January was a busy month for my Goodreads feed. There were lots of late nights where I just had to read one more page, and other late nights where I was having trouble sleeping so I might as well read a few pages.

In total, I've read five books so far this year, which is almost twice what I read last year, so in the words of Scooter from Living Single... "baby, i'm back!" (we are officially bffs if you get this reference btw).

Let's move on to the round up.

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

"August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance."

There was much hype surrounding this book when it was first released, and then the movie came out, and then, as I stated in my literary sins post, I lost interest because why spend days/weeks reading the book when I can just watch the movie? Then, I got the book as a Christmas gift, so I obviously had to read it. I finished it in two days.

This book switches perspectives quite often, and I usually dislike this narrative formula, but it was such a quick-moving read that it hardly bothered me. It's one of those stories that tugs on your heartstrings, but it some of the situations were unrealistically resolved in my opinion. All in all, I really liked it (and I feel like the movie wasn't nearly as good).
- 4/5 stars

Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris

"Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim? And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows? The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?"

This book did not bury the lede. It does not hold out until the end for the twist, although you'll probably guess what's going on before it's officially unveiled. From that point, it keeps getting better. Everything is told from Grace's point of view, but it does jump from past to present until the timelines converge toward the end. That framework usually frustrates me as a reader, but the details from the past are told in snippets and are equally intriguing as what occurs in the present, so it worked.

Some characters infuriated me. Other characters thoroughly surprised me, and my absolute favorite character came through at the end of the day. The last few lines of the book wrap the story so perfectly; it was easily one of my most favorite book endings, ever. EVER.
- 5/5 stars

In the Woods, by Tana French

"On a warm evening in 1984, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and his partner find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery."

I love a good mystery/thriller, so I just knew I would 100% love this story, and I did... until the end. French does a great job of taking the reader on the detectives' journey as they work to solve a case, and I enjoyed every twist and turn along the way. I'm not going to say you'll never guess who did it, because I had my suspicions about the culprit early on, but the journey to uncover how and why that person did was nothing short of fascinating.

That being said, there were two mysteries laid out at the beginning of the novel, one from 1984 and another from present day. I found myself even more interested in learning the truth of what happened in 1984, but that puzzle was never solved - not even partially. It felt like the book was unfinished. I also ended up not liking the main character very much in the end.
-3/5 stars

Stay with Me, by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

"Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine."

This story broke me, put me back together, and broke me again. I loved how deeply the Nigerian culture was woven into the storyline, and even though the story is told from two perspectives in two different timelines, the way it moves forward is fascinating.

This novel does not follow a traditional story arc, but it wouldn't have been nearly as impactful if it did. My jaw dropped countless times as I turned from page to page, and I loved the way Adébáyọ̀ illustrated each character's flurry of emotions, from anger to pride, to joy, to sadness, to apathy... all while forcing empathy from us as the reader, even for characters who appear to be the villain.
- 5/5 stars

Can You Keep a Secret, by Sophie Kinsella

"Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets... until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger. Soon Emma comes face-to-face with Jack Harper, the company's elusive CEO and a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her."

Hanna recommended this book in her "what I loved in January" post, and it sounded like a fun read. I checked my Overdrive app to see if it was available for e-loan from my local library, and it was, so I downloaded it and started reading the very next day. By the following day, I had finished it.

To be clear, this is very chick-lit-y. The author is the same person who wrote Confessions of a Shopaholic, if that gives any indication of the kind of content I'm talking about here. Still, there is a time and place for all kinds of literature, and I'm not above cheap and easy beach reads - not every book I read needs to be deeply radical and worthy of scholarly merit. This was a fun story, and if the main character hadn't been so annoying (drink a glass of water every time she says "Er" and see how often you're running to go pee), it would've gotten a higher rating.
- 3/5 stars


1) Room, by Emma Donoghue

"To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough ... not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work."

I was so ready to settle into this book, but after reading a few chapters of Jack's perspective, I just. could. not. Here's an excerpt:
I get on Ma’s lap in Rocker with our legs all jumbled up. She’s the wizard transformed into a giant squid and I’m prince JackerJack and I escape in the end. We do tickles and Bouncy Bouncy and jaggedy shadows on Bed Wall.
Imagine reading that for 300+ pages... DID NOT FINISH.

2) Becoming, by Michelle Obama

This book needs no introduction/summary, so I'll skip over that part. I've recently explained why I'm not a fan of non-fiction, but memoirs are especially not for me.

Maybe I haven't reached that level of maturity, but Mrs. Obama's publishing debut failed to capture my attention long enough to finish the first few chapters. DID NOT FINISH

And this is the part where everyone throws rotten tomatoes at my head and boos me off the stage.

I'll make my exit now.