What I Read in January 2020
The first month of 2020 was was a good one for me! I finished fifteen books. Only five of those were non-fiction, which isn’t quite at my 50/50 goal I have for the new year. But it’s a little better than my 25% average in 2019, and it gives me something to aspire to!
I read some great books in January and a few duds. Here’s my review for you!
What I Read in January 2020
Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher
This is designed for women 65+ who are transitioning from middle age to old age, yet I found it extremely useful and encouraging at 41. The author’s tone is gentle and kind throughout this exploration of aging in our society. She imparts wisdom from her own experiences and those of other women she interviewed for this book. It gave me a lot of information about what to expect in the next few decades, and I feel much more hopeful. I recommend this for women of any age who could use some hope and support from an older woman.
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
What an all around wonderful reading experience! The writing is pretty straightforward, making for a quick read. The characters are mostly flawed humans with good intentions, making them easy to root for. This is ultimately a novel about courage, in many forms. It’s about love, forgiveness, and acceptance. I highly recommend this book for readers of romance as well as general fiction.
Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross
Advanced copy from NetGalley, published January 14, 2020 This book reminded me of the Sookie Stackhouse series, which I adored. I enjoyed this story a ton, from the very first page to the last. There are witches, werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural beings. There’s a lot of magic, and a lot of steam! Once things started heating up, I couldn’t put it down! I highly recommend this for readers of paranormal romance.
The Body in Question by Jill Ciment
My first 5 Star review of the year! I loved everything about this book. This is an intensely compelling story of a legal drama intertwined with the drama of human life. The writing is concise and powerful. It’s not very long, so every word that’s there is critical. Our protagonist is a flawed yet well intentioned woman, driven by human nature. I highly recommend it for readers of literary fiction as well as mysteries and legal dramas.
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
This is the account of Farrow’s investigation into rape and other sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. But there is much more to it than you might expect. I was blown away by the way Farrow was mistreated over and over and over again. He was shut down, lied to, thrown under the bus, you name it and NBC execs did it to him in attempts to shut down this story about Weinstein and silence Farrow. Farrow’s reporting is tight, and obviously thoroughly researched. He treats his source with respect. His writing is honest, and easy to read. I highly recommend this for readers of true crime and investigative journalism, and especially for anyone who thinks they know all the details of this scandal.
Followers by Megan Angelo
Advanced copy from NetGalley, published January 14, 2020 I cannot stress enough how fascinating and terrifying this novel is. I could not put it down.This novel alternates between two timelines, one current and one futuristic. Eventually the two begin to overlap and that where things get really insane. This whole book is a painful to read exploration of what our future of social media and constant exposure to technology may look like. I highly recommend this novel for just about any reader. It has a sci-fi base and reads like literary fiction, it also has components of mystery/thrillers and even a hint at dystopian fiction. It’s a must read for anyone!
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
This was an enjoyable read all around. Waxman’s writing is hilarious and real to life. All the characters are relatable, even the “bad” ones.I appreciate how the author addresses anxiety throughout the book. It’s not made light of and it doesn’t take over the plot. It’s a huge part of Nina’s life and she eventually focuses inward to explore it instead of shutting down about it. I highly recommend it for fans of general fiction, particularly about women’s issues, and romance.
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
This is a lovely change of pace in the romance genre. It’s funny and touching, and sad at times. It’s not only about this couple whose marriage is in trouble over sexual issues. It’s about family histories and how they show up in our relationships even when we don’t realize it. It’s also about friendships, and having the freedom to be your true self. It was a quick, enjoyable read. I appreciate that it’s about a married couple, instead of two young people falling in love which is so common. I recommend this book for readers of romance, and of general fiction for those looking for a light read.
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
I didn’t dislike the book, yet I can’t go so far as to say there were things I genuinely liked about it. While a predictable ending is a core characteristic of romance novels, there’s often a lot that happens in the middle of the story that isn’t so predictable. Not the case here. Every “twist” in the plot, I saw from a mile away. The characters were shallow stereotypes. Annie’s obsession with rom-com movies was charming at first and then became redundant and annoying. The love story was sappy and forced. Readers who enjoy a very sappy, totally predictable story may enjoy this. Otherwise, there are other romance novels out there that are much better.
You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy
Advanced copy from NetGalley, published January 7, 2020 This is the most important book I’ve read in years! From start to finish, I was fully engaged. I learned a ton about how I can pay attention better in conversations, and how that will improve my relationships.This isn’t a book about how to be a good listener. It’s about why we aren’t good listeners. From a young age, we’re taught to speak up. If you’re “too quiet,” someone will likely ask you what’s wrong. Kate Murphy does an amazing job of explaining all the cultural components that have created a society full of people who talk over each other, without truly listening to what others have to say. She gives scientific explanations for how we listens and take in information. It’s a unique book in that it is not only science based but also addressed social science and emotional aspects of conversation and relationships. Everyone should read this book!
The Weight of an Infinite Sky by Carrie LaSeur
The novel’s premise is relatable: our protagonist, Anthony, returns home from a failed attempt to be an actor in New York City to his family ranch after his father’s death. There was a lot of potential but it fell short for me.The story is interesting at times, but I couldn’t figure out what it’s truly about. That made it hard for me to root for any of the characters, especially since they’re pretty flat. I’m not sure if part of my poor perception of this book is the audiobook narrator, who was also flat. I’d recommend this to readers of western writing, and mysteries.
Raising the Bottom by Lisa Boucher
Digital copy received from NetGalley I liked the first part of this book, which is memoir. It’s the author’s story of sobriety, which includes her mother’s story as well. It was honest, interesting, with a casual tone I appreciated. Then all of a sudden around 40%, the tone changed drastically and it turned from memoir to how-to. The tone is harsh and shaming. The middle chunk of the book is full of the author’s opinions that are touted as facts. They feel outdated and judgmental. The way she presents this information is insensitive, potentially dangerous, and downright false. The overall sense of the book is there’s a one size fits all path to sobriety and if you don’t do that you’re a failure. I strongly disagree and see how this can be scary and harmful for women who are looking for help evaluating their drinking. There are other books out there that are kinder, more accurate and more realistic.
Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh
This is an extremely bizarre story of a young woman living in isolation, caring for her ailing father. It’s told with great skill, and dark humor that had me laughing out loud.Our protagonist Eileen is isolated and miserable. She works at a boy’s prison and cares for her alcoholic father who is in deteriorating health. Eileen daydreams of running away and starting over in a new city. She’s such a relatable character because not only does everyone dream of this, but Eileen is up front about the darkness of her fantasies. It’s obvious Moshfegh is a great observer of human nature because she gets these characters just right, their darkness and flaws, their selfishness and their good intentions. I highly recommend this novel for readers of literary fiction, and also readers of dark mysteries.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Silmani
I was expecting a straightforward thriller here and that’s not the case at all. I’m still not sure exactly what happened and in what order! Even though I was confused, I was still intrigued enough to keep reading. This is a story about how things are not always as they appear. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but the writing is disjointed and the story was pretty slow. While I wouldn’t say this was a bad novel, I would necessarily recommend it either.
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
This was a re-read for me. I love this book because Dani’s story resonates with me on many levels and it inspires me to work on my own memoir! Dani’s story is an incredible on, and she tells it with raw honesty and grace.Her writing is straightforward and powerful. The reader is right there with her as she tries to conjure up childhood memories to connect with the facts she’s learning. In regard to her parents and others involved in her story, she treats them with respect while still holding them accountable for their actions. I highly recommend it for fans of memoir.