Happy 2020! We have officially made it through the first month of a new decade. Isn’t the passage of time wild?
For this year, I’ve set my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to 60 books. That’s up from last year’s goal of 48, where I actually ended up reading 50. So I figured, hey, what’s ten more books? Knowing me, I’ll probably regret that later in the year, but for now… I’m gonna give it my best shot.
For January, I also wanted to make a (tiny) dent in my physical TBR pile. I’m talking about the hundreds (yes, hundreds, shame on me) of unread books that are sitting in my house. I have this problem of buying tons and tons of books and then just never getting around to reading them, so one of my resolutions for this year is to really start getting that number of unread books down.
Anyway, here’s everything I read in January!
(all summaries and covers courtesy of Goodreads)
1. Such a Good Girl by Amanda K. Morgan
Riley Stone is just about perfect. (Ask anyone.)
She has a crush on her French teacher, Alex Belrose. (And she suspects he likes her, too.)
Riley has her entire life planned out. (The plan is nonnegotiable.)
She’s never had a secret she couldn’t keep. (Not ever.)
Riley is sure that her life is on the right track. (And nothing will change that.)
She’s nothing like a regular teenager. (But she doesn’t have any problem admitting that.)
Riley doesn’t usually play games. (But when she does, she always wins.)
She thinks a game is about to start….
But Riley always has a plan….
And she always wins.
1 out of 5 stars
The summary of this book reveals pretty much nothing, so let me tell you this: it’s a student/teacher “relationship” with a supposedly suspenseful twist. All I’ve got to say is this was just… not good. From the writing to the ending. Yikes. The cover was so much better than what was inside.
2. American Panda by Gloria Chao
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
4 out of 5 stars
This is another one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf practically since the day it came out. Whoops.
I very much enjoyed the writing, the story, the diversity, the pacing, and Mei’s character. Also Darren was a cutie pie. That said, their relationship went from strangers to practically bffs strangely fast, but I suppose that’s college for you. And speaking of college, I realize that Mei isolated herself some (because of her age, her family, etc.) but this didn’t really feel like it was even set at college. Other than the references to places at MIT, we could have been anywhere, even back in high school.
The family dynamics were definitely heavy at times, and the way that Mei handled certain aspects emotionally was… interesting, to say the least. It was a different perspective, one that I appreciated seeing in YA.
3. Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Shouldn’t a girl get to star in her own love story?
Seventeen-year-old Megan Harper is about due for her next sweeping romance. It’s inevitable—each of her relationships starts with the perfect guy and ends with him falling in love . . . with someone else. But instead of feeling sorry for herself, Megan focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theater, and fulfilling her dream college’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.
So when she’s cast as Juliet (yes, that Juliet) in her high school’s production, it’s a complete nightmare. Megan’s not an actress, and she’s used to being upstaged—both in and out of the theater. In fact, with her mom off in Texas and her dad remarried and on to baby #2 with his new wife, Megan worries that, just like her exes, her family is moving on without her.
Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright inspired by Rosaline from Shakespeare’s R+J. A character who, like Megan, knows a thing or two about short-lived relationships. Megan agrees to help Owen with his play in exchange for help catching the eye of a sexy stagehand/potential new boyfriend. Yet Megan finds herself growing closer to Owen, and wonders if he could be the Romeo she never expected.
In their fresh and funny debut, Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka break down the high school drama to find there’s always room for familial love, romantic love, and—most importantly—self-love.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Um, wow, it was such a pleasant surprise to discover a main female character in a YA novel with such confidence. Megan is bold when it comes to boys, which you definitely don’t see a lot of in YA, or at least I don’t. That was a nice change of pace. Not to mention she was way more understanding about certain relationships than a lot of people would be. So yeah, she was very different from your usual contemporary YA protag. I also appreciated the sex-positivity of this book, another refreshing thing to see.
The pacing of this book was definitely on point. Despite its length, it never seemed to drag, and felt like a pretty quick read. I liked Megan for the most part and definitely related to her feeling replaceable. Owen Okita was an absolute precious bean. But Megan’s Dad, “best friend”, and ex-boyfriend? Yeah, they could absolutely go f*ck themselves.
4. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
1.5 out of 5 stars
What in the world did I just read.
Honestly, for the first third of the book there really wasn’t much of a story. Sure, the writing was lyrical and lovely, but I kept being like… okay… let’s get to the point. And then I guess we got to the “point” and uhhh. Hm. Okay. Wasn’t much of a point at all.
Overall, it was just very… strange. Not a fan.
5. Bound to You by Alyssa Brandon
A teen werewolf finally meets her destined soulmate only to discover that he’s not quite what she expected in this steamy debut romance.
She’s met her mate . . . and he’s met his match.
Megan Ross has been waiting her whole life for her mate to come and sweep her off her feet. But the wolf she meets on the beach is NOT the sweet gentle boy she’s been dreaming of. Instead, he’s a warrior, one whose suffering has led him to lock his heart away in a prison as cold and hard as a diamond, who fights to resist the bond and their deep sexual attraction.
Far from home, with a soulmate who is still a stranger, Megan learns that the path to true love isn’t quite as straight and easy as she thought
1 out of 5 stars
So, this used to be a story on Wattpad many, many moons ago (pun intended, this is a werewolf book!!). It was then uploaded to Swoon Reads and I think it was one of the first few stories they ever chose to publish. However, it took several years for it to actually ever come out in print.
I love Swoon Reads and their publishing model, so I figured it was time to really dig into their long list of published books. But this one… hm. I can see they were still trying to get their footing as an imprint when they chose this one and I now understand why it took so long from being selected on the site to actually being published.
This book is… not great. I was cringing on page 1 and I almost closed the book then and walked away. But I didn’t. I powered through. And sadly, things didn’t get any better. Terrible writing, so many unnecessary scenes, and absolutely awful, immature MCs.
I cannot in good conscience give this more than 1 star. This read like a slightly revised first draft. I never read the original version of this story that was on Wattpad or even the version that was uploaded to Swoon Reads, but this seems like it was plucked straight from there, maybe edited for grammar and pacing, and then sent to print. This could have used a rewrite or two, maybe even three. So disappointing.
6. Windwitch by Susan Dennard
Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…
After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Hmm. Well. I pretty much loved Truthwitch, but this had some strong Second Book Syndrome going on. It felt very transitional, like its only point was to set up for whatever’s supposed to happen in book 3. Like, sure, things happened! But it was a lot of “we’re trekking through the woods, let’s see what problems we run into along the way” instead of revolving around a particular plot. I dunno. It didn’t hook me as much as the first book did. That said, I’ll still be reading the rest of this series!
7. Love Mine by J.R. Ward
John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown to himself and to those around him. After he was taken in by the Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was- or his true identity. Indeed, the fallen Brother Darius has returned, but with a different face and a very different destiny. As a vicious personal vendetta takes John into the heart of the war, he will need to call up on both who he is now and who he once was in order to face off against evil incarnate.
Xhex, a symphath assassin, has long steeled herself against the attraction between her and John Matthew. Having already lost one lover to madness, she will not allow the male of worth to fall prey to the darkness of her twisted life. When fate intervenes, however, the two discover that love, like destiny, is inevitable between soul mates.
3 out of 5 stars
I had yet another 4 hour train ride so you know what that means!!! Trashy vampire time!!!
Honestly, what’s left to say about this series that I haven’t said already? I didn’t care about anything that involved Lash, but the romance was decent as usual. John Matthew was a sweet lil’ baby and Xhex was badass as usual.
8. All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.
As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.
Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.
2.5 out of 5 stars
When I saw the words “Embassy Row” I immediately thought of my hometown, Washington, D.C. I mean, obviously, right? We literally have a neighborhood called Embassy Row, which is home to dozens of—you guessed it—embassies. Any Washingtonian’s brain would automatically think of that, leading me to believe this book was set there before I picked up.
Surprise! It’s not!
I figured it out as soon as I read the opening line (“When I was twelve I broke my leg jumping off the wall between Canada and Germany.”) because the Canadian and German embassies are nowhere near each other. I know this well because every day during my freshman year of college, I drove past the German embassy on Foxhall Road in order to get to class, and the Canadian embassy is over by the Capitol. So, nope, no wall between them because they’re not next to each other. Which meant… this was not my hometown. Womp womp.
It’s set in the fictional country of Adria—and y’all know how I feel about fictional countries (if you don’t know, I love a good fictional country with a rich history)—and has its own Embassy Row. I liked that part.
However, just in the first 50 pages I had a few *looks into the camera like I’m on The Office* moments. I was not a fan of a certain section about Grace being horrified to learn they were on the land of what used to be the embassy of Iran. And the World War 3 commentary that followed… well, you would have thought this was written just last month.
But in general, the villainization of Iran in this whole book left a sour taste in my mouth. Carter could have easily created another fictional country to fill that role instead of using Iran. Especially for a YA book, you need to be careful about what message you’re sending, and this message was an overwhelming “Iran is scary and evil!!” Like, wow, great, another Middle Eastern country made to be the villain. What a shocker. *insert eye roll*
Plus, she didn’t explain why the Iranian embassy was gone or the history of anything. She just glossed over it with the whole “you can’t go there!!!” thing. There are going to be kids who read this and automatically assume Iran = bad, and I really don’t like that.
Still, this was a book that 13 year old Simone would have enjoyed for the most part. Back then, she was determined to work for the State Department one day and wanted to learn everything about politics, diplomacy, and world history. And she… did not end up doing that! But I don’t think I would have wanted her—a young half-Persian girl—to receive the messages in this book.
Plus, the mystery was weak and the suspense was more of the “oh my god just get to the point” variety. Gotta say, it wasn’t exactly a great read.
9. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.
The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.
1.5 out of 5 stars
Wow everyone in this book (except for Bec) is so shallow and two-dimensional and annoying!!! I hated Jules the most (and literally no one in this book gets their due at the end) but I couldn’t stand Gia (the FMC) either. Everyone was terrible (again, except for Bec).
I was hesitant when I started this book because I really did not like Love, Life, and the List by this same author. Lo and behold, this was just as bad.
10. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places.
Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….
3 out of 5 stars
Like I mentioned about Bound to You, I wanted to read more Swoon Reads books, so I figured I’d read one of their first (if not the first) books from the imprint. This looked pretty cute (and short) so I figured it would be the perfect read to round out the month.
Definitely super cute and I appreciated that all the POVs managed to sound different. Really did not like seeing the POV of the bench though… a little too weird for me. Still, overall a quick, adorable read.
I read ten (10!!!!) books this month! Like I said before, I know I’ll probably end up getting behind on my goal at some point this year, so to be ahead by five books this month is a great start. Plus, other than the JR Ward book, these were all books from my physical TBR pile.
Some of these (aka the ones I didn’t like) will either be donated to my local library or given away. It feels good to clear out my TBR pile/my bookshelves and also give someone else a chance to read these books. Who knows, maybe someone else out there will like them more than I do!
Did you read anything good this month? Any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!