February might be a short month, but I still got lots of reading in! It was actually a really solid reading month, so I have some really good books to recommend if you haven’t read them yet.
Also, in case you missed it, I decided to write individual reviews for the five books I read to fulfill the challenges of Feminist Lit February. I really enjoyed participating in this readathon, and it was fun for me to do something different and write full reviews about them. If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out my thoughts on them all through the links below:
- Read a book of feminist fiction: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
- Read a book of feminist nonfiction: Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
- Read an own voices book: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
- Read a book written by a black woman or someone who is black and non-binary/gender fluid: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
- Feminist freebie: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown is the first book in a new trilogy, but I don’t want to discuss the plot line too much since it would seriously spoil the original trilogy, which I read in October. I highly recommend reading the Red Rising trilogy, which is a sprawling sci-fi series with tons of action and political machinations that’s heavily inspired by ancient Rome and that will keep you on the edge of your seats throughout every book. It was such a ride, and I loved every minute of it.
Oh man, though, this book. I was so looking forward to Iron Gold, but this sequel just fell really flat for me. It was really slow to get into with the four different storylines, especially since only two of them ever really converged. It was kind of like reading three different books at once, and each storyline had a ton of new characters to introduce you to. Plus I felt like just when things got interesting with a perspective I enjoyed, I had to switch to one I didn’t care about. I was also really disappointed in Darrow’s storyline and felt like he was a completely different person from the character I knew and loved in Red Rising. And I felt like this book was overly bloody. Yes, there was a lot of death in the original trilogy, but something about it in Iron Gold just felt overly descriptive and kind of gratuitous.
I desperately wanted to love this book, but I just didn’t, though I do seem to be in the minority with that opinion. Regardless, I’m excited that the sequel, Dark Age, will be out in September. I think I’ll wind up enjoying this sequel trilogy a lot more once the various pieces from the different storylines start to come together, but Iron Gold was just way too much exposition for me.
Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan
Once Upon a Marquess is the first book in Courtney Milan’s Worth Saga. After Judith’s father and brother are convicted of treason, Judith is forced to give up everything, including Christian, the man she loves—who happens to be the cause of her father’s conviction. Several years later, Judith finds herself forced to seek Christian’s help with a business matter, and the more time they spend together, the more they realize they’re still in love.
I’ve spoken numerous times on my blog about how I’m not the biggest fan of second chance romances, which I didn’t realize Once Upon a Marquess was when I went into it (I just picked it up because it was the first book in a series). But I actually wound up really enjoying it! I really liked Judith and Ashford together and enjoyed their banter a lot. And I loved seeing Judith recognize that as terrible as the last few years were for her, she learned a lot and was able to prove to herself what she’s capable of. It’s definitely an angsty and heartbreaking read, but it’s also really hopeful and was an incredibly satisfying romance. I’m really excited to continue with this series.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera is set in an alternate version of today’s world in which an organization called the Death Cast has developed that notifies people on their last day alive that they will die that day. Rufus and Mateo both got the call on the same day. Total strangers to each other, they connect through an app called Last Friend and decide to spend their End Day together.
Oh man. This book gutted me. I was actually a little hesitant going into it even though I’ve heard amazing things about Silvera because someone pointed out that it has a lot of similarities to The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, which I didn’t really like. And while it’s true that these books have similar setups and elements (they both take place in a day, they both involve short perspectives from side characters), I thought this was excellently executed. It’s such an interesting premise and I really liked how Silvera developed it fully and addressed that there would be a huge corporate industry springing out of something like the Death Cast, and I really liked getting to know Mateo and Rufus and seeing them grow throughout the day. The focus of this story was way more on their friendship and living their last day to the fullest, which made their fast-developed romance pretty believable for me. This book was incredibly well done and I really, really enjoyed it. I just wish we got more of Mateo and Rufus! This book wasn’t enough.
Daughters of a Nation by Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Piper Huguley, and Lena Hart
Daughters of a Nation is a collection of historical romance short stories centered around black suffragettes. The settings of these stories range from post-Civil War Nebraska to World War I-era Harlem.
I haven’t read romance short stories in a long time, but reading this collection reminded me why. Romance is really hard to do in a short story because you have to get to know the characters and see them clearly defined, and then watch them fall in love. It can be difficult to do in a full-length book, let alone in a short story that’s less than 100 pages. And then when you add in a bunch of history like these stories do, it’s pretty much impossible to pull together a really tight story, and in the case of most of these stories, the history overwhelms the characters. I really liked all of the history that was woven into these stories because they’re parts of history that we really don’t hear enough about, but I would personally skip all of these short stories except for Alyssa Cole’s. Hers was the only story that I felt provided a believable and satisfying romance that I really enjoyed, but the rest were kind of all over the place and left me wanting a lot more.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is your classic hate-to-love romance. Lucy and Josh are both executive assistants to the co-CEOs of a publishing house, and they hate each other. They do everything in their power to drive each other crazy, have numerous scuffles that wind up involving HR, and generally can’t stand each other. Their battle of wills only intensifies when they find themselves up for the same promotion, until one day the tension between them reaches it’s boiling point, and Lucy and Josh discover that maybe they don’t hate each other after all.
Omg, this book. I’m obsessed! I’ve heard great things about it (especially from Chelsea of chealseadolling reads) but took a while to finally pick it up. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with so much tension and chemistry, and it was perfect and had me racing through the entire book. Honestly, I ordered a physical copy before I even finished the library copy I was reading, that’s how much I loved it. I just really, really liked Lucy and Josh and their antics and watching Lucy slowly realize how desperate Josh is in love with her. They’re so perfect for each other, and I can’t even adequately express how much I love them. Even just writing this now is making me want to reread that book because I enjoyed it so, so much. Oh, and I’m officially obsessed with the scene at the wedding where Lucy defends Josh! Seriously, this book is great, and if you enjoy a good romance, I highly recommend checking it out, even if you’re not much of a contemporary fan! I’m predicting now that this will be on my list of favorite reads in 2018, it’s that good.
Women & Power by Mary Beard
Women & Power is a really short book by renowned historian Mary Beard about the historical relationship between women and power. Spoiler alert: it’s not a good relationship. I really enjoyed how Beard gave a different perspective on feminism that I haven’t really seen addressed before and got me to rethink how I view positions of power and the rare women who hold them. I do wish this had been a full-length book as opposed to the two short essays based on speeches that Beard has given because I’d like to learn a lot more about this topic, but it’s a really good start and was well worth the read.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the prequel to the first book in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, which revolves around a school for children who come back from fantasy worlds like Narnia and have trouble readjusting to this world. Down Among the Sticks and Bones follows two characters from the first book as they initially discover their portal world, a place called the Moors that’s heavily inspired by Gothic Victorian literature.
I…think I might have liked this book better than Every Heart a Doorway. It was just so moody and atmospheric, and it really felt like an adult fairy tale. The Moors would definitely not be the portal world I’d find myself in, but it was fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about it. This book was a really fun read, and I’m in awe of how McGuire packs so much into such a short story. In less than 200 pages, she created a fully formed world and fleshed out characters and examined some of the implications of rigid gender roles. It was so well done, and I’m really excited that McGuire will be continuing with this series. I have a copy of the latest book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, that I’m hoping to get to soon, and I’m excited to see what she has in store for us with the next five books.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dear Martin by Nic Stone is a gut-wrenching read inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Justyce is an Ivy League-bound black teenager, but his achievements and future mean nothing to the police officer who wrongfully arrests him one night when he’s just trying to help his ex-girlfriend get home. Shaken by this experience, Justyce starts writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and taking a more active stance in addressing race relations.
Speaking of packing a lot into such a short story, Stone did an amazing job with Dear Martin. It was really interesting comparing this to Daughters of a Nation because my major complaint about those stories was that too much was going on in them. You could easily argue that there’s too much going on in Dear Martin, because when you list out the various plot points, it’s a ton. But Stone handles them all so well! I really felt like I got a good sense of who the characters were in this story while they deal with a lot of important issues, and Stone did an amazing job weaving so many different themes into this book. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend checking it out.
Roomies by Christina Lauren
Roomies is a fun take on the marriage of convenience trope. Holland is drawn to a street musician named Calvin, and when her uncle is looking for a musician to change up his Broadway musical, Holland sets Calvin up with an audition. Calvin winds up blowing everyone away and is quickly given a job offer, only he can’t accept it because he’s Irish and he’s in the U.S. on an expired student visa. Desperate to change up her life and do something to give back to her beloved uncle, Holland proposes a marriage of convenience to Calvin so he can get a visa and perform in the show. But in the middle of pretending their marriage is real, the two start to realize they don’t really need to pretend.
This was a really fun read! I was laughing out loud for a lot of it and reading the jokes out loud to my husband, who was also amused, and I read through it in one evening. I really enjoyed Holland and Calvin and seeing Holland grow throughout the story. I will say, though, that there were a few things about this book that didn’t work for me. For one thing, I was really taken out of the story because I felt like the book really played into stereotypes of what life is like in New York and didn’t actually portray what life is like in the city, though I’m the first to admit that it’s a massive city and everyone has a different experience with it. I was also irritated with how privileged and spoiled Holland was and how little she recognized that, so I had a hard time being too invested in her story. I actually went a bit more in-depth about this book in my Goodreads review because I had so many thoughts, so definitely check that out if you want to know more. It was a fun and enjoyable read, but I just didn’t love it.
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
In Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James, Eugenia is the owner of the most successful governess agency in London. She’s used to dealing with demanding parents and guardians, but she’s never had to deal with the likes of Ward before. When Ward’s younger brother and sister scare off two of Eugenia’s premier governesses, she’s forced to take matters into her own hands—though Ward doesn’t really give her a choice when he kidnaps her!
I got this signed when it came out last February and then never read it, but I decided to pick it up because I’m trying to clear out books that have been hanging out for too long and someone in my book club recommended it. And I can’t believe I waited so long to read it, because it was so good! This is actually everything I love in historical romance. It’s not an angsty read, it’s just two people falling in love and trying to find a way to make things work. I really enjoyed Eugenia and Ward together and highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a solid historical romance. Plus the kidnapping was so funny and so well done. It’s far from your average kidnapping that you see in historical romances! Now I just have to go back and read more of James’ backlist, because I think you get a lot of characters from previous books showing up again in this one and I want to know all of their stories.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
It killed me a little to DNF this book because I really want to love Toni Morrison, but I was seriously struggling with this one. I only made it about 30 pages in, but I didn’t like the characters or the writing style, and when I looked up the plot on Wikipedia, I wasn’t thrilled with that either. I’d still like to read some of Morrison’s works and maybe one day circle back to Beloved, but I just don’t want to force myself to read it right now.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
In The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, Drew needs a date to his ex’s wedding in San Francisco, so when he’s charmed by Alexa while the two are stuck in an elevator, he impulsively asks her to be his date. Alexa wouldn’t usually say yes, but she’s drawn to Drew and figures why not. At the wedding, the two wind up having more fun together than they expected, and when Drew flies home to Los Angeles, the two decide to keep seeing each other. As the blurb says, “They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century—or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want… ”
This was a cute fun contemporary, but I think it’s overhyped. I felt like the dialogue was a bit stilted and not as snappy as, say, The Hating Game, and this book suffered from the same problem as a lot of contemporaries where there’s not really a good reason for Drew and Alexis not to be together. The woman who runs the romance book club I’m in pointed that out one day, and now I see it in contemporaries all the time! I would have thought the long-distance aspect could have created a sufficient barrier, but surprisingly it never really did. Of course, this book also probably suffered for me because I read it right after an Eloisa James book, and Guillory is a debut author, so I easily could have enjoyed this more if I’d read it at a different time, but I definitely didn’t love it as much as Seven Minutes in Heaven. It was a cute, fun read that I really enjoyed, and of course I’m 100 percent here for more diverse voices in romance, but this wasn’t my favorite.
This post wound up getting a lot longer than I thought it would! Between my Feminist Lit February reviews and the fact that February is a shorter month, I thought this wrap up might be a reasonable length, but clearly I thought wrong. Thanks for sticking with such a long post, and I’ll go back to splitting them up next month!
What’s your favorite book you read in February? Let me know in the comments!