I failed my 2015 Reading Challenge.
I was 20 books short to be exact.
I mean seriously, I still haven’t even read Go Set A Watchman (which would have been my Book Published This (now last) Year).
But like any good failure, I have a multitude of excuses. Let me tell you about my 2015.
(NOTE: I’m going to talk about myself for a while. You’re more than welcome to read it, but if you want to skip ahead to the bookish part of this post, I totally understand. I’ll mark where you can come back in).
I started the year unemployed. And I was really not in a good place. My life was like one long, drawn out panic attack. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat (I mean, I could, because I kept getting fatter, but I didn’t enjoy it). And I really couldn’t focus on any kind of printed material that wasn’t a job application. This was around the time I was reading the Divergent series, and I often times found myself wishing I lived in a dystopian society (I mean, wouldn’t life be easier if it sucked for everybody?) Anyway, despite the fact that I was a 31-year-old with a college degree, I struggled through a series of YA fiction. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read those books again…I’m afraid they’ll evoke that same panic-y feeling, and that is NOT something I want to revisit. (Fortunately I can still enjoy the movies, because Theo James).
So, after many, many job interviews, I finally got a job in March. Unfortunately, it was not a job I was proud of. I don’t mean to sound snobby, but as a 31 (almost 32)-year-old with a college degree, my ego was pretty bruised when the only place that was willing to employ me was a deli (and not a like fun hipster, independently owned deli. A corporate deli that made me take out my nose ring. A deli that is so lucky that I signed an NDA barring me from talking about them by name online. Not only did I have to really swallow my pride, but then they treated me like crap: nobody wanted to train me, there was no study material to help me learn the menu, the GM screamed at me on my second day in front of everyone, including customers. Life hint: if you’re sitting in a job interview silently praying that they don’t offer you the job, you probably shouldn’t take it).
Then, a miracle.
A week after starting at this dumb restaurant filled with stupid jerks, I got a call. I had interviewed for a job in January, and didn’t think I would hear back. I was offered the job at the very end of March. And I had zero reservations about this one. Well, not zero. I’m too neurotic to not stress at least a little.
So I finished out the week as a food service peon (because I’m a good person and didn’t want to screw anyone over), quit, and threw away my slip-resistant shoes. Hopefully forever.
(Sidenote: That deli never paid me. So, if you’re reading this in the corporate office, just try to say anything about me alluding to you and your horribleness. I worked for you for two weeks for effing free.)
Then came my birthday. Should be fun right? It was. Better than the last couple at least. But birthdays for me come with a lot of hurt feelings. See, it’s been made pretty abundantly clear that to a lot of people in my life, my day’s just not that big of a deal. I mean, not to sound like a brat, but if you demand that everyone bend over backwards for your birthday, it says a lot when you don’t do the same for others. And I don’t demand to be the center of attention very often, so can’t I have one day where I get to feel special? Why do I have to drive 3 hours to you on my birthday? Why can’t I pick the restaurant? Anyway, I could go on for days on this subject. I did have a good one this year, but there was a lot of anxiety leading up to it.
Also, my birthday, April 4th, was the first day in all of 2015 that I had a meal with another human being, so I was pretty lonely, too.
So I was pretty excited about this new job. But I soon discovered that the hiring process takes FOREVER. Like I said, I interviewed in January. I was offered the job in March. I started in MAY. I gave up on this job at least 3 times before I was finally given a start date.
Also occurring far too frequently around this time: Tornadoes. Floods. Locusts. El Nino. So there was that, too.
Started my job. Loved it. Still do. Buuuuttt, it’s only part-time. A full-time position has been mentioned from time to time, but it looks like it’s going to be a while. So I had to find another job. Eventually I did. But I was hired as seasonal. Long story a little less long, I think they’re keeping me, but the holidays were busy, and stressful, and uncertain, and I’ve been tired a lot.
At least 2016 is starting better than 2015 (although I don’t think I’ve dined with anyone yet this year).
(Those of you not interested in my sob story: You can start reading again).
The point of all this is, I struggled with some pretty heavy emotions in 2015. I started 3 jobs (plus I’ve done some tutoring). There are a lot of times when reading is a great refuge from the realities of life. But there are also times when you’re just incapable of focusing. I think the fact that, through all of this, I was still able to read 32 books is still impressive. But I’ve decided to go easy on myself in 2016. My Goodreads challenge is set at 26 books. I’ve also decided I’m going to try not to buy any books this year (although this does not include acquiring books via gifts, or giftcards, or prizes…). And if I only read 15 this year, I’ll be okay with that, too. Books need to lived in, not rushed through. I have a nasty little habit of turning everything into a chore, and that’s something I need to work on. It’s time to relax.
Now, that I’ve vented…let’s get to the books. Hopefully the second half of this post will be more fun than the first.
Starting with the bad:
LEAST FAVORITE BOOK:
Anthology Complex by M.B. Julien
This self-published tome had almost 4 stars on Goodreads, and the reviews all said to stick with it. So I did. He kept talking about all these murders happening in his town (unspecified, but for some reason I think it was somewhere in South Africa). I kept reading through these ramblings, waiting for the twist (that the narrator was the killer, of course), but there was no plot twist (I guess it’s hard when there’s no plot), it was just the ramblings of an apparent stoner.
LEAST FAVORITE SERIES:
This should go without saying, but 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Yeah, it’s hot and all, but Christian Grey talks too much. Which is even more of a problem when the dialogue is beyond terrible. This also wins the prize for SERIES I HATE MYSELF MOST FOR READING.
BOOK OR SERIES THAT CAUSED THE MOST SEVERE PHYSICAL REACTION:
It’s a tie.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
I got up one Saturday morning and decided to take a long, hot bath with this book. Two hours later, I’m still in the (now cold) tub, literally sick from crying so hard. But it was super cathartic.
Grey by E.L. James
When he described something Ana said as “music to my dick,” I gagged. I actually gagged. I didn’t quite throw up, but I was damn close. This was a glimpse into the male mind that I DID. NOT. NEED.
MOST DISAPPOINTING REREAD:
Jemima J by Jane Green
There are so many things wrong with this story, not the least of which being how enamored I was with it in my early twenties. It kind of perpetuates the idea that fat shaming is okay, because it’s “for their own good.” Not to mention the fact that the height/weight ratio of the title character would not really make her all that big. And not to sound basic, but, ladies, if a man doesn’t want you at your worst, he doesn’t deserve you at your best. AND this book basically glorified anorexia. All around a terrible, dangerous message.
However, the stuff about Jemima learning how to use the internets is hilarious. How far we’ve come.
Literary Fort Worth ed. by Judy Alter and James Ward Lee
Technically I started this book in 2011. Then put it away for awhile, and started over this year. Since it was a compilation of short stories, I read it concurrently with other books throughout the year. My favorite part was seeing different authors takes on the same thing, like the descriptions of Christmas shopping in Downtown Fort Worth (at Leonard’s Department Store…long before my time). Plus, my hometown has a pretty interesting history.
BOOK THAT TOOK THE SHORTEST TIME TO READ:
Not sure which, but one of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris I read in a day. Like the TV series, they’re fun and funny and campy and easy to read. It’s funny. Watching the series, I was team Bill, or maybe Alcide, but reading the books, I’m hard-core shipping Sookie and Eric Northman.
This is tough, but I think I’m gonna have to go with:
Tommy and Jodi from the A Love Story Trilogy by Christopher Moore
If the series had ended at Divergent, and there not been the aforementioned extenuating circumstances, I might be saying Tris and Four here (again, mostly because Theo James). And there was always Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy (ahh, Mr. Darcy…). But Christopher Moore’s characters have the most realistic relationship (despite the fact that they’re vampires). Tommy Flood is only 19 to Jodi’s 28, and very naive, but when he finally decides to man up, it’s pretty hot. Speaking of this series:
FAVORITE VAMPIRE SERIES:
Sorry, Sookie. I love the Love Story Trilogy (the actual titles are Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, You Suck: A Love Story, and Bite Me: A Love Story). They are riotously funny, almost to the point of being a really good parody. But there’s still a coherent story, and while I was usually laughing out loud, I got a little teary-eyed on a few occasions, too.
FAVORITE TRUE CRIME BOOK:
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
While this one was more White City and less Devil than I would have liked, Larson made even the architecture stuff interesting. And while Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me is probably one of the most unique true crime books there is (she started writing it even before she knew that the killer was her friend and former co-worker Ted Bundy), it often times felt a little disingenuous.
FAVORITE BOOK BASED ON MARILYN MONROE:
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
(The other option being After the Fall by Monroe’s ex-husband Arthur Miller. Widely regarded as his worst play). Oates is pretty much my favorite author, and this book was good, but it was hard to read, and LOOOONNNNG. And I was disappointed to see that she re-used a lot of the unconventional writing styles (no character names, using ampersands, run-on sentences to indicate mania, etc.) that had made one of my favorite books of hers, Zombie, so good. But, as usual, everything works, and the language is beautiful. Case in point:
“This doctor says there are miracle drugs now
to control the ‘blues.’ I said, oh if the
blues go, what about blues music? He asked
is the music worth the agony & I said that
depends upon the music”
From Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
BOOK YOU SHOULDN’T JUDGE BY IT’S MOVIE:
The Ya-Ya Series by Rebecca Wells
As I said before, this was pretty gut-wrenching, but also funny, and in general made me wish I had a group of girlfriends like the Ya-Ya’s (mostly because those women could fight and stay friends. Which hasn’t been my experience). It also made me crave a Bloody Mary and some Cajun food. While I might get flayed for saying this (or at least called an idiot behind my back), I didn’t hate the movie. But, in real life, things are not tied up with a ribbon after two hours, and the books acknowledge this better than the movie did. It’s realness is what made it so good.
BOOK WHOSE MOVIE I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Didn’t love this book. I sometimes felt like Grahame-Smith just randomly and arbitrarily replaced certain words with “zombie” or “undead.” But there was a “balls” joke in there that killed me. Hopefully that makes the film, which looks pretty amaze-balls.
MOST REALISTIC POST-APOCALYPTIC WORLD:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Everyone thinks the end of the world’s gonna be all factions and hunger games and The Walking Dead. But when someone asks me how I’m going to survive the apocalypse my answer is always, “I won’t.” And I really have no desire to. This was a story about when the end of days stops being fun and starts getting real.
P.S. I discovered that I like punctuation and chapter breaks, and strongly dislike when books don’t include them.
FAVORITE “THINGS I FIND IN BOOKS” THING:
In Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm (another great non-fiction about the 1900 Galveston Hurricane), every page I wanted to dog-ear was already folded. The person who owned the book before me was clearly my soulmate.
FAVORITE BOOK OF 2015:
Yeah, right. I can’t answer that.
Follow my 2016 Reading Challenge on Instagram. Look for #MaggieLeighReads2016