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The beginning of the year always means a rush of big new books. For the first three months of the year there are so many books I want to read! January books were the start and it’s been a good one. Today, I’m sharing five January releases and one backlist book. Most you’ve probably heard of, but I may have a surprise of two for you. Best of all, these were all books that worked for me, and a couple that truly shone.
Get ready to add some titles to your “to be read” list!
Honor by Thrity Umrigar
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Length: 336 pages
My Thoughts: 𝐇𝐎𝐍𝐎𝐑 by Thrity Umirigar was my first WOW! book of 2022, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t have the staying power to end up on my best books list a year from now. Be warned, 𝘏𝘰𝘯𝘰𝘳 is not an easy story to read. It’s dark, very dark. Horrible things happen, but it’s told with so much compassion and humanity that I was completely immersed from start to finish.
It’s a big story, and I don’t want to give much away, so I’m going to be very general. At its heart are Abdul and Meena. He’s Muslim; she’s Hindu. They love each other, but in the small, rural area from which they come, a mixing of the two religions is unconditionally forbidden. And yet, the two don’t care. After tragedy strikes, Smita, an American reporter originally from India, is recruited to cover their story. She has her own issues with the country of her birth, adding another layer of complexity. The deeper Smita gets into Meena’s story, the more she’s forced to reflect on India itself, both what she loved and why she fled.
“𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘢𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘥𝘦, 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧-𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵. 𝘓𝘦𝘵 𝘎𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘭𝘬 𝘤𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘨𝘶𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘰𝘳. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳’𝘴 𝘥𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳. 𝘏𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭.”
Umrigar has a beautiful way with words that’s both descriptive and propulsive. If you’ve read her before, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you really should consider adding 𝘏𝘰𝘯𝘰𝘳 to your TBR list. Get those library holds going because I predict the waits are going to be long! Grade: A
Note: Thanks to Algonquin Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Length: 192 pages
My Thoughts: 𝐌𝐎𝐔𝐓𝐇 𝐓𝐎 𝐌𝐎𝐔𝐓𝐇 by Antoine Wilson takes place entirely within a first-class lounge at JFK. There, two men who barely knew each other in college, reconnect over a long flight delay. One, Jeff, recounts the unusual, never-before shared story of his unlikely success to the other, a rather down and out writer, who also narrates. Jeff’s tale begins with rescuing a drowning man, and grows more and more complex and twisted moving forward. All the while, our narrator is wondering why Jeff is sharing his life with him and what he might do with Jeff’s story.
𝘔𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘔𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩 is a most unusual story, but one I felt compelled to read quickly. Like the narrator, I wanted to see where Jeff’s life would end up. I also kept wondering what the narrator’s stake in all this would be. In the end, my curiosity wasn’t entirely satisfied, but I appreciate that the author left me with a little to keep mulling over. If you’re looking for a fast (192 pages), quirky read give this a try, and let me know what you think. I’d love to talk it over with someone!
Note: Thanks to Avid Reader Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Length: 304 pages
My Thoughts: Most of us can vividly recall scenes on the news after Executive Order 13769, titled “𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘍𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘯 𝘛𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘌𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘜𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴,” went into effect. Issued on January 31, 2017, we saw mass protests against such an order. We witnessed incredibly sad scenes at airports across this country as the order denied entry to many, including those who had long legally lived here, tearing families apart. 𝐍𝐎 𝐋𝐀𝐍𝐃 𝐓𝐎 𝐋𝐈𝐆𝐇𝐓 by Yara Zgheib is one such story.
Hadi and Sama are a young Syrian couple. Sama had come to the U.S. seven years earlier for college at Harvard. She meets Hadi shortly after he arrives in the U.S. on a legal visa. In just over a year the two fall in love, move in together, marry, and are expecting a baby. When Hadi’s father dies suddenly, he returns home for his funeral, only to have the order go into effect on the very day he returns. At the Boston airport, with Sama waiting to pick him up, Hadi is denied entry, denied phone calls, and deported. It’s a simple sad, sad story. Sama and Hadi are heartbroken, with so few options. Roadblock after roadblock divides them, and their pain is palpable. As painful as it was to read their story, it was just as painful to revisit those dark winter days of 2017. I encourage everyone to read this powerful immigrant story, but especially those who didn’t feel horror at what they saw happening that winter. Grade: A- (I knocked this book down a bit because of some bird migration metaphors interspersed throughout the story that I could have done without.)
Note: Thanks to Atria Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: January 25, 2022
Length: 272 pages
My Thoughts: NOTES ON AN EXECUTION by Danya Kukafka perfectly hit one of my reading sweet spots: literary suspense. In Kakafka’s second novel she artfully deconstructs the life of Ansel Packer, a serial killer facing the last twelve hours of his life. Hour by hour, and later minute by minute the reader is given a glimpse of what’s in Packer’s head, how he wants to be remembered, and what he did to end up on death row. For that part of the story we hear from three women in his life: Lavender, his mother, Hazel, the sister of one of his victims, and Saffy, the police detective who long suspected Ansel’s guilt. Each woman holds part of the story that helps to shed light on why Packer killed four women and his impact on their own lives.
Kukafka did an amazing job layering everyone’s story into a cohesive whole that was powerfully gripping, incredibly sad, and eerily real. I liked her debut novel, Girl in Snow, but feel like Notes on an Execution rose to a whole other level. I will forever read anything Kukafka writes. If this book isn’t already on your TBR list, please add it. Now! Grade: A
Note: Thanks to William Morrow Books for an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
The Maid by Nita Prose (debut)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Length: 304 pages
My Thoughts: Palate cleanser book! 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐌𝐀𝐈𝐃 by debut author Nita Prose is the perfect sort of book for when your mind needs something a little light and a lot of fun. The story centers around Molly, a 25-year old hotel maid who LOVES her job. Molly is socially awkward and has trouble reading people. Since her Gran died 9 months earlier Molly has had to navigate life all on her own. Despite her loneliness, it’s going pretty well…until she finds a dead man in one of the rooms she’s cleaning.
I loved the voice of Molly who narrates her own story, which includes some really great supporting characters and twists and turns that both reminded me of a good old-fashioned type of mystery. If you were a fan of 𝘌𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘰𝘳 𝘖𝘭𝘪𝘱𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘍𝘪𝘯𝘦 by Gail Honeyman, I think you’ll also love 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘢𝘪𝘥. Both Eleanor and Molly are characters who wormed their way into my heart and who I couldn’t help but root for. Grade: B-
Note: Thanks to Ballantine Books for an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Cantoras by Caroline De Robertis
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Length: 312 pages
My Thoughts: One of my goals for 2022 was to read more backlist books. In an effort to make sure I was successful in this goal I joined the ✨𝟏𝟐 𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬 + 𝟏𝟐 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 📚 + 𝟏𝟐 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐬 ✨ challenge on Instagram. I ended up with a variety of books to read over the course of this year. For January, I chose 𝐂𝐀𝐍𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐀𝐒 by Caroline De Robertis, recommended to me by Carla from Happiest When Reading. Wow! This book could not have been a better start for the challenge.
𝘊𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘴 is an absolutely beautiful story of five queer women living in Uruguay. As the story opens in 1977 the country is living under a harsh military dictatorship, where any sort of dissent or breaking of “norms” can result in prison sentences or worse. The five gel together almost by chance, as they escape the capital for a week at a small beach town, Cabo Polonio. Alternating between Montevideo and Polonio, the story follows the women for more than thirty years as their lives shift and change, as they see lovers come and go, and as their country finally asserts power from the people.
I was grabbed from the very beginning and loved the depth De Robertis gave to her characters. Each of the five women I came to adore for their own unique personalities. Even as the book slowed a bit in the second half, I still could not put it down. I had to know where these amazing women would land. It was a powerful, emotional read and I’m so grateful to Carla for recommending it to me. I learned a lot, both about Uruguay’s history and what it is like to be forced to live a “secret” life. If the remaining 11 books in the challenge turn out to be as good as 𝘊𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘴, I’m going to be one lucky reader! Grade: A