I will always be up front when it comes to my reading life. So the following books are what I "read" in January. Total read books were: 9 . Total audiobooks were: 5. I count any book "read" if I write a review about them within my goodreads account- if you want to be friends within goodreads my name is CHATTYNATTY. So two of the books that were counted in my read books this month were children's books- one a poetry book I reviewed for Multicultural Children's Book Day and the other was one I simply stumbled upon, but it was such a beautiful story and pictures made me feel so happy I couldn't not share it with you all.
So here they are in no particular order and due to so many books I will try and keep the reviews short. As always I appreciate any feedback or suggestions for my reading life- comment below. Happy February 1st!
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Last year I read Pam's book Echo and LOVED IT! I stumbled upon this book in my son's bookcase and decided to end my January month of reading with this book. I gave this book 4 stars (overall I rarely give 5 stars- if I give a book 5 stars you'll know why and hear about it). The story starts in Mexico and moves quickly to California. Esperanza, the main character, and based on Pam's own grandmother, is such an honest character. Pam helps you see her flaws, shows her growth and change through the book, and by the end you just are rooting for this young lady. The main story is Esperanza's father dies and her mother has been asked to marry one of his "yucky" brothers. She says "no" and as retaliation the beautiful home they have lived in is burned to the ground. Esperanza's mother knows they must escape before she is forced into marriage with the uncle. They escape to California and become migrant workers. The story is so poignant for today's issues and I really think many of our current politicians, especially our president would best be served by opening their hearts and minds to this story. Although touted as a fourth grade read I felt it was not below my reading/story expectations for an adult fiction book.
The Thirst by Jo Nesbo
One of my audiobooks for January. I have read maybe 1-2 of his books, but I seem to enjoy the audibook versions of his Harry Hole series (which this is #11). This is a 5 star book. Why- well- it just was the perfect package that I desire in a mystery/psychological thriller. It had great story line- there is a murderer on the lose that likes to drink his victim's blood (vampirism). Then there is a great lead character- Harry Hole. I love the imperfection in this man. He is quick to share all his faults and errors. He has retired and is teaching police officers in the Oslo police force, but is soon brought back on the case because they need him and the boss Bellman needs a fall guy if they don't catch the guy. Nesbo knows how to write stories that make you nervous to be in your own home at night while reading- that is 5 star writing power! I recommend starting at the beginning of the series, but I will tell you I read the first and then skipped up to the 6th. Not sure why this book stuck out to me, maybe it was a combo of the great narrator to this audiobook and the great writing/story line. Will warn you that this isn't the type of book you can just haphazardly listen to; you have to pay attention or you will miss the details and could get very confused about the characters involved. Nesbo is smart. If you want to catch the killer you have to "read" well.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Intriguing read. I gave this book 4 stars. Another book that is applicable to today's society and issues many face: segregation, migration, and melding of communities. Saeed and Nadia are the main characters. They are living in what I think is a town in the middle east- I'm not sure I ever read the exact name of the town. There is unrest/war within the town and they need to leave. I'm skipping a lot of the back story that brings them up to fleeing from their town that is the first 1/3 of the book. They escape, but not how I thought they would. They go through a door. This is where Mohsin's writing is utterly creative. Throughout the book Saeed and Nadia continue to flee different living situations by going through different doors. My only negative was the last 1/3 of the book seemed to drag for me and I would have liked some explanation or tie up of what exactly was going on throughout the story- apocalypse/international war/ or just fantasy.
Family Poems For Every Day of the Week by Fancisco X. Alarcon and Illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez
I previously reviewed this book earlier this month on Multicultural Children's Book Day. I gave the book 4 stars. I recommend you go to my previous post to further read the in depth review I gave this book. Great way to teach bilingual language as each poem was written in both English and Spanish. Great illustrations also!
Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar
Another one of my MCBD book reviews. I gave this book 4 stars. Again go to previous post to see the full review of this well written junior high/middle grade book. I feel like I'm a broken record this month, but this is another book that highlights what happened in the 1940's India, but could be changed to current day and maybe change the culture/religion a tad, but you'd see some similarities with issues our world is facing: oppression of others, clash and segregation among class, religious war, and economic issues. A well written story with a strong main character- Anjali. A must read!
Deep in the Woods by Chirstopher Corr
Lovely Russian folklore story retold with illustrations that made my heart smile. I gave this book 5 stars. Theme of the month:-inclusion- was again heard in this story. I think picking up a children's book in many of our adult reading lives would bring more happiness to our everyday being. I'm grateful my daughter picked up this book for her reading challenge at school- this fulfilled the folklore category. I'm going to be buying and gifting this book. Would suggest you do the same.
Mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen
I gave this book 3 stars (wanted to give it 3.5, but there are no 1/2 stars on good reads). I liked the story, and always enjoy memoirs. Rhoda's writing was clean, smart, and the reason I just couldn't give it higher star rating was more due to her ex-husband's presence throughout the book. I thought the major player was going to be her going home for rehab after a major car accident and reconnecting with her family and her family's Mennonite faith. There was some of that, but Nick, the ex-husband, was a major player in the story and I felt it was more a story of her imploding marriage and less Mennonite subject driven. So it isn't Rhoda's fault she married a not nice guy and I had to read about it, but I just would have liked more family/friends/Mennonite connecting.
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Carrie just won a posthumous Grammy for this audiobook. I wasn't as smitten with it. I gave it 3 stars. I really liked the first 1/2 of the book, where she tells you about her time filming A New Hope and her affair with Harrison Ford. Then her daughter enters and reads her journals and I got lost in this part. When you read a person's diary out loud and aren't that person I think it is somewhat hard to always read or infer to what or whom the person was writing about- sometimes I thought it was Harrison, but sometimes I wondered if there were other people or past loves she was discussing. Basically I got lost. Then the last 1/3 of the book is more present day, or her most recent present day, where she discusses her being a Hollywood rich poor person and needing to go on the road to conventions, etc and sign her merchandise and I just didn't care for this part of the book. I also wanted to know more about her relationship with other cast members during the making of Star Wars. I love Princes Leia and Carrie will always be the one and only Princes in Star Wars for me.
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
This was my second Jennifer Niven book and it won't be my last. It was also one of my audiobooks. I listened to my first Jennifer Niven book earlier in the month and enjoyed it so much I decided I needed to listen to another great Niven story. I gave this book 4 stars. I loved this story. Libby and Jack, the two main characters, play off each other so well. They come from different back stories: Libby is known as the largest teen in America. She had to be rescued from her own home by having a crane reach in the roof and carry her out. This weight issue came after the death of her mother. Jack has prosopagnosia- facial blindness- inability to discern between people's faces. This is a real thing- Wiki it. You'll have to read the book to see the magic of their two world's colliding.
Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi
This was our book club read for January. We actually had book club just last night at "The Hill Top Bar"- our annual trek to this townie bar- every January. Love my Bookies! I gave this book 4 stars. It is the story I think so many could relate to. The book spans what seems to be an adult lifetime- starting Vietnam error and ending int he 90's. My husband and I just finished watching the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary and I think seeing that before reading this book made me understand and feel more vested in this story. However, Vietnam is really not the main story line, it really highlights Barbara (mom of 6- who loses her husband while she is very pregnant with her 6th child), Frances the black sheep of the family, and Patty the rebel. I really liked seeing the character's character change throughout the story. I think it portrays a very real picture of what occurs during our lifetime. The choices we make and how they play out in the end.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
This was another one of my audiobooks. I thought I would love it, but I didn't- two stars. I didn't get a whole lot out of this book. I felt bogged down by the science behind our habits and was really hoping for more self help/motivation, etc in helping my own habits improve. I did like the theme that everyone can change their habits, and will power correlates with success in life. Lastly to create/start/break a habit you have to have a plan. Maybe it would have been a more enjoyable read if I had read and not listened to it as I could have skimmed over the "sciency" (is that a word) stuff.
Reading People by Anne Bogel
Anne Bogel is producer of one of my favorite Podcasts- What Should I Read Next. Due to my love for this podcast which involves a guest stating their three favorite reads, their "hated" book, what they are currently reading and what they would like to change in their reading life. Anne then will pick three books as suggestion for future reads for the guest. So when she came out with a book I had to read it, just because I respect her "reading life" so much. I gave this book 4 stars. The book is about personality. You know the thing that makes you who you are, the good, the bad and the ugly. What a person can learn about oneself can help one lead a different, maybe better life, but perhaps most importantly the most authentic life. There is a TON of info on different ways in which you can learn about your personality. Here are a few of the topics discussed: Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey's Temperaments, Clifton Strengths Finder, Enneagram, and Five Love Languages to name a few. I was a little daunted with the information and I think she did her best to cram the info in while making the book readable. Sometimes less is more- maybe she could have focused on one or two personality tests/evaluations and done a second edition with further personality testing, or maybe lengthened the book instead of cramming the info in. That said, I learned a lot about myself through reading this book, and I always want to lead the most authentic chattynatty life I can so this was good read for me.
Wishes for Chirstmas by Fern Michaels
This was finished a few days after the New Year. I gave it three stars. I didn't realize this was a three stories in one book and there was really no major connection between story lines other than some reoccurring characters. It was just MEH. I was hoping for less fluff and more heart/deep story reading.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My first audiobook of 2018 and didn't disappoint. I had never picked up a Jennifer Niven book, but this cover had been intriguing me for quite awhile. I'm so glad I let the cover entice me. I gave this book 4 stars. Get your Kleenex out it is not a feel good story, but one that is so real. Two teens struggling with life, who they are, and both have suicidal ideation for different reasons. I won't give anymore away, but highly recommend this read for late junior high, high school and adults!