Monday, October 31, 2022

October 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 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 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 October:

  • The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis - I had this one saved in my Hoopla favorites but don't remember how I came across it (maybe it was new, maybe it was a YA novel). I have to say, once it started I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it through. The abuse in this book was so heart-wrenching that I was taken back. (Honestly, I think it may have been unbelievable at points were it not based on the author's childhood.) I know things like this happen (and happen too often), but golly gee is it tough to read/ listen to. This is a coming-of-age story of survival and ultimately of triumph. I would say I sort of wish it was longer (I listen to my audiobooks at 1.75x speed currently and I felt like I flew through this one), but at the same time I don't know if my heart could've handled more. It was heavy and hopeful all at the same time - I don't know how that's completely possible.  Also, I probably should read the synopsis before I dive into books (although I prefer to be "surprised", especially if the synopsis reveals where the storyline might be headed), but because I didn't, I wish there would have been a bit of a trigger warning at the onset of the story. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Stronger Than the Dark by Cory Reese - I mentioned last month when I read another one of Cory's book that I had this one on my "to read" shelf and once I finished Nowhere Near First I knew I needed to dig into it sooner rather than later. The hubby and I normally watch sports or a show (we are currently working our way through Only Murders in the Building) once I get home from work, so when he was out of town on a work trip for four nights in a row I decided I'd use that time to read more. Let's just say that I gobbled this book up. Although my journey differed from Cory's in arriving at our "darkness", I was so surprised at how close his feelings mirrored many of mine. I had never heard the term "smiling depression" before, but that felt SPOT ON. I am still navigating my way through my own darkness, but it was extremely helpful to not only know that I am NOT alone in what I often feel but to help put words to the feelings/ emotions/ experiences. Maybe if you aren't a runner who battles your own darkness this book won't speak to you as much as it did to me, but no matter who you are, I'd strongly recommend you picking up a copy (even if it's just to gain a little more empathy for those around you who may be struggling with battles that you have no idea about). I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin - After a couple "heavy" books I thought I'd grab one that I thought would be a little "lighter". Well, I should probably read the plot BEFORE reading the book... I read the blurb on the cover {"an extraordinary friendship, a lifetime of stories"} and thought it sounded sweet. Now, don't get me wrong, this is a very sweet book, but it still tugged at my heartstrings. This story is about an unconventional friendship of two terminal patients in a hospital. I don't want to give anything away, but the two of them together are 100 years old and decided to do an art project to commemorate those 100 years. It made my heart smile but I may have also shed a few tears (maybe that's the sign of a good novel...). I could definitely see this being turned into a movie. I know I've said this in the past, but I really like books written from multiple perspectives (and then read by different people for the audiobook). I do want to mention that because I listen to audiobooks at 1.75 speed, there were a few spots I had to rewind to catch everything the reader was saying because of the accents. Even still, I really enjoyed this one. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes - I had this one on my "to listen to" list for a while and decided it was time to give it a go (especially seeing as I had another ultra on the books for a couple weeks after reading it). Dean is a BEAST so I was excited to hear a behind-the-scenes perspective on his running/ training. I'll be honest, the book left me wanting a little more (or maybe something different than what it provided). Although I enjoyed the "race recaps" of his first Western States finish, his first attempt at Badwater and his South Pole marathon, I guess I was hoping for a bit more. Maybe more about his training, more about background, more about something. Maybe it's because although I run ultras, I am definitely not driven like he is. He is very extreme (I guess we all are in our own ways) and even though it was interesting to hear about his adventures (and if I were training for one of the specific races he focused on I would've been extremely appreciative of the detail he dove into), I felt like there was not much I could relate to. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley - Before we went on a camping trip this month I was perusing the books on my Hoopla app and this one caught my attention. Like normal, I didn't know anything about it but I LOVED it! Not only was it a super well written story, there were so many little nuggets that reminded me of home - the places (Sault Ste Marie, Ann Arbor, Painted Rocks), the references (euchre, UP, pasties, Red Wings), etc. I was so entrenched in the story that I wasn't spending time trying to figure out "whodunit" - seeing as this is in the crime thriller genre. I really appreciate that although this is technically a YA book, the author tackled some very serious and important topics like sexual assault/ rape, the meth epidemic, murdered and missing indigenous peoples, the white savior complex, residential schools, etc. Also, I love that Angeline sprinkled in some of the Ojibwe language throughout the book because I know that with the mass erasure that has happened and continues to happen that many of the languages and dialects are disappearing. She is an amazing storyteller and I hope she writes more books (great debut for sure!). I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig - I try my hardest to learn from other people's perspectives because it only broadens my horizons. When I saw this book on my Hoopla app I was excited to give it a listen. Rebekah was paralysed as a young child and shares her experiences living in a world that is not built for her and seemingly either ignores her and her needs or just plain does not want her included. This was a very eye-opening book for me because I am often an able-bodied person and don't "have to" think about the other side. But therein lies the point, right?! Rebekah is not sharing her experiences to get pity or kindness (in fact there is a chapter talking about "kindness" and her thoughts on the matter), but because taking ALL BODIES into account is not only a common decency, but adds to the inclusion and experience of EVERY BODY. I felt as though this book was real, honest and an important conversation that needs to be had. So often in the fights for equal rights disability is overlooked and this helps bring it to the forefront of the discussion. I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson - After enjoying Firekeeper's Daughter so much I saw this in my "saved for later" list and figured I'd try it. I really enjoyed seeing how the four women's lives were woven together (especially over generations), but for some reason I didn't love it as much as the Firekeeper's Daughter (this one is not in the YA genre, so that may have something to do with it, not to mention just because it is a story about indigenous peoples does not mean it is going to be similar and I would like it the same amount). The story dives into important topics such as residential schools, stolen land, generational trauma, colonialism and war, etc. I wanted to love it more than I did - it just felt a little slow to me. (I also wanted a little more of the other three character's stories instead of focusing so much on Rosalie's.) I would give it a 7 out of 10.

With that, October 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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