What is this most accurately called, February reading plans? February reading goals? I called it plans. Goals seems more accurate, because when you say goals, it’s kind of implied that if it doesn’t happen it’s like oh, I meant to, I was aiming for it, but then it didn’t happen, and oh well, it’s good to have goals. When you say plans, it’s very firm, it’s very I intend to do this, and if I do not do this, I have FAILED to carry out my PLANS.
Fortunately, I answer to no one but me, and I am extremely lenient with myself, as I am my favorite.
So these are my February reading plans, as they stand at the moment.
First, some anticipated new releases:
This is a debut that just came out this week. I’ve had it on hold at my library since I heard about it. Following the death of her best friend, the main character Zoe goes to study abroad in Berlin. She pairs up with another exchange student, Hailey, who finds them an apartment on Craigslist without realizing it’s owned by a famous thriller author, who is supposed to be on a writing retreat. However, apparently, she’s not, because she’s watching them, and it seems like she’s writing her next novel about them. So Hailey decides that their lives need to be spiced up to make them worthy subjects.
I’ve got no idea what to expect from this one, seeing as how it’s so new, but I think it’s billed as a thriller. The whole aspect of the writing spying on them and writing about them gives me sort of grown up Harriet the Spy vibes. I also saw someone mention early 2000s millenial vibes and twisted female friendships, so this is definitely in the plans.
What I know about this one is that it’s nothing like A Little Life, which I suppose is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you want to look at it, but I guess if you are one of the people who truly hated A Little Life, there’s probably not much I can say to convince you to pick up another Hanya Yanagihara book again as long as you live. That’s fine. You should probably know that I’m one of those people who has read A Little Life multiple times, though. Like, more than twice. More than three times. On purpose. Anyway, this is a chonky boy, and it’s due back to the library on 2/10. Reading plans, reading goals. Well, the title is already typed in the bar up there. That’s permanent.
I hate nostalgia. Well, that’s not true. I like nostalgia, but only for myself. Like, I only want to enjoy it alone, on my own very specific terms. It is impossible to enjoy nostalgia in the wrong social contexts. You try to mention something specific, or something with a narrow focus, and before you know it, people are just naming random toys and food items at each other. Remember this? Remember that? I can’t stand it. Yes, things existed. I mean, I get why that sort of reminiscing is enjoyable for people, I am not trying to be a curmudgeon. I’m not trying to be one. It comes naturally to me, I was born like this. Anyway, I’m happy to indulge in book form, alone, by myself. And maybe you will also read the book, and we can say whether we liked it or not, but very specifically not talk about the 90s with each other.
Assuming I can tolerate Chuck Klosterman for a whole book. That’s hit or miss, depending on my mood at the time for men speaking at length.
A second try:
The blurb on the front of this book says “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” What more am I expected to say?
Last year, I asked for recommendations for books with enthusiastic fandoms and Lex suggested this one and look, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I was pretty sure she was necromancer-romancer, party of one, because I had never heard of such a thing, but I am game to try anything, so I did.
Unfortunately, my request for suggestions and attempt at this book was very poorly timed with a 6 month run of spending so much goddamn time back and forth to the hospital for ritual blood washing (plasmapheresis, but let me have this), that I immediately stopped reading anything at all, because I was either at the hospital, feeling like garbage from being at the hospital, salty about feeling like I just left the hospital, salty about feeling like it was almost time to go back to the hospital, wildly irritated that the tubes sticking out of my chest fully ruined baths, just a generally irritated person.
Now, however, I am tube free, haven’t set foot in the hospital in — well, not that long, but that’s just where my regular doctor is — and just regular levels of irritated, so I am ready to give Gideon a fair shot. If I don’t get it this time, though, I am probably not meant to be necromanced, and that’s all right, but I won’t be happy about it, because I was WRONG, Lex is not a lone weirdo, there are TONS of them out there, and I HATE not being able to wiggle my way into an enthusiastic fandom. I want to be on every bandwagon. I WOULD LIKE TO RIDE THE WAGON (unless it is going to a sport).
I have checked very carefully and the Skyward series — I read the first two books last month — really is the only series I have on the go right now that I’m interested in keeping up with. I read the first book in a LOT of series last month, and it does seem like a whole lot of things I pick up are part of a series these days, probably because I’ve been leaning toward so much fantasy and sci-fi and that seems to be the way those things go. If that pattern keeps up, I can imagine staying on top of series, especially those that have multiple books already published, will get to be pretty difficult. For now, though, it’s just Cytonic, which is book three in what I think is planned to be a four book series. There are some novellas available as well, but something about the word novella bothers me, and I never read them, it’s on my personal crest.
There are actually a bunch of these. There are always a bunch of these, aren’t there? I’ll be happy if I get to a couple of them this month. Here is a selection of them and how they were pitched where I found them:
We Are Satellites – Sarah Pinsker – near future sci-fi dystopian about making choices for ourselves and our children in the face of advancing tech that eventually becomes opt in or become left behind, whether it’s right for you and your family or not.
The Forest of Stolen Girls – June Hur – YA mystery set in Joseon era Korea in which two young girls go missing and are eventually found next to a terrible crime scene with no memory of what happened to them. Years later, several other girls go missing under the same circumstances, and the girls’ father, a detective, returns to the location to investigate, only to go missing himself. Hwani, the older sister, follows to find him, reconnecting with her estranged sister, and begins the investigation herself.
The Echo Room – Parker Peevyhouse – A YA sci-fi time loop story, with the protagonist repeatedly waking up in bloody clothes, in a locked room, someone banging on the door to get in, and very slowly surfacing memories piecing it all together.
The Appeal – Janice Hallett – Small town murder mystery thriller told in mixed media format, with the idea that you, the reader, are being asked to figure it out from the pile of angry emails, texts, letters, etc, as you go along.
This book has been pretty everywhere lately. It’s about two ex-cons who pair up to seek what I understand to be some pretty bloody revenge after their sons, who were married to each other, are found murdered. The men, who I believe were both estranged from their sons and regretful about that as well as their own personal past mistakes, have never met before one shows up on the other’s doorstep.
I’ve never done a book club before, but I’ve decided to give at least the February pick of Booksandlala’s Literally Dead Book Club a shot. I don’t know if book clubs are for me, I am kind of a lone wolf book reader but — hang on a second, I need to go look up a more appropriate animal for myself. I’m lone, but I don’t feel very wolf.
Ok, I’m back. Anyway. I don’t know if book clubs are for me, I’m kind of a lone desert tortoise book reader, but we can’t know these things until we try, and by trying, I commit myself to reading Razorblade Tears in February.
Investigation is a weird way to put this:
All of these are just examples, really. I might read all of them, or none of them, and I actually have more similar books stacked on the shelf next to me. They are what I am investigating.
All last year, I kept requesting contemporary romances from the library, whatever I would see people talking about on Instagram or Goodreads, whatever was popular, because I’ve been a romance reader forever. Historical romance since middle school, contemporary romance since forever. I’d have stacks of them checked out, and then just never be in the mood to pick them up. I’d renew them until I couldn’t renew them anymore, and they’d get sent back unread. Weird for me, since sure, I can generally read some of everything, but I can always read romance.
So I thought okay, maybe I’m one of those literary fiction people now, you know, the stuff Oprah and Reese pick for their book clubs and the ones that come in the Book of the Month box, but listen, I’ve been judging those by their covers for a while now. I might like historical fiction, but I haven’t tried it, because that sounds like eating vegetables. I do like a lot of vegetables. I’m talking about the concept of vegetables. The concept. Then there’s fantasy and sci-fi, which I keep blindly stabbing at, and missing more often than I hit.
Anyway, seeing as how it’s February, and everyone on Instagram was posting cute stacks of romances, I decided it was a fine time to just get a whole giant bunch of them, a really big variety, and try as many as I possibly can throughout the whole month. I’ll put down any that don’t grab me and pick up the next one and see if avoiding them last year was just a factor of what a shit year I had, or if I really do need to just let them go for a while.
Ideally, over the next however long it takes, I will work my way through enough genres to know exactly what kinds of books I like. Right now, it is contemporary romance. Eventually, with enough investigating, and more and more narrow focus, I will know exactly what I like and only read books I like and only ever rate things 5 stars AND BE KING OF BOOKS.
Open your Kindle, you desiccated carrot slice.
I don’t know yet. I want to read X number of books from my ridiculous Kindle library every month, starting with this month, but I don’t know what a good number for X is yet, so I will start with 2, because I picked a lot of other books for this month already.
I’ve had my Kindle for a long time, and it’s old and slow, and I don’t really prefer it, except for when I do, and I’ll use it a lot, and then I’ll set it down and forget it for a very long time. I’ve had it for something like 10 years now? I’m not sure. I tend to default to physical books from the library, though.
However. However. I get a lot of those Kindle deal emails? Or sometimes I’ll be looking a book up on Amazon and happen to notice it happens to be on a really good sale for Kindle, just something where it would be dumb not to one click it? $2.99 or $.99 or whatever, you know? And when Penny was very small and didn’t want to play with me but I still had to be extremely nearby, I used to gather up all those free books all the TIME. I do this email scanning, “oh, that’s a good deal” and Amazon browsing, “I’ve been meaning to read that and it’s $1.99? One click, done” all the time and I’ve been doing it for ten YEARS.
Anyway, there’s 2300 books in my Kindle library.
Sometimes I wait on hold for weeks for a book from the library and after I’ve finally received and read it, find it on my Kindle, where it lives, because I ALREADY BOUGHT IT.
So while I have listed all these plans for February — and actually, to be more specific, these are kind of only my reading plans for the first two weeks of February, because I live by the library book cycle — if I could see my way clear to choosing two, just two, any two books from that beshitted Kindle graveyard, perhaps I would feel like I accomplished something with my life.
I will probably do some random Trash my Kindle TBR-style polls over on my Instagram next week to choose a couple of candidates.
Anyway, that’s it, those are my reading plans for [the first two weeks of] February. Let me know if we match up on any of our plans, or if you’ve read anything I’m planning to read and it’s trash and I should scratch it off immediately, even though I probably won’t change my plans because I’ve used the word plans instead of goals, and that’s much less flexible since I’ve already written it down here in internet ink.
January Wrap Up Posts:
Thank you for your attention, goodbye.
January was both a good and not so good reading month. Good in that I really didn’t have that many low ratings – I did enjoy what I was reading. And while you might considering 4 DNFs fairly high – a full quarter of the books I picked up – there are all kinds of reasons to DNF, so it’s not always possible to evaluate based on the number alone. Not so good in that, okay, this month the number of DNFs did seem to mean something. The books I ended up liking felt like I hit upon them almost by chance or dumb luck, stabbing around in the dark, and not because “I know I’m going to like this.” I don’t feel like I have a really good grasp on what I like anymore, or what my particular taste is. I thought I knew at one point in time — I definitely did, there were years I read well over a hundred books without issue, every one of them suited to my particular taste. But I don’t know what that is anymore, so now I’ve got to find it again. Anyway, it’s not like that’s going to be a chore, and that’s not what this post is about.
Here are my favorite and least favorite books I read in January.
January Ratings Breakdown (note: this month, I tried out half stars for the first time. I don’t know if I’ll continue that going forward. I also tried out flat out not rating if I don’t feel like it. I will continue that going forward):
5☆ – 1 book
4½☆ – 1 book
4☆ – 5 books
3½☆ – 2 books
3☆ – 2 books
2½☆ – 0 books
2☆ – 1 book*
1½☆ – 0 books
1☆ – 0 books
DNF – 4 books
* The 2☆ book – anywhere that my star rating factored into a public average rating – Goodreads, Storygraph, etc – I left this book as not rated. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving low ratings on public sites like that, if that’s your rating. In this particular case, it wasn’t appropriate for me to do that. I still made my thoughts available in the same way I normally would – actually, I can’t remember if I left a review on Goodreads, but there is one in my Instagram highlights, etc. Anyway, I’ll explain it in a minute. You can do what you want.
I don’t know if I’m going to call this my favorite book of the month, but it was my only 5☆ book of the month. I am determined to become an adult fantasy reader. Everything about me says I should be an adult fantasy reader. THERE IS NO REASON WHY I AM NOT AN ADULT FANTASY READER YET. Well, there are reasons. But that’s for the next post. Anyway, in my quest to become one, I had heard what we all have — that Brandon Sanderson is the accessible way in, the gateway drug. So I figured I would gateway drug even the gateway drug and pick up Mr. Sandwich’s YA Sci-Fi series first. I’m already generally comfortable with Sci-Fi, if it’s not too hard, and picking up a YA seemed to stack the deck in my favor that way. I thought I could ease myself into Brando Sando’s writing style with this, and then move on to what I really wanted to be reading, a little more prepared.
Well, listen. This book surprised me like a lime seltzer bidet in a winter outhouse. Why is there a bidet in here. This is actually what I want to be reading. I tore this shit up. I mean, read 500 pages in a day kind of tore it up. Yelling at my family and pets who all seemed to need my attention in the final climactic moments because of course they did kind of tore it up. Immediately requested the next two books from the library and if I have to wait on hold I’ll scream kind of tore it up.
The world building is excellent — there’s never a ton of description and info dumping. Anything you find out is because the characters are moving through it or interacting with it in a way that makes sense to the story, never just a big pile of history/description outside the narrative. So the world is never fully built out in excruciating detail, but at the same time, you have full confidence it’s all there. But not BORING. The characters, also excellent. The teenagers act like teenagers, which I feel like should annoy the fuck out of me, the way I’ve been feeling about YA lately, but they don’t. They all act like different teenagers. Distinctly different. There’s no generic teenager behavior, “this is how teenagers act.” I mean, they all act like teenagers, but specific teenagers, in line with their characterization. The adults are the same. Even with a stereotypical “rebellious teenager against adults who just want to KEEP HER DOWN” storyline at play, it’s not stale. It’s frustrating, but makes sense.
The battle scenes are cool and exciting, even though I have NO idea what’s going on. There’s a lot of physics, and it’s written in a way that I just trust it’s sound science. Grav caps? G-forces? Sounds legit, I’m with you, man! PEW PEW.
I think what I liked the best about this is how — hm, I’m not sure how to put this into words — the book allows things to resolve and progress. You know how in some books, things seem to be moving and it looks like things are going to be all better, and then, oh no, that shitty issue from early in the book comes back to just wreck everything and it’s so frustrating and it almost feels cheap? One of the main conflicts in this book is that Spensa’s been carrying the weight of her father’s reputation for her whole life, and people hold it against her. In other books, I could imagine people continuing to just never give her a chance, or things never, ever changing for her, or that keeping her on the outside forever. In this book, her classmates do get to know her as a person, do give her the space to grow. Rather than let that one issue be the thing that keeps cropping up and dragging the whole book, there’s satisfactory growth through it. More information is introduced and that issue changes, but additional conflict and plot points are added as well. There’s no death grip on the “girl everyone hates proves herself to be cool and SHOWS THEM ALL” story arc.
Also, the sassy sentient ship M-Bot, I liked that, too.
This might actually be my favorite book of the month. It was I think the second book I read this month, and I rated it 4☆. It took me a while to get going with it, because I found the pacing pretty choppy. I didn’t really like the way information was delivered to the reader — for me, it felt like it was always running right up to the line of info dumping, but stopping short, in a really awkward manner. It left me kind of unsure how I felt about this book overall for a while. As the month went on, though, I remembered less and less about what I thought about the writing and the pacing of the book itself, and more and more what I liked about the main characters, Robin and Edwin.
ROBIN AND EDWIN. Y’ALL. You’ve got to read this book. You will love these two. You will love them. Edwin is a prissy, uptight, keeps to himself, deeply wounded, bullied by his own family for not being magic enough, snooty rich dude. He can do magic, but compared to everyone else in his family — and most other people who can do magic, in fact — he can’t do very much at all. And Robin is just a regular dude, a bro, a former jock, a friendly absolute himbo who has never even heard of magic actually existing, but has, through a roundabout consequence of his own shit family circumstances, found himself in a government job as the liaison responsible for reporting incidents of regular people coming across magical happenings. And Edwin is his magical contact.
The magical plot and hijinks and curse and uncurse business in the book is frankly… fine. It’s fine, it’s interesting, there’s some intrigue, some murder, some high stakes, some near-deathing, some magical problem solving, and that’s all well and good. What you want to read, though, is the relationship between these two. They’re standoffish and tentative, then respectful and careful with each other. They’re both fully sketched in characters — the actions they take, the things they say, the ways they think about themselves and about each other — these are all fully informed by the histories the author has established for them. That’s not to say they behave perfectly toward each other, that there are no missteps and everything is smooth, but that everything is rooted firmly in who the character is known to be. Nothing is convenient for the plot or the moment, nothing is easily handled because it needs to be for the story. Their interactions feel real and adult and human. Even when there’s conflict, it’s not cheap, it’s not a misunderstanding that could be solved in five minutes if they just spoke to each other. It’s two adults who care about each other, but who have hurt each other. And when they come back together, it’s not because everything is swept under the rug, but because they’re adults who are behaving like adults. It’s lovely and you will love them.
At this point, nearly a month on from having read it, I barely remember my complaints. The only drawback I can think of at the moment is that there’s going to be another book in the series, but it focuses on a different character. I may read it grudgingly. I’m sure it will be very nice, but I want THESE two again.
Other favorites: If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha, Starsight (Skyward #2) – Brandon Sanderson
This is by no means a bad book. In fact, if you liked The House in the Cerulean Sea, this is probably right up your alley. I found it absolutely pleasant and gave it 3½☆. Still, thinking about it in the whole picture of what I read in January, it falls among my least favorites. Again, I don’t think it’s bad, and I wouldn’t even call it disappointing. It’s more of a sort of “I’ve done this already” feeling. If I’d read this before The House in the Cerulean Sea, I might have said the same thing about that one, though I’m not entirely certain — I do think The House in the Cerulean Sea works a bit better for me. Regardless, this book definitely suffers for me having read The House in the Cerulean Sea last year and it being probably my favorite thing I read last year.
For me, this felt pretty much exactly the same — and that’s not a bad thing, as far as books go. If you’ve got a book type, it’s good to be able to depend on finding that type of thing again. What you’ve got here is a guy who is not great, but not terrible, who ends up in a situation with a sort of mystical, woo guy, and a cast of quirky side characters, and he spends time with the mystical guy and the quirky side characters, and over the time they spend together, the guy who was initially not great, but not all that terrible, either, learns lessons about life — or in this case, death, I guess. I’m not really one for retellings.
This possibly could have been a four star book for me — like I said, it was absolutely pleasant, not a bad way to spend the time, totally enjoyable. However, the final resolution made me feel like something had been snatched away from me. I really did not like it. The whole book felt cheapened to me, and I spent a good four to seven minutes mightily annoyed.
WELL LET ME TELL YOU, I DID NOT LIKE THIS. Okay. Okay. You might like this one because it is a bit compelling in that there is a sort of magical Hunger Games going on — seven families have all each sent one child to fight to the death for the chance to have a 20-year term controlling the only existing supply of High Magick. Additionally, the title does seem accurate — every one of these children is some kind of a villain. If you’re into… hm, I’m not even going to say morally grey characters here, I’m just going to call them villains. If reading about characters with nefarious motivations sounds interesting to you, that aspect of the book is compelling. Sure, they’ve all got their own reasons and backstories and pressures and motives for doing what they’re doing, but they’re all ultimately villains in this story, so there’s that.
My problem with this book is that there are no stakes, no tension. When there’s a tournament that’s existed for hundreds of years, there are rules. These rules are established, everyone knows them, they’re explained to the reader. What kind of magic can be used, what boundaries exist, how the tournament functions with landmarks and territory, etc. On top of that, there’s a whole functioning magic system in this world. How it works, who can do what, how much a person can do, what spells and curses are, how they’re made, where they come from. This is all established as part of the world building. Then you enter into this tournament to the death — where people are going to die — and all of this starts getting thrown out the window. People are doing things that shouldn’t be possible. Alliances that make no sense to the established game are happening. Convenient explanations for things that circumvent the rules are popping up in the moment. How can you build tension when at any moment, what’s been established can be swept right out from under you? How do the deaths have any weight when the next person just conveniently escapes via some method that shouldn’t be possible? All the weight just kept getting sucked out of this book for me.
Add in a cartoonish bonus villain reveal at the end, and this whole series is an absolute nope for me.
I am going to copy in the summary I posted yesterday before I tell you what I rated this book.
The Queen of Hell – who got that name by making a deal with the devil to trade the souls of 7 musical prodigies in exchange for her own – is looking for one last soul, and she finds one in a transgender runaway violin prodigy named Katrina. Katrina likes to play video game theme covers on YouTube. There is a galactic war, and a stargate in a giant donut. There are aliens, of course, and a sapphic love story, and a child who is actually an AI, who helps with the YouTube channel. There are cursed instruments, and a demon. A boy is a in a cube. Ducks, alive and otherwise.
This is the book I did not publicly rate, and privately rated a two. That is, if you are interested in my taste in books – if you are my book nemesis like Elizabeth, and generally like things I dislike, so knowing what doesn’t work for me can point you toward things that might work for you, or if we generally have similar tastes and knowing that something was not my style serves as a good warning that your time is better spent elsewhere, then now you know — for my personal tastes, this book was a two star. However, I would not publicly rate it a two star anywhere it would count against the author, because that did not seem right.
I knew maybe a third of the way into this book that it was not for me. You know how that goes, right? You can recognize that it’s absolutely not a bad book, and it is very, very clearly FOR someone. Just not you. For me, this book was a little too… spacey. I don’t mean of or about space, but in the sense that it wasn’t enough grounded in reality for me, a little too loose, a little too much going on. Not enough real. A little too much descriptive language specifically about being a musician, a little too much metaphor about cursed instruments, cursed souls, cursed journeys, cursed artists. I don’t have the imagination or creativity to connect with this book, and the thing is, I knew that part way in. I knew it a third of the way into the book, that it was NOT for me, that I would NOT like it very much, but I still wanted to know what would happen, and I still read it. And to me, to continue reading past the point where I was CERTAIN I wasn’t going to like it — not something where I thought the story might pick up, it might turn around in the end, I might start to like the characters, get used to the writing style, not that sort of thing — that is totally on me. To affect the public rating of a book that I read fully aware that it wasn’t for me doesn’t seem right.
I don’t know if I am making the distinction clear — there are times when I will read a book and absolutely rate it 2 stars on Goodreads if that’s what it is, but this time, no. I suppose it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense to you. I read this, it wasn’t for me, but it’s definitely for someone. Who is not me. Who might be you.
Books I didn’t finish this month:
Here and Now and Then – Mike Chen
I just couldn’t get into it. It was too science. It was too… man. Mannish. Written by man, about a man. Man. Also?
The Thousandth Floor – Katherine McGee
I took this out of the library several times over the last, oh gosh, two years? I might have actually had it out when the libraries shut down at the beginning of the pandemic and I had the same books for months. I never got around to it, and by the time I finally did, I couldn’t remember why I wanted it. I finally picked it up out of my stack this time on a day I couldn’t pick what to read and decided to grab the highest and lowest rated books out of my library pile. I think at one point this sort of dystopian, closed-society, tower sort of thing definitely appealed to me, but not in this way right now — I got bored really quickly with the lives of rich teenagers.
Apples Never Fall – Liane Moriarty
Genuinely don’t know what was up with this. Liane Moriarty is pretty much always solid for me. Maybe because I had it on audio? Then again, I am pretty sure that’s how I usually consume Liana Moriarty books. Whereas the other two above are definitely permanently DNF’s, I wouldn’t write this one off forever. I can see myself picking this one back up around summer vacation, for sure.
Defy the Night – Brigid Kemmerer
So in the spreadsheet where I keep track of books I want to read and where I got the idea, it says this book was recommended by a YouTuber I watch, so I snagged it from the library for that reason. I got about a 100 pages in and was feeling neutral about it — on the fence, not really moved one way or the other with regard to keeping on or putting it down, and I was taking a brief break and watching a different YouTuber. That YouTuber said it was boring and nothing happens, nothing happens at all. So I put it down. Shrug.
I’m incredibly easy to influence. You could take lessons from me.
All right, those are my favorite and least favorite books from January. Did I leave out any you wanted to hear about? Did you read any of these? Are you going to read any of these? Are you following me on Instagram so I can be updated minute by minute if you do, because I’ll remind you it’s a crime if you take a recommendation from me and then don’t give me, specifically and directly, your every single thought as it happens. Look it up.
January Wrap Up Posts:
That’s all. Thank you for your attention and goodbye.