Let’s not talk about the month I had. We can talk about how bad the reading month went though – it was pretty bad but maybe by design?
Books I read in February:
I started the month very strong with Melissa Febos’ Girlhood (4.5 out of 5) which I really really enjoyed, especially as a continuation of the earlier Abandon Me (which made my favourites list last year). I thought this filled in some gaps wonderfully while also being more academic in a way than her earlier memoir. Really really recommended! Afterwards I went on a romance binge because my month went to hill. I first read The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran (3.5. out of 5 stars) because I saw excerpts on twitter and it looked as angsty as I wanted – and angsty I got. This was slightly ridiculous but emotionally resonant and very readable. Then I read the first book in the same series Your Wicked Heart (3 out of 5 stars) which I enjoyed but not as much and where I thought the plotting was not nearly as well done. I also would have liked some more groveling! To get my groveling fix I went back to Lauren Layne and read Broken (3 out of 5 stars). I enjoyed this a lot for the most part. I found the couple believable and their chemistry wonderful – but some plot and character developments were a bit too convenient. I also prefer Layne’s older characters. Afterwards I finished what will probably remain my biggest reading disappointment of the year: On the Edge (The Edge #1) by Ilona Andrews (2 out of 5 stars). These are my comfort authors and comfort I craved but this did not work for me at all. I found the two man characters unpleasant and did not like spending time with them which is the opposite of my usual experience with the authors. So then, I read another Lauren Layne book: For Better or Worse (3 out of 5 stars) which was fine – but I have nothing to say about it beyond this. Then I read a clasic “grovel” book; Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (3 out of 5 stars) which was absolutely banana pants (between a heroine who thinks she can talk to a tiger, a hero who works as a circus manager and who’s a contender for the Russian throne (the novel is contemporary-ish), and a marriage of convenience that makes exactly zero sense it sometimes seemed like the author threw everything and the kitchen sink at her WIP) – but addictive and surprisingly emotionally resonant. I did not enjoy the weird, non-specific Christian tone, but loved the heroine. Finally I finished the short story collection The Americans by Molly Antopol (3.5 out of 5 stars) which was dark, depressing, and realist and which I appreciated more than I enjoyed it. The stories are impeccably structured and wonderfully realized, if sometimes ending a bit abruptly. But they are also relentless in their themes of difficult parents and broken familial relationships. The last story, however, was just brilliant, perfect, no notes. I wish they all had been like this.
Favourite of the Month:
Girlhood was the high point in an otherwise fairly bad reading month. Nevertheless, it would have been a highlight in most readings months. Febos is excellent at what she does and I hope she keeps doing this for years to come.
I read 8 books, seven of which were written by women and one by a husband and wife team. One short story collection, one essay collection, two historical romance, three contemporary(ish) romances, one speculative romance.
If the rest of this year goes the way my January went, I will have aged a decade by the end of it. This was an exceptionally stressful and emotionally taxing month. As you will be able to tell from the dominance of romance on this wrap up.
Books I read in January:
My first book of the year was Archangel’s Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11) by Nalini Singh (4 out of 5 stars). I am trying to finally catch up to this series – I am so very close! I enjoyed this a lot, especially the last third when everything came together really satisfactorily. The cliffhanger meant that I immediately had to start the next book in the series. But as that one was fairly long with 500 pages, I finished Well, This is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit (3.5 out of 5 stars) first. It worked best for me when the stories stayed close to Sophia Benoit’s own experiences and less when the essays were meant to be more universal. It helps that I find her genuinely hilarious and that I am also, embarassingly, very online. Then I sped through Archangel’s War (Guild Hunter #12) by Nalini Singh (4.5 out of 5 stars) which brought the first arc of this series to a great end and was my absolute favourite book in it so far. I then went on a serious Lauren Layne binge. I first read Good Girl (3.5 out of 5 stars) which I enjoyed and whih gave me exactly the amount of angst I needed. Afterwards I read The Prenup (2 out of 5 stars) which was not my favourite because the male main character was just the absolute worst and didn’t ever seem to understand what he did. Then I finished I Knew You Were Trouble (4 ou of 5 stars) – which I should not have enjoyed as much as I did, given it features one of my least favourite tropes, but enjoy it I did. I loved this and I am so glad I read it. Then I changed it up and finished an ARC of Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (4 out of 5 stars). This was an emotionally taxing but for the most part worth it read. Following on the one hand the Galvin family where of the 12 children six were diagnosed with schizophrenia and on the other hand the development of schizophrenia research and psychiatry in general, this is harrowing and sad and surprisingly readable. I prefered the more science history aspect but thought the focus on the family managed to put that part into greater focus. I would have prefered to have more emphasis given on the voices of people diagnosed with schizophrenia but I am also very aware of the limitations there. Well worth reading, but be aware of the very very grim topics. I finished the month with my favourite full read of a Lauren Layne novel (I read parts of many many more. When I say I binged, I mean it): Walk of Shame (2 out 5 stars) – I disliked this enough that it finally made me stop binge-reading. Which is a good thing because this kind of reading is ultimately not good for me.
Favourite of the Month:
I loved Archangel’s War so much. I love when Nalini Singh pulls her many plotpoints together and how she manages to make a book with this many characters still emotionally resonant. I just really really love her writing (obviously, having read, what like 40 of her books in the last few years).
I read 8 books, even of which were written by women. Two were non fiction, four contemporary romance, two speculative romance.
I do not think I ever had a wrap up up this late. I debated if I even should still post it and while it’s a bit weird to have a December wrap up go up two days before the January wrap up, I also didn’t want to miss this month because I had a pretty good reading months with three five star reads and only one book I did not really enjoy.
Books I read in December:
I began the month with Just One Night by Lauren Layne (3 out of 5 stars) which was fun but not really all that remarkable. Then I finished the brilliant Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (4.5 out of 5 stars). I am a huge Sally Rooney fan and this book worked for me the same way all her books work for me. I thought it was structurally brilliant with its introspective email chapters and the more aloof third person chapters alternating and give different lenses through which to understand her characters – and her characters are what shine as usual. I didn’t love this as much as Conversations With Friends but more than Normal People I think and I cannot wait to see what she does next, or rather what variation on her theme she dos next. Afterwards I finally finished For The Wolf (Wilderwood #1) by Hannah Whitten (3 out of 5 stars) which took me basically half a year. I adored the beginning with its lush and description heavy writing and its emphasis on atmosphere before all. But after a while I found it indulgent and weirdly vague in what was going on. I also do not love plots that hinge on people just not using their words. The ending intrigues me enough though to want to read the second book in the series. Then I read my first Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking (5 out of 5 stars) which was just as good or even better than I thought it would be. The prose is impeccable, the thoughtful use of repetition and returning to earlier themes and ideas is perfect and the emotional punch is harsh – there is a reason she is counted amongst the best stylists. I want to read as many of her books as possible. Afterwards I finished the very disappointing Fen by Daisy Johnson (2 out of 5 stars) – I was so sure I would love this, as I enjoyed both of her novels but I found this repetitive and sad and weirdly sex negative in its outlook. Then I read another extremely brilliant book: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (5 out of 5 stars). I have not been able to stop thinking about this book but at the same time I have trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into words. This is brilliant. I knew very little going into this book except that I will read anything Emily St. John Mandel writes and as such the book surprised me again and again. It is losely connected to her most recent two novels, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, and I love her extended universe so much. She does this better than David Mitchell, whose writing I also adore, and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next. This book is both perfectly structured and compulsively readable, and as always her characterwork is beyond compare. So yes, I loved this. My final book of the year was The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) by Andrea Stewart (4 out of 5 stars) and thankfully one I liked a lot. I thought the premise was excellent and original. There were a couple of really effective reveals as a result of Stewart not being afraid to lean into the creepiness. I did think the book had pacing issues and differently exciting plotlines but I really enjoyed how they all come or did not come together. The cliffhanger really makes me anxious to get to the next book in the series.
Favourite of the Month:
I really had an exceptional reading month. Both The Year of Magical Thinking and Sea o Tranquility surpased my already high expectations. But it is the latter that really blew me away in every possible way. I will have to reread the whole lose trilogy at some point but right now Sea of Tranqulity might be my favourite of the three. It’s better than Station Eleven? Blasphemy but also probably true. She really is on top of her game.
I read seven books, all of which were written by women – one memoir, one short story collection, two fantasy novels (both first in a series), two literary fiction, and one romance novel.
I started the month strong with the incredble Animal Wife by Lara Ehrlich (4.5 out of 5 stars) which reminded me exactly why I love short story collections. It is weird and extremely well written, with a strong theme of feminism and motherhood and the stories are the exact perfect length each time (varying from the very short to the slightly longer than most short stories). It did get a bit repetitive but not enough for me to not round the rating up. Then I finished yet another Ilona Andrews book: Sweep With Me (Innkeeper Chronicles #3.5) (4 out of 5 stars) – which I obviously enjoyed. I always love their writing and am slowly making my way through their backlist while I wait for the next books in the two series of theirs I am current with. Afterwards I finished my oldest ARC (let’s just not talk about how long that sat unread on my kindle): Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (2.5 out of 5 stars). I am conflicted about this because the prose was truly spectacular and I do like the framing device and the way Celt chooses to end her book. I did however not enjoy the pacing at all – it felt a lot longer than the 240 pages it was long and for vast stretches of it I was, indeed, bored. I then finished the absolutely brilliant Abandon Me by Melissa Febos (4.5 out of 5 stars) which broke my heart. Here the whole was better than the sum of its parts and I was right – this is an author whose complete works I want to read. Afterwards, my month went to hell. Which is why I finished a book that was sure to be comforting: Last Guard (Psy-Changeling #20) by Nalini Singh (3.5 out of 5 stars). As always, I enjoyed the worldbuilding and I am excited to see where the series goes next – because I always trust Nalini Singh in her macro plots, but this one didn’t completely work for me. The pacing was off and the central couple not my favourite. The final book I read, I inhaled in a day: The Trouble with Love by Lauren Layne (4 out of 5 stars). This was just what I needed with the perfect mix of funny and angsty. I loved this a whole lot, especially the focus on friendship – I will surely read the rest of this series and the follow up series. I am not often a fan of second chance romances but this worked perfectly because the past storyline never overwhelmed the present storyline (and because what happened in the past was just deliciously angsty without being a dealbreaker – and without them being horrible to each other).
Favourite of the Month:
Animal Wife was not only my favourit book of the month but my favourite short story collection of the year. Really recommended!
I somehow finished 6 books, five of which were written by women and one by a husband and wife team. One romance, two speculative romance, one short story collection, one historical fiction and one memoir.