At the start the year, I pledged on my Goodreads Reading Challenge 58 books, one more than last year and I am turning 58 later this year. I have to admit, I hated seeing the 0 books Read This Year on the first day of January. Then just few days in to the new year, the Goodreads site not only said I had read 0 books for the year so far but I was behind! WTF?! I was no even a full week into 2022 and I am behind already?! Ugh, well after quickly doing the math in my head 52 weeks in a year and here I shot away the first week and I hadn’t finished a book yet.
The first book that I started 2022 was based off a recommendation by my other half, Mark. He knows that I love books about dogs, fantasy and mystery – so he recommended Devoted by Dean Koontz. I knew of Koontz, seen his name many times and he was one of the author’s recommended in one of my Masterclass’s on writing – although I don’t recall which class specifically. If I had to guess it was the writing class with Robert Patterson, but it could have been Atwood’s or Gaiman’s class too or also.
Devoted by Dean Koontz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
So this was the first Dean Koontz book I have ever read or listened to. That said I am a big fan of books that incorporate dogs and are about dogs, as I am a big fan of dogs and have had and have many dogs in my life.
This book felt a little too cookie cutter for me. The characters all seemed a little too cliche in many ways and weren’t as well developed – with the exception of Kip, the dog. There are a supernatural aspect to the story with the dogs and the “wire” which I found to be more believable than some of the other things in the book, which I won’t mention since I don’t want to give anything away.
It’s a light sort of book, so if you are interested in something like that it’s entertaining enough, particularly if you are a fan of dogs; but not necessarily Dean Koontz’s other books, as I have seen from other reviews, his fans were disappointed in this book.
After being a bit disappointed with my start to the new year and already being a bit behind but not as much, I decided to listen to a quickie. A quickie being a book or story that is under 2 hours long. I went with Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk.
I’ve been getting into to story stories and novellas more recently – finding they balance some of the longer books out nicely. I took Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass a few years ago and I enjoy his books and stories very much. I find he is a great storyteller, which is quite a skill. I didn’t write a review on Goodreads when I finished it – not sure why, but I quickly gave it 3 stars out of 5 – the Goodreads rating for I liked it.
I next decided to dive into a novel which has been sitting on my TBR list for a number of years. One of the suggestions in the PopSugar 2022 Challenge and many other reading challenges is to read a book that has been sitting on your list for a long time. In my case, the book was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – it had been on my list since 2016.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have tears in my eyes as I have just finished listening this incredibly beautiful book. Names are powerful – and this book captures the power that comes with your name. What a terrific story – so many depths to this story and very well executed. Very touching writing, I cried a few times during this book – I will miss spending time with the Ganguli family. Jhumpa Lahrai wrote such wonderful characters in Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, telling their story as much as the story of Gogol their son. The reader is transported from Calcutta, India to Cambridge, MA and back again. I enjoyed, as I said earlier spending time with Ganguli family – Lahiri’s descriptions of their family life painted such a vivid picture that I felt like I was one of their guests at times. You could just smell Ashram’s cooking!
The narrator, Sarita Choudhury, has a beautiful voice – I would listen to her read a grocery list and it be soothing! I absolutely loved this book and am very sad that it over.
I always find it so hard to follow up a book that I loved and enjoyed so much. It can be a tough act to follow, so I decided to go back to short stories and started Selected Shorts; New American Stories, mainly picking this particular collection since I saw that Jhumpa Lahiri had a story in the collection.
Selected Shorts: New American Stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I decided to tackle this collection after having read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which I loved, I wanted to hear a little more from her and was thrilled that she had a story within this collection. This is a terrific collection of short stories by four amazing writers of today. Each with their own perspective of life in America. All the stories were so interesting – humorous mixed with some heavy topics as well – finely balanced making the stories stage out all the more.I am looking forward to reading more from all of these authors.
I love finding out about authors that I was previously unaware of through these collections of short stories – I highly recommend this to anyone who interested in a quick listen to solid collection of stories.
Chap 1. Good Living by Aleksandar Hemon
Chap 2. Hell Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri
Chap 3. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngoni Adiche
Chap 4.Breaking & Entering by Sherman Alexie
Three weeks into the new year and I had already listened to a some wonderful and not so wonderful books and stories. I decided to go back to novels that had been on my TBR list a long time and settled on one by Sue Monk Kidd.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This isn’t the first book of Sue Monk Kidd’s that I have read and it won’t be my last. She is so thorough in her research of a subject that she is able to capture its essence and deliver it on the paper in the form of well crafted characters and plots.
As Sue Monk Kidd explains in her author’s note that it was her desire to write a story revolving around two sisters and the universe lead her to learn about Sarah Grimke and her younger sister, Angelina and what a story she wrote! The first of the two narrators, Sarah Grimke, is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and judge. Sarah is not fictional and was one of the early abolitionists and women’s right activists.
The stories of Charlotte and Handful are a gut-wrenching reminder of a very ugly part of our history and are told by Handful, a young slave girl given to Sarah as a birthday gift on her 11th birthday. The story spans 35 years of their lives from childhood well into their adulthood. Kidd includes the good, the bad and the ugly, other its in the situation or in her characters – making the reader care deeply for them.
I highly recommend 4.5
As I said earlier, it is so hard to follow a fantastic story – so I pivoted in my listening pleasures and listening to another quickie.
Lying by Sam Harris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Although I find the subject very interesting – I found this book – although it’s really an essay to be dry. Sam Harris didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but much of what he says in the book is common sense. Unfortunately society has gotten to a point where there are so many lies that it’s hard to figure out the truth. I wish the book could have been more in depth in some ways.
A super quick read or listen on an interesting subject.
Time to pivot again. Cue Ross and his couch.
I was worried to go into another novel since I had been so fortunate to have already listened to two awesome books this month with The Namesake and The Invention of Wings. Now what? So I looked to my gallery of musician’s memoirs and decided to listen to Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller.
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed listening to Dave Grohl talk about how he got to where he is. Dave is a natural storyteller and he tells the stories behind how he found himself in bands such as Scream, Nirvana, Foo Fighters as if he were sitting in your living room smoking a joint, tossing back a few drinks and reminiscing. You could tell he would love to have included the music as well, when he discussed certain things – but due to the expense they would have to pay for the licensing, so that didn’t happen.
It’s something that would add so much to the musicians’ memoirs, so I found myself pausing and going over to Apple Music or YouTube to listen to the song or video Dave was referring. I have always been a fan of both Nirvana and Foo Fighters and so when I saw this book, I was curious enough to listen and I am glad I did.
I love learning more about the stories behind the musicians who I love to listen to. Learning about who influenced them directly from them. If you enjoy the music, you will enjoy listening to The Storyteller.
And since I started this next book in January and just finished it earlier today – I’ll include it in the January Reads & Listens. Again, in my attempts to chip away at my TBR list and I opted to pick one of the newer names on the list – This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had no idea what this book was about when I started and I am glad that I went in so blind, I may not have read it otherwise. Laurie Frankel tells a story about a family who is faced with navigating the deep and dangerous waters of having a son who struggles with gender-identity. A difficult and complex issue for any family to deal with and something any family could find themselves faced with, is something that I thing Frankel conveys in her portrait of the Rosie and Penn’s family.
What I didn’t find myself buying was the fairytale aspect of the story which somewhat mimics the fairytale that Penn tells his children . The story wrapped up a little too neatly and fairy tale-like, which seems contrary to the way I imagine the real story for families that are struggling with this issue.
What I feel Frankel does well is show you how a family holding one family members secret affects the entire family’s lives, siblings, parents and of course the individual whose secret the family is protecting.
In reviewing the month’s selection of books I am struck by a few themes that came up in a good many of the selections: The importance of a name and what comes along with a name. I saw this obviously in The Namesake, but also in Dave Grohl’s The Story Teller, and Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is. It’s even seen in The Invention of Wings. Storytelling seems to also be a common theme – Dave Grohl’s book of course, but the stories that are told and passed down with the quilts in The Invention of Wings and the fairy tale within This is How It Always Is. And of course, Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is a story being told by the narrator to his children. Lastly, there is the common thread of stories about family which most, including some of the short stories.
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For my January Literati Club book, I am reading We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. I am currently on page 131. I also read – sort of – Zentangle PRIMER Vol. 1 by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. I plan to write a review but will do so in a separate post.
As the new month begins, I am 9 books into the new year and 4 ahead of schedule. I like being ahead of schedule and considering I am over 60% in to Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing, I’m feeling really good about where I am in my reading goals. Now just to figure out what to read next.