Categories
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.

 

 

Categories
books and reading

The Secret History

Donna Tartt has written three books, and her first was in 1992 with The Secret History. Next is The Little Friend, published in 2003 and finally The Goldfinch in in 2013. So about every 10 years, she has a new book. I’m not used to waiting so long in between books. Most authors publish every year or so, George RR Martin aside, of course. Stephen King cranks out two a year, thankfully. Markus Zusak waited 14 years between The Book Thief and Bridge of Clay. But when a book is as good as The Goldfinch or Bridge of Clay is, the wait is most definitely worth it.

The Secret History is set in the 1980s at a small liberal arts school in Vermont. Richard is the new kid in an elite group of students studying Greek intensively. Francis, twins Camilla and Charles, Edmund (Bunny), and Henry grudgingly accept him into the circle, although Richard doesn’t really know what he is getting into. Joining a tight-knit group is extraordinarily difficult in the best circumstances, but whilst in the middle of an academic setting is near impossible.

Richard handles it as well as possible, mostly aided by alcohol. But when the original group gets into some hot water, to say the least, Richard is put into a very difficult situation. They do try to protect him, realizing he is truly innocent, but unfortunately that doesn’t last. Basically, the group does something terrible, tries to keep Richard out of it, but he ends up in it anyway.

This book is a beautiful character portrait, much like The Goldfinch. Plenty of things happen, but the focus on the character is first and foremost. Before the big terrible things happen, you spend half the book wandering around the college with the kids, getting to know and like (or dislike) them, so when the terrible thing happens, you are gut punched by it because you are so wrapped up in their lives.

I really did love this book, though The Goldfinch is her masterpiece (Pulitzer winner for a reason). The Secret History is an excellent, solid debut book.

Categories
books and reading

The Goldfinch

I try to keep up with Pulitzer winners, but many of them are rather dull. I read The Orphan Master’s Son, American Pastoral, The Shipping News, all were rather dull. However, some like The Underground RailroadBeloved, and Middlesex were amazing and worth reading. So when I hear a book has won the Pulitzer, I’m a bit leery. I first read The Goldfinch a few years ago and absolutely fell in love. It was the best book I read that entire year. I’ve recommended it to everyone, but I realize it’s not a book that all will love. It’s not always the most exciting book, but it is beautifully written and kept me engaged from the first page. I reread it in anticipation of the movie coming out this week.

300px-Fabritius-vink

The story of Theodore Decker is a difficult one. His mother is killed in an art museum bombing. Theo was spared, but in a moment of insanity, he steals a painting during the chaos. A simple little painting of a bird. Theo’s entire life revolves around the fear of the authorities discovering the painting. As a teenager, he bundles it up, hides it, doesn’t think much about it. But as an adult, he realizes the magnitude of what he’s done and doesn’t know how to handle it.

The story is told in two big chunks, Theo as a teenager and as an adult. As a teen, he his mother has died, his father abandoned him, and he ends up living with a family friend. Once his dad resurfaces, Theo moves with him to Las Vegas and ends up meeting Boris, a classmate. Boris is hands-down the most interesting character in the book. You love Theo and are heartbroken for his life, but Boris leaps off the page, both in the teenage years and when he reappears in Theo’s adult life.

I don’t want to say much about the plot because it doesn’t go the way you expect, but it all revolves around the painting. Theo is flawed. He’s a drug addict, a thief (aside from the painting), a liar, and you still love him. But Boris is the dynamic one, and I can’t wait to see him portrayed on screen. He equally oozes charm and violence. He’s a scoundrel to the highest degree. But he is loyal and protects Theo. So far the trailers seem to get the book right. I’m cautiously hopeful for this one.