January 2023 Wrap-Up

A not-too shabby reading month overall!

I read most everything on my monthly tbr (I didn’t get to one and DNF’d The Thick and the Lean because #moodreader), but overall I read a lot of really fantastic books…which led to me checking out way too many books from the library and now my nightstand is groaning from the weight and my wife is thinking that I have a serious reading problem.


She doesn’t just think, she knows I have a reading problem. But somehow she still loves me.

Anywho, I read 18 books this month: 9 books and 9 audiobooks for 6,363 pages.

To the books!


My very first read of 2023, The Last Hero, was a solid five-star (or cactus, because let’s try something new this year) read, and it took me nearly three weeks to get through it because I kept cringing and going no not my BABIES! Lewis puts their characters through the wringer, and the entire First Sister Trilogy is just a wild, non-stop ride from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

And The Faithless was another easy five-stars—I adored the first book, and am happy to note that there is no sophomore slump going on here. It’s so good, and just as filled as awful choices and hopeless situations and hope-tinged desperation as the first. And the pining. Good gods. So good.

I stepped cautiously into The Untethered Sky because giant birds and I are a fantasy sub-subgenre that don’t tend to mix well, but holy hell this novella is incredible. The tone and writing style is so different from the Green Bone Saga, and the world-building is stunning and the emotions. Oh my goodness. There are so many in this book, and I am still red-eyed and nail-bitten from this one.

You know those books that you just open the first page and you’re like, yeah, this is probably going to be five stars? That’s Some Desperate Glory, despite having the most punchable main character (who I totally related to, because once upon a time I was her, and no I’m not proud of it). It’s military-ish space opera filled with twists and turns my jaded self did not see coming, and while it’s loaded with trigger warnings this does feel a touch more like a book that could easily be a bridge for YA readers to step into adult science fiction, based on the writing style and the ages and actions of the majority of the characters.

I also read quite a few nonfiction books this month—without really intending to but that was what my mind was craving so I read them (and also what the Libby Hold Queue brought to me, so). Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments is a book I have been meaning to read for quite some time, and luckily Hoopla has the audiobook. It was a gorgeously written exploration of the history of Black women living their lives in white supremacist America in the beginning of the twentieth century. The research of the intimate lives of these women is impeccable, and this book is just so good.

How Far the Light Reaches mixes science journalism with marine biology with memoir, and it’s a mash-up that shouldn’t work but does. Imbler deftly weaves between their personal history and the lives of sea creatures in ten essays that are just gorgeously written (yes, I’m repeating that)—the analogies are rock solid, and I felt so much kinship in their queer coming of age journey, their experience with diet culture, and so much more.

While I haven’t read Amber Ruffin’s first book, I saw this one and knew I had to read it, because I love Amber Ruffin and her sense of humor. She is the most delightful person, and while the subject of this book (racism, duh) gets really heavy and scary at times, Ruffin has this way of looking at the world that both excoriates it for what it is and yet remains hopeful for a better world.


Cooney’s debut novel, Saint Death’s Daughter sneaked its way into my top favorite fantasy books of all time (yes, it’s that good—go read it), so I knew that The Twice-Drowned Saint was going to be good and it was. It’s such a deliciously weird book, mixing angels with cinema and isolationist cities and queerness and oh so good. I cannot underscore how weird it is, but the weirdness works with the narrative structure and the world itself.

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill is a more conventional historical fantasy story, and I really think that lovers of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaeda of Faery will enjoy this one (although this book doesn’t quite have the banter and heart of the latter). It has early twentieth century farming and politics and manners, family ties and sister-bonds, bad marriages and even worse bargains, and a cover that is to die for. The plot twists are pretty obvious, but the story itself is so well researched that I just ignored the rest of it because Rowenna Miller has such a talent for placing you exactly in a spot with her precise world-building.

The Scourge Between Stars is one of those books that is probably a three-star read for most people, but because I love space horror and because I really love sapphic space horror, this is a four-star read. It doesn’t do anything new, but Brown takes familiar concepts (fucked generation ships and aliens) and creates a gore-filled thrill ride that starts tense and does not let up for even one second. It’s claustrophobic and scary and ugh I loved it even with that ending.

Midnight Robber was a book with absolutely exquisite world-building and writing, and it absolutely should have won the 2001 Hugos over Harry Potter and the Fucking Goblet of Fire (seriously, wtf, I’m in outrage 22 years late). However, there is some really awful sexual assault and pedophilia there, which is never ever normalized and made okay in the storyline, but it features so heavily that I almost couldn’t continue. But I did, and I’m glad I did but also the twist ending was a little eh. Still a stunning read, but go in with a good headspace.

I’m going to combine these two because yes, I jumped aboard two hype trains this month and I wasn’t disappointed. Tender is the Flesh is like if twentieth century dystopian writers like Bradbury and Wells had a baby-back rib lunch with Swift and Sinclair and said, heyyyyy this could be something. The subject manner and imagery is horrifying and really goes deep in the utter depravity of human ability, and there are some things I read that will stay with me until the end of my days. On the other hand, Beartown was a beautifully written, wonderfully narrated (listen to the audiobook) exploration of a dying small town obsessed with one thing at the expense of everything else, and I can see where the hype was but holy hell was there absolutely no subtlety (I will be reading the rest of the trilogy).

The History of Home Economics was good and a fascinating exploration of…the history of home economics, and it made me very thankful that there are food safety regulations and standards, although I’m more aware of how much of those were tied to capitalism, racism and eugenics. I did like how Drielinger addressed how home economics has changed and shifted, and how makerspaces is another word for home economics (samesies with the homesteading movement and the return of needlepoint to the mainstream), and how folks of all genders *should* be taught home economics, because it’s fucking adulting (she put it a lot more eloquently than me), and because at its core home ec is rooted on the principles of reuse, recycle, reduce and replace, and because if masc people are taught home-tending skills, it makes their relationships more equal and reduces the amount of weaponized incompetence and gender inequality.


I don’t really feel like talking too much about these, so they’re going to be lumped together and summarized very quickly. Sign Here was a good premise and poor execution, and I ended up skimming through quite a bit of it because I just did not care that much. How to Excavate a Heart had a great idea as well, but the execution was middling to low and featured my least favorite trope: Bad Things Happen to Secondary Characters for the Sole Purpose of Bringing the Leads Together. Likewise, The War Librarian had a similar problem, but the secondary characters were Black and the bad things happened to Black characters in both timelines to make the main character Aware of Things (chiefly, racism), and that coupled with the things that happened in the last 20% made my enjoyment of the up-to-then great execution of two things I enjoy (war libraries and military women) drop to three stars.


Okay, this was another one with great concept and shit execution. I think it’s because of two things for me: Sarah Gailey is a hit-or-miss author for me, and I had just read Kingfisher’s A House With Good Bones, which I found a bit creepier. This one was just…kinda meh. I hated the writing, I disliked the execution of the plot, and the final reveal of Evil was blah, and the whole serial killer aspect had more build-up than actual punch.

What were your favorite reads this month?

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