2018 Books

January

  • Artemis by Andy Weir (B) – Weir’s follow-up to The Martian is a fast-paced, scientific, good old-fashioned heist…on the moon.
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (A-) – Very good character development and some pretty interesting plot twists. Reminded me of a Tales Of The City for the Aussie set.
  • City of Endless Night by Preston & Child (B-) – NYC’s 1% is being brutally murdered by a serial killer or killers. NYPD and the FBI are baffled, so is the reader.
  • Earthly Remains by Donna Leon (A-) – Brunetti’s relaxing vacation on San’ Erasmo is interrupted by the death of a local resident. It’s a slow build to get to the mystery but it was worth it.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (A+) – Socially awkward and unintentionally funny, Eleanor Oliphant will capture your heat. I loved this book.
  • Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (A) When a TV show approaches Cumming about researching his genealogy he never imagined the mysteries both tragic and triumphant they would uncover. An amazing story of an amazing survivor. You can watch the show here.
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton (B) – A downed military satellite brings back a deadly virus and a group of scientists must race to find a cure before it spreads across the globe.  Engaging and suspenseful. I have not seen the 1971 movie but the 2008 miniseries is pretty good.
  • The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (B) – Novelization of the film. Answers questions such as: “How did Poe get from Jakku to Takodana?” and “What are the scientific principles behind the Starkiller Base?” as well as additional emotional conflict with Leia and Han.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (D) – Don’t believe the hype, this book is incredibly dull. The book promises a fierce duel where only one can live. None of that happens, in fact nothing happens for 400 pages. I hated it.
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (B) – Last official book in the series. Laura courts Almanzo and along the way teaches school, almost gets murdered by a crazy knife-wielding prairie lady, and learns to break horses.

February

  • Almost Interesting by David Spade (B-) Spade’s autobiography starts out very sophomoric and banal but once he gets to the SNL part it really shines.
  • Bonfire by Krysten Ritter (A) – What starts out as an Erin Brockovich-like investigation into a small town’s water supply uncovers a much deeper and disturbing crime.
  • Posted by John David Anderson (B-) When cellphones are banned at Branton middle school the kids take to writing messages on post-its and sticking them everywhere. What starts as harmless fun devolves into bullying and a group of unpopular kids take a stand.
  • Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson – (B) A very quick recap of the scrum and agile process for teams.
  • The Dry by Jane Harper (A-) A double-murder suicide in a small town opens the wounds of a young woman’s death from twenty years ago.  Engrossing and thrilling. I especially liked how all the clues were there the whole time, if you just pay attention.
  • The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon (B-) Someone or something is stalking the family that owns a rundown roadside motel in the 1955, 1989, and again in 2013. Well written and engaging with a few decent twists and turns but not as scary as it wants to be.
  • The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton (B) An experimental operation to alleviate seizures has unforeseen consequences when the patient learns to trigger the electrodes meant to curb the violence which causes the opposite effect. The science still manages to be futuristic 46 years on.  I have not seen the 1974 movie.

March

  • A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss (A) All proceeds of this cute kids book about a bunny that just wants to love and be loved go to The Trevor Project.
  • Are We There Yet? by David Levithan (A) Danny and Elijah are brothers that have grown apart. A trip to Italy forces them to deal with their estrangement, their past and with their own futures. It’s so well written and lovely. I didn’t want it to end.
  • Babycakes by Armistead Maupin (B-) I call B.S. on Maryann’s story arc and resolution. But two shocking and emotional character deaths helped elevate some of the preposterous plots (which is part of this series’ charm).
  • The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo (DNF) I tried but 45% in and I realized that I was dreading having to finish. After two books I have decided this author is not for me.
  • The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton (B-) Historical fiction of the true “impossible” crime that rocked Victorian England. A real glimpse into the time period and how they pulled off this stunt. It can drag a bit with the criminal slang but the “howdunnit?” propels the story forward. The 1978 movie is decent.
  • The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz (C+) 17-year-old Sal struggles with becoming a man while his friends and family deal with tragedies. I felt this book was overstuffed with plot. If anything can happen, it does. The characters weren’t able to breathe and everything. felt. stilted.
  • The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (A) The follow-up to her amazing book The War That Saved My Life continues the story of Ada in war-torn England immediately after The Blitz. The story is engrossing and a wonderful look into rural WWII British life. Suitable for anyone over age 8. I highly recommend it.

April

  • A Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon (A-) A suspicious accident leads Brunetti to uncover a long-standing “accepted” scam and several minor stories reveal people’s intentions of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle (C-) Perhaps 50 years ago this book about a strong, independent, intelligent, teenage girl who learns about science was amazing. Now it’s just lame.
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (A-) Physicist Jason Dessen is abducted and wakes up in a world he doesn’t recognize. But which reality is true, the previous or this new one? This engaging scientific thriller had me guessing at every turn. A great read. I wish they would  make it into a series.
  • Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (D+) Presented as a found manuscript from 911 A.D. about an arab muslim that joins a Viking quest and the original text for Beowulf, this tedious book is one of his weakest. A lot of scholars love it but they also love Beowulf so there’s that. It was made into an action movie called The 13th Warrior.
  • Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (B+) Nine orphans live on an island, every year one must be replaced. It’s an allegory for loss of innocence and childhood. Engaging and disturbing.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (B) A second read through exposes the flaws in this otherwise impressive debut novel. Sit back and let the nth level geekness wash over you.
  • Significant Others by Armistead Maupin (C+) Continued adventures of the 28 Barbary Lane group finds some at a womyn-only festival while the guys are having a mens-only weekend. I can’t tell if this was female empowering or detracting. Through the lens of 2018 it leans towards the latter.
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (A) Monty is a troubled, spoiled, aristocratic 18th century teen who is secretly in love with his best friend Percy. Through a European grand tour of adventure they come to understand themselves and one another in this delightful, sexy, romantic, and lovely tale.

May

  • Congo by Michael Crichton (A) This wildly entertaining book about an expedition that takes a gorilla who knows ASL back into Zaire only to encounter a race of killer “things” is fantastically fascinating. It was made into a cheesy movie.
  • Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson (B-) Did you know that humans developed an overbite because we invented the fork? Or that can openers were invented 30 years after tin cans were  popular? Lots of interesting tidbits about how cooking and eating has shaped our culture.
  • Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (A-) Historical fiction of life at Monticello as told through Thomas Jefferson’s illegitimate sons he had with his slave. It’s complicated and asks some serious questions about freedom and equality.
  • Sure of You by Armistead Maupin (B) Book 6 of the series focuses on Brian, Mary Ann, and Michael with a side trip to Greece for Anna Madrigal. Good closure on the middle trilogy.
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (C-) Everyone in this book is a liar. In fact, 90% of the conflict would have been resolved if the characters had just been honest. In fact the main conflict (Rachel is mad because Henry never replied to her love letter but Henry never received it) could have been cleared up with one simple question: “What did you think of the letter I left you?” Instead it’s cloying teen angst to the nth degree.

June

  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (B+) A sweet memoir about the making of this classic movie.
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi (DNF) Touted as the “next Harry Potter” this diverse YA fantasy is loved by many. Not me.
  • Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon (C+) Her one non-Brunetti book is well written but I wasn’t interested in the central story or the backstory of the 17th century aristocrat.
  • Lips Unsealed: A Memoir by Belinda Carlisle (C+) Carlisle was a coke addict and alcoholic for 30 years and she admits that it destroyed her life professionally and personally. If that interests you, read this.
  • Red Hope by John Dreese (D+) Four astronauts are sent to Mars to investigate a fossil found on the surface. It’s preposterous and dumb with clunky dialogue and some lazy research. But it was only 99 cents so I got what I paid for.
  • Sphere by Michael Crichton (B+) Five scientists are sent to investigate a mysterious plane crash but what they find is far more disturbing. This fast-paced, psychological thriller will keep you guessing until the last words in the book.
  • The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events #13) by Lemony Snicket (B) The final book in the brilliantly written yet exceedingly frustrating book series (a phrase here that means although entertaining, don’t expect any answers).
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (C+) This book is not about the Wills Grayson but rather their mutual friend, Tiny. It reads like middle-aged men trying to sound like hip teens and has a lame “slow-clap” ending.

July

  • Blue Hope (Red Hope #2) by John Dreese (D-) I knew what I was in for based on last month’s Red Hope and it didn’t disappoint in that I knew it would be awful. Terrible dialogue, ridiculous situations, nonsensical plot contrivances and about 300 pages too long. Someone read these so we can complain together.
  • Deeper Than The Dead by Tami Hoag (A) Big Little Lies but with a serial killer. I couldn’t put it down!
  • Don’t Know Jack (Hunt for Reacher #1) by Diane Capri (B) Side story in the Reacher franchise with two FBI agents sent to investigate a murder that may be tied to the missing Reacher. A lot to digest but a tight thriller.
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (A+) What do you mean you haven’t read it? It’s only the best book ever! Here’s the original movie trailer.
  • Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin (A-) Sweet, honest, and engaging tales of his growing up in a conservative family and country and how he became the man he is today.
  • O Pioneers! by WIlla Cather (A) It’s like Little House on the Prairie but with murder!
  • The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie (C) Too many characters and I didn’t care about the killer.
  • The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (C+) While it’s nice to read a story about a gay teen in Pittsburgh, the stream of consciousness style wore thin. I also didn’t care about Quinn or his journey.
  • The Green Mile 1: Two Dead Girls by Stephen King (B) Originally published in a serial form this first installment lays the character groundwork and leaves you with an impending dread and intrigue.

August

  • Jack in a Box (Hunt for Reacher #2) by Diana Capri (B-) Good characterization on the agents searching for Reacher.
  • Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre (C+) Lou discovers some secrets about her family history when she and her friends try to save her 175-year-old house from demolition. Middle-grade readers may like the mystery and the light education on race, slavery, and tolerance. A little ham-fisted for adults though.
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (C) It wot ‘My Fair Lady’ ees based on, it is!
  • Rising Sun by Michael Crichton (C+) I don’t know if this xenophobic or not. A murder requires two cops to go into the deep world of Japanese-American business relations and it seems the author’s opinion (prejudice?) is bleeding through. A lot was changed for the movie including the murder and the jingoism.
  • The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer (B+) Less an auto-biography and more a how-to guide for struggling actors. Overall some really good, inspirational advice.
  • The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (B) These newlyweds had it rough! Ruined crops, debt, house fire, neighbors who want to steal their kids, death!
  • The Green Mile 2: The Mouse on the Mile by Stephen King (B+) We meet Mr. Jingles and Delacroix. We have our first execution on the Mile while Percy is plotting something dangerous.
  • Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawles (B+) When I first read this in 5th grade I bawled my eyes out at the end and the song “I Miss You” by Klymaxx was on the radio so I forever associate the two. If you don’t want a dog by the end of this book you are a stone-hearted monster.