Monday, January 31, 2022

January Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by for a paper or test, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 2017, 77 books in 2018, 67 books in 2019, 66 books in 2020 and 67 books in 2021). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in January:

  • A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum - This is the story of three generations of Palestinian women from an extremely conservative Arab family living in America. TW: I don't want to give anything away, but there is A LOT of domestic violence in this book. The story is fiction, but the author does such an amazing job at setting the scene, getting us to feel for the characters, etc, that it feels 100% real (and, I'm sure, for many women in the world, this is a nightmare they find themselves in). This is NOT an easy read, for sure, so please make sure you have the mental and emotional space for something like this. With that said, I really enjoy books that are written from multiple points-of-views. This book is told through the eyes of all the three women (it is still told in third person, but the different women are the focal points throughout the book). The novel focuses on the question of what is a woman worth. In the end, thankfully, it was about women having the courage to find their voice, but getting to that point was heartbreaking many times over. I didn't want to stop listening to this one, it had me invested in the characters and the story lines from the very beginning. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas - You know me and the Young Adult genre... I'm a sucker for it ;) When I have an extra couple of minutes, I scroll through the newly released YA audiobooks on my Hoopla app. I saw this one and didn't know anything about it, but figured I'd give it a try. I definitely enjoyed it (I also prefer knowing as little as possible about a book, that way I don't have any preconceived notions about it - like where the plot is going to go or what might be around the next corner). This story was told from the perspective of a young man (17 at the time of the story) and the "drama" that unfolded around him. I'll be honest, although I try my hardest not to judge others, if I had heard some of the characteristics of the main character - drug dealer, gang member, (two time) baby daddy, high school drop-out - I probably would've come with a few judgements. I love when books stretch my brain and challenge me to think differently. PS I also didn't put two and two together that this is the prequel to The Hate U Give (one of my faves!). Mind blown! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover - A couple of weeks ago I had seen a friend post in her IG stories that she was doing a book exchange. The idea was - you replied to her post, she sent you a message with a name of someone to mail one of your favorite books to, then you share a similar post asking people to join, then you put the address of the person you saw the post from into the details and ask them to share it, when they share it, they put your address in the details (I probably didn't do a good job at describing it, but think of it like one of those chain letters from back in the day). Well, anyway, this is a book that I received in the mail from someone. The hubby was out of town, so I figured I'd work my way through a physical book. I'll start off by saying that it was a bit graphic for me. As you know, I tend to stick with the YA genre when it comes to romantic type books, so the sexual scenes in this one were a bit more than I was expecting (especially when I didn't know what the book was about to begin with). Also, trigger warning - this is a story about domestic abuse and rape. There were many parts of this book that were extremely difficult to read. Don't get me wrong, the author did a great job with her writing, but the subject matter is not an easy one (at least for me) to digest. I would say, this book did make me think differently about people in abusive relationships and how often we frame our thoughts around the abused ('why didn't they leave?', 'how could they still love them?', etc) rather than the abuser. And, I believe a trait of a good book is that it makes you think, right?! So, I'd say that even though this wouldn't have been a book I normally would have picked up for myself, I am glad I read it. (And, to be honest, I ended up staying up way too late to finish it because I wanted to see how it ended.) I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Detroit: A Play by Lisa D'Amour - I grabbed this book from a little free library. Let's be real, I'm always drawn to Michigan themed things ;) This was a quick read and was actually a play rather than a book per say. I'll be honest, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't actually about Detroit (the author said that it could have been set in Detroit, but it didn't really play into any of the story). I thought the idea of it being a play was pretty cool though, it was definitely different than other things I had been reading. There were even notes throughout in case you wanted to put the play on yourself (for example, it was set in two yards, but if you didn't want them in neighboring backyards, there were suggestions on how to set up the stage differently). I'm not sure what I was expecting with this one, but it was way different. The premise was two couples who lived next door to each other - one couple had just moved in after meeting in rehab and the other couple was more established but going through a lot of their own chaos (wife was an alcoholic, husband was trying to start his own business from home). Because it was so short (written in scenes rather than chapters) it kept my attention, but I'd say that if it was much longer I might not have been as engaged. The story jumped around quite a bit and because scenes were relatively short I wasn't too invested in the characters. I finished it, but it'll definitely be making its way back to one of the free libraries and not staying in my personal collection. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

With that, January has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I 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's the best book you've read lately? 

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