Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Books I Read In February

You guys, February was kind of a stellar month reading-wise. Five books! Shortest month of the year, but I managed to pack it in. (Well, I read most of my first one in January, but didn't finish it until Feb. 2, so it counts for February!) And there were a couple of real winners this month too, so without further ado, let's jump in.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - If you read my last post, you know I love this book. What I will say is that Backman is a manipulative writer. He knows exactly what he's doing, and how to push every single one of my emotional buttons. I spent most of the book laughing, but then all the sudden, almost without warning, he'd drop this real sucker-punch kick and I'd find the tears welling up. It was a roller coaster, and usually I don't enjoy having my emotions manipulated like that, but with this one I didn't mind a bit. I just loved Ove so much that I never wanted his story to end (and I can't remember the last book I read about a geriatric where I felt that way). I highly, highly recommend the audio version of this book, if just for the fact that you will learn how to pronounce his name correctly (Ooovah, two syllables, not one). It was a beautiful, beautiful story. (Content note: I believe there was some swearing, but if I remember correctly, it was mostly old man grumpy swearing, which is somehow not as bad to me as young people vulgar swearing, if you know what I mean by the difference there.)

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett - I've been aware of the Discworld Series for a while now, and heard enough positive glowing reviews of Pratchett's work that I knew I wanted to give it a shot, but there are 40+ novels in this fantasy series! I mean, that sounds hugely intimidating and like a massive commitment, and I had no idea where to begin. But apparently this whole Discworld thing doesn't follow one overarching narrative line, and doesn't have to be read in order, so when I read somewhere that this one made a good stand alone novel, I jumped in here. And I was not disappointed. Pratchett is a comic genius (the Douglas Adams of fantasy, and oh how I love British humor), his characters were hilariously delightful, the plot was quite clever, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don't feel compelled to read the entire Discworld Series now, but I'd definitely be up for some more Pratchett in the future (I've been told that his Tiffany Aching books are some of the best).

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - I'd heard high praise for this book from somewhere, but I must say this one fell flat for me. This is exactly the kind of literary fiction that I struggle with, and I'm trying to put my finger on exactly what it is I don't like about it. Maybe it will be a post some day, but I'm still mulling it over. I recognize it was well written, and I also recognize and appreciate that the plot did not go to a few places that I was afraid it was going (I really thought two of the characters were going to have an affair, and I'm so grateful it didn't go down that way). However, I still don't recommend. I think you'll be fine if you skip this one. (Content note: lots of sex and swearing.)

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald - Okay, so this is not a book for everyone. It's slow and quiet, a bit weird, and hard to categorize, but once again, if you read my last post you know I have a soft spot for this one. It's part grief memoir, part goshawk training guide, part biography of British author T. H. White (British author of The Once and Future King) and if all of that sounds a bit disparate, well, it is. But I loved the way Macdonald brought all these threads together, I loved her thoughtful reflections about life, and seriously, I learned so much about falconry. Fascinating and beautiful in a quiet kind of way. And now I definitely need to go read some T. H. White.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra - This book has one of those complicated plots that weaves back and forth through a bunch of different characters and points in time, slowly revealing how they all connect. I usually love plots constructed like this, but I don't know if was the fact that I struggled with the Chechnyan names, or if I just wasn't paying attention, but I felt lost through a lot of this book. I think I'd figured out all the characters and timelines by the very end, but it certainly wasn't the pleasurable reading experience I usually get out of these kinds of plots. Add that to the fact that the story takes place over the course of two violent Chechnyan wars, with all the atrocities that come with war, and it was all in all a rather depressing read. The one thing I got out of it was being profoundly grateful that I get to live in America (despite the embarrassment of this circus of an election season). I know sometimes it's easy to be down on America and how this or that isn't what it should be, but then I read a book like this and realize, you know what? Our leaders aren't malevolent dictators seizing power, refusing to step down when their terms are over, forcing coups every few years and subjecting the populace to famine and bloodshed, so that's at least a positive, right? Anyway, if you like gut-wrenching type books with complicated, inter-woven plots, then I do recommend this one. (Content warning: nearly every war-time atrocity you can imagining happening to civilians, it's depressing).

So, lots of good reading this month! Have you read any of these? Thoughts?


  1. I love "Going Postal"! My husband and I read it aloud together, and it was such fun. I have both "A Man Called Ove" and "H is for Hawk" on hold at the library, so it's good to hear you enjoyed them so much!

    1. You know, my husband's been reticent about trying out Terry Pratchett (something about humorous fantasy doesn't seem right to him), but I know he'll love it if he reads it. I should try a read aloud with him, great idea!