January Book Wrap-Up 2020


January is always disheartening when your Goodreads Reading Challenge restarts and you're back at the beginning. However, it can also be incredibly uplifting to start anew and begin a new year of incredible books. I was surprised by how many novels I got to in the first month of the year. Here's my Wrap-Up. 

Three Women
by Lisa Taddeo 

“One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.”

This is a non-fiction book marketed as a look into the sex lives of three very different women, who each have a story to tell. We have a young girl who gets involved in a relationship with her teacher, the power balance taking away her self worth. A woman who has a husband that enjoys watching her with other men and woman in the bedroom. And lastly, a mid-aged woman who starts an affair with an old flame, in a bid to find her own sexual desire. Trigger warnings for sexual assault, underage grooming, and cheating.  Though I found each woman's story interesting, I just couldn't really tell what the Author intended to get across in this book. Instead of talking and/or showcasing women's desires it seemed to be more about the ways that men control women's passion. I was expecting a more feminist read, but instead it left me feeling disheartened by our world.

Rating: ★★★

Forever, Interrupted
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

"Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime."

Elsie and Ben are have only been married 10 days when Ben is tragically killed in a bicycle accident. Interweaving Elsie's shared grief with Ben's mother (a woman she meets for the first time after Ben's death) and her and Ben's whirlwind romance, this is exactly the type of book you expect from Taylor Jenkins Reid. It's equally heartfelt and rom-comy, but without the expected cheesiness that usually comes with those themes. This isn't my favourite TJR book but I think that's partly down to my lack of connection with Elsie and Ben's relationship, it just all seemed to be tied together too perfectly. Still a 4 star read from my favourite author.

Rating: ★★★★

by Michelle Obama

“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”

This is a beloved book about a powerful woman who has inspired so many in a country that now lacks that humanity. As a Welsh girl now living in America, I didn't know what I would take from this memoir as I'm very unfamiliar with the politics of the US. However, what Michelle Obama manages with this novel is breathtaking. I listened to the audiobook (which I strongly recommend you do) and didn't once miss the photos as Michelle paints such vivid memories I didn't feel like I needed them, which I think is a big nod to her writing. I fell for the Obama family and wished I could befriend Michelle by the end of the book. This is a powerful read for many, but especially women. If you've been putting this off in fear of it being too dry, don't. You will fly through it, trust me.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Land Of Stories: The Evil Enchantress Returns
by Chris Colfer

“Having something worth telling and a passion to tell it are what make you a good writer. I can't tell you how many times I've read novels or articles that used complicated words and witty wordplay to cover up the fact that they had absolutely no story to tell. A good story should be enjoyed; sometimes simplicity can go a long way.”

It's time for another adventure for Alex and Conner Bailey. This time in the form of having to bring down The Evil Enchantress, the witch who cursed Sleeping Beauty, who has returned to the land of stories with a vengeance unlike any our fairy-tale friends have seen before. For a middle grade series, this is incredibly engaging. I can't always tell where Colfer is going to go with the characters and I enjoy the entwining he does to connect so many of the fairy-tale stories. Highly recommend the audiobooks for something fun and easy to listen to.

Rating: ★★★★

Beyond The Moon
by Catherine Taylor

*This was kindly sent to me for reviewing purposes*

When Louisa, a modern day girl who gets drunk on the day of her Grandma's funeral, falls off a cliff and gets herself committed to a shoddily run psychiatric hospital, finds herself suddenly transported to 1916 into the room of wounded solider Robert, she has to question whether this is an act of fate and whether she has the means to get home. This had such an interesting plot, so I was very excited to dive into this time-travelling WW1 historical fiction. It sounded unlike anything I had ever picked up. Catherine Taylor succeeded in painting the picture WW1 without sugarcoating anything. The descriptions of the many wounded soldiers and the lengths that the medical personal had to go to just to hopefully save a life was, at times, truly difficult to read. However, I think the overall novel was too long. Louisa and Robert had the means to be a couple that I rooted for, but the instalove paired with the lack of depth to the beginning of their romance left me feeling a little cold. All in all, I would pick up something else by this author as the originality of this story was a breath of fresh air.

Rating: ★★★ (2.5)

Imaginary Friend
by Stephen Chbosky

"We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.”

When Christopher and his mother move to a small town, the adolescent boy suddenly finds himself hearing voices and venturing out in the middle of the night to the big woods that take up a large part of the town. He convinces his friends to help him build a treehouse that his 'invisible friend' needs, but what does he need for it? This is what I imagine would've come from Stephan King rewriting Good Omens. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is my all-time favourite book so I was beyond enthusiastic to read the authors second ever book. When I heard it was going to be of the horror genre, I was dubious. But after starting this 25 hour audiobook I thought my worries were for nought. I was really enjoying it and found myself listening to over half in one sitting. (I listen at x2 speed) But the more, and more, and more, and more the book went on I grew incredibly bored. This could've easily been 300 pages less than it was. By the time the climax of the book came, I found myself just not caring. The characters all started to be samey, and the characters never really had growth. I'm so disappointed.

Rating: ★★★

The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein

"Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy."

This is a classic children's book so I needn't bother with a synopsis. Me and my husband have started an odd tradition of him reading out loud the classic stories that I missed out on as a child. This is so bittersweet and tragic that I know I would've loved it as a kid, especially in my later childhood. It's worth a read even as an adult, as I think everyone can get something out of this much like The Velveteen Rabbit.

Rating: ★★★★★

Tin Man
by Sarah Winman

“And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.”

Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of an overbearing father. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more. Do you ever finish a book and immediately want to reread it as you feel like you didn't get the full experience? This is a book that needs to be devoured in one sitting, and then read slowly to savour the beautiful writing, lovable characters, and the tears that will inevitably fall from your eyes.

Rating: ★★★★★

My Sister The Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”

Korede's sister, Ayoola, has killed multiple men. She always said it was self defence but Korede is no longer sure whether her decision to help her sister hide the bodies was wise. When Ayoola takes a romantic interest in her sisters long-time crush, her older sister has to decide how far she's willing to hurt for family. This was a very short audiobook so I went in entirely blind, it was exactly what I was expecting. Fast paced, entertaining, with irritating characters that I loved to hate. Would definitely recommend if you enjoy a good character-driven domestic thriller, but with a sisterly twist instead of the usual married couple.

Rating: ★★★★

Red, White, & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston

“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.”

Alex Claremont-Diaz's mother is the first female president of the United States, that 2016 election went far better in fiction. Prince Henry is the member of the British Royal Family who wants out (awkward) as he's hiding the secret of his sexuality. When the two come into contact at a party, they instantly hate each other. But time moves forward the way it does, and they soon find themselves falling for one another. I liked this book, I really did. It was cute and a fun audiobook that warmed my heart. However, this was largely marketed as a hate-to-love romance which it most definitely was not. Within 100 pages Henry and Alex were in a full romantic sexy-time relationship, so I felt a little played with that. I wanted more angst, especially given the size of the book.

by Johanna Spyri

“Flowers are made to bloom in the sun and not to be shut up in an apron.”

This is the story of a young girl, Heidi, and the relationships she builds with other children and adults throughout her life-changing event of going to live with her grandfather in the snowy alps of Switzerland. This was absolutely adorable. I'm not a religious person at all, but the faith that some of these fictional characters had was truly beautiful to read. The descriptions of the landscapes and bitter cold made for a very atmospheric read, which I wasn't expecting from what is essentially children's literature The epitome of a cosy read.

The Giver Of The Stars
by Jojo Moyes

“There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth had gone and shifted under your feet. But there is always a way around.”

Set in the the depression-era of America, a group of unlikely woman coming together to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s travelling library. Alice, a newly married English woman, signs on enthusiastically in an effort to escape the expectations put upon her as a wife. Her unlikely ally, smart-talking Margery, is a woman beyond her time. She knows of the greatness women can achieve. When a death occurs and blame hovers around the library, the men of the town begin to question how much power a woman should possess. There's been controversy around this novel as many say it was heavily "inspired" by another woman's work, but as I haven't read the compared book, I haven't got a right to comment on it. I really enjoyed this novel, it stayed on the same league as Moyes's other novels The Girl You Left Behind and The Last Letter To My Lover. I felt empowered as I read, inspired by the risks that these fictionalised women made.

What did you read in January?

1 comment

  1. Oooh you read some good books in January! And I totally understand what you mean about starting all over with your Goodreads reading challenge in the new year. Can't we still celebrate that we all got to our goals or got close to them? I read some books I liked in January, but none that I really loved, besides Caitlin Doughty's book From Here to Eternity. But you read so many good books this month and a bunch of them are on my TBR list! Like Becoming, Heidi, The Giver of Stars, etc. And isn't the Giving Tree such a good book??

    I can't wait to see what you read in February! :)

    Emily | www.thatweirdgirllife.com


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