Sunday, January 31, 2021

January Roundup


I haven't quite accomplished my reading goals this month, but I did get a few books finished, which is pretty good for me nowadays! Here are the books I read in January (covers link to Goodreads):

 1) The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow

"I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through; I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics; I hope you will run through every open Door and tell stories when you return."

We started with a stunner! Ten Thousand Doors of January was such a beautiful and magical book. It centers on January Scaller, a girl who discovers doors between worlds, and learns more about herself and her family in the process. It also includes lots of underdogs fighting against old, evil rich men which I am always here for. I read this book this month because it had the word 'January' in the title, and I loved the section where January's learns why she is named after such a normally dreary month.


2) Little House (Little House, #1) in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“She thought to herself, "This is now." She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

I recently got the book The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books, so I decided to read the series alongside this book focused on the landscapes, practices, and history behind Wilder's real life. It's been quite a delightful experience, not only to dive back into a childhood favorite, but also to learn more about real frontier life.


3) The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

“The only glory to be had was the glory of surviving.”

This story centers on Carrie McGavock, a woman whose home is taken over as a hospital for Confederate soldiers after the battle of Franklin. Carrie is portrayed in this novel as quite grim, fairly selfish, and taken to fits of violence, it seems. I think this characterization does a disservice to the real Carrie McGavock. I could attribute my dislike for this novel to this or many other factors. For one, I've rarely been a huge fan of novels or nonfiction books set during war time. I picked this one up because it's set in Franklin, TN, and as a native Tennessean, I've been through there before. However, the setting wasn't much of a factor, other than being the place where the real-life story behind this novel took place. The romance in this book was super weird and felt forced. And, it's told from a white, Confederate/indifferent perspective, with the only Black voice in the book being somewhat of the "loyal slave" archetype. The novel seemed to be really pushing the futility and meaningless of war, portraying both sides as the same, and I just couldn't sit with that. I can still say I'm happy I finally read this, as it was the oldest book on my to-read shelf on Goodreads, added in 2010!! 


4) The Burning (Guardians of Ga'Hoole, #6) by Kathryn Lasky

"Set your wings upon the sea wind
Set your eyes upon the stream
Feel the billow of the updraft
And believe in your dream"

Guardians of Ga'Hoole is a series I started many moons ago when I was obsessed with owls and the Warriors series was no longer doing it for me. It's pretty enjoyable, but the ending was abrupt. The confrontation the whole series was building up to happened with little incident. I won't be continuing the series, which I call a big win for myself since I usually have to finish every series I start (it's a sickness). However, the rest of the series follows another arc and a new main character, so I'll allow myself to stop off here. Good series for middle schoolers obsessed with owls.


5) What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

"Being alone is not the most awful thing in the world. You visit your museums and cultivate your interests and remind yourself how lucky you are not to be one of those spindly Sudanese children with flies beading their mouths. You make out To Do lists - reorganise linen cupboard, learn two sonnets. You dole out little treats to yourself - slices of ice-cream cake, concerts at Wigmore Hall. And then, every once in a while, you wake up and gaze out of the window at another bloody daybreak, and think, I cannot do this anymore. I cannot pull myself together again and spend the next fifteen hours of wakefulness fending off the fact of my own misery."

I think this book breaks the record for most terrible people in one book. I was trying to think of one character that I like, and I haven't been able to come up with one (except maybe Ben, though he was barely in the novel). The word that comes to mind to sum up this book is uncomfortable. Okay, the word I'm really thinking of is squeamy, which is not an actual word but hopefully you get the gist. Every relationship in this novel made me squeamish. Obviously, Sheba's relationship with her student was unsettling, but so was the narrator Barbara's obsession with Sheba, Sheba's abusive relationship with her surly daughter, and the dismissive nature of her husband towards Sheba. I didn't like much about this novel, but I did find Barbara's depiction of her own loneliness as very striking and honest (see passage above). There are some great, thought-provoking reviews for this book that tell me that this might be a case of 'just not for me'.


6) The Clue of the Tapping Heels (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #16) by Carolyn Keene

"What!" Mr. Skank cried out."

^ No notable quotes from this book, just the amusing insertion of this character name.

I've been reading through the Nancy Drew series for a while now, and always find it interesting, and often hilarious. Clue of the Tapping Heels has one of the more ridiculous plots, in which tap dancing in Morse code is a feature. In this one, Nancy is, of course, an expert at tap dancing, Morse code, and catching Persian cats. Very enjoyable. The most enjoyable thing is this cover. The cover designer was like, "yes, cats, tap dancing, understood" = malevolent demon cat forcing Nancy to tap dance for all eternity.


7) The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

"Training yourself to become more selective is the single most effective thing you can do to upgrade your wardrobe. Try to think of your closet as an exclusive, members-only club. Only pieces that you love and are truly excited to wear get an invite."

I really enjoyed this book! It gave me a lot of ideas for how to build my wardrobe intentionally, avoiding the trap of trends and fast fashion. The steps are concrete and could work for anyone, with any style. I got this from the library, but I might buy it so I can refer back to it. Very fun read.


That's it for this month! I'm hoping a better combination of quality over quantity next month, fingers crossed.