Let's Talk About 2020!

Welcome back, everyone! Thanks for being here :) This week is all about my favorite books of 2019, my thoughts on the Goodreads Reading Challenge AND my reading and writing plans for this year! We've got a ton to delve into, so I'm just gonna jump right in.

My 2019 Favorites!
I didn't read quite as much as I planned to last year; in fact, I only got about halfway through my goal. Despite that, I loved most of what I read throughout the year. I really got into short stories in 2019 and continued to delve into Stephen King. I hope that some of my favorites of the year will make it onto your reading list this year :)

My first read of the year was The Long Walk by Stephen King and BOY did it set me up for a good year. I'm such a sucker for a great dystopian, and this takes the cake as one of my favorites by King (so far)! The basic premise is so simple yet so incredibly crazy. 100 boys sign up to participate in a race where they have to stay walking at a speed of 4 mph. If they go below that speed three times, they're shot dead. A never ending walk, they continue on until there is only one boy standing. This was one of King's first works and the style is noticeably different from his current writing. However, it doesn't detract. This short (by King standards) novel really grasps onto your attention and doesn't let go. I read this in just a few days and couldn't put it down. It's raw and real and graphic and I loved it. 4/5 stars!

Another solid book, The Giver is one that I definitely regret not reading sooner. I remember reading Gathering Blue, a story set in the same universe as The Giver, in middle school. I saw other kids reading The Giver but I never did and to be honest, I'm not sure why. This book is simplistic and minimalist, yet thought provoking and deep. It builds such an interesting world. This was clearly intended for a YA audience and it makes sense why so many kids love this, yet I think the adult perspective makes the book all the more interesting. The true horrors of what takes place in the society presented can really only be fully understood by an adult mind. I would love to reread this again this year. It's a quick read and very hard to put down. The only thing that I lament is the absence of a follow up story based on the main character. I would have loved to see what happened to him after. I've been told to not see the movie and taint my view of the book, and I am following through on that advice. An easy 5/5, this book deserves all the praise it receives.

 Let's take a minute and talk about the totally underrated art that is short story writing. I can't even describe how difficult it is to write a well constructed short story. I feel like it really is a different skill set from writing novels and I wholeheartedly love when I find a short story that sucks me in. 2019 was the year that completely drew me in to short stories and that is in part thanks to the books shown on the left. I had seen these beautiful covers for months in Half Price Books and I couldn't take my eyes off them. Flametree Publishing has made a about two dozen of these short story collections, each with its own topic. I have read the two shown, Endless Apocalypse and Dystopia/Utopia. Some of the stories in the books are on the shorter side (some even less than 10 pages!) Some are much meatier and take a while to digest. My favorite thing about these was the sheer variety. Within each topic/genre are so many great stories, each with its own unique story and characters. The stories are hand selected from recent publications to classic short stories that have been around for a while. I can't wait to get my hands on some more of these collections. I jumped around from story to story depending on my mood and how much I felt like reading and it made it such an enjoyable experience. If you are curious about getting into short stories, these collections are a great way to zero in on a genre you like and get a huge variety of stories within. Some of the stories I read in these collections have stuck with me and there have been many times that I find myself thinking about them throughout the day. 4/5 in general, 5/5 for some of the best stories.

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, was my favorite off-the-shelf read of the year. I had it sitting in a stack for a while before I finally picked it up and gave it a shot. Just like The Giver, I regret not reading this sooner. This book takes you on a RIDE. I love sci fi but definitely do NOT read enough of it. The writing style is extremely simplistic, with whole pages of one to five word sentences. The story is unique and layered full of so many twists and turns that I could barely put it down. I hesitate to even write too much about this in fear of giving ANYTHING away. The science geek in me was loving this. Definitely a must read! 4/5

What can I say about this that hasn't already been said? 11/22/63 is an epic novel, one that requires large chunks of time wrapped up in a blanket tearing through it's pages and thinking of nothing else. Towards the end of this, I was reading up to four hours a day with reckless abandon. I seldom cry while reading, but this one made me choke up a few times. It is beautiful and emotional. It is a thriller and a romance. It is so many things wrapped up into one. I've seen criticism of this I don't buy it. People always want to tear down something that is great, and this book is great. It is a book of time travel, a book of love and a book on being human. The incredible detail from the late 50s/early 60s that King injects into this is just simply phenomenal. My favorite part was most definitely small town Texas and the simple life that our main character finds himself in while waiting to change history. It was pure. I can't recommend this enough. You wanna get started reading big King novels? Start with this. 5/5

There were more books that I loved in 2019. I tore through The Outsider (also by King) and I finished The Silent Patient on New Year's Day, making it my first read of 2020. Both will be getting their own post: The Outsider is currently airing on HBO and I am hoping to do a comparison post when the season is done and The Silent Patient review will be coming soon as well. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was one of my favorite WWII novels of all time and I actually enjoyed The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. It was a year of fabulous reading for me and I'm happy with what I accomplished. As for the coming year....

I have a LOT that I want to accomplish this year.

Not many people know, but I actually have been a writer for my whole life. I've loved writing stories since I was very young. My ultimate goal in my life is to be a published author. I have several short stories started and a novel in the works. My goal for 2020 is to finish the 3 short stories that I have started and to get halfway through my novel. Throughout the course of this blog, I would love to sprinkle in bits of what I am working on and my journey to write my first novel. Please let me know if this is something you'd want to see on here! :)

This leads me to my next topic: what I will be READING this year. Specifically, my goals and my thoughts on the Goodreads Challenge. If you are unaware or are not a part of the Goodreads community, Goodreads is a book app and website that allows you to track the books you read and the books you want to read. It allows you to rate and review the books you read as well as interact with other users. You are also able to create different virtual "bookshelves" that allow you to categorize and group your books (I have a favorites bookshelf).
Goodreads also has a yearly reading challenge, where you set a goal for yourself based on how many books you want to read throughout the course of the year. Most people try for 52; a book a week. To me, I find this tough. I am sometimes unable to commit to a book a week because of life. Just in case you don't know me and wound up here by accident, I'll back up that statement by letting you know that I am a teacher in South Minneapolis with an extended school day ๐Ÿ˜‚ I work upwards of 50-60 hours a week and just don't have as much downtime as others. I do make it a point to read at least an hour a day so I can at least get some time in each night. However, I think 52 is a pretty lofty goal for  me, let alone anyone. Last year, I barely got through 25. I feel like life is meant to be lived. I don't mind giving up a reading night if it means being at my siblings' hockey games, spending time with loved ones or because my plans run late. Sometimes I'm not even in the mood to read. Sometimes I genuinely am just too tired or want to not think for a while. Life happens. I'm not too hard on myself.

If you don't want to set a goal, don't set a goal. Some people find it easier to read when there is no pressure on them. I did set a goal of 42 for the year, but don't let that impact if you choose or don't choose to set a goal. If you do set a goal, I'd love to hear what yours is :) I love being motivated by and motivating others to achieve their reading goals!

To give you an idea of the kinds of books that I read, here is a picture of some of the books I hope to finish by the end of the year. This is not everything that I want to read, but it's a good chunk of some of the ones I am really looking forward to tackling. I am currently reading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King and loving it.

What books are you currently reading this year? Are you planning on setting a reading goal this year? What were your favorite books of last year? I'd love to hear!



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