How many of you have already signed up for the Goodreads 2022 Reading Challenge? It’s been a while since I really devoted my brain to reading actual books and not binging the occasional novel alongside too much fanfiction. So for the new year, and with a new mindset, I wanted to challenge myself. For 2022, I’ve signed up for 80 reads. The bigger goal is to review all of these books. Some of them, I plan to read with Lone Star Lit, and others through NetGalley. The rest will be books that have sat for years on my Kindle/iBooks and physical bookshelf. And to help keep myself accountable, I’ve decided to share the first four complete reads & reviews I’ve done for January. Ready to chat up books?
Orphaned. Trained to fight. Raised to fear the power of Underhill. Secretly in love with a man who doesn’t want me.
I’ll be honest, I bought the paperback on a whim, and let it sit on my shelf a good while. Now that the third in this fantastical trilogy is about to come out next month, I am so glad I waited. Because I binged the paperback in two nights and devoured the sequel in less than a day.
In case you can’t already tell, I loved every moment of this book and the series so far. A Court of Honey and Ash is titled similar to many Fae-centered novels today. But don’t let that make you think it’s just like the other NA Fantasy fare. These lovely authors brought the best of their strengths together to create pure alchemical magic.
Kallik is about to finish her training as a Fae warrior in the monster-filled Underhill. She’s one of only two females and the only half-human. She’s not the bravest or most powerful, but she has the most to prove to herself and the society that’s kept her on the outside all her life. But Kallik’s path doesn’t become easier with success. And her trials in Underhill will look like child’s play once she returns home to face her father’s court.
I can’t say more without major spoilers a la River Song but suffice to say, I dare you to begin reading and not stop until the end. If you’re like me, you’ll be sucked in by fantastic world-building, twisty turns, and complex characterizations. This is a beautifully constructed story, but it’s also irreverent and just plain fun.
Chosen. Framed by my father’s murderer. Running from the fae courts. Fated to never touch the man who sets my blood on fire.
If you read my review for A Court of Honey and Ash, then you know I read both the first and second book in this trilogy within three days.
I’m old enough now that I don’t binge a series the way I did ten years ago. Besides my wallet not being, in fact, bottomless, I also have a collection of ebooks and paperbacks in my shelves like you wouldn’t believe (and which some of you can relate.) But no sooner had I finished ACOHAA than I grabbed the kindle copy of the sequel (and pre-ordered the third).
When I say I loved this just as much as the first book, I’m understating just how much fun and satisfying of a read it was. So many questions and suspicions I had in the first book were answered and proven true. And LAN…may just be the perfect anti-hero of this story. I loved the way his story paralleled Kallik’s. Even better, while these two childhood friends spent most of book one playing enemies, here they are constantly brought together.
I can’t say I was terribly surprised by all that was unveiled in the climax, but the gift of true storytellers is in the execution. Best of all, we see everything through the lens of Kallik’s unreliable narrator. To the point I was second-guessing my instincts. I can’t wait to devour book three the minute it drops into my Kindle app.
After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.
I’ve always been a sucker for folklore and mythical retellings, and fascinated by the story of Hades and Persephone. No doubt the experts have done their best to pull the myth apart and point out everything wrong with romanticizing the relationship. But there’s a reason we love retellings. There’s a reason we come back to the oldest stories and refurbish them for a modern palette. Which is exactly what Scarlett St. Clair has done with A Touch of Darkness.
By bringing the mythical story into the present, in a world where the gods are “out” and very much in control behind the scenes, we are met with a young Persephone. She’s been hidden away by her mother for countless years, but she’s also a young and untried goddess. Persephone is convinced she has no real power. Every plant she touched withers, and she’s meant to be the goddess of spring. Settling for a human life and career, she begins her journalism internship, unafraid and determined to expose the truth of the most deadly of gods, Hades.
I enjoyed the way St. Clair wove the little details throughout the altered modern world. Where gods are adored and worshiped the way some people revere celebrities. Only the gods are less human than they can choose to appear, and not all of them have changed their ways. It was also interesting to see a very modern-minded Persephone come to bat with ancient practices and ways of thinking. She’s written to be the hero of the story, but Persephone isn’t perfect or completely selfless. And Hades isn’t quite the villain he allows people to see him as. A formula that made for a compelling and steamy relationship.
What holds more secrets in the library: the ancient books shelved in the stacks or the people who preserve them?
While I adore novels about books and readers, The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections was outside my typical read. I was drawn in by the unique title, and the illustrated cover design. I wanted to know what this department was about, who the lady on the cover was. After looking over the premise, I was officially hooked.
Leisl has worked in the department for decades, and until recently, handled the majority of administrative work while her boss managed acquisitions and the tedious professors and donors of the university. But when Christopher falls into a coma, Leisl must pick up the reins and step into the spotlight. Her boss has left big shoes to fill, not least because most people tend to overlook her or doubt her competence. It’s clear from the get-go that no one believes she can handle the department. Even more so when the university’s most recent and highly prized acquisition has gone missing.
The mystery behind the missing book kept me reading, even when we hopped back and forth between past and present, and occasionally a different perspective. I especially loved reading Miriam’s brief point of view and would have loved to delve deeper into her side of the story. Unfortunately for me, the majority of characters while very human, were not likable or enjoyable. Everyone in The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has secrets they’d prefer to keep hidden. Some are only hinted at, and the majority glossed over.
I had a love/hate relationship with our main character, Leisl. On the one hand, I wanted her to prove them all wrong and to come out on top in classic underdog fashion. But on the other hand, Leisl tends to be selfish, bitter, and only willing to see things from her preferred perspective. We do see growth in her character as the events in the novel push her boundaries in often painful directions. Yet I also felt like the story ended as it began. Leisl makes what is to her the unselfish choice at the end, but it also feels like she’s still sweeping things under the rug. Many of her personal problems are really solved, but she chooses to be content with her life anyway.
Expertly crafted by the very gifted Eva Jurczyk, The Department of Rare Books is perfect for fans of books, history, and a slow-burn mystery. No one is exactly as they seem, and everyone has something to hide. While I struggled to enjoy the story at times, I found much value and fun in the little hidden tidbits and the idea that even stodgy librarians may have led exciting lives, once upon a time.
**I was provided with a copy of this novel via NetGalley. These are my honest and unsolicited thoughts.**