January Reading Wrap-Up

And January, the month of 75,060,439 days has finally ended. Praise God.

If it hasn’t already been mentioned in the blog, I decided to lower my 2020 Reading Challenges from the previous years to 90 books instead of 100. I’ve just decided that it isn’t super realistic for me keep reading more and more books as my child has started toddling around– honestly, nothing gets past him. He is into every dang thing. Also, I hate setting goals for myself that I can’t achieve, so this seems the best option.

I didn’t read a ton this month, but I think I read an acceptable amount. I wasn’t able to get any audiobooks this month (bummer), and I don’t think I finished any nonfiction, either? Way to step out of your wheelhouse, Lowrey! (Shakes head at self)

Oh! Never mind, I got two nonfiction books done. Way to go.

Data Breakdown

By Genre/Category:

  • Nonfiction: 2
  • Fiction: 5

By Star Review:

  • ✪✪✪✪✪: 1
  • ✪✪✪✪: 5
  • ✪✪✪: 1

January Superlatives

Favorite Read: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Most Likely to Recommend: Eleanor and Park

Most Quotable: And Now We Have Everything

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Most Fun: …I didn’t read a fun book this month.

Late to the Party: Siracusa

Favorite Instagram Post:

I’m a shameless selfie taker.

The Books

  1. Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
  2. March, Geraldine Brooks
  3. Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, Adrienne Brodeur
  4. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave
  5. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I was Ready, Meaghan O’Connell
  6. Siracusa, Delia Ephron
  7. The Sisters Chase, Sarah Healy

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell

If you don’t remember, I read Fangirl in 2019; it was one of my top reads of the year! So when I considered the style of book I wanted to read to start the year, it seemed that Eleanor and Park might be good option. Rowell’s writing style is a departure from my usual reads (heavy, often dark, usually historical or literary fiction), and I thought I might like to start the year with a palate cleanser.

I really liked this. I do think that it was a little trope-y (just in some regards) as it featured star-crossed love, first love, girl-next-door love. It was sweet, watching the relationship between Eleanor and Park develop through music and comics and quickly snatched conversations and looks on the school bus. The fact that both of these characters felt like outsiders gave them a commonality that they would never have been able to find otherwise. In the end, however, there were too many difficulties for them to overcome, and they were separated by fate. Or were they…

This is my third Rainbow Rowell read (having previously read Landline and, obviously, Fangirl), and I feel compelled to continue. She’s great.

✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

March, Geraldine Brooks

I’ll keep this one brief as I wrote an entire book review on March here.

This is a much darker, more realistic perspective of the Little Women-inspired March patriarch. Anyone who has read the classic knows that Mr. March is absent for much of the story, and this novel imagines what his life was like during those missing years. Written in turn by the parents March, we get a more straightforward approach to life during the Civil War, as well as an imagining of how Mr. March and Marmee came to be.

Major issues addressed in the novel include segregation and slavery, emancipation, equality, poverty, war, and spirituality. The language is expressive and beautiful, but the plot itself is relatively slow. I liked it (especially because December and January were the months of my Little Women obsession), but I’m not certain that it is for everyone.

✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, Adrienne Brodeur

This book was straight-up FASCINATING. Of all the books that I read this month, this is the one that sent me to Google. I wanted to see pictures of the cast of characters (I know, they’re real people, they aren’t characters) and be able to picture the setting. It was so intensely compelling.

Infidelity in our culture isn’t uncommon; neither is divorce. According to Psychology Today, the well-known 50/50 divorce prediction isn’t super accurate but the site does still recognize that at least 1/4 marriages are likely to end in divorce. Unfortunately, Brodeur was raised in a very tumultuous household; her mother and father were not married, and at the beginning of her book, her mother was on her third serious relationship. The current marriage was the result of an extra-marital affair, and shortly before the wedding, her fiance suffered a stroke that greatly impacted his health. She became more of a caretaker than she planned on being. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that this unexpected situation gave Brodeur’s mother the justification she needed to seek romance outside of her own marriage. An affair isn’t something that would make a book stand out; they show up in nearly story I read.

The fact that Brodeur’s mother used her daughter as an aid in the elicit relationship, however, is interesting.

I don’t want to give anything else away. This is a nonfiction story that legitimately reads like a literary novel. It’s bomb, and sad, and really frustrating at turns.

It is definitely worth the read.

✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave

Oh, Lordy. I started this book and I think I was less than 20 pages in when I realized that I was 1) going to fall in love with the characters of this novel, and 2) be totally and completely destroyed by the events depicted within it. It’s a historical fiction novel, WWII more specifically, and I know that is basically a genre within itself. I think I genuinely appreciated most the progression of the plot; it begins with the start of the war, and the mood of the novel reflects that. There is excitement and eagerness, the characters want to serve their country and be involved in the action. Of course, as the war continues, the mood of the novel begins to reflect that of the characters. They realize that the horror of war is real, that what they thought would be a grand adventure has become a nightmare.

It’s not a pretty book; the language isn’t flowery, and the things that happen are horrendous (as one should expect in a book about war). Still, the characters are so charming and lovable; I really liked this book.

I must divulge that this is very firmly within the confines of my reading sweet spot. I am a huge historical fiction fan. Still, I think that if you like historical fiction at all, this could be a great read for you. I have previously read Little Bee by the same author; it was also a 4-star read.

✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I was Ready, Meaghan O’Connell

Hey, if you’re a woman, GO READ THIS BOOK. If you love a woman, GO READ THIS BOOK. If a woman gave birth to you, maybe go read this book. If you have impregnated a woman, GO READ THIS BOOK.

If you aren’t new to my blog, you know that I had a child last year. In this stage of life, I’m so glad that I read Meaghan O’Connell’s book! Motherhood is hard. Pregnancy is hard. It’s not an easy experience, and I love that she was willing to be honest about all the difficulties she faced and endured on her own motherhood journey. I recommend this for all woman because I think it’s important for us to recognize what our peers go through in their lives, especially when it’s an element of life that many of us will experience, if only indirectly.

Because of my faith, I do think I approach motherhood from a different angle than O’Connell does; if you are a reader who really cares about relatability in this element, maybe don’t read it because I think it will be hard for you to empathize. I do firmly believe, though, that this is hard for everyone, and if we can read other people’s stories (even if they differ from our own!), we are able to come together with camaraderie and support– especially when it is needed most.

✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

Siracusa, Delia Ephron

I remember seeing this everywhere a few years ago (it was published in July of 2016), and with good reason. This is a GREAT summer read. Yes, I chose to read it in January, but that’s fine. I’m not really a seasonal reader. Also, maybe I love reading seasonally opposite? Is that a thing? I don’t know, but there’s something really fun about reading a vacation story while it’s literally freezing outside your house.

This is a domestic vacation thriller (making up that genre category now). You will follow two couples + a daughter on a joint vacation to Europe. The couples have very little in common, which creates all sorts of tension and difficulty. The perspective shifts from character to character (you KNOW I love that), and a tragic event wraps up the whole thing with a tidy bow.

Also, I had to know if this Ephron was related to the Ephron. I kept getting distracted by that, I am ashamed to admit. If you are also dying to know and didn’t already (I’m embarrassed that I didn’t), they are sisters.

✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

The Sisters Chase, Sarah Healy

I think this cover is BEAUTIFUL.

This was my final book of the month. Haha, it was also a Book of the Month in the formal sense of the word; I selected it as my BOTM over two years ago (YIKES), and finally pulled it off the shelf last month. I’m glad I did. It was different from anything else I read last month in general, but it fit in the domestic thriller genre well enough for me that it wasn’t a drastic jump after finishing Siracusa.

Y’all know I love a family drama. I am also such a big fan of stories about sisterhood; I never had a sister, and it’s hard for me to understand that bond. I so appreciate reading about them so that I can kind of get it a little better. The Chase girls struggle; that much is certain. They have no money, and without parents (not a spoiler, it happens less than 30 pages in) it’s difficult to make do. Older sister Mary is willing to do anything to take care of Hannah– something that becomes ever truer as the novel progresses. While this wasn’t my favorite book of the month, I did enjoy it.

Oh! Also. It’s set almost entirely on the east coast, and that felt totally escapist to little old Midwest me. I thought that Healy did a fantastic job creating setting. Also, it’s kind of retro cool that the sisters lived in a hotel for a period? I don’t know, maybe I’m bonkers.

✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

That’s all, folks.

Good byyyyyyeeee, January. It’s been nice knowing ya. February reading is off, but to a slow start.

Same time next month?

Until next time, happy reading!

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