Hellooo. Today I’m here to share my February Reading Wrap-Up, a summary of my thoughts on all the books I read this month. Though I strayed pretty far from my February TBR, I had a really good reading month (possibly the best February reading month ever). I read twelve books and started two others. Without further ado, here’s what I read in February!
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (5 stars)
I read most of this novel in January; I finished the last 20% of it on the first day of February. It was wonderful, packed, and exhausting. I think the show, which I watched first, has really done Martin’s high fantasy world justice, and its producers certainly enhanced characters and plot lines in season 1 that were a bit scant in the first installment of the book series. As far as Martin’s writing goes, I didn’t find it to be overly dense or difficult to follow. However, for whatever reason (though not for lack of interest), this book took me awhile to finish—just over a week. Regardless, I loved it, and it was really cool to read the source material of one of my favorite television shows. I will definitely be continuing on with the series, though I don’t think I’ll be reading its installments back-to-back.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (4 stars)
My English class read the play aloud in school. I got to read Algernon’s lines for Act I. I thoroughly enjoyed Wilde’s wit and humor, and the play’s satirical elements certainly highlight his social commentary on both Victorian society and people in general. I found myself grinning and chuckling in class whilst reading; the play is really quite amusing.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (re-read)
Oh, wow. Where to even begin? For a very long time, The Twilight Saga was one of my absolute favorite series, a real obsession. For that reason, I will always love Twilight. It was so important to me during a critical developmental period of my life, and re-reading it for the first time in two and a half years (and six years after reading it for the first time) was nostalgic and wonderful. But it also showed me how much my reading tastes have evolved. I was able to see the flaws in Twilight that I have blissfully overlooked in the past, and I laughed a lot while reading because, honestly, the book is incredibly cheesy. But despite it all, I still enjoyed it. I don’t know if I’d be able to stomach Twilight now if I were reading it for the first time. I tend to loathe paranormal romance as a genre, and Twilight definitely contains some of my most-hated tropes: insta-love, ridiculous drama, and moody good-bad guys. However, I think Twilight is gripping because Bella is relatable and a blank slate—women can easily imagine themselves in her place. The writing style is addictive, and though not of the highest quality, easy and quick to read. Twilight has always been an escape for me, and this was the first time (out of 10+ times) reading it that I simply enjoyed the story on the surface, rather than sinking in and becoming engrossed. It has become a light, fun, and nostalgic book for me, rather than the best book I’ve ever read omg. (FYI: I re-read Twilight in the 10th anniversary addition, but have not yet gotten to Life and Death. Also, I definitely think Edward’s perspective is more interesting than Bella’s, at least now—I can’t speak for my 11-15 year-old self. I’m still hoping for Midnight Sun!)
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (re-read)
Despite being my least favorite book of the saga the first time around, New Moon has consistently been one of my favorites to re-read. This time was no exception, as I found it to be a significant improvement from my Twilight re-read. New Moon is better written, and though it does have its cheesy and melodramatic moments (like, say, Bella’s entire reaction to Edward leaving), it lacks some of the annoying tropes that Twilight contains. The biggest difference is that Bella’s relationship with Jacob in New Moon is much more developed than her relationship with Edward in Twilight (which I will concede is mega insta-lovey). I like Bella better in New Moon, though she is oftentimes still so incredibly slow at grasping things. Regardless, I enjoyed re-reading New Moon immensely, and found that most of my chuckling (or outright laughing) aloud was appropriate—Stephenie Meyer sure knows how to play with timing and awkwardness to create humor. If I were re-rating the books now from a completely fresh perspective (which I will absolutely not do—they will retain the 5-star ratings I gave them in sixth grade), I would hesitantly give Twilight 3 stars and New Moon a solid 4. And for the first time ever, I do feel the need to leave a disclaimer that yes, I understand the Twilight books are not the greatest works of literature ever. I rate books based on a number of factors, including enjoyment and purpose. The Twilight books are meant to be entertaining, addictive, and probably a bit angsty and romantic. For the most part, they fit the bill, if you ask me.
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (re-read)
Eclipse was my favorite book in the Twilight series when I first read it, and it has remained my steady favorite since then (despite the fact that I think I’ve consistently enjoyed re-reading New Moon more). It’s quite a long book, and somehow, simultaneously a lot happens and not a whole lot happens. I enjoyed re-reading it, but I found the pace/plot lagging in some places. Also, I realized that I 100% do not buy into the whole “Bella is in love with Jacob” thing. She loves him, and that’s it. Her feelings for him were not in one way romantic (aside from her considering loving him near the end of New Moon, before Alice returns) until he “tricked” her into kissing him at the end of Eclipse. *Cue eye roll.* I did like how Edward changed throughout this book; he went from being über controlling and overprotective to finally giving Bella some freedom and choice. However, their relationship is one hot mess—Edward can be very overbearing and Bella too submissive. But I can’t even get into that in one short blurb review. Maybe another time… My favorite scenes were 1) Alice guilting Bella into letting her plan her wedding, 2) the infamous tent scene, and 3) the Jacob-Edward face-off on Charlie’s lawn after Jacob kisses Bella against her will.
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (re-read)
Well, thus concludes the easiest re-read of the Twilight series that I’ve ever had—emotionally, at least. I have always been of the opinion that the last half of Breaking Dawn is the best part of the series. Not only because Bella is finally a vampire, but also because she starts to hold her own. She shines in her new form, taking control and standing up for herself. And her relationship with Edward is much more equal, though that relationship takes the back-burner big time as Renesmee takes center stage in the plot and the characters’ lives. Yes, everything is tied up super nicely at the end, almost to a fault. But doesn’t the movie make up for it, what with that epic vision/“plot twist”? *winks*
Midnight Sun draft by Stephenie Meyer (re-read)
Ah, how I very much wish Stephenie would suck it up and finish this book. If not for me, then for her mother. I find Edward’s perspective fascinating, mainly because it differs so drastically from Bella’s. Both think they are quite transparent in their words and actions, and yet both are insecure, self-conscious, and, in many ways, oblivious to the other’s feelings. I think the relationship between Bella and Edward is better explained and developed in Midnight Sun than in Twilight, mainly because we actually get to see and understand the specific traits in Bella that draw Edward to her. Midnight Sun also enhances your perspective on the Cullens and their daily life, and let’s be honest—they’re probably the most fascinating and intriguing characters in the Twilight world. I would definitely recommend reading Midnight Sun if you love or have ever loved Twilight!
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (re-read)
Bree starts out her novella as a not particularly likable character. She has no regard for human life, and the opening scenes are… graphic. However, as she begins to form a connection with Diego and, later, Fred, Bree becomes more relatable. She’s intuitive and has had a hard knock life, both as a human and a vampire. I love that she silently aids the Cullens in the face of the Volturi and her impending death. It was interesting to understand the newborn army and battle better, and to see the Cullens and Edward from a perspective other than Bella’s. Also, being a vampire is not all glam and glory, if you’re living the way Bree and her coven did. Yuck. The last line of the book—Edward saying, “Don’t watch.”— gives me chills because in Eclipse, it’s as though he is speaking to Bella, while in The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Edward could easily have been speaking to Bree. Poor Bree. I wish she and Diego had run away as soon as they discovered their immunity to sunlight, or that she’d gone with Fred to Vancouver. Bree ended up being a good person in the end, relatively speaking, and her ending, written from her own perspective this time, was both inevitable and haunting. RIP.
Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer (3 stars)
Twilight reimagined. Sort of. I read Life and Death out of curiosity and a sense of compulsion, and this book gave me a complex. I am rating it on the basis of it being BONUS material, not an actual finished book. Admittedly, it was cool to see the ending, the what if, that we’ve all considered in Twilight. It made me realize that the way Meyer did it with Bella was the better way, even though it was frustrating at times because OMG EDWARD JUST CHANGE HER ALREADY. I thought Beau’s cooking and cleaning for Charlie was pretty unrealistic, but I liked most of the changes Meyer made. I think they improved her writing and the original story, and also made Beau’s perspective a bit more realistic. I think the concept of gender-swapping the novel is really cool, but Meyer could have made it better by going one step further and re-writing the story naturally from scratch, rather than trying to fit it into the original. It was a bit awkward, and didn’t work out or fit right with the original characterization at times. And the names are So. Much. Worse. But again, it’s bonus material. I definitely would have preferred to read from Edythe’s perspective rather than Beau’s, but in that case, Stephenie Meyer might as well have just finished Midnight Sun. I’M NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER, STEPHENIE. Anyway, the ending was REALLY rushed, and a TOTAL info dump. The ending, and the way it was constructed, more than anything, is what really would have detracted from the story and my rating had Life and Death been a “real” novel. I recommend checking Life and Death out if you still have an interest in Twilight. It was fun and interesting to read, but I doubt I’ll ever re-read it. Never say never though, right?
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer (4.5 stars)
I thought this was a very interesting, thorough, and well-done guidebook. It satisfied a lot of my curiosity and contains a good deal of bonus content and backstories. There is a TON of great material in the guide.I recommend reading this book if you’re still interested in the Twilight universe!
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (5 stars)
Wow. Where to even begin with this book? It is wholly and completely and utterly amazing. Everyone should read it. Yes, it is young adult historical fiction. But adults should read it, too. It’s eye-opening and life-changing, haunting and poignant, so raw and real. Ruta’s writing is eloquent and unique. I read it really quickly; the pages and short chapters that alternate between four perspectives just fly by. The one change I would have made would be to denote the final chapter (Florian’s perspective) as an epilogue. That’s it. I loved Salt to the Sea so much that I can’t even describe what I loved about it. This will most likely make my top books of the year list, and is probably a new all-time favorite. It’s just that good. It has almost a 4.5-star rating on Goodreads. What the heck are you waiting for? GO READ IT.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (4.5 stars)
I think that, for the most part, Between Shades of Gray is a solid 4-star book. However, I’m a sucker for war fiction, especially set in WWII, and so I gave it a slightly higher rating than the storytelling itself may warrant. Also, I began reading this immediately after finishing Salt to the Sea, which completely blew me away, so it’s a bit unfair of me to compare it to that and expect it to live up to those ridiculously high expectations. That being said, Between Shades of Gray is still a really good book that deals with an aspect of WWII that isn’t covered in many history textbooks. Most of the characters were of varying shades of gray themselves; few were black and white, completely good or evil. Nikolai Kretzsky was one said gray character who intrigued me quite a bit. I think this novel would have been better had the narration altered between several perspectives, rather than being told just by Lina. Nikolai and Andrius are two characters whose backstories I’d like to have seen. And Lina often got on my nerves. The middle of the book drags a little and is slow, and the ending is good, but quite abrupt. There is an epilogue, but many strings are left untied. I suppose it is purposeful, as many questions probably remained unanswered for Lina. However, I was left wanting more. Did her dad really die? What happened to Kretzsky? How did she and Andrius find each other again? Why was she released from Siberia after 12 years instead of 25? So much is left untold. But really, Between Shades of Gray is a good book. I just think Salt to the Sea is much better—more unique, powerful, moving.
BITS & PIECES
I started reading Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie at the beginning of the month and I read the prologue of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak at the end of the month.
What was the best book you read in February? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks for reading.