Wednesday, January 31, 2024

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, 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 202067 books in 202141 books in 2022 and 98 books in 2023). The majority of my "reading" has been listening to audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books once I started working full time (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 dot com 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 the first month of 2024:

  • A Midlife Holiday by Cary J Hansson - I don't remember how I came across this one on my Hoopla app, but for some reason I grabbed it and gave it a listen. I will say, I don't know that I am the target audience for this one. The story is about three friends who have recently turned 50 and go on holiday [aka vacation] together. Each of the characters is drastically different from the next, but they've been friends since college so their relationships work. Anywho, I do appreciate that the characters are older (let's be real, if you look at most media these days, we are seeing airbrushed 20-somethings and are forced to think we need to compare ourselves to them), but I really didn't relate to them (again, maybe because I wasn't the target audience). Also, I'm not sure why, but because he book was written in third person (rather than from one of the character's perspectives), I felt like I was sitting on the outside watching the events take place rather than being in the mix, which may have factored into why I wasn't super engaged or invested. There are three books in the series, but I didn't enjoy this one enough to give the next two any of my precious time. I would give it a 6 out of 10. 

  • Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles - Of course this caught my eye when I read the subtitle of "The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life". I mean, who doesn't want to find the spring of eternal youth ;) But, in all seriousness, I was interested to listen to this book because the authors studied different regions that have long living residents (many having 100+ year olds as an everyday occurance). I'd say, if you're reading a book offering "a secret" it normally is the same old stuff just packaged in a new way. I don't want to spoil the book, but the ways to live longer and happier suggested in this book are very similar to what I'm sure many of us have heard - find a purpose, live in community, move regularly, etc. I wouldn't say there was any earth shattering revelations in this one for me, but it did reinforce what we hear time and time again. Find things that make you happy (and healthy) AND DO THEM ;) Seeing as this audiobook was just over 3 hours (and since I listen to my audiobooks at 1.75x speed so I had invested even less time), I'm not going to knock it too far down on my rankings, but I was still hoping for a few more new nuggets of wisdom. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • The Last List of Mabel Beaumont by Laura Pearson - This popped up on the "new" page of my Hoopla app and was looking for something fun and lighthearted to listen to, so gave it a go. (I guess I'm glad it turned out to be something lighthearted, since I didn't even read the synopsis to get an idea of the type of book... I just went off the cover art - OOPS!) This was a cute story. Without spoiling the story, it's about a woman whose husband dies after 62 years of marriage and what she makes of her life afterwards. Although the main character, Mabel, tends to play it safe, she is also spunky and full of life. She reminds me a bit of my grandma and I found myself smiling throughout most of the book. There seems to be so little media about growing old (because, if Hollywood had its say, no one ever would, right?!), so this was a breath of fresh air (not to mention the fact that this couple was childless, which also is portrayed so rarely). I really enjoyed this one and seeing as I went in with no expectations I was glad it turned out so amazingly. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Okay, Cupid by Mason Deaver - It was back to scrolling through the YA section of my Hoopla app and I saw that Mason Deaver had another book released so I snagged it and gave it a listen. I thought it was a very interesting premise (as most of their books are). The idea of cupids, magical beings, who could transform into different people, implant themselves into situations to get two people to rekindle a relationship, fall in love, etc. The story follows one particular cupid who has an assignment to get two high school friends who currently aren't speaking to each other to become more than friends. It was a sweet rom-com story that gave you all the feels. No spoilers here, but I am hoping that there's a follow up to this one ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver - This has been getting rave reviews and popping up all over the place, so I figured I'd see if it lived up to everyone's hype. I snagged it on my Hoopla app and was a bit nervous about the length (over 21 hours), but I actually ended up wanting more by the time it finished! I know this is a novel, but golly gee, I know there are many a real people who have stories just like Demon's. I understand why this book won as many awards as it has. It's real, raw, funny, heartbreaking, eye-opening and so much more all at once. The midwest is no stranger to the opioid epidemic, pill-mills, etc, so even though I didn't grow up in Appalachia, I could picture everything in this book. I'd say that I don't know near enough about foster care and I know not everyone in the system is terrible, but wowser, these type of stories are a punch in the gut, even if they are "stories". Word on the street is this is a retelling of "David Copperfield" by Dickens, but since I'm not familiar with it I'll just have to take their word for it. I would give it a 9 out of 10.  

  • The Long Run by James Acker - Seeing as I had listened to a few YA books recently, Hoopla suggested this as one I might like. Nothing I had saved in my "for later" list caught my attention so I figured 'why not?' I will be very upfront and say this one had a bit more sex (and pretty descriptive) for a YA book than I am used to (not sure if it's because I'm a prude or if it was just a little much). With that said, I still really enjoyed it. I know how big of a deal representation is, so I was stoked to see this boy-meets-boy storyline actually focused on jocks. Often times gays are pigeonholed into an extremely feminine role, so a true "bromance" between 'tough guys' was a breath of fresh air. Here's to hoping there's a sequel in the works. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • White Women by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao - I've been wanting to read this book for a while now, but I also wanted to make sure I could give it my full attention. I figured a six hour flight would be the perfect opportunity. As the subtitle says, this is "everything you already know about your own racism and how to do better." I appreciate that these two authors wrote this book. I felt like I was underlying something on every page. This is technically a book for white women, but I'm sure anyone reading it would gleam something from its pages. There's too much good stuff to share in a quick recap (so go order your own copy right now ;)), but I think the main takeaway I had was that racism is woven into our society, so it makes sense that people have racist thoughts/ feelings/ etc. Racism isn't "just" the big things, so we need to stop thinking about 'us' and 'them' (in this instance, I mean the "bad" racism and how we are part of the "good" sector). Unless we're actively unlearning what we have been taught about people, color, race, class, gender, etc, we'll continue to reinforce white supremacy (since, let's be real here, that's exactly what this country was/is built on). As soon as I got home you better believe I added this one to my personal library. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - I don't remember how this one popped up on my Hoopla (maybe it was something to do with interesting series since there is a second book in this Debutantes series), but whatever the reason I downloaded it to listen to while at the beach in Hawaii. I didn't have time (or, #RealTalk, the desire) to listen on the beach, so I got to it while on my lunchtime walks when I was back at work. It was a decent story and I enjoyed the way it was told (switching back and forth between the present and the past with plot-twists every chapter or two), but I wouldn't say there's anything to write home about. It kept me intrigued and with all the jumping in time I didn't really have time to figure out all the secrets before they were revealed (unlike some books where I can call the ending from the start), so in those aspects it was good, but I don't know that I'd use one of my monthly downloads to see what happens next. I would give it a 5 out of 10.

With that, January is over and out. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always looking to add to my "must read" list! 

What's the best book you've read lately?