February 2020 Book Wrap Up!

I remember reading my first Young Adult novels when I was a Young Adult myself, and honestly I have never stopped. There’s something about YA books that allows for more freedom than “regular fiction”, in my opinion. You’ll find, if you start to follow me, that I primarily read a lot of YA books. In recent years, I credit this pretty much entirely to my Owlcrate subscription. I absolutely adore this subscription book box and do my best to keep up with their monthly read, but I am also the kind of person who can’t have the same meal too regularly or I get tired of it (much to the chagrin of my husband), and I am the same way with my books. 

In order to shake it up a little I regularly balance my YA reads with another genre or style to keep things fresh, and I found it also helps keep my reading momentum at a good pace. If I don’t, I get depressingly bored. Depressing because I know I should be enjoying a book, and it turns into the classic “it’s not you, book- it’s me” scenario.

Happily, February was filled with books! I am pleased to share that I read 5 books this month, some I adored and some left me unsatisfied but I am still pleased with my progress. Genres this month included 2 YA, 1 Romance, 1 Magical Fiction, and 1 Star Wars novelization (because let’s be honest, SW is in a category of its own).

Reading wherever & whenever I can

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Owlcrate December 2019 Box. Theme: Tales of Trickery

3 Stars

Upon writing the review for this book, I realized it was far too long to include the whole thing in this post without it becoming ridiculously long. It would become a self-fulling “TLDR”! I really enjoyed the roller coaster ride that was The Guinevere Deception. I included a preview here, but to read my full review, click here.


The Guinevere Deception was an intriguing retelling of Arthurian legend with our titular heroine at the center. Guinevere has been sent to protect Arthur from magical enemies, and in doing so must marry him to be able to keep him in close proximity using her own magical abilities. […]

I won’t share too much, but let me just say this: did you love the emo villain Kylo Ren as well as the puppy dog eyes of Ben Solo? Then you should read this book.

Her Other Secret by Helenkay Dimon

2.5 Stars

It has been so long since I read a Romance novel! And this one is from Romance Land, USA. AKA, The Ripped Bodice in California! I have yet to visit the shop myself, or it’s lovable owner Sir Fitzwilliam Waffles, esq., but my amazing sister had this one delivered to me for my birthday and I am one happy reader!

Her Other Secret serves up a giant helping of suspense along with some sizzling romance. The two main characters are endearing and feisty and grouchy and were so much fun to follow as they tried to solve a mystery. While I think the pacing was really good, I thought the amount of time they were allowed to spend together unsupervised when one of them was the primary suspect in a murder was unrealistic to the point of distraction, I still really enjoyed this book. The twists and turns the characters navigate in their relationship felt well-paced and realistic, even for taking place over a short period of time. They don’t always make great decisions, like letting a person they should be watchful of stay in their house, and even gave up their bedroom for them, but hey- I was along for the ride.If you’re looking for a Cabot Cove style mystery with luscious amounts of sexual tension and quirky characters with an absurd amount of freedom despite their suspicious circumstances, then might I recommend Her Other Secret?

I’d read that.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

5 Stars

Perhaps my favorite book I read during the month, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not a new novel to me. I read it at least 5 years ago in print and remember really enjoying it, but not remembering much about it (which I now realize is very fitting for this book’s theme). My local book club decided to make this our February book so for this round I decided to listen to the audiobook.

Neil Gaiman himself narrates it, and I heard reviews describe his narration as amazing, especially considering that the author is reading his words in his voice, with all the intonations he originally intended.

And let me just say- it was amazing.

And did you know Neil Gaiman sounds just like Alan Rickman? It’s extraordinary, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Anyway- back to the actual book itself. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a beautifully written  story about a time in a boy’s life where unusual things happened and unusual friends (and enemies) were made.

But we open when the little boy has become a grown man, and we follow him on his journey as he remembers what happened that summer, all those years ago. Akin to the feeling of sinking into a hot tub, or drifting off to sleep in a warm, cozy bed with fresh sheets, we settle into his tale where magic and physics live side by side (presuming they’re not the same thing!) where the line between truth and imagination is thinned, where you recognize that time will always get the better of you, and your memories will inevitably fade.

Our young narrator’s life is changed when he makes friends with Lettie Hempstock, the girl who lives at the farm at the end of the lane. Wise beyond her years, Lettie soon takes him under her wing and helps him navigate the changes in his life. He is coming to realize that adults don’t always know best, that they can often make mistakes, and that uncertainty and sense of broken trust begins to manifest itself in his life.

The beauty of Ocean is that Gaiman takes what would typically be mundane life changes and familiar parent/child relationships and intertwines them with creatures and events of the most epic proportions and somehow he makes it all fit. From the Hempstock family to the opal miner to the cats to Ursula herself, somehow all these characters fit so well within this story, giving you a sense of a robust world of which you are only getting a small peek.

And the best part? It’s our world. Like Narnia, this book has the sense that if you just turned the right corner at the right moment you could come across something magnificent and unlike anything you knew before.

There is honestly too much in this book to do it justice in a summary review like this, I might have to do a follow-up essay. Or find more people to talk about it with! But just let me say, this is an excellent book, and there are so many things that will leave you feeling nostalgic and creeped out and whimsical.

And did I mention the audio book?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Junior Novelization by Michael Kogge

2 Stars

Okay, I admit it.

I absolutely loved The Rise of Skywalker. It was such a wild, fast ride, I just wish there was more of it! I could watch season after season of a Disney+ show that followed Rey and Luke out having adventures and training to learn the Jedi ways, or Rey, Finn, and Poe out saving the galaxy and being dashing heroes while a sullen Zuko Kylo Ren follows them from afar to restore his honor, or whatever.

Embrace the light, Zuko

I would watch the heck out of that show.

As much as I loved The Rise of Skywalker, it certainly left me wishing for more. To channel that energy in another direction (instead of allowing myself to eat way too much popcorn at the theatre) I found the Junior Novelization of Stars Wars: The Last Jedi at my local library. Shout out to the Hoopla library app!

It was… okay. Not great, but fun. While it did add some positive notes to the story, it probably took more away from the movie experience than I expected. There were fascinating insights into some of the characters’ thoughts, but in other parts it didn’t reflect the characters in a recognizable way at all, describing their actions as completely different than what happened in the movie. Kylo Ren smirks a lot in the book, and that’s weird to me. I much prefer stoic anger face with flowing hair. Perhaps it was too simplified to do the characters justice, at least for me as the audience, but it definitely made me want to check out the full novelization of the trilogy rather than the junior versions next time.

If you’re like me and just aching to immerse yourself in the Star wars universe and have no other means to do so, check out the junior novelization on Hoopla- it’ll tide you over until the next chapter of that Reylo fanfic you fell in love with comes out.

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Owlcrate January 2020 Box. Theme: Vengeance Will Be Mine

3 Stars

The most marvelous thing about Scavenge the Stars to me is how engrossing and atmospheric the setting is. You can smell the food wafting and feel the oppressive heat, the stormy but warm rain beating down on you, the feel of the sea spraying onto your face.

delicious, delicious food

In full disclosure, I think that for some this may also be this book’s downfall. The writing lingers over these details and for some who may prefer a faster pace, this would probably feel like it’s holding the story back.

But for me, this book was a wonderful combination of sweet and violent, hopeful and desperate, and has so much potential as the first in a new series.

Amaya (AKA Silverfish) spent half her childhood on a slave ship, working one day at a time until she has worked off her debt. The worst part is, her debt is not her own. But she was taken from her parents, sold, and now here she is trying to survive and gain her freedom. 

And she is so close.

The start of this book is so intriguing. Amaya is a strong, determined young woman who struggles to reconcile her desire for peace with her desire for revenge. When she is given it, Amaya seizes the opportunity for a new life with both hands and makes the most of it. This is a loose retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, and it was fun to see the Count become a Countess that appears out of nowhere to charm and enchant the citizens of this city, all with an ulterior motive.

It’s a theme throughout the book that not all is as it appears. From Amaya herself, to the glitz and glamour of the city that is overrun with a plague and shady gambling dens, to Cayo Mercado, the charming son of a wealthy merchant who can’t seem to keep his hands clean.

I really enjoyed the characters and how their motivations influenced the plot, the setting (like I already mentioned) was stunning, and the world-building was excellent. However, there were a couple occurrences or plot lines that I felt were added for drama or simply to grind the plot to a halt in order to set up for a sequel. Happily, the last quarter of the book really brought it back for me and made me excited to read the sequel! A close call, but I am so glad it ended on the note it did.

Even if this series doesn’t pan out in a way I would like, this author’s writing style is my jam, and I will definitely check her other books out in the future for her beautiful renditions of atmosphere, strength, and hope.

“A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for”

And that wraps up my 5 reads for February for a total of 7 books read in 2020 so far! Thanks for reading what turned into a bit of a novel in and of itself!

What are you reading?

Published by francinewonders

Hi! My name is Francine and I spend a lot of time wandering about while wondering about stuff. I like to talk about cats, books, travel, and all things w@nderful. Follow me on Instagram: @francinewonders

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