January was a pretty good start to the year for me in terms of reading. I read 10 books, which is the same amount I read in January 2020, so I feel like I’m on track with my 2021 reading goal of 100 books.
The Extraordinaries // 4.5 stars // Audiobook
Content warnings for death of a parent, violence, discussions of homophobia and ableism.
This was my first read of 2021 and what a great read to begin the year. I read TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea last year, so I knew I enjoyed his writing style and characters, but I found that I liked this even more than his adult novel.
The characters explode off the page and their development is streamlined and captivating. I loved the queer rep in this book and the way that TJ Klune fondly mocks some of the main tropes we often find in fanfiction.
There are a lot of in-depth discussions of ADHD and neurodivergence that were really important to the story and brilliantly written. Klune has ADHD, so this book is own voices for that rep and the care and nuance he’s put into writing Nick’s story really comes across on-page.
Criminal Intentions: Cult of Personality // 4.5 stars // ebook
Content warnings for cults, gaslighting and emotional manipulation, on-page death, drowning, violence.
This series just gets better and better. After several books’ worth of yearning and pining, Mal and Seong-Jae are now exploring their feelings for each other and I. am. ASCENDING. Honestly, this is it. This is the ship I would go down with.
The Duke and I // 3.5 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for violence, physical assault, rape, sexual assault, parental abandonment.
Like a lot of people, I watched the Bridgerton series and then decided to pick up the books and give them a go. And there was a lot to like. I enjoyed the interactions and humour between the Bridgerton siblings and I liked the growing attraction between Simon and Daphne when they first meet. This book also includes one of my favourite tropes: fake dating.
But while there was a lot to enjoy about this story, there were a few things I didn’t like. The rape scene was awful to read and there was no need to include in the story. It didn’t really add anything to the plot and was never fully addressed and worked through afterwards, making it feel like it was just there for shock value. I ended up dropping a whole star from my rating because of this scene.
Fable // 4.5 stars // ebook
This book has content warnings for: death of a parent (not on-page), parental abandonment, scarring, burns, violence, murder, kidnapping, mentions of drowning.
Every now and then, a fantasy novel comes along that captivates me completely. The narrative, characters, and world-building all work together seamlessly to produce an exceptional story. Fable was that fantasy for me.
I loved Fable and West’s dynamic because they’re a variation of the grumpy/sunshine trope. He’s stern and serious and she’s determined and passionate. And the only time we see West truly break his controlled exterior is when he’s worried about Fable.
I really enjoyed the witty, humorous dialogue between the crew and this has got to be one of my new favourite YA squads. (Yes, friends, it’s a squad. I said it.) There’s also a gay romance which gives us some really sweet scenes that I loved.
Plain Bad Heroines // 3 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for death, violence, insects and bee/yellowjacket stings, body horror, gore, insect and nature horror.
I really enjoyed the fact that there were so many sapphic characters in this novel as well as a non-binary secondary character. Pretty much all of the main characters are sapphic and we get chapters from each of their perspectives.
The writing style was eloquent, detailed and slowly built up a picture of Brookhants in the two timelines. It suited the haunting, creepy atmosphere of the book and really enhanced the sinister vibes of the story.
But something I discovered while reading this book is that, ironically, I don’t really like intense horror. I didn’t enjoy the scenes that centered on gore, dead insects, and body horror at all and I wanted to get through them as quickly as possible. This is just personal preference of course and if you enjoy physical horror, then you might really like this.
Criminal Intentions: Collateral Damage // 4 stars // ebook
Trigger warnings for violence, murder, shooting, kidnapping, adultery.
This was another fast-paced, intense episode with stunning writing. The violence in this episode was pretty grim, but the author gives plenty of trigger warnings before the story begins, which is really good.
The pacing in this one was really intense and never slowed down until the final few pages, which really suited the plot. There were some lovely scenes between Mal and Seong-Jae and I’m living for the way their relationship is developing. These two live in my mind, rent-free.
Criminal Intentions: A Single Bright Candle’s Flame // 4 stars // ebook
Trigger warnings for discussions of homophobia, transphobia, substance abuse and drug addiction, grief, running away from home.
I was surprised to find there was no case in this episode, but it definitely made sense in terms of the overall series plot after what happened at the end of book 8.
I loved the fact that we got to learn more about Seong-Jae’s history and meet his sister; I definitely hope we see more of her in future episodes. I also really enjoyed the cosy, family vibes in this story. Malcolm and Seong-Jae being domestic and getting to chill out, away from work, warms my heart so much.
The Viscount Who Loved Me // 4 stars // Audiobook
Content warnings for near death experience, physical injury, characters being forced into marriage.
I enjoyed this book a lot more than the first Bridgerton book because it was enemies-to-lovers and had far fewer toxic scenes in it.
I’m a sucker for enemies-to-lovers so I enjoyed that aspect of the story a lot. I liked seeing more of Anthony’s soft, doting side, rather than his calculating, stern side, and we get to see more of the other Bridgerton siblings which is always fun.
Similar to book one, I found the sexist attitudes in this book unnecessary and thought they detracted from the story, but I’m hoping that the author will drop the sexism as the series progresses.
Make Up Break Up // 3 stars // ebook
Content warnings for racism, sexism, and loss of a parent several years ago.
This is Sandhya Menon’s first adult romance and I buddy read this with Kirsty. The writing was so addictive that I kept accidentally racing ahead, but on the whole I was a little disappointed?
The romance was fun but both the main characters were very frustrating at times. For two adults, who are CEOs of their own apps, their actions were childish and the way they tried to sabotage each other made them seem unprofessional.
I liked some of the romantic scenes (especially the fountain scene) but some parts of the story felt a little unrealistic to me (Annika and June both own really expensive cars despite only being 24 and Hudson is a millionaire when his app only launched a few months ago?). There’s also a lot of miscommunication between Annika and Hudson that I didn’t enjoy, but that’s just my personal preference.
Orlando // 4 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for deadnaming and misgendering, racism and racist slurs, sexism, transphobia.
I’m struggling with how to rate this book because there were a lot of things I enjoyed, but also a lot of things that I found questionable.
Orlando as a character is funny, witty, and insightful, but also cunning, vain, and judgmental, so it was interesting to read from their perspective. At times they’re over-dramatic and I found some of their dialogue with other characters highly entertaining.
The issue I have with this book is that I find myself judging it by today’s standards. And by today’s standards the story includes a lot of deadnaming, misgendering, and transphobia because one of the main parts of this plot is that Orlando transitions.
But this book was published in 1928, and the first recorded use of the term deadnaming was in 2012. So Virginia Woolf wouldn’t have heard of this term when she was writing and I don’t think she would have intended the story to come across as transphobic.
I think she was aiming to tell the story of a man who goes to sleep one night and through magic or some sort of supernatural occurrence wakes up as a woman, and has to suddenly deal with sexism, double standards, and other societal issues that they didn’t before.
But picking this up 93 years after it was published, it’s hard not to read it by today’s standards. So although I enjoyed a lot of this, I can’t help but think about the fact that some scenes come across as transphobic to a modern day audience.
January was a pretty quiet month because we went back into lockdown in the UK. This means we can’t travel outside of our local area and all non-essential shops and businesses are closed. So aside from going out running and going shopping for food, I couldn’t really go anywhere or do very much.
But this has been the norm over the last 9 months, so as usual I worked, read, blogged, filmed some videos (which I still need to edit) and watched an inordinate amount of Among Us let’s plays.
BTS training workouts
I’m definitely late to this party, but something fun I discovered in January was BTS workouts on YouTube. There are SO many different training routines, some cardio, some dance, and I love BTS so this was an instant hit for me.
I have since become a FIEND for BTS workout videos. There’s just something really motivational about training to some of your favourite songs.