Let’s start off with how I did on my goals shall we… First, I did not manage to read Heart on Fire or The Stone Sky this month because, well, I don’t really have a good excuse, honestly. And I am still interested in both books. I’m going to push myself to pick up The Stone Sky at least in February. I think I need to re-read A Promise of Fire and the second book in the series before tackling Heart on Fire. I did manage to read a nonfiction book this month, though! Not the one I wanted to, but you know, whatever works. And I read five books I owned before 2018. Unfortunately, of those, I rated three of them two stars. But I really enjoyed Priest by Sierra Simone as you’ll see and I already talked about Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole.
Now, as for buying only five books… Yeah, I failed miserably. I bought SO many books this month. Of the ones I purchased, I read seven and I’m in the middle of an eighth. In total, I purchased or won 21 books. I, um… don’t know how that happened. Well, I do. People kept having sales and I was like “OH! I want to read that one!” So that led me to snatch up Butterface, Marriage of Unconvenience, Sinner, Idol, Managed, Heartbeat Braves and It Takes Two. And once I finished Siege and Storm, I needed to pick up Ruin and Rising. And when I saw two Immortals After Dark novels I don’t have, I figured I might as well pick them up. And then I discovered the Wicked Wallflowers Club podcast on my way home the other day and bought three books because of Jenny and Sarah. So… Clearly this month was a fail. But next month could be better! We’ll see.
So now, let’s actually get to the books I read in the second half of January.
14.Siege and Stormby Leigh Bardugo
Weakness is a guise. Wear it when they need to know you’re human, but never when you feel it.
Nikolai!!! I can’t wait to actually dive into King of Scars, which means I need to hurry and pick up Ruin and Rising because I tried listening to King of Scars and was like, wtf is happening? So that didn’t work out so great. About this book for real though is that I should have re-read Shadow and Bone first because like, wtf is the Fold? And who are these people? But once I got past the fact that I only kind of knew what was going on, things were good. I like Mal (okay, I also don’t like Mal, and why the hell is Nikolai not an actual contender? Like, GIRL, why is your taste so off?). I don’t like the Darkling. But anyway, I thought this was an enjoyable sequel and gave it four stars. (That end though!!!)
15. Priestby Sierra Simone
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. Even Jesus had said those words. Not that they had worked out so well for him… Why was God so willing to leave bad cups all over the place?
First of all, go listen to the Heaving Bosoms podcast episode about this book if you haven’t yet because it’s amazing (and what eventually led me to the Wicked Wallflowers Club podcast, which I’m also loving). Secondly, wow, this book contains multitudes. On the one had, it’s exactly what it seems, an erotic romance starring a priest. On the other hand, it’s such an incredible blend of the erotic and the religious and I somehow felt like I was coming closer to God? Wild. Anyway, genuinely, Jenny and Melody discussing this book is great and so I would highly recommend you listen to the podcast because it’s AMAZING. Also, Jenny has some great comments as a former sex worker because so is Poppy. Anyway, listen to the podcast if you can’t decide if you should read it or not.
16. A Conspiracy of Whispersby Ada Harper
“I won’t let you remake yourself for me.”
“I’ve never felt more true than when I’m with you.”
I absolutely fell in love with this sci-fi romance. I would say it leans more heavily on the sci-fi side than the romance side, but the romance is very much there. Also, I melted at the quote I shared. The amount that I love our grumpy af heroine and her sweet and adorable hero is honestly unreal. In fact, this book could totally count as the Hufflepuff/Slytherin dynamic for the Heaving Bosoms reading challenge, but I used it for Alien Adventure square for Romanceopoly. A description for this book… Um, well, Liv is a ciricae, but that’s a secret because she doesn’t want to be a brood mare, and she’s an assassin. So she goes on this mission to another land and meets Galen, who is MY FAVORITE. I love him so much. I definitely think you should give this one a shot if you like adventure with your romance OR romance with your adventure.
17.Bedding the Billionaire by Virna DePaul
This book was not very good. Arugably it suffers from being from 2014 and just not holding up well, but I also just didn’t like it. The heroine is out here like I AM SEXUALLY LIBERATED and like, cool, so why do you keep letting other people make you feel bad about it? I just really wasn’t here for that. But what really got me was that she winds up in a custody battle for her deceased sister’s child and like, it’s just… not really actually addressed? That’s such a huge and important element of the plot and it’s just glossed over. Not to mention, she randomly becomes friends with this woman who is so hateful in the epilogue and like… WHY. So many questions. Anyway, I didn’t like this at all really and would not recommend. I did use it to fill the Library space I landed on for Romanceopoly though.
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
We’ve all got light and dark inside us. What matter is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.
I listened to this on audio and had a lot of feelings. Sirius is… I love him. He deserves so much better. And my poor, precious Harry. I spent the last like hour of the audiobook literally screaming about how stupid it all was and why didn’t Hermione learn accio just a few months earlier!!!!! You know, the freaking summoning charm really would have made all the difference. Anyway, that’s all I’m going to say about this because… it’s Harry Potter?
Also, this book led to me reading The Debt of Time by Shayalonnie for like the 18th time, but that’s whatever.
19. The Spies that Bindby Ally Carter
This Audible Original is a fantastic prequel to the Gallagher Girls series that I absolutely adored as a teen. It also made me want to re-read it. Sisterhood and learning that you’re not alone and just everything about Cam… I loved it. Highly recommend. Also, it’s a very short novella and clocks in at only just under three hours.
20.Attraction by Penny Reid
I didn’t hate this one, exactly, until the end. I need New Adult writers to not serialize their stories. Like, if you can’t give me an HEA in one book, then I can’t be bothered. Usually I like the characters enough to make it to the end and I want to know what happens, but the end of this one just made me mad as hell. I don’t actually care why the male main character did what he did. I’m mad at him and I want our female character to wind up with LITERALLY anyone else (except the guy who drugs girls AKA rapes them and is still invited on this damn trip).
21. My Sister, the Serial Killerby Oyinkan Braithwaite
I borrowed this audiobook from the library because I was seeing it so often on Bookstagram and it covers the Reading Women Challenge to read a book by a Nigerian or New Zealand-er author. I was planning to use it to fulfill the thriller/mystery, but after finishing it, I don’t feel like that’s the best category. Anyway, this book follows two sisters, Ayoola and Korede. Korede is older and the book opens with her dealing with her sister’s third phone call asking for help because Ayoola killed her boyfriend. This book is written in an interesting way because the chapters are super short and read almost like vignettes? They’re connected, but something about the writing style felt very unique to me. I really enjoyed the exploration of family and how far one will go for your siblings, but my romance loving heart was UNHAPPY with the men in this book. Here are a couple of Bookstagram reviews that I wanted to highlight: nastymuchachitareads and Tay’s Reads.
22. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
I would have enjoyed this nonfiction book a lot more if I had read it when it was new rather than reading it in 2019. In 2011, such a binary take on gender was largely universal in my experience. To be fair, it is probably still nearly as prevalent, but I know better now. So to me, this didn’t quite give me the gender studies examination I was hoping for. The parts of this book that I enjoyed were the stories Orenstein included of her parenting her daughter. I really appreciated those moments. What I didn’t like was that this book doesn’t feel particularly intersectional and stays surface level for much of it. However, I did like Orenstein’s writing style. It’s fun and easy to listen to despite being nonfiction.
23. The Serpent King by Jeff Zetner
The worst days spent with her were better than the best days spent without her.
I’m still not totally sure how I feel about this book. It’s funny how there are certain things that help me understand a little about what people mean when they talk about how important representation is for marginalized identities. I’m a cis, white, straight woman but as a child I hated my hair because only Ariel had red hair and CLEARLY brown and blonde hair were superior. And now as an adult, there are so few books set in Appalachia that when I read one, I am inevitably disgruntled with the representation. Well, that’s not entirely true. I actually love Sarah Nicole Lemon’s debut. But anyway, all of that is to say that I really don’t like that this book contains so many stereotypes? It’s unfair, especially since liberal, probably not straight, Lydia with her loving parents and comfortable middle class lifestyle is meant to defy the stereotypes, but… The child abuse? The alcoholism? The domestic violence? All of these things are real and so I think I’m supposed to feel differently about this book than I do, but… Mostly I’m just sad that the images people have about Appalachia are constantly the worst images instead of showcasing all of us who grew up in homes where our parents loved and supported us and pushed us to do well in school.
Also, huge CW for gun violence, alcoholism, child abuse, spousal abuse, and a dad in prison.
24. From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
My mom said I had serious trust issues, but honestly, the more people I met the more I didn’t want to meet.
Before I dive into talking about how much I loved this book, I have to mention that Jasmine is Filipina and the only reason I know that is because there is exactly one mention of it in the entire book. This is at odds with the relative frequency of mentions related to Ivan’s Russian heritage.
Setting that aside, this book is such a good slow burn. It’s my favorite Zapata that I’ve read and honestly, even though her books are way too long, this one didn’t feel like it. Things move at a glacial pace romance wise in her books and that’s true here, but it’s the first time I haven’t been like, omg, we could have cut out the last sixty pages and it wouldn’t have made a difference. I wanted more rather than less. So anyway, I think this is a great Zapata book to start with if you aren’t sure you’re really going to like her writing. Also, yes, this book is on my February TBR because I wrote that post in advance… I was supposed to read it in February, but I thought I would start the audiobook since it’s so long and then… I devoured it. Oops.
25. Overnight Sensation by Sarina Bowen
“Smile, damn it,” he snarls behind me. I hate men who tell women to smile. Would Coach ever order his players to smile? No he would not.
Sarina Bowen’s hockey romances are some of my favorite things in the whole world. This series keeps getting better and better. I really love Castro, but I love Heidi Jo. She’s spoiled, but works so hard and embraces the fact that she’s spoiled. She doesn’t deny that she’s had a privileged upbringing, but when that’s pulled out from under her, she gets her act together and makes the best out of it. I loved that she starts the book off bemoaning her bad sex life to Castro because she has too much tequila. It was so funny. Castro is a doll. He’s shut himself off from having relationships because his first girlfriend died. He’s such a good man though. The one thing I do want to know is what happens with Heidi Jo’s side hustle after the book ends. And I’m so excited for Sarina’s next book, which will be following Silas, Castro’s roommate.
26. One and Only by Jenny Holiday
We’re a goddamned sisterhood, so don’t fuck with us.
I won the third book in this series and since I’d already read the novella prequel, I decided I really needed to read the entire series in order. So, this is where I started and OH MY GOD, I loved it so much. Y’all. I’m in love with Cameron. First of all, he’s such a misunderstood darling and I love him so much. He really deserves Jane. Secondly, when I met him I was like, what a douche, why would I want her with you? Third, I love Jane so much too. She’s really over this whole wedding business because Elise, calm down, honey. And she’s convinced that human touch is really overrated when she has three vibrators. What more could a woman need? CAMERON. That’s what. Seriously, I love him and I love them together. Also, Jane is a YA fantasy author, which I loved. Cameron is now out of the military and doesn’t really know what’s next for himself. He’s also dealing with PTSD. I LOVE him. Okay, I’m going to stop now. Actually, wait, I almost forgot to mention that Jane is a size 12 even though the cover model does not look like it. So there’s a lot of curvy girl love in here.
And there you have it! My January Wrap Up is complete. I have read four squares for Romanceopoly, completed four challenges for the Reading Women Challenge, and three challenges for the Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace. I am, however, very behind on my Immortals After Dark read along so I’ve got to catch up! I’m still thinking about Trail of Lightning and how badly I need the sequel so if I can only pick one favorite of the month, I think it’s that one. What was yours?