End Notes: February

The final word on books I read in February. Recommendations and a few regrets.



The Martian by Andy Weir ♦

Astronaut Mark Watney is accidentally stranded on one of the first manned missions to Mars. Without hope for rescue, Mark uses his resourcefulness to survive on an uninhabited planet. The book goes into a lot of detail about the engineering, technology,  and general science of Mark’s attempts. I skimmed over all of those parts — it was a little boring to me. But the overall struggle to survive was fantastically interesting. Plus, Matt Damon is staring in the coming movie adaptation.

The Language of Flowers iconby Vanessa Diffenbaugh ♦

I REALLY enjoyed this book. Eighteen-year-old Victoria ages out of the foster care system after years of being bounced around families and group homes. She struggles to find a job and community with her limited set of skills (intense knowledge of the Victorian language of flowers). Diffenbaugh doesn’t oversimplify Victoria’s pain or insufficiencies.  It’s honest, heartbreaking, and lovely. Go read it, you won’t regret it.

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois ♦

An American college student studying abroad in Buenos Aires is accused of murdering her roommate. Spoiled and over-indulged, the accused, Lily Hayes, finds herself at the mercy of how the media, her family, and the police perceive her. I have to admit I didn’t really care for this book. It was interesting enough, but I don’t love literary books about crimes/criminals. I feel like “literary crime novel” is synonymous with “excuse for a disappointing ending.” I don’t need everything wrapped up to love a book, but in a whodunit I expect some level of answers. The writing is fine, the story is interesting, but I’m not a fan.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

I picked up this book because I thought the premise was interesting. It’s the first in a planned trilogy that follows one family over a century. I like the idea, but I never felt connected or attached to the characters. They remained very distant throughout the novel. I never really cared what happened to them. I think I’ll still finish the series, but it isn’t at the top of my to-read list.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A grumpy, widowed bookstore owner finds his life turned upside down by a robbery and a surprise discovery that occur in the same week. I loved this book. It is sentimental and sweet, quick and adorable. It’s not particularly challenging or dense, just a delightful, easy story. It’s a great vacation read for anyone that loves books about books and reading.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

In the future, attractive women who die young are frozen. Wealthy, creepy men visit the ‘bridesicle’ facility and pay exorbitant fees to revive them in hopes of finding a potential bride. Somehow it is a light, romantic story in the midst of a very dark vision of the future. An excellent, accessible sci-fi read.

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

Macallister chronicles the career of America’s preeminent female stage illusionist, The Amazing Arden. When Arden’s husband is found murdered following her performance she falls under suspicion, then proceeds to tell a suspicious officer her life story in one night. Rave reviews (including a starred PW) and great social media buzz about this book…but I didn’t like it or get what all the buzz was about. The characters’ actions felt unmotivated; the story fell flat to me. My book club is reading it this month, though, so maybe they’ll show it to me in a different light.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

The best of the Dear Sugar advice column Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) wrote for the Rumpus. Some beautiful bits of wisdom, some amazing stories from Strayed’s life. Some dull pieces, some advice I strongly opposed. It’s a little hard to read straight through. But if you are a fan of Strayed’s prose, it’s a good one to read in chunks to get your fix of her beautiful voice.

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