January 2018 Reading Wrap-Up!

Hi all!

Welcome to my very first monthly Reading Wrap-Up post. I hope you enjoy the layout and structure. I welcome all feedback and suggestions in the comments below. In January, I read some fantastic books including my very first from the Monthly Classics Challenge. If you would like to see which classic I’ll be reading each month, check out my list here.

I also joined my very first online book club called the Sassy Book Club hosted by MissSassyKassie on YouTube. Click here to join free on Goodreads. It’s perfect for introverts like myself because you don’t have to meet up in person. You simply read the assigned book, share your thoughts on the Goodreads group and watch the live show at the end of each month, hosted on Kassie’s BookTube Channel. She will provide dates/times for those on her page – just click the link above.

In January, I read a total of 8 books! I’m going to share mini spoiler-free reviews and plot summaries about all the books I completed this month as well as an overall star rating. Without further ado, let’s get started!

1.) SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE BY MORGAN MATSON (PHYSICAL BOOK)

Order a copy here!

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PLOT: In this story, we follow Emily who has just discovered that her best friend Sloane has disappeared. Her house is empty, car gone and parents missing. She is not answering her phone or responding to text messages. Since Emily and Sloane became best friends two years earlier, they have been inseparable. Now, Emily has to face the next three months alone, lost and confused. Shortly afterwards, Emily receives a list in the mail from Sloane filled with dares for her to complete. These include skinny-dipping, kiss a stranger, steal something, dance until dawn and more. Emily starts to believe that the key to finding Sloane will reveal itself once she ticks off every single item and so her crazy adventures begin…

MINI REVIEW: Wow. What a way to kick off 2018. This was my first Morgan Matson reading experience and it certainly won’t be the last. Since You’ve Been Gone is the perfect summer read. It is currently summer here in Australia and the entire novel takes place over the summer break in Stanwich, Connecticut. It made me want to eat ice-cream, go swimming in the ocean and sleep under the stars. Rarely do I identify so strongly with a main character but Emily reminded me so much of my teenage self. She is shy, awkward and heavily dependent on her best friend..much like I was. I always felt like the sidekick to my confident and sassy ‘Sloane’. If we were separated, I struggled. I relied on her so much that when we were finally forced to lead different lives, I didn’t know how to. Luckily for Emily and myself, this experience saw us grow significantly as individuals. The writing moved at an excellent pace, the romance had a super slow-burn (which I loved) and the ending pulled at my heart. I was blown away by how much I loved this story. As strange as it sounds, I was really proud of Emily for finding herself and taking chances. The character development in this book is outstanding. You’ll be hooked from start to finish.

RATING: I gave it 5/5 stars.

2.) I CAN’T MAKE THIS UP – LIFE LESSONS BY KEVIN HART (AUDIO BOOK)

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Screenshot from my iPhone

PLOT: Kevin’s story begins at childhood, moves through adolescence and into adulthood. You learn all about his family, his marriage, his children and how he reached fame. This book is broken up into parts with hilarious titles. He provides deep life lessons with plenty of humour thrown in for comic relief. If you read the physical book, you will see plenty of photographs.

MINI REVIEW: I had heard nothing but rave reviews since Kevin Hart released his first biography so I purchased it on audiobook through iTunes and finished the entire thing within 3 days. I highly, highly recommend you listen to it rather than physically read it. The way Kevin speaks and delivers his story will leave you in tears of laughter. He truly is a talented comedian. My favourite part of the book was the beginning, when he walks us through his childhood and what it was like growing up with two emotionally unstable parents. There were so many times when I thought ‘he is making this stuff up’ but the title does not lie. I truly admire how hard Kevin worked to become the successful man he is today. He literally came from nothing and through consistent perseverance and passion, made something of himself. I also really appreciated his honesty. He has made plenty of mistakes but owns up to every single one of them. If you want to have a good laugh but also leave inspired, I suggest diving into his wild story.

RATING: I gave it 4/5 stars.

3.) THE TUNNEL BEHIND THE WATERFALL (BOOK #3 OF THE MAGICIAN’S HOUSE QUARTET) BY WILLIAM CORLETT (KINDLE BOOK – RE-READ)

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Screenshot from my iPhone Kindle

PLOT: The Magician’s House Quartet was one of my favourite fantasy series as a child. I used to borrow and re-borrow them from my local library. One day, I discovered them on Kindle and bought them all. I began re-reading them in late 2017 and finished the rest this month. I won’t explain what happens in the third book due to spoilers but I will provide an overall plot summary. This series follows three siblings: William, Mary and Alice Constant, that spend their holiday breaks from school at their Uncle Jack’s home in Golden Valley. Whilst exploring one day, they discover steps up the chimney that lead them to a Magician. He introduces them to a world of magic in order to save Golden Valley from those who wish to destroy it. If you enjoy time-travel, shape-shifting and alchemy, these are the books for you.

MINI REVIEW: It has been quite amusing reading this as an adult and picking up on things that I didn’t as a child. For example, the kids are forced to eat vegetarian at Golden Valley. As these books were released in the 1990’s, it makes sense that vegetarianism was received as something quite strange. Alice in particular finds it hard to wrap her head around and calls her Aunt Phoebe a vegetable. I feel like the author was a vegetarian himself because he weaves many themes about animal cruelty, the environment and health into the story. Phoebe is also pregnant in the first book but not married to Jack. The children are astonished that a baby is being born out of wedlock which is quite a normal thing in modern times. It has been really nice reconnecting with a series I loved as a child. Whilst the third book was a little slow, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

RATING: I gave it 3.5/5 stars.

4.) JANE EYRE BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE (PHYSICAL BOOK) – MONTHLY CLASSIC PICK FOR JANUARY 2018

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PLOT: My first Monthly Classic Challenge is complete! Do you like my vintage copy of the book? I bought it at a secondhand store years ago and finally got to enjoy it in January. This first person narrative follows orphan Jane Eyre from childhood right through to adulthood. She is raised by her abusive aunt and cousins at Gateshead Hall who treat her terribly until she is sent away to Lowood Institution for eight years where she begins as a student and leaves as a teacher at the age of 18. From there, Jane secures a job at Thornfield Manor as a governess to the mysterious Mr. Rochester’s ward, Adele. Before long, Jane falls hopelessly in love with her employer (who is twice her age) but he holds a dark secret. Our protagonist is forced to choose between her head and heart after she learns what haunts her new home…

MINI REVIEW:  I LOVED Jane Eyre. For quite a large book, I flew through it in a matter of days. The writing was absolutely beautiful, as typically befits a classic work of literature. The main highlight for me was Jane herself. Despite being published in the 1800’s, Charlotte Bronte wrote a remarkably independent and sassy character for her time. Jane was never afraid to speak her mind. There was a powerful scene where she confronted somebody who had abused her for years and it left me speechless. Not only that, Jane mentions the importance of self-love and respect several times throughout the novel. She follows her intuition and makes difficult decisions even though her heart is breaking purely because it is the right thing to do. I found myself being really proud of her and inspired by her strength. She was a role-model for the women of that era. I also loved how I could feel the author living vicariously through Jane. It was almost as if Jane spoke the words Charlotte had always wanted to but never dared. The pacing was excellent, the romance believable and the overall story very satisfying.

RATING:  It is no surprise I gave this book 5/5 stars.

5.) THE BRIDGE IN THE CLOUDS (BOOK #3 OF THE MAGICIAN’S HOUSE QUARTET) BY WILLIAM CORLETT (KINDLE BOOK – RE-READ)

Order a copy here!

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Screenshot from my iPhone Kindle

PLOT: Once again, as this is the fourth and final book in the series, I won’t delve into the plot as it will spoil everything. Read The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall (above) for an overall synopsis of The Magician’s House Quartet.

MINI REVIEW: Now that I have finished reading this series as an adult, I will say it didn’t hold as much magic as it did for me when I was a child. I cannot explain it but it wasn’t exactly as I remembered. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did…but it was read through very different eyes this time around. Nevertheless, I am so glad I was given the opportunity to re-read it and would gladly introduce the series to my children someday. The fourth book had a satisfying conclusion which was quite emotional. I was very happy to discover that The Magician’s House Quartet was made into a feature length film many years ago. I found the entire thing on YouTube split into 12 parts. Click here if you wish to watch it. They changed a lot of things but I quite liked it anyway. It has a very Enid Blyton feel.

RATING: I gave it 4/5 stars.

6.) THE SON OF NEPTUNE (BOOK #2 OF THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS SERIES) BY RICK RIORDAN (AUDIO BOOK)

Order a copy here!

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PLOT: I read The Lost Hero late last year so this is the sequel to that book. In the Son of Neptune, we follow the perspectives of Percy, Hazel and Frank. I don’t want to spoil anything so once again, I’ll provide an overall plot summary of the Heroes of Olympus series. This is evidently set in the same world as Percy Jackson but it features a whole new cast of characters. It also introduces Roman Mythology alongside Greek which is a lot of fun. A prophecy is set at the beginning of Book #1 that states seven demi-gods will try to save Olympus from the formidable Gaea (Goddess of the Earth) and her children, the Gigantes. That is all I will say. Prepare for lots of new monsters, friendships, laughs and quests!

MINI REVIEW: I think I liked this one slightly more than the first book. It was very funny and action-packed. Plenty of back-story was provided for each of the 3 main characters which I always appreciate and it was really cool to finally see Camp Jupiter. A lot is also revealed and explained. The highlight for me has been listening to this series on audio-book, which I borrowed from my local library. The narrator is so gifted at producing a wide range of voices. He really brings the story to life! The ending made me so excited for Book #3 – The Mark of Athena.

RATING: I gave it 4/5 stars. 

7.) STRANGE THE DREAMER BY LAINI TAYLOR (KINDLE BOOK) – SASSY BOOK CLUB PICK FOR JANUARY 2018 

Order a copy here!

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Screenshot from my iPhone Kindle

PLOT: “The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around.” Everybody who has read this book says the exact same thing: you should go into it knowing as little as possible. For this reason, I will make the plot summary very brief because I 100% agree. In this fantastical world, we follow orphan and junior librarian, Lazlo Strange, who has been obsessed with the mythical lost city of Weep his whole life. It has been two hundred years since it was cut off from the rest of the world. One day, Lazlo is invited to venture where no outsider has ever been before and restore the lost city to greatness…

MINI REVIEW: To be honest, I never would’ve picked this story up if it hadn’t been for the book club. This makes me so thankful I joined because it exposed me to an incredible work of fiction. I loved so many things about this book. The writing was wonderful, the pacing flowed perfectly, the descriptions were beautifully vivid and the characters so well-developed. I also really appreciated the slow release of answers throughout the story. There was no info-dumping or confusion. It left you wanting more because you only recieved a little bit at a time. I’ve heard some say that the romance in this book felt forced for them. I disagree. I felt the instant chemistry and intrigue between the two. It will definitely play a huge part in the upcoming sequel – Muse of Nightmares. The ending left me super impatient for what is to come. The whole book is just pure magic…

RATING: Easily 5/5 stars! 

8.) THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS BY EMILY BARR (PHYSICAL BOOK)

Order a copy here!

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PLOT: How beautiful is the cover? This book is Emily Barr’s debut YA novel. It follows a teenager by the name of Flora Banks who lives in Cornwall with her parents and has suffered amnesia for seven years. We learn that at the age of ten, Flora developed a tumour that needed to be removed, however, the procedure involved taking a big chunk of her memory with it. Since then, she can only remember what happened before the operation. Any new memories formed are completely wiped out in several hours. Flora is forced to constantly write on her hands and in her notebook in order to remember basic things, such as she is seventeen because every single time her memory restarts, she believes she is still ten. One evening, Flora kisses a boy on the beach and the next day, she remembers it but he is gone. With this startling revelation, Flora makes it her mission to find him and cure her condition once and for all…

MINI REVIEW: For a YA novel, this book was so much darker than I expected it to be. There were many elements woven throughout the story that unnerved me but I blew through it in just three days because of what was building up. Even now, I can’t really say if I enjoyed it or not because the subject matter was so utterly sad. The author did a wonderful job of writing from the perspective of somebody suffering with amnesia. You may find the language to be a bit repetitive but that is purely because Flora has to keep reminding herself of the same things over and over. The entire story is a giant mystery that left me needing to understand what was really happening. I only had an issue with the ending. It was much too rushed and abrupt for my liking. I feel like it could’ve been done a lot differently but apart from that, I found it to be a quick and easy read.

RATING: I gave this book 4/5 stars.

I hope you enjoyed my first Monthly Reading Wrap-Up post. Please leave any comments or suggestions below. Did you like the formatting? Was it too long or short? Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? What was your favourite book of January 2018? Thanks for reading. See you in February!

Peace & Love xoxo

This post contains links to my Book Depository Affiliate which helps fund my blog, I am not being paid or sponsored for this post/products – all my thoughts/opinions are my own

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10 thoughts on “January 2018 Reading Wrap-Up!

  1. Again so inspiring to see you reading quite a few books again! The Tunnel Behind The Waterfall sounds such an adventurous book, what with time travel and shapeshifting. Sometimes when I read I like to be taken to another world, and this seems to be that kind of book 😊 So glad this came up in my reader. Hope you are well my friend 😊😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you my friend! The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall was a very magical read. The children can enter the bodies of animals and move with them 🙂 you would like it. I’m so glad this came up in your reader too! It seems to be random whether it does or doesn’t. Lots of love xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great job reading so many nice books! I love Percy Jackson audiobooks tbh. I used to listen to the Kane Chronicles and Percy Jackson audiobooks as I went to sleep, which allowed me to remember giant chunks of certain books even though I haven’t read them for years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! They are the best aren’t they? I really love the narrator. I want so badly to listen to the Kane Chronicles but they aren’t available at my local library 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You read so many books I love! I’m very happy that you had a good reading month. It is definitely inspiring me to read more books in the upcoming months 😊 I absolutely loved Since You’ve Been Gone. The whole concept and the growth the main character goes through make it one of my favorite YA novels! I want to read Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour next, it should be a cute read. Lovely wrap-up! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Rita! I hope you had a great reading month too! Since You’ve Been Gone is already one of my favourite books of 2018. It made me want to read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer so badly! 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

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