Monday, February 12, 2018

January 2018 Reads // GREAT Reads & Excruciating Ones


As many of you know, I started out the year pretty under the weather. As the month came to a close, I had a bit more energy for reading. I didn't read quite as much as I'd have liked, but I did really enjoy all three books that I read last month! I managed to read a few more at the beginning of this month, so I stuck those into this post as well! :) 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden*


5 Stars - I highly recommend if you are looking for gorgeously descriptive tale of coming of age, adventure, and a little bit of magic. It reads like historical fiction, and is beautifully woven.

Vasya is the youngest daughter of Petyor Petrovich and she is wild like her mother was. In the Northern part of Russia Vasya's city is caught between a primal and pagan past and the church. She is a disgrace to most of her city, but is perhaps the only one who can save them from what is coming.

I re-read this one so that I could get to my ARC of The Girl in the Tower, a little later than I would have liked. I was worried, especially with the lovely slow pace of the book that I wouldn't enjoy the second read nearly as much, I also rarely re-read... but I loved it just as much, if not more, the second time around. Every season is so lushly described, the setting is so fascinating, the mythology woven so seamlessly into the plot. I loved every moment of the re-read, and it definitely helped me upon reading the sequel!

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden*

5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale!

This book picks up right where the first one left off. I don't want to give any spoilers!

When I started this book, it was just a little bit hard to get into. There is a change of setting, which took me a bit of time to adjust to. However, at about 25% through the book, it really took off for me, and I was really invested in the next chapter of the story. This chapter of the story is a bit more political and societal than the last one was, but I really enjoyed that part of it. Again, I marveled at how Arden wove together folklore with historical fiction. Her writing was just as full of detail and magic as in the first book. I am just as in love with Vasya as ever. What a wonderfully headstrong character. I love Solovey. I love Vasya's brothers. I love Morozko. Goodness. I'm SO excited to get my hands on the last book in the series. :) :) :) 

The English Wife by Lauren Willig*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy mysteries, historical fiction, and strong female characters.

When Janie finds her brother, murdered, at his mansion's opening costume party she knows there is more to the story that meets the eye. Her family, one of the richest in the United States, is very proud and suddenly has a ruined reputation. When no one else will seek to investigate her brother's murder more fully, she teams up with Mr. Burke, a journalist, in hopes of discovering the truth, and getting justice. The story shifts back and forth between Janie and Mr. Burke solving the murder, and her brother Bay and his wife Annabelle's past. Both plots reach their apex at once in an exciting revelation.

I haven't read a ton of mysteries, and I had not read any of Willig's other books (though The Pink Carnation has been on my shelf for OVER 10 YEARS!), so I didn't know quite what to expect. I was immediately swept up in the intertwined stories. I loved Bay and Annabelle, I loved Janie as she sought to find her place in the world. I loved that there were so many layers to this mystery, so many people involved, so many moving pieces. There were several twists and turns in this story, which I appreciated, and did not see coming. I did guess the murderer, but only toward the end (about 70% through). The climax of the story kind of blew me away though, and I enjoyed the resolution. Overall, if you enjoy mysteries and historical fiction, I think that you will enjoy this book!

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

2.5 - I *might* recommend if you are looking for a middle-grade novel with serious subject matter. I don't want to ruin this for those interested, so highlight the white text below. This is a sleeping beauty re-telling, but it is not fantasy based in any way.

When Becca's grandmother passes away, all she leaves behind is a box of documents and a rendition of Sleeping Beauty that she told over and over. Becca, a journalist, promises to solve the mystery by finding out her grandmother's past, where "the castle" is, and who "the prince" is. 

I didn't really enjoy this book. For one, I picked it up expecting it to be a fluffy middle-grade fairy tale re-telling. But for more reasons, the different plot pieces of the book felt kind of piecemealed together. Their childhood, Becca going to upstate New York to learn more about her grandmother, an overseas trip, etc. I like the idea behind what Yolen is trying to do, SPOILER - put a fairy tale in the place of an experience within a Nazi death camp to help the grandmother cope with the horrific experience. However, it took a really long time for Becca to figure it out, and within the mystery there were not that many moving pieces. She finally gets to Poland... and it's like a mini travelogue. After that they conveniently meet the man who saved her grandma. Ok then. That was tidy and anticlimactic. Then he re-tells his story about the war, Nazis, etc... and its the longest story ever, and it focuses on him, not her grandmother. I guess people are offended by the LGBTQ+ content in this book, which is VERY tame and virtually non-existent. This was written in 1988, but it is currently 2018 folks. (off soap box now) I did find it confusing that our protagonist was 23 years old, and it was written for middle-graders. I think? However, the protagonist's dad makes several not so subtle inappropriate jokes, and it mentions our main character watching a "soft core" movie. Who is this book written for? How confusing! There was a very surface level love story thrown in there, it felt unnecessary. I see what Yolen was doing with Sleeping Beauty, but it just felt like all of the pieces were a little too subtle or randomly woven together. 

Love, Rosie (or Where Rainbows End) by Ceclia Ahern

3 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a fluffy read that has a very slow pace. It was cute, and  a little romantic, but mostly not.

This story follows best friends Rosie and Alex throughout their childhood, teen years, college days, and beyond. When Alex moves from Dublin to Boston with his family, they are brokenhearted at their separation. They won't get to spend their last days before college together. When Rosie gets into Boston College, they are so excited that they will be reunited. Life gets in the way, again and again. When will things line up?

I really wanted to love this book, but it was just too long and drawn out for me. Their mis-communication and missed opportunities to get together were excruciating after a while. I didn't feel like I understood either of their characters and lot of their decisions. I read this in a full day, so it wasn't THAT slow, but it was definitely getting to me. Finishing the last page I sat it down and went, "uuuughhhh!" KC's response... "oh no.. it didn't get better..." LOL It was ok, and probably great for many, but it wasn't my jam!

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy YA and are looking for diverse representation in your reading.

Natasha is being deported today. She's being deported because her father made a mistake. Because of his mistake, her future is ruined. Daniel is on the path that his parents want. Go to Yale, become a doctor, marry a nice Korean girl. Daniel would rather be a poet. He lets the wind blow him where it will before his interview for Yale. The wind blows him toward Natasha.

Nicola Yoon. Gets me every time. Her books are light and fluffy, but they also carry deeper things beneath the surface. This book is more emotional and complex than Everything, Everything. The depiction of two children of immigrant parents is absolutely vivid and intricate. I love that this book is written from multiple perspectives, and as always with Nicola Yoon, the chapters are short and you just fly through it. I enjoyed reading from both Natasha and Daniel's perspectives, but I will say that I REALLY love teenage male protagonists. So much sarcasm! :P I also liked how this book contains segments about their parent's history, perspectives of people they interact with, etc. The way it's all woven together is really lovely. I cried a bit, and I felt happy and sad for all of the characters. It's just a really thoughtful portrayal of growing up, families, immigration, etc. etc. With the way it ends, I would love to read a follow-up. :) I hope that she writes more books soon! :)

Haven by Katherine Bogle*

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy YA fantasy with strong female protagonists.

This story follows Haven, the newly crowned queen of her kingdom. She must learn to lead her kingdom as the entire world is under siege by an evil queen. She must encourage her people, form alliances, and make quick decisions. When the evil queen comes for her own kingdom, how will she react? How will she save everyone?

This one has been in my Netgalley queue for a good long time. I am glad that I finally got around to reading it. At first I didn't feel very connected to Haven or the story line, but the plot picks up fairly quickly. As the story went on, I felt more invested in the world and characters. I thought that some parts of the plot were resolved quickly, and that overall a lot happens in this book. I appreciated that Bogle added some diversity to her story, that Haven challenges tough issues like discrimination, slavery, rape culture, and consent. There are also some really strong female characters in this book, which is fantastic. This book is part of a series, which I did not know when I downloaded it. Since I was only medium on the story, I may or may not decide to keep reading it. I would imagine, however, that the world, writing, and characters only become more vivid and fleshed out as you read. We shall see!

Currently Reading:

The Beau and the Belle by R.S. Grey

On Deck:

I *think* I am going to start reading the rest of the Throne of Glass series. I didn't love the first one, but am convinced, mostly based on my obsession with ACOTAR that it will be really good starting with the second book! :)

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

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

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

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* 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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