I read nine books in January! Two were while I was traveling and three were during the 24 in 48 readathon. I’m overall pretty pleased with my reading choices this month. All but one of those are books I acquired in the last few weeks, which is crazy (I spent a lot of money on books), and ironically the one I bought a few years ago was my least favorite. Okay, on to the books!
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Summary: When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…
At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…
Review: I read this on a bus trip from Limerick to Dublin Airport. I liked it but didn’t love it, so it got three stars from me. It’s about a young woman who gets proposed to on the big screen at Dodger Stadium, but she’s totally not expecting it and not really all that interested in her boyfriend to begin with. She gets rescued by a brother and sister and ultimately finds herself really interested in the brother. They start dating, but she’s really hesitant to rebound so soon. As an aside, her best friend owns a cupcake shop, which seems so fun!
I liked this book for its diversity and portrayal of friendships and a realistic, fun love story. I didn’t like how cheesy and inauthentic it felt in terms of Los Angeles – sure, people complain about going to the other side of the city, but it wouldn’t stop you from seeing your own brother for months at a time!
How I got this book: I bought it at LAX on the way to Ireland.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Summary: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
Review: The very first book I remember crying over was by Jodi Picoult: My Sister’s Keeper. I wept and wept when I read that. Nothing will ever top it for me, but this book came close in terms of questions of faith and morality and the right thing to do. A gunman comes into a women’s center similar to Planned Parenthood and holds people hostage. It’s very powerful, with character backstories like only Jodi can do. It didn’t grip me like some of her other books (some of which have kept me awake at night thinking about them) and the backwards narrative was confusing at times. But I would recommend this for sure.
How I got this book: I bought it at Dublin Airport on the way to LA.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Summary: In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
Review: This book. Wow. I have so many deep feelings about it. In fact, I read it as a library book but immediately ordered a copy of my own so I can convince everyone to read it. It’s told through dual narratives: Yale is a young gay man living in Chicago in 1985, and everyone around him is dying of AIDS. In 2015, Fiona is searching for her adult daughter, who’s run away. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I had never thought about the AIDS crisis in such simple, human terms until I read this book. Definitely, highly, absolutely recommend.
How I got this book: I borrowed it from the library, and then loved it so much that I immediately bought my own copy.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Summary: Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away.
Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.
Review: I read all of One Day in December in one day in January and absolutely loved it. After hitting pause on two books (one I wasn’t loving and one that felt emotionally heavy) this was the perfect read. It wasn’t as seasonal as I expected, which made it great to read even after Christmas. It starts in December but takes place all year.
Laurie is on a bus when she makes eye contact with a man sitting at the bus stop, and immediately feels connected to him. She needs to know more – but then the bus drives away. What follows is a ten year saga of love and heartbreak and friendship and life changes. I love how realistically this book depicted female friendship and the highs and lows of relationships. I thought this was a really charming book and I definitely recommend it!
How I got this book: Book of the Month.
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Summary: As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
Review: This book, this book, this book. My friend Hannah told me to pick it up and then immediately said she was worried she had overhyped it. She didn’t.
It was a slow, deep, thoughtful story about a Muslim Indian family living in California. The parents struggle to raise their American-born kids in a culture that’s so different from their own. The book deals with that clash and many others. It starts at the oldest daughter’s wedding and then jumps back in time, starting when the kids are very young. It was easy for me to see myself in the oldest daughter: smart, eager to please, trying to do the right thing. This book is a bit slow to get into (and I even set it aside for a week) but once you get going you will love it. Highly recommend.
How I got this book: Bought it at Barnes and Noble.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Summary: One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.
Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
Review: In a college town outside of Los Angeles, a girl wakes up to find her roommate in a deep sleep that won’t end. And then the sleep spreads to other people on the floor. First two, and then three. And then it becomes an outbreak, an unidentified virus spreading through the small town. This book got me thinking all sorts of deep thoughts about life and family and love and loyalty. It reminded me a bit of Station Eleven, naturally because of the outbreak plot but also because of the emotions present in this book. Highly recommend.
How I got this book: Borrowed from a friend!
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Summary: In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.
Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon’s home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known—her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy—reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
Review: I got this book from Book of the Month in February 2017, nearly two years ago. I never got around to reading it, and I finally picked it up this month. I got more than halfway through and wasn’t loving it, so I set it down (trying to do more of that this year!) for a while.
I picked it back up a few weeks later to finish it off, but quite honestly I still hated it. The book didn’t get better for me. I can see why people like it but the whole thing felt sad and depressing to me. It wasn’t easy for me to care about any of the characters. I did like the aspects of unhealthy friendships, because that’s very real, but that was it for me. Just not the right book or the right timing for me!
How I got this book: Book of the Month.
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Summary: Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.
Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.
Review: I really liked this story about a woman running for political office in the 2018 midterm elections. Charlotte Walsh is trying to become the first female senator of Pennsylvania, but to do so she needs to change her family’s life and sweep a lot under the rug. It deals with ambition, politics, relationships, marriage, and friendship. I tend to find books like this cheesy or too reminiscent of the 2016 election, but this one was all about making a difference and shooting for your goals. I liked it a lot!
How I got this book: Purchased it from Book Outlet.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Summary: At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.
Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?
Review: I loved this book. Hannah Martin is 29 years old and moving back to Los Angeles as she tries to figure out her life. On her first night back, she has a choice to make. That choice plays out with both decisions in parallel storylines in this book. What is fate and how much can one tiny choice change our path? What is actually meant to happen? I loved how there were both good and bad things in both storylines, and it was hard to pick which one I liked more! I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I went to a different college or moved to a different city, because my life would certainly be very different. But this book shows how even seemingly tiny choices can have big effects.
How I got this book: Purchased it from Barnes and Noble.
I also tried to read A Separation by Katie Kitamura, but stopped after 75 pages. The writing style and never ending introspection weren’t for me.
So that means nine books to start off 2019!
In total this month:
Total number of books: nine
Number of fiction books: nine
Number of nonfiction books: zero
Books by people who are not white dudes: nine
Total number of books this year: nine