Monday, March 6, 2023

Read in February 2023

My first finish of the month was Kurashi at Home: How to Organize Your Space and Achieve Your Ideal Life by Marie Kondo. I've read all of her previous books, and despite the sometimes woo-woo suggestions of thanking your items for their service, I really like her approach to decluttering. She doesn't tell everyone to get rid of all their stuff, but rather curate your home to only contain items that you love. For some people, that's more items than others. A lot of the content of this book was a repeat from her earlier writing, but I enjoyed the format with pictures and additional sections on constructing your idea morning and days. The promise of "achieving your ideal life" seems a little bit much though. 

I really should have given up on reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. After reading and loving The Shell Seekers last year, I was excited to pick up all of Pilcher's other books. While Winter Solstice did have some cozy moments and settings, the premise was depressing and not much happens. There's a lot of question-and-answer type dialogue. I wasn't invested in any of the characters and I stalled out after a few hundred pages. I had bought a copy of the book though, and a part of me thought I was wasting my money if I didn't finish it, even though it was a slog. (One reason to buy fewer books!) I've heard September and Coming Home are better though, so fingers crossed I can recapture some Pilcher magic with those.

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams was recommended by a friend, and it turned out to be a cute cozy mystery. The main setting is a bookshop, with lots of mentions of baked goods, so it's hard to go wrong. The bookshop owner even lives in a train carriage tiny house! The mystery was a little silly as usual in this genre, but it was a fun read in general and I look forward to revisiting this series.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl was a random find at a library book sale last year. I'm trying to read more books that I own, and I picked this up because it was under 200 pages. The first part of the book is about Frankl's experience in concentration camps during the Holocaust. His account is horrifying, but takes a slightly different approach than other first-hand accounts of this time because of his background as a psychologist. He shares a lot about the mental state of concentration camp prisoners, which was something I hadn't heard a lot about. The first part of this book is definitely worth reading; the second half is about his psychological technique called "logotherapy" and wow, this all flew above my head. I'm sure if I had read it slowly and taken notes like I was in a college class, I could have figured it out. But it was way too academic for leisure reading, and I didn't get much out of it.

I was an early adopter of Goodreads, so I have things on my TBR shelf from 2008 - yes, the 2008 that was 15 years ago! At the beginning of the year I decided to either read these books or take them off my list by the end of the year. Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado and Vince Rause was terrifying and amazing. This is the story of the plane crash that occurred in the early 1970s that was the inspiration behind the move Alive. A rugby team, friends, and family crashes in the mountains, and initially there are a good amount of survivors. Searches called off and surrounded by snowy mountains, there is absolutely nothing to eat, so they quickly resort to cannibalism to survive. After nearly 10 weeks two survivors (one being the author) manage to traverse a 17,000 foot mountain and 45 miles of rugged terrain, with no supplies, to find help. I read a lot of survival memoirs, but this was HARROWING. It's one of the most awful situations I can imagine a person being in. This book gets five stars, but I only recommend it if it's something you can mentally handle.

The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series, and my favorite so far. A crab fisherman snags a crab pot that contains the body of a dead woman. There were lots of twists and turns as Tracy and the other investigators try to identify her and what happened. I highly recommend this whole series if you're looking for a police procedural/mystery with great characters.

Last year I read Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller and absolutely loved her writing style. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller was my next read of hers, and while I didn't like it as much as Swimming Lessons, there was a lot to love. First of all, however, this book is not a "twisty page turner" as the blurb on the cover claims. The pacing is quite slow and I can see how that may put some people off. As expected the writing is gorgeous and the sense of place is particularly strong. I was transported to a falling-down mansion in the sweltering summer in England. The story definitely had gothic overtones. If you're looking for a slow, atmospheric read that will transport you, you'll enjoy this one.

I also had one DNF (did not finish): Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I really wanted to read more educational nonfiction this year, but honestly I was just bored. I also question the credentials of the author, who has a doctorate in philosophy, not anthropology or biology. There was one section early on where he argues that the agricultural revolution was a bad thing because it brought too many people together to spread disease. He claims that being a hunter/gather was actually better, and even though life expectancy was around 30, that's actually skewed because so many children died, bringing down the average. Uh, not convincing me. I'll take my living children and gardens, thanks.