Recent Reads | February 2017

February reading, despite the short month, went pretty well! We went to our first local book club together, introduced our virtual book dates and completed our first round of reading photo prompts over on instagram. It's been such a fun month for us and we are looking forward to being another month closer to spring! Any exciting reads you're looking forward to in March?

Michaela:

Tender is the Night | F. Scott Fitzgerald-  I revisited this novel because Rikki and I attended a book club meeting together for it! I am a long time lover of Fitzgerald's writing, and this book is certainly no exception, as it houses some of my favorite scenes and quotes ever. I just really can't get enough of Fitzgerald's style and voice. However, it is not nearly as tightly plotted as some of his other works, most notably, The Great Gatsby, and the meandering plot line can be a bit off putting. It's a gorgeous work though, and I was glad to skim back through my favorite scenes and quotes and jut bask in Fitzgerald's warm, magical voice for a little while.

Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen- A quintessential classic, and one of my favorite comfort reads, I was grateful to sink back into this beloved world and reunite with some of my favorite characters. The best part about great re-reads is finding yourself on a familiar path and still enjoying it immensely and being sucked into that world completely. What else can be said about this book except that it's witty, brilliant, perfectly paced, and laced with unforgettable characters. 

The Snow Child | Eowyn Ivey- This was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and I was expecting some magic and lightness from this fairytale-esque novel, but it was actually way more gritty than I had anticipated. Although based on a fairytale, this novel exists in real-world Alaska where Mother Nature rules with brutal impartiality and the themes of the book are shockingly stripped down to birth, death, and the needs that define us. Winters that make you go insane, grave injuries, dead animals, the loss of a child twice over. These are balanced with the warmth of family and the steadfastness of true love. Really a beautiful book, but just not at all what I had expected. 

Tortilla Flat | John Steinbeck- This is a very short novel with an overarching theme of appreciating the small things in life. The descriptive setting of Monterey is a recurring one in Steinbeck's works, as is the dwelling on the goodness and beauty in simple things, but the tone of this novel is slightly apart from other's I've read. It contain's Steinbeck's trademark simple structure and quality prose woven with deep meaning in the telling of a story about friendship, wine, and the tension between free living and comfort and responsibility.

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin- Gorgeous, shockingly modern, and radical for it's time, this story was haunting and lush. Caught between being filled with romanticism and being harshly realistic, it examines why people behave they do and the tensions between personhood and natural inclination. There are no easy answers here, nothing is black and white, and Edna is caught between the forces of nature and society as she struggles to reconcile her emerging feelings and wants with what is expected of her. 

RIKKI:

Tender is the Night | F. Scott Fitzgerald - A somewhat magically descriptive and loosely structured story that was this month's book club pick. I didn't love this book by any means, but I really appreciated Fitzgerald's writing and often found myself imagining life in the 1920's. It's easy to see why this story may not have been well received in its time, with the style of living and lavishness throughout during such a hard time in the economy. All things aside, the characters were all interesting in their own right and I enjoyed taking a look into each one at different parts.

The Book Thief | Markus Zusak - I didn't know much about this book going into it, but as soon as I realized who, or what, the narrator was, I suddenly felt unsure. Is this for me? But I kept going, because curiosity got the best of me, and I'm SO GLAD I did. Not only is this one of the most unique perspectives to be written in, it is also incredibly poetic. and beautiful. dark. heart-wrenching. I couldn't put it down, I read all 550 pages in two days (some thanks to unforgiving library due dates). One of very few books I've ever read that I didn't want to end. It is a WWII story (I am quite drawn to them) and has some dark humor, but again, equally poetic. It seems balanced in light and dark, good versus evil, you can't well take one without the other.

A Man Called Ove | Fredrik Backman - I LOVE a good book with a quirky older character as the main focus, which is all I really knew about this book and exactly why I picked it up. Admittedly, the first 40-ish pages were super slow. It felt pretty redundant and I was afraid the rest of the book would follow suit. Thankfully, I stuck with it, because it picked up and ended up being a very charming story. Oh Ove!

The Giver | Lois Lowry - I read this book back in middle school. It was the first book I proudly proclaimed as a favorite. It was time for a re-read and an upcoming book club was just the motivation. I still love this story. Of all the things I've read about it from others', no one ever seems to mention that a huge focus in the story is that being different is worth celebrating, feelings and emotions shouldn't be repressed, but rather felt. That's what I've always taken from this story and why I love all of Lowry's books.

Before the Fall | Noah Hawley - From the beginning, this book had great suspense and mystery. The mystery hung on until the last 100 pages or so and you could slowly start piecing things together. However, the ending was SUCH A DISAPPOINTMENT! I honestly felt like Hawley did a pretty good job creating each character, having such good suspense, and getting you off track. But it was like he just gave up all effort and took the easy way out after all that build up.

The Awakening | Kate Chopin - What an incredibly beautiful story. The beginning was a bit slow, with character and situational development. I paused about 1/4 of the way through to re-read what it was about, because I kept wondering if there would be any sort of climax. Of course, there was and the story picked up considerably. Did I mention how beautifully it was written? It had a very modern narrative for being written in the late 19th century, but certainly had the full body style familiar within that time frame. Toward the end, I was really getting into the main character's fight for independence, even resonating with some of her (at the time, considerably radical) ideals, to be rather sad for the ending. I would've liked to see how she developed and the story to go on at least 100 more pages.