January Reading Wrap-Up

Yes, I’m very, very late with this wrap-up, but I couldn’t let myself skip a month after keeping up with this blog for so long. (I blame my super busy and studying-filled February, when I was preparing for an exam and doing an absurd amount of continuing education.) Let’s do this!


Total books read: 10

2023 releases: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

The Employees by Olga RavnPeople Person by Candice Carty-WilliamsThe Return by Rachel HarrisonThe Veil by Rachel HarrisonBad Dolls by Rachel HarrisonTwo Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe LieseAstrid Parker Doesn't Fail (Bright Falls, #2)Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell“You Just Need to Lose Weight” by Aubrey GordonThe Cloisters by Katy Hays

Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (5 stars) – My first 5-star read of 2023 was a twisty, smart political/military science fiction book with an opposites-attract romance at its heart. It also featured one of my new favorite characters, a prickly, manipulative mind reader who has run away from his upper-class world and family and become mixed up in a criminal underworld. When his aunt, a powerful politician, thinks he’s gotten completely out of hand, she enlists him in the military with orders to bind himself to a stubborn, steadfastly moral, by-the-books officer with mind control powers. The two clash at first but quickly form a deep connection that guides them through conflicts, coups, and battles. I loved that this book was action-packed but never lost its heart, humor, or strong writing style. If you love an acerbic, hilarious, “unlikable” main character, you’re going to love Ocean’s Echo.

The Return by Rachel Harrison (4 stars) – I just love Rachel Harrison. Cackle was a great surprise favorite for me in 2022, and I resolved to reach for more of her backlist this year. I listened to this female friendship-centric horror novel on audio and was never bored for a second; it’s weird and provides great commentary on the nature of communication within friend groups. I want to read everything this author writes.

The Employees by Olga Ravn (4 stars) – A very short, very weird science fiction book that was vague, poetic, haunting, and uniquely structured. Would recommend for fans of weird scifi.

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams (4 stars) – Candice Carty-Williams’s debut book Queenie was a huge hit on bookstagram back in 2019, but I unfortunately haven’t seen nearly as much love for her sophomore release, People Person. I say “unfortunately” because I thought it was great; it’s very much a character-driven book focused on sibling relstionships. Our book opens with five teenage half-siblings with four different mothers meeting each other for the first time, simply because their unreliable father has decided it’s time. We then flash forward to meet the siblings again as adults, and see them come together again for a traumatic event. Their interactions and bonds drive the book and kept me wishing it was longer. I’ll continue to pick up anything that Carty-Williams comes out with, and I highly recommend this one (and Queenie, if you haven’t read it yet!).

Bad Dolls: Stories by Rachel Harrison (4 stars) – I kept picking up more and more Rachel Harrison in January because, again, I love her. I actually had no idea this contemporary horror short story collection existed until I was searching for audiobooks from this author, and that’s a shame, because it’s excellent. These stories are weird, creative, and creepy; this would be a great October read and it’s also an excellent audio listen.

Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese (4 stars) – I love a well-done Shakespeare retelling, and Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese really hit the spot for me. (Past favorite books involving Shakespeare retellings include All’s Well by Mona Awad and Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood.) In this contemporary romance, Liese takes on Much Ado About Nothing while also very much making the story her own; as with many of Liese’s books, our heroine is autistic, and her love interest has anxiety. She sets the stage also for future contemporary retellings with the protagonist’s two sisters (likely The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo & Juliet, based on their names), which I’m really looking forward to. I found this book at times very funny and the right amount of quirky. I will say that the only negative pattern I’ve noticed with Chloe Liese (which is very subjective!) is that the last quarter or so of the three books of hers I’ve read have all been a bit too sweet for me.

The Veil by Rachel Harrison (4 stars) (short story) -While I was on my Rachel Harrison reading kick this month, I discovered The Veil, her Audible exclusive short story that actually has terrible ratings but that I very much enjoyed. She always manages to subvert expectations and deliver on her endings, and I appreciate that very much.

Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake (3.5 stars) – Astrid’s story didn’t work for me quite as well as Delilah Green Doesn’t Care, and I also wasn’t as thrilled with the premise, which deals with interior design and home renovation. That being said, I did like the love interest, Jordan, quite a bit, and will continue to read in this contemporary romance trilogy.

You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon (3 stars) – I loved Gordon’s previous book, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat, but I found her sophomore effort to be less strong, It has a strange combination of being didactic while continuously undermining its own information by referring the reader almost constantly to other sources. There’s definitely some good information in here, most of which has also been addressed on Gordon’s podcast Maintenance Phase, which is excellent. I’d refer readers to her first book and podcast rather than to this one.

The Cloisters by Katy Hays (2 stars) – If a book is accumulating a lot of bad or mediocre reviews, it’s not always a deterrent for me picking it up. Books are often very subjective, and I frequently find myself with unpopular bookish opinions. The Cloisters, unfortunately, was a case where I should have trusted the reviews. Nothing really happens for the vast majority of this book, but its lack of plot is not offset by strong writing or interesting characters. On the contrary, everyone in this book is very flat, particularly our personality-lacking main character. Given its subject matter, I’d expect a lot more intrigue, but it simply never appears.

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