Read in January 2023

The first month of the year and immediately a bull’s eye in terms of the books read.
I started with a book that was very hyped, thanks to the Kickstarter, which I also loved and ended with a a fairly decent read. In between I read a number of nice to great books. Only one book was so and so, but I did finish every book started, so no DNFs this month and no books that I wish I had DNF’d!

In January I read a total of 8 books, amounting to 3499 pages. The average January book comes to 437 pages/book.

As mentioned, the January books were pretty good to great, bringing the average January book to 3.4 stars.

I didn’t vary that much in terms of target audience. Except for 1 Young Adult book, I only read adult books (7).

I did switch up my reading sources, with 2 e-books, 4 audio books and 2 physical TBR books.

For the genres, I switched between 4 genres, namely thriller (1), romance (1), mystery (2) and fantasy (4).

And finally, I only read books in English, so none in my mother tongue (Dutch).

Below is the list of the books I read in January and my star rating.
Click the link to jump to the blurb and my review! As always, be aware that both blurb and review may contain spoilers, especially when it comes to sequels in a series!

  1. Sanderson, Brandon – Tress of the Emerald Sea (Cosmere) ★★★★
  2. Various – Marple: Twelve New Mysteries 🎧 ★★
  3. Kuang, R.F. – Babel ★★★★
  4. Winstead, Ashley – The Last Housewife 🎧 ★★★★
  5. Young, Adrienne – Spells for Forgetting ★★★
  6. Coldbreath, Alice – The Unlovely Bride (Brides of Karadok #2) 🎧 ★★★
  7. Sanderson, Brandon – The Lost Metal (Mistborn, Era 2 – Wax & Wayne #4) ★★★★
  8. Johnson, Maureen – Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5) 🎧 ★★★

Sanderson, Brandon – Tress of the Emerald Sea (Cosmere) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when his father takes him on a voyage to find a bride and disaster strikes, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea. Amid the spore oceans where pirates abound, can Tress leave her simple life behind and make her own place sailing a sea where a single drop of water can mean instant death?

I previously wrote an individual review for this book, which you can read here.

🎧 Various – Marple: Twelve New Mysteries ★★

Genre: Mystery

A brand-new collection of short stories featuring the Queen of Mystery’s legendary detective Jane Marple, penned by twelve remarkable bestselling and acclaimed authors.

This collection of a dozen original short stories, all featuring Jane Marple, will introduce the character to a whole new generation. Each author reimagines Agatha Christie’s Marple through their own unique perspective while staying true to the hallmarks of a traditional mystery.

Naomi Alderman – Leigh Bardugo – Alyssa Cole – Lucy Foley – Elly Griffiths – Natalie Haynes – Jean Kwok – Val McDermid – Karen M. McManus – Dreda Say Mitchell – Kate Mosse – Ruth Ware

Miss Marple was first introduced to readers in a story Agatha Christie wrote for The Royal Magazine in 1927 and made her first appearance in a full-length novel in 1930’s The Murder at the Vicarage. It has been 45 years since Agatha Christie’s last Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976, and this collection of ingenious new stories by twelve Christie devotees will be a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains the most famous fictional female detective of all time.

A collection of short stories based on the legendary character created by Agatha Christie by a couple of known and loved authors I know and love (Leigh Bardugo, Ruth Ware, Kate Moss, etc.). This had all the trappings of a very nice cozy mystery experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really vibe with it. The stories were just too short to really feel mysterious and the reveals were either too obvious or too convoluted to be able to be puzzled out by the reader.

Kuang, R.F. – Babel ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.

I previously wrote a separate review for this book, as part of my Fairyloot subscription posts. You can read the review here.

🎧 Winstead, Ashley – The Last Housewife ★★★★

Genre: Thriller

While in college in upstate New York, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating man who seduced them with a web of lies about the way the world works, bringing them under his thrall. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay’s built a new life in a tiny Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel’s death—delivered, of all ways, by her favorite true-crime podcast crusader—she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators more dangerous than ever.

Recruiting the help of the podcast host, Shay goes back to the place she vowed never to return to in search of answers. As she follows the threads of her friend’s life, she’s pulled into a dark, seductive world, where wealth and privilege shield brutal philosophies that feel all too familiar. When Shay’s obsession with uncovering the truth becomes so consuming she can no longer separate her desire for justice from darker desires newly reawakened, she must confront the depths of her own complicity and conditioning. But in a world built for men to rule it—both inside the cult and outside of it—is justice even possible, and if so, how far will Shay go to get it?

This was in many ways a very dark and extremely uncomfortable and shocking read, but one that I could not put down.

The way this is narrated is a genius reference to Scheherazade.
I’m usually not a fan of the “telling-not-showing” way of conveying a story, because it keeps me from engaging and connecting with the characters. But because of this story’s parallels with Scheherazade’s story, this was a very good choice.
Additionally, it provided me with some much-needed distance while reading all these horrors.

In the end, there is a lot in the storyline that doesn’t make sense, things that went a little too easy or there were a bit too many coincidences, but it didn’t keep me from being on the edge of my seat the whole way through.

Young, Adrienne – Spells for Forgetting ★★★

Genre: Fantasy

A deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love.

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

I previously wrote a separate post with my review of this book, in the context of my Fairyloot edition. The review can be found here.

🎧 Coldbreath, Alice – The Unlovely Bride (Brides of Karadok #2) ★★★

Genre: Romance

Lenora Montmayne leads a charmed life as the most beautiful woman at King Wymer’s court, surrounded by admirers. And then disaster strikes. The red pox sweeps the summer palace at Caer-Lyones and Lenora’s fair face falls victim to its ravages. Without her looks, what does Lenora have left to her?
If ever there was a knight the crowd loves to hate, it’s Garman Orde. Even his own family despises him. Then one night a heavily veiled lady offers him an extraordinary bargain. And he finds out that Lenora Montmayne was never just a pretty face.

I really liked the idea of this book, but at first I was rather annoyed with the heroine with how impulsively she did exactly the opposite of what her niece – the one she goes to for all advice and trusts most in the world – asked her to do. But I guess we needed a set-up for the story, one that got us quickly away from the current setting.

As the story progressed though, I did start to really enjoy it. Both main characters still did some stuff that annoyed me. For example, I would have liked the heroine to have been a little more demanding and the hero sometimes a little less like an asshole, but all in all an amusing read that was the perfect palette cleanser to read between some of my bigger fantasy reads.

Sanderson, Brandon – The Lost Metal (Mistborn, Era 2 – Wax & Wayne #4) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Return to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn world of Scadrial as its second era, which began with The Alloy of Law, comes to its conclusion.

For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set-with his late uncle and his sister among their leaders-since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms and her partner Wayne find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. Conflict between Elendel and the Outer Cities only favors the Set, and their tendrils now reach to the Elendel Senate-whose corruption Wax and Steris have sought to expose-and Bilming is even more entangled. After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction and realizes that the Set must already have it, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god, Harmony, reveals that Bilming has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere-Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial…at any cost. Wax must choose whether to set aside his rocky relationship with God and once again become the Sword that Harmony has groomed him to be. If no one steps forward to be the hero Scadrial needs, the planet and its millions of people will come to a sudden and calamitous ruin.

The conclusion of Mistborn Era 2 was explosive, vast and heartbreaking.

The Lost Metal was a fast-paced, action-packed adventure, while also allowing for plenty of character growth and exploration.
There were also heaps of Cosmere connections, some of which I definitely missed, since I have not yet read all books in this universe. The sheer amount of information we were given made me dizzy and yes, also felt a bit too much at times. This is one aspect that I think I’ll find less detrimental on reread when I have caught up on the other Cosmere books. For now, it just felt a bit info-dumpy.

That this book would also be an emotional rollercoaster was something of a given, since it’s a series finale. There had been a lot of foreshadowing, both in previous books and obviously throughout this one, which made me expect a certain event that I didn’t want to become real.
This is I think the main reason why I dawdled on the last hundred pages. I wanted to remain in a sort of Schrödinger’s cat state, knowing while simultaneously not knowing.
Of course I did bite the bullet in the end, and what I had expected did come to pass, much to my sorrow. But Sanderson did manage to make it bittersweet and kind of hopeful, too.

The fact that I cared so much, is tantamount of how good this series is.
It’s certainly not my favourite book of this author at the moment, partly because I have not yet made all the links to the Cosmere.
That being said, I definitely enjoyed this book. It was a very worthy conclusion to this era of Mistborn, one that makes me really curious to see what the third era will look like.

🎧 Johnson, Maureen – Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5) ★★★

Genre: Mystery

Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.

Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.

The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.

Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.

I love this series mainly for the mysteries. They’re usually nice contained, interesting stories that I love seeing unraveled. Also in this instalment the mystery immediately grabbed my attention, but unfortunately it often got delegated to the background in favour of teenage drama.

I rediscovered that I do not really like our main character, Stevie. She’s selfish and not a good friend at all, but somehow gets away with her snarky and appalling behavior.

All in all a great read what the mystery aspect is concerned, but boring and annoying during all other scenes.