My Top 10 Reads of 2018

If you follow this blog, you know I love reading. I beat my goal of 52 books this year and read over 90. That, despite my toddler and several bad bouts with depression, both of which make it hard for me to settle into reading. Below are my favorite reads this year.

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#10 – I Wrote this for You by pleasefindthis

That’s not a typo; pleasefindthis is the pen name for Iain S. Thomas. I discovered this gem through Prime Reading. It’s beautiful poetry with artistic photography scattered throughout. Definitely, my favorite poetry read this year.

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#9 – Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

No, I have not watched the Netflix series. I finished the book before they started running trailers for the show, which looks completely different from the book. My favorite part of Jackson’s eerie original was the crazy ending. Probably the most shocking ending I read this year. If you don’t mind a creepy read about a haunted house that attempts to drive its inhabitants mad, then this book is for you.

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#8 – Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

This short, convicting read discusses the sins the church has come to tolerate. Even though I took issue with Bridges’ lack of knowledge on certain subjects (e.g. mental health), I believe authors run into those problems whenever they attempt to write a book that covers a multitude of subjects without the assistance of a co-author. This book still made it into my top ten for the year, simply because it forced me to consider the things I let slip in my personal spiritual walk.

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#7 – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I already did a full review of this earlier in the year, but since it made it into my top 10, I’ll just say, this book was a lovely marriage of nonfiction, fantasy, and myth with the readability of a novel.

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#6 – Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

This one almost didn’t make it onto the list, but only because I started it late in December. Its a beautiful memoir about pain, mental illness, and how storytelling can aid in healing. It’s written in luscious prose that reads like poetry. It’s heartbreaking and oh so lovely.

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#5 – The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This book caught my attention when I read a review that compared it to Agatha Christie, whom I LOVE. The murder mystery aspect of it was definitely similar, with the added bonus of gorgeous atmospheric writing that made the book a darker, edge-of-your-seat kind of read. Her depiction of panic attacks was spot on, and I dare you to read it and not feel occasionally claustrophobic.

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#4 – The Unpleasantness at Baskerville Hall by Chris Dolley

Another book that made it into the top 10 that I’ve already reviewed. This blend of sci-fi and P. G. Wodehouse was one of the funniest reads I indulged in this year. I hope to read more of Dolley’s works in 2019.

*drumroll* And now my TOP THREE!

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#3 – Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

This book though! It was a delicious blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Martin discovers a computer file that can alter his world with only a line or two of code. He uses it to go back in time to Medieval England and trick everyone into thinking he’s a wizard. Such an inventive and hilarious storyline. The characters are lovable, witty, and quirky and the book had me smiling through almost the entire read. Meyer was one of several authors I discovered in 2018, and I intend to read the entirety of this series.

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#2 – A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth by Matthew Dickerson

This thought-provoking read looked into Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth. I learned so much about world building from Dickerson’s in-depth study of the themes within the Lord of the Rings. I recommend it to fans of Tolkien and writers of fantasy. Tolkien had the masterful ability to discuss his worldview without overtly mentioning his personal views on religion or politics, and, after reading Dickerson, I’m convinced this is one of the reasons Tolkien’s books stand the test of time.

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#1 – The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

Sometimes I have difficulty picking favorites when it comes to books, but this year I had no difficulty at all. I will never forget this book. I adore fairy tale retellings. This one was dark, poignant, and written in gorgeous poetic prose. The skill that Danley used to weave in multiple characters from myth, legend, and fairy tale while keeping the story fresh and unique was breathtaking. Love. Love. LOVED it.

I’m so excited to find out what new reads and authors I’ll discover in 2019! Comment and tell me about some of your favorite reads of 2018 and some of the new authors you discovered.

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Book Review: “The William Powell and Myrna Loy Murder Case” by George Baxt

Do you like Classic Movies? Do you like Hollywood Gossip? Do you like murder mysteries? Well then do yourself a favor and don’t read this book!


Seriously, don’t do it.

I grew up on classic movies. My grandmother and I spent countless hours snuggled together in her bed watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce play Holmes and Watson. My first celebrity crushes were on Cary Grant and Gene Kelly (Yes, they were dead, but that idea didn’t compute until much later.) When we weren’t watching old movies, she was reading me to sleep with Agatha Christie books. Old movies and mysteries, that was our thing.

When they released “The Thin Man” film collection on DVD, my grandmother and I sat down and watched through the series. I adored Nick and Nora Charles, played perfectly by William Powell and Myrna Loy. Their chemistry was adorable and their witty banter perfectly timed. I loved these films so much that for a while they were my go to comfort movies that I watched whenever I was sick or having a bad day.

Then I found out about this series by George Baxt. It’s called the “Jacob Singer” or “Celebrity Murder” series and has 13 books in it. They’re all murder mysteries built around big name stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I had to read it. I HAD to. It was out of print, so I special ordered my copy through Borders. (Yes, Borders. Obviously it sat on my shelf for a while. I don’t read fast enough…) I pulled it out this summer, but I’d barely gotten into the first chapter when I noticed several things, the main one being that the writer…well…he…he sucks, okay? He sucks.

The plot was totally lacking. It was just a muddle of name dropping, meandering, useless information, and poorly constructed scenes. The dialogue was witty at parts, but his attributions were all haywire. He would begin a paragraph with “Said William” and throw in a half a sentence of dialogue before using most of the rest of the paragraph to describe the thoughts and actions of the other four people involved in the scene. Then he’d jump back in and finish whatever it was that William was saying, without any further dialogue attribution. By then I’d forgotten who was speaking, because he’d forced me into doing all the head hopping, so I’d have to revisit the opening of the paragraph.

During one scene, I was introduced to four new characters. The dialogue mess commenced and I couldn’t keep them or their stories straight anymore. I hit a point where I thought that one of the male characters was saying a female character had a crush on Jean Harlow. The biggest problem with this is the book takes place in the 1930’s and to my knowledge Hollywood stars didn’t advertise homosexuality back then. I tried to back up and see if I’d read it right, got frustrated, and decided to continue reading with the understanding that, regardless of the author’s original intent, none of the characters had identifiable gender, and they were all bisexual. It was just easier that way.

Besides that, the murder itself was dragged out for eternity. At the risk of sounding bloodthirsty, I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be a body. About half way through the book it finally happened, and you only really got two suspects, one of which I felt they’d already exonerated in the first half of the story.

And as for the characters of Powell and Loy, well they were basically Nick and Nora Charles. The same mannerisms, same playful flirty banter, the same propensity to drink three martini’s before noon. This was utterly unbelievable to me, and an insult to the acting abilities of Powell and Loy. Honestly Baxt, was this meant to be Powell and Loy or did you just find it less cumbersome to use them instead of applying to Dashiell Hammett for rights to publish your Thin Man fan-fiction?

I feel like if anyone should have been a candidate to love this book, it would be me. The nostalgia effect alone should have carried me, but wow. Just wow.

Never again, George Baxt. Never again.

 

Amazing Alliteration Adventures: Act I

“Three thespians.” Sally slowly slid sideways, unsecuring her seatbelt. “These perplexing puzzles are positively peculiar.” She sighed. “This murderer’s MO might make most actors migrate.”

“Chief will be chuffed,” Sybil sneered. “He hates histrionics.”

Sally shook her head. “He despises depravity deeper and the paperwork pisses him.”

Wilma waved from the walkway. “Detectives,” she said. “The deceased died dangling from the doorframe of this dumpy domicile.”

“Time of termination?” Sybil asked.

Wilma wiped her whiffer. “Three thirty.”

“Three thirty?” Sally sighed. “The twin termination time as the other three thespians. This is getting thick!”

Low laughter lifted the ladies’ eyes. Sharon’s head hung happily from a second story skylight.

“Sharon the malicious murderer!” Sybil snapped. “We should have suspected.”

Sharon cackled corruptly. “You yodeling yankees! Your useless understanding won’t outwit me. I’m impervious!” Sharon slammed the skylight shut. Loads of loony laughter lilted downward.

Sally stared solemnly skyward. “She’s so strange,” she said.

Sybil shrugged. “Someone should send some slugs sailing swiftly southward. Sharon’s skull should shatter soon. She shan’t stop sans some intersession.”

Sally smirked slyly. “Thankfully I trump at trick shots.” Sally stood still, her handgun hoisted heavenward. Three slugs slid speedily south. Sharon shrieked. Sybil hurriedly opened the hatch. The two flatfoots fleetly flew forward almost falling up the flight of steps.

Blood radiated round Sharon’s wound in red rings.

“Definitely dead,” Sybil said.

“I always accomplish my aim,” Sally sniggered. She glided her gun guardedly into its grip. “Mission mastered. Let’s leg it.”

“Don’t donuts sound scrummy?” Sybil said.

“Definitely donuts.”

The two friendly flatfoots went westward down Downing Street. The sweet smell of Dunkin’ Donuts wafted their way.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014