Oh, I always love sharing the must-reads of the month and it is so exciting to kick off another new year with books. This month I have quite an array of great books to choose from thanks to a fresh GoodReads yearly reading goal that I am working towards. This year I’m hoping to read 75 books– fingers crossed! What’s your goal this year?
Here are six great books I read this month that I think you will really enjoy!
I feel like I have been emotionally gutted reading this book. I am usually not an emotional reader, but it is impossible to not to have your heart involved in this heartbreaking story of Jude and his inconceivable childhood. What makes these raw moments even slightly bearable is the incredible company that he keeps, a friendship masterfully told, a circle that never gives up on Jude, even when he is most broken.
This book chronicles the journey of four friends from their late teens until their fifties. At the center of it all is Jude St. Francis, their shy and quiet friend. The friends know very little about Jude and his past, but they suspect, just as you begin to, that he may have been abused in his childhood. What they don’t know is the extent to the abuse and how much this abuse has taken from him.
The writing is exquisite- I have never, ever read writing like this in my life. The turn of phrasing that is used, the descriptive language telling stories in a way I have never heard, it is a gorgeously prepared book that had me reading passages aloud over and over again.
That said, I can’t recommend this one for everyone. The brutal and violent passages were so unbearable that I would put the book down and walk away for a bit or find myself holding my breath or weeping uncontrollably for the beautifully broken Jude. They are powerfully written in a way that you feel as though you are in these rooms with these people and you can’t get out. It’s a claustrophobic feeling and it is often stifling.
If you or someone you love has been abused or if you are a highly sensitive person, I don’t think I would recommend this one for you. I am still carrying around some of the abuse scenes and my eyes are still welling up over Jude. In fact, if you ask me about this book, do not be surprised if I just start crying.
Even saying that, it will be, perhaps, one of the best books I will have read in my lifetime and the writing is so brave and so beautifully descriptive that I feel like I will hold these fictional people in my heart forever! I am mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.
10 Out of 5 Stars
So many friends have been recommending that I read The Boston Girl so I added it to my library pile this month!
I really enjoyed this beautiful coming of age story told through Addie Baum’s eyes at the tender age of 80 as she reflects back on her youth through stories she shares with her granddaughter. In this story, Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and very suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college and it all starts with a book club that she joins. She wants a career and to find true love.
Bucking many traditional roles and requirements of being a Jewish woman in the early 20th century, Addie challenges these roles with her traditional family, work environment, and in finding love. The chapters were short and sweet and a bit disjointed, just as the stories we hear from our own elders are and I loved the strong focus on friendships that last through the ages.
I have a feeling that if I hadn’t have read Brooklyn the month before (read my review here) that I probably would have enjoyed this one more. The stories felt very similar, but it didn’t take away the beauty in this one as Diamant proves herself again and again to be such a gifted storyteller. I have heard the audiobook is a real treat so it might be a good one to indulge in that way if you enjoy audiobooks.
4 Out of 5 Stars
(editor’s note- I received an ARC of this from Netgalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own)
Hidden Bodies is the next installment from Kepnes in the erotic thriller series from the author of, YOU. Joe is one of those characters that just really stands out for me as a reader and Kepnes has done an incredible job fleshing out Joe as he ages and falls in love in this next installment.
In this story, Joe gets duped by a woman that he thinks he has fallen in love with only to discover that she used him to steal from the bookstore he works for. Determined to make her pay, Joe follows her to California and creates a life for himself there until he can kill her. What ends up happening is that Joe finds many hurdles along the way towards the path of revenge and he still is dealing with the skeletons in the closet from the last murder that are still haunting him. What he didn’t bargain for though is finding unconditional love and a family in California and how this changes the entire outlook of a psychopath who has never experienced that.
Once again, a solid read from Kepnes and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series! Read my interview with Caroline as we discuss her first book in our Sundays With Writers series!
4 Out of 5 Stars
Have you joined our online book club? If you have, you know that this was our first selection. This also happens to be my first novel by Allende. Have you read her? Feel free to make recommendations of other books I should tackle by her.
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at the nursing home she is living in. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.
This had a slow start for me, but once I started diving into the love story more of Alma & Ichimei, I could not turn the pages fast enough to see how this story would unfold. Allende crafts some really surprising twists at the end that I did not see coming making this a really solid story for me about love and the sacrifices we make for those we care about.
4 Out of 5 Stars
I am big on quirky characters and I’m also big on coming-of-age adventures and Mosquitoland now tops my list of incredible YA debuts with this heartfelt story of an oddly charming girl, named Mim, who runs away from home and takes a Greyhound bus to be reunited with her mother.
After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.
I really began to fall in love with all of these well-crafted characters that Arnold created in this charming book. Each character that she encounters comes with his own set of quirky oddities as Mim’s bus ends up making an unexpected detour and she ends up on a road trip with two unlikely friends in search of her mom. I really loved this one!
I am recommending this one for fans of Eleanor & Park and All the Bright Places. Be sure to read my interview with David Arnold about the story behind this story (and the surprising spot he crafted it!) in our Sundays With Writers series.
4 Out of 5 Stars
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
This is my first book of short stories and I really enjoyed it. Although some of the stories were repetitive and the book could have been edited a bit more, this really showcased what a talent Berlin was and what a knack she had for descriptive writing. She passed away in 2004 and was a well-known short story writer. This book was included on many lists this year as one of the best books fo the year.
Many of the short stories were based upon her own life and some of the heavier ones, particularly regarding her struggle with alcoholism, were very hard to read. She wrote very honestly about the challenges in her life as a mother and in her marriages. That said, many though made me laugh from her childhood antics at Catholic school to her observations about her clients as a cleaning woman. This is rich with storytelling and was a delight to read! It would be a good one to put on the bedside table to indulge in a story or two at the end of your day!
4 Out of 5 Stars
Read With Me This Year
What should I be adding to my library bag? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo
*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.