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February Reading Wrap-Up 2019

After January trailing on by at a snail’s pace, it seems crazy to think that we’re now in the third month of the year. Despite how quick February seemed to have passed by, I still managed to read seven books this month. I haven’t been as motivated to read over this past week, partly down to being ill, lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. Nonetheless, I still discovered some new favourites. This month I also stumbled on my home library’s online book borrowing service and my TBR list has gone from being long to never-ending.

February was another incredible reading month. Am I too generous with my ratings? Probabaly. I gave 3 out of the 7 books five stars; To Kill a Mockingbird, If We Were Villains and A Monster Calls, each of which I think is worthy for various reasons.

The Stand by Stephen King (1325 pages) ★★★★

Yep, my first Stephen King novel also happened to be his longest. At a hefty 1325 pages, I could quite literally use my copy as a murder weapon. However, despite its intimidating size, I relished in King’s rich cast of characters during the world’s end.

The first section of the novel centres around the downfall of a civilised world as 99.4% of the population is wiped out by the relentless plague known as Captain Trips. What makes this book so terrifying is that it’s plausible. We all catch a cold or suffer an odd raging headache. However, The Stand is going to make me think twice the next time I feel a tickly throat coming on. What’s more, this virus was made in a lab. We created the plague decimating the world. We were liable for our own downfall. Despite finding some parts slow, The Stand introduced me to King´s unmatched talent for presenting a cast of characters who are full and alive. He covers every shade of human morality and no two characters are alike.

What would I do if I were alone, everyone I had ever known having died within days? Where would I go? Although lengthy, The Stand is a rich, layered atmospheric novel enriched with detailed storytelling that made the premise of the world’s end even more daunting.

The Stand complete and uncut Stephen King

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (416 pages) ★★★

This book was dark and political. The story begins with a King’s mysterious death. His daughter, our protagonist, Hesina, is to be crowned Queen, but can’t allow her father’s death to go unpunished. She is determined to discover the truth.

I wish there was more magic. The author introduces us to these fearsome mages known as soothsayers but we don’t see much of them in action. I would have been more engaged if there was more information about their abilities and their history. Moreover, the pacing was a little shaky at parts. However, the final third of the book alleviated this. A plethora of secrets are revealed, nobody is as they seem and the twists didn’t disappoint. Overall, the court procedures didn’t interest me much and having little knowledge of Chinese culture, the world-building lost me at times. Nonetheless, the ending hints at an interesting sequel in which I’m eager to discover more of the character’s motivations and agendas.

Thanks to NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (309 pages) ★★★★★

As I said in my previous wrap-up, one of my goals for 2019 is to read one classic a month, and February’s didn’t disappoint.

Scout has become one of my favourite characters of all time. She was hilarious. Her sass, her inquisitiveness, her train of thought, it was a joy reading from her perspective. Through her eyes, everyone is equal; men, women, black, white, the disabled, children; why are some subjugated while others aren’t? Why must she conform to the conventional ‘ladylike’ ways? It was fascinating to watch her understanding of the world around her grow. Furthermore, the plot is easy to follow and embellished with lyrical writing without being over-abundant with figurative language. It was a comforting read while also dealing with poignant issues. Lee doesn’t sugar-coat any of the issues she lays out in front of us. Her message is loud and clear.

The trial was the most poignant part of the novel, but much of To Kill A Mockingbird is about Scout and Jem’s antics and life in Maycomb. Lee created an idyllic town with charming neighbours while simultaneously illustrating the prominent racism and prejudice that is threaded throughout day-to-day life. The children’s curiosity encapsulates how nonsensical this prejudice and mistreatment of certain groups of society really is. Overall, this was an immensely comforting read which honestly captures childhood and is very much still relevant today. If you haven’t read it, you should.

To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary eBook edition

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (368 pages) ★★★★★

This was incredible. I was so captivated by the layers of deception which run deep in this novel. It is one clever story and I was completely invested into the lives of the seven thespians at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite arts college. It was atmospheric, whimsical and indomitably emotional, this book was astounding.

If We Were Villains is rife with Shakespeare quotes and references, the students dedicating their lives to his works. So much so, the young thespians integrate Shakespeare quotes into their everyday speech. Even they admit to this being pretentious, but their Bardolatry made the story all the more theatrical and authentic. I couldn’t help but feel a spark of nostalgia to nine-year-old me starring as Hermia in our school’s drama club performance, my own first real introduction to Shakespeare’s works. Inevitable memories of vigorously studying Macbeth in secondary school also came to mind upon reading their dark performance. Overall, this book has rekindled my adoration for Shakespeare.

The characters adhere to the roles they perform onstage in real life; the hero, the villain, the seductress, the girl next door, the nice guy. However, after a real-life tragedy occurs, they’re left questioning whether any of them are being their true authentic selves, or whether they’re all merely playing pretend. Events spiral out of control and it was easy to get caught up in the thorny tangle of frustration, the longing, rivalry, guilt and all the other emotions that consume them. This is a true modern-day Shakespearean tragedy.

This is more than a psychological thriller. It’s a literary novel filled with obsession and angst in which every plot point was perfectly placed. I should have known better than to have hoped for a happy ending. Following true Shakespearean convention, I ended the book with a broken heart, yet still feeling incredibly inspired. This is without a doubt one of my new favourite books.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (224 pages) ★★★★★

This is one of the most incredible stories about grief I’ve ever read. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms, and following Conor, we learn that a child’s experience with death is intense and complex. A Monster Calls explores this in an incredibly imaginative, insightful way. Ness captures emotions which others struggle to articulate and does so with wonderful lyrical quality.

It’s a delicate subject, yet it has a poignant beauty that transmutes the dark topic into something palatable for the reader. What’s more, the heart-breaking tale is rendered relatable for all audiences, undoubtedly a powerful form of escapism which will help children in similar situations. The atmosphere, characters and storytelling are all faultless and it builds up towards a beautiful, bittersweet ending.

A powerful message lies within a tiny book. An immense message aired with the perfect amount of words and expressed in the perfect way. I went into this book not knowing too many plot details and I think you should too. Just be prepared to cry, a lot.

A Monster Calls eBook edition

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves (304 pages) ★★★★

This is a simple story. The writing was fairly basic, however, there was an ease to Graves´ writing, specifically through Annika´s narration, which kept me turning the pages. Although I adored both of the protagonists, I found I shared similar traits with Annika; I don´t like change, I never know what people are truly thinking and loud environments make me uncomfortable. Oh, and I´m with her when she says she prefers books to some people. Graves overall portrays Annika’s issues with anxiety excellently and with authenticity. 

There isn´t much of a plot. Told over two timelines with alternating perspectives from Jonathan and Annika, this is simply a story about two people rekindling their love for one another. Graves didn´t sugar-coat the romance, it felt real, and I was compelled to see how their rekindled relationship would develop. Unfortunately, the ending was disappointing. After an easy breezy story, it took an intense turn which only felt out of place and ended on a rather abrupt note. I was itching for an epilogue. Their story wasn´t over for me and I needed a glimpse into what the future would hold for Jonathan and Annika. Overall, this was a heartening, easy story which made for the perfect light read.

Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (434 pages) ★★★★

Sayuri’s story captivated me. There was something special about the writing style in that I felt every emotion. Moreover, there are an abundant of lyrically captivating paragraphs illustrating a rich environment and lifestyle so different from that of the Western World. Honestly, I knew nothing about life as a Geisha going into this book, so I wasn’t prepared for certain events which appeared throughout. However, I’ve learned a lot, particularly about Japanese culture in the early-mid 20th century.

I was completely invested in Sayuri’s story, in a world so different from my own, living a lifestyle I knew very little about. At a young age, her father sells her to a geisha house and she tells of her arrival at the Nitta okiya where she endures harsh treatment from everyone. Hatsumomo is cruel and manipulative and her okiya Mother demotes her to a maid after her trying to escape. Despite the hardships she faced, she grew to become a beautiful Geisha, accomplished in beguiling the most powerful men.

This isn’t an easy read and it requires patience to finish. I spent more time with this book than most; it’s not a fast-paced book. However, the writing style is what makes this book so special. Golden managed to make appalling events in the Geishas’ lives palpable for the reader through his elegant storytelling. Overall, although slow-paced, Memoirs of a Geisha is a poignant and unforgettable story.

Have you read any of these books? What are you planning on reading in March?

Thanks for reading

Evie

February Reading Wrap-up

12 Comments

  1. You got a lot of good reads in this month! I haven’t been able to read A Monster Calls as I think it would upset me too much. Hope you’re feeling better!

    • eviejayne eviejayne

      It was sad but honestly so worth the read, Ness’ writing was incredible! Thank you!

  2. foreverseptember1 foreverseptember1

    I can’t believe I’ve never read a Stephen King novel, I have The Shining on my list though as its one of my fave movies, so its about time I read the novel. I’m currently reading 1984 by George Orwell, which is really interesting/scary that we have actually become a lot of what he wrote about back in the 40s!

    Lucy | Forever September

    • eviejayne eviejayne

      I definitely need to read more of his work after reading The Stand, The Shining is on my list too! I read about half of 1984 a few years ago but never got around to finishing it for whatever reason, need to pick it up again!

  3. I’ve never read Stephen King but he’s written so many books!! Have you read any other of his works? I’m curious and don’t know where to start haha // I really enjoyed To Kill A Mockingbird as well! I loved how it presented the innocence and simplicity of morality. // I feel like there was a spike in interest for A Monster Calls when the film adaptation came out in 2016, and then it fell off my radar. After hearing such a rave review from you, I’m looking forward to getting to this book eventually! Gotta get through my other library checkouts first haha (I haven’t watched the film yet) // I enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha as well and I thought it was so interesting how it covered so much time -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    • eviejayne eviejayne

      It is quite overwhelming how many books he’s written haha. The Stand was my first book of his and I happened to choose his longest so far! I really want to read his Bill Hodges Trilogy and The Shining by him though! Haha yeah everyone was talking about A Monster Calls a few years back, but it was only recently I saw my library had it available to borrow online that I picked it up. It was incredible! I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready for the film haha. I think you’d really enjoy it!

  4. Oooh well done on reading that hefty Stephen King books – I love end of the world tropes I might actually check it out!

    I still haven’t read to Kill a Mockingbird :O – really need to get that under my belt

    anyway you’ve done really well in February!!

    thanks,
    Lena
    http://www.lenasnotebook.co.uk

  5. omg, a monster calls is probably one of my favorite stories ever. I feel like it’s still weirdly underrated, and just doesn’t get enough attention! I also loved to kill a mockingbird. Great post Evie xxx

    Melina | http://www.melinaelisa.com

    • eviejayne eviejayne

      It definitely deserves more attention, it was incredible! Thank you x

  6. Macey Gloria Macey Gloria

    “If We Were Villains” is the book I was most excited for you to review, and I am even more intrigued than I was from your instagram post on it!! I am 1000% adding this to my TBR, and I can’t wait to have my heart broken too. Also “Bardolatry” is such a fabulous phrase, did you coin it?! How have I not heard it before???

    twinklexthoughts.blogspot.com

    • eviejayne eviejayne

      It was incredible! Oh I hadn’t heard of it either until I saw it used in the book. I researched it and it basically means ‘an excessive admiration of Shakespeare’, great right? I hope you pick this one up soon! x

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