February Preview

Ahhh February. The month of Valentine’s Day and all that lovey-dovey. I hope you take advantage of it. Get out the chocolates. It’s bitterly cold here right now, criminy: stay indoors! And it appears the Super Bowl is an all East Coast matchup this year, though if you’re not into it, there’s always the commercials to watch or the halftime show or more importantly the Puppy Bowl. Hooray, go puppies! Will you be watching the Game?

Meanwhile I’ve been looking at what’s releasing this month and there’s quite a few novels competing for my attention. I usually try to stick to five to highlight, but I’m fluctuating a bit on which ones to pick. Still I got to go with checking out Tayari Jones’s new novel “An American Marriage,” which is about an African-American married couple whose lives are torn apart when the husband is arrested and convicted of a crime he did not commit. Some of the novel is told in letters while the husband is in prison and the rest is about what happens to their marriage when he gets out. It’s said to be a love story that explores class tensions as well as racial injustice in the contemporary South. It sounds powerful and one I’m up for. I haven’t read this author before but she seems like one to watch and follow.

I’m also curious about Willy Vlautin’s novel “Don’t Skip Out on Me,” which details the story of a young Nevada ranch hand who leaves his life of sheep herding to prove his worth as a professional boxer — first in Tucson, then in Mexico and then in the seedier sides of Las Vegas. It sounds like a gritty, but touching story about one man’s search for identity and belonging. I haven’t read Vlautin before but apparently he writes about those who are downtrodden and forgotten like no other. As Ann Pachett says: “The straightforward beauty of Vlautin’s writing, and the tender care he shows his characters, turns a story of struggle into indispensable reading. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.” Hmm, count me in.

Next up, I like the looks of two debut novels: Moriel Rothman-Zecher’s “Sadness Is a White Bird” and Jasmin Darznik’s “Song of a Captive Bird.” I don’t know what it is exactly about bird titles, but both novels are receiving considerably high marks on Goodreads and praise elsewhere.

Zecher’s book is about a young Israeli man who’s preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian twins. It’s said to a be a passionate coming-of-age love-triangle narrative that captures the intense feelings on both sides of the conflict and offers insights, says author Geraldine Brooks, “into the holy and the broken place that is modern Israel.”

While Darznik’s novel retells the real-life story of Iranian feminist, poet, and director Forugh Farrokhzad against the sweeping panorama of Iranian history: from the rise of the 1953 coup to martial law in 1979 and the start of revolution.

It’s said to be a tale of a woman transcending the strictures of a patriarchal society and one that sounds fascinating. Forugh was apparently a poet who defied society’s expectations and went on to find her voice and her destiny. Called a stunning and powerful debut, this hailed tribute to a  brave poet sounds like it could be just my cup of tea.

Lastly in books it’s either Kristin Hannah’s novel “The Great Alone,” which is her latest since her very popular book “The Nightingale” in 2015, or Paul Howarth’s debut novel “Only Killers and Thieves” about two brothers on a manhunt in 19th-century, colonial Australia.

Both stories sound rather violent based but are said to be compelling. Hannah’s “Great Alone” includes a Vietnam vet who moves his family in 1974 to Alaska, starts to unravel, and becomes abusive to them, while Howarth’s “Only Killers” is set against a time of brutality to Australia’s indigenous people. I can only hope the protagonists of both tales escape their predicaments and set things right. They seem to be in a dicey fix, so check these out if you dare.

Meanwhile there doesn’t seem to be a lot that’s notable coming out for movies in February. But Clint Eastwood directs one called “The 15:17 to Paris” about the true story of the three Americans who stopped the terrorist attack on a train in France in 2015.

The story follows the three friends’ lives from their childhood struggles through to becoming young adults, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. The cool thing too is that the real guys get to play themselves in the movie. You don’t get to see that very often unless it’s a documentary, which this one is not. Though the movie hasn’t been pre-screened yet so your bet is as good as mine as to  how decent it is.

Otherwise there’s a couple of screwball comedies to get you through the winter blues. “Game Night” looks to be quite a crazy, slap-sticky movie about a group of friends whose game night turns into a murder mystery. It stars an amusing Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams among others.

There’s also the British black comedy “The Party,” which might be more my cup of tea. It’s about a politician who throws a party at her London flat to celebrate a job promotion and things don’t exactly go as planned … when festering secrets surface that turn things into a domestic war zone. “The Party” has quite a caste especially if you’re fans of Patricia Clarkson, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Mortimer among others.

As for albums releasing in February, there’s new ones by Justin Timberlake, and Australian singer/songwriter Vance Joy … as well as the Canadian band The Sheepdogs that I’ll be checking out, but my pick for the month goes to Washington State singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile for her upcoming sixth studio album “By the Way, I Forgive You.” She has quite a powerful voice and way with her songs.

What about you — which book, movie, or music releases this month are you most interested in?

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27 Responses to February Preview

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    It is also cold here on Long Island.

    There are some really good sounding books and films coming out soon. Song of Captive Bird sounds particularly interesting. Folks are still fighting for human rights and women’s rights in Iran. Recent history is both interesting and tragic. Forugh . Farrakhzad seems like someone worth knowing about.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Brian, yes I find human rights stories set in Iran quite interesting so I’m looking forward to this one. I don’t know much about this poet so I hope to be pleasantly surprised by her story.

  2. We are so over winter right now – I sure hope the groundhog was wrong.

    The books you highlighted look good, especially An American Marriage.

    We’ll probably have the Super Bowl on but I really don’t care who wins.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kathy, yeah I’m hoping spring comes early this year! An American Marriage looks good to me too — I’m on the list at the library for it. Enjoy your week.

  3. Judy Krueger says:

    I feel like you put a lot of work into this month’s preview and it paid off. I am also looking forward to American Marriage and Don’t Skip Out on Me. I am having a bit of trouble imagining Kristin Hannah doing a Vietnam vet. I will await your review.
    I keep hearing about Brandi Carlile so I will check her out. I am currently reading the Stevie Nicks biography and then I will be done with the aging rockstar girls, at least for now-:)

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Judy, I keep tinkering with this preview’s wording etc. And hope these novels will be good. I await your thoughts on the Stevie Nicks bio for sure. I read the Mick Fleetwood memoir so I got a bit of Stevie in that book but will likely get to the book on her as well.

  4. Carmen says:

    I’ll be watching the half-time show and some commercials too towards the end. Go Patriots! 😉

    Wow, you highlighted a lot of February releases in all categories! Yesterday I was browsing the critics’ literary picks for the year and An American Marriage seems to be in several of those lists. I’m interested in two historical fictions: one by Paula McLain about the love affair between Hemingway and a war correspondent, and one titled Circe; both were in several lists as well. Form your list Don’t Skip Out on Me and Songs of the Captive Bird sound good, as does the train movie by Clint Eastwood. Its trailer, which I saw the other day on TV, caught my attention.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Carmen, very close game on Sunday … went down to the wire. Good to know about these literary picks you talk about. I’ve put my name in for a few of these at the library. Hoping to get An American Marriage. I will look into Circe, hmm. Might see the Post movie this week. Hmm.

  5. diane says:

    Very tired of Winter as well. I thought An American Marriage was good; hope you’ll enjoy it.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Oh great Diane, glad you already have gotten to An American Marriage; I’ll stop by your site to see your review. I’m eager to read it. Glad you liked it.

  6. Ti says:

    An American Marriage looks really good. I just added a bunch of titles to my “want” list and I was trying so hard to reduce my list.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Yeah I’m on the wait list for An American Marriage at the library. My wait list is now very long too. I’m not reading fast enough :-).

  7. Laila says:

    Just put An American Marriage on hold at my library. I’m number 44, which isn’t too bad. 🙂 I’m intrigued by 15:17 to Paris because of the casting of the real life heroes. One of them was on “Dancing With the Stars” and he went quite far! (I love that show, I’m not afraid to admit.)

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Laila : I didn’t realize one of the heroes was on DWTS, oh my. I think I’m #28 for American Marriage at the library. Hope it won’t be too long. Good luck at #44. I know how it goes. 🙂

  8. I’m very much looking forward to An American Marriage. It was high on my list — and my Book of the Month Club pick — and then Oprah picked it for her book club, which was even more exciting!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kim, wow I didn’t realize Oprah picked the Tayari Jones novel. Now it’s really going to explode. I’m looking forward to it too. #28 at the library at the moment. Go!

  9. I really liked An American Marriage and thought The Great Alone was very good, but didn’t care for the last 10%. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Sadness is a White Bird. I couldn’t get invested in the story and finally put it down.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Oh too bad about Sadness Is a White Bird. I’ll see if I can get into it. But good to hear about the other two books. Looking forward to them. Thx for the word on all.

  10. I loved Nightingale by Hannah so I am very interested in her new book. Thanks for visiting my blog. How are things in BC? Are you floating away?

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Anne: I liked the Nightingale too so I’m curious about The Great Alone, though I’m worried about its abuse storyline a bit. Although I visited BC last summer, I live in Alberta, Canada … and right now it’s very snowy! They are expecting a foot of snow tonight & tomorrow, yikes! Thx for asking, are you getting much rain in Seattle this winter?

  11. This morning I discovered that An American Marriage is available instantly (both ebook and audiobook) on hoopla, if your library offers that service. I was surprised … they don’t often have the new ‘it’ books.

  12. Naomi says:

    So many great books coming out. Song of a Captive Bird and American Marriage stick out the most for me… marriage and “transcending the strictures of a patriarchal society” are both things I love to read about! Have you started any of them yet?

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Naomi, I have put my name in for all of these books at the library … but I’m on the wait list for them currently. So far, I’m still reading January releases & other books, go figure! I need to speed it up.

  13. Michelle says:

    Cold and, for the first time all winter, snowy here. We had nothing until Sunday and now have about a foot and are supposed to be getting more by the weekend. I am not a fan.

    I can highly highly recommend An American Marriage. It is amazing.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Michelle: Thx for the tip about Tayari Jones’s novel, so glad to hear you liked it! It’s quite the talk of the town at the moment. A lot of readers — like me — seem to be trying to get it. & sorry to hear about your snowy weather. We are also about to get a big snowstorm tonight …. perhaps it is headed your way, uh oh.

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