As an introduction to this post, I reflected on February and what my highlights were when I realized they were the naps I took. February was especially busy and had far too much snow for my liking, so I found solace in my comfortable reading chair, blankets, and candles. What’s better than a cozy nap? Not much, that’s what.
When I wasn’t asleep, I did manage to read some stuff. I finished six books last month, and I’m on target to reach my goal of 75. Let’s get to the books and a couple of other things I loved in February.
What I Read
Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level
by Laura Tremaine
One of my hopes for 2023 is to be more intentional with my friendships. I’ve also started journaling again, thanks to Laura Tremaine, so I knew it was the perfect time to read Laura’s book, which addresses friendship through ten questions that also make excellent journal prompts. Laura challenges readers to delve deeper with their friends as she shares her life and answers the ten questions. Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. is a quick but thought-provoking read that will be valuable to anyone looking to learn more about their friends and themselves.
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Sometimes I hesitate to reread books I’ve loved because I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed the second time. However, after reading Go Tell It on the Mountain again for my book club, I’m happy to report I love it even more than before.
The novel is set in 1930s Harlem and follows John Grimes on his fourteenth birthday. John is the son of a charismatic preacher named Gabriel, who overlooks John in favor of his younger brother, Roy. The other main characters are John’s mother and Gabriel’s sister, two fascinating women with difficult pasts.
Baldwin’s first novel is remarkable for many reasons, but the one that stands out most is how well-developed all the characters are in this relatively short book. If you’ve read Baldwin before, you know he’s a master of prose, and that gift is on full display here. If you like books that deal with faith, identity, and family, be sure not to miss this one. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
Exiles by Jane Harper
Investigator Aaron Falk is back in the third book of Jane Harper’s mystery series. Each book is set in Australia, and this one takes place near a vineyard owned by Falk’s friends. He’s on vacation visiting them, but he can’t help but be pulled into the active case of Kim Gillespie, a woman who disappeared the year before at a summer festival. She left her baby alone in a stroller, and one of her shoes was found, but that’s all the police know.
As always with Jane Harper’s novels, Exiles is atmospheric and full of lovable, memorable characters. The supporting cast is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. I liked seeing Aaron Falk with his friends and appreciated the slow burn of his new romance. The mystery at the heart of this story was wrapped up beautifully, and the pacing was perfect throughout. Exiles is my favorite Falk novel so far.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith
I’m a fan of Maggie Smith’s poetry, so I knew You Could Make This Place Beautiful would be gorgeously written, and it is. This memoir tells the story of Smith’s divorce and how she rebuilt a life for herself and her two children after her marriage ended. The story unfolds in a non-linear way, with vignettes imagining Smith and her husband as characters in a play. My favorite parts of the book were the longer sections because I liked the chance to settle down in a scene for a while instead of moving along to the next one. Smith tells her readers at the start of the book that her memoir isn’t a tell-all, but I wish she had delved deeper in certain passages or stayed with a moment for a few more pages. Despite that minor quibble, I enjoyed this book, and I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates a well-written memoir about life’s second chances.
Thank you to NetGalley for an early copy of this book.
Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne
Vinyl Moon tells the story of Angel, a girl recovering from an abusive relationship with her former boyfriend. Her worried mother sends her from California to live with her uncle in Brooklyn. As Angel finds her footing in a new school and discovers writers like Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, she realizes the power of her voice and begins to use it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, but I wish it were longer. I felt I was just getting to know Angel and the other characters when the book ended. Nevertheless, Angel is a compelling protagonist who will inspire many teen readers who need a story of someone who overcomes and finds their way.
The Writing Retreat by Julia Hartz
Alex is a struggling writer who can’t believe her luck when she’s offered a spot at an exclusive women’s writing retreat hosted by her favorite author, Roza Vallo. She learns that her former best friend, Wren, will also be there, and even though Alex can’t bear to think about what she did to Wren a year ago, she knows the retreat will be worth the awkwardness. But things aren’t what they seem at Roza’s estate, and when Alex realizes some people around her aren’t who they say they are, she knows she’ll be lucky to get out alive.
This thriller has an interesting plot, but The Writing Retreat didn’t work for me in the end. I found the characters flat, the twists unbelievable, and some parts too violent for my taste.
What I Loved
TELEVISION: Cunk on Earth on Netflix
I hadn’t heard of Cunk on Earth until Jamie B. Golden gave it a green light on The Popcast. I’m so glad she did! This show is a mockumentary about the history of civilization. Diane Morgan is brilliant as Philomena Cunk, a journalist who goes everywhere in boots and a long coat, no matter the weather or location. This five-episode series is completely ridiculous and delightfully stupid. I loved every second.
MUSIC: Cozy Coffeehouse Covers playlist on Spotify
I love a good cover song, so I listened to this playlist a lot last month. It’s folksy, mellow, and makes for good background music while working.
That’s it from me! What did you read and enjoy in February?