2023 Books

Another year, another list!

  1. Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan — This book came highly recommended and I will be telling everyone the same – you must read it! Especially if you are a parent of teens or soon-to-be teens, but also, maybe just everyone because it covers so much ground in such an inclusive and comprehensive manner. I don’t think the lessons and language are helpful for just teenagers to know more about their bodies and the relationships we have with ourselves and others but honestly all of us. Plus it’s a graphic novel so it’s a quick read.
  2. Blue-Skinned Gods by S.J. Sindu — This sucked me right in and kept me turning pages quickly. It’s written in a fascinating sequence and left me with some wonderings and questions, but not in a bad way. I was also left with a desire to re-read because I think you would get even more out of a subsequent read than the first; not many books do that. Another unique feature was the land acknowledgment at the end – this is the first time I’ve seen that included in a book.
  3. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston — This is a must-read for jr. and sr. high kids, especially if they are growing up in a more conservative part of the country. Not only are the writing and storyline intriguing, but also, the book hits so many points smack on the head about identity and acceptance.
  4. Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy — A must-read, for parents and people starting the process of reparenting themselves. This book and BK’s strategies are so straightforward and empowering. Loved it. Can’t wait to work with the concepts and apply them to our family’s interactions.
  5. Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai — This is a case of my wants/expectations not matching what I thought the book would be; while I expect drama in my romances, I don’t expect kidnappings and thieves (despite the title; didn’t see that coming) to keep me on the nervous edge of my seat when I’m reading before bed. I’d be interested to try another title from this author but no more crime thrillers for me, thanks.
  6. Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory — Look, I’m going to love anything Guillory does, so let’s just get that statement out of the way straight away. This one took me a bit to get into because it is a tad different from her other series but I also see ways in which this one could expand into subsequent books and am totally down for that, so I think this new vein and I could become just as tight as the first in time.
  7. Husband Material by Alexis Hall — This one kept me laughing (just like LC #1) and guessing the whole time, which made for super fun reading. I was so pleased to see another book with these characters and the actual book itself did not disappoint.
  8. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien — HD asked me, “I think I want to read The Lord of the Rings; have you heard of it?” LOL, of course! But actually I’ve never read any of those books, so a friend suggested we start with The Hobbit which is exactly what we did. We both enjoyed it a lot, so I’m assuming the other books will follow in good time.
  9. Only When It’s Us (Bergman Brothers #1) by Chloe Liese — I liked this first-in-series well enough to read some more that follow it; there were some big jumps that I thought felt forced within the storyline, but overall it was an enjoyable (and steamy) romance read.
  10. Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins — I love me some LC, and while some parts of this book dipped underneath the surface and showed some real truth and insight, a lot of it felt surface level and platitude-y to me. I realize this was an essay collection more than a memoir, so maybe that’s part of it, but the overall feeling this left me with was wanting more depth from it. However, it was a really simple listen while my kids were home for a Snow Day and I needed something easy in my ear during their screen time.
  11. Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Suntanto — I really enjoyed that there was a follow up book to Dial A for Aunties and was excited to read this. Maybe the first book was like this, too, but there were a lot of cliff hanger chapter endings that felt like “and then the most shocking thing ever happened!” with this one that got old after a while. That said, the over-the-top-ness is part of the charm of these books and I liked how everything came to fruition/wrapped up by the book’s end, so it was definitely worth the read.
  12. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy — McCurdy is a phenomenal writer. Her story is hard to read in the sense of how gut-wrenchingly difficult her upbringing was, but the way she writes it is brutiful in its honesty and depth. She’s never coy or cutesy with the narrative and her choice to write in real-time, first-person puts you right there with her at each age, stage, and mentality. I don’t know that I’ve read a more compelling memoir. Could not put it down.
  13. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid — This didn’t blow me away as much as TJR’s latter books, but it was still fun to go back and read one of her earlier works. Also, it did have me wondering what was actually going to happen and I had a definite preference in the ending I wanted, so clearly she had a solid hook here.
  14. Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel — Even though this book is fairly dated at this point, it still gave me a lot of food for thought, especially after I got to the halfway point or so. There’s a lot to consider here in terms of parenthood and what we learn about acceptance and rejection early on in life and how that plays into our later, romantic relationships.
  15. Counterfeit by Kristin Chen — There are some great twists and turns in this one and I really appreciated the writing style of the overall book. I know nothing about designer handbags but I enjoyed this novel about them so much! Such a different topic/focus and fun in a suspense-y sort of way. (finished 2.28.23)
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling — Finally finished reading this to No.2 and No.3 – feels so good to check this off for two more of the kids!
  17. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna — This book was such a delight to read. It reminded me a bit of TJ Klune’s writing, which is always a pleasure to experience; my only wish is that the magic had lasted a little longer.
  18. The Winners by Fredrik Backman — I’m still not convinced I needed a third book to make this into a trilogy, but that said, I still love the way Backman writes these characters and the way he can summarize life and human-ing so well. His little capital-T Truths are sprinkled everywhere throughout this book, just like in the first two. This one is also no different in that it is a crack-your-heart open read, full of joy and sadness (although the sadness tends to take up more space). While it was worth it in the end to read No.3, I still think you could read just the first two in the series and feel satisfied with the story, which is probably what I would recommend first to people just because this last one is so much longer than the other two.
  19. Ejaculate Responsibly by Gabrielle Blair — Everyone needs this book. Read it (quickly, because it is important, succinct, and compelling). Talk about it with your people. Read it again. Keep talking with your people. The shift of focus that Blair takes to discuss how we can reduce unwanted pregnancies (and thereby eliminate a great deal of abortions) is both simple and radical. The title says it all, but seriously, read this book. (finished 3.15.23)
  20. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd — Reread this for an upcoming book club discussion (very much looking forward to this as I have yet to discuss this one with a group) and enjoyed it all over again. I picked up on lines that I’m sure I appreciated the first time and adored this time, and was taken by the fact that I am (once again, it turns out) reading this in the Easter-ish season; while I understand that this is fiction, it also seems so realistic and compelling, making it a fascinating lens from which to look at the adult life of Jesus.
  21. The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor — Although this book is relatively short in page number, it does not lack in depth of importance or scope. The ideas here do feel radical but also necessary, even though I can already see that the work is going to be life-long. SRT offers solid framework for understanding how we got here, but also offers clear guidance for how we move forward and (bless it, someday) through this mess of body shame and fear. It’s a must-read and probably a read-again (and again) kind of book.
  22. Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake — As far as romances go, this was great, even if I did accidently read Book 2 before Book 1. I enjoyed the characters and premise and love to see queer love stories take shape on the page, which means I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. (finished 3.26.23)
  23. Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen — I adored this book. It took me a few chapters to get into a groove with it, but then I didn’t want to stop and loved how the author wove together so many characters and little storylines, all while flushing out the story of the main characters. This was also so unique and unlike any other book I’ve read for who knows how long, which also made it a compelling and satisfying read.
  24. Horse by Geraldine Brooks — Incredible. This is historical fiction in fine form, but it also pulls in modern issues of race and all the complexity that surrounds such concerns. I did not expect to get sucked into this book but I could not put it down and was really drawn into both the historical storylines and the contemporary one as well. The research that went into this is remarkable but the end result is a compelling, captivating story that isn’t dry or dull in the least. (finished 4.3.23
  25. Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley — Such an endearing book and a lovely premise for a novel. The characters are fun and the way their stories connect keeps the reading quick and entertaining. I called a few shots and was surprised by some others. While there are some big heavies tucked in these pages, it’s also full of joy and hope. This is my second Pooley novel; looking forward to more in the future.
  26. Rivals by Katharine McGee — This one didn’t land as well for me as the first two, but that may have been because I didn’t realize that this book was building to a Book Four. I thought I was getting story, character, and series resolution, only to start wondering WTH when I had 10% of my reading left and was definitely not getting things wrapped up with a royal bow. I’m certainly not mad about there being a B4 and clearly this one set the stage for some fireworks in what’s to come, but it did shift my reading experience in an odd way.
  27. Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad — Did not expect to finish this in three days, but with the holiday weekend and Jaouad’s gorgeous writing style, I simply couldn’t put this down and flew through it. There’s so much human-ness wrapped up in her story and even though I can’t relate to her specific medical experience, I found myself understanding and agreeing with so much of what she shared here. There are essentially two parts to this memoir – the illness and the after, and she writes about both in remarkable ways. What a beautiful writer. (Finished 4.9.23)
  28. In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae — I was all for the Hallmark premise of this but in actual execution of the story, I just couldn’t get on board with the characters and the big jumps between their hesitation and rejection and then their sudden (re)familiarity and declarations. Not nearly enough realistic development, despite being a real-enough setting and situation. Romance novels aren’t meant to be boring/irritating enough to put down and fall asleep!
  29. Women Talking by Miriam Toews — This book is a gut punch and also a bit baffling to me given that its very title is Women Talking but has a male narrator. I get it that to have “minutes” from the meeting of an illiterate group, someone with the ability to write would need to be present, but that choice struck me throughout my reading of the book. It’s hellish to know that this fictional work stems from real-life trauma experienced in the world, but it is worthwhile to consider how the women might have talked about what choices they had after the men were arrested, which is exactly what this book details (albeit it through the lens of another man from the colony).
  30. Not the Plan by Gia de Cadenet — This had more political intrigue than I expected which was interesting to see crop up in a romance read, and it also dove into family relationships (specifically an emotionally immature parent) in unexpected ways.
  31. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang — Obsessed! This book is all about the writing of books but it is so much more than that, too, diving into race, professionalism, ownership of stories, friendship, some family shit, and, indirectly, a commentary on the evils of social media. Also, Kuang created my most favorite unreliable narrator ever in June/Juniper. Could not stop reading it! (finished 5/5/23)
  32. Dear White Peacemaker by Osehta Moore — Moore approaches this book with the central ideas that Jesus is the model for anti-racism peacemaking and that such strides can be made in our society through efforts that involve both grit and grace. She echoes these themes throughout the book with both personal anecdotes, commentary on social tragedies and movements, and close readings of the bible. Each primary section also includes a Breath Prayer that invokes spiritual wording and ideas to associate with your inhales and exhales; altogether they make a beautiful list and prayer offering. In general, the book shines a different perspective on anti-racism work than most others I have read.
  33. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake –I’ve got another queer romance love in AHB’s writing! These books are so great. I accidentally read No.2 before No.1, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of either book, actually, even though I totally knew very important spoilers when I began this one. I love the way these characters, friendships, and romances are written, and I hope this series plays out for a good long while.
  34. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean — The jump to princess status and the relationship in this fell short for me, but at the same time, the friendships and heroine were enjoyable enough to read and made up for some of the other “how did we get here” moments. I’d be curious to read the second book and see how the story unfolds from this point.
  35. In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune — This was a slower start for me, but once I got to Part II, I felt more of that typical Klune hook to the writing. And somehow he made me absolutely fall in love with sarcastic and neurotic robots, so there’s that! I didn’t know what to expect out of a dystopian novel about robots but ultimately the story and characters cracked my heart open just a bit more, like Klune’s book always do. (Finished 5/25/23)
  36. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver — Oh, wow. I’ve never read David Copperfield but this modern retelling set in Appalachia is incredible. There are moments (many) that rip your heart out and stir your anger, and then there are others that make you root and cheer for Demon or sigh in relief that he’s survived to see another day after the latest shit show experience. This one is going to stick with me for quite a while. (6/6/23)
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