I can’t believe it is February 1st already! Good riddance January! On Thursday, we had a delayed start to the school day because there was a -10 degree wind chill, and it is supposed to be 61 and sunny on Sunday. Weird.
Anyway, if cold weather is good for anything, it’s good for BOOK READING. And book reading I did.
I read six books in January (finishing the last one just yesterday). Looking back, it’s a pretty diverse collection. Haha! Here they are:
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
I have to be honest, I was surprised how much I liked this book. It was our Book Club read for January, and I put it off until the very last minute because – frankly – I just wasn’t interested in its subject matter (a young couple in a war-torn country that escape through “magic” doors). BUT, I ended up really enjoying it. The writing and the story is powerful (and timely), the magic/fantasy element is VERY subtle (and very purposeful – something I learned from listening to a few interviews with the author afterward). The characters and their relationship were very authentic feeling, and I gained a lot of (much-needed) insight into life for the immigrant/refugee. I found myself wanting to talk about and recommend this book long after I finished it too, which is always a good sign. President Obama called this his favorite book of 2017, and I can see why.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
This novel – about a beloved nanny in Paris that kills the children she is hired to care for – was on the New York Times list of best books of 2018, and it was available at my library, so I grabbed it… I’m not even really sure what to say about it… It was good in that it was very well-written, the characters were developed beautifully, and I could relate to SO much of the mother-caregiver relationship that is portrayed. I guess those same things also made it haunting. It was disturbing and terrifying, so much so that I decided not to pass it on to one of my girlfriends that I usually share books with when I was done. I still kind-of get chills when I think about this one, so… read with caution, I guess.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Everyone is talking about this book right now, and I probably don’t have much new to add. But, I’ll say that I LOVED it. I’ve always loved Michelle Obama, but this intimate – and often vulnerable – inside her life (from her earliest memories in the south side of Chicago to her first weeks after leaving the White House) made me love her even more. This book was empowering and fascinating. I liked it so much that I actually listened to the audiobook (she reads it — so good) AND went back to my hard copy each evening to highlight things that had stood out to me and make notes in the margins. This is a book I will share with everyone I know and pass on to Nora one day. What a class act! (P.S. My favorite part was when she talked about her own mom and her parenting style. I read several of those parts aloud to Jeff.)
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
I feel like I’d heard a lot about this book, but I really didn’t know what it was about at all – I never even noticed the airplane on the cover – before I started reading. In the opening, a young woman with “everything going for her” is in a plane crash and is left paralyzed, but the story is really about her recovery, her resilience, and the way she rebuilds her life to find love and happiness again – maybe even more than before – despite the odds.
I was looking for something “light,” and – though there were sad parts to be sure – this one mostly fit the bill… Overall, I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. It was something I enjoyed reading – it was romantic and sweet and even funny at times – but it didn’t really leave a huge impression on me in the end. To be honest, the story felt pretty predictable, maybe even a little cliche. Also, the ending felt very rushed (after a loooong lead-up), and I wanted more there. Finally, it reminded me A LOT of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and Maybe in Another Life / One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid; I liked all of those books, so that’s not a bad thing, but I think this one had potential to be more original, and it just didn’t get there.
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro
This was my first book by Dani Shapiro, and I’ve already downloaded another. I LOVED her writing style and voice!! Inheritance is brand new – it just came out on January 15th – and is getting a lot of buzz for good reason! The premise of this one (revealed in the first few pages, don’t worry) is the author’s learning – through a commercial DNA test – that her dad is not her biological father. What unfolds is a story of identify, forgiveness, and family – with a little bit of science/fertility thrown in. This is a quick read, but it is FULL. I highly recommend it.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
And last, Verity. I’m actually a little nervous to write about this one, but here goes… I initially downloaded it after seeing SEVERAL people mention how much they enjoyed it and how quickly they read it (i.e. “couldn’t put it down”) on the Reese Witherspoon Book Club Facebook Page (Anyone on there? It’s fun!). When I saw it was only $4.99 for Kindle (and free w/ Kindle Unlimited) and had more than a thousand 5-star reviews, I decided to go for it… Only after I read it (in the acknowledgements section of the book) did I learn that Colleen Hoover usually writes light, romantic books, but this was a kind-of a “passion project” that she released separate from her regular publisher. Interesting.
The Amazon summary called Verity a “romantic thriller,” and described it as “Sexy. Twisted. Consuming.” I think that pretty much sums it up… It is VERY “sexy.” (Like, I was embarrassed to be reading some parts of it; and it did feel a bit unnecessary at times.) And, it’s VERY “twisted.” (Disturbing, really.) BUT, it’s also quite consuming… The story line is different from anything I’ve ever read before (Gone Girl ISH, I guess, but unique), and it did draw me in. I wanted to see how it ended, and the ending surprised me (in a good way, I think)… This book is NOT for everyone, and I think fans of Hoover’s normal work might be in for a bit of a surprise (Shay Shull wrote about this book today and HATED it), but, if you’re in the mood for something that will keep you up at night — both because you’re creeped out and because you want to keep reading — this might be it.
And there you have it! Have you read any of these books? If so, please comment and tell me what you thought. (I’m especially interested to hear if anyone else has read Verity.) Also, what have you read and loved lately?!? I’m starting this this weekend for my February Book Club, and I’m currently listening to this on audio. What’s next for you?
Have a good weekend!
Erika B. says
Great month of reading!! So- I definitely agree with your assessments of Becoming and How to Walk Away. RE: Becoming- Michelle’s mom’s parenting philosophy parts at the beginning were some of my favorite parts, too!! So inspiring and such a cool perspective. I also loved little insider tidbits about life in the White House- like getting the itemized bill for their food and toilet paper!!! That slayed me, hahaha. I’ve added Exit West to my TBR list on Goodreads! Sounds really interesting!
So glad I found your blog through Laura Tremaine’s Instagram! Love to read & considering going into teaching even though I’m nearly 50.
New reader!! I am so conflicted on Verity and I think I’m going to have to read it ha. I read Shay’s book reviews and find her to be a little more into ‘fluff’ than I am, and I’m a big fluff reader! But like Elin Hilderbrand is NOT my style, and she LOVES her…so we overlap on a lot of books but I also don’t 100% agree with her, and your review seems to be able to see the ‘disturbing’ parts but also separate them from the story. So I’m super conflicted and am going to have to decide for myself now ha! I love a good book review (I’m a HUGE book nerd and also do a monthly review), so I appreciate finding new books to check out. 🙂
Erika B. says
Elizabeth, I sent Allena here because we were having a discussion about Verity, hahaha. I think I am going to hold off on reading it until Allena weighs in, because you/Shay/random Goodreads reviewers have me very conflicted!!! Hahaha!