February Wrap-Up

Happy March everyone!

This was a great reading month for me! I started the month by finishing the books I had started in January (The Help and Code Name Verity), and then after that I decided to focus on titles for Black History Month. I did the same thing last year and it was my favorite month of reading in 2021, and it’s seeming like that might end up being the case this year as well! When it came to choosing titles, I chose books by black authors that featured black characters (or people, in the case of nonfiction). Of course, I try to do this all year, but I discovered last year that being really intentional about this helped me to discover some new favorites and branch out to read things I wouldn’t normally have picked up.

I’ve decided that for March, I’m going to be intentional about choosing books for Women’s History Month! I didn’t do this last year (not for any particular reason), so I’m excited to try it this year and see if it makes March as successful a reading month as February. I’m starting with Girl, Woman, Other as my physical book and Educated as my audiobook. Again, like with Black History Month, my focus is on female authors who write female main characters, but I’m also trying to focus on the history element with some nonfiction and historical fiction selections this month. We’ll see how it goes!

As for a blogging update, I haven’t been as successful with staying caught up on my blog as I had wanted. Things have just been so crazy at work, and I don’t want blogging to feel like a chore (I want it to be fun!), so I’m just going to be flexible and post when I can. But I hope to be back on a regular schedule soon!

Without further ado, here is my wrap-up of all the books I read in February:

To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

Stats and Overall Thoughts:

Books read: 7
Physical books: 5
(Books that I physically own: 4)
Audiobooks: 2


Fiction: 6
(Historical fiction: 2)
Nonfiction: 1

Average monthly rating: 4.2
Top Book of February: The Help

*To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

5-star books:

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Historical Fiction, Paperback)
    • I loved this book. I originally picked it up in August, and for whatever reason just couldn’t motivate myself to keep reading it. Maybe I was intimidated by its length? Or worried I would be bored since I’d already seen the movie? I have no idea. All I know is that I’m so glad I finally started to read it again, because it’s easily going to be one of my top books of the year! I found the writing style to be so engaging, the characters were well-developed and easy to like, and the story was moving. I looked forward to reading this every night when I got home from work, and was so sad when it ended. I know there’s some controversy due to it being written by a white woman, but I didn’t think it came across as a “white savior” narrative. It felt grounded and mostly realistic (maybe a little on the optimistic side, which I didn’t mind), but I also recognize that I’m not the best person to determine if the topic of race was handled respectfully. As far as I can tell, it was well-written and I thoroughly enjoyed this book (and I think the movie adaptation was well-done too)!
  • Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson (Mystery, Young Adult, Hardcover)
    • This book came as such a surprise for me. Normally, when I pick a book out, I buy it because it sounds like an interesting premise or like something I would enjoy, but then I don’t get around to actually reading it for quite a while. And when I do get around to reading it, I prefer to go in “blind,” with only however much I remember about the synopsis. Because of that, this book was much darker and more powerful than I was anticipating. Please be sure to check content warnings before deciding to read this book. One of the main topics was grooming, as our teenage main character was participating in a relationship with a much older man. It was difficult to read, but such an important topic for teens to be aware of. I also really appreciated how Jackson structured this book. There were short “flashback” chapters throughout the book, and in these brief chapters we can tell that something has gone terribly wrong, and that this older man is not a love interest to root for. I so appreciated this because, as an adult, it was immediately apparent to me that what was happening was grooming. However, it may not be as obvious to a teen audience, so I really appreciated how it was clear from the beginning that this was not a relationship to root for and that it was never romanticized. Overall, it was written in a way that was incredibly engaging, and it covers important themes in a way that is accessible for its intended audience. I’ll share more thoughts in my review coming soon!
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (Memoir, Audiobook)
    • This was such a wonderful memoir! It’s beautifully written and it makes you feel like you’re sitting in a room with Michelle Obama as she tells you her life story. I think the audiobook especially makes this connection between author and reader stronger, as she does a fantastic job narrating her story. Though she has become something of a political figure due to her husband, she herself is not a politician and therefore I believe this book could be enjoyed by anyone as long as they have an open mind. It’s a powerful story of family, love, motherhood, and perseverance. I loved learning about what she went through to keep her family safe and happy during all of life’s twists and turns, as well as how she found purpose and meaning in every opportunity that came her way. The idea that we are all becoming and changing and learning all the time is a powerful and inspiring message that will stick with me for a long time.
  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • I read this book in one sitting; I just couldn’t put it down! It was emotional and difficult to read as it deals with themes of police brutality (specifically against black boys), but it was such a powerful and important story that I didn’t want to stop reading even though it was hard to stomach at times. I read some negative reviews of this book after I had finished that criticized the approach to this topic and the theme of race, as well as how the white characters were incorporated into the story. As a white person, I am certainly not an authority on this, so just be aware that this is a piece of criticism that has been brought up. For now, I’ll just be focusing my review from a teacher perspective. My teacher perspective is this: I will definitely be keeping this book in my classroom. It’s written in a way that presents the history of violence against black boys in an accessible way (I even learned some information that I hadn’t known before). The necessary historical background information is incorporated in a seamless and engaging way, which makes it possible for kids to follow the story and really identify with the themes. If it were a story meant for adults, it definitely could’ve gone more in depth or portrayed more of the darkness associated with this topic, but for a middle grade book I appreciated how it was told from the perspective of a child with their abundance of curiosity and hope. I’ll share more thoughts in my review coming soon!

3.5-star books:

  • Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson (Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Hardcover)
    • I adore Renée Watson, and I really wanted to love this book (I mean, look at that gorgeous cover!), but it just kind of missed the mark for me. I didn’t dislike it at all – it was cute! But it just wasn’t anything special. I felt like the characters didn’t have a ton of depth, and I found the decisions they made to be questionable (and not in a normal teenager way). That being said, it was a quick, fun read that would be great if you’re looking for something light and cute! I’ll share more thoughts in my review coming soon!

3-star books:

  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Audiobook)
    • I love historical fiction, I love young adult fiction, and this book was so highly rated on Goodreads. Based on all of that, I was expecting to love this book! However, I just… didn’t. Maybe audiobook wasn’t the best format? I found myself getting lost in the characters and the different time jumps. There were excessive descriptions of planes and flights that just felt unnecessary and uninteresting. And I just didn’t see the point of the story until something happened at the very end that made it clear, but by then it was too late and I had already checked out. Honestly, this might just be a me problem. It’s certainly not a bad book, but it definitely was not the right fit for me.
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Realistic Fiction, Paperback)
    • This one just didn’t come together for me. For the first half of the story, we follow Queenie as she makes some really questionable choices (repeatedly and constantly). It’s frustrating and even disturbing at times, but it’s clear that there is something else causing her to behave this way, and that mystery keeps the reader pushing through. I even stopped to read reviews as I approached the halfway point, and I saw several reviewers say the second half gets better, so I decided to continue on. And I’m glad I did! Without revealing any spoilers, the second half deals more with the theme of mental health and I really appreciated the author’s approach to this topic. However, I ended up really disliking the ending. It was almost saccharine; it just felt too over-the-top optimistic to the point of being unrealistic. Also, while I appreciated the themes of race and how we get to see how it intersects with other themes (such as womanhood and mental health), the writing just felt a little clunky and preachy at times, so it wasn’t as powerful or effective as I wanted it to be. There are definitely some good elements here, but they just didn’t come together for me.

DNF

  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
    • This might be the fastest that I’ve ever given up on a book. I bought this one on a whim at my local bookstore; it was on sale, the cover was gorgeous, and the premise sounded so promising! It also seemed to have received some national recognition as a popular book club choice. I read the prologue and was intrigued, but then I read the first chapter and… I just hated the writing style. It bothered me so much that I struggled just to get through that one chapter. I checked reviews, and realized that I should have done this before I purchased this one. The reviews were fairly low, with many saying that nothing really happens for 90% of the book (which is odd for something marketed as a thriller) and many also saying they hated the ending. I don’t mind a slow-burn plot, but I have to be in the mood for it. So that combined with a writing style that just didn’t work for me… Maybe I’ll try it again someday, but I had to pass for this month.

How did your reading go in February? Any stand-out books to recommend?

Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading (my blog, but also just in general)!

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