Mid-January Book Wrap-Up

1/17/2021

I recently took to Twitter to ask whether readers prefer a hefty end-of-the-month wrap-up with way too many books, or to split into two posts that each have 5-10 reviews. The latter won by a landslide, so here we are! It's officially mid-January and I've already read 11 books. I'm on a roll. Here are just some of the books I've read thus far. 


Punching The Air
Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam

Amal is a 16-year-old Black teen who is wrongly incarcerated for throwing a punch towards a white boy. While in prison, he explores his love for art, poetry, and meets other black men who have faced similar injustices in the world. This is a brutal book to read (or listen to), the verse style of writing may make it seem beautiful but it's honestly gut-wrenching. The truth behind the injustice that Amal experiences broke my heart. Amal was a beautifully layered character, I felt his pain and ached to see the art he was creating. This is a phenomenally done coming-of-age novel that is a necessary read for the book community, especially now. I hope to reread this book one day and be gratified that our world has changed so drastically. What's your favourite coming-of-age novel?


In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4)
Seanan McGuire 

Lundy is a young girl who feels alone in life. There appears her door. Venturing into the magical world that's founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she finally feels like she's found her place. But everything comes at a cost in the Goblin Market, which Lundy soon learns. This was a reread for me as I'm participating in the Buzzword reading challenge. (The prompt for January was to read a book with "dream" in the title), and it holds up as my favourite of the Wayward Children series. It's incredibly fun with a great friendship taking center stage. Seanan McGuire has a knack for building these quirky worlds but I think this this fourth installment from the series is the most vivid. We have a goblin market, fair trade as currency, and a beautiful friendship between two girls. Adore! 


Love Story 
Erich Segal 

Oliver and Jenny are from two different paths of life. He is the popular Jock who comes from a rich family, and she, the wisecracking beauty that is underappreciated at their school, comes from nothing. When they form a romantic entanglement, it causes quite the stir. But at what cost? We've all read stories like this before. It's the classic popular/nerd trope that is more often seen in movies than books. Love story was written in the 1970's, and was initially a screenplay that Erich Segal then adapted into a book to help hype up the forthcoming movie. You can tell. This was a mere blimp of a novel, coming in at just over 100 pages. In many ways it reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks novel, where you read it already picturing the movie and not necessarily the book. This felt like an afterthought, which is essentially is. I'm glad I read it, as I can now watch the movie without that bookworm guilt. But I don't feel like it was necessary. For the time, I imagine this was a very original story, but it just doesn't hold up well.


The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness
Lori Schiller, Amanda Bennett

In her early 20's, Lori Schiller became suicidal and was plagued by terrifying voices in her head. She had undiagnosed schizophrenia. This is her memoir where she recounts the many times she was pulled into the world of psychiatric hospitals, drugs, therapy, and countless relapses. For the time, no one really knew of schizophrenia so it was truly difficult to read about Lori's experiences with getting a diagnosis. She had various doctors who just wanted to drug her up, lock her in a room, and forget about her. Reading something like this in the 2020's when we have come so far with our take on mental health was a journey. I do think the novel dragged on for a little too long, some of the sections could've been summarized in a paragraph. My only other problem was the blatant fat shaming that continuously happened throughout this book. I fully understand that it was meant to be a commentary on weight gain while on medication, but it felt very black&white. It continuously mentions Lori's height vs weight and it made me feel rather crap about my own body, despite not having a similar weight mass to her. I just want to mention that as if you're currently struggling with body image, I wouldn't recommend you pick this book up. Alas, all in all, this was really interesting and if you have any interest in learning more about illnesses that aren't often discussed in media, I recommend this. I especially liked how we have chapters from various people in Lori's life who were there during her hospitalization. It added a view point that we needed.


Binti (Binti #1)
Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. There she meets an array of people who may be the start of a new life for her. Chaos ensures. I'm not going into the full plot as it would ruin the book as it's so short. For a sci-fi novella, this felt like an entire journey. I was worried that it would be info dumpy and confusing, but alas, I was wrong. This was incredibly fast-paced with a main character who becomes instantly likeable. It was incredible what the author managed to do with so little pages. I'm interested in continuing with the series, which I wasn't expecting. I'd recommend this to people new to the sci-fi genre.


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Claire North

When Harry August dies, he is reborn. His life restarts at the exact same time, to the exact same woman, in the exact same place. Nothing changes. As he ages in each life, his memory resurfaces of his past. There are other people like him who have created a "club" of sorts, and they all band together to try and better lives (their own included). But when a string of murders start happening in each timeline, they have to band together to figure out which one out of their group is responsible. I wanted to love this novel as the trope of reliving a day or life always intrigues me. But.. meh. I enjoyed Claire North's writing, it was beautiful as always. She manages to make the most simplistic of lines seem weighted with importance. I just think this book suffered from being way, way, way too long. There were many chapters that were unnecessary and made the overall story drag. I didn't particularly like any of the characters as they never felt layered - they weren't onions. This was still a fascinating story, the idea was brilliant, but the execution just lacked which lessened my enjoyment. It often seemed too heavy on the telling, rather than the showing. 


*Faye, Faraway 
Helen Fisher

Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters, but she is still struggling with the childhood trauma of losing her mother at a young age. When a spacehopper box from her childhood resurfaces, the last thing she expects is to suddenly be transported back in time to 1977 where her mother is still alive. Torn between the past and the present, this is a story of the bond between a mother and daughter and how the intensity of that can tipple throughout someone's life. I adored this novel. It was everything that I was hoping it'd be. The story was incredibly heartfelt with some truly great female characters. It got a little cliché at the end, but in a Kristin Hannah way where it starts to feel like an early 2000's movie. The entire book read like a warm cup of tea. Definitely be on the lookout for this when it gets released later this month.


Naoki Urasawa's Monster #1
Naoki Urasawa

Tenma is a promising surgorn at an elite hospital in Germany. But when he refuses to prioritise operating on the rich instead of a young boy, he loses all credibility within the hospital walls. When a serial killer starts killing and it seems connected to Tenma himself, everything gets a little crazy. Me and my husband have recently created reading bingo boards for each other to complete throughout 2021. He put this manga on mine. I've never read a traditional manga before (As I don't think Chi's Sweet Home counts..?), and it was fun! The plot and style of art was very gripping, I just found the overall story a little predictable. I would be interested in continuing though as for a first volume, not bad at all!


Mooncakes
Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker

A cute graphic novel about a witch who works at her grandmother's bookshop and the adventures that happen when she falls for white wolf Tam Lang. I was expecting this to just be a fluffy read that would make me smile for 30ish minutes. However, I was really inspired with how it wove more serious topics into the fantasy. My only quim was how the plot itself sometimes dragged and it felt like the artwork was doing more.


Any of these books interest you? Lemme know!

**Faye, Faraway was an ARC I read through Net Galley.

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