What I read in January

Photo: Ko Backpacko / Shutterstock

This month started off slow for reading. Usually I read about four books in a month. This month I squeaked by on two, one of which I hardly enjoyed (more on that later), which I partially blame for my sloooow reading. But the other reason? 


You guys. YOU GUYS. I got sucked in. The romance. The dresses. The setting. Regé-Jean Page

I had a hard time focusing on books when this show was so absolutely delicious. 

So yes, I read two books this month. Here they are, and how I felt about them:

From Blood and Ash, by Jennifer L. Armentrout

⭐⭐⭐ out of 5 stars

I am currently awaiting the 4th book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (Sarah J Maas), and From Blood and Ash keeps showing up in suggested books to read, with a story that ACOTAR lovers will love. I tried reading this book last year and lost interest quickly, but for my first book of 2021, I thought I’d give it another try. 

What a waste of a first read. 

The main character is Poppy, better known as The Maiden, who has been chosen by the gods since birth to ascend to immortal life, and is supposedly everyone’s salvation. Until then, she is to live a pure life, which basically means isolation from everyone except a few chosen people and the Ascended. In the meantime, she’s whipped into obedience (literally), and forced to abide by a zillion rules just to achieve this elevated status (which, btw, she doesn’t want). The secret about Poppy, though, is she’s been trained on the down low by one of her protectors so that she can defend herself. As a result, she’s a badass. She’s also part of this underground group that provides death with dignity for those who have been bitten by their enemy, the Craven, ending their lives before they turn into Craven themselves, and suffer a humiliating death by the Ascended. And then there’s Hawke, the super sexy guard who has now been assigned to protect the Maiden at all costs…

The ingredients for a super sexy fantasy novel are all there…except there are so many things being thrown at you in the beginning, with limited details to keep you from guessing the truth, that I felt like I was reading in a fog the whole time. But what irritated me the most was how contradictory Poppy was. She could kill with mercenary precision and strength, and yet there were so many times she crumpled into helpless girl mush. In the beginning, as she’s being tortured by the Ascended, she thinks about how she has the skills to kill her abusers. I get why she only thinks this but doesn’t act. What I don’t get are the moments when the wool is pulled over her eyes, when it’s so obviously a set up or a trap, and she walks right into it. And I don’t get how she gets so weak around her love interest. Most of all, I don’t get her feelings about the love interest. She obviously wants him. But she spends about 65% of the book telling him she hates him, and when she doesn’t hate him, she’s in love with him. It’s like two ends of a magnet – attract, repel, repeat. 

I think I finally got interested in the book about 80% in, when a bunch of secrets came out and things started to make sense. It also ends on a cliffhanger that slightly made me want to know more. However, too little, too late. I was so frustrated by this book by the end, I cannot bring myself to read any more. It’s too bad, too. I really wanted to believe the hype about this book, and this author. 

Secrets and Lies, by Selena Montgomery

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of 5 stars

You guys. Stacey Abrams is a romance author. Yes, that Stacey Abrams. The politician from Georgia who was instrumental in flipping Georgia from red to blue by fighting for fair voting, thus boosting voter turnout. 

But we’re not here to talk politics. We’re here to talk about Abrams’ other persona, which is Selena Montgomery, author of romance thrillers – some of my favorite books to read!

After spending too long reading a book I didn’t enjoy, my goal for the second book of the year was one I couldn’t put down. On the day I was looking for this kind of book, someone on social media alerted me to Abrams’ books, and I immediately downloaded the first one I came across. 

Friends, meet the first book I enjoyed in 2021, Secrets and Lies, by Selena Montgomery (Stacey Abrams!!!!)

Side note: I acknowledge that I might be the last person who knows about Stacey Abrams alter ego, especially since she’s about to release a political thriller under her real name. End side note.

Secrets and Lies is everything you want in a romance thriller. You want the sexy protagonist, and his even sexier love interest. You want the heart racing twists, and elements of danger. Most of all, you want good writing that makes you feel everything as it’s happening. 

This book was all that and more. I do think Montgomery/Abrams fell a little flat on the buildup (it kind of went from 0-60 pretty fast), but her love scenes were tasty and well written. 

This is the kind of book you’ll like if somewhat explicit sex scenes are something you like to read. I don’t usually write this explicit, but I don’t mind reading them, and I thought Montgomery/Abrams did a good job of turning up the heat while leaving out the cheese that some romance novels are guilty of. 

Now I’m reading Shantaram, a 900-page monster of a novel that numerous people have recommended to me. If my reading next month matches this one, I should be done by November. I’ll let you know how it goes in my next reading update. 

What are you reading? 

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