Hi guys, welcome back. In today’s video
I’m going to be talking about all the books that I read in the first half of
January 2020. Okay so this is gonna be a longer than
usual mid month wrap-up. I have done a lot of reading in January. Last year
January was also one of my biggest reading months of the year, and so far
this is shaping up to be the same. However, while I am reading a lot of
books, I am not reading all that many amazing books. I have more lower rated
books than usual this month so it’s gonna be an interesting one. In the first
half of January I read 15 books, um which, I know, it’s a lot. That’s about a book a
day. Yes that’s a lot of reading and it is really interesting because January of
2019 I think I read 33 books and it was my biggest reading month of the year, so
it’s looking like this month might be similar. If you’re new to my mid month
wrap ups, in this video I talked about the books that I’ve read in the first
half of the year in chronological order. At the end of the month I’ll do my wrap-up with all my stats and talk about books in order of rating, but
for this video I’m just talking about them in the order that I read them. So
first up we had kind of a bummer. Starting off 2020 I read a novella and
it was not something I was a huge fan of unfortunately. This is The Monster of
Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht. So I thought I would really enjoy this. The
cover is beautiful, I like a lot of tor.com novellas, this really just didn’t
work for me. even though on paper I feel like maybe it should have. It’s kind of
an odd mashup of fantasy, horror, and a romance, but like a toxic sort of BDSM
romance. I don’t know, it was weird. It was weird and I can see why maybe some
people would enjoy this, but I just really didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t care for
the characters, I didn’t like the way that it all came together, and sometimes
this sort of like weirdness will work for me. This I know was often pitched
alongside Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, which I did love. But while that
worked for me, this really didn’t. I ended up giving this one one and a half stars.
So far the lowest rated thing this year, uh which was kind of a bummer, but I like
actively didn’t like it. It does have queer representation. The
main romance in it is between two men, one of whom is a monster, and they sort
of bond over their love of violence and murder. It sounds like it should be fun
and clearly other people do like it. I was sadly not one of them, so oh well.
Happily the second book that I finished this year was much more of a hit, and in
fact I have an entire reading vlog dedicated to it. This is House of Earth
and Blood, Crescent City by Sarah J Maas. This is coming out March 3rd. It’s one of
the highly anticipated releases of the year and I was a big fan. It’s not
perfect but I really enjoyed my time with it. It’s a tome, it’s like 800 pages
long. I ended up giving this one four and a half stars. It is definitely an urban
fantasy much more than anything else we’ve gotten from her in the past. I have
a detailed review of this on Goodreads, my Goodreads is always linked down below,
and I will also link that reading vlog of this up above if you want to hear
more of my thoughts on this. But in general I was a fan. I did really like
this, so four and a half stars. And if you’re wondering why four and a half and
not five ,mostly just that it’s too long. Like this easily could have been a
hundred and fifty to two hundred pages shorter than it is. It’s 800 pages, it
really didn’t need to be that long, but I still really enjoyed it and have mostly
very positive things to say about it. Then I decided to pick up my very first
Elizabeth Hoyt historical romance novel. This is Not the Dukes Darling and this
was not a success. It’s another one like on paper sounded like it should be
really good, but in practice the elements just didn’t come together. I didn’t
really care that much about the characters, I didn’t feel like they had
that much chemistry. The the premise is an interesting one. It’s a historical
romance following a woman who’s part of this secret organization of powerful
women, and she’s kind of this like fiery redhead and she ends up falling for this
Duke who she thinks she hates because of something that happened in the past.
Yeah I didn’t love it. If there is a better version of a book by her that I
should try, cuz this is the only book of hers that I’ve read, let me know and
maybe I would give her another try, but this I was really not a
fan of. I ended up getting this one two and a half stars. The next book I
read is one that I’ve seen on a lot of people’s most anticipated list for the
year. This is Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim. This is my first outing with Tara
Sim and I thought the premise of this was an interesting one. It’s a gender
flipped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo.
For some reason, because of probably the title I guess, I had thought that this
was a sci-fi novel and it’s definitely not. I’m still not sure why they called
it Scavenge the Stars, cause this is solidly fantasy. That said there was a lot that I
did like about this, although it definitely wasn’t perfect either. I think
it’s an interesting take, it’s got a brown girl in the place of Count of
Monte Cristo dealing with revenge and anger, and I like the fact that it’s got
these sort of morally grey characters and interesting women. All of those I
thought were done really well. And I think my main quibble with this was the
structure of the book. I’m not sure it worked very well for what it was trying
to achieve. This is told in multiple perspectives and at the beginning in two
different timelines, and I think it was supposed to be mysterious, but in
practice I think it just ended up being more confusing than anything else. So I
didn’t really love that so much. So I had mixed feelings on this one. I ended up
landing on three stars, it was kind of in between three and three and a half
stars. It’s not bad, there’s a lot to like here, but it definitely wasn’t an
all-time favorite and I wish that maybe there had been some different structural
choices made here. Then I finally got around to reading a book that has been
on my radar for a while. This came out last year. It is Lady Smoke by Laura
Sebastian. This is the sequel to Ash Princess and I think the third book
just came out, so I’m interested in picking that one up. This one I liked. I
didn’t like it quite as much as I liked Ash Princess. Ash Princess I think I gave
four stars I ended up giving this one three and a half stars. It falls a little
bit into middle book syndrome where I don’t think that this necessarily stands
on its own as a complete story, but I do think she’s doing some really
interesting things here. There is a lot of intrigue, there’s a lot of good
character development, and trying to explore some interesting ideas
involving religion and gender and the ways that female virginity is sometimes
prized in a sort of misogynistic way. Definitely ended at a place where I’m
interested in seeing what happens next in book three, so while I gave this one
three-and-a-half stars and I didn’t think it was quite as strong as Ash
Princess, I’m still glad that I read it. I mostly enjoyed my time with it and I am
looking forward to picking up the finale. Then I read a book that surprisingly has
been my favorite book that I’ve read this month. So much so that I decided to
go out and buy a finished copy of it for myself, even though I sort of hate the
cover. This is Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh.
This is book 3 in the Psy- changeling series. Definitely my favorite
of the bunch so far. I really really enjoyed this. I think that the world that
she’s creating here is so fascinating, there’s really interesting political
intrigue and power dynamics between the Psy who are these sort of like psychic
people with these powerful abilities, and the changelings. There’s a lot of
interesting world building elements that are slowly coming together, and in this
book I also really really loved the couple. In the first two books we had a
Psy woman and a changeling man and in this book that is reversed. I really
liked the relationship between Brenna and Judd. Brenna is this wolf shifter
who has experienced trauma in her past, and Judd is a Psy male who’s got stuff in
his past, and they sort of slowly come together this is a very slow burn
romance, which I love. I am always a fan of a good slow burn and I just really
enjoyed it. I liked the way that it built the world,
I loved the relationship between the two of them, I loved Judd as a hero.
He’s definitely less alpha-male than the other two guys, and that was probably
part of it because you know, like alphas are not my favorite types of heroes, so I
really enjoyed this for that. But the thing that really elevated this book for
me and turned it into a favorite is the way that it handles romantic and sexual
relationships after trauma. I just thought that was handled so well and so
thoughtfully, and like I said, this is a very very slow burn relationship. But
when eventually their relationship does become physical, there’s just this really
thoughtful approach to the hero considering specific things that might
be triggering for her, and being aware of that and integrating that patiently
into the way that they’re interacting physically. And I just thought that that
was so beautiful and so well done, and I haven’t really seen that before in
romance, and I think that that was fantastic. So I will say that could be I
guess which content or trigger warning for some people, if that’s gonna be
bothersome to you, because she did experience different forms of assault
and trauma and is dealing with PTSD from that, but I just loved the way that that
was handled in the context of this relationship. So this book is six stars
for me. This is the first and only book so far in 2020 that I’ve given six
stars, and if you’re unfamiliar, six stars in my personal rating scale, is a
favorite of the year or a favorite of all time, and this is definitely a new
favor for me. I do wish they would do some new covers. Like this is a very
dated cover, but a very very fantastic book. The next book that I read is
another Tor.com novella. I had an arc of this which I have since passed along to
a friend of mine, so I’ll put a picture of it right here. This is Upright Women
Wanted by Sarah Gailey. This was my first time reading Sarah Gailey and I really
enjoyed this. I was really excited about it when I heard the premise. This is
basically set in a post-apocalyptic American Wild West with queer librarians
on horseback and it’s great. It’s a whole lot of fun, if you like kind of that
western vibe with kind of a post-apocalyptic piece to it. Tt’s really
interesting, I liked the characters. If you’re looking for good queer
representation, there is plenty of that here. The main character whose
perspective this is through is a lesbian and she is on the run after the death of
her former best friend and lover, because non-hetero relationships are illegal and
against the law, and so she’s on the run trying to join up with librarians, hoping
that they’ll help form her into a better sort of moral path, and is surprised to
find out that the librarians that she meets up with are themselves queer. And
so we have a female/female long-term relationship that is depicted here, we
have some other side characters in queer relationships, and there is a love
interest in the story who is gender non-binary. And Sarah Gailey if you don’t
know is also non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, as does this
character in the novella. So I just really enjoyed that. I think it’s a lot
of fun. It wasn’t a perfect book for me, and I think part of that has to do with
the length. I really wanted more from it, but I think it kind of gives you as much
of a story as you can get in the amount of time that you have set in the world,
but it’s an interesting world that I’d like to see expanded and would be
interested in seeing more from. And so I ended up giving this one four stars.
Then I listened to another historical romance on audio. This has definitely been
the month of romance and fantasy. I feel like almost everything I have read so
far has either been romance or fantasy. So expect to see more of that, and this
is one that somebody recommended to me and I can’t now remember who it was, but
I am really glad that they did because I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is My
fake Rake by Eva Leigh. This came out last year and is a really fun historical
romance. I think people who want their historicals to be super historically
accurate are probably not going to enjoy this as much, but if you can appreciate a
lighter tone I think this is well worth picking up. This is kind of a slow burn,
nerdy, friends to lovers romance, with a fake dating trope, or fake courtship I
guess in this case, trope. And I just really enjoyed it. It was super fun. I
love nerdy heroes and heroines. I think that’s always really enjoyable, and
partway through reading this, one thing that I found out is it’s the first in a
series that is being inspired by 80s teen movies. Which I just think is so
interesting and kind of brilliant. This book in particular reminds me a lot of
Pretty in Pink, but set in Regency London. But with the ending that always
should have been, at least in my opinion. Those of you 80s
movies fans might know what I’m talking about. So I just really enjoyed this. I
thought it was a whole lot of fun. I would recommend it if that sounds like
fun to you. I ended up giving this one four and a half stars. Then I finished
another romance book and this is The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr.
I really enjoyed it. It’s kind of a cross between romance and women’s fiction I
would say, set in a small town. It follows a woman in her 30s who suddenly becomes
the guardian of a five-year-old boy when her best friend
passes away. While grieving, they go on vacation and stay in a guesthouse owned
by this guy who’s this kind of introverted photographer who lives on
the property with his dog, and while there they kind of get to know each
other and form this relationship. And it’s this really sweet romance
between a little bit of an older couple. The woman’s in her mid-30s the guy is
around 40, and this really sweet five year old kid who also has a disability.
Then there ends up being kind of a suspense, family drama element to this
later on. One thing that I will say in terms of trigger warnings is if you are
bothered by discussions of child abduction and child abuse maybe be aware
that that some of that is in here going in. Obviously, like it’s a romance, things
end well, but like some heavier topics are touched on here. And you do see
characters from earlier books in the Sullivans Crossing series, so I really
enjoyed this. This is one that was sent to me by Little Bird Publicity to review
and I ended up giving this one four stars.
Next I ended up reading a book that has been on my TBR for a while. It’s funny,
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about this and I never was that excited by the
cover, which is why I hadn’t picked it up, but I finally did. Which is funny because
I know some people really love this cover. This is An Unkindness of Magicians
by Kat Howard. I really really loved this. I thought it was so enjoyable. I don’t
know why, but like the cover doesn’t particularly appeal to me and I don’t
know that it necessarily gave me a good idea of what I was in for. Also for some
reason I thought that this was YA. It’s definitely not. This is adult urban
fantasy, and it’s so good! I think it’s really smart, it works as a standalone,
which i think is hard to do, and there’s a lot of world-building and a lot of
character development packed into like this relatively short book. I also
thought that thematically it was doing some really interesting things, which I
get into a little bit more in my Goodreads review. Which again, Goodreads
is always linked below if you want to check that out, but yeah, I had a good
time with this. I thought it was smart, I thought it was well paced. I would love
to see another book set in this world. I don’t know that it needs a direct sequel,
but I think the world is really interesting. It’s set in this alternate
version of New York City where these mage families are battling for political
control of the magical world, and so there’s mage battles, there’s political
intrigue, there’s sort of like a murder mystery-ish subplot, there’s lots of
different players with their own priorities and things that they want to
happen, and dark secrets that are uncovered. I really really enjoyed it I
ended up giving this one 5 stars. Then I read another historical romance. What did
I tell you? Romance and fantasy is like the word of the month apparently! This is
The Highlander Takes a Bride by Lindsay Sands. This was my first outing
with Lindsay Sands and I really enjoyed it. I can see why this would not work for
everybody, but I thought it was a lot of fun. This was a gift to me from my friend
Mara at Books like Whoa and I wanted to read this note, because I think she sums
up what this is pretty perfectly. She says “enjoy some dumb hot people
frolicking in the medieval Scottish Lochs and thwarting a serial murderer.” And like
I think that’s like that is totally what this is. It’s a bunch of attractive and
nice, but not very bright people trying to solve a murder mystery and getting
it on in the Scottish Highlands, and there’s lots of kilts and like very, very
silly silly things, but in in a good way. It’s definitely not taking itself too
seriously and there’s a lot of stuff where it’s like, man you guys are not too
bright! But they’re nice people and yeah, this
was fun. I think this was the success. I would probably read more from Lindsay
Sands if I’m in the right mood for it. But yeah, do be aware though there’s
a whole lot of sexual frolicking happening, but it was a good time. I ended
up giving this one four stars. Next up we have probably the most disappointing
book that I read this month um, although I knew, I knew going in that that I might
not love it as much as I wanted to. This is Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff, book 3
in the Nevernight series. oh man, yeah, like I was very frustrated and irritated with this book, and I don’t know how much
of it I can really talk about here, just because most of my frustrations are very
spoilery, but in general I’ll just say that this book isn’t bad, but it could
have been SO much better. So much better. And I as I was writing my review on
Goodreads I was getting more and more annoyed. I started out thinking I would
give it three stars and I ended up giving it two and a half stars because I was
just so annoyed by the end of it. I feel like there are choices that were made in
here that did not, to me, feel consistent with characters from the past. Stuff that
felt to me more like pandering to a certain subset of fans of the book, more
than making choices that felt real to what the character would actually do. And
that bothered me. I also think that the the tone of the ending of this book was
not what I was looking for or hoping for. So I think what I… yeah you know I can’t, I
can’t say too much else without getting spoilery. But if you want to hear my
spoilery thoughts, if you’ve read it as well, I do have a spoiler section in my
Goodreads review. So if you want to hear more on why I was not really a fan of
this, check it out there. Um yeah it was just disappointing, and I ended up giving
this one two and a half stars. It’s not a bad book but yeah, it could have been
better. However I did still continue to enjoy the snarky banter of it, and all of
the footnotes. I enjoy that. I know some people also were kind of annoyed at the
like meta thing that gets introduced here, with the books that have been
written and who wrote them and how that all works. I wasn’t particularly bothered
by that, but I can see why some people would be irritated by that as well. Anyway it’s done. This was the end. I didn’t love the ending, but here we are.
Um Nevernight was five stars, Godsgrave was four and a half stars, and this was
two and a half stars. So let’s hope Empire of the Vampire is less
disappointing. I’m excited for that one, hopefully. Then
I read an e-ARC from Netgalley of a book that I absolutely loved. I think this is
so good and I really hope people go and pick it up. It’s one of those titles that
I think might kind of fly under the radar, but definitely recommended
especially if it falls in your wheelhouse at all. This is a YA
contemporary called Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith. I loved this. I
thought this was so well done, so fun, and so smart, and dealing with such important
issues. This is a book that’s addressing misogyny and racism in the gaming world
including things like doxxing, cyberbullying. It’s so so good and it
also has this beautiful sort of friendship and sweet developing romance,
and it’s kind of about standing up for what’s right no matter the cost. And I
just loved it. I thought this was so well executed. The two main characters are
both brown kids, which is cool. The girl’s family is originally from India I think
and the boy is half Palestinian half Honduran and this is own voices for the
Latinx representation. It follows a girl who is a well-known figure for her
online gaming streams, think like Twitch type thing, and she uses the money that
she gets from sponsorships and stuff to help support her family. She has a single
mother who’s trying to finish a degree and so her sponsorship money is helping
just pay rent, and pay for groceries, and they’re kind of struggling to get by. The
other character is a boy who loves video games and dreams of being an RPG video
game writer, but his parents are trying to push him into medicine. He’s got
immigrant parents who are concerned about his welfare and his future, and he’s
kind of dealing with that and then also dealing with some issues of maybe being
used in negative ways by people who he thinks are his friends. So they
develop this online relationship, while the girl suddenly gets threats of doxxing
and faces pretty serious misogynistic harassment from this group, and it’s
pretty intense, but I think the story is just so well told and does a really
great job of getting into these really important issues in a powerful way, while
also telling a good character-driven YA story. So I would definitely recommend
it. If you can’t tell, I did give this one 5 stars. I was for sure a fan. Okay I have
two books left to talk about today. The first one is a book that was sent to
me by the author for review. It’s a traditionally published debut. I think
this author has had some success as an indie author and is now getting his
first traditionally published book. This is The Bards Blade by Brian D Anderson.
It is sort of a cozy epic fantasy I would say. This feels very much in the
tradition of fantasy novels that I kind of grew up on, with like a slower pace,
and interesting characters. And I um, it’s funny, after reading this, I actually put
off writing my review for a couple of days, which I normally don’t do, because I
felt so conflicted about this book. There’s a lot that I really really love
about this, and I hope people will pick this up, and I really look forward to
seeing what we get from this author in the future. However I do have some
critiques of it as well, so we’re gonna talk a little bit about this. Like I said
The Bards Blade is a little bit of a slower pace, I guess kind of more
character-driven fantasy, that follows two characters who are sort of unlikely
heroes from a small town entering into the big bad world with some kind of a
quest that will affect the rest of the world. Tt’s that kind of a thing. So um
you know, this is following a more traditional format, which I don’t mind. I
enjoyed it. This definitely had kind of a cozy feel to me. It was like the perfect
book to pick up for a cold winter day. It follows a young woman named Mariyah who is
the daughter of a winemaker, and a young man named Lem who is a very talented
bard, and the two of them are in love, and they live in the small town on the other
side of a magical barrier that is supposed to protect them from evil and
from magic. Until one day, a stranger appears in town and Lem feels like he
has to cross the barrier to seek out his destiny and find answers to questions,
and maybe do something to save the world, and assumes that Mariyah won’t follow him.
But then of course she does, and so they’re separated and begin on their own
paths in this larger, different world filled with con men and women, religious
fanatics, assassins, politics…there’s like a lot of stuff going on here and I think
it’s really interesting. And so we follow them on their journey as they face some
big moral choices and difficult circumstances that will force them to
decide how much of themselves they’re gonna give up. Um all of which is really
great. However my big issue here is that the last hundred pages or so of this
book feel very underdeveloped to me. um I wish that maybe, and maybe the finished
product will be better, this is an advance copy, so it’s possible there
could be some changes, but for me the last portion of this book felt really
underdeveloped. We see a lot of choices that these characters are making, the
things that they’re doing, but what we don’t get is very much emphasis on what
that then means for them, what that means for their worldview, for who they are as
people, for how they interact with other characters around them. We don’t really
get much of that and I felt like that was really lacking. There’s also a lot of
things that are introduced or that happen that are not very well explained,
and I feel like we needed a little bit more substance there. And then it ends in
kind of a weird place. I’m not sure I loved where this book
ended. It is the first book in a series and I will read on. I am interested in
reading on in it, but yeah it was kind of one of these things where was like a
really strong start, and then the last part of it I was like, okay like this
wasn’t quite ready, but I’m interested to see where it goes in the next book. So as
I said, I was kind of conflicted on this. I ended up landing on three and a half
stars for this book, but it is one that I do think fantasy lovers should check out,
and I’m excited to see more from this author in the future. I think he’s got a
lot of potential. And the final book that I read in the first half of January is
the one that I just finished this morning. This is Headliners by Lucy
Parker. This is the latest book in her series that follows people in the West
End of London, and I really enjoyed this. It was a really good time. It was funny
and fun, it’s kind of a hate to love workplace romance between two rival TV
personalities who are forced to work together on a show, but they have some
baggage from the past and reasons for animosity, but slowly,
obviously a relationship develops. And meanwhile, they’re also trying to uncover
who is sabotaging their new show with all of these mishaps and things that
happen. This would make a fantastic movie. I hope Netflix or somebody picks it up.
It would make such a fun rom-com and it is set around Christmas, so it would be a
really great like holiday film. I would love to see it picked up for that. It
would be a really good time. Not an all-time favorite romance for me, but
something I did really enjoy and I will continue to read from Lucy Parke.r I
think she just writes really good fun light contemporaries that are not too
angsty and have interesting elements to them. I ended up giving this one four
stars. So there you have it. Those are the 15
books that I read in the first half of January. It’s been an interesting reading
month so far and I’m feeling good about how much I’m reading, even if it’s a
little bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality. Talk to me in the comments down
below, let me know any of your thoughts or feelings on any of the books that I
talked about. And for your question of the day, tell me how your reading is
going so far this year? Have you read a lot? Have you not read much? Have they
been good? Have they been bad? Let me know, cuz I feel like I’ve read some
not-so-great things, but I’ve been reading a lot in terms of quantity. If
you guys liked this video give it a thumbs up, subscribe if you want to see
more, thank you so much for watching and I will see you next time.