January reads from Bookish

My Bookish highlights on my Instagram just aren’t cutting it, and as I’m actually at a place in parenthood where reading is a far more regular thing, it seems that highlight tab is becoming overwhelming.

Since I’m too stubborn to fall to the popular demand I start a Bookstagram account, at the end of each month, I’m going to drop my book reads, and the reviews I’ve done for most (if not all) right here, in one, easy to find post.

Don’t want to wait for the monthly book wrap? Head over to my Instagram profile at @eatliftrunyoga, and tap the Bookish tab on my highlights. There you’ll also see some reviews from the books I read last year, when I started Bookish.

January’s Bookish wrap consists of 10 books (honorable mention of Book 11: Electric Idol, by Katee Robert, your steamy retelling of Greek Mythology series “Dark Olympus).

House of Earth and Blood/Crescent City #1 by Sarah J. Maas Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

Review: Fae. Angles. Wolves. A Viper Queen. Pet chimeras. A mer-man. Magic, darkness, secrets, murder, and mayhem. Maas knows the genre, and writes it fantastically. Her main character never waivers from who she truly is. The romance is a delicious slow burn, instead of the the “toss ‘em in the bed after a few days” like most books seem to be like lately. (5 stars)

ACOTAR/ACOMAF/ACOWAR by Sarah J. MassA Court of Thorns and Roses: Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

A Court of Mist and Fury: Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

A Court of Wings and Ruin: She has left the Night Court – and her High Lord – and is playing a deadly game of deceit. In the Spring Court, Tamlin is making deals with the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees, and Feyre is determined to uncover his plans. But to do so she must weave a web of lies, and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As mighty armies grapple for power, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

Review: I reviewed these as a collective, because I felt that was the best way to do so. After reading HOEAB, I wanted more Maas, so I looked up what she’d written before, and had read that ACOTAR was initially written in 2009, but published later. Knowing that, I didn’t go in with high hopes of stellar writing, as not many authors are right out of the ballpark.

Thankfully I did have low writing expectations. As an editor myself, ACOTAR made me itch for my red pen, badly. And that feeling didn’t budge a bit over the next two books. Her own editor failed to encourage growth through writing changes, the “say more with less”, and exploring expansion of vocabulary and dialog. The phrases and words were overused, repeated often several times on the same page. Even when she is describing appearances, facial expressions, feels a lot like Ground Hog Day.

HOWEVER! On that note, the story itself, grows. It starts as a sort of Beauty and the Beast type of story, but it develops into its own thing. The story idea, while solid, the execution is a bit touch and go.  A little character heavy, but somehow, it actually kind of works. 

We see Feyre develop into a steadfast, fierce woman. Key characters Rhysand, Tamlin, and Lucien challenge our own judgement and opinions, as they shift and expose parts of themselves throughout the first three books. The other characters, while likable, are a bit under-developed, but again, it works, because she has a LOT of characters in these books you need to keep track of. (3 stars each)

Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette CrossWhat’s the worst thing that can happen to a werewolf? Unable to shift for three months, Mateo Cruz knows all too well. His wolf has taken up residence in his head, taunting him night and day with vividly violent and carnal thoughts. Convinced he’s cursed, he needs the help of a powerful witch before he literally goes insane.

​Evie Savoie has always obeyed the house rules of her coven — no werewolves. They’re known for being moody and volatile. So, when a distempered, dangerous werewolf strolls into the bar and almost strangles one of her late-night customers, she’s ready to bounce him through the door. But the desperation in his eyes when he begs her to help him softens her heart and convinces her to bend the rules.

Review: This one was a super fun, delightful read! Cross has a very different style of writing, but it worked here. Witty, and sarcastic. Zero fluff and extra nonsense to make the story drag. And quite a sassy dialog. 

You can’t help but feel bad for Mateo. He’s such a nice guy, that seeing him on the fringes of cracking while they try to figure out how to break the hex on him, makes you sad. And Evie, she’s a content, but lost soul, just trying to lay low, and not make waves. Interesting cast of secondary characters too (Grims, Vamps, Witches, Weres, humans who may or may not know…) 

I enjoyed that Cross took a different approach to supernatural beings. They live a long time, but aren’t immortal here. And I particularly found myself loving the Eddie/Venom-like banter between Mateo and his Wolf, Alpha. Not surprising, since Cross is clearly a comic fan. (4 stars)

Don’t Hex and Drive by Juliette CrossNotoriously bad at peopling, Isadora Savoie spends most of her time in the greenhouse or at the local animal shelter, using her Conduit powers of growth and healing. Content to remain in the background of the Savoie sister shenanigans, she’s reluctantly roped into the mystery of missing neighborhood girls. Now, she’s partnered with a flashy, flirty vampire to find them before it’s too late.

Devraj Kumar has seen and done it all. Three hundred years roaming the earth as a Stygorn — a legendary vampire warrior who operates in the shadows — has its perks. But ennui has set in. That is, until he has a run-in — literally — with an intriguing witch while on a new assignment in New Orleans. Fascinated by her resistance to his charms, Devraj can’t help but push her buttons in an effort to get to know the shy witch. Fortunately for him, she’s been recruited by the Lord of Vampires to assist Devraj on the case.

Review: I loved the sisters the most in this second Stay A Spell series book. They’re all together (in the previous one, Livvy and Isadora are away), so you get to see the family dynamic at play. Ruben is back, and we also get to know him a little better by also getting to see how he interacts with his friends, the girls, and he’s no longer just the head vamp of the city. 

Writing lacked in this one though. Struggled in places, but it didn’t quite fully fall flat. The relationships developing with the mains was just good, and not what kept bringing me back to finish the book. The background characters were more interesting this time. (3.5 stars)

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny ColganWhen the department store she works in closes for good, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. She doesn’t want to move in with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered Edinburgh life.

Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want Carmen there either. Her sister has always been sarcastic and difficult. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs a retail assistant for his ailing bookshop, so welcoming Carmen might still have some benefits for everyone.

At Sofia’s behest, Carmen is thrown into the daily workings of old Mr. McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the streets of the old dark city. Can she use her design skills to revamp the store and bring it back to popularity in time to benefit from Christmas shopping traffic? Can she choose between bad boy literary rock star Blair and quiet Quaker student Oke? And will she heal the rift with the most important people of all: her family?

Review: Colgan really hit it with this one. She knows how to write people you’ll hate, I can give her that in every one of the books of hers I’ve read. She knows how to write petty and vain SPOT ON. She’s also really great at crafting likable characters as well. This one had more of the family dynamic in it than her others. Older sister wanted a perfect, proper baby sister, and got a sister who marched to her own beat, and lived her life, which did not sit very well with Big Sister. Mom in the story seems to feel similarly, holding Carmen to a standard that’s impossible. 

I loved how Carmen’s journey was more about her realizing that she’s not a “waste” like her family feels, and is less focused on a love interest (although, never fear, there are some cute and hilarious scenes in this one!) like the other books were. Sofia, the older sister also does some of her own self-discovery, and the explosion between the two sisters is definitely a jarring one that leaves you feeling heartbroken for Carmen. (4.5 stars)

Named of the Dragon by Susanna KearsleyTormented by horrific nightmares since the death of her baby five years before, literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw agrees to accompany an author to Wales, where she encounters an eccentric young widow desperately afraid for her own infant’s safety and a reclusive playwright who could be her only salvation.

Review: It felt like it was missing something. Like the story with Lyn’s dreams, and the widow were more of an afterthought, than the initial (and potentially crucial) part of the story. It felt more like the actual story was Lyn healing from her loss and going forward. The characters didn’t mesh well either. Seemed like a kid shook up a box of paper with faces on them, called them people, and had them take a holiday together. (2.5 stars)

The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny.

Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family’s old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she’s forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time.

One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future.

Review: Writing grief, truly writing grief, in any forms – is hard. Brenner gets it though. She writes Lauren, her story, her grief, paired with a broken relationship with her sister, beautifully. The other main, Matt, has soul, and depth. He’s also dealing with his own grief that he’s carried through life. He’s drawn to Rory’s story for a multitude of reasons, having lost his own brother, a veteran. You think, reading the synopsis, you’re dealing with a smarmy reporter-looking-for-glory-type, but you find a man on a mission to open eyes to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and its impact, not just on athletes, but service members too. 

Lauren’s parents, her sister, nephew, and Rory’s brother are also well done, developed to be dimensional, not flat characters that just exist. They are all working through their own things as well. You become especially drawn to Lauren’s mother, rooting for her to find her voice in her fractured marriage, and do her own thing. 

All in all, it is an emotional ride, with some very, very unexpected turns. (4 stars)

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

Review: Harper’s first adult fantasy book is a sweet and funny, but magical “John Tucker Must Die” meets “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”. You either love Harper’s characters, or you hate them (and maybe want to trip that one particular character, face first into a brick wall). The Gauntlet is a pretty wild ride, that leaves you staying up an hour past your bed time to make sure you-know-who doesn’t win. The creation of Thistle Grove is well done, and is a place I think any of us with a love for magic, witches, and the mysterious would love to visit. Leaving it at that so I don’t spoil it! (4 stars)

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Mother. Photographer. Writer. Founder of Fit Fridays for Mental Health. Former powerlifter turned weightlifter. Coach & Nutritionist. Spondy/PCOS/Endo. Bully breed advocate.

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