New Year, New Reading Challenge

Last year I made my first reading goal with a resolution to read a book a month. Twelve for the year. I ended with 71 I think? Reading has definitely transformed for me and it has undoubtedly become a passion. I have a bookstagram and a Goodreads account, and keep track along the way on both of those. However, I do love to share a monthly recap here as well so welcome to the first reading recap of 2021!

Month Count: 7 texts, 1 audiobook, 8 total
Year to Date: 7 texts, 1 audiobook, 8 total

Goodreads profile HERE!

Bookstagram profile HERE!

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem was gifted to me by my husband for Christmas. We had tried to watch the movie, and I just couldn’t stay up through it. I am disappointed I haven’t been able to finish the movie, but I’m not disappointed that he got me the book!

Synopsis: Lionel Essrog is Brooklyn’s very own self-appointed Human Freakshow, an orphan whose Tourette’s Disease drives him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in startling and original ways. Together with three veterans of the St Vincent’s Home for Boys, he works for mobster Frank Minna. But when Frank is fatally stabbed and his widow skips town, Lionel attempts to untangle the threads of the case.

It was a little bit of a slower read for me, mostly to make sure I catch all of the amazing details that Lethem puts in. Also keeping up with Lionel’s tics and Tourette’s in print was wild!!! I really enjoyed how he captured them and the rough but vulnerable edges of the lead character. It was really hard to not envision Edward Norton playing him, even though I had only seen about a third of the movie. I’ll have to go back and see how it compared to the movie after all; however, the book is worth a read.

The Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch was an Amazon Kindle sale purchase early in the pandemic almost a YEAR AGO and they have just been sitting on my Kindle waiting for the right motivation to be read. Book one is Pines. It blew my mind. I have NEVER read a book as fast as I finished that. I had to devour it!

Synopsis: Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

Like, picture some sort of confusing future world that feels parallel and also kind of Stepford Wives-esque and throw in a tad of the Purge with some weird sci-fi creatures and a “definitely not the good guy” scientist that you can’t quite figure out yet…

Book two is Wayward, where Ethan’s story takes you further into the city, and deeper into the scientist, Pilcher. Ethan knows more than most, but is still really getting his feet under him in Wayward Pines. He just can’t remain complacent to Pilcher’s deceit and corruption, but he also has his son and wife to protect, along with the 460-ish other citizens in Wayward Pines. When he finally decides to let everything out, and bring the rest of the town in on Pilcher’s secrets, the backlash is swift and intense and you’re left with the cliffhanger that you just can’t let it end there…

Thank goodness for book three, The Last Town because there was no way you can end a book on “what have I done?” The Last Town kind of reminded me of the Walking Dead, but instead of zombies, they’re these weird evolved beasts that the residents call abbies. Ethan is Rick from TWD and there’s action from the first page until the end. I don’t feel completely resolved, but respect how Crouch wrapped up most of it. I definitely want to see the TV series iteration of this trilogy and watch it come to life. All in all, for my first trilogy, this was a slam dunk, I really loved it and I love Crouch’s writing. Solid fan! One last thing… THAT ENDING THOUGH!??!?!?

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is hailed as the modern day Grapes of Wrath following a mother and son on their immigration journey out of cartel-violence ridden Mexico to the “safe harbors” of the United States. It’s worth noting that my first introduction to this novel was the controversy it garnered being written by a white American depicting a controversial migration story, especially during the former administration and many racial disparities coming to the front. After many many friends contiued to recommend it, even with my voiced hesitancy, I dove in and do not regret it.

It is worth noting, that Latinx authors have a point when they say Cummins’ story is regarded differently than the “undervalued” immigrant stories of actual immigrants. I appreciate Oprah Winfrey’s decision to avoid cancel culture and lean into the conversation to get more information on what was going on. Most of that controversy remains unresolved.

American Dirt is an important read, in my white-woman opinion. Cummins doesn’t hold back and the trauma is hard and present. There isn’t a sugar coating of the hardships brought on by Lydia and Luca’s journey from Acapulco to el norte, nor the hardships and trauma exacted on the other characters that join them. The way Cummins pens the traumas is delicate, but there are definite triggers of assault, abuse, rape, torture, and murder. I’m glad I read this, I bawled my eyes out toward the end (Beto!!!!) and will recommend it to others with the caveat that we should continue supporting people of color and diversity in this sect and fight for equal pay and benefits for the stories and authors that are underrepresented.

Life of a Yogi by Sri Dharma Mittra was my Yoga Teacher Training manual in 2017. I had used it mostly for reference, but had never read it cover to cover until now. In an effort to become more connected and present in my practice, I’m dedicating some of my reading goal to diving in deeper to yoga. What better way to start than with my Guru’s Guru’s manual!

Some of it was great review. I actually marked three sections specifically to come back to regularly. However, some of it was new and some was almost disturbing. What? A yoga book disturbing? Well, yes when Sri Dharma goes into details about Khecari Mudra, or cleansing your body through different rituals, it’s challenging to think of dedicated yogis I know who have or do practice this level of discipline. It was affirming that there are different levels of commitment, and I’m right to explore. It was also interesting to witness my mind’s conflict and dialogue on non-judgement and trying to be open to the most severe forms of practice, even if that isn’t something I aspire to.

Even though my personal connection to Sri Dharma is indirect, I often found myself taken back to my Yoga Teacher Training with Yogini Kali Om as my Guru and her wise, calm words and bright energy, steadfast dedication. Or even reading in her voice.

Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes was my Audible choice this month. A podcast I listen to recommended this as a good audiobook so I bit. I have a hard time selecting audiobooks sometimes, so when people I align with or respect make recommendations, I usually jump on them. It was alright… It wasn’t riveting, but it was entertaining. I think it would have piqued me differently if I would have been a die-hard Tom Petty fan. I like his music, but he’s not my musical muse. It was good background for my dog walks, and I enjoyed Warren Zanes’ narration, which is a huge “make or break” for me!

The Things We Do for Love: A Novel by [Kristin Hannah]

The Things We Do for Love by Kristin Hannah was a Kindle sale buy last year. She quickly became a favorite author after reading The Nightingale and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. HOWEVER. Ooof, this one was rough. Definitely not my cup of tea. It really didn’t hold up to the other books I’ve read of hers and it was sadly predictable in the first 3-4 chapters.

I tried to write a synopsis, but my heart just isn’t in it, so here’s what Amazon has to say: Years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child have broken more than Angie DeSaria’s heart. Following a painful divorce, she moves back to her small Pacific Northwest hometown and takes over management of her family’s restaurant. In West End, where life rises and falls like the tides, Angie’s fortunes will drastically change yet again when she meets and befriends a troubled young woman.

I mean, yea it’s pretty rough. I can’t go into detail without spoiling it, but feel free to message me and we can discuss… Did you like it? Convince me of your side… I’m curious on the appeal. The good news is it was a quick read so I don’t feel like I’m out that much. And it’s been on my TBR list for a while so I checked it off the box and moved it to the “READ” shelf.

What was your favorite January read? What are you looking forward to in February! Hit me up here, or let’s connect on my Bookstagram: @Beers_andBooks

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