What I Read In January

I know I’m prone to being a little dramatic at times but January really did feel like it lasted an age. I’ve started this year on such a positive note and despite the month feeling like it dragged on, I’ve managed to tick off so many things on my to-do list from wedding planning, losing weight and finally organising what to do with the mountain of much-loved books I own – more on that later! I managed to get through six books in January and I had my first DNF of 2019. I didn’t expect it to happen as early as January but my motto this year is that life is too short to be reading books you don’t love … and I loathed this one. Can you guess which one from the picture before we dive into my round up?

Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win – Jo Piazza

I wanted to read this as soon as I could get my hands on it but sadly, it was so expensive to get from Amazon that I had to leave it on my wish-list and wait for it to become less expensive. My lovely fiancé bought me this for Christmas and I was so excited to finally read it. Charlotte Walsh, a high profile CEO for one of the most progressive tech companies in Silicon Valley, decides to return to her home state and run for Senate. If she wins, she’ll be the first female Senator in history for Pennsylvania. But as the race begins, she realises how ugly politics can be and is shocked at the lengths her opposition will go to try and destroy her credibility. As Charlotte’s personal life begins to be aired for the whole country to see, she tries as best she can to focus on the race and is determined to do all she can to win.

It took me a good few chapters to warm up to Charlotte and her family but once I did, I was hooked. The character development was executed perfectly.  It highlighted how differently women in power are treated. The sexism and misogyny they face. Piazza nailed this perfectly and I enjoyed reading Charlotte and her team tackle all the hurdles that came her way – even if I didn’t agree with some of them but hey, politics can be a dirty game!  I was giving this a good solid 4 stars until the ending. WHAT? Not going to spoil anything but I expected a little more. Overall, a decent book that was well written but .. just alright. The end really let it down.

A Place For Us – Fatima Farheen Mirza

WOW. What a way to kick 2019 off. A five-star book as my second read of the year but this was truly worth the hype.  I’ve wanted to read A Place For Us for so long and was fortunate enough to receive it for Christmas. The book centres around an Indian-Muslim family who are preparing for the wedding of the oldest daughter – Hadia’s. Rafiq and Layla have not followed tradition by allowing Hadia to marry someone she has chosen and loves as opposed to an arranged marriage. Tension mounts on the big day as to whether or not Amar, their estranged son, will show up for his sisters big day. The book alternates between different family members POV and different periods throughout their lives. 

I am big on books with good character development and this ticked all the boxes for me. Each character was crafted so well and I was emotionally attached to everyone in their own different ways – although I had a soft spot for Amar and Hadia. The writing is absolutely stunning and the jumps in past and present were executed perfectly. I’m so sad it’s over but the last part of the book will be one I will think about for some time. 

Overall, A Place For Us is one of the best books I’ve read in a few months and I’m sad to have finished it. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking, the characters extremely loveable and the writing sublime. Couldn’t recommend this one enough, especially if you’re a fan of family dramas.

Silver Sparrow – Tajari Jones

Silver Sparrow is my second book by Jones. I read An American Marriage last January and since then, to read her other books has been on my radar.

The book follows two families living in the 1980s in Atlanta. The first sentence to the book tells you the story from the get-go – my father James Witherspoon is a bigamist. It alternates between two POVs, Dana and Chaurrise, who are sisters but a secret from another who are very close in age. From Dana’s perspective, we learn about her life growing up as a secret. Not being able to declare who her real dad is and feeling like she is second best or as her mother puts it received “crumbs of happiness” is a lot of her to bare. Her mother, who knew James was already married, explains that is just the way life is as she accepted being the second wife and the consequences that would have. The second half of the book is told by Chaurrise and we finally see a glimpse into the world she lives in. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I feel like Jones has an incredible talent as a writer at being able to write so seamlessly and stunningly without using fancy language. The character development, particularly on the two girls, was spot on but I do think there were a couple of characters in the book who were underdeveloped such as Rayleigh. I couldn’t understand his role at points and considered him a little weird. I’ve rated it 4 stars just because I found the ending a little disappointing. 

Normal People – Sally Rooney

I have SO many thoughts and feelings about this book. There has obviously been a huge amount of hype around this book after being long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and scooping the Costa Novel of The Year Award. I thought I could write down my thoughts but, I think it is best to leave them for a separate review post. I read this as part of my book club, The Two Amy’s Book Club and we’ll be chatting about this on the 7th of February at 7pm. Join us if you can on Twitter or Facebook!

Michelle Obama – Becoming

There is so much hype around Becoming and the expectations were always going to be high but, the book more than delivered for me. Michelle is such an incredible lady. She’s extremely intelligent, ambitious, headstrong and a fantastic role model to women all over the world.

The book is split into three parts – Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. It was fascinating to learn about her childhood, her education and career to meeting Barack and their relationship blossoming to then the journey they took together as he decided to go into politics. 

You don’t have to like politics to like this book – in fact, Michelle mentions herself she wasn’t a fan of politics. I found her incredibly humble. She pays homage to how important education was for her, how motherhood shaped her and of course, what life is really like living as the First Lady. One thing that struck me is when she said that being the president is the loneliest job in the world. I always wondered how it would feel to have a role that enormous and loneliness was something I’d never considered but now, I can see why. 

The book is full of amazing quotes. She really is an incredible lady and I’m so pleased to see the success the book is receiving. I didn’t rank it 5 just because there were times where I felt certain parts were dragging a little but it’s more of a 4.5-star book for me.

Milkman – Anna Burns

If you guessed Milkman as my DNF then you were right. I was so keen to read this after it scooped the Man Booker Prize award but, it just wasn’t for me. The writing style is very dense and I found it difficult to gel with. It wanted to really like this one but I thought it was best to just put it aside and start something new.

Next Year in Havana – Chanel Cleeton

It’s taken me longer than I would have liked to pick up Next Year In Havana but, I’m glad I finally got round to it. This is a really wonderful book, flipping between a grandmother and daughters perspective, that brings Cuba to life. 

Elisa Perez is a wealthy, young lady living in Cuba and regarded as a member of high society. Revolution is in the air but she hasn’t experienced much of the political unrest due to living a very privileged, sheltered life until she begins an affair with young revolutionist.  Marisol is a freelance writer, living in Miami and grieving after her grandmother, Elisa’s death. She grew up listening to tales of Cuba and her grandmothers love for her homeland. Elisa’s last wish that her ashes be scattered in Cuba. Marisol takes the journey to Cuba to lay her grandmother to rest and explore the country so dear to her heart. 

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did – I loved it! I adored both Marisol and Elisa and enjoyed the alternating points of view. The book was so descriptive. The atmospheric writing made Cuba come to life and I couldn’t stop visualising the tropical setting. I also didn’t know much about the revolution that happened in Cuba and the book gave an insight into the unrest that existed and what happened to the families who were exiled. I can’t wait for the next book which focuses on Elisa’s sister which will be very interesting! 

January was a good reading month for me. The highlight was definitely A Place For Us. If I had read it in 2018, it would have been in my top five for the whole year. It really has set the bar high for the books that are going to come my way in 2019. I plan to read more diverse books in February and have accumulated a nice little haul to help with that. What did you read in January? Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Thanks for reading!