January 2024 Books

January’s books set a pretty high standard for the year. I hope all the books I read this year are as good.

New Books Read

Macmillan Publishers

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi***
CW: war
If you’re trying to educate yourself on the Israel/Palestine conflict, this is a good one. Khalidi begins his history in 1917 after the break up of the Ottoman empire and traces the impacts of various outside forces on the region. Khaldi breaks his survey int 6 declarations of war, or resolutions or accords that resulted in the continued colonization and oppression of the Palestinian people. This book has so much information in it. I think my main problem in reading it was that I didn’t have much background knowledge of the region. This wouldn’t be the book I would start with, if you’re trying to learn about Palestine, but it does have tons of good information.
3/5 declarations of war

Make Me a World

Lucha of the Night Forest by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Lucha of the Night Forest book 1 of 2
CW: addiction, substance abuse
This was a nice little dark fantasy. After Lucha loses everything, she makes a pact with a sinister god to destroy the thing that has destroyed her city, her mother, and now her sister: a drug called olvida. But there’s more to the forest–and to Lucha–than meets the eye. With the help of a priestess of the forest goddess, Lucha discovers her own powers and the secrets of the gods. This was enjoyable. I liked the world. I’m not sure it needs to be a series. I did feel like we could have solved all the problems in one book if we’d tried harder.
3.5/5 hallucinogenic hares

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
Once upon a Broken Heart book 1 of 3
This one was so fun. Just before the wedding of her lover and her step-sister, broken-hearted Evangeline Fox makes a wish to crafty Fate, Jacks, the Prince of Broken Hearts. This foolish wish sets off a chain of events and intrigues that span continents as Evangeline tries to find her happily ever after. This book takes place in the same world as Caraval, and I love the world Garber created. It’s also nice to see Jacks again. (How can a character with zero morals be so lovable??) Garber is also excellent at describing clothing. I want every outfit described in the book. Excited to read the rest!
4/5 gorgeous outfits

Felix Ever After by Kacen Calendar***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: anti-trans prejudice, dead-naming, misgendering, body dysphoria
I love that I read a book whose title included the words “once upon” and then immediately read a book with a title including the words “ever after.” I just think it’s neat. Felix is a trans high schooler trying to find love and focus on his summer art portfolio for his elite high school. But Felix is being harassed online and in school by an anonymous fellow student at his school. Determined to figure out who’s behind it and get revenge, Felix is blind to the love that surrounds him. This book was so wonderful. I read the first 50 pages and then the next day I read the rest of it in one go. I could not put it down. The end was so healing and wonderful.
5/5 self-portraits

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Beasts of Prey 1 of 3
I wanted to like this book and I didn’t and I couldn’t really figure out why. After a terrible fire at the Night Zoo, indentured servant Koffi and disgraced initiate Ekon must work together to track down a terrifying beast in the impenetrable Greater Jungle. But they each have their own agenda and, worse, so does a suspiciously cult-like religious order of warriors Ekon was expelled from, who are also looking for the beast. This book has an interesting world, character development, a pretty map in the front cover. I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I just didn’t really want to keep reading it. I got to the end of every chapter, and I was like, I could be done now. Maybe I just wasn’t the target audience (which is okay!). I did finish it because I didn’t feel it was fair to give up when I didn’t even know why I didn’t like it. But I won’t be reading the rest of them.
3/5 jungle beasts

Pan Macmillan UK

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
**Book Hangover Alert
Obsessed with TJ Klune. I loved The House on the Cerulean Sea, and I love this book too. Think Pinocchio + Wall-e, with a dash of Frankenstein–if Frankenstein had loved his monster instead of fearing him. Obsessed. Victor grows up in the woods, the only human raised by three robots on the edge of civilization. After Victor’s father (also a robot) is destroyed and taken to the city, Victor and his robot friends must go on a journey to save him–and also the world. We love to see asexual representation, and this book has it. For me, there was exactly the right amount of romance in this book (which I do realize means less than most people seem to want). Also I want to say that the narrator of the audiobook is 10/10. This book is a warm hug. It’s hilarious. It’s poignant. It’s devastating. It’s beautiful. I adored it.
5/5 robots

Tor Books

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: anti-trans prejudice, misgendering, body dysmorphia, dead naming
This book was a wild ride from start to finish. Shizuka Satomi, a famous violin teacher, is looking for her seventh and final student, whose soul will complete the bargain Shizuka made with Hell. Shizuka finds Katrina, a young trans violinist, who has been forced to run away from home. But both Shizuka and Katrina get a little more than they bargained for and discover the secret to escaping Hell. There are also aliens building a Stargate in a giant donut. This book is just so good. Also a warm hug. So healing and lovely. The research Aoki had to do for this book just astounds me. And don’t read this book on an empty stomach. The food descriptions are incredible.
5/5 donuts


Mother Clap’s Molly House by Rictor Norton***
CW: homophobia, rape, pedophilia
I’ve been trying to get my hands on a copy of this book for ages, and I finally got it through inter-library loans at Drexel. Norton’s book explores the formation of a gay subculture in England between 1700 and 1830. This includes the examination of molly houses, or the first gay clubs. It was so fascinating. There’s so little research out there on molly houses, so I’m glad I finally got to read this book.
3.5/5 molly houses

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: foot binding, misogyny
This book was stunning. A sweeping historical fiction that follows the life of Lady Tan Yunxian, a woman doctor who really lived during the late 1400s and early 1500s in Imperial China. Though we have some documentation about Lady Tan, much about her life remains unknown. See creates an incredibly vivid nuanced portrait of Yunxian and the lives of women in this time period. It’s a wonderful story of women’s friendship and how woman can thrive in a society designed for and by men. I will say the descriptions of foot binding were very difficult to read. I’m in pain just thinking about it. Also so impressed by the amount of research See did.
4.5/5 remedies

DC Comics

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
CW: torture, genocide, experimentation on humans, rape
Randomly decided to read this because I was thinking about a quote from the movie. This series of comics follows V, a mysterious masked vigilante as he works for vengeance and anarchy in a near-future Great Britain. It’s actually surprisingly different from the movie. I guess serialized comics are a much different shape than a 2 hour movie. I know Alan Moore also hated the movie. The comics are less about the people organizing to overthrow the government and more about vengeance and anarchy. The government men in the comics in general had more nuance (although I couldn’t keep them all straight), and it was disappointing that two of the five female characters in the comics didn’t get to be in the movie. Moore and Lloyd’s comic was interesting in that it came out in the 80s and 90s and it had more than just one type of woman. It’s not perfect, but it’s surprisingly good in it’s female representation. Also the oppressive authoritarian government thing, unfortunately still relevant. One more thing, but it’s a spoiler. Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD

I’m not sure I can forgive V for torturing Evey, even if it was to teach her something, “to free her” from the oppression in her mind, even if she forgave him. However, I’m not sure the comics really ask me to forgive him. The movie does, and I think that’s why I’ve always felt weird about it. But in the comics, I don’t feel like I’m asked to excuse V’s behavior. He’s not a good guy. He’s bringing down an oppressive regime, yes, but he’s not noble. Or at least, that was my interpretation.

3.5/5 Guy Fawkes masks

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine for an in-depth look at conflict in the region. Read Felix Ever After for a heartwarming LGBTQIA+ love story. Read Light from Uncommon Stars for a warm hug of a book that deals with LGBTQIA+ themes. Read Mother Clap’s Molly House to learn more about gay and lesbian history in England. Read Lady Tan’s Circle of Women for an empowering tale of women in Imperial China.

Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.