Over the past three or four months, I’ve been doing a lot of comfort reading, and haven’t really wanted to think about books deeply. This month, I felt my reading life begin to repair itself. I feel like I have a good blend of fun genre type reads with a few more literary books sprinkled throughout. I read slightly over 6000 pages this month, which was about the same as what I read in January.
- Books Read: 22
- Re-Reads: 3
- Goodreads Challenge Progress: 55/200 (23 books ahead of schedule)
- New Books vs. Backlist:
- New Books: 5
- Backlist: 17
The first book I read this month was Good-Bye, Stacey, Good-Bye. This was a read aloud with my nine year old daughter, and we really enjoyed it. It’s the thirteenth Baby-Sitters’ Club book, and one of the more simple books. The entire book is really about Stacey leaving and how the other members of the club prepare to tell her good-bye. I kind of missed the “B” plot that usually runs through the story.
Next, I went back to the Interstellar Brides series that I’ve been reading. I read surrender to the Cyborgs, which is the first book in the extended series set on The Colony. The Colony is a sad place, where soldiers who have been injured in the battle against the Hive are exiled. The book was good, and Goodwin has shown signs in the past few books that she’s breaking out of the formula a little bit. I’ve read a lot of books in this series over the past few weeks, and they’ve really been a good, soothing, guilty pleasure for me. I’m sure you’ll notice several of these books on this month’s wrap-up because I’m determined to read the whole series in chronological order.
Next, I read the follow-up to a non fiction book I read in January. Jemar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism picks up where The Color of Compromise leaves off. He gives practical tips for how to raise your awareness of racism, build relationships across racial and cultural lines, and become a committed advocate of racial justice. This book is a treasure for those of us who want to fight racism but aren’t sure how to do it. As a white person, I have a fear of making things worse by making blunders in my desire to help, and Tisby’s work has helped me to see how I can be an ally rather than contribute to racism and racial stereotypes.
The next book I read was a buddy read. We read The Women of Brewster Place. This is a novel told as a series of seven overlapping short stories about seven women who live in a slum apartment building on Brewster Place. This book takes place during the 1970s, and there’s just a bunch of hopelessness. Naylor takes the stereotypes that a person might have about these poor, black women and draws very detailed and human lines on them. It’s a story that I imagine will stay with me for some time.
Next, I read His Virgin Mate. The main character is a virgin Earth girl, matched to the planet of Everis through the Interstellar Brides Program. She thought she was frigid, but it just turns out that she was waiting for the right man. There’s a lot of talk about the “sacred order of the three virginities” in the book, and I thought that was kind of gagworthy. Goodwin has better books.
Next, I read The Removed. It was a dreamy, character-driven read, and a beautiful picture of grief. I loved the way that Hobson used Cherokee mythology throughout the novel. However, at some points, I found the plot really difficult to follow for all the myths and for trying to figure out what is real and what is not. Truth be told, the book and the characters are so beautiful that I didn’t even care about where the plot was going.
The next book I finished was Classic Myths to Read Aloud. Ellie and I have been reading this one together since about Halloween. This book is set up for an adult to read aloud to a child or group of children and features various Greek and Roman myths. The last third of the book centers around retelling of The Illiad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. This is not the best collection of myths that I’ve ever worked with, but it is one of the easiest books to use in a read-aloud that I have used as teacher. I’ve used this one with all my children for that very reason.
After that, I read my Once Upon a Bookclub subscription book for the month, Yellow Wife. I don’t always find historical fiction to be compelling, but this story of a mulatto slave made for very interesting reading. Her struggles to make the best choices when the only choices to be made were bad ones makes this book a quite challenging book. I also enjoyed hearing that, even though the main character was not a real person, her story was based on a real person and place.
Next, I went back to the Interstellar Brides Program series with the novella Claiming His Virgin. This is one of the virgin series of books, which is really about a quartet of young women who come from Earth to the Planet Everis to find spouses. This is the third book I’ve read in this Virgins series. I found the first one to be interesting (and good), the second one to be kind of yucky, and this one to be super sexy and fun to read. This was a great addition to the series, and almost a five-star read for me.
I continued reading romances by reading The Good Luck Charm, which is my first Helena Hunting novel. It’s a second chance romance, which is not my favorite genre. Also, I have to admit that I thought the heroine, Lilah had a lot of baggage. I’m not sure she needed an actual relationship so much as she needed to spend some time on the therapist’s couch. The romance itself was fine, and I enjoyed that the male protagonist was a a hockey player. I actually thought that was great fun. I think Hunting tries to do a little too much, and I ended up feeling dissatisfied.
The next book I picked up was the short essay collection Intimations. Here, Zadie Smith is writing in the summer of 2020, chronicling her thoughts about COVID and about George Floyd’s murder. It was beautifully written, and I loved most of the essays. The first essay dragged a little bit and felt like it didn’t belong, so I was a little concerned at first, and might not have kept going except that I was reading the book for a buddy read with some friends.
Another book I participated in as a buddy read this month was Heads of the Colored People. This set of short stories deals with different pictures of the black middle class. Unfortunately, many of these stories don’t deal with normal people in general. Thompson-Spires often uses mentally ill people (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) as main characters of the stories. This leads to a collection that mostly highlights the odd and uncomfortable–highly reminiscent of Curtis Sittenfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say It.
I also went back to Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s work this month with the first Nora Kelly book, Thunderhead. This was a five-star book book. There were southwest Native Americans, Anazazi ruins, archaeological digs, and witches and skin walkers. I loved Nora’s personality, and I loved the Bill Smithback from Relic and Reliquary played a role in this book. This is probably my favorite new “world” to explore. This was such a strong book!
Next, I re-read How the Sidewalk Ends to my elementary-aged children. We enjoyed this work and it’s reminder that poetry does not have to be heavy. This is my fourth or fifth reading of these poems, and really the collection gets more charming each time. I can’t think of many books that improve that much upon rereading.
The next book I picked up was Dating and the Single Parent. This was for my marriage and family counseling class. I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it. However, since I’m neither a single parent nor dating, I’m not the target audience for this book, and I don’t think I can give it a completely fair evaluation. Also, this book is deeply religious and Christian in nature. So, if you’re not interested in a book that centers faith, this is not the book for you.
Next, I completed another book for a buddy read. How Long ’til Black Future Month? is a collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories from the award winning writer, N.K. Jemisin. I really loved this collection, particularly the fantasy stories. Jemisin’s stories were familiar and yet had their own unique twists, making them quite satisfying for reading. This is my third buddy read of the month because I’m reading with a group of ladies, and we were reading 53 short stories in 53 days. That’s a lot of short story reading, and I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it. Usually, I stay away from short stories, but I’m beginning to change my mind.
Then, I realized it had been at least a week or ten days since I had read an Interstellar Brides Program novel, so I decided to read Mated to the Vikens. This was the eighth book in the main series, and it was hot, hot, hot! This one also had a nice plot as Sophia has run into trouble in the mob and decides being a bride is better than being in prison. Things go completely wrong though, when, instead of being transported to her three mates, she is mistaken as the queen (from Claimed by Her Mates) and taken way by the resistance to be kidnapped and killed. This one may be my favorite of the series so far!
Next, I read the first book in a new romance series, The Heiress Gets a Duke. These books are set in the late 1800s, and this one concerns an arranged marriage between an American railroad heiress and a penniless English duke. The chemistry between August and Evan is sparkling, and their banter is fresh and fun to read. I feel like August and Evan might both be a little too progressive for their time, but I still enjoyed the pairing. I also kind of like the arranged marriage trope, so this was a fun and sexy read.
The next book I finished was a read-aloud I did with my 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. Chickadee is the fourth book in the Birchbark House series of novels, and was a really a delight. Omakayas is all grown up, and the novel centers on the experiences of her young twin sons. We loved the updates on favorite characters from past books and the new characters introduced here. Chickadee really has a great adventure, and we’re going to go straight into reading the book centered around his twin brother Makoons. One of my reading goals this year is to actually read an adult book by Louise Erdrich. I’ve read four of her books, but all of them have been middle grade novels to date.
Next, I continued my Interstellar Brides journey with Her Mate’s Secret Baby. This one takes place on Trion, a planet that Goodwin hasn’t visited since Assigned a Mate. There, we get to see Natalie and Roark begin to bond as mates before the outpost they are at is attacked and each one believes that the other is dead. It was a fun read. I enjoy seeing Goodwin’s formula, and her attempts to make twists to the formula. Overall, I’m here for it, and I imagine that I will read more of her brand of space alien romance before too long. I seem to be reading one about every fourth or fifth book right now.
The next book I picked up was a YA chick-lit style novel, 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Ginny’s aunt has died, but Ginny receives a package in the mail from her. The package has 13 numbered envelopes, all with instructions for Ginny to carry out. This was light, breezy, and a fun read. I don’t know if I’ll remember the plot six months from now though because there wasn’t much that held it together.
My final book of February was the third Pendergast novel, The Cabinet of Curiosities. I really enjoyed this book. It had a mystery that kept me guessing, a story that connected two time periods, and finally provided a peek inside Pendergast’s head. My favorite thing of all though was that both Nora Kelly and Bill Smithback appeared in this book, and because I had stopped and read Thunderhead, I knew their backstory. It’s perfect to me to see them still together as this story opens. I also really enjoyed learning a little more about Pendergast’s family, I hope to learn even more about him in the upcoming books in the series. So far this year, I’ve read two Preston & Child books each month, and I would like to keep up that pace as the year moves along.
So, that’s it for February. I read a lot of great books. If you only put one of the books here on your TBR, I think you should make it Yellow Wife. It had everything that I look for in a historical novel, and I really thought that Pheby was great protagonist!