A 3-Month Reading Wrap-Up and Other Timely Failures

I’m pretty sure we’re all aware that 2020 has presented unique challenges and situations; these last few months I have been working and teaching and adjusting and gift-buying and holiday planning and just sort of been in a mass-frenzied state of going and doing. Which can be good– my husband was able to have most of the planned basketball games for the first semester, and we got to spend a happy holiday with our ever-growing little man. I’ve read A LOT. Essentially, I’ve been out there living and not blog-posting. Tbh, I mostly write this for myself anyway, so I don’t feel horribly apologetic about missing a few reading wrap-ups. Still, this week I’ve been feeling a real pull to reflect on all this reading I’ve been doing. So, I am back! And if you’re with me, let’s look at the books I read the last few months.

  • We Ride Upon Sticks, Quan Barry
  • The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, Sophie Hannah
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill, Sujata Massey
  • Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie
  • Lock Every Door, Riley Sager
  • Half Light, Tayari Jones
  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides
  • Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds
  • Too Scared to Sleep, Todd Strasser
  • Becoming, Michelle Obama
  • The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory
  • A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas
  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
  • Furia, Yamile Saied Mendez
  • The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman
  • Beach Read, Emily Henry
  • Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi
  • Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back, Alicia Cook
  • Seven Days of Us, Francesca Hornak
  • Suffering is Never for Nothing, Elisabeth Elliot
  • In a Holidaze, Christina Lauren
  • I’ll Fly Away, Rudy Francisco
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J. Maas
  • Letters from Father Christmas, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Christmas at the Island Hotel, Jenny Colgan
  • Chlorine Sky, Mahogany L. Browne
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
  • Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris
  • A Burning, Megha Majumdar
  • I Must Belong Somewhere: Poetry and Prose, Dawn Lanuza
  • Christmas Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella
  • Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit
  • What Kind of Woman, Kate Baer

Data Breakdown

THREE MONTH TOTAL: 38

By Genre:

  • Nonfiction: 4
  • Fiction: 30
  • Audiobook: 10
  • Poetry: 4

By Black Authors and POC Voices: 10

By Star Review:

  • ✪✪✪✪✪ : 8
  • ✪✪✪✪: 25
  • ✪✪✪: 4
  • ✪✪: 1

October Superlatives

Favorite Read: We Ride Upon Sticks

Most Likely to Recommend: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Most Quotable: Becoming

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: Long Way Down

Most Fun: We Ride Upon Sticks

Late to the Party: The Silent Patient

Favorite Instagram Post:

This fun photo featuring the mask I bought from ArtistWhim on Etsy! You can find it here.

November Superlatives

Favorite Read: A Court of Mist and Fury

Most Likely to Recommend: Anxious People

Most Quotable: The Road Back to You

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: Transcendent Kingdom

Most Fun: Beach Read

Late to the Party: A Court of Mist and Fury (resisted for months because of the booksta hype; absolutely wish I’d read it earlier)

Favorite Instagram Post:

December Superlatives

Favorite Read: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Most Likely to Recommend: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Most Quotable: Suffering is Never for Nothing

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: A Burning

Most Fun: Christmas Shopaholic

Late to the Party: A Christmas Carol

Favorite Instagram Post:

LET’S GO TO WORK.

  • Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris

I’m pretty sure I just don’t like David Sedaris. I’ve tried several of his books before (though I must admit that the ones I have read have all been in the form of audiobooks), and they have all fallen short for me. Like, I think maybe I just don’t find him funny? So many people whose opinions I trust love him, and they rave about his humor. And to be fair, I like him in small doses; I thought that “The Santaland Diaries” was quite good, but the rest of the stories in this collection weren’t my style. I’m sorrrrrrrry.

  • The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory

I read this because people loved, loved it, and I was looking for a romance story to interrupt the books I’d been reading. I thought it was good! I did. I liked the characters, and I had a good time reading it. There was just a bit too much sexy stuff compared to what was going on in the plot, for me. I felt like the story leaned too heavily on all the *closed-door* scenes instead of having a solid storyline. I think many will love this, especially those who love traditional romance as a genre. It was good, though not a favorite.

  • Too Scared to Sleep, Todd Strasser

A fun interrupter. I read this with my 5th grade class during the Halloween season, and it was just right for their age level. The stories were a bit spooky, but not overly so. It was ultimately a fun spooky season read composed of short stories that are not connected other than their general genre and mood.

  • Suffering is Never for Nothing, Elisabeth Elliot

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know that I don’t always love Christian books, and I also don’t always love nonfiction. It’s difficult for me to read them and maintain an engagement of reading; this was a very similar experience. I think Elisabeth Elliot is an extraordinary woman; she deserves to be recognized, and her words have great merit. I think there’s a lot to be learned from her story. It was a fine book, and I think there are people who really love this genre and will appreciate this book the way it deserves to be appreciated; I, however, am not that person.

  • MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME, REBECCA SOLNIT

Pretty sure I would have liked this more had I read it traditionally as opposed to reading it as an audiobook. It was a quick read (less than 3 hours), and there were parts of it I thought were super interesting (mainly the sections that discussed the insane rates of violent crimes enacted against women) and others that I thought were less interesting. This essay collection was definitely good, if not the most interesting I’ve read. I liked it.

  • Becoming, Michelle Obama

I would NEVER have thought that I would read a memoir from First Lady Michelle Obama and feel a real similarity to parts of her story, but WOW. I really did. There were parts where she discussed this lifelong drive she had felt to be the best and be better, to overcome and make her family proud. Her questioning of, “Am I enough? Have I done enough?” I really felt that. It’s part of my personality that I want to achieve as much as I’m capable of; I like to prove myself.

Her personal story and the memoir of her life with President Obama was the most fascinating, though the least relatable. Lol. However, she told a story really, really well. Would recommend on audio!

  • Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds

I came to this novel-in-verse after listening to several episodes where it was recommended on the podcast He Read She Read. Chelsey (the “She Read” of the podcast name) raved about this book, and I had to follow up with a reading. I was fortunate to find this available as an audiobook through Libby and listened immediately. It was so profound, and so good. There’s a magical realism quality to this story, as the main character (a mourning 15-year-old who saw his brother murdered [not a spoiler, I promise]) takes an elevator on which each floor gives him the opportunity to converse with a ghost from his past. This review from Kirkus Reviews is quite good and brief, if you would like to read more about it.

  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides

I jumped on board with Instagram account Travelling.the.Pages this October in reading thrillers and mysteries. I didn’t really do much thriller reading in the past few years because I wasn’t really in the mood for it, and I’d read several just-okay thrillers in recent months. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was totally fantastic, and it had my favorite trope from the thriller genre: an unreliable narrator! Also, the setting is a psychiatric hospital with the main subject being a beautiful, haunted artist who refuses to speak. If you like this genre, GO FOR IT. It’s quite good.

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie

Part of my October thrill-athon was consuming multiple Agatha Christie reads on audio. Personally, I think this is maybe the best way to read Agatha Christie! The narrators are, generally speaking, British and have great voices. Anyway, I liked this one quite a lot! The ending surprised me, which is all I ask of a mystery.

  • Lock Every Door, Riley Sager

Okay, so, more thrillers. I read Sager’s first two books (Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied) when they came out (thanks for that, BOTM, and they were both four-star reads. So, I liked them a lot! I put off this one for whatever reason made me quit reading thrillers for awhile (it was probably The Passenger, which I thought was just the most average thriller I’d read to date) but I actually took it off my shelf because of my October reading goals and also because I didn’t like the way it looked on the shelf with my other books. Which is the most superficial reason to pick up a book of all time. Anyway, it was good. There’s a supernatural element that’s cool and creepy, but also just some really weird situational stuff happening. I liked it, but nowhere near as much as I liked the aforementioned two by Sager. I really want to read Home Before Dark but I’m FAIRLY sure I’m too much of a baby for that one.

  • Half Light, Tayari Jones

An Audible original! I REALLLLLLLY liked this, I was so close to giving it five stars. Just a few things held me back, but it was so close. This short little audiobook (~2 hours) covered family and female relationships, scorned love, what we inherit, and art (weirdly enough). YOU KNOW I’m here for a sister relationship in literature based on the fact that I find sisters fascinating, so this was something I was interested in from the get-go; I actually didn’t like An American Marriage when everyone else did, so I wasn’t sure if I’d like this, but I really did.

  • The Widows of Malabar Hill, Sujata Massey

This was such a good read! It’s historical fiction, but not like most historical fiction I read. The main character had experienced trauma and difficulty, but she didn’t allow that to stop her; instead, she became one of the first practicing attorneys in Bombay in 1921. Also, there’s a pretty stellar mystery at the core of the story. In my opinion, though, the book is all about resiliency and power of spirit. I liked it a lot.

  • We Ride Upon Sticks, Quan Barry

If you are looking for something fun to read, this is it. I also think it really helped that I did read this around Halloween, because I was kind of in that spooky, witch-y mood when I read it. There’s some darkish humor, but it’s nothing overly bearing (like, a lighter version of dark humor than I found in The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires). It was my favorite book of October!

  • The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, Sophie Hannah

This book was read as part of a buddy read! Most of the people I read this with didn’t like it as much as I did; I couldn’t have guessed the ending if I’d tried. And as I said before, that’s all I ask for in a mystery! Listened on audio, and it was all-in-all a great listening experience.

  • Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back, Alicia Cook

Okay, so I really loved Alicia Cook’s previous poetry collection, I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip. I mean, it was five stars, and a poetry collection needs to be pretty fantastic for me to give it five stars. This one was also great! I didn’t love it ~quite~ as much as I did I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip; there were a few elements that just seemed a little overdone and less original. Still, a quality poetry collection! I received this as an ARC from Netgalley, and I’m thankful for that!

  • Beach Read, Emily Henry

Beach Read sat on my shelf, unread, for an unbearable amount of time. I wanted to read it this summer (because it says beach read, obviously) but for some reason that never panned out for me. Instead, I put my foot down once it got cold and read this book– really, really liked it. It’s a romance, yes, but there’s also some deeper elements at work. It’s not shallow, by any means. And I really liked virtually all of the characters!

  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman

This was a reread. My 7th grade students read Coraline as a conclusion to their Spooky Season unit this October, and I was quickly on the hunt for an audiobook. This is how I read Coraline originally (Gaiman is a FANTASTIC narrator in audiobooks), and I found a Youtube playlist where different famous people (Neil Gaiman, Dakota Fanning, LeVar Burton, and more) took turns reading the chapters of the book in partnership with the New York Public Library. It was such a fun way to read the book!

  • The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

I had been waiting FOREVER to read this book. I would say my peak interest in the enneagram was about a year ago, and this book has literally been on hold since then. Anyway, it was probably the best book I’ve read on the enneagram, and I liked it. I ran into a bit of the issue I generally do when reading self-help, nonfiction books: I got bored in a few places. As a whole, though, I thought it was a great reference, a good book, and incredibly informative.

  • Furia, Yamile Saied Méndez

Audiobook galley! This book had a great main character (a teenage athlete juggling her family’s expectations, a famous sort-of-boyfriend, potential future in sports, and more) that I almost immediately loved. She is driven and realistic; no better traits in a female protagonist, for me. Unlike other YA books I’ve read recently, this didn’t lack heft in any way. There are some serious issues Camila has to deal with and overcome over the course of the novel, and the love story line was never distracting. She’s a character you can root for.

  • Christmas Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella is an author I invested more time in reading this year…and it’s been really fun. I honestly loved the reading experience of Christmas Shopaholic! It was cute and fun and outlandish and great. It’s honestly a holiday book I could come back to year after year.

  • I Must Belong Somewhere, Dawn Lanuza

This was an ARC from Netgalley. I am a big fan of this style of poetry. I must say that before anything else. I love when there is a thematic element (belonging, in this one) that courses through a collection. I love when the poet considerately thinks to arrange the poetry with longer pieces next to shorter ones. And I love a well-placed illustration. There’s variety, but depth. There’s love, but also loss. A beautiful work! I admire it greatly.

  • A Burning, Megha Majumdar

If you’re looking for something heavy and difficult, look no further. It’s both of those things. But it’s beautiful and special and important.

There are multiple perspectives in the story (you know I love that) and it’s set in a place I rarely read about: India. When a terrorist attack happens near Jivan as she travels home, the events of the novel are set in action. Jivan is accused of the crime (no spoilers, this happens very quickly), and the other perspectives come from those connected to Jivan who could serve as references or witnesses if they make the decision to do so.

It’s not necessarily a happy reading experience, but it is a necessary one.

  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson

Read this with my 5th grade students! They’re so fun to read things with; they get excited at all the right moments points and laugh at all the funny jokes. I hadn’t read this since I was in elementary school, so it was a nice little refresher. We also watched the movie adaptation, which is from the 80s and so perfectly dated that it was a blast to watch.

  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

…I’m pretty sure I’d never read this book before! It was a classic, so I just assumed I had. Alas, I had not. I listened to this on audiobook, and it was perfect. I really enjoyed it– it’s a classic for a reason.

  • Chlorine Sky, Mahogany L. Browne

This was an ARC from Netgalley. So thankful I got to read this book. This is a novel in verse about Skyy, a young girl (and phenomenal basketball player) struggling to read her identity apart from her ex-best friend and savagely mean older sister. In this short, but succinctly beautiful tale, she tries to repair damaged relationships and find worth in the attention of others. Ultimately, though, she realizes that her real worth comes from her own acknowledgement of it. I think this is kind of prime time for a novel in verse. They are brief but powerful, and in the current age I think that’s what many people are after in a reading experience. Not only that, Browne is able to create a very distinctive character and personality in Skyy, and the characters who surround her are vibrant and memorable. In tone and style, I would say that it felt to me like a mash-up of Jacqueline Woodson and Elizabeth Acevedo, and that is an incredibly strong compliment.

  • Christmas at the Island Hotel, Jenny Colgan

YOU KNOW I love Jenny Colgan. The only time I’ve really been disappointed in her writing was when I read My Very 90s Romance, and it’s so old that it’s not really fair to even include that one. To be honest, this is maybe my favorite book in the Mure series (and it’s not usual for me to love the Christmas book in a series the most), so I highly recommend it! I’ll reread this in future holiday seasons.

  • Letters from Father Christmas, J.R.R. Tolkien

Audiobook alert! This was a quick read (less than 4 hours) and it was totally and completely adorable. Long story short, Tolkien’s children would write letters to Father Christmas, and these are his compiled responses. They would write to each other throughout the year, not just at the Christmas season, and he occasionally featured guest writers (like a polar bear or an occasional elf). It’s so, so sweet.

  • In a Holidaze, Christina Lauren

I’ve only read one Christina Lauren book before (Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating), but it was a riot. This was equally fun. It has a bit of a Hallmark/ABC Family (I know it’s not ABC Family anymore, but the last time I had actual television, that’s still what it was called so there ya go) Christmas movie vibe to it. The heart of it is a love story, but there’s one character (Uncle Benny) that I think absolutely everyone will fall in love with. For some reason, I think the idea of spending Christmas with chosen family is magical. My husband and I live less than two hours from all our living grandparents and parents, so most holidays we are able to see our family in almost its entirety (2020 being different, of course). We feel very fortunate and grateful to be able to do so, but the foreign element of spending holidays every year with the same group of friends just seems special. I liked that element a lot. Also, there’s a love triangle; let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a love triangle in a contemporary romance novel?

  • Seven Days of Us, Francesca Hornak

Okay, so I’m not sure why I had it in my head that this was going to be a fun book? Can someone explain that to me? Like, I really enjoyed reading it, but this is NOT a romp. Quick synopsis: a family that hasn’t spent substantial time together in years are stranded in quarantine over the Christmas holiday at their country estate after their oldest daughter comes home from helping fight a highly contagious disease in third world countries. Holy run-on sentence, please forgive me. I really liked it because I’m a sucker for a family drama, and boy was this that, but please don’t go in thinking it’s a feel-good book. I liked the British family environment, as well as the multiple POVs at work in this story. I think it’s a solid book, and many would enjoy it if they go in with the right expectations. It’s like, a less heartwarming version of The Family Stone.

  • What Kind of Woman, Kate Baer

This was my last read of 2020, and it was the perfect way to cap the year. I’d received this collection for Christmas (thanks, Sister-in-Law) and knew I wanted it to be the first book I read from my Christmas haul. It came highly recommended by Annie Jones from The Bookshelf and her podcast, From the Front Porch. This collection encompasses poetry that feels strongly like three stages of life: adolescence and young adulthood with the dating and discovering and identifying, early marriage, and motherhood. As someone who has recently experienced these stages, I found it incredibly relatable and honest and lovely. It was a fantastic poetry collection, probably one of my favorites of the year.

  • Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher

A reread. I LOVE this book, it’s one of my favorite Young Adult books of all-time. I originally found this when I was student teaching; my cooperating teacher used this book with her Novels class. In this class she also taught Speak and Twisted, among others. Anyway, it’s heavy and definitely mature in content because of the language and some triggers like child and sexual abuse and racism in a small town. I read this with seniors because I honestly think that’s probably the most appropriate age group if you want to teach it in an educational setting. It’s about a swim team full of misfits and how they take on the jocks, except that it’s not about that at all. If you think you can handle the things mentioned above, read it.

  • Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi

Gah, this book. I read it the weekend of my brother’s wedding, and if there was a more emotional time to read a book about BROTHER AND SISTER, I don’t know when it would be. I talked about this a lot when I read The Dutch House, but I really feel like there aren’t that many books that cover that relationship well. This is one of them, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favorite books of the year. Also, Yaa Gyasi is just fantastic; I think maybe I liked Homegoing marginally better than this one, but they aren’t really fair comparisons because they are so different in their actual nature. I also have this problem where probably 75% of narrators/main characters I read about don’t necessarily feel like real people to me. This was NOT the case with Gifty. I could very much relate to her as a person if not in the things she’d experienced. Before you go in, know that Gifty has endured a lot of tragedy in her life, and this tragedy has impacted her life choices: she is a scientist researching addiction because someone in her life was lost to it. In addition to this, she struggles to figure out how the faith of her childhood and her love for science are connected or related. She’s brilliant and focused, but she’s also kind of broken. I think that’s beautiful.

  • Anxious People, Fredrik Backman

I love talking about this book! You know, YOU KNOW, how I feel about Fredrik Backman. So, I’ll skip the poetic waxing about his general genius and get straight to it. This is not like any of his other books. It’s not. The set up is completely different, and the mood and tone feel different, as well. That being said, it has the traditional writing style and voice Backman usually brings to the table. Also: I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what he was doing for probably the first half of the book. Nothing seemed connected or that related, and I was like, “What the heck are you doing here, Backman?!” But as he does, everything started to tie itself together in the most fantastic and complete way. I was weeping at the end. It’s fantastic. One of my favorite books of 2020.

  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

This was a reread for my students, also. They loved this book, and I can’t say any different. It was easily their favorite read of the semester. I haven’t read this since I was in the 6th grade. My first reading experience basically went like this:

We were assigned the book at school and read the first chapter together. I knew my mom had the book at home from when she was in high school, and I also knew that I had to mow the lawn that day. So, I grabbed the book, mowed the lawn, and finished both. It wasn’t the best mow job, but I did finish the book in a few hours’ time.

There’s a reason this is a modern classic.

  • A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas

AHHHHHHH PLEASE READ THIS SERIES IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST AT ALL. I read A Court of Thorns and Roses with, like, ridiculously high expectations because of the Insta-hype. It was a good book, but I wasn’t blown away by it or anything. I really liked reading it, but I was a little bit confused about why everyone raved about it. This book is so much better than the first one! How often does that happen with sequels, because if it’s common I might read more of them. I literally stayed up until 2:20 AM on a school night to finish this book. It’s absolutely incredible.

  • A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J. Maas

See the above, but also this one made me cry so much more. All the emotions and the hype. Also, it felt like there was a lot more energy and action in this one. Both five star reads, both favorites of the year. I love this series, and I can say with confidence that I’ll finish it in its’ entirety (WHO AM I).

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

Another reread.

  • I’ll Fly Away, Rudy Francisco

I received this poetry collection as an ARC from Netgalley. This poetry collection is my favorite type: it’s personal and reflective and also powerful. It doesn’t take itself too seriously (I think the worst poetry does). The language is precise and casual and familiar. There were no poems that felt overdone or overlong or unnecessary. I also liked the thread throughout of words that aren’t in the English language but that describe something very specific. I loved it. 5 stars well-earned.

2020 Reading Challenge Update

I completed my 2020 Reading Challenge a few months ago (I mentally jump and cheer every time I say that)! At the closing of December, I finished 2020 with 132 books read– 42 more than I planned to read. What a fantastic reading year.

Closing Remarks

If you’ve stuck around this long (or just skimmed to the end– no judgment, I get it– thanks for being here! I appreciate every one of you.

Until next time, happy reading! In 2021!

One thought on “A 3-Month Reading Wrap-Up and Other Timely Failures

  1. I also loved Anxious People, but I actually found it very similar to A Man Called Ove! The tone and writing style felt similar, both involved a bunch of strangers improving each other’s lives, and the themes of suicide and an older person looking for meaning in life were common as well. Plus I just feel like the author has such a distinct style, it makes his books really merge together in my memory 🙂

    Like

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