“Tell me a story.”First line in A Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Has anyone figured out the science of how January always seems to last a year? I’m looking at the books I read at the beginning of the month and that just feels like a lifetime ago. Maybe the month also felt so long because I spent the first 20 days worrying about a birthday party I was attending on the 21st. The non-anxiety part of me was clearly excited to go because the host is a good friend of mine but my anxiety refused to be quiet about all the things that could go wrong and all the things I didn’t know about the party, so I spent those three weeks feeling very strange. Am I excited? Or am so scared I should just not go? But I went and there was free alcohol so the evening was great! Okay, not just because of the alcohol. The only two people I knew left pretty early but then I got adopted by an extrovert who also didn’t know anyone and she was pretty cool so I survived.
Since January lasted a year, I also read quite a lot:
I read quite a few big books in January so I’m very satisfied with that. It feels like a strong start to the year. My high page count was also greatly helped by the two rereads I did in January, The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. Apparently, going the audiobook route for rereads means I’m just flying through them, and revisiting The Raven Cycle has been such an enjoyable experience so far. I’m not reviewing those in this post since they’re rereads (dedicated posts are coming, though), but that still leaves five books I’m going to review right now!
Ordinary Monsters (The Talents Trilogy #1)
Author: J. M. Miro
Published: June7th, 2022
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Buzzwords: Late 19th century Britain, children with magical abilities
Synopsis: England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness —a man made of smoke.
Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a lifetime of brutality, doesn’t have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are forced to confront the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.
What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh, where other children with gifts—the Talents—have been gathered. Here, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.
The root of my problems with this book is the writing style. I can’t exactly describe what was wrong with it but I felt absolutely nothing of what the characters felt meaning I was rather indifferent about everyone in this book. The author was more preoccupied with describing events in a way that made it feel like he was just listing things off. “This happens and then this happens and then and then..”, and maybe follows it up with one line about a character being scared but, like, that’s not enough to make me believe it. There are also way too many characters in the book considering the poor development they were given. If they were lucky enough to have a personality at all, it was one-dimensional, resulting in quite a few of the characters feeling like the same person. It becomes even more of a problem when the major plot twists are dependent upon great characterization for them to really hit you. Again, the main thing I felt was indifference.
Before starting the book, I also thought the most interesting thing about it would be this home where all these magically gifted kids are brought to. However, it turns out it was a very hard place to get a grasp of. I’m still not really sure how it works and how many people are there. We follow five kids who take classes together and it feels like they’re the only ones there because while we’re told that a bunch of other kids live there, they’re never named and none of the named characters seems to be interacting with them. They’re just kinda weird background noise which also adds to the general idea that the book was too ambitious for its own good.
The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28th, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
Buzzwords: Social injustice, family relationship
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
This is one of those cases where I really liked the book but I also don’t have all that much to say about it. It was good. I really liked how pretty much all the characters served a purpose in highlighting some aspect of the race issue because it provided so many nuances. And I appreciate how Thomas did that without reducing characters to that one purpose, at least in most cases, because then they also felt like real people.
Starr is a main character who is easy to like. I think Thomas hit a great balance in making her her own person and also getting around some of the general injustices black people face. Starr’s responses to them still felt very genuine to her which helps me stay grounded in the story. Basically, this book is one of those rare cases where a YA contemporary didn’t sound like it was copied directly from social media and it deserves a high rating just for that.
The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1)
Author: Jenn Lyons
Published: February 5th, 2019
Buzzwords: Prophecies, gods and demons, complex narrative style
Synopsis: Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin is not destined to save the empire.
He’s destined to destroy it.
First of all, I have to say that reading this book was such an enjoyable experience! I was so frustrated whenever I had to do something that prevented me from reading and I can’t actually remember the last time a book made me feel like that. I quickly became obsessed with Kihrin as a main character and the best part is that it’s all about him! It’s not technically single POV because we do get others (the book does a thing I can’t explain because spoilers), but we still follow Kihrin through their eyes so I never had to miss him. He is sassy, headstrong and complex in a way I hope the future books will dive further into. I can’t wait!
However, as you might have noticed, I didn’t actually rate it 5 stars. I’d say that for several hundred pages I was sure I was reading my favorite book of the year already but then the plot started to kick in and I started to understand why the main criticism I’d heard about the book was that it was confusing. To say it bluntly, I had no fucking clue what was going on. I wasn’t too worried at first because Kihrin was also in the dark about a lot of things… but then he started to understand stuff and I was just as clueless as before. It is a very ambitious plot and I’ll accept some of the blame for not understanding it but I don’t think it’s all me. For example, I really like it when authors repeat important information when it’s necessary for the reader to remember. Especially when said information was first given at the same time as 50 other pieces of important information with names that all sound similar. My memory is not that good! There are subtle ways of reminding the reader and Lyons didn’t do it all but carried on while I was just stumbling along. Maybe all this sounds like something that should have resulted in a lower rating, but I’m not sure I can explain why it didn’t other than say that characters and writing mean more to me than the plot. A part of me also hopes everything will make more sense if I just read more and I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, so the final verdict on this series can still go either way.
(Also, the book has footnotes if anyone is afraid of those)
The Witness of the Dead (The Cemeteries of Amalo #1)
Author: Kathrine Addison
Published: June 22nd, 2021
Buzzwords: Murder mystery, ability to “speak” to the dead, soft main character
I think I’m taking this book as the ultimate proof that I can never get excited about a murder mystery plot. The book is awfully similar to The Goblin Emperor set in the same world with its tone and characters but instead of the political plot, we get several murder mysteries. And I just did not care. I always try to avoid books with such a plot, but after loving The Goblin Emperor so much, I had hoped Addison could make me love a murder mystery. However, if you don’t have my particular aversion and also loved The Goblin Emperor (which you should read first), I don’t see why you wouldn’t love this one as well.
Legendborn (Legendborn #1)
Author: Tracy Deonn
Published: September 15th, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buzzwords: Arthurian retelling, secret societies
Synopsis: After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
I’m sorry, but every single character was annoying. Especially Bree, the main character. She’s so egotistical, proven by how she surrounds herself with people who also believe that Bree is the most important person in the world when she isn’t even being a good friend. People who aren’t on board with this idea? She finds a reason to hate them or Deonn writes them as so one-dimensional they don’t feel like real people. It might be a personal thing, but I don’t enjoy reading about characters like that. Another character I really didn’t like was a therapist who should have lost her job several times in this book but her unprofessionalism is just never addressed.
Another thing I know is personal preference is the writing. I enjoy good writing that surprises me and makes me think differently… and this wasn’t it. It was so simplistic! I often felt I only needed to read the first half of a sentence because I could guess the rest and that’s boring. It doesn’t keep me engaged. Maybe it was my own fault because I also read Maggie Stiefvater while reading Legendborn and the gap is just too big. Like, why should I settle for this when I could have Stiefvater’s unique sentences?
There’s also a serious case of insta-love and I think I should just conclude that this book wasn’t for me.
It was very hit-or-miss for me this month but I still have a clear favorite in The Ruin of Kings, and yes, I know it wasn’t my highest rated but I can’t explain it, okay! I loved it! Anyway, let me know what your favorite book of January was and what you thought of the books in this post if you’ve read any of them. And happy reading in February!
7 thoughts on “January 2023 Reading Wrap-Up”
I been wanting to read Ordinary Monsters. Maybe I will check it out at the library instead of buying it.
Have a great February reading month.
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Yeah, I’m also grateful I used the library for Ordinary Monsters, although I hope you like the book more than I did. And thank you 😊
Next time your January seems to drag on forever, you’re more than welcome to pass some of that extra time on to me! I felt like the month rushed past and I was barely able to keep up with what I had to get done 😅 I’m glad you survived your party, though, and that you managed to have non-alcohol-related fun as well 😜
As for the books, I have lots of thoughts, so be prepared for this to get long… 😇
First off, I’m so disappointed you didn’t like Ordinary Monsters 😭 The synopsis of that sounded so intriguing, especially because of the school element, but everything you said about it has me extremely skeptical, too, so I think I’ll probably pass.
I’m glad you liked The Hate U Give, though, and that it managed to surpass your YA expectations 😁 I’d definitely recommend giving Concrete Rose a try, too, because I can see you liking that one more. I might be wrong, though.
And I’m glad you didn’t find any faults with The Witness for the Dead apart from the murder mystery, of course 🥰
As for Legendborn, I totally see where you’re coming from. The characters didn’t annoy me, but I agree that the writing style could’ve been better and that the insta-love was atrocious. In general, I thought all the events in that book were squeezed into way too little time to make sense – like, would anyone really master magic this fast??? I was willing to suspend my disbelief, though, because I will invariably fall for anything involving King Arthur and secret magical societies 🤩
Also, why do I get the feeling you gave that footnote warning to taunt my poor brain about how incapable it is at dealing with them? 😅 Although now I kind of wanna read The Ruin of Kings just to prove that I’m smart enough to understand the plot… I mean, with my memory, I’ll probably forget all important details five pages after I read them, but still! My competitive nature has awoken! 🤗
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I’ve never experienced a January that “rushed past” so it’s very likely that I’ll have some of that extra time next year as well! Just remind me around December and I’m sure I can transfer some of it to you 😆
And yeah, you definitely shouldn’t read Ordinary Monsters for the school element because, besides the criticism I already gave, the story barely takes place there. It’s more about transporting the kids to the school, really. So I think giving it a pass is a good choice. Even if we don’t always agree, there was nothing in it that made me think you’d like it more 😕
And you know, I’d actually decided not to read Concrete Rose because I figured a prequel couldn’t be that important and I’m supposedly trying to read less YA 😅 But maybe I need to reconsider if you recommend it so strongly 🤔
True, I was also confused as to why Legendborn was in such a rush but it bothered me mainly because Bree was basically never doing any homework and we were barely told about her going to class. She was going to these events every night and I was just wondering “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?!? Why are you not doing any work??” Like, let there be some sort of break between these things so we could experience her actually having a life and see how she develops!
Well, clearly some people need a footnote warning so I had to leave one and yes, it had to be written like that 😉 But now I’m torn on whether I want you to read The Ruin of Kings or not. My gut feeling says you won’t like it but I also want your opinion on why it’s so confusing. I’m reading the second book now and I’m actually starting to think it’s something about the writing style that just makes it confusing. Like the editing process took out chunks of the text and I’m supposed to make sense of it anyway. I can’t really explain it but reviews say something similar, so if you could read it and explain to me what’s wrong, I’d be very grateful 😄
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Well, I don’t want to be responsible for you reading too much YA either, so don’t feel too pressured by anything I say 😄 I just figured you might appreciate the messed-up family dynamics in Concrete Rose and the similarity in tone to The Hate U Give…
And yes, Bree never doing schoolwork bothered me, too! I mean, we finally get a book set at university and then academia doesn’t even play a role? 😤 Still, I liked the general university vibes and the King Arthur stuff enough to make me forgive a lot, I guess 🙃
You’re just making me more intrigued to find out why The Ruin of Kings is confusing, though! However, you can definitely relax and wait a while for my opinion because anything that requires brain power needs to be postponed to a school break for sure. I really can’t deal with grading my students’ essays and deciphering other confusing writing at the same time! 😅
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GOSH LINE IM IN LOVE WITH ALL THE INSANE AMOUNTS OF HIGH FANTASY IN THIS POST AND BECAUSE YOU JUST REMINDED ME HOW AMAZING THE GENRE IS AND WHY I MUST READ IT ALL RIGHT AWAY. SO. THANK YOU!!!!!! also omg congrats on surviving a party!!!!!
Jdjsgdhdhdb it sucks that ordinary monsters ended up being such a huge disappointment because THE SYNOPSIS KIND OF SOUNDED PHENOMENAL?? HA but am pretty sure that after all that you said about it, it’d be better if the rest of us just stay away. BUT YAY ON ENJOYING THE HATE YOU GIVE AND RUIN OF KINGS SO MUCH. Is it weird that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the later BUT STILL NEED IT LIKE I NEED OXYGEN?? EXCUSE me while I go hunt the library website for a copy right after typing this!!!!! OOPS SORRY LEGENDBORN WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT TOO. Almost every single review I’ve ever read of it has been positive SO ITS NICE TO SEE THAT NOT EVERYONE THINKS ITS PERFECT. (MOSTLY so I’ll have company if I accidentally end up hating it too AHAHAHA) but look am reconsidering ever reading it after this actually BECAUSE BREE SOUNDS ANNOYING?? also HA why has no one ever warned me of it containing instalove before??
READING THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN I LOVE IT OKAY. have the best February!!!!!!
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Thank you!! I’ve definitely been in a fantasy mood so far this year and I’m kind of hoping it continues.
And I hope The Ruin of Kings works out for you if you find a copy! Looking at reviews of it, it seems to be very hit or miss 😅 And I’ve also primarily seen positive reviews of Legendborn but had been warned about the insta-love so I guess my expectations weren’t all that high to begin with.