February Reading Round Up!
It's that time of the month again, and time for another round-up of what I've been reading! This month I'm just going to split my reads into fiction, non-fiction, and audio, as I've only done one re-read this month (I know! What's happened??).
Firstly, I was reading History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. I was continuing this as I started it in January and... I DNF'd. This really frustrated me because I couldn't put my finger on why exactly this book wasn't clicking with me. I've only ever seen people gush about Adam Silvera and I really wanted to love it. But I got about half way through and I just lost my mojo with this book. I'd like to go back to it another time and see if I get on better with it, because I really had no good reason not to finish this book.
The next book I read was the amazing Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard. There was SO much hype surrounding this book from fellow bloggers, and NONE of it was misplaced. This was a fabulous, enthralling book that had me hooked from the very beginning! I love Sara Barnard's characters, and the way she writes friendships and relationships is something I absolutely adore. I loved her last book, A Quiet Kind Of Thunder, and I would say Goodbye, Perfect is as good, if not better. Also three cheers for decent boyfriends! I'm sure it's not just in these books, but I feel eternally grateful to have decent boyfriend characters who are not the entire plot. Basically, you should all go read these books. Sara Barnard is not to be missed!
I followed this up with another book that I would rate really highly, and that is Things A Bright Girl Can Do, by Sally Nicholls. Historical fiction with suffragettes and f/f romance? Sign me up! I loved this book because it had such contrasting tones - you go from suffragettes being amazing and there is this energy and life that then is snuffed out in the wake of the Great War. Watching the relationships between all the different characters change as events took their course was both gripping and had me wanting to give all of them a hug! It also was really strong for me because it didn't have a traditional happy ending - because who can, after a world war?
My next fiction read this month was a re-read - of Ophelia, by Lisa Klein. I re-read this because I'm reading a lot of Hamlet-related books at the moment for my other blog, Discovering Shakespeare, as well as the fact I'd recommended it in a lot of twitter chats and realised I was doing it based on the impression that book left on twelve-year-old me. Which says a lot for the strength of the impression, but I thought it deserved a second look!
I did enjoy my re-read. It didn't take me long, even by my standards, but it was good fun. It definitely reads more MG than I remember, but I suppose that's because I'm not MG myself any more! Once you settle in to the younger voice, this is a good story of what happened - according to Ophelia. Obviously it has to take liberties with the text, but I enjoyed the characterisation of Ophelia, Hamlet, and Gertrude in particular. The only thing is that I do feel that the story improves the further it diverges from the original text - but then, don't most adaptations?
I then read The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord and I CANNOT believe I didn't read this book sooner. It was the last Emery Lord book I had to read, but I'd put it off because I didn't want to read 'another cancer book'. If only I'd realised it wasn't 'another cancer book'. It tells the story of Lucy, who volunteers at a summer camp for troubled kids while her mum is getting treated for returning cancer. And while Lucy and her mum's relationship is an important part of the book, the part I loved was watching Lucy learn about herself. It's all about going through a time in your life when everything you thought you might want is changing - and learning to navigate that unpredictability, and knowing that it's okay not to have it all figured out at once. I thought it was fantastic.
The final fiction book I read in February was And I Darken, by Kiersten White. It was so good, I've already loaned it to a friend because I think other people need to read this book. I left it for ages because I thought it was fantasy. But it's not. It's historical. It's Vlad the Impaler - but Vlad is a girl. DREAM. BOOK. I read it as quickly as I could manage and when I was a hundred pages from the end, went and ordered the sequel from my indie (I'm currently a third of the way through the sequel).
And I Darken tells the story of Lada and her brother Radu, children of a Wallachian warlord who uses them as bartering tools to achieve his means. Lada behaves exactly like a boy would have been expected to back then, and watching her navigate this world with nothing but blazing indignation guiding her most of the time, is possibly one of my favourite things. But to balance that we have Radu, her younger brother. He's really quite the wuss as the two grow up - but everybody loves him. I don't really want to say any more for fear of spoilers - but suffice to say, Lada and Radu are my new absolute loves. I'm reading the sequel, Now I Rise, desperately hoping nothing happens to my two precious faves. Check back here next month to see how I've fared!
I've dipped in and out of two non-fiction books this month. Firstly, I've continued with Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I've very nearly finished it now, so I thought I may as well put it in this review! It's all about having the confidence and courage and belief to live a creative life, without putting pressure on yourself to be perfect, or forcing yourself to make a living from it and therefore making you lose the love you had for your creative output in the first place. I was recommended this on several youtube channels that I follow, and I would recommend it to any of you reading who also want to pursue creative opportunities in your life. It's in really short sections too, so I've been reading a lot of this before bed as it's easy to dip in and out of.
The other non-fiction book I've read this month is Buddhism for the Unbelievably Busy, by Meshel Laurie. I was gifted this by a friend who had heard Laurie talk on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour, so I wanted to give it a go. I really liked the fact that I saw so many of my own experiences reflected back to me in this book; I also liked the fact that while Buddhism was referenced quite a bit, it never felt like a book about Buddhism. It felt like a book about coping with being unbelievably busy - with a few Buddhist quotes thrown in. A worthwhile read if self-development, mindfulness, etc, are your cups of tea.
I've listened to two audiobooks this month. I listen to one audiobook before I go to bed, and a different audiobook when I get up in the mornings. It's part of my morning/night routine that I'm finding really beneficial at the moment.
In the evenings, I've been listening to the abridged audiobook of Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett. I would have gone for the unabridged version, but the shorter versions are read by Tony Robinson and I can't imagine a voice more made for reading out Discworld to me. I returned to Wyrd Sisters because it is one of my favourites. A spoof on Macbeth with lots of sarcastic trolling of Shakespearean tropes in the form of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg? Yes please!
In the mornings, I've been listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which has cemented this one as my favourite Harry Potter. Not that I don't think it wasn't already, but... Stephen Fry is made to read Potter. These narrations, as I'm sure they are for most of you, were basically the narrations of my childhood! I can remember listening to them for the first time after reading the book, putting my cassette tape in to my Walkman and mooching round the house after school listening to Azkaban. And the joy is certainly not lost now I'm older. I still feel both indignant and terrified when Snape takes a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson; I still cheer like mad (and am about as indignant as Lee Jordan!) for the whole Quidditch Cup chapter; I love the part when Hermoine slaps Malfoy; and Sirius and Remus! Just... *insert fangirling here*. I really don't know what to do when I get to the end of it - which I'm very nearly at. I might just have to go back and listen to it all over again.
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I hope you enjoyed this (rather long!) reading round up for February! I've read so many good books this month - and if possible, March is looking even better!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?