Monthly Mini-Reviews: February

I know it’s already several days into March, but I spent the last day of February in North Carolina for the Florence Forth Race, and I’m just getting all settled back into the swing of things (and still quite sore haha). So here are the books I read in February:

1. Far from You – Tess Sharpe [Advanced Copy, Pub Date April 8, 2014]

I really enjoyed this one. Sophie Winters deals with an addiction to painkillers after a nearly-fatal car accident, and then loses her best friend Mina when a masked gunman shoots her when the two girls are in the woods. Everyone is led to believe that Sophie has relapsed and the murder was drug-related, and Sophie is forced into rehab. This young adult book is LGBT but the plot is not super-focused on this aspect; rather, the plot is driven by Sophie’s hunt for Mina’s killer. I wanted Sophie to solve the mystery so badly, and I was a ball of nervousness when she finally did.

2. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

This book was a requirement for my creative nonfiction class.  I was excited to read it, because I had always wanted to and was finally given the opportunity.  Capote definitely makes this the “nonfiction novel” – it is a compelling account of the 1959 Clutter family murder.

3. Night – Elie Wiesel

This was also a requirement for my CNF class.  I read Night in about 90 minutes – it was too good to put down. Wiesel makes the reader feel as if they are really there in the concentration camp with him. The story is not only historical; it tells of the love between a father and son, and certainly gave me a better idea of the Holocaust than I had ever imagined.

4. Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand

This was the third book required for my CNF class. Again, it was a page-turner. I could not wait to get to the final race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. For a nonfiction book, the characters were so developed that they seemed to come off the page for me. However, sometimes it felt like I should’ve been listening to sports broadcast, with all the race times and sports-commentator language used.

5. Princesses Behaving Badly – Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Princesses Behaving Badly gives short historical accounts of famous (or unheard of) princesses that led less-than-regal lives. The princesses are divided into seven categories – the Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Survivors, Partiers, Floozies, and Madwomen – and include Alfhild, a pirate; Lucrezia Borgia, a mafia princess; and Charlotte of Prussia, known as “the princess who threw a sex party.” These stories are witty and informative; I found this book very interesting and easy to read.

6. The Flamethrowers – Rachel Kushner

The Flamethrowers was Main Point Book Club’s February pick. It was also one of the 10 Best Books of the New York Times Book Review 2013.  The novel takes place in New York City and Italy in 1975 and follows Reno (nicknamed after her hometown) into a world of motorcycles, artists, and riots after she begins an affair with artist and motorcycle empire heir Sandro Valera. I initially had a hard time getting into the book, but once I did, it was gripping.

7. The Frangipani Hotel – Violet Kupersmith [Advanced Copy, Pub Date April 1, 2014]

The Frangipani Hotel is a collection of Vietnamese short ghost stories, expertly crafted by Kupersmith.  It takes the reader inside the hotel, on an American-Vietnamese little girl’s trip to visit her grandmother overseas, to the lives of twins who practically raise themselves in the wild, and into many other places where ghosts lie. I love ghost stories, and this was the perfect book to pick up and read a story from whenever the mood struck me.

8. The Best American Essays 2013 – Ed. Cheryl Strayed

The Best American Essays collections were recommended reading for my CNF class, and I wasn’t really sure how I would feel about this one, since I rarely read essays. However, they truly mean the best essays; to my delight, I found every one interesting and well-written. There were 26 essays by authors like Zadie Smith, Alice Munro, Brian Doyle, and Angela Morales. I read one a day for February.

9. Above – Isla Morley

 Above had me on the edge of my seat with the turn of each page. At 16, Blythe is abducted by a survivalist, Hobbs, who keeps her underground in a missile silo in Kansas for 17 years, never allowing her to see the light of day, and even impregnating her, forcing her to raise a child in this lonely captivity. Blythe constantly hopes that she will be found, but that day never arrives. Once Dobbs dies, Blythe reemerges into the world with her now-fifteen-year-old son, only to find it is nothing like before, just as Dobbs promised. I felt it was riveting and incredibly well-written, especially the parts that take place underground.  However, the end falls a little flat for me. Even so, I loved the book and gave it a 5 on GoodReads.