Happy Friday, everyone!
‘Tis I, Naemi, bringing you tidings of the first month of the year! Okay, yeah, I’ll admit that I couldn’t really think of a good way to begin this post… But overall, January was a very eventful month for me!
Some impressions of January, featuring: 1) lots of snow, 2) the aftermath of a great book shelf purge, and 3) Swan Lake struggles
Granted, it began in the absolute worst way imaginable. A sleepover at my best friend’s house in the next village over turned into us spending the night only a few hundred meters away from a double-murder so horrific it made national headlines, and to tell you the truth, I’m still absolutely shell-shocked. Even though I didn’t know the victims personally, the fact that this happened in my community, to a family of six just like mine, has me in this bizarre, numb state where I completely shut off all emotions whenever I try to come to terms with what happened. I’m just now beginning to be able to talk about it, and if it’s like this for me, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the victims’ family and friends…
Everything else about my January, though, was thankfully much, much happier. For one thing, I got two very exciting things in the mail! 🤗 Very-Exciting-Thing #1 was one of my master’s diplomas. (I’m still waiting on the other one and hope that doesn’t mean the university administration botched something. It wouldn’t be the first time; the English version of my bachelor’s diploma has a blank space where my study program is supposed to be…) Even more excitingly, though, Very-Exciting-Thing #2 was my letter from the Ministry of Education, telling me where I will be moving to two weeks from now! The fact that I had never heard of this place despite it being only about an hour away from where I currently live should tell you everything about what kind of metropolis it is located in… But hey, at least the rent is cheap!
Anyway, as soon as I got that letter, I threw myself into apartment hunting, which was super stressful, but is now, thankfully, over. I’ve got a place at the top floor of this really cozy, old building, will be sharing it with another trainee teacher, and we’re allowed to use the garden, which all sounds pretty great!
Apart from the anxiety that comes with starting a real job, though, January was also filled with a lot of music-related chaos. Both my orchestra and my choir concert are next week, and to say I have had a TON of extra rehearsals lately is putting it mildly 😅 I’ve been practicing every spare minute and feel like my nose might fall off soon from all the COVID tests I’ve been getting. People here really have a way of jamming that swab thing up your nostril in the most painful way possible…
In spite of all the hecticness in my life, though, I did actually still get a lot of reading time in. It’s amazing how much free time you suddenly have without university! Quite a few of the books I read were rereads, so it might not seem like I read a crazy amount more in January than I usually do, but I assure you, I did. It was awesome and I don’t even know how I’m going to get used to having responsibilities again! 😂
So yeah, let’s get into the new-to-me books I read last month. On a scale from awesome to awful, I had absolutely everything, so I hope there’s enough review variety in here to keep at least some of you entertained!
Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny (The Liveship Traders #1-3) by Robin Hobb (5/5 Stars each)
Every future favorite-book-of-2022 candidate has its work cut out, because I don’t know how anything could come even close to topping The Liveship Traders. I love this trilogy so much it is almost impossible to put into words!!! 🥰 I absolutely refuse to see that there might be anything wrong with it, have already read it twice, and am definitely not opposed to reading it a third time very, very soon…
As the second trilogy in Robin Hobb’s The Realm of the Elderlings series, The Liveship Traders takes us further south than the Six Duchies, to a semi-independent seaside town caught in a changing world’s web of political tension. At the center of it all stands the Vestrit family, whose magical liveship, the Vivacia, is about quicken to life through the third death of a family member on her decks.
Epic fantasy at its finest, The Liveship Traders is a tale of family, betrayal, magic, piracy, love, slavery, death, history, and politics. I absolutely fell in love its characters – though in some cases, that “love” consisted of a deep and passionate loathing 😎 – and cannot recommend it enough!
If you haven’t read any of Robin Hobb’s books yet, what are you waiting for? And if you have read this trilogy and are interested in being bombarded with thoughts, what is probably the lengthiest spoiler-filled review of my entire blogging career is at your disposal…
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (4/5 Stars)
This book was adorable! Many thanks to Anoushka @ Dipped in Ink for recommending it to me, because this was exactly what I needed while taking a break from Anna Karenina‘s rather long-winded bird hunting scenes 😅
(Anna Karenina isn’t in this wrap-up because I’m not done with it yet, all you judgy people out there. Stop asking. You’ll get a review eventually.)
A sapphic YA romance novel featuring a Bangladeshi main character living in Ireland, The Henna Wars soon had me invested in a secondary school battle over who could create the more successful business – our protagonist Nishat, or Flávia, the charismatic new girl trying to appropriate Nishat’s culture together with her horrible cousin and Nishat’s arch-nemesis, Chyna.
Apart from food descriptions that left me drooling, this book had so many other things I appreciate in a story! Nishat is a flawed but extremely relatable main character, and seeing her struggle with her shyness, her cultural identity, her sexuality, and her relationship with her family made my heart go out to her all the more. And the sibling relationship!!! All three of my younger siblings and I are extremely close to one another, so seeing that bond reflected in Nishat and Priti’s relationship was wonderful 🥰
Yes, The Henna Wars does have a rather formulaic YA romance plotline, it features those woke Harry Potter pop-culture references I am not a fan of, and it could have gone into a bit more detail regarding a storyline involving Priti’s best friend. But still, it was so much fun! Would recommend!
Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (3/5 Stars)
[This book was translated from Spanish to English by Lucia Graves.]
I adored Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind when I read it a couple of years ago, so when Maria @ The Character Study recommended Marina to me, I was instantly intrigued! And, just like The Shadow of the Wind, Marina immediately drew me in with its absolutely captivating writing style.
A historical fiction / gothic mystery / horror novel that takes place in late 20th-century Barcelona, the book follows a teenage boy named Oscar, who meets the titular character when he inadvertently steals her father’s pocket watch. The two of them soon become friends, but when Marina takes Oscar to observe a strange ritual she has seen at the old cemetery, they find themselves in more danger than they ever could have bargained for.
Overall, I definitely loved the eerie atmosphere this book had! I was engrossed in trying to piece things together, and even when I had, I had way too much fun seeing all the gruesomeness unfold 😁 Also, there were so many subtle Frankenstein references in here that I, as a massive Frankenstein fan who will defend that poor, precious monster to the death, absolutely adored! Don’t think I didn’t notice the significance behind the name María Shelley, Carlos Ruiz Zafón 😏
That being said, though, I never felt very connected to the characters themselves. Oscar didn’t really evolve past the curious-boy-besotted-by-an-alluring-girl stereotype, Marina was little more than said mysterious alluring-girl, and her father always the worried-parent-in-the-background. And whenever the characters found out about something, it was because random other characters told them everything! They didn’t even have to work for this information; we simply got perfectly pre-packaged flashback scenes!
That’s why, ultimately, as much as its writing style kept me spellbound while I was reading it, Marina was a book that just wasn’t all that memorable for me. Even though I enjoyed it a lot the first time around, neither the characters nor the plot were captivating enough that I think I would read it again.
The Shamer’s Signet (2.5/5 Stars), The Serpent Gift (4/5 Stars), and The Shamer’s War (3.5/5 Stars) (The Shamer Chronicles #2-4) by Lene Kaaberbøl
[The original Danish titles are: Skammertegnet, Slangens gave, and Skammerkrigen. The books were translated into English by the author herself.]
Reading this Danish middle-grade fantasy series was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions! I fell in love with the first book, The Shamer’s Daughter, after Line @ First Line Reader recommended it to me last year, but then came to the infuriating realization that Germany had simply stopped translating the books mid-series! 😤 After my anger at having to switch languages partway had somewhat subsided, though, I finally decided to give the rest of the books a try in English. And my thoughts on each of the remaining installments couldn’t be more different:
After the epicness of book one, I’m afraid The Shamer’s Signet did not blow me away whatsoever 😅 Dina became the boringest of wallflowers ever, Nico disappeared completely, the adults were beyond stupid to not see how they were being manipulated, and the plot was extremely straight-forward. Plus, I just did not like the English translation as much as the German one. I’m sure Lene Kaaberbøl did her best, but I felt like the style of the German translation was so much more atmospheric! (Maybe because the language is more closely related to Danish than English is? 🤔) However, what I did really like about book two was the additional point of view of Dina’s brother, Davin. His stubborn teenage idiocy more than made up for Dina’s wallflowerness, and getting to explore their sibling bond more was so interesting! Also, the Highlands setting was pretty neat, too.
The Serpent Gift, though, I positively adored! 🥰 I’m still docking a star for consistency issues within the series – You honestly expect me to believe that Drakan would just leave Dina alone when his cousin knew where she lived? Or that I’d be okay with Rover never being mentioned again, when that tramp was so interesting?! – but everything else was awesome! We had a reluctant friendship develop between Davin and Nico, a city with totalitarian government vibes, horrifying torture and brainwashing techniques… What’s not to love? Plus, this book had Sezuan 🥰 I am willing to die on the hill that he is by far the best character in this entire series and that the serpent gift is so freaking cool!
And finally, the finale. I enjoyed the The Shamer’s War and it wrapped up most things quite nicely. But even though a substantial part of it took place on a ship, it just didn’t ensnare me as much as The Shamer’s Daughter and The Serpent Gift... I was hoping for just a bit more! Also, what on Earth were those sudden romance plotlines for???? They were the dumbest addition ever, and I really didn’t see why we needed them 🙄
Overall, though, I would recommend this series despite its flaws! It’s fun, has a very unique concept, and I think kids in particular would really enjoy it!
A Star Shall Fall (The Onyx Court #3) by Marie Brennan (3/5 Stars)
Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court quartet is an extremely political and super unique historical fantasy series following a hidden court of faeries beneath London over the span of several centuries. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two installments, Midnight Never Come and In Ashes Lie, so despite being somewhat traumatized by the boringness that was the novella Deeds of Men, I was pumped to continue on!
Set in the mid-18th century, this third book follows a familiar threat. An enemy once thought vanquished is threatening to return, and as a result, political tensions within the Onyx Court are running high. Add to that a new and inexperienced Prince of the Stone who is so besotted with his queen that he can barely formulate coherent thoughts in her presence, and things aren’t exactly looking good…
My favorite aspect about this book by far, though, was how much science was in it! 🤗 In true Age of Reason fashion, we get to see the Royal Society at work, experiments and philosophical discussions, and, best of all, explanations as to how faerie magic works! Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some of my favorite characters again, and also getting to know and fall in love with new ones! Especially Irrith and Philadelphia wormed their way into my heart 🥰
That being said, I also had a really hard time connecting to this book compared to the previous two. I’m not completely sure as to why, but I think it was mostly due to a combination of two things. First, in my opinion, the plot itself just wasn’t that engaging. Second and more importantly, I felt as though we barely got to see the different characters interact with one another. Almost all of the plans they made with one another, they made off page. Important discoveries were made by others, when the protagonists themselves weren’t present. Which meant that most of the time, we got to see our main characters traipsing through London on their own, which, if you ask me, just wasn’t all that interesting 😅
And finally, since I’m a very petty person, can we just talk about the German in this book?!? I normally love unexplained snippets from other languages in books, but in this case, THEY WERE TERRIBLE!!!
[For my fellow language nerds who are actually interested in this: A Star Shall Fall features a pair of German dwarf siblings who love nothing more than to converse with one another in their native language. Unfortunately, however, all these snippets were so grammatically mangled that I had a very hard time believing these dwarves spoke anything but google translate 😅 Seriously, Marie Brennan, I would rethink thanking this Sherwood Smith for the translations in your acknowledgments because he didn’t even get one single phrase right!
Like, what sort of sentence is “Dieser verdammten Federantrieb brechen andauernd!” supposed to be, huh? Aside from the fact that I find it decidedly strange to keep working with a part that is already broken, you can’t combine a singular subject with a plural verb, or a nominative case noun with an accusative case adjective! Grammatically correctly, this sentence would have to be “Dieser verdammte Federantrieb bricht andauernd!“
And the response “Aber natürlich! Ich sage dir doch, dass er soviel Zugkraft nicht aushalten werden.” is at least as bad! Again, we have verbs and nouns that are incongruent, the tenses and aspects are wrong (“sage” needs to be past tense and the second verb either needs to be in present tense or subjunctive II), “soviel” should not be spelled as one word here, and the “Aber natürlich!” is way too formal and polite for an angry context. Take my advice, Marie Brennan, and change this sentence to “Was dachtest du denn? Ich habe dir doch gesagt, dass er so viel Zugkraft nicht aushält!“
And finally, WTF is these dwarves’ last name??? It gave me quite the laughing fit, because “von das Ticken” is possibly the most ridiculous attempt at creating a German sounding last name that I have ever seen 🤣🤣🤣 I assume you wanted this to be a clever pun and mean “of the ticking noise”, Marie Brennan, but it simply does not work. “Von” can never be followed by “das”; that preposition requires a dative object. If anything, it would have to be “von dem Ticken” or “vom Ticken”. But that still doesn’t sound like any last name I’ve ever heard in my life… ]
So yeah, my overall verdict? I’m still very much enjoying this series, but this particular installment is not my favorite.
Der Nebelkönig by Susanne Gerdom (1/5 Stars)
[To my great sadness, this book has not been translated into any other languages. The German title means “The Fog King”.]
Well, my plans to support local authors by reading more German books in 2022 are off to a great start. I absolutely hated Der Nebelkönig and am now single-handedly responsible for its lowest Goodreads rating to date 🙈
(I’M SORRY!!! Maybe books about characters wandering around in mysterious otherworldly houses and trying to piece together what they can no longer remember just aren’t for me… I also happen to be just about the only person in the world not overly in love with Piranesi, after all 😅)
Anyway, in this fantasy standalone, we follow a 14-year-old kitchen maid named Sallie, who lives in a sprawling mansion so vast she has never seen the entirety of it. On one of her many ventures to the library, Sallie stumbles across the tale of an evil young man who, in pursuit of more power, cold-bloodedly murdered the dragon who raised him. Sallie soon becomes fascinated by this story and the variations of it that she encounters, knowing, somehow, that it has an intricate connection to her own past, present, and future…
There are actually several reasons this book fell horribly flat for me. The biggest one, though, was Sallie herself. Never, in my entire life, have I come across a main character who is as much of a Mary Sue as this girl is!! Seriously, despite having read an entire book about her, I can tell you nothing about her likes and dislikes, her hobbies, her fears, or her friends – that last one being due to the fact that Sallie doesn’t actually have any friends. Which made things even more boring, because instead of getting even the slightest hints at meaningful interactions, all we got to read about was perfect Sallie!! 😤
Then, The Nebelkönig was predictable as hell. It pretty much took me the first chapter to guess the big “twist”, so the fact that Sallie was way too obtuse to see it was beyond infuriating! Especially since all the stupid idiot had to do was read this book that had all the answers – which everybody around her had been telling her to do from the very beginning, but Sallie somehow always conveniently ignored…
And then, the ending 🙄🙄🙄 Since the writing style and the premise of Der Nebelkönig actually weren’t bad, I thought this would be a two-star read for the longest time. But the ending was so fucking stupid that I was like, Nah, there’s no way this book is getting ANY extra stars from me!!!! Nothing was properly resolved, everything was thrown at us without any nuance or backstory, and Sallie literally only did what everybody had been telling her to do from page one. Without even questioning it, may I add, even though she had been questioning things was kind of Sallie’s thing throughout the whole book.
Overall, I hated Der Nebelkönig. I would not recommend you read it.
I’ve been debating on whether to include a section like this in my wrap-up for what has literally been years…
- I don’t want to turn blog hopping into a chore where I will have to view every post I read through the lens of whether I liked it enough to be featured here. Similarly, I am much too lazy to write down my favorite posts immediately after reading them. Which means I will have to rely on memory. And that means I will inevitably forget people.
- My people-pleasing self feels horrible for including some people on the list and not others. If I liked or commented on your post, that means I really enjoyed it, but unfortunately, there’s just no way every one of those posts will fit here! 😭
- When I like a blog a lot, I tend to stick around and annoy its owners over and over again. Which means you probably won’t be getting very varied content or lots of new recommendations…
- My wrap-ups have always only included the books I read, and I like consistency.
- I don’t want people to feel obligated to like my wrap-up just because I linked to their post. (Don’t you dare to like this only because I linked to your post, people!! 😠)
- My wrap-ups are already so long that I have a feeling everyone secretly hates them… (Don’t lie! You secretly hate them, don’t you? 😢)
- Barely anyone comes to read my posts when other people link them in their wrap-ups. So is this really a helpful way to promote bloggers? 🤔
- Even if it’s only a few of you at a time and even if it only minusculely helps make others aware of your existence, I get to help promote some utterly amazing bloggers! I don’t take you guys for granted at all, and I want to show my appreciation!
Yup, that was literally the only pro 😅 But it’s a very weighty one, so I have come to the conclusion that it might outweigh the cons after all…
Which means that we’re going to try this.
So, without subjecting you to any more of my terrible overthinking skills, here are some posts I absolutely loved this past month! (Other than everybody’s 2021 wrap-ups, that is. I loved all of those, particularly the ones with graphs, so we’d be here forever if I included them!)
- Pauline @ Pow’s Book Nook ranked Jane Austen’s six major novels. Blows over Emma and Northanger Abbey ‘s placement were narrowly avoided, since at least we agree that Mansfield Park deserves to be dead last! 😇
- Rachel @ A Bookworm’s Paradise recommended books based on Disney movies. As a massive Disney fan who is currently singing Surface Pressure non-stop, I obviously loved this! 🎶
- Riddhi @ Whispering Stories celebrated hitting 1,000 followers this January, but her Types of … We All Know posts might actually be the bigger achievement. They’re hilarious, and I can’t get enough of them! 🤗
- Nehal @ Quirky Pages wrote a post titled “25 Harry Potter Facts About Me”. I saw the words “Harry Potter”, clicked immediately, and (despite encountering some rather questionable opinions) was not disappointed! 😂
- Nefeli @ BiblioNebula graced us with a post on ten things she’s tired of seeing in books, and I must say that she is pretty spot on about all of them! Especially the “sexy” uwu vampires 🤣
- Maria @ The Character Study wrote a fascinating discussion post about what makes a favorite book! It made me realize that other people apparently have way more difficulties with this concept than constantly rereading me 🤯
- Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books wrote a really interesting discussion on what bloggers owed their readers and vice versa. This overthinking book owl was obviously a fan! 😊
- Line @ First Line Reader could probably never post anything I wouldn’t love, but her GIF reactions to new-to-her-authors she read in 2021 had me positively cackling! And of course, I also absolutely adored all of her Liveship Traders reviews! 😍 (Even though your opinion on the quality of the ending is WRONG, Line 😇)
- Lesserleaf @ Lesser Leaves wrote a gushing review of The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a middle-grade fantasy series about owls that has a secure spot among my favorite books of all time. Since I am the one who recommended it, I am very proud the series was so well received! 😇
And that, my friends, was it for today! Let me know down below if you’ve read any of the books I mentioned; I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on them!
Other than that, I hope you all had a great start into 2022! What was something good that happened to you in January?