February allowed many changes in my life and, consequently, in my blog. I started my full-time internship early in the month and as a result I read more audiobooks during my commute, and I ended up preferring to read more on my Kindle on my 15-minute train ride to and from work. This month was also my first month of joining NetGalley, where I received several e-ARCs for the first time ever. I also realised that this life change gave me more time to blog! I tried to scroll through my Reader at least once every two days, and to do more blog-hopping. I discovered a lot of lovely new blogs and I also reached my all-time highest page views in a month! Everything is so exciting, but anyways, these are the books I read in February.
Bumi Manusia by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
A novel set in early 20th century Indonesia during the Dutch collonialism, it is a story of Minke, our protagonist, who is an Indonesian teenage boy finding himself in love with a girl. From then on, his life evolves and we learn more about him finding his way through life, finding himself, and learning more about his country and the people in it than he has ever learned in school.
Ultimately, what I loved about this book was Minke, who always has this internal battle within himself as a young man growing up the way he did, and he is a very compassionate, clever, caring, and strong character. I love the other characters in the book, mainly Minke’s mother and Annelies’s mother, but also the antagonists. A lot of things happen in this book. I really liked the way everything flowed, and the ending was interesting in the way that it’s slightly unpredictable and also thought-provoking.
I did find that I was never really pulled into the story at all, and when I wasn’t forcing myself to read it, I would not pick the book up at all. I even stopped reading midway through for 3 months and then decided to continue reading it again.
All in all, Bumi Manusia was a book that I felt glad I had read. It was insightful and a must-read for all Indonesians, and if you’re not Indonesian and want to know more about what it was like in the past, then this is the book for you. It’s full of culture, social lessons, and feminism that I didn’t expect a book that old to have. Additionally, its characters were wonderful to follow and the main character was able to beautifully push the plot and pull all the themes towards where the author wanted the readers to be aware of. A great read, though slow, old and not entirely a huge page-turner.
Lost in the Beehive by Michele Young-Stone
My first ever e-ARC, and my first 5-star read of the year! A young teenage girl, Gloria, begins this novel by being brought into a mental institution in the 60s that was designed specially for gay teenagers. She is our main character, a clever, loving, delicate and pleasant girl at the time, who happens to be a lesbian. From there she befriends a boy, Sheff, and their friendship evolved, taking a huge role in her life.
The themes discussed in the book are just admirably well written. Not just about LGBTQ in America in the 1960s, but also themes about death and loss, marriage, family. The aspect of being yourself and happiness is the vein that runs through this book, and it’s a wonderful insight to read. The plot of this story was also something I highly enjoyed from this book. The writing’s pacing was never too slow or too fast. For me it’s a great combination of exciting, great character building, and wonderful description of atmosphere, setting, and situation.
Overall this book was profoundly touching, and the main character, though some people might not like her or might think she’s slightly bland and boring, for me was wonderful to read about. The relationships she made along her life were all interesting to read about, and in the end the story was beautifully written and evoked many emotions from me. It never failed to bore me, and I literally never want to put the book down.
(DNF) Final Goodbyes by Signe Christenssen
This book had so much potential. I was interested with the premise ever since I read about the synopsis. A woman finds out her brother and his family died in a gruesome attack. His wife and daughter were murdered brutally (though it wasn’t very described the exact nature of their deaths) and the man hung himself alongside them.
However the writing style just wasn’t for me. The author did too much telling and not enough showing, which is the number one mistake that was immediately noticeable. I also could feel the repetition, the unnecessary description of things that shouldn’t even be mentioned, yet leaving out other important things that should be mentioned.
There wasn’t enough of anything for me to keep going. On thrillers and mysteries, I expect an intriguing mystery, something that always keeps you on the edge. Added to that was the constant misspelling and wrong punctuation that just ruins the flow of the story for me. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the urge to continue reading after a quarter through the book.
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
This was one of the books that I mostly did not read while commuting, because I had a physical copy of the paperback instead of its digital version on Kindle. A thrilling suspense about a woman who forgets all her memories after she sleeps, this novel has been a book I’ve been looking forward to read for quite some time. I’m very glad I read it! But it wasn’t an amazing book.
t felt a little too descriptive and lyrical to be realistic, since as a reader I’m imagining that I’m reading a diary entry, not a novel. Christine’s retelling of the day felt at times too poetic and well thought-of, even though she says that she is writing is hurriedly. The characters are interesting because the only person we are sure is innocent is Christine herself because she’s the main character.
Thought the plot was quite slow at first, it picked up very significantly by the end of the story. It kept me wanting to read more, and though the ending was not amazing, it was a huge page-turner.
Overall Before I Go to Sleep was a great thrilling book. It has an excellent premise that was handled really well. Everything that the character uncovered was important to the story, and made the readers more curious and doubtful for everyone. With great writing and interesting characters, it was all in all a good thriller to sink your teeth into, especially if you’re looking for a thrilling novel that’s not rambly or too long, and is not extremely dark or too filled with violence.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This moving memoir with fantastic good reviews (an average rating of 4.25 on Goodreads!) started with our narrator, Jeannette Walls herself, going on a taxi in the streets of New York when she sees her mother rummaging through the dumpster. The contradiction between her as someone married to a rich man, riding taxis, going to events while her mother is a homeless person with ragged clothes sets up the narration and we go back to when she was a child.
This book journals Jeannette and her family, and how she was brought up by her emotive, spontaneous, lively, and very very different parents. Her mother and father both had unique perspectives in life and in raising their four children, and it really shows in the way Jeannette lives, jumping from town to town.
Jeannette has a wonderful way of writing, and she depicts her childhood with great detail. I love all the people in her life, I think they are all very interesting people to read.
What I adored from this book, and it was also mentioned in the description of the book, is how Jeannette would recount her experiences with her parents, who would oftentimes treat her badly and raise her in an unorthodox way, with such dearness and love. I would’ve hated my parents if they had raised me that way: not feeding me properly, not giving me the right education, rarely bathing me and not caring when I hurt myself. In the end I did sympathise with both Jeannette’s mom and dad. They were wonderful people in their own way, and in the end we could all see how much the Walls couple loved their children and wanted nothing but the best.
I was so amazed with what Jeannette and her siblings went through. It made you realise how other people can be so unique and how you can’t really know a person even when you know their past. Everyone was brought up different, and everyone had different childhoods. With great narration, wonderful people, and overall emotionally moving story, I couldn’t help but give this book 5 stars. I honestly see no flaw in it. And I cannot wait to watch the movie adaptation!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
A reread of Harry Potter in audiobook format was wonderful. I would listen to Stephen Fry’s voice when I’m commuting in the dark, cold mornings and though I have always loved this first book of the series even if it’s not my favourite, it’s a splendid way to relive my childhood favourite.
Now that I’m a more critical reader, rereading the book for the I don’t know how many times, I did find some Easter eggs and some slight plotholes throughout the book. The small details that will serve to be important for the next books was always fun to chuckle upon. And of course, this book wasn’t perfect. There are tiny holes in the plot and in the overall magical parts of the world that didn’t really make sense. But I try to look past those.
My favourite character from this book is probably Harry. He is a wonderful protagonist: humble, brave, caring to his friends, and surprisingly very emotional and determined. The other characters in this first instalment were definitely wonderful. I particularly adore McGonnagal for some reason. And of course I can’t help but fall in love with Ron, Hermione, and Neville all over again.
I am absolutely excited to continue listening to the other books in the series. Stephen Fry narrates this first book beautifully, with all his different character accents, and his emotive way of narration. I would at times drift away from the story when I’m outside and doing other things, but I was never bored of the story. What an enjoyable rereading experience!
March To Be Read
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe: I found a really old copy of this book in a random secondhand bookshop in Leiden. I’m not entirely sure what the story is about but I know it is a historical fiction dealing with themes involving religion, slavery and culture in America.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: a book that has been on my TBR for a while, I can’t wait to try the audiobook for the memoir of the hilarious and clever Trevor Noah. I’ve heard nothing but good things.
Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green: an e-ARC I recently received, this thriller has caught my eye for a while. I’m sure it actually has been published now, but I plan to read it nonetheless just to see if I’ll like it. I hope to read one ARC per month, if possible!
What are the books you read in February, and did you give any of them 5 stars? Any reading plans for March? Let me know in the comments below!