Where did January go, you guys?! I read a ton of fun things this month, so let’s just dive right in!
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
I chose this as my first read of the year in a fit of rage. I follow the author on twitter, and she was fielding a lot of homophobic comments from a variety of places, so I wanted to put some good juju out into the world and appreciate her beautiful book. This is a hard-hitting Asian-inspired fantasy novel with warnings for rape and sexual assault, animal cruelty, and general violence. Our main character Lei finds herself being chosen as a Paper Girl, a human concubine for the Demon King. While many other girls find it to be an honor to their families, Lei, who lost her mother to the demon caste many years prior, wanted nothing to do with it. We follow her struggle to come to terms with her fate, making friends with the other girls, and FINDING LOVE. Yes, I adored it. The world was well-crafted without info dumping, the plot made me even more invested in the characters, and I think the commentary Ngan makes about violence against women is very important. Five stars!
The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
This book was a gift from the OTSP Secret Sister project (thank you Christina!), and man was it creepy and weird. It is a story of a young girl, Alys, who encounters two sisters. These sisters had been wronged by society and transcended to become the Soul Eaters. They visit her town and reap the souls of most of the inhabitants, and Alys must do what she has to survive. This novel is hard to describe, but if you enjoy creepy forests, religious overtones, and girls who don’t quite fit the mold, I would recommend this one for you. 4 stars.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
This book was another gift, although I listened to most of it on Scribd. It is an Asian-inspired fantasy retelling of the Evil Queen story (like from Snow White), following the ascent of Xifeng from a peasant to a woman adored by the emperor. I really enjoyed this one. It was refreshing to follow a character who stubbornly insisted on always reaching for more for herself. She was a little bit unlikeable a lot of the time, but that might be because I knew her ultimate fate. I’m excited to read the sequel! 4 stars.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Yet another Snow White inspired story! This one also pulls from another folktale, and I even got some Frozen vibes. I have seen some reviews that get a little more in-depth with the synopsis, but I honestly think that would cheapen some of the reveals, which would make it harder for you to connect with the characters. I would suggest just going into this one with as little information as possible – if you like fairytale retellings and female/female romances, check this one out! 4 stars.
The Lost Sisters by Holly Black
This is just a tiny novella touching on the events of The Cruel Prince, but from Taryn’s perspective. There’s not much I can say about it, but I’m glad I read it right before tackling The Wicked King!
In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
This book is one of my most anticipated books of 2019, and it absolutely did not disappoint. I wrote a full-length review of it a few weeks ago, so go ahead and check it out for my in-depth and spoiler free thoughts. As always, I adore this series, and Seanan can do no wrong. Also, you guys should absolutely go support her on Patreon because her short stories are out of this world. 5 stars.
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
This is a fun urban fantasy based on Alice in Wonderland, but sprinkle in a heaping spoonful of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and with a black main character. Sign me up??? We follow Alice (duh) who has to travel to Wonderland and…FIGHT MONSTERS. She has to manage this while also attending high school, maintaining her friendships, and not making her mom kick her butt. I would love to see this one turned into a movie. If the references to Alice in Wonderland and Buffy piqued your interest, I recommend checking this one out. The audio narrator was pretty good! 4 stars.
The Wicked King by Holly Black
Okay. Okay. What the heck, Holly? You can’t just write books like this and expect people to be okay. As this is a sequel, I can’t go too in-depth into it, but suffice to say that I could not put it down once I picked it up. I was as on-guard and paranoid as Jude the whole time, there were definitely blush-worthy scenes, and the end killed me. But what else is new? 5 stars.
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
This was my first traveling book of the year, and I adored annotating it and reading what the other ladies had said in the margins. It follows Grace, who has been sent to an insane asylum for falling pregnant outside of wedlock in a time where that was simply not done. Grace finds herself in the care of a very eccentric doctor, and they fall into a symbiotic relationship. This one felt very thriller-y, and I was intrigued the whole time. 4 stars.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
While And I Darken wasn’t really for me, this book was. Elizabeth is our main character, and she is a ruthless young woman trying to make a place for herself in this world. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family as a companion for Victor (yes, the one with the monster). Victor is as eccentric as you would imagine, and present-day Elizabeth has to hunt him down while reminiscing about events from her past. I listened to this one, and the jumps between present and past weren’t the most obvious with the narration style, but I still really liked it. Kiersten gave us a badass female character who takes no prisoners, and I really loved the ending. 4.5 stars.
Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway
This is another one where I’ve written a full review, so check it out if you’d like more in-depth thoughts. This WWII-inspired fantasy kept me turning the page – I read an eARC, and seeing how thick the finished copy is surprised me. I had no idea it was such a long book since it flew by so quickly. I was charmed by our duo of main characters, and I really enjoyed the prologue chapter that set you up for how this book was going to end. I’m definitely interested in continuing the series! 4 stars.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Yeah, I know. I’m like a decade+ late to this party, but that’s okay. I’m doing a gigantic buddy read with my friend Alex over at Booksy Daisy where we are catching up on the entire Shadowhunters world. She has read a few of them, but I am basically starting from the beginning! I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with Clary as I was the first time I tried reading this one back in high school, so I have high hopes for being able to read TMI. I’m much more excited about reading the Infernal Devices, which we are tackling after City of Glass! 3.5 stars.
Pulp by Robin Talley
This is another eARC experience, but I wasn’t approved for it until a couple of weeks before release date, so it slipped through my fingers pretty quickly. I don’t tend to read many contemporaries (if that isn’t obvious), but this one piqued my interest. It follows dual timelines – one in the 1950s, where a young woman named Janet discovers lesbian pulp fiction and starts to learn things about herself. Another is in 2017, following Abby, who is studying the same fiction for her senior thesis. As I progressed through both timelines, I started getting more and more attached to both women, especially as they worked through their struggles and heartache with the help of books and reading. I think a lot of us can relate. 4 stars!
These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch
This is a book I received in one of my very last Fairyloot boxes, but I decided to listen to it. It came in a pirate-themed box, but I wouldn’t say this story is overly piratey. It gave me some serious Three Dark Crowns vibes in that it takes place on an island that is steeped in mysterious magic that comes from the land itself. We follow 3 perspectives: Adeluna, who is a former rebel and current politician on the island of Grace Loray, Devereaux, an un-aligned stream raider with something up his sleeve, and Benat, the heretic crown prince of the devoutly religious country of Argrid, the former oppressor of Grace Loray. This book is layered with conspiracy and secrets, all wrapped up in a mysterious setting full of plant-based magic that is deemed heretical and illegal. I’d like to try this one again by reading it in print before the sequel happens, but this was still a 4 star read.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I am so mad at myself for taking so long to get to this one. This was another OTSP Secret Sister gift, but from the beginning of 2018. I forgot how fun a good dystopian book can be (shoutout to Patricia at Bookish Geek for getting to me to just do the thing already), and Shusterman truly is a master. This story takes place in a world ruled by a benevolent, all-knowing version of “the cloud,” now known as The Thunderhead. It has solved natural death – no one dies from hunger, exposure, accidents, old age, or sickness. As such, there needed to be a way to curb population growth. Enter the Scythdom, a group of people tasked with gleaning people. My only struggle with this book is the romance, but I believe you could truly delete it and the plot stay exactly the same. I absolutely adored it. 5 stars.
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
After that review, you bet I immediately picked up the sequel. I can’t say too much about this one since it is a sequel, but suffice to say that it was just as amazing as the first. I am deeply saddened that the third book in the trilogy, The Toll, doesn’t have a cover or official release date yet. I am struggling to come to grips with waiting. 5 stars.
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
This is the second book in The Mortal Instruments, and I’m still mostly enjoying myself. Jace is somewhat of an eye-rolling character, but I’m still happy to be reading these books! 3 stars.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
This is Moroccan-inspired fantasy set! In! Space! When I received this in an Owlcrate box, I had no idea it was spacey, and I was pleasantly surprised when I started listening to it. 18-year-old Amani is taken from her family and forced into servitude by the ruling regime, trained to be a body double for the cruel princess that is despised by her people. This is a book filled with rebellion, unexpected relationships, subterfuge, and poetry. I enjoyed the story, even the romance aspects, and I’m excited to see where the sequel goes! 4 stars.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
This is a book that, while I know I enjoyed listening to it, I would be hard-pressed to tell you what happened. It is definitely a magical realism story, but that isn’t what tripped me up. All of the characters are named for different types of trees, and that made it difficult for me to keep track of who was doing what, when, and where with whom. It was almost dizzying at times. I’m sure if I had read it in print, I would have had an easier time. I predicted one of the big reveals pretty early on, so that was a bit of a detriment. I enjoyed the Irish setting and the Irish narrator, and I would be willing to give it another go in print. 3.5 stars.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
I have complicated feelings about this book. Reading Six of Crows made me realize how much I can enjoy a good heist novel, and I was really optimistic about Roshani tackling a heist of her own. I love French settings, so I was truly amped to see what happened. The first 50 pages or so had me absolutely hooked, but after that, I’m not sure what happened. I found myself seeing where I was supposed to feel a certain way about characters or events, but it just wasn’t resonating. I adored some of the side characters, but the people I was supposed to care most about didn’t really do it for me. I was primed for some angsty romance and it just didn’t connect. I’m hoping this is just a case of right book, wrong time, and I’m going to try it again at some point, especially since there will be more books in the series. I’m hoping my favorite character will be a POV character in the next book! 3.75 stars.
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
How was the a debut novel? This book was described to me in a review as Mulan meets Project Runway, but it is so much more! This is truly the time of Asian-Inspired fantasies, and I’m really enjoying it. We follow Maia, the youngest child and only daughter of an ailing tailor. She takes up the mantle of her war-veteran brother and goes to the palace of the Emperor under the guise of being a boy to attempt to become the new court tailor. What stars as a dramatic competition to be the best tailor in the land becomes a quest of legendary proportions, and there even some SWOONY BITS. I LOVE swoony bits. I devoured this book, and I even went so far as to get genuinely angry at myself when I had about 10% left but couldn’t keep my eyes open. The only bad part is that this book doesn’t come out until August, which means I have to wait until NEXT YEAR for the second installment. How dare. 5 stars.
That’s it guys! I started out this year with a bang, and I’m hoping to keep up the pace. I’m currently reading several books: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, City of Glass by Cassandra Clare, and I’ve even already finished up and audio book! I’ve got a few ARCs to get to (including one that is on Kate’s January wrap-up!) and a few buddy reads I’m hoping to start. Let me know down in the comments if you have read any of these books and if we agree about how good they are!