Book 4 (of 52) – God Spare The Girls

God Spare The Girls – Kelsey McKinney

18-year-old Caroline is looking towards her last summer at home, culminating with her sister’s wedding, when the bombshell of her father’s affair drops.  With her faith in her father (and her Father) rattled, she and her sister move in to their grandmother’s old ranch, where they grow closer together and look towards their individual future plans.  When her father’s affair is swept under the rug, both at church and at home, Caroline tries to decide if she can forgive him or it she’s ready to blaze her own path.

I was familiar with Kelsey McKinney’s non-fiction writing as a blogger at Defector.com, so I decided to dive in to God Spare The Girls, her debut novel without much advance information as to its subject matter.  I’m not sure what I expected, but a coming-of-age story about the daughter of a megachurch pastor was certainly not it.  I did find myself rooting for the characters to get their happy endings, which I would say one did and one didn’t, and it was certainly well-written, but this really didn’t fall into my wheelhouse.  Maybe next time I’ll take a closer look at the subject matter before checking the book out of the library.

Book 3 (of 52) – The Life (And Wife) Of Allen Ludden

The Life (and Wife) of Allen Ludden – Adam Nedeff

100 years ago today, in the town of Oak Park, Illinois, the only child of Horace and Tess White, named Betty, was born.  The next year, the family moved to California, where young Betty would grow up and find her way into show business, first on radio and then, in 1949, moving to television, first as a co-host with Al Jarvis on his daily show and, eventually, on her own once he left, before moving on to the syndicated sitcom Life with Elizabeth in 1953.

A little further north, in Wisconsin, a youngster named Allen Ludden moved from town to town with his family.  The Ludden’s eventually landed in Texas, where Allen majored in English and drama at the University of Texas.  During WWII, Allen served as an officer in charge of entertainment, moving east after the war.  He continued to entertain, hosting a radio show and writing advice columns for teen magazines.  He moved to television in 1959, when the G.E. College Bowl debuted on CBS.

In 1961, their path’s crossed for the first time, thanks to the game show Password.  Ludden, named the host of the new show, didn’t remember meeting White the first time she guested, as his concentration was torn from the show by his dying wife.  When White returned a second time after the death of Ludden’s wife, the impression stuck, and Ludden knew who would be the next Mrs. Allen Ludden.  Convincing Betty, however, took a while, but they eventually married in 1963.  They continued to work and live together, feeling the ups and downs of Hollywood life, until Ludden’s 1981 death at the age of 63.  Betty White never married again, though she ultimately became an even bigger star thanks to her 7-year run on The Golden Girls.

I don’t even know if I had heard of Allen Ludden before discovering the Buzzr channel a few years back.  Since then, I’ve watched my fair share of the original Password and the late 70s revival Password Plus, which Ludden was hosting until he fell ill.  It seemed like the world was prepping to celebrate Betty White’s 100th birthday today until her surprising death, or as surprising as a death can be when someone is 99 years old, on New Year’s Eve, less than three weeks before the big bash.  It was in honor of them both that I found this biography from Adam Nedeff, who seems to have made a cottage industry looking back at old time game show hosts.  I might just have to take a look at one of them down the line.

Book 2 (of 52) – Billy Summers

Billy Summers – Stephen King

A contract killer takes one last job, one which has him decamping in place for months prior to the hit.  After the job is complete, he realizes that he was part of the contract and was not meant to survive.  As he plots his revenge, he makes a new friend, a young woman chewed up and spit out by life, who accompanies him on his travel west.  Can Billy get what is owed him while keeping his new friend safe and out of the life?

Billy Summers, the latest from Stephen King, is a straight crime story, aside from one instance of mystical nonsense which could have been dropped completely without impacting the story at all, which is a departure from his work.  This is a side of King that I have not had much experience with, aside from his work for the Hard Case Crime imprint, but I like it and I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more if it.

Book 1 (of 52) – The Night The Lights Went Out

The Night The Lights Went Out: A Memoir of Life After Brain Damage – Drew Magary

In December of 2018, Deadspin writer Drew Magary was in New York, hosting a fan event and going to an after-party with his co-workers.  Two weeks later, he woke up in a New York hospital, where he had been in a coma ever since he collapsed that night with a brain hemorrhage.  The Night The Lights Went Out is the story of his injury, road to recovery, and what he learned along the way about letting the man he was go so he could become comfortable with the man he now was.

Magary published a version of this story on Deadspin in May of 2019, before that entire site imploded later that year.  He fleshed out the initial injury, interviewing family, friends, and doctors who retained memories of the night and days that Magary did not.  His recovery also lasted more than five months, eventually undergoing surgery for a cochlear implant, undergoing smell therapy, and seeing a therapist to deal with his ongoing anger.

Aside from his blogging work, first on Deadspin and now on Defector, I’ve also read two of Magary’s novels, one of which he seemingly finished and self-published in the midst of all of this.  I was familiar with the main beats of his story, but going through the details and the long fight to get back to normal, before abandoning that fight and coming to grips with what normal now was, was a completely different beast.

 

52 Books in 52 Weeks – 2022 Edition

A new year is upon us, and it is time to once again set a goal of reading a book a week for the entire year, totaling 52 books in 52 weeks.

Prior to last year, I’ve had a low point of 8 books.  I’ve hit a high point of 31 books twiceLast year, working from home for the entire year, I finally met and surpassed my goal, finishing with 54 books finished.

Since I have nothing but time again this year, now that I am officially a remote worker, I’m going to give it another go.  I’ve got plenty of new books stocked up in the Kindle app on my iPad, not to mention one or two birthday and Christmas presents and my handy dandy library card, so I’ve got a good pile to start with.  As a reminder, the rules I am using are:

  • You can count a book as read as long as you have completed the book in 2022 and at least 50% of that reading takes place in 2022
  • Any book counts as long as you’re not embarrassed to count it.
  • Poetry collections do indeed count.
  • Re-reading a book is okay as long as it isn’t done this year. (Reading Twilight twice in 2022 only counts as 1 read)
  • Audiobooks also count.

My first book of the year looks like it will be The Night The Lights Went Out, Drew Magary’s memoir about his traumatic brain injury and his subsequent recovery.  Here’s hoping 2022 is another good year when it comes to books.

2021: The Year In Books

As we wrap up 2021, my first full year remote working, I managed to read a whopping 54 books, an increase of 31 books over last year and my first year completing the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.  I surpassed last year’s total in mid-June, passed my best years, 2015 and 2016, in late August, and completed book 52 with two weeks left in the year.  I read (or listened) to 18,670 pages, by far my highest total of all time and only the second time I’ve passed 10,000.

Of those books, 16 were non-fiction and, of the 36 novels, 10 were tied to a TV show, either as the source material or as a tie-in.  None of the books came out of my dwindling “to-read” drawer, with 43 e-books and 4 audiobooks.  For the first time since I was a kid, I got myself a library card, which helped me procure 14 of the books.

Just less than half of the books I read this year were by authors I have read before. The 31 authors that I read for the first this year were:

  • Tegan Quin
  • Sara Quin
  • Lucy Foley
  • Jenna Fischer
  • Matt Haig
  • Eric Nusbaum
  • Jon Taffer
  • Charlotte Douglas
  • Susan Kearney
  • Fredrik Backman
  • Jeff Pearlman
  • Minka Kent
  • Alan Cumming
  • Megan Goldin
  • Molly Bloom
  • Barack Obama
  • Ali Wong
  • Timothy Ferriss
  • Issa Rae
  • Walter Tevis
  • Tess Gerritson
  • Gary Braver
  • Andy Weir
  • Matthew Walker
  • James Clear
  • Grady Hendrix
  • Simon Sinek
  • Jason Fung
  • Julia Spiro
  • Jon Pessah
  • Ruth Ware

Erle Stanley Gardner, Mary Kubica, Jeffery Deaver, Andy Weir and Karin Slaughter were the only authors that I read multiple titles from during 2021.

6 of the books I read were released this year, while 5 of them were released last century, with the oldest first published in 1933.

Finally, the breakdown by month, which was fairly consistent across the entire year.

Continue reading →

Book 54 (of 52) – The Turn Of The Key

The Turn of the Key – Ruth Ware

A nanny leaves London behind and moves to Scotland for an unbelievable new job with a staggeringly high salary.  But, things are not as great as they appear to be.  The children see her as an enemy and strange noises and occurrences in the house start to drive her crazy.  Can she get to the bottom of things before losing her mind?  The framing device, that she’s telling the story to a solicitor from her jail cell, indicates the answer is no.

The Turn of the Key was my first experience with the work of Ruth Ware.  I’m not quite sure how I acquired it, but, as the third-place finisher for Best Mystery & Thriller in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards, it was a solid read.  The Scottish setting was a nice surprise and helped the spooky feel come to life.  I’m not sure what else Ware has done, but I’ll be on the lookout for her work in the future.

Book 53 (of 52) – A Slow Fire Burning

A Slow Fire Burning – Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins returns with her third novel, A Slow Fire Burning.  In this go around, the death of a young man on a houseboat is the latest connection between a group of locals, the nosy neighbor who found him, his aunt and uncle, his mom’s neighbor, and the young woman he had just slept with.  As the police focus in on one suspect, the others intersect until the truth is finally revealed.

Hawkins hit the scene in 2015 with her smash debut, The Girl on the Train, which was one of many releases to be dubbed “the next Gone Girl.”  While I have enjoyed all three of Hawkins’ efforts, there does seem to be some diminishing returns, as I liked each one less than its predecessor.  I may check out what comes next, since I’ll probably forget my growing apprehension four years from now when she puts out a new book, but, for now, I’m ready to give her work a rest for a bit.

Book 52 (of 52) – The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s follow-up to the phenomenon that was The DaVinci Code, finds symbologist Robert Langdon summoned to Washington DC to do a favor for a friend.  When he arrives, he finds that he has been tricked and, to save the life of his friend, he must stay ahead of the CIA and decipher the secret codes of the Masons to try and stop a madman.

The third of five novels in the Robert Langdon series, The Lost Symbol was the only one I hadn’t yet read.  I do have one of his standalone works sitting on the Kindle, which I am sure to get to one of these days.  Or years.

Book 52!  For the first time since I started this 52 books in 52 weeks challenge back in 2010, I actually made it to the finish line.  My previous high point of 31, which I managed to hit twice, was tied and surpassed back in August.  We’ll go into more detail when we wrap up the year in books in a few weeks.

Prolific Authors Wrap Up

Way back in December of 2011 (and again every other December since), we’ve taken a look at the authors I have read the most, dating back to high school.  This year, since I’ve far surpassed my reading output of any year on record, I thought it would be nice to take a deeper dive into those books I’ve read through August. Since our last check-in, I’ve read an additional 60 books from 54 different authors. There shouldn’t be much movement over the past 2 years, but it’s time to take another look and see if my “favorite” authors have changed much in that time span.  Today, we wrap things up with a look back at the 77 authors I’ve read more than once.

Largest Increase (since 2019)

The Knife Slipped – Erle Stanley Gardner

Erle Stanley Gardner – 5
Jeffrey Deaver – 3
Karin Slaughter – 3
Tom Perrotta – 3
Riley Sager – 2
Greer Hendricks – 2
Sarah Pekkanen – 2

Largest Increase (since 2011)

Deadly Heat – Richard Castle

Richard Castle – 13
Jeffrey Deaver – 10
Erle Stanley Gardner – 9
J.K. Rowling – 7
Mary Kubica – 6
David Mack – 6
Karin Slaughter – 6