Wrap Up

2020 January, the Month of New Beginnings and Four Star Reads

Is it just me, or did January really feel both like the longest and the shortest month ever?

It’s been filled with terrible things happening all over the world, though I’m pretty sure we were all hoping for a good start to the new decade. Our fingers are crossed for a brighter February.

LIFE

Sabrina

I definitely feel like January has been dragging on forever. I can barely remember what I was doing in the first half of this month because it seems like it was so long ago!

Though I have done some exciting things this month like going to the aquarium and leisurely riding my bike, the highlight by far has been joining Wordy and Whimsical! It has been so much fun getting back into blogging and feeling like I am part of the community again.

Vera

January did not go the way I expected, and I have university – and, to be fair, my own laziness – to thank for that. I ended up panicking over my workload and postponing my exams left and right… and then promptly failing one of them. 😩 It hit me, because (1) I’ve never failed any of my exams, and (2) I didn’t expect to fail this one. Thankfully, I had the chance to retake it, and I got a pretty good grade this time around. On top of that, I’m viscerally scared of anything illness related, so, uh, I’m not doing very well with everything going on.

That said, my month did have good parts, I swear! I got to meet with a couple of friends, and I had the chance to catch up with Ruzi, our third co-blogger, on the phone. And, at the beginning of the month, my mom and I went to the theater, and watched a wonderful production based on Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I was a bit skeptical, but they did a fantastic job, and I highly recommend seeing it if you’re able to. Sadly, you will only find it in a few countries. (Click here for the wikipedia page.)

Also, January has been so long that I somehow forgot Sabrina joined W&W this month!? Having Sabrina on the blog has been wonderful, and I’m such a fan of everything she’s created.

BOOKS

Sabrina

I guess this month was quite an average one for me – I am yet to read a five star book this year, and I have DNFed two books, but I did fortunately have several four star reads. I’ll tell you a bit about them all.

🌸 IMPRUDENCE by Gail Carriger is the second in the Custard Protocol series, and while I enjoyed it more than the first, I still think a lot of that was derived from its connections to the Parasol Protectorate series, rather than its own merits. I got very emotional seeing all my favourite characters from the last series showing up again. I still gave this four stars though!

🌸 THE QUEEN OF NOTHING by Holly Black, the final book in The Folk of the Air trilogy, had a lot of issues but I overlooked them all because the pacing and excitement made up for it. A few plot points left me scratching my head and the conclusion was way too simple but I would happily reread this series in the future. Four stars!

🌸 HERE THERE ARE MONSTERS by Amelinda Bérubé was so strange, and I really enjoyed parts of it but overall it just wasn’t what it had the potential to be. I’m planning on having a review up for it soon, so I won’t say any more except that I rated it three stars.

🌸 GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert was an incredible book with great representation, it just was not totally for me. I’m not much of a contemporary romance person to begin with, so it takes a lot for me to fall in love with one and unfortunately the writing style and pacing of this was not my thing. Still, it was enjoyable and I gave it three stars.

🌸 STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A.S. King was such a smart and powerful book that deals with mental health and trauma. It took me quite a while to get into it though and there were several boring parts, so I gave it four stars.

🌸 THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO by F.C. Yee was so much fun, and I really enjoyed it. I only gave it four stars because there were a few annoyances – for example, a few times it seemed like we were about to get a big action scene, but it would get skipped over and we’d only see the aftermath. I’m looking forward to getting to the second book.


There were also four books I picked up that I didn’t rate. The best of these was On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. I thought about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to rate it. Was it enjoyable? No, but only because it was so sad. The writing was beautiful and I loved the way the story wasn’t told in a linear fashion, but rather circling around back to things. It was very touching, but miserable. The worst was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It was so pretentious but it did have some really good advice hidden amongst the rest of it. The author makes some ridiculous and offensive claims too, so I don’t recommend it.

The other two were Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver and Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The first I couldn’t finish because I read a paragraph that freaked me out and the second I couldn’t get through because the writing style was not for me.

Vera

the good

January was not a bad reading month, but it certainly could have been better. I read 15 novels, and out of all the new-to-me books (i.e. not rereads) only one received a five star rating from me. Thankfully, there were a lot of four star reads, the following three are my favorite of the bunch.

🌸 I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE by Kristina Forest is damned cute YA Romance about a Black ballerina, who dares to risk her mom’s wrath in order to go to the audition she’s been dreaming about. It has an enemies to lovers romance, a cute dog, and wonderful friendship. (#OwnVoices)

🌸 DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY by Adib Khorram is a Contemporary YA where Persian-American Darius is visiting Peru for the first time. It’s about family, friendships, and culture and it has gay and depression representation.

“Suicide isn’t the only way you can lose someone to depression.”

🌸 CATCH AND KILL by Ronan Farrow is a Non-Fiction title that dives deep into Hollywood’s willingness to protect and hide predators; most notably, Harvey Weinstein.


the excellent

And that, friends, brings us to FOOLISH HEARTS by Emma Mills, which was easily my favorite novel of the month. It’s a cute and heartfelt YA Contemporary that constantly tugged on my emotions and made me beam from ear to ear by the end. Filled with friendship, romance, and family, it’s a wholly unique and sweet novel that made me desperate for more by Emma Mills. Fact is, I don’t read much Contemporary YA, and don’t tend to *love* even the ones I do read, so the fact that I adored this says a lot. Read it!! (Let’s not get into how my second Emma Mills book, First & Then, was a terrible disappointment.) 😩

rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸


the bad

🌸 THE ONE FOR YOU by Roni Loren was easily one of my most awaited books of 2019; so much so that I decided to put it aside for an occasion when I’d have the time to devour it fast. Well, I should not have bothered. The One For You is my least favorite from the series, mostly because the characters, the plot, and even the relationship felt rushed and messy. 2 stars.

🌸 THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren was my third and final attempt to get into this author pair’s novels. There’s never anything wrong with their writing, per se, but some of the things in their books make me annoyed and even uncomfortable. 3 stars.

🌸 THE BLOODY CHAMBERS AND OTHER STORIES by Angela Carter is praised as a feminist fairy-tale collection, and while I agree with that to an extent, I found myself struggling to get through most of the stories. They were just so… dull? 2 stars.

MOVIES AND TV SHOWS

Sabrina

I watched six movies in January – one at the cinemas and the rest at home. I’m typically a lot more harsh with my movie ratings, so though there is one five star among them, there is also a one star. Here we go:

🌸 FALLING INN LOVE was an okay movie if you are aware of what you were going into – which with a title like that, it’s hard not to be. Super corny and so unrealistic, I still gave it three stars.

🌸 THE GRINCH was a lot different to the 2000 movie which I’m very familiar with, mostly because it’s cute. Unfortunately it dragged on a bit and wasn’t all that funny. Two and a half stars.

🌸 ALADDIN turned out better than I was expecting, but I still had issues with it – mostly because there was no logic and I found it to drag a little. Three stars.

🌸 JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL surprised me because I enjoyed it just as much as the previous film in the series. I think the set up for the movie went on for too long, but the rest was enjoyable and I laughed a lot. Three and a half stars.

🌸 MARY POPPINS is one of my favourite movies of all time, so of course I gave it five stars upon rewatching it. It was a great pick-me-up for a bad day.

🌸 HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is a 2019 tv movie, and I wish I’d stopped watching after the opening scene because I already knew I was going to hate it. It was just bad – even the sound quality was terrible. One star.


I’ve been watching four tv shows in January.  One of them is a rewatch of my favourite show of all time, Parks and Recreation, so I won’t talk about that except to say that I highly recommend it and you should not judge it on its first season.

🌸 THE WITCHER is a show I still don’t know my true stance on.  I enjoyed season one, but I’m not totally in love with it.  The setting and atmosphere is my favourite part of the show (just beating out the characters) and the excessive nudity is my least favourite part.  It’s not so much the nudity itself but the context of it in several scenes that bothers me.  There’s also something about Yennefer’s main goal that rubs me the wrong way.  Still, these aspects aren’t pervasive so I am still really looking forward to the next season.

🌸 ARROW has haunted me for many years and I’m glad it’s finally finishing because it means the end is actually in sight.  I’m up to season six, and though I enjoyed the earlier seasons when I watched them back in 2014, I’m only watching now because my mum is forcing me to, lol.  Even now, it’s clear the show has run its course and it simply dragging on for the sake of it.

🌸 THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE is really something.  I’ve been watching this with my family and we’re only up to episode eight, but I have fallen in love with it.  Deet and Hup are my favourite characters and I feel super protective over them.  I am so, so scared to see how this show is going to resolve, but I’m hoping I’ll be happy with it.

Vera

Most of my January was spent by studying and reading, so I don’t have a lot of titles to show off here – and, let’s be honest, I’m not the most prolific movie and/or show watcher, haha. But I do have two movies and two shows to show off.

🌸 CATS: I mentioned in my December Wrap Up that I’d be seeing Cats, because despite hearing how bloody bad it was, I had a pair of free tickets I had to use by a certain date, and nothing better to spend them on. So off we went to watch this monstrosity, and I have to say, I expected worse? 😅 I mean, it was bad, it really was, but it was not B.A.D. That said, I’m confused how the creators sold this idea to so many celebrities!? How do you make this sound like a sane idea? 😭 5/10

🌸 KNIVES OUT: I’ve wanted to watch Knives Out for the longest time, but first, I had to wait until January for it to be released in Hungary, and then, my friend and I both had demanding exams, and couldn’t go until recently. So, it was only a few days ago when I got to see this wonderful, entertaining movie. While I wasn’t blown away by the mystery, I loved the characters (A+ acting, for real) and literally every single part of this story. 9/10


🌸 CASTLEVANIA: A friend and I had a super-chill New Year’s together, and we started – and nearly finished – Castlevania in the span of 24 hours. For me, it took a bit of time to get used to the animations – it’s anime-like, and I don’t usually watch anime – but nonetheless I was hooked on the show pretty fast. I love the plot and the characters so much, and I can hardly wait for the third season. One thing is pretty clear after that conclusion – things are about to change, big time. 8/10

🌸 GRACE AND FRANKIE: I started Grace and Frankie after Schitt’s Creek disappeared from Netflix (at least in Hungary), and I bloody adore this show. Grace and Frankie are polar opposites of each other and their antics (+ obvious love for each other) make this one hell of a show. The wonderful supporting cast made up of their ex-husbands and two-two kids also adds a lot to the story. I’m towards the end of season 3, and I cannot wait to continue the show.

IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

🌸 Aj @ Read All the Things shared upcoming Middle Grade titles

🌸 Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea gave us a few tips & tricks on how to use WordPress

🌸 Emily @ Paperback Princess pondered about the importance of speaking up online

🌸 Fadwa @ Word Wonders discussed her reading spreadsheet evolution and shared her 2020 template

🌸 Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books discussed why she does or does not comment

🌸 Roberta @ Offbeat YA talked about reading one vs. multiple books at a time

🌸 Sam @ We Live and Breath Books asked ‘Why Punish Yourself’?

🌸 Tracy @ Cornerfolds talked about aphantasia, i.e. reading without a mind’s eye

🌸 Wendy @ What the Log discussed cutting your books in half, and other perfectly ok thing to do

LET’S CHAT!

What have you been up to in January? Feel free to leave a link to your favorite post – either your own, or one you read – from January! Have you read any of the books mentioned?

20 thoughts on “2020 January, the Month of New Beginnings and Four Star Reads

  1. I never got around to finishing Castlevania but what I watched of it was pretty interesting! And I read Queen of Nothing last month too haha! What a twist we had there. Here’s to a better month ahead!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I totally agree on January feeling like a drag. I for one am so happy that it’s over.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Knives Out! I was actually just telling my mom that we need to watch that movie! Also it doesn’t help that I am in a serious Chris Evans phase at the moment lol.

    Hope you two have a good February 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. January definitely was SO LONG! Hurray, we made it through! I’ve really been wanting to read Here There Are Monsters but it has definitely been getting some mixed reviews. I also REALLY want to see Knives Out! Have a great February!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. V – So sorry about failing the exam but YAY you did well on the retake! And I am glad that the production of Rebecca was so good. Very happy you enjoyed Knives out and Darius the Great is Not Okay as those are two I want to watch and read. Oh and I so need to try Emma Mills. Sabrina – sounds like a long month, but you got through it. Yay for enjoying blogging again 🙂 Ah, sometimes books are not just for us (referring to get a life, chloe brown.) I love Mary Poppins too. I am nervous to see the remake even though I love Blunt. I am curious to see what I will make of Aladdin as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Did January really feel both like the longest and the shortest month ever?” YES IT DID 100%!! It hasn’t been the best month when you look at everything going on so I’m hoping for a better February as well!

    Yay I’m so glad you have been enjoyed blogging Sabrina!! I’ve loved your posts!!
    I’m sorry to hear about your exam Vera, exams are always a stressful period but I’m happy you got to retake it and got what you wanted!! 🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed Get A Life, Chloe Brown (but sorry you couldn’t love it more) and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, I heard it was a very enjoyable read!!

    I loved Darius the Great is Not Okay and I really need to read an Emma Mills books ASAP– I think I’m going to start with Famous in A Small Town!!

    Haha I can’t even remember where I got up to with Arrow but it has been a while since I’ve watched it!! Haha cats, I haven’t seen but I’ve heard things (and jokes) and Iwas surprised by how many celebrities were involved in it! too!

    I hope you both have a great February!! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m hoping February will be better, as well- so far, it isn’t, haha.

      Thank you, I was so happy and proud that I did well on the retake. 🙂

      I’m working on a post about Emma Mills, and I hope I can have it up in a few weeks, I can’t wait to read more books by her.

      Lol, I have no idea, I wonder what all the celebrities are thinking after this catastrophe.

      Thank you, hope your February is going well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so glad that you’re loving being back in the community, Sabrina ❤ I’m also super happy that you enjoyed The Queen of Nothing!! For me, it was a serious disappointment, but I’m glad that you still liked it. Haha, I found most of the plot points annoying and just so out there that I couldn’t overlook it. Eh, anyways.

    I’m so sorry about the exam Vera, but at least you got a second chance to redo it ❤ I’ve also heard so many great things about Darius The Great Is Not Okay, and I think I need to finally add it to my TBR lol.

    I hope you both have a wonderful February with several five star reads 💖💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes & I’m so happy about my new exam results. 🙂 Darius is a wonderful novel – kind of quiet and slow-ish, but if you like that type of contemporary I highly recommend it. Some of its topics are depression, family, friendship, and culture.

      Thank you, hope your February has been going well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It looks like both of you have had busy Januarys! Bike riding sounds lovely, and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a book I’ve had on my TBR for so long but still haven’t gotten to reading. I’ve heard mostly positive things, though. Vera I’m glad that your second exam went well! I’m also so happy to hear that you enjoyed Catch and Kill and Knives Out. I watched Knives Out with my mom and sister a few weeks ago and it was probably one of the best movie experiences I’ve had in a while 🙂 Happy February guys! :))
    claire @ clairefy

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, I was so pleased about the exam results! 🙂 I have you to thank for Catch and Kill, because it really was your review that made me push it to the top of my tbr pile. 🙂 Agree about Knives Out! It’s such a long movie but I was so invested all through, the time flew by. Thank you, hope your February is going well! 🙂

      Like

  8. I agree that January felt so long, but somehow it’s already over as well – time is weird 😱 I’m sorry to hear life has been a bit stressful (though I’m glad that you passed your exam the second time, Vera 🥰), hopefully, February will be a great month for us 🌷 I loved seeing what you two were reading and watching! I found my first 5 star book already – Jackaby – so I’m happy with my own reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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