Reading Recap: January 2021

Hi, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this book blog. Did you know I have a new blogging endeavor over at Running into Joy?

While that blog has taken up a lot of my energy of late, I’ve recently been back in the swing of reading more, and wanted to loop my Amanda Reads followers in to my monthly reading recaps, aka Reading Into Joy.

Here’s the latest post, featuring mini-reviews of the books I read in January of this year. I hope you enjoy this slightly different style of review!

A Woman is no Man by Etaf Rum

Format: Hardcover (Book of the Month Edition)Why I Read It: Tacking my physical TBR stack 
My first read of 2021 turned out to be a real winner. I’ll admit it, I bought this book back in 2019 and it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while because it seemed like the kind of book I’d be glad to have read, but which would not necessarily be an enjoyable reading experience in and of itself.

I could not have been more wrong. This book gripped me from the introduction and kept me reading, to the point that I did the unthinkable and stayed up past my bedtime to finish it. 

It’s a beautifully woven multigenerational story that switches between three generations of women in the same family. Normally I find this structure frustrating, but the pieces here fall together so beautifully without being withholding or coy. Read this book. Just do. It’s been a month and I’m still thinking about it. 

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 

Format: Hardcover (Book of the Month edition)Why I Read It: Tacking my physical TBR stack 
This book is billed as Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Americanah and having read and enjoyed one of those books, I chose this pick for my Book of the Month in 2019 without a second thought. It then sat on my shelf until January 2021 found me resolving to read those lingering BoTM books that stacked up when I had a gift subscription. 

I am generally averse to “watch someone spiral out and make bad choices” types of stories because they stress me out. I want to help the protagonist, protect them from themselves. But the compelling characters and writing pulled me through, and I found myself remaining hopeful that things would turn out okay even as Queenie made some questionable choices time and time again. 

I recommend this book if you’re interested in stories about women learning to come to terms with their patterns and mental health issues. In all, I enjoyed the reading experience and felt it ended on a hopeful but realistic note. 

The Chicken Sisters by DJ Kell’Antonia

Format: Hardcover (Book of the Month edition) Why I Read It: Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club 
I will fully admit that I wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t for the number of times it popped up on my Instagram feed thanks to Reese Witherspoon’s book club. 

I will also that the reason is because I have developed a strangely resistant relationship with fried chicken. 
When I was a kid, we would often go to my paternal grandparents’ house for lunch or dinner visits. Most of the time, grandma cooked, but occasionally, we would order in. I wouldn’t say I was a particularly picky eater, but I never cared for dark meat or bone-in chicken. And yet, my grandparents reliably ordered KFC without consulting us on what we wanted, such that the bucket would come without any chicken strips or popcorn chicken. All that is to say, I associate fried chicken with being disappointed by my options during what my child mind already perceived as boring visits to my grandparents house. 

Is this a good reason not to want to read a book about rival fried chicken stands in Kansas? Probably not, but it definitely played a part in my avoidance of this book for the first several months of internet buzz. Eventually realizing this was the only reason the book did not interest me, I gave in and ordered a copy. 

The Chicken Sisters was up against stiff competition from this month’s other reads, so earned only a three star Goodreads rating from me. It was a fun, enjoyable read but suffered from being one of those books where everyone’s refusal to just speak to one another ends up being frustrating for far too long. I did have a lot of fun with the fact one of the main characters, Amanda, ends up with a romantic interest named Andy (my fiancé’s name is Andy and in case you got somehow here without knowing this, mine is Amanda). 
In all, I recommend this one if you’re interested in a book about what happens behind the scenes of food-based reality TV or if you enjoy some good family drama and misunderstandings. 

The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor

Format: Audiobook (Libro.Fm)Why I Read It: I failed a running club book club read of this in 2020 and decided to try again in audio form

I started this book last year when the BadassLadyGang held a book club, but I didn’t manage to make it past the first few chapters. Books that have inquiries/prompts for journaling tend to get this way for me. I am reading along, then feel obligated to stop at these prompts until I can journal about them. But then I never do, so I never keep reading. A vicious cycle.

Still, this one felt too important to give up on, and I figured I’d feel less obligated to stop reading every time a prompt came up if I listened to it on audio. To my delight, it was available and narrated by the author (kind of a nonfiction reading must for me). Sonya Renee Taylor gives a stellar audio performance in this one, and raises a lot of valuable points about the human experience of being in a body in a society posed to profit off body shame. 

I feel like I’m still processing a lot of the content, in a good way. Highly recommend to anyone who is ready to start making peace with their body and the identities it holds.  

The Dating Plan 
by Sara Desai

Format: Hardcover (Book of the Month Edition)Why I Read It: First BoTM pick of 2021
My enjoyment of this book suffered from having read too many similar ones in recent memory. 

It also does the alternating perspectives thing, which I do not enjoy in a romance. I want the mystery and the suspense of not knowing what the protagonist’s love interest is thinking, and switching points of view midway through a steamy date slows down the momentum for me as a reader.

This was a fun, cute read overall but I don’t think I came to it in the right mental space. Also, maybe this is a personal thing, but I struggled with the fact that the main character kept referring to her Marvel underwear, bags, etc, as “Marvel superheroes” items instead of just Marvel. Is it just me, or is that… not a thing people do? 
In all, I recommend this if you’re looking for a fun, cute romance and aren’t as weirdly picky as I apparently am about all of the above. 

So, that’s that! 5 books into my reading year isn’t half bad for January, if I do say so myself. Next up on my list are continuing to make headway in Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Helen MacDonald’s Vesper Flights. 

Stay tuned as I most definitely actually bring you a monthly reading recap again in February. Until then, I’d love to hear what you’re reading or planning to pick up next!

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