What I Read in February 2020
February was a repeat of January for me reading-wise. I finished fifteen books again, and the fiction to non ratio was the exact same: ten fiction books and five non-fiction. Still not the 50/50 I’m hoping for overall this year, but now I know I really need to step up my non-fiction game!
Here’s my monthly review for you:
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
This poetry collection for children was the basis for the Broadway musical CATS. I loved these poems as a kid, and revisited them after seeing the movie version of the musical. I was happy to discover they’re still just as fun! I appreciate the nonsensical language and look into what a cat’s world may be like. There isn’t a story here, only a series of poems. They’re easy to read and the illustrations make them richer. I recommend it for fans of the musical, and also readers who enjoy whimsical poems, and of course cat lovers!
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
This is definitely a book that should be listened to rather than read. I would have missed the rhythm and a lot of the emotion if I’d read the physical book. It’s a beautiful story of a young woman coming into her own. Xiomara feels unheard until she discovers slam poetry. The combination of English and Spanish gave me a strong feeling of Xio’s culture and daily life. It’s a very different take on an YA novel, and I appreciate that. I recommend it for fans of Slam poetry, readers of young adult fiction, and poetry.
The Courting of Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard
Digital copy from NetGalley, out in paperback February 11, 2020 I don’t think I’ve read a novel like this before, where characters were actual historical figures. I appreciated getting a different perspective of Lincoln and his wife early in their lives. While slow at times, it’s an overall interesting story worth reading. I will admit I went into it expecting a romance novel and this is not one! I recommend this one for readers of historical fiction and biographies.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
This book is a long haul but totally worth it. It’s slow at times, because there are many different threads that come together. The writing is engaging, as Cep weaves together facts with speculation to create a fascinating narrative. This is part true crime, part biography of Harper Lee, part biography of Truman Capote and an account of the friendship between the two authors that started in childhood and lasted for many decades. The history of In Cold Blood is here too, which I hadn’t known the two collaborated on, as well as the backstory behind To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. I highly recommend this for fans for true crime and biography
Everyday Legacy by Codi Shewan
Advanced copy from NetGalley, expected publication February 18, 2020 This short book packs a lot of punch! While the presentation is a little cheesy at times, the message is solid. The author asks the reader ” how do you want to be remembered?” then encourages them to live that way every day. The author’s experience as a mortician and funeral director gives his opinions validity. His tone is casual and positive throughout the book. By sharing his own personal experiences, he becomes vulnerable and invites the reader to do the same, to dig into how they want to be remembered compared to how they are living every day.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
I loved the first half of the book. Cummins did an amazing job building suspense and creating scenes. The first dozen pages or so had me sweating and holding my breath, it was so intense. Her writing is strong, her descriptions are visceral. The second half, I found to be redundant and full of gratuitous trauma. I understand Cummins did research for these scenes and characters, but I didn’t find the migration experience was given as much emotional depth as the first part of the book. It was one bad thing after another happening to these people, as if it was an attempt to shock the reader as much as possible. If you’re curious about this novel, go ahead and read it. Otherwise I say skip it and go for a literary thriller with more substance.
Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington
Of all the books and articles I’ve read about sobriety, this is the only one that pretty much matches my personal beliefs. The writing is casual and super positive. I appreciate that she acknowledges there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to sobriety. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is wondering about what a life without alcohol might be like!
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
The storyline is a bit improbable – the son of the first female President of the U.S. falls in love with a Royal Prince, but you just have to go with it! I appreciate the representation of various sexualities, and how the men face criticism of their relationship, as well as support. This all made the story feel realistic. It’s a fast, easy read, fun and positive. It’s a steamy book, but not graphic. I highly recommend it for readers of the romance genre, and anyone who wants an uplifting story that’s different from the norm.
142 Ostriches by April Davila
Advanced copy from NetGalley, publication date February 25, 2020 This is a heavy story, about loss and grief, and about family relationships. The setting is an ostrich farm in the desert, which put a unique spin on the themes of obligation and self doubt.The writing is atmospheric. I could feel the heat of the desert and smell the dust. The ostriches are significant characters, and I appreciated what I learned about them. I recommend this one for readers of literary fiction, though there is a little bit of mystery and suspense as well.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
I wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t. I found it solidly okay, but couldn’t connect with it. The premise is nice, it’s the story of two sisters who grew up in the 1950’s, spanning about fifty years of their lives. There were certainly parts I found interesting, but those were few and I kept waiting for everything to come together but it never really did. It’s partly a work of historical fiction. The sister’s stories are an exploration of feminism and women’s rights over time. The author also explores race and class issues, as well as sexual abuse and rape. I’d recommend this for readers of historical fiction with interest in women’s issues.
Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace
Advanced copy from NetGalley, publication date March 17, 2020 This is another powerful poetry collection from Amanda Lovelace. Focused mostly on female empowerment, she delivers an overall positive message about self care and personal development. I appreciate the recurring theme in Lovelace’s work, that a woman does not need a prince or king to be a powerful princess or queen. She reiterates that women have power within them, which I think is a crucial message for young women (and all women) right now. I highly recommend this collection for fans of Lovelace’s other works, as well as readers of poetry and those looking for a strong female empowerment message.
Heart of Junk by Luke Geddes
This is a wonderfully weird novel. The story centers around an eclectic group of folks who run booths at an indoor antiques mall. As you might expect, there are some big personalities and some drama. There are also some sellers with odd abilities and/or connections to the items they collect. The merchants are all currently frantic over the recent disappearance of young pageant princess Lindy Bobo. There’s mystery and suspense, and plenty of humor – most of it of the dark variety. The writing is sharp, the characters are unique and well developed. I enjoyed the audio book a great deal, as it gave the characters extra personality. I also appreciate the way the story explores what it means to be a collector or to want to find items from your childhood. I recommend this one for readers of general fiction and mysteries.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Advanced copy from NetGalley, publication date March 10, 2020 This book had me laughing, cheering, gasping, and almost in tears. It’s a complex story, because life is complicated, and human hearts are complicated.All of the characters in the story are flawed yet loving, which makes them wonderfully realistic and relatable. Even when they make “poor choices,” it’s easy to see why. I highly recommend it for just about any fiction reader, but especially those who appreciate a good love story, even when it gets sad.
Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness
This book is as enjoyable as it is heartbreaking. There are moments of joy and laughter, and others of loss, heartache, and despair. The overall message is one of hope and personal empowerment. I appreciate that he is using his public platform to have honest discussions about sexuality, sexual behavior, HIV and AIDS. Because of these topics, and how well he handles them, this is an important book.I recommend it for readers of memoir and fans of the author from the Queer Eye reboot.
A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall by Andy Abramowitz
Digital copy from Netgalley, publication date January 1, 2020 This is a beautiful novel. The writing is smart and witty. I laughed out loud, but they’re not cheap laughs. The author does an amazing job of capturing the back and forth of ever day relationships. The tone is snarky at times in a way that is true to real life- people tease each other and are sarcastic, they lie when embarrassed, they apologize, argue, and make up. I adored every single character, they were all relatable. These are people living their lives, trying to do their best and screwing up along the way, like we all do. I highly recommend this for readers of contemporary and literary fiction, especially if you enjoy family drama.