January Wrap Up

In January 2016 I read 3 books, meaning I am (according to Goodreads) 8% of my way through my reading challenge, and right on track. My reading this month started a little disappointing, but only improved as January went by. Here are a few quick reviews of books #1, #2 and #3 of 2016:


1. The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

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I really wanted to like this book, as I got it from a friend doing an internship at a publishers, and I wanted to properly be able to appreciate the gift. Turns out in the end that I was massively disappointed. The story follows various different characters whose storylines are all entangled together, but the main ones are: Cora Sparks, a rather antisocial scientist I had high hopes for as a character; her grandmother Etta, who owns the dress shop of the title and may or may not have had actual magical powers (I’m not even sure at this point, and to be honest I don’t even care); and an old friend of the family who owns the nearby bookshop. His name is Walt, it turns out, which I had forgotten, and just looked up on Goodreads so I could mention it here. That should make it clear how little of an impression this book had on me.
I wanted something light and feel-good, but this book just made me frustrated. I started off really liking Cora, but by the end of it I just wanted to give her a shake and exasperatedly tell her off for some of the stupid things she was doing, and ridiculous decisions she was making. Walt wasn't much better. When I wasn't forgetting what he was called, I was moaning to myself about what a useless idiot he was – his only character trait was that he has a nice reading voice, but somehow this managed to drive his plotline all the way to the bitter, annoying end. And then Etta, who I really hoped would be some kind of kindly wise old lady with a touch of magic, was possibly the worst of them all. Did she have any kind of personality? If so it escapes me now, and I really couldn’t care less about anyone else in the book too.

If I’m talking about annoying characters, I should give an honourable mention to Milly, the poor young widow with grandiose visions of love who sets her sights on someone so unsuited to her I nearly gave up on the book the moment I realised what the author was trying to get at. This book just scraped a two star rating, and things don’t bode well for the other book I have by the same author, The House at the End of Hope Street. I don’t think I’ll be reading it anytime soon.

(You can find this review but with spoilery bits on Goodreads here)

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2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 

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I’d heard some really great things about the Grisha series, to which this book belongs, and also some not so great things which lowered my expectations enough for me to be pleasantly surprised when I finally got around to reading it. I liked the main character Alina – maybe more than I should have, on reflection, because she had a lot of the stereotypical tropes of YA heroines that annoy me in other books. Mal was a bit meh in my opinion, but he was okay around Alina, and luckily we didn't get to see him in any other context in this book, so that was fine with me. I also really liked the character of the Darkling. He was the right mixture of mystery and intrigue, and I genuinely did not see the twist later in the book coming. (If you can call it a twist, that is – I really should’ve realised what was going on, but I was so engrossed in the book that I completely forgot all the things I’d heard about it that should have clued me in to what was about to go down.)
I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while, but held off actually buying the trilogy until I could make sure I liked it. Well, it passed that test with flying colours, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on the full set. The ending of this first book was good enough to stand on its own (within the greater context of the series), but with more than enough storyline to carry on to the second books, which I will hopefully be picking up before long. 

(You can find this review but with spoilery bits on Goodreads here)

Rating: 

3. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

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To be honest, I was a little hesitant at first about what star rating to give this book. All three previous books in the series got solid 4 star ratings from me, and this one I loved even more. I really, really wanted to give this one 5, but a little voice in my head kept questioning if it really was a 5 star book. Then I realised what was happening, and I eventually decided to ignore the little voice. I know these books aren’t great literature, and they are a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and I even felt a little embarrassed telling people I liked the series.
But I had a moment of realisation, where I told myself that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about the books I liked, and if I loved Queen of Shadows enough to consider giving it 5 stars, I should shout it from the rooftops! This book was great, and I can honestly say the series is just getting better and better. I’m planning on writing a full review of this book sometime soon, where I can get into the nitty-gritties of this book that I loved so much. 

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