Final February Reads

How it is already MARCH, and I feel like I just STARTED my 2021 reading list?! Nonetheless, here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

–Marissa

It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian was a good palate-cleanser of a book, after reading several “heavy” things in a row. Noni Blake has just gotten out of a nine-year relationship with her partner Joan, and is looking to shake up her life and what she wants out of it. As such, she goes on a “pleasure quest”: traveling where she wants and sleeping with whom she wants while deciding WHAT she wants. I really loved that Noni is bisexual but it’s not a big deal; Noni is plus sized but it’s not a big deal; Noni goes for what she wants and it’s not a big deal. There is a lotta explicit sex on the page (so be forewarned!), but I really liked the eventual romance Noni finds (and which becomes the main thrust of the book). Easy and breezy, sexy and wanderlusty!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is the latest from the ever-popular and prolific Hannah, this time going back to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and one woman’s will to survive and make a better life for her children. Beginning in 1921 and running through the mid-1930s, this tells the story of Elsa, who marries a man she barely knows and begins to work on his Texas farm, learning the ways of farm life when the inescapable Dust Bowl and Depression of the 1930s drive her West to California in search of a better life for her two children. Hannah does an amazing job of evoking the desperation of this time, the struggle to get through each day, the will to keep going in search of something – anything – better. I found the novel at times really slow and oppressive, but I’m sure that was the point – it was HARD to live through these times. If you like Hannah’s previous historical works, you’re surely like this one as well.

Tightrope by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is subtitled Americans Reaching for Hope, but it was certainly bleak at times. This work of nonfiction explores rural America through the lens of Kristof’s hometown of Yamhill, Oregon and tackles such issues as substance abuse, lack of affordable health care or insurance, poverty, child care, education and much more – and much of which is just broken in America. Coupled with the sad stories of friends and neighbors are hopeful stories from around the country of people trying to make a difference. I read this a bit at a time, trying to give each issue time to absorb and understand. Tough reading, but necessary if we’re going to change the world in which so many live.

Consent by Vanessa Springora, it should be said, obviously comes with a trigger warning with a title like that. This is a memoir by Springora about her relationship with a fifty-year-old author – that began when she was thirteen. Springora doesn’t get much into prurient details, but instead delves into the emotional toll of such a relationship, of how her mother seemed to agree to it, and how it was almost accepted in their circles, despite the obvious social and moral objections that are so obvious today. This memoir was a huge hit in its native France and now is here – it was hard to read, but most notably, I had to keep reminding myself it was a MEMOIR, not a NOVEL, which I kept slipping into. A hard read, but a worthy one.

We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida almost read like a young adult novel rather than an adult title, but I enjoyed it! Eulabee and her captivating best friend, Maria Fabiola, live in a tony neighborhood of San Francisco, go to an all-girls school, and have the run of their neighborhood. But when they disagree on what they saw after school one day, Eulabee is ostracized and ridiculed for a series of teenage girl transgressions – which then take a backseat with Maria Fabiola disappears. This isn’t for everyone (teenager focus, frank discussions of sex, disappearance, etc), but I found it a really quick, my-heart-aches-for-her read. Vida does a wonderful job evocating a sense of place and time in this novel!

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