This last month has been great for buying books, but not so much for actually reading them. There were a variety of reasons why my “outbox” in February was less than January, but I’m just going to blame it on the short month.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Katherine Arden’s debut novel was my favorite read in February, although I read the majority of it the last week of January. The first half was rather slow-going and I nearly DNF’d it after about 50 pages. Arden uses the front half of the novel to introduce you to the small town outside of Moscow, Russia and the characters. The second half picks up as the main character, Vasilisa, encounters the magical properties of the surrounding woods and the town itself. This was my first introduction to the Russian tale of Karachun/Morozko/Frost. According to Goodreads, the author intends to make this story into a series. It reads well as a stand-alone but I would surely read more about Vasilisa and Karachun, the winter king.
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
After finishing The Bear in the Nightingale, I searched for more contemporary stories based on Russian folklore. Although I don’t tend to read much YA, Vassa in the Night sparked my interest with it’s description of an enchanted Brooklyn and an unfriendly shopkeeper named Babs Yagg. First of all, Baba Yaga is a terrifying figure in Russian tales so I could not resist reading a novel with her as a prominent character. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. The story follows Vassa, a 15 (or 16?) year old girl who foolishly goes into the local supermarket “BY’s” on a dare from her sister. BY’s is suspended in the air by chicken legs and the parking lot is surrounded by stakes with human heads on it… yup. BY’s PR team says the store only beheads shoplifters, but Vassa is soon to find out that the store has a few tricks up its sleeve to ensure the stakes are never empty. Basically, Vassa is forced to remain in BY’s for 3 nights (oh and the nights are abnormally long in Brooklyn…sometimes going on for what feels like days) and perform seemingly impossible tasks to stay alive. Nearly the entire plot takes place over these three days & nights in the store. I think it goes without saying that the story gets tedious. On top of that, there is some unsettling gore towards the end that just seems unnecessary to the story. All in all, this just wasn’t for me.
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
I subscribe to Powell’s Indiespensable box that comes out ever 6-8 weeks. History of Wolves was the January pick. Set in a small town in Northern Minnesota, the novel centers on a teenage girl and her new neighbors across the lake from her family’s small cabin. The author briefly mentions that the girl’s family was once part of a local cult in the woods and are the only remaining members who live in the decaying settlement. The new neighbors are very wealthy recent Chicago transplants. They’re also Christian Scientists with a very sick son. So you can probably tell where the story goes from there. Although I did enjoy this book, I didn’t think it dove as deep enough into the many issues it presented. For one, the teenager’s history teacher dies in the middle of a class and is then replaced by a new teacher who is later arrested on child pornography charges (this is all in the book jacket..no spoilers). Secondly, I wanted to know more about the family who refused to provide medical care to their incredibly ill young child. The author kinda glazes over all of this and in my opinion, lets the reader down.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
This was my Book of the Month pick for January. I don’t tend to read a lot of mystery/thriller novels but recently I have found I quite enjoy them (with the exception of Gillian Flynn..I just don’t like her books at all). Behind Her Eyes was pitched as a novel with an impossible to predict ending. Challenge accepted. When I was reading the last 10 pages I thought “YES I figured it out!!”. Yeah…no. There’s a major twist here that I did not see coming, although looking back there were SO MANY CLUES. From the discussion posts on Book of the Months’s member website, it seems nobody did see this coming… So for once the book actually lived up the hype! If you like mystery novels with several twists, I recommend this!! Honestly, I can’t say much without giving too much away. Just trust me on this one. 🙂
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies was the last novel I was able to finish in February. It took me less than 24 hours to devour all 486 pages… Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re likely to have heard of this book over the last few years. The cover and summary didn’t make the book seem like my kind of read. It wasn’t until a few BookTubers highly recommended this book that I decided to give it a try. Big Little Lies is about 3 mothers who have children in the same Kindergarten class in a small, coastal Australian town (although the HBO series sets the story in Monterey, CA). And to make things interesting, someone has been murdered at a school fundraising event. Although the reader doesn’t know who the victim is until the end of the book. Now I’m obsessed with the HBO series of the same name based on this book (although it’s nowhere near as good and Nicole Kidman wasn’t at all who I pictured as Celeste).
Heart and Brain Gut Instincts (Awkward Yeti) by Nick Seluk
Just a fun collection of comics centered around the Heart and Brain characters created by Nick Seluk (The Awkward Yeti). This is great to pick up when you’re not in the mood to really read a full story. You can also follow the Awkward Yeti on Facebook & Instagram for many of the same comics.