February Book Wrap-Up

2/28/2019


Yay! I've now done a wrap-up two months in a row, only ten to go! Compared to last month (see: January Book Wrap-Up) I haven't read as many books in February, but the few I did read have been a success. Out of the eight, I gave five of them 5-stars and one 4-1/2. Not bad! My favourite read of the month was a tie between Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. What was yours? Keep scrolling and then tell me in the comments!
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All The Light We Cannot See (2015)
by Anthony Doerr


“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?” 

A World War II historical fiction centred around a blind French girl and a German solider whose paths collide in occupied France. This has been high on my TBR for months now, but I was semi intimidated by the 500+ page length. Who wouldn't be? After picking it up, I first found myself disappointed. Unlike The Nightingale or The Book Thief, this one has a slow burn which I wasn't expecting. Each chapter switches POV between our two main characters, which I found jarring, especially as the length of the chapters could be anywhere between 2 and 5 pages. It kept sucking me out of the overall story. Alas, after the 300 page mark, it picked up and I found myself deeply caring about Marie-Laure and Werner.

What I did really enjoy in this book was the innocence of our main characters, as they're children. You're seeing the war through eyes (or well, thoughts) of unthinkably naive perspectives, which is as refreshing as it was sad. Especially with Werner's story. He is at the camps where the Nazi's are training young men to fight and be unafraid, but they're all children, at times those scenes felt like they were taken straight out of Lord of the Flies.

I won't lie and say that this was an easy read, it requires your undying patience and concentration, it's a heavy tale but beautifully done. This is definitely worthy of the hype, but if historical fiction isn't usually your thing, then I would recommend The Nightingale.

Rating: ★★★★★


Little Fires Everywhere 
by Celeste Ng

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.” 

When mother and daughter Mia and Pearl move to Shaker Heights, they hope to finally settle down after years of home jumping. Enter in Elena Richardson, a good-doer who prides herself on helping people and keeping a certain control on her family's life. You can probably see what's coming, Mia has secrets from her past that she does't want coming to light and when her daughter gets mixed up in the family dynamic of the Richardson's, she realises that sometimes the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

I'd heard so many great things about this book online, can you tell I'm easily persuaded by Reese Witherspoons book club? And it was definitely worthy of all the hype. It's an intimate look at a woman's psyche and the various mother/daughter relationship dynamic's there are. A beautiful book. I loved it.

Rating: ★★★★★


True Colors (2009)
by Kristin Hannah
(let's all weep at the water damaged cover of this, bought it at a library sale. What did someone do to you, deary?)


“The more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so.” 

I picked this up solely due to my love of Kristin Hannah books. Her older work can be problematic, what with her favourite trope tending to be pitting women against one another - usually because of a man. But her writing is like crack and I can't stop myself from frantically turning the pages, I suppose this is the definition of chick lit?

True Colors is the story of the Grey sisters as they grow up and stray from the ranch they grew up on. Winona, the oldest of the three, needs her father's approval most of all but never seems to get it. Unlike the youngest, Vivi Ann, who can't seem to do anything wrong. That is until a guy shows up on the ranch, unintentionally throwing all their lives through hurdlers one can't even imagine. I liked this, is was cheesy and enjoyable. But definitely not one of my favourite Kristin Hannah books.

Rating: ★★★★ (3.5)


Everything I Never Told You (2014)
by Celeste Ng
“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you--whether because you didn't get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”

Being a Chinese family living in Ohio in the 70's, The Lee's are just trying to be the perfect portrait of an American family. So when their sixteen-year-old daughter's body is found in the local lake, they struggle to come to terms with the news. This is a beautiful family portrait of the troubles and expectations that go with being different in such a time. Jumping between the past and present, you'll find yourself growing to care about the characters as though this were a 1,000 page book. (It's only 292 pages). The parents are frustrating but you still find yourself understanding their reasoning behind actions, and you'll want to take their children into your heart and give them a safe place to curl up.

It's been a long while since I read a book by an author and immediately picked up some other work by him/her because I loved it so much. Much like Little Fires Everywhere, this is a domestic fiction novel centred around a family. But oh, this was so good. And if you're choosing between Celeste's work, then I'd suggest you go with this one first.

Rating: ★★★★★


Less
by Andrew Sean Greer 


“Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young."
"Yes! It's like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out where to get coffee, and drinks, and a good steak. And then you have to leave. And you won't ever be back.” 

When semi-famous author Arthur Less receives an invitation for his ex's wedding, he does the only logical thing a man can do - he leaves the country. Okay, I'm stretching that a bit. He instead accepts every other literary-themed invitation he has that takes place around the wedding, just to have a reason to decline. Somewhere along the way he'll break a bone, have a vacation fling with a dashing French man, and will turn fifty.

My husband read Less at the start of the year and loved it, so I was expecting to too. But I don't know, it just fell short for me. I didn't love the characters and the entire world-round trip didn't seem like anything special to Less or I. Maybe it was just a case of the wrong book at the wrong time, but I couldn't find it in me to care. If you want to read an entirely different kind of review for Less, read my husband's HERE.

Rating: ★★★


Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” 

As mentioned in my 'Classics I Want To Read' post, Little Women was high on my list and what with the movie coming out later this year, I decided it was high time to pick it ip. The classic story of the poor but fulfilled March family, as they await their fathers return from the American Civil War. Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth will quickly steal your hearts with their witty banter, big hearts, and delicacy. I wasn't expecting how much time this book covers, you follow these girls from childhood to adulthood, but it was perfect.

I particularly loved Beth and her relationship with Jo. It was a love of 'different sides of the same coin' and I found myself always hoping for one more scene spent with them. Sisterhood is beautiful.

Would I still love this book if it was published now? I'm uncertain. It was dry and dense at parts,but it was entirely what I was expecting. Isn't that always the way with classic literature?

Rating: ★★★★★



An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
(Got this out of the library so shoutout to Google for allowing me to "borrow" a photo)

“But home isn't where you land; home is where you launch. You can't pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.”

Roy, a young black man, is tried and wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to twelve years inside.  Celestial, his newly wedded wife, waits for his return. But as the years tick by they find themselves walking on figurative marriage-shaped eggshells. Can they keep the spark they married with alive, despite the odds telling them no?

I'd seen so much love for this book, heck it was an Oprah's bookclub pick, but... eh. I think this story would've captivated my heart if it weren't for the utterly incapability of our main characters. They're a horrible couple and I've never disliked a male character more than I loathed the pitiful Roy. He had such horrendous thoughts and despite the terrible circumstances he goes through, doesn't even grow up until the very few last pages. I get that the story itself of this book was an important one to be told and I'm definitely not bashing on that, I quietly seethed at the injustice of everything and finished the book with a quiet sense of happiness that I'd been able to read a book that shed much light on the issues diverse human beings go through. But the coupling? No, just no. The writing, however, was soft and beautiful, I would definitely recommend the author.


Rating: ★★★★★


Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobh Rao


“What fools we all are. We girls. Afraid of the wrong things, at the wrong times. Afraid of a burdened face, when outside, outside waiting for you are fires you cannot imagine. Men, holding matches up to your gasoline eyes. Flames, flames all around you, licking at your just-born breasts, your just-bled body. And infernos. Infernos as wide as the world. Waiting to impoverish you, make you ash, and even the wind, even the wind. Even the wind, my dear, she thought, watching you burn, willing it, passing over you, and through you. Scattering you, because you are a girl, and because you are ash.” 

I've read a multitude of devastating books in my time (Ahem, A Little Life) but, oy vey, was Girls Burn Brighter sad. I expected this going in, but I don't think anyone can prepare themselves for the story of Poornima and Savitha, two young Indian girls living in a village of Indravalli. In this harrowing story, you get a glimpse of a few mere years of their lives as they get dragged into the underworld of India and eventually to the bright, yet just as devastating, lights of Seattle. Sex slavery, forced marriages, domestic violence, you name it, these two girls go through it.

Though that may not sound like something you want to read about, this is most definitely a tale girls ought to read. Watching two women define the odds and still hold onto sparks of hope that only truly amounts to a Summer friendship, is beautiful. They're beautiful characters in an ugly world. Just read it and then we'll cry together.

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5, mainly due to the sudden ending which I still can't decide whether I found disappointing or perfect)
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