Rearview Mirror: February 2015

Gahhh okay so February ended up being super crazy.  Remember back on the January Rearview post, and I was all like, “Ah, life! So peaceful!”  Well, don’t tempt fate.  February was insane.

My mother-in-law was in and out of the hospital a few times, so I ended up spending a lot of time hanging out there.  While, of course, it’s all sad and she has been unwell (although she is responding quite well to the most recent treatment), I’m pretty good at silver linings.  The hospital itself is lovely, so open and light and clean – it’s brand new and absolutely fantastic and the cafeteria serves superb pizza (yeah, so much for January’s diet/exercise program, too!).  And, of course, being in hospital as a companion means – loads of reading time.

And it’s actually very nice reading time, because you don’t have this nagging feeling that you ought to be somewhere else or doing something else.  Sitting there is the thing you’re supposed to be doing, so the reading is guilt-free.  I’ve always been the hospital-companion of the family, so I’m really rather comfortable there with my bag of books.

All that to say, lots of books in February!!

Other February news…  okay, well, this has nothing to do with reading but I got a new stove and it is so wonderful that I’m telling my book blog about!  I LOVE MY STOVE!  It’s beautiful!  It’s gas!  It has five burners!  It has an oven that heats quickly and evenly!  Gah, it’s gorgeous.  Between that and my new sink, I find myself standing in my kitchen, petting things.  So pretty.  ::happy sigh::

Also, February here has been VERY COLD and we got snow!  Legit snow!  Like eight inches of it!  I was actually pretty excited about that. I love snow, especially when it’s all fluffy and happy and it happens on a Saturday and we can stay home in our pajamas and just enjoy life.

Okay, anyway, other February book news!  Besides reading a ridiculous number of reviews and adding sixteen books to the TBR (not including like three more series), I also made another huge step in my life………………..  I bought a Kindle!  I’m almost ashamed.  Here’s the thing: I really, really, really love books.  Like actual physical, real books.  I love them.  I love the way they smell, the way they feel, the weight of them, the way that perfect book fits into your hand and falls open in just the right way…  seriously, I love books.  I have purchased books just because I like the way they look or feel.

BUT when I was spending all that time at the hospital, I also spent a lot of time on my phone, just messing about, playing games and, yes, reading via the Kindle app.  See, I have this paranoia, this horrible fear, and it haunts me everywhere I go…  what if I get trapped somewhere without a book?!?  And it’s worse when I’m going somewhere where I know I’ll be doing a lot of reading.  The Kindle means I don’t have to take eight books with me everywhere…  just the one I’m reading and the Kindle for backup.

So we’ll see how it goes.  I do like this little thing.  I got the 6″, so it’s small and adorable and quite happy.

Alrighty, so much for my (not really) interesting life.  This month, I did come across two especially fun posts to share.  MyLittleBookBlog talked about her thought process while writing a blog post (oh-so familiar!), while FictionFan shared some things she’s never read in a book review (so why do writers keep doing them??).

For February, I posted twelve book reviews (woohoo!) and only have two books in the Need Reviewed Pile, so that’s staying under control, mainly because I bothered to finally figure out how to schedule posts, which means I can review a whole bunch of books while I’m in the groove, but not have to bombard all of you with all the reviews at once!  I also figured out how to link to Twitter!  Say what!  Now my Twitter actually has twitterings!

Favorite February Read:  Okay, actually a really hard choice, but I think I’m going to go with A Monster Callsbecause I really feel like everyone should read this book.  It slayed me. The writing is amazing, the illustrations are perfect, the story is beautiful.  This book was genuinely close to a perfect read for me.  READ IT.  Oh, and make sure you get the physical copy – the illustrations are truly part of the story (or at least they were for me), but when my sister checked it out of the library on her Kindle, no illustrations?!?  So get the real book and set aside an hour and read it straight through.  Beautiful.

Favorite February Read #2:  Yeah, Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms was actually a very close second.  It’s just so happy!  I love to read a story about a happily married couple, and Pollyanna and Jimmy are just too adorable for words.  This book has definitely been added to my list of I’m-tired-and-grumpy-and-just-need-a-happy-book-to-read.

Most Disappointing February Read:  I guess I’m going with Dan Brown’s Deception Point.  This book totally gave me book deja vu.  It felt like it was the same the story I had already read in Digital Fortress except with different names and locations.  While not a bad read, per se (actually, it kept me up for hours reading it!), I was hoping for something a little more innovative.

Other February Reviews:

  • Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund – YA – 4/5 – fantastic retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel.  And oh, by the way.  It’s a sequel to another book.  Don’t bother telling me ahead of time, though.
  • The Far-Off Land by Rebecca Cauldill – YA/Historical Fiction – 4/5 – a thought-provoking frontier tale.
  • The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie – mystery – 3/5 – solid but not striking.
  • Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter – YA/children’s – 4/5 – very solid sequel to Pollyannabut not as good as the third in the series!
  • A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie – mystery – 3/5 – a bit meh.  And no, I didn’t spell “Caribbean” right on the first try.  I never do.
  • A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall – YA/NA/chick lit – 4/5 – a surprisingly adorable and happy little piece of chick lit.  I actually loved it!
  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling – children’s – 4/5 – classic Kipling.  His illustrations are hilarious.
  • At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie – mystery – 3/5 – a bit overly complicated, but I would love to stay at Bertram’s!
  • Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter – chick lit – 3/5 – warm and happy, but nothing unexpected.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – YA – 4/5 – surprisingly thoughtful teen romance.

Was this girl busy writing reviews in February??  You bet I was!

Added to the TBR:

Since I got so many books read, that means I can add even more, right??  Even though I added a lot, here are the highlights, as inspired by reviews around WordPress…

  • Reading, Writing & Riesling added two books to the list – both Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason and Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner sound like brilliant thrillers.
  • Cleopatra Loves Books also did some damage by adding Taunting the Dead (plus, of course, its sequel, Follow the Leader) by Mel Sharratt and The Exit by Helen FitzGerald.  Apparently, I’m really yearning for some good mystery/thrillers….
  • FictionFan tempted me with the first in another mystery series, The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg.  I’m not 100% sure I’ll be able to get these, since they are Swedish (??) and haven’t all been translated, but since I probably won’t actually read them for another three years, maybe we’ll be all set by then??
  • FictionFan also scored with her review of Dune by Frank Herbert.  Sci-fi/fantasy/political??  Does it get more fun than that??  Of course, there are like eight books in the series so……
  • And finally, Sophie inspired me to read a really fluffy-sounding chick lit (all the better because she doesn’t recommend much from that genre!) – Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen.

So thanks for reading with me in February, and here’s to a happy March!!

Eleanor & Park

//by Rainbow Rowell//published 2013//

71LkLmxqgjLSo Rainbow Rowell is one of those authors that I keep hearing people go on about and keeping thinking that I should read.  I actually did read her book Landline back in the early summer, but that was right before the house-buying chaos broke loose, and I just never reviewed it.  But I found the writing to be engaging, and decided that it would be worthwhile to check out her other titles, which brings us to Eleanor & Park.  

First things first: I actually enjoyed this book.  The word that keeps coming to me while I’m thinking about this book is thoughtful.  Not quite to “profound,” but definitely a book that gives you something to chew on.  There is more going on than just the bare bones of the story.

But here are the bare bones of the story nonetheless:  Eleanor is the new girl in high school, and she’s all wrong.  Her hair is crazy, her clothes are crazy, she says things that are crazy.  In high school, where the mantra is blend in, Eleanor does her own thing.  Park is one of those quiet, middle-ground guys.  Not popular, but no one messes with him, either.  But when he ends up sharing his seat on the bus with Eleanor, both of their lives change.

The book cover says “This is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.”  And really, that’s the type of sentence to make me back away from a book as quickly as possible, but I’m glad I looked past it, because it’s truly an incredibly inaccurate statement.

Eleanor & Park is so much more than a teenage love story.  I walked away from this book with a strong conviction, a reminder that there is so much more to people than we can see.  We see someone around and wonder why they dress or talk or act a certain way, a way that, to us, seems really rather absurd.  But the truth of the matter is that we have no idea what has brought that person to where they are now.  We have no idea what forces have shaped them, what circumstances face them at home, or what fears haunt them.

For me, that was what this book was about.  About two teens who at least got a glimmer of the importance of learning to accept people where they are and for who they are, instead of expecting them to conform to some preconceived idea of what a certain person should look like.

The story itself was engaging.  Eleanor and Park are both very likable, despite (because of?) their flaws.  I loved the fact that Park comes from a happy family, with parents who are still married and still love each other. So refreshing.  Especially since Park recognizes it as something really great, as something that he wants for himself someday –

His parents never talked about how they met, but when Park was younger, he used to try to imagine it.

He loved how much they loved each other.  It was the thing he thought about what he woke up scared in the middle of the night.  Not that they loved him – they were his parents, they had to love him.  That they loved each other.  They didn’t have to do that.

None of his friends’ parents were still together, and in every case, that seemed like the number one thing that had gone wrong with his friends’ lives.

But Park’s parents loved each other.  They kissed each other on the mouth, no matter who was watching.

And Park’s happy home life felt every bit as realistic as Eleanor’s bleak one.  It never felt like Park’s parents were special, or superhumans, to have stayed married all this time.  One gets the strong sense of choice.  Eleanor’s parents made very bad ones, while Park’s have tried to make good ones, starting with the choice to stay together, and, more, to stay in love.

I also appreciated that the physical aspect of Park and Eleanor’s relationship was not the main focus.  They become friends first.  This isn’t a story of instalove, and it isn’t a story of passionate necking whenever they get a spare second (although there is a bit of it), it’s a story of friendship.

He tried to remember how this had happened – how she went from someone he’d never met to the only one who mattered.

It’s a story that sounds like it should be a bit cheesy, but somehow isn’t.  It’s a story that sounds like it should be overly-dramatic and depressing, but somehow isn’t.  It’s a story that sounds like something I would hate, but somehow isn’t.

Eleanor & Park comes away with 4/5 and as a recommended read – a narrative that manages to be thoughtful and engaging, despite being a teenage love story.