February Preview

Light snow is falling here this weekend and it’s all pretty and white outside. It’s cold, too (6F, -15C), so it’s better just to stay inside and read near the fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa. It’s perfect for a good murder mystery, and I’m enjoying Jane Harper’s novel  “The Dry”  currently, which I plan to review next week. I almost forgot about Super Bowl Sunday with all the distractions this week from the continuing Trump Gong Show, which troubles me to no end. But we do plan to watch the game, the ads, and the halftime performance by Lady Gaga. What about you? I hope it turns out to be a good game and a peaceful day.

Meanwhile February has arrived and it looks to be a good reading month. There’s new novels coming out from  Joyce Carol Oates, Claire Fuller, Christina Baker Kline, Clare Mackintosh, and Heather O’Neill  among others, all of which I hope to look at, but I’ve picked a few other novels that have caught my main attention.

First off I need to check out George Saunders’s historical novel  “Lincoln in the Bardo,”  which I’ve been hearing about since I saw the author at BookExpo last May. It seems a bit of an unusual supernatural story about President Abraham Lincoln and his beloved 11-year-old son Willie who dies in 1862. In the story, Willie is caught in a strange purgatory after dying, mingling among ghosts, where there’s a struggle for his soul.

The book intertwines the living and the dead, as well as history apparently. It seems quite imaginative and I’m game for it. The author is known for his award-winning short fiction so this is his first novel. I’ll be interested to see what I think. Have you read it already?

Then on my radar I have Georgia Hunter’s debut novel  “We Were the Lucky Ones”  that chronicles the remarkable history of the young author’s own Jewish family (the Kurcs), who were separated at the start of the Second World War in Poland and flung to such distant points as Africa, Brazil, and Siberia, determined to survive and reunite.

It sounds like a harrowing journey, one in which her grandfather and great-aunts and -uncles endured and persevered despite overwhelming odds against them. The author gives more insight into her research of her family and the book at her website. For those who liked Kristen Hannah’s WWII novel “The Nightingale,” this seems to be similarly gripping.

Next up I’m curious about Katie Kitamura’s novel “A Separation,”  which appears to be another “Gone Girl” type of psychological whodunit. It’s about a woman on the edge who tells the story of the end of her marriage to her husband in London and what happens when he disappears and she goes to look for him in Greece. Hmm. I know I should probably get over this Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins type of genre, but I’m being pulled back in by the spotlight that this novel is getting. It’s said to be a slow burn of a story that builds with great force and intensity as the woman “discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.”  Hmm. We will see. I’m #18 in line for it at the library.

I’m also interested in Min Jin Lee’s novel “Pachinko,”  a multi-generational saga of a Korean family from 1910 to 1989 that includes the Japanese occupation of Korea, and later the family’s experiences as expatriates in Japan, where they “suffer endless discrimination but also moments of great love and renewal,” according to Publishers Weekly.

“Pachinko” sounds like a fascinating epic, and though I don’t normally read a lot of historical, multi-generational tales, this one is getting a lot of strong praise and favorable reviews and seems too good to pass up. I hope to win a copy of the book in the giveaway on Goodreads that’s going on now. This is the author’s second novel after “Free Food for Millionaires,” which came out in 2007.

As for movies in February, Raoul Peck’s documentary  “I am Not Your Negro,” which chronicles writer James Baldwin’s story of race relations in America from his unfinished novel, looks to be quite revelatory and strong. I have not read a lot of Baldwin’s books, such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain” from 1953 or “The Fire Next Time” from 1963, but I plan to remedy that in the future. He was a tremendously influential thinker, writer and activist in so many ways … for Civil Rights and to writers such as Toni Morrison. This documentary appears to come at a period in America that seems timely.

Reviewer A.O. Scott of the New York Times called the film “life-altering” in a review on Friday, and Tre’vell Anderson of the Los Angeles Times said the film like James Baldwin is “unadulterated, uncompromising and unapologetic.” From all I’ve read about it, the documentary sounds like a powerful must-see.

The movie “A United Kingdom” with David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike is also getting pretty favorable reviews. It’s based on the true story of the black Prince of Botswana who married a white woman from London in the 1940s, which caused an international ruckus. Their families didn’t approve of the interracial marriage, nor did their governments, but somehow they persevered to assume power in his African country after independence. It seems like quite a story. Though the movie likely won’t be as formidable to me as “Loving” was on the topic, it still seems worth seeing. The actor David Oyelowo I’m sure will remind me of his role as MLK in “Selma,” and I hope Rosamund Pike doesn’t remind me too much of her role as Crazy Amy in “Gone Girl.” She was totally freaky but good in that.

Also note, Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz are in a period piece at the end of the month called  “Tulip Fever,”  about a young married woman who gets involved with a painter who’s commissioned to paint her portrait in 17th-century Amsterdam. Uh-oh. Her husband, played by Waltz, isn’t exactly thrilled by that. This appears to be Vikander’s first appearance since her role in “The Light Between Oceans,” which I liked.

Lastly for February, there’s new albums by Ryan Adams, Alison Krauss,  and the Canadian folk singer  Rose Cousins. I like all three of these musicians, but I’ll pick Rose Cousins’s new album  “Natural Conclusion”  since we’re going to see her in concert here in March. It should be good.

What about you — which books, movies, or albums are you looking forward to this month?

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30 Responses to February Preview

  1. Judy Krueger says:

    Just got home from seeing Hidden Figures. Wow! Last night we saw Hell and High Water. That is what I call a dick flick but it was a great screenplay with excellent acting. I have a copy of Pachinko already and can’t wait to dive in. I am also looking forward to the new JCO. I Am Not Your Negro and A United Kingdom–saw the previews in the theater today. Both are must sees for me.

    • Rachel says:

      “Dick Flick” – Ha! I was suprised how much I liked Hell and High Water. I thought it made a pretty great statement about guns too.

      • Susan Wright says:

        Ha. I laughed too. I hadn’t heard of a “dick flick” but it’s quite a good label. I’ll keep it in mind. The acting was good in that film. I feel like I should watch for Ben Foster in the future.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Judy, I will have to see Hidden Figures soon. I have seen Hell & High Water, two brothers causing a ruckus; we liked it too. The Washington Post had great things to say about the new JCO, as long as it is. I’m hoping Pachinko will be good.

  2. We’ve been whining because it was only 49 degrees today. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in the single digits here. I keep reading about Pachinko and look forward to reading it.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Yeah Kathy, when it gets to single digits — it’s a game changer. I wear a lot of layers for sure. I feel like an astronaut. I hope to get to Pachinko too.

  3. Susan reading near the fireplace while snowing outside is so nice – I like to do that when we go to the mountain.
    My goodness, what an attractive selection. Love Clare Mackintosh I’m curious to discover her new story.
    The “We Were the Lucky Ones” is on my radar too.
    Since I saw Rosamund Pike playing a control-freak in Gone Girl I became a fan. She is an excellent actress. I’m dying to see this film. The plot and the actors have caught my attention.
    This month I’m looking forward to reading “The Miniaturist” I had started reading in October but I dropped it, too busy with millions of things… So I will start again.
    Have a great week ahead 🙂

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks RT, we are getting a lot of snow here, so it’s a white wonderland at the moment. I agree Rosamund Pike is usually always good in her roles; I first saw her in the movie Barney’s Version (which is fun) and also Jack Reacher. The new one looks like a romantic role for her. The Miniaturist looks like a good novel; I’ve seen it around and hope you enjoy it!

  4. I’m waiting for Lincoln to arrive at my library, and I’m reading Ninth of December in the interim. Saunders is coming to Houston in early March, so I hope to read his novel before then.


    • Susan Wright says:

      Great Deb, I am also on the wait list at the library for Saunders new novel. He seems like a great writer; I have not discovered his books yet but I hope to. I’m sure he’ll be terrific when he comes there.

  5. I’d like to read Pachinko, too, and We Were the Lucky Ones id definitely on my radar. This week I’m listening to Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? and started Behold the Dreamers in print… both very good so far.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Oh great JoAnn. I’m glad you are reading Behold the Dreamers. That novel captured me for sure. Pachinko seems to be getting a lot of love this month. We will see. Of course there are … too many books, too little time …. Enjoy your Trollope!

  6. Brian Joseph says:

    I have heard very good things about The Dry. I am looking forward to your commentary on it.

    You raise good point about Trump. He is distracting from many of life’s activities. With that, it is hard to imagine a thinking person not being distracted by what is going on.

    So far we have had mild winter here on Long Island. I have my fingers crossed that it will continue.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Brian, glad things are pretty mild on Long Island. We have a big storm at the moment. Who knows what the rest of February will bring? I find all the Trump stuff disturbing and agonizing, maybe even more so as an American living across the border. I know you do as well. I will let you know about The Dry, cheers!

  7. Oh, I saw a preview of The United Kingdom and I want to see it. There are so many good sounding movies out right now. It is snowing here today but it isn’t that cold so it will remain to be seen if it sticks around.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Anne, thx for stopping by. Glad to hear Seattle did not get the storm too bad. I heard Vancouver and parts of B.C. really got a lot of snow! & now it’s hitting us here in Calgary. I have many more movies to see before the Oscars at the end of the month! Enjoy your week, I will stop by your site soon. cheers.

  8. Rachel says:

    So many good books coming out! I’m watching the game but it’s really just an excuse to gorge on junk food for me.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Ha Rachel, funny! I admit the SB is usually a junk food binge for me as well. I had a cheeseburger with fries watching the game, and a number of light beers, crazy!

  9. Carmen says:

    What a game that was! And Lady Gaga was amazing!

    I have Lincoln in the Bardo on my queue to read next. I’m pretty excited about it. The movies sound good. I’m still trying to catch up with last year’s latest films. I saw The Accountant with Ben Affleck and was positively impressed, as I was with Denial, a film about a libel case brought up by a Holocaust denier against an American academic historian. It was thrilling and left me thinking.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Carmen, it was a wild, exciting game for sure! I thought Gaga did well too. All those aerial & dance maneuvers! Thanks for the tips on these movies. I definitely want to see Denial. I had seen a preview for it. It definitely looks thought-provoking. Rachel Weisz is usually good in her roles, like she was in The Constant Gardener. I will rent it soon.

  10. JaneGS says:

    We Were the Lucky Ones looks worth reading, for sure. I think I would probably like A Separation too–I’m surprised by how much I like these thrillers, but they do work to get you out of the everyday!

    Lady Gaga was the best thing about the SuperBowl, at least for me!

    Stay warm, and happy reading.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Jane. Yes Lady Gaga was really something at halftime, what a show! Yeah I agree, every once in awhile I need a speedy thriller to get my reading mojo back. Hope your winter is not too bad in Colorado.

  11. We are awaiting the first significant snow storm of the season here in the mid-Atlantic region. It’s been so gray and rainy here for so long that I can hardly wait for the snow. At least for a few hours, everything will sparkle. 🙂 I hadn’t seen or heard anything about Pachinko, but it sounds right up my alley. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi TJ! Yeah snow is better than gray. I hope you see some snowflakes! We have plenty of snow piles here now. It sounds like a lot of readers are interested in Pachinko this month! We will see how it pans out. Enjoy your week.

  12. Michelle says:

    Lincoln in the Bardo is my next read. I have been looking forward to it for a while now. There are just so many awesome books releasing over the next few weeks. I need one or two good snow days in order to keep up with them all!

  13. Naomi says:

    I haven’t read or seen any of these, but I just read a very favourable review of Pachinko at Rosemary and Reading Glasses. And “A United Kingdom” looks like something I would love to see! Hadn’t heard of it until now.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Naomi, I will check out Rosemary’s review. I’m starting to hear a lot of love for Pachinko! I’m on the waiting list at the library.

  14. We Were the Lucky Ones is next on my TBR stack. I also have the audiobook versions of Lincoln in the Bardo and A Separation, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to listen to those soon!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Great Kate. Sounds like we are on the same reading path. I’m on the waiting list for these at the library. You might get to them before me.

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