The year in reading 2020

This year started out at a good pace but then 2020 happened. I don’t even know the exact total number of books I read this year. I usually have a spot where I place my read books but that space is jammed with the previous years and my husband decided to move some. I got confused as to what was this year’s and what was the previous ones. I believe I read 15 books. A pathetic low for me.

We all know what happened in 2020 – Covid19 wreaked its havoc upon the world. So much sadness is associated with this horrible pandemic. Too many lives lost, too many people losing jobs. Too much everything.

So far I have been fortunate – my job seamlessly moved from in office to work from home (and in all honesty WFH makes my job easier). My husband’s job was busier. I haven’t lost anyone to this wretched virus. My family and friends are all doing as best as they can this year. I know I’m incredibly lucky, privileged, etc., to have had a stable year, and I don’t take that for granted.

While I haven’t been personally affected by the virus I did have some sorrow this year. We had to say goodbye to our beloved dog Otis in June. I was devastated and working from home with no dog was so very sad and lonely. One week after saying goodbye to Otis I started to have anxiety attacks, something I’ve never had before. It was directly related to losing Otis. I needed another dog even though I missed Otis terribly. One month later we found another dog, Luna. And while we may have adopted her too quickly, it was the right thing to do. My anxiety attacks started to be less frequent and now have gone away completely. My husband says she’s my emotional support dog.

My very good friend who lives overseas lost her father. Losing someone in 2020 is even harder than normal. Not being able to be able to be there for her was heartbreaking. Another friend lost their dog in the same fashion as Otis. She too had a hard time but was able to adopt a new dog as well. Not being able to see my parents and friends has been hard. Before the pandemic I was a partial recluse so staying home all the time hasn’t been too hard, but the occasional outing is sorely missed. I certainly look forward to the day when we can see people without worrying about giving or contracting the virus. Though those days aren’t going to happen as soon as one would hope.

All of this attributed to my slow reading. After June, reading slowed down for me. I wasn’t that interested. Though I always have a book I’m reading, actually doing so didn’t happen as often. Not being able to go to the bookstore was hard. There’s a certain feeling that happens with going to the bookstore and perusing the shelves, leaving with a stack of new books. I wasn’t able to do that after March 17th. So much changed after that date.

2020 has not been what anyone could have imagined it would have been. I hope to be able to get back to more steady reading in 2021. Having adopted a new dog will help. Knowing there is hope on the other side of 2021 helps as well.

The Year in Reading 2019

Eighteen books. That’s it. I only read eighteen books this year. A total disappointment to myself since I aspire to read at least twenty-five books a year.

A few of that I really enjoyed: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Recursion, and Dogs of War.

A few thoughts on why my reading was so low this year:

1. Worked too much. My job was crazy this year and I had a 3.5 month span where I was the only person. Ten or twelve hours reading on a weekend were instead devoted to working.

2. Lack of motivation. I think my job being so stressful really affected my willingness to do things. So often when it was the weekend and I didn’t have to work, I chose to just watch TV.

3. Lack of focus. At times I wanted to read but couldn’t concentrate.

Hopefully 2020 is a better reading year for me. I enjoyed the ones I read this year and wish o could have gotten through a few more.

Here’s to 2020 and, hopefully, more reading.

Game of Thrones – The final episode #gameofthrones

Endings are hard. Several writers I follow on Twitter said that after the 5th episode of Game of Thrones and it was reiterated after the finale. Endings ARE hard. Creating an ending that is pleasing or fulfilling to everyone isn’t possible. All a writer, reader, viewer, etc. can hope for is that what is given or provided will be received well. The final episode of Game of Thrones for me was Okay. I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it either.  It definitely didn’t have the impact it needed to make it feel like it was ending but I was Okay how it ended.

First off, Jon needed to kill Dany – I think it was set up to seem like someone else would do so but Jon is the only one that would have made sense. When Tyrion asked “what about your sisters” Jon knew he’d have to do something because there’d be no way Sansa would ever bend the knee to Dany. Dany believed her way of forced acquiesce was the best way, but that is just as bad as previous kings and she would not have been giving people the choice she claimed to be offering. The show did a bad job of conveying that. The scene with Dorgon melting the throne was cool – he’s like this damn thing is useless and it clearly corrupted my mother. It was super sad and sweet to see him nudge her to try and see would get up and then flying off with her was a nice visual.

Bran being king. I’m ambivalent about this. Why was he the best choice? We were offered no real reason why he was the best choice. Yes Tyrion had that nice speech but it wasn’t enough. The meeting at the end was so rushed and no debate. Why would a decision like king be made and agreed upon by all in a matter of minutes. Bran is King – Okay so give us more than Tyrion’s speech to convince us. Explain why – he knows all the stories and given he’s seen the mistake that were made he knows acting upon self-interest is a fatal flaw – show that debate as to why this makes sense, not just have everyone be all like ‘yeah cool we have no one else’. Too glossed over and didn’t provide the needed weight.  It was still unexpected, which is a core theme for GOT – it’s not the Hollywood ending, it’s real life and you don’t get the ideal ending.

I don’t know who would have made a good king/queen. Sansa seemed like a fan choice, but she would have been the wrong one. Her loyalties lie with the North and she would have always put the north first. Queen of the North is the perfect outcome for her. Arya’s ending felt a little too open ended. I liked the idea but her assassin skills seemed to no longer be important.

Jon going to live with the Wildlings was a good choice. Though not touching on his heritage and what it meant for the final outcome was confusing. He clearly did not want to be king and a life far from all that has made him miserable is the best for Jon.

I think the main issue is the lack of source material and that Weiss and Benioff were the final story writers. In my opinion they are script writers, not story writers. They focused on who wins the throne rather than the nuances of how the characters would act/think/react to the events that happened. Dany’s descent into a tyrant made sense but that was rushed. W & B wanted it to have a certain number of episodes – which was fine really – but they weren’t able to tell the story like it needed to be told. They focused on the battles, but offered no real impact or consequences that lead up to the next thing.  Why not have Brienne die saving Jamie during the battle of Winterfell. That would have made sense and been more of a believable plot line for what comes next. Jamie returning to Cersei the next episode would seem plausible given he would have been inspired by Brienne’s valor to be with Cersei at the end. He knew Cersei was not going to make it out alive. Character development was tossed to the side in favor of the action sequences. Which were good visuals but dismissing one for the other wasn’t the best way to go.

Overall I was okay with the episode, and this season as a whole, but they could have done a better job with staying true to the spirit of the show and providing a more thought out progression to get to the points they did. I will miss this show quite a lot. It’s one of my all time favorites and I’m happy to have watched it and will watch it again and again. Not all shows end like a viewer wants. Some shows go out with a bang, some with a whimper, and some with an Eh.

And that’s Okay.

Westlake Soul by @Rio_Youers

I have an affinity for books I like to refer to as beautifully sad. I don’t search these types of books out, rather when I read one that is such it seems to touch my soul and resonate with me. Maybe it’s due to my own internalizing and holding things in that I find the beautifully sad so relatable. The way these type of books aren’t afraid to bear all emotion is a kind of release I don’t allow myself too often.

Westlake Soul, a surfing champion, suffers a catastrophic injury, resulting in being in a vegetative state, unable to move or respond to anything. The only communication Westlake is capable of is with his beloved dog Hub. Westlake is in a battle to find his way out of his immobile prison and return to the life and relationships he cherishes.

I went into this book thinking it was a different type of story. One of horror and terror rather than one of emotion and a different kind of fear- fear of the possible end. The reader gets to know Westlake through his memories of life before his accident, and he’s a likeable dude. An easy going surfer who is happy with his life and its direction. The accident doesn’t change his mindset at all, just allows him to be even more appreciative of how he has lived so far and use that appreciation to try and find a way out of his current state.

Youers does sprinkle the book with touches of sentiment, though it is the perfect amount. Allowing the reader just enough emotion and feeling and then being able to move on. He captures emotions and feelings in realistic ways without being manipulative or duplicitous.

This is the second book of Youers I’ve read and I’ve enjoyed both in totally different ways. This one, however, is one of those books that was unexpected to me. Mainly due to the impact it had on me. Every reader has a different experience when reading a book. This one is beautifully sad to me and I couldn’t be happier with that experience.

2018 World Cup: A Yank’s Obsession #WorldCup

The world is once again on the eve of another World Cup competition. Thirty-two teams from thirty-two countries fighting to bring home the most coveted prize in soccer – the World Cup trophy.

I love soccer. Yes I know it’s football most everywhere else, but I’m American and we have a different football here, so I call it soccer. I don’t recall when I first started to enjoy the game so much, though I know for certain it was while watching a previous World Cup. Once international soccer games became more widely broadcast, I was able to expand my love to the English Premiere league. One reason why I like soccer so much is due to the constant action – 45 minutes of game time, then 1/2 time, and then 45 more minutes of playing time. No timeouts, stoppage time yes, but no forced stops for tv time outs, or massive delays to figure out if an obvious score was a score. Sure there are boring games, as there are in every sport, and it’s something a fan has to deal with.

So what’s so great about the World Cup you ask. Well it’s the international competition that I so enjoy. Individuals competing in honor of representing their country. Much like the Olympics. How could someone not love that. Then there’s the competition itself. The first rounds, the knockout stages, all leading to one final game to determine the winner.

This World Cup is disappointing for me this year since the U.S. failed to qualify this time. Why still watch the competition if your country isn’t in it? How many times have I watched an Olympic game and found myself rooting for a country other than my own. It’s the spirit of representing one’s own country that provides so much joy. So much passion is put forth when competing for the glory of one’s own country. International competition also brings people together, allowing for an understanding of other cultures and other ideas. Which then allows a better understanding of different parts of the world. It also provides insight into something that may not have been understood before.

The U.S. isn’t in it so who are you rooting for? This time I’m hoping for Iceland, the underdogs who surprised many during the last Euros, and England. One of my closest friends is English and I have a great love for the EPL, so it’s an easy affiliation for me.

If you’re not familiar with soccer and are looking for a team to cheer for if your country isn’t represented this time here’s a few suggestions: Argentina, the greatest player in the world, Messi, in what is most likely his last chance at soccer glory and the chance to shake off the spector of not being “as good” as Maradona. If you want to see a person who needs to win, this may be the team for you.

If you like to root for the most likely winner, there’s Germany. The powerhouse country that has won the cup four times.

If you’re a glutton for self sabatoge, there’s England. Often heralded as “producing the team that’s going to win it this time” England frequently falls to the pressure of their own expectations. Then there’s Iceland, the small, cold country that beat England in shocking fashion at the last Euros. They have the Viking clap, inspiring in its own way.

Of course there’s perennial favorite Brazil. Soccer is in the soul of this country and players are well known for their finesse and skill, not so much their power.

Soccer is a game full of passion and fervent fans. It’s a game of heartbreaking loss and exulant wins. If you’ve never watched before, give the World Cup a try. If, like me, you look forward to every World Cup, I hope this one doesn’t disappoint. And if you just can’t stand soccer, that’s cool. Just understand the next 30 days will be full of soccer dreams. Have patience with the fans. It’s a game we love.

The Year in Reading 2017

Every year I hope to read 52 books in one year. I’ve never been able to do that and this year is no different. This year was a paltry 25 books read. I really thought I was closer to my 52 book goal but ended the year just under half of that. 

Lack of meeting my goal aside, a few of my favorites:

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi – Scalzi is a prolific sci-fi writer and this book was a bit of a departure from that style. However the quality of writing/story did not suffer at all. A fast paced and compelling story combined with excellent illustrations, this short story was my top read this year.

Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers – The Spider still tickles my brain after reading this thriller. A forgotten love with a mystery connection made this book a unique read. If you are looking for a good thriller, pick this book up.

Anything by Chuck Wendig – three books in my stack by Wendig and each one was read in two days (or less). Wendig has a way of pulling the reader in and making an intimate connection. No matter what was going on around me, I was fully engrossed in the story. It felt like a deep conversation with a close friend you only get to see every few years. I look forward to reading more of his books in 2018

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy – Technology runs our lives. What happens when nefarious entities take control of that technology is frightening.

So many books, so little time to read them. 

Owen and Stephen King Sleeping Beauties Tour

“He’s so fucking weird.”

That’s what Owen King said about his father, Stephen King, when asked a question during their September 30th appearance at The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. The two writers made a stop in my hometown promoting their new novel Sleeping Beauties and I was able to grab a few tickets to the show.

As a lifelong S.K. fan I was beyond thrilled at finally having a chance to see King in the flesh. Their new book is about what happens if all the women in the world fell asleep and kept on sleeping. They didn’t talk too much about the book, focusing more on the interaction between themselves. It was more like listening to two friends hang out and talk to each other. Father and son clearly have a good, close relationship and they played well off of each other.

The elder King had recently turned 70 and the younger King joked about the olders memory and then pulled out the Stephen King trivia book. Stephen is a prolific writer with well over 50 books, many of which have dozens and dozens of characters in each book. Impressively Stephen got three of four questions about Misery correct. It was fun to watch S.K. answer one right away, pause for a beat with two, and fail on one.

The last part of the show was for audience questions. And of course the lines at the mics were insane. Given Stephen’s popularity, almost all questions were for him. I felt a bit bad for Owen on this but S.K. did a wonderful job at answering questions while also bringing Owen into the response or finding a way to have Owen respond. There were a few cringe worthy questions but those were handled with respectful deflection by both authors.

The night went fast and was everything I hoped it would be. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to see S.K. in person and to finally have the dream come to fruition was incredible. The night ended on a really high note for me. All attendees got a book with their tickets and 400 books were signed by both writers. These signed books were randomly given out as the audience was leaving and I was fortunate enough to receive a signed copy (A friend who attended the show with me received one as well!). Fullfilling another lifelong dream – to have a signed book by Stephen King. Needless to say my night was made. An appearance I will always fondly remember and a book I will treasure. This constant reader could not have been more happy.

Flash Reviews: A Man Called Ove & The Days of Tao

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to post so I’m doing two quick reviews right now.

First up is A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. This is a book from my book club and I absolutely loved it. I thought it was what I like to refer to as “beautifully sad”. A widower appears to be just a cranky old man but when new neighbors move in, Ove turns out to be more than anyone expected. This book was sweet, sentimental, and sad. When done right, those three elements make for a compelling story and this book does that. An excellent read.

Next, The Days of Tao, by Wesley Chu. This is a novella that is an offshoot of Chu’s Tao series. Tao’s next host, Cameron Tan, is thrown into unexpected action and the battle between Prophus and the Genjix goes to a global level. Being a novella, this book is a quick read and enough of a taste of how Cameron is dealing with being a host for Tao. It also offers a small tidbit of info on another of Chu’s book, The Rise of Io. This is a fun book if you are a fan of Chu’s Tao series (which I highly recommend).

Eight days into 2017 and I’m two books in. Hope to keep up the pace!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Jawp-1472254326241.jpgson Dessen left the bar in a bit of a huff. A small disagreement with a longtime friend has made him upset. He makes one stop at the store for some ice cream before going home, but the fateful stop ends much differently than Jason expected. He ends up being thrust into a world that seems his own but isn’t. His wife is not his wife, his son doesn’t exist, his co-workers and friends he does not know, and everything about his hometown is slightly off.  Where is he and how can he possibly make it back home? What if he’s trapped here forever? Questions that Jason struggles to find answers to. And answers he may never get.

Wow. That’s what I thought while reading Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. A sci-fi thriller that moves at a blinding speed and, while it does have some predictable moves, keeps the reader’s interest and doesn’t disappoint. Jason and his wife have made some sacrifices in favor of family life in terms of career goals. These sacrifices have made for a very happy family as well as a happy life. That life is ripped from Blake’s world in a unusual way. The reader figures out fairly quickly what has happened, but that doesn’t take away from the story.

Dark Matter has a terrific pace, some due to the writing (single line paragraphs that eat up space) and some due to wanting to find out what happens next. I found myself quickly attached to Jason, thanks to well developed characters by Blake. As for the predicable part, it’s not that it makes this a bad book in any way. It’s just a fact for most of the book. Until it takes an unexpected turn that most, well, at least me, readers didn’t see coming. Which piqued my interest even more and made me want to keep reading.

This book stayed with me for several days after reading it. I wasn’t even able to start up another book until two days later, and even then, I was still thinking about Dark Matter. I find myself wishing I could read it anew again. This seems like heavy praise but this is the effect this book had on me. This is the first book of Crouch’s I’ve read. I watched the t.v. show Wayward Pines, based off of his books, but I hadn’t read anything before this.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a fast, interesting read, has characters to care about, and has an outcome that was unexpected.

Wednesday night book haul

New books on a Wednesday night? Weird I know. I don’t usually make a stop at the bookstore midwp-1470937404975.jpg-week, but my book-club met last night and we were just down the street from my local B&N so stopping by made sense.

This week I picked up three new books: Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, by Carole Radziwell, and The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer.

I watched Wayward Pines, based off of books from Blake Crouch, and enjoyed the t.v. show.  I hadn’t read any of his books before but the reviews of Dark Matter have been positive so I thought I’d give it a chance. It’s about a guy who wakes up to a life that is not his own and he has no idea who the people around him are. Sounds like a good “where the hell am I” story.

The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating is my next book club read. My fellow clubbers and I have all had a stressful past few weeks and I recommended this book as a good, mindless, fun read. Nothing too heavy or serious since we all could use a bit of brightening of mood. This one is written by Carole Radizwell, most recently known for her role on Real Housewives of New York, but she’s got the skills and experience to back it up – a BA and a masters, and she worked for several years at ABC News – so it’s not one of those “I’m a reality star and now I’m a writer” things.  The plot of the book somewhat mirrors Radziwell’s own life – a woman widowed at a young age who finds herself out in the crazy dating world. Seems like this one will be a fun one to read.

And the third book, The Cemetery Boys, is by an author that I’ve read before. Heather Brewer wrote The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, a YA vampire series that I liked quite a bit. This third buy is about a teenager and his family who are broke and need to move in with his grandmother to a small, creepy town.The teenager meets a girl and her twin brother and things get strange after that.  Again, not a deep thought read, but since I liked the author I figure I’d give this one a chance.

Percentage chances of me reading these books:

  • The Widows Guide to Sex and Dating – 100% It’s for my book-club and I’ve read every book so far. Plus,this is one I picked to read, so it’s being read
  • Dark Matter – 95% I’m curious about this book since it sounds so interesting. Slim chance it’ll sit in my TBR pile for a long time
  • The Cemetery Boys – 85% Probably won’t read this one right away, want to read a few others before it. Certainly another that won’t be relegated to the TBR pile for long

Look for more book haul posts since one of my addictions is buying books. Hope you enjoyed this one.