Read in February 2024

February was a bit of an eclectic reading month.
I haven’t quite got my reading mojo back yet, which doesn’t mean that I don’t read a lot, but rather that I quickly get distracted by my thoughts or (worse) my phone while reading.

I didn’t read everything I had planned to read in February, but I did manage to finish a recently started series and found sufficient reason to DNF a partially read series.

Ultimately, I finished February with 8 completed books, good for 2878 pages. The average February book comes to 360 pages/book.

Rating-wise it was a pretty mediocre month; with the exception of two books, all finished books got 3 stars. The average February book ends up with 3.3 stars.
February also included my first unfinished book (DNF), which I took as a reason to DNF the entire series it is a part of.

In terms of target group, I varied between 3 Young Adult books and 6 adult books.

As always, I also varied in reading style, with 5 e-books, 2 audiobooks and 2 physically owned books.

For the genres I switched between 4 genres, namely thriller (1), sci-fi (1), romance (3) and fantasy (4).

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! Sometimes I will also hide spoilers behind a fold-out text!

  1. Sanderson, Brandon – Long Chills and Case Dough ★★★
  2. Abercrombie, Joe – Sharp Ends (First Law World #7) 🎧 ★★★
  3. Taylor, Laini – Night of Cake & Puppets (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1,5) ★★★
  4. Elliott, Lexie – Bright and Deadly Things 🎧 ★★★
  5. Hazelwood, Ali – Bride ★★★
  6. Taylor, Laini – Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) ★★★★
  7. Ashley, Jennifer – The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Mackenzies & McBrides #3) ★★★
  8. Taylor, Laini – Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) ★★★★
  9. Ashley, Jennifer – The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Mackenzies & McBrides #4) DNF

Sanderson, Brandon – Long Chills and Case Dough ★★★

Genre: Sci-Fi (novella)

Long Chills and Case Dough is a previously unpublished short story, written just before Brandon published his first book. It was released to celebrate the finale of the 2023 “Year of Sanderson”, and is published exclusively by Dragonsteel as a “Sanderson Curiosity”.

As a final thank you, at the close of the Year of Sanderson, all backers of the Secret Projects campaign on Kickstarter, received a digital book for a previously unpublished short story.

Long Chills and Case Dough is a story Sanderson wrote before he ever got published and was his experimentation with the noir detective genre.
I had some difficulty finding my way into this one. The writing is very heavy handed with the slang and noir-gimmicks. It felt over the top and too much of a parody. The story itself however was rather fun and at the certain moment it clicks why the language is so overdone, making it suddenly much more digestible and fun.

Not a high-flyer, but entertaining and a very nice surprise for the fans.

🎧 Abercrombie, Joe – Sharp Ends (First Law World #7) ★★★

Genre: Fantasy (grimdark)

Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back)stirues, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.
The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.

Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.

Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.

And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There’s only one obstacle left — his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine . . .

My review for this book could previously be read here!

Taylor, Laini – Night of Cake & Puppets (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1,5) ★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy (romance)

In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana’s fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.


I wanted to read this before starting book 2 in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, because my brain absolutely needs to do things in the correct order and Goodreads says this is book 1.5. I hesitated whether or not I wanted to buy the physical copy, but eventually went with the e-book with illustrations.

This was very cute, heartwarming, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated.
Not really necessary to be able to read book 2, but cute nonetheless. I’m glad I read it, but also glad I didn’t spend the money on the physical copy.

🎧 Elliott, Lexie – Bright and Deadly Things ★★★

Genre: Thriller (mystery)

A remote back-to-basics mountaintop retreat in the French Alps turns deadly as an Oxford fellow finds herself in the crosshairs of her late husband’s dangerous secrets.

The Chalet des Anglais should be the ideal locale for recently-widowed Oxford don Emily to begin cutting through the fog of her grief. With no electricity, running water, or access by car, the rustic chalet nestled at the foot of the verdant, snow-topped Alps should afford Emily both time and space to heal. Joining her will be a collection of friends from the university, as well as other fellows, graduates, and undergraduates.

Something feels off, though—heightening Emily’s existing grief-induced anxiety. Before even making it to the airport, she’s unnerved by a break-in at her home. Once at the chalet, tension amongst the guests is palpable. Her friends and colleagues are behaving oddly, and competition for a newly opened position has introduced a streak of meanness into the otherwise relaxing getaway. As hostilities grow, Emily begins to wonder if the chalet’s dark history has cast a shadow over the retreat. In the salon, a curious grandfather clock looms, the only piece of furniture to survive a deadly blaze a century ago. As its discordant bell begins to invade everyone’s dreams, someone very real has been searching through Emily’s things and attempting to hack into her computer.

When a student disappears, Emily realizes that she’d better separate friend from foe, and real from imagined—or the next disappearance may be her own.

I read The Missing Years by this author a few years ago and thought it was really wonderful. So when this was recommended to me on Storytel, I didn’t hesitate.

It started very well, with an exciting premise and an atmospheric setting, but unfortunately I gradually lost my interest.
It was quite clear from the beginning who the perpetrator would turn out to be, and all additional elements to build up tension or throw sand in the reader’s eyes added little for me. The extra paranormal side with the clock couldn’t quite grab me into the threatening atmosphere.
The writing style remained compelling, but the pacing was a bit too slow.

So generally OK, but not one to remember.

Hazelwood, Ali – Bride ★★★

Genre: Romance (paranormal)

A dangerous alliance between a Vampyre bride and an Alpha Werewolf becomes a love deep enough to sink your teeth into in this new paranormal romance.

Misery Lark, the only daughter of the most powerful Vampyre councilman of the Southwest, is an outcast—again. Her days of living in anonymity among the Humans are over: she has been called upon to uphold a historic peacekeeping alliance between the Vampyres and their mortal enemies, the Weres, and she sees little choice but to surrender herself in the exchange—again…

Weres are ruthless and unpredictable, and their Alpha, Lowe Moreland, is no exception. He rules his pack with absolute authority, but not without justice. And, unlike the Vampyre Council, not without feeling. It’s clear from the way he tracks Misery’s every movement that he doesn’t trust her. If only he knew how right he was….

Because Misery has her own reasons to agree to this marriage of convenience, reasons that have nothing to do with politics or alliances, and everything to do with the only thing she’s ever cared about. And she is willing to do whatever it takes to get back what’s hers, even if it means a life alone in Were territory…alone with the wolf.

After seeing Riley Marie’s gushing review of this book in her latest vlog, I became quite curious. I have previously read Ali Hazelwood’s debut and the STEMinist novella’s [1][2][3] with varying success, so when this paranormal romance novel of hers got announces I was a little bit curious but not overtly so. Riley hyped me up though, so I decided to pick it up as an e-book for a more light in-between read.

It turned out to be quite the compelling read.
The writing style took some getting used to, but eventually did manage to draw me in, together with the mystery present from the beginning. In the end I managed to read this book in one day, since it just drove me to keep on reading, while simultaneously not being all that interesting. It was a bit like a reality show, where you just can’t look away, but at the end of it don’t feel like you have much thoughts about it.

The worldbuilding is sparse, the characters not all that developed and the plot quite smutty (do knot think too much about it), but all in all actually what I had wanted from it: brainless entertainment.

Taylor, Laini – Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

The story continues in this astounding, must-read sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone . . .

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

“Once upon a time,
an angel and a devil held a wishbone between them
and it’s snap split the world in two.”

After the shocking ending of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I knew this sequel would take a turn onto a darker path, but this was so much more bleaker than I had anticipated.

“In the cycle of slaughter, reprisal begat reprisal, forever.”

This was well and truly a book about war, and Laini did a tremendous job conveying the frustration, exhaustion and hopelessness soldiers might feel about the tragic situation they find themselves in.
The plot is rife with violence, blood and gore. Starlight is only sporadically seen, mostly when we see Zuzana & Mik. It was a very good call to keep Karou’s best friend involved in the story. Not only did it provide some necessary reprieve from the gloom, at the same time it raised the stakes for Karou and helped her to regain her perspective.

“The sky weighed gray over fairy-tale rooftops, and all the world was watching. ”

Romance has little part in the plot of this second book, which may deter some readers, looking for the forbidden romance plot continuation of the first book.
However, I found romance in the writing, which as always by this author, was so beautiful and poetic, even when the story is so dark and fraught with danger.

The worldbuilding is also quite breathtaking. It is extremely well developed and complex.

“Life is your master, or death is,” Brimstone had said, but in these days of blood, there was no luxury of choice.

All in all, an unexpected sequel, but in the best of ways. I just can’t wait to see how this continues and concludes!

Ashley, Jennifer – The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Mackenzies & McBrides #3) ★★★

Genre: Romance (historical)

He is a man of simple tastes and complex pleasures…Cameron Mackenzie is a man who loves only horses and women—in that order—or so his mistresses say. Ainsley Douglas is a woman with a strong sense of justice and the desire to help others—even if that means sneaking around a rakish man’s bedchamber. Which is exactly where Cam finds her—six years after he caught her the first time. Only then, she convinced Cam she was seeking a liaison, but couldn’t go through with it because of her husband. Now a widow, she’s on a mission to retrieve letters that could prove embarrassing to the queen. Cam has no interest in Ainsley’s subterfuge, but he vows to finish what they started those many years ago. One game, one kiss at a time, he plans to seduce her. And what starts out as a lusty diversion may break Cam’s own rules—and heal the scars of a dark and damaging past…

In 2020, I read the first book in this series of loosely connected historical romances, after suddenly seeing a lot of rave reviews on YouTube. Ultimately, I thought that book was mediocre; nice, but not exactly something that, in my opinion, warranted such enthusiasm.
Now, because I sometimes like to read in this genre as a pallet cleanser, I put the series in my list of “started series”, to continue reading later.
In 2021 I read the second book, which again did not completely convince me, but I was still not ready to abandon this series.

And now I have read book 3 in February and I think this one is the best one yet.
The previous two books always involved an extra mystery on top of the main plot of the blossoming romance, and while I’m a fan of mysteries in theory, I didn’t think they worked in these books because they were a bit too convoluted and over the top.
In this third book there is not so much an external mystery, but rather the mystery of our main characters’ pasts, which I found much more interesting to read.

Broadly speaking, the book can be divided into two parts, first the lead-up to the relationship, followed by the part where the characters get to know each other more deeply, which reveals many tragedies and traumas. It probably won’t surprise you that I enjoyed reading the first part of this book much more than the second part, which was much slower and heavier. But in the end the author managed to not let it drag on too long and managed to end the book in a sufficiently satisfying way.

Now that I have read three books in this 12-novel series, I have decided that I will still read the book of the fourth and last Mackenzie brother and if this one doesn’t blow me away, I will DNF the series.

Taylor, Laini – Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living . . . and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz, something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of?

Oh, wow. So many conflicting feelings about this finale.

“And strangely fold the hours as the end draws near.”

The most prevalent feeling, immediately after finishing, was, unfortunately, disappointment.
This didn’t really feel like a climax or final battle, but rather a set-up for an even bigger conflict, which is ultimately left untold, while the idea of it is absolutely fascinating. This made the actual conflict in this book feel rushed. Everything was handled very quickly, fairly easily, and with few major consequences.

“These were the godstars, who brought light to the universe.”

At the same time, I am deeply in awe of the design of this truly epic story.
The ongoing world building is absolutely incredible. The further exploration of the mythology was extremely fascinating, but I wanted so much more from it than the little snippets we got.

The new characters and the reason for their presence were another hit.
Great idea to start the book from the human perspective, which at first I thought was just a side issue, to make it more impactful, but which later turned out to be so much more and more important.

Once again the writing style was magically beautiful and there were many wonderful moments with beloved characters.

“It was not a happy ending, but a happy middle—at last, after so many fraught beginnings.”

Unfortunately, much of this was overshadowed by the expanding of the scope, while great ideas on their own, proved too much to handle beautifully and satisfactorily in this one, already gigantic, book. As a result, this book gives the impression of being the penultimate book in a series, rather than a finale.

The last chapter also felt far too rushed, with each character briefly given the stage and with a semi-quite lackluster-conclusion to the three-book long yearning of Karou & Akiva.

“Once upon a time,
an angel and a devil pressed their hand to their hearts
and started the apocalypse.”

Now this may all sound very negative, but in the end I really enjoyed reading this book. I have enormous respect for Laini Taylor’s writing talent and her extremely unique and hypnotic way of weaving stories.
On its own, Dreams of Gods & Monsters is a really good book, but for a finale it is somewhat disappointing and incomplete.

Ashley, Jennifer – The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Mackenzies & McBrides #4) (DNF)

Genre: Romance (historical)

Lady Eleanor Ramsay is the only one who knows the truth about Hart Mackenzie. Once his fiancee, she is the sole woman to whom he could ever pour out his heart.

Hart has it all—a dukedom, wealth, power, influence, whatever he desires. Every woman wants him—his seductive skills are legendary. But Hart has sacrificed much to keep his brothers safe, first from their brutal father, and then from the world. He’s also suffered loss—his wife, his infant son, and the woman he loved with all his heart though he realized it too late.

Now, Eleanor has reappeared on Hart’s doorstep, with scandalous nude photographs of Hart taken long ago. Intrigued by the challenge in her blue eyes—and aroused by her charming, no-nonsense determination—Hart wonders if his young love has come to ruin him… or save him.

Hah, it feels very serendipitous that this book turned out to be so lackluster and annoying, that I decided to DNF at 48%.
Makes it a hell of a lot easier to counteract my annoying completionist urges and just forget about this entire series!

The setup of this book got me intrigued, after we met the female main character in the previous book. However, she turned out to really grate on my nerves, as did the hero. So when I really felt reluctance to pick this up and felt so bored whenever I did that I just skipped whole paragraphs just to get it to go faster, I just had to stop forcing myself.

So yeah, all in all, I gave this a fair chance, but this series and this author just did not click for me.

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