First Quarter Reading Wrap-Up: January, February, and March Reads

(All links on book titles will take you directly to the Goodreads page for that title. I love keeping track of what I’ve read on Goodreads, but if you want a full synopsis (without spoilers) you can also find that there. If you chose to purchase selected book, Goodreads will have an Amazon link available, but I would also encourage you to search instead for the book from your favorite local, indie, thrifted bookseller option if that is something you want to do!)

Last year, I decided to end the year with a quarter reading wrap-up, as opposed to one each month; I kind of liked it! There was less pressure to update frequently, and I had a little distance from each read by the time I got around to writing about it. Below, you’ll see all the things I read the first three months of 2021. Enjoy!

  • Kisses and Croissants, Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau
  • Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Bess Kalb
  • A Court of Frost and Starlight, Sarah J. Maas
  • Jo and Laurie, Margaret Stohl
  • Shine Your Icy Crown, Amanda Lovelace
  • The Comeback, E.L. Shen
  • Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam
  • Class: Welcome to the Little School by the Sea, Jane Beaton (Jenny Colgan)
  • Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America, R. Eric Thomas
  • Passing, Nella Larsen
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
  • Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown, Anne Glenconner
  • The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done, Kendra Adachi
  • Recipe for Persuasion, Sonali Dev
  • Finding Freedom, Erin French
  • Home Is Not a Country, Safia Elhillo
  • The Duke and I, Julia Quinn
  • Ties That Tether, Jane Igharo
  • Wilder Girls, Rory Power
  • The Holdout, Graham Moore
  • Butcher, Natasha L. Miller
  • Harbor Me, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Serpent & Dove, Shelby Mahurin
  • Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey
  • The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
  • Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot, Mo Isom
  • She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Woman Who Lived Her Songs, Sarah Smarsh
  • A Court of Silver Flames, Sarah J. Maas
  • Ella Enchanted, Gail Carlson Levine
  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work, Tiffany Jewell
  • Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level, Laura Tremaine
  • The Ex Talk, Rachel Lynn Solomon
  • The Bromance Book Club, Kay Lyssa Adams
  • This Close to Okay, Leesa Cross-Smith
  • Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton
  • Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
  • Fable, Adrienne Young
  • Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-by-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers, Brandi Bucks
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune

Data Breakdown

THREE MONTH TOTAL: 39

By Genre:

  • Nonfiction: 11
  • Fiction: 26
  • Audiobook: 8
  • Poetry: 2

By Black Authors and POC Voices: 10

By Star Review:

  • ✪✪✪✪✪ : 11
  • ✪✪✪✪: 26
  • ✪✪✪: 2

January Superlatives

Favorite Read: Finding Freedom

Most Likely to Recommend: Passing

Most Quotable: Leave the World Behind

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: Passing

Most Fun:  Nobody Will Tell You This But Me

Late to the Party: Jo & Laurie, Here For It

Favorite Instagram Post:

February Superlatives

Favorite Read: The Great Alone

Most Likely to Recommend: The Great Alone

Most Quotable: The Great Alone

Most Important/Powerful/Bizarre/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: Wilder Girls

Most Fun: A Court of Silver Flames

Late to the Party: Serpent and Dove

Favorite Instagram Post:

March Superlatives

Favorite Read: This Close to Okay

Most Likely to Recommend: Next Year in Havana

Most Quotable: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: This Close to Okay

Most Fun: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Late to the Party: Fable

Favorite Instagram Post:

LET’S GO TO WORK.

So, people really loved this book when it came out. Based on that, I was excited to read it. Also, the synopsis sounded super, super interesting: a white family rents a house in the country when a national panic strikes; the owners of the home (who are black) return for solace. The family coexists as they try to figure out the cause of the trouble. It’s mysterious and slow-moving and danger abounds (also paranoia, but that’s a whole other thing).

This was interesting! Still, though, it was a lot of name-dropping and felt pretty gossipy (not in a bad way, it just didn’t feel like the narrator was telling her own story). I enjoyed reading it, but also felt like it was just that– a fine read. I must note that I listened on audio, and though the narration was the most perfect British tone, it also felt like it moved slowly; I found myself getting distracted. I will say that this staunchly supported and encouraged my obsession with The Crown, and had me Googling like crazy for photo evidence of the things she described within her story.

I received this as an e-ARC from Netgalley and Delacorte Press, and I’m so grateful! It was cute and sweet, and completely scratched the itch I had for YA literature and dance and travel and love. Really fun. I think it will appeal to a variety of readers, as well!

You have to listen to this on audio! It was a great time; if you’re someone who loves their grandma, this will hit you right in the feels and also make you laugh for hours.

This is the fourth book in the ACOTAR series, and you know that I’m fully obsessed because I’m basic as all get-out. If you want to get me riled up, you can ask about the constant argument my husband and I have where he tries to tell me that this series is actually just Carnival Row, but I DIGRESS. This is a slim read, and it’s totally different from the first three in that it’s almost all domestic life. There’s not a *ton* of action, but that was okay because I was still dealing with the emotional trauma of reading about ACOWAR right before it. This one isn’t as good as the others, but I still enjoyed reading it.

We’ve talked about this before, but I’m staunchly in the Laurie/Amy Camp… so, I went into this a bit begrudgingly. HOWEVER, I try to trust Annie B. Jones as much as possible, so I read it anyway. It was sweet to venture back into the world of the March sisters, and it didn’t feel like a watered down version of the real story (which is what I worried would happen), and I was impressed with how they treated the story! It occurs just after Jo (so, basically Louisa May Alcott) has published the first installment of the book and is dealing with the newfound pressure of being an author– as well as the fact that everyone reading thinks she should be with Laurie, and there’s constant communication from readers telling her how the want the story to end. It was completely charming.

I received this as an e-ARC from Netgalley and Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux. This lovely little book is an OWN voices story in which twelve-year-old Maxine Chen wrestles with a desire to embrace her Chinese heritage while also wanting to be accepted by her peers; not only that, she’s incredibly driven and eager to find success as a figure skater. I thought this would be a great book to recommend to any of my students!

One of two poetry collections I read this month, I really enjoyed this! I never read anything she wrote previously, but reading this made me want to read her previous collections (most notably The Princess Saves Herself in This One). I like the way she hints at feminine prowess and girl power in a way that didn’t feel forced, but strong and intrinsic to the poetry itself. Again, I received this as an e-ARC from Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing.

I did something with this book I’ve never done before! I both listened on audio AND read it as an ebook, and that was a really fun experience! I liked that I could hop back and forth between these different methods whenever one better suited me. R. Eric Thomas is a fantastic narrator and a hilarious person. He’s dealing with issues that could be a lot heavier if approached differently, but his handling of experiences and difficulties was masterful. Really liked it, definitely one of the best essay collections I’ve read of late.

As is evident by now, I’m 110% obsessed with Jenny Colgan. I’ll read everything she writes, and I can say that with absolute confidence. She’s just one of my favorite feel-good authors. That being said, when I discovered she had a series about a school, I was like, “Woo!” And then, I was like, “How have I never heard of this?!” Let me tell you how. For whatever reason, she originally published this series under a penname: Jane Beaton*. When it became apparent that these didn’t reach the same audience as her works usually did, they re-released them years later, clarifying their author. I really liked the story; it’s not my favorite of her works, but I did love the school setting because, as a teacher, it’s one I feel completely and fully at home in.

*There’s an interesting article about that here.

I received this as an Audio ARC from Netgalley and Waterbrook Press! There are so many practical steps in this book, and I found myself discussing it with my husband (who’s a very clean person) after listening to various sections; it’s what I wanted Marie Kondo to be. Big fan of this one, and I sought out her website and Instagram pages post-reading for more tips and tricks. Kendra Adachi is quite fantastic.

I bought this for myself on Black Friday, and I was super excited to read it! It had the cutest synopsis: a reality cooking show? Exes forced back together? I can get behind that. It was a sweet story, and I’d highly recommend it for those who like reading contemporary romances.

We all know why I read this.

I’ll share one thing I didn’t expect: I knew that this wasn’t my genre, but I didn’t expect to enjoy the experience of reading it so much. It felt decidedly less risqué than the Netflix show? Maybe I’m in the minority, but I thought it was a lot tamer. I did think the show was better, but reading this was still really fun.

Another romance! I read quite a few romances this quarter. This is a romance, though, that has some heavier themes and elements working below the surface. Let’s just say, one-night stands don’t always have one-night results… Also, there are some really interesting exploration of culture and identity at work in this story.

GET READY FOR A FREAKING TRIP. This book is bizarre in the best way. Pandemics, crazy creatures, and isolated communities. LGBTQ+ representation. This one was fun and compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down!

I thought this was a good collection of poetry (visceral in the best way) with a connected theme that was able to keep it grounded and connected throughout. I received this as an e-ARC from Netgalley and Button Poetry.

Have I read a legal drama before? Not sure, but I realllllllly enjoyed the experience of reading this one. It has a whodunnit element to it, as well as multiple timelines (you know I love that!) that contribute to the reading experience. It was propulsive and readable.

I really love Jacqueline Woodson. This was maybe my least favorite of her books that I’ve read so far, but I still loved listening to it because it’s her. This is a story of a bunch of misfit middle graders who find a community with each other; they are dealing with heavy issues like parents who are incarcerated, parents who have died, and parents who are in currently in the middle of immigration conflicts, but they find family with each other. I thought it was, ultimately, a sweet story that could effectively teach empathy. There was also a nice interview at the end of the book between Woodson and her son that I really enjoyed listening to.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a more embellished celebrity memoir, but it was tons of fun to listen to anyway. He’s a weird, interesting dude with an incredible career history, and I liked listening to him tell it (even if I only believe like 32% of what he said).

A friend whose opinion I trust read this book and really appreciated it, so I thought it’d be a good nonfiction pick. I really struggle reading nonfiction (particularly Christian nonfiction; if you want to talk about this, please message me) and this wasn’t an exception to that rule. I have the hardest time getting invested, but ultimately felt that it was well-written and had a good message: when the church ignores and shames people for their sexual history, only hurtful results can occur.

Did I ever think I’d read a book that combined feminism and Dolly Parton? No, no I did not. All the same, here I am giving the audiobook 4 stars. I REALLY enjoyed this listening experience, and I felt like I learned some things in the process! I think this is a must-read for Dolly fans.

I was drawn to this for its super fun cover, but I appreciated the contents within the book just as much! I think this would be a super read for students; I just kept thinking as I was reading that the style would be one my students would really appreciate. It’s colorful and fun, but also completely filled with educational, helpful anti-racist information and resources.

Audiobook alert! I think this was great for me, as someone who really struggles with relationships. I don’t always feel that I’m adept in handling and communicating within my friendships, and I loved that Laura Tremaine was honest and candid about the relationships she’d fumbled in and how she makes them work. It was a bit memoir-y, but I actually didn’t mind that at all in this situation. Also, I would strongly recommend listening! She’s a great narrator.

Really enjoyed! It’s Frasier and a love story all wrapped up in one. There are some heavier themes present, but it was more fun than anything too intense. This is the kind of Rom-Com I can disappear into.

Bookstagram made me do it. Also, another romance! I’m sure you all know what this is about: a group of men (mostly professional athletes) use romance novels to win back their partner’s love and heal their broken relationships. It was a good time. For those who care, it was just borderline steamy without being TOO steamy.

This was a reread. I taught it to my 5th grade class, and when I got to the moment (you know, THE moment) I had about seven jaws drop to their tabletops. It’s always fun to surprise an entire class of preteens.

Everyone has LOVED this book, and I really did enjoy it. The characters are splendid, the plot was creative, and the entire reading experience was a straight-up blast. It didn’t blow my mind in the way that I expected, but I thought it was absolutely charming. There were some real Umbrella Academy vibes from this one, only gobs cuter.

This is just my life now. I thought it was a really good book, I’ll let you know in a few months if it lived up to my expectations for it! Lol.

I’d never read this classic, but I used an Audible credit to buy it a few months ago and thought that now might be the time. I listened to it, I think, in two days? It was wonderful. The audio version I listened to was performed by the one and only Tessa Thompson, and it was FANTASTIC. I really, really enjoyed it; even more, it’s a book I think everyone could benefit from reading. It would be a fantastic classic pairing for The Vanishing Half (forgive me for an obvious pairing, but I do think they’d be great together).

Reread! I love the creativity of this book; I’m blown away every time I read it. Can’t believe I didn’t face this story until I was an adult.

ALL THE STARS. I cannot be more grateful for the opportunity to read this book, because this is one of my favorite books of the year so far. I loved it so much, and I thought every part of it was beautiful. In this (foodie but so much more than just a foodie) memoir, Erin French describes her life growing up in Freedom, Maine. She spent her childhood running free in the country and eating treats in her father’s diner, a personal history that significantly influenced her foray into cooking when she opened her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen. It’s partly a story of broken family and addiction and loss, yes, but it’s also a story of resilience and hope and identity and finding home. French has a casual writing style, but the food descriptions and setting are BEYOND LOVELY. It’s just really great.

Bonus! Magnolia Network (the network created by Chip and Joanna Gaines) brought The Lost Kitchen to television. The first season is absolutely wonderful. I devoured it. Available on Discovery Plus!

I received this novel-in-verse as an e-ARC from Netgalley and Penguin Random House. It’s a story of a girl (Nima) who is caught between cultures and identities and lives as she struggles in relationship with her single mother. The thing I loved most about this book was how incredibly creative I found the story to be. Genuinely, it felt magical, and I loved how real Nima’s journey to self-acceptance and appreciation felt. I thought it was SO well done.

This doesn’t really seem like the type of book I’d love, but it was. I was completely and totally engaged in the story the ENTIRE time, even though witches aren’t really one of my favorite character types in literature. I thought the setting was phenomenal, and it’s one of those books that I loved so much I might actually try to read the sequel! There’s this great examination of religion and how those who are at work in the religious realm exhibit traits that feel decidedly… unreligious. It’s a deep topic and an exciting book.

I don’t want to be dramatic, but this might be my favorite book of the year so far? It’s hard and sad and beautiful. To be honest, I’m not the most nature-oriented person in the world; I prefer to my reading sitting on the couch in the living room. Still, I appreciate a good walk outdoors and I love to see the beauty of the natural world. This book is full of the most wonderful scene setting, and it takes place in Alaska, which I love (I think I was missing this in the The Simple Wild). The characters are full of personality and life, and you feel both anger and love for them. Star-crossed lovers and dreamers. Kristin Hannah hasn’t let me down yet, and I’m thinking maybe she’ll be an auto-buy author for me in the future.

Also, I totally credit my friend Michelle with getting me to finally read this book– I recommended The Nightingale to her a bit ago, and she read this one BEFORE ME. I’m kind of competitive, so I had to jump to it in order to not be left out of the wonder. All that to say: thanks, Michelle.

Note: I know that some people haven’t loved The Four Winds, but I still look forward to reading it! It’s sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to find it.

I’m fully obsessed with this series. I am, I’ll admit it. And am I a basic reader for loving it so? Yes, yes I am. I don’t actually care at all.

So, I want to preface this mini review and entry by saying that this is the smuttiest of any book I think I’ve ever read. Like, it’s intense. Therefore, if you aren’t a person who reads that kind of book, maybe skip this one! I am not usually someone who reads smut, but I love this series so much that I had to follow it.

ALSO, I really do like Nesta as a character. She seems so much more relatable for me than Feyre, and I think she’s actually a more complex character. Cassian is also a favorite, so they’re a pair that I felt a lot more invested in; their storyline is one I love. There is a super cool storyline about girl power and female friendship that I was mega into, as well. This was a super long book, but it flew. I loved it.

A reread, and one of my favorites. I introduced my 5th graders to this story, and they ate it up.

Okay, so, Whiskey and Ribbons was published by Leesa Cross-Smith in 2018, and it was one of my favorite books that far. I was enveloped by the atmosphere and story presented within.

When I saw that she had a new book coming out, I could have requested the ARC more quickly (how I was lucky enough to get a galley of each of these books, I’ll never know– thanks so much for that, Grand Central Pub).

Let me tell you. I think Leesa Cross-Smith might be a literary genius. The general tone and voice in This Close to Okay is equally masterful and beautiful and wonderful. And the world created in the pages of this book is all of those things, as well. I loved the way she explored the relationship between Emmett and Tallie, strangers, in this story; I loved the way that she addressed and dealt with the complexity presented by that same relationship. I loved it when we alternated between their perspectives and how she slowly, deliberately crept backstory clues into the narrative. I loved how she described Tallie’s home as the epitome of comfort and domestic peace. I loved the fact that this novel (which takes place over a short period of days) felt fully formed; I loved how much I ached for the characters and how I yearned for their own happiness.

I have to say that this is a really, really sad story; it would be a disservice to all of you reading not to make that entirely clear. But MY GOSH is it deserving of your time and attention.

She’s an auto-buy, too.

I’m not going to lie to you… I picked this up because the cover is beautiful. That’s lame and shameful, but it’s true. I was taken off guard by how much I loved this book. This is the story of Elisa Perez and her family as they flee Cuba in the late 1950s. Their family was one of prestige, and their good fortune runs out when the revolution comes to town.

For one thing, I knew very little about Cuba, even less about Cuban history before reading. This story had me constantly Googling and looking for photos of the real-life historical figures whose names were dropped here and there. The social scene described in these pages was vibrant and exciting; the Perez family was charismatic and held my attention wonderfully. I’m excited to read the sequel, which follows the life of Beatriz, Elisa’s most interesting sister (in my opinion). ALSO, there’s a dual timeline AND multiple perspectives, which you all know I love. Plus, a love story for any of you who need that. Star-crossed lovers, even!

I think if you like historical fiction, you’ll LOVE this one.

Have you ever wanted to be a pirate?

If you answered yes, this is a book for you.

Are you a fan of YA Fantasy?

This is a book for you.

Do you love a bad boy love interest?

This is a book for you.

I loved this book so much, even though it didn’t necessarily SEEM like a book for me. I went and bought Sky in the Deep in the week following, and then some sweet soul on Bookstagram gifted me Namesake (I’ve been saving it!) shortly after. I can’t wait to continue reading Fable’s story.

2021 Reading Challenge Update

Is there anything more exciting than a new reading challenge at the beginning of the year? I’m one of those strange people who loves an assignment, and that’s essentially what a reading challenge is. Lol. If you disagree, maybe tell me why in the comments! I’d love to converse about that. Anyway, my 2021 goal is 100 books; I set my goal for 90 books last year and went way beyond that, so I felt I needed to return to my 100 baseline. So far, I’ve read 42 books! Not bad progress for being a little over 1/3 of the way through the 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!

One thought on “First Quarter Reading Wrap-Up: January, February, and March Reads

  1. Oh, I loved Here For It so much! It was funny and did an impressive job of being both light/funny and smartly discussing tough topics. I didn’t listen to the audiobook, but I have to imagine it’s incredible based on my impression of the author’s voice in writing.

    Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First sounds very helpful. I’m pretty good about being open with close friends, but have a hard time making close friends in the first place, so I think this might be helpful to me.

    I have to admit that Next Year in Havana didn’t especially work for me. I thought the main characters were just carried along by the men in their lives, without much agency, and I didn’t find the romances especially believable. I picked up at least partially because of the cover too 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s