[TBR Check-In] What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, a great place to meet up and share your reading plans for the week. I love finding new blogs and new books – so a link-up that helps me do both? Sign me up!

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Well, it’s another rainy Monday here in Houston. Hopefully it’ll clear out before it’s time to drive home! Luckily, the weather was perfect for the weekend – making for great driving weather to visit the family! During the drive, I read Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest collection of short stories, The Refugees. An affecting collection, his work explores the far-reaching affects of the Vietnam war as his characters struggle to accept the changes in their lives. While creating a new future, in new country, they’ll always carry the war with them in their memories. I also finished reading The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld, an amazing story based on the writer’s own experience as a young Holocaust refugee immigrating to Israel. Written in a dream like state, the main character struggles to define himself as a man, bearing down on what it means to be a refugee, the language exchanged and the people left behind. It’s a novel I haven’t stopped thinking about, and likely never will.

Unfortunately, I finally broke my on-going record and finally had my first DNF for the year… well, actually two: Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente and Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. They’re beautifully written, but the audiobooks just weren’t for me. I’ll definitely be trying them again in print… someday. Instead, I spent my Valentine’s Day listening to Caraval by Stephanie Garber! Between the romance and the mystery, and the AMAZING Scarlet, who’s modesty equals her smarts, it all adds up to an amazing listening experience. Best. Audio. Book. Ever!

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Right now, I’m in the middle of Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez, a poignantly written account of the Peruvian conflict during the 1980s as experienced by three very different women, a guerrilla, a photojournalist, and an indigenous woman living in the highlands. Intense and hard-hitting, it’s one of the most difficult reads I’ve experienced in while, even at 120 pages. From there, I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I have a few library books to get through, but I’m so tempted to throw them all aside to jump into my new copy of We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter!

What are you reading?


[Short Reviews] February Reads – Part 1

Recently, it’s become a bit of a chore to write reviews. I’ve been wanting to write a full review on recent favorites, especially The Bear and the Nightingale, but I just haven’t had the time, not to mention they’re not always worth the effort in readership. So, in effort to improve the blog, and make my life easier, I’m expanding my monthly recaps. I might throw in a review post here and there, but for now, a few short reviews on recent reads:

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: A beautifully written mix of history and Russian folklore, The Bear and the Nightingale is the first of a promising new series, fully of rich imagery and a unique cast of characters. Set in the snowy white of the Russian wilderness, Vasilisa struggles to live by her step mother’s rules, namely, abandoning the old traditions for a new religion, but abandoning long-held superstitions rarely goes well, especially when a storybook monster leaps from the page and into real life. I can’t wait to read the next one! (4 Stars)

Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard: Mark and Maggie’s marriage is in trouble. From the very beginning, this much is clear, but after several meaningless squabbles, the two manage to side-step their issues as the tension builds uncomfortably high. It’s like watching a scary movie, expecting the worst at any moment, perhaps there’s a clown around the corner, a murderer with a chainsaw at the door… but in the end, it’s just a shadow.  (3 Stars)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin: While on the short side, Fever Dream is perhaps the most affecting novel I’ve read yet. From the very first page, Schweblin weaves a heart-rending mystery as Amanda struggles to recall the last few days, and ultimately, what happened to her daughter. Just when you think you’ve solved the mystery, you’ve found the important moment, something else happens, leaving you completely mystified until the very end. (5 Stars)

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: The final installment of The Queen of the Tearling, at least a few questions are answered… in addition to new mysteries all-together. Perhaps the most frustrating end imaginable, it seems Johansen wrote herself into a corner with this one. At least we know who Kelsea’s father is now, as well as the monstrous becoming of the Fetch. (3 Stars)

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Equal parts romance and mystery, Caraval follows two sisters, Scarlet and Tella, as they escape their abusive father and runaway to the mystical Caraval, a yearly performance/competition, but as soon as they arrive, young Tella is kidnapped and made the central target of the show. Scarlett’s search for her sister is heartbreaking as the game twists her perception between reality and performance, but the ending is well worth the chase. I’ll be needing Part 2 ASAP! (5 Stars)

If Our Bodies Could Talk by James Hamblin: Based on the title, as well as the blurb on Goodreads and the book cover, I expected to read something along the lines of Dr. Oz’s You: The Owner’s Manual, only a little shorter and definitely more current. At least the latter was true. Instead, I found a haphazard collection of journal articles on today’s hot topics in health, from risky treatments to the need for multivitamins… with no clear recommendation on anything beyond simply eating a balanced diet, drinking more water, and increasing activity. Interesting, but unnecessary. (3 Stars)

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik: After a white water rafting accident, four friends are left stranded in the wilderness and without their gear, until they spot a campfire in the distance. Thinking they’re saved, they rush toward the camp, transforming their story from an outdoor survival story to Wrong Turn 8. (3 Stars)

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: Listed as one of my most anticipated reads from 2016, The Nest was destined for disappointment. Following the Plumb siblings as they squabble over what to do with the family “nest”, I couldn’t find a single character I liked. Each selfish in their own way, the Plumb siblings have lived a life of luxury, each unafraid to flounder or fail expecting the “nest” to catch their fall… but when the money disappears, they’ll have to decide what’s more important – family, or the vacation home? (3 Stars)

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The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim: Born to a poor tea farmer in medieval China, twelve-year-old Li Jing is married off as a nursemaid to the Koh family’s three-year-old son. Continuously mistreated and ultimately sold to a courtesan house (similar to the Japanese geisha), Li Jing plots her escape with the help of the animal spirits. For a middle grade novel, the story is both emotional and, at times, upsetting, but an adventurous tale of self-discovery, nonetheless. If you loved Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon, this is the book for you! (4 Stars)

The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld: Following a young Holocaust refugee as he immigrates to Israel, Appelfeld’s words will leave a lasting impression on its readers. Throughout the novel, the main character struggles to accept the changes in his life, learning a new language, a new country’s traditions, changes that are more overwhelming than a grieving teen can bear. (5 Stars)

What have you read lately?


[A Fault in Their Stars] Ten Couples Who Just Can’t Win

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

This week on Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Broke and the Bookish, it’s all about the romance… or in this case, the not so smooth romance. If there’s one thing I love most, it’s a complicated romance – I just can’t help myself! I’m not one for drama. Actually, I try to avoid it as much as I can, except in my reading. Whether a classic case of miscommunication or a couple that just can’t catch a break… the best romantic comedies are likewise the most dramatic.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Never in a million years would a cyborg mechanic actually end up with a prince, but luckily, Cinder’s nothing short of spectacular. I know, I said I like drama, but the relationships in The Lunar Chronicles are almost too much – so no wonder it’s one of my favorites.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Girl breaks up with a guy, then has to save said guy a mere hours later from total annihilation… and that’s only the beginning.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: I always wished this would happen to me, but then again, but then again, so did every girl who ever watched A Cinderella Story. Classic teenage romance, angst super included.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Oh Miss Meyer… Even knowing the most likely ending for the younger Queen of Hearts (spoiler alert: not good), I couldn’t help but root for her and the Joker.

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman: “Cause every cool guy needs a popular girl”… until he meets the fallen star of his dreams, and no witch is going to tell him different.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell: Who knew the descendants of the Bronte sisters would be so dramatic?

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye: No matter the version, Jane Eyre will always be her worst enemy when it comes to love, but in the best way.

Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding: Really Helen, a divorce? You have to start this one out with Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy getting a divorce!? Are you trying to kill me? They’re meant to be, just let it happen!

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: Just when they’re about to make peace… she has to turn into an adorably tiny woodland creature, because why not?

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig: Lady seeks mystery and adventure, only to have her even more mysterious male counterpart get in the way. Like to read a never ending game of cat and mouse – this is for you (twelve times over).

What’s your favorite type of romance?


[TBR Check-In] What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, a great place to meet up and share your reading plans for the week. I love finding new blogs and new books – so a link-up that helps me do both? Sign me up!

The first week of February was not my favorite. Work is busier than usual and so is everything at home, meaning less reading and more chores (when we can fit them in). I’m definitely not a read-to-relax kind of person, but still, I managed to find a few escapes during the week, starting with the audio version of Stars Above by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles will always be a favorite audio series, and the final collection of stories is no exception! Complete with a long awaited wedding and surprising proposal! Next up, I finally got my hands on a copy of Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin – a fast paced novella following a woman in the midst of a fever-dream spurred by an unknown ailment. All the while she’s trying to backtrack, to finally place the moment it all went wrong, when she lost trace of her daughter. An emotional high from the get-go with an even more heart wrenching ending, it was the perfect read to end my week!


Luckily, my week ended happily, all thanks to a special meet and greet hosted by Houston’s own Blue Willow Bookshop. I got to meet the very charming Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow!! Easily one of my favorite reads from 2016, the signing was even more amazing than expected. He started the event by sharing his inspiration for the book, stemmed by all his travels as a financer, and giving a mini history lesson on the Metropol Hotel. Did you know Nina and Sophia are loosely based on his daughter? A young spit-fire herself, she’ll be the first one to correct her being referred to as “the baby”. A delightful speaker, and even more esteemed author, I can’t wait to see what he writes next! A hint: it involves three teens traveling from the Midwest to New York City.

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Currently, I’m reading The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld following a young refugee who’s traveled from Eastern Europe to Israel in hopes of finding his family and to make a new home for himself. Throughout the story, he struggles to accept the changes in his life, finding a new language and a new country more overbearing than a grieving teen can bear. I’m also listening to Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. So far so good – the story is definitely different from anything I’ve read lately. Following a woman trying to find her place in a new country with her newly formed family, a new string of affairs threatens to change the tides beyond repair. Intimate and intense, I’m intrigued to see how this one ends.

What are you reading?


Ten Books That Could Use More Hope (or Tiny Woodland Creatures)

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Broke and the Bookish, is all about the X-Factor. What is it we love most about reading? Is it the characters, the page-turning plot-twist… or the mysterious woodland creature that protects a character from afar? If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably know The Trees by Ali Shaw was my favorite read in 2016, a fairy tale twist on a forest’s revenge on modern-day men, complete with unicorns and ancient woodland creatures made of twigs. Their mysterious appearance guides the main characters to safety, steering them away from a pack of wolves or towards a stream of water, but even more so, they signify hope.

** A little belated, but I hope you enjoy. Yesterday was too crazy, I could use a little more cuteness myself! **

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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: A despairing quest for a long lost son across a land swallowed whole by a magical, memory-eating cloud. They most definitely could have used the steadying presence of a stag in this one, or at least a blue bird to lessen the strain of their journey.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Same goes for Station Eleven. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE this novel – it’s one of my favorites! But just imagine Kirsten strolling along, desperate to find her lost troupe, to cross paths with a unicorn, or just a glance – quick enough to plant a seed of hope.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee:Too many times did Lilliete Berne fall to the trickery of others. If only a mysterious black stallion could come to the rescue, permitting a perfectly executed escape from the tenuous Tenor and into the arms of her Composer.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys:In the midst of World War II, four teenagers cross the wintery expanse of East Prussia to join thousands of refugees at the coast, hoping to board one of the last of the evacuating ships. While the framing of the novel is, in itself, foreboding, the novel’s setting is the perfect set-up for a tailing raven or owl.

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Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke: Besides being overly dramatic, Wink Poppy Midnight is essentially a novel of teenage freedom, with pretty much every character running to the woods for some reason or other. The perfect set-up for a white rabbit situation if you ask me.

Never Ever by Sara Saedi: What’s Peter Pan without a creepy crocodile?

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: With her loyal mare Peony at her side, Lee can’t go wrong, but for much of the story the two are heartbreakingly kept apart. The novel is highly dramatic, constantly moving from one blow to the next – I definitely could have used an interlude of wild horses or scampering bunnies to break up the villainy.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand: A beautifully written novel discussing the woes of childhood depression, Some Kind of Happiness follows a young girl who finds refuge in the woods behind her grandparents’ house. Her story deserves all the cuteness of all the woodland creatures combined!

And Two That Have It All:

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: If you’re in need of adorably tiny woodland creatures, My Lady Jane is the book for you!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill: Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is chalk-full of hope (and cuteness). Following a young girl raised by a witch, a tiny dragon, and a grouchy bog monster, it’s no wonder why so many hold it so dear.

What’s your x-factor?



[TBR Check-In] What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, a great place to meet up and share your reading plans for the week. I love finding new blogs and new books – so a link-up that helps me do both? Sign me up!

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I might be a little biased, but Houston puts on a great Super Bowl! I’m not the biggest football fan, but I can’t help but love the fan fair, especially having front row seats to the National Anthem fly-over. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds passed right by our apartment in route to NRG Stadium! We missed the half-time fireworks, but wow! I can’t imagine anyone topping Lady Gaga – her performance was amazing!!

As exciting as the Super Bowl is, the highlight of my week was reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! A beautifully written mix of captivating imagery and Russian folk lore, Vasilisa’s story is un-put-downable as you enter the snowy-white of the Russian wilderness. I’m hoping to have a review soon, but trust me, you’ll want to read this one!

Finishing The Bear and the Nightingale, I fell back into the Tearling with Erika Johansen’s concluding novel, The Fate of the Tearling. While she finally answers the mystery behind the Fetch and even who Kelsea’s father is, I still have plenty of unanswered questions: why are the sapphires magical, how did Row do what he did, how did William Tearling even know he could take everyone to the Tearling… there’s so much I want to know, or know even more about! And how could she end Lily’s story like that? There’s so much I want to say, but it’s impossible to avoid spoilers! TDLR: there was a lot I didn’t like, but overall the series’ conclusion is satisfying, happy ending included.


And, according to tradition, I have a brand new library haul to share for the start of the new month. January was a great reading month, and I’m hoping February will be even better! Surprisingly, I have quite a few nonfiction titles this month, including Sarah Gristwood’s Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe. I’ve always been fascinated by the intricate history of royalties, especially the Medicis, so I’m very excited to dive into this one! I also have The Dry by Jane Harper and Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente on audio this week. I’m not quite sure what I’ll read next, but at least I have plenty of options!

What are you reading?


[Short Reviews] January 2017 Recap

Hands down, this has been my best reading month yet. Going into the holidays, I fell into a massive slump, often picking TV and a nap over reading. It took ages to get back into reading, but with a week left to 2016, I decided to strive for 250 books for the year – and I haven’t stopped since. I couldn’t believe I actually pulled it off, and I had to keep reading! So, for the month of January I read 31 books!

img_20170115_145722_500My library pile from the beginning of the month. Sadly it’s only gotten worse better!

Breaking it down, I read 16 books in print and 15 audiobooks. A lot of people ask how I read, and my answer is always AUDIOBOOKS! I listen while at work or while I’m cooking dinner (a guaranteed hour each day) and sometimes while I’m driving (thank you Houston traffic!) – there are so many opportunities to read an audiobook vs. a printed book, even if it’s in 10 minute increments. I also keep a book in my purse at all times, and if I don’t have one with me, chances are I have the same book in print AND as an E-Book – this is my best trick yet. It may take a minute to find your place, especially when you’re in a middle of a chapter, but it’s well worth the effort. Switching back and forth from print to E-Book or audio to E-Book gives me the freedom to read whenever, wherever, so whether it’s waiting in line at the grocery (always) or my lunch hour, I always have a book at the ready!

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate: Crenshaw is a heartbreaking look into the everyday reality for kids across the country. Jackson’s family has fallen on hard times. With not enough money for rent and even less for food, it’s only a matter of time before they move back to the minivan, but luckily for him, his imaginary friend Crenshaw, a larger-than-life, skateboarding cat, is there to help. A difficult story to swallow, Crenshaw is beautifully written and shares the ever-growing importance of communication between parents and children as they age. (4 Stars)

Schlump: The Story of an Unknown Soldier by Hans Herbert Grimm: Autobiographic in nature, Schlump follows a young German soldier during World War I, who, at 17, defies his parents and volunteers for military service hoping to impress a girl. Naïve and undeniably lucky, Schlump experiences both occupied France and the depths of the trenches, all the while trying his best to live honorably in a time of perpetual turmoil. An absolute must read for any history buff. (4 Stars)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Filled with strong-minded characters, the novel unveils the mysticism surrounding the real underground railroad, as well as the complicated patchwork of conductors and riders alike. (5 Stars)

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick: Much more than a romance, The Comet Seekers is an exploration of the human spirit. A love written by the stars, Roisin and Francois are drawn together after years of crossing paths, but their story is as much the story of their ancestors, blurring the line between past and present, comet and star. See my full review here. (4 Stars)

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Wolf by Wolf & Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin: A thrilling duology set in an alternate history in which Hitler reigns superior. Yael, a former death camp prisoner and survivor of experimentation, plans to use her shape-shifting abilities to infiltrate the annual Axis Tour, a motorcycle race across Europe and into Asia. At the start, Yael has only one goal: to kill Hitler, but as she grows closer to other competitors, her faith in humanity restores, complicating her mission in ways she never expected. Non-stop action paired with the talents of voice actor Christa Lewis, the audiobooks are definitely the way to go for this one! (4 Stars)

Black Water by Louise Doughty: As a young spy, John Harper’s first mission abroad in Indonesia crumbled before it even began, leading to the singular most disturbing moment of his life. Now, in his fifties and back in Indonesia, he’s consumed by guilt as he recollects the 1965 massacres and his part in the subsequent military dictatorship. Black Water is not for the feint of heart. Though the novel leads up to one particular admission, the rest of John Harper’s life is anything but sunshine and daisies. (4 Stars)

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill: Britta Flannery is a badass. Daughter of the kingdom’s bounty hunter, she soon finds herself hunting down her father’s killer – the only there’s a catch, the presumed murderer was her father’s apprentice, her best friend. Britta’s constantly getting herself into trouble, but she always finds a way to save herself – yes, herself! I only wish there was a little less romance and a little more world building. Oh well, there’s always hope for the next one! (3 Stars)

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell: An epic, mythical debut exploring the difficulties of marriage and the pressures of parenthood. After a string of miscarriages, husband and wife no longer speak, leading their own lives in the dirt between the lake and the woods, forming a divide built by miscommunications and pressure to conceive. The novel was a slow start as it mainly follows the husband as he lists his wife’s misgivings, but just as you lose all hope, he finally, FINALLY, gets it! And he’ll battle bears and lake monsters alike to fix it. (4 Stars)

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Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco: I know, I know… I’m a walking hypocrite, but where Ever the Hunted disappointed, Stalking Jack the Ripper shined – I loved every minute of the romance between Audrey and Creswell, especially considering he’s a main suspect. Loved, loved, LOVED the audiobook! (4 Stars)

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi: A modern day Gothic horror novel of epic proportions – I’ve never been so mystified by an ending. Miri is haunted by her family’s home, creating a change so startling that it almost goes un-noticed. Her pica, the dresses, her speech, even her handwriting, even going away for school does little to save her, but from who? I’m still not sure… (4 Stars)

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Life is anything but simple for Willowdean. On the heavy side, she accepts who she is, but that doesn’t mean she’s accepted the daily judgments, coming from everyone and anyone: friends, family, perfect strangers… why should they have a right to comment on her body? With a Texan attitude and the power of Dolly Parton at her side, Willowdean makes waves in her small town by entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, shocking even herself as she pushes traditional boundaries and demands the acceptance we all deserve. Hands down, best audiobook of the month! (5 Stars)

The Ballroom by Anna Hope: An atmospheric romance set in the Yorkshire moors during the Edwardian era. Promising a quiet romance between two patients of an asylum, The Ballroom packs a powerful punch. From the constant dread of being admitted for a simple misgiving, to one doctor’s horrifying obsession with eugenics, the letters between lovers serve a simple distraction from a larger discussion. (4 Stars)

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Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance: A fascinating biography on one of the most ambitious innovators of our time: Elon Musk, the force behind SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and Paypal. While fan-girling over his successes, journalish Ashlee Vance still manages to paint a complete picture of Musk’s genius, from his early childhood to his failures as a leader to his unbelievable successes.  (4 Stars)

The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay: The true story of a twelve-year-old refugee’s escape from Afghanistan. His journey leaves a remarkable impression: the endless months spent hungry, the constant threat of imprisonment, cruelty, and the sheer terror of not knowing what was next, if he’d ever find his brother, or reach England, and above all, if he’d be allowed to stay. From Afghanistan through Iran, from Turkey to the Calais Jungle, his story is only one of thousands of refugees. (5 Stars)

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund: After weeks and weeks of seeing it’s gorgeous, understated cover grace my Instagram feed, I finally picked up a copy from the library. And boy, did it tear me apart! Straying from a peculiar home life (i.e. hippie parents who are WAY too hands off and live off the grid in the backwoods of Minnesota), Linda stumbles on the new family living next door: a mysterious husband never at home, and his young wife and child. She soon becomes the trusted babysitter, but things take a shocking turn when the child shows signs of a serious illness. The story is intriguing, but an accumulation of wayward characters and an untidy ending leaves the novel drastically incomplete. (3 Stars)

Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall: Seventeen-year-old Norah hasn’t left the house for four years, suffering from debilitating anxiety attacks that stem from an uncontrollable obsession with disaster, but after being caught fishing for the groceries (mistakenly left on the porch) she wonders what it’d be like to have a friend in the outside world. What you’d expect is love conquer all, a happy ending where her mental illness suddenly dissolves itself because she’s been rescued by a drop-dead-gorgeous guy who’s only role is to save her, but instead, we actually get a realistic story about mental illness, written by an author who actually suffers from agoraphobia. Sure, she may get a tad bit better after meeting Luke, but it’s got nothing to with him – it’s all her, nothing but hard sweat and tears after battling her want for human connection while also fearing it. The romance is just a bonus.(4 Stars)

What books did you love in January?