Hi, friends! Thanks for joining me today; I’m so glad you’re here 💙. Today, I’m sharing my January 2022 Wrap-Up and February TBR. January is usually a slow start to the reading year, but I managed to finish five books this month! There were a few four-star reads, and I only gave one book less than two stars. I’d say that’s a pretty good way to kick off 2022! Keep reading to see what I got up to in January!
What I Read in January 2022
Almost everything I plan to read this year is part of my 2022 reading challenge. You can check out the complete list of prompts and my selections ･ﾟ✧here✧ﾟ･.
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
The first book I read in January 2022 was Jason Matthews’s 2013 spy thriller, Red Sparrow. After a teammate sabotages her ballet career, Dominika Egorova, diven by her need to provide for her widowed and aging mother, accepts a job with the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Meanwhile, Nate Nash handles one of the CIA’s most valuable assets: a high-ranking Russian officer secretly working for the Americans. But Nate’s hands become full when Dominika declares herself to him, begging for help in ousting her corrupt overlords. But Dominika is neither trained nor prepared for the stresses of living a double life; one made even more complicated by her growing feelings for her new handler.
I’ve wanted to revisit Red Sparrow for a while, having never finished the book despite really enjoying the 2018 film adaptation. So revisit it I did — and, folks, let me tell you: it was so worth it. I liked the film a lot, but the book just has so much more oomph. Some might find Matthews’s writing style stilted or overly descriptive. Personally, it helped put me inside the mind of a paranoid intelligence agent. The end-of-chapter recipes were also a fun touch. They’re easily ignored if you don’t care about those sorts of gimmicks. On the other hand, they provide extra flavor (no pun intended). They recall the exotic lifestyles we associate with international spies à la James Bond and le Carré.
If you like your spy stories to have several layers of love, lust, diplomacy, and deception, then Red Sparrow might be for you!
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
Ring Shout is P. Djèlí Clark’s 2020 novella blending historical fiction and real-life horror. Sword-slinger Maryse, sharpshooter Sadie, and pyromaniac Chef are veterans at killing Ku Kluxes. But our trio isn’t prepared for the biggest, baddest evil they’ve yet to face. One Ku Klux known as Butcher Clyde wants to resurrect the Grand Cyclops. As they attempt to stop Butcher Clyde, our heroines will face more than just the literal demons they’re used to. They’ll also have to face the spiritual and emotional demons of their own pasts.
Friends, this little novella blew me away. The premise intrigued me, but, I admit, I was skeptical of how well Clark could explore that premise in less than 200 pages. Turns out, I needn’t have worried. He creates rich mythology for his Ku Kluxes while seamlessly incorporating genuine Negro spiritualism and culture into his world-building. Even though Maryse was really the only character who felt fully developed by the end of the story, I’m inclined to be forgiving. Her arc is highly emotional and deeply rooted in the experiences of real people. And I think this is one of those times where the strength of the message deservedly outweighs the weaknesses of its execution.
If you’re looking for a quick read that blends phantasmagorical frights with historical horror, then Ring Shout might be for you!
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
The next book I read in January 2022 was Cassandra Khaw’s debut novella. In Nothing But Blackened Teeth, a group of five estranged friends gathers in a derelict Heian-era mansion to celebrate a wedding. As you might expect, things don’t go as planned. In this Japanese folklore-inspired ghost story, the house breathes, rooms whisper, and mirrors bite. It isn’t long before the ghost bride buried in the house’s foundation possesses one of the friends. The remaining four then scramble for a way to get back their lost member. Will they find a way to appease the ghost bride — perhaps with sacrifices or offerings? Or will she demand something with a higher price — perhaps even a trade?
Folks, I really did not enjoy this. If you want to check this one out for yourself, I’ll be vague here and avoid spoilers. The only two people in this story that I could believe were actually friends was the engaged couple. Everyone else is so conniving and rude that I found it hard to believe they were ever friends. Some of them even used to date! The writing is pretentious as hell. Khaw drops dozens of Japanese terms, but provides zero context or definition. Most of the ten-dollar words they shoehorned into the text are used incorrectly. To top it all off, all the spooky stuff happens between chapters until the last 15 pages of this 120-page novella.
If you’re familiar with Japanese folklore and want a quick, read-in-one-sitting haunted house story, Nothing But Blackened Teeth might be for you.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
The Bone People is Keri Hulme’s 1984 debut novel. The story follows Kerewin Holmes after a small, speechless child breaks into her home and changes her life. This boy, Simon, is the adopted son of a man named Joe, a widower raising Simon on his own. Kerewin is reluctant to let Joe and Simon into her secluded life. However, after observing Joe’s treatment of Simon — one moment cruel; the next, caring — Kerewin makes it a point to keep an eye on them to ensure Simon’s safety.
This was a challenging read. The Bone People deals with very intense themes — chief among them: child abuse. Hulme is a brilliant writer, though, effectively capturing that sense of fear and tension that, at any moment, things could go violently, terribly wrong. The characters are rich, developed, and incredibly human (even in not-so-admirable ways). Still, I couldn’t give this book more than four stars because I didn’t really love what the end of the story seemed to be saying. I plan to write a full review in the future, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, you can read my Goodreads review for a slightly better idea of what I mean.
If you’re looking for a beautifully written, deeply emotional story that explores themes of family, identity, and love, The Bone People might be for you!
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The final book I read in January 2022 was Ann Leckie’s space opera, Ancillary Justice. The story follows a soldier called Breq after she arrives on a remote, icy planet with a singular goal in mind. Here, Breq meets someone she thought dead for a thousand years; someone from her life as the Imperial warship known called the Justice of Toren. Now, Breq is an ancillary — an AI in the body of a human. Twenty years ago, she was disconnected (literally) from the Justice of Toren after she uncovered a conspiracy during a civilian uprising. Now, Breq must piece together her past and plan her future. In doing so, she will have to find the lines between AI and human, justice and revenge, patriotism and complicity.
Ancillary Justice felt like a sampler platter of cool sci-fi ideas. Everything I wanted to know more about, Leckie didn’t want to explain. Instead, she shoved all the interesting characters and plot points to the sidelines. Breq’s been on this revenge quest for twenty years before the novel begins, but her storyline doesn’t progress for the first 160 pages of the book. The flashback chapters depicting the uprising and conspiracy were much more fascinating; unfortunately, however, they only constitute 20% of the story. The list goes on. I’ll try to put a coherent review together, but I’m unsure how successful I’ll be. For now, you can check out my ranty Goodreads review for more of my thoughts.
If you’re looking for an intellectually challenging science-fiction novel with some interesting themes, Ancillary Justice might be for you.
What I’m Currently Reading
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Folks, I don’t know what to tell you. I predicted that a book about the infamous family behind the making and marketing of OxyContin would make me mad; I didn’t expect to be outraged so soon, though. Currently, I’m only about ten chapters in. It’s barely the 1980s, opioids aren’t even in the picture yet, and I already want to rip my hair out! To my friends and family: I’m sorry. I know I’m already a cynical asshole — but it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
Want to check out Empire of Pain for yourself? Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing it on Bookshop.org.
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
Friends, I’m only about halfway through Genevieve Gornichec’s debut novel, and I love it! A Norse mythology retelling about a thrice-burned witch who has to defy Odin to protect her family was already an excellent premise. But the storytelling is simply beautiful. The romance between Angrboda and Loki is magnificent and believable. The love they have for their children is palpable. I’m just swooning over everything in this book. I can’t wait to keep reading!
Want to check out The Witch’s Heart for yourself? Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing it on Bookshop.org.
What I Want to Read in February 2022
- Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (continuing)
- The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
- The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
- The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec (continuing)
Wrapping Up the January 2022 Wrap-Up
And there you have it! This is everything I read in January 2022. My favorite book in January was definitely Red Sparrow, and my most disappointing was obviously Nothing But Blackened Teeth. If I had to say what I’m most excited to read in February, it would probably have to be Dune or The First Sister.
What about you? Let me know what your favorite book was from this month, and what you’re most excited to read next month!
I’ll be back soon with my first book review of 2022 (❗), so keep your eyes peeled for that!
As always: thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon. 💙
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