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Goodreads is showing I read 4 books in February. That’s it?! Well, it was a month that seemed to be where I started and stopped more books than I actually completed. One of the books listed on my Completed list is actually a DNF, so technically, I read 3 books in all of February.

February is said to be the “Love of Reading Month”, but some of the reading I did this month, or the books I picked up, didn’t seem to love me back! However, there were two super excellent books I read this month and maybe you’ll pick up and love them as much as I did.

My DNF was Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh, to just get that one out of the way. A new Jennifer Haigh and it was a “Did Not Finish”?! How crushing! I just did not and could not connect with it – the story, the characters, the writing…The main character, Claudia, was just not someone I cared for, therefore her story became a source of irritation and the writing style didn’t set off any fireworks for me either. (You’re going to notice a theme from me here today and it’s my opinion on the book covers, and Mercy Street is just a piss poor one! Come on – no one tried here at all!)

I sunk deep into Heather O’Neill’s When We Lost Our Heads. Classic O’Neill here. After finishing, I said it was a story only she could write. It had all these elements that I think she is well-known for – definitely her style for quirkiness. It’s a fantastical, wonderful, sometimes absurd look into class, gender, sexuality and female friendships. How fraught with love, competition, jealousy these friendships can be – oh the competition! the jealousy! the suspicion but the great love too. A similar theme O’Neill writes on is the rights of girls and women and the violence by men towards women and girls and is of course very present here. Wonderful storytelling as always. (Just writing this right now makes me want to run back and re-read it.) I only wish the cover was better! The image of the girl with the fantastic hat is too subtle and lost here – you really have to look closely to see it. It’s very bland don’t you think? This deserves so much more of a knock-out cover to match the knock-out story inside. (Will this be on the Giller list this year? Hmmmm?)

Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney. I gave this one 5-stars because this was a whole lot of fun! I originally started in audio because the divine Richard Armitage was narrating, and he did not disappoint here at all! I’ve now discovered Stephanie Racine and she’s a complete delight! Her voice reminded me so very much of Emma Thompson’s. This team also narrates Feeney’s His & Hers, and Racine narrates all of her other novels, so looks like I’ll be searching for more Feeney in audio! However, this audio borrow from the library expired so I switched to the paper version and I was so very pleased with finishing it that way! Beautiful chapter illustrations showing the traditional gift for each anniversary year, and you were also able to see where the wife scratched out parts in the letters she was writing to her husband. Hoarder Elizabeth’s Mom read this one (at the same time I was reading it!) and said it was “100% original” and I couldn’t agree more. Feeney’s writing was great and I wrote down many of the excellent sentences found inside:

“The reason why a person lies is almost more interesting than the lie itself.”

“There are forests less shady than my wife.” (Sounds even better with Armitage saying it! LOVED this sentence!)

“My self-confidence divorced me long before you did, but life taught me to be brave and to always try again.”

“In public, Henry Winter was a brilliant writer of novels, but in real life he was a collection of unfinished sentences.” (Come on! That’s brilliant!)

“The woman delivered emotional blackmail like a conscientious postman.”

My opinion on the cover: While all that snow overlooking the tiny chapel features heavily in this story, this is another cover that falls so flat for the explosive story inside. Such a bummer, such a bland and boring cover.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. I think Fuller is the queen of leaving you unsettled after every one of her books and Unsettled Ground is no different, there was just something that didn’t see me love this one. While I did think about these characters often and over and over again after finishing, which again, is something I think Fuller excels at – they will get into your head and settle there – I couldn’t help but think while I was reading that it was just an “okay” read overall. THIS cover however – stunning! When you look closer you’ll notice the flowers are wilting and the roots are rotting – excellent imagery for the story inside! Bravo to this book’s cover designer.

Currently I’m reading Tenderness by Alison MacLeod – it is giving me all kinds of The Lacuna (Barbara Kingsolver) vibes! I’m loving it so far – it’s a big fat book just like The Lacuna which also dealt with US political history, the FBI, the CIA, subversive and un-American activities, trials, and Tenderness is as much a story about Jackie Kennedy as it is about D.H. Lawrence and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It’s been a great reading experience so far and I’m off down rabbit holes looking up people and other things mentioned in the book. Alison MacLeod’s writing is always sublime, and it’s here in abundance in Tenderness.

With Tenderness, my March reading is starting off with a bang! Or roaring in like a lion as the saying goes. So I’m hopeful the month of March is chocked-full with reading successes.

What did you read in February?