February Book Chat

Reading this month has been a very eclectic group of books. I do like to read from varying genres just to keep my interest with variety. This month spans historical fiction to biographical non-fiction, to friendship and philosophy. Thank goodness for sales and Amazon gift cards, and our local library which was able to send me a really hard to find book from the other side of the state!! I’ve linked the titles to Amazon so you can see the synopsis and other reviews if you wish. Thank you for using my affiliate links when you can.

Cometh the Hour is the next book in the Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer. Easy-read writing, and a story that just keeps on going. This is book 6 of a seven part series, and just as enjoyable as the first 5. Between English politics, business deals, backstabbing, plans within plans, plots and twists, the entire Clifton family will keep you guessing as what comes next. Set in the 1970s, the Barrington Clifton empire is challenged again and again by unscrupulous dealings and sabotage from unlikely sources. Archer writes refreshingly original stories, thrillers with action and a bit of English humor, all with the backdrop of English society with both commoner and nobility. Recommend.

A big thank you goes out to Nanci Cartwright for her recommendation of the “Seasons” series in her comment on last month’s book review post. Written by author Melanie Lageschulte, Growing Season is the first of the series and it is a charming, heartwarming story of a woman finding a new life after being laid off. I have to say that I was skeptical when I found it was self published, as many times those writers do not have the benefit of a good editor, and desperately need one. But this series is definitely the exception. Descriptions of her small town life, complete with holiday parade, could have been written about the small town where I live. In this time of isolation, it is lovely to visit Prosper in a book. The jacket says the story “celebrates rural life” and I agree. It is an easy reading, uplifting story, that I liked so much I finished in one day. The character of Melinda reads like a real woman, and she makes logical decisions that make sense, not the incredibly stupid ones in other books I’ve read recently. I highly recommend this one, and I just put the next one in the series on my look-for list. There are six in the series so far, and I cannot wait to read them all.

This next charming book is a story for all ages. Originally, I saw it on a news story on BBC, and was intrigued enough to find a copy to read. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse tells a gentle story of a boy trying to get home and the friends he makes along the way. According to the author, Charlie Mackesy, it is a story of friendship, but I found it to be a philosophical journey as well.

The book itself is only 128 pages, with most having full page illustrations so it can be read in a matter of half an hour. But the images and thoughts will linger with you for much longer. Take this example: The boy asks the horse “what is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” and the horse answers “help.” Wow, think about that for a moment. In reaching out at our most vulnerable, we overcome our fears of inadequacy, of failure. And isn’t that the very definition of bravery? It is not a lack of fear, but to take action in the face of fear. That profound page is followed by this one-

Extracted from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. Reprinted with permission.

Incredible. And the book has many more moments like this one. You could think about the message on a single page for days, exploring in your mind the sometimes profound implications. Highly recommend.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish was not an easy read. This is an epic length book, 560 pages, and written in two time periods but following the same woman’s life. It took the author 10 years to write, and untold hours doing research on the Jewish community and history of that time. Ms Kadish blends fiction with historical fact to produce an incredible novel. Ester lives in the 1660s in London as the Jewish community was reestablishing in that city. It was a time when women were forbidden to study, yet she is driven by a thirst for knowledge and answers to philosophical questions. The letters she write to Jewish leaders of the time in the name of a man pose questions that would get her executed if they were known. The language and sentence structure consistent with that time slows the reader as it a bit more difficult to understand. In the present day, her papers are found by a historian specializing in Jewish history, a woman who is at the end of her career. Her assistant has problems of his own which affect his work, and his decisions. This book is essentially a character study, in much the same way as The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It won a book award, and well deserved. Recommend for those willing to get through a long tome of historical fiction.

Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey is a fun biographical account of a young chef’s adventures in the kitchens of four major cities with high end restaurants. Beginning in France, she realizes that she needs more than the one disappointing apprenticeship at a molecular gastronomy restaurant can offer. If she wants to learn, she’ll have to travel. She goes first to Vietnam, studying and eating under the tutelage of a French chef who has embraced the local cuisine. Studying in Tel Aviv and in Paris, she finds more than an education in cooking and culture. The book is written in an easy reading style, with humor and angst, and includes recipes from her travels.

So those are my books for this month. What are you reading now, or can recommend?

22 thoughts on “February Book Chat

  1. Shari

    I also purchased and read “The boy, the mole the fox, and the horse” because I saw an interview with the author on CBS Sunday Morning. This book is a keeper. I also plan to give this as a Christmas present to my friends. I am interested in reading the Jeffrey Archer series but I would like to start with the first one. I have read several good books recently but I think I would recommend a current best seller, “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue”. Thanks for your recommendations. I love to know what people are reading.

  2. Carole, I am always interested in what others are reading. Thank you for your reviews. I have read five books during February. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is one I would recommend.

  3. Francine Fagan

    In regards to Growing Season series, I have read all 8 books in the series with the 9th one coming this spring and found them so delightful and wanting to keep reading more. The author is from Iowa as I am and can relate to her storyline so much of family, good ,friends, community support and just a simplier life. Love it. I am anxious to read The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. Thanks for your read thoughts, much appreciated. Just finished The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood very good,well written. Fran in Iowa

  4. joanne264

    Carole I love reading your book reviews and as a result have enjoyed reading a few that you have recommended. I am a huge fan of Louise Penny’s books – best to read in order. And just love Kate Morton’s books. I have tried getting into the Weight of Ink and will try it again as I don’t think I was in the mood. Thank you Carole and happy reading!!

    1. Don’t do the audio book, you won’t be able to see the illustrations, and a huge part of the book is art only with no dialogue on the page. A friend of mine, Vicki Welsh, does only audiobooks, and her latest recommendation is The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly. I plan to get the book next for myself to read after I finish my current read.

  5. Linda B

    Always fun to get new book recommendations! Thanks Carole! Nice to see that our library has the Boy and the Mole…in both ebook and eaudiobook…I am on hold for both. Will look into the others too! I have not found a good audio book series to listen to since finishing the Maisie Dobbs series months ago, sigh. Usually fall back on listening to podcasts during the day. Making Sense with Sam Harris is my current fav. Like someone else, I tried and failed at reading the Weight of Ink…if something does not grab me pretty quickly, I lose patience.

  6. Julie

    Confession, I don’t read as much as I used to. I listen to audiobooks while quilting & have recently been listening to old Agatha Christie stories that I hadn’t previously read. The stories may have been written years ago, but the content is the same as what’s going on today. I guess that’s what makes them timeless.

  7. Becky Turner

    Love my little Library!!! We are hooked in with 3 other counties here in Central Oregon and it gives my little Library the depth of a larger “city” library. Notice I did not say “Big City Library”
    I go thru a ton of audio books with quilting and driving. When I start the garden they also keep me company as I weed.
    Thank you for sharing your list… opens up new possibilities

  8. CarolE

    Good morning. I discovered the Season series by Megan Lageschulte about five months ago. I enjoyed reading them one right after another and then have had to wait for the 9th one in the series! Someone else mentioned Kate Morton. She is also a favorite of mine. I am currently reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I am going to check out The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse and the Jeffrey Archer books.

  9. Just finished this book, and highly recommend it. Gives a different view of the book and author, and really made me deconstruct the story and appreciate the movies that have come out from the book. Especially recently. I am not convinced the author was guilty of what is implied, and of course we are looking through our lens, not Victorian ones. Anyway, the book made me rethink my opinion of the book as a simple children’s story and delve deeper into the possible meanings. Well worth the read.

    The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland
    by Angela Youngman

  10. lois92346

    I love your book reviews, Carole. My most challenging read in terms of sheer page length was the Outlander series at over 600 pages each which I read about 20 years ago. I look for certain authors such as Kirsten Hannah, Elizabeth Berg, Marie Bostwick and Victoria Alexander when browsing used books. I also enjoyed the early books of Mary Higgins Clark.

  11. That Growing Season series sounds interesting to me! I couldn’t find it through my library’s search site, but wonder if they could find it for me another way. I just finished American Dirt for my March book club. It’s not an easy read, but it’s well written and definitely an important topic. Thanks for sharing your books and recommendations, Carole!

  12. KJ

    I am currently reading Sense and Sensibility with a cross stitching on-line classics book club. Next up, Little Women. Between these classics, I am starting a double series by Michael Wisehart – fantasy. That seems to be my favourite genre, as long as there is great writing and character development. I am a huge fan of Margaret Weis and Lisa Shearin, both fantasy writers who can easily make you love or hate a character. I have reread their books multiple times.

    Thanks for your reviews. The Growing Season one sounds interesting, and probably lighter than my usual fare.

  13. Priscilla

    Sounds like some good choices to read. Just finished Winter Solstice. Loved it. R. Pilcher is a lovely writer!
    Thanks for the book reviews.

  14. Jo Anne Seccurra

    Thank you for insightful reviews. I put Growing Seasons on my “to read” list. I am currently listening to Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series and am on her second of 15th book in the series. Love listening and quilting!

    I also listened to 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and the sequel 50 more ways by Susan Albers as I am on a mission to lose my COVID weight gain. Thought the sequel was better than the original. I may order in print as I can see myself referencing this and difficult to do via audio.

    Enjoy the week!

  15. lynn bourgeois

    Good morning Carole. This morning at a leisurely pace I am rereading your reviews, and the comments with great interest. Almost every comment is the possibility of a new adventure in reading for me.
    I have read a couple of books from Jeffrey Archer, and ill need to go back again to see if I can read them in order. The Seasons series sounds as if it might be something I would really enjoy.
    I would recommend anything written by Lesley Crewe. She writes of community, family small town life. Her most recent (2020), The Spoon Stealer, I have not read yet, but I have really enjoyed 15 of hers I believe. I didn’t read them in any order, but there may be an order, I just didn’t think about it. I have laughed, and cried with her.
    The book I am currently reading The Conviction is still not finished, and I’m still not sure if it is for me, but I continue in with it.
    Have a great week. See you in the sewing room.

  16. The weight of Ink sounds like a book I would enjoy. I’ve read all the books in the Clifton Chronicles and enjoyed them. It’s hard to beat a good book. I can really lose myself in a good story.

  17. Nanci Cartwright

    I love your book reviews. I’m happy to see that others have discovered the “Season” books and find them as delightful as I have found them. They were all “free” in my accidental 6 month Kindle Unlimited subscription so I feel that that subscription was worthwhile after all. I don’t intend to keep it so I have pre-ordered the Daffodil Season to purchase in this series. It comes out sometime this Spring.

    I want to try the Archer series so will go see about finding the first book in that series, trying the library first, and will also look for the Four Seasons book. I’ve been following the author of The Boy, The Fox, The Mole and The Horse on Facebook and plan to buy that book. It would be a good book to open and think on one page each day, first thing in the morning.

    I’ve been reading through many of my Vegetarian cookbooks to see which ones will be keepers. My husband and I eat plenty of vegetables and fruits but want to start skewing our dinners toward more vegetarian than we currently eat. He says just to make them spicy and he’s happy, smile. I love a good vegetarian meal but they usually take a lot more effort to make.

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