books and reading

2019 Wrap-Up

My goal is always to read more pages than the year before, rather than more books. I  almost made it this year, by Goodreads standards. In 2018, I read 110 books for 36914 pages, and in 2019 I read 132 books for 36038 pages. A good chunk of the books I read were ones I edited, which are kids’ books and pretty short. If I count all the books I edited that aren’t on Goodreads, I definitely surpassed the page number goal.

Here are some reviews for the highlights of my reading year.

Best book I read this year: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd. It’s dystopian, but in a way I had never read before. And it gutted me. I read it in January, and it’s stayed with me all year. I think about it a lot.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. Wow. As a parent, this one is horrifying. About a little girl who is a sociopath and has a desire to harm her mother. But it’s so good.

I really enjoyed The Fourth Monkey series. It’s a “police catching a serial killer” series, and the dialogue is cheesy, but it kept me guessing.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. An excellent ghost story.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Same author as The Goldfinch. I just love everything she writes.

The Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder is another great police detective series, but it’s very graphic. Birdman is the first.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay. Another one that left me guessing. I’ve read a few of Tremblay’s books, and he’s really good.

The Girls by Emma Cline. This one was wacky. It’s a fictional story of the Charles Manson group and subsequent murders.

The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson. I couldn’t believe how much I learned from this book. I know a lot about the case already, but this had info I had never heard.

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I really don’t care for fantasy, but these are excellent young adult books.

The Dublin Murder Squad books by Tana French. I read two of them this year. Each one is better than the last. In the Woods is the first, the Likeness is the second, Faithful Place is the third.

Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I read a lot of true crime, but this one stands out. The author is simultaneously doing research into a crime, yet learning things about herself. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Again, another I was expecting not to think was so great, but I was blown away. Crichton really was ahead of his time in describing DNA, technology, etc.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen. Unlike Columbine by the same author (EXCELLENT BOOK) this one doesn’t focus on the shooter or the day, but rather the students who started a movement for gun control. Gives me hope for the future.

I read some great own voices books this year: A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob, and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See were both great.

Best thriller I read was The Silent Patient. It wasn’t the greatest thriller ever, but it didn’t fall into the stupid thriller tropes like A Woman in the Window. Ugh that one was awful.

I started a lot of great series this year: the Harry Hole detective series, the Penny Green series about a Victorian reporter who also solves crimes, the Armand Gamache Canadian detective series, which is a good cozy mystery series.



books and reading

Baby Teeth

As much as I love books, I rarely have a physical reaction to them. I read them, I get sucked in, but I rarely have any kind of physical reaction to them, including crying. No matter how tense or horrifying a book is, my brain can usually separate it as fiction and just let it go. This book is the exception. Every time I picked it up, my guts twisted up. I felt myself clenching the book harder in fear of what was going to happen next. I had to read it only in short burst because I had trouble keeping myself calm. Basically, it horrified me to my core.

The story is told in alternating chapters from a mother’s, Suzette, perspective and a daughter’s, Hanna. Suzette is a doting, loving, stay-at-home mom, while the father, Alex, works hard, loves his family deeply, but doesn’t fully see Hanna’s behavior as troublesome. She loves her father and is perfect around him, so there’s a struggle between what Suzette and Alex know about their child. Hanna is a mute 7-year-old with borderline psychotic behavior. And once you learn her internal dialogue, you realize how deeply disturbed she is. As far as we know, Suzette doesn’t do anything to deserve the rage Hanna shows her. And the number of schools Hanna has been kicked out of had every reason to do so.

As the plot unfolds, the tension grows. Hanna comes up with a plan to fully rid herself of her wretched mother, and the results are deeply troubling. I was constantly fearful of Hanna, and as a parent of a 7-year-old myself, I was easily able to put myself into Suzette’s place. What would I do if Hanna were my child? I just can’t even imagine that life, honestly. I was happy to finish this book so I can put it behind me, but Hanna will stay with me for awhile. It is hard to shake the thought of a psychopath 7-year-old.