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gillian flynn

2018 book recap & 2019 reading challenge

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So this is it, welcome to the new year! Listening to this song by Motion City Soundtrack just after midnight is my annual tradition as I welcome the changing of the calendar. This year I was extra anxious, because I had nearly completed my 2018 book challenge, and everything else that I wanted to read next would fit the 2019 prompts that Dani and I had chosen.

Last year I managed to read 104 books, which is absolutely a record for me. (That many books, and I still managed to miss a few categories in the challenge. Grr.) I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite books as we gear up for the next challenge!

My Own Devices: Unsurprisingly, this was my book of the year. Dessa is one of my favorite musicians, favorite lyricists, and the writing in her first memoir is unsurprisingly lyrical. It examines the science of love, and if it’s possible to use science to fall out of it, and what to do when the person you’re in senseless love with is also part of your rap crew.

Marlena: This book was recommended to me by two friends, and I’m so glad they did. It’s the story of a woman looking back on her murdered best friend when they were growing up in rural Michigan, running amok and hanging out with the proverbial bad crowd. It’s told in alternating timelines – mostly in the past, with some modern day reflections, and I read it in about two days.

Broad Band: Did you know that the internet was built by women, and that women were the original computers? Even though I work in tech, I truly did not – I’d never really thought about the origin of the word “computer,” or how things were built. Claire Evans tells the stories of some of the most important and influential women in tech, and I haven’t stopped talking about this book ever since. (There were three people who got this for me at Christmas.)

Dark Matter: HOOOO BOY. I found this book while looking for books described as similar to Maybe In Another Life, which is my favorite book, and even though it’s a bit more sci-fi than I usually tend toward, it is incredible. It’s also set in Logan Square, where I spend a lot of time, so it was fun to picture the locations the characters would find themselves in. It made me think a lot about the ethics of things like the multiverse and cloning – you know, just casual topics.

Daisy Jones and the Six*: I’m a huge fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid, so when I heard that her next book was based in music journalism history, I was ecstatic. This novel is told as a narration – members of bands Daisy was affiliated with, as well as Daisy herself, tell a love story, a band biography, and paints the 1960’s rock landscape so perfectly you’ll think you were there.

Tell Me Lies: The cover of this book spoke to me, and I checked it out of the library without really even considering what it was about. Turns out it’s about a girl who continually tries to make a relationship with a man who clearly doesn’t care about her. Tina said that this book is for a particular audience, but that that audience would love it, and I agree.

Wintergirls: Clearly, I trend toward enjoying stories about self-destructive women. Laurie Halse Anderson is such a great writer, and the Wintergirls are two girls who bond over their eating disorders until one of them dies, and the other is forced to reckon with her feelings about her friend and her illness. I’d meant to read this for years, and I thought it was really well-written, and certainly didn’t glorify anorexia or bulimia at all.

Sharp Objects: This was actually my first Gillian Flynn book, and I really loved it. The writing feels dark, and the story certainly is – a journalist goes back to her hometown to look for connections in murder and missing girl cases. The protagonist is a cutter, drinks to medicate her depression, and I appreciated the familiarity in her coping mechanisms. I haven’t seen the Showtime series yet, but I aim to binge it soon!

For 2019’s challenge, we had brainstormed all year, noting prompt ideas and reading lists in our shared document. During roommate Christmas at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (oh my gosh, so amazing, it’s a must visit in Chicago) we reviewed everything, cut out categories from last year that we hated (goodbye, Nordic noir!) and determined the 2019 challenge.

Do you do reading challenges? How do you force yourself to make it through books you hate?!

* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review. Thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
January 3, 2019
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june 2018 book club

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Even though I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months, this month I fell off a bit. After killing something like 50 books in the first five months of the year, I was just feeling burned out or overwhelmed by my list of books to read. There were several books that I utterly loved, though, so it wasn’t a total loss of a reading month! (Are they ever, though?)

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. This month was even more excessive than normal – a flight to California allowed for some dedicated reading time, and (finally) having really nice weather and setting up the patio office meant I just wanted to camp out with coffee and a book at all times!

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

Buffering: Other than scrolling past her show on the Food Network app, I knew very little about Hannah Hart before listening to her memoir. I really liked this book – she talks openly and honestly about her struggles as the daughter of a mentally ill mother and how that has shaped her life, both in childhood and as an adult. As someone who has gotten to caretake for older relatives, I related to parts of her story, and enjoyed the humor she infused throughout.

Back Talk: When Julie Buntin, author of one of my favorite books (Marlena), posted one of the shorts from this book to Electric Literature earlier this year, I knew I had to grab the book. The title short is phenomenal, and the stories range from two to 20 pages. Danielle is a fantastic writer, and though this took me awhile to get through, I definitely recommend it.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Sharp Objects: I had never read anything by Gillian Flynn before – I know, I know, I’m behind the times. I picked her for one of our book challenge prompts (a local Chicago writer) but couldn’t hammer down which of her books to read. Dani helped me pick this one out, and it has everything I love – mystery, crime, mental health, Chicago, travel… you get the picture. It’s being turned into a TV series, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

The Hot One: Remember when Ashton Kutcher’s girlfriend died? I knew a bit of the story and was excited to read this when it first came out. It was…. not what I expected. The book is written by Ashley’s childhood “best friend,” and it becomes pretty clear pretty early on that the writer had some seriously jealous feelings about her. It’s full of victim blame, shame, and doesn’t put much onus on the actual murderer – really disappointing read, and I only finished it as a hate-read.

Natural Disaster: To say that I devoured this book is a gross understatement. Ginger Zee is from the same area of Michigan as me, and we had similar stories growing up. It was cool to watch her move from local stations to the Chicago market to finally Good Morning America, but her story proves that you never know what’s really going on behind a red lipsticked-smile. She opens the book talking about her depression – something brave and totally inspiring, and goes on to confess about a manipulative relationship that saw her calling the cops and an inpatient psychiatric stay before starting her dream job at ABC. I heavily recommend this book – it’s not a weather book at all, it’s a totally relatable memoir of what it’s like and how hard it is to work for your dreams while being unable to get out of bed for weeks at a time.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Love Songs & Other Lies*: Between this book and August and Everything After, I’m not sure where the current girl musician trope in YA came from, but I’m here for it. I liked this book and it was an easy read to break my dry spell. There’s a small mystery in it, which adds some dimension, but I wish it was explored more – maybe an opening for a sequel!

Tell Me Lies: Tina said in her review of this book that fans of it would fall into a specific niche, but that people who love it would love it – and I loved it. It’s told from alternating viewpoints of two people in a relationship over several years of being together and not. The male is an entirely irredeemable character, and as someone who was in some pretty crappy relationships, I saw a lot of parallels (hence being the target for this book.) There’s a twist in I even I didn’t expect, and I really liked the full circle storytelling – I normally don’t like happily ever afters, but they worked for me here. I totally loved this book and I can’t wait to read more by Carola Lovering.

June 30, 2018
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