book reviews · Reading

February 2021: Recent Reads

February is often seen as a month of romance and all that jazz, but for most of my life, it’s been more about birthdays – particularly mine 🙂

And while the last half of January was pretty stressful and I didn’t find much time to read (or much worth reading), I made up for it on my birthday weekend with two straight days of reading. It was lovely.

Nonfiction

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

I read this in an afternoon, but I plan to revisit this memoir/treatise again later. First, her descriptions are beautiful and she has such keen insights about how our Western culture makes us feel like the need to retreat is shameful rather than a natural part of life’s cycle. Second, though the author’s style was slightly rambly, it fit with main thrust of the book: that of resting and retreating. When resting, there is no need to be efficient. Rambling is okay.

Third, while the author is not a Christian, so many highlightable things that she said are backed up by biblical principles. I love finding truth tucked in all sorts of books!

Reading her descriptions of winter, cold ocean swimming, and seeing the aurora borealis and reindeer made me want to visit these frigid places. And that is after telling multiple people this week how much I don’t miss snow, and I LOVE living on the equator because I love the year-round comfortable temperatures. The idea of embracing the cold of your winter, and getting out in it, just makes so much sense in what I’ve learned about facing tough emotions.

Espiritualidad Emocionalmente Sana / Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero

Espiritualidad Emocionalmente Sana Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Leí este libro con un grupo de colegas de mi colegio. Es uno de los mejores libros que he leído en años recientes que se trata de la vida espiritual y como crecer internalmente y no solo el comportamiento externo. Hubo tantas cosas que me pusieron pensar y empecé aplicar algunas partes inmediatamente, como descansando 24 horas cada semana. Lo recomiendo 100%! Y recomiendo tomar el tiempo mientras leerlo. Vale la pena!

I read the Spanish version with a group of co-workers, but it was originally written in English. It’s one of the best books I’ve read recently that deals with the spiritual life and how to grow internally, not just external behavior. There were so many things in there that made me think and I started to apply some of the principles right away, such as making a 24-hour Sabbath every week. I wholeheartedly recommend it! And I recommend taking your time with it, too. It’s worth it!

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

I read this book for January’s Book Voyage Challenge. The author did a remarkable job of describing the events and emotions of the survival of the crew of the Endurance in a story-like way rather than simply recounting the facts.

I think if I read this before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have connected with it as well as I did. However, some of the emotions the men experienced, such as not knowing when their situation would get better, and getting tired of the sameness of their days, I could relate to because of COVID. I don’t want to belittle their experience, though: I haven’t been afraid for my life on a floe of ice or stuck eating blubber and seal and penguin meat for over a year.

Note: I listened to most of this on audiobook, but toward the end I switched to ebook. I tend to multitask when listening to audiobooks, but the accent of the narrator coupled with the myriad names, dates, and facts were too much for me to attend to while also running with the noise of city traffic or running water as I washed dishes.

Fiction

Lean on Me by Pat Simmons

Lean on Me

When I picked up this book, I was afraid I was being a glutton for punishment: my family cared for my grandma in our home for about 6.5 years. However, because dementia/Alzheimer’s caregiving is close to my heart and has shaped my life so profoundly, I am always interested to see how it is presented in literature.

For the most part, the author described the emotions, uncertainties, and exhaustion of caregiving very well. My one beef was that in a story, getting and accepting outside help can happen almost effortlessly, and that was not how it went for my family. So I was a little bitter that it could be such a seemingly simple “happily ever after” when reality is so much more complex for caregiving families.

As far as the romance aspect of the story, boy oh boy: if there’s a guy who helps someone care for their aging relative, he’s a keeper! He seemed a little too perfect, but eh. That’s okay. It was a sweet story.

At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer

At Love's Command

I admit. Most of the fiction I read this month was romance. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. But usually when I reach for romance, it’s because I’m not dealing with things in my life in a healthy way. Nevertheless, I’ve read several of Karen Witemeyer’s books when in that tough emotional place because I know I’ll get clean romance and a sweet (if unrealistic) love story.

I love that she says the reason she writes romance is because “the world needs more happily ever afters.” I tend to agree, despite my review for Lean on Me.

I enjoyed this book because it was a bit out of the ordinary and wasn’t completely predictable. It involved some outlaws, an estranged brother, a strong female lead who was a doctor (unusual for the time period), and a former military guy who had his own band of vigilante do-gooders. I normally don’t read a whole series of connected characters and their romances, but I might with this one.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein

I read this for February’s Book Voyage Challenge for a book set in Western Europe. I liked that the Book Girls tried to pick books that were not set in WWII for their Western Europe list, since there is already a plethora of such books around.

I was fascinated to learn more about Einstein’s wife, even if it was in fictional form. I also got really mad at how Einstein treated Mileva after she agreed to be in a relationship with him. I’m not sure how much is a fictional recreation about what would have caused them to get divorced, but I got angry on her behalf. Still, it was a well-told story, especially given the sparseness of the facts available to the author.

Kid Lit

A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson by Michelle Y. Green

A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson

This was a fun biography to read, because the author was able to extensively interview Mamie Johnson. Mamie is such a remarkable woman: first, she was a woman playing baseball in a man’s league. Second, she is an African American. Both of those can be daunting realities, so the risks she took to pursue her dream are so impressive. And that’s the message Ms. Johnson wants to send to kids: going after your dreams is worth it, no matter how impossible it seems.

Note to parents: While Ms. Johnson did experience racism, and that is a reality that is necessary for kids of all ages to know about, it is not described in an extremely graphic way, so I wouldn’t have any problem with a young child reading this.

DNF’d

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

As I said on my Goodreads review, I really wanted to like this book. And I did, for about the first three chapters. After all, the premise of three star-crossed second sisters traversing Italy with the goal of lifting the curse so they can experience love sounds like a fun, innocent story.

However, about the fourth chapter, cuss words starting popping up, along with some sexual innuendos. That kind of prose is not my cup of tea. So I DNF’d after just seven or eight chapters.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

Love Lettering

This book I did like in a lot of ways, but DNF’d due to some completely open door scenes. One of them was pretty much an entire chapter. I really liked the development of the emotional life of the protagonist and the ways she learned to fight to stay instead of just keeping the status quo to keep the peace. I even highlighted a few quotable parts. I also liked that the way they connected was over hand-lettered signs in NYC – it’s unusual for romances.

But I couldn’t, in good conscience, finish it, and I can’t in good conscience recommend it either.


Coming Soon: Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

My students have been working hard on reviewing the books that they read in January so that they can share them on my blog! They’re excited to be published authors, and I’ll plan to share a few of their reviews (anonymously) each month in addition to my regular reviews.

For you parents and teachers out there, you can hear actual kids’ opinions of kid books instead of my teacherly/adult opinion. It’s gonna be great and I can’t wait to share their reviews with you.

Happy Reading!


P.S. Linking up as usual with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly Quick Lit!

P.P.S. photo credit for picture at top of post: Giftpundits.com from Pexels

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