With everything going on in the world right now, it feels so silly to give superficial updates about what this month was like. Literally none of it matters when I think about fellow human beings having to flee their homes from a ruthless dictator. My heart goes out to the Ukranian people and I fervently pray that this world can find some peace soon.
February By the Numbers:
- Total Books Read: 14
- Audiobooks: 0
- Five Star Reads: 2
- Debuts: 6 (43%)
- Published in 2022: 8 (57%)
- Nonfiction Reads: 3 (21%)
- By Women Authors: 9 (64%)
- Books by BIPOC Authors: 5 (36%)
- Diverse Books: 6 (43%)
- Goodreads Challenge: 25/125 (20%)
- 12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months: 3/12 (25%)
- Nonfiction Challenge: 1/12 (8%)
- Unread Shelf: 4/24 (17%)
- EIWTB Challenge: 9/12 (75%)
- A to Z Challenge: 15/26 (58%)
Favorite Book of the Month:
Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott
Yep, this is it. This is exactly the stage of life I’m in and reading it from Philpott’s perspective made me FEEL SEEN! It’s just in the last year that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel of parenthood as we generally think of it. I can still remember those early years with my babies when high school, eighteen, and college all seemed so far away that it was unfathomable. But when my son turned sixteen and got his driver’s license, it’s like I ran straight into a brick wall. He’s rarely home now – he’s home late from sports practice and when he’s not doing that or in school, he’s out running around with friends. I have four more years before my youngest leaves and makes my husband and I “empty nesters”. There’s a part of me that feels some excitement at reclaiming our lives, but there is also a deep-seated sadness at knowing this stage of our lives will be over. I’m sure there’s great things about college-aged kids too, but I want to cherish these last few years and suck all the goodness (even if totally chaotic) out of them that I can. I am ALL IN with my kids; in fact, I recently turned down a perfect-for-me job opportunity because I cannot fathom preserving my time and energy for my kids. In four short years, I’ll have all the time in the world to do my own thing, but for now, bring on all the school activities, sports events, and mundane taxi driving. (Publishes on April 12, 2022!)
* Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González – This book was so good! It was the perfect balance of light and serious, funny and sad, deep and surface. I completely underestimated what I was getting into and I love when a book pleasantly surprises me like that! I learned a lot about Puerto Rican culture and their history, not only on the island but within the United States. I felt like there was some real depth to the characters and I liked their progression (though I would have loved more on Matteo and his backstory). González reminded me why I love to read books about people that are different than me – because it teaches me new things and, most importantly, gives me a whole new perspective to appreciate.
* Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades – “Why did we ever believe home could only be one place? When existing in these bodies means holding many worlds within us.” This debut novel was so good; I couldn’t put it down! Told in a collective voice, it was about immigration, being brown in America, passive and overt racism, coming-of-age, and so much more! It was powerful in its short sentences and short paragraphs and completely captured me!
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka – Oof…this was a hard book to read because all I could think about is the many, many people out there – whether or not they’re in prison – who are suffering from the remnants of a horrible childhood. So many people fall through the cracks and are never offered the support and/or therapy they need; therefore, perpetuating generational trauma and pain that radiates out from them to harm more people. Unfortunately, so many end up like the main character, Ansel…sitting in jail (in this case, Death Row). I’m certainly not trying to excuse the actions of a confessed killer – just offer up some additional context to the many broken systems in our society. Beyond that, Kukafka offers up a compelling story and, instead of focusing solely on the prisoner and his last day before execution, she gives the reader three POVs that help us understand how we got to Ansel’s last day alive. It was a bit of a slow burn, but the payoff was absolutely worth it and I closed the book with a heaviness in my heart.
Contemporary Fiction to Escape Into:
The Guncle by Steven Rowley – I found Rowley a couple years ago when I read The Editor…which I absolutely LOVED! I then decided to pick up Lily and the Octopus, also by Rowley, and could not DNF it fast enough. My point being, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum with Rowley…for me, The Guncle lands right in the middle of those two! As you may have picked up from above, sweet, quirky books are very hit or miss for me. I did like this one and I think it’s mostly attributed to the fact that I can totally see my brother in this role with my kids! My brother is GUP and that warmed my heart and probably saved this one for me!
* The Maid – Nita Prose – I needed a palette cleanser and this sounded like the perfect book to do the job! I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine so that made me nervous to try it (I wasn’t a fan of Eleanor). The Maid started off strong and I found it absolutely enjoyable, but as the story went on, I found myself becoming bored. I’m glad this one isn’t long-winded because I might not have been able to push through. I can see why it’s a fan favorite, but for me, it just started to really drag….all of that to say though, that I am glad I gave it a chance.
Books By Black Authors That Hit Me In the Gut:
* My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson – This collection of short stories really blew me away – especially “Control Negro” and “My Monticello” (which is more properly described as a novella). This is Johnson’s debut collection and if it’s any indication of her emotive writing talent, we’re all in for a treat! Her collection explores themes of racism, white supremacy, violence, and family roles. It’s been several days since I finished and I find myself continually reflecting on the thoughts that have arisen after reading this book. Simply stated: this book is small but mighty in its message!
Don’t Cry For Me by Daniel Black – This was such a heartbreaking account of a dying father’s final attempt to reconcile with his estranged son. It really brought the effects of toxic masculinity and generational trauma to the forefront, and I felt the regret the father felt after a lifetime of not accepting his gay son. While we don’t directly hear from the son, I could also feel the pain he felt from his father’s rejection.
A Slow Burn With an Explosive Ending:
Scarlet in Blue by Jennifer Murphy – I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from this one. It started off a little murky, but the short, stacatto sentences and quick reading kept me turning the pages. Before I realized it, I was hooked. This is a slow burn with multiple POVs that builds to a satisfying ending. I like books with unreliable narrarators and this one did not disappoint! I don’t really know what genre this is…maybe literary, psychological thriller? Whatever it is, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away! (Publishes on March 8, 2022!)
* Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine – This book felt like sitting down with a good friend over a warm cup of coffee. I have strived to find friendships that dive deeper than surface level and pry open the vulnerable parts of ourselves – and if I’m being completely honest, that’s been a very hard thing to do! I have mostly found that people like to stay superficial – mainly talking about busy schedules, our kids and their activities, and work. Rarely do they dive into the highs and lows that inevitably accompany parenthood, or the pains and hurts from childhood that make us who we are today. This book would be a wonderful companion to anyone looking to cultivate a deeper relationship. I’d love to explore it further with some of my closer friends because I think it would be therapuetic to both parties partaking in the prompts Tremaine provides.
Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women by Kate Manne – This was an interesting exploration of how men’s etitlement to sex, power, knowledge, and other things is pervasive and toxic to our social context – but most especially to women. Her arguments are well thought out and include a wide range of recent headliners (such as Brett Kavanaugh, Harvey Weinstein, and Brock Turner) to emphasize her points. She details how “himpathy” – a need to sympathize with men in their wrongdoing while erasing the woman’s experience at the same time – has invaded our social and cultural mores, thus upholding this system that demands women work harder, longer, and better than their male counterparts.
The Classic I Put Off Reading For Far Too Long:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby has been on my Classics TBR for a long time. Something about a book in the category of “Classic” scares me though. I finally dug in…and I was pleasantly surprised! The writing was symbolic – perception and reality, the American dream, past versus present versus future, the morality of the 1920’s, etc. – and I really appreciated what Fitzgerald accomplished through those themes. I haven’t watched any of the films that are out about The Great Gatsby, but I couldn’t help but see Leonardo Dicaprio in my head as I read…and that probably helped me out quite a bit!
Popular Books That Didn’t Totally Work For Me:
* The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb – Unpopular opinion…but I don’t get the hype around this one. I was very intrigued with learning more about classical music, the symphony, and violins which is probably what kept me reading. But, I knew who did it from the very beginning – yet the mystery of what happened to the violin quickly becomes a backstore as Slocumb switches gears for most of the book and talks about the months and days leading up to the theft. And the story is fine…BUT what I can’t get past is how flippant the main character, Ray, is with a $10 MILLION violin! I tried so hard to see past this detail and irrelevant, but I CAN’T and then when the thief was revealed, these two things just made me want to throw the book across the room. This was NOT the book for me…sorry…and when I search #theviolinconspiracy, all I find is glowing reviews. I may be in the minority here, but if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!!
Bewilderment by Richard Powers – This will be my first controversial review of the year! I saw so many rave reviews of this one that I bypassed the library and bought myself a copy thinking it would be my kind of book – a father and son exploring their grief. It started off strong for me but quickly fell off the rails – mostly, it was just too science-y for me. I didn’t feel like it related to the story in a meaningful way and because I was trying to find that connection, I probably confused myself even more. And without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that I absolutely hated the direction Theo took with his son, Robin. I was an absolute fan of Powers’ previous book, The Overstory, but this one was a total miss for me.
What did you read and enjoy this month?