January Summary

I can’t believe January is over already! Seriously, where did the time go?!

It was a bit of a mixed bag for books this month. I got off to a bit of a rough start to the year with several book duds, but things definitely picked up later in the month and I loved all three of the books that I read for my January reading challenge. Here’s my summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 3,797
Main genres: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Favourite (new) book: Girl in Translation
Favourite re-read: On the Jellicoe Road

I started off the month with Thunderhead, the sequel to Neal Shusterman’s new series Scythe. I did like this one, but overall I don’t think Shusterman is quite my cup of tea and I found it a bit boring. He explores a lot of really interesting concepts in Scythe and in comparison, Thunderhead seemed a bit lacking.

Things only got worse though because I followed up Thunderhead with The Life She Was Given and The Star-Touched Queen, both of which I did not like at all. The Life She was Given was my book club read of the month and it ended up being our lowest rated book to date, and we’ve read over 50 books! I found the book totally lacking in depth, development, and meaning. Likewise, I thought the writing in the Star-Touched Queen was so over-the-top flowery that it completely took away from the story. I can see why some people might be into this type of writing, but it really did nothing for me and I didn’t find the story meaningful.

Things picked up after that with the first book in my January Challenge to read 3 books about immigration – Girl in Translation. This is a fantastic book about a Chinese mother and daughter who immigrate to America and the terrible conditions they put up with just to survive. It was so well written; I loved the main character Kim and her aspirations to get the very best education so that her and her mother could rise above their circumstances. it was a very moving story.

Next I read Looking for Alibrandi, which is one of the few Melina Marchetta books I hadn’t already read. It was a solid 3-star read and I thought the main character Josie had a lot of spunk, but I didn’t think it was anything that special. However, it inspired me to give On the Jellicoe Road a re-read, which is one of my favourite books of all time and still moves me to tears, even after several re-reads over the last few years. These are both relatively older YA contemporary books, but I honestly think On the Jellicoe Road is timeless and that everyone should read it!

My second January Challenge read was Pachinko, which is a slow-moving historical epic that spans 80 years of history about a Korean family that immigrates to Japan during its colonial rule over Korea and struggle to build a life for themselves and escape the stigma of being Korean. It examines the challenges of being emancipated from your homeland and finding where you fit in in a new culture. Also a wonderful read, although quite long.

I needed something light and fast-paced before I tackled my last Challenge book, so I read The Cruel Prince which has been getting an insane amount of good reviews. I liked it, but was definitely disappointed with it because I think it’s gotten a little over-hyped and the book wasn’t able to deliver on my expectations. That said, I still gave it 3 stars and I will definitely be continuing on with this series. I’m hopeful about the next book!

My last book on immigration was American Street, which was refreshing in that it was totally unlike the first two books I read. American Street focuses on 16-year old Fabiola, whose mother is detained when they try to enter America from Haiti. She is forced to go on to Detroit without her mother and struggles to navigate her new life with her 3 larger than life cousins and her sick aunt. This was my least favourite of the 3, but I still really enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars.

I thought American Street would be the last book of the month, but I managed to fit in one more with Ruined. Based on other reviews I figured I would either love or hate Ruined and I’m pleased to say I LOVED IT! It’s a fast-paced YA fantasy novel that has a lot of action and a fair bit of romance. Sometimes I dislike too much romance in my fantasy novels, but I loved it in this one. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the sequel!







Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Amy Tintera
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Jan. 2018


Everyone seems to have really mixed feelings on Ruined – the reviews are all either “1 star I hated it” or “5 stars I am obsessed”. But I definitely fall into the latter category. I guess I could maybe see why some people might not love this and think it has a recycled plot, but it was such a fast-paced emotional, fantasy, thriller that I just didn’t even care.

I actually wasn’t that intrigued by the plot, but EpicReads seems obsessed with this one and I was in the mood for some action, so I decided to give it a try. The idea is that there are 4 different kingdoms and they’re all at war with each other in some way or another, with everyone trying to seize the most power. Our main character, Emelina Flores is from Ruina, a kingdom of magic wielders who are slowly being exterminated by the Kingdoms of Lera and Vallos because of their fear of the Ruined’s magic. Even though Emelina is a princess of Ruina, she didn’t inherit the Ruined’s powers. Her parents were murdered by Vallos and her sister taken prisoner by Lera. She is determined to get her sister back and take her revenge on everyone who opposes her.

Mary, Princess of Vallos, has been betrothed to Casimir, Prince of Lera. Emelina hatches a plan to kill Mary on her way to Lera, impersonate her, and infiltrate the castle to find out the location of her sister, Olivia. She’ll have to marry Prince Casimir, but it’s just another unfortunate event on her way to revenge. It’s fair that it’s pretty easy to guess the direction of the plot from there, but there were still so many surprises in this novel. It’s incredibly fast-paced, surprisingly humorous and a lot of fun!

Sometimes I really don’t like romance in my fantasy novels, but I loved it in this one. I can definitely be a sucker for a good romantic side story and I loved the slow build romance in Ruined. I loved the characters and their development throughout the novel and I loved that Amy Tintera basically wrote this story in the morally grey areas. There’s no obvious good guy. Lera and Vallos have done some shitty things, but so have the Ruined. Nobody really knows where to point the finger of blame of who started the whole thing and I really enjoyed watching the main characters trying to navigate these ambiguous ethical areas.

In a way Emelina is your classic female heroine; she’s incredibly skilled in swordplay and she is bloodthirsty and unforgiving. But she’s also a 16-year old girl being married off to the son of the man who destroyed her family. She was very vulnerable. I can’t imagine any 16 year being so ruthless and still being emotionally stable. I liked that she was able to be powerful, but still show emotions and vulnerability. Same with Cas. He was never emasculated by Em, but I liked Tintera’s portrayal of him as a boy who has had power and responsibility thrust upon him and how overwhelming that feels.

I pretty much inhaled this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the next one. Ruined has the perfect cliffhanger in that it answers all your questions, but still leaves your mouth hanging out wondering what kind of crazy shit is going to go down in the next book. I need it ASAP!

Side note, I love that Amy Tintera actually says the word “sex” in this book. YA fantasy authors tend to sidestep their way around explicitly talking about sex and use all these really weird innuendos and double entendres to describe their sex scenes (looking at you Sarah J Maas), it was refreshing to see a YA author just call it what it is. Let’s all be grown-ups about it so actual teenagers can be too.