My Year in Reading 2020

I finished one final book yesterday to get my total to 71 books for the year. Those 71 books added up to 24,304 pages. That is 13 books and 4700 pages less than last year. While many people have said they read a lot more this year, I struggled to focus on a book during the height of the pandemic. The combo pack of a toxic work environment(via phone during lockdown) and worry about the pandemic made it very hard for me to get to where I needed to be to read a book. I was also down in 2019. Maybe 2021 is the year I get back to my normal level of reading. I’m making no promises. Now. let’s get to the books.

Top ten books in no particular order

  • Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore – One of the good/bad things for 2020. I got a new book by Chris but my plans to see him in March were done in by the pandemic. This is his latest Pocket book, this time his take on A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi – I finally got to this one. If you watch Star Trek, you know what the fate of a redshirt is. What happens when they figure out what is happening?
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – the start of a great series. A Native fantasy series written by a Native author.
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – This one had controversy, but if you just look at the book alone, it is very good. The story of a woman and her child fleeing her former friend and leader of a drug cartel.
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke – When a black lawyer and a local white woman are murdered, black Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is called in to solve the case before racial tensions erupt.
  • The City We Became by NK Jemisin – Every city has a soul. New York has five of them. Five strangers, who are the embodiment of the five boroughs of the city must come together to fight an ancient evil.
  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore – The story of two sisters: Mickey, a Philadelphia cop and Kacey, a drug addict who lives on the streets. Kacey goes missing at the same time women on the streets are being murdered. It bounces from past to present to tell the story of how they got here.
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children.
  • If It Bleeds by Stephen King – four new novellas, including a new adventure for Holly Gibney. My favorite was the first one, Mr Harrigan’s Phone.
  • The Poppy War by RF Kuang – the start of a fantasy series. It start with a poor, peasant girl making it into an elite military school and ends with the beginning of the war.

Honorable Mention

  • From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon – I discovered at one point that a good YA romance is what I needed to break my reading slump. This was that book.
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins – I enjoy a good villain origin story
  • The Third Twin by CJ Omololu – twins Lexi and Ava made up a third sister when they were kids. As teens they sometimes go on dates as Alicia. When one of the guys Alicia goes out with ends up dead, the evidence points to one suspect -Alicia. but she doesn’t exist…or does she?
  • The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly – Mickey Haller is back, but this time he is the client after he is framed for the murder of a former client. His brother, Harry Bosch joins the team trying to prove his innocence.

Book I would most recommend

The City We Became by NK Jemisin. It is an interesting premise and the only book that compelled me to read during the height of the pandemic.

Worst book I finished

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera – probably not fair to put this here as I was not the target audience, but when scanning the list it is the one that jumps out at me.

Book I Dustbunnied

I’m going to put two here since I officially gave up on one right before midnight last night. That one was Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. I was 80 pages in and it was still just a combo of the main character being obsessed with the online world and a new quest and random 80’s references. It is a mess. I also did not finish Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, another book that took too long to get to the point.

It was harder to do the list this year. So many books suffered from my mental state this year. Here’s hoping for a better reading year in 2021.

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My Year in Blogging 2020

I’m not sure I will post much more before the end of the year so I’m going to go ahead and recap my year in blogging. First, the stats:

Total views: 12,016

Visitors: 6282

Likes: 3608

Comments: 773

Top views by location:

  • United States – 8169
  • India – 1262
  • United Kingdom – 825
  • Canada – 267
  • United Arab Emirates – 172

I wrote 303 posts and 98.5 thousand words for an average of 325 words per post.

Here are my top five posts:

Every End is a Beginning – The post where I announced I was leaving my job and why.

A High School Rex Chapman Story – In which I talk about the time former basketball player and now Twitter celebrity played against my hometown team in high school and we got in trouble for harassing him. It seems like it might become one of those posts that randomly gets views forever.

Band Names – My sometimes updated post where I keep a list of phrases I hear that I think would make a good band name. My dream is that some day a band will use one of them and become famous. I wonder if I should make it a page instead of a post so it is easier to find?

Taking a Step – In which I talk about making the call to start therapy for the first time in my life. My therapist has since left his job. I must be really bad.

Live Like You Were Dying – This was actually written right before the pandemic and was prompted by the sudden death of someone I knew from high school. It means even more to me now. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Think about your life and how you are living it. Life is too short.

Thanks for reading this year. Here’s to a better 2021.

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Tater’s 2020 in TV

This is not a best shows of 2020 post. This is the highlights of what I watched on TV regardless of the year of the show. I watched a mix of old and new this year. Here are my most memorable.

Tiger King – I followed everyone else into the tiger King craze. I probably would not have watched it without the pandemic. it would have been one of those shows that I always meant to get to but never would. Even with the pandemic, I’m not sure I would have watched has my son not come home for a few days. We watched together when he was too sick to do much else. It was a fascinating look at world I didn’t know existed. It is worth watching.

Community – A show I missed when it aired. I decided to use the time at home to watch since my son talked about it so much. I cant believe I waited so long. A great show with a great cast that rarely had a bad episode. I think I could have done without the last season.

Outer Banks – I watched this one at the suggestion of my brother, It is a teen adventure show that revolves around the disappearance of one of the main kid’s dad and a legendary missing treasure. We got hooked fast and watched every night until we were done with the first season. Another great cast.

The Next Step – A Canadian teen dance drama that we like way more than we should. We are on season 6 now. I miss the original cast, but I still enjoy the show We watched at the recommendation of our daughter and my wife is hooked. I wrote about it here

Cobra Kai – I am a big fan of the Karate Kid movies. I was skeptical of this show, but heard good things so we gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that the episodes are short so it was easy to binge. I love the throwbacks to the movie. I love the nuance where no one is fully a villain or a hero(with one exception). I can’t wait for season three.

The Goldbergs – Another old one I missed. I needed a half hour show to watch during my lunch breaks. I decided to give it a shot. I’m now on season six. As an 80’s kid I love the references to things from my childhood. It’s funny. It has heart. It is the perfect family sitcom.

Ted Lasso – An Apple TV I would have missed if not for all the praise. The basic premise – a college football coach from Kansas is hired to coach a soccer team in England. It’s funny. It has heart. It is just the show I needed in 2020.

Hart of Dixie – A fun little dramedy about a NYC doctor who move to a small town in Alabama when she’s told she needs to spend time as a general practitioner to learn how to relate better to patients. When she arrives she discovers she was offered the job because the owner of the practice is her real dad who has since died and left his half of the practice to her. Great cast. Fun show. A nice way to spend an afternoon. I miss it and wish there were more seasons.

Old episodes of Survivor and Amazing Race – We were fortunate to have the new Survivor season during the beginning of lockdown. We got a new Amazing Race this fall. In between we watched old episodes of both on Hulu. Heroes vs Villains. Fans vs Favorites. The first seasons of some of our favorite players. Rob and Amber’s Amazing Race season. Colin and Christie’s first season of Amazing Race. It was a good way to spend time while stuck at home.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, but those are the ones that jumped out at me this morning.

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Tater’s 2020 in Review

I considered not doing a 2020 in review post. Does anyone really want to look back on such a terrible year? Obviously, I decided to go ahead and do it. There were some good things this year. There were some big, life changing decisions this year. 2020 sucked, but I would think I would regret not doing a look back.

The start of the year was typical. Had I known what was coming, I would have done more fun things. We went back to the normal work schedule. Our life at home was the nice, normal and boring. My son was back at his house. My daughter moved back to the dorm. The day we were moving her back in I got a text from my brother with the news of Kobe Bryant’s death. At the time I thought that would be the biggest news of 2020.

February is birthday month for me and my wife. It was a milestone birthday for her so we convinced her to give up on her normal “let’s go to a boring chain restaurant” celebration. We went out and had a nice seafood meal on the water. My birthday was not a milestone one. I can’t even remember what we did. I know I did my typical circuit of all the free food and drinks I get from apps and emails from restaurants. The end of the month was my last big public event. ESPN’s College Gameday was filming at my daughter’s school. She woke up early on a Saturday to go stand in line with me to watch it. I overestimated how many people from the general public would go line up. We were first in line and ended up in seats that meant we were on TV consistently during the show. It was a good time.

March is when everything changed. My daughter came home from school for what we thought was just an extended spring break. My work sent us home for two weeks. My wife was going to work from home. We went out for one last meal in a restaurant for my daughter’s birthday. At the time, I really thought this was just a pause. It was going to be nice. My daughter was home. I was home. It was a break from life. A time to rest, reflect and reset. Unfortunately, that pause was extended over and over again.

The next few months were all spent at home. I had to figure out how my public service job could translate to at home work. It was complicated by poor management and made stressful by that management insisting on multiple phone calls a day to make sure were were “productive” My son got sick around Easter. It was all stomach issues and the doctors were sure it was not Covid. This is back when you could only get tested with a doctor’s order, so we never knew for sure. It was a stressful few days, but it was nice to have him home. We watched Tiger King and Community together until he was better and ready to go back to his house. Soon after this is when I starting talking to my wife about the possibility of leaving my job. All of the good was gone and all of the bad was even worse.

Eventually, I went back to in person work. No customers. Curbside pickup only. It was nice to have some place to go. It mad the days go faster. It also increased my exposure to toxic people. So the good was unfortunately way outweighed by the bad. At least I had access to physical books again.

We did still go on a trip in July. We drove to Kentucky. We had a socially distant visit with my mother in law. We saw my family. We played in a pool. We went hiking. We found a fork in the road. My son decided the answer to what you do when you come to a fork in the road is climb it. We went to a place called spray paint road and illegally painted our names on it. We had milkshakes. We had food truck donuts. It was a nice trip in the middle of a bad year.

After the trip was over, I went back to the routine. My daughter moved back to an apartment close to campus in August. I was happy she was with her friends, but I was sad that she wasn’t there to watch TV with me in the afternoons anymore. The monotony was broken up by a few trips to food trucks. I became more stressed, anxious and depressed. I kept asking my wife about leaving my job. She kept not wanting to consider it. I started therapy for the first time in my life. We did go on a hike to find a car graveyard I had read about.

Work got worse. I was miserable. I wrote up a plan for what I would do if I was able to leave my job. I sent it to my wife via email. I asked a few times about it. She kept putting it off . Then last month while on our walk she surprised my by saying she thought it was the right decision. I should quit my job. I turned in my resignation the next day before anyone could change their mind. I had one month left and then I was free.

We had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving of just the four of us and my son’s girlfriend. I had a nice Zoom gong away party. Today is the my first real day with no job. The plan now is to get tested and quarantine so we can see my mother-in-law next week.

Here’s hoping 2021 brings better things.

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Year in Review Posts

Welcome readers to a post where I write about what I might write. Exciting stuff, huh?

Several sites have started posting their best of 2020 lists. It made me start to think about my year in review posts I generally write. The ones that I will definitely do:

My 2020 in review – Highlights from my year. It will be very thin this year. I might do it on Monday since I doubt anything exciting is going to happen over the next few weeks.

My year in reading – Coming January 1 or so – I will use Goodreads for stats on books and pages read. I will go through my list to try to figure out my top ten books I read over the year and which one I would most recommend.

My year in blogging – Maybe next week I usually take a break from posting over the holidays, so I can write thus one early and not much will change. It will be stats on views and such, a look where visitors come from and which posts were the most viewed. Riveting stuff.

Ones I might write:

My year in TV – I might try to think about what I’ve watched and do a top ten list. It won’t be top ten new in 2020. It would be the best of what I’ve watched in 2020.

My year in movies – Again would be what I watched, not necessarily new stuff. I’m not sure I can remember enough to make a decent post.

I don’t listen to enough new music to do a music post.

So, my questions to you – Do you like year in review posts? Do you write them? Any other year in review posts you would like to see?

My Year in Music According to Spotify

I normally wouldn’t start year in review posts this early, but since Spotify gave me the option I will go ahead. I don’t have premium so I can choose my playlist but not what songs play when. I typically only use it when walking. So, this is not a full picture of my year in music. Here’s what they told me.

I listened to 53 genres on Spotify this year. My top five: 1. Rock 2. Country 3. Folk rock 4. Pop punk 5. New wave punk

My top song is not a surprise. I’ve mentioned to several people that during the initial lock down it played every time I took a walk. The top song? King of the Road by Roger Miller. The rest of the list?

My top decade of music is no surprise. The 1980’s with I Can’t Go For That by Hall and Oates as my top 80’s song.

My top artist was Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts. I’m in the top 1% of their listeners. The rest of the top five

  • Jaret and Kelly
  • Dave Hause
  • Patent Pending
  • Bowling for Soup

I listened to 141 artists

And there you have it. My Spotify year in review.

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My Year in Reading 2019

Happy New Year Tater readers! I’m back with my yearly look at my reading. I was a bit down this year. It is the first time in a while that I have not reached my goal of 100 books read. There are several reasons for this: better TV, too much assigned reading, mental state, etc. Hoping for a change in 2020.

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
  • The Outsider by Stephen King
  • The Institute by Stephen King
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
  • Full Throttle by Joe Hill
  • Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley
  • Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Honorable Mention

  • Sadie by Courtney Summers
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Dry by Neil Shusterman
  • Mobituaries by Mo Rocca
  • On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Book I would most recommend

This is a tough one. I would probably go with Wanderers by Chuck Wendig even though it is 800 pages long and most of my friends would never read one that long.

Worst Books I Finished

This is a tougher one. I gave a lot of books 3 stars this year. The only one I gave 2 stars was Target: Alex Cross, so I guess I will go with that.

Book I Dustbunnied

It looks like I finished every book I started this year.

Number of books read: 84

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 28,795. According to that math that is 78.9 pages a day. That’s 10 pages a day less than last year, That means another 15 -20 minutes reading a day would get me back to where I want to be. Seems doable.

 

Tater’s 2019

In which I look to see what I did that was noteworthy in the past year.

Winter:

We went to Orlando in January since both kids were free. We went to Harry Potter World for the first time and also visited Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

I turned 50 in February. We went to DC to have lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill since I have wanted to go there for years and had never gone. It was worth the trip.

Spring

I will call May spring otherwise I won’t have much to say besides celebrating my daughter’s birthday in March,

In May I attended the Maryland/Delaware Library Association Conference where my pub quiz team won first place. I did not really contribute at all.

At the end of May I traveled with my wife to her conference in Baku. I loved the city. More people should visit. It is a nice place and is not overwhelmed with tourists yet.

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We also did a 24 hour layover in Istanbul and toured the city.

Summer

In June I went to the American Library Association conference in DC where I met Henry Winkler.

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I also went to another Bowling for Soup concert

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We went to Kentucky to visit family and went kayaking

Fall

Not much notable for fall. My daughter went back to school so we were empty nesters again. I went to Kentucky over Veteran’s Day weekend to visit my brother and his family. My sister also visited one day and then I had lunch with her in my hometown. I went to multiple middle school basketball games to watch my niece play, went bowling and just had a nice relaxing weekend.

Trudging my way through December now. Only 4 more days of work after today and I head to Kentucky for a nice long break.

My Year in Blogging 2019

I’ve decided to go ahead and do a recap of my blogging year since I doubt I will post much before I head to Kentucky next week.

First, my overall stats for the year. They are actually not bad for my boring little blog. I’m still ahead of last year even though I stopped posting regularly last month:

Views – 8467 Visitors – 5104 Likes 2310 Comments – 566

Visits by Country – USA – 5661, UK – 859, India – 781, Canada – 251. No other country broke 3 digits.

Top 5 posts:

  1. The Lori Loughlin Scandal in Full House GIFS – It is what the title says. The college admissions scandal in GIFS from Full House.
  2.  I’m Done: A Tater Rant – A profanity-filled rant inspired by me being done with a lot of stuff. I’m still done. Probably more done than before.
  3. Tater Talks the Crazy Disney Mom Rant – My thoughts on the mom who ranted that people without kids should be banned from Disney. Spoiler alert – I disagree.
  4. Tater Talks Teachers – A post for National Teachers Day where I talk about some teachers who made an impact on my life.
  5. Tater Talks Leadership – Some thoughts on what I think it means to be a leader.

I was on a roll there for a while. I was writing stuff. People were actually reading my stuff. I thought maybe my blog would grow a little bit. Then a lot of my little daily frustrations exploded and left me is a state of mind that took me out of the blogging mood. I’m still pretty pleased with my stats. I’m sure most bloggers get 10 times the traffic, but it was a good year for me.

I’m thinking that whenever I start up again I might go toward more thoughts on TV and current events and less on my actual life. It might make it easier to want to write.

I guess this is a good time to post the link again where you can give me money to support the blog or to buy me a cup of coffee to drink while I’m writing. So, click this sentence if you feel the need to give a random blogger money.

 

My Year in Reading 2018

Hello and Happy New Year! I’m back from Christmas hiatus and just watched my Kentucky Wildcats beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl. I will celebrate by writing up my year in books. It was a struggle to get to my 100 books again, but I made it. I need to spend less time looking at my phone in 2019 and more time reading. On to the books! All of the stats are from Goodreads(as pictured below). My top books are the ones I gave five stars and then the four-star books I felt were the best of the rest. I will not include re-reads.

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • For Every One by Jason Reynolds
  • There There by Tommy Orange
  • She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
  • An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Jordan
  • One of Us by Craig DiLouie
  • Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
  • Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson

Honorable Mention

  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
  • Noir by Christopher Moore
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
  • Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith

Book I would most recommend

There There by Tommy Orange, but listen to the audio. It has a great voice cast. She Rides Shotgun is a very close second, possibly a tie.

Worst Books I Finished

  • America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside the Greatest Country in the World by Corey Taylor – His rants are usually fun. These were not.

Book I Dustbunnied

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente. I know some people liked this one. I felt like she was trying to be Douglass Adams and failing spectacularly.

Number of books read: 101

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 31860. I did the math and that averages to 87.2  pages a day. Once again, I think I can do better.

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