This month’s reading started off strong, and then we got a…puppy! From that point on, my brain was somewhat scattered and my time to read sharply decreased. We’ve had Mac for two weeks now and we’re starting to get settled in a groove, so I’m hoping I can get back to regularly reading in April!
March By the Numbers:
- Total Books Read: 10
- Audiobooks: 1
- Five Star Reads: 1
- Debuts: 1 (10%)
- Published in 2022: 1 (10%)
- Nonfiction Reads: 2 (20%)
- By Women Authors: 9 (90%)
- Books by BIPOC Authors: 5 (50%)
- Diverse Books: 4 (40%)
- Goodreads Challenge: 35/125 (28%)
- 12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months: 4/12 (33%)
- Nonfiction Challenge: 2/12 (17%)
- Unread Shelf: 8/24 (33%)
- EIWTB Challenge: 11/12 (92%)
- A to Z Challenge: 16/26 (62%)
Favorite Book of the Month:
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa
Apparently I was meant to read about the Palestinian conflict this month because this was my third (all back to back) book with that theme at its center. Again, this was by chance (another TBR jar selection), but I’m happy it came up because it’s one of the ten books I selected at the end of last year as books I definitely wanted to prioritize in 2022. Out of the three, this is maybe the hardest one for me to articulate my feelings about because, given the current Ukrainian situation (sorry for continually mentioning it), it felt the most realistic. The idea of being willing to fight, possibly to the death, for your country is something we’re seeing a lot of in Ukraine. That sense of patriotism, heroism, and loyalty is admirable, but on the flip side of that coin, it’s also so tragic that we keep seeing instances of people having to do this because of world politics or egomaniacs. I often wonder how people wake up with a resolve to survive another day when such instability and uncertainty become a part of life, but I also understand that resiliency and the will to survive are built into the DNA of every human being. I am reminded of stories I grew up hearing about my grandma’s own evacuation from Yugoslavia in the 1940s, and my heart beats with such compassion and empathy for the people of Ukraine right now. I know there are people within the country that refuse to give in to Putin and are organizing ways to defeat him, and this book really brought those potential stories to life for me.
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande – When American Dirt came out a couple years ago, I liked the book a lot. But so many of my #latinxbookstagrammers gently explained to me why it’s important to not only read #ownvoices authors, but also to support those authors by buying their books because they don’t often get the same publishing deals that white people get. I was happy to make a trip to my local #indoebookstore to follow their advice. I also greatly appreciated the way they took the time to educate me and to help me see my blind spots and where I could do better. A book that was suggested as an alternative to American Dirt was The Distance Between Us. I finally got around to it and I was absolutely blown away; I devoured it in less than a day. Grande’s story about growing up in extreme poverty in Mexico was very difficult to read at times, but it also gave me a whole new perspective about the desperation some families feel about trying to start new lives in America. Separated into two parts, the first section describes Grande’s life in Mexico while living with her grandma. Her parents left them in her care while they went to the US, promising they’d be back to get her and her siblings. It was eight years before they’re dad was able to come back and be true to that promise. The second half was about Grande’s life once she finally made it to America. The hurdles and hardships her family endured to eventually become US citizens is more than most could bear. She is a true example of grit, determination, and strength. I am so grateful for the experience I had surrounding the American Dirt controversy because it led me to this book. It was powerful and one that will stay with me for a very long time.
The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan – When Idris’ father dies in Beirut, his family makes the pilgrimaged back to their homeland for a final goodbye – to him and the house. But as with all multi-generational family sagas, there’s a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. Long held secrets and buried pain threaten to topple this family. There are two major timelines here – the parents’ back before they were married, and the current timeline after the patriarch has passed away. I was especially drawn to the past timeline and found I really flew through those sections. The cities of Beirut and Damascus came alive – and in an unintentional twist, the current Ukrainian situation also made this reading experience feel particularly poignant. My main complaint about this one would certainly be its pacing – it’s a big book (nearly 500) and there were times where the story really slowed down (for me, these most definitely happened more in the modern timeline). Regardless of that minor issue, this is a powerful book, and one I find myself continually reflecting back on!
A Book That Gave Me Complex & Controversial Thoughts:
The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah – When a school shooting takes place in an all-female school for Muslim girls, the principal reflects back on the moments of her life that led her to this point in time. Afaf Rhaman is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and has struggled her whole life to fit in with her community and faith. When she finally finds her purpose in running a school in the Chicago suburbs, her dreams are nearly shattered by a radicalized alt-right white man. Through powerful flashbacks, the reader is given an insightful look at how Muslims are viewed in America and the ever-present misplaced feeling many immigrants can feel regardless of how long they’ve lived somewhere. I definitely felt more of an emotional pull towards the flashbacks and found it interesting that I happened to pick up this book right after reading The Arsonists’ City (see above). It was purely by chance (I pulled the name of this book out of my TBR jar), but also felt like both of these books left more of an impact on me in light of the Ukrainian invasion.
Stories With Unforgettable Characters:
Pony by R.J. Palacio – My daughter read this book for a class project and told me I must read it ASAP. While I love to share reading with her, it’s hard to find books we both enjoy but this one certainly fit the bill. With a mix of adventure, mystery, spirituality, and love, Pony would make an excellent read along with your middle-aged children, though check other reviews for trigger warnings before engaging if that’s a potential concern for you.
Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich – I’ve had this book on my shelf for so long, and I’m glad I finally decided to pick it up. The cast of characters bring so much charm and soul to the story and i quickly found myself sinking into the book. The main theme woven throughout is the idea of family – not biological, but found – and the ties we create that bind us together. Even though it was set in the sad era of the Great Depression, there was such a sense of hope and good that it was a new and refreshing take on that time period.
A Thought-Provoking Nonfiction Book:
🎧 Cultish: The Language of Fanaticim by Amanda Montell – I have never given any thought to the language of cults and how it can generate a sense of power amongst its followers, but Montell lays out an interesting argument detailing just that theory. I was fascinted by her reseach and found the chapters on MLM companies and marketers especially compelling. She touches on Peloton and Soul Cycle as well, but since I’m a newbie with my Peloton bike, I quickly dismissed her claim that the Peloton community is a sort of cult itself. 🤷🏼♀️😂 In all honesty though, this was very interesting and I’d recommend it on audio!
A Story That Made Me Want To Book a Trip to Italy ASAP:
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle – I have seen a lot of mixed reviews, but there’s something about Serle’s books that totally work for me. She writes about grief so well and I’m always drawn to stories with this theme. I was super excited that this one specifically focused on the loss of a mother – something that I absolutely connect with. It’s been about 8 ½ years since I’ve lost my own mama, so I would love to be able to “go back in time” to spend more time with her. I especially loved the angle of getting to know my mama before me. And the Italian setting makes me want to book a trip ASAP!
A Thriller That Held My Attention:
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard – Oliver and Ciara had barely begun dating when coronavirus shut the world down. Faced with being separated by a two-week country-wide lockdown, they decide to quaratine together to see if they’re compatible. But as with any new relationship, it takes time to learn about and know another person…and it becomes evident pretty quickly that Oliver and Ciara may have some secrets up their sleeves. At first, I was a little unsure about a book centered around the coronavirus, but it provided the best background for this story to unfold. I quickly got wrapped up in the story and wanted to know what was happening. The jumps in the timeline kept the suspense and intrigue levels high. I totally enjoyed this reading experience.
A Book I Had Higher Expectations For:
Palm Beach by Mary Adkins – Rebecca and her husband, Mickey, relocate to Palm Beach when her husband accepts a new job for a very wealthy couple, the Stones. Rebecca is a writer and when Mr. Stone’s wife finds this out, she hires Rebecca to be the ghostwriter of her memoir. Rebecca finds herself to be in a tough situation because she is known for her anti-capitalistic viewpoints, but when her child becomes ill, she finds herself accepting money from the Stones in order to get her son the care that he needs. I had higher hopes for this one, though it wasn’t so bad that I ever contemplated DNFing it. I think I needed the entirety of the book to realize that this one just didn’t work for me. I found Rebecca to be extremely unlikeable and hypocritical. I wanted to be able to settle into this one as a sort of intellectual beach read, but ultimately it just wasn’t for me.