January Reading Round Up
From what I’ve been seeing around the Internet these days, everyone has been talking about how long January felt. Usually it feels like that for me too - but for some reason it flew by! Which is particularly weird considering Chicago just got out of some of the coldest days we’ve ever had in the history of ever.
Or at least how long they’ve been recording the temperatures.
My friends… it was COLD. But, we survived.
Oh… you’re not here to listen to me talk about the weather and how cold it was here? You want to know about the books I read this month? Well… that’s fair considering that’s the title of this blog post.
I read a total of 6 books in January and 4 of them counted towards the Beat the Backlist Challenge which was a great start! I enjoyed all of them for the most part which is even better.
Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1) by Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Format: Library Hardcover
Rating: 3.75 Stars
Quick Summary: Five years after the final Mortal Instruments book, Emma and her squad illegally investigate murders in LA which may lead to information about her own parents deaths.
First off, this trilogy is a spin off of the Mortal Instruments series. Previously with Cassandra Clare books, you could read The Mortal Instruments alone, or you could read The Infernal Devices alone, but you would get a better experience reading all of them. This is not the case with The Dark Artifices. You really need to have read both of the previous series to get everything that’s happening. That being said - I’m not going to attempt hiding any spoilers for the other two series. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I’d been intending to read The Dark Artifices for awhile now, and while I do enjoy the Shadowhunter books, I’m not the fangirl of them that I used to be. I re-read most of the other two series a couple of years ago. The Infernal Devices are better, and I like The Mortal Instruments enough as long as I can just skip over the Jace chapters. I’d heard this trilogy got even better than the others. Her writing and inclusivity were better than they had been before and now that all three books are out, I figured it was high time I binged them.
This book took me forever to get into. I could see how I would like the new characters, but the first quarter of the book is basically just a bunch of name dropping for the previous books and GUSHING about how AMAZING JACE AND CLARY ARE. (Newsflash- they’re not that great. Literally all of the other characters are better than Jace and Clary.) The moment I’d start getting into the new characters and story, memories and mentions of the other books would get in the way. So much so, that I almost DNF’d this book.
Then, when I finally sat down to really read, and not just a few pages at a time, I was able to get into it. Yes, this book is still pretty typical Cassandra Clare. Forbidden romances, family drama, love triangles, SO MUCH ANGST, using the word parabatti WAY too much. (For people who make fun of Sarah J Maas for using “mate” too often, I make fun of Cassandra Clare for using parabatti too much.) But, I also expect this when I read her books. When I was able to push aside all of the throwbacks to previous books and characters, I was able to see why everyone liked this one so much. Mark is definitely one of the most interesting characters so far, and I do like Emma and Jullian a lot. The ending was a bit eye-rolly for me, and a bit heart breaking, but also not surprising. Basically… it was a Shadowhunter ending.
Compared to The Mortal Instruments, I would say this one is better quality, but I’m not sure if I like it more than The Infernal Devices yet. I have the next book waiting for me at the library so we’ll see how I feel once the trilogy is over!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7) by JK Rowling - Re-read
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars
Quick Summary: Harry has to defeat Voldemort!
In December I did a re-read of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell which is basically about a girl who loves a made up version of Harry Potter which made me super in the mood for Harry Potter. I’d started re-reading the series maybe a year or two ago but for some reason stopped when I got to book seven. No time like the present, right?
I started re-reading it at the end of December and finished at the start of January and IT WAS WONDERFUL. Gosh, I forgot how good of a finale this was. I know some fans weren’t satisfied with the ending, but I totally was and that hasn’t changed. I love seeing Harry’s growth in this book and the journey he takes from “I’m doing this because Dumbledore told me to” to stepping up and taking it on as his own and growing as a leader. Then we also get Neville being a TOTAL BAD ASS (which the movie did a fine job with… but he’s so much more so in the book) and all of the heartbreaking moments still got to me and just… bravo. I love it.
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Library Paperback
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Quick Summary: It’s been years since Hazel threw up on Josh’s shoes in college, but a friendship is ignited in a whirlwind and they decide to set each other up with friends and go on double dates together as an excuse to hang out.
This book was SO ADORABLE. I can’t even handle it. Hazel is a complete hot mess - and completely fabulous. While I don’t think I’m quite as eccentric as she is, I still totally related to her and the feeling of being “too much” for people. She’s the type of hot mess a person aspires to be. She’s hilarious, loves animals and kids, and always says inappropriate things at the total wrong time but you love her for it. Josh really was that “perfect” guy Hazel kept on describing him to be, while also feeling like a real character vs. just that “dream man” you get in romance novels sometimes. (Also Korean-American rep!)
When reading other reviews on Goodreads I saw some people weren’t fans of one of the plot lines later in the book. There were a couple which came to mind which could have been what they were referring to. Neither of them bothered me though. The book was slightly light on plot, but when it comes to romance I don’t mind that and just want to fall in love with the characters which totally happened!
Literally the only complaint I had is that there’s a plot point where people have sex while drunk and just… ugh. It seemed like they were sober enough to consent but… UGH. It bothered me enough though to bump it half a star. I can’t give a book that hinges on that plot point a full 5 stars and apparently this is a common thing with this writing duo. I’ll read more of their books, but I’ll also never be happy about this aspect of them.
It’s 2019 people! (And this book was published in 2018 so it’s not like it’s dated or anything.) Can we remove drunken sex from being an okay thing to move a relationship along????
But seriously. Beyond that I loved everything else about this book.
Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Library Hardcover
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Quick Summary: Brooke falls for the brother of the guy her brother confessed to murdering.
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2019! (Although in my blog post I described one of this author’s other books… whoops! Sorry!) I’d never read a book about the family of a convicted murderer and the concept sounded super fascinating to me! This book for sure filled my high expectations for it. I got super attached to the characters, it hit me in ALL THE FEELS, it was raw and real, and I got caught up in the whole figuring out what happened the night of the murder aspect.
That being said , this was also an incredibly difficult book to read. I mean… our main character’s brother is in prison for murder. Then she falls for the brother of the guy her brother killed. Basically, no one is happy in this book and you’re dealing with some really intense issues. When I first started I was only able to get through a couple of chapters at a time before having to put it down because any more than that would have left me emotionally drained. About the halfway mark (maybe 2/3rds) I was able to get into a better groove and then binge read the remainder of the book.
It’s so well done and a beautiful book. But be warned: it’s tough.
Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Format: Library Paperback
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Quick Summary: Emma, Jullian, and the squad all deal with the aftermath of the first book. Angst, forbidden romance, and other Shadowhunting things ensue.
Then I came to this book. ::heavy sigh:: I won’t lie - once again I was tempted to DNF it after only a couple of chapters. There was just SO MUCH ANGST then Jace and Clary appeared RIGHT AWAY which made me roll my eyes so hard and just… ugh. Maybe it was because I’d just finished an intense book so I wasn’t ready for more angst? But this is such a different type of emotional and angst than If I Fall was and… it was rough.
All of the elements that I enjoy in books is in the Dark Artifices trilogy. I love forbidden romance, ALL OF THE FEELS, magic, adventure, squad goals, themes about family, etc. The ideas and characters for the Shadowhunter books are SO GOOD. But then I read it and the way they’re written I’m like “WHY AREN’T YOU BETTER?” I don’t know. Yet, I still love the characters and I keep coming back for more. My relationship with Cassandra Clare’s books is so complicated.
Anyway. I got through it. Lord of Shadows was weaker than Lady Midnight and while I didn’t mind the direction it was going and I liked all of the fae elements, it still wasn’t great. I think it could have been a lot shorter and there were elements which were dragged out that didn’t need to be dragged out.
The final book in this trilogy should be waiting for me to pick up at the library soon and I’ll push through and get this trilogy done! Woo!
Alanna The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1) by Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade (maybe younger YA) Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
Quick Summary: 10 year old Alanna doesn’t want to go to the convent. Her twin brother doesn’t want to be a knight. What’s a kid to do? Swap places of course.
I feel like I’m one of the last people to read Tamora Pierce’s books. So many people grew up with them and she’s a staple for YA Fantasy. I even remember seeing her books at the store when I was in high school and always intended to read them, but never did. So - I finally read one!
This is one of those books that now I’m like “man… I should have read this when I was 14 (or younger).” You know… the age it’s intended to be read at. Alanna is a great heroine: disguising herself Mulan style to become a knight, challenging her bullies, growing stronger, taking care of herself, etc. When this book was published in the ‘80s, I can imagine it was pretty ground breaking. Back then (and to a lot of an extent, today) the science-fiction and fantasy genres was a boys club. A book featuring a young girl training to be a knight, talking about getting her first period, discussing birth control, and her not shying away from violence, I’m imagining was not something which happened often. Especially for such a young age group. This book paved the way for the girl power YA fantasy novels we have today. If I read this in jr. high or high school before all of the YA fantasy we have now, I would have been ALL ABOUT IT.
But I didn’t read it back then and I have read the other YA fantasy novels we have now. In comparison, it wasn’t as good. Also, this was much more middle grade than YA. (But I’m pretty sure the books age up as the character gets older.) For my personal enjoyment, this book was more like 3.5 stars because it wasn’t as good as others I’ve read in this genre. But, I still really liked the premise and the short fast and fun read was welcome after If I Fall and Lord of Shadows. Also considering how ground breaking it was back when it was published, I bumped it up to 4 stars.
I’ll check out the rest of the series from the library and I can definitely see myself passing this book onto my niece and/or my cousins kids to read so they can read it at the appropriate age.
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling)
Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller
Format: Library Audiobook
Quick Summary: Let’s be real… those of us reading Lethal White aren’t here for the plot. We’re here to see what happens between Strike and Robin. But if you are interested- basically it’s political intrigue, murder, blackmail, the Olympics when it was in London, and parliament.
I started to read this book last year when it came out, but after the prologue and I found out what happened in the aftermath of the previous book, it felt so slow so I put it down temporarily. I’d read two of the others via audiobook and really enjoyed them, so I decided to give that a try.
So far, it is SO MUCH BETTER. However, I wasn’t able to finish the book before it was due back at the library and it wouldn’t let me renew it so… I’m back on the wait list.
Tune in several months from now when I can check out the audiobook again and can finally finish this bad boy. We’ll see if I attempt to read the physical book again.
What did you all read in January? Anything I should check out? Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?
Like what you read? Consider buying me a coffee.