Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Open Book: February 2021 Reads

 Another month is here, which means it's time to talk books! I'm a little late on this post, because I spent the past several days powering through the rest of the book that occupied most of my reading time in February. Hop over to An Open Book to see more recommendations! 

The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay, PhD. 

Written by a clinical psychologist, this book explores a problematic trend in American  culture: Many people fritter away their twenties as they adhere to a belief that somehow, life will magically come together once they hit their thirties. The author draws from research and her own interactions in her practice to show just how damaging this mindset can be. I enjoyed this book a lot, and think it is a good read for pretty much anyone who interacts with young adults and teenagers, as it provides some really helpful reflections and topics to consider. However, I did have one major complaint with this book: Everything the author talked about held true to my perspective and observations of white middle and upper-class people, but I really would have loved to see her discuss if these generalities about twentysomethings hold true across a variety of cultures and races. 

The Circus of Stolen Dreams, by Lorelei Savaryn. 

Consumed with sorrow over her younger brother's mysterious disappearance and her parents' divorce, Andrea jumps at the chance to enter a magical circus that appears in the woods near her house. To enter Reverie, she relinquishes her painful memory of loss and immerses herself in this enchanting place where children can run, play, and experience a variety of dreams (and nightmares) of their choosing. However, as she explores, Andrea begins to realize that not everything is as good as it appears. This middle grade novel was very whimsical and lots of fun to read. I really enjoyed the characters and loved the message about grief , community, and friendship. The story felt somewhat like a Neil Gaiman book, and it was simply a delightful, creepy, magical story. I look forward to reading more by Savaryn in the future! 

Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why, by G. Willow Wilson. 

In this follow-up to Kamela Khan's debut as Ms Marvel, Wolverine enters the story, you discover more information about why Kamela has superpowers, and there's a gigantic dog. This is a very fun story, plus there's a great message about the worth and dignity of all people, even those who seem like unproductive members of society. I really enjoyed this book, and it was a fun read when my brain was just too fried for any weighty novels. 

Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed, by G. Willow Wilson.

In this Valentine's Day-themed story, Kamela is not allowed to attend her school's dance, since her devout Muslim parents won't allow it. However, when Loki winds up at the dance, Ms. Marvel shows up to make sure he doesn't cause too much mischief! Also, Kamela meets a boy who matches all her parents' expectations--and she hits it off really well. While she's wondering if she's found love, Kamela gets wound up in a crazy set of events revolving around other Inhumans. This was a delightful story, and yes, the parts with Loki were extra-fantastic ;) 

Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Last Days, by G. Willow Wilson. 

All chaos breaks out in Jersey City as the characters face apocalyptic-style events. While people riot and panic, Kamela seeks to bring order and peace and keep people safe. She teams up with Captain Marvel, which is super fun, and she also realizes the significance of life. As she faces what could be her city's last moments before destruction, Kamela has some really pivotal conversations with her loved ones, and those moments particularly struck me with the beauty of this comic book run (at least what I've read so far)-that these stories are fun and lighthearted, but also strike some really deep chords of meaning and purpose. I loved this volume! 

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Ah, and HERE is the reason why my literature post is coming a week late this month! I spent over a month on this book as I read through it slowly in the moments when my brain wasn't in its almost-perpetual state of "being too fried/exhausted to do heavy reading." (you really have to be in a certain mood to read 1000+ pages of Russian literature) This story follows-you guessed it-a group of brothers in Russia. When their father, Fyodor, is killed, the brothers (and the town) try to figure out who is guilty for the murder. While that's the basic premise of the story's events, there's so much more to the story than this. Layers of sin, forgiveness, redemption, hope, and community are all packed into this novel as Dostoevsky explores each of the brothers, many of the townspeople and, one of my personal favorites, Elder Zosima, the Russian Orthodox monk. This is a beautiful book that kept me guessing at the end, and I really loved it. It takes a long time to read, but it's well worth it! 

Thanks for joining me this month! Make sure to drop any recommendations in the comments below! 


  1. Oh man, great job finishing The Brothers Karamazov! I don’t know if I’ll ever have the guts to pick it up, but have heard it’s beautiful and very interesting. I commend your constant reading!

  2. I am so impressed that you got through that massive Russian book! Maybe one day I’ll have the stamina for it.

  3. We read Russian literature my senior year of high school, and I loved it but never returned to it. I keep thinking I will, but I think the LENGTH is putting me off of most of the books I have in mind. I should make some time for The Brothers Karamazov. I have a copy of The Circus of Stolen Dreams here that I borrowed from the library. It's up next! Thanks for linking to An Open Book.

    1. Yes! The length makes Russian literature seem so daunting and unapproachable. I read Vasily Grossman's "Life and Fate" in college and loved it, and I keep meaning to re-read it, but every time I look at that 870 page novel sitting on my shelf, I lose my nerve. I hope you enjoy The Circus of Stolen Dreams!

  4. I was trying to borrow the Brothers Karamazov from the e-library during the pandemic because I heard it described as the best novel ever. I never actually started reading it (intimidated), but now I’m feeling inspired to do so!

    1. Victoria, I understand the intimidation factor! I put off Brothers K for years before finally committing to it. I hope you enjoy it when you do pick it up! (and remember that it's OK to put a book down if it's just not working-I firmly believe that a diverse literary diet can be a very good thing, and that some books work better at certain times...I tried reading Lorna Doone shortly after my third baby was born, and after a couple hundred pages, realized that postpartum + family visiting is just not a good time to tackle a very hefty novel like that)