18. Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi - A very unique YA about an Iranian American, Saaket (also called Scott), who has not found his passion and goes on a road trip to find the professor he thinks can help him find the "grit" he needs to stick with something long enough to determine what exactly it is he wants to do with his life. I liked the uniqueness and how the author pulled the strands of the storyline together, although I found the storytelling sometimes a bit uneven.
19. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken - More than a funny book by a satirist, Al Franken tells the story of how he became a Democrat and then a senator and all about learning how to work for the people without embarrassing himself or his family. An amazing book, both entertaining and educational.
20. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (e-book) - The story of a black girl who witnesses the senseless shooting of a friend by a police officer and must make the decision whether to stay quiet about the injustice or become an activist in memory of her friend. Deeply moving and especially great for discussion. I had trouble with the vernacular and that made the book slightly lesser for me, but discussing it helped me to understand it in ways that I couldn't through the fog of language frustration and expanded its meaning for me.
21. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande - One of the best nonfiction works I've ever read, the story of the author's slowly growing understanding of how we need to change our way of looking at end-of-life decision-making. His own father's decline and his life as a doctor both informed the author's perception of how we should treat the elderly and the dying -- with focus on quality of life and making sure family understands and supports the individual's wishes for fulfilling what's most important during their final years. Everyone should read this -- truly, everyone.
22. Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth - A brutal fictional tale about two boys who experience tragedy and make the mistake, in their grief, of joining up with a group of men who claim to be in search of revenge for the sake of the teenagers but really have their own cruel ends in mind. Set in Australia, I found the setting vivid in both good and bad ways (some scenes were almost unbearable). I particularly enjoyed the ending, which is immensely satisfying after many pages of hideous violence.
23. I Am the Boss of this Chair by Carolyn Crimi and Marisa Morea - An adorable picture book about a cat whose territory is invaded by the newly adopted kitten in his home. When he can no longer stand watching the kitten take over his toys, his door, and his chair, he chases the kitten around the house, unexpectedly discovering that it's fun having a companion around to play with and cuddle.
24. The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees - The host of Oxford, Mississippi's Thacker Mountain Radio Show and a local journalist, Dees describes a single year in Oxford, when the residents were fighting over the downing of trees, whether or not to put up a statue in honor of its most famous resident, William Faulkner, and where to put it. Especially fun for locals and fans of Faulkner.
25. Our Native Bees by Paige Embry - An excellent nonfiction book about one woman's quest to learn all about the bees that are native to North America. Packed with gorgeous photos of bees and written with humor, the author talks about what she's learned from interviewing and hanging out with various experts, including how to identify the many different species of bees, the challenges to their existence, which bees are the best pollinators, how they're studied, how farms in need of pollinators purchase their services, and what ordinary people can do to encourage bee populations.
February is invariably my slumpiest month because I start the year with kind of a bwwwoooom noise behind my reading glasses and then at the end of the month I'm a little bit fizzled out. And, yet, it was not a bad month, quantity aside.
I particularly loved Our Native Bees, I Am the Boss of this Chair, Being Mortal, and Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. I Am the Boss of this Chair was just pure fun -- a cat book! A story that mimics my own experience with the cats in my home! I loved it. The rest of the books were learning experiences and I hope to reread Being Mortal and the Al Franken book, some time. The bee book would go on a coffee table if I had one (but I don't, so onto the good shelves it goes).
I had some issues with Down and Across. Toward the beginning of the book I was uncertain I'd finish it, but the farther I got into it the more I enjoyed it and I ended up really appreciating it for its uniqueness. It also ended well. The Statue and the Fury is fun but, again, it's not a very cohesive piece of writing. So, it wasn't a favorite but I enjoyed it very much and I know my kids will love it because they both have lived in Oxford and can appreciate the unique personalities of the local crowd.
Only Killers and Thieves and The Hate U Give were both rough reads. Violence and grief permeate both, but Only Killers is just relentlessly vicious, whereas The Hate U Give is more emotional. Only Killers is, however, a fictionalization of real-life historical events. So it's not violent for no reason; its purpose is to show a horror of the past, just as The Hate U Give is a fictionalization of the reality of "death by cop" similar to the many that have taken place in recent years. Both will gut you a bit, but both end on triumphant notes so I felt like they were well worth the horrifying scenes, although I confess there was one point in Only Killers that I just had to skim, it got so brutal.
All in all, a slow reading month but a good one, in my humble opinion. You can click through to my full reviews via the link in the title of each.