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For the Love of Reading: February 2023

It’s the first of March, time to look back on what I read in the month of February.

Blaze Me a Sun by Christoffer Carlsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Everyone in the world walks around thinking they know the truth about themselves, their neighbors; they think they understand each other. But you have no idea. There is no limit to what we don’t know.
This is a wonderful book with a dark and brooding story, richly drawn characters, and a Swedish setting that is incredibly realistic. While it’s essentially a crime novel, it is so much more and brings up questions about justice, community responsibility, and the damage we inflict on those around us both intentionally and accidentally. Reminiscent of Tana French’s The Searcher, I highly recommend this one.

Spare by Prince Harry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As a long time observer of England’s Royal Family, there was no way I wasn’t going to read this. And, while I don’t regret spending time with the book (I both listened and read) I can’t say I enjoyed it. Far too much time was spent building up to Harry’s relationship with Meghan and the subsequent fallout that happened. While my heart broke for Harry’s story about his mother’s death and the impact it had on him, I did not connect with the descriptions of his time in the army and found the stories of partying and avoiding the paparazzi to be repetitive. It’s sad that the breakdown of family bonds had to be aired publicly and I wish Harry and his family only the best as they move forward.

The Pages by Hugo Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
How can a book match the living? All a book can hope to do is imagine things in words that have once been true in life.
I love the concept of a book being the narrator, which is the case in The Pages. And it started off so strong, as the book talked about their feelings and about their author, the story told in their pages, and the conversations they had with other books on the shelves. (I particularly love the thought of the books in the library having conversations with each other all night long when the library is closed.) However, somewhere along the way the book as narrator got lost in a sea of too many characters and too many side stories and I became bored and tempted to skim. Everything came back together eventually but I had sort of lost interest by that point.

Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem by April Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Black women have done incredible work to make the world a better place and this book is both a celebration of that and also a sad reminder about the lack of recognition black women receive for it. As a White House journalist, Ms. Ryan focused quite a bit on Black women and politics, but also included historical figures and contemporary leaders, in this inspired and important ode to the work of strong Black women.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.
I first read this book 30 years ago when it was new and I re-read it for an online book club I help run. All I remembered about it was that the main character had a big chin . . . and that I really loved it. While I’m not one to reread books often, I am so glad I did so with this book. The setting is described so wonderfully, I could feel the cold air and taste the fish. The characters are beautifully drawn, real and flawed and human and aching for connection. If you’ve never read it, I beg you to do so. And if you’ve read it before, I highly recommend reading it again.

Happy Place by Emily Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Romance is not my typical genre, but I really enjoyed Emily Henry’s Book Lovers and when I saw she had a new book coming out I decided to give it a shot. I think it’s good, solid, romance writing. The end is (somewhat) predictable but the path to get there is at least a little windy and rocky. The timeline goes back and forth between the present and past and each time it does, we get more insight into the relationships between each of the characters and how they wound up where they are in the current. In addition to the romance storyline, there is also plenty of self-reflection and growth as these young adults learn to accept change, and how to stay friends after the bubble of college is popped. Recommended for fans of Emily Henry and readers who enjoy contemporary romance.
I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
she had not understood that love didn’t require pain. That it can also be a comfort, a place of safety and happiness and home, full of hope and affection and admiration.
I enjoyed this historical novel, a conjecture of the backstory of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter. The compelling story is told in the first person, with some passages (which really added nothing to the story) going back in time to tell a parallel story of the main character’s ancestor and her persecution as a witch. There are themes of power and abuse, morality and greed, and sin and shame. I found the author’s speculation of “what if” Hester Prynne had been inspired by a real woman in Hawthorne’s life to be intriguing and entertaining.

Seven books is pretty good for a short month! And, while only two were 5 star reads, the others were all 3 stars and that’s perfectly acceptable to me. I hope you find something enjoyable amongst my recommendations.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Always enjoy your reviews Carole! I’m in the midst of The Shipping News (taking my time to really “listen” to the words) and I don’t remember my first read of it (30 years ago) at all! I love the idea of books talking among themselves at night in the library (or on my bookshelves??), but I think I will skip that book. I’m putting “Blaze Me A Sun” on my TBR list.

  2. I really enjoyed Blaze Me A Sun and I am glad you did too! And The Shipping News! For me it was better with the second time reading it and I am really looking forward to discussing it!

    I appreciate your reviews so much, Carole! Thank you!

  3. I felt for Harry while I was reading his book. His mother’s death was so traumatic for him, and it seemed like he just wasn’t the kind of person that could accept that duty was more important than individual personalities in his family. Pages sounds promising so I might look for that the next time I’m at the library.

  4. I always enjoy your reading round-ups. I’m somewhere in the middle of The Shipping News and am finding that I really remembered very little about it from my first reading, so I’m enjoying it and really looking forward to our discussion!

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all these books … I’m more convinced now that I don’t need to read Spare (and a little disappointed perhaps about Emily Henry’s new book … I’ve enjoyed her others, so I’ll probably read it at some point).

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