The first month of 2019 is drawing to a close and I can’t help but wonder where it’s disappeared to in such a hurry. So far, January has been full of cozy blankets and the remnants of my Christmas candy — a month of sugary fingers and good books.
This year’s 2019 Reading Challenge has started off to great success (the Facebook group has more than doubled in size) and my to-be-read pile grows longer daily. It’s a happy problem to have more books on your wish-list than you could ever hope to read. This year, I’ve decided to log my 52 books here on MommyMannegren. In addition to my reviews, I hope to jot down a few other suggestions for each of the categories if you’re looking for ideas for yourself.
Here are my January choices:
A Book Set During a Holiday
(Week 1: January 1 – 7, 2019) A Rule Against Murder — Louise Penny
I decided to start out my very first book of 2019 with an author whom I’ve just discovered in the past year, but am quite enjoying: Canadian writer, Louise Penny. Out of the four books of hers I’ve now read, I think that this one is my favourite.
Inspector Gamache’s wedding anniversary just so happens to fall on July 1st (can you get any more Canadian than that?) and the couple heads away for a holiday by the lake to celebrate. Of course, there’s murder and mayhem and intriguing psychological character studies to follow.
Louise Penny has a very different style of writing. Her characters are big and bold — almost to the point of caricature — but also incredibly in-depth and well rounded. These stories are so heavily character based that the actual act of murder itself is almost secondary. Unlike many of the modern thrillers and adventure style mysteries, the pace of these books are slower. They often lack the high-energy, heart-pounding sort of thrills in favour of richer dialogue, setting and the slow building of characters that we come to know and love. They’re exquisitely written and thoroughly enjoyable reads.
I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.
Suggestions for other books set during a holiday: *The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares ** Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie ** Skipping Christmas by John Grisham ** Halloween Party by Agatha Christie **
A Book Published by HarperCollins
(Week 2: January 8 – 14, 2019) The Tattooist of Auschwitz — Heather Morris
I included this category in this year’s challenge because it’s always been one of those secret dreams of mine to have a book published by HarperCollins. (I also have a secret dream to ride around on the back of an Orca whale like that kid in Free Willy. Not sure which seems more likely at this point.) This book is published by Harper an imprint of HarperCollins.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one of those books that everyone’s talking about — and for good reason. Set during the WWII, this story is based on the true life events of Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz, and the love of his life, Gita. It’s a story of love and desperation and horror and ultimate triumph. This is a book that leaves you gutted by the atrocities committed by fellow humans but is still so important to read and remember. These are the stories that still need to be heard.
In regard to the actual style and structure of the book, I felt that it occasionally came across a bit choppy. This novel was originally written as a screenplay and this is very evident in the way the book has been shaped. For such emotional events, the writing at times comes across as quite factual and stilted — “They exit with their arms linked, talking, oblivious to their surroundings. Without warning, the SS officer outside their block hits Gita in the back with his rifle. Both girls crash to the ground. Gita cries out in pain. He indicates with his rifle for them to get up. They stand, their eyes downcast.” (Page, 64) However, in my opinion, the strength and importance of the story override any stylistic issues — and one could argue that the way it’s written actually adds to the overall tone of the novel. In this case, “different” doesn’t necessarily mean bad writing.
I definitely recommend giving this book a read, if for no other reason than why Lale first told his story, “So that it would never happen again.”
4.5 stars out of 5
Suggestions for other books by HarperCollins: *Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda ** To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee ** The Alice Network by Kate Quinn ** The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill ** Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance **
An Author You’ve Never Heard of Before
(Week 3: January 15-21, 2019) The Color of Our Sky — Amita Trasi
Sometimes I take a leap of faith and purchase a novel solely because of its GoodReads score. This was one of those times, and I have to say, I’m really glad I did.
A tale of two young girls in India, this story spans several decades and goes back and forth between two narrators: Mukta and Tara. Mukta is born into a long line of temple prostitutes, fulfilling her duty at the young age of ten. After being whisked away to safety, she moves in with a middle-class family and develops a blossoming friendship with the young daughter, Tara. Life changes for both of them when one dark night, Mukta is kidnapped. Eleven years later, still blinded by guilt and pain, Tara embarks on a journey to find her missing childhood friend and find healing for them both.
This story is captivating and emotional, while the writing style is rich and lovely. It’s a simultaneously heart-warming and heartbreaking tale that highlights and discusses some of the darkest bits of today’s world. My only disappointment with this book is that there occasionally seemed to be a few, very minor timeline/plot inconsistencies. But overall, I give this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Suggestions for books by an author you may not have heard of before: ** All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein ** Dancing Under the Red Star by Karl Tobien ** Ruined by Ruth Everhart ** Little Princes by Conor Grennan ** Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis ** The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman ** Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens **
A Memoir on Someone You Admire
(Week 4: January 22-28, 2019) A House in the Sky — Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett.
I loved this book. This is the searing and beautifully written story of a young, Canadian woman who is abducted and held hostage in Somalia for fifteen months. This travel-whirlwind is a tale of courage and naivete and ultimately, compassion and hope.
I admire Amanda’s grit and courage throughout a horrifying ordeal. While her adventurous spirit seemed to occasionally veer into recklessness, I admire the fact that she eventually founded a nonprofit organization to aid and support the very country in which she endured such a nightmare. While the story seemed to slow a bit in the middle, the gorgeous writing and incredible storyline still lead me to give this book a rare 5 stars out of 5.
Suggestions for other memoirs on people you may admire: **The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls ** Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela ** The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith H. Beer ** West with the Night by Beryl Markham ** Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose ** Lion by Saroo Brierly **
An Ugly Cover
(January 29 – February 4, 2019) Generous Justice — Timothy Keller
This book challenges readers to re-evaluate how they think and act out works of justice within their communities and cities. What is the role of the church in dealing with social justice and how do we practically live that out? Keller shows us how an encounter with grace inevitably leads to a life of justice and compassion.
This book was concise and personally challenging. Keller noted the deep-rooted complexities involved in social change and demonstrates how an accurate understanding of the Bible promotes justice rather than hinders it. While this concept isn’t a new idea to Christians, it’s an important reminder and challenge as to the way we’re living it out every day.
5 stars out of 5
Suggestions for other books with ugly covers: **Pretty much any classic novel ever has an ugly cover out there somewhere! This category is so subjective, I don’t have any real recommends, but let me know in the comments what you picked!**
What books did you read this month?