January 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-3

January was a loooong month.

Circumstances being what they were this month, I didn’t get to finish as many books as I was hoping to read (as Goodreads so eloquently reminds me – I’m one book behind pace to my yearly goal). But the ones I did read were fantastic.

I’m adding a new feature to my reviews, and that is the format in which I read the book. I feel that format can make or break whether or not I will like a book. I started The Nickel Boys on audio and was not captivated by it. I happened to see it at the library and decided I would try to read it in print, and I enjoyed it so much better in this format.

I’m also going to briefly mention the books I DNF’d (did not finish) this month. I’m trying to read at a higher quality, so if I’m not enjoying a book, I will not force myself to finish. And that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t go back to a DNF book, it just wasn’t right for me at this point in time.

Focusing on quality is really working for me, and I implore everyone to do the same. Life is too short to not be reading something you enjoy!


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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Genre: YA

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What a powerful way to start off the new year. I know this book has been around for awhile, and I’m kind of late to the game, but wow. Now I know why this book was so popular when it came out in 2017. It tells the tale of Starr who sees her friend get shot to death by a cop in a traffic stop gone wrong. This book is extremely poignant for the time we’re living in. The audiobook is excellent, one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Bahni Turpin is an awesome narrator. This truly is a YA novel, however, as it pauses here and there to remind us of that when Starr is hanging out with her friends from school. But overall, this is an important novel that everyone should read.


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Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was the first book I received after joining the Once Upon a Book Club subscription service. You get to open gifts related to the corresponding page numbers along the way, which makes it feel like you are a part of the story. I loved the experience, and the book was great too. Told in two timelines between an Iraq veteran and a soldier in the Civil War, both of whom are women, was a delightful surprise. I haven’t read a historical fiction novel set during the Civil War, and it was a refreshing break from reading a WWII-set novel. And learning that women posing as men to fight in the war was a common occurrence made the story that much more interesting. The present day storyline wasn’t as strong, in my opinion, but it was overall an enjoyable read.


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The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was my first foray into Colson Whitehead’s work, and I wasn’t disappointed. Based on a true story of a reformatory boys school in 1950s Florida, this novel tackles some heavy topics such as abuse and race, yet it’s told in a way that is readable. The writing is beautiful, but I had to switch from audio to hardcover to truly comprehend the story. The novel interweaves quotes and aspirations from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as it was set during the Civil Rights movement, which really opened my eyes to that era and how it still resonants today. This is a great “makes you think” book.


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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Genre: Classic / Adventure

Format: Ebook (Serial App)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I did it. I finished my first classic of the year. Yes, it was a children’s novel, and yes, it’s a story that everyone has heard of, but I’m proud that I actually stuck with it and didn’t give up 20 pages in and never return back to it like I do with most classics. That’s a win, in my book. I had decided to read Peter Pan because my daughter had recently been in our community theater’s production of it. I was surprised at how the story of the play followed so closely with the story of the book, that is to say, it’s nothing like the Disney version. I enjoyed reading it overall, but, man, Peter annoyed the ever living crap out of me. Whiny. Arrogant. Narcissistic. I now know why they had to make him more likable for the Disney movie, because he is not likable here. But it’s a fun adventure novel that can be read with your kiddos.


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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I picked this up on a whim from the library. I had heard about it through bookish word of mouth, and I saw that it was short (only 196 pages), so I thought I’d give it a try. The jacket cover proclaimed it as very poetic, which scared me as I am not a poetry fan, but as soon as I dug in I couldn’t put it down. It’s not told in a conventional way; it goes back in forth in time from the early 2000s to the 1970s and is told from multiple characters’ perspectives. It might be confusing to some, but I thought it helped elevate the story. I love a good book about relationships, and that’s ultimately what this story is. It’s a great, super-quick read.


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Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark

Genre: Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t listen to Kilgariff and Hardstark’s popular My Favorite Murder podcast, but I had heard that you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this book. While the authors mention the show and the topic of true crime occasionally, this was more like a book of essays about the women’s lives growing up. They are both gifted writers, and funny to boot. I’m still not planning on listening to their podcast, but I’m very glad I read their book. If you need a good laugh, this book is for you.


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The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I did not mean to read so many historical fiction novels this month, but every single one I read was excellent. The Stationery Shop was no different. Another Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club pick, this novel tells the story of Roya from the time she was a lovestruck teenager in 1950s Tehran to how she got to where she is in present day Boston. I loved learning about the history of the political turmoil surrounding Iran while reading a fictional account of characters during that time. While it’s a love story at its core, it also tackles topical issues such as undiagnosed mental illness, abortion, social class status, and death. That may sound like a downer, but it was beautifully written and didn’t drag at all. It was a great book to round out my month of reading.


Books I DNF’d this month:

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory – I love Jasmine Guillory as a person, but I’ve come to realize I’m not a fan of her subpar writing.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – I could not stand the audio narrator’s voice on this one. I might pick it up in paper or digital format in the future.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – I was so excited to pick this one up, but sadly could not get into it. Maybe it will capture my interest at a later time.


What were some of your favorite books you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

January 2020 Reads

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases*

Reading Trackers to Use in 2020

I was so excited when the clock struck midnight on January 1st because that meant I finally got the opportunity to use my new tracking methods for the year.

I’m changing things up a bit in 2020. In years past I predominantly used Goodreads to track my books. Goodreads is still my favorite app, so that’s not going to change, but I’m also implementing some new trackers that I’m excited to start using. Check them out below:

Currently Reading Illustrated Reading Journal

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Tracking what I’m reading while getting to color? Sign me up! This tracker from Currently Reading podcasters Kaytee Cobb and Meredith Monday Schwartz has reading challenges, recommendations, entries for your Bookish Moment of the Week, and, of course, illustrations to color in along the way. As a Patreon supporter of the podcast, I got to download this journal for free, but you can also buy the download for $7. Download your copy here.


Sarah’s Book Shelves Rock Your Reading Tracker

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You can tell Sarah loves making Excel spreadsheets and has a real talent for it. This spreadsheet lets you track traditional reading stats (title, author, number of pages, etc.), but it also prompts you to track things like recommendation source, author gender, and diversity. You can see your overall stats as you enter them throughout the year to see what types of books are working best for you. This one has a little bit of a price attached to it ($14.99), but it’s totally worth it for the quality. Find the tracker here.


The Book Lover’s Journal

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I started using this tracker last year as a way to write down my thoughts about the books I was reading. I love this tracker…except for the fact that I ran out of room. You can only record 60 books per journal; to most people that would be plenty, for me it wasn’t quite enough. So, I bought two journals for this year. Besides recording all the basics (author, publisher, number of pages, etc.), you can also rate each book you’ve read by quality of writing, development of characters, ease of reading, and so much more. And it’s cute and compact enough to fit in a purse. Check it out on Amazon.


Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge

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Goodreads will always be my go-to when it comes to tracking books. I refer back to the app a lot when I’m recording my books in other tracking methods. It’s so easy to use, and it has the information of the book built right in. It’s the best tracking app I’ve come across, and I’ve tried plenty others! Follow me on Goodreads here.


Yes, I’m such a big book nerd that I have four ways to track my books. What can I say? I love statistics just as much as I love reading!

What are some of the ways you track your reading? Let me know in the comments below!

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Bookish Goals for 2020

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A new year calls for new reading goals!

My reading life really took a turn for the better in 2019. I learned so much about the bookish world, from #Bookstagram to book podcasts to Facebook group book clubs and so much more. All these resources really helped guide who I am as a reader, and I’m excited to start the year off fresh and with new goals.

Here is what I’d like to accomplish in my reading life for 2020:

Read 100 Books

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I read 82 books last year. That number probably would have been even higher had I discovered I liked listening to audiobooks before May. Though this is a monetary goal, I’m also going to focus on quality and not be afraid to DNF a book I’m not enjoying (still a hard concept for me, but I will persevere). This number correlates with my reading goal on Goodreads, my favorite social media app for tracking books. Before 2019, my Goodreads yearly goals ranged from 12 to 24 books in a year. I’m planning to read over 4x that number, and have no doubt I will be able to make it. I’m always reading at least one physical book, one audiobook, and one ebook at any given time. I like being able to read in different formats, and this will help me reach my 100 book goal by the end of the year.

 

Read More Classics

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Oh, have I struggled with classics in the past. It’s the old-school language that always gets me. If the characters aren’t speaking in modern tongue, then I’m completely lost. But I want to read them! I think to rectify this problem I will try to listen to classics, such as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, on audio to see if I fare better that way. I’ve also signed up for the free Serial app, which lets you read classics in small chunks on a daily basis. I’ve started Peter Pan, and I’m enjoying reading it this way. The app makes the old-fashioned language easier to read by modernizing words when needed. And it connects right to Goodreads, which is a nice extra. I’m hoping to read at least one classic novel a month this year.

 

Devote More Time to the Blog and #Bookstagram

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And by that, I mean stop spending so many mindless hours on my phone and laptop and actually use my devices to do something productive! I love writing and posting about what I’ve been reading, but I’m so bad about actually devoting time to it. I would also like to be more interactive on Instagram and not be afraid to converse with people. We’re all on #bookstagram for a reason – we love books! It’ll be nice to actually discuss books with people since no one I know in my personal life is as passionate about the topic as I am while sharing pictures of what I’m reading. So, stay tuned for more content from The Shelf.ish Life in the coming year!

 

Read What I Own

SH6XaD9wR3+RSeKBlar2nwI bought so many books last year. Some used, some new, but way more than I care to admit. I don’t mind borrowing audiobooks and ebooks from the library (although I do have a ton of owned ebooks I need to read, as well), but when it comes to physical copies of books,  I have more than enough to last me the year, and probably the next couple years, if I’m honest. I do subscribe to a couple book boxes, so I know I’ll be adding to my pile throughout the year, but no more buying 10 books at every book sale I come across… unless it’s a book I really want… or the price is right… or I see a book cover that’s calling my name… On second thought, collecting books is like making new friends.

I may have a problem.

 

Share your 2020 book goals in the comments!

Books I Read in December

Monthly Book Round-Up-2

December was a super busy month for me, full of work-commitments, Christmas shopping/wrapping/festivities, and our whole family getting the stomach flu (not a fun way to spend a week, let me tell ya). Along with getting sucked back into The Office reruns (in order to listen to the new Office Ladies podcast – highly recommend), there was not a lot of time to dedicate to reading.

The books I did get to read were good ones, at least. It was a good way to close out 2019, my best year for reading ever. Here’s to more quality reading in 2020!


91TscA6252LThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Genre: Literary Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tom Hanks is the narrator of the audio version of this story about the relationship between two siblings. I love Tom Hanks, the actor. Not so sure I love Tom Hanks, the audiobook narrator. I had trouble getting into this story because of the nuanced way Hanks told it, and I have a feeling if I’d read it in print, I would have enjoyed it way more. I love a good relationship story, and this novel definitely has it. Learning about the lives of siblings Maeve and Danny and their unusual upbringing was definitely my cup of tea. It is very well-written, and one that I think I would have benefitted from by actually reading the words with my eyes instead of my ears. It might even be worth a reread in print, an extreme rarity for me. I’m looking forward to reading the back catalog of Patchett’s.


41jgSAIDkvLCeline by Peter Heller

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I hated Peter Heller’s newest novel The River, which came out earlier this year. I was very hesitant about reading his novel from a couple years ago, Celine, which was the book club pick of Modern Mrs. Darcy in November. I’m so glad I did, though. My opinion of this book could not be more different than that of The River. Both books are very atmospheric, and Heller is a master of writing descriptive nature. The huge difference is in the stories. Celine focuses on the private detective of the title name, a mature (aka older) woman who takes on a mysterious case. We follow her and her husband through the journey, while also diving into Celine’s past, which touches on why she became a private detective in the first place. The characters were likable, the story was a page-turner, and overall I thought this was a great piece of literary fiction. It’s definitely changed how I view Peter Heller, to the point where I just may pick up more of his novels (a notion I would have never thought of earlier this year!).


81iiD9gp4ALThe Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

Genre: Literary Fiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book had a ton of hype. I’d heard that you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the divinity of this story. While this might be true, I still didn’t completely love this novel. The characters were well-developed, but that doesn’t mean any of them were likable. I enjoyed the later half of the book more than the beginning, but at the same time, it felt like I was reading two different novels. While the topic of faith is consistent throughout, the topic of relationships were often forced and a little contrived. I have heard nothing but love from the people who have read this book, so I’m sure I’m in the minority here. But this book wasn’t for me.


71j+tAU0zsLThe Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff

Genre: Nonfiction

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a book that every American needs to read. It’s the story of the events of 9/11 like they’ve never been told before. This oral history is told by the people who lived it – World Trade Center workers, family members of the hijacked airplanes, firefighters, pedestrians, politicians, newscasters, air controllers, kids in school. It’s told from these perspectives chronologically, beginning with the night before 9/11 up to weeks after the tragic event.  It’s totally worth a listen on audio, where we get to hear some of the recordings of the phone calls and speeches of that day. The full cast of narrators do a great job of conveying the emotions of the people they’re portraying. It is unbelievably heart-wrenching. I dare you not to cry when reading it.


71W-UqjDtfLHow Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

Genre: Nonfiction/Books about Books

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a fun, short read for any book lover. Though it was written in the early 90s, the topics are still relevant and will probably always withstand the test of time. Quindlen talks about what reading has meant to her since she was a child, and it was hard not to get swept up in the nostalgia of the adventures of reading, past and present. It’s a quick read for anyone who needs a reminder of the magic that books can bring.


What are some good books you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

December Reads