Happy first month of the book year!! I set myself the ridiculous task of reading 100 books in 2022, so I’m going to have to make every month count.
I’m not going to be able to achieve this by reading 300+ page books which is what I usually do, so I’m going to have to include some smaller, classic-type books into my reading schedule.
Luckily I signed up to my local library before the end of 2021, so I’m going to utilise this and check out some light reads to help boost my reading score, as well as borrow some books that I’m too tight to buy (I proudly don’t purchase books that aren’t second-hand – I prefer the smell and feel of a book that’s already been read).
January went very well, and I think this may have been due to me partaking in Dry January as well as hardly leaving the house this month to save some pennies that I spent while I was in New York at the end of 2021.
Anyway, I will quit rambling now and leave you with the reviews and ratings of the 11 books I read in January.
Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
With her shopping excesses (somewhat) in check and her career as a TV financial guru thriving, Becky Bloomwood’s biggest problem seems to be tearing her entrepreneur boyfriend, Luke, away from work for a romantic country weekend. That is, until Luke announces he’s moving to New York for business—and he asks Becky to go with him! Before you can say “Prada sample sale,” Becky has landed in the Big Apple, home of Park Avenue penthouses and luxury department stores. Surely it’s only a matter of time until Becky becomes an American celebrity. She and Luke will be the toast of Gotham society. Nothing can stand in their way, especially with Becky’s bills an ocean away in London. But then an unexpected disaster threatens her career prospects, her relationship with Luke, and her available credit line. Becky may have taken Manhattan—but will she have to return it?
My rating: ★★★
As the first few days of the year were spent in New York, my first book had to keep in line with the only-reading-books-based-in-new-york-while-in-new-york theme I had going. I picked up Shopaholic Takes Manhattan in Alabaster Books on 4th Avenue, right by Union Square for $2. I had read the first book in this series, Confessions of a Shopaholic a few years ago and enjoyed it for the chick-flick/romcom type of book that it is. Shopaholic followed the same kind of trope, and I just knew I would get annoyed about the ease with which the main character would be able to move to New York and get a job without a mention of the visa process and how painful the process actually is. They always make it seem so easy in books 🙁 Anyhow, this was an enjoyable book for my flight back to the UK and closed the lid on my two week holiday in New York City.
It’s Up to the Women by Eleanor Roosevelt
“Eleanor Roosevelt never wanted her husband to run for president. When he won, she… went on a national tour to crusade on behalf of women. She wrote a regular newspaper column. She became a champion of women’s rights and of civil rights. And she decided to write a book.”–Jill Lepore, from the Introduction. “Women, whether subtly or vociferously, have always been a tremendous power in the destiny of the world,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in It’s Up to the Women, her book of advice to women of all ages on every aspect of life. Written at the height of the Great Depression, she called on women particularly to do their part–cutting costs where needed, spending reasonably, and taking personal responsibility for keeping the economy going.
My rating: ★★★★
I don’t know anything about Eleanor Roosevelt. I was in a bookstore in the West Village of New York and they had a great women’s/feminism section and I liked the sound of this book, plus I knew I would learn something about a forceful woman that I didn’t have any information on.
This book by Eleanor Roosevelt was originally written in 1933. It’s almost a guide for women on how to be a good wife, how to be a good wife while also being able to work, how to make the most of our time, how to make the most of our money, what to do with our money, how to be independent, how to be charitable, and how to be who we want and not listen to society or be held back by our financial background, race, or marital status.
Even though it was written 100 years ago, there was still a lot of guidance that can be used today. For example, we don’t have to own so many material things to be happy. We should also make the most of the rights that we have that women previously didn’t have – the right to vote, the right to work, the right to choose to be single/not have children, and the right to be the President of the United States if we so choose. A short but inspiring book, especially looking back at Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and what she achieved and the way she chose to live.
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared. Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love.
My rating: ★★★★★
My first five-star read of 2022! Girl A reminded me why crime/thriller is my favourite genre of them all, and I’m going to make a conscious effort to read more of these books this year as I didn’t read nearly enough crime-type books in 2021. They are the sort of books that keep you hooked from start to finish with amazing twists and turns. Think Blood Orange, The Hunting Party, The Silent Patient etc. all 5-star reads and ones that I couldn’t put down. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for this one, but it’s going to be a TV series very soon so I’d read the book quickly before it comes out!
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes investigates the murder of two Americans whose deaths have some mysterious connection to sinister Socialist groups gathering power in both Britain and America.
My rating: ★★★★
This was my first introduction to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wonderful world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Fun fact for you, this is the first book where Sherlock Holmes appears out of all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. I picked it up at my local library as it was a short book and because I recognised the author. For such a short book I really did enjoy it. I don’t read much detective novels, but I do enjoy them when I do. And for one written in the 1880s, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I did knock off a star as towards the end there is a part in the book that switches and I did find myself drifting off at times. I do get that it explains the entire crime, but it was a little drawn out for my liking.
Cobble Hill by Cecily von Ziegesar
In the eclectic Brooklyn neighbourhood of Cobble Hill, the lives of four married couples and their children are about to flip from complicated to combustible… Mandy is so underwhelmed by motherhood that she’s faking a debilitating disease to get the attention of her ex-boyband celebrity husband Stuart. There’s the unconventional new school nurse, Peaches, who Stuart secretly has a crush on, and her disappointing husband Greg, who wears noise-cancelling headphones – everywhere. A few streets away, Roy, a well-known British novelist, has lost his way with his next novel – and his marriage to Wendy, who knows exactly where she’s going. Around the corner, Tupper struggles to salvage his career and to pin down his elusive artist wife Elizabeth. She remains…elusive. Throw in two hormonal teenagers, a ten-year-old pyromaniac and a lot of hidden cameras, and Cobble Hill becomes an explosive mix of egos, desires and secrets. Let the neighbours gossip… What’s the worst that can happen?
My rating: ★★★
I won’t lie, I expected so much more from this book as the author also wrote Gossip Girl. I haven’t read that book, but I’m basing my hopes on the obsession I had with the TV show. I want to say that it was a slow-paced book, still relatively enjoyable and even with a lot of characters involved, they weren’t confusing at all. However, the last 15 pages of the book is where it got interesting and where the action happened. An incredibly slow burner that led up to something a bit more exciting but not overly gripping. 3 stars.
A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr
A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life he experiences a sense of renewal and belief in the future. Now an old man, Birkin looks back on the idyllic summer of 1920, remembering a vanished place of blissful calm, untouched by change, a precious moment he has carried with him through the disappointments of the years. A Month in the Country traces the slow revival of the primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War.
My rating: ★★★
Apparently there’s a movie version of this book starring Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth. How they made this 150-page book where nothing happens into a movie, I will never know, nor do I think I will be watching. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was rather beautiful at times with some great quotes that you could take from the book, but the story in general was just a bit dull and nothing really happened. I think I’m going to stick to crime/thriller books in the future.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Heralded as Virginia Woolf’s greatest novel, this is a vivid portrait of a single day in a woman’s life. When we meet her, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party preparation while in her mind she is something much more than a perfect society hostess. As she readies her house, she is flooded with remembrances of faraway times. And, met with the realities of the present, Clarissa reexamines the choices that brought her there, hesitantly looking ahead to the unfamiliar work of growing old.
My rating: ★★
I’m starting to think the classics aren’t for me. If this is said to be Virginia Woolf’s best novel, I’m not sure if I’ll be reading any of her others. This was a relatively short book at around 200 pages with no chapters. I found the book extremely chaotic, not knowing who was who or what was happening at any given time. It was confusing, a little all over the place and I only started to enjoy it around the end of the book when the party began which is what the book had been leading up to. Not my favourite read.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.
My rating: ★★★★★
After reading a few sleep-inducing books of late, I was hoping for my next read to be a good one, and Transcendent Kingdom did not disappoint. I had seen this on Jack Edwards’ YouTube channel of the books he had received for Christmas, and when I spotted it in my local library, I snatched it up. From the same author as Homegoing (which has been on my to-buy list for quite some time now), Transcendent Kingdom covers addiction and depression. An incredibly told story that would make you want to read this book in one sitting. I would thoroughly recommend.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Considered an ‘audacious’ second novel, Giovanni’s Room is set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence. This now-classic story of a fated love triangle explores, with uncompromising clarity, the conflicts between desire, conventional morality and sexual identity. One of the most important American writers of the twentieth century, James Baldwin’s novels primarily address issues of race, class and sexual inequality, including Giovanni’s Room which was extremely controversial in its representation of gay relationships.
My rating: ★★★★★
I was becoming quite skeptical about the classics genre as the previous two I had read this month didn’t move me as much as I thought they would – considering they were noted as a ‘classic’. I went into Giovanni’s Room not knowing much about the book or the author, but this book for me, definitely deserves the ‘classic’ title. I only rate books 5-stars if I would either be happy to read them again, or would recommend my best friend to read it. Giovanni’s Room ticks both of those boxes. A love triangle set in Paris in the 1950’s, this book was pushing ahead of its time and one that I didn’t want to put down. I would happily see this if it was created for the stage/TV.
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings–for love, and a place to call home.
My rating: ★★★
I received this book in my January Books That Matter subscription box. I’ve been receiving these books since October 2021 and made a vow to myself that in 2022, I will read the book that arrives in my subscription box every month so that they don’t stack up like the ones have been doing from 2021. January’s theme was body image, especially with the new year beginning and talk of diets, goals and resolutions. The box partnered with I Weigh, a movement started by Jameela Jamil. You Exist Too Much spoke of body image, sexuality, relationships, addiction and getting through your 20s. I rated it a 3-star as it was a slow-burner for me, although an enjoyable read. It just wouldn’t be a book that I’d be rushing to pick up again very soon.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
My rating: ★★★★★
When it comes to rating books by Colleen Hoover, I always feel that I have to err on the side of caution and hold back on giving 5-star reviews. Mainly because of Hoover’s fame and hardcore fans on TikTok and Instagram, where she is now everywhere in bookstores and on the internet. Maybe I’m afraid of feeling like another sheep in the Colleen Hoover fan-herd, but I can see why she’s so celebrated and loved. I can’t not give this book 5-stars as it was excellent. I will say that it was very hard to read at times as the book featured some moments of child abuse, but the creativity of the plot line itself was something I’ve never read before. I read this in two days and will be seeking out my fifth Colleen Hoover book to read next.