January 2022 Reading Update

This year I’m going to be tracking my reading stats (author and topic information) in a spreadsheet, so I won’t be including that in my monthly round up posts. These monthly posts will be a way for me to summarize and react to what I’ve read, and then to look back and remember. This month I read:

  • These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant – This was a slow build up thriller with a heart I wasn’t expecting. Cooper and his daughter Finch live in a small cabin in the woods, off the grid. Over time, the reader learns why that is, though Finch doesn’t learn it all until later. Danger in the woods threatens their life and Cooper has to imagine a different life for them. This had family love, and thriller elements wraps up.
  • Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – This was one of Laura Tremaine’s favorite books of 2021, and I thought I would like it. While the beginning was a slow set up as we got to know Florence, I was sucked into the story once Florence got a job as the assistant to the anonymous Maud Dixon, a writer with an incredible bestseller that everyone couldn’t stop talking about. Parts of the thrills that followed felt predictable to me, while others were a total surprise. I enjoyed the lead up and the ending!
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – I enjoyed this historical fiction story more than I thought I would. While Caroline is visiting London to think about the future of her marriage she finds a glass vial in the Thames. Tapping into her past passion for historical research, she learns about an apothecary from 1791. Nella and Eliza narrate the 1791 chapters, telling us about their work and lives as Caroline discovers bits and pieces. This was a bittersweet story about strong and brave women.
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk [audiobook]- I found this book while looking for more middle grades books to listen to on audio. While I liked parts of this, I found other parts to be highly unrealistic and over the top with melancholy and drama. Crow was a newborn when she was found, in a tiny boat, run ashore on a small island. Osh raises her, with support from a neighbor, Miss Maggie. Crow sets out to learn where she is from, and finds some villains and sadness along the way. The communication amongst the characters was not great, therefore some of the description wasn’t either. This was underwhelming and bittersweet.
  • The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin – What a sweet, sad tale! Lenni is 17 living in the terminal unit of a hospital when she meets 83 year old Margot. Together, they use art and stories to tell the collective story of their 100 years of life. As we get to know their history, they get to know each other in such a sweet and uncomplicated way. This is a story about found family, friendship, and love. I cried at the end!
  • The Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien – Laura Tremaine interviewed O’Brien on her podcast many months ago and I bought the e-book version of this book then. This month I’ve tried to read into my TBR list and this was my first nonfiction finish! I loved that there was on short chapter on each first lady, up to Michelle Obama, as it was published in 2009. Some of the facts were bizarre, some interesting, and some outlandish. Both Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush were both married to a president and the mother of a president. Dolley Madison, after her husband’s presidency, was granted an honorary seat in Congress but a unanimous vote! Julia Gardiner Tyler was the first person to have the marine play play “Hail to the Chief” when her husband entered. This was a fun look into the lives of many powerful women who helped their husband’s success. I enjoyed it!
  • The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix – I bought this in August as an Indie Press List recommendation from the Currently Reading podcast. Years ago I read a good mystery about a “final girl”, one who survives a serial killer/ killing spree and has to live in fear. I was hoping this would be as good, but was sorely disappointed. The only reason I finished reading this was to find out how it ended. But I was annoyed throughout the entire book – writing style wasn’t for me, too many characters and random details to keep track of, uninteresting plot, dislikable and unreliable characters and narrator, and I couldn’t empathize with any of them. I feel like this male author wrote about a lot of whiny women in a disjointed way.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – It is only because I respect Laura Tremaine that I finished this book. She has us reading a Classic for the second book in a row for our Book Club (we read Little Women in November). I have never been a fan of Classics. After reading this, here are a few of the reasons: The language feels old, outdated, too lengthy, or too ridiculous for me; these are the only books I can’t read fast, my mind and my pace slow down so much as I slog through the language; while the themes may still be relevant, I’d rather read them in a more modern story; most were written by upper class white people and don’t tell the full story of the times. Here is what I can say about this book in particular. I found the first four chapters, which are short letters, unbearable to read and it took me FOREVER just to get past them and into the story. I knew nothing about this story, despite having seen the monster (which I once thought was named Frankenstein, thanks to bad pop culture references) portrayed throughout my lifetime. I found the first half of the book slow, even after the monster existed, scared Frankenstein, killed people, and threatened his creator. It was only when I got to the last third of the book was I finally invested enough to care how it ended. To me, that is not a great reading experience. Again, if I wasn’t reading it for a book club I want to participate in, I would not have finished this. I want my reading to be more enjoyable than this!
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich – I love Louise’s stories, as they always immerse me into the life of Indigenous People living regular life, with joy and love and heartache. In this story, Tookie, after a troubling start to adulthood, is happily married and working in a bookstore (Birchbark Books is real, is owned by Louise, and is where I purchased this book!), when she is haunted by the ghost of a now deceased customer. As the haunting escalates, Tookie and her friends and family live through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and then the murder of George Floyd right in their city. In Louise’s unique writing style, we see snippets of all of this through the eyes of our narrator and her own struggles. The characters are fun and flawed and real. The love for books and reading and traditions and heritage are also real. I loved this book (4.5 stars – highest rating so far this year!)!
  • The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey and Michaela Angela Davis [audiobook] – I have never been a huge fan of Mariah Carey, but I can appreciate her incredible talent as a singer, and I enjoyed getting to know more about her life listening to her narrate her memoir. She had a very rough childhood, an abusive first marriage, and truly seemed stunted due to all her trauma and inability to find independence. She came off less egotistical than some other celebrities I’ve listened to; she is confident in her singing and song writing abilities, but was also a sheltered girl who never really grew up into a woman. She had some concerning and immature views of men, explanable when you hear her stories, and painted herself in a favorable light and most others as flawed. I enjoyed the singing at the beginning of most chapters and some of her fun stories. When I finished I was mostly sad for her – she seems like she has never been able to trust anyone and I hope that she has found good friends to surround herself and her children with at this stage in her life.
  • All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle – What a beautiful (5 STAR) story! I loved getting to know Hubert across two timelines – in the present as a widower and in the past as he moves from Jamaica to England, makes friends, falls in love, and creates a family. In the present, Hubert is forced into an unlikely friendship and then becomes the spokesperson for a committee to end loneliness. I loved everything about this sweet book!

Favorite book of this month: All the Lonely People

[I added this feature to help my own memory when it comes to December 2022 and I want to pick my favorite reads of the year, and also for readers like Andree and JJ who want only my top tier recommendations!]

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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1 Response to January 2022 Reading Update

  1. Andree Grey says:

    Amy,
    Thank you for always sharing your reading lists with us! I love reading each description. I hear it in your voice as you do personal book talks for me!
    Thank you!
    Warmly,
    Andrée

    Andrée Grey, Ed.D.
    Superintendent
    [signature_2082414358]

    From: Reflections on Leadership and Learning
    Reply-To: Reflections on Leadership and Learning
    Date: Monday, January 31, 2022 at 5:06 PM
    To: Andree Grey
    Subject: [New post] January 2022 Reading Update

    ⚠ EXTERNAL: This e-mail originated from outside of Encinitas Union School District. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the source address and know that the content is safe. Please forward this e-mail to phishing@eusd.net if you believe this e-mail is suspicious.

    Amy’s Reflections posted: ” This year I’m going to be tracking my reading stats (author and topic information) in a spreadsheet, so I won’t be including that in my monthly round up posts. These monthly posts will be a way for me to summarize and react to what I’ve read, and then t”

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