February Book Round-up

Hello a few days late! I ended February on a cruise ship for a work trip and got some good reads in, though overall I struggled with staying on pace for my 75 book goal.

I started this month with the intention that I wanted to read more than my usual escapist thriller list, partially because I am burning out on the genre and nothing feels fresh, but also I feel like I haven’t read anything that has challenged or moved me in a while. I’m glad I voiced that intention and followed up because while I didn’t read the quantity I aimed for, this was a pretty good month in books, with the exception of my only did-not-finish, The Seasonaires (I got past the prologue and requested a return on my Kindle).

The Good:

  • I devoured Severance by Ling Ma in one sitting. It’s almost like a more thoughtfully written re-imagining of a zombie apocalypse in the form of a slow-moving virus that gradually but inevitably reduces the infected to terrifyingly benign, creatures of robotic habit, but that summary doesn’t do it justice. The story alternates between Candace’s present time and the days leading up to the beginning of the end skillfully – I was captivated by both timelines. It was a balance of emotionally restrained and lushly descriptive. I loved this and wish there were more to read.
  • I tend to avoid buzzy books for months until the hype dies down, maybe longer, but before moving to Philadelphia my friend Hillary slipped me her copy of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and it’s one of the most captivating books I’ve read in a while – I read it in about 4 hours on a diverted plane and emerged from the flight a little awe struck. If you can suspend your belief about a model-pretty girl living in a swamp for years, please do – it’s worth the intriguing crime plot and the rich way Delia Owens writes about the marshes that the story lives in.
  • Black Swans by Eve Babitz felt like a combination of reading a time-traveled Cat Marnell with less drugs and a Francesca Lia Block book for loopy grown-ups who don’t take themselves super seriously. Some of the content garners a side eye in the context of modern feminism, but it was still super enjoyable. Babitz in this stage is like the friend who was fun in college but exhausting when you’re over weekend benders, yet still fun to hear about. Love.

The Okay:

  • Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus is the highly anticipated follow-up to One of Us is Lying. I read One of Us is Lying in one sitting; it was often described as “the Breakfast Club with murder”and I agree with that wholeheartedly – it was campy but enjoyable and brought me back to my high school crush days. Two Can Keep a Secret is totally unrelated and IMO to its disadvantage for me personally, read a little more like YA than the first book. It didn’t pack the delightful punch that its predecessor did, but it was twisty and fun nonetheless.
  • Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller got off to a slow start for me and even when the pace did pick up, it was rushed and unfulfilling. I love lush, meandering prose – but the passages and chapters here sort of meandered without really painting a picture or going anywhere meaningful, in my opinion. As I was reading it, it struck me as one of those books that kind of beats you over the head with its thematic elements. A lot of Goodreads reviewers loved it, but it wasn’t for me.
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was hard to put in the meh column because I loved the first half of the book. They were almost like two separate stories. I can’t say much more without spoiling it, only that given the subject matter it makes sense that the first half was more intensely written, but the second half was rushed and felt almost rudderless. Nonetheless, I was fully invested, even as it crawled to a lackluster end.

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