Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether or not I recommend them.
The start of the year means a new reading challenge and I love how all my January reads easily fit into the 2024 Reading Challenge prompts. Obviously, it helps that I am the one who created the prompts in the first place. As the months go on, it will be harder and harder to find matching prompts, but for now I’m going to enjoy my blank slate.
I started the month off by finishing the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Which means I’m now one of those people who moan that George R. R. Martin never finished the series. I desperately need to know who wins the game of thrones!
Usually I can’t wait to pick up my next book, but after reading those two massive books back-to-back, I found myself in an odd position of needing to take a reading break.
Luckily my love of reading quickly came back because I apparently had three five star books waiting to be read.
Scroll down to see my reviews, and, as always, be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!
January 2024 Reading List
From the author of Code Name Hélène, comes a new novel based on the true story of a fearless midwife determined to find justice. In 1789, Martha Ballard is asked to determine the cause of death of a man found buried in the ice. As a local midwife, Martha knows all the town’s secrets, including that this man was one of the men accused of a heinous rape four months ago. As the rape trial nears, Martha believes the two cases are connected and her detailed diary ends up as pivotal evidence that might tear the whole town, and her family, apart.
A delightful historical mystery featuring a strong heroine, The Frozen River is an excellent choice for any book club. Lawhon helps you feel the powerlessness and inequality women faced at the time, especially in the court of law. Sadly, the rape trial was an actual event which was even more horrific in reality than in the novel. Yet, Martha’s capable and compassionate work as a midwife and as a wife and mother was inspiring and informative.
While promoting her latest movie, actress India Allwood sparks a media firestorm when she complains that the project only shows the tragic side of adoption. India knows the blessings adoption can bring as both an adoptive mom and a teenage mom who placed a child for adoption. Now that child is sixteen, excited to meet her birth mother and willing to help – only to make the media firestorm worse. Family Family takes on adoption in a nuanced way, reminding us that, no matter how it was formed, every family is complicated.
The world likes to make issues black and white when reality is much more shaded, which is why I quite enjoyed Frankel’s look at adoption. Frankel tackles the stereotypes of adoption head-on, neither glorifying it nor vilifying it, reminding us that just because something is often the case doesn’t mean it’s always the case. India Allwood’s backstory provided an interesting and unique perspective, and the entire story had a heartwarming tone that made it a quick read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Henry Holt & Co. through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Fox spirits are known to be cunning and clever creatures who lure people by transforming themselves into beautiful humans. In 1908, Snow leaves her den in the grasslands to seek vengeance for her lost child, a trail that will lead her from China to Japan. Meanwhile, Bao, a detective, investigates the death of an unknown courtesan found frozen in the snow. As Bao follows Snow’s trail, they both meet friends and foes and navigate the truths and myths about fox spirits.
Yangsze Choo presents an enchanting premise with gorgeous magical realism rooted in Chinese mythology regarding foxes. Yet, the story itself felt lacking. Choo’s narrative is slow to develop, which would be fine except the plot is also anticlimactic. The combo leaves you wanting more: more development, more emotional connection, and more resolution.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Henry Holt and Co. through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
Having grown up in a loveless home, teacher’s aide Lucy Hart would never wish that upon a child. That’s why she would desperately love to adopt Christopher, a seven-year-old orphan in her class, if only she had the means. When her favorite author holds a contest, Lucy finds she is one of four finalists given the chance to win the only copy of his last book. Fighting off book collectors and dealing with the handsome but grumpy illustrator, Lucy’s dreams might just come true. But the author has one final twist that might make Lucy regret her wish.
The Wishing Game was so good that I literally could not put it down once I cracked it open. Meg Shaffer offers a heartwarming and sentimental read with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vibes, but more grounded in reality. While keeping it light, The Wishing Game still touches on trauma, especially childhood trauma, and overcoming grief and it reminds you that you can still pursue your dreams even as an adult.
Even though Maggie and her husband have been together since they were teens, they find themselves divorcing less than two years after their wedding. Although she pretends everything is fine, Maggie is a hot mess. With observant sarcasm, Heisey narrates Maggie’s self-destruction thoughts and cringeworthy choices as she painfully learns to take care of herself.
Although Heisey’s clever observations made me laugh at times, Really Good, Actually wasn’t really that good. As a protagonist, Maggie is hard to love; she’s an over-the-top hot mess who has no concept of how the world actually works. Her constant poor decision-making gets a bit old and the plot rambled so much that I didn’t even notice when my audiobook skipped a chapter or two in the middle. The only saving grace was Heisey’s witty writing and hilarious one-liners.
Octavia E. Butler
In 1976, Dana, a young African-American writer, finds herself inexplicably sent back through time to a pre-Civil War plantation in Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy, she finds herself back in Los Angeles. Over and over, Dana finds herself returning to the plantation whenever the boy is in trouble, which she realizes is where her ancestors lived. As her stays in the past become longer, Dana becomes entangled in the plantation and is forced to make harder and harder choices to survive. Octavia Butler’s genre-bending novel is a must-read among time travel books.
I can see why Octavia Butler is considered one of the best writers of her generation. Kindred combines the “what ifs of the best science fiction with deeply-researched historical fiction. Kindred is brilliant top to bottom: a gripping premise, compelling narrative, memorable characters, and nuanced themes. Butler thought-provokingly dives into the complexity of slavery’s dynamics, leaving the reader plenty to ponder on racism, both historically and today.
George R. R. Martin
After massive upheaval in the third book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The War of the Five Kings has ended with an uneasy truce. Queen Cersei rules as Queen Regent in King’s Landing but her fears lead to choices that threaten the alliances that hold her in power. Meanwhile, new competitors willing to play the game of thrones vie to fill the empty vacuum of power left behind.
Having shaken everything up in A Storm of Swords, Martin is forced to reset the story in A Feast for Crows. Martin made the unusual choice to have books four and five (A Dance with Dragons) cover the same timeline but for different characters, with the story converging at the end of book five. Yet, I felt like this was a poor choice since A Feast for Crows has all the weaker storylines and almost no big twists to throw at you. The split format leaves you with an excess of Cersei and Jaime Lannister, a few token chapters about the Stark sisters, the addition of several storylines, and a desperate desire to hear more about your favorite characters.
George R. R. Martin
After the massive upheaval in book three, the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series focuses on the journeys of several fan-favorite characters. With her dragons growing, Daenerys Targaryen struggles to rule in Meereen while Jon Snow also finds difficulty managing politics as Lord Commander on the Wall. With a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister still wants to be a player in the game of thrones in exile.
A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are best read back-to-back since they cover the same timeline but for different characters, with the story converging at the end of book five. Martin uses these two books to rebuild the series, ending A Dance with Dragons on various cliffhangers for most of the characters. Which would make for an epic book six except since Martin never wrote book six and probably never will. And now I’ve joined the legion of readers who moan anytime Martin announces he’s doing another project that is not The Winds of Winter.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in January?
What books did you love this month? Which books can you not wait to read? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book Lists to Enjoy: