February Reads (2020)

February was another productive reading month for me. I read 2,481 pages across 4 graphic novels and 6 other novels. That makes 10 books total for this month; not bad.

Like I said in my March TBR I bumped my reading goal to 50 books with the overly optimistic goal of doubling that to make 100 by the end of the year.

Now, on to the books that I read in February:

teadragon festival

The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2) by Katie O’Neill

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I have already talked about how much I love this graphic novel series, but if you somehow missed those numerous occasions: I love this series.

The story and world is just so magical, whimsical, and pleasant. There is a plethora of tasteful and much needed representation, including disabilities, sexuality, race, gender. culture, and much more.

More writers need to include disabilities in their writing and do so tastefully. The lack of tasteful disability representation in our community has always pulled at my heart and fed by disappointment in the writing community. So, I am grateful to Katie O’Neill for bridging this gap and, hopefully, starting a new trend of representation.

Additionally, I actually liked this book more than the first, because we got to see a lot more of the world and the characters within. Plus, it is a lot longer. That’s just me being selfish though. Both books are amazing, and my friend actually liked the first story better.

If  you read this series, please let me know you thoughts on it! What did you love/hate about it? Was the representation good in your opinion?

I will be picking up more of this author’s books in the near future, so read a long with me if you like adorable graphic novels with feel-good stories.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51117537-the-trail-driverThe Trail Driver by Zane Grey

My Rating: ♦ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

I had to read this book for a research paper on dime novels from the “Old West”. As you can probably guess from my rating, I did not personally enjoy this book… like at all.

I spent an entire day reading this before spending around 6 hours putting together a research paper. By the end of it, I felt like I had wasted so much of my life and energy.

The story is awful, slow, and cheesy (not in the good way). The characters are shallow, uninteresting, unrealistic, and poorly imagined (not to mention inconsistent). This was obviously written by a sexist/racist white man (I know that for a fact because I did research on him for the paper… he’s a bit of a creep).

Every page of this book was hard to get through, because the writing is terrible and the accents are written out in the most un-readable manner ever. This story could also have been soooo much shorter for how little actually happens and how uninteresting it is.

For a research paper on sexuality and gender studies, there is a lot here to analyze, so that is a plus. On the other hand, I would not personally recommend this as a leisurely read for your own enjoyment. I was angry every step of the way through this book, and I don’t care if it is old, but it is offensive.

If you want to read something with three different forms of racism, the most jaw clenching sexism, and a cheesy/poorly executed story, then maybe this manly western is for you. After all, it is pretty accurate with the white way of thinking for the time period. It just left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a sour feeling in my stomach.

Maybe I am just a western hater ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ send me hate if you think I am in the wrong.

If you read this book, please let me know your thoughts. I am genuinely interested if anyone actually liked this book or any of Grey’s other work and why/how.

I, obviously, will not be reading any more of Grey’s books on my own terms. I also did not choose this book because I wanted to read it for fun. If it were possible, I would give this zero starts on Goodreads.


falling kingdoms

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊

This YA fantasy is part of a personal challenge to get through some of the books that have been on my TBR shelf for over a year. I bought this book many years ago, but never finished it. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t finish, because I really enjoyed the story this time around.

I loved all of the characters, and the story did have a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I really liked the complexity of the story and the many perspectives we follow, but it definitely feels like this book is setting up for the following ones in the series. The ending doesn’t feel totally resolved and there is a bit of a cliff hanger.

Now, be warned that Rhodes is not afraid to kill characters off and shock the reader, which may be why this series is often compared to Game of Thrones(GoT). I have not read or watched GoT, but this doesn’t seem as dark as that series based on this first novel and what I’ve heard.

Fair warning, there is some violence and lots of death in this book (and some hints of a brother being romantically interested in his sister, but it is tasteful in my opinion), so if you are sensitive to such things, you have been warned.

Even though I did very much enjoy this book, it only gets 4 stars because the writing is not very refined, and I found certain parts to be a bit lacking in detail. No book is truly perfect, but this one is still very good, and I enjoyed it a lot. The only thing I would change is that the writing style could use more “showing” than “telling”, which seems like a dumb complaint that everyone says in reviews/edits.

I would not call this a work of art or claim extravagant prose, but the characters are interesting and complex, the story is intriguing and takes some dark twists, and I was fully invested in this story and its characters throughout the entire ride.

If you like a heavier fantasy with lots of politics and a bit of romance, then I recommend giving this a try with the knowledge that the writing is not this book’s strong point, but it is pretty good.

I have not yet decided if I will continue the series, but I am leaning towards giving the second book a go this summer, if I have time. I just have so many books on my TBR already and some really good releases to get to this year. The reading struggle is real.

I feel like this book is good for any season, because one of the kingdoms is freezing over and the other is green and lively. The mood kind of switches around. I read this in Winter, obviously, and enjoyed it a lot.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34506912-the-prince-and-the-dressmakerThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is my top graphic novel of the month, by far. I absolutely love this book; so much so that I made two of my coworkers read it the same day I finished it. We all three were crying about it at work.

This romantic YA graphic novel is about a lowly seamstress who gets recognized by a member of the royal family for her creative work. There is some romance and family development. That’s all I can really say without spoiling too much.

The sexuality representation in this book is amazing, and it definitely challenges gender norms and societal expectations of relationships. Not to mention there is some great parenting advice within the story that had me in tears.

The art is great, the romance perfect, and the messages so important (especially for parents of nowaday teens).

If you need a cute/inspirational story in your life with a heartwarming romance and family presence, then this book is for you. It is a 40-ish minute read, but it is worth every second.

This is just such a wholesome experience with all the good feels, so I will be looking for more of Wang’s books to see if they have more stories similar to this one.

Please, let me know if you also read this graphic novel and how you felt about it.

That. Ending. Though.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/832981.Dragon_s_Fire

Dragon’s Fire (Shadow of the Dragon #2) by Tielle St. Clare 

My Rating: ♦ ♦  ◊ ◊ ◊

Okay, so don’t judge me… but this is a cheesy erotic romance that I read as a joke and a bit of a fun challenge for myself. My library got a bunch of these donated, so of course curiosity got the best of me, and I read the shorter of them.

This is trash. So much trash. But, I did enjoy reading it because it had me laughing the entire time. The writing is pretty bad, and the story is sooo bad, but I found myself wanting to finish it.

If you love these books, don’t be offended. This is just my opinion as someone who doesn’t read a lot of thee books! You have every right to enjoy these! I support your passion for any kind of reading.

The characters are dumb and pretty shallow, but I found myself rooting for them despite the cringe. The plot is not well paced or written, because most of it is horribly graphic and repetitive spicy scenes. On the other hand, if you skip some of the really weird/spicy stuff, the story isn’t that bad. I also did find the world to be interesting, even if it is pretty patchy and flawed.

It is saying something that I did like this more than The Trail Driver, and that was a more “serious” book.

There is some borderline non-consensual stuff in here and a lot of “scaley” action. Additionally, you can tell a hard-core feminist wrote this book, since there are descriptions about the main character being a strong woman and a fire goddess (this had me laughing). You’ve been warned, so keep an open mind if you do pick this up.

I would not go recommending this to anyone, unless they asked for a spicy romance with dragons and magic. If you are morbidly curious, tread carefully and let me know what you thought.

I can see why some people read these as guilty pleasures… it is pretty fun.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29540307-pilu-of-the-woods

Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen 

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is an adorable graphic novel with gorgeous art and a cute story.

There are a ton of good messages about life, love, and family for people in all stages of life. This book really touched my heart and had me feeling all warm inside.

There are some important elements of grief, childhood, family, identity, emotions, mental health, friendship, sibling love, and all kinds of life lessons within this short book.

This book was a contender for favorite graphic novel of the month, but wasn’t quite enough to stand against The Prince and the Dressmaker.

I love the way this book includes magic, nature, and identity. There were some gorgeous metaphors and tons of memorable moments. I will probably be revisiting my memories of this book that stuck with me into the future.

I would even put this on a list of books I’d want my children to read if they are struggling emotionally at any point in their later elementary to teen years. I think this book is even relateable for adults, if they can like the graphic novel format.

This would make a great children’s cartoon about growing up and identity, in my opinion. I would watch it. cx

I will definitely be looking into more of this author’s books and recommending this book to everyone I meet.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/693238.RamonaRamona by Helen Hunt Jackson

My Rating: ♦ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

I had to also read this book for class. This book is less terrible than The Trail Driver, but I still didn’t enjoy reading it.

There are some obvious issues with the way Jackson presents Native Americans, the mission systems, and other racial specifics. Not to mention, she plays into the noble savage archetype quite a bit.

The romance was tolerable up until a certain character moves on to a different man too fast. Some sexism and cult of the domesticity is also present in this book. There are also some bulky sections of the book that go off on a tangent about politics and history, which seem out of place.

I just didn’t like most of this book, but I wouldn’t say it left me feeling as bad as the other book we read. I would probably say my rating should be closer to 1.5 stars, because I wasn’t that mad at it.

At last Helen Hunt Jackson was trying to help Native Americans and had good intentions.

Like the other book I read for school, I would not recommend this to others and will not be seeking out other books by this author or in this genre on my own.

If you like old books written during controversial point in history, then you may want to give this book a try.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38958846-sheetsSheets by Brenna Thummler

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊

This YA graphic novel was the favorite book for 2019 for one of the booktubers that I follow, so I gave this one a go. It is about a girl who’s mother ran a laundry mat before she passed, and now the girl has to run it on her own while her father is consumed by depression and their family of three slowly reaches bankruptcy.

There are heavy themes of grief and death in this book since we also follow the ghost of a passed child and a mourning family, but I wouldn’t say it is too heavy.

I liked this book, but the art style wasn’t my favorite and I didn’t really feel anything for the characters. I think it is a good book, but it just didn’t resonate with me on as deep of a level as a five star book might.

If you enjoy stories that help with mourning and the acceptance of death with an interesting take on the afterlife, then this might be a good book for you. The world building is pretty interesting, but the characters and story aren’t for everyone.

Let me know if this book also just wasn’t a huge hit for you (like me), or if it is one of your favorites!


starless seaThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This might be my new favorite book of all time, therefore, this is obviously my favorite (non-graphic novel) book of the month.

From page one I was in love with this story. I am a die-hard fan of The Night Circus, which is also by Morgenstern, so I went in with pretty high expectations. I had heard some bad reviews for this book, but I have to say I don’t get what the issue is. The writing is beautiful, poetic, and dreamlike. The characters are complex and interesting. The story is multilayered and highly elaborate with so much to love. 

GO INTO THIS BOOK KNOWING AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.

Trust me, it will make the experience all the better. Do your research after you read this book in it’s entirety.

Now, if you do not actually read with intent or just skim through, you will be utterly confused. This story has many layers and does not follow linear time. Every other chapter or so is an excerpt from another time, a book within the story, or some other interlude that furthers your understanding of the current plot line (or raises more questions).

So, the people who didn’t like this story because it was “confusing”, should probably just read it again or pay better attention to the story.

Complicated books are usually just good books with substantial depth. Whenever I see a review that says a book is too complicated, I am more intrigued to read it, because “complicated” usually means there is a lot of substance and the world is thought through with many layers. I do not think that is a fault with the book, but the fault of the reader for not wanting to put in an effort. 

This isn’t always the case, I do get that some books are confusing because they are poorly written, but this is not the case most of the time and especially not for The Starless Sea, in my humble opinion.

With that said, everything in this story is a metaphor or analogy, and things aren’t always as they seem. This book had me audibly gasping, tearing up, and exploding with passion. I love all of it. The low-profile romance had me screeching with joy and frustration, and the never ending plot twists and realizations had me on edge constantly. 

I read the first quarter of the book, then listened to the rest on audiobook. I have to say that the audiobook worked well up until the last quarter of the book when I started getting confused. I suggest reading the end of the book if the audiobook becomes too much like it did for me.

I might even consider this to be my favorite standalone book of all time… which is a big title… but it might have climbed its way to the top of that list. 

This book is heavy in concepts and convoluted (in the best of ways), so I will definitely have to reread it. Even I don’t feel like I fully understood this book in its entirety.

This is for sure a winter read, because there is so much snow and cozy fires and snuggly moments with a heavy overtone of bookish love and magic.


Year in Books:

24 /50 Books Read (48%)

∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴

4,886 Pages Read

∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴

Average rating:  4.4 / 5 stars

[These are the numbers for the year, up to this point.]

 


PS:

sourceI did start Caraval by Stephanie Garber from my February TBR, but I just wasn’t feeling that kind of read, so I did put it aside for now. I do hope to return to it later. I also read a bit of Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb, but decided to put it aside for a new release, but I might continue with the audiobook next month.

 

I also read a book that is a secret for now, which is why the numbers don’t quite line up if you did any calculating/comparing. It isn’t even in my Goodreads… You’ll just have to wait. Yay, Secret Project!

 


What did you read this month? What was your average rating?

Don’t forget to check out my March TBR.

-Knight of Cups ❤


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