Wednesday, January 09, 2019

top ten books of 2018 (the first part)

If you haven't read the 2018 book recap, then you can click here. If you have read it, or haven't and don't care, then please proceed...

So, while I didn't hit my goal of 50 books in 2018, I did manage 42.  So while making the top ten out of 42 books seem easier than out of 50, it's still an honor that authors should be proud of.  They should print out this particular blog and frame it, putting it on the wall above the mantle, next to the pics of the kids, bride in the wedding dress, and that odd picture of the family at the lake where Uncle Jake has his eyes closed but you went with it because then-3 year old Ashley Morgan was finally looking at the camera.  Uncle Jake, deal with it.

But first... an honorable mention.

PET SEMATARY by Stephen King. The reason this isn't a top ten inclusion and actually an honorable mention is because I've read this before.  Yes, it was back circa 1988 in paperback, in anticipation of the new movie coming out with Dale Midkaff and Herman Munster, but still, I've read it.  
The original cover art, from the
hardcover book I had when I was
a member of the Stephen King book club

When I started with back in what. 2010, I started to collect Stephen King books all along, as the new were released and the old were re-released, probably on audio for the first time.  Firestarter! Christine! IT! The Stand! So many books out, and a ton I've finally read through (though I'm still trying to get into Bag of Bones...) but the one outstanding was Pet Sematary.  Why was it not on audio?  Where was it?  Cujo finally came out. Then Desperation and Insomnia.  Needful Things. All four parts of Four Past Midnight... but no Pet Sematary??  Then, in late 2017, they announced that it would be coming out in March, and was pumped.  I pre-ordered, and on the morning of March 18th, 2018, I uploaded it to my iPod and began the journey to Ludlow with the Creed family, and onto the Micmac burial ground where you can bury your deceased pet and see them again in a day or so... only, just not the same.  Michael C. Hall narrates it, and it's thrilling.  Even though I knew what was coming, and I knew what was in the last paragraph, I still had goose bumps.  

I loved this book, and its one of my all time King Favorites.

The 10th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
I have the print copy of the book, and have read some of it, but its so long, I never got through it.  They released the audio some years ago, but it contained the word that no true Audiophile wants to hear: "Abridged".  So I listened to the audio, all 8 hours of it, and it was good.  But then in June, the whole shebang came out, all 28 hours and 18 minutes of it. I dove in, and it's wonderful.  

I'm a big fan of oral history recollections, where the whole story is told in anecdotes and bits by individuals involved, and this is SNL from before the show ever started, even to the early days of Lorne Michaels, up until the 2013 season (I think), with stories and remarks from the original team, like Chevy Chase, Dan Akyroyd, Lorraine Newman and Garrett Morris to the 80s with Joe Piscapo, Charles Grodin, Martin Short, and Jeanine Garafalo, to the late 80s hey day with Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, and Victoria Jackson all the way through the Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, and beyond to modern day. Guests like Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Peyton Manning and more are sprinkled all the way through, telling stories like Damon Wayans' infamous on-air F-Bomb to drunken drug parties to losing it on camera to the emotional broadcast after 9/11.  

Whether you like it or not, especially nowadays, you may love, like, hate or even hate-like the show, but one cannot deny the impact it had on television and entertainment history. It's long, but it's worth the ride. 

The 9th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
The book opens up with a high school coach, beloved across his town, suddenly arrested on the field -- in front of the fans, his friends, his family, arrested for a horrible, despicable crime.  Seems obvious he did it, right? Witnesses, evidence, fingerprints.  But how could such a beloved coach, father, friend do such a heinous thing?  This is so early in the book, you know there is more to come... and there is.  

The first part of the book is a tense thriller, with unknowing twists and things you know are for sure that turns out to be nothing you know at all.  It slowly morphs into a supernatural horror for the back half, though not so horror filled that it keeps you up at night.  It even includes a smart, awkward female investigator named Holly -- and if you've read King's "Mr Mercedes" trilogy, you will know all about Holly.  

Great build to the end, great climax and satisfying finish. Because it's one of his longer books, its not one I'll return to anytime soon, but "The Outsider" is a fine outing for the horror master. 

I always love a good cover, and this was
one of my faves of the year
The 8th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
"ONE OF US IS LYING" by Karen McManus
I don't read a ton of fiction, mostly because I'm more fascinated with real life stories, be it origin stories of SNL or business acumen, so if it's not Stephen King or John Grisham (I know, boring choices) or a few select others, it really has to grab me.  And this one did.

A jock, an outcast, a popular chick, an introvert, a gossip king... they all end up in detention.  And if this sounds very Breakfast Clubby, you aren't too far off, but in the movie, Bender didn't end up dead. Being the only other people in the room, the other four students are instantly suspects in the case. The story progresses, told from each student's perspective, allowing you to piece together the truth based on everything they are telling you. And though I'm someone who is pretty good at figuring out where certain stories are going, this one had me guessing until the book was nearly over (I did grasp the ending before I got to the ending, so that's a point for me).  I'll admit the ending wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be, but overall, I really had a good time here.

The 7th Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018...
In addition to not reading a ton of fiction, I also don't go through a ton of true crime.  Truth be told, I love true crime (I've read every single one of Kathryn Casey's Texas murder true crime books, save for the latest which isn't on audio), but I'm picky about it. I need it to be smart, I need it to be interesting, to stay away from trashy and cheap, and keep it intelligent while breaking down things that I only know about from watching 15 seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

(which by the way, had one of the worst endings in any series ever -- they pretty much just dumped on Gil Grissom, who made that entire show, and having him and Sara Sidle speed away in a boat? Stupid.  Where was I?)

So McNamara spent years investigating, and yeah, obsessing over a serial killer in California known as the Golden State Killer, and this entire book is that chase.  Bit by bit of evidence, discovery, interviews and all well told and well laid out.  She passed away from an illness a few years ago, and never got to see the actual arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, who committed more than 50 sexual assaults, 100+ robberies and 13 murders from 1974 to 1986.  This book is credited with helping to bring him to justice, which is pretty fantastic, and a great legacy.  Her widowed husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, gives a great afterward, filling in the blanks from the time of her death to the capture of DeAngelo.

This, plus the book mentioned in the previous book post, "Evil Has a Name", is a great 1-2 punch for the Golden State Killer case.

The 6th Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018...
"SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY MAYBE" by Lauren "Lorelei Gilmore" Graham
I mean, I have to start off by telling you that it might take Lauren Graham writing "I hate Republicans" on a napkin 17,000 times for me to not like what she writes... so I went into this knowing I'd likely enjoy it.

Thankfully, in this debut novel from 2013, she doesn't do that... she actually writes a sweet, breezy story set in 1995, in the middle of my favorite decade.  Franny has set herself a 3 year deadline to succeed as an actress in New York City.  Well, that was 30 months ago, and she has 6 months remaining before she either finds some modicum of success or packs up her stuff and moves back home to her family.

Her roommates Jane and Dan are there to support her as she goes back and forth on what to do. Maybe she should just move home, as her ex-boyfriend is back home and would take care of her. But fellow actor James has also caught her eye.

And yes, this likely blurs the line in breezy story and Chick Book, and maybe it sorta is, but I love the quick wit and snappy delivery of the words, and I related to, and liked, the dreams and the deadlines and everything else that comes with jobs right out of college.

Of course this is a long post, so let's break it up into two... next part up tomorrow

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