Alright folks, we’re hitting the home stretch here with the last post about books I read in 2018. Hopefully, I’ll keep up on writing about the novels and non-fiction works as I read them, so these year-enders (or beginners at this point) don’t become so unwieldy, but we’ll see about that. Check out parts one and two here and here then hit the jump for the last entry.
As I mentioned in the two previous posts, I spent a good portion of the year focusing on female writers AND sitting in the tire place waiting for my damn car to get looked at. The first idea lead me to pull out books written by women from my To Read boxes and the second to take shorter books with me knowing that I’d have a lot of time to kill. These two disparate events lead to me reading Diane Hoh’s The Invitation (1991) and Lois Duncan’s Summer Of Fear (1976), two books I scored from my library’s free table!
I’d never actually heard of Hoh, but when I saw the book with not one, but two shiny, embossed words on the cover, I snatched it right up. Very much in line with the works of Christopher Pike, which I loved as a kid — and even wrote about when I read Weekend not long ago. These two stories aren’t actually all that dissimilar as they both revolve around a party where things get real dark, real quick.
In this case, our group of less-than-cool kids get invited to the coolest-richest girl in school’s big time fancy party. However, they soon learn that Ms. Popular intends on locking them all in different rooms all over the property and using them as living pieces in a scavenger hunt. In an occurrence of super-bad timing, someone else seems intent on killing the unpopular kids for reasons unrevealed until the very end. It’s a super quick read that had a bit of a questionable ending, but I had a lot of fun on this adventure.
On the other hand, I knew about Lois Duncan, how she wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer and wrote books similar to Pike’s so I grabbed this one too, even though it lacks embossed words. Another quick read, Summer finds a young woman’s life flip-turned upside down when the cousin she barely knows comes to live with her and her family after her parents die. The main girl soon comes to learn that something’s very wrong with her cousin, but no one will believe her.
To be honest, this one felt a little padded and long even though it’s a fairly short book. That might have stemmed from the fact that I figured out the cousin’s big secret pretty early on. Still, I appreciate the full-on supernatural forces at play, the potential for madness and a nice ending, even if it felt somewhat telegraphed.
Another source of reading inspiration this year came from my favorite horror podcast Shock Waves. Last year the hosts spoke about a number of different books they enjoyed and even had some of the authors on which lead me to Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full Of Ghosts (2015) and Final Girls (2017) by Riley Sager.
Tremblay really blew me with Ghosts, a story about a family that allows a TV film crew into their home to chronicle the potential possession of their older daughter. Presented through the eyes of the younger daughter remembering the events and also continuing her life as an adult in the present, I got sucked into this world that is fully presented by unreliable narrators and ends with not one or two, but three jaw-dropping moments.
I was stunned by how well the author presents his main character even at the age of 8. He never downplays her intelligence or intuition, but you have to wonder how accurately she’s seeing or remembering the adult world. I also love the way he insulates the book with such a small cast of characters while the potential here for world-changing information is incredible. The characters present such true-sounding facts that you believe them to be exactly that, but lies abound. I adored this book and absolutely intend to dive into Disappearance At Devil’s Rock and The Cabin At The End Of The World.
Instead of going on to the next Tremblay, I mixed it up by checking out Final Girls by Riley Sager. This book starts where a lot of slasher films end with the surviving female carrying on her life and trying to build some normalcy as a baking blogger. However, when one of the two other Final Girls around takes her own life, she finds herself spiraling out of control, especially when her sister in survival shows up.
The ending of this book blew my mind in a “did that come out of nowhere?!” way, but before that, I was fully invested in the characters and their journeys. More interestingly (to me, at least) is the way that Sager presented this story in such a way that it set my mind on fire trying to figure out where the twists might be. I had a few of them correct, but was still really happy experiencing the truths as they came out.
Even I can’t fully focus on horror, hence the next two books. Every time my wife and I go on a road trip, we get an audiobook to put on our ears. This summer, when we drove out to Michigan, we listened to Dan Brown’s latest Origin (2017). As it turned out, we had the kids on the way back and didn’t get much further, so we both borrowed the digital version from the library and finished up on the way to Disney World!
This latest Robert Langdon book follows his adventures as he and a museum director go on the run to not only figure out who killed their brilliant scientist friend, but also get their hands on the ground-breaking, religion-toppling information he’d uncovered about the origins of life on Earth.
While I found this book thrilling at times, it definitely suffered from a story or two that didn’t need telling in my personal opinion (how many tales of religious people tricked into doing terrible things do we need?) and also an ending that, while super interesting in ideas, essentially gives all of the final moments to a dead guy and leaves Langdon in a seat, until the very end which my wife totally called!
Finally, I found myself going through all of the U.S. Office this year and loving every moment of it. I also happened to get a copy of Jenna Fischer’s The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide (2017). I couldn’t ignore the confluence of events and read through this book which is part autobiography and part how-to guide for wannabe actors.
To be honest, I skipped most of the How-To stuff because it’s super-informative, but not interesting if you’re just getting into this book for Fischer’s stories, which I was there for. There was still plenty of goodness in there for me to sink my teeth into as she reveals her at-home acting life as a kid and then the super rough years in Hollywood leading up to getting the Office gig. The message at the heart of the story is one that anyone can relate to, though, as it’s all about perseverance. It’s easy to quit and it’s hard to keep at it, but the truth of the matter is that you have to work hard and be in the right place to succeed whether that be a physical, emotional or mental one.
And there you have it. The only two books I finished this year not included here are on other lists! I wrote about reading The Disaster Artist between watching The Room and then the film version of the movie, which was a treat. That book is an absolute treat in the way author Greg Sestero recounts how one of the craziest films of all time came together. I’m also working on a list for PopPoppa about my favorite kid-related viewing experiences which will also mention my reading of Caseen Gaines’ Inside Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which is another fascinating recounting of a beloved character’s rise and fall.
Right now, I’m slowly making my way through David Wong’s John Dies At The End which I’m enjoying, but kinda wish I could listen to as an audiobook. Writing these posts got me back into reading it, so hopefully I can keep that going and write about this one soon. Now it’s time to clear the shelf and start racking up more read books!