It was another good reading month around these parts, so let's dive right in: here is what I read in February (and what I read in January if you missed that post).
This beautifully-written book will make you want to plan a yearlong trip to Rome. If you've read All the Light We Cannot See, you know that Anthony Doerr is an amazing author, and Four Seasons in Rome is a fun peek into his personal story, part of which chronicles his initial work on his popular and critically-acclaimed novel. I'll be buying a copy of this book for my personal library. This was a quick, lovely read—a free vacation, even. I highly recommend it.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Windfall was really fun and engaging until the end. With about 30 pages left, the book seemed to fall apart and come to a screeching halt; the author tried to halfheartedly resolve too much too quickly. It made me wonder if Diksha Basu is preparing for a sequel; regardless, the way this book ended changed everything for me. The book was so enjoyable (up until the end) that I thought it would go on my favorites list for sure, but alas, it won't. I am giving it three stars (out of five, per Goodreads's rating system) for great writing and the ability to keep me riveted for 85% of the book.
French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle
Just perfect—I love Peter Mayle! (A Year in Provence is one of my favorite books of all time.) French Lessons made me ravenous for a trip to France. This is a book I’m sure I’ll read and read again. Highly recommend!
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Mohsin Hamid's writing is beautiful, thoughtful, creative, and unique, with almost a poetic-like quality. I was hooked at the beginning of the book but I started to lose interest, though I can't exactly pinpoint why, about 60% of the way through. I did read this book quickly and the story is fascinating, but I'm not quite sure that this book lived up to the literary hype.
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
What a great, fun, poignant, thoughtful—and yet quick—read. I think author Aryn Kyle’s review of The Middlesteins sums the book up best: “Blunt and beautifully written...Told with great hope and humor, this is a novel about fear and forgiveness, blame and acceptance, the roles we yearn to escape, and the bonds that prove unbreakable.”
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
This book is so, so good. The writing is evocative, transformative, clever, and clean. I loved this part on page 273, a nod to the title: “They [the houses of his past] glitter whitely in his mind, like structures made of salt, before a tidal wave comes in and sweeps them away.” I loved the character development, the family dynamics and dysfunction, the cultural insight, all of it. Highly recommend!
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
An interesting read and unique storyline. Very well-written, and funny, too—this book made me laugh out loud several times. Many dysfunctional characters and family dynamics; cringeworthy in some instances, but interesting nonetheless.
** spoiler alert ** Dang, I don't know quite how to feel about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed reading it and got through it so quickly (I read it in one day—granted, I was on vacation and had lots of time to read, but it was still quick to get through). I loved the writing and I thought the plot was interesting. I will definitely read more of Jonathan Evison's work. On the other hand, I thought the ending left a lot to be desired. Even though I totally respect the author's intentions, I wished for something more conclusive (what happened to Mildred? Skip? Dwight?). Also, in my current season of life as a mother with a young daughter, I had difficulty reading a certain plot line involving Harriet and Charlie Fitzsimmons; while I realize that horrific issues like she experienced with Charlie sadly happen every day (trying not to give anything away with specifics here), it's not something I want to read about.
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