Typically, I am not a superstitious person; however, like most I do have a few simple quirks. For example, I don’t care for the number 13 and when reading I will not stop or start on anything with that number 13 in it. Another quirk of mine is that I believe the way you begin your year is how you will end your year. Reading is clearly a passion of mine. Not only do I love, story, I love immersing myself within the confines of the pages. For weeks I pondered what book I would begin the New Year with. There were just so many wonderful titles it was hard to decide. However, as the day drew near one title with its beautiful dark green cover kept calling to me. Yet I had reservations, the book, which I did want to read, is marketed to a Young Adult audience and typically I do not like Young Adult fiction. If I chose this book and it was Young Adult cringe I would inevitably DNF the novel. Would that be a productive way to begin the New Year and my 2022 Reading Challenge?
On one hand it would be a horrible way to begin the New Year; on the other it might actually turn out to be a phenomenal read influencing the remaining year… I decided to take the leap and I’m happy to report, Albatross, my first read of January 2022 was just that, phenomenal, along with the selection of books I chose to read for the month of January. With a total of 12 novels, 4,068 pages, that crossed 15 different genres I have managed to complete 24% of my 2022 Reading Goal!
Today’s mission is to take a look at this list of books and give you both my perspective and recommendations. Have you read any of these books and if so let me know what you think? Also what books did you read during the month of January? Let me know.
Albatross by Terry Fallis
Adventurous. Hilarious. Heartwarming and dare I say wacky; deciding to begin the new year by reading Albatross was a phenomenal decision. Albatross is a coming-of-age story, introducing the reader to Adam Coryell, a normal high school student who is also an aspiring writer.
In all honesty I wasn’t sure that I would like this novel due to it being for a Young Adult audience; however, it didn’t take long to realize that this is a universal story, nor did it take long for me to fall in love with the characters. I had dreams that I was in the story, friends with the main characters. I woke up each morning eager to find out what would happen next. Not only did this novel get added to my favorites shelf, but it also got added to the coveted reread pile.
Read all my thoughts on Albatross by clicking here.
The Hound of Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Originally published in 1901 as the first serial published in The Strand Magazine, The Hound of Baskerville is the third of the four Sherlock Holmes crime novels.
Maybe I was not in the right headspace, but I can’t say that The Hound of Baskervilles was my absolute favorite Sherlock Holmes story. I did enjoy it and loved the atmospheric tones. I also loved the big reveal at the end. But there were times where I felt like I may have missed something so I would go back and reread. I’ll give this a second read in the future; however, this one was a bit of a letdown unfortunately.
But also, this cover!
Can we all take a moment to appreciate it?
Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune has been intimidating me for years now. However, this edition with its blue sprayed edges caught my eye and I wanted it immediately. Yet it took me over a year to muster up the courage to buy it. To justify this purchase, I held myself accountable to read this book within the month of January.
Now I want to clarify that the page count was not the reason for my trepidation. Every hesitation I had regarding this novel was due to it being a science fiction fantasy. I feared not understanding the world that these characters lived in. I feared not understanding the characters themselves. What I discovered, while justifiable, Frank Herbert had a gift for world building and storytelling. Once I began reading all the fear went away. Granted I did pair this novel with the audiobook which was also phenomenal. There is also an appendix at the back of the book, which provides definitions and explanations to things happening within this world.
That said, I did feel that the third book felt a bit rushed. It almost felt like I was running to catch up but again overall this was an epic read and I look forward to incorporating more of the Dune series into my library soon.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Often when friends ask for book recommendations, they ask for memoirs. Unfortunately, I’m not in a space where reading them would be beneficial to my healing and growth.
However, Crying in H Mart has been calling to me. I’m not sure if it was the stunning cover, all the positive reviews I’ve been hearing, or the fact that cancer plays a huge role in the story. Perhaps a combination of all circumstances. This novel slaps!
Crying in H Mart is a powerful memoir about not only growing up as a Korean American but also about love, grief, and delicious food. This novel hit home, providing me with perspective on what it’s like to witness a loved one battle cancer. Being a cancer survivor myself this was enlightening and despite my diagnosis being different from Michelle’s Umma, I found commonality. That said this was a strong 5/5 for me. Highly recommend it!
Anne of Green Gables: Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden
One of my goals for 2022 is to read the entire Anne series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. While reading Anne of Green Gables in December, I felt it might be appropriate to read the graphic novel adapted by Mariah Marsden and illustrated by Brenna Thummler.
This proved to be an excellent idea. This graphic novel does an impeccable job of capturing the heart of Anne and telling the story of the first novel. This was such a treat but I do have a request… Can these two continue telling this story in the format of graphic novels?
Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Deciding to read the Anne of Green Gables series this year has already proved to be one of the best reading decisions I could ever make. I absolutely love these stories.
Anne of Avonlea, the second novel in the series, made me laugh out loud the entire time. One of my favorite moments in the novel takes place right at the beginning when Anne and Diana Barry happen to mistakenly chase a cow that they believe is Anne’s around a neighbor’s pasture then sell it only to realize they had sold the neighbor’s cow.
The introduction to Davy Keith was also a delight. I loved all the mischief he brought to the story.
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
Last year I read Bryan Washington’s debut novel, Memorial, a contemporary fiction novel about a queer couple named Benson and Mike. Those men, their relationship, and all the obstacles that are interwoven within the story are still topics I think about to this day, which is why Washington’s short story collection, Lot: Stories, was on the top of my TBR pile.
Lot: Stories are a collection of thirteen short stories revolving around a young queer man of color living in Houston, Texas. These stories are raw, gritty, and feel beyond real.
Two things though. First this book is loaded with profanity and while I do understand that it’s necessary for the atmosphere of the stories, I really didn’t dig it personally.
Second… Like most millennial writers, Washington doesn’t use quotation marks and with that the writing suffers in my opinion. And to clarify I do realize authors such as James Joyce didn’t use quotation marks as well. So don’t @ me.
Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos De Laclos
My well-loved copy of Dangerous Liaisons, an epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782 as Les Liaisons dangereuses. This novel has been intimidating for a couple of years now; however, has been on my radar since childhood. I loved Cruel Intentions growing up and this book is what the film is inspired by. These characters are morally bankrupt and despite knowing this I was still very unprepared. This novel challenged me in many ways and really made me work for the payoff.
I wrote more about the reading experience in a previous blog, which you can access by clicking here.
Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
When I saw the cover for Crichton’s Dragon Teeth, I had to take a pause. There’s literally a cowboy on a horse on top of a dinosaur skull. Not only is it an epic cover, but the team behind its publication is also genius capitalizing on the success of Jurassic Park. Look at the cover, it screams Jurassic Park, which is a great book by the way.
In Dragon Teeth, Crichton literally dropped a fictional character into the Wild West with gun fights, and dinosaur bones. He also used real events and people to shape the narrative of his story. Historical figures such as Yale professor and paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh and paleontologist Edward Cope are central figures to the story including probably the most well-known Wyatt and Morgan Earp. This is not only an adventurous fast paced novel it’s also informative and even provides some lighthearted humor during those really tense suspenseful moments.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a few months now. Every time I’d consider reading it, my being would pull me to another book; however, over the weekend I decided it was time.
This novel was far from what I was expecting. I understand why people either love it or really dislike it. The story is as devastating and brutal as it is beautiful. When I finished the novel, and everything shifted into focus I was blown away by Martel’s ability to tell this story.
Do I recommend it? Yes. But if you’re not aware already the story doesn’t shy away from animals and their natural instincts. i.e., a few do get eaten.
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife lived up to the hype! Set on a college campus this novel has many dark academia tropes being compared wisely to Donna Tartt’s, The Secret History.
There are similar elements to both novels, such as the reader knows who gets killed, we are just trying to figure out who did it and why. The characters are ruthless, flawed, and again some are morally bankrupt. You know, I’m noticing a theme here. Each have their own motivation for the murder, and each have pivotal and even incriminating circumstances leading up to the murder.
However, where it’s different is this novel is fast paced and dare I say more accessible to the reader than The Secret History. While the story takes place on a college campus it’s told through dual timelines. The present-day timeline takes place over a long weekend as a group of college friends reunite to celebrate homecoming and their ten-year reunion. The second timeline jumps around during their college experience and as the story unfolds, we eventually learn who has killed one of their close friends and why.
Add it to your list friends!
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Complete Persepolis is a graphic novel and autobiography written by Marjane Satrapi about her childhood living in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.
While this is a graphic novel, I found it stepped on my feet, challenged my beliefs, and provided a new perspective. I absolutely loved this novel. There were many moments in this novel that tugged at my heart; however, two moments in particular hit close to home.
The first moment that made me say, wow, relatable, happened midway through the novel when Marjane moves to Vienna to go to high school. There she makes friends with a bunch of punk kids who claim to be revolutionaries yet really are a bunch of privileged kids who have never experienced hardships and think death is cool. A few even try to challenge Marjane on her lived experience despite never living in a third world country.
The second moment that hit close to home and made me appreciate my privilege takes place when she returns to Tehran and learns that two acquaintances have been attacked by government officials for being queer. I want state that while this book takes place in the 80s/90s it’s still illegal to be in a same sex relationship and those not arrested also must fear vigilante groups and being murder for simply existing.
I believe this should be required reading. Especially to those who call themselves activists or allies.