January Reads

What the River Knows (Isabel Ibanez)

Format: kobo ePub 

Rating: 9/10

Recommend to my mom?: Yes

Recommend to my teen daughter?: Yes
Recommend to my husband?: No


Swash-buckling fun in ancient Egypt, hunting treasures, bashing crocodiles and falling in love.


There was so much to love about this book. The cover is beautiful, the promise of a second book is always a good thing and the pace sweeps you away right off the hop. I loved the pace of this book - something always happening and making you turn the page non-stop.

The time-period and locations are all beautifully laid out, without being too time-consuming, and the same goes for the characters. I fell in love with Whit in a flash - he’s everything you want in a dark-and-stormy male supporting character. Inez, the lead character was so impulsive, it was a little boggling at first and man, does it get her into trouble, but it works. The mix of languages and locations is right up my alley and I really enjoyed hopping on a boat from Argentina to Egypt and then dashing around ancient Egyptian cities hunting down treasures. I found myself adopting her “swear” word of miercoles (Spanish for Wednesday, but sounds an awful lot like mierda (or sh!t). 

Oh, I also enjoyed that there were some drawings in the book. Always so great.

Anyone who knows my reading style knows that I LOVE a little bit of magic in what I read so this book was perfect in that way. The only complaint I have in that regard is that the magic isn’t as fleshed out as I wanted it to be. There was something I missed there, and the magic was almost too fleeting - but then played a pretty role in the end, but there was a lot of gaps in the middle. I wanted to love it, but it didn’t work for me. 

I knew these was something up with how her family disappeared strangely, and I’m not sure I like the direction it took, but it was a good part of the story.


Overall, I really enjoyed the book - it ends in a total cliffhanger which I am not used to, but that’s YA, baby. Really hoping the second part ties up those loose ends, and I’ll be very happy to see where things go with Whit.


After the Forest (Kelly Woods)

Format: hardcopy  

Rating: 9/10

Recommend to my mom?: Yes

Recommend to my teen daughter?: mostly Yes (fade to black love scenes)
Recommend to my husband?: No


A new take on Hansel and Gretel, all grown up and facing the consequences of their past, and trying to move forward in a darker world.


Another beautiful cover that draws you in right away. This book felt great in your hand. I love when, as you’re reading a book and the story is unravelling, and you peer back at the cover, you realize there are hints of the story all over the front cover. This one is like that.

The sleepy, old-timey German town in the hills was so cozy and mysterious and my imagination filled in the space nicely. I loved all of the references to the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, but this was so much darker and heavier, but in the best way possible. 

There was fantastic magic in this book - obviously - but I really loved it and it kinda snuck up on me! The witch and the idea of what a witch is and can be was very interesting. The love story was beautiful but difficult but I enjoyed it.

A downside was the amount of names, and not all of them were introduced. Sometimes it felt like I had missed a chapter at the beginning of the book where we encountered some characters that were very important - but I still managed. 

I gotta say, this book would have paired well with a fresh and fragrant gingerbread cookie - I could almost smell it coming off the pages. Delicious in every way.


With Love From London (Sarah Jio)

Format: kobo ePub

Rating: 8/10

Recommend to my mom?: Yes

Recommend to my teen daughter?: mostly Yes (some swears)
Recommend to my husband?: No


An American daughter takes over her estranged mothers bookshop in London and finds out truths about her mother and herself - and finds friendship (and love) along the way.


This was and easy bedtime read that went down delightfully. I always enjoy a book about books, or a bookshop in particular. I could feeeeel the warm and cozy bookshop that Valentina inherits from her mother. The community around it felt really great and small-town.

There wasn’t any ground breaking literary landmarks here. The story had two points of view which is always fun to flesh out a story - but I really struggled with WHY her mother left. I felt like, why couldn’t she have reconnected after her daughter was 18? Why keep the distance? If she loved her that much, why not reach out, especially when she knew what she knew. As a mother, that was a huge disconnect for me.

But they did have a bookshop cat named Percy, like our cat at home, and that warmed my heart.

This book made me want to watch Notting Hill and hop on a plane to London and wander around picking up old books here there and everywhere.


Murder in the Family (Cara Hunter)

Format: paperback

Rating: 7.5/10

Recommend to my mom?: Yes

Recommend to my teen daughter?: Nope (language, creeps, sexual reference)
Recommend to my husband?: Yes


An unsolved mystery gets brought into the light again as a live-TV show attempts to unravel the clues - and everyone is surprised at the end.


This is one I saw on the ferry and read the back and immediately tracked it down from the library (sorry BC Ferries - you get my money in other ways, but not through the gift shop). The format immediately reminded me a bit of Daisy Jones and the Six in that the book reads like a series of interviews or a screenplay. This always takes a little bit to get into, but it’s worth it. Once you catch the rhythm, it’s just like watching a show. It worked for me.

Story-wise, I was hooked until the very end, where the ball was dropped. There was a bit of a disconnect with too many characters and motives. 

It was a fun read and I loved the mix of newspaper clippings, texts and voicemails.


Lessons in Chemistry (Bonnie Grams)

Format: audiobook

Rating: 9/10

Recommend to my mom?: Yes

Recommend to my teen daughter?: no (brief retelling of rape)
Recommend to my husband?: Yes


A brilliant woman faces down academia and 60’s television while trying to stay true to herself and empower women.


This was probably my favourite book of January - it drew me right in and had a really interesting concept. The different points of view was really impactful (I loved hearing from the dog!) and made a big difference for the story. I haven’t had a chance to watch the show, but it looks like a gorgeous piece of TV. I love period pieces from the 60’s.

The audio narrator did a good job with a difficult but captivating story. I kept being stunned at how difficult it was for a women to do any work outside of a secretarial job (only if she wasn’t married) or homemaking. There were such cutting words made by men without thinking twice about it. I really admired how adamantly Elizabeth fought for her own name, so that it didn’t get lost in her husbands success. It sure made things difficult but she saw the long game.

There are really great characters in this story, and I really enjoyed them. I especially loved the dog, Six-Thirty. And how all the varied threads of the story got tied up at the end and came together. I remember nearly coming to tears hearing that one of the minor characters had followed her dreams at Elizabeths encouraging, and was making a difference in a male-dominated world.

I think everyone would enjoy this book - the time period is great, the cooking is great, the characters are great. There are some tough subjects, but not insurmountable and always worth the journey.


The Frugal Wizards Guide to Medieval England (Brandon Sanderson)

Format: hardcopy

Rating: 8.5/10

Recommend to my mom?: No (too silly)

Recommend to my teen daughter?: Yes
Recommend to my husband?: Yes


You’ve never read a book quite like this - part guide, part story, part advert - in an attempt to make your inter-dimensional travel through medieval England smoother, there are tips and anecdotes and characters you fall in love it.


This was a book we read out loud with the kids (which is getting harder and harder to narrow down one that we all enjoy and that I want to commit to reading) and it’s been our second Sanderson read (Tress was the latest).

Sanderson is always good clean and funny fun and we all end up enjoying these books. This one was quite the adventure - with some really great characters to fall in love with and some magic that takes you off guard and then all mashed up with way advanced modern day tech - and boom! Somehow you have a book! You kinda have to read it to understand, but this one was an easily digestible one we all enjoyed. There was a few times we had conversations about “what inter-dimensional package would you pick?” Or “what augments would you choose?” It was a happy blend of ancient history and modern fun. It was weird as heck, but also really funny.

The Hypnotist (Lars Kepler)

Format: audiobook

Rating: 6/10

Recommend to my mom?: No

Recommend to my teen daughter?: No way! (Open door and sometimes graphic sex)
Recommend to my husband?: No - too creepy


A Scandinavian forensic hypnotist pairs up with the police to catch a mass murderer, while other horrors are discovered.


I really wanted to love this series and this author, as I can see there are lots more books to choose from, but this was a bit too dark for me. I liked the psychological thriller part of it, but it crossed a line and it felt yucky after a while. And then the book totally shifted gears and went down a completely different way and we lost track of the first story line - and all the story lines were just a little grittier than I was hoping for. Still great story telling and the ending was worth it but it was a little too
“nordic noir” for my taste - though it did keep me interested throughout and I did love stepping into Scandi culture for a time.

The audiobook narrator was excellent.

The Weaver and the Witch Queen (Genevieve Gornichec)

Format: hardcopy

Rating: 7/10

Recommend to my mom?: Nah

Recommend to my teen daughter?: Maybe (few closed door scenes, violence)
Recommend to my husband?: No


A group of friends stay together despite life changing through battles and love and distance and magic.


I love a good viking tale - it’s one of my favourite time periods. This book did justice to the time period and I enjoyed stepping into those grand but earthy halls. The magic was pretty interesting - though at times it was wildly difficult to master and then suddenly a piece of cake. 

The friendship of the girls initially was great, but I felt like there was some disjointedness in that one girl could be away for a decade and then suddenly feel she just had to protect her friends no matter what. I felt like I missed something in the depth of their friendship and it wasn’t as meaningful to me, the reader. 

The marriage to a Viking king mostly made sense, but again there was some family history that didn’t click for me, as if I missed something. There were a LOT of names in this book, and that often makes me feel a little lost (though it wasn’t until the end that I found there was a name glossary! Dang!). The forced relationship for the king and queen worked for me, and it was interesting to see their love grow despite their best efforts. 

I didn’t feel that the queer angle at the end worked. I do understand that ancient viking cultures were a little more fluid than what we might imagine ancient Anglo-Saxon culture, but I do not think they would have been that accepting and understanding. There was a disconnect for me, as I didn’t feel these blade-slinging warriors suddenly wouldn’t care that one of their fellow warriors could also have a baby. It was a nice idea, but it just felt incongruous to me.

Overall, there were enough disjointed threads, but I kept reading until the end and enjoyed it overall, but felt like there were some gaps.


Books I started but didn't finish:

  • The Book Eaters (S. Dean) - felt a bit too creepy and bloody - though it has amazing reviews. Just hit me in a funny place and I didn't like it
  • The History of Animals (C. Fuller) - hands down, the most beautiful cover I've seen in years, but it read a little too much like the pandemic all over again and I just wasn't feeling like going down that road. Maybe another time.
  • Wavewalker (S. Heywood) - this really should be on my bookshelf, but I think there was too much trauma on their sailboat journey and it didn't feel like something I needed.