What I Read in January

january reads on jesuisley

I think I've established that I really love books. I love to talk about them, and read them, and read about them. I watch YouTube reviews, and one day I might actually draw up the courage to post a video to my (currently empty) YouTube channel. My most-used app on my phone (after Instagram) is Goodreads. What I don't do, or at least what I've only ever done once, is write about books.

For the past few years I've been taking part in the Goodreads Challenge, but 2016 was the year that I really tried to hit my goal. On top of reading the series and authors that I already loved, I really tried my best to branch out and read genres and books that I wouldn't normally grab--like YA Contemporary. I read a lot of really wonderful books, but I also read some pretty bad ones. Last year was the first year that I let myself DNF books without beating myself up over it, a concept that I still struggle with. In all, I read 72 books--still 22 book shy of my goal, but that's still a hell of a lot of books! Unless you're Kirstie, and then that's just an average August.

This year I've committed to reading 75 books, and I'm going to challenge myself to read more books that aren't currently circulating the Book Side of the Internet. There are a ton of authors that I follow on Twitter with books that I'm dying to read, but I'm going to try my best to thoughtfully choose books that I think I'll enjoy, and not just grab them because I recognize the book cover.

So now, after probably the longest introduction I've ever written, I'm going to gush about 8 books that I read in January, and then talk about The One That Shan't Be Named. Although obviously I'll name it so you know what I'm talking about. So maybe it's the One I Don't Want To Talk About Because It Was Horrible, But I will Anyways So That I Can Get It Off My Chest™.

The sun is also a star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (YA Contemporary)
Goodreads | Amazon

This is the story of Natasha, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, and Daniel, the son of Korean immigrants. The story is set over the course of a single, defining day in both of their lives. Natasha and her family are being deported, and Daniel has a meeting to determine whether he will be accepted into the pre-med program at Yale.

Normally I'm really not into books that only span a single day, especially when the two main characters fall in love. Insta-love is incredibly hard to write well, but Nicola Yoon did a fantastic job with telling Daniel and Natasha's stories. I loved the way they interacted, and the shifting viewpoints so that you could experience life from both of their points of view. This was, without question, a five-star book.

our chemical hearts

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (YA Contemporary)
Goodreads | Amazon

This book is told from the perspective of seventeen-year-old Henry Page, and his tumultuous relationship with the troubled Grace Town. Henry is an optimist that has never been in love before, and Grace Town is a mysterious and secretive transfer student that, naturally, he falls head over heels in love with.

This was my first audiobook of the year, and I have to admit that I didn't always enjoy it. Grace is a very difficult character to relate to, and the way that she treats Henry is appalling. I feel like her backstory was revealed in a rush towards the end of the book, and rather than making me empathize with Grace it just made me for frustrated with her.  I also struggled with Henry's age and maturity throughout; I understand that he was meant to be an insightful old soul, but usually he just came off as pretentious and emotionally stunted.

I waffled on my opinion and rating, but ultimately I gave it 3 stars. I'm not sure that either Henry or Grace were meant to be likeable, and their flaws grated on me, but I didn't hate the story. I found this in the LGBT section, which I also contest (though that isn't the author's fault)--Henry's best friend is a lesbian, but she's a background character and her relationship really didn't factor into the overall story. 

the cuckoos calling cormoran strike

The Cuckoo's Calling by "Robert Galbraith" (J.K. Rowling) (Adult Mystery)
Goodreads | Amazon

The Cuckoo's Calling is the first novel in a mystery series written by J.K. Rowling under the pen name "Robert Galbraith". The series follows private eye Cormoran Strike, an ex-military police investigator, as he solves various crimes and mysteries. Beyond setting up the world and back story of Cormoran, The Cuckoo's Calling has him investigating the suspicious death of supermodel Lula Landry with his brilliant secretary Robin.

I have a hard time talking about this book without gushing, so I'll try to restrain myself a little here. I was wary of adult J.K. Rowling because I couldn't stand A Casual Vacancy, but this book absolutely made up for that trash fire! The story was very well paced, and I felt an urgency to continue reading at every point in the book. The astounding writing and world-building of Harry Potter was back, but this time in the real world and centred on adults. I loved every second of it, and seconds after finishing it I was reserving the next book at the library. I'd give The Cuckoo's Calling ten stars if it wouldn't call into question the very basis of a five-star rating system.

in real life graphic novel

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (YA Graphic Novel)
Goodreads | Amazon

A story of a girl that gets into a MMORPG called Coarsegold Online, Anda runs paid missions to destroy gold farmers in the game. One of the farmers gets away, and Anda meets Raymond, a Chinese teenager that gold farms in order to help support his family. The story follows her trying to help Raymond, getting kicked out of the game, and then her redemption as she tries to right her wrongs.

I really loved this graphic novel! It was a quick read, but the art was beautiful, and I really enjoyed that Anda was portrayed "normally"--she wasn't extremely thin or drawn as a typical nerd, she just looked like your average teenage girl. There were a few times that the writing left something to be desired, but I suppose the artwork supported the story so I wasn't overly bothered. I enjoyed the progression of the story and the themes that it dealt with, so I gave the book five stars.

the princess diarist

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Memoir)
Goodreads | Amazon

In The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher relates to us her experiences while filming the first Star Wars movie, including her torrid affair with Harrison Ford. Even though my husband ordered the book for Christmas, I chose to listen to the audiobook because it was narrated by Carrie Fisher, with her daughter Billie Lourd reading the excerpts from her journals. I have to admit, hearing her voice read the first few chapters so soon after her death was a gut punch, but she had me crying through my tears. Carrie is a wonderful author, insightful and hilariously self-depricating, and I hung onto her every word. All the stars for Ms Fisher, and I highly recommend the audiobook for a truly immersive experience.

we should all be feminists

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Non-Fiction Novella)
Goodreads | Amazon

WSABF is Chimamanda's essay based on her incredibly popular TedTalk by the same name. Chimamanda is an incredibly brilliant and insightful woman, with several best-selling books under her belt. I've seen her TedTalk and read her essay more times than I can count, and I still find something new with every consumption. This is one of the few books that I will happily highlight and write in. All the stars always.

the diviners libba bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray (YA Supernatural Mystery)
Goodreads | Amazon

Set in 1920's New York, this story revolves around Evie, a teenage flapper with the ability to divine one's secrets from holding one of their possessions. She is sent from the midwest to New York to live with her Uncle--who happens to own and run an occult museum in the middle of New York City--and inserts herself into the investigation of mysterious/occult deaths around the city.

I mostly enjoyed The Diviners, although I can't honestly tell you if it's because I absolutely LOVE the roaring 20's or if it was because of the actual content of the story. It's like if Professor Trelawny and Cormoran Strike time-travelled to the 20's to team up and solve mysteries, but without the writing talents of the formidable J.K. Rowling. The writing isn't bad, but I would have appreciated exchanging some of the more flowery paragraphs for a more imaginable description of places and events. I struggled with the rating because as soon as I finished the book I was ready to read the next, regardless of my opinion of Libba Bray's writing style. Ultimately I arrived at 4.5 stars, the extra half star because I am currently devouring Lair of Dreams.

the other side of the world stephanie bishop

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Historical Literary Fiction)
Goodreads | Amazon

This is a novel set in the 1960s that follow the marriage of Charlotte and Henry as they move from Cambridge to Australia with their two very young daughters. This novel is character-driven with Charlotte struggling with post-partum depression throughout the novel and her husband unable to empathise or help pull her out of the dark hole. The story is achingly beautiful and resolutely poetic, and I found myself in tears more than once while reading it. I identified with Charlotte in so many ways, from her struggles with PPD to her feeling isolated in her environment. I loved, loved, loved this book. Five stars.

the young elites marie lu

The Young Elites by Marie Lu (YA Dystopian Fantasy)
Goodreads | Amazon

The Young Elites follows a group of teenagers that live through a particularly nasty illness and then receive special powers that make them outsiders in a society that fears anything different from the status quo. The Young Elites must fight the power etc.

Can you tell I'm not into this book? Good LORD this was awful. Twitter was right and I shouldn't have wasted my time on something that I'm just not into. I found it to be formulaic and the progression of the story was lazy and flat. None of the characters meant anything to me, and I couldn't remember some of their names from chapter to chapter. Although I liked Marie Lu's Legend series, I'm breaking up with The Young Elites.

I am really impressed that I finished nine books last month, and I'm even more impressed that only one of them stunk! Obviously, these thoughts are mine only, and your opinion may vary greatly from mine.

So tell me--have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?