I got off to a great reading start this year. January is a pretty quiet month for me, and I got to celebrate my birthday, which meant more self-care stuff and more BOOKS! I almost like it better than Christmas. Lots of cold, snowy days here in Colorado left time for cozy reading afternoons. And, my (night) job writing news summaries for a radio media company allows me to listen to audiobooks while I’m working. I’ll admit, sometimes I have to turn them off because they get distracting (still trying to finish 28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand). But most of the time, they are a nice background to my work.
I read (and listened to) seven books in January, so let’s get to it:
Fierce by Aly Raisman
My family has a membership to the Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, and that’s where I picked this up. (Awesome museum, you should totally go!) I wish I’d had this book when I was 8…or 10… or 13. All through those years when I was so insecure about how I looked and so unconfident. While I was never going to be an Olympic athlete, or any kind of athlete, I would have really taken inspiration from this book. I was one of those girls who watched gymnastics (especially Olympic gymnastics) and admired all the gymnasts and felt like I knew what the sport was all about. I still watch, loving how the gymnasts get to see the results of their hard work (or feeling for them when they have deductions that kick them out of the medals). Aly has a body positive and inspiring tone to her book. More than just a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Olympic gymnastics (though there’s plenty of that), its a look into the mind of an ambitious young woman where ambition isn’t always rewarded as it should be.
I loved how open she was about her life while still maintaining her privacy (especially about the sexual abuse she suffered, something I wrote about for my job as a news writer when the Larry Nassar scandal broke). She maintains her dignity while still speaking out for survivors and for young girls who could find themselves in a difficult situation. She’s a great role model for young women, especially, but also for boys on how to relate well to girls and women.
I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not huge into sports, but especially if you are into the Olympics and/or gymnastics.
Rating: 5 stars
Killer Kung Pao by Vivian Chien
I’ve got several of the books in this series, but this was the first one I read. I loved it. It’s a unique approach to the cozy mystery that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Asian characters are rarely represented in cozy mysteries, so that was great to see. The mystery was twisty and I really liked amateur detective and manager of her family’s restaurant Lana Lee. She was likable without be perfect and she was appropriately nosy. All of her interactions flowed naturally and it was easy to keep up with the characters without having read the other books.
I wasn’t excited about the ending. It was interesting and unexpected, but I’m not sure it felt natural.
I recommend this series. It’s a fresh take on the cozy mystery. It’s probably not the best one in this popular series, though.
Thank you to NetGalley for the ebook preview copy. All opinions are my own.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling
I listened to the audiobook version of this and I highly recommend it. Hearing the essays in Kahling’s voice added another layer to the book. Her stories are entertaining and touch on culture, dating, Hollywood, and a writer’s life. I’m going to listen to her other book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? next.
Rating: Four stars
The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark
This is an amazing inter-generational story that provides an interesting look at the role of race in the South dating back to the days of slavery. It tells the story of bi-racial Millie, whose Black mother sends her from Charleston as a young woman to Alabama to pass as white. She meets Franklin on the train, setting off a chain of events that provides a rich family history.
The story is told in alternating time periods that explain Millie’s family story and the story of a satchel of heirlooms (which is based on a real life satchel) first given to a nine-year-old slave who is sold away from her mother. The story also revolves around Millie’s dream to own a dress shop.
I love stories that alternate between time periods and those that connect different people into one big story. I listened to this on audio. My favorite book so far this year, and may end up being a perennial favorite.
Rating: 5 stars
The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller
This is a sweet story about two sisters living completely different lives who inherit land from an elderly woman who was their neighbor growing up. One stayed with the family dinner and helped raise her sister after their mother died, then took over the diner after their father died following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The other sister seemingly flits from place to place and project to project, chasing her dreams. Cue the friction
A big-box store is interested in building a store on the land, which threatens to up end the small Vermont town. The sisters disagree on whether to sell and the situation is complicated when the responsible sister begins to have feelings for the big-box store consultant sent to sell the town on the new store.
The story is nice, and there are some twists, but it has a rather predictable ending. I liked it and I like how the author wrapped things up, but it almost seemed a little too neat. Just a personal preference thing.
I’ve previously read the City Baker’s Guide To Country Living and loved it, so not sure where the disconnect is here. I will definitely read the author’s next book.
The book is well-written and interesting and the characters and town are well drawn. It just wasn’t for me. I listened to it on audio, so maybe it didn’t translate as well for me.
Rating: Three stars
The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
I read a lot of books on organizing and time management, but this one felt unique. I liked the idea of the “lazy genius,” who lands somewhere between a perfectionist approach and a lazy, not productive approach. To me, this is the sweet spot of operation where you can get things done without worrying about being perfect. It’s an ode to the “good enough” life, one where happiness can be found without the stress of perfectionism.
It’s not really a system, per say, but does have techniques described for how to approach things in life. The techniques were pretty simple to use and I’ve tried to integrate them into my everyday way of being.
The book has a humorous tone and is not written as information given from on high. I highly recommend this for anyone who’s looking for a unique way to approach life.
Rating: Five stars
Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle by Sarah Graves
This cozy mystery is set in Maine and centers around Jake (Jacobia) and Ellie who run a chocolate dessert shop in a Maine tourist town. The two occasionally get involved in mysteries that happen in the town and this book focuses on the killing of a reclusive elderly man who frequently changes his will. Jake’s son is business partners with suspect Billy, who was apparently the beneficiary of one of the wills.
Billy previously had to kill his father to save his two sisters from abuse. Now a dowdy aunt is threatening to take custody of the girls and make them into dainty ladies (they like to go fishing and are saving for their own boat).
Also, Jake and Ellie are trying to perfect a chocolate snickerdoodle for the town’s cookie contest to bring publicity to their shop.
The book starts out a little slow, possibly because I’m jumping into the series on the fourth book. But once the action gets going, I couldn’t put it down. The end is a real thriller, and I didn’t predict the twists that happened. Highly recommend this series, though I’d probably start at the beginning because Jake’s family alone has a lot of characters in it.
Thank you to NetGalley for the complimentary e-book preview copy. All opinions are my own.
Rating: Four stars
I am seven books closer to my goal of reading (listening to) 60 books in 2021. How did your January reading plans go? Share your goals and successes (as well as your challenges) in the comments below.