What I Read January 2019

What I Read January 2019

What I read in January 2019I finished off 10 books in January, some of them great, some of them meh-okay-ish. I also did not finish 3 books that I got a good bit into before deciding to give up because I just wasn’t that into them. I’m a big believer in not wasting time reading books that you’re not enjoying, to me it ruins the experience and puts me in an anti-reading rut, when reading is meant to be a pleasure! Here are the books I most enjoyed in January.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This was by far the best book I read in January, and one of the most moving books I’ve read in awhile. Kalanithi was a young neurosurgeon when he was given a terminal cancer diagnosis, he decided to spend the time he had left reflecting on his ambitious life and the experience of dying, writing this beautiful memoir. (Non Fiction)

There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment. – Paul Kalanithi

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Maddy is a devoted wife and loving mother, who seems to have everything she could want, when she suddenly kills herself, jumping off the roof of a nearby library. Her husband Brady and daughter Eve are devastated and struggle to understand; even Maddy chimes in from the afterlife trying to help them make sense of her suicide and its aftermath. This is a beautiful book on being a wife and mother, as well as mother-daughter relationships, I couldn’t put it down, trying to find out where it all went wrong and how Brady and Eve survived their very painful loss. (Fiction)

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The title says it all: this book is all about two sisters, Koreda the narrator, and Ayoola, a beautiful young woman who just cannot stop murdering the men she dates. Koreda is trapped between protecting her sister and trying to prevent more men from meeting their end at the tip of Ayoola’s sharp blade. Darkly humorous, this book is very complex and was a fairly quick read, I couldn’t wait to find out who came up okay in the end!

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

After all of my raving last year over Center’s How to Walk Away, the moment I was able to get my hands on an ARC of Things You Save in a Fire (to be published August 2019) I finished it in just over 24 hours. This book is just my style of sappy, heartwarming, and fun: firefighter Cassie is tough as leather after experiencing a lifetime of disappointments and abandonment, but is suddenly forced to move across the country to care for her sick, estranged mother. She is only able to find a job in a station where she is the first female firefighter among a group of mostly misogynistic males, and must constantly prove herself. Center’s books tend to have a life-lesson (you know I love life-lessons!), this one’s being: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.” (Fiction)

Happy Fancy Friday! I’m onto my February 2019 reads!

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Center, Katherine 06.2018
Cover image shown with permission from St. Martin’s Press

I was recently reading some comments by the Dalai Lama (and stay with me here because I realize I’m here to write about Katherine Center’s latest novel, I promise this has relevance) about his experience being forced to flee his home country of Tibet, and to live most of his life in exile. What he said about this experience that was so painful to him, was also all the joy that had come out of the life that was forced upon him. Instead of being bitter about the unfairness of it all and focusing on the pain the separation had caused him, he spoke about the relationships and the positive outcomes that he would not have had if he had been able to live the life that he had originally imagined. How many of us could have the same outlook?

Margaret (what a great name for a protagonist!) Jacobsen has her life planned out: she is about to start a dream job in Austin, Texas after years of hard work, she is adored by her family (except for a mysteriously estranged sister), and has a successful, handsome boyfriend, who loves her dearly, and who looks like he is about to propose(!) On top of all this, Margaret seems like a really kind, hard-working person, who deserves all the success and happiness that is coming her way. Unfortunately, as in real life, bad things happen to good people.

After a terrible accident changes everything, Margaret’s world begins falling apart, forcing her to rely on people she cannot stand (see: return of estranged sister), and watching pieces of her life that were supposed to be so strong crumble around her. She has to make choices, really hard ones that make you wonder what you would do in her shoes, and cause the reader to think about people who live with disabilities every day, and what their experiences must be like. I have to admit, I was humbled when she spoke about hating the looks of pity people gave her, when she just wanted to be viewed as a normal person. I am definitely guilty of giving those looks.

I felt this story was very honest and compelling, while also upbeat considering the seriousness of the subject. Another thing I’ve learned from the Dalai Lama is the value of laughter and not taking yourself too seriously, so I found this tone to be realistic and empowering. There are lots of interesting family dynamics/drama, and yes, a love story, so as far as I’m concerned this book has it allincluding amazing inspirational quotes such as “When you don’t know what to do for yourself, do something for somebody else.” and

“You have to live the life you have. You have to find inspiration in the struggle, and pull the joy out of hardship… Because that’s all we can do: carry the sorrow when we have to, and absolutely savor the joy when we can.
Life is always, always both.”

Overall I would recommend this story to anyone, but definitely for someone who enjoys an engaging plot that’s realistic but upbeat, with a thoughtful and strong female narrator, and interesting and complex relationships and family dynamics.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Published: May 15, 2018

I read this as: an ARC I received at the PLA conference 2018

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