Books of 2018

I once again failed to meet my goal of reading 50 books last year. I managed 44 books with a total of 11,604 pages, which is actually more pages than 2017 when I read 47 books. But it’s still a failure. Oh well. It’s a new year.

Here are the highs and lows of 2018’s reading list, starting with the bad. I didn’t bother to finish anything so bad I only gave it one star, but I had a few 2-star reviews. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee leads that list because I just didn’t care about any of the characters. Then there was Larry McMurtry’s Leaving Cheyenne, which just droned on and on and changed points of view three times as the central character become more and more unlikable. Richard Bach’s One was a major disappointment despite hitting one of my favorite themes. The story just wasn’t believable and, honestly, Bach came off as a self-absorbed snob.

I gave three books 3-star reviews, the most recent of those being Robert Bloch’s Psycho. It might have been different if I’d never seen Hitchcock’s movie, but since the movie followed the book pretty much exactly, the book was kind of boring. The other two were Louis L’Amour westerns, The Quick and the Dead and Rivers West. They were decent, in a Saturday matinee kind of way, but not spectacular.

Seventeen books got 4-star reviews; to be fair, some were rereads and I’m going to mention them here. The best of the lot here was Steffen Piper’s Greyhound, which had a few flaws, but gave me one helluva book hangover and is part of the reason I didn’t hit my goal of 50 books. I simply didn’t want to read anything else after this story. Also on this list are two by Phaedra Patrick, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and Rise and Shine Benedict Stone. I really liked both of these, with Arthur Pepper being just a little better than Benedict Stone. But I’ll be looking for Patrick’s next book. Naomi Alderman’s The Liar’s Gospel was an interesting read, looking at the life of Jesus from various unrecorded viewpoints. I also read John Steinbeck’s The Wayward Bus for the first time and rated it here; it’s no The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, but it was pretty good. There were some westerns and others, but these are the highlights.

There were fourteen 5-star reviews and, well, eleven of those are rereads. So let’s look at those other three. I may have a new favorite living author in Nina George. I loved loved loved The Little Paris Bookshop and couldn’t wait to read The Little French Bistro. Both were excellent, though I’d give the Bookshop the upper hand. Her use of language, even translated into English, is masterful and her characters are very real. If you haven’t read her, you should. And finally, there was one of the best biographies I have ever read in Robert Hilburn’s Johnny Cash: The Life. I came away feeling as if Cash was a close personal friend. The depth of this book is just amazing, covering The Man in Black’s life from beginning to end, not pulling any punches. If you think you know Cash from the movie Walk the Line, you are so wrong. There’s a lot more, as he was a very, very complex man.

That’s it. Happy reading in 2019!

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