Hi guys! I can’t believe we’re already a month into 2018 – the time’s just flown by. My reading has been fantastic this month. I started the year with three 5 star books in a row and finished 15 books this month in total. That’s a number I’m very happy with and which means I’m currently a few books ahead of my 120 books Goodreads challenge. Here’s everything I read in January, from least favorite – to the very best:
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman – 2 stars
This prequel to His Dark Materials follows a boy named Malcolm, who spends his days working in his parents inn and helping the nuns at the abbot across the river. When a baby named Lyra is brought to the abbot, Malcolm gets caught up in a conflict between the church and a secret resistance movement. I was expecting to love this novel, but was sadly disappointed. While Pullman’s prose is crystal clear perfection and the world he’s created as rich and immersive as ever – the story itself leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no sense of adventure in this book, no suspense, no surprises. Even when the main characters find themselves in mortal danger – you don’t feel the danger. My imagination was so under stimulated I found myself making up wild theories about double agents, hidden dangers and secret motives – hoping for at least one unexpected twist or jaw-dropping revelation, but none came.
Everless by Sara Holland – 3 stars
Everless is one of the most hyped new releases of 2018 so far. It’s set in a kingdom where time is currency, rich people, like the Gerlings, add centuries to their lifespans with time taxed from the poor. Jules and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerling Estate – until an accident forced them to flee. When Jules discovers that her father’s time is running out she knows returning to work there is her only hope of earning enough time to save him. Though Everless wasn’t my favorite read, I’d still count it as a pleasant surprise. It has really interesting world building – I loved the stories about the Alchemist and Sorceress. The plot kept my attention and there were some exciting twists I didn’t see coming.
Autumn by Ali Smith – 3 stars
This is the first in a quartet of books all focusing on one of the season. In this book we meet Elizabeth Demand and her neighbor Daniel. When Elizabeth’s a child she get a homework assignment – knock on her neighbor’s door and ask a few questions. That turns out to be the start of a unique friendship. Like every other Ali Smith book I’ve read, this book is very much focused on style and language – there’s a lot of plays on words, flights of fancy and literary references. But this is also an unusually warm and character-driven novel from her, after reading it I feel like I know Elizabeth and Daniel well.
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur – 3 stars
Rupi Kaur’s poetry has a cult following, but for some reason it doesn’t resonate with me the way it does with so many of my friends – and that’s fine. I liked this collection slightly less than her first, but they are very similar in style and themes – so if you loved Milk & Honey you will probably loves this one too.
Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav – 3 stars
I read Lang Leav’s first collection back when it came out in 2013 and wasn’t very impressed by it. But after reading her latest collection I think I finally what the hype is all about – her poems are little snapshots that capture fleeting and oddly specific emotions we’ve all experiences, some of them incredibly beautiful.
Magic with Skin On by Morgan Nikola-Wren – 4 stars
Magic with Skin on is a poetry collection told in 7 acts, each part start with a prose section telling the story of a toxic relationship and it’s aftermath. This is the kind of poetry that speaks to my soul, full of hauntingly beautiful imagery and raw as bruises: My feet may be anchored to this place, but I am begging the wind to whip my hair into a sail.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – 4 stars
When Jude was seven her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later Jude dreams of carving out a place for herself in her adopted home by becoming a knight, but when the opportunity is denied her she discovers another path to power – a path paved with blood and secrets. This book has had even more hype than Everless, which always makes me a little nervous – but I actually really liked it. It’s a very dark and twisty fairy book, with gorgeous writing, a beautiful setting and a fantastic set of characters – including the minor ones. The pacing in the first half could’ve been netter, but the second half makes up for it and the end definitely left be desperate for the next installment.
Mythology by Edith Hamilton – 5 stars
Greek mythology is an intricate part of the stories we consume and not knowing it very well (beyond the absolute basics) is a gap in my knowledge that’s been bothering me for a while – so I am very happy to have finally read this book that’s been collecting dust of my shelf for a few years now. I found this book to be both educational and entertaining, the writing style is accessible and not dry. I read it back to back, but it would also be a good one to dip in and out of, or just keep at hand for when you need to brush up your memory of a certain myth.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – 5 stars
I doubt there’s a soul on the internet who doesn’t know what this book is about by now, but it follows two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana – one who’s married to a slaver and one who’s sold as a slave to America, and their descendants all the way up to today. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this, but it was just as amazing as everyone said it would be. I loved the structure of the novel – each chapter tells the story of one of the descendants and it’s amazing how much life she manages to fit into so few pages.
The Girl in The Tower by Katherine Arden – 5 stars
The is the sequel to my favorite book, The Bear and the Nightingale, so of course it was one of the years most anticipated releases for me and I was not disappointed. While I can’t say I loved it quite as much as the first book, it still has all the things that made me fall in love with the series: a wild and fierce protagonist who won’t let anyone tell her what she can and can’t do, a magical and mysterious setting and lots of wonderful fairytale elements.
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga – 5 stars
Taliah has never met her father, indie rockstar Julian Oliver, so it’s a bit of a shock for her when he shows up on her doorstep. But it’s an even bigger shock when he tells her his father is dying and that he want her to come back home with him to meet her family. From there we follow two separate timelines: one in which Taliah gets to know her dad and extended family for the first time, and one in which we get to see her mother’s journey – coming to the US as an immigrant from Jordan; meeting Julian and finding out she’s pregnant with Taliah. I was honestly surprised by how amazing this book is – it’s such a beautiful coming of age story and so different from every other YA contemporary I’ve read. I loved the focus on family and friendship, as well as all the music references. And let’s be honest – any book that references The National is going to be my favorite.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood – 5 stars
A Single Man follows George, an English professor in suburban California left heartbroken after the death of his partner, Jim. The whole book takes place in one day, and we follow George from the moment he wakes up, till the moment he falls asleep. I’ve never read anything by Christopher Isherwood before, but fell in love with his prose at first sight. There were so many passages I just had to read out loud to someone. George is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read about- he’s so bitter and full of anger, but also so vulnerabel and hopeful in a way.
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell – 5 stars
We all know and love Jen as the fairytale queen of booktube, so it’s no surprise that her debut collection of short stories are basically fairytales for grown-ups. You’ll meet children with flowers growing inside of them, a man looking for the perfect animal heart to place in his lover’s chest and a girl forced to work at her aunt’s coffin hotel. I know a lot of people don’t like reading short stories and it’s such a shame – cause there are some true gems out there and this is one of them. I had to pace myself so I wouldn’t fly through all the stories in a single sitting – they were just so damn enjoyable to read.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – 5 stars
You wouldn’t think it’s possible, but the story inside this book is even more beautiful than the it’s cover. For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera. They’re blessed with the magical ability to grow blooms, but also cursed. If they fall in love too deeply – their lovers vanish, and if they try to leave the gardens for good – they wilt and die. One day, after years of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens. The boy is a as mysterious to himself as he is to Estrella, the girl who finds him, and her family. He remembers nothing of his identity or how he came to be in the garden. I don’t have the words to do this book justice, it’s beyond beautiful. A lot of books are branded magical realism – simply because there happens to be magic in them, this one is magical realism, with all the sadness, anger and beauty that entails.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley – 5 stars
Do you ever buy a book without reading the blurb? Based on nothing but your gut feeling that it’s something you’ll enjoy? That’s what I did with Elmet. I went in knowing nothing of it’s plot beyond these two sentences: Daniel is heading north, he is looking for someone, and found myself swept into a beautiful, but brutal story about a family trying to live a simple life, away from modern society. The writing in this book is masterful, every words serves a purpose, every sentence pushes the plot and the reader forward towards an inevitable, yet shocking conclusion. I think these characters and their fates will haunt me for a long time.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful month and kicked off the year with reading some amazing books! What was the best book you read in January? What do you plan on reading in Feburary?