Read in Februari 2023

Although February is the shortest month of the year and there were a number of days I didn’t read at all, I still managed to read almost as much as what I read in January.
In total I read 9 books in February, amounting to 3476 pages. The average February book comes to 386 pages/book.

In terms of the feel of those books, this was a really good month with only books of 3 stars or more. This brings the average book of February to 3.9 stars, a really high score!

In terms of target group, I varied again between all types of target groups, from 1 middlegrade book, over 1 Young Adult book to 7 adult books.

Also in the way I read these books I varied over all the options available to me, with 3 ebooks, 2 audiobooks and 4 physically owned books.

For the genres I switched less than usual, only between 3 genres, namely sci-fi (1), romance (2) and fantasy (6).

For the language I stuck to English again and did not read a single book in Dutch.

Below is the list of the books I read in February and my rating in stars.
Click the link to jump to the blurb and my review! As always, be aware that both blurb and review may contain spoilers, especially if they are sequels in a series!

  1. Roth, Veronica – Poster Girl ★★★★
  2. Kingfisher, T. – Bryony and Roses ★★★★
  3. Abercrombie, Joe – The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) ★★★★
  4. Hibbert, Talia – Untouchable (Ravenswood #2) ★★★
  5. Gillig, Rachel – One Dark Window (The Shepherd King #1) ★★★★
  6. Bardugo, Leigh – Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2) 🎧 ★★★★
  7. Hibbert, Talia – That Kind of Guy (Ravenswood #3) ★★★
  8. Stroud, Jonathan – The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) 🎧 ★★★★★
  9. Gwynne, John – The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) ★★★★

Roth, Veronica – Poster Girl ★★★★

Genre: Sci-Fi


Sonya Kantor knows this slogan–she lived by it for most of her life. For decades, everyone in the Seattle-Portland megalopolis lived under it, as well as constant surveillance in the form of the Insight, an ocular implant that tracked every word and every action, rewarding or punishing by a rigid moral code set forth by the Delegation.

Then there was a revolution. The Delegation fell. Its most valuable members were locked in the Aperture, a prison on the outskirts of the city. And everyone else, now free from the Insight’s monitoring, went on with their lives.

Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

This book was a plezant surprise! You could already read my full review of this here.

Kingfisher, T. – Bryony and Roses ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.

I started reading this as an audiobook and was immediately drawn in by the story and the voice of the main character. However, I wasn’t a fan of the actual voice reading the story in the audiobook, so I quickly decided to switch over to the e-book.

This is everything I felt lacking in T. Kingfisher’s much lauded Nettle & Bones.
Where the former failed to move me and get me emotionally invested, this story managed to do this almost from the first page.

It’s no secret that I love Beauty and the Beast and retellings of this story, but I have come to a point in my reading where I thought it was no longer possible to have a straight up retelling and still give it an original twist.
I was wrong, because what T. Kingfisher did with the source material in her Bryony & Roses is both an ode to the original by de Villeneuve and highly original and surprising.

From previous books read by this author, I’ve known her to be deliciously creepy and also in this story she manages to make me feel unsettled and look at something considered beautiful and pure in a completely different light. At the same time, the humor in this book got me laughing out loud several times.
I’m a huge fan of this combination of creepy unsettlement and sarcastic banter. In that aspect it made me think of Kingfisher’s What moves the dead, which I also loved.

So, yeah, I absolutely adored this and can’t wait to dive into Kingfishers other fairytale retellings.

Abercrombie, Joe – The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian — leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

That I enjoyed reading this first book in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, you could read here already.
A book that made me feel sympathy for a torturer and, in addition to being grim, is also funny and intriguing.

Hibbert, Talia – Untouchable (Ravenswood #2) ★★★

Genre: Contemporary romance

Sleeping with the staff wasn’t part of the plan.

Sensible, capable, and ruthlessly efficient, Hannah Kabbah is the perfect nanny… until a colossal mistake destroys her career and shatters her reputation. These days, no-one in town will hire her—except Nathaniel Davis, a brooding widower with a smile like sin and two kids he can’t handle.

Prim and proper Hannah is supposed to make Nate’s life easier, but the more time he spends around his live-in nanny, the more she makes things… hard. He can’t take advantage of her vulnerable position, but he can’t deny the truth, either: with every look, every smile, every midnight meeting, Nate’s untouchable employee is stealing his heart.

The trouble is, she doesn’t want to keep it. Forbidden love isn’t high on Hannah’s to-do list, and trust isn’t one of her strengths. When dark secrets threaten to destroy their bond, Nate’s forced to start playing dirty. Because this reformed bad boy will break every rule to finally claim his woman.

Having enjoyed reading Talia Hibbert’s trilogy about the Brown sisters, I now delved into her older work. I read the first book of this trilogy last year, and now found it time to continue on with the second.

Talia Hibbert’s style is also clearly recognizable in this book, and although it read really quickly and it broached a couple of important topics, which were navigated in a very appropriate way to a satisfying conclusion, I did not immediately feel a connection to the characters or the story as a whole.
Eventually, this was just a fun, easy read, no more and no less.

Gillig, Rachel – One Dark Window (The Shepherd King #1) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Elspeth needs a monster. The monster might be her.

Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom she calls home–she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets. But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure the kingdom of the dark magic infecting it. Except the highwayman just so happens to be the King’s own nephew, Captain of the Destriers…and guilty of high treason.

He and Elspeth have until Solstice to gather twelve Providence Cards–the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly, darkly, taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him

I really really enjoyed this one!

I was especially drawn in by the magic system and lore of the world. It felt a bit like a gothic fairytale, which is really my cup of tea. I also really loved the way aspects of the magic and world-building were revealed to us through snippets and little rhymes at the start of each chapter.

I also liked reading from the perspective of our main character and really could empathize with her narrative voice.
Parts of the story were predictable with typical YA twists and melodrama, but this didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, it felt rather nostalgic and cozy to be able to recognize and predict certain plot elements.

The writing style also really drove the book forward. It was very compelling and felt really lush and luxurious. I had a hard time putting the book down.

Definitely looking forward to the sequel!

🎧 Bardugo, Leigh – Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. Alex Stern is back and the Ivy League is going straight to hell in #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent.

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters.

Hell Bent really throws you into the story, with an eerie flash-forward prologue that immediately sets the tone and creates a looming sense of foreboding for the rest of the novel. Then we’re trust back in time, to not long after book one ended.

We’re taken on a twisting, dark, occult and thriller-like story, full of action and academic puzzles. At the same time, we are given a deeper and more emotional understanding of our characters.

This story is very compulsive and addicting to read. Sometimes I did feel like we got a bit too much thrown at us, so I couldn’t let everything fully sink in. It did however keep me on the edge of my seat throughout and I fell even more in love with this world of Leigh Bardugo.

I’m really curious where the story will go from here, because unfortunately Hell Bent also ended with a cliffhanger.

Hibbert, Talia – That Kind of Guy (Ravenswood #3) ★★★

Genre: Contemporary romance

She wants a fake relationship. He needs something real.

If there’s one thing Rae can’t stand, it’s pity. She’s forty, frazzled, and fed up—so attending an awards ceremony alone while her ex swans about with his new wife? Not an option. To avoid total humiliation, Rae needs a date of her own. And her young, hot-as-hell new best friend is the perfect candidate…

Zach Davis, king of casual hookups, has a secret: the notorious womaniser craves emotional connection, and anonymous encounters leave him feeling hollow. After years of performance, Zach’s desperate to be himself. So why does he agree to play Rae’s fake boyfriend? And why does it feel so easy?

When the line between pretence and desire blurs, Zach’s forced to face an unexpected truth: there’s nothing phoney about his need for Rae. But the jaded divorcée’s been hurt by playboy men before. Can a weekend of faking it prove that Zach’s for real?

I enjoyed this one a lot more than the previous one.
Somehow it felt more real? Although, I did feel that the foundation was a bit off. The characters are both introduced as being unavailable, but that’s quickly put aside. And yes, I know that’s the point of this book, the romance part, but still, it suddenly moving so fast took me somewhat out of the story and didn’t really make me believe it.

That being said, Talia Hibbert is a master in creating such complex and interesting characters and making them have real conversations. Their self-reflective journeys are really well written, even though, also here, it could have benefitted from some more development.
In spite of my reservations, this was a really well rounded novel and showcases Talia Hibberts strength in crafting characters and writing emotions.

🎧 Stroud, Jonathan – The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) ★★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

When my goddaughter recently came to stay, she was completely obsessed with Lockwood & Co, the book series, but I learned that there is now also a new tv-series on Netflix.
I had heard about the books before and had even started the first audiobook once, but it wasn’t what I wanted to read at the time, so I put it aside for later. Now seemed to be the perfect time for later, so I could read it almost together with my goddaughter.

And I totally understand why she loves this so much! I would have been absolutely obsessed too when I was her age.
But even as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed this first book and I definitely plan to continue reading the series.

It’s ridiculously well written and doesn’t feel juvenile at all.
It’s immersive, compelling and a little mischievous, with a couple of cheeky jokes, making it that more enjoyable for an adult.

The intrigue of this story is through the roof. It’s adventurous, mysterious, creepy and it brings to life a charming cast of characters, who form their own little found family unit, that would go through fire for each other.
My only possible point of criticism would be that I wondered for over half of the book what that titular screaming staircase was, since it only comes into play quite late in the story. But that’s rather of minimal concern, since I already was completely invested in the characters, the introduction to this world and their side quests.

Heartily recommend for everyone who loves a good ghost story laced with humor.

Gwynne, John – The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl’s daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.

When this book was chosen for A Frolic Through Fiction‘s Patreon Book Club for the months of January-February, I hesitated for a while whether I would read this one. Not because I didn’t want to read it – I already bought the book last year, lol – but because I’ve been reading quite a lot of different heavier fantasy books in a row lately that are part of a series and I didn’t want to overload myself too much with it. But in the end I couldn’t resist the lure and read this book with pleasure.

“When Gods go to war, it is no small thing.”

The biggest draw for me to this book was, unsurprisingly, the mythology. The world concept is extremely intriguing (loved the idea of the Snaka/Boneback mountains) and the legacy of the gods and what this could mean for the rest of this story have me all excited.

“We are the Bloodsworn, closer than kin. A brotherhood, a sisterhood: we live and die together.”

I liked reading from our three main perspectives and traveling along on their journeys, while at the same time discovering about this new, well-crafted world.
The balance between storytelling and teaching the reader about the world was perfect. I never felt that a ton of information was dropped on me from nowhere, but it all fit in seamlessly and naturally in the narrative.
My biggest gripe would be that there are an awful lot of characters, with sometimes similar or difficult to remember names. I guess for someone Scandinavian, these names would feel more natural (?), but to me, I had to keep a list at my side and still got confused at times.
Same can be said about the use of certain specific terms or weird turns of phrases. It was kind of cool the first or second time, but their constant repetition began to feel tedious instead after a while (like thought cage or nålbinding cap).
But apart from that, the writing was compelling. It drew me in from the first chapter, which is not always the case for big fantasy novels.

“Courage is being scared of a task and doing it anyway.”

Related to the compelling writing, was the fact that the author managed to get me emotionally invested in his main characters extremely quickly. Of course I like some more than others (Elvar’s my least favourite for now), but each had their specific draw and interesting story arch.
Also, kudos to the author for how he writes strong female characters and there are a lot of them in this book. I loved how many of them had atypical roles, but still felt real and raw.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this.
Some parts dragged a bit. For a large part this story felt like setting the stage and getting us used to this brutal world. So there were parts that I had to push through. But the big revealing and explosive ending got me all titillated to dive into the sequel.