January 2021 Reading Wrap-up

I can’t believe January is already over! This month I read 11 books, which isn’t bad considering how busy I am in school currently. However, I was a little disappointed that the majority of books I read (8 of the 11) were three star reads. I suppose that’s better than reading really bad books, but I also read very few really good books. At least I didn’t have a 1 star last month!

Also, I posted this as a video over on my Youtube channel, so feel free to watch the video at the bottom of this post if you don’t want to read it. Let’s go!

2 Stars

The Lying Game
  • The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (released 2017)
    • I’m still trying to figure out why I didn’t like this book, but mostly I felt like it was all over the place. It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of lying? Is it a tale of female friendship? It is a dark thriller? It is a tale of becoming an adult? I just felt like this book didn’t know what it wanted to be. The middle was extremely slow, which I noticed in The Death of Mrs. Westerway. But whereas in that book it simply slowed the middle down of an otherwise great book, this one felt like it was the middle slowed down for the entire book. It didn’t help that the narrator keeps important information from the reader for the first half of the book for no reason except to increase the suspense, and the ending was kind of predictable. I also just didn’t like Isa, the main character, and the other three girls felt pretty stereotyped into their roles. The descriptions were good, but that’s about the only thing I enjoyed.

3 Stars

  • Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March (released Nov. 2020)
    • On one hand, I really loved the cultural and social setting of this book, especially when it came to the class system and Jim’s interesting character. The mystery, while at many times slow, wasn’t bad and I was interested enough to finish the book (even if I put it down for long periods of times because I didn’t find the mystery enough to keep me interested all the time). On the other hand, I didn’t really like the Sherlock Holmes related elements and wished that Jim Agnihotri would have stood on his own without relying on his favorite literary detective. I also found Diana’s character so dull, and because of that the romance felt a little bland too. It was an enjoyable book, but I don’t feel anxious to pick up any possible sequel.
  • The Haunting of Sunshine House (Ghost of Los Angelus #1) by Dominika Best (released 2018)
    • There are some parts I liked about this book, but I feel like in many parts it just tried to do too much. Is it a horror novel about ghosts and a girl who can see ghosts after her parents were murdered? Is it a cautionary tale of elderly abuse and business corruption? Is it a murder mystery with a historic twist? It just tried to do a bit too much for it’s length. Also, there were way too many different perspectives, and honestly most of them were unnecessary. The book could have been told from only three perspectives (Lou, Sara, and Murphy) without the story losing anything. The perspectives of Barney, Diane, young Szymon, and more felt so unnecessary. Saying that, I really like Lou, Sara, and Murphy’s characters, and the suspense was very well done, even if due to the multiple perspectives I figured out the entire ending not even halfway through (the flashbacks to the 1940’s really spoiled everything for me). This book had such potential, but due to its weaknesses I just ended up with mixed feelings.
  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (released Oct. 2020)
    • There was a lot I enjoyed about this book. It does the Groundhog Day trope very well, and I never thought it was overused (perhaps even underused). Although the magic of how it happened wasn’t explained, I didn’t hate it because it felt more like benign Christmas magic (does anyone question where the ghosts in The Christmas Carol came from?). I also adored the entire family/friends dynamic, and found myself wishing I was enjoying Christmas up at a cabin with friends like them. Saying that, I wasn’t a massive fan of the romance. Andrew to me was such a confusing, bland character. He’s kind of the perfect guy, and that’s it. I wanted more depth in his character, like we saw in Mae. It didn’t help that the romance went from 1 to 100 in a day. I wanted to see more of the romance develop from friendship to romance, but it went from friendship to physical attraction with little more. I was a little disappointed by that. It’s a nice, fun Christmas book, but one I kept wanting to remove the romance from entirely.
  • Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda (released 2017)
    • This book started out extremely slow, and I had trouble falling into the story. The first half of the book is almost entirely Jessa cleaning her dead ex-boyfriend’s room while having flashbacks of her memories with him. While I found the characters interesting enough, nothing fit into a cohesive narrative that built on each story. It felt more like a teen girl dealing with grief through memories, which can be a moving story, but this one felt too slow to be moving. I did not feel the more thriller vibes until about two-thirds into the book, as the mystery begins to be progressed. At that point, I began to feel invested in understanding what was happening. If I was rating the first half of the book, it would have probably gotten one star, but the second half would have gotten at least four to five stars. And I was very happy with the conclusion of the book, even if I did expect it to end that way.
  • Death at Bishop’s Keep (Kathryn Ardleigh #1) by Robin Paige (released 1994)
    • I did like the mystery in this book, but unfortunately that was about all I liked. The characters were often ridiculous, and yet they were treated too seriously (it’s like it’s a comedy that wouldn’t commit). And I wasn’t a massive fan of Kate. She suffered from serious #notlikeothergirls and I thought her character felt too modern, like she was trying too hard to be independent. Also, the perspective would switch randomly in the middle of a scene, and it made the narrative feel jumpy and disjointed. The book could have easily been told from Charles and Kate’s perspective only and would have been better. Saying that, I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery.
  • Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (released 2016)
    • The Good: I loved the world. I really found the idea of hemopaths, people who have these strange magical abilities (like wordsmiths who could control what people see with their speech) to be really interesting. I really appreciated the friendship between Ada and Corrine. Also, the way the more fanciful elements blended into history concerning things like Prohibition and mental institutions’ horrible conditions was really interesting. I enjoyed Ada’s romance as well.
    • The Bad: Ade and Corrine are extremely similar characters. It took me about 25% of the book to be able to finally figure out who was who. They have superficial differences (like family and basic personality), but their character actions and way of talking are so similar they could be the same person. There were way too many twists at the end as well. Some of them were good, but the level of twists was too many that at some point I just gave up caring and wanted the story to end. Also, for the most part the story doesn’t build conflict until the end, and most of the story felt like we were introduced to a problem and then that problem was solved easily, decreasing the rising action. It just felt strange. I did not enjoy Corrine’s romance…it was just so predictable! So while it was an interesting world with some enjoyable scenes, it failed for me on many levels.
  • The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict (released Dec. 2020)
    • This book takes a fictionalized look at the 11 days that Agatha Christie went missing in 1926. The book flips from her younger life in her first person perspective to her husband’s experiences in the days she is missing in third person. I liked how the perspectives gave this intimate feel to her chapters, but a detached feel to his. I know a bit about Agatha’s life, because I’ve loved her books for so love and thus watched a couple documentaries about her life, so I appreciated that, while this book was fiction, it was filled with a lot of historical details from her life. We see the beginning of her writing career and her writing “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” (her first published Hercule book).
    • Without giving away any spoilers, I also appreciated how it ended, in a bit of a mystery monologue fashion we see so often in Agatha Christie’s books. Saying that, many of Archie Christie’s (her husband’s) chapters felt like filler, and I found myself skimming over them a lot. Also, if you go into this book expecting a fast-paced mystery, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it looks at Agatha as a real person, flawed by strong. It is more about her life with references to her published books, instead of creating an intense mystery out of her life. This is a historical drama more than a mystery, in my opinion.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (released 1967)

4 Stars

Early American Rebels: Pursuing Democracy from Maryland to Carolina, 1640-1700
  • Early American Rebels: Pursuing Democracy from Maryland to Carolina, 1640-1700 by Noeleen McIlvenna (released May 2020)
    • This book examines early rebellions against English rule in America a century before the American Revolution. There was a lot to love about this book, but boy was it a hard book to read. There are so many people in history mentioned, and I was constantly struggling keeping track of all the historical figures. This book also expects you to have a basic knowledge of colonial history both in England and America. Many terms are mentioned, but aren’t defined. I’m currently taking a class with the author, so she’s defining a lot of the terms in our lectures, but to go into this book with no prior knowledge would mean I’d be looking up a lot of terms. This is why I personally feel the book is directed more towards a scholarly audience or one already interested in this period of American history, as opposed to a casual reader. Still, I found it interesting to learn about the conflicts which we never hear about in American history because, unfortunately, many of them failed where the American Revolution succeeded. That and the Gerard family is literally everywhere in this book!

5 Stars

The Dollmaker of Krakow
  • The Dollmaker of Krakow by R. M. Romero (released 2017)
    • This book…I am speechless for how beautiful and serious this book was for being a middle-grade historical fantasy centered around a living doll whose magical lands are under attack from rats only to be transported to the our world in 1939 in Krakow, Poland to the home of a mystical dollmaker. I defy any reader not to be sobbing by the end! This book balances perfectly more fanciful, folklore elements with the real, dark history of Poland during WWII. I am sad to say the only reason I picked it up was because of the beautiful cover, but this book is so much more moving then a simple cover can convey!

So there are the books I read this month. I’m hoping that February will see me reading a lot more highly rated books, but we’ll see.

Have you read any of these books? Do you want to read some of them? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Anne

8 thoughts on “January 2021 Reading Wrap-up

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