The first monthlies of 2019. I am still working on the right format for this. I found myself struggling at times with writing reviews in 2018, and I blame the format I selected :p. So, I guess it’s time to try something new. Again. As usual, though, I will underline titles who I personally own and will indicate which books were ARCs I was asked to review. January was a great reading month for me. I got a great start on my 2019 reading goals and was able to explore a good variety of genres. I read some horror. I read some lifestyle. I listened to audiobooks. And I ogled over graphic novels. I hope you had as much fun as I did this month. As usual underlined books represent books I own, Goodreads links are below the pictures, and spoilers are possible.
Books read: 27
Books listened to: 3
Total pages read (includes “pages” from audiobooks): 8905
The Gallagher of Ardmore trilogy (Nora Roberts) ♠♠♠♠, ♠♠♠♠♠, and ♠♠♠♠
I have such a soft spot for romance novels set in Ireland and the queen of sappy eyes and cheesy love stories strikes again in this series. I love her descriptions of the landscapes and the folklore. She perfectly incorporates mysticisms and old wives tales into her plot. In this series, Roberts also proves herself a genius at Irish cussing! Some of her trilogies feel derived and her characters feel like she tried so hard to make them different from each other, but in this trilogy, she effortlessly created three unlike couples. I enjoyed the relationship in the second book the most as it was based on friendship and growing up together. I liked that she wrote a different kind of woman in book three. Even though I couldn’t relate to her, as I am not looking for a rich husband, I appreciated her outspokenness about it. We all need women in our lives who aren’t afraid to speak up about what they want.
If you love love and Ireland, I recommend this series.
Even if I Fall (Abigail Johnson) ♠♠♠♠
I received this YA novel as an ARC (see my detailed review on here on my blog or on Goodreads). (YA) Books for me need to either let you dive into a different world from your own or need to have an important moral to the story. Of course, ideally, they have both. I quite enjoyed this book and felt it had an important message. Its (mostly secondary) plotline set the stage well for character development. The reader felt along with the protagonists, which is something not every author can achieve.
If you want to read a book that helps you understand grief and guilt, I recommend this novel.
Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty) ♠♠♠
I received this book in November as part of my BOTM subscription. I really loved Big Little Lies and had been itching to pick up another Liane Moriarty story. Sadly, this one wasn’t for me. Despite the fact that I read this novel in one sitting and thus it was obviously able to hold my attention, I only felt meh once I finished it. I had quite some trouble caring about the characters, something that came so easily with Big Little Lies. I also didn’t really connect with the plotline. I think Moriarty should’ve pushed Masha’s crazy much, much further.
At the moment, I wouldn’t recommend this book.
The Winter People (Jennifer McMahon) ♠♠♠♠
Guys, this story started off so damn good, I needed it in my life. It was creepy and eerie and weird. Immediately, I imagined the plot in the style of Eggers’ The Witch. I loved the overwhelming snow, the solitude, the tales about the resurrection of the dead, and the sometimes graphic descriptions in Sara’s diary. I enjoyed the slow built of the story. The author released bits in pieces of information one at a time creating a need to read on. And then the ending happened: sudden, way too quick, flat, and like an afterthought. Why?????????????? This book could’ve been magic!
I still wholeheartedly recommend this book. Read it for imagery. Read it for the suspense. Read it for the beautiful but haunting descriptions of another world. Read it for the amazing cover alone.
Salt (Hannah Moskowitz) ♠
This was a NetGalley ARC I have been trying to read for a long time. I was on a major struggle bus. Honestly, I didn’t get it. I have no real idea what the message of the story is. I didn’t enjoy the writing. It felt like a long slew of angsty teenage text messages where one sentence seamlessly merges into the next. The plotline was abrupt, with changes in events so sudden that it was hard to follow the story. The only bright spot in the book was Hura, a female pirate, who lived her life as she pleased and made no excuses for her calculated and often ruthless actions. Read my full review here on my blog or follow it on Goodreads.
I do not recommend this book.
The Winter Witch (Katherine Arden) ♠♠♠♠♠
[I wrote a lengthy review on Goodreads and am just going to repeat myself here :)]
Um, what to say????? I had to stay up late to read The Winter Witch in one sitting. This book concludes the journey of one of my favorite heroines, Vasya! She intrigued me in book 1, I fell in love with her in book 2, and she completed me in book 3. How will I go on from here? I need more Vasya in my life!
Katherine Arden’s writing was mesmerizing. She captivated me with her ease to spin novel prose into old world tales. All protagonists grew in this installment. they were complex, to begin with, but their changes were so fitting and crucial for this plot. I loved how she brought side stories and other arcs back into this book. She wrapped everything up with a nice bow on top. If you can call an inevitable war, a head-on collision, a battle of the wits between mankind and mystical creatures wrapping it up with a bow on top. Vasya’s role in this spectacle of “will these two worlds or won’t they come together” was raw and difficult but I loved every moment of it. Don’t get me wrong, Arden broke my heart, with a death so sudden and unexpected that I almost threw the book down, but she repaired it at the end with a conclusion so meaningful and important, I forgave her instantaneously. I urge you here to read her afterword!
I loved being able to follow the author’s own professional rise as a writer. Her prose improved with each book in this series. While I loved book 2 the best because it had the strongest emphasis on Vasya, Arden’s writing was the most powerful in book 3. Indeed, The Winter Witch lives and breaths off of the author’s words! At this point, I only wish I could read Vasya’s tale once more like it was the first time. The Winternight Trilogy will stick with me, as a great example, that even today we can still read books as magical as back in the day when stories were our most important means to communicate with each other. I don’t think I read a modern novel series, I think I read old folklore passed down from generation to generation, and I love Katherine Arden for being able to accomplish that.
Everyone should read this series! I wager to say it will nestle right into your heart and stay there for you to feel all the feels anytime you want.
The Kiss Quotient (Helen Hoang) ♠♠♠♠♠
First off, I thought this was going to be a super adorbz romance book based on this cute cover. Secondly, I was completely fooled by that. This novel was sexy, at times raunchy, and very adult. There were erotic scenes. There was explicit content. And I loved it because none of it felt cheap. It felt real and personal. I didn’t like that the protagonist was introduced as having Asperger’s, which is as far as I know, not a proper diagnosis anymore. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a heterogeneous disorder and it bugs me when people use the wrong nomenclature. However, I am glad that this little annoyance didn’t prevent me from reading the book. I loved the female lead. She was complicated and human. I could relate to her. Her inner monologue was engaging and thought-provoking. Her growth throughout the plot felt organic. This book is a great example of how literature allows us to experience a different point of view. I am thankful that I finally gave in to read this novel.
I recommend this book if you are looking for a well-developed plot, some romance, and a relatable protagonist. I also recommend it if you want to explore new perspectives.
The Saga series (Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples) ♠♠♠♠ and ♠♠♠♠♠
I am really smitten with this series. I love the sci-fi and fantasy merge. The illustrations are beautiful and different. The story is engaging and the main characters well-developed aka flawed but perfect. I read volumes 3 and 4 this month.
If you like following unique characters and their adventures throughout the universe AND are a sucker for some unique graphics and some adult content, I recommend this series to you.
Hygge (Britta Olsson) ♠♠♠ and The Konmari Method (Marie Kondō) ♠♠♠♠♠
I’ve discovered that I enjoy learning about different lifestyle philosophies, especially if they are similar to my outlook on life. My friends joke about how non-sentimental I am and how quickly I can get rid of stuff. While that may be true to an outsider looking in, it is actually more of a reflection on how selective and choosy I am with my emotions. I’d rather put in 100% of my feelings into one item than split it up into many. A second factor is also that clutter gives me anxiety. I like things to be manageable. I get overwhelmed by having too much stuff. I like to know the purpose for each item I own, and yes, even if that purpose is just to make me happy. So, the concept of Hygge but also the idea of sparking joy, really resonate with me. I enjoyed listening to both books but felt that Marie Kondo’s was better written and more engaging. Both emphasize minimalism in a way that still allows you to feel cozy and at home in your own house. Both emphasize mindfulness. I probably will refer back to the Konmari Method more often, but I will definitely keep Hygge in mind when decorating my house.
Try either one of these books if you’re looking to make a change.
Dark Rainbow: Queer Erotic Horror (various authors) ♠♠♠
Another NetGalley ARC for this month. I received it after the publication date but am very happy I was asked to review this collection of short stories. This was really my first foray into queer horror and I quite liked it. As often is the case, this anthology too had some really good stories and some not so good. I don’t want to dwell on these (full review of the book here on my blog or on Goodreads) but focus on my favorite story of the collection: Think of Me by Lindsay King-Miller. This one felt special from the opening line. It was less explicit and emphasized inner monologue over plot. Lindsay King-Miller masterly crafted a hauntingly beautiful short story that tugged on my heartstrings. Losing someone to suicide is sadly not a rare occasion anymore and so I am glad that she highlighted that topic in her work. I loved the surreal twist she gave the protagonist and enjoyed that sinister aftermath. None of that, however, took away from what I perceived to be the main message: suicide is saddening, maddening, and deeply hurtful to everyone involved. I would love to read more of her writing in the future.
I recommend this book if you are looking for new and different protagonists and don’t mind some explicit adult content.
Red Clocks (Leni Zumas) ♠♠♠♠
Red Clocks was a buddy-read with some bookish friends from a Goodreads group. It has been on my TBR since last year when I received it through my BOTM subscription. Hailed as a modern-day Handmaid’s Tale, I had been looking forward to reading this novel for a while. To the contrary to Margaret Atwood’s story, this one lived off of its language more than its plot – something I really, really enjoy btw. Leni Zumas utilizes the feeling of distance evoked by her words to create an uncomfortable reading atmosphere. Her book features 5 women with 5 different stories that in one way or another I could relate to. Each woman is uniquely portrayed through a different tone in the writing, which I found fascinating. Despite the language that sometimes makes you squirm in your seat, Zumas creates a feeling of dread because despite her novel taking place in the future, it is a future not unattainable, and thus makes you feel like this could happen to yourself.
This book screams “uncomfortable”. It will make you feel weird. But it is also relevant. I recommend this novel to everyone just so we can all keep our eyes open to any happenings in the future.
Magician: Master (Raymond E. Feist) ♠♠♠♠♠
The second volume in the Riftwar Saga was just as epic as the first one (see my review here). I loved following the many (yes many!) main characters on their journeys. Each one develops in a unique way. They all feel complex and real. The plot moves along in just the right pace to keep you invested but to not miss anything of importance. This novel feels 100% like a tabletop game such as Dungeons & Dragons, which was one of the inspirations for the author. The fantastical events seem like the kind I would come up with as a kid. The author’s writing style transports me into magical realms, with heroes, love, and friendship. While reading I couldn’t’ decide if I would wanted to be a magician, an elf, or a brave princess. Both volumes made me feel young at heart, which is something I sometimes forget to be.
I recommend this series if you are ready to go on an adventure of epic proportions.
We Sold Our Souls (Grady Hendrix) ♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
I’ve been catching up on ARCs this month that I received after their publication date. I really enjoyed reading We Sold Our Souls (review on my blog or on Goodreads). This was a different kind of horror: fun and amusing. The heavy metal references made me feel nostalgic, as I too was an emo teenager :p. The story itself is quick with lots of exciting twists and turns. The only frightening portion to me was a situation built entirely on claustrophobia which was described in such detail that I felt stuck along with the protagonist. And I loved that feeling! I wish some of the plot events would’ve been less sudden and more attainable – they felt too much as a tool to propel the story forward and not authentic or organic in the development.
If you like music and paranormal plotlines, I recommend this book to you.
Small Spaces (Katherine Arden) ♠♠♠♠
This is a wonderful and spooky middle-grade read. It reminds me of a lighter version of Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge. Arden’s writing style shines through here as well. The book is atmospheric and sometimes frightening. Her protagonist is lovable and the audience has to feel for her recent loss. We understand why she buries herself in fictional stories rather than engage in real life. We would be that girl had we just lost our mom. She doesn’t want people to get close but the thread of the smiling man and a sinister prophecy from a book force her to overcome her inner demons and we are along for the ride.
This book is for any young soul who is looking for a little scare and a lot of heart.
Looking for Alaska (John Greene) ♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
I honestly don’t really know how to judge this book. I felt let down after reading it but I think it might’ve just been because too much time had passed between me discovering the book and finally getting to read it. I enjoyed the story. I don’t have major quarrels with the protagonists. I just couldn’t get past the teenage angst. I flowed off the page and just mostly annoyed me. Maybe I am too old to relate now?! Who knows.
I recommend this book to any teenager. I think if I had read this during my younger years I would’ve felt understood.
The Grisha trilogy (Leigh Bardugo) ♠♠♠♠ and ♠♠♠♠
Everyone is reading this series. I loved the Six of Crows duology, so it was a no brainer that I eventually would make it to the Grishaverse again. I flew through both books and am eagerly awaiting the third one – I requested it from my library a while ago. Leigh Bardugo did not disappoint. The darkness. The sinister play. The world-building. All of those were great. After the first book, I wasn’t sure if I am team Mal or team Darkling and then the author had to introduce Nikolai in the second book. Now, I don’t know at all who is my favorite man ;). I was able to relate to Alina, especially in book 2, which also made me more emotional. I am enjoying the Russian folklore undertones of this series and the sinister plot points and am looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy.
If you like fantasy novels but are not interested in your typical YA tropes, this series is for you.
Elevation (Stephen King) ♠♠♠♠
This has quickly become one of my favorite Stephen King short stories. It was endearing and light, yet totally packed a punch with a depth of the human condition, that has become so typical of King’s latest novels. I went through a series of emotions: anger, disappointment, silliness, thoughtfulness, sadness, and acceptance are just a few. I loved how the ending was just this inevitable occurrence even though as a reader you keep your hope up the entire time that it won’t come to that.
If you are not someone who generally enjoys horror but have been wanting to try some King, I recommend this book to you. It has a paranormal aspect but no jump scares or overtly frightening events.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote) ♠♠♠♠
I’ve been wanting to read this forever. I love the movie and have been curious to see the book it is based on. I knew from the start that the book and the movie differ but after reading it, I have to say the tone and the sentiment of them are the same! Truman Capote’s writing style is whimsical, which opposes the depths of his topics greatly, but creates an amazing synergy. The copy I read also included three other short stories allowing me to get even a bit more insight into Capote’s writing. A Christmas Memory is largely autobiographically and was just amazing and heartbreaking and special.
If you read anything by Truman Capote, read A Christmas Memory.
The Silent Patient (Alex Michaelides) ♠♠♠
This was another BOTM book buddy read with my Goodreads group. I enjoy a good thriller because I like figuring stuff out. Sadly, I found myself mostly irritated and annoyed throughout the book. Now, I have to qualify, that this was somewhat alleviated toward the end as it all started making sense, but I still find it a flaw of the book. Making the narrator/protagonist/psychotherapist an arrogant prick is an interesting and smart plot point. Making his inner dialog essentially just textbook definitions of psychoanalytical jargon made my eyes roll so hard I thought I had to switch to an audiobook version because I kept loosing the line I was on. This is basically the perfect example of why showing me instead of telling me makes for excellent writing. I felt the entire time as if the author is trying to prove that he knows psychology stuff. But why? That wasn’t even necessary to propel the story forward. The book did redeem itself at the end because of its fun plot twist. I really did enjoy how it all came together during the last few pages.
I recommend this book to you if you like reading fast-paced suspense with unexpected plot twists.
Lady Susan (Jane Austen) ♠♠♠♠
This is one of my favorite Austen pieces. It’s the most gossipy but also critical social commentary of her times. Lady Susan is manipulating and scheming. She takes advantage of her environment any chance she gets. She is selfish. She is smart. She wouldn’t be able to be how she is weren’t Austen-time England the way it was!
This was a quick read and I urge you to pick up this novella.
Steppenwolf (Hermann Hesse) ♠♠♠♠
Hermann Hesse is dense. He is a wizard with long-winded, unnecessarily complicated, and always much too lengthy sentences; and that is exactly why he is a literary genius! You have to digest everything he says. Each plot point, each sentence, each character comes with a qualifier. The Steppenwolf aka Harry is the epitome of Hesse’s times; yet today’s reader can still relate to his struggles, his doubts, and his flaws. I am a big fan of a book that makes me feel despair, that there is no hope, that everything is triste and melancholic. This novel did just that.
I recommend this book if you a reader who prefers language over plot.
Winter in Paradise (Elin Hilderbrand) ♠♠♠
It appears that my recent BOTM picks were all suspenseful and quick reads. This one I chose because 1) it had a mystery to solve and 2) it took place on St. John, which I visited and loved last summer. This book does not read like a thriller. There is an underlying mystery and we learn more about it as the protagonists discover a series of events, but, in fact, the book reads more like a character study – how does each character cope with the fact that the person they thought they knew had secrets of their own. In the end, we understand a good portion of the circumstances that lead to a death in the Carribean but the novel does end in a small cliffhanger.
I would recommend this book as one to read if you want to escape a dreary winter and by association enjoy the island life and sun.
While You Sleep (Stephanie Merritt) ♠♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
Another ARC I was fortunate to review this month and I loved everything about it: the cover, the atmosphere, the sinister plot, and the sensual writing. Please see my reviews on my blog or on Goodreads for a more in-depth discussion. This story is so complex and I never knew what was real, what was a dream or the delusions of an ill woman, and what was a paranormal occurring. I don’t want to talk about it too much because I want everyone to read this book without knowing virtually nothing about it!
If you love a good haunting, if you love being left in the dark, if you love every character in the plot to be unreliable, I recommend this novel to you.
Brief Horrible Moments: A Collection of One Sentence Horror Stories (Marko Pandza) ♠♠♠
I saw this in my Goodreads feed and just had to have it. It was only $0.99 for Kindle and whoops I bought it. People were raving about the beautiful illustrations and the chilling one-liners. Well, sadly to report here, the eBook didn’t have any illustration and so the whole book left me disappointed. A few of the one sentence stories were really, really good but they couldn’t make up for the fact that some of the experience was missing.
If you’re a horror fan this would be a great coffee table book.