Happy New Year, friends! Somehow I ended up reading 100(!) books in 2022, squeezing in one last book while trying to stay up until the midnight countdown. I will share my top favorite books from 2022 as well as my reading goals (or intentions, more so) for 2023 in a separate post soon! For today, here are the books I read in December and my thoughts on them:
Solito by Javier Zamora – 5 stars
As an immigrant myself, I always gravitate towards stories told by other immigrants. In Solito, Zamora chronicles his journey from El Salvador to the US as a little kid. The book is written matter-of-factly with great details; considering what was supposed to be a two-week trip ends up taking much longer, it’s evident how much this migration imprinted on little Javier. Javier’s innocence and naïveté make this story even more heartbreaking. Nine-year-old Javier, who is afraid of using the toilet alone, simply wants to be reunited with his parents who are in the US already. This is a book I recommend to everyone–it’s long but didn’t feel like it, especially on audio.
Maame by Jessica George – 4.5 stars
Maddie is tired of being the responsible one. Nicknamed Maame (meaning “woman” in Twi) by her family since she was young, Maddie is the primary (and seemingly the only) caretaker or her father with Parkin’s disease; she’s holding the fort at their family’s house in London while her mum spends most of her time in Ghana and her brother is out, living his own life. Maddie has put her life on hold to meet all the obligations and expectations her family has for her. After feeling stuck for so long, Maddie encounters both exciting and challenging life changes in a matter of months that push her to grow and find herself.
Maame is a beautiful coming of age story of a late bloomer. Maddie is a likable protagonist–she’s relatable, authentic, and a little bit awkward. Following Maddie’s journey and seeing her overcome the challenges she faces throughout the book was an enjoyable experience. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the advanced electronic reader copy!
Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes – 4 stars
Natalie Haynes’ Pandora’s Jar was eye-opening. Stories from Greek/Romany Mythology have been often translated and told by men, and many of them added their own misogynistic flair to the story, painting the women as “other” or the “monster.” Haynes points out how white men like Theseus are almost always absolved of crimes and violence they commit and only remembered for their heroic acts while women are vilified with the original context erased and their voices are taken away (often literally; with lines of women telling their story present in the earliest texts being removed by various authors over time).
This book came in my Letters Sidecar book subscription mail earlier this year, and I remember being so shocked at how accurate their pick was for me that month! I went to add this book to my Goodreads and realized I had already marked it as “want to read.” I read a lot of Greek/Roman Mythology growing up (there was an iconic illustrated series that was popular in Korea) and had been wanting to read more books about mythology, and Pandora’s Jar was exactly what I was looking for!
You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown – 4 stars
You Are Your Best Thing is a collection of essays by Black writers about shame, vulnerability, and resilience. This anthology presents an array of experiences and intersectionalities. There are essays about shame within a family unit, shame surrounding traumas, shame perpetrated by the church, and more. It was illuminating to read about Black shame and the added complexities Black people experience.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – 4.5 stars
Set in Modern day Britain, there are witches in this book as the title suggests, including the protagonist Mika Moon. Mika posts videos online of her pretending to be a witch, which attracts the attention of adults at Nowhere House, and she finds herself agreeing to tutor three young witches. After moving into Nowhere House and gaining the trust of more difficult residents, Mika finds a sense of belonging for the first time and maybe even a special someone…
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is refreshingly unique, and Sangu Mandanna seamlessly writes with elements of magical realism. This was simply a delightful read!
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan – 4 stars
Sort of meta(?) but I listened to the audiobook of Thank You for Listening which is a book about romance between two audiobook narrators. Add to that, the author Julia Whelan is an audiobook narrator and actually narrates the audiobook herself. Okay, I will stop–onto the actual book!
Though a bit cheesy at times, Thank You For Listening is a solid romance story. Actress-turned-audiobook narrator Sewanee accepts a project that she wouldn’t accept under normal circumstances for which she works with Brock McNight, THE male narrator for the steamy romance books. While working on the book, these two develop a friendship that may turn into something more. There are elements of mystery as these two are not fully aware of each others’ identities until later in the book. Both characters felt like real people with actual problems and obstacles, which I always appreciate in a romance.
Made in Korea by Sarah Suk – 4 stars
Made in Korea is such an adorable teenage love story! Valerie and her cousin Charlie have been running a successful K-Beauty business at their high school for a few years when a transfer student Wes Jung accidentally starts a competing business. While it’s a typical enemies-to-lovers trope, the references to Korean culture and the wholesomeness of the romance really did it for me. It’s a great, feel-good YA romance!
The Things We Do To Our Friends by Heather Darwent – 3 stars
It took me quite a bit to get into The Things We Do To Our Friends. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure what the book was about. Was this dark academia (yes though not too much really happens in the setting of the university)? Is this about toxic friendships (certainly yes but what was up with all these power dynamics?)? What did Clare do in the past (this was told too late in the book for my liking)? It mostly confused me until maybe the last quarter of the book when everything finally unfolds. It had the potential to be the moody dark academia thriller I expected it to be but it ended up being strange and a little bit flat.
Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sánchez – 4 stars
I had heard of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter but I hadn’t even realized Crying in the Bathroom was by the same author until after I started listening to the book. Crying in the Bathroom is intriguing and honest. She writes about growing up/being a Mexican American in America; her depression; her love life. Each essay felt distinct and immersive. Sánchez’s narration feels a bit disjointed at times (i.e. a pause within a sentence) but it didn’t necessarily take away from the listening experience; it rather made it feel like I was listening to her speaking vs reading.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 4 stars
After her father receives a strange letter from her recently married cousin Catalina, Noemí is dispatched to the countryside to investigate what has been going on. Upon her arrival, Noemí finds Catalina is a debilitated state, and Catalina’s husband Vigil and his family are strange and almost unfriendly except for Francis, the youngest son of the family, whom she befriends. The family seems to be keeping a secret regarding what is truly affecting Catalina’s health, which Noemí is determined to find out. The mystery and suspense build throughout the book with a logical and pretty satisfying ending. Though I wish the book was longer! feel like the backstory of the family history could’ve been expanded more.