February is widely acknowledged as the worst month of the year. There’s a polar vortex knocking down your doors and rattling on your windows. A hearty meal with some fancy wine usually help shake off the winter blues, but all of the restaurants are crammed full of couples making out over bread baskets. And the grocery story? Hardly any better. You can’t even reach the pasta aisle without fighting off giant, stuffed bears.
It’s much better to just stay in reading.
My TBR list grew this month when I went to Half Priced Books to sell and instead came back with books. With the pressure on to actually read the books I buy, I promptly went to the library for two of my three picks instead.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s humor and warmth soften the brutality of growing up under apartheid. This memoir is peppered with stories of childhood mischief, but the heart of the book is his mother. Patricia Noah is my new favorite person who I’ve never met. She’s amazing. She refused to play by the rules — much less the unjust rules of her racist government — and built the kind of life for herself and her children that she was told not to even dream of.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Solomon has recreated the Antebellum south…on a space ship. In this world the last of mankind is aboard the HSS Matilda soaring toward a promised land. The upper decks are lavish and comfortable, but the lower decks are slums populated by black sharecroppers like Aster. Aster is a brilliant doctor, but she is trapped, unable to change her circumstances. Solomon has created a jarring juxtaposition — advanced technology that we hope for in the future vs. the violence and racism we associate with our past.
Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty
Kingdom of Copper is the hot-off-the-press, second book in the the trilogy. Daevabad is full of warring djinn tribes, unexplained magic, and a history full of secrets and betrayal. Nahri is now alone in Daevabad, a prisoner of the palace, and subject of a king she hates. KOC steps it up a notch with the political intrigue (and down with the love interest). It was really exciting to root for characters as they all plotted against each other.
This month, I’m still working on my holiday book haul and a few I’ve picked up more along the way because of course I did. This month is mainly fantasy-driven for me, and I plan to keep it that way for a while. So, without further adieu, let’s get into my list:
Wizard At Large by Terry Brooks
Last weekend at Half Price Books, I found a copy of this book in remarkable condition. Even the dust jacket was perfect. For the cover art alone, I knew I was going to buy it, but reading the back closed the deal even more. I’m not that well-versed in Terry Brooks so I’m looking forward to getting into this universe, starting with Wizard At Large (even though I’m reading out of order).
The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Back to basics. I’m a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings but have always found the books challenging to get into. I hear that if you push past the 100–200-page mark, things become a lot easier. Well, I’m passed that point now and I think those people are right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first 50 pages of this book. It’s great to finally be trucking right along. The gang just entered Rivendell, which is super exciting. Hopefully, I can get finished with The Fellowship and move right into The Two Towers next month.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Another classic that I simply missed out on. Everyone always talks about great his novel is and how it was one of their first introductions into fantasy as a genre. After having the book on my shelf for a bit, it’s finally time to dig in and see what all the fuss is about. I hope I get hooked just like everyone tells me I will.
February means a couple of things to me: anxious waiting for a tax return, soon-to-be-discounted Valentine’s Day chocolates (the good stuff, none of those chintzy giant hearts), and preparing for our first long-form short story contest. This month, to get myself in the spirit, I’ve decided to brush up on some authors who’ve really exemplified and challenged the fundamentals of rich, character driven storytelling.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
It’s no secret that I love a good vampire story. Stephen King’s pillar of vampire horror was, and remains, one of the most prolific, best executed tales within the genre. King’s clever use of newspaper clippings, character and time shifts, and his dedication to the folklore all work together to craft a truly haunting novel you won’t be able to put down. If you’re already acquainted with this creepy classic, pick it up again, and if you’ve yet to discover it (friendly warning), invest in a nightlight.
This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes
As the title would suggest, this book did just that for me. I came across this title at a rather difficult time in my life. Homes’ protagonist, Richard Novak, a divorcee who has pushed away his friends, family, and everyone else in pursuit of success, is drawn back into the world upon learning there is a sinkhole in his yard that will, eventually, claim his house if left unchecked. His reeducation and re-socialization into a world he thought he understood is simultaneously inspiring, thrilling, and poignant. Even the most jaded spirit (ahem!) will feel lightened by the end of this coming-of-middle-age tale.
A Study in Pink by Mark Gatiss, Stephen Moffat, and Illustrated by Jay
Okay, it’s exactly what it looks like: a manga adaptation of the BBC’s international phenomenon Sherlock. In terms of plot and characterization, it’s a damn-near carbon copy of the television installment. That said, it’s always interesting to see a distinctly culture-bound character get the international treatment. Illustrator Jay manages to capture the drama, humor, action and intelligence that have been so integral to the Holmes stories since their creation nearly two-hundred years ago. Sure, it’s not exactly uncharted territory, but this adaptation of an adaptation holds plenty of entertainment for new readers and hardcore fans alike.
If you’re reading anything good this month consider writing your brilliant thoughts into essay form to be published by The Arcanist.