Well we are finally settled into our Hawaii house! We had some longer-term tenants this year, so Natalie and I spent the month of January in an adorable little “ohana” rental. (You know, Ohana means family…so basically the converted garage apartment.) Although this particular apartment had a real kitchen with a full-size refrigerator.
We left the Vineyard right after the holidays. I DO NOT recommend this. My house and brain were a jumble after company, kids, events and cooking for the month of December. Plus getting the house ready for a renovation…I’ve never been so happy to get on a plane!
What I’m trying to say is this; in all the craziness, I didn’t quite make my “ten books a month with reviews” resolution. I also haven’t walked three miles yet but that’s a different post for sure. I did, however, make a small dent in my to-read pile and it’s only February 12th so I’m not even that far behind! I call it a win. Here are my reviews for the worst and the best books from my pile:
JANUARY 2020 BOOK REVIEWS (from Hawaii-where there are rainbows-get it?)
Family Trust, by Kathy Wang
I’m a sucker for anything that is faced directly towards me at the airport gift shop. This book is kind of hot in the trade-size paperback world right now, plus I always could use another red-spine book on my rainbow themed bookshelves. Basically, it’s about a dying patriarch of an Asian-American family and his tangled-up mess that includes his kids, his current crazy wife and his ex-wife who thinks they’re all crazy. The themes of gender and race are clear, but the story is mostly about a dysfunctional, family with characters all getting themselves into some kind of mess. Pretty much like every character in every light- hearted book about dysfunctional families.
Nothing new and awe-inspiring here, but easy to read none the less. I thought I liked this book until I realized I never finished it! I read it on and off through thirteen hours of flying. It was quirky and cute and predictable; everything you could want in light reading while taking anti-anxiety meds to actually get onto the airplane. We made it to Hawaii where I put in in my pile and just now realized I never picked it up again. I also must admit that I had to read the back blurb to remember exactly what it was about. So, while it wasn’t awful enough to instead review the “emergency card in the seat pocket in front of me” for entertainment, I’m going to say it’s a 2 ½ stars on my one to five scale.Any book where I can’t remember what it was about after just two weeks automatically gets only three stars; I’ve got to knock it down even further if I just completely forgot to finish the book.
Daughter of Moloka’i, Alan Brennan
I love historical fiction. I’ll give a book one star just for even trying to write something about life before 1975. (That’s about when I can remember everything; you can pretty much dupe me with embellished facts from anything before that.) This is a loosely connected sequel to Brennan’s amazing Moloka’i about the Hawaiian island once deemed an outpost for all people with leprosy, and the often negative and racist impact this program had on the entire Hawaiian island community. (ummm…coronavirus anyone?) In this new book, Brennan focuses on a Japanese-Hawaiian family that moves to California only to become victims of Japanese detainment camps. In 1942-1946. As in less than one hundred years ago. As in there are people still walking the earth that remember this. And as a good little American educated citizen in the 1970s and 1980s, I never heard about these camps. I’ve learned a few tidbits along the way, but I got more startling information from this book than I did in my college American History 101 class. Read this book people! In addition to being historically accurate, it’s also an amazing story of one family through the generations. The characters are well developed and intriguing, and the story itself is one that will take your breath away and make you sad when it’s over. You will cry and cheer for these people. Their strength and resilience is inspiring. And in our current political climate that seems to have gone askew, you will draw conclusions that might make you get a little more socially active. I give it a resounding 5 stars.
This month I also read Every Last Lie, by Mary Kubica. I’d give it 3 ½ stars. Simple read, simple plot, simple characters. But I still wanted to know what happened. (Note, not all psychological thrillers turn out to be all that thrilling.)
Company of One, by Paul Jarvis. This was my business/self-help/get-your-shit-together book of the month. The premise is basically “make your business better and more profitable by not growing too fast or taking on too much.” So obvious, except I did the exact opposite just two years ago. There is a draw to the “grow big, be seen” business mentality and even I fell victim. While the book was somewhat repetitive and needed more product-based business examples, I found myself loving it with a highlighter in hand. If I love a book enough to pull out a highlighter, it’s getting 4 stars.
The Crush, by Gary Paulsen. I try to read my daughter one book out loud each month. She’s twelve and hasn’t yet implemented the “please stay ten feet away from me” part of adolescent girlhood, so I can still get away with this. We chose this book because I love Gary Paulsen, we hadn’t read this yet and it was a short read with a large font. And OMG. Read this to your kids! It’s laugh out loud, pee your pants funny. Seriously we laid in bed with tears streaming down our face. Honestly, I don’t know how we’ll ever go back to vampires and mermaids. Fourteen-year-old boys navigating girls and dating is hysterical. 5 stars a million times over.
Okay so that’s the January list. Hopefully things settle down, so the February reviews get in before March. But honestly, they probably won’t. Because, for those who know me…hockey playoffs are right around the corner!