February 2022 Reading Wrap Up

I should have known not to start the celebrations too soon. After what I called “a cracking start” in January, things went downhill in February. “Real life” got in the way of reading and blogging. I started many more books than I finished, struggling to find a novel that gelled with my mood, and found it hard to summon up the enthusiasm to write blog posts of any kind let alone reviews.

Yellow crocus with the words  February Reading Wrap Up by www.bookertalk.com

I’m hoping the enthusiasm returns in March.

February Reading in Brief

I read just four books this month and haven’t got around to reviewing any of them. So the links below take you to the Goodreads synopsis.

An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful by J David Simons was a delight from start to finish. It’s set largely in Japan at a mountainside inn where an esteemed British author wrote the novel that made his name. After an absence of many years he pays a return visit. It’s much more than a trip down memory lane however, this is a man who is in retreat, attempting to escape from a past that has caught up with him. If I had to choose one favourite for the whole month, this would be it.

Snow by John Banville: I’ve enjoyed Banville’s literary fiction, especially his Booker-prize winning novel The Sea. But I’ve never read any of the crime fiction he writes under the name of Benjamin Black. He’s rigorously maintained a separation between those two personas: he writes his literary output in long hand with a fountain pen and his crime novels on a typewriter. Snow breaks down the division resulting in a detective story that is more engaged with showing the social and political atmosphere of 1950s Ireland than it is with the question of who committed a murder.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was the book club read for February. We all struggled with it initially because Hurston’s narrative is largely written in the dialect and colloquialisms of the African-American rural poor. It was worth persevering with however; a memorable novel of a woman’s determination to find true love and her own identity in a society where women are often treated as little more than chattels.

You by Phil Whitaker is the kind of quiet but very effective type of fiction that I’ve learned to expect from the independent press Salt. This one has an unusual style, a monologue from a father who is travelling to Oxford in the hope of a reunion with the daughter from whom he’s been estranged for seven years. As he journeys, he flies through time and space with her, dropping off at locations from her childhood and from the history of her parents and grandparents. Underpinning all of this is the major theme of how children are used as pawns when marriages breakdown.

On The March Horizon

March is all about Celtic authors since this is Reading Ireland Month and also Reading Wales Month. I shared my list of possible reads here. Amazingly I’m actually reading one of the books I highlighted (usually after making lists like this I go and choose something completely different.) So now I’m reading A Time To Laugh by Rhys Davies — a misnomer of a title if ever there was one. There’s little to laugh about in this novel of industrial unrest in the South Wales coal communities of the 1890s where miners scramble to make ends meet and resort to riots when their demands for a wage increase get squashed.

Coming up later this month will be the book club choice — Sacred Country by Rose Tremain. I’ve had mixed experiences with Tremain in the past but I’m going to try and keep an open mind about this 1993 novel about a boy growing up in a girl’s body.

Beyond that, who knows……

Bookshelves Ins and Outs

The TBR is now down to 285; nine down from the tally at the end of 2021. I wish I could say this has been achieved by reading more of the books I already own but in reality it’s because I’ve been giving books away unread. One of the upsides of my lacklustre February reading month has been a clear out of books that, after a sample of about 30-50 pages, I decided didn’t interest me any longer.

I’ve tried to be restrained with acquisitions so just four books came in this week; two are review copies and two bought from the National Trust second hand shop where I donate my unwanted books (seems only fair if I take some in, I should also come away with a few purchases myself).

How was your February? Any stand out novels that you would recommend? I would love to know what you’ve been reading, and what you plan to read in February.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

30 thoughts on “February 2022 Reading Wrap Up

  • March 15, 2022 at 11:07 pm
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    I have those moments where it seems each book I pick up just doesn’t grab me. I usually end up resorting to a favorite genre or re-reading a favorite book when I hit a reading slump. Or I will go for something short. That works sometimes too. My March has been slower in terms of reading and also posting on my blog. In fact, I haven’t posted anything yet this month until today! I have been largely focused on reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King – a much longer book. I just finished two days ago and I’m glad I took the time to linger through it instead of plowing through it quickly. I’m also in the middle of The Great Gatsby. I made it about halfway through and then – when chatting with a friend about it, talking about themes and such, I decided to order it in print and start over (I was reading in on my Kindle). It arrives tomorrow. Woohoo! I was really enjoying the book so far. So I’m looking forward to starting over with it to observe more of the things my friend and I talked about. And that’s it so far I think. Two books. Maybe I will get to at least one more before the month is over. Or at least finish The Book of Tea which I haven’t picked up since February….

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    • March 18, 2022 at 9:40 pm
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      Good idea to take things slowly – I find with any book on my Kindle app that I read more quickly and then I don’t retain the info.

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  • March 10, 2022 at 9:21 pm
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    Well done for getting some off the TBR for a start! And you’re in recovery and still got four books done! I really enjoyed my reading in Feb, Black Cake was a stand-out, I think, for me, a very entertaining novel.

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    • March 11, 2022 at 9:27 pm
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      I’ll have to visit your blog again to find out what Black Cake is all about

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  • March 7, 2022 at 9:14 pm
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    I’d say you had a pretty good February in terms of reading output (that should probably be “reading input”). Sometimes just keeping on is enough.

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    • March 11, 2022 at 9:33 pm
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      Thanks Mary. It seems to trivial to be complaining about the lack of reading when so many people are in danger and struggling to survive just a few hours flight away

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  • March 7, 2022 at 7:00 pm
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    Like you I’ve only managed to complete four or so books in February, a short month after all! but I think a combination of global crises and personal health concerns — a tooth and a steam burn, not Covid thank goodness — slowed my own reading down. At any rate, I entirely commiserate, Karen.

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    • March 11, 2022 at 9:35 pm
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      Oh dear what have you been up to – hope the burn is healing OK. I thought you’d been a little quieter than normal

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    • March 11, 2022 at 9:36 pm
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      Well indeed that is so true. Some people don’t read even one book so I did much better than that

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  • March 6, 2022 at 10:27 pm
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    Like you, I started more books than I finished in February, but I’m still hoping to complete some of them now!
    That Tremain is a favourite of mine, but it is slow-moving and very character-driven (which is to say, NOT very driven!) so I’m not sure how you’ll take to it, especially if you’re already having a bit of trouble making time for stories these days. GL.

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    • March 7, 2022 at 9:17 am
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      I’m fine with character driven novels most of the time. Not sure that’s the best fit for my mood right now though.

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    • March 11, 2022 at 9:38 pm
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      I’ve just started the Tremain and am enjoying it so far. I love her characterisation of Mary

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  • March 6, 2022 at 9:07 pm
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    I just came across this page and I am delighted to see that you enjoyed my novel An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful. Thank you for your support – word of mouth is so important to an author.

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    • March 6, 2022 at 10:08 pm
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      Hi David. It took me a while to get around to reading your book but I’m so glad I did. Now I’m hungry to read more from your backlist.

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  • March 6, 2022 at 7:50 pm
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    I am sorry that February was not a good month for you. However, getting rid of a number of TBR books that did not suit you anymore is a good thing. And I enjoyed your overview of the books you did read.

    My husband gave me his copy of Snow by John Banville. If I don’t read it this year, maybe I will read it next March for Reading Ireland. An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful also sounds good.

    I read Their Eyes Were Watching God last year. I had much less problem with the dialect that I thought I would (I grew up in Alabama, close enough to Florida). I am glad I finally read that classic, and I liked the focus on how women are treated.

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    • March 7, 2022 at 9:21 am
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      There are so many books I do want to read that it seems pointless to hold onto ones that I am lukewarm about. I would rather someone else had the opportunity to enjoy them then they just sit on a shelf gathering dust in my house.

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  • March 6, 2022 at 7:43 pm
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    I had a good Jan and Feb but largely because I’m reading quite a few books that if I’m honest don’t need the same level of concentration as others. I know they won’t appeal to you though but the principal of reading something less demanding might kick start your motivation. I’m also back on the exercise bike which allows me to fix my tablet to the handlebars and read (is be bored rigid otherwise). I suspect many of us will find it harder to concentrate this month given what’s happening in Ukraine. I’m also trying to shed items from my excessive tbr and to focus my mind on choosing what to read I’m working my way through the alphabet, this month largely titles beginning with E and F. Hope you have a better March but don’t worry about it, we all go through reading troughs from time to time.

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    • March 7, 2022 at 9:26 am
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      I’m at the point of abandoning another book even though I’ve read 150pages of it. It’s so dull.. I don’t need page turners as such but do want to feel a narrative is going somewhere. The equipment in the gym I go to doesn’t have an ability to fix a book or tablet in place so I have to rely on an audiobook to keep me motivated.

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  • March 6, 2022 at 7:35 pm
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    I too have just finished Snow. Although I can’t know – I wasn’t there – I felt as if he’d put us very much in touch with 1950s Ireland, and I enjoyed the characters he developed. As others have said, I’m now losing my reading mojo.

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  • March 6, 2022 at 7:03 pm
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    The invasion of Ukraine has zapped my reading mojo. It’s difficult to read and blog while contemplating evil and watching extreme suffering. My February was ok…,but March is looking bleak. Thanks for sharing.

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    • March 7, 2022 at 9:22 am
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      I feel awkward about complaining I didn’t read much last month, it feels so inconsequential when there are people genuinely suffering not many hours away from me.

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  • March 6, 2022 at 6:57 pm
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    I like the sound of An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful. My favourite February read was Marzhan, Mon Amour which I’d recommend if you’re in need of something short and restorative.

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    • March 7, 2022 at 7:08 am
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      I’ll second that, Marzhan Mon Amour was excellent and my favourite read during February as well. Jan Carson’s The Last Resort was similarly excellent, in the way it tells the stories if a community of people connected by this one place.

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  • March 6, 2022 at 6:46 pm
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    Hello Booker Talk; I am new to your site and I have enjoyed what you’ve put out as far. I try to view blogs from time as I try to do in my blog something different and not like the norm; I am a soloist. I finished with but two books this last month; reading Jane Austen as a mystery sleuth from the pen of Stephanie Barron; I read two of her mysteries and I found them to be a good read while it took me a long time (since last summer) I had been trying to read Barron’s books and I’ve just now completed them; I had trouble because I see others trying to prove that indeed I am reading and so they hurl the name of characters at me in all manners; I would meet store clerks with the names of some character in a book; I would hear a name shouted and it would be that of a name in a book that I am reading or had read; but usually, I think of the name as a person that I knew or worked with; it is a weird illness that I have since none has had such experience. I don’t know why my world is such strife and not because I am black since many black bloggers are doing quite well and I don’t need to be members of their blog; I choose who I like and don’t like. Anyhow, thanks for sharing. My world is most weary and currently, I have my blogs post being sent to two readers that I know not who they are since they are anonymous and I can’t know who is reading me; again this is all very weird and you don’t need this in your comments. I am sorry.

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    • March 11, 2022 at 9:51 pm
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      No need for any apology Ainee (I think that’s your name?). It must be very dispiriting to put effort into a blog and yet not feel that anyone is reading you. I just took a look at your blog. I see you are using Blogspot which isn’t one of the most popular blog platforms so it may be that people don’t find you as easily as if you are on WordPress? A few other things I can suggest to you – have you thought about getting involved in what are called memes? There are lots of them around and you get to meet many other bloggers that way and in turn they visit your site. There is one called Top 10 Tuesday which is very very popular. Or there is WWW Wednesday (what did you just finish, what are you reading now, what will you read next) let me know if you want more details

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  • March 6, 2022 at 6:42 pm
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    Life has a habit of getting in the way doesn’t it? I had the same experience as you in February – my plans dwindled to nothing! I’ve only read The Book of Evidence by Banville and I always mean to read more by him.

    Reply

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