What I Read in February

In February I read an exciting mixture of books including non-fiction about the climate crisis, queer- and subverted memoir, short stories, fast-paced thrillers, poetry, feminist writing exploring health and illness, and a magazine on ritualistic sacrifice.

There’s been a couple of stand out books that I loved, and some that left me scratching my head. So, let’s get stuck into it. Here are my spoiler-free reviews!

We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer

Such an incredibly powerful, beautifully written book. It is poignant, moving, and most importantly, compelling.

We are the Weather is a personal but informative take on the effort required to help save the planet. It is a hard, but realistic read that is both urgent and optimistic. It doesn’t rely on frilly optimism, but instead offers the opportunity to take a long hard look at yourself and ask what you are doing to help reduce the impact of climate change.

This book confirmed a lot about my existing decision to be a vegetarian whilst also being a stark reminder of my need to do more. It has firmly put my own actions at the forefront of my mind. It has encouraged me to reduce my dairy consumption beyond what it currently is, and led me to assess what changes I can make in my day-to-day life and habits.

Since reading We are the Weather, I have focused more on eating only plant-based foods and made some sustainable swaps to reduce my plastic usage. I plan to continue doing so, with this book as an inspiration.

I urge everyone to read this book (I listened to it on audio book and it was a great way to take in the information), and take heed of its message.

False Bingo: Stories by Jac Jemc

After reading, and LOVING, The Grip of It last year, I was excited to learn that Jac had a new book out. Described as a collection of short stories that explore sinister forces, whether real or not, supernatural or part of the mundanity of every day life, I was very much sold. I’m up for anything a bit weird.

However, whilst I mostly enjoyed Jac’s writing, there was only one stand out story in the collection, alongside a handful that I somewhat enjoyed reading and the rest that just didn’t hit the mark. It’s a shame because, when I say I loved that one story (titled Delivery), I mean it gave me serious chills. It was SO good that it just about makes up for the fact that the rest of the collection fell a bit flat.

After reading the first 3 stories, I anticipated something quite different to what the rest of the book delivered. Unfortunately, it just did not lean into the ‘weird’ anywhere near enough for me and I’m not sure I really get what it was trying to do or be. It’s disappointing, but I’ll still be keeping an eye out for what else Jemc comes out with.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a proof copy of The Last House on Needless Street, thanks to Viper Books. It is one of those great, fun (despite the pretty dark subject) and fast-paced thriller books that you can get totally stuck into. I spent most of the weekend curled up with a coffee reading this and getting lost in the world of Needless Street.

It’s a wild ride, and there’s a lot happening in the story. Whilst I found some of the perspectives a little jarring, I was hooked throughout and I do appreciate what the author was doing with the narrative.

The Last House… follows the story of a missing girl and the very unexpected journey towards learning the truth about what really happened. I can’t say too much more without giving it away but if you like twisty, non-linear thrillers, and want to read a different take on the genre then you’ll enjoy this.

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

I loved, LOVED this book. It’s been on my TBR list for quite a while and I am so glad I finally picked it up. It is an important, intimate and eye-opening read.

We Have Always Been Here is a queer Muslim memoir, which tells of Samra’s experiences growing up as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan then moving to Canada with her family, as refugees. She shares the challenges she faced from bullying and racism to the threat of poverty and an arranged marriage. After such turmoil, Samra starts to embrace her creativity, her queerness and her feminist beliefs. She finds new ways to connect with her faith, whilst also exploring art, love, sexuality and gender.

I immediately connected with this book and learned so much from Samra’s experience of learning to understand and accept herself. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Hiraeth: An Anthology

Yes, I am biased towards this book because I have a poem included in it (titled Blood and Water), but I adored this collection and am so proud to be featured alongside such incredible, moving work.

Published by Overneath Books, a micro-press dedicated to the honest, sacred and beautiful, Hiraeth is an anthology of poetry, story and artwork. The collection, featuring contributors from around the world, explores the meaning of the Welsh word for which there is no direct English translation. ‘Hiraeth’ is “a longing for a home that is lost to us, or perhaps never was”.

The book is full of emotion, longing and hope, and is heavily influenced by nature and the sea. The book itself is also absolutely stunning, I love the designs. You can get your hands on a copy from Overneath Books here.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push was one of my first must-read purchases of 2021. I was both excited and a little nervous to start it. As with any book that is hyped up online, there’s always the chance that you might find it doesn’t live up to expectation. That, however, was not the case for this book. I absolutely loved it.

The Push tells the story of one mother’s experience of, and struggle with, motherhood. I could not put this book down. Not only is it a tense and gripping read, but it is so beautifully crafted. Not a single chapter, line or word is out of place. It also has short chapters, which I enjoy in a book.

Whilst there are definite comparisons to be drawn with We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Push has an added warmth and depth to it. It is compelling and a pleasure to read, despite how dark and uncomfortable it can get. So, yes, believe the hype! 

Self Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye

I have struggled to summarise this book because it doesn’t feel like it neatly fits into a category. Despite the struggle to pinpoint why I enjoyed it, I really did. It is a strange little beast.

Self Portrait in Green is the first of my subscription books from Influx Press, and is translated by Jordan Stump. It is the story of the narrator’s encounters with a number of mysterious ‘green women’. It is described as a “subversion of the memoir” and explores “identity, memory and paranoia”.

I enjoyed how weird and unsettling it is. I was never really sure of where the book was going, or what was going to happen but loved the sense of unease and the strange imagery woven throughout. It is a short, creative piece and if you’re looking for something a bit different to read then I recommend this.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

I listened to Summerwater on audio book and really enjoyed the book in this format. The narrator, Morven Christie, has a lovely, calm voice so it was great to listen to whilst doing other things. I enjoyed the style of the book as it weaves third person with inner dialogue. This also worked really well in the audio format.

Summerwater follows 12 people in a rainy Scottish cabin park near the sea. In each chapter, you visit a different person and hear their perspective on the day, on life. As the story progresses, not much is explicitly explained due to the shifting perspectives but I enjoyed the crisp, clear writing and the flow of each chapter.

Hellebore #1: The Sacrifice Issue

After loving the Yuletide issue by Hellebore, I decided to pick up the rest of the collection. In the last few months I have really enjoyed reading about fiction and non-fiction related to rituals, the occult, paganism and folklore.

Hellebore is a collection of writing and essays on British folk horror and key themes within it. The ‘sacrifice’ issue explores the role of human and animal sacrifice in folk horror. As always, it is beautifully designed and explores interesting topics!

Cusp by Ache Magazine

A phenomenal and beautiful collection of writing exploring pain, illness and personal experiences of the body. I was so in awe of this book after reading it that I had to just sit down for a while and take it all in.

I am always interested to hear feminist/female perspectives on having a body that doesn’t always behave as you would like, or expect it to, so as soon as I heard about Cusp, I immediately had to buy it. I’m so glad I did. I’m going to be thinking, and talking, about this incredible book for a long time.

What was your favourite read in February?

I’d love to hear about your top pick for the month. For me, the stand out books would have to be Cusp, The Push and We Have Always Been Here (and, naturally, Hiraeth).

If you’ve read any of the books mentioned, it would be great to hear your thoughts. I’m surprised (but pleased) that I got around to reading so many books whilst also working on a short story submission at the same time. I’m looking forward to see what books I pick up in March!

2 Comments

  1. You really got through a lot of books in February, wow! We are the Weather sounds like a very interesting read as I want to learn more about the environment and climate change.
    This month I’ve been trying to tie up a lot of loose ends of books I’ve been reading but my favourites have to be Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

    1. I was very surprised when I hit 10 books after this weekend!

      I would definitely recommend We are the Weather, I found it to be very powerful and informative!

      Oh yes, I have lots of loose ends I need to tie up too! I’m planning on getting to those in March. Those are great books though – I have read Girl, Woman, Other and I think I got half way through The Book Thief but do want to go back to it. I’m looking forward to picking it out my next book to read alongside my current read, Women Make Horror.

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