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The Book Beat - January 9, 2023

Hello! Are any bookworms still here? Bueller? Bueller?

I'm back! 2022 was a great year for reading and books, but a bad year for me posting-wise. I apologize. This blog is now one of my official 2023 goals (23 for 23, as my QVC Bookclub would say!), so you will absolutely be hearing from me more often. As far as I can tell, 2023 is going to be another stellar year for books. So let's waste no time digging in! Keep reading for a short end-of-2022 feature and then some book reviews. Thanks for sticking with me!

2022 in Review: The 12 Days of Bookmas

Below is a list and some pics from my end-of-2022 Instagram challenge, The 12 Days of Bookmas! I had so much fun doing it, but had to take a week off from Bookstagram afterwards—it was exhausting! Full-time influencers, y'all impress me! You have to be "on" 24/7...somedays I just want to sit in sweats, refuse to answer to "Mom," ignore social media, and read!


12/14 - 1 Merry Bookstagrammer

12/15 - 2 Lit Classics

12/16 - 3 Awesome Authors

12/17 - 4 Fave Characters

12/18 - 5 Great Lit Quotes

12/19 - 6 Bookish Spots

12/20 - 7 Best Booksta Pics

12/21 - 8 Reading Snacks

12/22 - 9 Fiction Heroines

12/23 - 10 Fave Books of All Time

12/24 - 11 Best Book Covers

12/25 - 12 Fave Books of 2022!

2022 in Review

I ended the year having read 120 books. I'll say again—thank goodness for audiobooks. With commuting to work and increasing the speed to 2.5x (more like normal talking than 1x!), I manage to read/listen to a lot of books, and this year's list was beyond enjoyable. I learned so much. I lived the lives of so many different people. I grew my humanity by broadening my knowledge of other places, cultures, and history. I reveled in the complex, tragic, joyful, and oh-so human lives of so many characters, fiction and nonfiction. Suffice it to say, if you didn't already know it—books are where it's at! The amazing adventures within those pages!

My reading goals for 2023? As you can see from the last pic above (my 12 favorites), I gravitate toward stories about women characters written by women. So for 2023, I'm going to try and read more books by men (I'm 2/3 of the way done reading Frederik Backman's Beartown trilogy and LOVING it). I'm going to read more stories by LGBTQ+ authors, who are still being unfairly persecuted by book-banners. I'm also doing a #ReadAroundTheWorld challenge, which I will explain about below. What are your reading goals for 2023?

Book Review! My 1st 5-Star Book of the Year!

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Want to start the year off with a roller-coaster of a book filled with razor-sharp humor, women taking on the patriarchy (sometimes with murder), and twists and turns that keep you guessing? Then this book is for you!

Geeta is a social outcast in her small Indian village. Five years ago, when her alcoholic, abusive husband disappeared, the whole town assumed she killed him. What they don't know is he up and left, and she has no clue where he is. She's happy he's gone—he abused her emotionally and physically—yet she still isn't thrilled that everyone considers her a danger and an anomaly, as she doesn't have kids. She keeps away from most of her village, especially her childhood friend Saloni and only interacts with the village's women at the micro-loan meetings she attends to keep her jewelry business running.

But when Farrah, another woman who is being abused by her husband, comes to Geeta to ask for her help in "removing her nose ring" (aka killing her husband), Geeta gets pulled into a web of darkly humorous hijinks and crime.

Shroff deftly uses the exaggerated events of murder and mean-girl drama between the women in the village to comment on very-real aspects of rural Indian culture—the rampant misogyny experienced by Indian women, the inequity and racism of the caste system, and the hypocrisy bred of anti-drinking directives. I really enjoyed how easily she went from humor to horror and back again.

Geeta is a complex character. She's at times scared, strong, deferential, defensive, aggressive, clever, and oblivious. Frankly, she's real. How she and the women of the village "fight back" is shocking, funny, clever, and, in the end, a heck of a lot of fun.

If you're a fan over dark humor, biting commentaries on the patriarchy, and women one-upping the forces that oppress them, give this one a whirl. It'll definitely make you think!

Major props to Elena Giavaldi for the smashing cover!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 from 2022

🌟🌟🌟🌟 from 2022 (& 1 from this year!)

What I'm Reading Now

The Beartown Trilogy by Fredrik Backman

I'll admit, Backman can be a "take it or leave it" author for me. But this trilogy! The small Swedish town of Beartown is allll about ice hockey. Backman will make you laugh, cheer, and cry, while exploring so many issues—community, toxic sports culture, masculinity, family, love, death, and life. I'm done the first two and will tackle the last, The Winners, this month. Has anyone else read and loved these?

These are the #NetGalley ARCs I have for the next few months. I'm hoping by posting them here, I'll prioritize them! I'm reading Wade in the Water now.

2023 #ReadAroundTheWorld Challenge

For seven months this year, I’ll be reading a book a month set in a different one of the seven continents. I love characters, stories, romances, and the history shared in books, but I also love the settings. It’s ridiculous how long it took me to choose these books, but I wanted a nice mix of genres and some classics and more recent novels. For North America, I also chose Canada as the country since I haven’t read many books set there. I think I did pretty good!

Africa - How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Antarctica - Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor

Asia (Sri Lanka) - The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Australia - The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper

Europe (Greece) - Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

North America (Canada) - The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

South America (Argentina) - Furia by Yamile Said Mendez

If you want to participate by reading your own choices or these, please do! I can’t wait to read and learn about these locales and share it with you!

Book Ends

This is going a bit long, so I'll make sure to round up some bookish news stories for you in the next blog post. Have a great week and happy new (reading) year!

Cover of the Week!

NSFW by Isabel Kaplan

Cover design: Clay Smith

With a bold cover like this, a relatable picture, and a provocative title, I just know this book will be interesting to say the least. It's on my list for this year! See below for the publisher's description. Has anyone read it?

Blisteringly sharp and hypersmart―meet Isabel Kaplan’s searing debut novel about a young woman trying to succeed in Hollywood without selling her soul.

From the outside, the unnamed protagonist in NSFW appears to be the vision of success. She has landed an entry-level position at a leading TV network that thousands of college grads would kill for. And sure, she has much to learn. The daughter of a prominent feminist attorney, she grew up outside the industry. But she’s resourceful and hardworking. What could go wrong?

At first, the high adrenaline work environment motivates her. Yet as she climbs the ranks, she confronts the reality of creating change from the inside. Her points only get attention when echoed by male colleagues; she hears whispers of abuse and sexual misconduct. Her mother says to keep her head down until she’s the one in charge―a scenario that seems idealistic at best, morally questionable at worst. When her personal and professional lives collide, threatening both the network and her future, she must decide what to protect: the career she’s given everything for or the empowered woman she claims to be.

Fusing page-turning prose with dark humor and riveting commentary on the truths of starting out professionally, Isabel Kaplan’s NSFW is an unflinching exploration of the gray area between empowerment and complicity. The result is a stunning portrait of what success costs in today’s patriarchal world, asking us: Is it ever worth it?

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