Books I Read in February

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
This was the National Book Award winner for YA last year and it is so deserving of all of the accolades! This story of three separately adopted siblings, that find each other in their teens is a smart and powerful story about family. There is so much to unpack: nature vs nurture, fostering and adoption, teen pregnancy, and racial bias to name a few. Like much YA, it was a little heavy on teen melodrama (especially in Maya's case with regards to fighting with her girlfriend) which felt odd at times against the backdrop of the terribly sad and difficult path these three children were on. I do have a vague recollection of a little melodrama at that age, and it probably appeals to the teens reading it! Though, I think Benway did an exceptional job of fully fleshing out the parents in the story, making it appealing for older audiences. It's great food for thought on raising kids and the kind of parents we want to be.

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
This book was INSANELY fascinating, and good on audio - thanks for the rec Tara! You would think that the discovery of someone who had been living in the woods for nearly three decades, who only had one brush with human contact, deserved to be major headline news. Alas, since I live on the opposite side of the country, I do not remember hearing anything about this man and it is so unbelievable the confluence of several unique situations that made his hermit life, so close and yet so removed from civilization, possible. The author also deftly weaves in themes on human nature and solitude that had me thinking about how much solitude I lack in my life, but also how much humans need social bonds.

You can read my review here!

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
This was a charming story about love, music, friendship, and being open to change, to the many twists and turns our lives can take. Frank (owner of the music shop who lives for his records and doesn't need love in is life) is an underdog worth rooting for, and his supporting cast of characters are a delight. It felt like a mash up of Empire Records and Four Weddings and a Funeral. At first I was worried it was going to be a little snobbish on the music front, with lots of obscure artists I've never heard of - yet, I knew most of the works Joyce chose to write about and her descriptions of the music was just so spot on. It's a wistful, slightly melancholy, and a little cheesy - well, the ending is A LOT cheesy. But, I'll forgive that slightly ridiculous denouement for the mostly awesome remaining 95% of the book.

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Absolutely stunning. You know those books that you’re not sure if you love it, and then you look up and realize you completely forgot the world around you (and were slightly peeved to not find yourself in a sleepy Italian village)? The writing in this coming of age story is just sublime, and although I felt it a little too slow and verbose with the pretty words in the beginning, it completely stole my heart in the final pages. Fair warning, it can get rather sexually explicit and almost cringe-worthy with the feeling of being invasive on the character's intimacy. But the ride is worth it. Life is messy and painful, but we only get one and we should live it truthfully.
"How you live your life is your business. But remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there’s only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there’s sorrow. I don’t envy the pain. But I envy you the pain."

I had put off this book for awhile, since it often is compared to A Man Called Ove, and I was in the minority in not loving that book. But, I came around after so many glowing reviews and I'm glad I did. As with Ove, it's certainly a "curmudgeon that sees the light" kind of story. Yet I found Honeyman's take much more compelling and humorous, even though it is tempered with great sadness. Perhaps it's because the specifics of Eleanor's unfathomable circumstances are not really revealed until, literally, the last three pages of the book. It's a gut punch, and I have a thing for gut punch endings. Some of her idiosyncrasies didn't necessarily make sense (surely she'd learn about some of the basic ways of the world after going to university?) and could turn a reader off of her character, but I was completely Team Eleanor. 


  1. I loved Stranger in the Woods on audio too! One of my only 5 star audiobooks ever...

    1. Oh my gosh, have you listened to Born a Crime?? That's my 5 star all time favorite audio!

  2. Thank you for the shout-out, Andrea! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one and I definitely think the audio was such a great choice. I gave away several copies of this book as Christmas gifts, and everyone who has read it seems to really enjoy it, but I can't imagine having the same experience as I had with the audiobook. I laughed out loud at your final assessment of The Music Shop; overall I loved it, but I completely agree with your comment about the ending! :)