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January 2022 in Review

Rebekah has worked 10 years in public libraries. They have recommended books to readers of all ages and hopes you'll enjoy her suggestions!

january-in-review

CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY (2019) by Beth Moran

Every few years I get the urge to read a romance, and for whatever reason I was really in the mood for a holiday romance. After reading Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis in December, I was still in the mood for something wintery. The story follows Jenny, a hopeless and sometimes helpless young woman who left her job in the wake of a disastrous staff party-turned proposal, but the proposal she thought would be hers turned out to be for her little-miss-perfect twin sister. With a restraining order in tow, she moves to a little town to tend to her grandmother's old house, which is in shambles, and so begins a series of run-ins with her gruff and grumpy neighbor, Mack.


What I liked:

The story was as much about forming friendships and healing family trauma as it was about romance. Jenny, who had no friends and was not on speaking terms with her family, found a new family, so to speak, in the town. The will-they-won't-they portion of the novel was really not so drastic as in typical romances, and I never got frustrated with them, like I usually do. It felt like a much more natural progression of character. There were very few characters I didn't like, and honestly none of them really got on my nerves in a bad way. All in all, it was a very sweet book.


What I didn't like:

The story was, unfortunately, pretty boring most of the time. I had a hard time getting through it, not because it wasn't good, but because it was consistently not exciting. I did not feel like the stakes were ever high enough to elicit real emotion from me and I found myself not engaging with the story as much as I'd like. Also, it really didn't have much to do with Christmas or the holidays in general. That point was a letdown because I wanted, very specifically, a holiday romance, not one that "Christmas in July" vibes. It was very generic.


Final verdict:

3/5 stars. Would recommend to any reader of soft romance, but not if you're looking for a Christmas or holiday-themed one, as it will disappoint.

january-in-review

WINTER'S ORBIT (2021) by Everina Maxwell

I don't usually gravitate towards YA romance in any form or genre, but I picked this book up on a whim because my library had a copy available for immediate download. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Raphael Corkhill. In Winter's Orbit, an Imperial Prince of Iskat, Kiem, is betrothed to his late cousin's Thean widower, Count Jainan, in order to present a stable front to the upcoming treaty renewal between Iskat and Thea. The story is told in alternating perspectives between Kiem and Jainan as they navigate the waters of their new arranged marriage. Kiem, who is carefree and considered a disreputable embarrassment to the Imperial family, shows himself to be genuinely kind and empathetic. Count Jainan, however, is quiet and terse, strict and deferent, as though trying to make up for some past trauma he does not wish to remember. Together, they begin to unravel a scheme that poses the greatest threat to their two worlds and to themselves.


What I liked:

I found this book charming. It was not an overly complex read, which is what I was looking for when I started it, nor was it too simplistic and predictable. What appeared to be a carefree-prince-archetype paired with a stick-in-the-mud-archetype, was actually deeper than that. I thought the stakes were sufficiently high enough to make for a story that felt urgent, and there was enough bait dangled throughout the book to keep the twists and turns just out of reach. I also enjoyed the realistic view of abuse and trauma and how it's possible to heal from that. I resonated very much with that aspect. I also liked the gender construct and how the presentation of one's gender differed depending on culture, and how it was simply considered a part of that culture to accept, even if not fully understood.


What I didn't like:

Unfortunately, while I appreciated the realistic approach to abuse, trauma, and healing, it was never easy and more often than not, very frustrating, to be reading from that character's perspective, at least up to the point where his perspective is explained and the reader understands why he is the way he is. Also, the technology and gender constructs were not explained thoroughly, and I found myself very lost at times trying to keep up.

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Final Verdict:

4/5 stars. Would recommend to fans of The Star-Touched Queen and We Set the Dark on Fire, as it reads more like fantasy romance. Would not recommend to hard sci-fi readers.

january-in-review

SPINNING SILVER (2018) by Naomi Novik

This was my second attempt at reading Spinning Silver. I had placed this title on my New Year's Reads-olutions TBR - a list of about ten books I've either DNF'd in previous years, or are the next book in a series I began in previous years but never revisited. I absolutely adored Novik's Uprooted (2015) and still consider it among my top-tier favorite books of all time. It was also the first fantasy book set in Eastern Europe, which spurred me on to read the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. When I first began to read Spinning Silver, I think I compared it too much to Uprooted, which I had very recently read. This book is nothing like Uprooted, except for the coincidence of the female main character being carted off by a dour, all-powerful creature. It's told in a frequently-changing multiple POV, with characters adding their voices varyingly throughout. In a nutshell, Miryem, the clever daughter of a rather poor Jewish moneylender, boasts with her success that she can "turn silver to gold." As a result, the king of the Staryk, an ice-fairy race who rules over winter, sets her to three tests to change his silver into gold. She succeeds, and he brings her to his realm to be his queen. But he is a cruel king in Miryem's eyes, and she hatches a plan to escape back to her sunlit world.


What I liked:

Just about everything. The story and the world are much more reminiscent of the Bear and the Nightingale (2017) than Novik's previous standalone work, Uprooted. I liked the multiple POVs and glimpses into the various lives that make up the story. I loved seeing the changes in both Irina and Miryem's relationships.


What I didn't like:

The POV changes did not come with any warnings, and I think this is part of the reason why I had such a hard time reading it the first time. Because it is written in first person (not a fan of 1st POV, I prefer to shy away), it takes longer than I would like, as a reader, to shift perspective and realize someone else is now narrating. There were times where I read an entire section, believing it to be one character, until the character I thought was speaking was mentioned. In terms of the story itself, there was little that was not to my liking.


Final Verdict:

4/5 stars. This was a great book, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much all the way around as I did Uprooted, which to me was a 5/5 star book. Even still, I would absolutely recommend this to fans of this genre and beyond.

january-in-review

BLACK SUN (2020) by Rebecca Roanhorse

I purchased this at a local book festival and had intended it to be the first book I read for my 2021 Native American History Month reading challenge; unfortunately, I had burned myself out after just finishing two other reading challenges. In addition to that, November ended up being a rough time for me, and I finished exactly zero books that entire month (and a large chunk of December). My inability to finish this book quickly is by no means a testament to its story or writing. Black Sun is the first adult fantasy book I have read by an Indigenous author who used Indigenous or Native heritage as a core part of the story. Unlike how I found Daniel Wilson's sci-fi and steampunk genre books to be, Roanhorse uses her heritage as an integral aspect of her writing. In Black Sun, there is a prophecy that the returning Crow god will devour the Sun Priest in retribution for a massacre decades earlier. The tale that unfolds is the culmination of that prophecy and all those involved in its completion.


What I liked:

The fact that it was a fantasy told through pre-Colonization eyes. A tale that, to the best of my own knowledge, is completely immersed in its own culture to the exclusion of outside influence. It was a prophecy-driven story, which I often find too cliche'd to be enjoyable, but here, it worked so well with the world and characters that I can't imagine it being any other way. I liked all the characters, they were gritty and real in their own ways. None of them were completely loveable, but neither were they terrible. It was, perhaps, one of the most real books I've read in a while, considering it is fantasy. The other aspect of the prophecy that I found myself really intrigued by, is that it was not a worldwide prophecy - it was very much a centralized belief to a single group of people, and rather than being beholden to prophecy, people within the world worked to make it come true. That, then, begs the question, is it truly prophecy?


What I didn't like:

There was not much I didn't like about this book, except that I would have liked some more depth into the world building and even character backgrounds. That being said, the reader learns just about everything they need to know about the characters, most of them anyway, and anything beyond would be fluff. At times, the scenes and story felt chaotic, and I did feel like I was missing large chunks of necessary information that I didn't glean from context. I felt like it was not quite as "epic" fantasy as Eurocentric frontrunners; though that is likely due more to my inexperience with Native literature.


Final Verdict:

5/5 stars. The style of storytelling was not what I'm used to, but the story itself was fantastic. However, I feel like the story is relatively niche within the fantasy genre and don't know if it would resonate with every fantasy reader.

january-in-review

THE MAP OF KNOWLEDGE by Violet Moller (2019)

I really wanted to like this; it is exactly the type of history I tend to enjoy the most. And I did very much love the subject matter. As a literary historian, the transmission of literature, culture, and writing is very important and interesting to me. However, the writing fell flat. It did not feel intellectual enough to satiate a historian's desire to read a literary nonfiction, but in many places it was too verbose for non-historians to follow. I DNF'd about 1/3 of the way through. I would say this is an okay book for those who enjoy history but aren't themselves historians.

THE DREAM ARCHITECTS by David Polfeldt (2020)

I picked this one up because I had been talking to my boyfriend about Console Wars (Blake J Harris, 2014) that I read a few years back and absolutely loved. I've had a recent new spike in gaming at home lately which I've thoroughly enjoyed. I found this new book (pub 2020) and decided to read it. I was looking for something along the lines of Console Wars or Game On! (Dustin Hansen, 2016) both of which are exciting and informative reads that I highly recommend. Dream Architects fell short of this mark and just did not grab my attention. I DNF'd only about 1 hour into the audiobook. However, I am keeping it on my TBR to hopefully revisit another time.

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