I decided to re-activate my old Goodreads account in the beginning of January and start a 2020 Reading challenge in order to keep myself inspired and motivated to become a regular reader again. If I’m one thing, it’s super fucking competitive with myself, so this has been going swimmingly and I’m already a third of the way into my 30 book goal. It’s amazing how much time we actually do have when we put down the phones, turn off the Roku, etc etc.
As of January 31st, I managed to absorb 10 books. Granted, one was only like 90 pages, (the first one on the list, I needed to ease myself into this!), but even nine books is pretty good for my first month back into the game, I think. One of my co-workers has also challenged herself so I got her to sign up on Goodreads and now we’re book-friends, so that has also been extremely helpful.
Also, I was excited to use the Haechan (from NCT127!) bookmark that my friend Veronica sent me, and true to Erin fashion, I lost it somewhere books 6 and 7, ugh.
So, let’s just jump right in. I’m no good with book synopses so I’ll get hyperlink each book title with its Goodreads page, ya hear?
- The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami
I felt that this book would be a good start for my challenge because it’s an author I’ve been interested in reading but it’s also SUPER SHORT (like 90 pages I think? If even?) so it would give me a taste of what his writing style is like plus help me power through this years-long reading slump I’ve been in.
I…don’t really have much to say about it. I finished it the same night I got it out of the library (with my new card, look at me growing up!) and I liked the interesting design of the book itself, and the illustrations were fantastic. It was just plain old good. A good, short story.
2. Mrs. Everything – Jennifer Weiner
This book was at its core a story about the relationship between two very different sisters growing up in the 1950s to present day. Both sisters were really well-written and anytime something bad happened to one of them, it felt like a personal affront. I really enjoyed the section of the book where it was the 1970s, and I will tell you now that I ugly-cried at the end. I get attached, OK?
I like Jennifer Weiner’s writing style. It flows, it’s easy to get hooked, it doesn’t drag. It was a good choice for where I am currently, in my head.
3. The Vegetarian – Han Kang
Ok this book is what made me decide to start using my eyeballs for intellectual things instead of YouTube videos of annoying couples traveling, rollercoaster reviews, or Koreans eating ramen. It’s #3 on the list though because I had to REQUEST IT on the LIBRARY’S WEBSITE! It was my first book request! Super exciting! Chooch wasn’t as enthused though when he was forced to accompany me to the library (“Go help her,” Henry said to him after work that day) to show me how to pick up my books haha.
Anyway, this was WEIRD. It’s broken up into three sections, each one from a different person’s perspective re: the title character’s journey into becoming a vegetarian and the effect it has not only on her but those around her because vegetarianism, while its becoming more accepted, is NOT a very popular lifestyle in Korea. Hello, Koreans fucking love their meat and meals can be very sacred and meaningful experiences for Korean families, so having a family member suddenly declare they no longer eat meat is a huge bombshell.
This book is actually considered horror I think, and it definitely felt like I was watching a Korean horror movie, which can be sooooo subtle in their creepiness yet leaving you feeling filthy afterward. That was how this was. I’m not sure I completely understood it, but it will certainly stick with me.
4. Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro
This was a super fast & enjoyable read. It was recommended by this American ex-pat in Korea who I subscribe to on YouTube, and actually, it was her channel that inspired me to get back into the habit of reading after watching her “favorite Korean authors” video.
I’m not sure these stories are the kinda that will really stick with me, but the writing was very pleasant and I didn’t find myself losing interest at all, which is something that happens often because I’m basically a four-year-old in the body of a 40-year-old and am always ready to start moving again. Sitting still, ew!
5. Simon vs. The Home Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
I have no shame in loving YA books. Sometimes I need something light and high school-y you know? I didn’t see the movie that was based on this book, nor did I know anything about it, so I pretty much went into this blind.
For the millionth time in my life, I felt so fucking thankful that social media, cellphones, the Internet’s prevalence, were not things I had to worry about when I was in school. Kids already found a myriad of creative ways to be fucking assholes to each other without the aid of technology. And that’s a big part of what this book is about: it’s a teenager’s coming out story. I loved the characters and apparently it’s book #1 of a series, so I will probably keep reading because I am always down for a good series.
6. Snap – Belinda Bauer
OK, I started out unsure of this one, like maybe I was going to give up early on, but then it reached a point in the story where everything clicked for me and suddenly I couldn’t put it down. It is a GREAT mystery/thriller and I fell in love with the cops and the teenaged protagonist, Jack. I think I’m going to go ahead and say that this my second favorite book I read this month. I kept trying to secretly read it on my lap at work in between doing actual work-things because I was obsessed.
7. Frankly In Love – David Yoon
Obviously I chose this book because not only is it written by a Korean American, but the entire story is based on the main characters parents and their unwavering policy of “must only date other Koreans.” It was interesting to me because there is a lot of Korean culture touched upon in this book, all of which I already knew so I just smiled all smug-like while reading the explanations, like how one of the dads calls the other dad his “hoobae” because when they were classmates, the friend was a grade below him.
There were parts that were straight too written in Korean too so I got to try out my translating skills and they were…a’ight. Lol. But a big theme of the book is how the Korean American kids in this group really don’t know much about their heritage, they can’t speak the language, they’re basically just…American. It made me think a lot about that, because we all came from somewhere, but for instance, my family didn’t continue speaking, I don’t know, Slovakian (is that even a language??) even though that’s what my great-grandmother spoke when she emigrated here.
But also, this is a love story and pretty predictable, but I thought it was overall a very cute and enjoyable read. I think this is also going to be a series so sign me up, I need more of Joy.
8. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
GURL. THIS BOOK.
FAVORITE SO FAR.
It started out “eh…” for me, I didn’t know much about it going in and it just kind of…starts. And I didn’t like Eleanor AT ALL in the beginning because I kept picturing this dumb bitch that I used to be friends with (no, not my ex-BFF, this was just some acquaintance that I couldn’t shake for years until she finally tweeted a bunch of racist shit during the last Winter Olympics and I was like, “YEAH, YA BLOCKED, BITCH”). But, then Eleanor turned into this fucking endearing flesh-gem for me and her co-worker/friend Raymond was a breath of fresh air. I loved how literal Eleanor is, the dialogue was fantastic, and the storyline was just *ITALIAN FINGER-KISSING EMOJI*. I immediately texted Janna when I finished it and told her to read it. This was the only book from January that I flat-out highly recommend to one and all. Go read this. It’s great. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. I want more Eleanor. Give us more Eleanor, Gail Honeyman.
9. Permanent Record – Mary H.K. Choi
I read another Mary H.K. Choi book last fall and I liked it–I mean, it was a good book to read during a road trip. I can’t remember which road trip I brought it on, but I pretty much finished it in two car-sittings. This one was also a super fast read, but it wasn’t really…I don’t know, meaningful? Basically, this college drop-out works night shifts at a health food/bodega in NYC and has a chance encounter with this really cool, pretty girl and they get all flirty over snacks and then he realizes that she’s some ultra-famous Disney actress/singer and then some crazy secret, whirlwind romance happens and it’s just kind of this meandering book that is entertaining but…it doesn’t really have substance and it’s just kind of all over the place and then eventually you get to a point where you realize the main character is kind of an asshole, but don’t worry, he realizes it too…?
Little bit of Korean stuff in here because the main character is half-Korean and there is a quick visit to Seoul at one point but it wasn’t enough for me. This is written with majorly casual slang-speak and it kind of gets grating but then, it’s centered around a bunch of 20-year-olds in NYC, so I guess it’s pretty accurate. But it made me feel old because there were times when I like, “The fuck does THAT mean.” But I have too much pride to invite my 13-year-old son to slang-splain, thank you very much.
10. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
I didn’t like this book that much. It’s kind of a bummer because this is the one that I ended the month with and it was a tough one to get through. I picked it up because I had seen some good reviews for it on Goodreads, and I thougt it sounded like something I would like, but it was dry. D-R-Y. I kept forcing myself to pick it up because I wanted to finish it but this is NOT the kind of book that you can fly through. I’m a pretty fast reader, but I had to make myself slow it down because there are so many details, confusing timelines, a bunch of characters with similar names making it hard to keep track of them….I struggled. I only just finished it today and kind of just feel numb and ambivalent about it.
It’s like a hybrid of Clue and Groundhog Day, which is how I saw it billed in a review and that seemed very appealing to me. But it’s just…kind of boring until very near the end, and even though there is a twist that I couldn’t have predicted, I didn’t feel satisfied.
Of course, I’m now up to my neck in the Literary YouTubers scene, so I watched several reviews of this book after I finished it and was relieved that A LOT of avid readers out there had the same opinion as me, so I’m not broken, dumb, and/or illiterate after all.
The library had some books ready for me to pick up today, so I’m starting February with “The Saturday Night Ghost Club” by Craig Davidson and “A Head Full of Ghosts” by Paul Tremblay, because I’m ready to get back to my horror roots, you guys. This was my genre of choice when I used to read regularly and I’m ready to crack my knuckles and some…book spines, I guess. See you at the end of February with another book round-up! Feel free to let me what books you read for January that you really loved, hated, or just thought were whatever.
Don’t get any papercuts, ya booksluts! (That’s my official book blog post sign-off. DON’T STEAL IT.)