Hands down, this has been my best reading month yet. Going into the holidays, I fell into a massive slump, often picking TV and a nap over reading. It took ages to get back into reading, but with a week left to 2016, I decided to strive for 250 books for the year – and I haven’t stopped since. I couldn’t believe I actually pulled it off, and I had to keep reading! So, for the month of January I read 31 books!
My library pile from the beginning of the month. Sadly it’s only gotten
Breaking it down, I read 16 books in print and 15 audiobooks. A lot of people ask how I read, and my answer is always AUDIOBOOKS! I listen while at work or while I’m cooking dinner (a guaranteed hour each day) and sometimes while I’m driving (thank you Houston traffic!) – there are so many opportunities to read an audiobook vs. a printed book, even if it’s in 10 minute increments. I also keep a book in my purse at all times, and if I don’t have one with me, chances are I have the same book in print AND as an E-Book – this is my best trick yet. It may take a minute to find your place, especially when you’re in a middle of a chapter, but it’s well worth the effort. Switching back and forth from print to E-Book or audio to E-Book gives me the freedom to read whenever, wherever, so whether it’s waiting in line at the grocery (always) or my lunch hour, I always have a book at the ready!
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate: Crenshaw is a heartbreaking look into the everyday reality for kids across the country. Jackson’s family has fallen on hard times. With not enough money for rent and even less for food, it’s only a matter of time before they move back to the minivan, but luckily for him, his imaginary friend Crenshaw, a larger-than-life, skateboarding cat, is there to help. A difficult story to swallow, Crenshaw is beautifully written and shares the ever-growing importance of communication between parents and children as they age. (4 Stars)
Schlump: The Story of an Unknown Soldier by Hans Herbert Grimm: Autobiographic in nature, Schlump follows a young German soldier during World War I, who, at 17, defies his parents and volunteers for military service hoping to impress a girl. Naïve and undeniably lucky, Schlump experiences both occupied France and the depths of the trenches, all the while trying his best to live honorably in a time of perpetual turmoil. An absolute must read for any history buff. (4 Stars)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Filled with strong-minded characters, the novel unveils the mysticism surrounding the real underground railroad, as well as the complicated patchwork of conductors and riders alike. (5 Stars)
The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick: Much more than a romance, The Comet Seekers is an exploration of the human spirit. A love written by the stars, Roisin and Francois are drawn together after years of crossing paths, but their story is as much the story of their ancestors, blurring the line between past and present, comet and star. See my full review here. (4 Stars)
Wolf by Wolf & Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin: A thrilling duology set in an alternate history in which Hitler reigns superior. Yael, a former death camp prisoner and survivor of experimentation, plans to use her shape-shifting abilities to infiltrate the annual Axis Tour, a motorcycle race across Europe and into Asia. At the start, Yael has only one goal: to kill Hitler, but as she grows closer to other competitors, her faith in humanity restores, complicating her mission in ways she never expected. Non-stop action paired with the talents of voice actor Christa Lewis, the audiobooks are definitely the way to go for this one! (4 Stars)
Black Water by Louise Doughty: As a young spy, John Harper’s first mission abroad in Indonesia crumbled before it even began, leading to the singular most disturbing moment of his life. Now, in his fifties and back in Indonesia, he’s consumed by guilt as he recollects the 1965 massacres and his part in the subsequent military dictatorship. Black Water is not for the feint of heart. Though the novel leads up to one particular admission, the rest of John Harper’s life is anything but sunshine and daisies. (4 Stars)
Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill: Britta Flannery is a badass. Daughter of the kingdom’s bounty hunter, she soon finds herself hunting down her father’s killer – the only there’s a catch, the presumed murderer was her father’s apprentice, her best friend. Britta’s constantly getting herself into trouble, but she always finds a way to save herself – yes, herself! I only wish there was a little less romance and a little more world building. Oh well, there’s always hope for the next one! (3 Stars)
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell: An epic, mythical debut exploring the difficulties of marriage and the pressures of parenthood. After a string of miscarriages, husband and wife no longer speak, leading their own lives in the dirt between the lake and the woods, forming a divide built by miscommunications and pressure to conceive. The novel was a slow start as it mainly follows the husband as he lists his wife’s misgivings, but just as you lose all hope, he finally, FINALLY, gets it! And he’ll battle bears and lake monsters alike to fix it. (4 Stars)
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco: I know, I know… I’m a walking hypocrite, but where Ever the Hunted disappointed, Stalking Jack the Ripper shined – I loved every minute of the romance between Audrey and Creswell, especially considering he’s a main suspect. Loved, loved, LOVED the audiobook! (4 Stars)
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi: A modern day Gothic horror novel of epic proportions – I’ve never been so mystified by an ending. Miri is haunted by her family’s home, creating a change so startling that it almost goes un-noticed. Her pica, the dresses, her speech, even her handwriting, even going away for school does little to save her, but from who? I’m still not sure… (4 Stars)
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Life is anything but simple for Willowdean. On the heavy side, she accepts who she is, but that doesn’t mean she’s accepted the daily judgments, coming from everyone and anyone: friends, family, perfect strangers… why should they have a right to comment on her body? With a Texan attitude and the power of Dolly Parton at her side, Willowdean makes waves in her small town by entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, shocking even herself as she pushes traditional boundaries and demands the acceptance we all deserve. Hands down, best audiobook of the month! (5 Stars)
The Ballroom by Anna Hope: An atmospheric romance set in the Yorkshire moors during the Edwardian era. Promising a quiet romance between two patients of an asylum, The Ballroom packs a powerful punch. From the constant dread of being admitted for a simple misgiving, to one doctor’s horrifying obsession with eugenics, the letters between lovers serve a simple distraction from a larger discussion. (4 Stars)
Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance: A fascinating biography on one of the most ambitious innovators of our time: Elon Musk, the force behind SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and Paypal. While fan-girling over his successes, journalish Ashlee Vance still manages to paint a complete picture of Musk’s genius, from his early childhood to his failures as a leader to his unbelievable successes. (4 Stars)
The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay: The true story of a twelve-year-old refugee’s escape from Afghanistan. His journey leaves a remarkable impression: the endless months spent hungry, the constant threat of imprisonment, cruelty, and the sheer terror of not knowing what was next, if he’d ever find his brother, or reach England, and above all, if he’d be allowed to stay. From Afghanistan through Iran, from Turkey to the Calais Jungle, his story is only one of thousands of refugees. (5 Stars)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund: After weeks and weeks of seeing it’s gorgeous, understated cover grace my Instagram feed, I finally picked up a copy from the library. And boy, did it tear me apart! Straying from a peculiar home life (i.e. hippie parents who are WAY too hands off and live off the grid in the backwoods of Minnesota), Linda stumbles on the new family living next door: a mysterious husband never at home, and his young wife and child. She soon becomes the trusted babysitter, but things take a shocking turn when the child shows signs of a serious illness. The story is intriguing, but an accumulation of wayward characters and an untidy ending leaves the novel drastically incomplete. (3 Stars)
Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall: Seventeen-year-old Norah hasn’t left the house for four years, suffering from debilitating anxiety attacks that stem from an uncontrollable obsession with disaster, but after being caught fishing for the groceries (mistakenly left on the porch) she wonders what it’d be like to have a friend in the outside world. What you’d expect is love conquer all, a happy ending where her mental illness suddenly dissolves itself because she’s been rescued by a drop-dead-gorgeous guy who’s only role is to save her, but instead, we actually get a realistic story about mental illness, written by an author who actually suffers from agoraphobia. Sure, she may get a tad bit better after meeting Luke, but it’s got nothing to with him – it’s all her, nothing but hard sweat and tears after battling her want for human connection while also fearing it. The romance is just a bonus.(4 Stars)
What books did you love in January?