February in Review

Interesting month and not one I’d willingly live through again.  Nevertheless I got a nice amount of reading done.  So first the list:

  1. The Gene: An Intimate History  by Siddhartha Mukherjee — The narrative is a wonderful combination of science, history, and personal commentary, generally well-balanced the way good science writing should be.  The subject is one that concerns us all whether we realize it or not.  Full Review
  2. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman — Once again I began reading in mid-series, and had to step a bit to catch up.  Not a lot, Hartman is too good a writer to make her books too dependent upon what came before. She integrates all the important information in the narrative without ever sounding like she’s saying “Previously in this universe…”  Full Review
  3. When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe —  So in the end, and in spite of my initial feeling that When Paris Sizzled was dry and a bit slow, I feel as if it gave me a far better understanding of that moment in history than many other histories have done. If you tackle it, have patience, and you’ll be rewarded.  Full Review
  4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr — I’ve seen reviews that are impatient with the book, that ask, “Is it just me?” Clearly not because there are a number of them.  And for those who express their lack of enthusiasm with examples, it’s often that they found it slow, or that there was too much that was metaphorical or symbolic.  And yes, I think all that can be said to be true, so be warned.  If what you want is a direct, action-oriented narrative where you don’t have to think too much about what it means, then this book is NOT for you.  But I loved it.  Full Review
  5. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman — As I wrote in my review of Tess of the Road, I was so enthusiastic about this universe, and writer that before I finished the book, I’d bought the first two in the series. I can report that the first of these, Seraphina, did not disappoint.  Full Review 
  6. Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2) by Rachel Hartman — Upfront I have to say that much as I loved Seraphina and Tess of the Road, Shadow Scale is probably my favorite of the three. I recognize that’s a bit odd since the sophomore entry in a series is often the weakest, but in this case I think Hartman has enlarged upon not only her universe, but her themes as well, and that’s all to the good.  Full Review
  7. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person
    by Shonda Rhimes — I am convinced Shonda Rhimes and I are twins separated at birth.  No, really.  I may be way older than she is and we’ve got different skin colors, but those are meaningless details compared to the way I heard myself in almost everything she says in this book.  We both describe writers as professional liars, for heaven’s sake!  That has to mean something, right?  Full Review
  8. Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook  by Christina Henry — Of course I tend to like reimaginings of classic tales, so right from the get-go I was inclined to enjoy Lost Boy. It’s a dark retelling, more Lord of the Flies in tone than a children’s story, making Peter Pan into the sociopathic villain of the piece, while his erstwhile best friend, Jamie (later to become Captain Hook) is the hero.  Full Review
  9. The Lost Plot (The Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman — I’ve been enjoying this series, so when The Housemate told me that it had come from the library, I was thrilled.  Alas, though this installment is good, I found that it lacked the excitement of the first three, though I’m still not quite sure why.  Full Review
  10. The Three Kingdoms of Ancient China: The History and Legacy of the Reunification of China after the Han Dynasty   by Jin Fang — It’s not remotely what I was interested in, which is at least in part my own fault since I should have taken the time to do more research about what it is I wanted to know (more of the information Professor Albala gives in the Food lectures.) But more problematic, it’s a dry recital of names and dates that manage to impart only minimal information to anyone not already familiar with Chinese history. There’s no real context, or at least I could find nothing that felt like a thread to follow. Full Review
  11. The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) by Lev Grossman — It started slow, which is fine, but it did pick up, and I remained interested through the first two thirds of the book.  And then it became harder and harder for me to want to finish it.  In fact, as I was reading last night, I raced through the last 100 or so pages thinking, Will this never end? Full review

I bailed on several books over the course of the month for various reasons, but my reading wasn’t advanced enough to count them in this list. In no particular order they are: Introducing Fractals, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Altered Carbon, and a John McWhorter book that I plan to tackle another time.

Stats

  • Books by women: 7
  • Books by PoC: 3
  • Non-Fiction: 4, (2 history, one autobiographical, and one science)
  • Total: 11

Observations:

This month’s clear fiction winner was All the Light We Cannot See, which caught me by the heart. Not only is it a wonderful story, but it’s so beautifully written that it often brought tears to my eyes.  In non-fiction, it was Year of Yes.  Shonda Rhimes spoke to me.

I discovered a new author in Rachel Hartman, and will follow her Seraphina/Tess series as long as it remains at the current high level of quality.  I was a tiny bit disappointed in the last Invisible Library book, but not enough to stop reading the series.  I learned a great deal about history and genetics. And I want to read more Christina Henry because I love her dark take on familiar stories.

A pretty good month in spite of external problems. I look forward to March and a stack of birthday books!

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