18 books I want to read in 2018

Happy 2018, fellow bibliophiles!!!

I hope you have all had a wonderful start to your new year. I know I certainly have.

I begin this year with an apology. I have severely neglected this site for months as I have put other obligations first.

One of my resolutions/goals for the new year is to give this attention and, by extension, my reading time, the attention it deserves.

With that, I present 18 of the books I hope to read in the coming year. (My ultimate goal is to read 35 books. I was at 30 in 2016 and 29 in 2017…)

  1. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann–I’m reading this book right now and it is definitely worth the billing it got as one of the best books of 2017. The true story of a series of murders of Osage Indians right as the FBI was being born, it is well-written and researched.
  2.  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle–With a movie of this book set to come out in a few months, I want to refresh my memory. I read this book (and its sequels) when I was in middle school or junior high, so it’s been–shall we say–a while…
  3. The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon–The Bone Season series is fantastic and I’ve been neglecting this third entry since its release in March 2017. While books downloaded on Kindles don’t collect literal dust, I’m brushing this one off to read at some point in 2018.
  4. Everything by Ruth Ware–I own all three books Ruth Ware has release thus far and have already added her fourth novel to my Goodreads To-Read list. I have heard nothing but good things about Ware’s writing and I can’t wait to check it out for myself. Up first, In a Dark, Dark Wood!
  5. Cleopatra and The Witches by Stacy Schiff–I’ve been slowly making my way through Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra and was gifted The Witches for Christmas. Her writing style and research make her work fascinating to read.
  6. Elizabeth, The Queen by Sally Bedell Smith–With a royal wedding and a new royal baby coming in the first half of 2018, catching up on the history of the head of the royal family is a must. (Also, I’m making my way through The Crown on Netflix, so this is a good tie-in there.)
  7. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson–Narrative non-fiction and true crime are some of my favorite books to read, so this book about a serial killer should be a great read!
  8. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham–Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite shows and I’m beyond excited to get some behind the scenes scoops from Lorelai herself.
  9. The Girls by Emma Cline–A best book of 2016, I’m fascinated to see what all the fuss is about.
  10. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson–This novel has been staring at me from my bookshelf for too long. The concept is interesting and I’m curious to see what it’s all about.
  11. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes–OK, so I’m waaaayyyy behind the ball on this one. But every time I’ve gone to start this book, I haven’t been in the right frame of mind. (Does anyone else need to be in a good mood to read a sad book?)
  12. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern–Another book I’m way behind the curve on, but I’m still looking forward to reading it.
  13. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote–The last time I read this classic of the narrative true crime genre, I was in high school. How will a decade more of life experience (including more than 5 years covering crime) impact my perception of this book? Only time will tell.
  14. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero–Everybody needs a little reminding of this in their life from time to time!
  15. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides–Another book that has been staring at me from my bookshelf for far too long.
  16. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon–I LOVE the Outlander series and book 5 is definitely on my to-read list for 2018. (This will likely be my project book that takes me most of the year to get through…)
  17. Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig–Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite movies and this companion novel was gifted to me several years ago. It’s time I finally read it.
  18. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers–Speaking of favorite movies, Mary Poppins is my all-time, number one, I know all the words to it and I’m not ashamed movie. With a sequel coming out late in 2018 (Please don’t mess this up Disney….), I want to read all the books the character was originally based on. Even if she isn’t Julie Andrews.
  19. BONUS–Something I haven’t discovered yet. I always want to leave room open for that book that takes the literary world by storm or a new release I’m just dying to read Right. This. Minute.

 

What are you planning to read in 2018? Let me know in the comments!!

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My long absence explained…

Hey there, fellow Bibliophiles! I know it’s been a while since I’ve populated this website with anything new, so I wanted to touch base with you.

Between general chaos at work, a much-needed vacation and a move from apartment to apartment, I haven’t had nearly as much time as I would like to read, let alone post to this blog about what I’ve been reading.

But I have a few moments to take a breath and to type out some thoughts on a few recent reads, so here goes nothing:

The Hot One by Carolyn Murnick

I had heard about this book through Goodreads and thought it was really interesting in concept. A woman whose best friend was brutally murdered begins following the case in an attempt to figure out who her friend really was.

thehotone

From Goodreads page

I was compelled by this piece because I cover criminal cases a lot. Murnick sat through hearings, got to know witnesses and dug through public records to try and find out what happened to Ashley, who was now living on the opposite coast.

It was a really interesting book and I would be really interested in seeing a sequel as the case continues to progress through appeals etc.

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

As this book neared its publication date, I was waiting with bated breath. I have eagerly awaited another stand-alone book by Karin Slaughter since I finished Pretty Girls last year. (If you haven’t read Pretty Girls, you should.)

When I got the alert that this was ready for me at the library, I was so excited. And I tore through this book.

The story begins with Charlotte (Charlie) and Sam as young girls in their “new” home. Their previous home had burned to the ground, as the result of arson, a few days earlier. The girls’ father, Rusty, is the target.

thegooddaughter

From Goodreads page

As the girls and their mom, Gamma, work to get ready for dinner, two unexpected guests show up. Gamma ends up dead, Sam ends up shot and buried alive, left for dead, and Charlie runs away, only to be caught up with and assaulted before she finally escapes.

Flash forward a few decades and Charlie is a lawyer whose life is unraveling. She has a one night stand with a guy from a bar, cheating on her husband, and when she goes to swap phones back, she gets caught up in another tragedy.

And so, The Good Daughter begins.

The twists, as is characteristic with Slaughter, keep you guessing in this one until the very end.

What You Don’t Know by JoAnn Chaney

Keeping things in the thriller family, this debut novel by JoAnn Chaney really was stunning.

Told in alternating viewpoints, the plot follows two Denver detectives who investigated a serial case a few years earlier. With that monster behind bars, they’ve each moved on to new assignments. The reporter who followed the case is no longer in the news business and the wife of the killer is trying to move on with the uncertain gazes of many of her neighbors trailing behind her.

whatyoudontknow

From Goodreads page

So when bodies connected to the original case begin surfacing with details only the killer would know being replicated, this cast of characters reunites — albeit reluctantly.

This book definitely had its creepy moments. There were a few chapters told from the perspective of a victim that really should not be read right before trying to sleep.

While I had my suspicions about who was responsible for the deaths, I had no idea about the motive. I was really wrong about that.

Another thing I enjoyed about Chaney’s debut was her breaking of the fourth wall at the conclusion of the book. In the epilogue, she talks with the reader as a reader, explaining why she was including what happened to each of the main characters as time went on post-plot.

This was a strong debut and I will be keeping an eye out for a second novel from Chaney.

 

 

Recent Reads: Summer thrillers

As many of you readers may have noticed, I have been reading at a bit of a slower pace so far this year than I have in the past.

But all that changed last week when I absolutely tore through two thrillers guaranteed to give you chills during the peak of the summer.

First up was The Hand that Feeds You by A. J. Rich (a pseudonym for two authors who collaborated on this book).

handthatfeeds

From Goodreads page

The story follows Morgan, a graduate student studying victimology, who returns home from class to find her fiance dead of an apparent dog mauling–by Morgan’s dogs.

As Morgan tries to come to grips with the loss of her dogs and the sudden death of the man she loved, she realizes that man may not have been who he said he was. Morgan discovers multiple other fiances and a woman who appears to be pulling the strings.

The plot comes to a shocking conclusion where all is revealed (I won’t spoil it for you) and after a brief stint in jail, Morgan unveils the truth to everyone and the right person gets what they deserve.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a relatively quick read and was written well. The plot took many twists and turns and really kept you engaged as a reader. I would highly recommend it.

I finished The Hand that Feeds You in three days and almost immediately picked up Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger when I was finished.

I had read Miranda’s breakout hit, All the Missing Girls, last summer and was curious to see how this year’s summer thriller would go.

I was not disappointed.

perfect stranger

From Goodreads page

Leah, a former reporter, moves to small town Pennsylvania with her former roommate, Emmy, for both of them to start over. (The reasons why for Leah are slowly unveiled throughout the book.)

Shortly after Leah begins a job teaching at the local high school, a woman is found badly beaten. The woman looks remarkably like Leah and soon thereafter, Emmy disappears without a trace.

Leah is left searching for answers and trying to figure out who Emmy is as her backstory unravels. Detective Kyle Donovan is the lead on the case and begins to suspect Leah before ultimately helping her to find the truth.

I really enjoyed this book. I couldn’t put it down. I would just turn page after page and would lose all track of time (and got some sunburns to prove it).

Unlike All the Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger is told in chronological order with some flashbacks worked in. I like that style of writing better because it is easier to track multiple characters, especially with a story arc that involves complication and mystery.

I would highly recommend The Perfect Stranger as well. It would be a great beach read over the Labor Day weekend if you’re still looking for something to read.

 

Recent Read: American Fire

True crime books usually center around murder or death. So when I picked up American Fire by Monica Hesse, I wasn’t sure what to think.

A true crime book entirely about arsons? Fires where no one was injured and only property was damaged — mostly abandoned property at that?

I had nothing to fear.

American Fire is about a pair of serial arsonists, boyfriend and girlfriend Charlie and Tonya, who set more than 60 fires over a several month span in a rural area of Virginia near Chesapeake Bay. Most of the properties were vacant and unoccupied.

americanfire

From Goodreads page

And they may have set many more had it not been for a police tactic where officer camped out on properties that were vulnerable targets. This tactic didn’t work at first, but it worked eventually. The pair were caught and convicted.

But American Fire was not just about the fires. It was also about this area of the country that is rural and struggling to find its place as technology has made many of their business ventures obsolete.

It’s about a couple who seemed to have it all and then somehow got wrapped up in setting fires.

This is one of those true crime books you can’t help but devour. It’s relatively short and written by a reporter. (Hesse was a feature writer for the Washington Post and covered the story for them as it developed and unfolded in court.)

I was fascinated by this book and was left wanting more, especially about what happened in court. I wanted more about the details of testimony and what actually occurred in setting the fires. I wanted more detail, in general.

American Fire may not have been the best true crime book I’ve ever read, but it certainly was worth the couple of days it took to read it.

Recent Read: Actual Malice

Actual malice is a legal concept used in civil law (specifically libel cases) indicating that someone published a false statement knowing it was a lie.

It’s what Gary Condit accuses–through implication and outright statement–the media of doing to him in the wake of the Chandra Levy scandal in early 2001.

Condit’s role in the saga is relayed through Breton Peace’s Actual Malice.

Condit was a rising star in Congress, representing California, in 2001 when he was introduced to a constituent who was a friend of an office aide and an intern in Washington, D.C., Chandra Levy.

Levy and Condit began a no strings attached affair, to hear Condit tell it, that was ongoing up to the time of Levy’s disappearance.

As police attention quickly turned to Condit as a source of information, the media seized on him as a possible suspect and aimed to take him down in a Bill Clinton type cloud of shame.

But in Condit’s telling, many of the media’s tactics and stories were nothing but baloney, based nowhere in truth.

Some of that can be proven with the help of court records and multiple, inconsistent stories sources gave to varying media outlets as the scandal stretched on for more than a year at its peak.

However, some of the stories Condit says are false cannot be entirely disproven. And herein lies my problem with this book.

I understand Condit wants to share his side of events, but why wait 16 years to do it so thoroughly? Why do it through a book that is written by a lawyer associated with the family and not a neutral third-party?

actualmalice

From Goodreads page

Devils’ advocates would argue Condit has lost trust in the media and the justice system because of what he has gone through, and to an extent, that is true.

But Condit argues he was dragged through the mud without sources checking information and doing their due diligence. He does the same in this book in discussing how the reporters did their jobs.

As a member of the media, I am appalled by some of the stories published during the scandal and some of the tactics described. They are the actions that give all of us a bad name and reputation and are disgusting.

But chastising reporters for tracking down leads and asking to speak with people connected with a person involved in a potential scandal isn’t fair. That is what reporters are required to do. We need to chase down possible leads to a story, wherever that takes them.

Granted, we are then required to at least try and verify information and be willing to accept the consequences of what we publish.

However, Condit and Peace don’t try to talk to the reporters or their editors for this book about the tactics they used or what they published. He just takes their word for it.

If he wanted to show he was truly above them and was truly dragged through the mud and was nothing more than a scapegoat for them, they should have done that due diligence and proven they were thorough. Document in the book when they called reporters to try to interview them, document emails or letters sent as they did with regard to actions taken at the height of the publicity of the case. But they don’t.

This book is clearly biased in favor of Gary Condit, so everything in it must be taken with a grain of salt, regardless of how you feel about Condit, the scandal, Chandra Levy’s murder and subsequent legal proceedings (the man ultimately convicted in her death had the charges against him dismissed in 2016) or the media. As a critical reader, you have to consider the source.

I remember the Chandra Levy case as one of the first scandals where I was old enough to understand some of what was going on. I didn’t know everything (I wasn’t even a teenager yet) but I knew enough. This book is an interesting viewpoint into the case from an insider’s perspective.

It’s worth the read (borrow it from a library to not provide financing to either side of the case) and an examination of the case from this new angle.

Recent Read: Scrappy Little Nobody

Very rarely do I want to be best friends with a celebrity.

But there is one exception: Anna Kendrick.

Kendrick’s witty Twitter account has been one I’ve followed for years and when I heard she was writing an essay collection, I couldn’t wait to read it.

Scrappy Little Nobody honestly feels like you’re having a chat with a best friend, not reading a celebrity’s memoir style essay.

scrappylittlenobody

From Goodreads page

With essays entitled “Hell thy name is middle school” and “Boys and the terror of being near them,” how could you not love it?

Kendrick describes her life before and after hitting it big on Broadway (losing a Tony to Audra McDonald) and on the silver screen (being nominated for an Oscar for Up in the Air). Her life really hasn’t changed much.

She has worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood (George Clooney and Ben Affleck) and in indie films. She hasn’t lost touch with her roots and she doesn’t necessarily enjoy her fame.

I absoultely tore through Scrappy Little Nobody. I laughed at it and I identified with Anna Kendrick on so many levels. I felt like she really understood me, or I really understood her.

This was the perfect book to take to the pool and relax with while catching a few rays of sunshine. I would highly recommend this book (and many of Kendrick’s movies as well!)

 

 

Recent Read: The Possessions

When someone dies, they leave their physical possessions behind. These possessions allow loved ones to have something remaining of their dearly departed.

And in the case of Edie and the other bodies at the Elysian Society, it allows them to channel the departed’s spirit and personality while under the influence of a “lotus.”

For the five years Edie has worked as a body, she has remained detached and never gotten close to a client. She vows to never break her rule … until she meets Patrick Braddock.

possessions

From Goodreads page

And so begins Sara Flannery Murphy’s The Possessions.

This type of book isn’t my normal fare. The ventures into the paranormal aren’t normally entertaining to me, but the mystery aspect of The Possessions convinced me to try it.

Patrick Braddock’s wife, Sylvia, died under suspicious circumstances. And Edie finds herself drawn to the mystery — both the mystery of Sylvia and of Patrick.

As Edie and Sylvia become more entwined (in more ways than one), Edie begins to question what is going on at the Elysian Society, especially when it relates to Hopeful Doe, a woman who was found dead in a vacant home nearby.

When Hopeful Doe is found to have connections to the Society, Edie starts to think about her exit strategy and worry about her own past being unearthed.

I was really intrigued by this book. It’s a unique premise that isn’t overdone and was used well in this narrative. Edie is a compelling main character because she tells the reader just enough to keep them reading. She doesn’t reveal too much and she reveals things on her own terms.

I did, however, find her “big reveal” to be a little anticlimatic for what it was built up to be over the course of the book.

Overall, Murphy’s debut novel is well-written, easy to read and provides conclusions to many of the questions the reader will have as the book reaches a close. I would be curious to see what Ms. Murphy writes next.