what i read in january: 52 books of 2021

journal. I can hardly believe that the month is nearly over. My little remaining break before school took off dawdled by, and once the spring semester began, it seemed the month was over. Tomorrow marks the last day of the month, and before I forget, I wanted to take a few moments to share all the books I’ve read so far in 2021.

If you know me personally, you know I’m obsessed with GoodReads, the reading app that logs the books you read and allows you a review and rating of pretty much every published book on and off the market. GoodReads has a special shelf dedicated to your yearly reading goal, and each year, I make an effort to set one.

Last year, my goal was 25 books, as I was unsure of how my change of major would effect my reading time. Of course, quarantine ended up being my saving grace, as I was thrust into a world of online school and bountiful free time. Amongst my newfound time to study the Word more (and like I should always), I also found immense time to read, and oh boy did I read.

I obliterated my goal, reading a total of 75 books in the year 2020.

This year looks a little different. I’m honing into the halfway mark of my degree in Elementary Education, and it’s beginning to show. A great majority of my time is spent reading textbooks and scribbling down notes and study guides. I’m taking 18 credit hours and working 20 hours a week -so, yeah, reading has become second thought and something I do before I conk out at night.

This hasn’t kept me from reading, though. I’ve set a goal for 52 books, meaning I want to try to read one a week. I feel as if it is attainable considering the summer to be a good time to make up for the books I couldn’t get to due to my heavy course load in the spring. So far, I’m only slightly behind, but without further ado, here’s all I’ve read so far in 2021.


Stuff I read for fun:

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalo

★★★★☆ Genre: YA Fantasy Rated: PG-13

This was one of my most anticipated fantasy reads of 2020, but after too many overzealous trips to the library, it slowly made its way toward the bottom of the stack. Maniscalo’s debut series is a precious YA story, and after I read the pitch about this dark fairytale, I knew I had to have it. This one’s an almost-NA story about a witch who aims to avenge her sister’s death to any lengths necessary -even striking a deal with a demon to do it. The dark mythology is riddled with strange prophecy and star-crossed romance. I’m definitely looking forward to the next release. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a very engaging fantasy read.

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

★★★☆☆ (2.5) Genre: NA Fantasy/Romance Rated: R

This one was…challenging. I have a full review up on my GoodReads page, but I can’t willingly recommend this one to anyone. It’s graphic in every aspect of that word, and I honestly picked up this one, the sequel, because I just had to know what happened. Not sure if I will attempt the third or not. A little too adult to this new adult.

Written in Starlight – Isabel Ibanez

★★★☆☆ Genre: YA Fantasy Rated: PG-13/PG

First-can we just gush over Ibanez’s cover? She made it herself and it is absolutely gorgeous! I read her debut novel Woven in Moonlight this time last year and it was absolutely precious. This story takes place in the same world following an exiled character and her journey through the wild jungle beyond. Inspired loosely on Bolivian politics, I found this one engaging but a little lacking when compared to Ibanez’s previous work. Although I related wholeheartedly to the shrewd protagonist, the romance is slightly cheap and Ibanez’s writing could have benefitted from at least one more copy edit. It is however adorable, and awesome for the high school audience! I’m looking forward to watching Ibanez grow as a writer.

Stuff I read for class:

The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister

★★★☆☆ Genre:Children’s Picture books; Rated: G…I think?

I’m taking kiddie lit this semester, so you’ll be seeing a lot of children’s books on these posts in the next few months. I’m choosing not to include them in the 52 because they take a couple minutes to read, but I am still rating them on GoodReads. This was the first one we had to read for my class, and I remembered it fondly for its shiny foil covered pages. I remember vividly reading it the night my mom went into labour with my baby brother. On the surface, it’s about sharing with others. Upon closer inspection it’s…vaguely socialist? I’m not sure what to make of it. If you’ve got a copy, I’d suggest giving it a second read as an adult. What should be a story about giving to others when they are lacking is really a tale about harming self so that everyone is equal. It’s highly ambiguous though, so I called it average.

Swimmy – Leo Lionni

★★★★☆ Genre:Children’s Picture books; Rated: G

This one’s a precious story about a fish that’s different than the rest of his kind. On teamwork, Lionni suggests embracing and celebrating our differences, realizing how they help us perform better as a team. The pale illustrations are simple but gorgeous, and there’s no doubt why it’s an award winner.

Arelene Sardine – Chris Rashka

★★☆☆☆ Genre: Children’s Picture books; Rated: G….I think?

This one definitely pushes boundaries. We follow Arlene, a fish, whose deepest desire is to become a sardine. You can imagine what that entails. Arlene dies and the process of making and packing sardines is followed throughout the remainder of the book. Part of me wonders if that’s truly content appropriate for children, but I don’t think aspects of life like death should be hidden from children (even Pixar movies describe death). My biggest issue is that Arlene continues to have thoughts and speech even after she’s dead…which we know doesn’t happen. I wouldn’t teach it, but it’s rhyming pattern may be useful and funny in teaching high schoolers or middle schoolers about literary devices.

Stuff I started but haven’t finished:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel – Susanna Clarke

Rating so far: ★★★★★ Genre: Fantasy/Alternate History; Rated: PG-13

This one is awesome! But it’s over 1000 pages. My dad jokingly refers to it as my “tome,” and that’s no understatement. Clarke’s work is immersive, rewriting the history of the Napoleonic wars from the side of the British. I stumbled across it after reading Piranesi (another good read by Clarke) at the recommendation of one of my favourite authors, Alix E. Harrow. This is shaping to be one of my favorites, but only in small doses. It’s definitely a hard read, but I think rewarding in the end. I can’t wait to write about it fully next month! (hopefully)

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Rating so far: ★★★★☆ Genre: Classic/Romance; Rating: PG

Okay, I confess. I’ve only ever read excerpts of this one. I adore the movie with Kiera Knightley, and it’s probably the greatest reason why I got bangs, but I’ve never read the book. I’m delving through it now, and it’s not super easy. I find Bronte’s work to be more engaging and rewarding of my time, but I had the paperback copy and felt… insistent. So far, I find issue with the lack of tags to identify speakers, but Elizabeth and Darcy’s banter is so perfectly brilliant my time is definitely well spent. Will update in full later.

*all images of book covers are from GoodReads.

(COVER PHOTO – taken by my roommate, Carrie, this is a shot of my friends Kenzie and Joel and I walking down the beach at Hilton Head, SC. We were attending BCM’s Converge conference. Considering I read Rainbow Fish this month, something beachy felt appropriate)

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