Y’all. At January’s end, I’m still on target with New Year’s resolution number one. I finally wrote my mini book reviews upon a book’s completion. Aren’t you proud of me? Your virtual back pats are appreciated. Thanks!
However, I’m not exactly on target for reaching my “Mrs. Ram Jam shall read 150 books in 2019” decree. I read 11 books, but two were stupid long, and I didn’t finish one I was 100 pages into. But here’s the bright side: I’ve already read 4,427 pages this year. How do you like them apples?
Just a heads up, my January reads were backlist books since my library hasn’t amassed many 2019 releases yet.
- Lethal White (Cormoran Strike, #4) by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling–I’m a fan of this series, but this underwhelmed me. I’m invested in Strike and Robin as characters and was eager to see their relationship’s direction. However, I found the narration silly. There was a whole bunch of Strike and Robin going back and forth questioning their feelings for one another like a bad romance novel. The book is super long too, which I’m not against, but tedious detail makes me feel Rowling was trying too hard.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi–This novel tells the story of two half sisters, who have never met, and their offspring over several generations, starting in Ghana during the late 1700s. I appreciate the epic’s scope, the heart-rending stories, and the crisp prose. However, I had a difficult time orienting myself. Once you’re introduced to a narrator, he/she is never reintroduced. The novel’s biggest strength is the author’s ability to craft different voices through third person narration. The stories sucked me in but left me yearning for more than the minuscule snapshots of the narrators’ lives.
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #1) by Jenny Han– In a cathartic act, Lara Jean, a high schooler, pens letters to her past crushes and stores them in a hatbox. Mysteriously her letters get shipped out, including one to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh (who’s also the boy next door), triggering a love life mayhem avalanche. To avoid an uncomfortable situation with him, she and Peter Kavinsky, another love letter recipient, fake a relationship and hilarity ensues. Bottom line: Lara Jean is damn likable, and the stark writing describing Lara Jean’s dead mother made me sob. I need more Lara Jean in my life.
- The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss– Kote, an infamous arcanist who’s hiding out as an innkeeper, tells the epic tale of his parents’ deaths, time at university, and search for the Chaudrain to a traveling chronicler. While easy to read and compelling, this novel could be shorter. I could have done without the world’s myths/stories, and the part where Kote is a homeless orphan drags.
- P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #2) by Jenny Han–Book two spoiler alert!!!! Book two continues book one’s story line, and it’s slow at first. Lara Jean and Peter get back together, but someone posts a video of their steamy hot tub make out session to Instagram. LJ is convinced it’s Genevieve, but Peter doesn’t believe her. This is a great YAL read, but I was mad while reading it. For starters LJ gets bullied online and faces serious double standards. Also, I can’t stand Peter in this sequel; he’s conceited and a lousy boyfriend. However, Kitty, Lara Jean’s little sister, continues her precociousness, TV watching, and wisecracks, making book two worthwhile.
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin– A young boy named Ged calls on the fog to prevent his village from being pillaged. Once his wizarding powers are discovered, he’s sent to Roke for training where he butts heads with Jasper, another young wizard. To prove he’s more powerful than Jasper, he performs a magical act, unleashing an unnamed demon into the world which he must vanquish before it takes over his body and mind. Originally published in the sixties, this book’s an oldie but a goodie.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama– Obama gives enough of her personal story to make me feel like I know her a little better while maintaining a certain level of privacy surrounding herself. She doesn’t sugarcoat her history or her feelings, and she made me cry while discussing her and then President Obama’s reactions to Sandy Hook. It’s one of the best autobiographies I’ve read recently.
- A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza–In this narrative told primarily through the third person omniscient perspective, the reader is introduced to Rafiq, Layla, Hadia, Huda, and Amar, a Muslim Indian family living in San Francisco. It starts at Hadia’s wedding, where Amar makes his first familial appearance in years. From there, the story weaves back and forth from Layla, Hadia, and Amar’s point of views in non-linear, entwined perspective flashbacks. At the end, it switches to Rafiq’s, the patriarch’s, first person point of view. Third person omniscient is my least favorite perspective to read, but it’s done effortlessly and gorgeously. I ranked this five stars for multiple reasons, but take a look at these plain spoken sentences. They’re perfect–
- Exhibit A: “He wondered, on the drive, how they would address what had happened. And now he sees it is as easy as saying ‘knew’ instead of ‘know'” (86).
- Exhibit B: “He is so happy he could dance, uncharacteristic of him, but maybe with her he is someone who dances” (106).
- Exhibit C: “Just before Abbas turned the corner, he looked back and said, “Congratulations again.” Or maybe it was, “I was right back then.” And he held his hand up in a wave, and maybe she nodded, and maybe she stood still” (151).
- Exhibit D: “Who are you now? He wanted to ask her, but maybe she was who she always had been, and he was who he had always been, and it was foolish to think that the years had changed anything” (237).
- Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy–In this YAL novel, Willowdean Dickson, comfortable in her overweight frame, loves Dolly Parton and hanging with her bestie Ellen. However, her former beauty queen mother struggles with her daughter’s weight. When Willowdean starts dating her super hot coworker Bo, her confidence plummets and she decides to compete in the local beauty queen pageant as an “ef” you to her mama and the community. This book is a gazillion times better than the Jennifer Anniston produced Netflix film.
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens–Abandoned by her entire family, Kya Clark raises herself in North Carolina’s marsh in the 1950s and 60s. Her story alternates with a prominent man’s murder and its investigation in 1969. Once involved with the man, Kya gets arrested and put on trial for her life. Let’s be honest, the main character in this book is its setting. Owens painstakingly fleshes out the birds, grasses, and channels of the marsh. On the whole, it’s a compelling read, and I knocked it out in two days, but I was put off by the dialogue. It was stilted, and while I know it was written in a dialect, it was cheesier than a Wisconsin dairy cow.
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander–Alexander’s premise, laid out in the title, argues the War on Drugs unfairly targets poor Black Americans creating a new “undercaste” in society. Once convicted and labeled felons (for mostly non-violent drug offenses), they are stripped of their voting rights, can be denied housing upon release, and can face job discrimination while assimilating back into the workforce–essentially a new, legal Jim Crow. While the statistical data and other odds and ends are a bit dated, the book was published in 2010, the embedding of legal precedent into her rhetoric and her comparison between Jim Crow and mass incarceration astounded me. Read this book.
As always, discussion is welcome! Happy reading y’all!
(All images are taken from Goodreads.)