Take a look at what I read in January 2020 and a peak into my February to-be-read list.
Oh, January. The month where we start fresh and begin a new year. Such high hopes, and for 2020, at least high achievements! I’m actually very proud of my reading month in January; I not only read a lot (11 books!), but I read some books I really enjoyed. Keep reading for a list of my books read in January with ratings.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Admittedly, I had been reading Frankenstein for a while before I finally finished in January. This was one I had started with the expectation of starting and finishing in October because well, ~spooky~. That didn’t happen, but it wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it. This story has been re-told and re-imagined so many times, I realized that I had no clue what the original tale truly was. I really enjoyed diving into Shelley’s writing style and themes of creation and intellect, nature and nurture and so much more. I did find some portions of the plot and pacing to be a little off, either too fast or slow in some sections, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this classic.
Frankenstein follows Victor Frankenstein, a student and lover of science, as he creates and ultimately comes to regret and abhor a monster while it slowly destroys his life and the lives of those around him.
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
I started reading all the Grishaverse (the name for Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy world) books in late 2019. I carried the last book in the original Grisha trilogy, Ruin and Rising, into 2019 with me. I have to admit, the original Grisha trilogy is my least favorite of Bardugo’s books set in this world, but I stilled enjoyed this conclusion. I was a little disappointed in the character development overall and there were some plot points that I did not love, but I still think this was a solid conclusion. (look out for a full review of the series soon!)
Ruin and Rising is the third and final installment in the Grisha trilogy, a fantasy series set in a world where powerful Grisha wield magic and are led by a mysterious leader, The Darkling, until a girl from the valley discovers she’s more than an orphan.
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
I picked up Mayflower in November 2019, wanting to learn more about New England and its seventeenth century inhabitants around the time of American Thanksgiving. I appreciated Philbrick’s extensive research and clear passion for telling this story. He managed to give a nuanced history of the early European immigrants to New England without white-washing the traditional settler story, as so many histories do. Instead, he offered insight into the history of Native peoples in New England and the impact European settlers had on the cultures, history and people. I found some of the middle portions of this book quite slow, but the beginning and the ending sections, along with the knowledge I acquired reading this story made up for the denser points.
Mayflower tells the story of seventeenth century New England, beginning with a group of settlers setting sail from Holland, through settlement and ultimately King Philip’s War before offering insights into the lasting impact these events had on modern New England.
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Can you tell I was having a Leigh Bardugo moment? I truly was. After finishing the Grisha trilogy, I needed more (I had read the Six of Crows duology in late 2019, though that doesn’t stop it from being on this list further down). I thoroughly enjoyed Nikolai’s character in the Grisha trilogy, and in fact, he buoyed my enjoyment considerably, so when I saw this book dedicated to him, I was excited. I have to say, I don’t feel like this is Nikolai’s book. Yes, he is supposed to be the central character, but in many ways Nina and Zoya steal the show. I couldn’t help but enjoy this book, but I had a sense that I wasn’t exactly getting what I signed up for. With the book following all three perspectives (Nikolai, Zoya and Nina), much of the book felt disjointed and not the cohesive story I’m used to from Bardugo. I would still recommend any Grishaverse fan pick this up, though, and am excited to continue with the next book when it comes out.
King of Scars, set in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, occurs years after the Ravkan civil war, following Nikolai, Zoya and Nina, as they, the country and everyone affected by the war attempt to pull themselves and the nation back together.
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Now, on to my next binge-reading series in January… The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. I was beginning to feel like I was the only person who enjoyed young adult fantasy who had not read this series, and frankly, the FOMO was real. I finally picked up this first book after seeing a promotion for Chain of Gold, which follows the next generation of Shadowhunters–and the children of The Infernal Devices characters. I was tired of being left out, so I picked it up, and I am so glad I did. This series exceeded my expectations; I’d heard so many good things about The Infernal Devices and some mediocre things about the original Shadowhunter books, The Mortal Instruments, so I was skeptical. This first installment was a solid book, introducing great characters and a magical world. I did find portions of this book to be a little too 2000s young adult (I had a few eye rolls), but that didn’t stop me from immediately ordering the second book.
Clockwork Angel is the first installment in The Infernal Devices, a trilogy following Tessa, Will and Jem, who live in a Victorian London not too different from the real-world, except of course for the demons, vampires, warlocks and Shadowhunters, a group of angelic mortals who fight for humanity against the forces of darkness.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was first exposed to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie through Beyonce. Yes, Beyonce. If you’re a Queen B fan, then you’ll know a portion of Adichie’s fantastic Ted Talk was sampled for “Flawless.” After hearing the sample, I listened to the Ted Talk and was blown away. This was at a time before I truly formalized my own feminist thought, and I hung onto every word. Fast forward, and I have taken feminist courses in graduate school, lived my life and learned what being a feminist means to me. I’d had this short book on my shelves for a while, so I decided to pick it up one day (admittedly impatiently waiting for Clockwork Prince to arrive). I never know exactly how to rate nonfiction books that include another person’s lived experience; it feels strange to rate someone’s life. However, with this book, I’m basing my rating mostly on the feminist ideals presented, not her experience as a human being. So, in terms of feminist ideas, I was a little let down. I loved the premise and overall message: that we should all be feminists. But I was disappointed with the lack of intersectionality presented here. Overall, I’d still recommend to anyone who wants to know more about feminism, especially if you want quick wit and a little humor to boot.
We Should All Be Feminists is an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed Ted Talk, where she effortlessly blends humor and experiential advice to offer a definition of feminism in today’s world.
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
The Clockwork Prince was a solid second installment in The Infernal Devices trilogy. The love triangle really comes more to the forefront in this book, and it is so good. I typically do not enjoy love triangles, but like many other people, I make an exception for Tessa, Will and Jem. I’m tempted to say I enjoyed this one more than Clockwork Angel because the character development was great both for main and secondary characters. Readers get more glimpses into the Downworld, too, enriching the Shadowhunter world, especially for those of us entering the Shadowhunter Chronicles through The Infernal Devices. One of my favorite parts of this book was learning more about Magnus Bane, who is easily one of my favorite characters overall.
The Infernal Devices continues in Clockwork Prince, which follows Tessa, Will, Jem and the rest of the London Institute as they continue to fight against forces within and without the Shadowhunter world that would tear them apart.
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I was not emotionally prepared for this finale. To be honest, I still haven’t totally processed my feelings other than to say I loved this book. It was far and away my favorite of The Infernal Devices and brought so much sadness and love simultaneously. You know in Prisoner of Azkaban when Ron is reading Harry’s tea leaves and says, “You’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it?” That’s this book in a nutshell for me. If you haven’t picked up this series and are at all interested in it, I would highly recommend putting it on your list, even if just to finally to get to the epilogue in this book. Because, wow, that epilogue (was literally, actually sobbing, which does not happen to me while reading often). I feel that this book showcases Cassandra Clare’s growth as an author and added something new to a world she’s created and written about for so many years. While I’m still not particularly motivated to pick up The Mortal Instruments, I may work through them just for the pleasure of reading some of other Shadowhunter books, like The Dark Artifices.
The Infernal Devices trilogy wraps up in Clockwork Princess as the London Institute and its inhabitants are thrown deeper in danger than ever before and Tessa learns she is more valuable to their enemies than she thought.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
So, I read Six of Crows for the first time in December 2019, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It quickly went to the top of my list of favorite books from last year and all-time. There are a select few books I re-read and even less series, but I don’t know that I’ll ever stop re-reading this duology. I’m glad I entered the Grishaverse through Six of Crows because I don’t believe I would have stayed with the world starting with the original Grisha trilogy; with that said, I enjoyed re-reading these after finishing the original trilogy. Leigh Bardugo takes the tropes and typical hero characters that she largely leaned on in Shadow and Bone and turns them on their head, creating the gritty, crime-filled Ketterdam. If these books don’t attest to author growth, then I don’t know what does. Everything that was just okay about the original trilogy was excellent here, especially character development. I love all these characters, though I’m very partial to Inej and Kaz and am definitely a Kanej stan.
Six of Crows, part of the Grishaverse, takes readers to the gritty, money-drive city of Ketterdam, run by merchants and gangs, where six unlikely characters band together in the name of a large sum of kruge to pull off an impossible heist.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
See above gushing about Six of Crows and multiply it by 4 million kruge. The conclusion (for now…) of this duology was very close to perfection. The plot of Crooked Kingdom was a little slow at points, but the character development we get here more than makes up for it. We finally get Wylan’s perspective and learn more about the rest of the crew’s background. The flashbacks throughout both books are heartbreaking, and the development that each character undergoes in Crooked Kingdom feels triumphant because of it. This book made me sad but hopeful, which is a great conclusion combination for me. Along with offering an unforgettable story and amazing characters, this book dealt with real issues that feel deeply personal when read. In particular, I loved an idea from Inej: “This action will have no echo.” This is another mark of a great story for me–to have a real impact on your thoughts and actions.
Crooked Kingdom follows Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan after their return from the impossible heist, as they navigate a new enemy on the streets of Ketterdam and continue to work through their own personal traumas.
The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
The Language of Thorns was beautiful, and I mean the writing and the book itself. This collection of Grisha tales are all beautifully written and lushly told, but the illustrations truly make this a great read. My favorite stories were The Too-Clever Fox, When Water Sang Fire and Little Knife. The remaining stories were all still good, but I did find a few of them to be a little slow and harder to get through. I also would have really enjoyed a Suli and Shu tale to accompany these, which I believe would have rounded out this collection to near perfection for fans of any of Bardugo’s Grisha books. If you’re a fan of the Grisha world, I highly recommend this collection; it will feel like falling back into the world with new fantastical creatures and characters to follow.
The Lanuage of Thorns is a collection of tales from the Grishaverse that emphasizes the power of story and myth in the world, where some classic tales are re-imagined and new stories take shape to enrich the lives of readers–Grisha fan or not.
Well, that’s it. You’ve made it this far, and I thank you for it. My January reading was spectacular, and I’m hoping to continue the trend on into February. Here’s a peak at some of my reading plans this month:
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
- Vicious by V.E. Schwab
To follow along with my reading, follow me on Instagram @teabookrepeat and let me know what your favorite books you read in January were down in the comments. Thank you for reading, reader friends and remember: Grab a cup of tea, grab a book and repeat until out of either tea or books.
5 thoughts on “What I Read in January 2020”
I have been an avid reader my entire life but have to admit never sampling the young adult genre. You’ve piqued my interest, though and based on your comments I am considering entering the Grishaverse in the middle by trying Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. I am currently reading Hero of the Empire (Candice Millard), a book detailing young Winston Churchill’s exploits in the Boer War and how they foretold his leadership of Britain thru the darkest hours of WWII decades later. I’ll be very interested to see if there are similar traits in these young heroes/heroines. Thanks for the inspiration!