Hello lovelies! How are you? Are you as pleased as I am that it’s finally February? I feel like January lasted for at least 12 years, so I’m very grateful to discover we haven’t all been sucked into some wicked spell where it’s cold and dark and full of snow forever and ever. Like some kind of joyless Narnia, without the talking animals and aesthetic castles. Since January lasted for 12 years, you’d think I would’ve read more than usual – but I read 15 books, which is pretty average for me. I read some really good books though, so I’m very happy with my reading this month. I even found a new favorite or two!
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Bear and the Nightingale is the perfect winter fairytale, as cold as the howls of Russian winter-winds and as cozy as a tale told by a cackling wood-stove. It’s a tale of old magic and new gods, old stories and new beliefs, the forest from every fairytale and the ancient evil sleeping there. It’s the story of a a witch-girl and a frost-demon. It’s perfect and I love it and I already want to read it again (for the 5th time).
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I don’t usually connect very deeply with American YA contemporaries, but I related to this one in ways I weren’t expecting. Obviously I don’t know how much of this is pulled from the author’s own life, but it felt so intimate and personal sometimes, it was like reading someone’s diary. As a muslim girl in America post 9/11 Shirin experiences a lot of racism and injustice, and the hurt of it has turned her heart angry and mistrustful. But at it’s heart this is a hopeful story about daring to be open to love, despite the world’s cruelty. I loved it.
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I can’t even explain to myself what it is about this book that resonated so deeply with me. It’s got a simple premise and if you’ve read YA fantasy before, you can probably guess what’s going to happen. But that’s the thing about stories, the pleasure’s in the telling and I loved the Adrienne Young told this one. It was so visceral, every scene is fraught with fierce emotion. from anger and hate, to love and hope. When Eelyn felt something, I did too – and that’s a mark of great writing in my opinion.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I’m so glad I finally read this book, cause it reminded me why I love big. fat books so much. It’s such a luxury to spend so much time with a cast of characters, you get to now them so well. And what a splendid cast of characters this books has! They’re all so compelling and complex, but especially the women. Ellen, the withcy woman who lives an outlaw life in the woods, Aliena, the Earl’s daughter who loses everything, but takes it all back with pure grit and determination, and even lady Regan, who out-schemes the best of men.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I loved it, but I loved it too much. It gave me the worst book hangover. Ok, that’s more of a love-love relationship, but you know what I mean. Cassandra is such a charming, charismatic narrator and her family’s full of delightfully quirky characters. If you enjoy female-led coming of age story, you need to read this. It’s a joy.
Favorite Quote: “When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it – or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.” – I Capture the Castle
Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book reminded me why I used to love reading YA thrillers. It’s gorgeously written, in the kind of fast-paced prose that sinks it’s claws into you and won’t let go until you’ve found out what happens next. The characters are all messed up and tangled up in each other’s lives in a toxic web of lies and deception. The ending left me feeling genuinely unsettled.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Sleeping Giants has a really cool premise: a giant robot is found buried beneath the earth and no one knows where it came from. But what made this book stand out to me was the the cast of characters. They’re all complex and kind of unlikable, but I LIKE THEM ALL A LOT OK. I got extra attached because I listened to the audiobook and there’s different narrators for each character and they’re all amazing. 10/10 would recommend the audiobook.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini ⭐⭐⭐⭐
When I made my Goodreads account back in 2013, I added this book to my TBR. It took me 6 years – but I finally read it! I probably would’ve connected more deeply with it if I’d read it in 2013, but it’s a great contemporary with great mental health rep. I don’t know why I have nothing to say about this, cause I really did enjoy it a lot. I promise.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I read a few books this month which have been on my TBR since the dawn of time and this is one of them. It’s a slow, character-driven family saga about a girl born with wings. The story meanders a lot, but is so full of beautiful imagery, lyrical prose and all kind of wonders that I found that easy to forgive.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is another book that’s been on my TBR for a very long time. It’s such a beautifully written story about a young girl who’s forced to leave Mexico for America, after the death of her father. Though it’s historical fiction, it’s exploration of Mexican immigrant’s living conditions in America is just as heartbreakingly relevant today.
Favorite ship: Shirin and Ocean from A Very Large Expanse of Sea. They’re so sweet and their love story felt like a really realistic teenage relationship, which I loved.
The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Call is what you get if you take the bleakest dystopia you’ve read and populate it with the most viscous fae. I never thought mixing two of YA’s greatest hits could lead to such an original story, but this is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a dark and cruel and sharp and twisty tale, seeped in Irish folklore – with a fierce disabled heroine who’d be queen of Slytherin house.
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz ⭐⭐⭐
This is a strange book about art, creativity, family and crushing on your best friend. It’s got a magical element – a mysterious, dream-like building where artist create their best work and an equally mysterious girl who introduced the protagonist to it. I think I wanted to like this more than I actually liked it, it was all just a little too vague for me.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐⭐⭐
I don’t enjoy reading books about celebrities, so I should’ve known I wouldn’t love this book. But the hype still had me so hopeful. I see why people love this so much, Evelyn Hugo’s a fantastic character, and the f/f relationship was wonderful. But the overall plot just wasn’t for me and I don’t think this story will stick with me, unfortunately.
Favorite character: Vasya from The Bear and the Nightingale is my forever favorite. Ellen and Aliena from The Pillars of the Earth are new favorites.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson ⭐⭐⭐
I enjoyed listening to this on audio and the dynamic between the main character and the sentient space ship she finds and repairs was super cool – but other than that the plot and characters didn’t stand out to me at all. I think I prefer Sanderson’s fantasy novels.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton ⭐⭐
This book had the most luxuriously lush world-building, it’s like a beautiful rose tinted day-dream with it’s pretty post balloons, tea-cup sized animals and pastel pastries. But it’s got no substance. The characters are bland, the plot’s irrelevant and the stakes were never high.