Just like last year, I’m commited to reading more of the books I already own and to use my library more…so there’s nothing like kicking off the new year with a whole bunch of library holds coming in! It’s definitely changing my TBR for the month, but I’m going to go with it!
I started this blog and my #bookstagram account (@happiestwhenreading) FOR FUN, but as I’ve been doing this for several years, I find myself falling into a lot of traps – reading what I think I should be reading vs what I want to read, chasing down copies of new releases instead of reading what I own, and generally putting pressure on myself to the first to know. But, in order to survive, I have to set all of those stresses aside and just let books be my guide. It’s going to be hard for my personality to do, but I really want to try and I hope to get better at it!
In case you missed it, I compiled my “Best of 2020” lists. You can read them here!
Last Week’s Reads:
*** Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus On the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis
My initial reaction when the Coronovirus outbreak happened was, “How did previous generations feel? Were they worried about the same things? Did their pandemic get politicized like COVID-19 has?” These questions (and so many more) prompted me to pick up this book, and I was relieved to find that people generally seem to respond in the same ways (in both good and bad ways). For me that was a comforting notion…that humanity gets through the pandemic and life does seem to return to “normal” again. It gives me hope in a year that felt very bleak. Some of the information was a bit over my head, but I also thought Christakis was able to convey this scientific information quite well. Some of the information will date quickly, but I appreciate this book for instilling a sense of hope back in me – especially as we head into the New Year! (This is my last book of 2020!)
*** Memorial by Bryan Washington
The reviews for this one have been all over the place – and some of my most trusted sources fell on the dislike side. It’s been on my TBR forever and I’m so glad I finally got to it! This is my first book of 2021!
There is a lot going on in Memorial, and quite honestly, not a lot of it makes sense. But I liked Washington’s writing style from the beginning and it kept me turning the pages. I loved the deep dive into Mike and Benson’s declining relationship – it’s not often books are written about this sensitive subject. I also loved how Washington portrayed Mike coming to terms with the loss of his estranged father, and this may have been my favorite aspect of the book. It was handled with such care and compassion and it touched my heart. I also appreciated Washinton’s handling of Benson’s HIV positive status and how that plays a role in his sexual identity and life. Ever since reading The Great Believers, I have wanted to seek out more books that handle HIV, and Washington’s portrayal was especially gentle.
Memorial reminds me of the experience I had after finishing Real Life by Brandon Taylor last year. Initially, I was a little underwhelmed by the book, but as time passed, I’d find myself reflecting on the story. It’s like it became a part of me, and I absolutely think this may be the case with Memorial.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
When seven-year-old Nainoa falls into shark-invested water and is delivered unscathed back to his parents, it seems as if there is something special – magical – about him. His parents see something special hidden within him and immediatly begin to cater the family around him. Noa’s siblings, Dean and Kaui, must learn to navigate a world that revolves around Noa. They find their own talents, but is it enough for them to get out from under their brother’s shadow?
I’m not totally sure how I feel about this one; I think I need to sit with it awhile before I’ll truly know. Things I did like: the characters (though I wish there was more depth to them and more personal interactions), the writing (which was incredibly beautiful and strong for a debut author), and the rich Hawaiin culture and traditions that permeate the story throughout.
But what leaves me hanging is how each family members story feels separate from the rest, yet Washburn tries very hard to make it seem as if they’re all connected. His efforts fell short, in my opinion. Also, there was such a great build up for each of the characters to form their own identity, but when something major happens (no spoilers!) those storylines are abruptly dropped and forgotten…much to my dismay because why did Washburn build them up so much to just forget them just when we got invested. There was an abruptness to the whole novel – a very slow burn that instantly fizzles out.
Despite those concerns, I do believe this is a story that will stick with me. I can totally see my mind drifting back to Hawaii and the Flores’ and wondering how they’re doing. For that reason, I’m settling on a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating…and may adjust when some time has passed and I reevaluate my thoughts.
How To Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don’t) Say About Human Difference by Adam Rutherford
I like this book, but I won’t get it finished before the library hold ends. It’s not something I would renew or remember to recheck out. It’s maybe just a little too dense and scientific for me; therefore, I had a hard time making myself pick this one up. But if that’s your thing, this would make a great book!
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
I’m halfway through this quick read and my feelings are conflicted. Hopefully I’ll have a better idea of how I feel when I finish!
*** Black Futures by Kimberly Drew
I am in awe of this incredible book! Full review coming – more than likely next week!
*** 🎧 Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins
This is my current audiobook and I usually listen to those when I head out of town for appointments, so it may take me awhile to get through this one. I love Jerkins reflections and I love where this one is going so far! I’m excited to continue!
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This is my slow and steady read for January. I loved The Body by Bill Bryson (which I read last fall) and couldn’t wait to read more of his books. I went into a used bookstore and told myself I’d read whatever backlist title they had of Bryson’s and this was it! He has an incredible way of relaying hard-to-understand and ginormous numbers into managable and fascinating facts.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
I haven’t technically started this one, but as soon as I finish Pet, it’s my next book! I’m so fascinated with the premise, but hesitant because it’s fantasy. That’s why I chose to get it through the library – so I’ll have no regrets if it’s not for me! Stay tuned!
***Please note: I will no longer have the DNF (aka: Not For Me and/or Skipping For Now) for a couple of reasons:
- I know books are a labor of love and I’m not overly interested in detracting attention from books that just aren’t for me.
- How many different ways are there to simply say that a book isn’t for you? It gives me so much anxiety to constantly try to kindly say that a topic/book/writing style, etc isn’t for me, so I’m just removing the pressure! (There may be an occassional exception to this rule – i.e.: I have no issues saying why I DNF’d Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land – so if it feels like that, I may still give you my unwarranted opinion!)
- I will still be recording DNFs on Goodreads, so follow me there if you need to know! I will simply mark it as DNFd – no stars and no explanation – but I like keeping a complete record of my reading on that site so it will remain there. (Also, spoiler alert: I do have a list of DNFs on here, you just have to know where to find it! From my home page > Book Reviews > Year > Scroll to the bottom! It still doesn’t have ratings, but you can at least see if a book worked for me or not!)
*** Last sidenote: I am also discontinuing the use of star ratings for much of the same reason as #1 above. Who am I to say what rating it deserves 🤷🏼♀️, and I try to reviews that are honest so you should be able to pick up on my vibe anyway 😜. I also know, as someone who reads a lot of reviews, that a 3-star rating will keep me from picking it up…and I just am not sure that’s fair to the book or the author. Again, my Goodreads reviews will get a star rating so no worries if you just have to have that information – you can still get it there – just not here. (For now at least. I always reserve the right to change my mind! 😉)