Happy February! It’s freezing cold in my neck of the woods which, for me, is perfect cozy book weather! I’ve been thinking about what I want to read this month and there are sooooooo many choices to pick from! But before I create my February reading list, I need to review what I read in January. If you remember from my blog post, I chose the following books –
- All the Light We Cannot See
- At Home with Madame Chic
- Holy Hygge
- The Only Woman in the Room
- Reader Come Home
Soooooo, I read all of these but didn’t finish all of them. I’m still working on most of these.
I did, however, finish 5 books last month! That still leaves me about 3 books behind schedule at the moment but I’m not mad at that. I haven’t read 5 books in a month in awhile (I don’t think) so I’ll take it! So let me tell you about what I ended up completing in January!
(this post contains affiliate links. see disclosure here)
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
RATING: 5 stars
I love a good historical fiction based on a true story or true events. I also just love well written historical fiction. I really enjoyed The Alice Network & The Rose Code expected nothing less than brilliant from Kate Quinn. She totally delivered and The Diamond Eye was amazing! I listened to this one through my local library on the Libby app and it was fantastic! I couldn’t “put it down” so to speak!
This book is about Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a female sniper for the Soviet Union during World War II. She was 24 year-old university student when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. After the invasion, she enlisted as a sniper. Pavlichenko was so skilled on the frontlines that by the time she was removed from combat in 1942 due to a shrapnel injury, she had 309 kills to her name. This success on the battlefield earned her the name Lady Death. She was such an asset to the cause that they kept her out of active duty and made her a part of the propaganda machine. This takes her to America where she meets Eleanor Roosevelt and has a run in with another sharp shooter with her in his sights.
Quinn expertly told Pavlichenko’s story and I didn’t want it to end!
Content/Trigger Warning: absent father/husband, verbal abuse, some strong language, a couple of bedroom scenes (semi-graphic but technically open door).
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
RATING: 2 STARS
This book has been on my TBR for awhile and I tried listening to it at least once before and couldn’t get into it. I finally made it through and I’m really glad I did but I didn’t love it as much as a lot of other people have.
This book tells the story of 12 year-old Marie-Laure who has to escape Paris with her father during the Nazi occupation. They flee to her uncle’s house in Saint-Malo and with them, they bring a very expensive jewel from the Museum of Natural History where her father works. Meanwhile, Werner is an orphan from a mining town in Germany who becomes skilled in fixing and building radios. He’s sent to become a part of the Nazi youth where he’ll be trained to serve in the military. The book follow’s both Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories and how they eventually intertwine.
I originally gave this book 3 stars but I’ve dropped it to two. I didn’t hate it. I would recommend it to some but I didn’t love it and 3 stars felt more generous than what I wanted. Doerr’s prose is well-written but I wasn’t a fan of the non-chronological timeline. It might have to do with the fact that I listened to the audiobook. Maybe the experience would have been better on the page, not sure. Anyway, I am glad I finally read it but I do wish I liked it better than I did!
Homicide and Halo Halo by Mia P. Manansala
Rating: 3 Stars
Okay, totally switching gears from World War II to modern cozy mystery. I read Arsenic and Adobo last year and thoroughly enjoyed it! When I found out this was a series, I jumped on the 2nd and 3rd installments! I love mysteries and food and a book that blends both together in a story is a recipe for a good time! And the best part is that the protagonist, Lila Macapagal is Filipino. I’m half Filipino and it was sooooooooo much fun to understand every cultural and family reference. I listened to this on audio and Danice Cabanela’s performance was superb!
This second book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery, it’s summertime in Lila’s hometown of Shady Palms and pageant season. Lila was a Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant winner a long time ago and has now been invited to serve on the panel of judges. This should be a great event for the town but when the head judge is murdered and the main suspect is Lila’s cousin and former pageant rival Bernadette, it gets pretty dicey pretty quickly and the whole family gets involved!
This is a light, easy read and I totally recommend it if you like mysteries and food. Manansala does deal with some weighty issues but in a way that doesn’t weight the book down and I really enjoy that. Being Filipino, I absolutely understand a lot of the family dynamics and challenges in these books and I think that Manansala does a really great job at being honest about those challenges while honoring and highlighting the love and loyalty that is also so much a part of Filipino culture.
I gave this book 3 stars because it’s solid and very enjoyable but didn’t wow me or grip me like The Diamond Eye. I have a hard copy of Arsenic and Adobo and one of these days I’ll add books 2 & 3 on my shelves as well. They’re worth a place in my library! And on that note, let’s talk about book 3!
Blackmail & Bibingka by Mia P. Manansala
Rating: 3 Stars
This is another solid 3. Again, didn’t wow me but definitely entertaining and Manansala continued to deliver on the food, the character development and the family dynamics and drama! And because it’s a murder mystery, someone is dead and someone else is a suspect.
Just when you think it can’t get anymore Filipino, a long lost cousin comes into the mix in Blackmail and Bibingka. The cousin in question is Ronnie and he’s the black sheep of the family who ran out 15 years ago. He has a track record of finding trouble wherever he goes and even though he says everything is different now with his latest business venture, Lila isn’t too sure. When he’s accused of murdering one of the investors of his new winery, it’s Lila’s family duty to help prove his innocence, no matter if she thinks he’s still a jerk.
Another light and entertaining read and again, I’d recommend the series if you’re into this type of thing! I’m really looking forward to installment number 4!
When In Rome by Sarah Adams
Rating: 3 Stars
Confession: I love a good 90’s, early 2000s rom-com. I’m talking You’ve Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping, Two Week’s Notice, you know the kind. They’re fun, light, feel-good, and cheesy and I unashamedly enjoy the escapism every once in awhile. I also enjoy a good rom-com on the page too. But I’m super picky about them. I steer pretty clear of open-door and I appreciate plot lines that aren’t eye-rolling-ly predictable. The synopsis of When In Rome had me at the throwback to Audrey Hepburn & Roman Holiday. As a classic movie fan, I thought it was worth a try.
The protagonist, Amelia Rose, aka Rae Rose to her pop star fandom, decides on a whim to take a break from the pressures of her career by running off to Rome just like her favorite movie star does in the classic film, Roman Holiday. The only thing is, the closest Rome to her by car is Rome, Kentucky. Not too long into her middle-of-the-night escape, she finds herself broken down on the side of the road with no cell signal. The drama begins when who should come to her rescue but the handsome, local pie shop owner, Noah Walker. He grudgingly lets her stay in his guest room until her car can be fixed.
I enjoyed the characters in this story, and the pacing was pretty good. Good ol’ small town, hometown feels (very Hallmark and Sweet Home Alabama in that regard) and the family ties were sweet. There were laugh out loud moments and a few great references to classic Hollywood. Even though he had his baggage, Noah was a bit eye-rolling-ly perfect in several ways, imo, which is to be expected in a rom-com. It was definitely on the steamy, open door side and I skipped through a bit here and there. Overall, it was a solid rom-com without too much cheese!
Would I recommend? It depends on your steam radar and language threshold because there was definitely both! I stuck with it because I wanted to see what happens and it was well-written and pretty delightful but I would have preferred something a bit cleaner.
And that’s what I read last month! If you couldn’t tell, these were all audiobooks. That’s how I got through them all. I’m a huge audiobook junkie for a couple reasons –
- I love listening to a well narrated story. I’ve been a listener since childhood and I just enjoy it so much
- It’s the most convenient. I’m in a hustle season and am always working on or doing something. So I listen while I’m driving, washing dishes, or working on projects. It’s how I get the bulk of my reading done.
I love print books and want to read more of them but I struggle with making the time. It’s something I intend to work on this year!
I’m still reading –
I’ve decided that Reader Come Home is going to be a slow burn and I’m fine with that! And even though I didn’t get to The Only Woman in the Room, I’m cool with that too because I did read The Diamond Eye. Same war, different story about a different woman who did her part. I could listen to it buuuuuuuut I’m determined to read the print copy since I have it!!
What did you read in January? Any favorites? I’d love to know if you have any recommendations!