February Wrap Up // 2023

The end of the month has sped up for me as both of my kids are fighting to make it to the State Championships in basketball. They both came out of Districts last week, we have Regionals this weekend, and hopefully State the following week! It’s busy…and I LOVE EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF IT! But, it definitely cuts into my reading time!

Both of my favorite reads this month are backlist books. Bad City was added to my TBR after hearing Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves talk about it. It was an engrossing read from the first page and I couldn’t put it down. My jaw was probably on the floor more than it was closed, but it was appalling to hear the many ways the various agencies mentioned in the book didn’t do their jobs! My other favorite book of the month was a reread for my own personal reading challenge this year – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It totally held up on the reread and I really liked revisiting Evelyn Hugo. She was the first TJR book I read, and I have since read a whole lot more – each one just proves Taylor Jenkins Reid is an outstanding author!

Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels by Paul Pringle

WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ?!? Holy cow, this entire book was mind-blowing! While I’m becoming much more cynical about things as I get older, this book reminded me why! Corruption runs rampant as Pringle, a Los Angeles Times investigative reporter, shows us. From the dean of the medical school on the University of Southern California’s campus to the Pasadena Police Department, this is a no-holds barred account of what power, fame, and money can get you. At times it felt like every one was complicit, and all of it threatened to end careers and reputations, but in the end, ethical journalism prevailed – and rightfully so! I enjoyed the inside look into investigative journalism, and I have a newfound appreciation for its importance and what it takes to do a thorough job. This was a wild ride and one that kept me on my toes, never anticipating all the twists and turns of this crazy story!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was another book I originally rated 5 stars and decided to reread this year – and Evelyn Hugo totally holds up in the reread! There were details I forgot, but she captured my heart all over again. This book is full of pain, and silence, and being something others expect of us at the expense of ourselves. But it’s also full of love – unconditional love, heart, and belonging. It’s about redemption and overcoming to find your one true home. Evelyn will absolutely remain on my all-time favorites shelf!

The One by John Marrs

If you could take a DNA test to find the one, would you? I think I would have a hard time resisting temptation, but after reading this book, I’d like to think I’d just leave my life up to fate. This book is intriguing and would make an excellent book club choice; I could only imagine the conversations that would arise! There were five main characters that we follow and each one added a different perspective that really added to this speculative issue. There were many twists and turns – some I saw coming, some I didn’t – but all of them kept this such a fast-paced page turning experience that I couldn’t finish fast enough!

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1) by Louise Penny

When the ladies of the Currently Reading Podcast mentioned that they’re going to host a Journey to Three Pines Readalong, I knew it was the push I needed to finally pick up this series. I had tried to read Still Life once before and really couldn’t get into it, but everyone who has read these books swear they get better as you go, so I wanted to give it another chance. I’m glad I did because this book won me over! The characters are endearing and the setting of Three Pines has me googling if it’s a real place! I found the cozy setting irresistible, the characters delightful, and the writing completely engaging. I can’t wait to start the next book in the series!

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

This is one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read in quite awhile. While it’s set during the 1850s, it took on a totally different angle than you’d expect – horse racing! The story of Lexington and his horse trainer, Jerret, was incredible. It hit me in my heart and I felt the love between the two of them so much that I even cried at times. Because Jerret was an enslaved man, he didn’t have the ultimate say in Lexington’s training and seeing the way his expertise was disregarded at times was difficult. But Jerret’s love for Lexington was the most important thing and the love between them was beautiful. I learned so much about horses, horse racing, and training, and it was absolutely my favorite part of the book! What kept this from being a 5-star knock out for me was the modern day timeline. This part of the book felt like a lot of telling and not as much showing. I wasn’t necessarily convinced of the connection between Jess and Theo and I found myself dreading and skimming these parts of the book. I kind of wish Brooks had just stuck with the 1850s timeline – this would have been a stronger book if she had!

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

I created my own personal challenge this year to reread 12 books that I originally rated 5 stars. This is the first book I reread – and I am still just as conflicted about my feelings the second time around as I was the first time. The content is complicated, controversial, and conflicting – and I have a really hard time justifying why anyone should give this one a try. I think I’m even more bothered this time than I was the first, and if Greenwood’s writing wasn’t so captivating, I’m sure I might have even dnf’d it this go around. Greenwood once said, “If you only read books that make you feel safe and comfortable, what’s the point of reading?” and that is about the best way I can think of to sum up this book. It will definitely take you out of your comfort zone, it will make you question what you think is morally right and wrong, and it will hold your attention until the very end. Overall, this one has held up from the first time I read it, and I would still recommend it to the right person.

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

Tiffany McDaniel is known for dark, gritty, hard, and long stories. She is so crafty with her writing that I can’t help but become emotionally invested with her characters. Betty is still one of my all-time favorite books, so there’s no question that I was eagerly anticipating her next novel. On the Savage Side follows twins Arc and Daffy throughout their life. They live in Chillicothe, Ohio and multiple women have disappeared, seemingly victims of the same serial killer. Many of these girls eventually wash up along the shore of the River; all of them seem to be vulnerable, lost, and forgotten girls who have fallen into drugs and prostitution. Because this book is based upon the real cases of the Chillicothe Six, I think this story hit harder…these types of things happen every day to women around the world, and for whatever reason, their lives seem to be expendable. For the families who have lost loved ones, and especially those who have never gotten answers regarding their family members’ disappearance and/or murder, my heart hurt. I think McDaniel gave these women a voice that deserved to be heard. Overall, I was definitely taken away by McDaniel’s storytelling, her characters and their stories, and the way she shed light on tragedies like these. I do think it wrapped up a little too quickly, was a bit longer than was necessary, and felt repetitive at times. A little tighter edit would have made the ending stick a little more powerfully. Regardless, because of the story and McDaniel’s talent as a writer, I would highly recommend picking this one up!

Now Is Not the Time To Panic by Kevin Wilson

I wasn’t crazy town about Nothing To See Here, but I liked it enough that I knew I wanted to give Wilson another chance. What I now realize about Wilson is that he’s masterful at creating quirky characters with a whole lot of angst. Maybe because this is my second encounter with him I was better able to enjoy the ride, but I definitely had fun reading this (especially his “Easter eggs” to burning children sprinkled throughout). I loved how Frankie and Zeke innocently spurred Satanic panic in their little town of Coalfield, OH, and how they found purpose in their art – even if it was short-lived. I thought small towns were accurately portrayed, and Wilson was even able to convey how big it would be to create a nationwide obsession like Frankie and Zeke did. While this one wasn’t as underwhelming as NTSH was for me, there is still just a little bit of something missing for me to propel this all the way to the top for me. Regardless, I loved the story, the characters, and the escape it gave me.

Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman

πŸ™πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ + πŸƒπŸΌβ€β™€οΈ= πŸš«πŸ™…πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ In case that emoji equation doesn’t make sense to you, it means I AM NOT A RUNNER. I don’t like it -never have, and at this point, I doubt I ever will. I didn’t know who Lauren Fleshman was heading into this book, but I was captivated nonetheless. Not only is this book part memoir about her running career, it’s also a well laid out thesis on women’s’ sports and how women are oftentimes failed by the male-dominated catering and focus of sports in general. While we’ve come along way since the implementation of Title IX, there is still a very long, windy, and rocky road to go. Fleshman is committed to being a change maker; she advocates for sports, companies, colleges, coaches, parents, and athletes to do better, especially when it comes to maturing women’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Throughout all the years I played highly competitive sports, I was never pressured to maintain a certain weight, eat a specific way, or train in unnecessary ways. I was blessed with a vast network of supportive people, but Fleshman definitely shows her readers that that is, more often than not, the exception. This was an extremely informative read that had me reflecting back on my senior thesis that dealt with many of the same issues, though not nearly as eloquently stated. If you or a woman you love are heavily involved in sports (doesn’t even have to be running), you won’t be disappointed by this book!

How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

Because the entire book is told in a first person narrative with no dialogue whatsoever, I think this one would have shined in audio. There were parts that felt jumbled that I know would have come across completely differently had it been absorbed out loud. For that reason alone, I don’t think I felt the full impact of this book. I do think it addressed some important topics and really hit the themes of how hard life is for immigrants – and more to the point, how hard it is to get ahead in America as an immigrant – gentrification, and poverty. I liked Cara as a character and felt so bad for how her life had panned out. She worked her tail off, always tried to help her friends and sister, and had a rocky relationship with her own son. There’s so much of the American life that is closed off to those who are not white, rich, or well-educated and Cruz hit those notes well. I think this would be a great book club because there’s a lot to unpack. I really wish I would have experienced this one on audio though.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

😐😐😐 That’s it…that’s the review. I keep giving the genre a chance because every now and then I read a gem. But this one may have taught me my final lesson. They’re just way too cheesy, unrealistic, and annoying for me to fully appreciate.


12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months

I have been curious about the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series for awhile, so when Currently Reading Podcast announced a buddy read, I decided to jump on the bandwagon!

4 thoughts on “February Wrap Up // 2023

  1. Always lovely to see re-reading going on: I find it fascinating how books change as we read them through our lives. I have Good for a Girl on the go now. I am a runner but I’m glad it has appeal outside the runner community!

    Liked by 1 person

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