Tuesday, February 12, 2019

January 2019 Reads // A Big Reading Month!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! :)

IT IS BOOKDAY! I feel like all I did in January was read. I'm ok with this, there were a lot of good books in there and I am decently ahead of schedule to make my goal of 60 books read this year! Woohoo! Though I am currently itching to create, so maybe February will not be a reading month. We will see.

I am joining in the Unread Shelf Project this year, so I tried to read as many books that I own (ebook or physical book) as possible. I will start notating that this year to keep track! :)




The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - Owned, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary fiction that deals tough topics like the foster care system, homelessness, and mental health issues.This story has a lot of depth, but isn't entirely depressing. (just an FYI from someone who keeps that mental diet light!)

Victoria has been in the foster care system her entire life. When she turns 18 she moves to a transitional home to help her get on her feet in the real world. Once she moves in, her only goal is to grow flowers. She's obsessed with cultivating the earth, and giving messages to people via the flower's Victorian meanings. When she gets evicted from the group home, she is homeless living in a park near her plants. She manages to get a job at a flower shop that sets her life in motion. When she meets a man at the flower market who also gives messages via flowers, she reluctantly agrees to spend time with him. All through the book you learn about Victoria's past and how she learned about the meaning of flowers. As her past and present come together she must decide if she is worthy of love and happiness.

This book was not at all what I expected, but I ended up really enjoying it. I thought that Victoria was a very complex character, and while I didn't really understand her very well, I was very invested in her story. I loved the quirkiness that existed in her world, I loved the language of the flowers, I loved the flash backs to her upbringing. The vineyard, and her past there with Elizabeth were some of my favorite parts of the book. I loved Renata and her family the most. I was fascinated by her mom's work as an unofficial midwife, and her relationship with her family. I would like a book about them!! I appreciated that while this book dealt with some tough topics, and was pretty emotional, it was also hopeful and not overly heavy to read. I liked seeing how Victoria's life changed throughout the book, and how she came to find her place in the world. I appreciated that the flower dictionary was included at the end of the book. Having been to San Francisco a few years ago it was fun to read about some of the places the the characters went. I smiled in particular when Victoria visited The Conservatory of Flowers. :)

5 Points for Erin's 10.0!

Enchantee by Gita Trelease* - ARC, ebook

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy. historical fiction, and a bit of romance.

Camille's parents are dead, her brother is a gambling, violent drunk, and her younger sister is wasting away in sickness and hunger. As her brother continues to pawn off their only possessions, Camille must turn to la magie, a small magic she learned from her mother. She can turn rusted nails to coins, but not for long. As their situation becomes more dire, she must open her mother's mysterious magic box, and see what else waits for her in the world of magic. The magic dress in the box causes her to appear as an aristocrat. This is all for a price: her blood. As she begins to visit Versailles and turn cards while gambling, she starts to earn money to live on. However, not everyone she meets at court is who they seem. She also meets Lazare and his friends, aeronauts with a flying balloon, and wants a real life filled with hope and purpose, not one that relies on magical tricks and deceit. But can she turn away from the pull of Versailles before she becomes trapped?

This was such an interesting book! I enjoyed the setting more than I expected to (pre-French revolution). I appreciated how descriptive Trelease's writing was, especially in painting the picture of Versailles and Paris. There were so many dreamy lines about hazy nights, starlit skies, etc. etc. I'm a sucker for that. I liked Camille and her desire to care for her sister and remember her parents. I also really liked Lazare and his friends with their hot air balloon. The magic system was incredibly interesting, at first I felt like I could have enjoyed this just as much if it had been historical fiction instead.... but as things came together in the end it all felt just write. Really woven well together. I enjoyed Camille's struggle to provide for her family and build a new life, while navigating the perilous social structure of Versailles as well. I also appreciated that her friends struggled with double lives whether in the same way as her, or in a different way. The characters were fairly complex for YA fantasy. I also appreciated that there was a bit of diversity in the characters. There is an LBGTQ+ relationship, and one of the main characters is biracial. In the end the story went a few surprising places, and I was really caught up in the action and resolution. I loved that this book was a bit romantic as well. It wasn't the whole purpose of the book, but it was still a little swoony. In the end I liked that this book had so many layers, and that it ultimately focused on hope. Though this does not end on a cliff-hanger, I heard that there will be a second book, which I am excited to read in the future.

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1) by Penny Reid -Owned, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

When Janie finds out that her fiance is cheating on her, and subsequently loses her apartment and then her job in the same day, she's hit rock bottom. At least the cute building security guy escorts her off the premises? She moves in with her friend, and immediately starts trying to right her life. She applies for many jobs in hopes of moving out on her own soon. When she runs into the security guard, Quinn, at a club, and wakes up in an unfamiliar place, she starts to wonder who he is. When he offers her a job, it seems too good to be true. As she works for the security company she finds out that Quinn is much more mysterious than she thought.

Overall this book was really cute. I liked Janie and Quinn quite a bit. I liked how different they were from one another and their odd banter and chemistry. I wish that the romantic scenes did not all fade to black, but this might be situational due to the character? I liked the knitting group even though Janie did not knit, and it wasn't knitting focused at all. I am always pro-female group of friends where it's not backstabby, etc.. It was fun that this book had a bit of action to it in addition to the romance. I am excited to read the rest of this series, which I hear only gets better.

35 Points for Erin's 10.0!

Courting Darkness (His Fair Assassin #4) by Robin LaFevers* - ARC, ebook

4.5 Stars - I highly recommend if you have read the initial 3 books in the His Fair Assassin Trilogy. Though this says it is stand alone, I would not recommend reading it without reading the first 3 books.

Genevieve a young servant of Mortain, has been stationed in France for 5 years, waiting for her skills to be needed. During that time all she has done is be propositioned by the king, and sent off to a noble's home in Cognac. There her fellow initiate becomes pregnant by the man of the house and their friendship is severed. During her tours of the castle she comes across a prisoner left in isolation. She does not know who he is or what he did, but she feels she can use him to her advantage. Eventually she will use him to escape Cognac, and try to find her sisters. Meanwhile, Sybella will serve the Duchess as she plans to wed the king of France. She and Ismae desperately need more servants of Mortain, but do not know where Genevieve and Lousia were stationed.

I liked being back in this world SO MUCH. This book was just as good as the initial three books and I enjoyed meeting the new characters. I thought that Genevieve's backstory was interesting, and while I did not quite understand her character, I really enjoyed her journey throughout the story. I anticipate that she has a lot more to do in book two of this duology (Or book #5), both as a person and as an assassin. I liked Marauad quite a bit as well, he's a saint of a man. Very patient with a hurting and gruff Genevieve. It was fun to see some of the older characters, Sybella, Beast, The Duchess, Ismae, and Duval again as well. At first I didn't love the dual perspectives. I found myself looking forward to Genevieve's chapters quite a bit more, but then the action rose in both plots and later they converge which was really kind of fun. I'm very excited to see where the next book goes.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson - Owned, physical book, to let go

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy middle grade-low YA historical fiction.

Hattie is an orphan and receives a letter from a long-lost uncle that she will inherit his farm. She jumps at the opportunity and boards a train in Iowa, Montana bound. When she arrives, she quickly learns that she has just 10 months to settle up on her uncle's claim to the land by fencing it and farming a certain percentage of the land. With the help of her neighbors Karl, Perilee, and their kids, as well as Leafie and Rooster Jim, Hattie will find her place in Montana. As WWI rages overseas, tensions are high in the US. Many of the Germans living in Montana are being persecuted and discriminated against because of their country of origin. When Hattie makes it clear that this discrimination is wrong, and that she is willing to continue helping Karl and his family, she'll find herself on the bad side of the liberty council.

I always enjoy reading stories where the character has to work really hard to survive and achieve their dreams. Something about that struggle is really captivating to me, and even a slow story of that type is so fun to read. I really enjoyed Hattie's character. I cannot imagine being 16 and inheriting a farm half the country away. Also having to do any of that work on my own... wow. I also loved the relationship that she had with her neighbors, Karl and Perilee and the kids were so lovely, and I adored their friendship. It was also so pleasant to read about a simpler time where neighbors really helped one another, and every little bit of everything was used. It's so satisfying to me. It always saddens me to read a book where one group of people is being persecuted, only to acknowledge that it's not much different from the US we're experiencing right now. In this book the Germans living in the US are discriminated against, today, it is so many groups. It's really sad to see that some things haven't changed much in 100 years. BUT Hattie's character and all of their relationships are a good reminder that there are good people out there. There are so many sticking up for each other even when councils and governments are not. (This book also reminded me a little bit of the movie Sweet Land, which explores a similar theme of Germans within the US during WWI.) This book ended up being a bit sad and bittersweet too, I definitely cried for a while. Overall I enjoyed this book, and would be interested in reading the companion novel.

15 Points for Erin's 10.0!

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare - Owned, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy light-hearted historical romance with intelligent female characters and quite a bit of steam.

Emma Gladstone has spent months stitching, embroidering, etc. a lavish wedding dress for the woman marrying The Duke of Ashbury. When the wedding is called off she is not paid for her services. However, she needs that money to make rent and eat. As a last straw she shows up at Ashbury's home demanding payment. Ashbury, being recently jilted, and relatedly recently disfigured is in need of a wife and an heir, and is desperate to find a woman who is suitable... and, well, desperate. He immediately offers her marriage in exchange for an heir. Taken aback by the offer she refuses, but he quickly makes it clear that he will not be so easily dissuaded. Is a marriage of convenience really that convenient?

I really liked that this book started off super quickly. Sometimes there is a LOT of backstory in historical romance, but this one got straight to the point. I loved the idea behind the plot: a duke that needs a wife, a woman that needs security. A marriage of convenience. Overall the book was kind of goofy and fun which I wasn't expecting. I sometimes loved it: I laughed a lot! Other times I wanted more broodyness. Overall I thought this book was really cute, I liked the chemistry between Ash & Emma. I also really liked Mr. Kahn the butler. I thought that book was pretty darn steamy, and thought the dedication to the author's dad was hilarious, "please don't read chapters #, #, #, #.. ". LOL. This definitely felt a little bit like The Beauty and the Beast, especially with the servants intervening to make them fall in love. I really really enjoyed the last 40% of the book where they start to communicate just a bit better. I would definitely recommend this if you enjoy historical romance, especially one that is a little more lighthearted.

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen - Owned, physical book, to let go

DNF - This sounds exactly like my kind of book... but after 130 pages, which I feel is generous, I was still not invested in the plot. It's rare, but this was a DNF for me!

Night Film by Marisha Pessl Owned, physical book, to let go

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy mysteries or thrillers.

When Ashley Cordova, daughter of mysterious and reclusive cult director Stanislas Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse her death is ruled a suicide. However, investigative journalist Scott McGrath thinks that her father's twisted films might reveal a very twisted family. As he sets off to solve the mystery he is aided by two moorless young adults.

If you know me, you know that I do not love thrillers or mysteries. They are usually slow, and not that complex... if I don't figure out what will happen, I get very very bored along the way. However, that was NOT the case with this book. It is very long (640 pages), and I found myself wondering how the pieces would fit together, and which wouldn't be related at all. I loved the setting, you can have such diversity within your book when it's set in NYC. I really loved the multi-format novel! Reading emails, transcripts, news pages, etc. etc. within the normal text is super fun. It made me feel more invested in the mystery. I also loved Pessl's writing style. Everything was very descriptive. I love it when the characters notice every little thing, and the comparisons are really interesting. In the end I didn't quite know what would happen, and I was not bored up until maybe the last 30-40 pages. Which is pretty good, but still a bit disappointing. I am not sure how I feel about the ending. I think I wanted it to be HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER a little bit darker....? It felt super mundane... I'm imagining in my brain that it did end creepy... hahaha That he really was in a Cordova movie the whole time and Nora was the fledgling actress and something very creepy happens on that island once he gets there. Maybe that's weird.. it just felt a little anticlimactic. 

The Allure of Julian Lefray Owned, ebook

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

After Josephine finishes fashion school in Texas, she makes her dream come true and moves to New York City. She has a fashion blog, and is looking for work in the fashion industry. When she meets a handsome stranger at a Fashion Week event, she finds out he is the brother of Lorena Lefray, as in Lorena Lefray Designs... where she just applied for an assistant job. Julian Lefray has both a very good and very bad feeling about Josephine working for him. Will they be able to run his sister's company without running it into the ground, or getting too involved?

I'm a pretty big R.S. Grey fan, and this one fell somewhere in the lower end of the pack for me.This book was fairly cute, it was fun to read a different setting or plot for a romantic comedy. I thought that Josephine and Julian had good chemistry. There were a few parts that were quite swoony. I felt like there were a couple of times where Julian was acting super psycho, and I wasn't here for that. It just felt a little problematic. There were also some parts where both characters were kind of doing some elder shaming which made me so sad and cringe. I dunno, I think everyone is judgy (myself included!) but I don't want to read someone else's mean thoughts about others. Also, there was one line, "those abs weren't letting anybody down" or something like that, and I just kept thinking how so many of these men have their worth in their abs. It gets a little old, doesn't it? I feel like this was a very ranty review about a few minor issues. In general I enjoyed the book, on a larger scale I'd like to see more positive characters, more progressive romances, etc. :) I will still keep trucking my way through Grey's books and laughing along the way.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata Owned, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary fiction and romance, especially of the (super) slow burn variety.

Vanessa has been pro football player Aiden's assistant for two years, he doesn't even say "hello" back in the mornings. When she's finally saved enough money to quit and pursue a freelance career in graphic design he asks her to come back. When she says no, he asks her to marry him. For the green card.

I had heard about this book for years from reader friends, and had been saving it for a rainy day. This book definitely started out really slow for me. I think I had to get to about 25-30% to be more invested in keeping up with it. And it is pretty darn long for this type of book, so I think that it could have been shorter. All that being said, I really liked how this marriage of convenience story turned out. I liked their complex characters, their evolving relationship, and their various friendships with other characters too. I felt like because Aiden is so quiet, it would have been nice to get his POV, but... there are things about it that would not have worked very well with it... so.. maybe it's fine. I guess he just *finally* started talking about his feelings at the VERY end of the book... and I wanted more. When did he fall in love with her? Was it while she was working for him?! I need details. LOL Otherwise I thought it was good. So overall, just a little bit too long for my taste, but a solid read. Last thing, this is the slow burniest of slow burns. I'm talking 97% through the book slow burn. Be prepared.

Monthly totals:

Read - 9
Owned - 8
Ebook - 7
Physical book - 3
ARC - 2
Library/Borrowed - 0
Bought - 2
To Let Go - 3

Yearly Totals:

Read - 9
Owned - 8
Ebook - 7
Physical book - 3
ARC - 2
Library/Borrowed - 0
Bought - 2
To Let Go - 3

Other Book Posts Lately: Diverse Romance Novels & Favorite (Non-Classic) Romances.

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books today. :) 


What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 


Let's be friends on Goodreads!


XO,


Alexandra

* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley

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