Book Review

January Book Reviews

Since I read so much, it’s nearly impossible to write individual blogs on every single book. So beginning in 2021, I decided to compile a single blog post and include everything that I finished reading in the month. Here is what I read in January!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever―and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I don’t read contemporary or literary fiction that often. I tend to stick to the Fantasy genre mostly. However, this book kept popping up on all of my social media feeds. I saw reviews where readers said the story absolutely destroyed them. Every now and then, I want something that’s going to make me feel emotional and, dare I say it, make me cry. I wanted to cry for this, but it didn’t happen.

The structure of the story itself is a little jarring at first. The reader follows Addie LaRue in two separate timelines — starting in 1714 and 2014. The base premise of the story is that she makes a deal to get out of having to marry, but, as all sane people know, any sort of magic comes with a price. In exchange for getting her out of the deal, Luc’s magic causes everyone who has ever met and will ever meet to forget Addie. She is, quite literally, invisible. Until… she meets Henry. Their love story is actually incredibly sweet. I wish they’d spent more time in the details of the present day storyline instead of so much revisiting the past. Maybe I would have felt more emotional in the end. Would I recommend it? Sure, if you like an interesting contemporary story with some interesting twists.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Over the last few years, I have lived for YA Fantasy. From THE RED QUEEN to ACOTAR, to THESE REBEL WAVES, YA Fantasy has been my jam. However, 2020 was a bit of a down year for me in reading. The majority of my normal authors didn’t have new releases. I ended up venturing away from the genre. WHERE DREAMS DESCEND was another book that kept popping up on my socials as a suggested read. To be honest, while the story was interesting and endearing, it felt almost as though the plotline wasn’t completely flushed out. And it left on a huge cliffhanger with literally no answers. A story at least needs to have some sort of resolution or wrap up. I believe the sequel novel to this one has already come out, but I was left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I do like the circus theme, but I found the main characters to fall a little flat. I would have much preferred to follow the members of the Conquering Circus. If you like circus and magic themed stories, this might be one to consider. While it was lackluster compared to other YA Fantasy novels I read last year, I wouldn’t turn anyone away that wanted to read it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Written in the Stars by Alexandra Bellefleur

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

Darcy begs Elle to play along and she agrees to pretend they’re dating. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family during the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a faux relationship. But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

I write in the Adult Fantasy genre, mostly Romance, so I have invested a lot of time and energy into researching books in the genre. The biggest problem that I have is the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the genre. This has led me to read more contemporary books (RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE was an amazing M/M romance!!). I had no idea what WRITTEN IN THE STARS was about, but some of the reviews that I saw really spoke to my little pansexual heart. We need more stories about LGBTQ+ people where coming out isn’t the obstacle they have to overcome. This one was exactly that! A modern day spin on Pride & Prejudice, Bellefleur’s enemies-to-lovers F/F romance was a joy and a delight to read. She managed to hit way too close to home on some of my personal trauma issues, but that’s the point to literature! You want to make people feel something when they read, and I had alllll the feels when reading this! Darcy and Elle are the perfect example of opposites attract. This book made my little pansexual heart flutter!! I enjoyed this read immensely and look forward to anything further that Bellefleur writes!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

A friend recommended this book to me. I’ve seen it before, but never really looked into it. I added it to my Goodreads and Amazon book wish list. Surprise! I won a gift from an AuthorToker who would gift me something from my wish list. This was the book she chose!

Imagine my surprise when I started reading this book and found that the premise hooked me pretty quickly. I knew that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t expect it to be such a fresh, new perspective on the BATB storyline. You’ve got Harper, a badass female protagonist who gets sucked into an entirely different world against her will. Only to be faced with the fact that she is there to break a curse. She’s obsinate and stubborn, but so incredibly kind. We follow her journey in Emberfall, watch as she and the Prince learn how to work together to save his kingdom, and even entertain that there could be a love triangle between Harper, Prince Rhen and the Captain of the Guard Grey (Hellooooo Grey. I’ve had a thing for Captains of the Guard since THRONE OF GLASS heheh). I love that it followed the same basic premise as BATB, but it continued to add little elements and things that I absolutely adore. One of my favorite things about this one was that the MC had a disability-cerebral palsy. But it wasn’t something that held her back from being a badass! I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a fresh take on an old favorite, or if you’re just looking for a new YA Fantasy series to get into. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

This year, I promised myself that I would read more diverse books. I fell into the whirlpool that is the straight, CIS, white world of Fantasy stories. While I was researching LGBTQ+ stories, I came across this title. I saw many rave reviews, so I decided to add it. This story is a fresh take on Cinderella. It is full of brown queer girls set out to take down a terrible patriarchal society. I loved the fresh spin on the Cinderella fairy tale! Cinderella has always been my favorite fairy tale. In Lille, the story of Cinderella is the same as the one you and I know. Only, it’s a lie. The author explores what life would be like for women in Cinderella’s world 200 years after she died, and shows that happily ever after isn’t always what happens. I love fairytales. I took a foundations of children’s literature class in college as an elective, because I love it so much. Fairytales were created as cautionary tales for children, so I loved how this author took that same principle and applied it to this story. While personally, I wanted a little bit more action when it came to the climax, I still feel like it was a very well written story with badass, diverse women. If you’re looking for a good LGBTQ+ YA Fantasy story, this one is for you!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Grey may be the heir, but he doesn’t want anyone to know his secret. On the run since he destroyed Lilith, he has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

I managed to get the sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely on Amazon for like $9! I love when I can get a good price for a book I was already going to buy. The last chapter of the original work left on a slight cliffhanger. Even I, queen of predicting plot twists, did not see this one coming. For those who want to read the first book, I won’t spoil it. However, this book follows Prince Rhen’s captain in the guard, who learned a very dangerous secret at the end of the first book. The sequel follows his journey to accept who he is and gives him a chance at love. When I read the first book, I totally shipped Grey and Harper. They had a little spark–one that I felt Rhen and Harper were missing. I truly wanted Harper and Grey to get together, and for Rhen and the magesmith who cursed him to become hardcore enemies to lovers. Sadly, that did not come to pass. Instead, we are introduced to a new character–the daughter of a neighboring queen, who stupidly gets herself captured and then escapes and then she and Grey become friends and eventually–dun dun dun–love interests. If Lia Mara had been a more interesting character, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in this book. I ADORE Grey. He is such an incredible character. There were moments when reading that I had to pause because he’s such a great person, and he shows that characters have shades of gray (see what I did there, huh? :)). The story had a slightly predictable ending, and the final chapter did the same as the first: introduced a massive swinging plot twist! The third book in the series, A Vow So Bold and Deadly just came out, so once it’s available through the library, I will be reading it. Maybe Harper and Grey will end up together. One can only hope!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I feel like I didn’t read as much in January as I normally do. I fill my mornings with reading before work while I drink my coffee, and I usually read when I’m doing cardio at the gym. January was incredibly busy because I got back developmental edits on Guns & Smoke and we spent the month working through them. We hired a copy/line editor, and had to get the manuscript cleaned up for today, February 1st!

All in all, it was a good reading month. I’m looking forward to the rest of my TBR list!

Thanks,
Abbie

4 thoughts on “January Book Reviews”

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