on Creative Writing and Grammar (two of my most enjoyable reads), Memoirs and Biographies, Satire/Comedy, and even a book on a true double homicide that still remains unsolved.

I know a lot of you are eager to know my top reads from this reading challenge. So I am categorizing these in two groups – Indian authors and International authors.

Indian/Indian origin Authors (in random order)
1. Anything and everything written by Anuja Chauhan (The Zoya Factor, Battle For Bittora, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, The House That BJ Built)
2. The Shiva Trilogy – Amish Tripathi (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, The Oath of the Vayuputras)
3. Ravan & Eddie Trilogy – Kiran Nagarkar (Ravan & Eddie, The Extras, Rest in Peace : Ravan and Eddie)
4. Cuckold – Kiran Nagarkar
5. If Today Be Sweet – Thrity Umrigar
6. Mrs Funnybones – Twinkle Khanna
7. Me, Mia, Multiple – Debashish Irengbam
8. Engraved in Stone – Madhulika Liddle
9. The Bestseller She Wrote – Ravi Subramanian
10. Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar – Yasser Usman
11. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

International Authors (in random order)
1. Anything and everything written by Richard Castle (because I am a total fangirl when it comes to Castle – the popular US TV series)
2. Anything and everything written by Joseph Finder (Power Play, Suspicion, The Fixer, Company Man, Paranoia)
3. The Millennium Trilogy – Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest)
4. The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz (A continuation of Stieg Larrson’s trilogy)
5. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
6. Angel – Colleen McCullough
7. This Charming Man – Marian Keyes
8. Passing Under Heaven – Justin Hill
9. The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes
10. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
11. Memory Man – David Baldacci
12. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
13. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
14. Killing Monica – Candace Bushnell
15. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss
16. Girl in the Dark – Anna Lyndsey
17. Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica
18. Saints of the Shadow Bible – Ian Rankin
19. Circling the Sun – Paula McLain
20. The Skin Collector – Jeffery Deaver

If you want to see the complete list of all 105 books, click here.

My rating for each of these books is available on my Goodreads account, and my Twitter page lists their tweeted reviews from when I read them.

If you are fond of reading and would like to take up a reading challenge, join the Brunch Book Challenge Part-3. It is a wonderful experience, guaranteed. For details, click here.

I would love to hear from you about the books you’ve read, the authors you love or any favourite series. Share your experiences about reading the good or the not so good books, in the comments section below.

Meanwhile, I have started my 2nd book of the year and can’t seem to put it down!