With 2018 behind us, and resolutions shiny and new and still capable of being fulfilled before the next midnight party, I wanted to highlight the five-star books that I read in 2018. A common resolution is to read more, and in order to reach that goal, you need to set up a Goodreads account if you do not already have one (which has a function to set a reading goal for the year, and tracks the number of books read so long as you remember to input each one), and you need to have some good books to read. To assist with the latter, here are the books that I really liked that I read in 2018:
Deetz: Yes, I admit it. I tried Babitz because Belletrist picked her novel Sex and Rage as one of its’ monthly picks, and I have a bit of a girl-crush on Emma Roberts. Sex and Rage was perpetually checked out of the library, but Slow Days, Fast Company (“SDFC”) was on the shelf one day and I grabbed it. It was love at first read.
Babitz herself is a fascinating personage. A ’60s and ’70s L.A. It-Girl who once took a photo playing chess with Marcel Duchamp in the buff, she became a recluse after being in a car accident in ’97 that resulted in severe burns over a large part of her body. In addition to leading an interesting life, the short stories in SDFC prove that she had the literary talent to make reading her work an exercise that continues to be worthwhile. SDFC takes you to ’70s L.A. It makes you feel the magic and the scumminess and the fun and the craziness that Babitz lived. It made me want to visit L.A., and although I cannot currently afford a ticket to CA, these stories take me there figuratively via glorious, escapist read.
Deetz: Young love in Paris… doesn’t it sound wonderful? Well… Perkins writes a realistic novel about privileged, white teen Anna Oliphant, who is devastated to be uprooted from her home in Atlanta, Georgia, her senior year of high school to attend boarding school in Paris, France.
Yes, going to Paris sounds like a dream for a lot of us – but Anna doesn’t speak any French, and was looking forward to one more year with the friends and family with whom she had grown up for one more year before the natural separations of college occurred, anyway. Anna is also a teenager upon whom this school was foisted by her father, a bestselling novelist who is super flaky and who has separated from her mother.
If you are not dead-set against reading YA, and you have not read it yet, you should read this novel — the characters are realistic, the romance is both believable and swoon-worthy, and the setting is fantastic.
Deetz: The beginning of a series, The Diviners is told from the various viewpoints of young people around New York City with various divination abilities. This first novel primarily follows Evie O’Neill, an adorable aspiring flapper who is exiled to NYC after wreaking havoc at a party in her small hometown through use of her ability to know things about people that have not been verbally disclosed. Since she is supposed to remain on the down-low, she decides to investigate a series of murders the police have requested her uncle’s help on, because fuck safety and common sense, I guess.
Evie’s a bit ridiculous, but she’s also plucky and fun. The serial killer is legitimately terrifying, in that shit-I-better-watch-some-Disney-princess-movies-or-leave-the-lights-on-when-I-sleep way. And in addition to being a good individual read, Bray is obviously setting up a series that could continue to be great (the other books in the series are on my TBR list, but I do plan to continue reading the series, which I rarely do anymore).
Deetz: Sydney has always felt invisible, in comparison to her older brother, the charismatic bundle of trouble who goes a little too far one night and irrevocably alters his life and the lives of those who are close to him. Peyton’s incarceration does not lessen this trait; if anything, it enhances it, to the point that Sydney feels unsafe but cannot find a way to express her feelings in a way that will be heard.
Also, there’s pizza and romance sprinkled in.
Dessen has a way of writing realistic teenagers that is thoroughly enjoyable, and this novel is one of her best (or at least one of my favorites).
Deetz: Stephen King gets a lot of shit, and a lot of people seem to think liking his work is akin to eating toenails — but I think those people are wrong. Whether you like his work or not, King knows how to write. His plots are sometimes absolutely fucking crazy (a car that comes to life?!), but surprisingly, the stories manage to work. His characters are so real, you have to double check that the chill running down your spine isn’t because they have sprung out of the book and are breathing down the back of your neck. But the best part are the small details that are embedded in his writing, that really drive home the setting. For example, I realized that the 21-year-old drinking age was relatively new from reading The Dead Zone. I generally like King’s work, and Misery is one of my favorites.
Bestselling author Paul Sheldon has just completed his best novel yet, and is returning from his self-imposed isolation in Colorado in a snow-storm while drinking champagne straight from the bottle. When this ill-advised celebratory behavior results in a horrific car accident, Mr. Sheldon finds himself waking in the bed of his #1 fan, who has saved his life. For now, at least…
If you have not read this novel yet, I think you should.
Deetz: A marriage begins with young love and the belief, or at least, the hope, that this love is strong enough to keep the two birds together for the long haul. However, time passes, and routines emerge, along with the possibility that those beautiful feelings will begin to fade and potentially even disappear.
How do you keep the spark alive?
For this couple, the answer is murder. Told from the point of view of the husband, this novel is full of some fairly predictable twists and turns (although there was one twist I expected that never materialized…), but still manages to be a helluva ride. Who cares if the ending is predictable when it’s so much fun getting there?
Deetz: Imagine you got your dream job… only to realize that your dream job may be stripping everyone, including you, of your fundamental rights? This novel grapples with ye olde internet, and the transparency that social media allows, and sometimes enforces. I really enjoyed this novel, which is one of the crrepier ones I read this year.
*cough cough* Also, don’t judge it by the atrocity of a movie they adapted from it featuring Emma Watson. *cough cough*
Deetz: This book is not for everyone. But if you are a writer, and ever get stuck while writing or editing a story, this book is a great reference. Broken out into three sections, this book delves into what makes a good beginning, middle, and end. It also, perhaps more importantly, suggests concrete approaches to take to make these sections work better. I read this book cover-to-cover, as more of an educational exercise, but the sections are broken out in an easy format that would allow a writer to double check a specific section or attack a specific issue with ease.
Deetz: My first Vonnegut, this book cleverly satirizes American culture. I devoured this novel, like a tasty piece of pizza after a particularly fun bout of drinking. The writing is clever, yet simple. Vonnegut even includes illustrations. The book seems designed to appear easy – it is easy to read, and appears that it must have flown from Vonnegut’s pen effortlessly. The reality is that it takes a lot of talent and finesse to create something that appears to effortless. But regardless of whether or not you want to take the time to appreciate Vonnegut’s talent, it is a great read that you will enjoy either way.
Do you have a great read that is not listed above that can be kept in mind for those of us looking for what to read next?
(Most of the hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)
This book will be compared to Almost Famous – but this comparison is too easy. Yes, Daisy Jones & the Six is a novel about a rock band set in the seventies. I would argue, however, that the protagonist of Almost Famous is Patrick Fugit’s character William Miller, whereas DJ&S does not represent a coming of age story about a teenage boy.
Most of the novel (the good part) is told in the style of a VH1 “Behind the Music” show, with the words of each character being written directly in the style of quotation. This stylized method of storytelling sounds like it should be annoying, but it really did not bother me at all. The characters generally had their own, distinctive vocabulary and their words were kept in short snippets that kept the story moving fairly quickly while providing alternative viewpoints that remind the reader that each person’s narrative is being colored by his or her biases and exposure to, or lack of, information. This book could easily be an all-nighter.
Daisy Jones & the Six is more than the name of this novel, which revolves around the creation and rise to fame of the fictional rock band the Six, and the fictional It Girl who, for a brief span of time, helped the band achieve even greater heights by singing with its members. Reid does an excellent job of evoking the era, as well as providing some strong female characters who maintain individuality and gain power in a time period that expected them to leave the decision making to the men.
I liked about 80-85% of this book. More than liked. I don’t know that I would say I loved it. Maybe more like, “like” liked it… if you know what I mean.
And then, out of nowhere the narrator injects herself into the interviews to explain something that only she would know, but which is kind of boring and also begins to take the story to a really uninteresting, cliched, cop-out place.
My verdict: Overall, this is a decent book. It was almost – almost – a great book, but the shitty ending robs it of attaining the higher echelons of fiction. This book is like all of those bastards who tried climbing Everest before Sir Edmund Hillary – great beginning, solid middle trek, but before the summit was reached, the wheezing took over and they either gave up and turned back or ran completely out of breath and died.
Is it worth reading? Absolutely. Is it going to blow your mind? Maybe. Probably not.
I received this book free-of-charge, directly from the publisher; however, my opinion is unbiased (i.e., was not purchased). This book will be available on March 5, 2019, but is currently available for pre-order.
I completely respect any decision(s) to purchase from local, independent stores instead of Amazon. If, however, my review has piqued your interest, or reminded you that you have been wanting to purchase anything listed in the post, and you want to make those purchases through Amazon, please consider using one of the affiliate links below (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases):
I consume mass quantities of coffee, and inhale all media-related items like a cocaine addict who doesn’t have a job (… I assume. Since I have never actually tried cocaine, and I do have a job. But I read a lot of books, watch a lot of TVs/movies, and have a husband and sons who will freak the fuck out if they don’t get their hours of daily music.)
Currently living in Southeast Michigan, I have a propensity for cursing and calling people “bitch.”
Not intended to be offensive, it’s just my vocabulary – but I don’t plan to change my vocabulary for anyone else, so if you don’t like it, you probably shouldn’t read my shit. I’m also opinionated, and am happy to hear other thoughts and viewpoints, though my opinions, once forged, are not easy to sway. People like this strength in their fantasy/sci-fi jewelry quests, but sometimes like it less from a woman. Hopefully, you’re not a misogynist asshole – but if you are, you probably won’t like this blog.
If you like women, like strong opinions about things that are often meaningless, or like reading people who swear like a sailor, on the other hand – this may be the blog for you.
Either way, thanks for reading – I hope you will continue reading, that you enjoy my thoughts, and that I will soon read some of yours, as well.