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February 2021 Wrap-Up

I can't believe a year has passed since the coronavirus first hit the US. I remember going into March of last year, so hopeful for spring and all the adventures that warm weather can bring. Despite the hardships of the last twelve months, I still have that same sense of hope and excitement (I really hope I'll be able to get vaccinated this spring season).

The cold and snow of February brought a lot of time for me to read and enjoy the books that had been waiting on my shelf to be opened. I chose 3 books by Black authors for Black History Month. Although I read books by Black authors all the time, this month reminded me again of how diverse and vibrant Black stories are, and how important it is to consciously pick up books by authors of every race and experience.


Black History Month picks

I chose this book in the spirit of Valentine's Day as it's a typical romcom chit-lit novel but with an aspect that's rare for the genre ---- two Black main characters. There's probably a number of factors as to why it's uncommon to see exclusively Black love in women's contemporary literature, but honestly, they're probably the same factors that make it difficult to find Black main characters in many mainstream fiction novels. If you're curious as to why this is, I would definitely recommend doing some research on Black stories in the publishing industry.

Although I'm not a big fan of chick-lit, I picked up this book specifically because it showcases Black love in a way that's refreshingly normal and fun. While it's important to read antiracist literature and books that exemplify the hardships people of color face in this country, I also think it's important to read books that illustrate Black stories that are honestly just entertaining.

The Wedding Party has a genre-typical plot line ---- two people who hate each other are forced to work together when their mutual best friend is getting married. A drunken night together turns into more and they question whether their differences will hinder them from going deeper. Not my favorite storyline and I was certainly rolling my eyes at the cliches and predictable twists but it was an easy, fun read appropriate for Valentine's Day.

If you typically enjoy romcom novels, I think you would definitely appreciate the entertainment of this one.

Rating: 6/10


If you read my Top Books of 2020 post, you'll know that my top book of the year came from Octavia Butler. She's inching close to being one of my favorite sci-fi authors of all time. Her prose is just so straight-forward yet haunting, clear and concise but impactful. And her plot lines are unlike anything I've read before.

I've been branching out on my genres recently and read two books of short stories this month. Although the framework isn't my favorite, I've still been enjoying the artistry that comes with writing stories that are so succinct.

Bloodchild is a collection of Butler's most famous short stories, with the title being her most celebrated. The stories are some of the strangest, most creative works of fiction I've ever read. The title one, Bloodchild, is especially affecting. The best thing about this book is that Butler herself adds a chapter after each story explaining her inspiration, which helps greatly when deciphering what the hell was going on. She takes inspiration from earthly oddities and combines them with her own questions of science 'what ifs.' Bloodchild sprang from the eccentric combination of her wondering what would happen if men, not just women, were able to birth other beings, and her real-life fear of insects called botflies, creatures in Peru that lays its eggs in wounds left by the bites of other insects. Trust me, the end result is as disturbing and mind-bending as it sounds.

Fans of sci-fi, especially speculative fiction, will probably enjoy these stories as much as I did. This work just proves to me that Butler is one of the most talented fiction writers I have ever encountered.

Rating: 8/10


America's political realm has been so intense, exhausting, and disheartening over the last few years that I wouldn't be surprised if some people simply rolled their eyes at any politician putting out a memoir. However, whatever your opinion is of Barack Obama, it's hard to deny that he is a decent man who truly wants the best for America and its citizens, no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic status, or political beliefs. He is also an incredible writer who puts a lot of heart and effort into everything he does.

This is a big book, clocking in at 701 pages. It's probably not for casual readers, and it's definitely not for readers who have zero interest in politics. But for someone like me, who got a minor in politics in college and enjoys understanding the framework and policy decisions of this country, this memoir was a no-brainer. I would suggest if you're thinking about tackling this book, to consider the audiobook version. Listening to Obama's experiences through his own voice was honestly a wonderful and calming experience.

My favorite parts of the book were hearing about him grapple with his own emotions and especially his very human moments throughout his campaign and presidency. He definitely goes a little too heavy into his policy decisions and outlines the exact context in which he made his decisions, but I can't really blame the guy considering people have constantly skewered him for every choice he made. His best moments are when he describes coming into contact with ordinary Americans, explaining little details that have been burned into his mind and shaped his legacy as an empathetic and kind leader. He also consistently views his experiences through the lens of his unique background and empathizes with Americans from all races and socioeconomic statuses ---- raised by a white mother from Kansas in Hawaii with her Midwestern parents, with his Kenyan father largely absent. Despite all the nonsense thrown his way about his background and heritage, I greatly admire that Obama takes pride in his eclectic upbringing, saying time and time again that his story exemplifies the best and most unique aspects of America.

It's fascinating to hear what he was thinking and feeling in some of the most critical moments of the last decade. He laughs at his own dad jokes and curses when he recalls his frustrations. He comes off wonderfully normal and ordinary, just a regular man trying to figure out how to make other people's lives better. He certainly has an ego but I think you have to have it in order to be a politician. And the thing I love most about Obama is his incredibly resilient sense of hope. He truly believes this country can be better and will be better if people put aside their differences and work together. His rhetoric is one of unity and collaboration, which is so damn refreshing in today's political sphere.

Obama's words, heard in his own deep and slow voice, felt incredibly warm and affecting, and I actually teared up way too many times for a political memoir. This book gave insight into a man who believes the best in America, and whose sense of hope is so genuine that it's impossible not to feel it too with each page turn.

Rating: 8.5/10


Some might recognize this author from her more famous dystopian work, Station Eleven. I read that book a few years ago and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't super invested in the plot or characters. I did think she was a talented writer and saw potential depending on the story.

I had The Glass Hotel on hold via e-book from my library for months since it was very popular when it was released and I knew it would take time before it got to me. I didn't have many expectations going into this book, which I've realized is a much better way to get into a story.

The book combines two seemingly separate events ---- the fallout of a Ponzi scheme on Wall Street and the disappearance of a woman from a ship out at sea. As the story continues, the two events take shape and start connecting through flashbacks of several characters, mainly through Vincent, a bartender who wants more from life when she meets a millionaire who is willing to give her a fresh start if she agrees to be his companion.

I was surprised at how much I liked this book. The unique plot line really pulled me in and I finished it within a day or two. I was never bored and felt connected to the story the entire time. It was a unique way to illustrate childhood trauma, how it has a ripple effect on a person's entire life. The pacing was perfect, the characters were flawed yet engaging, and the ending was one I wasn't able to guess.

For a page-turning fictional read exploring the human psyche and how people are intricately connected, definitely check this one out.

Rating: 8/10


My other work of short stories for the month, Exhalation also falls under the genre of sci-fi and speculative fiction. I had this one on my shelf for a few months as it was a Christmas gift from my roommate, one that I had on my wishlist for a long time. The cover really got me (I'm a sucker for a good cover), and the blurb only further heightened my expectations.

Chiang tackles some of world's oldest and most poignant questions through these nine stories. Many involve technology and imagining how artificial intelligence might change humanity, and others surround strange dimensions where humans are built differently but still tackle the meaning of life and mortality.

There were definitely areas where I felt a little lost, struggling to keep up with Chiang's incredible imagination and the realities he was attempting to create. But each story left me pondering the role technology plays in our lives and how different the world is because of it. I think it's not secret that I love sci-fi and speculative fiction, especially when it causes me to question my own worldview. Chiang masterfully spun nine stories, some better than others, but all impactful in one way or another.

Rating: 8/10


I had this strange itch to read Sarah Dessen around the middle of the month, specifically Valentine's Day. After reading a few hefty and emotionally heavy books, I was in need of a delicious Dessen novel to whisk me away. I've read This Lullaby multiple times over the last decade, and it never fails to disappoint.

Typical of a Dessen story, This Lullaby follows Remy, a high school senior who is one summer away from a new life in California for college, separate from her chaotic mother and her mother's new and irritating fifth husband. Remy has no disillusions when it comes to love and how much it can hurt a person, and she continuously drops guys she dates before it can get too serious. The death of her absent father and mother's history with men pushes Remy to find control where she can. But when she unexpectedly falls for a disheveled and goofy guitar player, she begins to wonder if she is hurting herself more by not taking a chance on imperfect love.

This book is cheesy, slightly predictable, but nonetheless incredibly warm and charming and filled with those distinctive Dessen details that I absolutely love. I'm not sure why I crave hearing about the gas station Coke that Remy and her friends drink, or how smelly and shaggy and adorable her boyfriend's dog is, or the outfit Remy picks out to get drunk at a bar with her friends, but I do and those details make Dessen's novels feel so incredibly real and tangible. It makes me feel close to Remy and I can imagine myself in her shoes, which is exactly why I love fiction so much.

If you need a break from reality for a bit and want to get lost in a nostalgic and cute story about love and life, any Sarah Dessen novel will do but This Lullaby is certainly one of my favorites.

Rating: 8.5/10


If you're stuck in a reading rut or feel uninspired and want to get into a book catered to your interests, you can head over to the Personalized Recs page and I will send you some books I think you'll love.

Stay safe and happy reading!


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