What I Read In February
February was a great month reading-wise. Most of the novels I finished were fantastic.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
For the PopSugar Reading Challenge Category: A book about or involving a sport. I was planning to skip this one because I read the author’s first two novels and wasn’t crazy about them. Then one of my book clubs chose it, so I figured I’d give it a try. I was drawn in immediately and loved this in ways that didn’t even come close to his other books. I appreciate that it’s a more straightforward story yet still contains a heavy intensity that sets Backman’s books apart from other fiction. I loved all the characters and how the story unfolded in a natural believable way. The narrative shifts into high gear at the halfway point, and I liked that. Overall this is a fantastic book and a unique reading experience, I highly recommend it.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
For the PopSugar category: A book that involves a bookstore or library. I’ve written about this one a couple other times this month. Historically I haven’t enjoyed novels about bookstores in general. This one was highly recommended by a bookish friend and fits a category for the PopSugar challenge. At first seemed to have the same cheesy elements I disliked about other similar novels, then it quickly set itself apart. I loved how all the characters lives became intertwined on the island, and around the bookstore. It’s a sweet story yet not unrealistically so. Zevin perfectly captures what it’s like to live a life built around a love of reading and sharing that with others. I appreciate the message of how much power there can be I the shared love of books.
The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn
This is one of the most useful books for writers I’ve encountered so far. It’s not a how-to guide for those who want to write. Directed at those of us who are already deeply enmeshed in our writer’s journey, this addresses the common roadblocks and negative mindsets that are a natural part of the creative process. The most important takeaway I received is the reminder I am not alone in my struggles. There are a ton of helpful tidbits and inspiring quotes, as well as a great bibliography that will be super useful. I know this book will stain my desk shelf and I’ll reference it often. I highly recommend this for any writer seeking publication in any format.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
For the ReadHarder Challenge category: A book of true crime. This was my second attempt at this book. The first time I quit near the beginning at the first murder scene descriptions. This time I made it all the way through but it was tough. The beginning and end are super compelling, and the middle is a lot of dry details. I understand why it was all included, and it makes for a very complete account of the crime and the lives of those involved. After I finished the book, I can’t necessarily say I’m glad I finished. I have a little closure in knowing how things ended, but I generally feel despair about the situation, which I suppose was the point of the book.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
For the While I Was Reading Challenge Category: A book written by an author from the state where you grew up: I was skeptical about all the buzz this book has received. While I liked Ng’s debut novel, I wasn’t as dazzled by it as the majority of readers seem to be. I’m glad I took a chance on this one because it is absolutely everything I love in a novel. The writing is literary and beautifully descriptive. The characters are interesting, and I especially LOVE how Ng weaves all their lives together seamlessly. There’s a little bit of mystery and suspense, although not in the traditional sense. The novel explores how one can keep her past a mystery and the ethics of keeping secrets from those you love. The theme of motherhood and mother-child relationships (specifically mother-daughter ones) is solid throughout, and explores the questions which arise in those relationships as children grow and make choices a parent disagrees with. The story is wonderfully compelling and unputdownable. I flew through the book is only a few sittings and was grumpy when I had to stop reading to leave the house! Toward the end, I got nervous that a “twist” of some sort was coming that would change how I felt about the novel, thankfully that never happened!
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
For the PopSugar category: An Allegory This is the first Narania book I’ve read. I’ve been hesitant to tackle the series because I generally don’t enjoy allegories. I was afraid I wouldn’t “get it” or be able to follow it, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying the story. It was short and went quickly, especially because the audio book narration was fantastic. I look forward to reading the next in the series.
Ask Your Guides: Connecting To Your Divine Support System by Sonia Choquette
This book was obviously designed for readers new to the concept of spirit guides. Much of the information was not new to me, and the presentation is on the cheesy side. What I did appreciate about the book was the strong encouragement, the continued reminders that connecting with one’s spiritual nature is not easy.
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
For the PopSugar Challenge category: A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to This is one of those books that I can’t seem to decide on whether or not I liked it! The concept is interesting and the writing is decent. What I disliked is the characters and the choices they made, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. The story is very compelling, and I couldn’t stop listening to the audio book because I wanted to know what happened next. Mainly, I wanted Alice and Jake to buck up and make better decisions! This is their story, newlyweds who are trying to figure the whole marriage thing out when they are invited into a mysterious group dedicated to helping couples have strong marriages. It intrigues them at first but hen things get weird pretty fast. Like really weird. Like so weird I can’t believe it. I found it difficult to stay with the story at times because I was so distracted by the bizarre stuff going on. What I did enjoy was the exploration of what makes a successful marriage. All in all, it was an entertaining read.
Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy
This is a stunning novel. It feels like it was written 30-40 years ago, by a male author. It reminds me a great deal of John Irving’s novels, and the work of Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. We have a story which includes seven generations of a family, and it’s only 260 pages long. I liked the rapid progression through time, yet I think that’s what’s keeping me from giving it five stars. I loved the characters and their stories so I wanted a bit more. These are wonderfully human characters, full of emotion and flaws. Each is doing the best they can in their given situation. There are family secrets, births, deaths, wars, and other external circumstances facing the characters. There were parts that made me laugh, some made me angry, and a few had me near tears. I highly recommend this one for readers of literary fiction.
My DNF List (books I started but didn’t finish)
I think this is more a matter of timing than disliking this book. As I’ve mentioned previously, Chuck Palahniuk’s novels are generate complicated reactions for me. The last one I read, I liked a lot. This one was a bit confusing and dark (typical of his writing) and I think I simply wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to tackle it. I’ll try again later!