Helloooo. I’ve decided to start back up with my monthly reading wrap-ups again this year, and I had a whopping good reading month in January. I completed eleven books, and read a little extra that I’ll talk about at the end of this post. Without further ado, here’s all that I read in January, and what I thought about it.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (3.5 stars)
I think this book’s underlying message is very important and applicable to many people. Going into the novel, I expected sophisticated writing and character development. However, The Alchemist reads more like a tale than a novel and the writing style is simple and easy to follow. Like all tales, the story’s main purpose is its message, not its plot or characters. The Alchemist’s message about following your dream is beautiful and powerful, and I think that’s why it is so hyped. I found some parts to be a little bit too pretentious and deep for my taste, but overall, I enjoyed reading The Alchemist.
My Review | Goodreads
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (4 stars)
This is the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve ever read. Now, after concluding this beautiful novel, I am sure it won’t be the last. Gaiman has somehow managed to weave the very core and essence of childhood into his writing and the result is a story that will only grow more meaningful with time. Well-written and haunting, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is mysterious, poetic, and lovely. I quite enjoyed it.
My Review | Goodreads
The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin, Luis Royo (Illustrator) (3 stars)
This was my first George R.R. Martin book, and I am excited to read more of his works. The illustrations were beautiful, and, for the most part, so was the tale. While I’m not convinced the story takes place in Westeros—if it does, it’s a very old and simplistic version—I liked the setting. This is a heavier children’s book, as war and death run rampant throughout it. Martin’s trademark theme of ice versus fire is present in this story through the dragons. The ending is abrupt and unexplained, and it doesn’t stay true to Adara’s character in earlier parts of the novel. Despite the disappointing ending, I still enjoyed The Ice Dragon, and I’m glad that I read it.
My Review | Goodreads
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars)
Surprise, surprise… Another first! Apparently “firsts” was an unintentional theme of the month. Eleanor & Park is the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read and I loved it in an emotional, gushy, heart-melting sort of way. While I recognize that the book does have flaws—namely typos, and some overly cheesy scenes that would inspire eye-rolling in probably any other book—I don’t care because I adored it. It was an effortless read; all I had to do was move my eyes across the pages and the story and its characters would come to life. I enjoyed the family aspects incorporated into the novel, and loved both Eleanor and Park (and their switching perspectives—they were both so interesting). I anticipated the open-ended ending, but I actually found that it gave more closure than I expected. I REALLY recommend reading Eleanor & Park, and I cannot wait to read more of Rainbow Rowell’s books!
The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (3.5 stars)
I haven’t read a Nicholas Sparks book since eighth grade, and while I liked The Longest Ride, I think I liked the movie better (I know that’s blasphemous, but I watched it on the plane ride home from Europe, thinking I’d never read the book). The movie definitely changed some stuff, and switched the order of things around, but I thought it flowed and connected the two love stories of Ira and Ruth and Luke and Sophia better than the book. The book’s portrayal of these two relationships was largely disjointed until the ending, when the connection between the two was revealed suddenly and all at once in a rush. However, Luke and Sophia’s romance is less complicated and sweeter in the book than in the film; the characters seem more innocent, less flawed. Sparks’ writing isn’t the best in The Longest Ride, and I thought the Ira chapter placements were odd and, like I mentioned earlier, disjointed from the rest of the story. However, loving the movie as much as I did, I enjoyed reading The Longest Ride regardless.
The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas (5 stars)
This was such a nostalgic read for me, and it made me want to start re-reading the Throne of Glass series yet again. If you don’t know, Throne of Glass is one of favorite series of all time—we’re talking right up there tied with Harry Potter. Though I read four of the five prequel novellas years ago when they were released individually as ebooks, the fifth one is only available in this bind-up edition. I enjoyed reading all of them, both new and old, in one book, and I affirmatively believe that reading the prequel novellas (or The Assassin’s Blade) is totally essential to anyone who wants to read the Throne of Glass series. These stories help the reader understand Celaena, her backstory, and why she is the way she is. They also shed light on important characters and plotlines that appear in the series, particularly in Queen of Shadows. My recommendation is to read The Assassin’s Blade after reading Throne of Glass but before Crown of Midnight. The earlier you read it in the series, the better, but PLEASE read it before reading Queen of Shadows!
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (3.5 stars)
I enjoyed The Opposite of Loneliness for what it is, rather than what it is hyped up to be. I gave it three stars for content, and leniently granted an extra half star because the book was published posthumously without its author getting the chance to revise. I didn’t find any of the stories or ideas in The Opposite of Loneliness to be particularly revolutionary, nor did I find them to be spectacularly well-written. They were good, but not amazing. However, Marina’s youthful spirit and idealism shine through in her works, and it’s inspiring; her short life and premature death make the reader, especially a young one, take what she has to say seriously. Overall, I found The Opposite of Loneliness interesting and enjoyable, but not necessarily impactful enough to be life-changing.
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (4.25 stars)
This was a highly anticipated 2016 release for me, and though it wasn’t quite what I expected, I enjoyed the story a lot. Passenger’s genre is quite hard for me to classify, as it is a time travel novel that involves elements of magic and fantasy, historical fiction, and contemporary fiction. I loved the social commentary on race and feminism that Bracken brought into the book, and I really liked the two main characters, Etta and Nicholas. While I approve of their romance, at times I felt that it dominated parts of the story in an unrealistic and sudden way. Nevertheless, after the ending, I definitely buy into it completely. Bracken’s writing style is very descriptive and dense, to the point of sometimes being superfluous, but I enjoyed it in her The Darkest Minds trilogy and I enjoyed it in Passenger. I will say that, after reading each of her previous novels in one or two sittings, I knew that the best way to enjoy her stories and writing is to spread the reading out and pace myself. If you read Passenger and feel yourself getting tired or bored, just put it down for a day! Though I think Passenger could have easily been a standalone novel had it ended differently, I will be reading its sequel. Overall, I found Passenger to be a refreshing, marathon-type read.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars)
I. Loved. This. Book. I would give it ten stars if I could. Though I haven’t read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, I understood and was amazed by Six of Crows, and I honestly don’t think her first series could possibly compare. A cast of characters with questionable motives and morals? Check. A thrilling, fast-paced heist plot? Check. An endless number of twists and turns, impossible feats, and crazy obstacles? Check, check, check. The fantasy elements were fantastic and interesting, and I appreciated the pieces of history woven into Bardugo’s Grisha world. I also loved the alternating perspectives, and how they weren’t placed in a systematic, repetitive order. I do think that reading Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy may have improved my understanding of her fantasy world’s history, politics, and society, but I loved Six of Crows so much anyway that I doubt it really matters. Six of Crows is a new favorite book, for sure, and I HIGHLY recommend it, especially to fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (4.5 stars)
This book was chilling. Haunting. Poignant. Perhaps it’s because of the eerily poetic writing style. Maybe it’s because of the cold, dark, rural setting in Iceland. Or maybe, it’s because Burial Rites is based on a true story—the last public execution in Iceland. Whatever it is, I found Burial Rites to be a beautiful and compelling tale. The author clearly did a lot of research to develop its atmosphere and to make it authentic. While the first half was slow, revealing very little about protagonist Agnes’ role in the murders she was accused of, the second half picks up swiftly, informing the reader of the backstory and circumstances under which Agnes ends up at the execution block to be beheaded. It’s a slow-build read, requiring patience, but atmospheric enough throughout to deserve a high rating. Burial Rites brings to light the startling consequences of the death penalty, and is, overall, an excellent historical fiction novel.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (5 stars)
I loved this novel. I’d heard mixed reviews; on the one hand, Regan from PeruseProject loved it and I really trust her recommendations; on the other hand, a lot of readers said it was very slow. I fell into the category of loving it, and my sole concern with Emma Watson playing Kelsea in a film adaptation is that, unlike the protagonist, Emma Watson is not plain. But I think she’s a great choice; Kelsea and Watson share similar values, and I think they’d be good friends if given the chance. Anyway, I loved the political intrigue of The Queen of the Tearling, I loved learning about Johansen’s post-apocalyptic medieval fantasy world (which I found fascinating), I loved the writing style and occasional shifts in perspective (which reminded me of Throne of Glass), and I loved the characters. I think the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, will definitely enhance the world-building and answer some questions, but I was wholly satisfied with The Queen of the Tearling as a first installment. It’s very unique, and I can see why some claim it is too slow, but I was engaged throughout its entirety. I’ll be reading the sequel very soon!
BITS & PIECES
I started One Direction: Who We Are: Our Official Autobiography, started and completed 80% of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and began reading Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest in my English class (we’ve gotten through the beginning of Act II).
What was the best book you read in January? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks for reading.