Happy New Year, fellow bookworms! It has been some time since we were last together and more specifically since I last shared my monthly book reviews on the blog. This year I am committed to sharing all of the titles and juicy plots I’m found diving into under the covers, on a monthly basis with you all. As many of you may recall, each year I like to set an intentional reading goal with the accountability of my good friend, Goodreads. In thinking about my goal this year, I decided on 30 books before turning 30 in September (#30for30). I presume that if I can accomplish 5-6 books each month that I will be able to not only meet, but surpass my goal! However, here’s the thing about reading goals – it’s not just about the numbers and so-called “bragging rights”. Throw that entire concept out the window because if that’s your main intention because you’re doing it all wrong. For me setting a yearly reading goal is not just about the challenge but the JOY that comes with it. In the words of Marie Kondo, if it doesn’t spark joy then why hold onto it? Which is why I have a semi-huge announcement to make, are you ready? Drum roll please…
As of today, Booked for the Weekend is making some authentic changes. In thinking about what truly “sparks joy” for me it’s when someone messages me on Instagram saying that my recent book review helped them select a plane read for their getaway to Bali – or when a friend texts me asking to peruse my home bookshelf, in hopes of cultivating a new love/habit of reading. I’m a bookworm at heart and find such pleasure in knowing that not only friends, but strangers from all over connect me to that of reading. Which is why Booked for the Weekend will slowly begin to evolve into a space meant celebrate all things bookish – from monthly book hauls and reviews, reading tips & tricks, bibliophile interviews, and so many more surprises to come. Excited much? Great, I’m glad we could both agree.
Let’s jump in January’s books in review, shall we? I shocked myself by having a goal of completing three books for January, but rather finishing seven! Let me start by saying that I was rather spoiled, having the first week of the year off from work and therefore allowing the time to snuggle up and fly through some awesome selections. So let’s dive in!
As soon as I saw that this was going to be Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine holiday pick, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the title in the month of December as I had originally planned, however it was fun to bring into the New Year. ‘One Day in December’ tells the story of three friends bound together in the most interesting way. Who said love at first sight doesn’t exist? One snowy December day in London, Laurie locks eyes with a man she instantly knows to be the one. However, what happens when the train keeps moving and months later you’re reunited with the man…only to find out he’s your best friend’s new beau? What follows for the main characters Laurie, Sarah, and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartache, and secrets awaiting their release date. While the plot was far from humorous, Josie Silver did a great job of bringing light to this tale, making it a nail biter. ‘One Day in December’ reminded me of why I enjoy fiction so much, as it was very comparable to that of Emily Giffin’s ‘Something Borrowed’ series. I wouldn’t be surprised if this title became an upcoming miniseries, perhaps later in the year nearing Christmas. If you’re looking for a guilty pleasure of a novel that you can’t put down, this one is for you!
2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Let me just begin by saying that the moment the release date was announced in early spring was the moment I placed my preorder with Amazon. I was NOT playing around about having ‘Becoming’ on my doorstep the day it came out. Much like many across the country, one of my book clubs chose ‘Becoming’ to enter into the New Year. Where to even begin? At this point you’ve likely read a number of reviews regarding this captivating memoir, but hear me out. First and foremost, if you rate this book anything less than five stars, like Luvvie Ajayi, I’m judging you. Hard. Far from a non-fiction, let alone autobiography fan, there was no way I missing out on Momma Michelle’s life story. What started off slow (for me personally) at first, quickly had me captivated once I made the switch from physical copy to Audible. Hearing the therapeutic voice of Michelle Obama fulfilled me in ways that I can’t even describe. It’s one thing to know her and the Obama family through media and what we’ve been told – but to learn about this incredible being before Barack, and how firmly she stands on her own two feet…whew, I have no words. This read (or should I say listen) was a great way to kick off the New Year and fuel my inspiration tank!
3. When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I can be honest on here, right? I originally gave this read four stars, but looking back, I think it was mostly based off of peer pressure. While I wasn’t completely engrossed by this true story, I can identify bot the beauty and importance of it. If I wasn’t to see other friend’s ratings and opinions I truthfully would have given ‘When Breathe Becomes Air” between a 2.5 or 3 star rating. This read did however leave me in shambles. Life is precious – how would you choose to live your final moments if you knew you had just a few months left of this thing called life? An autobiographical book about his life and illness, battling stage IV lung cancer, former neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi captivates us all with this intimate memoir (this truly was my month for non-fiction). I honestly don’t believe a review can do this real-life story justice, but this read made me dig deep into the question “What is my life’s purpose?”
4. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Because sometimes you just need the fluff, sweetness, and fun that comes with a somewhat predictable novel. ‘The Wedding Date’ chronicles what happens when a fake relationship blossoms - think the adult version of Jenny Han’s ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ series. Agreeing to attend a wedding and be the date of a stranger she gets stuck in the elevator with, Alexa Monroe is in for a wild ride (both metaphorically and literally). After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they expected possible the plot thickens into a long-distance dating disaster of the century. I had wanted to dive into debut author, Jasmine Guillory’s novels for awhile now, and finally had my first taste with ‘The Wedding Date’ (I’m excited to have the sequel ‘The Proposal’ queued for the month of February). I was hoping to walk away absolutely loving this book, but I found it at times almost too predictable. While I’m definitely a fan of romantic-fiction, I think my taste has changed over time to love stories including just a little more depth. Still super cute and the perfect pick for someone looking for a beach/vacation read.
This fiercely stunning novel by Reynolds takes place in sixty seconds – the time it takes a teenager to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the man who killed his brother. Where fifteen-year old Will comes from knowing “The Rules” is the difference between life and death. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. Now Will is in an elevator with a gun pocketed in his jeans. And so the story continues, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to the even bigger puzzle. Holy smokes, where do I even begin? This book was absolutely riveting. Gifted a copy at my book club’s annual book swap meet, this was my first Jason Reynolds experience, and it didn’t disappoint. Uniquely written in verse, it was quick read that I was able to complete in one sitting (which rarely ever happens). I simply couldn’t put this one down. ‘A Long Way Down’ beautifully depicts the various real-life stories that occur daily in the black community, specifically from the lens of a teen. Chilling, yet captivating, this YA novel will have you frantically turning each page. I love how Reynolds chose to write this book in verse, which I found so necessary for this specific plot. If you were a fan of ‘The Hate I Give’ by Angie Thomas and/or ‘Dear Martin’ by Nic Stone, this book is for you. I would love to see this book incorporated in all YA literacy curriculum because it spoke volumes. My latest obsession: all things Jason Reynolds.
6. The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani
After seeing this book as one of the top rated on Goodreads I was eager to read and decide for myself. Lately I’ve found myself completely intrigued by tales of cultures different from my own, and this tale didn’t disappoint. Switching from the past to present day ‘The Storyteller’s Secret’ tells the story of an Indian family through generations. Nothing prepares Jaya, a distinguished New York journalist, from the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and expected divorce to follow. Desperate to extinguish the pain, Jaya flees to India to uncover a buried family secret. Told by her late grandmother’s servant, Ravi, Jaya becomes intoxicated by her grandmother’s resilient story during the British occupation. What Jaya uncovers is more than she was prepared for and will impact not only her, but also her family’s lives in more ways than one. I almost gave this read four stars due to something morally in the plot that I simply couldn’t agree with (I’ll hold the spoilers and not name it), but there’s no denying that this books deserves all five stars. Absolutely beautiful!
7. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I was extremely excited when this newer was selected for one of my book club’s February read. Oyinkan Braithwaite is a young, breakout Nigerian author whose debut novel ‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ is flying off bookstore shelves everywhere. What would you do if you found out your sister kills off every man she ever loved? Korede, the eldest of the family has skin like a cocoa bean and is the protector of her beautiful younger sister, Ayoola, who is sunkissed to the perfection of a hazelnut. Often living in the shadows of her well-admired sister, this unique story tells the tale of what it truly means to be your ‘sister’s keeper’. I really wanted to fall in love with book, but quite honestly I didn’t enjoy it at all. (Note: Just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you won’t love it!). What I will say is that this book is like no other and the plot line is certainly unique. I enjoyed the short chapters, and the way the author mixed Nigerian culture with that of the modern world today. So many of my friends gave this novel no less than four stars, so I definitely suggest giving it a chance to review for yourself!
I’m beyond excited to jump into Black History Month, where throughout February I will be reading solely books by black authors. Let’s just say it was extremely difficult to narrow it down to a tangible 5-6 selections. Want to see what I have queued to read? Follow me on social media (@thegabriellec) where I will be sharing my selected titles with followers this week!
[Click here for a sneak peek into one read I can't hardly wait to crack open next month]