January 2024 Book Reviews: New Year, New Reads

January 2024 Book Reviews: New Year, New Reads

Hey friends, welcome to the start of another year filled with book reviews! My reading for 2024 kicked off strong. January has been an absolute treat, with books that really stuck with me.  From being transported back to the world Rebecca Yarros has beautifully crafted,  to yet another rom-com hit from Ali Hazelwood, to the captivating debut by Gail Honeyman’s, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’. Also, towards the end of the month, I embarked on a magical adventure with Waterstones book of the year, ‘Impossible Creatures’ by Katherine Rundell. Each moment of this month’s reading journey brought me pure joy, and I hope you enjoy reading my January 2024 Book Reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Anyway, let’s get to it. Grab yourself a warm drink and settle in for some great recommendations. 

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1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Synopsis:
January 2024 Book Reviews

Winner of Costa First Novel Award, a No.1 Sunday Times bestseller and the Book of the Year

In Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, we follow Eleanor Oliphant, who, apparently, is completely fine!

Eleanor follows a routine life – the same clothes, the same lunch, and a predictable weekend routine with vodka. She’s content until a single act of kindness disrupts her carefully constructed walls. Now, she must navigate a world taken for granted by others while confronting the dark corners she’s long avoided. In a journey of change, Eleanor discovers that any change is better than just being “fine.”

My Review:

Not going to lie, three chapters in and I was questioning why I was reading this book. However, because I wasn’t completely sure where it was going plot-wise, I carried on reading. Let me tell you, I am so happy that I did.

Despite my initial reluctance, 20% into the book, I found myself becoming emotionally invested. Honeyman has done an amazing job of writing an emotional story about someone who, at first glance, comes across as emotionally unavailable, taking us on a ride on how trauma and loneliness can dictate the outcome of an individual’s life.

There is more to this book than meets the eye. At first, it was really confusing. I didn’t understand the main character or her actions. Eleanor is highly intelligent and well-spoken, but she is also odd, not to mention blunt. Almost cringeworthy blunt. No filter, which I would normally find quite amusing, but in this case, I had no idea in which direction the author was taking this story, so I just thought Eleanor was plain rude.

By the end of the book, I was wrecked. Although, I also felt disappointed in myself for clearly jumping to conclusions without seeing the bigger picture.

Eleanor Oliphant is not fine, far from it. However, her journey will pull at your heartstrings and make you fall in love with her. I absolutely loved this book, and without a doubt, it will go down as one of my best reads of 2024.

2. Her Last Move – John Marrs

Synopsis:
January 2024 Book Reviews –
Her Last Move by John Marrs

He lurks in the shadows, patiently awaiting the perfect moment. Each calculated kill is executed with precision.

Struggling to juggle personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent faces the most significant case of her career—a do-or-die situation. Identifying one face in a sea of thousands seems impossible. With Police Super Recogniser Joe Russell’s aid, she attempts to catch a glimpse of the elusive murderer, who’s watching her every move.

Time is running out. The body count rises, and the attacks hit closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the link between the murders before the killer strikes the last name off his list?

My Review:

Warning: Once you open this book (or turn on your Kindle), you won’t be able to stop reading—an absolute thrill ride.

“Her Last Move” starts with a bang, leaving you wanting for more. The plot moves at an exhilarating pace, which will keep you guessing at every turn of the page. Honestly? It was a nerve-wracking read, making it an incredible story.

It is a twisty and terrifying book, not only taking you on the hunt for a killer but also providing insight into the killer’s mind. John Marrs excels at this, delving deep into the twisted psyche of the killer.

The one thing I would fault in this book is the female protagonist, Becca. She struggles with an internal conflict, a very real issue for modern working mothers—career vs. motherhood. While it’s a worthy conflict, I found her resolution abrupt. Throughout most of the book, Becca prioritizes her career, which, as a mother myself, was actually annoying, but hey no judgment here! Suddenly, without transition, she decides ‘to hell with everything’ and tries to piece together what’s left of her motherhood. It felt too sudden and unrealistic.

On the whole, “Her Last Move” is a thrilling mystery that keeps you on your toes, delivering chills and taking you on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Another excellent read from John Marrs, undoubtedly earning him a spot on my auto-buy list!

3. Love Theoretically – Ali Hazelwood

Synopsis:
January 2024 Book Reviews – Love Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood

Dive into a vortex of academic clashes and faux romance as rival physicists clash in this charmingly STEMinist romantic comedy by Ali Hazelwood.

The intricate lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, working tirelessly for tenure. By night, she’s a fake girlfriend, expertly adapting to clients’ needs.

However, her carefully crafted world crumbles when Jack Smith, an attractive and arrogant experimental physicist, disrupts her plans. He stands between Elsie and her dream job, leading to a scholarly war. But amidst the conflict, unexpected feelings arise. 

Will Elsie’s guarded theories on love finally find practical application in the orbit of an experimentalist?

My Review:

A few months ago, after reviewing another of Ali Hazelwood’s books, I might have stated that I wouldn’t be reading any more of her STEM books. I lied. And if I were to say that ‘Love Theoretically’ will be my last one, note that I’d be lying again.

Ali is undoubtedly the queen when it comes to crafting entertaining, likeable, and hilarious characters. Her gift for creating witty and sarcastic dialogue is second to none. Like with previous books, this one had me laughing out loud.

An enemy-to-lovers story that entertained me beyond measure. I loved the tension and chemistry between Elsie and Jack. Their relationship throughout the book had me hooked and smiling constantly.

So, yes, I will be reading more from this author, and no, I am not ashamed to admit it. If you need a good pick-me-up, an easy read that will have you smiling with every turn of the page, then this is the book for you.

4. The Man Who Didn’t Call – Rosie Walsh

Synopsis:
January 2024 Book Reviews – The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

Picture meeting a man, spending seven amazing days together, and falling deeply in love. The connection is undeniable. He leaves for a long-planned vacation, assuring you he’ll call from the airport. You trust him completely.

Yet, the call never comes.

Friends advise moving on, but you’re convinced something happened, a reason for his silence.

What happens when you’re proven right? When you uncover the truth that neither of you shared…

Over a million copies sold worldwide! An OMG romance, The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh is the perfect mystery for anyone who has ever waited for a phone call that didn’t come . . 

My Review:

A book rarely manages to hook me at 60%, almost never happens. Well, this one pulled it off.

In essence, ‘The Man Who Didn’t Call’ is a love story—an easy read, seemingly with no clear destination in mind, or so I initially thought. I kept reading it because the writing was good, and, well, I really wanted to know why the hell Eddie did not call. As I progressed with my reading, the reason for Eddie’s aloofness became clear and I thought, ‘Oh well, I suppose it makes sense,’ but then BOOM, the author threw in a plot twist that had me doing mental backflips—the hook I needed to keep turning the pages.

There is more to this plot than meets the eye. Trust me when I say it fooled me pretty well, but I am so glad I kept reading past the unnecessary info dump that goes on throughout this story.

Needless to say, I sailed through the last 40% of this book, making it a great read that I would definitely recommend to anyone who loves a good ‘Romeo & Juliet’ story with some major plot twists here and there. 

A tale of love defying the odds, depicting the extraordinary lengths two individuals are willing to go to ensure its success.

5. Impossible Creatures – Katherine Rundell

January 2024 Book Reviews
January 2024 Book Reviews – Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell

Christopher is astonished when he stumbles upon a passage to the Archipelago, a realm of magical islands where mythical creatures thrive. There, he meets Mal, a girl with a flying coat, a baby griffin, and a pursuer. United, they embark on a crucial quest to unravel the mystery behind the sudden demise of creatures. 

Journeying across the wild Archipelago, they confront sphinxes with secrets and murderous centaurs, striving to thwart a looming evil that threatens both the islands and the world beyond. Time is of the essence.

My Review:

Not since my days of binge-reading Harry Potter have I felt transported back to my childhood. To that time when indulging in fantasy worlds filled with mythical creatures and adventures was deemed acceptable. Well, at the ripe age of forty-five, that is exactly how I felt when I read “Impossible Creatures.”

Among all the characters introduced, Mal is without a doubt my favourite. I instantly fell in love with her. A little girl as stubborn as she is brave and her newfound friend, Christopher, a boy from the non-magical world, kindhearted and courageous. These two characters alone won my heart in one fell swoop, making me laugh, cry, and feel like a child once again.

The writing style is beautiful, easy, and comprehensible, creating the perfect combination for a children’s book. The author effortlessly transported me to the magical world of the Archipelago, where creatures from myth and legend exist, complete with unforgettable characters, epic adventures, unbreakable friendships, and newfound family.

Rundell has beautifully crafted an impactful and timeless narrative of loss, love, adventure, courage, wit, quirk, and friendship. A captivating read that stirred my emotions deeply. If this book had graced my childhood, it would have unquestionably held a place among my favourites.

6. Iron Flame – Rebecca Yarros – (spoilers ahead)

Synopsis:

“Iron Flame” is the second instalment in the Empyrean series, reuniting us with Violet Sorrengail. Despite surviving her initial year at Basgiath War College, the real challenges are just beginning.

In this latest offering from Rebecca Yarros, our fearless protagonist confronts gruelling training, a ruthless vice commandant, and a painful choice that could betray the man she loves. With a frail body but a strong will, she leans on her wits and the lessons of Basgiath. As secrets unravel, even dragon fire may not be enough to save them in the end.

THE INSTANT NUMBER-ONE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER AND THRILLING SEQUEL TO THE BESTSELLING GLOBAL PHENOMENON, FOURTH WING!

My Review:

Iron Flame was my most anticipated book release of 2023, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. However, despite receiving a 5-star rating on Goodreads, I found it’s predecessor, Fourth Wing more enjoyable. As I sat down to write this review, I pondered the reasons why. After revisiting my notes, I concluded that as much as Iron Flame was an amazing ride, a particular aspect of it made it, at times, tiresome, to say the least.

Violet and her inner conflict….

Violet’s constant inner struggle and her inability to let go of Xaden’s need for secrecy, even when it’s for others’ safety, grated on my last nerve. I understand that the author aimed to add dimension and relatability to Violet’s character, compelling readers to keep turning pages. However, her incessant complaints about Xaden’s secrets and her struggle to love him grew old quickly. It became an overwhelming annoyance, like an itch that doesn’t fade. In my opinion, this is a shame because, despite Violet’s questionable decisions throughout the book, resulting in setbacks, I still love her. She is a fantastic main character with a determined, never-give-up attitude, displaying humour, wit, and above all, bravery. I wish Yarros had toned down this annoying trait of mistrust, as it portrayed Violet as childish and spoiled, suggesting that the world revolves around her need to know everything.

Xaden’s character, however, keeps improving. Even though we are now in book two, Yarros still manages to create an air of mystery around Xaden and his past, leaving the reader yearning for more. After reading that ending, I cannot wait to see where the story takes Xaden, and I certainly hope we get more of his POV chapters.

Dragons you say??

Now, onto the dragons. Let me just say, this is the stuff I live for. A teenage female dragon with a bucket full of sassy attitude. Her wit and sarcasm had me in stitches, and the dynamics of Violet’s relationship with both her dragons were hilarious and relatable. (I had teenage daughters not so long ago, and oh, how I can relate). It was so well written that I could actually visualize Andarna (the teenage dragon) rolling her eyes.

A Five-Star Read!

All in all, Iron Flame is an action-packed, fast-paced book, full of OMG moments, plus, it finishes with the mother of all cliffhangers. If you love fantasy books, I suggest starting with Fourth Wing. You can find my review here. Personally, I would love for everyone to read this book. It’s impossible not to fall in love with all the characters and, well, yes, the dragons—because who doesn’t love dragons, especially teenage dragons?

7. The Seven Sisters – Lucinda Riley

Synopsis:
January 2024 Book Reviews
January 2024 Book Reviews –
The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Maia D’Aplièse, in her early thirties, reunites with her five sisters at their childhood castle on Lake Geneva, following the news of their adoptive father Pa Salt’s death.

Amidst their loss, each sister receives a clue to her true heritage, leading Maia on a journey to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In the Belle Époque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio yearns for adventure instead of the aristocratic life her father envisions. Joining a renowned architect’s family on a Paris trip, she encounters the ambitious sculptor Laurent Brouilly in the vibrant streets of Montparnasse, forever altering her destiny.

A sweeping tale of love and loss, the epic saga of the Seven Sisters begins here. From Lucinda Riley, the international number one bestselling author.

My Review:

One of my goals for 2024 is to finally read all those books that have been sitting on my TBR list for years. So, after being highly recommended I decided to dive into “The Seven Sisters,” expecting greatness. This review will not be a popular opinion is all I have to say.

However, greatness did not come. I literally wanted to burn this book and dance in its ashes. I am so sorry if I offend those who recommended it to me, but just NO!

Let me start with the part that bothered me the most: the lack of emotion. My father passed away a few years ago, and the first thing I said to my brother when he arrived at the hospital was not, “Oh, it’s devastating!” I won’t delve into the intimate moments I shared with my sibling, but let’s just say there were raw emotions involved that had nothing to do with the robotic flat dialogue I endured from this book.

The fact is, try as I might, I could not, on any level, relate or connect to the main character, or any other character for that matter.

As I mentioned above, the dialogue came across as robotic and cold. Though the story took me back to the 1920s, the dialogue remained the same. One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because you can tell the difference in dialogue style from today to fifty years back, especially if the author has researched it well.

While the premise had potential and the writing style was good and easy to read, the characters just came across as boring. There was nothing about them, especially the main character, that caught my attention and urged me to keep reading. However, I persevered, hoping this story could redeem itself. Alas, it did not!

Will I continue reading this series then?

Why did I finish it, you ask? Well, there’s a mystery surrounding the death of Papa Salt, not to mention the mystery surrounding the birthplaces and heritage of the sisters, each of whom has a dedicated book. By the time I was 50% in, I just wanted to know how the story ended. Let’s just say, as I turned the last page, the ending didn’t exactly blow my mind. In fact, it felt pretty rushed. The author tied up loose ends quickly, not exactly adhering to the structure of the rest of the book.

Safe to say, I will not be continuing with this series. I am actually sad about it because I really wanted to love it, and more than anything, I wanted to immerse myself in a long series of books, becoming emotionally invested in the sisters’ lives and futures.

Final Thoughts

It’s been a while since I last devoured seven books in a month, and even longer since I enjoyed a month filled with exceptional reads (excluding one). I genuinely hope you find these recommendations as delightful as I did.

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