We’re already through the first month of the new year…and while I was optomistic about 2022, that optimism was shattered last week when we had to put our twelve-year-old dog down. He broke his leg walking, and unbeknownst to us, Gus had bone cancer. I am fully convinced that there will never be another dog like Gus, and in this moment, my heart is so full of sadness at the loss of him. He was loyal and constant and true. He had a great personality, but the thing I loved and appreciated the most about him was his dedication to our family. We definitely took him for granted – as we seem to do with those we love – but I am also confident that he knew the depth of our love for him.
January By the Numbers:
- Total Books Read: 11
- Audiobooks: 1
- Five Star Reads: 2
- Debuts: 4 (36%)
- Published in 2022: 2 (18%)
- Nonfiction Reads: 1 (1%)
- By Women Authors: 9 (82%)
- Books by BIPOC Authors: 2 (18%)
- Diverse Books: 3 (27%)
- Goodreads Challenge: 11/125 (9%)
- 12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months: 3/12 (25%)
- Nonfiction Challenge: 0/12 (0%)
- Unread Shelf: 2/24 (1%)
- EIWTB Challenge: 7/12 (58%)
- A to Z Challenge: 11/26 (42%)
Favorite Book of the Month:
* Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
I knew from the first ten pages that this book was going to blow me away. It had the perfect “I-wanna-read-it-as-fast-as-I-can” and “slow-down-and-enjoy-this-incredible-writing” angst! I also knew it was a book that I can’t wait to return to because I believe its nuance will be more deeply revealed the more one interacts with it. Franny, the main character, is nothing like me – she is a free-spirit, anxious to roam this world as much as possible, and to float in the sea at every opportunity she gets. She is haunted by her past and trying to make amends with her future. She is unsettled. But she is also deep and thoughtful and searching. It is probably because she is everything I am not that made me so intrigued with her. McConaghy’s writing connected me to Franny and all of her missions – from the grief and desparation she feels towards her mother, to the undying commitment to the Arctic terns and climate change. This is a book that sunk into my very being and I can’t wait to read McConaghy’s newest novel, Once There Were Wolves.
* Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson – I’ve been waiting for a book like this for awhile: a book that’s so epic in its scope that it’s sweeps you off your feet, a book that I can get fully immersed in and forget about reality for awhile. Black Cake was so well executed that I was almost a little afraid to finish it because I know it’ll be awhile before I’ll feel this happy about a book again. Books that deal with secrets and resentments and forgiveness and healing are some of my all-time favorites, and I was impressed with how Wilkerson weaved this tale. The layers were so deep and the underlying mysteriousness of how we got to the present day kept me turning the pages. There were some plot points that felt a little too “convenient”; however, I was so in love with the characters and stories I was easily able to forgive any annoyances I felt about it. This is the perfect book to pick up right now!
For Those Who Enjoy a Mystery:
* Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (Finlay Donovan #1) by Elle Cosimano – After the craziness of the holidays, this book was just what I needed. Light and fun, but also with some depth, I appreciated the range of emotions Cosimano put me through. It’s not often you can read a book that’s mysterious and funny at the same time! Despite its unbelievability factor, this was a page turner for me that I enjoyed every minute of! And I finished it just in time as the second book in the series, Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead, is set to be released on February 1, 2022!
* Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – A mystery/thriller with a little more depth than Finlay Donovan, Who Is Maud Dixon? kind of took me by surprise. It’s definitely more of a slow burn, but the wait is totally worth it. This book is full of unlikeable characters and completely messed up mentalities – a perfect combination for a story to get lost in! The story was engaging and the mystery was compelling and well thought out. Also, considering this was a debut, I was totally impressed with the author’s writing and ability to keep me guessing!
For Those Willing To Tackle Tough Topics:
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels – Brian is a young man in New York City. It’s the mid-1980s and his friends are quickly dying from a disease that no one knows much about. It isn’t long after his partner, Shawn, dies from AIDS that he realizes he too is infected. Long estranged from his unaccepting family, the pull of his small Ohio town calls him home for his final days. This book really brought those first couple of years during the AIDS crises to life. I felt the fear, rejection, and lack of humanity and I kept trying to understand how a family – A MOM! – could turn her back on her own son. I was angry and frustrated, and by the end, I just really hoped that humanity had moved further forward from the ugliness of this book. Sickels captured the AIDS epidemic and handled those initial years with a ton of grace. This is a book that will stick with me for a long time!
For Those Looking For An Audiobook To Escape Into:
🎧 These Precious Days by Ann Patchett – It’s been days since I finished this one on audiobook and the further away I get from it, the more it has sunk into my being and I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the beauty of it. When I first finished, I really loved the a couple of the essays, but I have found that they’ve all made an impression on me that I keep thinking back on. Ann Patchett is a wonderful writer and having her read these essays over audiobook just added to the experience. I’d 100% recommend listening to this one!
For Those Who Enjoy Contemporary Fiction:
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas – What happens when a woman doesn’t want to have children? In this book, Freitas examines that concept along with every other aspect of motherhood; specifically, our society’s expectations on women to grow up, get married, and have children. As times are changing, there are more and more women who are choosing not to have children for various reasons so I thought this was a timely exploration into motherhood. I appreciated the multiple points of view that Freitas introduced and explored. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I also found it repetitive and somewhat whiney which really began to get on my nerves towards the end. It was definitely worth the read, but I also think I was less enamored than most people seem to be.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak – Overall, this story was wonderful – highly readable and enjoyable. I really appreciated getting to learn about the island of Cyprus and the hostility between the Turks and Greeks of the island. It was heartbreaking and yet so familiar to world history. I loved how Shafak really conveyed the pain of this generational trauma, something I’m interested in as a granddaughter of an immigrant from wartorn Western Europe during WWII. Shafak was really able to delve into the ways each generation tries to grapple with the history of their familial lineage. What kept this from being a knockout book for me was the fig tree. It initially intrigued me and I thought I was going to really enjoy that aspect, but as the story progressed it really started to irk me. It began to feel forced and also allowed for so many tangents about nature that were unnecessary for me. I also felt like there were several plot points that should have been major that got briefly introduced and just as quickly dropped. In the end, I just needed a little bit more.
For Those Who Like Books That Push The Boundaries:
Naamah by Sarah Blake – I had no idea what to expect as I headed into Naamah, but I was also so excited because this book promised to push me outside of my comfort zone. This is the story of Noah’s Arc as told from the point of view of his wife, Naamah, but in a very modernized way. Naamah is complex – she grieves the world as it was and she worries what it will be when the waters recede. She gets caught up in hallucinating dreams where she grapples with her existence and her relationship with God and faith. She has lots of sex – graphic sex – with women as she is bisexual. While this book will not be for everyone, I was certainly thankful for reading it because it expanded my thinking in relation to biblical stories that we just kind of take for granted at this point. It was unapologetically feminist and it really made me think about the ways we’re always given men’s points of view on history and rarely get a glimpse into the ways women have had a hand in history as well. This is exactly the type of book that would make for a lively book club discussion.
For Those Who Enjoy Books With a Circus Theme:
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger – This was an epic journey with four self-proclaimed “vagabonds” fleeing an abusive Indian School for orphans during the Great Depression. Packed with historical details I’ve never heard about, I was fascinated from the beginning. As the children journey along, you can’t help but become invested in these kids that eventually demonstrate the best of humanity – connection, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Though the story waned a little bit for me in the middle, it picked up again for a totally worthy and satisfying ending.
Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal – Once again, Macneal knows how to deliver atmospheric slow burns! Her writing is so incredible that I cannot put her books down. While I liked her previous book, The Doll Factory, better than this one, I was still swept up in the magical world of circuses. I don’t know why I’m drawn to stories centered around circuses, but they always catch my eye. I definitely was hoping for more from this one, but as I already said, Macneal is a masterful writer and completely catches my attention.
What did you read and enjoy this month?