January 2018 Reading Recap

Ever since starting my Instagram account dedicated solely to books (aka bookstagram), I’ve been getting a LOT more reading done. And since I could talk about books all day every day, I figured posting a monthly reading recap would be a good way to give this ol’ blog a little much-needed revival. So let’s get to it!

Beartown by Fredrik Backman –I’m not sure where to even begin with how to talk about my love for this book. Everyone said it was amazing, yet it still took me by surprise. The depth of feeling it evoked, the love I developed for every single one of the characters — I simultaneously didn’t want it to end but couldn’t wait to see what happened. In the beginning I was a little frustrated with how slow the story was to develop, but I quickly recognized — and came to appreciate — how necessary and intentional that was. The time Backman spent developing each character, as well as Beartown itself, made you know them intimately and care for them deeply. This was quite a first book for 2018. I’m not sure how anything else I read this year can live up to it — it has earned a firm place in my top 10 books of all time. All I can say is READ IT.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — I read this immediately after Beartown so it had a lot to live up to. To my surprise, it exceeded my expectations; I LOVED this book. Eleanor is a troubled girl with a more than quirky personality that made me laugh and cry. It didn’t take long to fall in love with Eleanor and it was impossible not to root for her. Watching her discover herself, and develop a truly special relationship with Raymond, made this one of the most charming, heartfelt, and delightful books I’ve read in a while. We could all stand to be a little more like Eleanor.

Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Feel Just Fine  by Michele Lent Hirsch — As a young woman living with a chronic illness, I jumped at the chance to read this. Living with cystic fibrosis has had an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, both in the tangible sense and in the way I view my life and plan for the future. It can be incredibly isolating to live a life that feels so different from your peers, and I’m always searching for any kind of media in which I might be able to get a glimpse of myself. (Thank you to Beacon Press for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn –A loose translation of Jane Austen’s PersuasionBy the Book is a light, fun, entertaining read from author Julia Sonneborn. If you like a charming romance and are a book nerd, this might just be the perfect palate cleanser for you. (Thank you to Gallery Books for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (audiobook) — This was my first audiobook and it was perfect. As someone who has trouble staying focused, listening to fiction has proven difficult. But the subject matter combined with Rubin’s calming voice kept me engaged and interested. Plus, I found this book to be incredibly helpful — I’m for sure an Obliger who falls prey to rebel tendencies when I reach burnout. I feel like now I’m better equipped to establish systems to help keep me accountable and from reaching burnt out so quickly. I highly recommend The Four Tendencies for anyone, especially those interested in learning more about personalities.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas — I had a copy of this book for a couple months before I finally picked it up, I only wish I’d read it sooner. Red Clocks tells of a harrowing future, one that feels eerily close and all too possible. With short, powerful chapters, Zumas tells the story of five women and the impact of the Personhood Amendment, a law that governs women’s bodies to an extreme (a very real extreme). I flew through this book, both eager and terrified to find out what happened to the biographer, the wife, the mender, and the daughter. As a woman who has pondered the ways in which our government could dictate what I do with my body, I read this book with a lump in my throat, unable to stop turning the pages.  (Thank you to Little Brown for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny — The second book in the Inspector Gamache series was equally enjoyable as the first. I like how we’re starting to get to know the key players better, especially Armand. Losing myself in Three Pines will always be a treat, but I’m eager to keep reading since most fans say the books tend to get better with each one. (If you’re an LP fan, let me know if you agree!) Even though I’m only two books in I’m glad I started the series and am excited that there are still many more ahead of me.

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid — As someone with a chronic illness, health care is a necessity. My life depends on medications that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year, not to mention doctors appointments, hospital stays, lab tests, bloodwork, etc. The issue of access to affordable health care has been on my mind for years, particularly during the past 12 months as the current administration tried to repeal the Affordable Car Act. (Full review on The Bookly Club.)

All in all it was a great month of reading. In the meantime, you can follow what I’m currently reading on Goodreads or at @kathareads. Come let me know what books you’re reading and loving!

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

I’ll admit upfront that I’m a little disappointed to only be giving this book three stars. BUT, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, just that it didn’t live up to my expectations. (Read the synopsis.)

I read In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware last summer, and liked it, and I’ve heard The Woman in Cabin 10 is even better, but it’s been sitting on my shelf making me feel guilty for months. I plan on reading that next month, so it’ll be interesting to compare all three. Stay tuned!

But, back to The Lying Game. I started this on a Tuesday night and stayed up way too late, blowing through 125 pages, and finished it the next night, when I stayed up late again. Needless to say, it had me hooked from the beginning.

And it stayed that way through the entire first half, making me feel like I was at the Mill with Isa, Fatima, Thea, and Kate, reliving their boarding school days and the drama from that was resurfacing in their present lives.

But somewhere around page 250, it started getting a little tired, and I had to push myself to keep going. And while the ending was satisfying, it wasn’t jaw dropping or heart pounding or any of the adjectives I’d give a four-star thriller. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even label it a thriller. It fits better in the mystery category, or even general fiction, due to its lack of suspense. The setting and mood of the book are ripe for a terrifying roller coaster of a read, but that isn’t what you get. Instead it’s a well-written and intense story of friendship and the secrets we keep.

And maybe that’s where this book gets a little off track. Comparing this to her other books, as well as the thriller genre in general, makes it feel a little lacking.

Atmospheric and slow burning, The Lying Game is a fast-paced and quick read with well-developed and relatable characters. Fans of mysteries, stories of friendship, and family dramas will find this book enjoyable, just don’t go into it think it’s a thrilling ride.

The Lying Game comes out on July 25, so be sure to stop by your local bookstore and pre-order a copy, or pick one up when it comes out. Big thanks to Gallery Books for sending me an advanced copy!

As always, you can check out more of the books I’m reading, loving, and hoarding over at @kathareads.

June Reads

If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, I’m attempting to make reading more of a priority. I used to DEVOUR books, starting one as soon as it entered my house. But over the years, probably thanks to #adulting, reading has taken a backseat. Don’t get me wrong, my love of books is still going strong, as evidenced by the hundreds — yes, hundreds — of books I’ve continued to accumulate with the intention of reading them.

In order to create the space to read more, I’ve drastically cut down the amount of television I watch. I canceled almost ALL of my DVR recordings, and instead of watching a show while doing my daily treatments, I read.

I’m also trying to read more of the (many, many, many) articles I save to Pocket. Are you sensing a theme here? #overlyambitious #contenthoarder

So, here’s what I’ve read in the month of June! Follow along with more of the books I’m reading, buying, and hoarding at @kathareads on Instagram.

Books

Hunger by Roxane Gay. HarperCollins was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of this gem and I’m so glad they did. This book will stick with me for a long time. (I reviewed this book in a standalone post a couple weeks ago.)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This was the May/June pick for The Bookly Club and surprised myself — I LOVED it. You can read my full review over there.

The Assistants by Camille Perri. I picked this up on a whim, needing a reprieve from the heavier subjects (see above). This was PERFECT. I read it in two days. Yes, TWO days. The full review is on Goodreads.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan. June was full of good books, and this one was no exception. This will definitely end up being one of my favorite reads of the year. My full review is on Goodreads.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This critically acclaimed book sat on my shelf for FAR too long. After finding some extra time at the end of the month, I finally picked it up and I’m so glad I did. Again, full review on Goodreads.

Articles

9 Things Readers Do Better Than Anyone Else

Why Venmo is My Favorite Sympathy Card

YES PLEASE: S’mores Slab Pie

The Best Ways to Support Independent Publishers

I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People

How to Be a Contemporary Writer

Read It Forward’s Favorites of June 2017

Women’s Friendships, in Sickness and in Health

Tell me: What did you read and love in June? Come chat with me in the comments!

Spine of Roxane Gay's Hunger

The Story of a Body

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay‘s for a while — it started with Bad Feminist, then I followed her on Twitter (trust me, you want to, too), and then Difficult Women. They are all varying in genre: nonfiction, fiction, memoir, and Gay brings her unflinching honesty + powerful voice to each of them. But Hunger might be the most vulnerable and important of them all.

“Writing this book is a confession. These are the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me. This is my truth. This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.”

Gay’s experience is not mine, which, aside from wanting to read all of her work, is why I was so eager to get my hands on a copy. It’s important we read books that aren’t always echoing our own lives — especially in our current society. Approaching someone’s personal story with an open mind and heart is crucial to creating a more open and accepting society. Gay’s raw vulnerability makes it impossible not to feel empathetic, and to think differently about the way we view others and the assumptions we make.

At times painful and heartbreaking, Hunger should be required reading for all humans.

“I hope that by sharing my story, by joining a chorus of women and men who share their stories too, more people can become appropriately horrified by how much suffering is born of sexual violence, how far-reaching the repercussions can be.”

Big thanks to Harper Collins for sending this — I have no doubt it will stick with me and be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

For more of what I’m reading, follow me on my bookstagram (aka books on Instagram) at @kathareads.

(Fair warning, this book deals with difficult subject matters like rape, drugs, and eating disorders.)

Don’t miss her interview on NPR’s Fresh Air!