The One That Looks Back at 2020

Throughout 2020, and most of 2019, I went on a bit of a personal journey where I moved out of the fog of motherhood and began to discover things I love all over again. Everyone prepares you for the sleepless nights, the non-stop diaper changes, and everything else that comes along with being a mom. But no one prepares you for how you almost forget what your hobbies are, what you enjoy doing in your “you” time that refills you. 

It started in December 2018 when I realized it had been too long since I read a book. I made a goal to read 20 books in 2019, and – to my surprise – I stuck to it and surpassed my goal. I kept pace for 2020 (already passing my goal of 20 books). I was somehow juggling work, being a mom (to human and fur babies), and making time for something I enjoy. It felt empowering.

Then came Summer 2020 when I decided to pick up a hobby I had in college – blogging. Now, I’ll admit I don’t write or post as much as I want to (reference notes above about work and motherhood), but it has still been so much fun writing, discovering #bookstagram, and once again finding time in my days to do something for me. 

I know 2020 has been an extremely difficult and heartbreaking year, but in all of this time we’ve been spending at home, I’ve had a chance to discover who Ciera is again. That is at least one positive. 

So – let’s look back at 2020 and all of the adventures I went on. 

The One That Comforted Me Through Hard Times ..

When the pandemic first sent us all home in March, I needed something easy and fun to read. Something that could distract from the craziness of the world while also guaranteeing I would not end up sobbing at the end of the book. Re-reading one of my favorites from high school was a comfort move on my part, and it worked out well. 

I was a little concerned The House of Night Series (I read Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed, Hunted, and Tempted) wouldn’t be as enjoyable to read as the first time through, but I was wrong. It had been long enough that I had a general idea of where the story was going but was still surprised as the story unfolded. 

Zoey Redbird, her native American heritage, and new popularity/importance at The House of Night, a school for young fledglings (baby vampires), took me on a wonderful journey and brought me comfort during a very unsure time. While I only read a handful of the books in the series, I plan to finish in 2021.

The One That Pulled Me In On Page One ..

If you haven’t read The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness get in your car and go buy it immediately. The remaining books in the trilogy are still on my TBR, but this was one of the fastest “pulled-me-in” moments of the year for me. Full disclosure – slap a hot, possessive vampire into a story and I am ALL OVER that. A friend of mine calls it my “vampire porn.” Think Twilight, True Blood, etc. 

Throw a truly powerful witch, who doesn’t even know how powerful she is into the mix and it’s the perfect concoction.  

I can’t wait to follow Diana and Matthew into the past in the remaining books of the All Souls Trilogy in 2021 (starting to feel like most of my 2021 reads will be sequels to 2020 favorites). Because I’m terrified of spoilers, I’m waiting until I’m done with the trilogy before jumping into the television show. 

The One I Will Not Be Recommending ..

There are two answers here. First, The Collector by John Fowles, which was so off-putting I couldn’t get past page ~50. This starts with a man stalking and kidnapping a girl. Not completely out of my wheelhouse of plot lines. However, the narrator is the kidnapper, which gave me the creeps all over. I’m not sure why this particular novel elicited a negative reaction – enough to make me stop reading the book. This hasn’t been the case before with books like Lolita by Vladimir Nobakov, which is one of my favorite novels and is similarly disturbing. 

The second book I won’t be recommending is The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk. This was the first of his novels I didn’t enjoy (see review here), but overall it didn’t hit the mark as a thriller. But, don’t worry, I won’t be writing Palahniuk off my list of favorite authors. He’s dazzled me enough with my favorites like Rant and Choke that I’ll still be stalking the “P” section at the bookstore waiting for his next release.

The One That Stole The Show ..

You are likely tired of hearing me rant about Betty by Tiffany McDaniel at this point, but it’s a beautiful book and it remains at the top of my list (see review here and discussion post here). If I were to rewrite some of my early blog posts where I list out my favorite novels, something on there would likely be replaced with Betty

The story of a young Native American girl and the struggles she encountered within her family and from pure prejudice in her community was so riveting and powerful, I think it will remain on my top 10 list for the rest of my life. Reading the story through the eyes of a young girl who witnessed racism, death, rape, psychosis (in others), and more in a lyrical, almost poetic, way changed my life. It created within me a new idea of what perseverance and strength are. If Betty can survive and flourish following everything she experienced – there’s nothing I can’t handle. 

For context, while this is a fiction novel it was based on the author’s mother’s childhood, which creates so much power behind the words. 

In 2020 I read:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter (on Audible)

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast 

Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Chosen by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Untamed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Hunted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

White by Bret Easton Ellis

City of Glass by Cassandra Claire (on Audible)

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer – Review Here

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – Review Here

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel – Review Here and Discussion Post Here

The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk – Review Here

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson – Review Here

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens – Review Here

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – Review Here

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – Review Here

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell

Book Review – The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk

Genre: Fiction; Horror

Rating: 3.5 / 5

I have complicated feelings about Chuck Palahniuk’s The Invention of Sound, so I’m going to do this review in two parts – the good and the frustrating. My younger self would be appalled that this review isn’t a glowing adoration of Palahniuk’s talent and skill. Until this week, I have never read a book of his I was not obsessed with. 

All that to say, it was still a Palahniuk book and, as such, had the benefit of cutting dark humor and a devastatingly wicked plot to put this book high above others. Ultimately it just left me wanting a little more. I need my thrillers to, well, thrill me. I want to be surprised and confused at the ending, blown away that the author somehow surprised me. It’s also worth noting, once I read the ending, I likely missed a lot of details from my quick read from the beginning of the novel (I couldn’t put it down). With a second read through, my opinion may change in a positive direction. And perhaps that is the magic. I was so sure I knew where we were going that I missed important clues along the way. 

As an overly optimistic person (most times), let’s start with the good. 

The Good

Palahniuk’s characters seduced me within the first few pages. The regular shift between character voice and point of view gives unique insight, much like Palahniuk’s novel Rant, which almost forces the reader to invest in different perspectives. They are each engaging with insane back stories. I found myself in a state of shocked rambling after reading each night. Shout-out to my ever-patient husband who lost sleep being my bouncing board. 

Another positive, at least for me, is just the right amount of violence description to elicit emotion without provoking gore induced nausea (or nightmares). Sometimes when I read novels and the author is too good at describing the scene, or at least too descriptive, I force myself to finish the book but experience a period of resistance when it comes to reading. It’s almost like the gore and horror are haunting me and I can’t shake the feeling. (Yes, I know American Psycho is one of my favorite novels. Contradiction, yay!) The allure of just enough violence description is the effect of the mind compensating for that missing piece. It really lends to the story and character development of one of the main characters, Mitzi, in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Palahniuk also gets credit for uniqueness. This is not your standard plot line or story. I’ve never read anything like it, and I don’t think I will again. Also, benefit for the busibodies like me, this novel can probably be read in one sitting (if you don’t have a toddler running around).

The Frustrating

And now to the frustrating pieces of the novel. 

All things come to an end and I get that. I just… I needed more! I was so excited in the beginning. Constantly talking about the book, rattling off my theories, anxious to see how it all ended. Then… it did. I remember closing the book and just sitting there for a moment, confused but mostly annoyed. Like Palahniuk almost got me there .. almost .. then just stopped. 

There is so much build up and tension throughout the novel. You see these two main characters, Foster and Mitzi, and you think you know how they are connected. You will likely be right, in a sense, but then they finally cross paths and it falls short. I can’t get into details, but when you read this one and get to the end, please reach out. I need closure and I desperately need to talk to someone about this. 

Maybe I’ve been spoiled with Gillian Flynn and other masters of thriller. I’ve even been spoiled by Palahniuk! His novel Rant is the most insane story I think I’ve ever read. I could never have predicted the ending. It was a wild ride from start to finish. I guess this review is a result of Palahniuk being too good at the start. I have a standard and expectation, based on his previous novels, and this one just didn’t live up. 

The Invention of Sound is still a novel worth reading, but if you haven’t read Palahniuk’s other books, start there. Rant and Choke are my top recommendations in that regard. 

On a separate note, a friend/yoga instructor or mine has gotten into my head, so I will no longer be including Amazon links for buying books. I will pick a local bookstore, likely one near me in Northern Virginia (or let me know if you have a recommendation). I hope this encourages you to buy local and support your local businesses. In the age of Amazon, I know they need all the help they can get.

Buy The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk here at Old Town Books in Alexandria, Virginia (or at your local bookstore!).