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It’s nearly the end of February and while there are things about winter that are fun and lovely, it’s been cold and bitter in Philadelphia and I am ready for tulips, sunshine and puddles in the rain. In the meantime, I have been using the time inside to catch up on some reading and indulging in some “light reads.” I think these would also be good for summertime or beach reads, but I’m categorizing them here as “Winter Reads.” They are perfect when you want something entertaining, but don’t want something too heavy or don’t want to think too much. These books would actually be perfect in between that Dostoyevsky you’ve always meant to read and that literary fiction next on your list.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a lovely little story.   It is about two things I would love to do – own a bookstore and live on an island. It is not terribly thought provoking and the plot takes expected turns, but nonetheless it is entertaining and touching.

AJ Fikry is the cranky owner of Island Books on the fictional island of Alice. He seems older than his 40ish years and vaguely described as “foreign,” likely Middle Eastern. He has lost his wife, Nic, in a car accident and seems to use this as an excuse to live as the reclusive life he prefers. However, his life and fate changes with the arrival of Maya, a toddler left by her distraught mother in Island Books before she commits suicide. Maya changes him and opens his heart. This openness includes friendship with the sheriff and a romance with the sales rep from a book publisher. He also overhauls Island Books to include more children’s books and organizes book clubs. In the end, there are happy endings for most of the characters, though I don’t want to spoil it, so I will leave it there. Overall, the book is a love story about books and the people who commit to bringing books into the lives of those who love them.

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is my book club’s selection for February, it is also the One Book, One Philadelphia selection this year. I have to admit feeling a little annoyed at the selection from my book club (Women of the World) since we usually read more obscure and less commercial books (of course as I say that, our March book was just selected by Oprah). However, I think it was a good, easy post-holiday selection.

As an orphan train rider Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian experienced loss and rejection as well as some trauma. Her life is interesting and mirrors young Molly who is in the foster care system in present day where the two meet. There were moments in the book that were heartwarming and I enjoyed learning about the experience of the orphan train riders (and the book seemed well researched), but it was just a little too but predictable and a little too perfect. However, it is a great way to while away a frigid Saturday.

Love Nina: A Nanny Writes Home is a collection of short letters Nina Stibbe wrote to her sister, Victoria, during the time Nina was a nanny in London in the 1980s. The letters are one-sided, as we don’t get a chance to read her sister Vic’s responses, but there is something clever and intriguing about the incompleteness of only Nina’s letters. There are lots of inside jokes and British slang that went over my head, but overall it was fun and light. Sam and Will (or S&W), her two charges, and their mother, MK, are quirky and smart and a perfect fit for Nina and I came to adore them. We know that Sam has an illness and is often hospitalized, but we never know what his condition is and it seems irrelevant most of the time. The snippets of conversation are hysterical particularly when S&W weigh in.  The ending seemed sudden and abrupt (did she really just stop writing her sister?), with a little more detail in the afterward to provide a cleaner ending.

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Up next in my pile of Light Reads for Winter Weather, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill and Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell. What are you reading this February weekend?

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