February 2021 Wrap-Up

I can't believe we're already done with February...

It feels like 2021 just started a few days ago but now we're almost done with the first quarter of the year. But, it being the beginning of a new month means it's time for me to wrap up my reading for the previous month.

Though it felt like I spent a lot of time reading, I ended up finishing only two books. There were a couple of other books in the mix, one of which I DNFed and the other I started and couldn't finish before March rolled around. It doesn't sound as impressive as other reading months, but I consider it a success. DNFs aren't common for me, so the fact that I allowed myself to stop reading a book is something I count as growth.

Anyways, we're going to keep this one pretty short since there are only two books and one of them is a sequel.

Title: The Wife Upstairs
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Pages: 304
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Date Finished: Feb 6, 2021

Opinions: I picked this up as part of the #brewsandbuddyreads book club I joined. It's hosted by @amillionlittlepages and @readingwithmegan on Instagram and I had a lot of fun getting to talk to everyone about the book during a Zoom call. I'd definitely join again in the future.

The Wife Upstairs is Southern gothic mystery retelling of Jane Eyre. I haven't read the classic in almost a decade and I didn't really look too closely at the synopsis, so it took me a few chapters to realize that it was a Jane Eyre retelling. Then I looked up a list of characters from the classic and waited to see if they would show up in this book.

The first half of the book was quite enjoyable. I liked where the story was going and I thought it had a lot of potential twists that could up the stakes for the characters. The set-up was done pretty well and it distinguished itself enough from the original work that I could appreciate the differences. It was also nice that I didn't need to remember all the details of Jane Eyre in order to understand what was going on. There were moments that seemed a little convenient that things were moving so quickly, but I'm pretty sure they moved fast in the classic too.

I don't think I was supposed to like any of the characters in the book? The only character I liked was the dog and she barely appears. Everyone felt kind of one-dimensional, maybe bordering on two-dimensional every now and then. Their motives were pretty stereotypical for a mystery and the big secret that one character had fell flat for me in a major way. I think several other people said the same thing during the book club Zoom, so I don't feel bad about seeing the characters this way. It's one of the hard parts of writing a retelling based on an existing book. You don't want the new characters to stray too far from the originals, but they have to display some amount of distinction to make the new story work too. Sadly, I think the mark was missed here.

Knowing that it was a retelling gave me a vague idea of how the book would end. And having read so many mysteries already, I feel like I'm much harsher on the genre in my expectation of how the ending should surprise me. Unfortunately, it wasn't hard to figure out the twist at the end and I think there were several things that were too rushed to give me a sense of closure. A few details about the final chapters didn't make sense to me and were left unexplained even though I felt that they were important. In the end, it was the resolution that disappointed me and led me to give it 3.5 stars.

What I enjoyed most about the reading experience ended up being the book club Zoom call we all hopped on. It was fun to talk to other people about the same book without having to worry about spoilers. We had many laughs as we roasted certain parts of the book. Thank goodness the author didn't agree to join in the call. I would have felt really awkward about expressing my opinion if she was there.

For people who haven't read a lot of mysteries or are easily pleased with books, I think this is a good book to pick up. It's also a good introduction into the genre if you're looking for something try. More experienced mystery readers might find it a little dull like I did.

Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 546
Genre: Fantasy
Date Finished: Feb 26, 2021

Opinions: It was high time I picked this up, having waited 5 months since reading Six of Crows. Since I read the first book and listened to folklore at the same time, I paired this one with evermore and found that it went together much better than I thought it would.

It's hard to talk about the book since it's a sequel, but the easiest thing to say is that I loved it. Spending time with members of The Dregs is always a ton of fun and it got me semi-excited for the Netflix show dropping April 23, 2021 (I'm keeping my hopes at a minimum so I lessen any potential disappointment). The story is as impeccable as I expected it to be and I loved all the little twists and turns Bardugo pulled off.

The cast of characters make the reading experience so much better. I love their sass and snark as they talk to each other about life in Ketterdam and what it takes for all of them to get what they want. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that they're only teenagers since they've already been through so much. But it's those experiences that make them interesting to read about and give them plenty of dimension and room for growth.

This is one of the rare books that made me laugh out loud several times. I'd chuckle to myself or giggle at something that happened between the characters because it was just that natural. Bardugo is an extremely gifted writer when it comes to creating character relationships and playing with their dynamics. It's amazing to see how much she's grown since her debut trilogy.

Unfortunately, I got spoiled for something pretty big at the end. A meme I was looking at on Instagram didn't have any spoiler alerts in the carousel of photos and I hadn't paid attention to the caption with the spoiler warning since it was the text posts that drew my attention. So going into this, I knew what one of the final moments would be and I think it took away from some of the experience, but it wasn't something I was entirely upset about because I wasn't super invested in that element of the story. I was more disappointed that I had accidentally spoiled myself when I'd made it so long without encountering any spoilers despite all the memes I'd already seen before reading the books.

Everything about the conclusion felt satisfying. I can see how this would have wrapped up perfectly as a duology and I would have been incredibly happy with that. Knowing that Bardugo has plans to write a third book in the future leaves me excited that we might get to spend more time with these characters and see what they've been up to since the end of this book. I look forward to the day I can hold the next book in my hands and see it on my shelves.

Although it was a low reading month in terms of how many books I finished, I'm pretty happy with how things played out in the end. I'm trying to remind myself that it's not about the number of books I read and more about the quality of what I'm enjoying. It helps take off some of the self-imposed pressure I keep seeming to put on myself.

I'm excited to dive into my new TBR pile for March. There are some exciting things that I'm working on outside of this as well and I can't wait until I'm able to share all of that with you guys!

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  • Maggie says:

    I find it hilarious how our reactions to finishing Six of Crows were so different. When I finished, it was like 2am and I immediately downloaded the Crooked Kingdom ebook from the library to start the next day, but you waited FIVE WHOLE MONTHS. So glad you finally got around to reading it though so I can send you all the memes now.

    • Charmaine Lim says:

      Hahaha well, I was going to read it earlier but we both know I'm the absolute worst when it comes to reading sequels.