January Reading Wrap-up

I’m SO proud of my reading this month. Not only did I read a ton, but I cleared out all of my borrowed books for the first time since…September? I have no overdue library books. I am ready to return every book my friends or family lent as soon as I see them. I feel so much less overwhelmed, even with so many more books on my TBR, just to have worked through my backlog of borrowed books. Now if I can keep my library hauls to a reasonable level, I can make some real progress on my bookshelf. I have no idea how I would possibly be able to keep up with reading this amount, but it’s been a great start to the year and I hope that even if I won’t be reading quite this many books each month, at least I should be able to avoid falling behind.

  1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. 3 out of 5 stars. I had high hopes for this magical realism book, and while it wasn’t a bad story, per se, it didn’t impress me, either. It fell a little flat of the exciting read I had in mind for my first book of 2017, but it was definitely magical, in the technical sense. It’s definitely the right book for someone, just not for me. Well, onward and upward, right?
  2. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. 5 out of 5 stars. I didn’t like Shakespeare’s The Tempest when I had to read it for school, but I think that had more to do with the fact that although the class was assigned to read the play in two days, we then picked over it for a month afterward. I knew I loved Atwood’s writing, though, so I had to give this book a chance, and I was so glad that I did. This book is more what I had had in mind for an exciting start to the new reading year, so I was glad to have it at least in the second slot. I’m even considering rereading The Tempest now that I’ve seen it portrayed in such a positive light.
  3. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. 5 out of 5 stars. I’m sad that I don’t have any further books in this series to look forward to, but the Raven Cycle was so much fun every step of the way. I absolutely could not stop with this one, and beyond the great characters and narration, there’s just something so satisfyingly pleasant about finishing a series; although I wanted to wrap this one up in December, it put me in a great mood in early January and motivated me to keep going and find the next great thing. I will miss this world, but seeing how it all turned out for the raven boys has been immensely rewarding.
  4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. 5 out of 5 stars. YA romance is not my thing, but this book was a wonderful read. I found the characters so unique and their situations so important that even though I expected Eleanor and Park to fall in love, I was entirely hooked on finding out why and how and what would happen. This book has definitely sparked my interest in picking up another Rowell book in the future, and in fact I have found and added Landline to my February TBR.
  5. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. 4 out of 5 stars. My mom recommended this short novel to me from her high school English days, and it seemed like a great start to my year of classics. Other than a wintery landscape that the cover gave away, and the fact that this author was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (although not for this piece), I knew nothing about the story going in. This book takes place around the turn of the 20th century, which is a time period I enjoy reading about, and is full of romance, tragedy, and a struggle for money. We’re introduced to the end of the story first, so we start with the main character’s poverty and tragedy, and then are thrust into the romance that caused the worst of his problems. I find a good tragic romance very appealing, and I liked this one enough to read the whole book in one sitting. I found the use of the narrator to discover the story years later a bit clunky and unnecessary, but otherwise there was nothing I disliked about this book, and I’m glad to have read it. This is a good read for fans of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I don’t write separate reviews for the classics I read, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask them below!
  6. Vows by LaVyrle Spencer. 3 out of 5 stars. This one was lent and also recommended to me by mom a few months ago, and while it isn’t my usual type, I decided to pick it up this month and give it a go. It’s so far off the radar these days that I’m not going to write a separate review for this one, either, but I’ll answer any questions you want to ask! I found the plot rather predictable, but the characters were not stereotypical and the setting is late 1800’s, which, again, I tend to enjoy. There are definitely some emotional parts in this book–both sad and exciting, which kept me engaged in the story even in the predictable spots. If you’re looking for a good romance read for February and like a historical setting with your love stories, this might be a good choice.
  7. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. 4 out of 5 stars. As far as thrillers go, Gillian Flynn is one of my favorite authors. I was so intrigued by this short story thriller, and so pleased to find it as a bonus in my first Book of the Month Club box. It’s creepy and mysterious and it begs to be read twice.
  8. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5 stars. I’ve really been in the mood to check out Lady Midnight lately, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, but Shadowhunter fans near and far know that publication order is the way to go with Clare’s books, and I had only read the beginnings of her earlier sets, which I no longer remembered clearly. So I decided to start from the beginning and read all of Cassandra Clare’s books in publication order–this is the first. I remember loving this book in my first read in 2010, but I think I loved it even more this second time with a few recalled details in the back of my mind. I started this one thinking the goal was just to get to the books I hadn’t read yet, but this one hooked me again. I couldn’t put it down, and raced through it so that I could also pick up:
  9. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5 stars. I originally gave this book 4 stars when I read it in 2010, but I upped my rating this time around because I was an angsty teenager then who was upset about the way the love triangle was turning out for Clary. This time around, knowing what I know about the third book and the resolution of the love triangle, I was able to appreciate the rest of the story instead of getting caught up in the angsty emotions, and that made everything more amusing. Also, how did I not notice how awesome Simon is the first time around? This is really a great sequel, and I have a ton of anticipation for my upcoming reread of the third book in this series in February.
  10. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. 5 out of 5 stars. Actually, can I give it 6? This is definitely not a book for everyone, but it’s definitely the perfect book for me. It’s science fictional, and full of mind-bending suggestions about multiple realities and questions of identity and what life would be like it we’d taken all those paths we skipped but wonder about at night. This book takes a lot of focus, and a lot of interest in intangible concepts, but if “science fiction thriller” sounds good to you in any way, do not miss this book. I’m not especially interested in science myself, but this is now one of my all-time favorite books. It will certainly appear on my list of 2017 favorites, eleven months from now. I cannot express how much I loved every page of Dark Matter.
  11. Flight  by Sherman Alexie. 4 out of 5 stars. This was originally on my TBR for February after I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in December, but after I finished my January TBR I picked this one up early. It was short and (bitter)sweet, and only took me one sitting. I didn’t like it quite as much as Absolutely True Diary, but I did appreciate the messages it had to share, and I was completely caught up in the unique way the narrator got there. I’ll probably pick up more Alexie works at some point, because this one did convince me that I like the author’s writing more than I had thought after reading a couple of his short stories.
  12. Lucky You by Erika Carter. 4 out of 5 stars. I also found myself too excited to wait until February for my first Book of the Month Club pick, and am definitely satisfied with my experience so far with that subscription box. This book is an early release exclusive for BOTM members until March, and the story had some parallels to my own life as a struggling twenty-something. That said, the most entertaining part of this story was how unlikable and ridiculous the main characters were, and yet how compelling because they seemed so real and so like people you might come across in small town life.
  13. Faithful by Alice Hoffman. 4 out of 5 stars. This was an impulse grab on a mid-month library trip, but I have no regrets. I hadn’t read anything by Alice Hoffman before, and I do like a nice depressing story every now and then, so I couldn’t pass by this one on the new arrivals shelf at my library. The main character is so downhearted about everything, and yet she makes some great choices, adopts some great dogs, and keeps searching for her place in the grand scheme of things. This story tugs at the heart strings, but it also shares some hopeful messages about no one being as alone as they think they are, and the possibilities for even the worst situations imaginable to turn into something good. As my first unplanned read of the year, it hit the mark dead center.
  14. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. 5 out of 5 stars. This one has sharp edges, but it’s also the kind of book that makes me want to be a sharp edge myself. There were a couple of things that bugged me, but they only stood out because there were so many things that this book did right. I’m glad I bought this one, and I’m glad I found time to read it this month. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the stories that sticks with me most this year. All three main characters are flawed but wonderfully crafted, and really drive the anti-rape messages of this book home. Sometimes people mess up. But sometimes it’s a lot worse than just messing up, and this book helps readers spot the difference.

There they are, all of my January reads. I still can’t quite believe I managed so many. Some of these were pretty short, I suppose, and YA novels always go pretty fast for me. Also it’s January so I’d rather be inside reading than braving the weather to go for a run. I did do that a few times, but mostly I formed a good habit of reading for a few hours at night, and there are simply a lot of nights in January. It’s the month that never ends. Now that February has arrived, however, I’m hoping to keep my good reading streak going as long as the weather hasn’t improved yet, and I’ve got some great books in mind for the shortest month of the year! (If you missed my TBR post and want to see what’s on the agenda, check it out here!)

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and anything you enjoyed reading in January!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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