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totally top five 2018: reading

I made it another year reviewing all the books I read on Goodreads! Maybe this year I’ll 1. get better at reviewing and 2. read more dang books?!

And now in no particular order!


Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End ripped my heart out in all the best ways. It has a simple, genius concept that’s executed clearly without lengthy dragging explanations. It drops the reader in and expects them to accept the world as-is and then makes them fall in love with rich, engaging, charming characters and get attached to them, all the while knowing exactly how the story is going to end. Despite yelling the title at myself every time I felt even a tiny little glow of hope in my ribs, I was still absolutely devastated in the end and loved every second of it.


Janet E. Cameron’s Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World is a coming-of-age story that stays with its protagonist a lot longer than most, which I found both refreshing and really satisfying. I like the way time and place shape the story and that Stephen is struggling with more than one aspect of his identity. I like that even though it reaches extremely dark places, it never feels hopeless or like it’s enjoying the character’s suffering. There’s stronger writing here than I was expecting and some places where I knew the words would stick around for a long time. Really lovely.


Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism seemed like a fun, throwback book when I bought it, but it ended up being a lot more: scary and creepy and immersive and frustrating (I hate when you’re in the head of a character that other people don’t believe! It makes me furious and it was executed SO WELL here.) and also really lovely and moving and sweet. The heart of this book is a deep, living friendship between two girls and even with a great plot and pitch-perfect pop cultural references (that never feel cheap!) that friendship is what carries the story each step of the way. There’s some really great, grotesque imagery in here and I loved the multimedia elements, but most of all I loved that it had a really satisfying ending that never lost sight of the girls at its center.


S.J. Goslee’s Whatever was super, super fun and charming and smart and funny and had tons of great, teenager-y dialogue and goofy, teenager-y shenanigans to really get absorbed in. Also there is really fun, charming, awkward flirting! And characters who really like each other! And have interesting voices! All of the characters here are really engaging and the story as a whole is really what I most enjoy when reading YA, my most frequent genre of choice: teenagers who are figuring shit out, navigating rough spots, and still having a pretty good time.


K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King wins the award for Book That Made Me Yell At My Wife the Most because she hasn’t read it yet, but also won’t let me talk to her about it because she doesn’t want to be spoiled and I want, SO BADLY, to talk about it! This book is so freaking beautiful and dense and interesting and painful and god, I don’t know how to articulate it. I love the characters and the weirdness and the relationships and the imagery and the visual components and the really intense, almost brutal relationship at the center of it. This book was so unpredictable and unexpected for me. Also, it has one of the best author’s notes I’ve ever read. I feel like stumbling across this book at Wild Rumpus while being mildly intimidated by a free-roaming fluffy chicken was a tiny little moment of magic in 2018 and I am so grateful for it.


Honorable Mentions

natasha washington, calling calling calling me   carrie fisher, the princess diarist   simon james green, noah can't even


Previously

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totally top five 2018: watching

After talking about my favorite stuff all year, it’s finally time to round it all up, so here we go!

In no particular order!


Big Mouth made me laugh more than probably anything I’ve watched in a long time. I think it’s so good at being gross and funny and relatable and I stand by the assertion that like, okay, maybe kids shouldn’t watch it, but kids should definitely watch it. I can’t imagine how much less messed up I would be if I’d had something like this as a youth. But also, it’s just funny. And the voice acting is great. And I really love the stylized characters and especially the hormone monsters! Both seasons are great and it manages to never really feel mean, despite it being about the absolutely cruelest age.


One Day at a Time wins the award for show that made me feel the best about being alive in 2018. These are wonderful, realistic, relatable, gentle characters who grow and learn and change, who are brave and funny and well-developed. It’s a show about a contemporary family that doesn’t feel too real, but also never feels phony. I love these characters so so much and I am so glad it’s coming back for another season.


Hereditary got a lot of hype around its release and it made me nervous to watch because that usually just leads to disappointment, but this time it didn’t! This was a great watch with lots of rich details and brutal, but not excessive gore (I spent most of my life as a big horror movie person, so your mileage may vary there.) and a genuinely compelling narrative at its center. Everyone in this is VERY good, but Toni Collette is BEYOND good. SO much of the movie is carried on her acting that it’s kind of hard to believe that it works all the way to the credits. This is definitely a horror movie, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a scary movie. There are a couple of great jump scares, but it’s really a dark story about family that still manages to pay off as horror. It’s also WEIRD AS HELL, which is something I wish we all got more of in movies.


I LOVE The Good Place so so so so so so much. It’s the only show we keep up with (Until Brooklyn Nine-Nine starts up tomorrow!) and it’s just so good and so funny and fun and charming and GOOD. Characters who grow and change and learn and develop as the world around them is constantly shifting and throwing away everything they think they know or understand. I like every character, even the bad guys, and I can’t get over Manny Jacinto’s absolutely sculpted from marble beautiful face delivering some of the fucking funniest lines I’ve ever heard on tv. He is somehow the clown and the straight man? It’s magic. The whole show is magic, really, and I am so glad I got into it this year!


I watched Castle Rock on a complete whim and ended up loving it sooooooo much. Gorgeous cinematography, like a million actors that I love, Sissy Spacek!, Bill Skarsgård’s brutal, beautiful face and his impossibly skillful and subtle emoting, André Holland’s pitch-perfect brilliance, and a wonderful, weird, fun intertwining story with unexpected twists that pan out in unexpected and continually interesting ways. I cannot wait to see more of this universe, especially with the word that they’re planning a more anthological series which will cross back with characters we already know.


Honorable Mentions

      


Previously

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totally top three: october 2018

October has been a MONTH, man. Since the end of it is going to be a mess, I started this on the 10th and am now finishing it on November 2nd. 2018 is really blasting by, isn’t it? I’m exhausted.

Crystal and I saw Fall Out Boy live twice this month and the shows were honestly spectacular. We saw them together in November 2007 and then for a variety of reasons (none having anything to do with Fall Out Boy, to be honest, just L I F E) hadn’t seen them again and it was really weird and interesting and exciting to see what ten years can do for a band. We had so much fun it was kind of unbelievable and I came out loving a couple songs that I was sort of meh about previously. (You cannot watch Patrick Stump jam out while doing “American Beauty/American Psycho” and not come out obsessed with it.) I love live music so much, it’s hard to articulate. It was so important to me for so many years and I took my access to it so extremely for granted. These last few months of shows have been massively revitalizing to me and I hope we can do it again soon.



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I hate brushing my teeth! This is literally a thing I have struggled with my entire life. As an adult, I am lucky to 1. know that it’s partially a sensory issue, and 2. have a very good dentist & hygienist who help me take care of my teeth, but also, I just want to be better about it! Generally, if I can get myself started, I can brush fine, but it can be hard to make myself do it twice every single day. (I read that the optimal number is actually three times in two days, but dentists say twice a day because it’s easier and humans are big dumb forgetful animals.) I figured the best thing I could do to improve on it (after YEARS of trying to make myself a twice every day person) was to make sure I was always brushing for two minutes every time I brush. I have a Sonicare which I like a lot AND has a timer, but also can’t handle using every time I brush my teeth (GOD WHO KNEW YOU COULD HAVE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH SUCH A SIMPLE LIFE FUNCTION) so I bought myself a timer in hopes that it would inspire me to brush for the full two minutes! And when I found one that looks like a rocket, I knew it was meant to be. And you know what? Two minutes is a LONG time. But staring at a lil rocket helps.



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Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism was such a good, fun, creepy read with a really wonderful core of friendship and love. It reminded me of my favorite kind of campy 80s horror movies and also my favorite stories about loyalty. It has a great cast of characters, makes good use of pop culture (without being annoying or feeling phony), and an ending that made me tear up. And definitely a great read for spooky season!


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top three: august 2018

August was okay! We did a lot of driving and watched some live music and saw Lake Michigan! It smelled bad and made me homesick for the Pacific Ocean!

Crystal opened Netflix and put on Adventures in Public School one night while I was being difficult about picking something to watch (This is not unusual. I am a difficult person and apparently no longer have an appetite for like, any TV or movies at all. It sucks.) and I was EXTREMELY skeptical as it started, but I’ve been in love with Judy Greer since I was like 13 and saw her in Jawbreaker so I got interested and then Daniel Doheny is so freaking charming that I was hooked. This has a pretty weird premise and I liked the space that gave the story to do some weird stuff with characters and their behavior. (There’s a text conversation at one point that I laughed at so hard I had to pause.) It was just very fun and sweet and charming. And it also has a very cute ending!



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I’ve been struggling with attention and interest lately, not really wanting to watch or read anything, and it’s making me vaguely miserable, mostly because watching and reading shit have always been my favorite things in the entire world and feeling like I just cannot do them feels like being stripped of a big chunk of my life. To fill the spaces where I don’t want to just sit with my thoughts (Which is… never. I never want to just sit with my thoughts. There are too many of them and most of them are very stupid.) I’ve been putting on something soothing (Usually a YouTube video of someone cleaning their house because being alive in 2018 is honestly dumb.) and then I play Disney Emoji Blitz. I’m not a game person really (I am not competitive and don’t really have the fortitude to fake it.) but the easy rhythm of flicking cute little Disney character emojis into groups over and over again is mindless and some days, just about the only thing I can handle. 2018, man.



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We watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before almost as soon as people started talking about it on Twitter because we love romantic comedies! And because we want to support stories that center POC! And because the couple of gifs I saw seemed super cute! And the whole thing! Was! So! Cute! Lots of characters who are very likable and gentle and funny and like, good human beings! And funny dialogue and charming flirtations and very good chemistry and just a nice, well-rounded, well-paced romance! I had read one of Jenny Han’s other book series (The Summer I Turned Pretty) and had disliked it so much that I felt very hesitant about this, but whether it’s just a series I would like or if the translation to screen made it better, it was super fun and charming and I’m so glad we watched! And I can’t wait for the sequel where Lara Jean and Peter’s respective dad and mom get married and they reunite at the wedding after a rough (Only because of a misunderstanding!) break-up. Thanks, Netlfix!


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top three: july 2018

July was kind of a weird month for me with lots of going and doing and very little time to chill and take in new things. I barely even made time to read, which is the easiest thing to make time for in my life! But I still liked some stuff!

Pray for the Wicked is so, so, so good and I wasn’t really expecting it, even though I was excited to hear it. (I’m a firm believer that life is best lived with low expectations! Disappointment is worse than surprise! Don’t be cynical, be chill!) It’s a nice follow-up to Death of a Bachelor and the songs were amazing live. I won’t say too much since I’m pretty sure this one will end up on my year-end list, but what an album of jamz, man. Tracks to Check: “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” & “Roaring 20s” & “Dying in LA”



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It took me a while to read Rebecca Stead’s First Light but thankfully that isn’t the book’s fault, I’ve just been terrible at follow-through this year. This was a conceptually great story with characters it was easy to care about and follow, even in the more high-concept side of the story. As I said in my review, I’m not a scifi/fantasy person generally, but I would definitely read more of this universe, which I think is a great sign.



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Crystal and I have dedicated our summer (and our October…) to live music because we have missed it so, so much since we moved to the middle of nowhere. We saw The Used in May which was an excellent show in an incredible venue and in July we saw Panic! at the Disco and Coheed and Cambria, both in Minneapolis in wildly different venues. Coheed and Cambria were spectacular even 11 years after I saw them the last time, with an incredible stage setup and lighting package, and Claudio Sanchez’s absolutely mesmerizing… everything. It was a big, awesome show put on by really talented musicians for fans who were so extremely into it and I’m so glad we went.

We bought the Panic tickets on a whim and it was ABSOLUTELY the best thing we’ve done so far this year. (We actually ended up not going to Warped Tour because we’re old, which I do not regret at all which I was worried about, so that’s good.) It was SUCH an unbelievably good show with great sound and some of the most spectacular showmanship I’ve ever seen. Fire and sparkles and lasers and smoke and a flying piano and Brendon Urie’s golden voice, which he likes to show off as much as possible to the audience’s very vocal delight. We danced and sang along for TWO ENTIRE HOURS, twenty-eight songs, which is just absolutely insane to imagine doing night after night. What a damn show. We’ve got more live music to come before winter sets in (KNOCK ON WOOD FINGERS CROSSED) and I can’t wait!


And three to look forward to…


      


Panic! at the Disco photo is by Jake Chamseddine & technically Crystal and I are both in it!