What I Read in January 2016

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Please take a deep breath and proceed with caution. I’m going to be as brief as I can about the TEN books I read in January. Hellooooo, winter hibernation!


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – I’m about a year behind on this book, but got it from the library Overdrive just in time for the new year. While Kondo is wayyyy woo-woo for even me (I’m fairly certain my possessions don’t think or need thanked), the basics are excellent and I’m starting to put them into practice.


Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – This is the prequel to First Frost. I should have read it first, but I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, though. We were just back from Christmas travel, and I read this in one day, tired but happy to be back in the land of the Waverly family. Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, and Allen does it perfectly.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – While I continue to eagerly anticipate the final book in Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series (April! The anguish!), I am pretty much plowing through everything else she’s written. Which is a lot, considering she is just my age.

The Scorpio Races is a stand-alone fantasy work published in 2012. On the Island of Thisby (in the UK), Puck Connolly fights for the family she has left in the only way she can think of: racing in the legendary Scorpio Races. Did I mention that this island is known for having carnivorous water horses wash ashore every fall? That the people then try to tame enough to race?

Sean Kendrick, meanwhile, has won the last three races with his capall uisce (water horse), Corr. Only it’s not his horse; it belongs to the farm where he’s all but enslaved due to his orphan status. He longs of freedom from it and the owner’s son, the aptly nicknamed Mutt.

I found Stiefvater’s voice just as intriguing as in the Raven Cycle books. Here again, she takes a legend and runs with it and makes it her own. I did feel like the first half of the book dragged a little and I wasn’t as invested in it. Really, I wanted the romance, which she writes so wonderfully. This book is chaste, yet the electricity between Puck and Sean is kind of amazing.

So in all, I really liked but didn’t love it. Still, I will read anything Stiefvater has written. Even if it’s way outside what I normally read. Because she is awesome.


Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver – While I didn’t “know” Sara Frankl while she was alive, I certainly had heard of her and her struggles through (in)courage and some friends. I was so thankful to finally read her words, put together my her (and my) friend, Mary Carver. Choose Joy is a compilation of Sara’s blogging interspersed with explanation from Mary. Over the course of her chronic pain and debilitating illness, Sara kept her eyes on God. I think Sara understood God more than most, drawing near to Him in and through her pain.

Her words gave me much to dwell on in my own faith-journey, and I am sure I will come back to them often. Choose Joy was a beautiful, quick read that I won’t be quick to forget. (This book was sent to me by the publisher.)


Shadows of the Hidden by Anne Riley – I think after the heavy of Choose Joy, I needed something lighter. I dug into Shadows of the Hidden quickly. At first I was sure I was going to abandon it, but (as another Amazon reviewer said) “it sneaks up on you.” I am just not a big fantasy reader, and the framework for this novel was a little creepy and weird. But as you get to know the main character, Natalie, and the quirky Liam, the novel becomes quickly engrossing. It was a big change from my norm, and a fun YA read.


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Based on the two books of Smith’s I’ve read, I will say her books are kind of like watching a chick flick. They read very quickly – for me, one or two sittings. There’s romance. They are fun. Nothing deep or sticking, but entertaining. In this one, two teens connect why flying from the U.S. to England for various endeavors.


The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy – Recounting a trying time in his life, professional storyteller ben Izzy parallels his story to some of the tales he’s told or heard. The short autobiography is a reflection on learning about one’s own story, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. This has been on my physical bookshelf for years; I am hitting myself for not reading it until now.


The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian – I have to preface this by saying that I adore Chris Bohjalian. He is not afraid to tackle any tough subject. He interacts with his readers on Twitter and Instagram, consistently and kindly. But man, his books are a wild ride. This one approaches the topic of sex slavery: a wealthy man throws a bachelor’s party for his brother, and everything goes wrong. This book should have a warning label for graphic sexual scenes and language. But the story itself, told alternately from the best man and one of the sex slaves, is solid and horrifying. It’s not a beach read. It will make you think. It will make you shudder. I recommend considering your emotional state before you read this (or any) Bohjalian novel. (I still have nightmares about The Night Strangers.)


Columbine by Dave Cullen – As I look at this and The Guest Room, it’s becoming fairly apparent why my depression has been slightly out-of-control the last couple weeks. I think I am pretty affected by what I read. Only happy books for awhile!

Columbine is Cullen’s 2009 work detailing how things really happened before and after the 1999 school shooting that left 13 dead in Colorado. Going back and forth between the years leading up to the massacre and the aftermath of the investigations, lawsuits, and healing, Cullen reveals police cover-ups, journalism missteps, and how the public clung to what they wanted to. He unveils the journals and videos left behind by the shooters, showing how they didn’t snap, but planned this for over a year, with their real plan being a much larger-scale killing.

Laura recommended this on the Sorta Awesome podcast. I probably never would have read it otherwise. But I was a 16-year-old junior in high school when this happened, and so I was very affected by the situation and its aftermath. I prayed and I read She Said Yes and I was scared to go to my school. So to read this truth was very difficult but also fascinating.


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – In Yoon’s debut novel, protagonist Madeline lives in a bubble. Her house is air-locked, anyone who comes in has to go through decontamination, and she takes all her classes online through Skype. Diagnosed with a disease that means she’s allergic to everything, she hasn’t left home since she was a baby. Newly 18, Madeline is mostly content. But then Olly moves in next door. They develop a strange friendship, and suddenly Madeline wants everything she can’t have. This is a really sweet, shocking, and wild story, very reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars. The best part is the illustrations, charts, “Spoiler Book Reviews,” definitions, and other creative illustrations throughout the book, contributed by David Yoon, Nicola’s husband.

I just listened to Nicola Yoon interviewed on the First Draft podcast, and it was really interesting, whether you’ve read the book or not. Yoon talks about her background in finance, her Jamaican childhood, and being a voracious reader.

So what did you read in January? Do you cozy up and devour books in the winter, like I do?

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

3 thoughts on “What I Read in January 2016

  1. Scorpio Races has so far been the only Maggie Stiefvater book I’ve read, and I really liked it! I know of other people who rave about the Raven Cycle books, I might have to finally check them out…

  2. I’m a little late responding. February has been a bit of a blur for me. 🙂 I was able to get quite a bit of reading done in January. I’ve started the Elizabeth George “Inspector Lynley” series. The first one was a little slow, but after that, they picked up.
    The best non-fiction that I read in January was “Debunking the Myths of Forgive and Forget” by Kay Bruner. The best fiction was “Evening Class” by Maeve Binchy.
    I picked up “The Guest Room” at the library and read part, but didn’t have time to finish it. I’m planning to get back to it. It is slightly disturbing, but engaging. It’s good to think about the reality of sex trafficking even in the US.
    I’ve heard a lot about Marie Kondo’s book, and I finally checked it out from the library. I may get it read in March. 🙂

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