6 Books We Read in February ’21 | Reading Wrap-Up

Feb started out with a bang thanks to a beautiful little book about a lonely man and a remote island. Unexpectedly, I also read three books by female African authors, all of which turned out to be some of my favourite books of the last few months. If you’re looking for something new to check out, see what I thought about the 6 books I read in Feb.

Need some more inspo? Check out our reading corner for other ideas and book reviews.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Adult fiction, LGBTQ+ and fantasy

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (+ all the stars in the universe)

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.


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My thoughts

I didn’t know what I was in for when I picked this up and while I certainly loved all of the magical elements, it’s the moments of connection, love and growth that will sit with me forever. 

The story follows Linus, a lonely 40 year-old man who works as a caseworker for the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth. Very by the book, Linus lives a seemingly mundane life where abiding by the rules and regulations that guide his job have become part of his DNA. When Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and sent on a secretive mission to assess the magical children living in a remote orphanage along with their caretaker, Linus finds himself in a situation that both challenges and changes him so fiercely. 

I could probably rave about this book forever so just know this, The House in the Cerulean Sea is enchanting AF and a masterful take on the fantasy genre. Can’t recommend this book enough.

All the stars ✨

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

Adult fiction, contemporary, LGBTQ+ and African lit


One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings.

As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.


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My thoughts

What a beautiful way to break my heart.

The Death of Vivek Oji is the kind of book that will make your heart hurt. The writing is at times lyrical in style and the care taken when crafting characters that are real, raw and complex is a true testament to Akwaeke Emezi’s writing.

Taking place in a southeastern Nigerian town, the book begins with Vivek’s mother opening her door to find her sons body wrapped in a colourful fabric. From here, we move through stories and moments of Vivek’s life up until the very last moments.

While there are a few parts that don’t feel like they entirely connect, The Death of Vivek Oji as a whole is a completely raw and emotional read. The themes explored are done so delicately and the care taken with crafting a world centered on the versions of Vivek everyone knew was done so masterfully. If you’re looking for a short, impactful and character driven book to get lost in, you can’t go past The Death of Vivek Oji.

The Gilded One by Namina Forna

Young adult and fantasy

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 – 4.5 stars)

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity, and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon – she faces a consequence worse than death. She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed…

My thoughts

Sometimes you see a beautiful book cover and think sure, I’ll give this a go – little did I know I was going to find an amazing book behind it! I flew through this in one sitting thanks to the brilliant world building and the feminist vibes.

From the very first page I was engrossed in this story. Born into a world where women are viewed as lesser, fifteen year old Deka lives in a Northern village with her widowed father. As she prepares for the Ritual of Purity, a ceremony that determines her value (sigh), she can’t help but be fearful that some of her hidden eccentricities will come to light. When her blood runs gold during the ceremony and the village elders witness her performing an impossible task, Deka is immediately deemed a monster and sentenced to death. After a series of torturous events, Deka is rescued by a mysterious woman and recruited into a fem-powered army of alaki, hard to kill individuals whose blood also runs gold. 

From here, the intensity of the story increases as we meet other alaki recruits, learn more about Deka’s abilities and find ourselves thrust into a complex world with a feminist undertone.

The Girl With The Louding Voice

Adult fiction, contemporary and African lit


The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself – and help other girls like her do the same.

Her spirited determination to find joy and hope in even the most difficult circumstances imaginable will “break your heart and then put it back together again” (Jenna Bush Hager on The Today Show) even as Adunni shows us how one courageous young girl can inspire us all to reach for our dreams…and maybe even change the world.


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My thoughts

This was so good!!!!!

An incredible debut by Abi Dare, this book is an immersive journey that will break your heart. 

Sold into marriage to a much older man, the story follows fourteen year old Nigerian girl Adunni. What unfolds is a story of abuse, slavery, courage and fearlessness all wrapped up in the spirit of this young girl. 

With a number of heavy themes throughout this book, the power of this story comes through the beautiful writing and the strong character work. 

Told in broken English (something that isn’t as annoying as it might sound), I flicked between reading and listening to this story – 100% recommend the audiobook.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Adult fiction, historical fiction and fantasy


A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


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My thoughts

Whimsical. Unique. Lyrical. Beautiful. 

I won’t lie, I was expecting this to be a five star read and while I definitely loved it (4-stars and all), there were a few things missing.

The Incredible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read and the writing is what you stick around for. The character work is phenomenal and while the story focuses on Addie, I was really captivated by Henry’s arc. 

If you’re expecting a fast-paced read though, you won’t find that here. The story starts out incredibly strong but there is admittedly more of a slow burn story that unfolds for the remainder of the story – partly due to this being a historical fiction read. 

The Project by Courtney Summers

Young adult, thriller and mystery

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.


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My thoughts

3 stars for the book

5 stars for the audiobook narrators

I don’t really know what to say about this because while there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it, The Project still fell flat.

I guess I was expecting something with more of a true crime vibe like Sadie and while the exploration of cults was interesting, I felt like it needed a few darker elements to really kick it up a notch.

The slow burn reveals were also highly predictable and I spent the last 30% internally screaming at all the characters to get their shit together.

And after all that, it’s still 3 stars.

If you are going to check this out, I 100% believe Courtney Summers books are meant to be listened to – the audiobook is fantastic!

What I’m planning on picking up next

reading wrap up

Last Night At The Telegraph Club by Malindo Lo

From what I’ve read, this is a gooey, all in your feels kind of book. I’m not a huge romance reader but every now and then I enjoy getting sucked into a love story. I’m excited to dive into this book that has great potential to be a top pick for the year.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Following on from the ACOTR series (which I loved!), Maas is back with another epic fantasy read following two characters I’m excited to learn more about. I devoured the first three books in this series and have eagerly been awaiting this release.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

A true-crime podcast styled mystery? Sign me up. I’ve rented the audiobook version of this from the library to listen to in the car so I can’t wait to dive into this little thriller that I don’t know too much about.

Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko, Sergey Dyachenko

This is translated fiction that I honestly haven’t heard too much about but when I saw that cover, I just knew I had to read it! Said to be a complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, I’m excited to give this one a go.

What are you reading at the moment?

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Written by Monique Renee

Usually barefoot and deep in wanderlust mode, Mon loves binging Netflix, cuddling babies and stalking through Instagram looking for boho decor inspo and hotties with man buns. You’ll usually find her on holiday, planning a holiday or thinking about holidays.

Favourite Instagram to follow: @the_female_lead


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