January Reads Wrap Up
January absolutely flew by, and part of the reason seems to be that I was busy reading!
I gobbled up 15 books in January, none of which I managed to write about in the actual month of January.
I’m recapping now, and any title that is coming out in February or later this year has a bold date, highlighting some of the great new reads to get excited about.
After that it will be back to weekly recaps with the next on February 7.
Let’s dive in!
Replica, Lauren Oliver
October 4 2016
As I didn't want to essentially re-read a slightly different version of the story a second time I decided to alternate Lyra and Gemma chapters. Having to book mark and flip the book was mildly annoying, mostly in how disruptive it felt. I wish it could have been published in straightforward alternating chapters but I understand that the author/publisher was trying to create a new unique experience.
As for the story, I enjoyed Oliver's world-building as I always do, and enjoyed learning more about the world of the replicas and teasing out what's yet to come.
Three Years with the Rat, Jay Hosking
January 24, 2017
I'm attempting to keep this entirely spoiler free:
This book will be a great read for fans of Dark Matter, or the recent Netflix show The OA as the story takes you on a similar "messing with science has dark repercussions" trip as the former, and then leaves you as perplexed and yet surprisingly satisfied as the latter.
I will admit that for most of the book I spent a fair amount of time wondering what exactly was going on, and there were a few times that I wondered why I should care, but the non-linear plot that caused this confusion was exactly the device I needed to order to sink into the trouble with time that is at the center of the story.
By the end I understood that while the real and speculative science in the story was interesting and important to the plot, it was more about how different characters could or would react to the circumstances provided to them when the concept of time becomes more malleable.
There is an almost magical element to the story, but as it's pointed out, anything that surpasses the explanations of science can be seen as magic.
Pull Me Under, Kelly Luce
November 1 2016
What I enjoyed most about this book is the beauty that comes from the clarity of the writing and the honing of a years-long tale into a concise story.
My feelings upon finishing the book are hard to pin down. I didn't wholeheartedly love the story, but I enjoyed all the cultural details and navigating with Rio what it might take to feel whole. There is a great sense of possibility where the story ends and that's more than enough for me to feel satisfied.
Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit
May 20 2014
The realities of the information in this book are a heavy weight to bear. Example after example about the systematic violence against women threatens to overwhelm. And while it can feel cowardly to look away after reading a piece, it is an act of self-preservation as well, especially as someone who strives to protect their mental health.
Solnit draws attention to the fact that much of the language we use today didn’t exist 40 years ago, and that as “secrecy and silence” are often the mainstay of abusers and oppressors, the new language of abuse helps erase some of the female censoring. The term “rape culture” didn’t exist until 2012.
This is not an easy book to read despite its brevity, but an important one for any reader, regardless of gender, because it pairs depressing facts with ideas of hope that could progress women out of the shadows of silence and doubt.
All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai
February 7 2017
It's hard to process what I just finished reading because it had a little bit of everything crammed in, all in the best possible way.
The imagined leaps in scientific and subsequent cultural expansion feels oh so possible, and as the author intended, initially the comparison of Tom's world in 2016 versus ours really does feel dystopian on our side.
But the story is really about science, time travel, paradoxes, or technological advancement.
It's about people. It's about human beings and their capacity for love, the ways that love and hope can shape the world and despite the best intentions, not always for the better.
Mastai writes in a way that makes it perfectly clear that he has experienced the loss of a parent, perfectly capturing the perpetual way it changes you, he has clearly been in love, and has obviously been made a father. All of these experiences color his main character.
The book is funny and full of unexpected depths. I find myself wanting to adopt Greta's idea of monitoring what you do every day, to see if you're living your beliefs or allowing them to exist in thought and name only.
The only thing that keeps this from being a full five star read is some of the repetitiveness of the content, not just the rehashing of events as a tool in the hands of two technically different characters, but in Penny's recapping of events as well.
Overall it was a hell of a ride that required me to think, to examine my world and the human beings in it, and to still believe in the best.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, Meik Wiking
November 16 2016
A charming little book, it offers both some cultural insights into Denmark and guides readers through examples of what hygge means and how it can replicated in your daily life.
The bottom line is that feeling safe and feeling a nurtured coziness is important for human beings, as well as interconnectedness, things that are not necessarily inherent to American culture.
I picked this book up because most years winter in my area lasts from November through March, similar to Copenhagen, and I wanted to find ways to embrace the good in the dark and cold of the season instead of floundering in it and I felt that this book has some great tips.
Dead Letters, Caite Dolan-Leach
February 21 2017
This was more than your typical mystery, one that was delightfully slippery full of literal clues that yielded just as many questions as answers.
There were times in the story when it was so very difficult to want to read about the people who populate this book. But the festering anger and years of mistakes and addiction is the catalyst of the story, and thusly, a necessary exploration.
I'm always personally sensitive to instances of eating disorders that are treated with a casualness or embraced by a character, always feeling like I could attach a PSA post-it in the story to alert readers to alternatives, but I realize that's not my place, I'm not the author.
As a resident of the Central New York area, and someone who has traveled around the edges of Seneca Lake sampling wines and other bounties of the Finger Lakes, I particularly enjoyed this fictional insight into a family behind one of the vineyards. It's easy to view the vineyards as separate from the people who have invested their lives into them and now this book will have me potentially pulling a Zelda and making up stories about them.
Without spoiling anything I think I can share the simple paragraph that not only so perfectly sums up the book, but offers an insight into our own lives as well, "But you only start life once. And you start it with a limited number of people. Those people, they do something to you."
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a "locked room mystery" or who likes a story that isn't too pat, too easy to suss out.
April 4 2017
I loved Sleeping Giants, so much so that it was one of the rare books of 2016 that I forced into people's hands again and again, promising them one hell of an adventure, and everyone of them who read it agreed.
The follow up book is every bit as good, with the added layer of depth and emotional resonance that comes with re-entering a world we've already come to know fairly well. Such is the magic of sequels.
What makes these books so special is not only the lovably geeky and hilarious human beings that populate the story, but that there's a perfect balance of a little bit of everything: humor, factual science, fictional science, love, ethical conundrums, all tied together in documents that allow the reader to feel as though you're there with our gloriously imperfect characters who are trying to do noble things, especially in the face of terrible loss.
There is a mention of squirrel science in the book and it's hard to put a finger on why that tickled my fancy so much other than it serves as perfect example of how the pursuit of even the strangest bits of understanding our world can yield interesting returns.
This book left off with another cliff hanger, which for only makes me more excited to continue the journey, it's like expecting a door to be closed in your face at the end of a party, but instead it's whipped open again, inviting you to come party in another section of the building you hadn't even noticed before.
I loved it. I loved it the way a little kid loves their first ride on a roller coaster, giddy from the ride and eager to go again.
Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson
January 10 2017
This book starts at a pretty high level of intensity and stays there the entire time, never allowing the reader to feel settled about any of the characters.
I enjoyed being pulled along for the ride, guessing at motives and enjoying the way that we learned more about each character's history, until the end.
The ending felt surprisingly pat, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but paired with some weak insta-love it felt like it was the end of a completely different book. Still, a great thrill over all.
Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo
September 26 2016
I enjoyed this book so much more than Six of Crows, which I liked, but occasionally got mired down by all the introductions and groundwork that needed to be set up for the story.
In this book we already know who the characters are, already know why we can and should root for them and then the action and plotting gets dialed up a dozen notches
I was thrilled to be along for the ride, flipping page after page, willing to be duped by Kaz's machinations as he duped everyone else.
Enough things were resolved happily to feel satisfied with how the book ended, though not everything was tied up in a neat bow, and that feels true to the stories and true to real life.
It's safe to say that I will now happily enter into any world that Bardugo creates.
Heartless, Marissa Meyer
November 8 2016
Rebecca Soler was a fantastic narrator, doing an amazing job of doing so many different voices, especially men.
While I often enjoy retellings, I think maybe prequels aren't for me. There is a certain inevitability that makes me frustrated as I'm confronted by alternative storylines.
The whole first half of the book, with the constant "I won't marry the king/oh, but you will" back and forth grew so tiresome and repetitive.
I enjoyed Cath's desire to be a baker, to have a love she enjoyed with her best friend. I might have been more interested in her desire for her independence, friendship, and talent as what kept her earring against expectations than an insta-love with a doomed stranger. I get instant crushes and how wonderful and strong they can be, but insta-love turns me off.
Overall it was a book full of interesting visuals, some new additions, and some cribbed straight from Carroll.
In the Light of the Garden, Heather Burch
January 10 2017
This was the Once Upon A Book Club Box selection, check out my full unboxing post for my review.
Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty
July 26 2016
I experienced similar frustration to many other readers who found the build up to the "reveal" to be a little too long for possibly too small a pay off. But I like the way that Moriarty captures people, the way she writes about everyday life.
When the events of the barbecue, the day that has apparently changed our main characters so much, is revealed halfway through the book I wondered what would come next, and the answer was exploring layers of deceit and complicate mental health issues.
Overall it was an interesting character driven story, even if it wasn't my favorite Moriarty novel.
Thirteen Reason Why (10th Anniversary Edition), Jay Asher
December 27 2016
When I heard that they were going to be making a series from the book I knew I needed to re-read it for the first time in about 7 years.
I picked up the 10th anniversary edition, interested in the staying power of a book that warrants a milestone edition. I can't help but feel like shouldn't have read that deleted ending though, shouldn't have had a glimpse at what could have been, and glimpse of what was eradicated because it didn't teach the same lessons otherwise.
This book is a reminder of the ripples we make with every action, it is a reminder to be kinder than necessary.
The Child, Fiona Barton
June 29 2017
The story starts off slow, introducing the reader to the various women who will each play a role across the span of the book. Initially it's a little difficult to connect with these characters, to want to learn more than the little teasings of history here and there.
And then the book accelerates, giving answers that most characters are surprisingly unhappy with, leaving the reader wondering what we're missing.
Whenever I read a mystery I'm making guesses from page one, changing and molding them again with each new piece of information but it took me a long time to guess at what was happening here, thrilled by the layers of deceit.
Even if you're uncertain in those first 100 pages know that there's a hell of a story yet to be unwrapped and keep on reading!
Whew! That's January! Thanks for reading and I'll be back soon with the first week of February.