Being sick has some perks. Such as: I read twelve, yes you read that right, TWELVE, books during the month of January. That’s basically all I did except sleep and cough.
For those statistics lovers out there, in January’s 31 days alone I read 20% of the books I read in all of 2017, and knocked out 17% of my 2018 reading challenge goal. Not to humblebrag but I’m pretty dang impressed with myself.
Moving forward with my reviews, especially if I keep even a smidgeon of this ridiculous momentum, I figured it would be best if I section the reviews off by type. Most people have a preferred genre to read and this will allow ease in getting to the books that actually interest you.
January’s Top Pick: Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman
January’s Dud: Unqualified – Anna Faris
Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman (5 Roses)
Do you ever have a book that just stays with you? Days can go by and you still find yourself thinking about it? That was me with Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. I am glad I had incentive to read this book due to the movie being released, otherwise I think I easily could’ve overlooked Call Me By Your Name because it’s not usually what I go for. Call Me By Your Name focuses on Elio, Oliver, and an unforgettable summer in Italy. Don’t be fooled though – this isn’t your typical love story, even if it’s incredibly relatable. The prose is the perfect mixture of sensual, beautiful, and poignant to be truly heartwrenching. It’s been over a month since I finished Aciman’s novel and there are still layers of the story I’m working through in my mind.
The dark comedic aspects of this book had me cracking up throughout the whole thing. If that means I have a skewed sense of humor, I’ll take it. The story centers on the colorful Foxman family coming together to sit shiva for their father’s death. Every single character is majorly flawed. Sometimes to an extreme measure. However, the very obvious dysfunction made the story feel genuinely realistic. Tropper has an extremely easy to read writing style that you find yourself getting lost in – I devoured This Is Where I Leave You in one weekend.
Someday, Someday, Maybe – Lauren Graham (3.5 Roses)
I was excited about this book knowing it was written by Lauren Graham a.k.a. Lorelai Gilmore. Someday, Someday, Maybe had exactly the tone and sense of humor you’d expect knowing that fact. It was a fun, light read about a young actress struggling to become a working actress in NYC. My biggest complaint was the main heartthrob of James Franklin because every time I read the name I saw James Fran… and thought of James Franco which instantly made me suspicious of the character. This book left me with a sense of longing – growing up I went to an arts middle school and acting was my “major” of sorts. For years my dream was to be an actress, but I haven’t done acted since I was a teenager and this book made me miss it again. Maybe I need to try my hand at community theatre.
Postcards from the Edge – Carrie Fisher (3 Roses)
I miss Carrie Fisher and her snark. This book was full of it. In one scene, a side-character named Alex calls his girlfriend Joan of Narc and I about lost it laughing. Postcards from the Edge was a quick read and surprisingly fun since it opens on a young actress landing in rehab after an overdose. On that same note though, all the characters seemed very vapid and one dimensional – it was hard to connect to any of them or the story lines. Perhaps though, that was Fisher’s intent as she wrote Postcards from the Edge when she was thoroughly dismayed by the business.
Everybody’s Son – Thrity Umrigar (3 Roses)
A story of race, power, privilege, and identity. There is so much potential in Umrigar’s book Everybody’s Son, but it seems to fall flat. While it does raise many valid moral questions that aren’t often thought about, in my opinion it doesn’t dive deep enough to really drive these questions home. If a reader wasn’t invested in Antoine Coleman’s story, they could easily glide over some of these issues – even though they are supposed to be at the heart of the book. The characters often felt one dimensional and stereotypical (i.e. the brash and outspoken black college girlfriend Carine) in a way that turned me off as well.
The Marsh King’s Daughter – Karen Dionne (3 Roses)
Dionne’s writing jumps back and forth between past and present to increase the tension the reader experiences. Encounter a cliffhanger and need to know what happens next? First, you have to be transported into the narrator’s history to uncover a tidbit of information that only adds another layer of suspense to the story. A neat quirk of The Marsh King’s Daughter is that the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson of the same name is also woven into the plotline. I will admit there were a few times that I almost stopped reading due to the graphic descriptions of hunting which grossed me out. However, I was too curious to know the ending so I simply just skimmed those sections as quick as possible.
The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld (3 Roses)
I wanted to love The Enchanted, I really did. The old ramshackle prison was the perfect background for the magical realism aspects. I was too easily disturbed by the very detailed and horrific tellings of the crimes the men committed and had committed against them. I know, I know, it’s a prison book and obviously violence is going to be a very realistic part of any story, but it’s not something I have a strong stomach to handle in other than vague language. If I can get past all that, I loved how Denfeld kept the narrator nameless until the very end with the other supporting characters simply being labeled The Priest, The Lady, and The Warden. This purposeful choice of stripping characters to their bare minimum enhanced the humanity of these deeply flawed individuals and allowed the reader to truly grapple with the questions the author posed on nature vs. nurture and is anyone 100% good or evil?
Unqualified – Anna Faris (2 Roses)
I really enjoy Anna Faris – her movies, her podcast, and any interviews I see of her. Her memoir Unqualified just didn’t do it for me. I felt like it was very high-level, meaning she told stories but with not much detail. I would’ve loved if Faris concentrated on her stories a bit more, providing further background on some and cutting others. Many fans (myself included) were curious about the timing of Unqualified as it was released around the time Faris and Chris Pratt announced they were divorcing and most of the book examines her relationships. There are definite moments throughout that you can tell the marriage was over/on the rocks, but not public information yet based on how Farris discusses things.
Future Sex – Emily Witt (3.5 Roses)
This book was fascinating to me. In university I took (and loved) class on human sexuality and this book could almost be a continuation of that syllabus, but with more unconventional topics I haven’t heard much about before. There was one chapter in Future Sex that did hit home however with things I have found myself mulling over. Towards the end, Witt discusses birth control and reproduction in the modern age. Instead of being the normal 101, she tackles it from the perspective of a single and successful woman in her 30s. Everybody assumes having a kid is easy if you want it and that if you don’t have children you made a conscious choice. What if you haven’t found that love/partnership? Is your choice taken away from you? It was really refreshing to see her ponder questions I know many women in their so-called “child-making years” think about. Future Sex isn’t a book for everybody due to the nature of the subject, but if you’re interested in the – I think you will be very intrigued by this book.
I find fanfiction to be a fascinating subject and my views on it have changed dramatically over time. (Stay tuned: I plan to write a post all about this matter soon.) Jamison’s scholarly look at the history of fanfiction and how the genre has impacted pop culture and vice versa was an intriguing read for me. In Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, she examines major fandoms such as Star Trek, Harry Potter, and yes, even Twilight, that did indeed take over the world in their own right. I think if you have an interest in fanfic, this could be an eye-opening read for you.
Y’all know I love (like capital L-O-V-E) Harry Potter. On the opposite hand, I’ve never really been able to get into Philosophy. Combine the two and somehow you have a winning solution. Here I was thinking as a lifelong fan I’ve thought through all layers of the series, but Bassham’s book made took me even deeper. Redemption, destiny, and death all are up for debate in a new light. Serious question though, can I become a Harry Potter scholar as my career? That’d be cool.
I should start by saying I am biased in my rating. I am not a huge poetry person and when I find myself enjoying poetry, I am listening rather than reading, and I tend to veer towards more traditional formats. I was really happy with the fact that this book is written by a black woman who brings in both the intricacies of everyday life as a POC fused with pop culture references. There were a handful of powerful lines throughout that stuck with me, but I thought some of the poems towards the end were the best in my opinion and wasn’t sure why Parker didn’t lead with those. If you’re a fan of poetry, I’d say don’t go off my rating and give the collection a shot as it’s not something you encounter everyday and that’s a good thing.
What books were you loving and hating in the month of January? Did anyone read more than me?
P.S. – My last book review was way back in May of 2017, but between then and now I read plenty of winners (a few losers too) check out my Goodreads account and let’s be friends on there as well!
Until next time,