A to Z Reflections 2018 #atozchallenge

 

t shirt 2018Another year of A to Z is over. I successfully completed my 8th year of A to Z!

As usual, it was fun (and stressful). And every year, I get a little bit more organized. Progress, right?

This year, I picked my theme way ahead of time and started brainstorming books I could use. I didn’t write any of my posts ahead of time, and though I didn’t always get my post up in the morning, without fail, I got my posts up on the correct day. (That’s two years in a row of a perfect score!)

What I’d Do Differently Next Year

I probably say it every year, but next year, I’d really like to finish my posts early. I don’t know how well this will work though, since I really do my best work at the last minute. I’ve never been one of those people who can do work in advance, then leave well enough alone.

What I Did Well

I visited at least 5 other blogs every day and left comments. There were days this was more difficult than others, but I feel that since we’re all a community, we need to support one another. I found other great blogs, which is always fun.

I’m rather proud of my pictures this year. I had fun using text and filters to make my stack of books more visually interesting.

 

I always have mixed feelings when April is over. On one hand, I’m glad to take a break from daily blog posts. On the other, it’s fun to write to a theme and take daily pictures.

Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who stopped by, read, and/or commented on my blog. It means a lot to me.

If there’s a theme you’d be interested in seeing me write about for 2019, feel free to drop a comment or send me an email anytime.

 

 

 

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Z is for (Books About) Zombies #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

Some people are over zombies because they were in every movie and TV show for a little while. I can never get enough. Everything is better with zombies!

Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black (YA horror… sort of): It’s an anthology of short stories by great YA authors, meant to solve the question as to whether zombies or unicorns are better. Half the stories are about zombies, the other half about unicorns. These aren’t the stories you might be expecting, and there’s nothing typical about them. Though I loved the unicorn stories, Team Zombie!

The Girl With All the Gifts, by MR Carey (horror): I read this on a recommendation from a friend, and had no idea what I was getting into. Melanie lives in a prison with other children. It quickly becomes clear that Melanie and the others are zombie children who retain their ability to think. Adult zombies are mindless, but the children are different, and experimenters want to figure out why, and if they have a cure. When the compound is overrun by zombies, Melanie goes along with the adults to help protect them from the others. This is a unique, fascinating, lovely, frightening book.

The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (graphic novel): Maybe I talk about The Walking Dead too much (is that even possible?), but I love it because it’s a story about the people during a zombie apocalypse and the various ways they cope. Yes, there’s the whole killing zombies thing, which is also cool, but I love the human element. The graphic novels do a great job of developing the characters. And as a bonus, Carl is still alive.

What are your favorite books about zombies?

Y is for (Books About) Younger Self/ Older Self #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

When I started pondering this category, I realized there are more books than I would have expected where a younger and older version of a character get to communicate through some means.

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to 16-year-old me and posted it here, if you’re interested. Part of me really wishes I could have sent that letter, and part of me knows I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.

I Remember You, by Cathleen Davitt Bell (YA fantasy/ romance): Juliet meets Lucas and starts to fall for him, even though he keeps saying weird things about how he remembers their relationship from another time when it happened a little differently. Juliet isn’t sure she believes what Lucas is saying, but she loves him, so she believes in him. This is such a lovely book about the power of love.

Every Ugly Word, by Aimee L. Salter (YA fantasy): 17-year-old Ashley is able to communicate with her 23-year-old self by looking in the mirror. Ashley of the future has already been through all the bullying that Younger Ashley is dealing with, but Older Ashley is hiding something from her younger self. This book made me feel so many things.

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell (fantasy/ romance): Full disclosure… I love everything by Rainbow Rowell. This isn’t my favorite book of hers, but it’s still a fun read. I listened to it on audiobook, and it made a long car ride much easier. The romance in Neal and Georgie’s relationship has died; work and kids get in the way. When Georgie has a big opportunity come up at work, and informs Neal that she can’t fly home with him and the kids for Christmas, he leaves without her. She’s not sure if it’s the end of their relationship, and, depressed, she goes to her mom’s house where she uses a magic phone to talk to Neal-of-the-past and remembers all the things she loved about him. It was a sweet romantic story that flashed between present and past. Sometimes we just need to be reminded about those we love.

Are there any books you like that are like this? What would you tell your teenaged self?

X is for X’d Out… Popular Books I Hated #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I think X is always the toughest letter in the alphabet, requiring a little more creativity than the other letters.

For this one, I’m going with popular books I didn’t like. Please note that I’m not saying these were bad books. Books are very personal choices, and these weren’t for me.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (contemporary): I tried to read this and just… could… not. Lots of people said it was really good and worth reading, but I was so bored that I started to dread reading it. It was not a bad book, but just not for me. I seldom push through and read books I’m not interested in because life is too short for that.

The Casual Vacancy, by JK Rowling (contemporary): I was so excited when this book came out, but that excitement quickly fizzled out and died. This book is like the anti-Harry Potter. Every character in this book is an awful person and they all hate one another. There’s no magic to be found; not the wand kind and not the kind that sucks you into a good book and won’t let go. I made myself read for about a hundred pages until I got so mad that I stopped reading in the middle of a sentence and never looked back.

I Am Providence, by Nick Mamatas (?): The only reason I managed to finish this book is because I was reading it with a friend. This is probably the worst book I ever managed to finish. It was set at a Lovecraft convention, which sounded like an amazing premise. No. Nope. Not even a little. I hated every character in the book and I felt like the author was making fun of convention-goers. One of the characters gets murdered, and the murderer ended up being someone who was barely mentioned for a reason that didn’t make sense. The only sad part about the murder is that only one character got killed. A better ending would have been to just kill all of them. Or stop on page 1.

What popular books did you hate?

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W is for (Books About) Women #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

There are so many amazing books I could have written about that it was hard to narrow it down to only a few. But I managed. (Aren’t you impressed?)

Moxie, by Jennifer Matthieu (YA): When Vivian gets fed up with the boys at her school, she looks to her mother’s old punk rock ‘zines to inspire her to connect with the other girls at her school. I loved this book because it was girls at their best, supporting one another. It showed girls standing up for themselves in a strong and non-violent way. Plus, it was just a lot of fun.

The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis (YA): When a man killed Alex’s older sister, Alex killed that man, and she doesn’t feel bad about it. She does, however, think she’s too dangerous to be around other people. When she befriends Peekay (the preacher’s kid), and Jack (the star athlete), the three of them end up in a situation that means different things to each of them. This book took me on a roller coaster ride, and I’m still thinking about it. Though I don’t advocate vigilante justice, Alex is an amazing heroine.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (classic): Offread is a handmaid in a dystopian future where women have no rights and are merely baby-making vessels. Offread was once an independent woman with a husband and child, but she’s not that person anymore. Her voice shines through. Even in this terrible situation, she’s still an individual who wants more. So when she’s offered a chance to rebel, she takes it. The book is full of terrifying ideas.

What are your favorite books about women?

V is for (Books About) Villains #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I do love a good villain, one with their own story, who you can even sort of understand and root for. So many villains are one-dimensional and boring. When they’re not, they’re often the best part of the book.

Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, by Thomas Harris (horror): I loved Hannibal Lecter the moment he said he liked eating the rude. I think of that often in the grocery store. He appealed to me because of how manipulative he was, like a chess master, using people as the pawns. These books would not have been as good with a lesser villain.

Gavin in Fearscape, Horrorscape, and Terrorscape, by Nenia Campbell (YA horror): Before I get to the review part, I need to be honest about these books. The first one was fantastic, but quality went downhill as they continued. I still liked them a lot by the last one, but the last two would have benefitted greatly from better editing. (I think the second two were self-published. If they were ever re-edited and re-released, I’d definitely buy them.) Okay, so anyway… Gavin is a creepy stalker who develops an interest in Valerian, despite her friends telling her to stay away. I loved these books because they didn’t make the bad boy turn good with the influence of the right girl. He is a creep and that doesn’t change.

Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (classic): There’s nothing worse than someone who’s awful to people in their care. That’s one of the things that makes Nurse Ratched one of the evilest characters of all time. She’s a control freak, among other things, and McMurphy and his chaos are perfect foils for her. It’s a classic story.

Heartsick, by Chelsea Cain (horror): In my mind, there’s nothing better than a female villain (done well), and Gretchen is one of the perfect ones. She’s a serial killer who’s also a psychologist. She manipulates her way into working with police and then tortures the police detective in charge. Instead of killing him, she then lets him go and turns herself in, professing her love for him. But it turns out that it was all another manipulation, and she keeps manipulating him from jail, Hannibal Lecter-style. There’s a second book I haven’t gotten to, mostly because I didn’t know it existed. It’s now on my TBR.

Who are your favorite villains?

U is for (Books About) the Underworld #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

As some of you may have noticed, I like books about dark topics. What can I say? Horror has always kind of been my thing, and I like books about death.

Graveminder, by Melissa Marr (horror/ romance): Rebekka’s adopted grandmother, Maylene always had odd rituals about the dead. When Maylene dies suddenly, Rebekka comes home and finds out that Maylene’s “odd rituals” were actually about keeping the dead in their graves. Rebekka must visit the underworld to find out what she has to do to make sure the dead stay dead. This was one of those odd books that I found by chance at a used book sale, and once I read it, I loved it. It has a unique and fun interpretation of the underworld.

What Dreams May Come, by Richard Matheson (horror/ romance): Although I enjoyed the movie (I pretty much love anything with Robin Williams), the book is very different. Chris is married to the love of his life, Ann. When he gets into a car accident and dies, he ascends to a place called “Summerland,” where everything is beautiful. Haunted by worries about Ann, he finds out that she committed suicide and is in a dark place of her own making. Propelled by his love for her, Chris braves hell to get to Ann so that she won’t have to be alone. This book is moving, beautiful, and terrifying, all at the same time. Matheson is one of my favorite horror authors because his stories are subtle and multilayered. If you liked the movie, read the book.

Remember Me, by Christopher Pike (YA horror): Since I first read this book as a kid, it’s been one of my all-time favorite books, and I’ve probably read it more than a dozen times. When Shari dies, she visits the scene of her death and learns that people think she jumped. She’s sure someone murdered her, and she follows the detective assigned to her case. Shari isn’t willing to move on until her murderer is captured. Considering the book is about murder, it’s a light and fun book.

The Face, by Dean Koontz (horror): Saying this book is about the underworld might be stretching the truth a bit, but I’m comfortable with it. It’s told from the point of view of Ethan, a former cop who’s now the bodyguard of a famous actor, Dunny, Ethan’s former best friend, career criminal, and dead man who just walked out of the morgue, Frick, the bodyguard’s son, and several others. Most of the characters are alive, but Dunny isn’t, though he’s still walking around. Why he’s still around isn’t clear until the exciting ending.

What are your favorite stories featuring the underworld?

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