Well, we made it through January! I’ve decided each month I’ll do a wrap-up post of all my reads for the month with some quickie reviews. On with my January reads!
MY JANUARY READS
A Special Place for Women, Laura Hankin – A satirical romp through a women-only coworking space/social club with some supernatural secrets. It’s a touch too similar to The Herd, but as someone who loves to watch white feminist cults burn, this will scratch an itch from all the fallout of The Wing. 3.5/5 stars.
When No One is Watching, Alyssa Cole – A twisty, edge-of-your-seat thriller based on the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighbourhood. A book that actually earns its comparison to Get Out, although Cole’s primary career as a romance author means this does derail at time for a predictable blossoming relationship. 4/5 stars.
The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale – A book that needs very little introduction. Vitale presents all of the current problems of policing, presenting solutions for every “but what about…” question that arises out of police abolition discussions. As it was published in 2017, it could probably be updated, but it was a great primer to the issue. 5/5 stars.
Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan – A poetic exploration of shame and repression in 1980s Ireland, but it’s comically short (~100 pages) that keeps it from feeling like a real book. 3/5 stars.
The Lost Man, Jane Harper – I love Jane Harper’s books, but this is a lower-tier work for me. The sense of place is incredible (it’s set in rural Queensland), but the central plot focuses around a rape accusation. Crime fiction is obsessed with false rape accusations and it’s starting to drive me a bit nuts. 3.5/5 stars.
People Love Dead Jews, Dara Horn – I already did a longer review of this excellent essay collection, but I won’t pass up an opportunity to again encourage you to read this vital look at Antisemitism and the commodification of Jewish trauma. 5/5 stars.
The Memory Monster, Yishai Sarid – An excellent accompaniment to the above – a short novel about an Israeli academic who finds himself working as a tour guide in Poland, taking groups to concentration camps. Reminded me a lot of Bernard Schlink’s The Reader. 4/5 stars.
The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina, Zoraida Cordova – If you like books with thicc family trees, this is one for you–exploring the legacy of an Ecuadorian-American family with a touch of magic. Perhaps a more grown-up take on Disney’s Encanto, but it suffers from some weird plotting in the second half and the eternal issue of YA authors not really knowing how to write for adults. 3.5/5 stars.
Ridley Road, Jo Bloom – A historical romance with a unique twist–focusing on the rise of far-right movements in the UK in the Swinging Sixties, and the young Jewish people who fought back. The BBC adaptation is also great! 4/5 stars.
The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz – A slow start, but this eventually turns into a gripping literary thriller–about a washed-up writer who recognises an opportunity when a student with a brilliant work-in-progress passes away unexpectedly. What starts out as a grey-area moral quandary becomes a gripping, stay-up-to-read-more novel. 4/5 stars.
Bird Box, Josh Malerman – I made the mistake of watching this crappy movie early on in COVID, and as an eternal “the book was better” disciple, I decided to try it out… and well. It’s a passable post-apocalyptic survival tale, desperately trying to shove itself into a Stephen-King-shaped hole, but there are vital details the movie ignored (the main character is a college student, rather than pushing-60 Sandra Bullock). The plot points about the slow-burn of the apocalyptic threat and “it’s all in our heads” theories feel uncomfortably prescient. 3/5 stars.
Inconvenient Daughter, Lauren J. Sharkey – A striking, brief story of a Korean adoptee growing up in Long Island, struggling with her Asian-American identity and relationship with her mother. This #OwnVoices (the author is an adoptee herself) story is searing and unforgettable, if sometimes relying on familiar plots. 4/5 stars.
Boy Erased, Garrard Conley – It’s a bit hard to give someone’s real life a star rating, but I’ve been meaning to pick up this memoir exploring the author’s experience in conversion therapy in the early 2000s. It’s everything you’d expect–emotional, uncomfortable, and essential. It explores a lot of the anti-gay attitudes that dominated the US in this era (Conley’s time in conversion therapy occurred when two of the strongest cinematic examples of the culture war were in theaters: The Passion of the Christ and Brokeback Mountain) but there was something cagey about his writing, as though he was hiding something from us. 3.5/5 stars.
Total pages read: 4,074
Fiction/Nonfiction breakdown: 79%/21%
Books by authors of colour: 28%
Percentage read as audiobooks: 78%
What was your favourite of my January reads? What was the best book you read this month?
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