January 2019 Reading Wrap-up

{Thank you Pegasus Books, SJP for Hogarth, Algonquin, Random House, and NetGalley for the free books to review. All opinions are my own.}

Here’s my Reading Wrap-Up for January!

Book suggestions by mood:

  • For those that love immersing themselves into new worlds: The Oyster Thief by: Sonia Faruqi
  • For those who love WWII historical fiction: We Were the Lucky Ones by: Georgia Hunter
  • For those that would like a humanized look into the immigration debate: Lucky Boy by: Shanthi Sekaran
  • For those that like creepy, yet realistic, vibes: The Dreamers by: Karen Thompson Walker
  • For those that like historical fiction but want something other than WWII: The Paragon Hotel by: Lyndsay Faye
  • For those that love a slow meditation on life: Waiting for Eden by: Elliot Ackerman
  • For those that love a modern-retelling of a classic: Unmarriageable by: Soniah Kamal
  • For those that enjoy a nonfiction book that reads like John Grisham: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by: John Carreyrou
  • For those that want a quick, light, and easy read: The Dinner List by: Rebecca Serle
  • For those that want a book they can’t stop thinking about: Golden Child by: Claire Adam
  • For those that like to cheer for the underdog: Sugar Run by: Mesha Maren
January 2019 Reading Wrap-Up (Not pictured: Sugar Run, The Dreamers, and Unmarriageable)

Even though there were problematic things to me throughout – I didn’t really like the protagonist; I was disappointed in the female characters and thought they were all mean and vindictive, and I hated that not one female character was kind, supportive, or nice – yet I continued to read and, at times, I couldn’t put it down. Despite the things I didn’t like – even major things -, there was also so much about it that I did like. Ultimately, I was intrigued enough to overlook my grievances and to see it through to the end. It wasn’t an overwhelming good – or bad – book. I appreciate books like this because they force me to contemplate them for days to come, trying to determine where I ultimately land. They’re also the trickiest for me to recommend because…🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️

Why it took me so long to read this one, we’ll never know. But after listening to Sarah’s Book Shelves podcast last week where she interviewed the author, Georgia Hunter, the book shot to the top of my TBR, and I’m so glad it did. It’s a lovely book that records one Jewish family’s miraculous journey through the various atrocities of WWII. My own grandmother lived through many of the same horrors, so the heartbreak felt personal – like Hunter has put my family’s story to the page. I appreciated every single page of this book and I’m so glad I finally picked it up.

Two worlds collide when Soli, an undocumented woman from Mexico, finds herself in a detention center awaiting deportation. Her child, Ignacio, is placed in the temporary care of the Reddy’s, an Indian-American couple that decides to become foster parents after many years of struggling with infertility. Both mothers love the child and want to raise him as her own…but what makes a mother? And who does the child belong to? This book is heartbreaking and timely. It’s so well done; Sekaran presents both sides without judgment or blame and really forces the reader to think through the issues. With themes of immigration, adoption, and infertility, this book would make a wonderful book club selection!

I love a book that can capture you from the first page and hold your attention until the very end. I couldn’t put THE DREAMERS down! A strange illness takes over an isolated college town in Southern California. As the number of people infected with the illness increases, the National Guard comes in and establishes a quarantine. What made this book enjoyable for me was the author’s writing style. Clear and concise, there were no wasted words. Told from various points of view, the mystery of the illness kept me reading to find out what was behind the mystery. I wish the story would have been wrapped up a little better and I wouldn’t have been left with so many questions; however, if you’re looking for something quick and easy to read, pick this one up and give it a try…I have no doubt it will be one of the books that gets the most buzz this winter!

A historical thriller that has themes of racism and violence, love and loyalty. I loved this story, especially the characters. Strong and well-developed, I was immediately invested in their stories – individually, and as a whole. Told in alternating timelines, this story primarily takes place in Portland, Oregon during the 1920s. I knew nothing about the KKK’s overwhelming presence in that area or the foundational beginnings of that city. In fact, Portland’s KKK division was the biggest one west of the Mississippi. The Paragon Hotel, though fictional for the purposes of this book, was also based on a real hotel in Portland that was a sanctuary for Black people within this overwhelmingly white city. Learning these small details, along with the fascinating characters and the mystery the book is centered around made this an unforgettable story. Fair warning: the cadence is difficult to grasp and can take a good while to get the hang of and can be a bit distracting.

This book made so many people’s Top 10 last year, so I knew I had to read it! It’s short – almost more of a novella – and I cannot believe the punch it packs in such a short amount of time. It’s a beautiful meditation on death, love, loyalty, guilt, and yearning. This book’s premise is unlike anything I’ve read before and Elliot Ackerman masterfully delivers. You’ll want to add this one to your TBR soon, if you haven’t read it already!

Unmarriageble, the latest retelling of an old classic, Pride and Prejudice. It takes place in Pakistan and it was fun getting an inside look into another culture. I liked the characters (and even vehemently disliked a few, which keeps things fun!), and I thought the emphasis on class importance between the two societies parralled quite well. A few the characters were strong, empowered, and independent females (somewhat frowned upon in the Pakastani culture) which I greatly appreciated. I also found the men that could handle a woman with thoughts and ambitions of her own, without feeling threatened, refreshing. If you’re like me and the thought of reading #classics sounds kind of boring (**gasp! I know!!**), then I think you’d enjoy this book. I certainly know I’d rather gain my insights to classic literature through these more-relevant-to-modern-times novels than through the original books themselves.

I mean, wow! That was quite a ride through fraud, lies, and manipulation. Carreyrou does a phenomenal job of taking the reader along a journey that could have been quite confusing. With lots of medical and legal jargon and technicalities, numerous people who played key roles in the development of the story over 15-years, and an immense amount of information, this non-fiction book read like a fast-paced John Grisham novel. A clear favorite from last year, this book made many Top 10 lists and is in production to become a movie, starring Jennifer Lawerence as Elizabeth Holmes (release date unknown).

If you could have dinner with five people (dead or alive), who would you choose? I saw this book everywhere last year and wasn’t initially intrigued by the synopsis, but after reading it, I was captured in so many unexpected ways. Not just the nostalgic idea of spending time with loved ones who are already gone, but also by the healing that could come from such a meeting. I’ve learned that no matter how good a relationship is, there are still so many regrets and questions that remain when a person leaves us forever. So the idea of getting to sit down again and heal those hurts and get those questions answered made this book such a good read for me. I enjoyed it so much!

So oddly, this book did what I LOVE books to do: made me mad, f’ed up my thinking, made me evaluate myself and what I think I’d do in a given situation, and WILL NOT leave my brain. For that, I LOVED it. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot understand any of it. It’s hard to talk about this book without revealing some major spoilers, but let me just say that I predict this will be one of the buzziest books of the year! It’s well done – I felt transported straight to the Caribbean country of Trinidad during the 1980s with the poetic descriptions of the land and food. I loved Claire Adam’s writing and I was sucked into this story from the first page. However, by the end, I was so angry and I was left wanting SO MUCH MORE from the story. It didn’t end with a pretty little bow, and that’s ok! I LOVE when authors take risks and force us to meditate on our thoughts. I’ve flip-flopped on my opinions of this story so many times…and that makes, for me, a GOOD BOOK! I also think these open-ended questions will make this book a fantastic book club selection!

This book has everything I love in a story – slow, methodical writing; deep, insightful character study; and a healthy dose of drama. After Jodi is unexpectedly released from prison after 18 years, she longs to return to her home – a small town set in the mountains of West Virginia. On parole and desperate to start a new life, she is immediately confronted with troubles. From the girl she falls in love with to dealing with addiction problems, some people are just destined for a hard life. And no matter what Jodi’s intentions are behind her choices, she always ends up on the wrong side of them. I was amazed that this was Maren’s debut novel. Her writing is seasoned and lyrical; I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

What did you read and LOVE in January?

14 thoughts on “January 2019 Reading Wrap-up

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