January 2018 Reads

I set a reading goal of eight books for the month of January, but I only finished six before the month was over.  I know that's still a decent amount of books -- I was just hoping for a slightly stronger start to the year.  I guess I overestimated how much time I'd actually have for reading.

As I was working on this post, though, I realized that maybe it's not such a bad thing that I only read six books last month.  Writing reviews can be time consuming, and even though I've been keeping a few notes on the books I finish, trying to remember all the reasons I liked (or didn't like) six different books is challenging.  If I'd read more, it would probably be even more difficult.

That being said, it's time to dive into the good stuff.  Hopefully I remembered enough about each book to write useful reviews!

Amazing Books I Highly Recommend

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Completed: 01/05/18
My Rating: *****
Challenge Category: Freebie for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

The Child Finder explores themes of grief and innocence lost through beautiful, lyrical writing.  The main character, Naomi, is a strong, resilient, intelligent woman whose personal experiences with the darker side of human nature have shaped her into The Child Finder -- a private investigator famous for her ability to locate missing children.

There are many books out there about missing children, but few have touched me as deeply as this one.  (I cried at three separate points in the novel.)  Rene Denfeld has a way of taking the darkest, ugliest parts of humanity and making them beautiful.  And, even more impressively, she does this without sacrificing the heartbreaking and horrifying aspects that evoke strong emotional reactions in the reader.

This is my second book by this author.  (I previously read The Enchanted, which I also loved.)  I am eagerly awaiting her next release.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Completed: 01/15/18
My Rating: *****
Challenge Category: A book that starts with the letter "L" for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

If you're a fan of reading and/or you read a lot of blogs written by booklovers, you've probably heard of Little Fires Everywhere.  This book has consistently received rave reviews, and I'm happy to say that it didn't disappoint.

The story itself has many layers, as the members of the community of Shaker Heights attempt to navigate their own lives while allowing themselves to get overly involved in the lives of others (often with disastrous results).  Celeste Ng did an amazing job creating a cast of beautiful, complex characters.  I had a hard time letting them go once I'd finished the last page.  Even the secondary characters were extremely well-developed -- so much so that my heart broke for them as their private pains were revealed.  (And yes, I did cry several times while reading this book.)

I also loved and appreciated many other aspects of the book, like the fact that the story was set in the late 90s.  I was around the age of some of the younger characters during that time, so I enjoyed the 90s references.  (Tori Amos was even mentioned!  I love her.)  I also loved the creativity that went into describing each of Mia's strangely beautiful photographs -- I wished I could actually see them.

I could go on about how much I loved this book ... But I won't.  If you haven't read this yet, you should definitely make it a priority.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Completed: 01/20/18
My Rating: *****
Challenge Category: A book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

The Mothers is a realistic story about not only what happens immediately following a life altering choice, but how that choice can affect someone (and those closest to them) years later.  Despite the serious subject matter, Brit Bennett was able to inject a heavy dose of humor into the book.  I really enjoyed the blend of heavy and light-hearted moments, and thought it made for a more well-rounded and interesting read.

The three main characters (Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey) were all flawed and broken in their own ways, and this made me love and care for each of them.  Their story sucked me in, and also broke my heart more than once.  (I definitely cried a couple of times while reading this.)

I also loved that the author tied the church community into the story, especially the sections narrated by the often sassy church mothers.  While I'm not a religious person, I felt the focus on the church community was important to the story.  (And, if you're wondering, I never found it to be "preachy.")

I cannot believe this was a debut novel!  I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Very Good Books That Are Worth A Read

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Completed: 01/29/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: A book from Book Riot's 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists list for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

A Head Full of Ghosts is one of those books that played out much differently than I originally thought it would.  I think I would have enjoyed it either way, but I appreciated that the twist in the end wasn't what I was expecting at all.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book -- the overuse of recycled horror tropes would normally drive me nuts, but somehow it actually worked.  For me, the "blog posts" scattered throughout the book that were used to dissect the reality show made these horror clichés work: it was kind of the point to show the audience (or the reader) things they were familiar with in order to evoke a stronger reaction.

The ambiguity, along with the fractured memories of a young woman who lived through some extremely traumatic events as a child, made this a really interesting read.  I love that several parts of the book can be interpreted in many different ways.  As a reader, I like books that force me to think about what's being said/shown instead of just having it all laid out for me by the author.  I definitely got that from this book.

Decent Books That May Work For You

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes
Completed: 01/09/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: A book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

It took me a while to get into this book, but it really grabbed my attention about halfway through as it became increasingly fucked up.  Unfortunately, it sort of petered out at the very end.  Perfect Days definitely had potential, but it left me less than satisfied.

I alternated between feeling like I didn't want to put it down and feeling completely disconnected from the story.  One of the major issues for me was that I never really connected with the main characters, so I never felt strongly about how their stories should play out.  (Though, as I said, that didn't stop me from feeling disappointed by the ending.)

On the upside, there was some pretty dark humor in the book that I enjoyed.  If, like me, your sense of humor can be a bit fucked up, you might enjoy this book.  (Or at least that aspect of it.)

I wouldn't say that Perfect Days was a bad book -- overall I'd say it was mostly enjoyable.  It really just didn't wow me, and I never felt fully invested.

Mostly Awful Books I Wouldn't Recommend

The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen
Completed: 01/26/18
My Rating: **
Challenge Category: A book with the words "house" or "home" in the title for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

I don't know if my expectations for The Gingerbread House were too high, but I was really disappointed in this book.

My biggest issue was that the writing felt sloppy -- it was almost as if the author was trying to fulfill a certain page quota.  For example, every single move the characters made (and even where they were seated in relation to one another if they were at a group dinner or meeting!) was written out, and it added nothing to the story (or even the scene).  To make matters worse, the characters were all so underdeveloped that I didn't care about any of them.  I felt like I knew more about what they made for dinner than who they were as people.

There was also a subplot involving a female police officer that really had no place in the book.  It had nothing to do with anything (other than the fact that she was one of the officers working on the main case), and updates on this part of the story were just half-assedly scattered throughout the book.  I could maybe understand its inclusion if it was meant to be a set up for a future book (The Gingerbread House is the first book in a series), but the issue was completely resolved.

I did like that Carin Gerhadsen chose to take a less obvious route with her story (at least in one case), and that saved the book from receiving a lower rating.  Overall, though, I found it to be kind of silly, cliché, and boring.  I definitely won't be reading any other books in this series.

Books That Should Never Have Been Published

Thankfully I didn't read any books that were this terrible last month!

I'm posting this a day early, but I'll be linking up with Steph and Jana tomorrow for this month's Show Us Your Books link-up.  I'm looking forward to seeing what others have been reading!

If you missed my earlier post, you can check out what my book ratings mean here.

And, finally, my challenge tallies for the month of January:

Book Challenge by Erin 8.0:
6 books completed
110/200 total points

2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge:
0 books completed

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