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Somehow we have managed to blow through the first month of 2023. It is officially February which means it is time for my January Reading Wrap-Up! January was a great reading month. I didn’t finish a TON of books but I am still on track with my reading goal for the year. I did manage to read 6 books…and they all ended up being 4 star reads…so I call that a win!
The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton
The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton was my first read of 2023 and ended up being my favorite read of January. This was my Book of the Month pick and I was initially drawn in by the gorgeous cover. Its stunning, isn’t it?!? After reading the synopsis I knew this was one that I would be super interested in and I definitely was. This book was dystopian meets magical realism with all of the best parts of each genre. I am always drawn to books that are set in my home state of Florida and this one was almost a little too close to home. Having been through a couple of hurricanes this book definitely hit pretty close to home. It also really did a great job at highlighting the climate issues we have…and the direction we could end up if things don’t change! This one was easily a 4.5 star read for me.
Florida is slipping away. As devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels wreak gradual havoc on the state’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches a small town on the southeastern coast. Kirby Lowe, an electrical line worker, his pregnant wife, Frida, and their two sons, Flip and Lucas, prepare for the worst. When the boys go missing just before the hurricane hits, Kirby heads out into the high winds in search of his children. Left alone, Frida goes into premature labor and gives birth to an unusual child, Wanda, whom she names after the catastrophic storm that ushers her into a society closer to collapse than ever before.
As Florida continues to unravel, Wanda grows. Moving from childhood to adulthood, adapting not only to the changing landscape, but also to the people who stayed behind in a place abandoned by civilization, Wanda loses family, gains community, and ultimately, seeks adventure, love, and purpose in a place remade by nature.
Told in four parts—power, water, light, and time—The Light Pirate mirrors the rhythms of the elements and the sometimes quick, sometimes slow dissolution of the world as we know it. It is a meditation on the changes we would rather not see, the future we would rather not greet, and a call back to the beauty and violence of an untamable wilderness.
The Circus Train by Amita Parikh
Next up we have The Circus Train by Amita Parikh. This was another Book of the Month selection for me! This is historical fiction meets magical realism and it was so well done. If you enjoyed The Night Circus and Water for Elephants then you should definitely check this one out. It was such a great balance of historical fiction, love story, and magic! 4 stars!
When all is lost, how do you find the courage to keep moving forward?
1938. Lena Papadopoulos has never quite found her place within the circus, even as the daughter of the extraordinary headlining illusionist, Theo. Brilliant and curious, Lena—who uses a wheelchair after a childhood bout with polio—yearns for the real-world magic of science and medicine, her mind stronger than the limitations placed on her by society. Then her unconventional life takes an exciting turn when she rescues Alexandre, an orphan with his own secrets and a mysterious past.
As World War II escalates around them, their friendship blossoms into something deeper while Alexandre trains as the illusionist’s apprentice. But when Theo and Alexandre are arrested and made to perform in a town for Jews set up by the Nazis, Lena is separated from everything she knows. Forced to make her own way, Lena must confront her doubts and dare to believe in the impossible—herself.
Someone Else’s Life by Lyn Liao Butler
Next we have a super fast paced thriller. I finished Someone Else’s Life in one sitting. It isnt a super long book and it was a definite page turner. I love a good thriller and this one definitely fit the bill. It did have me yelling at the main character on more than one occasion though. Let me ask you this…it is storming outside…you are home alone…someone you have never met knocks on your door and asks to come inside…do you let them in? Y’all…I’m sorry but my house inst the place you want to get stranded. I will call you some help, I will make you a snack, I will even let you sit under my lanai…but there is a zero percent chance you are coming in. Anyway…if you are looking for a quick read…this was a good one! 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 on goodreads.
A new life in paradise should have healed her wounds. But for a woman struggling to hold on to her family and her sanity, one stormy night could change everything.
Blow by blow, Annie Lin’s life crumbles. Her dance studio goes bankrupt. Her mother and beloved dog are gone the same year. Then a terrible accident leaves her young son traumatized.
It’s time for a change.
Palm trees, mai tais, peace and quiet―Annie should be at ease, safe in her new Kauai home with her husband and son. She hopes proximity to her family can provide them all with a sense of belonging and calm. But soon items from her past start turning up―her dog’s collar, a bracelet that disappeared years ago―and she has the unnerving sensation she’s being watched. Reality begins to fracture, and Annie’s panic attacks return. When, during a brewing storm, a woman appears on her doorstep looking for shelter, Annie is relieved to have the company and feels an unexplainable bond with her visitor.
As the night progresses, Annie realizes the woman is no stranger. Their lives are inextricably intertwined―and Annie might just lose everything.
She Holds Up the Stars by Sandra Laronde
My first middle-grade book of the year! If you have been here for a minute you will know that I adore middle-grade fiction. It is one of my favorites. She Holds Up the Stars was wonderful. It is the perfect example of a fabulous middle-grade book. It was a quick read but it was full of so much heart…and a little heartache. This is a coming of age story with a strong message about connections to land and family. Another 4 star read for this booknerd!
The last thing that twelve-year old Misko wants to do is to move away from the city to spend time on the rez with her grandmother. And yet she feels strangely compelled to go, drawn by a pull that she feels in her dreams. Maybe she can finally find out what happened to her mother, who mysteriously disappeared when Misko was four years old.
Misko’s relationship to the rez shifts when she encounters a spirited horse named Mishtadim. But Mishtadim is being violently broken by the rancher next door and his son Thomas. Misko and Thomas clash at first, only to find themselves drawn together by the wild horse. As Misko slowly discovers her unique bond with Mishtadim, she feels a sense of belonging and comes to understand the beauty of the world all around her.
She Holds Up the Stars is a powerful story of reconciliation and the interwoven threads that tie us to family, to the land, and to our own sense of self.
Gallant by V.E. Schwab
I am a sucker for a creepy gothic house and Gallant fit the bill perfectly. This was another quick read that kept my interest the whole time! I have read several of V.E. Schwab’s middle-grade books and have loved those but this was my first YA. I do feel like this read a bit like a middle-grade. There wasn’t much that would lead me to feel like it needed to be YA if that makes any sense. Still a great book though. Love a mysterious ghost story! 4 stars!
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home; it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile, or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.
Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.
Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?
New York Times–bestselling author V. E. Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, stand-alone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nixwill quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.
Beyond That, The Sea by Laura Spence-Ash
The last book I read in January was Beyond That, The Sea. This was such a heartwarming historical fiction. Taking place on both sides of the Atlantic…USA and England, this book was brimming with Maine nostalgia for me! This book has such a wonderful atmospheric vibe and is perfect for fans of historical fiction, found family, and stories of friendship. Really loved this one! Another 4 star read! Beyond That, The Sea publishes in late March 2023.
As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.
Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.
As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life―summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea―the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.
Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own.
As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love.
That’s a Wrap!
All in all January was a great month for reading! How did your reading go? Any 5 star reads? At the time of typing this post (late as usual) I have already read several books for February and I am happy to report that I have my first 5 star read of the year! It is by my current favorite author…any guesses? Stay tuned!