January was a busy reading month. In total I read 16 different books. Yeah, that’s a lot, and a little overboard I might add. But I’m normally reading more than one book at a time, and audiobooks are pretty easy for me to crank through. Also, in January in Iowa, there isn’t much else to do!
I read some fiction and some non fiction. Some books I really liked, others, not so much. Here’s a break down of all the books I read in January and what I thought of them all!
Fiction Books I Read in January
I’m listing these books in the order I read them. Just a heads up, with fiction the best books were read towards the end of the month!
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Yet, the children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the memorable aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.
My Thoughts: I gave this book five stars. I absolutely LOVE Alice Hoffman’s writing. The story she tells in this book is so well done and keeps you reading. If you’ve read Practical Magic, this book is the prequel to that story. It fills in so many details from Practical Magic without creating any holes! The Rules of Magic is so well done!
The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher
Have you ever been wrong about someone? Juno was wrong about Winnie Crouch. Before moving in with the Crouch family, Juno thought Winnie and her husband, Nigel, had the perfect marriage, the perfect son—the perfect life. Only now that she’s living in their beautiful house, she sees the cracks in the crumbling facade are too deep to ignore. Still, she isn’t one to judge. After her grim diagnosis, the retired therapist simply wants a place to live out the rest of her days in peace. But that peace is shattered the day Juno overhears a chilling conversation between Winnie and Nigel… She shouldn’t get involved. She really shouldn’t. But this could be her chance to make a few things right. Because if you thought Juno didn’t have a secret of her own, then you were wrong about her, too.
My Thoughts: I gave this book three stars. It’s ok and it held my attention, but to be honesty, as I was creating this list, it took me awhile to even remember what it was about. But all in all it was an okay read. If you can borrow it from library or a friend, then it’s worth the time.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.
But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.
Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.
And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…
My thoughts: Again, this is a three star book. It was ok and held my attention. It’s a mix of a mystery and ghost story. The Whisper Man is creepy is in some areas, which I loved, but all in all this was just an ok book. Again, if you can get it for free from your local library, then give it a read!
The Other Mrs by Mary Kubica
Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.
But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.
My Thoughts: I gave this book four stars. I’m not sure if I still feel that way. I still think that the mystery in this book is really great. But, the way it works out is pretty unbelievable. Or at least I have a hard time believing it anyway. I can’t say much more than that without giving the story away.
Also, this book is coming to Netflix in the future. I love reading books BEFORE I watch the films!
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?
My Thoughts: This book got four stars, too. It’s a good mystery with a good twist. Did I see it coming? Yep, but it was still done well. I also loved that the main character was flawed, and this wasn’t a everything turns out happy in the end.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
My Thoughts: THIS BOOK IS SOOO GOOD! It has mystery, is super creepy, there’s paranormal, a great back story. Mexican Gothic is just so well done! I gave this book five stars! Nothing in this story is forgetable!
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
My Thoughts: I gave this book four stars. It’s a YA book, so definitely geared for a younger audience than myself, but the story in it is very good. It’s original and unforgettable. Wilder Girls has more of a dystopian/pandemic vibe and if body horror (though mild) isn’t your thing, skip this one. But I loved it!
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.
A IS FOR ACCUSED
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.
A IS FOR ALIBI
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer―and sharper―than she imagined.
My Thoughts: I’ve wanted to try out this series for years. I wasn’t impressed. I gave this book two stars. Pretty predictable, same twist I’ve seen time and time again, pretty forgettable. Just not my favorite, but I might try the next one in the series, to give it another chance.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
My Thoughts: I gave this book five stars. I absolutely LOVE it. It chronicles the evolution of a band and how it came to be and all that happened during their time together. But this book is written in an interview format, which I found to be really engrossing. It made it so much easier to read and I also loved that the author made some accounts from different characters match, and some didn’t. It made it so much more realistic when different characters had different recollections of events and it was just so fascinating. There’s also a little twist at the end, which I didn’t even need to make this book better, but after reading almost the entire book, it just added another layer.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
My Thoughts: I gave this book three stars. It is a very good story where the characters intertwine both in the past and present and the entire story comes full circle at the end. It’s very good. But I read this book when we were really going through it with our very own pandemic. Not my greatest idea! It is a great story, but at the time I read it, it was hitting a little too close to home!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
My Thoughts: I gave this book five stars. This is for sure a favorite book of mine. It is well written and a very interesting story that pulls you in. This book makes you feel things. I cried a few times reading The Midnight Library. I can’t say much more about this other than you should read it.
A quick trigger warning for this book: It deals with depression and suicide. The author himself, suffers from and openly talks about his depression. If you want to read more about that, he has a memoir entitled “Reasons to Stay Alive“, which is on my want to read list, too.
Non- Fiction Books I Read in January
I don’t read a ton of non fiction, but when I do, I almost always listen to the audiobook. For some reason that is what works for me and keeps me engaged. So as you look through this list, just know that each of these I listened to as the audiobook.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
My Thoughts: I gave this book four stars. I really enjoyed it. It’s informative, but Erik Larson also does a great job intertwining the historical facts of this event with the stories of the people involved. Instead of a dry history retelling, it turns into a story that is easy to listen to and also so educational!
Killers of Flower Moon: The Osage Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Green
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
My Thoughts: This book is another four star. It tells the story of how the FBI came to be, which is initially why I picked this book up. But, more importantly, it tells the history of the “Osage Murders” and the Osage Nation in the 1920s. This book made me feel all the emotions, which I didn’t expect either. It really is a must read, in my opinion.
Separated by Jacob Soboroff
In June 2018, Donald Trump’s most notorious decision as president had secretly been in effect for months before most Americans became aware of the astonishing inhumanity being perpetrated by their own government. Jacob Soboroff was among the first journalists to expose this reality after seeing firsthand the living conditions of the children in custody. His influential series of reports ignited public scrutiny that contributed to the president reversing his own policy and earned Soboroff the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Political Broadcast Journalism and, with his colleagues, the 2019 Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism.
But beyond the headlines, the complete, multilayered story lay untold. How, exactly, had such a humanitarian tragedy—now deemed “torture” by physicians—happened on American soil? Most important, what has been the human experience of those separated children and parents?
Soboroff has spent the past two years reporting the many strands of this complex narrative, developing sources from within the Trump administration who share critical details for the first time. He also traces the dramatic odyssey of one separated family from Guatemala, where their lives were threatened by narcos, to seek asylum at the U.S. border, where they were separated—the son ending up in Texas, and the father thousands of miles away, in the Mojave desert of central California. And he joins the heroes who emerged to challenge the policy, and who worked on the ground to reunite parents with children.
In this essential reckoning, Soboroff weaves together these key voices with his own experience covering this national issue—at the border in Texas, California, and Arizona; with administration officials in Washington, D.C., and inside the disturbing detention facilities. Separated lays out compassionately, yet in the starkest of terms, its human toll, and makes clear what is at stake in the 2020 presidential election.
My Thoughts: I wanted to know more about what was happening at the southern border and Jacob Soboroff was one of the first reporters, I remember, who was reporting on it. He also continued to report on it, even after it seemed, everyone else moved on. He is STILL reporting on it. I trust his reporting and admire his dedication to this topic. If you want to go more in depth into the reporting, this is definitely a very good and informative read. Also, the author narrates the audiobook himself, which made it that much better!
She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey
For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power. During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed. These shadowy settlements had long been used to hide sexual harassment and abuse, but with a breakthrough reporting technique Kantor and Twohey helped to expose it. But Weinstein had evaded scrutiny in the past, and he was not going down without a fight; he employed a team of high-profile lawyers, private investigators, and other allies to thwart the investigation. When Kantor and Twohey were finally able to convince some sources to go on the record, a dramatic final showdown between Weinstein and the New York Times was set in motion.
Nothing could have prepared Kantor and Twohey for what followed the publication of their initial Weinstein story on October 5, 2017. Within days, a veritable Pandora’s box of sexual harassment and abuse was opened. Women all over the world came forward with their own traumatic stories. Over the next twelve months, hundreds of men from every walk of life and industry were outed following allegations of wrongdoing. But did too much change—or not enough? Those questions hung in the air months later as Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, and Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify that he had assaulted her decades earlier. Kantor and Twohey, who had unique access to Ford and her team, bring to light the odyssey that led her to come forward, the overwhelming forces that came to bear on her, and what happened after she shared her allegation with the world.
In the tradition of great investigative journalism, She Said tells a thrilling story about the power of truth, with shocking new information from hidden sources. Kantor and Twohey describe not only the consequences of their reporting for the #MeToo movement, but the inspiring and affecting journeys of the women who spoke up—for the sake of other women, for future generations, and for themselves.
My Thoughts: WOW. This book is a must read for me. It infuriated me, but I think it’s so important to read. This book is not only a deeper dive into the Harvey Weinstein story, but HOW that story came to be. It really gives such a unique look at this story.
Also, if this topic is something you want to read more about, Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” book is very informative.
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.
Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
My Thoughts: I gave this book three stars. Honestly, this was the book I wanted to read before I read Dead Wake by Erik Larson. This topic, I thought, would be more up my alley. But I had to wait until this was available through my library, so I went ahead and read Dead Wake first. Honestly, I’m glad I did. I think if I would’ve read this one first, I wouldn’t have picked up the other. This was still a good book, but I just REALLY liked Dead Wake a lot more. I had a hard time getting interested in the architecture talk, there are quite a few men characters that are all so similar that I couldn’t keep them straight, and though this book is only a bit longer than Dead Wake it felt MUCH longer to me. I still learned a lot, though!
I read a lot in the month of January! Most months aren’t going to be this jam packed, just a heads up. I hope you can find something that you might enjoy in the recommendations I made above. And if you want to follow along with what I’m reading now you can follow me over on Good Reads! The link is down below.
Don’t Forget the FREE Book Labels
And while we’re on the topic of books, don’t forget to head over and download the free book labels! These make it so easy to let others borrow your books and make sure they find their way home! Just click the photo below to check them out and download!