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  • Writer's pictureJessica

January Reading Recap

In my last post I mentioned a few books I had just finished reading. Since I've set a reading goal of 55 books for 2019, I decided that a quick review of books I read that month would help me stay on track. I love meeting and chatting with other book lovers too, so this is just another opportunity to do that.

I used to buy new books a lot, but now I prefer to give used books a good home. Because I wait to pick up these books, and because they usually come with endless wait lists at the library, I typically don't get to popular books for months or years. So, on these monthly recaps, you're going to see books that were probably huge bestsellers years ago. I'm just now getting to them!

(On Goodreads books are rated out of 5 whole stars--you can't rate half stars, unfortunately. A 2.5 is way different than a 3.5.)

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner. 3/5

Case in point right here. I enjoyed the mid-2000s movie with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, and I had never read one of Weiner's books. This was a sweet, light read about two very different sisters. It was a little overlong, but it may have felt that way since I had seen the movie.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter. 3.5/5

Bonfire is Ritter's first novel, and it feels like it. That is to say, I think she has great potential for writing crime thrillers in the future. This just felt like it pulled from a lot of obvious sources (Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train.) If Ritter focuses on a more streamlined, unique plot in the future, her stories will be even better.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman. 4/5

I immediately gave Bird Box a 4 because I FLEW through this book in about 2 days. Could not put it down. The concept is interesting, and events in the book were horrifying. Thinking about it again, the language could be better; the dialogue feels really stiff. I did enjoy this more than the Netflix adaptation since the structure of the book (flashbacks) didn't translate well on-screen.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. 4.5/5

I adored Sloan's other book, Sourdough, and wanted to give this one a try. Sloan has a whimsical way of writing that I love. Kind of like a dry, American version of Roald Dahl or Neil Gaiman. Anyway, I liked the conflict between tech and print, and references to real-life things like Google and popular book series.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. 4/5

After watching and reading Big Little Lies, I immediately set out to read all of Moriarty's books. She writes fun suburban thrillers in a recognizable style, and this was no exception. The protagonist Alice wakes after a fall and can't remember the last 10 years of her life. Of course, things are very different. I enjoyed Moriarty's exploration of how marriages and the people in them change over time.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. 2/5

This was a bust. I'd heard great things about Harkness's All Souls trilogy, and it seemed right up my alley: witches, vampires, epic fantasy, etc. It started off quite strong, but I began to lose interest a third of the way through. Once I realized that there would be no resolution in this 600-ish page book, my mood was soured. I finished it, but had no desire to finish the trilogy.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian. 1/5

I rarely "hate" books; if I don't like a book about 50 pages in, I stop reading it. So I thought my next book after Discovery couldn't get worse, but it did. The only thing I liked about this thriller was the concept: a flight attendant wakes up next to a dead man in a hotel. The book alternates from her point of view and the killer's. The characters were terrible, the plot unbelievable, and the ending was so ridiculous I explained it to my husband and couldn't stop cry-laughing while I did.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. 5/5

I guess I had to read a few stinkers before finding a book I loved. I even dedicated an Instagram post to how much I loved this book. It was moving and funny. I cried multiple times throughout the book. And I wish I could read it for the first time again.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. 4/5

This was like a strange hybrid of A Man Called Ove (grumpy male protagonist, tearjerker) and Mr. Penumbra (set in a bookstore, quirky writing style.) The only off-putting element was the protagonist's pretentious view of books. (There are enough people in the real world like that.) The story was cute enough to make me get over that quickly.

The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner. 2.5/5

I borrowed this compilation of short stories after trying and failing to read Weiner's Goodnight Nobody. Some stories were cute, others passable. I mainly discovered that once you've read one Weiner novel, you've probably read them all: a curvy, curly-haired protagonist from Boston/New York/Philadelphia trying to make her relationship with her husband/wildly different sister/boyfriend work. Mistakes are made, hilarity ensues.

And that's it for January!

If you've read any of these books, what did you think of them? Do you have reading goals for 2019?

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