What I Read in January 2023

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Welcome to the shortest month of the year, as well as one of the most abysmal reading wrap-ups you’ve probably ever witnessed!

Some January highlights, featuring: Mountains with no snow, mountains with slightly more snow, and sudden Alpine snowfalls that proved it was January after all and forced me to get up half an hour earlier in order to shovel my car out of the white mound it had disappeared into overnight πŸ₯Ά

Seriously, though: January was an insanely busy month for me, so saying I read almost nothing is an understatement…

I began the new year in an abandoned castle ruin with three of my friends, which, despite our rather adventurous methods of getting there via a muddy “shortcut”, with a dying flashlight as our only light source, was pretty epic. What was decidedly less epic, though, was that I promptly got sick afterwards and spent my first few days of 2023 in bed, coughing, and trying my best to get a head start on work anyway.

Thankfully, however, the worst of my sniffling had subsided by the end of Christmas break, right on time for my ex-university-apartment-mates to come visit me. Since the beginning of the year was so freakishly warm, we didn’t have quite the snowy mountain tours we had planned and instead ended up fearing for our lives because the very little snow that was left had been trampled to a slippery, icy death-trap and no one had thought to bring crampons… Still, we had a ton of fun, and since none of us actually died, we decided to call it a success!

My friends said my balancing act was too hilarious to not document it, so here you go, I guess. The slope is way steeper than it looks, though!! And, of course, there’s the fact that taking unflattering pictures was only possible in places where death wasn’t imminent… The photograph doesn’t do my mountaineering skills and bravery justice! πŸ˜‡

Hiking was also exactly what I needed to prepare for one of the most insane months of the school year. Two weeks from now, students in Bavaria will be getting their mid-term report cards, so all grades and remarks had to be finalized by yesterday. Which might not be that big of a problem elsewhere, but I live in a rural area where people swear by traditions. Modernity is eyed with extreme skepticism, which means I work at what is probably the only school in the country that does not use a computer program to manage its student data. Instead, we have binders. Lots and lots of binders with hundreds of spreadsheets on different students, which all have to be filled out manually. Which isn’t possible until all exams from previous weeks have been graded. Suffice it to say: I am seriously glad to have survived these past few days, and when looking at my colleagues’ fighting-for-their-turn-with-the-binders skills, I shudder to think at what might happen if they were ever faced with anything truly life-threatening.

Still, January wasn’t all bad! I avoided any major mental crises, found out that I will get to stay here for the second half of the school year, got a visit from a close friend I hadn’t seen in ages, became slightly re-obsessed with chess, wrote a really cool 100-page short story anthology with my tenth-graders, and managed to convince my biology colleague to let me steal two of her lessons so I could take some of my students to a British theater company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which turned out to be a huge hit!

(Or, at least, my students said it was cool and asked the actors lots of questions afterwards. I’m choosing to ignore the possibility that they were simply so weirded out by their English teacher’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare that they initially feigned interest and then hurriedly decided to talk to other people in the room in order to get away from her… πŸ˜…πŸ€“)

To sum it all up: My January was extremely eventful, and as a result, I barely read anything at all. However, I won’t deprive you of my thoughts on the two books I did pick up and actually managed to finish, so let’s get into this!

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison (4/5 Stars)

With The Goblin Emperor and her Cemeteries of Amalo series, Katherine Addison uncontestedly snagged her spot as my favorite newly discovered author of 2022. Which obviously meant that I had to get my hands on everything she has ever written! And although I went into it completely blind, it turned out that The Angel of the Crows was right up my alley as well.

An urban fantasy Sherlock Holmes retelling set in an alternate 1880s London, the novel follows war veteran Dr. J. H. Doyle, who decides to rent a flat with a crime-obsessed angel named Crow in order to cut down on costs. However, it soon turns out that both Crow and Doyle have their fair share of secrets, that, together with some truly gruesome cases, may come back to haunt them.

For the most part, I absolutely adored this! The world-building was phenomenal, Doyle, Crow and their relationship had me utterly obsessed, and there we quite a few plot twists that completely blew my mind and really got me thinking about how social constructs can shape the way we view the world. And then there was all the attention to detail that showed just how well Katherine Addison knew her source material!! I wouldn’t say I’m thoroughly obsessed, but I do regularly like to steal my brother’s gold-embossed copies of The Complete Sherlock Holmes in order to reread them, so… 😍 

That being said, I think the fact that this was a retelling also stopped me from whole-heartedly loving it. Except for an overarching Jack the Ripper narrative, all cases featured in The Angel of the Crows are the exact same ones as in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Which means that, after a while, even Katherine Addison’s attempts to give them a new twist by cementing them in her paranormal world didn’t manage to distract me from the fact that I already knew everything that was going to happen. After about five cases, it got a bit old and I would have much rather read about Doyle and Crow going about their daily lives in 221B Baker Street than their crime solving skills.

Still, I’d definitely recommend this to people who love both fantasy and crime fiction, especially fellow Sherlock Holmes fans!

A Choir of Lies (The Tales of the Chants #2) by Alexandra Rowland (3.5/5 Stars)

The second book in Alexandra Rowland’s Tales of the Chants series, A Choir of Lies has me thoroughly torn on how I feel about it. On the one hand, I adored the main character and the novel’s portrayal of depression. On the other hand, the writing style drove my brain to exasperation, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the main plotline, either.

Taking place three years after the events of A Conspiracy of Truths, this installment tells Ylfing’s story. No longer an apprentice, he is now a Chant in his own right – at least officially. Grieving and broken-hearted, Ylfing isn’t sure whether he really wants what this job has to offer, which is why he starts working as a translator for a wealthy merchant instead of continuing to travel and tell his stories. Soon, however, Ylfing’s employer discovers his talent for persuasion, and Ylfing finds himself as the instigator of a craze for exotic flowers that people are willing to sacrifice everything for…

To keep it brief: Ylfing is one of the most perfect characters I have ever encountered and should be protected at all costs. I really loved how A Choir of Lies unapologetically showed us his thoughts, no matter how pathetic and dark they were, and a lot of his journal entries – because that’s pretty much what A Choir of Lies consists of – really meant a lot to me. And, of course, Ylfing’s language obsession was an added bonus, too.

The footnotes, though! THEY DROVE ME CRAZY!!! I mean, it’s not that I don’t get what Alexandra Rowland was trying to do here. The footnotes themselves, which consist of a second narrator’s commentary on Ylfing’s narrative, were actually pretty interesting, eye-opening, and full of the kind of sarcastic humor I adore. But there were so many of them that they made it absolutely impossible for me to lose myself in the story!! 😩 Normally, when I read, there comes a point when I forget that I’m reading and I simply “see” everything play out in my head, kind of like a movie. I’m immersed, experiencing the world from the protagonist’s perspective, seeing, smelling, and hearing everything around them. But if there’s a footnote after every third word, that becomes impossible! Constantly having to flip back and forth between the main text and the footnotes felt like watching a movie that someone put on pause every three seconds in order to add commentary, AND MY BRAIN SIMPLY COULD NOT HANDLE IT!!! It was impossible for me to break the barrier and completely live the story because every single line, I was reminded of the fact that I was looking at a written text, not the world the text was about. I was constantly switching back and forth between images of a written manuscript and Ylfing’s life, and it was extremely annoying!!

(However, A Choir of Lies did make me realize that my intense hatred of footnotes might have something to do with the way I visualize things when reading. So now I’m extremely curious: Could the divisive nature of footnotes within the book community be tied people’s inner eye? πŸ€” I’d genuinely love to know your thoughts on this, particularly if there are any readers with aphantasia among you!)

Moreover, the whole flower plot just wasn’t that engaging, in my opinion. I would much rather have read only about Ylfing, his worries, and his relationships to the other characters, than about some smelly fictional glow-in-the-dark tulip. Particularly since there was a huge change in Ylfing’s mindset about halfway through the book that I felt could have been developed more.

Overall, though? Even if it’s not a new favorite, this was still a solid read!

I’ve actually been lurkily reading quite a few of your posts in January. I just didn’t necessarily leave any traces I was there… Like, I genuinely intended to come back and comment once I had more time, but then that time never came because I had to spend every free minute hunting the teacher’s lounge for errant binders. So if your post made this list, please know that I really loved it anyway? πŸ₯Ί And everybody else, go check these bloggers out!

  • Ash @ Ink Words and Ash decided to participate in the 12, 12, 12 Reading Challenge, where you have to read twelve books recommended by twelve friends in twelve months. I loved getting to be a part of this, saw so many interesting recommendations on Ash’s list, and am itching to try the challenge myself in a year where I have a bit more time! (Also, thank you, Ash, for telling me about Katherine Arden’s Winternight readalong on Instagram because I am beyond obsessed!! 😍)
  • Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books wrote a discussion on rereading books from the perspective of someone who doesn’t normally reread much. Since my own approach is quite different, I thought this was fascinating! πŸ“š
  • Line @ First Line Reader brought back her reacting to new-to-her-authors with memes format, and I loved it just as much as I did the first time! 😎
  • Suhani @ Random Reader’s Rambles belatedly celebrated her one year blogiversary with a Q&A postcongratulations again, Suhani! πŸ₯³
  • Emily @ Frappes and Fiction gave us another one of her fascinating Artificial Intelligence discussions by going into ways Chat GPT can be used to save time and increase productivity. I honestly don’t know whether to be freaked out or impressed by this bot… πŸ€–
  • Briana @ Pages Unbound wrote a great discussion post on why she thinks it’s important to indicate the age categories of books. As someone who constantly had to suffer through the terrible books my grandmother’s bookseller thought were age appropriate for me, I related to quite a lot of this!  πŸ˜‚
  • Sophie @ Me & Ink played fantasy Would You Rather?, and I had so much fun reading her answers! πŸ‰
  • Basically everyone within this community wrote about their best and worst books of 2022, analyzed their reading statistics, and came up with resolutions for 2023. Since mentioning all of these posts individually would take forever, I’m not going to do that, but I’d just like to use this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for writing them! Yearly wrap-ups are always some of my absolute favorites! πŸ₯°

Anyway, that brings us to the end of this month’s wrap-up! Fingers crossed that my pessimism is unwarranted and that, contrary to my current expectations, I’ll get to read a bit more in February…

In the meantime, though, you’ll have to keep me entertained by telling me all about your January! Did you discover any good stories? Is anyone else more than seven books behind their Goodreads reading challenge already? 🀫 What are your thoughts on footnotes? I would love to know!

28 thoughts on “What I Read in January 2023

  1. Line @First Line Reader says:

    Did I detect some complaints about snow at the beginning of your post? πŸ˜‰ Making it small doesn’t mean I won’t see it πŸ˜‚
    But I’m glad you survived January and the binders hell!

    I’m curious whether I’d love The Angel of the Crows. I wouldn’t say I like crime fiction but I haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes so knowing what happens wouldn’t be an issue. And it does sound like I would love Doyle and Crow πŸ˜„

    And then possibly my most anticipated review of the year! Your love for Ylfing and his thoughts was all I wanted 😍 Just like you, I also loved it so much that we got all of his thoughts no matter what light they put him in. I also really appreciated the moments where he decides to skip something because he deems it unimportant but in reality, he does it because it’s too painful for him to look at. That thing about making up excuses for not doing something or thinking about something is so inherent to depression and anxiety but it is so rarely represented so well as in this book. And we needed the footnotes to know that was what he was doing so that’s why I love them so much πŸ₯° Another reason I loved them isn’t one I expected you to share, but I read this book about a month after Fool’s Fate and because of that, I’ve never related so much to a character as I did to that Chant (I can’t remember her name). She is reading something and writing a commentary on it, the something making her so frustrated that she resorts to writing sarcastic humor, swearing and banging her head against the wall? That’s me writing my commentary on Fool’s Fate! πŸ˜‚ I had so much fun with those footnotes!
    But your explanation for why the footnotes didn’t work for you did make sense. I never get that immersed in a book and only “see” what is described at that moment and even that is blurry. So to me, the footnotes felt more like following a conversation where you turn your head left and right according to who’s speaking. It didn’t feel like an active choice I was making to tap the footnote and read her comment. However, had I read a physical copy, it would probably have bothered me more.
    A comment on the flower-plot? To me, it’s way more a plot about communication and marketing and the ethics behind it so that’s what I loved about it. They could have been selling rocks and I’d be just as excited. So I think I just appreciated that Rowland still picked something that was unique to this world and also provided some world-building.

    (Is it obvious I could talk about this book forever? πŸ˜…)

    Finally, thanks for sharing my post! πŸ₯°

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      That was a completely neutral statement about me having to dig my car out of the snow πŸ˜‡ It doesn’t change anything about snow’s general awesomeness!

      And consider me curious as to whether you’d like The Angel of the Crows, too πŸ€”πŸ˜‚ I don’t think the plot would really be your thing – quite honestly, some of the cases really aren’t that exciting and I probably would’ve been a lot less invested, too, if it hadn’t been for the Sherlock Holmes Easter eggs… But I CAN see you liking the characters and I desperately want someone to discuss one particular twist with, so I certainly wouldn’t mind if you decided to read it! 😁

      Yes! I also liked how those skipped parts were done and was glad we got them later through the footnotes. I needed to know these things! 😭 It’s just… I still didn’t want the explanations in the form of footnotes. Those interlude chapters by the Chant – who, by the way, doesn’t have a name because she sunk her homeland beneath the waves, so you can be forgiven for not remembering it 😜 – were so much better! It was so much less annoying to get all of her commentary in one uninterrupted go!! And lol, I guess I see why you’d find her relatable after writing that Fool’s Fate review πŸ˜‚ To be fair, I absolutely adored her as well – her sarcastic humor and no-nonsense attitude was right up my alley. But I still didn’t want her constantly interrupting my story! πŸ™„

      And as for the flower-plot, I agree that it’s actually about communicating, marketing, and ethics – but I still wasn’t sold on it and probably wouldn’t have been if the flowers had been swapped for rocks, either πŸ˜… Like, I felt like it was all so simplistic! We never see a whole bunch of subplots to it, and then, at the end, Ylfing spells out why hyping the flowers up was a bad idea and convinces his boss to just buy them back with hardly any difficultly?? I wanted more complexity, I guess! It just didn’t strike me as realistic that Sterre would change her mind about things so quickly, and plus, I thought it was odd that the Chant was apparently adding her notes to the manuscript AFTER all of this had happened and then still changed her opinion on Sterre midway through the book, when she theoretically already knew the outcome of these events….

      But, yeah, I did like Ylfing, so you’re welcome to talk about him forever if you like! πŸ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

      • Line @First Line Reader says:

        Nobody is neutral about having to get up half an hour earlier in the morning! πŸ™„

        Well, I’ll probably end up reading all Addison’s books at some point πŸ€” I just couldn’t keep up with your obsession πŸ˜„

        I must admit that I don’t remember the exact details of the ending to A Choir of Lies but I think the flower-plot already was a subplot so it didn’t need any more. It was just there to push Ylfing in certain directions. And even if it was simplistic, it was still super realistic to how such mechanisms work in our society so I still liked it for showing that. Also, we’ve also talked about it before but I really couldn’t care less about plot if everything else is done well so that might also be why I liked the book πŸ˜…

        Liked by 1 person

        • abookowlscorner says:

          To be fair, my obsession might be a bit extreme 😁 But I proudly stand by that and am very excited by that “all” in your sentence! After all, that means you might be reading more Amalo books, and then you might finally realize how great Thara Celehar is πŸ₯° Ignoring those mystery plots you don’t like shouldn’t be a problem, after all, since everything else is done well… πŸ™ƒ

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Devangi says:

    I agree footnotes can be very annoying sometimes, but a few here and there are fine. The only ever book I remember reading which jad footnotes is The Diary of a Young Girl. Speaking of January, I feel I’m still going on with a trilogy/series spree, so I read The Fifty Shades of Grey and waiting to get the second copy from my classmate, in between I finished the second book of trilogy I had started long back. Plus I posted my 2022 reading reviews only now (yes it maybe a month late). Anyway, it seems you had a hectic but such an adventurous January! You went to see Shakespeare’s play, ahhhh that’s a dream. And I am definitely adding the Sherlock Holmes retelling to my TBR. Hope you have a good 2023!<3

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yeah, if there are only a few footnotes, I’m also willing to forgive. Like, I don’t even remember Anne Frank’s diary having any, so they apparently can’t have been that bad! πŸ˜‚

      And oooooh, Fifty Shades of Grey! Consinder me extremely intrigued πŸ‘€πŸ€£ I mean, not that I’ve ever read it myself, but I’ve heard so many **tHiNGs** that I am beyond curious as to your verdict! 😁

      Anyway, a great 2023 to you to, Devangi, and I hope you enjoy The Angel of the Crows if you end up picking it up! πŸ’™

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Janette says:

    Your life seems to be a real roller coaster of excitement and overwork this year. I’m glad that you haven’t got to go job hunting any time soon though. The binders exercise sounds completely mad in this day and age. A shame that you didn’t love your two books more. Hopefully February will be better. The fact that the stories in Angel of the Crows are Conan Doyle retellings has always put me off reading that one and your review has reinforced that opinion.
    Have a good February with hopefully less work and more books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, a bit more time to read, fewer binders, and better books February would be great! πŸ€— Although I did enjoy Angel of the Crows a lot despite having some issues with it, so I wouldn’t say my January reading was that big of a disappointment. The only downside was that there wasn’t more of it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. powsbooknook says:

    Wow that does sound like a busy January!!! I started the month back in Scotland which was lovely but unlike you, I didn’t do much hiking while I was there, it was mostly drinking to be honest πŸ™‚ My reading month was pretty average. I’m hoping I get to read some better books in February!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, Scotland does have good whisky, so I don’t blame you 🀣 I’m so jealous, though! I’ve only been to Scotland once but absolutely fell in love with the country while I was there πŸ₯°

      But anyway, fingers crossed that we’re both at the start of a better reading month! 🀞

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jan says:

    Your hiking trip sounds thrilling!! Somehow I’ve never heard of the two books you’ve read, time to rectify that😊 I love Love LOVE sherlock holmes stories, so that books seems right up my alley!
    Hope you have a great month ahead, naemi!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      It was! Despite all the scary slipperyness, we had so much fun, and the views were absolutely breathtaking! πŸ€©πŸ”

      And if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, I can definitely see you loving The Angel of the Crows! Keep me posted if you end up reading it! πŸ€—

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Anoushka says:


    It sucks that everything was so busy though BUT YAY ON THE GOOD BOOKS. READING YOUR THOUGHTS ON THEM IS THE BEST EVER. have a great February naemi AND DID I MENTION I LOVE THIS

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Lol, yeah, a bit of free time sometime soon definitely wouldn’t be the worst 🀣 But overall, January certainly had a lot of ups as well, so count me satisfied!

      Anyway, fingers crossed that we’ll both have an awesome February with loads of good books! (I mean, with the amount of disappointing series finales I’ve already encountered in the first few days of this month, it had better get better! **glares** Or else! 😭)


  7. Sophie @ Me & Ink says:

    January sounds very intense & interesting. I love the sounds of castle ruin– I love imagining all the people who have touched the walls throughout history (sounds weird when I see it written down) πŸ˜‚ it is a shame you got ill afterwards. I just got over a cold as well, but I got mine from no adventures.
    Having an abundance of binders for grading does sounds quite “old school” . In my primary school, the register was done on paper and I remember going to secondary school and being shocked at the electronic register even though it made more sense 🀣
    Congrats on still reading 2 books! I hope February is a good month for you πŸ’ž
    Thank you so much for sharing my post, so glad you enjoyed it! πŸ₯°

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Don’t worry, you’re not weird! I also love imagining how people used to live in historical places like castles and thinking about how I might be standing in the same place as someone else did hundreds of years before me. The idea that we’re separated by centuries and totally different ways of living, yet somehow ended up in the same place anyway, is oddly fascinating! πŸ˜‚

      Also, that “old school” pun made my day! 🀣 Although in primary school, I guess I can still somewhat understand having a paper register? At least over here, you normally have one teacher for most subjects until you get to fifth grade, so then teachers at least wouldn’t have to fight over the binders with over ten other people πŸ€”

      Anyway, I hope you have a great February as well, Sophie! Fingers crossed that lots of good books are headed both our ways! πŸ’™

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie @ Me & Ink says:

        That is exactly the feeling πŸ€©πŸ˜‚ love it!!

        Yay, I need more people in my life who appreciate puns πŸ˜‚ very true, it is one class for all for ours too so a paper register make a little more sense.
        No fighting of binders necessary, at least not for the register 🀣

        Thank youuu πŸ’œ

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Charlotte says:

    I love visiting old ruins although I think I’d get freaked out visiting them in a small group in the dark πŸ™ˆ and I’m sorry to hear that you got ill afterwards. I hate how slippery snow gets once its been compacted or rained on. Although it only snows very, very rarely near me so it’s not exactly a frequent problem.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your two reads although sorry that the footnotes spoiled the second one for you. Loving a character that much then finding it hard to get into the story due to those must have been so frustrating. I haven’t read too many books with footnotes but I know what you mean about them pulling you away from the story. Sometimes the added detail or tone of voice can be good too though so I guess it depends on yhe frequency and the way they’re worked into the narrative.
    I’m currently avoiding setting my goodreads goal as I don’t want seeing how behind i am to stress me out πŸ™ˆ plus I keep changing my mind over what to set it to as I’m aware of the fact that some of the books I hope to get to this year are pretty lengthy πŸ˜…

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Considering how dark it was, the ruin was surprisingly non-creepy! Instead, it was actually kind of nice to be away from the rest of civilization when the fireworks started – we got the stunning view but not the noise and smell. So I’m sure you would’ve been fine!

      But yeah, footnotes and I just don’t mix well, it seems… πŸ˜… I did really like the perspective and detail they added in this case, but I just could not deal with their frequency!

      Just not setting your Goodreads goal sounds like a good option, too, though! 🀣 In a way, I’m no more decisive – for the past few years, I’ve always set mine to 100 books but then lowered it on December 31st when I realized there was just no way I would make that. But where’s the fun in setting goals if you can’t cheat a little? πŸ˜πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charlotte says:

        Ooh seeing fireworks whilst there does sound rather enchanting.

        I think they can make you lose your place a little too which doesn’t really help when they’re frequent.

        Oh lol that makes me feel a bit less bad as I’ve actually told myself I’ll set my goal a bit later in the year for the past few years then just never got around to doing it each time πŸ™ˆ it is good that you can change it if needed though πŸ˜…

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Suhani says:

    Ahhhh naemi, I’m so incredibly late to this post but I absolutely LOVE IT! An abandoned castle ruin seems like a very fun adventure, sorry to hear you got sick afterwards though :(((
    And thank you so much for the mention ahh!!! Hope you have a wonderful February!! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Ahhh, thanks, Suhani!! πŸ’™ Don’t worry, no matter how fashionably late you are, you’re always welcome, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! The ruin was definitely lots of fun, and even if the trip might’ve been partially responsible for a few extra days in bed, it was totally worth it! Would recommend! πŸ€—πŸ°
      A wonderful February to you, too!!


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