Thursday, March 1, 2018

What I Read in February

The family that reads together...
My reading slowed down a little in February, as I hit one of my regular reading slumps. Still, I got through another five titles, meaning I've read 18 books thus far in 2018. Only 34 to go to reach my annual goal.

I'm kind of psyched that all 18 of these titles have been authored by women. I've been wondering if I could keep the streak going and read only books by women in 2018. I'm already trying to increase the number of women of color I read, so this might end up being my sub-goal.

14. The Apothecary's Poison by C.J. Archer

This was the continuation of the steampunky, Victorian, slow-burn romance series that I started in January. To say I've thoroughly enjoyed these would be an understatement. I'm nearly to the point of wanting to get a pocket watch to carry to be like India Steele, but I think that would be carrying enthusiasm a little too far.

Started: February 1, 2018
Finished: February 2, 2018

15. The Magician's Diary by C.J. Archer

This is the fourth book in the five-book series, and I basically swallowed this one whole. (What's the reading equivalent of unhinging your jaw? Because that's what I did with this book.)

While the solution to the mystery presented in this book was perfectly clear to any reader who has even a smattering of experience in reading mysteries, it was still an incredibly fun ride and offered some much-needed catharsis regarding one of the series-long villains.

Imagine my distress when I went to download the final book in the series, only to discover that it will not be published until March 6. I may have stamped my foot and shouted NOOOOOOOOO!!! to the heavens. Yes, it's only a month I had to wait, but dammit, I was INVESTED! (Also--everyone should not expect to hear from me next Tuesday.)

Started: February 2, 2018
Finished: February 3, 2018

16. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

My friend Kellie from my book club mentioned that Maureen Johnson is one of her favorite authors, so I decided to check her out.

In this book, Rory, the main character, arrives in London just as someone starts recreating the Jack the Ripper murders--on the specific anniversaries, which means folks can figure out when to expect the next one.

I really enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but it was one of those books that didn't necessarily hold up once you'd put it down. For one thing, I cared not at all about the love interest. He was really uninteresting, particularly since there were actual ghost hunters in the city. Those ghost hunters were the most fascinating characters, and they weren't introduced until late in the story. I know that this was the first in a series (and I may keep reading), but I wasn't so sure about this one. (Also, the villain seemed to have no motive whatsoever. The one he gives in his "I'm the big, badass villain" speech made sense at the time, but fell apart as soon as I thought about it.)

Started: February 8, 2018
Finished: February 11, 2018

17. City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte*

This book was really, really, really, really weird.

Really weird.

Now, it was the kind of madcap quirky that I love. Sarah, the protagonist, is obsessed with Beethoven and a book about a house with more windows on the outside than on the inside. She goes to Prague for the summer and is employed by Prince Max (an actual prince) while at the same time an American senator is trying to cover up some baaaaad shit she did in Prague 30 years before when she was a CIA agent and a 400-year-old dwarf is trying to figure out how to die. There's also a drug (in the form of Beethoven's toenails, and that is NOT a euphemism) that causes you to basically travel in time, a blind musical prodigy, and a hell portal.

This kind of thing is all kind of my jam. But the sex in the book was weirdly off-putting (and I'm really not a prude about that kind of thing). Sarah jumps Prince Max in a dark room, thinking he's someone else, then has no idea who she just banged when she leaves the room and finds the guy she thought she was with--and that guy turns out to be a turd. Then she and Max have a love story, and it just felt weird.

Also, the 400-year-old dwarf was the best character and he was not in the book nearly enough. (Is it sizeist that I imagine him as Peter Dinklage?)

Weird, weird book. There's a follow-up that I think I'm going to read, just to get more of the 400-year-old dwarf.

*Magnus Flyte is the pen name of a collaborators Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, so I have kept up the all-woman streak.

Started: February 12, 2018
Finished: February 15, 2018

18. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

This book was a little gift to me from past me. I vaguely remember hearing or reading about this book several months ago, so I put a hold on it at the library, then promptly forgot about it. When it showed up, I was super surprised.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book (since I didn't even remember putting a hold on it), but I was hoping for a little more "HUZZAH! Feminism!!" from it. Mary Beard is a Classics scholar who gave these essays as talks, and then adapted them into the (very slim) book. She gives historical and literary context to the ways in which women have always been punished for seeking or wielding power.

She also got me thinking deeply about the symbolism of Medusa. I have a poster up in my office featuring a snarling Medusa head, captioned with the phrase "Beauty must defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy." I love this poster, and I love the feminist interpretation of Medusa--unapologetically embracing the dick-shriveling power of our own ugliness. (And by ugliness, I mean everything from our physical appearance to the shrillness of our anger to our life-giving, unclean bodies to our refusal to submit).

But Beard made an important point about how Medusa is used to shame women and how problematic it can be as a symbol of female empowerment. (Apparently, there were posters during the 2016 election that imposed Lord Dampnut's face on the Perseus's head and Ms. Rodham Clinton's face on the dripping, severed head of Medusa).

This definitely has gotten me interested in reading more by Mary Beard, however.

Started: February 20, 2018
Finished: February 20, 2018

The Did-Not-Finish List

Part of the reason why I didn't have more books in February (and in general in my reading life) is that I'm a terrible book abandoner. I had one book in particular this month that I abandoned, that I intend to get back to when I can. 

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson was included in some list I found of great science fiction by women of color. I really loved the world Hopkinson built and was enjoying the book--but I made the mistake of reading a review somewhere that mentioned the main character (who is a child in the first part of the book) would experience incestuous rape. I have no doubt that Hopkinson handles it well--she's a phenomenal writer--but I just couldn't keep going.

LO keeps asking me if I'm reading this book, though, because he was with me when I picked it up from the library and he was really taken by the cover. He wanted to know all about the Robber Queen (the character above the child on the cover) and why Tan-Tan, the little girl, dresses up as her. 

I'm going to finish this book, so I can tell LO all about the Robber Queen.

What did you read in February?


  1. i don't do it on purpose, but about 90% of the books i read are by female authors. i'm just drawn to them, and not so drawn to male authors. 'steampunky, Victorian, slow-burn romance series'?! sounds right up my alley.

  2. I love your art! And I love that you joined us!

  3. I don't consciously choose all women writers but I have noticed that the majority of books I read are by woman authors. One thing I'm also trying to do is read more books written by people of color. I read The Name of Star last year (I think) and agree with everything you said. It was good at the time but would downgrade it to okay today. I just read another book by Johnson (a different series though) and it suffered many of the same problems. She's just not for me, which is fine. The C.J. Archer series looks interesting - adding it to my TBR!

  4. Ooh love your bullet journal. I wish mine was fancier. LOL I'm curious about The Name of the Star; sorry to hear it wasn't a big favorite for you though.