January 2016 Reading Recap

I’m off to a good start with my goal of reading 52 books this year. This month, I’ve read 8 books, so I have 44 more to read and am 15% done. I always read a ton in January because I’m on break from school and because I want to get a good start on my annual challenge because my reading is practically nothing at the end of the year! I still read quite a bit this year, but not as much as previous years (I read 11 last year!) since I worked this break.

I also think I am going to post these recaps more frequently. Last year I did it quarterly, but I read so much that it’s always hard for me to cram all my reviews for the past three months into one post. I can’t even fit in all the books I read just for January! :P Here’s most of my books from this month.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – 3/5 starsYes Please
I’ve always really liked Amy Poehler in the movies I’ve seen her in (Mean Girls or Baby Mama, anyone?) but especially from the TV show Parks and Recreation. Her hyperactive character I find myself relating to a lot, and since I had read Mindy Kaling’s two autobiographies, I thought Poehler’s would be just as funny.

It really wasn’t. There were some moments where I gave a little chuckle, but overall, the book is pretty true to its genre. It’s an autobiography about her life, so I think I was a bit let down because of the expectations I had from reading other autobiographies from comedians. Took me a long time to finish it.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan – 5/5 stars
I started reading this series back in December, and I finally finished the last two books. I was a bit iffy on starting them because I’m really not very interested in Greek mythology, but Andrew kept pestering me saying that I would like them, and he was right! The main character’s perspective is so refreshingly that of a teenaged boy. It’s very down-to-earth and had me cracking up. The series follows Percy Jackson, who is a half-blood — meaning the son of a god —  and his many adventures trying to save the world.

There was nice character development all around, and then ending wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. And despite knowing very little about Greek mythology, Riordan did a really good job in subtly reminding you who gods were and what their powers were without being repetitive or detracting from the story. If you like action and adventures with a touch of romance and quite a bit of humor, I would definitely recommend this series! I’m looking forward to reading the next series!

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen – 4/5 stars
At the Water's EdgeI listened to this audiobook partly because I really enjoyed Gruen’s Water for Elephants but also because it was available and I needed something to listen to. The beginning was a bit slow, but I still really enjoyed this novel. It’s set during WWII, and focuses on privileged upperclass Maddie, her color blind husband Ellis, and their friend Hank. While the men seek to catch footage of the Loch Ness monster, Maddie slowly falls in love with the small country town and with the people where they are staying.

I was personally a bit wary when I read the description. Hunting the Loch Ness monster? Sounded a bit fantastical being set in WWII, but the story really doesn’t focus as much on the monster, but more of the actions caused by her husband and friend searching for it. There were also interesting tidbits and facts about the war throughout the novel that I didn’t know before, which was really interesting for me.  At the Water’s Edge is a great timepiece read and I would recommend it if you like a bit of adventure, romance, and history.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – 5/5 stars
I will admit, I didn’t really look at what this book is about before I picked it up. I saw Aziz on the front and was kind of like, “Oh my gosh! Aziz has a book out?! Where have I been? What have I been doing with my life?!” Okay, it might have not been that dramatic, but I have always found Aziz absolutely hilarious and knew that I would love his book.

I was expecting the book to be an autobiography, but it was actually  a research study centered round romance in today’s society: how it’s changed, the impacts, how it affects how people date, etc. It was a really fascinating read, educational without being boring (it’s not your typical research study), and punctuated with Aziz’s humor. It was a really easy read and fairly short, so I would recommend this one to everyone.

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Trilogy, #1) by Jonathan Stroud – 4.5/5 stars
The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Trilogy, #1)I really enjoyed this book. I’m always skeptical of fantasy/magic books post-Harry Potter, but besides being set in England, there’s not really a whole lot in common. This was a very fresh and unique take on a boy apprentice who is learning to become a magician. The magicians can summon djinni (otherwise known as “demons”) who become their slaves. Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus as his first demon and the novel follows their adventure.

What really made this book is Bartimaeus’s character. He is so sarcastic, witty, and funny that it makes the book very easy to read. You learn about most of the magical world from Bartimaeus, but it’s done very appropriately. You don’t read paragraphs and paragraphs about the world; it’s all woven into his story. Another thing I’ve never seen any other book do quite like this, is his use of footnotes. Normally it’s a line or two clarifying something, but Bartimaeus uses them more as a sidetrack to his main train of thought. At first it was very weird to me to have some pages half full of footnotes, but as the book progressed I really liked it. It fit his character and the plot (with his mind working on different planes).

Overall really good first book in the trilogy. Fairly fast-paced, unique, and a definite recommend to fantasy lovers. I’d also recommend if you liked Harry Potter, but they are pretty different so it’s more if you enjoy magic. :)

Good start to my challenge! My favorite read this month is hand’s down Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I think February I will have much less time to read since my classes have just started up, but I’m hoping that they will be just as good as this month. I normally don’t have such positive reviews on all my books!

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These Hands

The first time you slipped your hand into mine, it was awkward. It was a week after we had started dating and we were walking in the afternoon sunshine. It was impulsive and quick, as if you thought about it too much, you wouldn’t be able to muster up the courage. Your fingers weren’t intertwined in mine, your hand was just wrapped around mine like an awkward handshake. It was warm. It was new.

“He was asking for you,” The nurse told me, and I couldn’t help but laugh at how loopy you looked when I saw you lying on the hospital bed. You were being very impertinent, constantly asking the nurse your vitals and commenting on your good health. You said you were fine, but the anesthesia was clearly still working. You asked for permission to wear your glasses and I smiled and handed them to you. You were insistent that I hold your hand while we waited for the doctor. I complied and this time my hand warmed yours.

Four years felt like forever. That night was magical: a fancy dress and expensive restaurant, doing things that we normally didn’t do. If time could stand still, I would want to stay in those moments forever. And then you were down on one knee. You knew the answer before I even said it and scooped me into a hug. This was what forever felt like, and I couldn’t stop holding your hand.

I was driving with my left hand, and my right was holding yours. You were leaving for Spain for the summer, and I still wasn’t prepared. I had been holding tears back the entire drive, trying to keep it together in front of you and our friend. I made a wrong turn, but lied and said it was an accident. I just wanted to hold your hand for a little longer. You took your suitcase when we parked and you hugged me hard. I couldn’t stop the tears. I had to let go of your hand. And then you were gone.

I was sobbing. Words had never stung so much before, but the silence in your answers were worse. The crickets and lightning bugs were out, the night as dark as a sea of ink. I didn’t want to speak to you but you sat on the porch outside my house for hours until I eventually came out. Your words were quiet and you took my hand into both of yours. I tried to remove it. We almost broke up, but you held on tight.

My dad originally held my hand. I was dressed in white and you were in light gray. It was the first time you wore a bow tie. There were tears in your eyes but I couldn’t stop smiling; I knew if I did, there would be tears in mine, too. My father placed my shaking hand into yours with a kiss on the cheek. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember the feelings. My hands were now yours, and your hands were now mine.

It was snowing, the flakes on the ground making the world outside shine. You climbed into bed before I did and made your side of the sheets warm. I slipped under the covers and shivered. I tentatively reached out my hand of ice, searching for your warmth. You yelped when I found your arm and I couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled out of me. You told me I couldn’t come any closer or I might hurt you because I was so cold. But you pulled me closer and slowly warmed my hands between yours.

Now, as I lean my head on your shoulder and slip my hand into yours, I think of the countries your hands have seen, the people yours hands have helped. And yet, your hand is here in mine, still.

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