If you’re anything like me, you might be starting off the year with a new TBR list and new goals. Last year, in 2022, I hoped to read more diverse authors/narrators and I also wanted to read a book goal of 50 books. I think I managed to achieve that goal, and I’m back this year with an even bigger challenge. In 2023, I’m hoping to read a minimum of 60 books (I’m really shooting for 70) and I’d like to read more books outside my comfort zone–i.e. Indie authors, world building, nonfiction, you name it. So, I started my year off with a bang trying to tackle some of these goals headfirst. Let’s get into the nitty gritty and let me share with you my January 2023 reading wrap-up or all the books that I read this month.
The Water Witch by Jessica Thorne
The Water Witch is one of the books I got for Christmas (you can check out all the books in my Christmas book haul here) and it definitely was not what I was expecting.
I think this book was published traditionally (maybe by a small press) but it reads a lot like an indie book that just didn’t have enough time in the development stage. There were a lot of interesting things about the plot that I enjoyed. The main character spends a majority of the plotline trying to find a lost underwater city that her dead fiancé was obsessed with. When he died, he left her the clues, which she has to piece together to figure out. It kept me reading, but overall, I don’t think it was THAT memorable. None of the characters really stood out to me and at some points, the dialogue was very…cringe. I think a good developmental edit was needed here.
Would I recommend this book? I would still say yes. I think the plotline was unique and I give the author a lot of credit for keeping the reader interested throughout the entire story. Though, I think I’d only rate this novel maybe 2.5 stars.
The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews
The second book in my January 2023 reading wrap-up is Mimi Matthews’ The Siren of Sussex. This book is an equestrian-themed historical romance where the MC, Evie is trying to make her debut into high society…on horseback. There’s a few issues with this and she needs to look her best to get the best marriage proposals, so she turns to a local Indian tailor to help her. When the two end up falling in love with more than just fabric, they end up having a lot of barriers to cross–both with class and race.
I was really excited to read this book. It’s been on my TBR shelf for a little bit and I mostly picked it up because I’m a devout equestrian and horse-owner and I love horse-y books. However, I didn’t think there was enough equines in this to market it as a horse book. It was SO heavily marketed towards horse people, but then there were no scenes with Evie spending time alone with her horse. She never groomed her horse or tacked him up–all she did was talk about how he could make her money, or make her look good. And, honestly, if she was willing to date outside of her race and class, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t be willing to tack up her own horse.
So, I might be a bit bitter about there not being enough horse content in this book (equestrians certainly don’t have enough representation in fiction—or at least accurate representation), but I DID get ahold of the second book, so let’s see if Mimi Matthews can make up for it with Evie’s friend, Julia’s story. We’ll see.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
The next book I read this month was When She Woke. I saw this one on a Booktok recommendation and my local library just so happened to have it, so I was really excited to get my hands on it quickly.
The premise of this book is that the MC, Hannah, has an abortion in a world where Roe vs Wade is overturned (ironic, right? This book was written in 2011). In the dystopian world she lives in, her punishment for her crime is to spend a year incarcerated, and then she will return to society–except she will be a Red, meaning she’ll have entirely red skin. The society separates crimes by severity and color, creating a new caste system where anyone who’s committed a crime is essentially left to rot because of their skin color.
I rated this book 3 stars. I definitely have mixed feelings about this book. It’s clear that the author is a skilled writer. Jordan has wonderful prose that draws us in to the story and helps us visualize well. However, it is SO similar to the Handmaid’s Tale. Plus, the last 20% of the book or so kind of felt like the author didn’t know where to go with the end of the story, so she just threw an ending together. I think this book could have gone further and it would have rated higher for me. That being said, it was still an interesting read and I enjoyed it.
How To Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann
How To Be Eaten is by far my favorite book in my January 2023 reading wrap-up and my favorite book so far this year. In this debut novel, Adelman reimagines classic fairytale characters into modern day women and they all are called into a basement support group where they meet to talk about their trauma. There’s Bluebeard’s girlfriend, who hears voices out of her furniture, and Little Red Riding Hood, who wears the skin of a killer, and then there’s Gretel, who’s own brother went through the same trauma and yet he doesn’t believe her story. Over Five weeks and five stories, the reader follows the character’s introspective thoughts and the predative nature of the men who targeted them.
This book was a 5 star read for me. Was it weird? Yes. But, it was SO captivating, even from the very first page. This is one of those books that I rented from the library and it was so good that I will buy a copy for myself. If that doesn’t tell you how amazing it is, then click here to buy it on Amazon. It’s worth it.
Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
Okay, so I’m actually still reading this one, but there’s a week left in January and I’m confident that I’ll finish it before the week is out.
I picked up Five Little Indians from my local library. Something about this book immediately drew me in. This story is historical fiction and it’s set in the 1960s when small children were taken from their families on reservations and were sent to be confined in small, remote Church-run schools where residential students were often mistreated and underfed. Five Little Indians is told from five different perspectives when the paths of these friends cross over the decades, struggling to overcome the trauma they each enduring during their years at the residential school.
At this point, I’m about 40% into this book, and I will say there are definitely some content warnings, so look those up if you have any triggers. This book is definitely emotionally draining at times, but it’s also really important and I think that the author has done a really wonderful job portraying the plot, as well as the characters. These stories are based on some very real things that happened and she does a great job crafting the story to capture these events, sharing them with the general public. I think it’s a very important read. While I’m not sure what I’ll rate it yet, be sure to follow me on goodreads (@afterthelastpage) for the first notifications of when I finish it, and I’ll post a review here when I finish it, too.
And that’s it for my January 2023 reading wrap-up! Only 5 books this month, but Goodreads says I’m still on track for now. I have a few ideas on what I’ll read next, but I’m always open to suggestions. What do you think I should read next month?
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