How is February already over? I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. It was full of traveling and reading all the momentously fun things. In total I read twelve books that crossed seventeen different genres, with a total of 4,297 pages. Not to mention, I do feel like I’m personally evolving as a reader due to the fact that not only did I read a couple of classics, my highest read genre happened to be Romance. Puke. Followed by Contemporary and LGBTQ+ reads. Obviously, this was a great reading month and while most of the books were in the Romance genre, I found that those books provided levity and allowed me to focus and absorb the books that had more substance. One book made me take a step back and reevaluate my own perspective and activism, which I found powerful.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now, Jane Eyre, has been endlessly taunting me. However, with reading so many classics during the month of January I felt that intimidation factor begin to waiver and decided to take the plunge.
Jane Eyre is an absolute treasure to read and now I understand why so many people love it. The book kept me questioning everything and there was even a moment when I screamed at a character in the book for being an awful human being.
Naturally when I finished the book, I watched the BBC miniseries on HBO Max and was told that I should read Villette asap. Also, a fascinating fact, according to the interwebs, this was THE FIRST novel to be written in first person!
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Okay. Keeping it real, this was not a fun read and overall, a major disappointment. I absolutely loved the Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, which meant I naturally assumed I would love this book. However, I found the characters to be unlikeable and not compelling to read. I also found the plot points repetitive and lackluster. There is 300+ pages, three different sections of the novel, a multitude of characters, and not one character had any substantial developments.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I don’t know the last time I sat down and read a book in ONE day. I started this book around 9pm and finished reading at 3:50… It’s just so darn good! Absolutely loved the book, loved the movie, and loved the Hulu Series, Love, Victor.
Also, I’ve already picked up a copy of Leah on the Off Beat, the direct sequel to the book. I haven’t started it yet but it’s definitely in my March TBR.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Open Water is an astonishing debut novella written by Caleb Azumah Nelson who perfectly crafted every word carefully and purposefully. The writing is intimate, introspective, and lyrical all told in second person. Initially I thought this was only a love story; however, I quickly realized it is much more than that.
Easily a new favorite of mine.
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
It’s interesting how one’s perspective can change from year to year and how our taste can change and diversify. Sadly, this book didn’t leave me with the same feelings I had during previous reads.
At the core of it, I love the story, the characters, and all their dynamics. This book literally makes me laugh out loud, which really is the best medicine. For me what personally didn’t age well, revolved around politics. Especially the idealization of a few actual politicians who have done irreparable harm in their positions of power. Honestly, I wish McQuiston would have used fictitious names for all political leaders. It just doesn’t age well.
What I love about novel is that this is a queer story told through the lens of a bisexual Mexican American who just so happens to be the First Son and who just so happens falls in love with Prince. Queer stories are hard to come by especially queer stories told through the lens of a bisexual. I also love the fact that he’s a man of color and not a typical white character. Because again, this is another rarity. However, what I find interesting and honestly a bit under stimulating is that despite having a diverse cast of characters there is no real diversity or conflict in thought among the characters. Yes, this is a cute romcom so maybe the story doesn’t need it? But still as I’ve grown as a reader, I have come to find it’s something I personally crave.
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
The book that started it all. Eight seasons of The Vampire Diaries, five seasons of The Originals, and currently three seasons of Legacies, this universe of characters has provided me with so much entertainment.
Like the television show I was pleasantly surprised with how much I really enjoyed this book. Granted it does lack diversity within its cast of characters. However, because the TVD television series is one of my favorites, the lore of the show AND the performers who brought said characters to life really took precedence.
Expect a future blog, maybe even a vlog, where I break down the first four novels and discuss the similarities and differences between the books and the series. There are many differences but right now isn’t the time to dive into them head on.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
Say Nothing is an incredible piece of journalism regarding the conflict in Northern Ireland. Journalist/Writer Patrick Radden Keefe does a phenomenal job presenting the facts and key participants without giving the reader a biased perspective. Naturally I wanted to cheer for one side over the other; however, I couldn’t, which only goes to show how impactful this work is.
I also enjoyed the format regarding how the story is told. It almost felt like I was watching a Netflix Documentary full of a cast of complicated characters who lack moral clarity while also giving us a history lesson.
After finishing this book, I decided to watch I, Dolorous and have continued to go down this rabbit hole.
I highly recommend it. Especially if you like novels about politics, history, or true crime!
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
After reading, Say Nothing, I really needed a fluffy romcom to unwind. Not to mention, I was driving to the beach to escape for a few days. Friends, I understand why there is so much hype around this book. I get it. I see why so many people love it because I too love it, even if it’s a straight romcom.
The Hating Game is similar to Red, White, and Royal Blue in how we are introduced to the two main characters who initially dislike each other; however, you quickly learn that they are both actually in love with each other. Ahhh. So darn cute. And friends there is steam, yet I didn’t mind it, not one bit!
Intensity by Dean Koontz
Appropriately titled, Intensity, was an absolute thrill ride from the very beginning. Enter Chyna Shepard, a twenty-six-year-old who has returned with her best friend to her best friend’s childhood home in the Napa Valley. With being in a new environment, Chyna, is unable to sleep and finds herself up looking at the stars when she realizes a sociopath has entered the house with the purpose of murdering everyone.
Did I mention this all takes place in the first chapter? Yeah.
Trusting her instincts, Chyna’s able to always stay one step ahead of the killer when she realizes he has another girl, a child, held captive.
While portions of the novel revolve around Chyna and her mindset, other portions revolve around Edgler Vess the killer, a self-proclaimed homicidal adventurer. I found this to be an interesting format and a unique spin on the events that were unfolding. It also allowed for the story to grow and evolve.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
“Be bold and brave and queer.”
With a 4.27 rating on Goodreads, it’s safe to say that my opinion on this book is unpopular. That being, this book was a major let down. Now in full transparency I don’t typically read Young Adult; however, the only thing I really found to be YA about this novel was the writing itself. The content on the other hand had graphic depictions of sexual encounters. One that involved incestuous rape.
Clearly the book touches on heavy topics; however, key word touches, lacking any complexity or depth. With this read I was hoping it would provide a window into the perspective of the non-binary community. Especially since the author identifies as non-binary with they/them pronouns. However, it failed to do that, which was yet another disappointment.
After reading this memoir/manifesto I learned about the controversy surrounding it. Specifically, parents wanting it pulled from their children’s school libraries. Media compared this equivalent to book burning. That comparison is laughable, disgusting and ultimately a form of gaslighting the public. Who are we as a society to tell a parent what is or isn’t appropriate for their very children?
Would I give this novel to my goddaughter or friends whose children are in high school? No, major pass for me. However, I do wonder if this hadn’t been written/marketed towards a YA audience and was written for adults how I might feel about it.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Shocker… I’ve been seeing Heartstopper everywhere! However, it never really interested me. Then a few nights ago a YouTube video by @aliceoseman regarding how she initially self-published this graphic novel and then received publication from a publishing house caught my attention. As you all know I have a deep respect for artists. Cut to the next morning I went on the hunt for this novel and of course it was at none of the previous places I had seen it. So, I buckled and made the purchase at Barnes and Noble.
This book is an absolute delight and made my little black heart so happy!
Now I’m just waiting on payday so I can go buy the rest of the novels in the series.
Emma by Jane Austen
Reading an Austen has been on my list for years now. Truth be told I assumed it would be Northanger Abbey; however, that assumption, like most, was wrong.
Despite Austen famously describing Emma as, “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like’, I found her to be an interesting character to read. She is after all spoiled and vapid; however, what I enjoyed most was trying to figure out if Emma was a deviant narcist or if she was just that genuinely clueless.
To be honest, I’m still on the fence. She did have masterful manipulation skills.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Emma; however, the book is wordy. Really, too many unnecessary descriptions and too many characters! Yes, I said it. If I decide to reread this, I might opt for reading an abridged version.