I was overjoyed to surpass my January reading goal. Now I’m sharing reviews for the 11 books I got through during the first month of the year.
I set a goal for 30 reads throughout the entire year. I inhaled 11 in January. I’m beginning to think I may quickly pass my initial goal if I can keep up this momentum. This is hugely due to the fact that I decided to take a chance and start a bookstagram. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s basically an Instagram page that allows you to artistically and creatively share your love for books and reading. Everyone does their page differently. Some focus on flatlays with crisp, bright photos. Others enjoy showing bookstores. Still others want a moodier look and lots of coffee – aka me. I chose the name “The Espresso Edition” and launched last Tuesday after taking an entire day to shoot content for the page. Since then, I’ve been welcomed warmly and already made some friends. I’ve also expanded my TBR (“to be read”) list on Goodreads like crazy.
This experience encouraged me to really hunker down and get to reading. I’ve been on a roll with at least one physical copy and an audiobook simultaneously. I definitely checked out way too many library books all at once and I’m trying to jet through them now. I’m already looking forward to what February has in store for me. But before the month gets away from me, I wanted to share my thoughts on the 10 books I read in January.
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The 11 Books I Read in January
Stain by A.G. Howard
Goodreads Synopsis: “Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins… This high-fantasy gothic fairytale, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, is set in an alternative medieval world split apart by magic. To win back her kingdom of perpetual day, save her night prince, and reunite the sun with the moon, a princess incapable of speech or sound must prove herself everything a traditional princess is not: tough enough to sleep on a bed of nails, and loud enough to be heard without a voice.”
My Review: This book wasn’t what I expected. I’ve attempted to read other stories by Howard, but they were originally too dark for my taste. While this one had the darkness that the Splintered series possessed, it wasn’t so gruesome or “trippy.” I was fascinated by the main character, Lyra, and her transformation into Stain. Her knowledge of sign language and how that played such a huge part was really neat, and the split character of Scorch had me reeling a few times (in a good way). I fell in love with Crony and Luce – despite their harsh past – because they took such good care of Lyra/Stain. I finished the book wanting more, in the best kind of way. Like a book hangover. It makes me want to read Splintered again and see if maybe a few years later it would possibly catch my attention anew.
Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Goodreads Synopsis: Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) adores Christmas. It’s always the same – Mum and Dad hosting, carols playing, Mum pretending she made the Christmas pudding, and the next-door neighbours coming round for sherry in their terrible festive jumpers. And now it’s even easier with online bargain-shopping sites – if you spend enough you even get free delivery. Sorted! But this year looks set to be different. Unable to resist the draw of craft beer and smashed avocado, Becky’s parents are moving to ultra-trendy Shoreditch and have asked Becky if she’ll host Christmas this year. What could possibly go wrong? With sister Jess demanding a vegan turkey, husband Luke determined that he just wants aftershave again, and little Minnie insisting on a very specific picnic hamper – surely Becky can manage all this, as well as the surprise appearance of an old boyfriend and his pushy new girlfriend, whose motives are far from clear . . . Will chaos ensue, or will Becky manage to bring comfort and joy to Christmas?
My Review: Okay, this book was beyond adorable. I love love Confessions of a Shopaholic, but I’ll admit, I haven’t read any others by Kinsella. Now I want to read them all. I had intended to read this before Christmas, but it came after and it was still glorious – not too cheesy, not even too Christmas-y. I finished it so quickly because the story was practically edible. Cheerful and lighthearted and so, so funny! If you’re looking for a wholesome, laughable story – this is it.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Goodreads Synopsis: Jack Ellison King. King of Almost. He almost made valedictorian. He almost made varsity. He almost got the girl . . . When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over. But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.
My Review: The beginning of this story was slow, I’ll admit. The first chapter gets you hyped up for the first few chapters, only to end up much less dramatic than I expected. However, the slowness explains itself as the book goes on, getting more and more profound and exhilarating. By the last quarter of the book, I was so hooked that I didn’t want to put it down. I thought the premise would be much more focused on the romance, but Kate’s role in Jack’s life – while prominent – isn’t actually the most important part. I was grateful for the depth they gave the “side” characters. And the finale was worth waiting for. The final chapter was super cheesy and cute.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
Goodreads Synopsis: In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken—and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance—right up until the last out.
My Review: ** spoiler alert ** You guys. I get the hype. I’ll admit in the past I’ve been let down by books this heavily applauded, but not this time. Not only was this an incredibly heartwarming story, but it had depth to it that was so important. I related to Evvie’s tale of an emotionally abusive relationship and related again to how she found love with someone unexpected. Dean was one of the most enchanting male characters I’ve ever read about, and the way his story went from failure, to hope, to failure again, and then to hope once more was a roller coaster I didn’t mind riding. I ended up with such a book hangover after finishing this title. Honestly, I’d love to read Andy’s story now. The whole plot was brilliantly done, encouraging, and the perfect way to start my year! It’s never too late for second chances.
Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns #4)
Goodreads Synopsis: After the battle with Katharine, the rebellion lies in tatters. Jules’s legion curse has been unbound, leaving her out of her mind and unfit to rule. Arsinoe must find a cure, even as the responsibility of stopping the ravaging mist rests heavy on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone. Mirabella has disappeared. Queen Katharine’s rule over Fennbirn remains intact—for now. But her attack on the rebellion exacted a high price: her beloved Pietyr. Without him, who can she rely upon when Mirabella arrives, seemingly under a banner of truce? As oldest and youngest circle each other, and Katharine begins to yearn for the closeness that Mirabella and Arsinoe share, the dead queens hiss caution—Mirabella is not to be trusted. In this conclusion to the Three Dark Crowns series, three dark sisters will rise to fight as the secrets of Fennbirn’s history are laid bare. Allegiances will shift. Bonds will be tested, and some broken forever. The fate of the island lies in the hands of its queens.
My Review: ** spoiler alert ** I didn’t want this to be the end of the series. After the drama and emotional, dark and gritty roller coaster of the last several books (which I loved, by the way), this didn’t feel like it should be the finale. There were plot holes and the ending felt like it gave way easily to another book. It almost felt like it was finished in a rush, and left much to be desired. I enjoyed the initial few books, but this fell flat for me. Did Arsinoe and Billy reunite? Did Jules and Emilia end up together? How did Fennbirn react to a Legion Queen? And okay, so the original plot was the queens against each other, but then the shift was towards them working together, yet 2/3 still ended up dying? I have so many questions. I’m hopeful that even if it takes years, an alternate ending will come to play.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Goodreads Synopsis: Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man. Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs. Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.
My Review: I fluctuated between 3-4 stars for this book because frankly, it felt predictable for over half of the story. Girl and boy hate each other, they’re forced to be in the same space together, they go from hate to lust in two seconds flat (and love shortly follows). But then the story picked up – at about chapter 17. And while I enjoyed the ending, the best part of the book was the epilogue. The whole book was a cute, quick read that made me laugh. I guess I just hoped for some more depth to it? However, I would still recommend it if you’re looking for something relatively lighthearted.
Echo North (Echo North #1) by Joanna Ruth Meyer
Goodreads Synopsis: Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.
My Review: I can’t get over how fantastic this book is! Definitely my favorite read of the year (so far). For the first half of the story, I truly began to believe it was just a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but as I continued on, I was happily surprised that it transformed into a wonderful tale of adventure, stories within stories, curses to be broken, and tortured love. Part 2 was a plot twist I never saw coming (and I should say I almost always see them coming). I was so impressed with the final chapters and epilogue. This is a book I’ll want to read again and again!
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Goodreads Synopsis: Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.
My Review: ** spoiler alert ** I wanted to like this book. I really did. But my goodness was it depressing. Eleanor had a horrific stepdad. I wanted to throat-punch him the entire time I read the book. And honestly, it properly displayed how most children probably feel in a household with violence and domestic abuse. She was unsure of what to do, powerless, and lacked any kind of self-confidence. However, the entire story long, I was waiting for some redeeming factor. And I liked Park, I really did. But he was just as limp and useless as Eleanor. Their relationship didn’t get any stronger, only more full of lust, and the ending made me angry because it felt so disjointed. So, she left? But Park still loved her. She didn’t want him to. Or she did? Were her three words on the postcard supposed to be “I love you,” since Park had said it so many times and she hadn’t? Who’s to say? Eleanor was so up and down the entire book long, the three words could have been, “you’re the worst” and it still would have felt applicable considering her rollercoaster emotions. I don’t know. Maybe I missed the point of the whole thing, but it was work for me to even get through. This is definitely not the lighthearted tale the synopsis makes it out to be.
The Darkest Star (Origin #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Goodreads Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen…but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she’d only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head… #1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the universe of the Lux in this brand new series, featuring beloved characters both new and old.
My Review: This book sucked me in within the first couple of chapters, and from there on out, I was just itching to read more. I would think about the story, even when I wasn’t reading it, and even though there were some spooky moments at the beginning, overall it wasn’t frightening. More just… dramatic. I had to scoop my own jaw off the floor at the plot twist that ended chapter 24. I’m immediately picking up the next book in this series, because I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I feel like I should admit that I had never heard of the Lux books or knew any of their story prior to reading this, and it didn’t seem to affect how this book read. If there were any moments I misunderstood or characters I didn’t recognize, it wasn’t obvious. So if you haven’t read the other books, you’ll have no trouble starting here!
American Royals (American Royals #1) by Katharine McGee
Goodreads Synopsis: What if America had a royal family? When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.
My Review: I had previously read McGee’s Thousandth Floor series, and compared them to a futuristic Gossip Girl. In similar fashion to those books, American Royals jumped from one character’s perspective to another’s. I enjoyed the drama that ensued as one person made things terrible for the next, without even knowing. It was an easy read, and I’m looking forward to the next installment. I’m quite partial to Beatrice’s story and I’m very intrigued to see what she will do with her title.
Goodreads Synopsis: Following a year in the life of a twenty-something British woman who falls hard for her London flat mate, this clever, fun, and unforgettable romantic comedy is the perfect feel-good holiday read. Two people. One house. A year that changes everything. Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together. But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.
My Review: I couldn’t believe that I finished this book in a day. I had planned to only read 10 books in January, and then began listening to this one in audiobook form… and couldn’t stop. It’s lighthearted, quick, and cute. Totally perfect if you’re a fan of a good romantic comedy with little-to-no drama whatsoever. I think the only thing that disappointed me was the lack of depth. I kept expecting something real to happen to one of the characters. A death, a falling out, etc., but it never really came in the way I hoped. However, I do recommended this as a beach book (because it’s not *really* all that wintery) or something to lighten the mood after – or during – a darker read.