This month was a difficult reading month. I read a lot of books and enjoyed a lot of books, but I struggled to concentrate, so I only read the most engaging and lightest of books for most of the month. That led to a little more romance than I usually read, but you’ll see it in the wrap-up. I was kind of surprised, but by the end of the month, I actually read 33 books and over 6,000 pages. That’s called starting the year off with a bang!
- Books Read: 33
- Re-Reads: 3
- Goodreads Challenge Progress: 33/200 (17 books ahead of schedule)
- New Books vs. Backlist:
- New Books: 13
- Backlist: 20
I was reading through the Amazon Faraway collection at the end of last month, and I started this month with the third book in that series, The Princess Game. High school girls are dying and two detectives go undercover to attempt to figure that out. In their undercover positions, rookie cop, Callum Pederson is getting caught up in the complex high school social web. This was an interesting listen, told mainly through interviews with suspects and through conversations between the two detectives. I think the story would have been more better and vivid if Chainani had changed perspectives and went with a broader perspective beyond the actual interviews into the investigation. Still, the story was only 53 pages long, so Chainani is already doing quite a bit of work.
I continued the Faraway collection with The Cleaners. This short story reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind due to the desire to cleanse oneself from negative memories. I’ve read a couple of books in the last year or two that dealt with the memories attached to objects, and it made me think of the objects that I keep because of the memories attached to them. It made me think of the memories I would like to get rid of and how it would be nice if it were as easy to get rid of them as scrubbing the memories away. This was a thoughtful work.
The final book in the Faraway collection was a fairytale retold from the perspective of the wicked stepmothers. It was warm and delightful. I really enjoyed the perspective of the stepmothers and the details that they added to my “understanding” of the classic fairy tales. My only complaint is that I felt like Forman rushed the story, and it could have stood a little more build up to the ending.
Once I finished listening to the Faraway series, I moved on to the Nothing Like I Imagined Series. This is a memoir styled series of essays by Mindy Kaling. The first book in the series is called Kind of Hindu, and it discusses Kaling’s changing feelings about her religion and heritage after the birth of her daughter. I related deeply to this one because I have found myself walking down paths in my religious heritage that I never dreamed of walking down, all in the name of not screwing up my children.
The second book in the Nothing Like I Imagined Series tackles a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In Please Like Me (But Stay Away), Mindy discusses her own struggles making friends and her social anxiety. She sounds very classic introvert–like me–and I completely get the feeling of wanting to have friends and not be lonely, but also wanting to stay at home and watch Netflix. It wouldn’t have been as funny, but I could have written this book.
The next book I picked up was one from a series that I had started last year. I read Assigned a Mate in November, and I knew that I wanted to get back to that series. The sex scenes had been hot, and I had a lot of questions about the sci-fi world that seemed so primitive and so advanced at the same time. So, I looked on the author’s website for the chronological reading order of the series, and decided one of my reading goals for this year is to read through this series chronologically. So, I picked up The Alien’s Mate. Where Assigned a Mate was heavy on the sex and light on the romance, I was pleased to find that The Alien’s Mate was completely opposite, and set in the 1840s. I am really looking forward to exploring the universe of these novels over the next few months.
The next book I picked up was the first of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast series. This book, Relic, concerns murders at the New York Museum of Natural History. Two boys are murdered and then a security guard. It looks like they’ve been ripped apart by animals, but could be a serial killer. Amidst all this, a new exhibition is about to open and it is rumored that the items in the exhibition have a curse on them. After all, the team that collected the artifacts all died in mysterious circumstances. This book is fast-paced, fun, not totally believable. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Next, I finished a read-aloud that i had been reading with my fourteen year old. We read My Side of the Mountain, where Sam runs away from home to live off the land, and he succeeds. Also highly improbably and completely page-turning for a read. While reading it, my daughter said that if she ever ran away from him that she was taking this book to help her figure out what to do. It’s the first read-aloud we’ve done in a while that she really liked. I ordered the second book in the series because I want to find out what happened next.
Then, I went back to Nothing Like I Imagined and listened to Help is on the Way, which is all about Mindy’s decision to hire a baby nurse. This decision turns out to a great one because the nurse becomes a surrogate mother to Mindy during this time. Mindy has so many questions about motherhood, and since her own mom has passed away, she had no one to truly answer and give advice until Rose became a part of her life. It’s a funny essay, but also touching.
The next Nothing Like I Imagined book was Searching for Coach Taylor. This essay is all about husbands, how it feels to be a single mom with no husband, the good things about husbands, the bad things about husbands, and why her ideal television husband is Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. This one, quite honestly, feels like one of the more shallow essays in the collection. I felt like she was deflecting by laughing about husbands, and that she also might feel a little defensive. I imagine why she doesn’t have a husband is a question she’s fielded more than once.
The next Nothing Like I Imagined that I read was Once Upon a Time in Silver Lake. This essay tells an incident with a drifter that B.J. and Mindy had on a trip out to get dinner. Usually I like Mindy’s stuff, but this one fell flat for me. The situation was absurd, but also kind of sad, and I think Mindy was going for funny.
The final Nothing Like I Imagined was called Big Shot. Mindy gets really obsessed with paying for other peoples’ meals. This is great and she loves it until she pays for a big name celebrity’s meal and the celebrity fails to acknowledge her gesture. This leads Mindy to ponder why she’s making the gestures in the first place. This was thoughtful, reflective, and it made me think about why I do the good things that I do.
The next book I chose was The Chicken Sisters. This was my first five-star read of the year. It’s a strong tale of two sisters who are at odds with each other and a daughter finding her way back into healing with her whole family. And there’s a reality show involved! Yay!! I love food competitions, so this book was just perfect.
The next book I finished was a read-aloud of The Porcupine Year with My 10 and 9-year-olds. It’s the third of The Birchbark House novels, and it chronicles that time where Omakayas is slipping from girlhood into young womanhood. We also got the backstory on one of my favorite characters, so I was pleased with that. We decided to go straight into the fourth book upon finishing this one. If you love the Little House on the Prairie books, I suspect that you’d love this series too.
The next book I chose was Sally Thorne’s 99 Percent Mine. I had bought it as a Kindle deal, and hadn’t read it, but after I read The Hating Game last month, I knew I wanted to quickly slide this one into my current reads. It’s not as magically good as The Hating Game, so the book suffers when you compare the two books. The story is fun. I enjoyed the drama between the twins. I found that the main character, Darcy, is just not as likable as I prefer my romance heroines. To me, that drags the whole story down. Since Darcy and Tom have been friends since childhood, I wonder if I might also have liked to have seen more flashbacks in their relationship as children and into their relationship with Darcy’s twin brother. As it was, I couldn’t quite understand what Tom sees in Darcy.
Next, I read The Lost Love Song, which was a romance, but it was also a tale of grief. The male romantic interest is getting over his lost love and learning to love and to trust again. Grief is a tricky process though, so there are lots of stops and starts. I thought this was a beautiful book, but maybe not for me. I enjoyed it, but it was not a book I could see myself reading again, especially as the two romantic interests were not introduced to each other until over halfway through the book. I think it just wasn’t what I was expecting.
Throughout December and January, I had been listening to an audiobook with my children, and we finished it about a third of the way through the month. This book was a classic, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I really found myself enjoying this one far more than I had imagined I would. Twain had a gift fo social commentary. I kind of wish I had followed along on this one with a physical book as well just so I could take notes from the book. His observations felt fresh and relevant to today’s social structures.
I’ve been comfort-reading some romances lately, so it is no surprise that I picked The Dating Plan as my next read. This was perfection. I loved the Marvel-loving introvert, Daisy, and I found her love story with Liam to be beautifully done. I also loved Daisy’s close and loving Indian family. I thought this was a five-star romance, and I plan on going back and reading Desai’s romance before this soon. BTW, this ended up being both fake dating to real dating and second-chance romance, my favorite and least favorite tropes combined in one novel. I found that amusing.
Next, I read Mastered by Her Mates. This is the sixth of the Interstellar Brides’ Program novels, and this one is actually a “prequel” to the series. Amanda is the first bride to be matched from Earth. She’s matched to a warrior of Prillon Prime, and all warriors mate in pairs (primary and secondary mates) so that, if the warrior is killed, his mate is still taken care of. So, in other words, Amanda gets two mates. This book is actually very nice. There’s a lot of sexy stuff, but there’s a lot of character development and science fiction story going on as well. These books kind of remind me of a dirtier, lightly BDSM version of the Sherrilyn Kenyon books that I’ve always loved (of course Sherrilyn Kenyon can be pretty sexy too).
The next book I read in the Interstellar Brides Program was very similar to Mastered by Her Mates). This book was Mated to the Warriors. This book was again an Earth woman volunteering for the program, being matched to a primary and secondary mate from Prillon. It’s set aboard a space ship. There’s some story development with the world and the Hive to this one, and that’s interesting. This book, unlike some though, is really focused on sex. There are a lot of scenes, and this one goes more into detailed scenes and BDSM than the one I read before this one. It also seems a little more amateurish than Mastered by Her Mates. While I enjoyed the book, if this one had been the only one in the series that i had read, I probably would not feel any desire to read more from this author.
I continued my reading with the next book in the Interstellar Brides Program series, Claimed by Her Mates. This one takes place on one of the allied planets, Viken. The planet is on the brink of civil war and the royal princes (identical triplets) are receiving a match to share to unify the planet with one ruler from all three men. The goal is for them to not know who the father is, and for it to be their child together. The brothers don’t like each other very much, but they are unified in their pull towards their mate. This was actually a good story with a good plot. There was also a lot of sex, possibly too much. And I felt like the magical sperm might have pushed this one just a little over the edge of cheesiness.
Next, my marital and premarital counseling class began, and I was required to read Strengthening Marital Intimacy. This was a fairly good Christian book about marriage without so much of the submission junk that is common in Christian writings. Most of the advice was common sense, but as I thought through it, it really made sense for me. For Hawkins, marriage is founded on a base of commitment, and there are seven commitments that Christians need to make in their marriages. Ultimately, the test of the strength and longevity of marriage though is whether or not they are good companions of each other. Food for thought, and I think, as I ponder what I’ve read, it will make me a better spouse. Not bad for a required book for a class.
Next, I read Kristy and the Snobs with my nine-year-old. This is one of the better Baby-Sitters Club books that we’ve read so far. On the surface, it’s a story about Kristy adjusting to her new neighborhood and learning to make friends. However, underneath, it’s a painful story of pet loss as Kristy’s family has to say goodbye to their beloved dog, Louie. Both situations are tough for Kristy, and Kristy, as usual, makes things worse with the girls in the neighborhood rather than better. Her abrasive personality gives her fits!
The next book I finished was Don’t Know Much About the 50 States. We used this as a spine for US geography. We read a page a day, watched a coordinating US states video on YouTube, and did a little map work and notebooking. There’s nothing special about this book, but it really helped to organize our study. I’m still looking for the right study for us to do next because I want to do something science, but haven’t found the right spine yet.
Then, I decided to go back to the Interstellar Brides Program novels. I’m really struggling with a little bit of low level depression, and these books have been a nice escape for me. I read Taken by her Mates, and I was really enamored with it. I really liked the heroine, and I liked Prince Niall. I’ve complained a little bit that these stories have too much sex in them, but this one doesn’t actually have any until almost halfway through the book. There’s some nice plot development throughout. These books are all insta-love, fated-mates variety books though, and I know some will find that irritating.
I continued reading the Interstellar Brides Program books with Mated to the Beast. This is probably my favorite of the Interstellar Brides books so far. Sarah is going enlisting in the interstellar army in order to bring her brother Seth home. However, a mistake is made in the processing center and she’s processed as a bride. She goes on to war, but her matched mate has other ideas. This is really good for so many reasons, including the camaraderie between Sarah and her troops, her love for her brother, and the gentlemanly beast that Sarah is mated to. I could have read a story twice as long on Sarah and Dax. Also, I would love for Seth to have his own installment in the series, even though he’s a human.
The next book I read was Relic’s sequel, Reliquary. This book starts with two headless bodies being found in a New York River. These bodies have certain genetic abnormalities that catch Lieutenant D’Agosta’s eye, and he brings in Margo Green and Whitney Frock to help in the investigation. As FBI Agent Pendergast hears of the investigation, he decides to join in as well, running down some rumors that seem to originate from the homeless communities living in underground New York. The book was interesting enough that I never put it down, but parts of reading it felt like work to me.
The next book was Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness. The information was good in this book, but it was mostly things I have either seen in blog posts or heard the author podcast or tweet about. It felt very basic, and I think I prefer to listen to her podcast to actually reading a full length book from her. This one is for those looking for a way to engage with their children from a more progressive form of their faith, so there are some evangelical parents who might find this book to be deeply offensive. I have always been a more attachment-based, unschooling, crunchy kind of parent, so this felt very intuitive to me. I think I would recommend it to friends who have left the evangelical church and are trying to figure out how this translates into parenting.
I read another Babysitters Club book with my nine-year-old next, and we read Claudia and the New Girl together. This one is frustrating to me because of how easily the babysitters all seem to give up on their friendship with Claudia. It was good to be able to read this one with Ellie because I was able to talk to her about the girls’ mean behavior. When friends get mad at each other, they talk. They don’t write mean notes and leave it under the other girl’s pillow. Other than that, this was a fairly good book, and it really makes you think about how serious a 13-year-old should be about her interests.
The next book I read was the seventh of the Interstellar Brides Program books. I read Tamed by the Beast, and I really liked it. These Atlan beasts are certainly my favorites right now in the series. This one starts with a man on death row, wondering if a mate could be his salvation. It’s directly related to the last Atlan book in the series I read, and Dax and Sarah are prominently featured in the book. This made this book a really fun read and entry into the series. I’m having a lot of fun with these books because I’ve always been a fan of series like Star Wars and Star Trek. Alien smut is right up my alley. I just don’t know what’s going to be my next series after I finish all of Goodwin’s books. I still have a ways to go for Goodwin though.
Next, I jumped straight into A Vow So Bold and Deadly. I’ve been waiting for this one to come out for a while, so I dropped everything else and read straight through this one in around forty-eight hours. It was a great third book in the series! Kemmerer finished up the main questions of the trilogy, but she also left herself plenty of room to return to this world with another book if she chooses to. I was pleased with the story and with the resolution to the trilogy. I had to hand this one immediately over to my fourteen-year-old, and I look forward to seeing what her reaction to the book is too.
Next, I read a backlist book that has been on my list for a couple of years. Every Note Played is the tale of the descent of a famous concert pianist into ALS. He’s not really very likable, and he’s a bit self-absorbed to begin with, so he has little support. Eventually his ex-wife Karina gets involved in his plight, and becomes a rock of support for him, giving them both a chance to pursue forgiveness and to forgive each other for the many failings of their lives together. The descriptions of ALS were an education to me, a realization of what a horrific and terrifying disease ALS truly is. I found this one fascinating and well written, but not as emotionally satisfying as I had hoped.
The final book I read his month was Jemar Tisby’s excellent The Color of Compromise. This history of racism in America, with specific attention given to racism in the church, was quite interesting. It was discouraging though because, when given the opportunity to choose between integrity and compromise, the church has most often chosen compromise. Tisby gives some practical ideas for ways that we can become less racist in our own lives and in our political advocacy. I liked it so much that I plan to use it in my high school history curriculum for my teens this year.
I liked most of what I read, but two books stand above all others. If there are any two books that I read this week that you want to try, I would suggest you make them The Chicken Sisters and The Dating Plan. They were both nearly perfect. A third selection, for non-fiction, would be The Color of Compromise.
I’m kind of excited about how my reading month ended up. Here’s hoping February is a great reading month too!