January Reading Wrap Up & February TBR

January Wrap-Up -- The Riverside Library

(from a person who has never managed to stick to a TBR…ever)

It’s the 6th of February, I’m not that late… am I? Here’s what I read, loved, hated, and didn’t really care for during the month of January, plus what I’m currently reading, and planning to read in February!

This January I read a total of seven books, and the month ended with me halfway through two. I didn’t read a lot of books that I loved this month, which is disappointing in itself, and I read quite a few that I’d heard rave reviews for but didn’t quite work for me. I’m still working on the zero expectations thing. It may take a while… or longer. But lets not take that long to get into the actual reading wrap up – enjoy!

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In order of completion, my reads this month were:

  1. The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami
  2. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
  3. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafrón
  4. Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia
  5. The Zanna Function – Daniel Wheatley
  6. Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde
  7. Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne

 

Books I Loved

Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters follows the life of a young girl whose web comic has become a worldwide sensation, but no one knows who she is. A social outcast, dealing with anxiety and depression, Eliza meets a new boy at school who doesn’t talk. Turns out, he’s a massive fan of her comic, who writes Fan Fiction about it, and he’s one of the best around. Dealing with both depression, anxiety and the strange world of fandom, Eliza and Her Monsters grabbed my heart from the very beginning, and kept tugging the whole way through. It was a delightful surprise, and the highlight of my reading month.

 

Books I Liked

Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde

Three friends. One giant Fan Convention. This homage to fandom was a fun, quick read, with alternating points of view that I actually enjoyed (I’m generally not a fan of alternating points of view). Although some parts read like fan fiction, I really enjoyed this fluffy story of teenage love, and fandom fun.

The Zanna Function – Daniel Wheatley

Coming March 2018. A middle-grade story following a young girl named Zanna as she is accepted into a prestigious scientific school where science becomes magic, but this new world is dangerous for Zanna, because someone is trying to stop her from attending. This was such a fun story that I adored and would recommend to any young girl especially those expressing an interest in STEM fields. Brilliantly showcases the magic of science (well, the science in this book is slightly more magical than that in real life…) while maintaining an interesting plot that had me turning pages as fast as I could.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

A luxury train. Snowy landscapes. One of the greatest literary detectives of all time. If this doesn’t tickle your fancy then you’re probably not big on crime fiction, if you are big on crime fiction and this still doesn’t tickle your fancy… well, that’s okay, each to their own, but I was hyped. Murder on the Orient Express is the 8th novel featuring Hercule Poirot, but my very first time reading anything by Christie, and I was pretty satisfied with what I got. Personally, I always crave a little more of a deep narration, and I felt this was quite distant, however I enjoyed the mystery and in a detective novel, that’s the main point. I would definitely read another Christie novel after this.

 

Books That Disappointed

Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne

Ah, my most anticipated read of the month. What a flop. This wasn’t for me at all. Rather than the acton packed, swashbuckling adventure I was hoping for, I found this book boring. So completely and utterly boring, I wanted to DNF it. I’ve honestly never found an adventure novel this boring before, and it broke my heart. I wanted to love it so much. It’s the book that inspired by 2018 reading goal, after all! And yet, I could barely finish it. Rather than show me a great adventure, I feel like this book just told me that things happened. I didn’t feel a part of it, I felt like I was reading an outdated logistical textbook regarding ways in which to travel the world in 80 days, and I was not there for it one bit.

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafrón

I’d heard some incredible things about this novel, so I was really excited to read it.  A young boy named Daniel is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and told to pick out the novel that calls to him, this turns out to be one called The Shadow of the Wind. I began the book without reading the blurb, so going from the first few chapters alone, I really thought the book was going to be about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, not about the author of the book in the novel that shares it’s title. Daniel becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of the author’s disappearance, and spends the entire novel doing so. The writing style is beautiful, however I felt that it made the plot move quite slowly and I began to lose interest only a short way in. I grew impatient with the pace of the story, which made me enjoy it less and less as the novel went on. I also found the story to be very predictable, so all in all, although beautifully written, The Shadow of the Wind didn’t live up to my expectations.

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The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami (Review)

A young boy ventures into a library to return a book, but ends up getting trapped in some mysterious room with very strange people who aren’t really people and it’s all just so weird, it’s been weeks since I finished it, and I’m still not sure how I feel so I don’t know what to say. The Strange Library is a very strange book indeed.


February

These blurbs are from Goodreads or the book’s listing on my library’s website.

Books I’m Currently Reading

Many Lives – Kukrit Pramoj

That night, the rain poured and wind howled, raindrops crashing like solid objects onto the ground and water. A passenger boat from Ban Phaen to Bangkok, packed with people, pressed on through the current amidst the rising clamor of the rain and storm…”JAKEE8526 The boat capsizes in the torrent, and washed up on the shore the next morning are the sodden bodies of the many passengers who lost their lives. Thus begins M. R. Kukrit Pramoj’s classic novel set in the Thailand of the early 1950s and first published in 1954. The life of each passenger who perished is retraced from birth, revealing a complex web of experiences and emotions.

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.
Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

Books I Hope to Read

The Summer Book – Tove Jansson

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.
Full of brusque humour and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Tove Jansson captured much of her own experience and spirit in the book, which was her favourite of the novels she wrote for adults. This new edition sees the return of a European literary gem – fresh, authentic and deeply humane.

The Crowns Game – Evelyn Skye

IMG_3461Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

The Crown of the Tearling – Erica Johanson

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.
On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.

Owls Do Cry – Janet Frame

Set in provincial, pre-1940s New Zealand, Owls Do Cry explores the Withers family, in particular Daphne Withers. When one of Daphne’s sisters dies, a crisis is provoked that leads Daphne to a mental asylum where she receives shock treatment. Her voice from “the Dead Room” haunts the novel with its poetic insights.

Your Life in My Hands: A Junior Doctor’s Story – Rachel Clarke

‘I am a junior doctor. It is 4 a.m. I have run arrest calls, treated life-threatening bleeding, held the hand of a young woman dying of cancer, scuttled down miles of dim corridors wanting to sob with sheer exhaustion, forgotten to eat, forgotten to drink, drawn on every fibre of strength that I possess to keep my patients safe from harm.’How does it feel to be spat out of medical school into a world of pain, loss and trauma that you feel wholly ill-equipped to handle?To be a medical novice who makes decisions which – if you get them wrong – might forever alter, or end, a person’s life?To toughen up the hard way, through repeated exposure to life-and-death situations, until you are finally a match for them?In this heartfelt, deeply personal account of life as a junior doctor in today’s health service, former television journalist turned doctor, Rachel Clarke, captures the extraordinary realities of ordinary life on the NHS front line. From the historic junior doctor strikes of 2016 to the ‘humanitarian crisis’ declared by the Red Cross, the overstretched health service is on the precipice, calling for junior doctors to draw on extraordinary reserves of what compelled them into medicine in the first place – and the value the NHS can least afford to lose – kindness.Your Life in My Hands is at once a powerful polemic on the systematic degradation of Britain’s most vital public institution, and a love letter of optimism and hope to that same health service and those who support it. This extraordinary memoir offers a glimpse into a life spent between the operating room and the bedside, the mortuary and the doctors’ mess, telling powerful truths about today’s NHS frontline, and capturing with tenderness and humanity the highs and lows of a new doctor’s first steps onto the wards in the context of a health service at breaking point – and what it means to be entrusted with carrying another’s life in your hands.

Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…


Non-Bookish Things I Loved

Watching: Victoria (ITV), Reign (The CW)

Listening: Reputation – Taylor Swift (no idea why I got really into her album this month, but I barely understand the inner workings of my mind on a good day).

 

What did you love in the month of January? 

-M.

 

Penny for your thoughts? (I'm kidding, I don't have pennies but I'd love your thoughts)

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