As the new year kicked off, I was honestly not sure how much I would be able to reasonably get to, but I managed to enjoy several great reads as well as finish up something that wasn't working well for me. 

1. Holy Moments

This was a 5/5 source of modest spiritual reflection 

I've enjoyed a couple of Kelly's books the past couple of years and found this one to be another simple, yet profound delight. The message it bears isn't earth-shattering, but it is powerful in it's own way and I think it can be a good resource for reflection for anyone regardless of how strong their faith already is or how holy their lives might be. 

2. A Shade of Madness

This  4/5 read was much stronger than the first book in the series. 

Taking a complete 180 from my top book of the month, Thiago Abdalla's nihilistic, dark fantasy sequel was a big step up for me from the first book. There are no touches of light to be found here as madness casts its shadow over the land. I am deeply intrigued by the plot of this series and look forward to its next installment even if this isn't a perfect fit for me. 

3. Unbound

3/5 for a fun adventure that didn't fully live up to the charms of the first book

Increasing the scope of the story as well as amount of POV-switching created a more epic scale that facilitated some awesome expansion to the worldbuilding. While some fans will be delighted by this, I personally felt as though it came at the cost of the narrative momentum that I enjoyed so much in Ascendant. I still enjoyed this one, but it definitely read a bit slower for me and I wasn't as fully engrossed, but I do still look forward to the final book in this trilogy. 

4. Agile 2

A disappointing 2/5 slog

I don't hate this book or anything. It makes good points and had a lot of potential, but there wasn't really all that much in here that I consider valuable to developing myself professionally. I also just think that this book doesn't really live up to it's promise of being a new and improved version of Agile. I'd argue that not much new is really brought to the table at all nor is this even a particularly compelling remix of old ideas. 

BONUS: Arcanum Unbounded (The Taldain, Threnodite and Drominad Systems)

This has continued to be a very fun 4/5 so far that has gotten a lot closer to a 5

The Taldain section doesn't necessarily bring anything particularly new to the Cosmere. If you haven't already checked out the White Sand graphic novel trilogy, then there is a nice little preview of that in here to enjoy. Sanderson also shares the draft of the first part of his unpublished novel that the graphic series was based on. For me, the value here is really more in getting a peek behind the curtain of Sanderson's creative process. I was really fascinated by the similarities and differences in Sanderson's prose vs. what made it into the graphic translation. One major difference being that Kenton's father Praxton was a lot less fleshed out in the graphic novels. He's still a jerk in the novel version, but it's a lot easier to see where he's coming from. All in all, this section could certainly be skipped by readers just looking to pick through the shorter stories of the Cosmere who have already read the White Sand graphic novels.

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (The Threnodite System) was an absolute banger of a novella. This is by far some of the darkest stuff that Sanderson has ever written and I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I loved the characters, the world, the action, and the almost-horror like plot. I also really enjoyed how the main story was bookended with scenes between two characters that were close to, but not directly involved in the main plot. I'd like to see more of this world even if it is through the lens of other characters within it. 

Lastly, the section on The Drominad System is home to another outstanding novella. Sixth of the Dusk is technically a reread for me. I'd purchased it on Kindle years ago and loved it back then even before I had really any context into the Cosmere whatsoever. My second time through proved to be just as enjoyable and I definitely found myself picking up on some details that I had previously missed. The little bit of exposition that Khriss provides in her forward re-contextualized a lot of what I thought I knew about it before as well. 

I only have one more section/novella to go and it is the one that is set on Roshar (the world of The Stormlight Archive), so I am hoping that this collection ends on a high note. 

BONUS: The Hobbit

This was a stunning and magical 5/5 reread experience

This month, I've actually saved the best for last. After taking forever to begin my reread of this classic along with The Lord of the Rings as part of an illustrated box set, I finally revisited the wonderous lands of Middle Earth. I've gone back and forth on whether I want to do dedicated reviews for each book in this set, but I feel like there's very little that hasn't already been said about Tolkein's work and I don't really feel the need to type out my detailed thoughts on it. I'll just say that this story remains as one of my favorites of all time and this has to be one of the most beautiful editions that one could own. I loved every page of this and look forward into moving into The Fellowship of the Ring next month. 

Looking ahead to February, I'd like to finish up the Songs of Chaos trilogy on audio, wrap up Arcanum Unbounded collection (which will also get me ready for the third Stormlight Archive book) and do my reread of The Fellowship of the Ring.


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