I’m doing something different with my book reviews this year (it seems like every year, I revamp the way I write my monthly books recap – keeps things interesting at least). This year, I’m only going to write reviews of the books I give 4 or 5 stars. Obviously, these are the books that really spoke to me and the ones I recommend. And this is what this monthly feature is all about, right? Talking about the books I read and why I think other people should read them. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite reads of January:
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (★★★★★) – What I love most about this novel was how uniquely written it was. It follows the story of a girl, Aviva, who has an affair with a married congressman and what happens in the aftermath once their affair becomes a news item. Of course, as it always seems to be, the congressman keeps his job and his dignity, but Aviva is scorned and slut shamed and dragged through the media. And so, she flees to another state and builds a new life for herself – new name, new job, and all. This novel gives you a glimpse into how her affair affects everyone involved: Aviva herself, her mom, the wife whose husband she had an affair with, and even Aviva’s young daughter. It’s a fascinating look at motherhood, ambition, and love.
My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis (★★★★☆) – This is your typical, formulaic romance novel, but there was something so sweet and charming about it. In this story, Bailey is recovering from spending her late teens, early twenties fighting cancer and is finally in remission and ready to start living. She is commissioned to paint a mural at a ski resort and while there, she meets Hud who is everything she wants – sexy, kind, and funny. But Bailey has big dreams of seeing the world and she’s only going to be at the ski resort for a short time, so what’s the point in starting something new with Hud? I loved that Bailey wasn’t your “typical” romance heroine and that she was so darn easy to love and root for. And Hud had his own hangups that he needed to figure out. The plot was so well-drawn and thoughtful, but the romance was still sizzling that it made me remember why Jill Shalvis is always my go-to romance author recommendation.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (★★★★★) – The Animators is a story about female friendship. It’s the story about Sharon and Mel, two female animators who have just released their first full-length feature and are high on life. Sharon and Mel couldn’t be more different – where Sharon is shy, Mel is brash – but they have a fierce love for each other and an undeniable attraction to the art of drawing and animation. Through this story, we see these friends go through the gauntlet of tragedy together but one thing that’s always certain is their love for each other. I listened to this on audio and I really recommend it (even if it’s a long audiobook at nearly 16 hours) because the narrator is so great. (I don’t typically love when narrators make up crazy voices for the characters, but in this instance, it really worked for the story.) I was super impressed by this debut by Kayla Rae Whitaker and I dearly hope she blesses us with more writing.
Undercover Attraction by Katee Robert (★★★★☆) – I never, ever thought I would fall in love with a mob family, but Katee Robert has proven me wrong with this series. In this novel, we get Aiden’s story with former cop, Charlotte. I have no love for Aiden because he was a straight-up jerk in the previous novels, but with this story, I started to realize why he did what he did and there’s a sense of respect for how he protects his siblings, even at his detriment. The chemistry between Aiden and Charlotte in this novel was hot, hot, hot, but there was also plenty of story beyond the bedroom scenes (nothing bothers me more than a romance that seems to be one sex scene after another… give me some story, authors!) Anyway, this is a series I highly recommend. I haven’t loved some of Robert’s other series, but this is her latest one and it seems like she’s truly coming into her own as an author with The O’Malleys.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (★★★★☆) – I had high hopes for this thriller because it had the most intriguing premise I’ve seen in a while. Thankfully, it fairly lived up to them and the novel definitely took some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. The kind of twists and turns that have you gasping when you realize what’s happening and flipping back through the pages to see if you missed something critical. I really don’t want to say anything about the plot because I think it unfolds nicely in a way where you don’t necessarily need to know the plot beforehand.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (★★★★★) – I finished this thriller in less than 24 hours – it was that good. The novel starts off with a bang, Anne and Marco are spending the evening at their next door neighbor’s house. They have a six-month-old, but their baby-sitter canceled at the last minute and their next door neighbor explicitly stated this was a “baby free” kind of party. They don’t want to cancel on their friends, so they leave their baby sleeping in her crib (checking on her every half hour) and proceed to spend the evening with their neighbors. And then the unthinkable happens when they come back home around midnight: their baby is gone. What follows is a twisty-turny thriller that had me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t know who to trust or believe, and I was thoroughly shocked by the ending.
Other January reads: Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid (★★☆☆☆), All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (★★☆☆☆), Foolproof Love by Katee Robert (★★☆☆☆), Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (★★☆☆☆), Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (★★★☆☆), Stealing Home by Jennifer Seasons (★☆☆☆☆), and Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar (★★★☆☆).
January Book Stats
Number of books: 13
Number of pages: 4,524
Genre breakdown: fiction (3), romance (6), historical fiction (1), thriller (2), nonfiction (1)
Number of diverse reads: 4 (31%)
Where I sourced my books: library/Overdrive (11), Book of the Month (1), gift from a friend (1)
Money spent on reading this month: $14.99