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 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. 

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.


Mort(e) by Robert Repino

IMG_20150120_184037Sebastian is a normal house cat living his cat life.  His human is having an affair with the neighbor and the neighbor the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015brings his dog Sheba over, allowing Sebastian to strike up a loving relationship with Sheba.  Sebastian is content with his life with Sheba and he quickly grows to love her and cherish their time together.

Meanwhile, the ants have had it and have started their war with the humans.  The ants have made it so the animals on the planet can walk upright, talk, think, and act like a human would.  The ants have made an army of their own super-sized ants as well as an army of the animals in the world.  The animals, with their new-found abilities, are super soldiers who seem to revel in taking down their former oppressors with no regret.  The humans fight back by using a bio-weapon name EMSAH.  Who will this battle – the animals/insects or the humans?  Are the animals any better off living their new ways of life?

So goes the bat-shit crazy concept behind Mort(e) by Robert Repino.  Ants lead the rebellion along with humanized animals to obliterate the humans on the planet.  However, bat-shit crazy isn’t how this book really plays out.  It has very somber tones and a reluctant hero in Mort(e), f/k/a Sebastian.  Sebastian eventually gets rid of his “slave” name, taking Mort(e) as his new world name.  All Mort(e) really cares about is trying to find his friend Sheba.  Sheba went missing shortly after the animals started their transformations and Mort(e) has no idea where she went. Mort(e) eventually becomes part of a militia, where he achieves legendary status in the war against the humans.  Mort(e) doesn’t really care about this.  He’s like someone who is really good at a job they hate – it comes natural to them and, damn are they good, but they have something they’d much rather be doing.  For Mort(e) that’s finding Sheba.

As mentioned before, this book is a bit on the somber side.  The fellow soldiers that Mort(e) comes to know mostly have bleak memories of their time before and their stories are sad reflections of how some humans can treat animals.  This adds to the sad tone of the book.  It’s not a depressing book, just has an overall sadness to it.  The cause behind the bio-weapon EMSAH takes the book in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting, but Mort(e) stays true to himself and his cause – finding Sheba. Overall a good book.  A every unique concept that gets a little off track when dealing with the EMSAH virus, but well worth the read.

Symbiont by Mira Grant

wpid-20150112_192434.jpgSymbiont by Mira Grant is the second book in what was to be a two book series but is now a trilogy. Thatthe-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015 statement alone gives the impression this second book may have been lacking in quality content. It kind of was.

Parasite, the first book, had a good pace, was a quick read, and had a plot that moved along. Symbiont was a quick read as well, given it’s a 500 plus page book. The tapeworms meant to keep humans healthy have started to revolt and attack their hosts.  Sal and her companions must figure out how this is happening before the tapeworms cause humans to cease existing in their current forms.

Where the book falls short is in the overall story. The story got bogged down in the main character’s self reflecting and repetition of thoughts/events that happened. At the end of book one, Sal has realized what she is and how she came to be that way.  Book two starts up pretty much where the first one ended, and from there a few things happen, but the repetition really gets in the way.  Sal has to come to terms with what she is, which is understandable and something that readers would want to know about.  However, that self-reflection happens way too frequently and starts to become boring.  

I doubt this is the exact reader reaction Grant wanted. Reading her acknowledgement at the end of the book makes it clear she had a lot more to say than what would fit into two books.  Which is nothing to complain about.  If an author chooses to expand on their original plans, please do so.  Artistic creativeness has its own boss and can often take someone to a different path.  This time it seems to be a bit of a stumbling block.  The book was an Okay read – this is a very obvious second book and didn’t allow for too much progression of overall story or even decent character development. It’s just not what I was hoping for.  Maybe I’ll feel differently once the third and final book comes out.  For now however, I’m left with a feeling of slight disappointment.

2015 reading list, so far…

2015 is upon us and with that, I decided to go through my books and figure out which ones I haven’t read yet.  Turns out I currently possess 44 books that I haven’t read yet. Forty-four! A sample of some is pictured below. Cleary I have an issue with buying books before I’m ready to read them. Not only am I a reading addict, I’m also a book buying addict. This isn’t exactly a problem I want to cure, but one that I need to try and get under some semblance of control.

imageWho am I kidding. I’ll never get it under control. When a new book comes out that I want to read, I buy it. I’ve tried waiting but that never works. I want to have that first edition, first printing book. Not because I think it will be worth something one day, only because I’m compelled with forces beyond my control to have that brand new book.  There are other addictions that are far worse to have, so I’m happy this one isn’t a self-destructive one.

Obviously I have a lot of reading to look forward to this year.  Therefore, I once again am participating in The Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge. Last year I signed up to read and review 26 books.  Sadly I fell short of that goal and only read/reviewed 19 books. I read more than 19 books but I had a hard time doing a review for each one. Hopefully this year I won’t have the same problem and will meet my goal (which will be 26 again, no need to push myself when I fell short last time). Another goal I’ll give myself as part of this challenge is to read at least half of my current “to be read pile.”  Reading 22 from the stack I currently have seems like a reasonable goal, right? I’m hoping it is.

So, here’s to a lot of reading to look forward to in 2015! I’ll see how it goes, along with how many new books get added to the “to be read pile” this year.

The Humans by Matt Haig

IMG_20141223_070600_427Professor Andrew Martin has died and his body is taken over by an alien visitor from Vonnadoria.  The unnamed alien comes the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-buttonwith a purpose to destroy life changing information/data that the professor had discovered.  When the alien first takes over Martins body he has a hard time adjusting to and tolerating the humans on Earth, seeing humans as purely violent beings who have disgusting habits, abhorring diets, and are hideous.  While he sets out to accomplish his goal of destroying the data and all who know about it, he starts to see humans in a different light.  Taking over the daily life of the professor, he comes to understand humans – how they live, how they act, what they eat, what they listen to, and how they feel.  This leads him to question his mission and he is placed in a very unexpected situation.

Matt Haig’s The Humans is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year, I’d even say this is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.  Haig puts a wealth of emotion, truth, humor, wit, and love into this book.  The alien narrator’s journey from destroyer to acceptance is told from someone who has never known caring or love and who then finds out what it’s like to care, to love and to be loved.  It sounds as though this would be a story full of sappy, sentimental crap, but it’s not.  There is the right amount of humor, cynicism, and compassion to provide a good balance and makes the story readable and thoroughly enjoyable.

The reader eventually finds that Professor Martin was an ass.  But when the alien takes over Martin’s body, the alien sees things in ways Martin wasn’t capable of seeing.  Martin’s family is fractured and on the brink of complete destruction.  As the alien learns what it means to be human, the family just might be able to be put back together again.  Don’t be mistaken and think this is a sci-fi book about an alien. It’s not. It’s a book about humans, the human condition, and how we miss out on so much because we are so focused on other things.  I found this book to be incredibly good and would recommend that everyone read it.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


The Ghosts of Belfast – Stuart Neville

Gerry Fegan is20141104_193129 haunted by twelve ghosts.  Twelve souls who he either helped bring to their demise or he brought them there the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-button himself .  The twelve want revenge for their deaths and they won’t leave Gerry alone until their revenge is taken.

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and draws upon Belfast’s violent past with The Troubles.  Gerry Fegan is a former Paramilitary who, after being freed from serving time for his crimes, is wracked with the guilt that comes with what he’s done.  Fegan drinks heavily and openly talks to the souls who have started to haunt him, causing those around him to think he’s gone insane.  Fegan’s only resolution to get the twelve to leave is to carry out the revenge they so desperately want.  Carrying out this revenge will threaten the fragile peace process that is playing out amongst government officials as well as the individual citizens within Belfast.


Stuart Neville speaking at a local bookstore for his new novel, The Final Silence

The Ghosts of Belfast is a descriptive and brutal story that puts the reader right into the action.  One can feel the tension between characters.  The reader is able to get into Fegan’s mind and understand his guilt and torment. Surprisingly, for all of Fegan’s, atrocities (past and present) he is a likable and sympathetic character.  His quest for justice to those who haunt him is difficult, brutal and filled with nightmarish scenes.  The aftermath of The Troubles is a constant presence in the air and is on display in the individuals within the story.  I thought the book to be well written, fast paced, and the supporting characters to be well fleshed out.  The only stumbling part for me was at the beginning of the book – I found myself getting confused with who was who. But that only lasted for a few pages and  I was able to get back on track and read the book in just a few days time.

Stuart Neville is currently touring for his most recent book, The Final Silence, and I recommend going to see him if he stops in a city near you.  He’s an engaging speaker and offered good insight into his writing process and ideas.  I’ve only read this first book of his but am looking forward to reading all of the rest.  I thought The Ghosts of Belfast to be an excellent read; one that will stay with you long after you are done.

A Sudden Light – Garth Stein

20141012_141506Garth Stein’s new book, A Sudden Light, is about fourteen year old Trevor Riddell whose father, Jones, has taken him on a trip to his father’s childhood the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-buttonhome, Riddell House.  Riddell House, overlooking Puget Sound, is a sprawling mansion built off of the former fortunes of the Riddell family timber industry.  Trevor’s mom and dad are on a trial separation and Trevor wants nothing more than for his parents to get back together.  Upon arrival at Riddell house, Trevor meets his seemingly senile Grandpa Samuel, and his much too flirty aunt Serena.  Aunt Serena and Jones have plans to sell off the deteriorating Riddell House, place Grandpa Samuel in a home, and split the profits to live a blissfully happy life.  Riddell House, however, has other plans.

Riddell House holds many secrets.  Mainly, ghosts.  Trevor isn’t exactly haunted, I’d say more like visited, by a long deceased relative. This allows Trevor to get to know the true history of Riddell house as well as its past inhabitants.  These visits give way to some revelations about Riddell family father/son histories which sets Trevor on a path to uproot the plans of his own father and aunt.  While Trevor wants a better relationship with his father Jones, Jones is distant and seems reluctant to put forth any effort to really get to know his son for most of the book.  Aunt Serena is clearly manipulative and has nefarious intent, a sure sign she should not be trusted.

The houseIMG_20141004_191826_404 itself is another character in this book.  Riddell House is built out of wood; this being a deliberate slight from the son who built it (the conservationist) to the father (the timber baron) he was building it for.  The conservationist in me loved the dichotomy of a timber baron having an environmentalist son who has his father live in a house that is meant to eventually fall apart.  The house also symbolizes a lot of other struggles of a father/son relationship.  A theme in the Riddell family that keeps repeating in each subsequent generation.

I found this book to be overall enjoyable.  Sometimes the holes in the story filled by the diary notes got a little in the way in terms of flow for the book and slowed things down a bit for my taste.  Trevor read as an old soul to me, especially given the descriptiveness of some of his recollections/storytelling.  He’s a likable teen who seemed rather well-adjusted to any scenario that he encountered.  His father and aunt were harder to like and didn’t offer much in terms of being redemptive.  But this is Trevor’s story and not theirs.  Stein has created a cool site,, that provides extra insight into the book and provides some history on the topics within the book.  It’s well worth checking out!

I was fortunate enough to have Stein make a stop at a local bookstore as part of his A Sudden Light tour.  I found A Sudden Light to be written with a lot of passion and that it was clearly well researched.  I could see this passion on display from Stein at his reading/book signing event, which made the book that much more enjoyable for me.   Garth Stein’s books are a bit different that what I normally like to read.  There is an overall happiness and hope in his books but it’s a happiness that is tinged with sadness, which is what appeals to me.  A Sudden Light is about ghosts, but it’s more about family and how those  relationships can become fractured and destroyed if not taken care of, much like the land we live on.