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.

Book Review: “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman

The more I read them, the more I love old myths and legends. They’re more than stories, more than magic and gods and the fantastic, they’re part of the history of a people group. They give insight into what mattered to a culture, what a people believed about themselves and life.

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My husband is half Norwegian. His father’s parents emigrated to the United States after their first child was born. They are all very proud of their heritage, which shows itself in recipes, jokes, and heirlooms and even a regularly repeated rumor of lineage to Odin. *wrinkles nose dubiously* So when one of my favorite authors announced that he was releasing a book of Norse Myths, I was extra excited to read it.

I often describe Neil Gaiman’s writing voice as beautiful to the point of dangerous. His tone is fluid, poetic, and enchanting. Once he begins to tell a story, I don’t want to stop listening, and if my 9 month old baby wasn’t trying to nibble the book every time it appeared, I would easily have finished this book in two days. In the end, it took me two weeks and the dust jacket, which frequently sacrificed itself as bate to her grabby, curious hands, barely escaped with its life.

The myths inside are not written as a bare timeline of incidents the way I remember Hamilton’s Mythology, (which, while informative, I will always refer to as “the cure for insomnia”). Norse Mythology read like a novel, each episode one step closer to the inevitable doomsday of the gods, Ragnarök. The cast of characters includes fiendish dwarves, clever giants, and many flawed, yet powerful gods. Gaiman tells each tale with his usual flourish and touch of humor. It was perfectly executed.

Basically this book is beautiful and everyone should read it.

Home Again, Home Again

They wheeled me down to pre-op around 4pm on Thursday. I was so nervous that my pulse jumped from 97 to 123 while they were taking my vitals. I cried quite a bit, and hated myself for it, especially since the tears were visible on my cheeks during transport. I was also trembling, because I tend to shiver after a panic attacks.

As soon as I was prepped, my surgeon came out to see me.

“What kind of music do you like?” he asked.

“Classical.”

“Like, classic rock?”

“No, orchestral. Though if I’m going to be asleep you should probably pick your poison.”

He squeezed my foot. “Oh don’t worry. As soon as you’re out we’re going to turn it to gangster rap.”

At 5:40 pm, I handed off my glasses, got a nice deep kiss from Tim, and they wheeled me away.

They’d already given me an IV push of what the anesthesiologist called “happy juice,” so my lights were dimming as they positioned me beneath the operating room floodlights.I could hear Brahms. Someone asked me about my baby.

I woke to chatter and intense pain in my upper right quadrant. I remember whining about my pain and asking for Tim. The nurse gave me a push of something, but the pain was still so bad I warned her I might vomit. She gave me a push of something for that, then sent for Tim.

I was in and out for a while. At some point, I became aware that I was babbling. I heard myself say…

“…then Fenris wolf is going to eat the sun and the moon. The sky will tear with children’s screams.” A message to “shut up” began to slog its way from my brain to my mouth. “The wolf eats Odin.”

“Yeah,” said Tim.

“They were so mean to him. And Thor kills the snake but the snake kills him too.”

“Is this a movie?” The nurse asked my husband.

“Ragnarök,” I mumbled.

“It’s a book she just read,” Tim said.

I blinked fast and sat up a little. “I’m awake.”

The nurse asked me my name, where I was, and what had just happened to me. I answered her, then felt myself falling back into Norse Mythology.

I rolled in and out for a bit until they transferred me back to my room. A few naps and embarrassingly long burps later, I was discharged. We pulled into the driveway close to midnight.

The surgery itself went incredibly well. On average, it takes an hour and half to perform, but mine was under an hour. I have minimal pain, except the pressure and fullness from the still dissipating CO2 they pumped into my abdomen to assist the surgery (hence the massive burps I mentioned in the paragraph above). The hardest things are that I need Tim’s help to sit or stand, and Ellie keeps begging me to pick her up, which I can’t do for the next two weeks. I spent most of yesterday resting in a recliner at Nana’s house, napping and watching cooking shows.

I’m thankful to be home, thankful it’s over, and very thankful to everyone who prayed for me. I carried every one of you with me when I went into to the operating room, and felt safer because I knew, whatever the outcome, I was swaddled with your prayers and cradled by Abba.

Thank you. I love you all. ❤