The Fiction Fox
Updated: Mar 29, 2019
February might be the shortest month, but if you ask me it had no business going by this fast. It felt like the month was over before it even started. Considering how busy this month was, both personally as well as college-wise I didn’t feel like I had read as much this month as I would have liked. Nonetheless, I went through a total of 8 books this month, mostly thanks to the wonderful concept of audiobooks. Compared to the great surprises that January had in store for me (including 4 5-star books), February was a little less spectacular. Nonetheless, with an average of 3,6 it wasn’t a bad month either. Unfortunately, because I had such a busy month, I did get somewhat behind on my review-writing, which means that I can’t include links to full reviews yet. I will update them as soon as possible, but for now, I have to settle for a short version and rating instead. Books read:
1. Caribou Island – David Vann
By now, I know I can trust David Vann to absolutely destroy me with his work. He writes some of the best, but also some of the emotionally heaviest books I’ve ever read, and Caribou Island was no different. Caribou Island combines the story of survival against the bleak nature and unforgiving weather of Alaska with the struggle for survival of a marriage between two people that each have their own demons to wrestle with. It is the perfect synergy of nature- and character writing, executed to (almost) perfection. No word is out of place, each description of the frozen lands that surround our characters pertains to their story in some deeper way. Despite already loving David Vann, this novel gave me an even deeper appreciation of his talents as an author, as the only thing I could “fault” this book for was being so bleak it actually managed to depress me a little. The best words to describe the feeling of this novel are probably: bleak, bitter and hard, and it honestly had a bit of a draining effect on my mood, just from how heavy it felt. That doesn’t, however, make it any less of a masterpiece from a technical point of view. Full review to come: I look forward to sharing my thoughts soon.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
2. The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner The Thief has been on my TBR for years now. In fact, it holds the record for “longest on my want-to-read-shelf on Goodreads”. This month, I finally picked it up, with some mixed results. Although I wasn’t disappointed, The Thief didn’t quite live up to my expectations either. All in all I had a good time reading, yet it didn’t manage to rise above the typical “middle-of-the-road-fantasy” of its time. A full review is up on my website and can be found here.
Rating: 3/5 stars
3. The Salt Path – Raynor Winn The Salt Path is quite the inspiring story of a couple who have seemingly lost everything over the course of just a few weeks. They lose their house and almost all their money to a bad investment, only days after husband Timothy has been diagnosed with an incurable degenerative brain condition. With nothing to lose, they make the impulsive decision to drop everything and walk the South West Coast Path from Somerset to Cornwall. Raynor Winn does a beautiful job of describing their experiences on the path, and how the trip changed them and helped them process what was happening to them. The book unfortunately is a little repetitive and slow in parts, yet arguably so was their journey, so I can’t quite fault it for that. It’s an insightful and honest journey, in more than one sense of the word, that sheds light on very true issues of loss, aging and most importantly the experience of poverty in England.
Full review to come. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
4. The Glass Woman – Caroline Lea
The Glass Woman can safely be called the surprise of the month. I have to admit, I hadn’t even heard of this book before it came out, yet when I saw it on display at my local bookstore, its gorgeous cover and intriguing premise called my name, and I decided to spend some of my last Christmas coupons on it. I wasn’t disappointed. The Glass Woman takes place in Iceland in 1686 and tells the story of Rosa, a young woman who is sent off into an arranged marriage to a man she has never met before. As if it weren’t enough of a challenge for her to adjust to her new life, strange tales regarding Jon and his previous wife Anna are being whispered around town. Is Jon hiding something, how did Anna die, and was she indeed, as many villagers suspected, a witch? The Glass Woman was very atmospheric and beautifully written and I truly struggled to put it down once I got into the story. Without a doubt one of the highlights (at least bookwise) of the month. Full review can be found here.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
5. In the Night Wood – Dale Bailey
In the Night Wood is what I imagine the spiritual child of The Shadow of the Wind and The Haunting of Hill House would be like. A man, haunted by the recent loss of his daughter, travels to an old estate to investigate the life story of a forgotten fairytale author. Here, the lines between actual monsters and the monsters that haunt his mind begin to blur. The result was something that was great in parts, and mediocre in others. Despite a beautiful portrayal of grief, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing here. Full review to come.
Rating: 3/5 stars
6. The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried – Shaun David Hutchinson
This was more a case of “not for me” than “bad book” Last year I was very pleasantly surprised by Shaun David Hutchinsons first book We Are The Ants, which was why The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried caught my eye once it was released. Unfortunately, I was less of a fan of this novel than I was of the first. It very much reminded me of We Are The Ants, but mostly of the parts I didn’t like. Hutchinsons characters suffer from the same problem John Greens characters do: being your stereotypical YA-special snow-flakes. They are quirky for the sake of it and react in ways that just seem unrealistic to me. I’ve not been feeling most of the YA I read recently, and all the reasons for it were very prominent in this novel. That being said, like in We Are The Ants, there are quite some profound and meaningful passages among the teenage fluff. Just for me: too little of the former, and too much of the latter.
Rating: 2/5 stars
7. The Unseen World – Liz Moore
It frankly took me a while to get into The Unseen World, but it was 100% worth the investment. A stunning portrayal of a daughter raised by her brilliant, but socially closed off father. We see their relationship develop from the daughters childhood years, to her adult life, when her father’s mind (the thing he owed his entire identity and livelihood to) begins to falter. I was fully prepared to give this book 4 or 4.5 stars, until the final chapters, the fully pushed me over the edge: this is a 5 star novel. Full review to come.
Rating: 5/5 stars
8. The Book of Lost Things – John Conolly
Last but most certainly not least this month was The Book of Lost Things by John Conolly. This one took me by surprise, in the sense that I loved it way more than I was expecting to. We follow David, a boy who struggles to come to terms with the way his young life is changing. His mother recently passed away, and now his father has remarried and brought a “new mother” and half-brother into David’s life. David copes by burying himself in his favorite books, until one day he quite literally finds himself lost in that fictional world. This is a wonderful story of the transition from childhood into adulthood in a young boy, told in a world where filled with dark fairytales, and even darker realities. Part Neil Gaiman, part Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, entirely wonderful and possibly a new favorite. Full review to come
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Again, March’s TBR won’t be a strict list of books I have to get to this month, but more like a “I-hope-to-read-some-of-them-and-possibly-some-more-list”. Two of them, I’ve already started at the moment of writing this, so I’ll be including them as well in this list.
1. The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
2. The Book of M – Peng Shepherd
3. The Anomaly – Michael Rutger
4. Bridges of Clay – Markus Zusak
You can of course follow my progress during the month on my Goodreads, or await next month wrap up. I wish you all a happy reading month, and hope to see you back soon!