Photo of woman reading on a park bench during winter, by JP Valery on Unsplash

Easing Into 2023 with my January Reading Recap

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January started off great as I worked through my to-be-read list. I chose to DNF two books, but that is inevitable. Sometimes a story just doesn’t pull you in or live up to the back matter. With that said, let’s dive into what I have read so far in 2023 and which stories I opted to DNF.

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Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

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The first book I read in 2023! My review for this book has already been posted so I will keep my thoughts here short.

First Shelby Tebow goes missing, followed not long after by Meredith Dickey and her young daughter, Delilah. A community is shaken as they come together to solve each disappearance’s mystery. Despite everyone’s quest for answers, they end up with more questions. Confusion and fear blazing through the community, Local Woman Missing is a domestic thriller that will make you wonder, how well do you really know your neighbors?

The beginning of this book was my favorite part of the story. I enjoyed how the author set the story up and drew me in early on. Some stories can be so slow and don’t hook me until nearly the middle of the story. However, that’s unfortunately where a lot of my enjoyment remained. The end of the story really struggled to make sense and some scenes felt completely unnecessary when we find out what really happened in the end. That said, I rated it 3 out of 5 stars and still agree with that rating.

Bunny by Mona Awad

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This book was a ride. A fun, confusing, maddening ride. Find my review of Bunny by Mona Awad here.

Bunny is a story in which we follow the main character, Samantha Heather Mackey. Samantha attends Warren University and is enrolled in their graduate program in writing. She is the first in the all-female cohort at Warren, workshopping alongside four other women. Samantha refers to these women as “bunnies”. Things begin to get weird when Samantha is invited to the bunny’s ‘smut salon’ where they share PG-13 stories with each other. Samantha begins to feel torn between two worlds. Her world with the rebellious, art school dropout Ava and her burgeoning, dangerous life with the bunnies.

This book was a wild ride and after finishing the story, I understood why some readers found it polarizing. Mona Awad must’ve had a fantastic time writing this. A lot of things didn’t make too much sense and even more of the novel (when Samantha wasn’t drowning in self-deprecating thoughts) came off as super satirical. If you don’t take this book too seriously, I would recommend it. This book is also classified as horror, but I did not feel it was a classic horror story, so do with that what you will.

We Used to Live Here by Daniel Hurst

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This was a short story to help pass time during a short trip I took towards the end of January and let me tell you, that ending had me shaking in my boots. The review for We Used to Live Here will be posted on February 2, 2023.

A young family of four purchases what they believe to be their “forever home”. Grant, Steph, and their two young children, Charlie and Amelia, find themselves settling in quickly. One night on their way out to visit with friends, a knock on the door comes from an older couple, who claim to have lived in the house many years prior. Steph invites them in, eager to hear about the years they spent in the home.

Despite the pleasant visit, things begin to change, and quickly. As Grant and Steph begin to renovate the home, they find disturbing messages on the walls. Steph begins to investigate the old couple and learns of a disturbing, unsolved crime. One of the many twists and turns within this short story.

There were a lot of aspects I really enjoyed about this story. I really enjoyed reading Steph as a character, but Grant not so much. Though this has more to do with Grant’s actions throughout the story which then lead up to another shocking twist. There are seemingly two storylines happening in unison in this story. Grant’s timeline of events and Steph’s timeline of events. At first, this slightly bothered me. However, after the story had a few days to settle in my mind, the story felt rather cleverly told with quite a surprising twist at the end.

First DNF’s of 2023

The first book I picked to read after New Year’s was These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. Despite being drawn in by a historical retelling of Romeo and Juliet, set in 1920s Shanghai, I found myself struggling to connect with the characters and find an interest in the political aspects of the story. The gang leaders felt more like politicians and I ended up putting it down and just not picking it back up.

The second book I DNF’d was Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen. What bothered me about this book, was primarily the way the author wrote the main character’s two-year-old son and the way the story was told. I still cannot tell if the main character even loves her son or is just putting on an act. And as someone who worked primarily with toddlers (ages 1-4) there were so many behaviors that the two-year-old in the book exhibited that felt unrealistic but added to push the plot along.

I don’t know if I will try reading either of these later again in the year. Neither was my typical genre of book that I am really into right now. Right now I am big on reading mysteries/thrillers. Either way, I will definitely revisit them later in the year if I hit a lull in my to-be-read list, but I also am allowing myself the grace to not pick them back up if I still don’t feel compelled to read them.

My reading goal for 2023 is 36 books. This feels reasonable as it is only three books per month in order to reach my goal by the end of the year. This is also the first year I have set a goal for reading and am super excited to surpass it.

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