February 2019 Wrap-Up

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Is it just me or does February feel like the longest month of the year? Despite being shorter than the other eleven months, it’s the only one that truly feels like an eternity.

Fortunately, I was able to fill the endless month with good books. Well, mostly. I read five books this month, four of which I gave high ratings. One, the only ARC I read this month, got an abysmally low rating. Still, I regard February as a decent reading month. #QualityOverQuantityFTW

Now let’s leap into the nitty gritty of all the books I read in February.

  1. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman


In a world much like our own, ten-year-old Lyra embarks on an adventure north to rescue her uncle Lord Asriel and friend Roger. Meanwhile, children are going missing and there’s a lot of hubbub around this mysterious Dust. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon meet many interesting characters along the way, including a talking bear named Iorek, a nefarious gentlewoman named Miss Coulter, and a witch queen named Serafina. But Lyra’s journey may be doomed to end in tragedy, as saving one loved one may require betraying the other.

I really enjoyed this book. I never read it as a kid, but I don’t think it came as a detriment to my enjoyment. On the contrary, it may have enhanced it! There’s a timeless quality to Pullman’s writing. I had no trouble connecting to and loving Lyra, despite being fifteen years her senior. I definitely plan on continuing the series soon, especially since the ending of this book sets up Lyra and Pan’s next adventure nicely. I gave this first book four stars.

  1. Prince of Air and Darkness by M.A. Grant


Phineas Smith is the only human student at Mather’s School of Magick. He has the rare ability to tap into unlimited magick and both Faerie Courts will do anything to get him on their side. As war looms on the horizon, Phineas must form an alliance with his roommate and nemesis, Unseelie Prince Roark Lyne. Caught in a fog of sexual tension and dislike, the boys begin to grow closer. But this newfound intimacy may unlock a secret that could either turn the tide of the war or destroy them both.

Hoo boy, I really did not like this book. I had a whole host of problems with it, including but not limited to: everything is told not shown, annoying characters, no/minimal natural chemistry, contrived scenes, unnatural dialogue, contradicts itself constantly, characters don’t understand how the world works despite living in it for years, muddled lore/lack of world building, poor pacing/time jumps, development/action off page, and misuse of words (ex. ennui). For a full rant, check out my review. I gave it one singular star.

  1. The Power by Naomi Alderman


This speculative fiction piece takes a look at what the world would be like if women developed a power men did not have. Taking place over roughly ten years, the story chronicles how this new ability shifts the balance of power. It follows a foster-kid-turned-saint, a mob daughter, a Congresswoman, and a Nigerian reporter as they adjust to the new world order. It’s a frightening exposé of our own world, told through the lens of a matriarchy.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fascinating thesis on feminism. Because, make no mistake, this is a feminist book.

I’ve seen a few readers say this book isn’t feminist. I imagine that’s because they expected a story in which women develop a new power and fight against injustice. That’s not what this story is.

The main theme of this book is the old adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This book fights back against some of the louder, more extreme feminists who argue that a matriarchy would be superior and more peaceful than the patriarchy we live under.

Instead, Alderman asserts that any power imbalance will inevitably be abused. Giving women control of the world will not solve our problems— true equality will.

Moreover, this book is a lesson in empathy. What Alderman has done is to flip the script. The things women do and say to and about men in this book are what men do and say to and about women in the real world. It’s a way to show men how women feel and suffer by turning the suffering on them.

And no, not all men treat all women horribly. But, on a societal level, this is the worst it can be for a woman. This isn’t even a Western culture-centric book. There are clear parallels to countries where women are true second class citizens.

Alderman’s point is made crystal clear by the pretend letters between her and a querying male writer. This book comes from another world, essentially. One just like ours, but different in one surprising way.

So yeah, this book is feminist in the truest sense of the word. It argues that no one group should have most or all of the power. Its take on feminism isn’t new or remarkably nuanced, but it’s far more nuanced than critics give it credit for. I gave it four stars.

  1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds


Told entirely in verse, the power of this story is in the statement it makes over the (non-existent) plot or the characters. Will’s brother Sean has just been killed. Per the rules of his neighborhood, Will takes Sean’s gun and goes to kill the guy who killed his brother. As he rides the elevator of his apartment building down, he is joined by someone connected to Sean on every floor. They each give him a piece of the story of Sean’s life, pieces Will never knew about. But it’s the ending that truly bowls you over. You’ll never be the same for reading this book.

What can I say? This is such a powerful story. It really hits you like a punch to the gut. I read the whole thing in about an hour and am still thinking about it a week later. I’m so glad I read this for Black History Month. I gave it a well-deserved five stars.

  1. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi


Magic is gone in Orïsha, leaving millions of children like Zélie oppressed and abused. On a trip to the capital to sell fish, Zélie helps a young girl escape. This girl turns out to be the princess and she holds the key to bringing magic back. In a race against time, Zélie, her brother, and the princess go on a quest to save Zélie’s people. But they’re being pursued by the Crown Prince who will stop at nothing to ensure magic never comes back. Can Zélie revive magic and rescue her people?

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while and figured Black History Month was the perfect time to read it. I really like this world and the magic system. I was sure I was going to rate this book four stars. The problem is a couple of the characters have confusing arcs. One does a complete 180 almost out of nowhere. These characters waffle on their beliefs and convictions so much. Then a part of this book got really romance heavy, despite doing no work to build up said romance. The pacing in the last third of the book is off. I liked the twist at the end and am eager to see how it plays out in the next book. So yeah, I’ll continue the series. I just thought this first book was just okay. I gave it three stars.

What did you read in February? Tell me about it in the comments!

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One thought on “February 2019 Wrap-Up

  1. I think reading The Golden Compass for the first time as an adult enhanced my enjoyment of it too. It’s such a wonderful series!

    Liked by 1 person

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