2018: Year in Review

To call 2018 a milestone year for me would be doing it a disservice. A lot of big things happened to yours truly, the biggest of those being my graduation from Butler University in May. It’s an odd feeling to spend four years of your life away from home and then have to return to it indefinitely as the minutiae of adult life begins to take hold, but that’s what I ended up doing. I moved back in with Mom & Pops (thanks, dudes, for not kicking me out by the way–I owe ya one) and I took a job at a bookstore. Fitting, right? Well, as of January 7th, I started a new job, and I’m loving it. Technically a 2019 thing, but I was hired at the tail end of last year so it counts as a change.

A lot of my 2018 was spent searching–searching for a career, searching for my next workout plan, searching for my next pet project. I started a baseball-writing website that has since been abandoned. I flip-flopped back and forth on whether or not I wanted to re-start my fitness brand. I accepted a job writing for a film website and to this day still haven’t seen single penny of compensation for my work. I DID finally decide I wanted to spend the rest of my life talking about books, but I won’t get into the Youtube channel for which I made videos for about a month and a half before scrapping that project, too. For every big thing that happened, there were three that flopped and fizzled.

However, 2018 saw the revamp of this website and a reinvigorated personal interest in reading. I read (probably) the widest array of authors since I began to track such things, and I developed the barebones for a format for my reviews. This post is not going to be a book review, but will be a review, of sorts. Goodreads.com does this neat little thing where they summarize your reading year, and I figured we’d take a quick look at mine. I’ll give paragraph-length reviews of the books I ended the year with but didn’t have the time to officially talk about, and I’ll wrap everything up by discussing my expectations for 2019.

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As this delightful graphic shows, I read 22 books, some being bestsellers like The Stand and others being academic books that pertain to my studies. (Don’t sleep on that Gothic literature book, though–it’s awesome.) I was shocked to discover that this year I tallied six fewer books than last, but that might’ve had something to do with having no English classes during the second half of the year. I definitely did a lot more pleasure reading this year, which was nice. Apparently, I’m somewhat of a generous critic, because my average rating was 3.9 stars out of 5. My favorite book was Smart Baseball by Keith Law. I spoke about this one on my now-defunct YouTube channel, but it’s basically a how-to guide for understanding the way players are evaluated by teams today and is a great primer for anyone looking to break into baseball fandom. I was most disappointed by Stephen King’s newest, Elevation, and you can read my review of it here.

To wrap the year up (and sorta start the new year with a bang) I finished four books that I never got around to reviewing. Two of them aren’t fresh enough to merit full-length reviews, and the other two books were read with no critical lens whatsoever–completed in marathon sessions that felt great but translated into little tangible content–but I’ll leave some words about those as well.

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The Book of Essie- I actually finished this one in early October, but I was so uninspired by the time things concluded that I had trouble remembering the state in which the novel was set. This caused me to put off and eventually skip writing the review, and a draft of my first few paragraphs still resides in my “unpublished posts” folder. To summarize my thoughts: The concept of a fire-and-brimstone, Bible-thumping family who also star in a Kardashian-esque reality show is an interesting juxtaposition, but only so in the hands of a better writer. The Book of Essie oozes melodrama and reads like a Harlequin Romance novel with slightly better dialogue. That didn’t stop me from being hooked on the last third of the book, though the story to that point had been uneven and drab at parts. The book was merely readable, despite the goldmine concept.

The Woman in the Window- Maybe I’m a tough critic, or maybe the hype surrounding this novel was so great that it was destined to fail in my eyes. Anna Fox is one hell of an interesting narrator, reminiscent of Sasha Jensen of Good Morning, Midnight fame. The short chapters and choppy line breaks have this book practically begging to be read obnoxiously fast, which happened in my case. It’s fairly hard to pull off a novel centered on a character who literally cannot leave her house, but AJ Finn does it with this one. The novel has plenty of cliffhangers and a “you’ll never see it coming” plot twist at the end, but the in-betweens are filled with alcoholic ramblings and false alarms that leave a stale taste in your mouth. Though still very good, The Woman in the Window didn’t quite live up to the standard to which it was held in my head, but whether that’s a book problem or a me problem remains to be seen.

The Last Time I Lied– Maybe it was my fault for going right into another thriller with a first-person female narrator directly on the heels of The Woman in the Window, but Riley Sager’s sophomore novel didn’t get the job done for me. The prose is pedestrian, the plot is contrived, and I saw the twist at the end from a mile away. I debated giving up on the novel on three separate occasions, but it gave me just enough to push through to the end. If The Woman in the Window is the new gold standard for first-person thrillers, The Last Time I Lied is a lackluster prototype.

Gwendy’s Button Box- I picked this one up simply because it had been sitting on my shelf for too long and I knew I could finish it within a couple of hours. I didn’t know if I’d like a Stephen King book that was co-written with another author, but I’d be lying to you if I said I could tell the difference. Gwendy’s Button Box is a pithy edition to the Castle Rock canon, and it made me yearn to go back and read some of the earlier entires. Similar to King’s short story The Man in the Black Suit, GBB details a run in with the Man in Black, a familiar foe in the King-verse. I don’t have much to say about this because I read it so quickly–I will say that there’s a commentary on the human condition tucked beneath the surface somewhere, but a superficial reading will more than make you happy.

As for what I’m currently reading and how I’m going to tackle the rest of the year: I’m in the middle of two books (Fire and Blood by George RR Martin and A Time to Kill by John Grisham) and I’ll get back to a regular review schedule shortly. My goal for 2019 is to read 30 books– I believe this was the same goal I failed to achieve last year, but due to a number of dominoes falling in my favor, it should be much easier this time around. . . and I’ve already got two done.

I’d look for a review on most–if not all–of the books I read, but I’m also going to try and deliver more book-related content during my inevitable reading slumps. I’d like to establish some sort of rigid schedule with this thing, I just haven’t figured it out yet. Be on the lookout for list-articles, opinion pieces, and the occasional rant–I’m usually good for 1-2 gems a year, regardless if the topic pertains to literature or not. I’m becoming increasingly interested in the literary award season, so I’ll make sure to talk about that as well. Bottom line: We’re shooting for quantity in 2019–to be fair, we do that every year and results vary.

I also want to take a second and encourage reader interaction. If you’re here, you either love reading or you love me; either one is acceptable, but if you love reading, don’t be afraid to leave a comment or two on some of my posts so we can talk books. I hear it’s what the cool kids are doing.

Whether you’re new here or a seasoned vet (all two of you) I’m thankful for the readership and I hope that 2019 is a year of growth for all of us–as readers, writers, and bloggers. I’m off to go read now; I’ll report back in a few days.

 

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