My first monthly reading wrap up of 2018 and I am glad to say I’m very pleased with the outcome.
I read a total of seven books in January and I enjoyed all of them. None of the books got lower than three stars. I also did three reviews, which I am deeply happy about. That was one of my goals for 2018, particularly ones other people might not have heard much about.
January was a successful reading month. 2018 will hopefully be a good year of books.
In January, I read:
Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
I started reading Hunting Prince Dracula on New Year’s Eve, right after watching the ball drop and still buzzed on champagne. Beginning this book only kept me up longer.
Hunting Prince Dracula is the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper. After the events of the first novel, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her companion Thomas Cresswell travel to Romania to attend an elite forensic science school inside an ancient castle that previously belonged to Vlad the Impaler. Upon their arrival, they learn a serial killer draining victims’ blood and stabbing them in the heart with stakes has terrorized the village surrounding the school.
My summary does not do it justice. I can’t give too much away because it is a sequel. But I loved Hunting Prince Dracula as much as I did Stalking Jack the Ripper, if not more so. Audrey Rose is smart and independent, relying on herself to solve the case and earn her spot in an all-male profession as well as get through the other personal problems she is dealing with in this novel. She shoots down anyone that tries to demean her because of her sex, including Thomas, who has his moments. There are other kick-ass female characters introduced in Hunting Prince Dracula that I adore.
The writing was sometimes slow, but the world was atmospheric, making me really want to visit Romania. The romance made me swoon; I love Audrey Rose and Thomas together as well as separately. They learn from each other (admittedly, she teaches him more than the other way around, but that’s fine). Watching their relationship grow was as much of a highlight to Hunting Prince Dracula as well as the complex, fascinating mystery plot.
Elodie is the eldest daughter of a plant hunter who spends most of the year away from the family finding plants in China. When her father comes home from one particular mission a drastically changed man and the family is in danger of poverty, she takes it upon herself to go to China to collect the rare orchid to provide for her mother and sisters. But once she gets a taste of adventure, Elodie realizes she is more her father’s daughter than she imagined.
I enjoyed The Forbidden Orchid, though I had some problems with it. It took too long, in my opinion, for Elodie to get to China. There is a romance in the novel that, while the love interest was not introduced until the middle of the book, Elodie gets into a situation with him that I was slightly uncomfortable with but admitted it was realistic for the 1860s.
On the flip side, Elodie was a relatable and likeable main character. I understood her struggle between being responsible for her family and wanting to pursue her dreams. I also liked her love interest, the discussions on religion versus science in English Victorian society, and the eloquent writing style. For more details, check out my review of The Forbidden Orchid.
The only fantasy book I read this month, The Book Jumper follows Amy Lennox, who returns to her mother’s homeland in Scotland. They stay with Amy’s grandmother, whose only condition to let them stay is that Amy must read. However, not read in the usual way: Amy comes from a long line of book jumpers, people who can travel inside books and who dedicate their lives to protecting the world of literature.
Shortly after Amy arrives, someone starts stealing things from books. Along with her new friend and fellow book jumper, Will, she searches for the thief before he goes after anyone in the real world.
I can speak for myself and other readers that book jumping is the kind of power we all want. I would rather be a book jumper than a High Fae or a Shadowhunter…just saying…. Aside from that, the author’s writing style was very whimsical. She created a dark Scottish atmosphere was that a character itself in the story. It was primarily plot-driven, which was fine, although I’m not sure there was as much depth to the characters as I would like. But my absolute favorite part of The Book Jumper was the ending. It was beautifully bittersweet, not the kind you see a lot of in young adult novels.
For more of my thoughts, go check out my review.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon is a teenaged boy who is in the closet. For months, he has been exchanging emails with a mysterious boy named Blue, another closeted gay student at his school. Then, the class clown discovers the emails and basically blackmails Simon to help him get close to Simon’s pretty new friend Abby. As you can imagine, shenanigans ensue as Simon tries to navigate his feelings for confusing, secretive Blue and find a way to come out without complicating his life further.
Three words to describe Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda are fluffy, lighthearted, and CUTE! Simon was a realistic teenager and a good kid. He was struggling to find his sexual and social identity. He has a close-knit family, which is often left out in young adult books. He also has a good group of friends, though they have their ups and downs, too. But everyone works it out in a healthy way.
I loved the cute, flirty though sometimes cheesy, banter between Blue and Simon. Watching their relationship grow was sweet. The whole book was an easy, fun read, the kind I needed. Plus, there were some great quotes, such as “why can’t straight kids come out?”
That is a very good question.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza and Her Monsters is likely one of the most acclaimed books on BookTube and it did not disappoint me. In case you were unaware, socially anxious Eliza is quiet and friendless at school. But online she is Lady Constellation, the mysterious mastermind behind the popular web comic Monstrous Sea. For the longest time, she thought she was happy living her life online. But when she meets Wallace, the new guy at her school who turns out to be the most popular fan fiction writer for her web comic, Eliza thinks maybe a life offline might not be such a bad thing.
Eliza and Her Monsters is described as a “love letter to fandom” and “better than Fangirl.” I absolutely agree with both statements. If you were ever the teenager that preferred fictional worlds to the real one and/or struggled with social anxiety, you will find something of yourself in Eliza. I know I saw a lot of myself in her, which struck a deep cord. While I was never diagnosed with anxiety, I was shy in social situations, much like Eliza. I also found solace in fictional worlds, determined to escape the loneliness I felt by reading and losing myself in fandoms.
I could go on and on about Eliza and Her Monsters. I loved the snippets we got about Monstrous Sea and Eliza’s love for her comic as well as her devotion to her readers. The romance between Eliza and Wallace was cute and sweet. Despite its size, the book was easy to get through. I enjoyed my whole experience reading Eliza and Her Monsters.
Between Shades of Gray covers an unknown part of World War II history, which is the deportations of people to work camps in Siberia as Russia invaded Lithuania. Lina and her family are among those deported, her father to a prison camp, while she, her mother, and her brother to a brutal work camp in Siberia. Lina attempts to communicate with her father, letting him know their family is still alive, through artwork. She finds her strength in her art, as well as those she cares for in the work camp.
Between Shades of Gray is the first book I can say I read in 24 hours. The writing was engrossing. Ruta Sepetys did not shy away from how horrible the conditions were for the deportees, starting with their three-month journey in the cattle cars to their final destination to the Artic Circle. In their struggle to survive, humans prove to be complicated. Some are viewed as selfish; Lina does several things that get her called as such. But at the core, their motives are purely instinctual.
For more of my thoughts on Between Shades of Gray, check out my review.
History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
January was the month of cute gay romance reads. But while Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda warms the heart, History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera is more like a punch in the gut.
Griffin always believed he would get back together with his first love Theo. But when Theo dies tragically in a drowning accident, the future suddenly looks bleak. Ironically, the only person Griffin feels he can turn to is his rival, Theo’s current boyfriend Jackson. In the aftermath of Theo’s death, Griffin reflects on their relationship, and comes to terms with his grief as well as his self-destructive secrets and his OCD.
I cannot speak to the representation of OCD in this novel, but it made me sympathize with Griffin. If I had to go through what he did on a daily basis, I’d go nuts. The romance between Griffin and Theo was super cute, as well as realistic. They both were changing and growing up, but neither wanted to admit it nor give up on their relationship. As a main character, Griffin was flawed, but he learned along the way. He learned that people changed and are not always who we want them to be. I also enjoyed the writing style; it flowed between past and present well.
On the flip side, the pacing of the book was too slow. It was short, less than 300 pages, but the ending seemed to drag on. There were some other problems I had, but they are spoilers. Overall, I enjoyed History is All You Left Me.