2018 Recap: Top Books

2018Books

You can’t go wrong with any book in this photo.

One of my goals for 2018 was to read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month. I set this goal because I love to read, but 2017 found me watching a lot more Netflix instead of picking up a book. So my list of books to read kept getting longer while I got more bored with mindless TV. The books I counted toward this project were new to me – I didn’t count books I had read before.

Thanks to Goodreads, I have an easily accessible list of everything I read this year, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites… and maybe not-so-favorites.

Fiction

  • A Man Called Ove: I struggle to find fiction that I love, so this was an amazing early read for the year and set the bar high. The story revolves around a man who has given up on life, but a cat and some really annoying neighbors start to engage him back in the real world. It’s an absolute masterpiece in story telling with a perfect backstory reveal and great balance of funny and serious.
  • The Night Circus: How had I not read this book before? An amazing fantasy, you can see everything that happens in the book as you read.
  • No-No Boy: Set after the conclusion of World War II, this book follows a young Japanese-American man who refused to fight for the United States in the war. Not light, but an important book about identity in America. As relevant today as it was then.
  • Artemis: From the author of The Martian, Artemis is a must read! I read the whole thing in a weekend, and I loved the characters, most of which live on the moon, and the realistic feeling of logistics throughout the book. This is not Harry Potter and the Moon Adventure. No magic, just a lot of science.
  • Learning to Fall: For my horse friends, this one needs to be on your list. I struggle so much with equestrian-related fiction, but this one captured me and kept me for the whole book, wasn’t too corny, and had some actual twists and turns that were pleasantly unexpected.

Non-Fiction

  • A Stranger in the Woods: A journalist tells the story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years. Even in the winter. It is fascinating, and the perfect read if you’ve ever thought about giving freedom to your introvert soul and running away to the wilderness. Fascinating, well told, heartbreaking, funny… all the elements.
  • At Home in the World: Memoir of a woman who traveled the world with her family, including two small children for about a year. Really well told, lots of travel envy, and a great audio book listen.
  • How to Be Here: This was one of the first books I read in 2018, and, frankly, I need to read it again! My take away: read it. Then read it again.
  • Worth It: Money is not scary. How the stories we tell ourselves about money, especially as women, stop us from flourishing financially and how to take steps in the right direction.
  • High Performance Habits: If I have to recommend you read one and only one book from this list, this might be it. This book sat on my shelf for months after I bought, I think because I intuitively knew it was going to be a lot of hard work and also change my life, and I was afraid of being told some hard truths. Yes, yes, and yes. However, if you need a kick in the butt to level up your life, this book will tell you exactly how to do it. The author is honest that these changes are not easy, but there were so many moments through the whole book that had me staring wide-eyed at the page wondering if he had been spying on my brain while I sleep. If you want a taste of Brendon Burchard, I also recommend his podcast, The Brendon Show, which includes the book in audio format for season 4. However… buy the book so you can take notes in it! Trust me, it’s one you’ll want to refer back to.
  • Off Balance: Worthy of this list. I listened to this book on audio, and I’m interested in reading it again as a hard copy to maybe make notes as I read. Summary: work-life balance is a lie; aim for work-life satisfaction.

Skip ‘Em

I’m really happy to say that there weren’t too many books that I genuinely disliked. I’m not referencing the “it was fine” books I read because so much comes down to preference, style, and just what you’re in the mood for on that day. But there were two books I read that I genuinely would not recommend to anyone. #sorrynotsorry

  • Eligible: Maybe if you’re a die hard Jane Austen fan, you’ll enjoy this retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I found it very long and tedious. The person who gave it to me is no longer allowed to give me books that she was “just okay” with.
  • The Girl on the Train: I know, blasphemy! There were aspects to this book I really enjoyed, but there wasn’t a single character I actually liked. They were all kinda shitty in their own ways.

As always, the opinions shared here are mine. Take them or leave them.

What’s on your reading list for 2019? Are there any books you’ve read recently that you just couldn’t put down? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, or find me on Instagram @meganunedited

Advertisements

Book Review: Bad Monkey

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Ah, Carl Hiaasen, I’m pretty sure I could read your books every day of the year and then hit repeat and start all over. He’s one of the few authors that I follow on Facebook and genuinely get excited about when a new book comes out.

Unfortunately, I  read Star Island last year, one of his newer releases, and felt a little let down. It was… blah. I liked the idea behind it, and the return of the favorite hate-to-love Chemo warmed my heart, but Star Island fell flat for me. I had to convince myself to pick it up instead of sinking into it and losing myself for hours.

All that was running through my mind when I picked up Bad Monkey, published in 2013. I even let it sit, unopened, on my bookshelf for more than a month before starting it  for fear that Hiaasen had lost his touch.

But I wasn’t disappointed a second time. The complete oddness of Hiassen’s characters make them all to real to ignore. Who comes up with this shit? ran through my mind over and over during the course of the book.

The plot centers around Andrew Yancy, a former detective who has been demoted to being a restaurant inspector. But when an unlikely arm (just the arm, not the whole body) comes into his possession, he starts investigating it as a murder despite the emphatic discouragement of those around him. And then there’s the monkey. And the morgue. And the hurricane. And some bees. Hilarity ensues, as does a continued fight against corruption and pollution.

Verdict: Read it. Then pick up Skinny Dip, Lucky You, Sick Puppy, Basket Case and Nature Girl. Read in any delightful order, although there are a few returning characters, so maybe read in order of publishing date.

On A Side Note: I’m doing this super fun book bingo thing this year, and so far I’ve filled it in with Biking Across America (based on a true story), Charlotte’s Web (non human characters), The Circle (more than 500 pages) and now Bad Monkey (mystery). Currently I’m reading The Magician’s Assistant, but I haven’t decided where it will go on my card.

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Circle

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

When I picked up The Circle by Dave Eggers from the library, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I had read a few reviews when it first came out last year, and it was on my list of books to read, but I had a feeling it would be an… uncomfortable read.

After staring at it on my kitchen counter for several days while I finished the book I had been reading, I finally dove in.

And oh my goodness did I dive in. It’s rare anymore that I get so intrigued by a book that I want to stay up all night reading, but this was one. It was also more terrifying and uncomfortable than anything I’ve read in a long time, but in the way that really good books are. I couldn’t put it down because it was so relevant to so many things I think and feel on a daily basis. Continue reading

I Didn’t Finish My Novel (Duh)

After claiming I was going to track my month of insanity doing NaNoWriMo and… well, EVERYTHING ELSE, I figure it’s only fair to give a wrap-up of my novel experience this year.

Obviously, I didn’t finish it. I didn’t even close to finish it. After the first few days of great progress, I stopped dead and wrote barely another word.

The Good:

  • I really, really like my characters. They are super cool, and I want to spend more time with them in the future.
  • It helped me get my mind unfocused from another project I’m working on, which I’m now more excited about revisiting.
  • The plot was so different from my normal that I got a giant kick out of playing around with the way it wall worked. My inner conspiracy theorist came out in force!

The Bad:

  • I don’t think I planned far enough in advance for the plot. I had no idea how it was all going to come together, so it was a bit directionless at the end. I need more practice as plotting out that kind of story.
  • I had virtually no time to work on it once the World Show started, and that burnt me out. So once I had a bit more time at the end, I had absolutely no desire or inspiration to work on it.

Will I do this again next year? The jury’s still out. I wonder if NaNoWriMo has run it’s course in my life and development as a writer. I’m so used to doing it that it seems odd not to, but it’s also such a crazy month (not that any other month is really any better).

My Characters Are Driving Me Insane

When I logged into NaNoWriMo today, I was informed that in order to finish on time, I need to write 3,280 words per day.

I was also told that at my current rate, I will finish my novel on January 1, 2014.

I don’t want to give up hope because I really, really like my characters. I feel bad for them. They’re really fun in a quirky, slightly demented way. I identify with both of my main characters so much.

My mainest main character, Eva, is severely… oh… distracted. But in a very, very focused way. She forgets to buy cat food, buries herself in her work and avoids human contact whenever possible. She’s funny, but only in her own head. Not that she has a bad sense of humor, but more that her internal dialogue is much more verbose than her external. (She was sitting in her therapist’s office wondering if there is a higher-than-normal percentage of serial killers in Alaska.)

Her internal struggles were what really drew me to her. She is a reminder that you never know what’s going on in someone’s head; she has demons that make her scared to get up in the morning and stop her from living a normal life. While she’s okay at battling the demons, she’s not very good at winning against them. But she’s great at winning everything else she tries. She’s not very nice, sweet or happy. She’s not kind, but she cares very deeply. When people don’t live up to her expectations, she shuts down. She has a hard time interacting with people on a friend basis—there has to be a purpose, a goal.

On the other hand, my slightly less main character, Darren, is extroverted, enthusiastic and intuitive. He’s also nosy, opinionated and determined. Once he gets an idea in his head, it’s really hard for him to let it go. He cares about Eva because he feels like she needs him, and he doesn’t like it when she pushes him away.

I’m still figuring him out, mostly because Eva is still figuring him out and the story is written from her perspective.

That’s the problem with characters. They wiggle deep into my subconscious, and suddenly I’m a little more like them without even realizing it. I’ll be in the grocery store and think that Eva really needs to go grocery shopping because her fridge is empty except some expired mustard and a lone carrot. Or I’ll buy a coffee and realize that Darren would order the same thing. When I’m driving, I think about the scenes where they interact and how each of them would feel and respond and look at that particular moment.

But for the past few days, Eva has receded from my subconscious a little. I can’t hear her thoughts quite as clearly. And I’m not sure if she’s losing her voice, or if I’m losing mine.

Basically: I need Darren to tell me to buck up and get to work and Eva to look up from her computer and say something to let me know she’s still there.

Today’s Not The Day

I recently read a blog about working out (I’d find the link, but today’s not the day), and how some days, it’s just not the day. Some days, it’s okay to say that tomorrow will be a better day.

Of course, you can’t do this all the time, or life would not progress as it should.

But this morning, I woke up and thought, today is not the day that I’m going to the gym. It’s not the day I’m going to work on my NaNoWriMo novel. It’s not the day I’m going to run errands, clean out my closets or tackle my extensive shopping list. (Who needs orange juice, hand soap or laundry detergent anyway?) I’m not going to start my latest freelance assignment either.

Today, my goal is to go to work and tackle as many projects as I can. Then I’m going to go home, drink a glass of wine, put on pajamas and watch a movie.

Tomorrow, I can do all those other things, but not today. Today’s not the day. Today is a different day, a day of relative rest.

All of those things I’m not doing will go on a neat and tidy list to be tackled slowly and methodically. Tomorrow.

Not today.

Because, remember, today’s not the day.

What’s The Day Again?

According to the NaNoWriMo website, I’m supposed to reach 25,000 words today. I am still safely at 17,208, the same I was on day three.

Here’s the problem: I get up, shower, experience mild road rage, work for hours and hours and hours, fight stronger road rage, and collapse into bed. I’ve been doing this for 10 days. It’s great.

But it’s not conducive to successfully writing a novel. It’s better suited for coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

I had such good plans to wax poetic in this blog about character development, the daily struggles of a writer, balancing work and novel creation. But sleep is oh-so-important to functioning during the APHA World Championship Show (I don’t even want to know how many times I’ve typed that over the past two weeks).

I’m not giving up. But I concede that while Novembers continue to be this insane (they will be for as long as I’m at this job), NaNoWriMo might not be for me. <gasp>

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go fight road rage, work for a very long time, then collapse into bed and not think again today about NaNoWriMo.