January 2021 Reading Wrap Up

If you know me, you know that as much as I love reading, I kinda suck at it.

Each year, it feels like I have to change my Goodreads goal at the last second because I am always behind on my reading. This year, I want to change that.

Now that I am out of college and accustomed to the pandemic (which definitely negatively impacted my reading habits back in the first lockdown), I’m hoping to actually meet my humble goal of 30 books this year. Considering how January went, I think it’s very possible!

I read FIVE books this past month! Granted, two were comic collections, but I’m still very proud of myself. Keep reading for some quick reviews on the books I’ve read as well as my goals for February.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves. 

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get. (Amazon)

Now, I actually wrote a whole separate blog post about my feelings about this book if you want to read it here. For those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll just say this: I see the appeal. I understand why there was so much hype surrounding this book. However, for me, it crossed the line from memoir into self-help book just a bit too many times.

★★☆☆☆

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. (Amazon)

I started rereading The Hunger Games series last year because I wanted to read the prequel that came out. When I first read Catching Fire back in middle school, I said that it was my favorite book in the series. You know what? I stand by that. There’s a great balance of aftermath from the first games, character development, and action. I absolutely love this book. Plus, the last line is definitely one of the best last lines I’ve ever read.

★★★★★

Snotgirl Vol. 1

WHO IS LOTTIE PERSON? Is she a gorgeous, fun-loving social media star with a perfect life or a gross, allergy-ridden mess? Enter a world of snot, blood, and tears in this first collection from New York Times Best Seller BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY (Scott Pilgrim, Seconds) and dazzling newcomer LESLIE HUNG!

Collects SNOTGIRL #1-5. (Amazon)

Now, I’ve heard a lot about Snotgirl. Just seeing the aesthetics of this comic alone made me want to pick it up. Once I started reading it, however, I was caught off guard by just how weird it is. The characters are hard to like and the plot is hard to follow. It did pick up a bit toward the end, though, and I went into the second volume cautiously optimistic.

★★★☆☆

Snotgirl Vol. 2

From the creator of SCOTT PILGRIM! Lottie Person is a glamorous fashion blogger living her best life in L.A. ― at least that’s what she wants you to think. CALIFORNIA SCREAMING finds Lottie putting the past behind her and trying to make the best of a bad situation ― her life! Lottie’s new bestie is an emotional roller coaster: first she died, and then she killed someone. Who will Caroline hurt next, and what is her brother Virgil doing here? What secret is Detective John Cho seeking in the desert? Why did Cutegirl ghost her sister? Is Normgirl really going to marry Ashley? And what in god’s name did Sunny ever see in Charlene? These questions and many others may possibly be answered in SNOTGIRL, VOL. 2: CALIFORNIA SCREAMING! IGN calls SNOTGIRL “Fresh and different!” and says “its sheer weirdness, creativity and heart will appeal to fans of SCOTT PILGRIM and SECONDS!”

Collects SNOTGIRL #6-10. (Amazon)

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. I wrote this in my Goodreads review but I’ll just say it again: I liked issue #6 better than the entirety of volume #1. While the weirdness not only continued in this book but escalated, I do see a plot forming. It’s still very strange and definitely not for everyone, but I’m going to keep going with this series.

★★★☆☆

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year. (Amazon)

Where do I begin? Mockingjay is the finale to The Hunger Games series and uh… it’s not good. The first third of the book starts out alright. I admire the portrayal of Katniss in her clearly shaken state. But the ending was so unsatisfying. It felt untrue to some of the characters and there wasn’t enough explanation of what happened after the events of the book. Tell me how society moves on, Suzanne! Also, please rewrite Finnick’s story – he deserved better.

★★★☆☆

I read a lot of 3 star reads this past month, and I’m hoping that will change in February.

My hopes for the upcoming month is to finish books I’ve stretched out for way too long, and to read some books by black authors for Black History Month.

What are your reading goals? Let me know!

Book Review: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get. (Amazon)

Recently, I had joined a book club discord chat where the first read was Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I’ll admit – I knew nothing about this book, but I knew there was quite a lot of hype around it. It’s one of those books that seems to garner nothing but praise. After finding out it was a memoir with a bit of self-help book vibes, I was eager to start reading. As much as I love a good self-improvement binge, I, unfortunately, did not like this book.

Let’s start by talking about the overall structure of the book. The book is split into three parts, with parts one and two taking up the first 100 pages, and the final part taking up the majority of the book. While I wish the divisions of the book were a bit more even, the flow of the book made sense with the length of the sections. However, the sections themselves seemed a bit all over the place.

Memoirs and self-improvement books that I’ve read typically are filled with anecdotes that relate to a Bigger Picture. That wasn’t necessarily the case with Doyle’s book, though. Every minuscule chapter had some kind of anecdote, and while many of them connected, the order and meanings of these chapters were a little disorganized. A lot of the chapters connect to Doyle’s story of discovering her sexuality as well as her “Knowing”, but others seem to be one-off lessons that, while nice to hear, just feel out of place.

One section had an entire piece on learning about dealing with your own internal racism as a white woman. Now, I actually thought this was an important chapter for white women to internalize, but it just seemed to be stuck in the middle of the book without much of a reason. It didn’t connect to the greater story but instead felt like a footnote that went on for a long time. I’m not saying this to disregard the content, but to critique its place in the context of the story. There were parts of this chapter that felt very scripted and inorganic. While I know that this is a written work that has been through multiple rounds of editing and is therefore not organic in itself, I couldn’t shake the stiff wording that almost sounded like they were quotes from somewhere else. For me, it took away from the points being made because they sounded less genuine. This was definitely a theme that continued throughout Doyle’s work.

In many chapters, we see quotes of dialogue as part of the mentioned anecdotal structure. Once again, I understand that these are not direct, organic quotes. However, they read as scripted and stiff. It was almost as if Doyle herself wanted to sound like a self-help book in her conversations. It really took me out of the story and deprived me of resonating with otherwise impactful writing.

This book wasn’t all bad, though. The story of Doyle’s sexuality and personhood in the midst of trying to fit into cultural and societal pressures is all too relatable. Most people who have been raised as women can relate to pieces of her story. Reading about a woman breaking free of those expectations weighing her down is freeing. Additionally, I really enjoyed all the chapters involving Doyle’s daughter, Tish. I could read a whole book about Tish’s outlook on life. I loved hearing about this confident daughter who feels her emotions and is unashamed of them. We need more of that mindset.

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite book, but it still has some value. It’s been pointed out to me that how someone has been raised definitely affects their perceptions of this book. I personally had already come to some of the conclusions that Doyle was realizing; however, I had an open-minded, liberal upbringing where I didn’t feel as much intense pressure to confine to societal expectations. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to them. I can see the value in discussing these breakthroughs and I believe that we should discuss them. That being said, this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

If you want a book that will empower you to defy expectations and look within yourself instead of society, though, then this is definitely the book for you.

★★☆☆☆