2015 :: My Year in Books

2015 was the best reading year I’ve ever had in my life! I successfully read 25 books this year and even joined book/beer club called Titles on Tap, which has largely contributed to so many books under my belt. Taking the train every day and having 40 minutes of quiet time both ways also provided the perfect time for reading. Since I’ve read such a wide range, I decided to share the best and worst of the year, and what I hope to accomplish in 2016.

Best Reads of 2015

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel // This novel was on many “best of” lists this year. And rightfully so! It’s lyrical, haunting, and impossible to put down. There are a lot of post-apocolyptic novels out there, but this is the first I’ve read that really explored the things we take for granted in modern society. This was one of those books, that was truly an amazing reading experience.
  2. Horns by Joe Hill // I don’t know what it was, but I feel like I read this book at the perfect time in my life. The New England imagery, twenty-something year old ennui, themes of Catholic guilt, a healthy dose of magical realism; it just spoke to me. If you saw the terrible disappointment 0f a movie this was, don’t be dissuaded. I couldn’t believe how much they changed. It was practically a different story! But if you want a very juicy, dark tale, this novel will hit you.
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood // This is supposedly a work of fiction, but it is very much on its way to being a reality. With the upcoming election looming over us, this classic work is more poignant than ever. With it’s powerful themes and symbols, it’s easy to see why this book has become a must-read in everyone’s lifetime. You can read more of my thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale in my book pairings post.

Worst of 2015

I usually have more to say about books I don’t like…

  1. Dietland by Sarai Walker // Ugh. This book was so misguided. Many have praised it as Margaret Atwood meets that biddy who wrote the Something BorrowedSomething Blue books – the modern feminist manifesto. Well as we know, I adored The Handmaid’s Tale and Margaret Atwood this was not. I guess it had potential; I’m always down for women overthrowing the patriarchy, but this book had a serious tone problem. For an earnest attempt at satire, it lacked the necessary snark. The good? It is a voice out there campaigning for change. But is this the kind of feminism that we want? One that believes their way is the only way? One that has an extremely narrow view on mental health, body acceptance, and sexual expression? I implore that this book be kept out of the hands of baby feminists so they don’t make it their doctrine.
  2. Breed by Chase Novak // What an ill-written, hot mess. To be fair, it was for book club and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. The narrative style changed throughout, not a care was given for the characters, the story was figutatively and geologically all over the place, and for a horror novel, it was about as scary as your 6 year old neighbor with a sheet over his head. Snore.
  3. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn // Dark is right. I don’t know what disturbed me more: pedophilia and assisted suicide, or Middle America? At least it inspired my first Book Pairings Post!

2016 Reading Goals

  1. 24 Books! 2 Books a month. I think that’s a good pace.
  2. More non-fiction.
  3. Read the Cormoran Strike series.
  4. Try to dive into graphic novels.

Happy New Year, bookworms!

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Book Pairings :: Dark Places

Just like a sommelier recommends the perfect wine for your meal, I am here to pair the ideal drink for your reading pleasure. Book Pairings is an unconventional book review that expresses my thoughts and feelings about a novel in terms of booze.

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The Book: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

The Booze: Keystone Light

On a drizzly Saturday night in early September, I stood in a dank, crowded basement with a group of girls whom I had only met a week ago. We weren’t really speaking; there was nothing to talk about. We were standing around in a pack cradling red solo cups that we had just received by a guy manning the keg. Most of the people I was with had already got to work depleting their nectar of the college gods. I, on the other hand, stared at its pale sudsy contents. Here it was, my first sip of alcohol. I’m about to be a big girl now. I brought the beer to my lips and took a sizeable gulp, letting the taste wash over my tongue. However, a sobering thought washed over my brain:

“Good god! I’m supposed to like this?!”

This disgusting excuse for a beverage was Keystone Light, and if Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places was to have an alcoholic doppelganger, it would certainly be it.

Dark Places is by no means the worst book I’ve ever read. In fact, unlike Keystone Light, I couldn’t put it down. Gillian Flynn’s sophomore thriller has her twisted stylings and unsuspecting turns that can be found in her other novels (seriously, what happened in this lady’s life that she thinks of this shit?!). Told through the eyes of the victim, the suspect, and a witness, the novel follow the search for truth to the gruesome Satanic massacre of an impoverish Kansas family. Enlisted by a group of amateur sleuthers that call themselves the Kill Club, Libby Day, the sole survivor of her family’s murder, goes down the rabbit hole of that dark day’s events to determine if her teenage brother Ben was really the hand behind the gun. Potential, right? I was constantly turning characters into suspects and eagerly awaiting the next clue. But just like Keystone Light is watered down beer, this novel had me craving more substance. It was a watered down version of what it could be. I wanted more depth to the characters, more motive behind the events, and quite frankly, with the novel’s undertones of devil worship, I wanted more supernatural.

Oh, but there are more parallels to be drawn! Anyone who has sipped cheap beer in a cold, frat basement knows that it doesn’t get better as it goes on. Likewise, the main characters remain unlikeable to the very end. The protagonist, Libby, is the first to call herself “an unlikeable child,” but she continues to be an unlikeable adult. Friendless, disgruntle, disgraced, a kleptomaniac, yet with an internal monologue of undergrad with a degree in creative fiction, it is hard as a reader to care about her. While it is absolutely understandable how she ended up this way (immense childhood trauma probably does that to a person), Flynn does very little with her growth throughout the novel. By the end, I didn’t really care one way or another what happened to Libby once the pages ended. Same goes for her brother, the convicted, supposedly demonic Ben. As much as rumors surrounding him are dispelled, he was introduced as a little shit, and being a little shit is what gets him in trouble.

Then there is the overall mood of the novel: depressing and desolate as the muted plains of Kansas. Flynn is clearly commentating on the correlation between poverty and choice, but it is just as much likely to simply decide never to step foot in Middle America again. It is easy to imagine Runner Day, Libby’s father, downing a can of American light lager on his way to see his kids, or Ben Day getting drunk in the woods off the Keystone thrown at him. To them, it is not so much the taste of the beer as it is how quick it is to get drunk without spending a penny. And to me, tasteless beer is depressing.

If you just want to drink something to get a buzz, pick up keystone light; if you just want to read something to wet your mind, pick up Dark Places.