January 2023 Reading Update

The start of a new month, especially the first of a new year, always excites me. I’m so pleased that the very first book I finished this year was a 5 star read for me. I’m also glad that I’ve already read books with authors from Canada, El Salvador, Nigeria, Denmark and Uganda, as well as the Navajo Nation, since reading outside of my regular few countries was a goal this year! This month I read:

  • The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton – I loved this book – what a great way to start a new year of reading! This story was told in very distinct parts, all ruled by impending storms. In the first part, a huge hurricane called Wanda tears apart a young family. While Kirby searches for his boys, his new wife gives birth to their daughter alone at home during the storm, naming her Wanda. In the next part, we are with Wanda and Kirby and their post-storm life. With each new era, life as we know it disappears a little more and people have to change or adapt. This climate-change, sci-fi storytelling always makes me question humanity and wonder what I would do. I’m not a natural survavlist, so I’m in trouble!
  • Reading Above the Fray: Reliable, Research-Based Routines for Developing Decoding Skills by Julia B. Lindsey – I read this based on a recommendation from a Kindergarten teacher, as part of my diving deeper into the science of reading. What I appreciated about this book is that the author did not attack any other forms of reading instruction/ programs, but rather she shared the current research in easy to understand ways. She outlined the elements of decoding, one chapter at a time, with specific information, examples, and routines that could be immediately implemented in a classroom to help students learn to read more effectively.
  • Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help you Make-and Keep-Friends by Marisa G. Franco – This was a book club book I was supposed to read back in the fall. I started it, but once I couldn’t make the meeting it got bumped in favor of faster-paced fiction. However, every time I jumped back into reading this I enjyoed it. This was a fascinating look at the value and importance of platonic friendhips- why we need them, how to foster them, how to show affect and care for friends, and why we should prioritize good meaningful connections in our lives. This made me think about past and current friendhips I’ve had and what I love about my friends.
  • Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny [Gamache #14] – I love the village of Three Pines and all of the characters Louise Penny has created! I love Gamache and Jean Guy and their relationship. I appreciate that we never know all of the details of the mystery, and that there will always be lies, secrets, and hidden details to discover along the way. I’m so glad that Gamache’s necessary mistakes from the last book were corrected in this book, though I don’t know what will happen now that he and Jean Guy won’t be working for the police anymore.
  • Lightseekers by Femi Kayode – Wow! I loved this book! Kaytee from Currently Reading recommended this and I’m so happy I checked it out of the library. Phillip Taiwo is a Nigerian man who trained as a criminal psychologist in America before returning to Nigeria. He is hired to investigate the murder of three boys by an angry mob in a small town. As he gets to know the history of these university students and the town, he reveals Nigerian culture to us, which was fascinating to me. The more fiction I read from African countries, the more I want to learn about the real history of each unique country. This was hard content, but a fascinating story that I absolutely loved.
  • The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen [Department Q #1] -I love finding a new mystery series! This was part of a new-to-me genre, Nordic Noir, that was recommended by Currently Reading and I enjoyed reading the translation from the Danish original. Carl is a curmudgeon of a dectective, struggling after a bust gone wrong where his partners were killed and/or hurt badly while he survived. When he is made head of a new department, Q, and asked to investigate unsolved cold cases, he thinks he can sit in the basement and avoid work. We soon get sucked into one of the cold cases, as we get to know him, the victim from the case, and his new assistant Assad. I loved the way all the stories wrapped up by the end and I will read more in this series!
  • Orange is for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide – I loved this middle grades historical fiction! The story takes place in 1972 Uganda, after Idi Amin has taken over the country and decided to evict all Indians living there. We follow alternating chapters narrated by Asha and Yesofu, two best friends living different lives. Asha is from a wealthy Indian family and Yesofu is from a poor Uganda family whose mother works for Asha’s family. Asha doesn’t know her privildege or the differences in their lifestyle until the 90 day countdown begins for all Indians to leave the country. This is a beautiful story of friendship and reslience and a hard story about bias and racism.
  • Solito by Javier Zamora – This was a beautiful, bittersweet memoir about a nine year old boy’s harrowing journey from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, to reach his parents in the United States. Javier was living with his aunt and grandparents in El Salvador ever since his father and then his mother immigrated to the US. The plan was for him to follow them. They saved up money, bought the support of a coyote to help him, and his grandfather brought him to the first stop on the long journey. Throughout the rest of the story, this young boy is on his own, with strangers who become friends and enemies and family. We experience each step of the dangerous hikes in the desert, boat trips, lack of water, limited sleep, yelling coyotes, and ICE treatment that follows. I know immigration is a complex problem in the US, but this story demonstrates the unimaginable steps a family will take to reunite, and to create a better life for themselves and their child. Javier is now a talented poet and this memoir shows his writing talent as well as his resilience.
  • Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett – This book felt like a warm hug, or a day spent with the people you love! Emma returns home after being away at college for years, knowing that her father is dying and she has secrets to share. Little does she know that everyone in her family has secrets, her childhood best friend is missing, and her family needs her more than ever. As Emma grapples with everything, we get to know her parents and her brother, and the unique characters that make up their odd town, both living and dead, animal and human.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – I read this book for a book club. I had never read anything by Toni Morrison, and though I know she is a well loved author, I know that I am not a fan of classics. The writing style usually bothers me too much to appreciate anything, and that was true with this. The is a long, convoluted story about a former enslaved woman, Sethe, and the trauma she endured. The story jumps timelines and narrators without warning, and there are no clear chapters or breaks to help a reader out. The characters, from Denver to Baby Suggs to Paul D, are all interesting and burdened in their own way. I wasn’t going to finish this, as I was at about the 70% mark when I attended my book club meeting. However, the discussion moved me enough to finish it, so I could complete it and see the Denver character’s redemption. As always, I’m glad I read a classic, but didn’t enjoy the process.
  • Shutter by Ramona Emerson – I really enjoyed this mystery! We follow Rita as the timeline jumps from her childhood to teen years to college to adult, though not in order. Rita spends a lot of her childhood living with her grandmother on the Navajo Reservation, exploring her love of photography. As an adult, we meet Rita as a photographer for crime scenes for the police, and able to see and hear ghosts. As she struggles with the ghosts whose murdered are unresolved, she tries to help the police find the culprits and gets herself into quite a mess. This was so propulsive at the end I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!
  • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – I loved Station Eleven by this author, so I figured I would enjoy this as well, even though I didn’t know what it was about. This is a wild around through time (way past to way into the future), with time travel and glitches and a little suspension of disbelief, to create an adventurous ride. We meet different characters at different timelines, and only later in the book do you know why we travel with the narrators across these times and places. I love how the story wrapped up. This was a fun read, with beautiful story telling!

Favorite book(s) of the month

Fiction: The Light Pirate and Lightseekers

Nonfiction: Solito

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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