Hi, friends! How was February, the longest/shortest month of the year? You’re talking to a woman on the edge. Am I the only person whose favorite season is always the one not currently being experienced? Any other time of the year, I would have sworn winter was my favorite season. Winter is Christmas, thick knits, tall rubber boots, blankets, willfully refusing to shave. Now, I’ve discovered, it is also seasonal affective disorder, bulky layers, dry skin.
Can you fault me? Summer in my neck of the woods can be positively hellish. Right now, though, I’d take a sunburn over wind burn.
I now understand the phrase from CS Lewis: always winter and never Christmas. Horrible prospect.
The only thing that can ease my sun-starved soul are–what else?–books. February was a pretty good reading month; not one book under 4 stars. I also couldn’t help but divert a little from my reading challenge list; winter makes you do crazy things.
Here’s what I read this month:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This was the second assigned book in my adolescent literature class. It didn’t wow me quite as much as Stargirl did, but it was still quite good. It tells the story of Junior, a Native American boy living on the Spokane reservation in Washington. To say the least, his life on the rez is awful. His parents are drunks, his neighbors pick on him and beat him up, and his school is trying to “kill the Indians.” Junior eventually sets out for a better education outside the rez, to the dismay of his best friend Rowdy, at a school where he is the only Native American.
I think the drawings (Junior is an aspiring cartoonist) really make the story. They are absolutely HILARIOUS. Otherwise this is a darkly comic coming-of-age tale about diversity, family, community, basketball, and…boners. This was a little more “boyish” than I would normally like, but like I said, it’s very funny despite some of the depressing stuff. Four easy stars.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Chalk this up to a thirst for teen dystopia. I certainly don’t think this is better than The Hunger Games, but there’s something so addictive about it. It’s the story of a girl named Beatrice who lives in a world where everyone’s place in society is decided by a government-engineered simulation. Those who don’t fit the mold for any faction are known as Divergent. In order to go under the radar, Beatrice (who of course is Divergent) joins the Dauntless faction, who are known for wearing all black, getting tattoos, and jumping off of moving trains. Most of the story is her and her fellow initiates training to become for-real Dauntless. It’s like if the pre-arena part of The Hunger Games was really, really stretched out.
This was a very fast-paced story, which was a blessing, considering how I struggled through City of Bones last month. We find out all about the Test and the fact that Beatrice is Divergent within twenty pages of the book. It was also exciting to follow the training of the Dauntless inductees, which mainly involved hand-to-hand combat and general dangerous living. The character development was good in this book, especially involving Tris and Al. There were quite a few “background” characters to keep up with, yet I could tell one from the other after a few pages. I’m not in a huge hurry to pick up Insurgent, but I definitely will continue the series. Four stars.
A book of short stories: A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
Short stories are wonderful, especially for the hurried reader. You can feel like you’ve traversed through a whole world of characters and setting in half the time a novel would take. And if you don’t feel great about the world of that particular story, another one is only about twenty pages away. I think a person could learn to like short stories if he or she were given a copy of this book. O’Connor is a master of short stories, as well as the Southern Gothic medium. All the stories have a touch of the ugly, the bleak, the dirty. The characters are broken and grotesque, and while the settings have a down-home flavor, there’s a sense of foreign terror all around.
I didn’t love all the stories in this book equally, but I at least got some enjoyment out of each one. You can check out my individual ratings for each of the ten stories here. Altogether, though, I gave the book four stars. I really enjoyed it and would recommend O’Connor to anyone who loves the Southern Gothic genre.
Holes by Louis Sachar (guys…enough mispronunciation. It’s SACK-er!)
This is my pick of best book in February. I could sing this book’s praises forever and ever. I’m assuming most of you have read or at least heard of it, but if you haven’t, I can only say that you should pick it up as soon as possible. At least see the movie. Pretty decent adaptation of the book, considering (looking at you, The Giver).
Holes is the story of a very unlucky kid named Stanley Yelnats who, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is sent to Camp Green Lake to serve a jail sentence for stealing a pair of shoes. Here he must dig a hole in the dry desert sand each day, to “build character.” As these stories often go, there’s something secret going on at Camp Green Lake, and it all has to do with Stanley and his ancestors, who are the reason he seems to be so unlucky.
This is one of my all-time favorite young adult novels–definitely in the top 5. It’s a darkly humorous story with great, believable characters. It has fairly short chapters, making it easily digestible in a day or two. Pick it up if you like YA, period.
A graphic novel: Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Having enjoyed V for Vendetta last year, I’ve decided to make an effort to read more graphic novels this year. This was a pleasant start! Friends with Boys is very much a middle-grade story, starring Maggie and her three older brothers. She’s going to high school for the first time, having been homeschooled previously. Obviously this is a big worry for her. And there’s the whole I’m-being-haunted-by-a-widow’s-ghost thing…
The best thing about Friends with Boys was the artwork. It was very lively and full of expression, yet still true to life. The characters are all very humorous and sweet; I loved Maggie and her brothers and the way they communicated. However, there’s a big problem with this book: there’s very little conflict. There’s a subplot about a ghost and an old artifact from the museum being stolen, but it was introduced and resolved so quickly that it seemed pointless. I really hope a sequel will be in the works soon, because these characters are too sweet and funny to waste. Four stars.
A banned book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
I had quite a pick with this category. I’m sure half of the books I own are banned somewhere in the US. We all know the story: Alice follows a rabbit down a hole, questions absolutely nothing, oddity ensues.
I have to say I enjoyed the first installment much more than the second. The first was giddy and humorous and nonsensical, in a good way. The second was…whoa. Jumbled and tedious and nonsensical in a decidedly BAD way. To pull out a tired comparison, Through the Looking-Glass was mostly a bad acid trip throughout.
I’m glad I read them, though. They ARE classics, right? And I can understand why. I got mostly enjoyment out of them both, although I had to sit back and rub my eyes more times with the second. Four stars. Read sober.
All in all, a very good reading month. Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear how your reading endeavors went in February.