Welcome to my book update post where I share what books I finished recently + my honest thoughts and star ratings of them.
My Reading Goals for 2021
For 2021, I set a goal of reading 3 books per week — 1 fiction book, 1 non-fiction book, and 1 audiobook each week. I know this is an audacious goal, but reading is something I love and it’s a way I learn, challenge my mind, improve as a writer and communicator, and am refreshed and encouraged through inspiring stories.
I have a few shelves full of books (mostly that I’ve gotten free), so I decided to choose 52 books from off my shelf to read this year (see my list of 52 books I plan to read in 2021 here). I’ll also read other books that I find/am sent that pique my interest. Plus, I plan to go through a lot of audiobooks (I get mine free from the Libby app and just started trying out the Hoopla app).
Here are four books I finished recently:
I got to read an early edition of this memoir on finding identity by Bonnie Gray. It traces her upbringing as a Chinese girl in America and the struggles she went through to find love and belonging. Her story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and no matter your ethnicity or childhood, I think you will find yourself identifying with parts of Bonnie’s story. What I most appreciated was her honesty and vulnerability in this book!
I also loved how she artfully wove so much about Chinese culture and traditions throughout the chapters.
Verdict: 3 stars
This book chronicles the story of T.J. and Jenn’s journey as foster parents. While they have a completely different foster care story than us (they’ve taken in many more kids of all different ages and have no biological children of their own at the time this book was written), it still resonated deeply with me. So much of what they’ve experienced is stuff that we’ve walked through or have friends who foster who have walked through it.
In fact, for a few days, I had to set the book aside because reading about saying goodbye to a few children they had in their home for a long time period hit so close to home. I love their perspectives, the lessons they learned, and how candid they were about what they struggled with.
If you are a foster family, are considering fostering, or would just like to have a better peak into what fostering looks like, definitely read this book.
My only critiques would be that the story seemed to jump around some and I had trouble keeping track sometimes and I also don’t like people using the phrase “least of these” when referring to children in foster care (see the subtitle). For me, it just feels like it makes it very much an us vs. them or a pity project or that we are doing so much to help “these needy kids”. I know it’s semantics, but I think it matters how we talk about children who are in foster care and our perspective shapes the way that we love and walk with.
Verdict: 3.5 stars
So I had high hopes for this book. The premise seemed interesting. I love World War II books. And I’d heard great things about the author.
But it ended up sort of falling flat for me. It wasn’t terrible, but I just felt like I was slogging through a lot of it. I usually really get sucked into novels and have trouble putting them down. This one, I felt like I had to keep making myself pick it up in hopes that it would get more interesting.
Yes, I probably should have just abandoned it early on, but once I made it to the 40% mark (because I kept assuming it would get more interesting!), I felt too invested to set it aside.
Maybe it was just the timing of when I read it (there was a lot going on to distract me!) or maybe it’s because I’ve mostly been listening to novels via audiobook recently (I don’t have as much time these days to get lost in a novel for hours if I’m reading it, but I have more time to turn on an audiobook!) or maybe it was because I have finished so many World War II books this year? Whatever the case, I felt like the book was missing something — maybe depth, more character development, or something that would make me think more or impact me in a personal way? Overall, it just felt a little too “fluffy” for me.
Verdict: 2 stars
Jesse listened to this book recently and encouraged me to listen to it, as well. It’s definitely a departure from all of the World War II fiction I’ve been listening to and I felt it was a fun change.
I enjoyed the story line overall and found it to be the kind of audiobook I didn’t want to turn off because I needed to know what was going to happen next. It was also very well narrated with multiple voice actors.
In addition, I found the sort of “inside scoop” on what it would be like to be the president to be intriguing (since a former U.S. president was one of the co-authors, I felt that gave the emotions and feelings the main character was experiencing more credibility).
I did feel like the book was about 2 hours too long. I think some of the sections could have been condensed and the very end of the book was filled with quite a bit of political rhetoric (packaged as a presidential address). I also wish they hadn’t solved one of the big mysteries of the book quite so early in the book (who the mole was).
That said, if you like political drama and fiction audiobooks that are well narrated, I think you might enjoy this book. (Do note: there is some PG-13 language in it, so don’t listen if you have little ears around!)
Verdict: 3.5 stars