Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Big Reads - January Recap

Well, the first month of 2017 is over. The news and social media have been crazy, so I've been hunkering down and introverting hard with some really good books. I read eight books this month - let's get into them.
My husband loves the Lightbringer Series and has wanted me to read it for a while, so I checked out the audio from my library. And it was awful. But it was recorded later by Simon Vance, so I got that version from audible. It was so much better! The Black Prism is the story of Gavin Guile, The Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He has been ruling for 16 years after the False Prism's War and things are starting to fall apart. When he discovers he has a son in a kingdom left with no men after the way, he sets out to find him in order to protect all of his own secrets. There were several OMG moments, a few strong female characters (metaphorically and literally), and many just plain interesting characters. The battle scenes were too long for my taste, but I am interested to see where the story goes from here. If you plan to listen to this on audio, definitely get the Simon Vance version.
The Trees was my first read of 2017. And what a way to kick off the year! I love Ali Shaw. I read The Girl with Glass Feet a couple of years ago, and it had such a wonderful, dark, haunting, fairy tale feel to it. The Trees has a very similar atmosphere. In it, a dark, spooky forest erupts from the earth one night destroying every man made thing in its path (a many people as well.) The main character, Adrien, is kind of fat and pathetic and in an unhappy marriage in an unhappy life, but when the trees come, all he wants is to see his wife, who is away on a business trip. His hippy neighbor convinces him to go find her across the sea in Ireland. So off he sets with the neighbor and her teenage son. He's not happy about it, but he can't think of anything else to do. The Trees is dark and creepy and the imagery of the trees so densely covering the world that you can't see the sky is terrifying. There's wonderful character growth and happy endings for all but one of the characters, but the ending couldn't be more right. Or more fairy tale like.
I got this from Book of the Month Club a few months ago, and it won best book of the year from them, but I have strong mixed feeling about it. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is the story of Wavy and Kellen and all the people in their lives. They meet when Wavy is eight and Kellen is in his twenties and they develop a friendship. Wavy is extremely neglected and abused by her parents, so Kellen looks out for her and takes care of her. Their relationship develops into a romance when Wavy is much too young, but they're both so damaged and abused by people who are supposed to love them, that I found myself rooting for them. Much of this book made me extremely uncomfortable. Then I found myself hoping for them to end up together through all their trials, and that made me even more uncomfortable. I read somewhere that the point of this book is that love is love and it doesn't always look like we think it should. But it was still super squicky. It was a super fast read, though. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. But I would do careful research before deciding to read this one.
Hillbilly Elegy has been everywhere leading up to and following the election. I don't know who decided that this book explains why Trump was elected, but I don't think that's accurate. Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir. It's the story of J.D. Vance's life, and the life of his family, living in the Rust Belt. I loved J.D.'s crazy Mamaw. I loved reading about how he escaped an impoverished life with her help and encouragement. I even loved all of the crazy family drama. It reminded me a lot of All Over but the Shoutin, and it felt very familiar to me, being from the South.
Holding Up the Universe was fantastic! For the first 75% of the book, I thought, "This is ok." But the end totally changed that. I loved it. It's the story of Libby, the fattest teen in America, and Jack, a boy who cannot remember faces, even the faces of those he loves. I think when you get older (not that I'm old - I'm not even 30 yet.) A least, as I have gotten older, I've forgotten that the problems that young people deal with are so real and huge to them, even if they may seem trivial to me. And sometimes they have very real battles they are fighting. Libby is my hero. So is Jack, for being such a man with his dad. I just loved this one. That's two for two from Jennifer Niven, because All the Bright Places slayed me. PS - I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
You guys, I love Newt Scamander so much. (Who doesn't, right?) I so enjoyed this movie that I saw it twice. And this cover is so beautiful, how could I not pick it up? This a screenplay, so it only took a couple of hours to read, but it was like watching the movie again. Also, on March 14th, new editions of The Hogwarts Library are being released. Along with this, Fantastic Beasts is being released for the first time on audio, recorded by none other than Eddie Redmayne. #EddieRedmayneIsBAE. I know where my book budget is going in March!
The Cozy Life was a kindle daily deal recently. Have you signed up for those from Modern Mrs. Darcy? They're dangerous. Those nearly daily $1.99 purchases add up! But they're totally worth it. Anyway, I picked this one up because of all the hoopla about hygge. It was ok. Not fantastic. I now know how to pronounce hygge (hooga, btw.) But the basic principle is make your home cozy, slow down, and enjoy your life. Don't try so hard. Put the phone down and turn off the TV every now and then. It did make me want to go buy more throw pillows, blankets, and candles, though.

My Life in France was the January pick for my Mother Daughter Book Club. And it made me hungry while I read it. A lot. I thought this book was very funny at certain points (when she and her friends went to a speakeasy during prohibition, drank one of everything, and got violently ill on the way home) and disjointed at others. I also thought that Julia Child was quite the brave and adventurous woman to travel the world like she did and undertake so many new things at not-such-a-young-age. Also, that Valentine's Day card that she and Paul sent out of them in the bathtub was quite scandalous! Overall, I enjoyed this one, but I didn't love it as much as I thought I would.

If you made it to the end of this super wordy post, thank you! Virtual high five!

What did you read in January that I need to add to my TBR?


  1. I completely agree about Hillbilly Elegy. I really enjoyed it, and love Mamaw! I listened to it (Vance narrates) which I think enhanced the reading for me.

    1. Mamaw was the best! I might have to check it out on audio at some point. I love when authors read their own books.

  2. I absolutely loved Hillbilly Elegy - it was one of my favorite books of 2016. I agree it was a memoir...and if you looked for heavy-hitting social analysis, you'd probably be disappointed in the data. But, I loved it for what it was...and Mamaw was one of my favorite characters/people I've read in a long time!

    And I felt exactly the same as you did about All the Ugly & Wonderful Things! Completely icked out in the beginning, but she brought me around. Takes a good writer to bring me around on that particular issue :)

    1. Mamaw was so funny! And definitely a lunatic.

      I totally agree with you about the author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things! She's quite talented to make such an icky subject less icky.

  3. Looks like great reading month! Glad to see The Trees mentioned, it was my top read of 2016! I totally dnfed The Black Prism after getting the audio book from the library, the narrator had a weird surfer vibe? Haha So I'll definitely be checking out the newer version you recommended, I've heard the series is amazing!

    1. Yes! Check out the Simon Vance recording. It's sooooo much better. No more surfer Gavin. :-)

  4. I enjoyed My Life In Paris and yes it made me hungry as well! And yeah, that valentines day card sounded scandalous!

    Here are my January reads: https://elle-alice.blogspot.ca/2017/02/january-book-reviews.html