Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Books

If you've been around my neck of the InterWebs for any part of the last two years, hopefully you noticed I picked up a new hobby... READING! Truth be told, I was never much of a reader when I was younger (CliffsNotes were my best friend when it came to books), but recently I fell in love. In fact, in 2017 I l had a goal to read 17 books and I ended up capping off the year reading EIGHTY-EIGHT! Last year I had a goal to read 18 books and ended the year with SEVENTY-SEVEN books! Although this year I may not read at the same speed as I did the last two years, I still want to keep the hobby going (and what better form of accountability than to post a list of the books I finished at the end of the month?!). In fact, one of my goals for 2019 is to read at least 19 books. So, without further ado, let's jump into everything I read in January!

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - When 2018 was coming to a close I saw a few of my friends mentioning some of their favorite reads of the previous year. A couple of them mentioned the same author multiple times - Kristin Hannah. Folks were repeating the titles The Nightingale and The Great Alone, and luck was on my side because both titles were available at my library so I snagged them both. As per usual, I didn't know much about the book before I opened it, other than friends were raving about it, but that has never stopped me before. This novel revolved around two sisters during World War II and their stories of love, strength and bravery. I don't want to give anything away, but let me just say one word... WOW! I flew through this one (and at over 400 pages that isn't an easy feat) and had to do my fair share of reading through tears. I know this was "just" a novel, but it really struck me that there were so many people who actually lived through stories similar to the one in the book. I still have to shake my head at the atrocities that occurred and pray daily that we never let similar travesties repeat themselves. I would give it a 10 out of 10. 

  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Like I mentioned, I saw a bunch of my friends saying how much they loved her books, so when I went to the library for the first trip of the year I picked up the two titles that kept repeating on everyone's "must read" lists. As you saw, I really enjoyed The Nightingale and was excited to give this one a read. I'll be honest, I didn't like it as much as the first one I read. Maybe the topic of domestic abuse is too jarring for me (I know, you would think that war and the genocide of millions of Jews would be even more horrific, but maybe in my mind war is an 'out there' type of topic whereas domestic violence seems so real and 'up close'). Don't get me wrong, the story was one I bought hook, line and sinker (although I would say it felt slower to me than the first book), but there weren't as many ugly tears with this one. PS Does it make me crazy if living in Alaska would be an adventure I'd totally be interested in doing?! I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis - I was driving to and from Phoenix by myself for the #RnRArizona Half Marathon and thought it'd be the perfect time for an audio book or two. When I was looking I saw this one was available, the story was centered around a family who lived in Gary, Indiana and Flint, Michigan, and it wasn't too long - so sign me up. I'll be honest, it's for younger readers (I think 4-7 grade level), but hey, I love me some Young Adult books so I figured I'd give it a try. Even still, I really enjoyed it. It touched on prejudice, history, family dynamics, etc. I also appreciated that this was a book focusing on an African American family because I know how impactful it can be for kids to have books they see themselves in (and although this is set in the Great Depression timeframe there are still plenty of relevant topics). This may not be my normal read, but it kept me engaged and inspired on my drive to Arizona. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Like I mentioned, I needed a couple audio books to keep me entertained on my drive to and from Phoenix for the Rock 'N' Roll Arizona Half and since I already had an 8 hours long one, I needed a shorter one. This one was available and was only 4 hours long so I snagged it. It was just a coincidence that both books were set during the Great Depression (and that the first book referenced the quote the title of this book was borrowed from multiple times - it was like it was planned... but it wasn't ;)). Like most classics you were supposed to read in school, this was one a missed... There's a possibility I read the CliffNotes, but in all honesty I think I just watched the movie. Anywho, I had forgotten the story and wanted to give it another chance. I can see why it won so many awards in its day (although I'll be honest, the racist language was cringeworthy). This book focuses on dreams and aspirations, despite the characters often being in powerless or abusive situations. I definitely wouldn't consider it a feel good book (at times I'd say it is even emotionally draining), but it is touching, tragic and oh so powerful. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Norwich by Karen Crouse - I don't remember how I came across this title, but I thought the premise - a tiny town in Vermont breeding Olympians in a non-conventional way - was interesting and worth the read. I'm so glad I grabbed it. Although I'm not a parent, nor do I plan on becoming one, I still thought it was an interesting take on the ways parents (and a town) can effect the love and passion a child has for a sport. Norwich sounds like an amazing place that doesn't really exist in most of the ultra-driven, helicopter-parent society we live in. The town (and folks who populate it) tend to allow kids to be kids, to roam free and make their own decisions, and some of them turn out to be amazing Olympians. I love the values that the town lives and breathes (although, it does sound like the area is starting to change a bit, but what city isn't?!). The author does a great job telling the story of the individual athletes, but keeping the town as the central character. Whether you are an athlete yourself or a parent with kids who may play sports at some point in their life, I would totally recommend this book (and it's short so it isn't a huge time commitment). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Everything to Live For by Turia Pitt - When I was grabbing Norwich, I saw this book right next to it and thought it sounded interesting. I don't remember if I heard about Turia's story on a podcast I was listening to or in a running magazine, but I had a brief idea of her story but definitely wanted to learn more about it. This book goes into depth about Turia's life pre-race, what happened during the race, as well as her recovery afterwards. The story is BANANAS! It reminded me of how often we take our personal safety for granted. I show up to races all the time and just expect things to go according to plan... but if they don't, does the organization have a strategy in place to handle an emergency? Do I know what I would do or how I would survive? I'm not trying to freak anyone out, but we live in a scary world and these are things we need to seriously think about. It's always better to pray for the best, but plan for the worst. I am beyond impressed at the determination Turia, Kate and the others in the story had to survive. Thank you for telling your story, for inspiring others and for making an impact on so many lives around the world! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, January has come to a close. My reading may not be as crazy quick as the past two years, but I definitely hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?


Sarah said...

LOVED "Nightingale"....I also read her "Winter Garden" book and LOVED that one also.

Sara Hockenberry said...

The nightingale was soooo goood! That is still in my top 5 books. I would love to recommend The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. I just read this a few weeks ago and SO GOOD. Oh man. I listened to this as an audiobook and the person who performed it did such an amazing job it brought out all the feels. Happy reading! :)

Bree at Clarity Defined said...

I've had The Nightingale on my list for a couple years, but I haven't gone ahead and borrowed it yet. Maybe now's the time. :)

I finally got to read Circe this month (I put a hold on it *months* ago) and I really, really enjoyed it. It was so good and now I think I want to check out some of the author's other books.