Happy March everyone!
This month actually went by pretty fast! And for whatever reason, February always seems to be a great reading month for me. I managed to read way more than usual, and I loved just about everything that I read. Was I being too generous with my ratings? Possibly, but oh well! I started to question myself and how likely it actually was that I managed to pick so many 5-star reads in a row… But what can I say? I guess I chose well this month and lucked out with some great reads!
During February, I was also aiming to read as many books as I could that in some way lined up with Black History Month. It’s one of my favorite annual reading traditions, and I managed to prioritize reading a lot of books by Black authors (6 of the 8 books I read)!
As we head into March, testing season is approaching in the public education world. So with that busy season, I’m guessing that my reading will drop off again. But that’s okay! I’m just going to keep trying to pick books that interest me and hopefully I won’t hit too much of a reading slump.
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: 8
Physical books: 7
(Books that I physically own: 6)
(Long books: 1)
Average monthly rating: 4.5
Top Book of February: Refugee
*To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.
- Refugee by Alan Gratz (Historical Fiction, Upper Middle Grade, Paperback)
- This was such an emotionally powerful story! Wow. I just finished it and I really feel the need to just sit with it and process everything that happened. I felt so strongly connected to the characters and their plights, and I found it so moving how everything came together in the end. I also really appreciated how the three historical contexts were developed in a way that was easy for kids (and adults!) to understand. I ended up learning a lot, even as an adult! It was intense without being overly graphic, and I think it would be perfect for intermediate level readers and young adults. Review coming soon!
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Paperback)
- Wow, what a powerful story. It was a short and quick read, but it really packs a punch. The writing style was unique and would definitely really connect with younger readers. I loved the character development and thought it felt natural and realistic. I also loved how many perspectives of such a complex topic that Stone was able to share through her incredibly well-developed characters. I’m writing this after just finishing it this morning, and honestly, I’m kind of at a loss for words. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, and I couldn’t believe how attached I felt to the characters after so few pages. This should without a doubt be required reading for all teens (and adults, too).
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Hardcover)
- This was another really powerful read. It was written beautifully in verse and dealt with the theme of the cyclical nature of violence. I read it in one sitting. Novels written in verse can sometimes be hit or miss in terms of quality; but Reynolds utilized the lyrical structure to tell this story with so much emotion and finesse. Even without the narrative structure, you get to know the characters so well in such a short amount of time (the majority of the plot takes place over the course of about a minute-long elevator ride). The ending was ambiguous, and I liked that it left it up to the reader to decide what they think (or hope) will happen next. This is a powerful story that I would recommend for readers of all ages.
- Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman (Romance, Young Adult, Paperback)
- This is the first graphic novel I’ve read that wasn’t a memoir or manga, and I absolutely adored it! It’s obviously hugely popular, and a few of my students have been reading it, so I decided to give it a chance for that reason (even though I’m not usually the biggest fan of graphic novels). I went into it with low expectations since graphic novels aren’t usually my thing, but I just loved this! It is so cute, and I think it handles the coming-of-age themes really well. I finished it in less than an hour, and now I’m desperate to get my hands on the next three volumes (and to watch the Netflix series adaptation!). If you like cute love stories, I would definitely recommend this one!
- This Side of Home by Renée Watson (Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Paperback)
- I loved this one so much. Piecing Me Together (brief review HERE) is one of my all-time favorites, and while this one didn’t quite top it, it’s definitely a very close second (with Love Is a Revolution being a somewhat distant third, brief review HERE). I just love how Portland is often the setting for Watson’s books, and how she explores such important topics of race, class, and gentrification through the lens of Portland (which has a racist history that often flies under the radar). I’ve lived here my entire life, and I learned more about Portland’s history in this book than I have in all my time living here. I love Watson’s books because they’re so character- and theme-driven, but they’re executed beautifully so that you’re engrossed the entire time. Her narrative style feels so quiet and subtle, but she does so without oversimplifying any of the themes, which just makes her stories that much more powerful for me. So many perspectives of complex topics were explored. I also love how her prose is lyrical without being too flowery (this is most notable when she is describing Portland’s weather throughout the seasons with stunning accuracy). I also love how her books contain romance, but it’s not usually the primary relationship in the story. For instance, I loved how this book explored sibling relationships and friendships and how they change as people get older (and how that’s okay). I can see how some readers may find this slow (since it’s not really plot-driven), but if you’re a fan of character-driven stories then this one is definitely worth checking out.
- Pet by Awaeke Emezi (Fantasy, Young Adult, Hardcover)
- This was such a strange and powerful read. I like to read other people’s reviews after I finish reading a book, and I saw a lot of reviewers debating about the intended audience of this book. I would classify this as a “younger” young adult novel. It’s a little too metaphorical to be middle grade, and there’s also quite a bit of language as well as a pretty graphic scene toward the end. Otherwise, though, there isn’t a lot of other mature content. Therefore, I’d say this book would be accessible for more advanced middle grade readers, and it could be enjoyed by older readers, but it definitely seemed geared toward readers on the younger side of the YA spectrum. That being said, I was really captivated by this book. I thought the writing was beautiful and the diverse representation felt really natural. I loved the running theme about the importance of not ignoring our history, and that it’s imperative that we continue to learn from our past (so as not to forget or become complacent). Was the presentation of these themes a little simplistic at times? Maybe (it was a very short book!). However, I didn’t mind the simplicity. The writing was lyrical enough that the straightforward themes didn’t feel pedantic or condescending, it just felt concise and to the point (in terms of its messaging). The only thing that brought it down a little for me is that I felt the ending was lacking a little nuance and could have been executed better. All in all, this is a quick read that is definitely worth checking out for readers of a variety of ages.
- So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow (Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Hardcover)
- I loved Little Women when I read it a few years ago (my review HERE), so I was really excited to read this remix of it featuring an African American family right after the end of the Civil War. The writing style was enjoyable, though I did find many of the sentences to have an odd structure and be a little confusing to read. Overall, though, I thought it was clever and well done and really honored the original March family. While the characters now have very different backgrounds, I thought Morrow did a great job staying true to their personalities and what the girls would have been like in a very different context than in the original story. The only thing that was really different was the ending (I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers), but I didn’t mind that. I thought it made sense given the changes to the characters and also keeping in mind the modern audience that would be reading it. All that said, even though I felt it was a clever take on a classic story, I never really felt compelled to keep reading it. For that reason, I rated it a little lower than I normally would. I would still recommend it for fans of historical fiction and/or Little Women though!
- The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Literary Fiction, Audiobook)
- Honestly, I struggled with this one. I decided to give it a more neutral rating because I feel like my dislike of it was partially my fault. I don’t think audio is the best way to read this one (although the narrators did a great job). It’s just such a sweeping, sprawling family saga that was just really difficult to follow in an audio format. The only reason I finished it is because I was reading it for a book club. And while I enjoyed listening to other book club members’ thoughts on this one (and it did help me to get a little more out of it), it still just wasn’t the right book for me. A lot of my fellow book clubbers compared it to Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (my review HERE) in terms of how it played with writing styles, structures, and genres. Unfortunately, though… I also didn’t like Cloud Atlas. All that being said, I don’t think this is a bad book by any means! It just requires a very specific type of reader in order to be enjoyed. I enjoyed the use of magical realism and the vivid details, and I loved the setting and getting to learn more about Zambian history. But overall, it just wasn’t for me. Definitely click the picture to read the synopsis and see if it’s something that might work for you!
- Slay by Brittney Morris (Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Hardcover)
- I ended up deciding to DNF this one; the writing style just really didn’t work for me. The plot seemed… fine, but the writing felt pedantic and condescending. Just because a book is intended for a younger audience doesn’t mean the writing can’t be nuanced and complex. I just felt like the writing style wasn’t giving young people enough credit; every little thing was over-explained so that the reader (and the characters themselves) never really got a chance to grapple with any of the big ideas themselves. The book didn’t seem terrible by any means (and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy it), but it just wasn’t for me.
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)!