Books I Read This Week 2019 – 19

A mixed week this week. A handful of reads I loved and the rest were so so. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Era of Ignition (3 stars): I find that there are a few different kinds of books that I benefit from reading with some regularity. Books on mindfulness, self-awareness, intentionality, happiness/positivity, and books on bias and privilege. When it comes to these topics, I am always willing to try a wide range because I never know what will resonate the most.

There are parts of this book I really enjoyed reading. Any reminders to not take my privilege for granted, any reminders to learn, stretch and push myself are always welcome. I appreciate Tamblyn’s vulnerability and honesty. I appreciate her sharing her perspective, her own growth and her willingness to be open. 

I think this book was a bit all over the place but I still found myself learning new things, widening my own perspective and being curious. Always grateful when that happens.

Any Ordinary Day (4 stars):  I am not sure what drew me to this book. I assume the cover looked pretty so I decided to check it out of the library and see. And then I looked at the rating and saw how high it was so it stayed on my pile. When I finally picked it up a day before it was due, it was compulsively readable. I do not like reading stories about terrible tragedies so I was worried I wouldn’t like it but the tragedies themselves are not dwelt on in this book at all. It’s mostly about the survivors and how they coped after and the author’s own story is woven throughout. But what’s going to make this book stay with me is the author’s compassion and empathy throughout. It’s written with so much respect and a deep love and resilience.

In the end, it’s a reminder that things can turn on a dime and do all the time for lots of ordinary people and that the ordinary day is a gift and not the norm. A reminder to be grateful. A reminder than we are each a lot more resilient than we might think we are. And to appreciate this ordinary moment right here.

Life is Short so don’t Wait to Dance (4 stars): I put off reading this book twice at the library. I have no idea why. I started it once and it just didn’t speak to me (but i stopped about 10 minutes in so that tells you how much of a chance I gave it.) I know nothing about gymnastics or dance and I had never heard of Valorie. I checked this book out because the title spoke to me and I can always use advice and inspiration around living more fully.

And this book delivered in spades. There’s a lot of great storytelling here but there’s also a lot of good advice, food for thought, and perspective. Much of what she said will stay with me for a long time and I am going to have to go buy it now because I know I will want to revisit some of her lessons and her advice. Great read.

Mostly Sunny (3.5 stars): I knew nothing about Janice Dean. I don’t watch FOX or any TV at this point but somehow this book called to me and then the ratings were so high that I decided I should read it. It was a good read and kept my interest the whole way through. I am not sure that I learned a lot from it except for a lot of empathy for her and how resilient she is and how it’s always the best idea to be who you are. But I still enjoyed it quite a bit and am grateful for the work she is doing to help forward conversations around MS, her willingness to be vulnerable and how she is so unapologetically herself.

Skin (3.5 stars): The reviews on this book were mixed and I’ve read enough dystopian novels to not be thrilled about reading a mediocre one. But alas, I think there’s a lot of gold in this story.

First of all, unlike most other dystopian novels I’ve read this one focuses on one family and their journey through this new world. The story alternates between the beginnings of the outbreak and the family’s transition and the “now” world of many, many years later. The main character is the mom of the family. All of this already made me more curious since most of the dystopian novels I’ve read are either YA or not focused around a family in general.

Also instead of focusing on all the gory details or even on a lot of what’s different (though there’s some of each) the main focus here is the psychological impact on the individuals in that family and the acute sense of isolation. This, too, felt novel and interesting to me. 

I do wish the characters were a bit more developed. I think we got some peeks into the daughter but the son was almost comically evil and I would have liked to know more about him and same goes for the husband. I understand that the mom was the storyteller and a lot of the boy’s transformation is post-separation so maybe she didn’t have enough insight there but clearly there was a lot about the husband from before and while we did get some glimpses there, I still craved more. I felt like I wasn’t as attached to the family (except for the daughter) as I would have liked to be for the separation to feel awful. Instead it felt like each member of the family was fine with it for their own reasons (which of course meant it didn’t feel as devastating.)

I really enjoyed reading this story and really appreciated its unique perspective and protagonist.

Thank you to NetGalley and Legend Press for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Memory of Light (4 stars): Sometimes the best novels are the quietest novels. Especially when it comes to heavy topics like depression, suicide, substance abuse, etc. The Memory of Light is just such a novel. It’s so quiet one can almost think it’s devoid of emotion and yet that’s its most powerful message. When you’re depressed, much of the time things are muted and not loud. There isn’t always a reason or one event that created the one moment that finally caused you to decide to end things. You can’t explain why. And there’s no magical moment when all is well again. There’s no magical cure. It’s ongoing and it’s hard. And like all paths, it’s curved and windy.

This book does such a good job of representing depression in the quiet way in which it can destroy your life, your choices, and your hope. In the slow and steady giving up of everything you care about. In the unwillingness to fight back or to even disagree. In the lack of caring. And what I loved best is that there wasn’t a magical ending. Some glimmers of hope and a lot of hard truths. The reality that it’s a long journey. 

I loved reading this and recommend it for both those depressed and those trying to understand depression of their loved ones.

Inspection (2.5 stars): I loved the premise of this book but as several others already commented, I felt the execution was slow. Several of the reviews I read said it really picked up in the last 100 pages so I decided to stick with it and yes, the plot really starts moving, but in the end I found much of the book unfulfilling. I felt like so much more could have been done with this premise.

Only Ever Her (3 stars): This is an unusual novel in that on the surface it appears to be a mystery but usually mystery novels are very plot-driven and fast-paced whereas this story is slow burning and is very character-driven.

It’s about Annie, who days before her wedding goes missing. While she tells a few bits of her story in the very beginning, most of the book is told from the perspectives of 4 other people: her cousin, her aunt (who is the mother figure because Annie’s mom was murdered when she was a kid and she was raised by her aunt), her high school secret best friend, and another high school classmate (not friend) who is back in town working for the local paper. 

I usually love character-driven stories and when thrillers take this route I am even happier. And this was totally my kind of novel where the mystery of what happens to Annie (and what happened to her mother) were what united the story but it was really more about the small town, each of the people and their individual stories and their journey. The biggest reason this is not a 5-star read for me was that I didn’t end up connecting with any of the characters. I think this is because there wasn’t enough depth, vulnerability, connection built between them and the reader. Maybe that’s cause there was more telling than showing, or just not enough in general but even though I can’t quite put my finger on the why, I just didn’t feel connected to the characters as much as I like to in this type of story. I will say, though, that I didn’t find any of them dislikable. None of them are two-dimensional, comical, or unreliable. Which is already a huge win compared to so many of the mysteries that seem to be coming out lately. 

This was a solid read for me. I enjoyed the time I spent with it.

Thank you to netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the early review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Utopia for Realists (2 stars): I really wanted to like this book. I saw it had very high ratings and I was excited to read it. It started out well and I really liked the beginning section on homelessness and the solutions/experiments different countries have done around it. I do not disagree with any of the premises he mentions in this book around open borders (i am an immigrant after all), 15-hour work week (yes oh yes to this, i worked 3 days a week at once of my previous jobs and I was more productive than i’ve ever been since) and universal basic income sounds promising on the surface.

Now here’s where I completely was done with this book: these issues are complicated, nuanced and layered. Please please please do not write a book where your opinion, arguments and perspective is so slanted, so biased that it’s just obvious you haven’t looked at both sides of this argument and presented me good content to think about. I am not interested in a book that gives me information only about one side unless it’s in an area like inequality where one side is so dominant that we need more books on the other side alone. Otherwise, present both sides of the argument, be compelling, make your case, but give me more than just your bias. I really dislike when authors assume I am too dumb to realize when the content is so one-sided.

After I Do (3 stars): I will say that having read Reid’s latest books and then going back to read some of her earlier ones, I like her later ones much more. Not because these older ones aren’t good but really because I feel like there is now so much more depth in her stories and characters. 

This story of a couple who takes a year off to see if their marriage is redeemable or if it’s a lost cause is sweet and despite some serious ups and downs still has a “Hollywood” feeling for me. It didn’t feel as raw, honest, and deep. Which is completely okay as long as that lines up with your expectations going into the story.

I look forward to more of her future stories.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

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