January Reading Wrap-Up

2021 has been off to good start in only one way– I’ve read some really awesome books! When I can’t bear to catch up with current events (constantly) or personal stressors get to be too much (often) at least there’s the written word to get lost in.

So here are the books I’ve read and, mostly, loved this past month.

The Five-Star Reads:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

I don’t know if I’m really ready to talk about Addie yet. I feel like I’m still absorbing all of it. What I can tell you is this: it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

The concept of a girl who just wants to live a fulfilling life being blessed with immortality and simultaneously cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets is terribly tragic. This is a very slow book with minimal “plot” so lovers of character driven narratives will appreciate the detail that went into Schwab’s crafting of Ms. LaRue’s inner monologue. The story ruminates on the following question: what is your life worth if you can’t leave a meaningful impression on the world? And for me, as someone who doesn’t have soaring aspirations and would be more than content to live a Hobbit-esque lifestyle, just being cozy finding happiness however I can, I think the message within Invisible Life is comforting and hopeful.

Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

What can I say, Alex and Henry are adorable. I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary novels and U.S. politics have been nothing short of exhausting lately, but I didn’t find either of those aspects hindering here. I’m new to the steamy adult romance scene (I think my formal introduction was From Blood and Ash back in November 2020) and I was really pleased with how this one played out! The relationship is wholesome and steamy in the right moments and I think the ending was delightfully uplifting.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

If you like poignant writing and true crime documentaries, you should look no further than Sadie. This is a hard hitting novel about a murdered girl and her sister who goes missing shortly thereafter. I loved that we got to see how the community is affected by an event like this, and how people all have their own takes on how things went down.

World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

This was a collection of essays inspired by the author’s experience as an immigrant in America and the beauty of nature around us all. I read this book while spending an afternoon in the E.R. and it really helped me to put a positive spin on things. It’s very easy to focus on the ugly and painful parts of our world, but there is so much beauty to reach out and touch if only you choose to seek it out.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire

I covered my thoughts on the first 3 books of the Wayward Children series already. To me, this book was far and away the best.

The Four-Star Reads:

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (From Blood and Ash #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I had my doubts about this one. The first 200 or so pages move like molasses. I stuck around because I do find the dynamics between Poppy, Casteel, and Kieran interesting but I was very glad when things finally got moving again. I can’t say much that won’t spoil anything but, well, I’m very excited for the third book’s release in April this year.

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas

I have a lot of thoughts about this book that I will be putting into a proper review soon. In traditional Maas fashion, there are issues with the writing and some of the characterization. I wish there was more diversity in her writing. For someone with so many characters and romantic relationships she’s having us follow, there’s a lot of white heterosexual people. That being said, I can understand and respect this epic fantasy she is crafting. There are parts I find super impressive and I find myself engaged in what’s happening. Also, Manon Blackbeak is hands down, the best character she has ever created.

Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer

More witches! I really liked this one! My biggest gripe has to do with the lackluster writing style which is something I personally put a lot of stock into. Conceptually and character-wise, I think it was brilliantly done. You check out my full review of it here.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire

Very sweet. Literally.

The Three-Star Reads:

Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

I don’t read a lot of middle grade unless it’s something particularly special and/or nostalgic. I never read the Warrior Cats books as a kid but I know how much hype there is around them. So no, as a 23 year old, I’m not blown away by it, but I can totally understand why so many kids have been.

Remina by Junji Ito

I’m still chasing the highs I got from Uzumaki, Tomie, and Fragments of Horror and at this point I’m just not sure it’s going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I still really love the Ito-ness of these last few books of his I’ve read. But it’s become very clear that his characters are not complex, and his plots go everywhere without feeling grounded in anything. Stuff just happens, so much, all the time. I’m still on board for the art style and the concepts but I’m really craving something punchy and concise like Amigara Fault, or effectively cosmic like Uzumaki.

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

It’s not often that the first book in a series is the most lackluster one, but here we are. I give thanks for the fact that it got me into the sequels!

I hope you all have had a safe and happy start to 2021. I know there’s a lot going on in the world right now, but don’t forget to look inward once in a while and check on yourself. Be well! ❤

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21 Books On My 2021 TBR

While I’m trying to keep my goals to a minimum this year I do want to try and knock some books off of my TBR, especially the ones that have been there for a while already.

So here are 21 books that I want to finish in 2021!

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  1. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
  2. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  3. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
  4. The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
  5. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  6. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
  7. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  8. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
  9. We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
  10. Kill the Farm Boy by Kevin Hearne and Delilah Dawson
  11. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
  12. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  13. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  14. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  15. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
  16. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
  17. Confessions by Kanae Minato
  18. Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda
  19. You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
  20. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
  21. Crier’s War by Nina Varela

And just for funsies, here’s a stretch goal for some series I’d like to finish this year:

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (I’ve read 4/8 books)
  • Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba (I’ve read 1/6 Black Edition volumes)
  • Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida (I’ve read 1/14 volumes)
  • Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire (I’ve read 3/6 published books *series still ongoing*)
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (I’ve read 1/2 books)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (I’ve read 0/3 books)

I’d love to hear what you’re planning to read this year!

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Wayward Children Books 1-3 by Seanan McGuire *Series Review* (SPOILER FREE)

My first introduction to Every Heart a Doorway didn’t go so well. I got about 15% into the audiobook before I was sure that I was going to hate it, so I DNFed and it slipped my mind for a couple years. I recently posted a Tiktok video in which I listed all of the books I’ve put down and never finished and I got so many responses from people urging me to give Every Heart a Doorway another try. So I checked to see if the audiobook was still available from Scribd, and it was, so I did. And now I really think I get it.

I have mentioned previously that this past year has been very difficult for me in terms of my health. I’m dealing with a difficult condition that insists on digging its heels in no matter how much treatment I go through and it has left me in a lot of pain, unable to do much but sit at home and try to muster up the motivation to read. It’s been hard and I’ve bounced off of rock bottom more than once in the past few weeks. These books finally reached me at the perfect time, when I really needed them.

Every Heart a Doorway is the entry point into the strange rabbit hole that is the Wayward Children books. It tells the story of a boarding school for kids that have lived in and been expelled from fantasy worlds, both logical and nonsensical. As you might imagine, it’s a rough transition from dragon slaying to algebra class. And so Eleanor West and her Home for Wayward Children offers a softer landing for these kids that have been forced back into the “real world.” This first book follows Nancy, a girl who has spent time in the Halls of the Dead learning the art of silence and stillness and eating pomegrantes. She didn’t want to leave and yet here she is, back on Earth and waiting for her Doorway to open back up. We meet a cast of colorful characters who have been uniquely affected by their time in equally diverse worlds, all trying to find their way back, or at least adjust to the normalcy of our world again.

When kids start showing up brutally murdered, Nancy and her friends must try to figure out who the killer is and how to stop them before more lives are snuffed out.

“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

Despite this rather exciting premise, I found Every Heart a Doorway to be the weakest book in the series thus far. It’s very slow, the characters aren’t explored as deeply as I would have liked, and the tone is fairly inconsistent. Conceptually, I think it’s great. I gave it 3 stars and I feel very comfortable with its position directly in between books two and three.

Speaking of which, the sequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is an absolute masterpiece of a fairy tale. A dark one for sure, but that’s just how I like them. This book is a prequel to Every Heart and tells the origin story of the two characters we met previously, the twins Jacqueline and Jillian.

McGuire’s writing, to me, felt much more developed in this book and I loved it. It called to mind other authors I adore like Holly Black and Laini Taylor who write stories in such a way that they feel like fairy tales that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. Sticks and Bones is really dark, and we get to see every facet of the two girls, how they grew up together and then split apart, leading to the events at the end of Every Heart (which actually made me like the first book more). I gave this one 5 stars and immediately went and ordered a physical copy for myself because I want to go back and revisit it over and over again.

“Someone with sharp enough eyes might see the instant where one wounded heart begins to rot while the other starts to heal.”

Book three, Beneath the Sugar Sky, takes us from Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children to the nonsensical world of Confection where just about everything is made of sugar. The main focus here is a mixed-up timeline that went screwy after one of the murders in the first book. We get to revisit characters we’ve met previously as well as get to know some fun new ones. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did but it was just… so sweet. I love how all of these kids come together to overcome their own issues to help one another. I gave it 4 stars.

“But children, ah, children. Children follow the foxes, and open the wardrobes, and peek beneath the bridge. Children climb the walls and fall down the wells and run the razor’s edge of possibility until sometimes, just sometimes, the possible surrenders and shows them the way to go home.”

Now, Scribd has basically put me on lockdown for about a month since I’ve been tearing through audiobooks like nobody’s business. Unfortunately that means I have to wait a while to hear the rest of the books that are out now. I’m hooked though! Here was a series that I never saw myself giving the time of day and now I’m already picturing myself taking them down from my bookshelf to self-soothe on a bad day or when I just want to revisit some strange lands and interesting characters. I guess it really was just a matter of waiting for my Door to open. But I’m so glad it did, and I’m so thankful for the solace and hope these books have given me when I really needed that.

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