Friday, December 30, 2022

December 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 December:

  • Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw - Did you know there was a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas?! I had no idea, but when I was scrolling through my Hoopla app I came across it and decided to download it. (I know, I know, Halloween was a few weeks ago, but a dear friend of mine was having spine/ brain surgery and Halloween is her favorite holiday, so it made perfect sense!) It was a quick listen (6ish hours total, so about 3.5 because I listen to it at 1.75X speed) and pretty fun. I wouldn't say it is one I will buy the physical copy of for my home library, but it kept me entertained and smiling. I would say it's definitely a little slow at points, but I appreciate that the author focuses on Sally and more of her backstory (as well as her being the voice and the heroine of the story). I also really enjoyed visiting some of the other holiday towns. If you enjoy The Nightmare Before Christmas I'm sure you will like this one too. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • How Y'all Doing? by Leslie Jordan - The world was saddened by the recent passing of actor and comedian Leslie Jordan. When I saw one of his books available on my Hoopla app I knew I wanted to give it a listen. I love that he is not only the author but also the one who read the book (hearing it in his voice just makes it hit a little differently). I wouldn't say there are any amazing insights gleaned from his book (although there are plenty of little life lessons he shares), but it kept me smiling so I think it did its job ;) It was a quick listen (I finished it on my walk commute to work and then on my lunch break) and it's like a sneak peak into some of his life experiences. It was funny but genuine. He doesn't shy away from the negative parts of his life, but also reminds readers that happiness is a choice and we must continually work at it. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan - It seemed like it was time to grab a YA book, so I scrolled through the genre on my Hoopla app and saw this one. It had high ratings, but I didn't read much about it before downloading it to my phone. Rukhsana is a high school senior who comes from a very strict Muslim family. The story is about her life as she comes out to her parents (not her choice of the timing or situation of her coming out) and the chaos/ trauma that ensues. At times I was shaking my head, thinking "something like this would NOT happen... right?!", but deep down I knew (and know) that there are situations like this occurring all over the world (and in our backyard). I don't want to give any of the story away, but I am glad that eventually there was a little more hope than heartache, because, golly gee, this one tears at your heartstrings! The end seemed rushed, but overall I was wrapped up in the storyline from the jump. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • How To Be You by Jeffrey Marsh - I follow Jeffrey on IG and have wanted their book for a while. Shortly after my birthday I ordered it and just got around to reading it. I read half on my flight home from CIM and the rest on the flight to Mexico for Christmas (I'd love to have more time to read physical books, but it hasn't been a priority recently, so audiobooks have been my go-to). Although I love following Jeffrey on social, I was a bit disappointed in the book. Don't get me wrong, it's all good, but I felt it might have been written for a younger demographic. I was probably not the target market for the book, which might be why it missed the mark for me. I was really hoping to either learn more about Jeffrey or take away more life lessons, but it felt like it wasn't enough of either for me. Don't worry, I will still follow them on IG, but I think I'll pass this book along in hopes that someone else may be able to glean a bit more from it than I did. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho - A friend read this book and offered to pass it on to someone who would be interested in reading it and my hand shot up. I follow Emmanuel's YouTube account (where the idea of this book sprouted from), so I knew I wanted to dig deeper and give this one a read. Similar to How To Be You, I had this physical book on my shelf for a while because audiobooks have been more convenient lately, but I grabbed it to read on our Mexican Christmas vacation. I really respect Emmanuel for putting this work into the world. I hope this doesn't come across wrong, but this book was a little surfacey in the way that it will open the door for more people to be able to hear and understand what he is trying to say (I appreciate that he also included additional resources if folks wanted to "dig deeper" on any of the subjects at the end of the chapters). He is very upfront in the fact that he does not speak for all black people and has had a different experience than many others (since he is a son of Nigerian immigrant parents) - but hopefully by now most people know that we are all individuals and live life differently. Sure, generalizations can be helpful, but they are not the end all, be all - the most important thing is to LISTEN TO OTHERS AND BELIEVE THEIR EXPERIENCES! As I mentioned, this is more of a surface level discussion (and that's really how the book reads, more as a discussion amongst friends), but a great read if you're looking for conversation starters or a broad overview of race and racism. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow - My final book of the year (book #41) was, of course, a young adult audiobook. It was recommended to me by my Hoopla app because it's similar to a few I had "borrowed" in the past. This is actually written in verse and I find books like this are really awesome to listen to instead of reading it myself. (Sometimes poetry can be hard to follow, but this is beautifully written {and I thought very accessible and understandable} and I wouldn't let that deter you from grabbing this title.) The story is a modern love story between two teenaged trans boys learning about themselves in the background of the Revolutionary War. Although this is a story of first love, there are also very serious topics discussed. There were a few things I didn't love about the book (the subplot of Aaron's brother didn't seem to fit and I don't know that the sex scene was 'needed'), but I still enjoyed it overall. I truly believe that representation matters, so I appreciate that more books are featuring often marginalized groups as their main characters.  I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, December (and 2022) has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" 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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