What I read in February 2021

February 2021 was a decent month for me reading wise. I finished seven books with one as a DNF.

First was The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson. This was my Book of the Month selection for February and I really knew nothing about it before I selected it. And I’m so glad I did. Normally I give books away when I’m done but I’m keeping this one. It is the kind of book that everyone who reads it is going to take something different away from. And I can’t believe it’s a debut. 4.5/5 stars

The Lake by Natasha Preston. I received this one as an ARC from Netgalley and while I most of the time like YA, I did not like this one. It was boring. So I quit. I kind of feel guilty about it but life’s too short to read books you don’t connect with so I didn’t let it slow me down. Strangely enough, the author has a huge backlist.. maybe she’s self published? Or maybe I’m just not the target audience for this one. DNF.

The Office: The untold story of the .. blah blah blah by Andy Greene. I had checked this one out from the library. And then I just purchased it. I love this kind of book.. you know the kind where you get to read some of the dirt? Yeah.. so, if you like The Office, get your hands on this one. 4.5/5

The Push by Audrey Audrain. I had to see what all the buzz was about with this one. And whoa is it ever buzzy. The chapters are short so it’s so easy to read “just one more.” And the story is so compelling. It’s a thriller, sure. But it’s also a kind of commentary about the type of society that we’ve become for moms. Where every little moment should be cherished and where we’re crappy moms if our kids aren’t eating organic and taking every class. It was a shocker for sure and I devoured it. 4/5 stars

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. I loved this book the first time I read it. I bought a copy from thriftbooks. I reread it. I loved it again. This is a genre bending novel that just had me going and going. I wish she’d write a sequel. 5/5

Forget Me Not by Alexandra Oliva. This one publishes March 2. I am firmly in this authors fan club. This book centers around Linda, who is also known as #clonegirl. Her older sister died in a tragic accident so Linda and her twin were conceived to replace her. It took me a bit to get into but once I started I couldn’t stop. 4/5 stars

Greenlights by Matthew McConaghey. The best parts of this one are the stories. Like the story of “alright, alright, alright.” And how he was arrested while playing the bongos naked in his RV. I could have done without the premonitions included about his wet dreams and I skimmed all the poetry. I never was a huge McConaghey fan but this one didn’t take me long to read. 3/5 stars.

Year One, Nora Roberts. I can’t believe I’m 43 years old and that this is the first Nora Roberts novel I’ve ever read. I liked the escape from the novel virus a whole lot more than the descent into magical powers. But I got invested in the characters and tore through this one in 2 days. I’m glad I’m late to the game with this one because once I finished, I immediately started the second novel. 4/5 stars

That’s it for me! Are any of my reads on your list? Have I enticed you to read any of them? Let me know!

Review: Year One by Nora Roberts

I consider myself to be an avid reader. I usually top 75 books plus per year since I’ve been counting. But even though I’ve read that many, I haven’t read a Nora Roberts novel until this past weekend.

I was in a Facebook group and asked for dystopian recommendations. I have a ton of recommendations to plow through, but I started with this one.

I was hooked almost immediately. Roberts’ writing is vivid and I could see her descriptions in my mind as I was reading.

I was super caught up in everyone’s stories and was impressed that Roberts easily kept everyone straight, although I guess if anyone could, it would be her. The source I found said that she’s written over 225 books in her career.

I am not sure who I liked best.. although I did not see the death towards the end of the book coming. Which is a good thing I suppose.. it was pretty devastating. I particularly enjoyed reading about Arlys and Fred and the way that they worked together to build New Hope.

Is the book overly original? No. I saw lots of other dystopian/post apocalyptic media that clearly influenced Ms. Roberts. New Hope reminds me so much of that town in The Walking Dead. But you know what? It did not matter in the slightest. I still flew through this novel, devouring every word. In fact, since the trilogy is all published, I was able to go ahead and check out the second book and so I’ve already done so. (Libby for the WIN!)

4/5 stars. The story is compelling and the writing is so descriptive. I enjoyed the entire thing.

Unpopular Opinions about books..

My mom was an English teacher, as such my “rebellion” was to never read anything that was assigned by my teachers in school. A very few classics squeaked by. I have both read and loved Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird. And I still do. I also love Shakespeare. But more of an experience than actually reading the plays.

I guess I just enjoy being contrary, you know? I follow tons of book groups on social media, and while I often get suggestions of books to read while following those groups, every once in a while I feel compelled to mention those books that everyone seemed to love that I happen to loathe.

Example 1: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I read this one several years ago with my now defunct meet in person book club and I was the lone dissenter in a group that loved it. And I continue to voice my dissent every time I read a thread singing that book’s praises. Southern fiction is one of my favorite genre, and I have loved Southern fiction since I was young. And this is the worst kind of Southern fiction. It’s cliche, it’s full of trite situations, and the characters are unlikable. I feel certain that Facebook knows how much I hate it because it seems like I see a post about that book at least once a month.. it used to be more. I think that book should come with some trigger warnings.

Example 2: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I received an ARC of this one via Netgalley, which I didn’t actually read until after publication. And while I enjoyed the story, I guess, I feel like this is a book for people who don’t read often. There are better stories. There are better writers. There are better plots, and more interesting characters. Every time I see a post about this book on social media, I am compelled to mention Pat Conroy, who did this genre first and did this genre way better. The Prince of Tides remains the only book that I’ve ever read that made me cry. And if you’ve never read it, please read it and then tell me and we can talk about it. Man that book is amazing. I read it for the first time when I was a senior in high school and I’ve read it once a decade since. And every single time I read it I cry. And every single time I read it I get something else out of it. And I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to have the full experience of majestic southern fiction.

Example 3: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Again, another example of books that may appeal to non readers. I also love psychological thrillers. This is a recent development for me as a reader; meaning that this affection hasn’t been life long. The gold standard for this kind of novel is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and while I find Gone Girl absolutely horrifying, I also found it absolutely fascinating. And I loved it. The Silent Patient was a pale comparison, and again there are so many better books out there.

My theory is that these super popular novels benefit from clever marketing. Or maybe they’re just passed along by word of mouth by people who don’t read often. And there is something to be said about getting people who don’t read to read.. but. There are lots of better books out there. Come sit with me sometime and we’ll talk.

Review: Greenlights by Matthew McConaghey

I love a good celebrity memoir. It’s always fun to read the background of the event. Or of the celebrity. A few memoirs that I really have enjoyed include: Troublemaker by Leah Remini, Stories I Tell my friends by Rob Lowe, and Open Book by Jessica Simpson. I’ve also read Tori Spelling’s books as well as memoirs by Jennie Garth and Jason Priestley. What can I say? I like the little glimpses into the lives of real people.

That said, Greenlights, by Matthew McConaghey, isn’t *quite* a memoir. I’m not sure what it is. It’s partly musings of McConaghey’s exploits through life. Partly musings of his personal philosophies. And partly his … poetry? I don’t know. I’ve never been a huge fan, I mean, I’ve seen several of his films, I just wouldn’t call myself a huge fan. So.. with that.. Greenlights was just ok. I enjoyed reading about his childhood and I enjoyed reading about his first film experiences. I even enjoyed reading about his arrest for playing the bongos naked. Or whatever that was. But I skimmed a lot.

I’m glad that I got this one from the library and that I didn’t purchase it. Not sure if I’d recommend it. Honestly it seems like a vanity project on his part more than anything else.

3 stars of five

Review: Forget Me Not by Alexandra Oliva

Don’t you just love when you stumble across an unknown author’s debut novel and it’s really good? That’s how I felt when I read Alexandra Oliva’s first novel, The Last One. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I purchased a copy so that my husband could read it. But then I decided to reread. And it’s just as good the second time around, I devoured it over this past gross rainy weekend.

I was excited when Random House granted my wish to read an advanced readers copy of Alexandra Oliva’s second novel, Forget Me Not. It’s scheduled for publication at the beginning of March. It took a little bit of time to get into, but once I did, I flew through this one also.

This book is also a genre bending novel, combining suspense with a bit of familial relationships. There’s also a good bit of sci-fi thrown in, as the main character is known as #clonegirl, due to the fact that it had been disclosed that she had been genetically engineered to essentially take the place of her dead sister.

The first half of this one is better than the second. I understand why the suspenseful part of the plot was added. It certainly increased the stakes of Linda’s plight. But honestly I was satisfied with the descriptions of Linda and her relationships with the father that barely knew she existed when she was growing up, and Anvi, her neighbor who just moved in on the same floor of the apartment building that her father put her up in.

If you like your suspense novels with a heavy dose of relationship building and a sprinkle of sci fi, I highly recommend you pick this one up. Ms. Oliva, if you happen to read this, please don’t make me wait five years until the publishing of your next novel. And I’d love to read more about both of the worlds you created. 4/5

Do you reread?

I don’t often reread novels, especially in light of posts that I see regarding new novels. New books are my jam, and I don’t often veer into older territory as far as books.

However, every once in a while I come across a book that I know I’ll reread. Station Eleven comes to mind. This beautiful novel hits a little close to home at the moment as it is about a pandemic flu that devastates humanity. But beauty follows and what I take away from that novel is that despite everything, art and beauty remains. It’s not for everyone to be sure but it’s one of my all time favorites. I have read it a couple of times now.

I’ve decided to reread The Last One by Alexandra Oliva at the moment. This is a story also about a pandemic where the main character is oblivious. She thinks that all of the difficulties that she encounters is due to the fact that she’s participating in a Survivor type reality competition. It was her debut novel and I love it. It’s just as good as it was the first time I read it.

I’m sure I’ll flip back to my new releases after this.. after all I have an addiction to new releases. But every once in a while it’s fun to try a reread. (I’ve also reread The Hunger Games, more than once. What does it say about me that I reread such bleak novels!)

What kinds of books do you reread? What’s the most recent reread of yours?

Review: The Push by Audrey Audrain

OH MY WORD what in the world did I just finish. The Push will NOT go down as great literature, I don’t think. But man did I slurp this novel down quickly.

You could easily look up guides to the plot but let’s just say that things aren’t always what they seem here and I just couldn’t stop reading. Is Blythe crazy? Was her mother Cecilia crazy? How about Etta? How about Fox? How about Violet?

Anyway, having had four healthy babies I can vividly remember having hazy days where I felt as though nothing had gotten done. Heck I still feel that way. But is Blythe feeling just some post partum issues, or is her daughter just a bad seed.

This book had gotten a ton of press with the social media I follow and so, as always, I wanted to read it for myself. It did not disappoint.

Again.. whoa. If you choose to read this one be ready to be taken for quite a ride! In fact, someone I know read it, please. So that we can discuss it.

Review: The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

When I say that I don’t have a favorite genre of book, I genuinely mean it. Picking books for me has no rhyme or reason. Ever.

That said, The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson would probably never have crossed my book radar had it not been for Book of the Month. I picked it for February and I’m so glad that I did. The story has well written characters and an absorbing plot.

I have absolutely NOTHING in common with these characters, yet Johnson’s writing completely drew me in from the beginning of the story up until the very end. Every one of the characters is written in such a manner that they are empathetic, even Midnight’s dad.. who comes across as a selfish asshole. But Johnson gives him such a good reason to be an asshole that you can’t think too badly of him.

I don’t often read stories set in the Midwest but I feel like Johnson did a great job of using her setting almost as a secondary character in the book. Obviously Ruth fled her hometown for a better life and no one could blame her as the town withers away to almost nothing.

The book is *almost* depressing.. and would be, if the characters weren’t written with so much hope and forgiveness. This is a book that each person who reads it may get something different out of.. and in my opinion, that’s the best kind. 4.5 of 5 stars.

Books I read in January 2021

While this month I did not really have any “stand outs” in terms of books, I finished seven books and all of them were at least somewhat enjoyable.

1. The Newcomer, Mary Kay Andrews. This was my first book of the year and I’d received an ARC from Netgalley. I always enjoy MKA’s books and this was no exception. Pleasant enough, not particularly anything one way or another, this one will find its way into a ton of beach bags this summer. Look for its publication on May 4. 3/5 stars.

2. Stealing Home, Sherryl Woods. Last spring during quarantine I really enjoyed watching Sweet Magnolias on Netflix. And I finally got around to reading the first book in the series. Is it wrong to say I liked the show better? I liked the show better. Although this whole series is available through e-books at the library so if I ever plan to head back to Serenity, I’ll check one out. 3/5 stars.

3. The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb. This is Webb’s first novel, but it’s not the first one of hers I’ve read. I bought this one from Thriftbooks a while back and I felt like reading a ghostly type story so this one fit that perfectly. I enjoyed the book, mostly.. it’s atmospheric and has well developed characters. The plot is good, until it kind of flies off the rails. Overall it was a fun read. 3/5 stars.

4. In a Holidaze, Christina Lauren. I’ve seen this duo’s books around for a while but this is the first one I’ve actually read. I really enjoyed it. The plot isn’t new but it’s so appealing and the characters are cute. You know how some books just come along at the right time? This one did. 4/5 stars.

5. Outlawed by Anna North. Probably the book with the most buzz this month, as it is a pick for Reese’s Book Club. Although I read it quickly, I thought it was lacking in a lot of things. Super interesting concept and premise, but I just didn’t enjoy this one. It fell short in so many ways. I decided not to rate it on Goodreads but honestly I’d probably give it two stars just because I finished it.

6. You Have a Match by Emma Lord. Coincidently, also a pick from Reese’s Book Club that I just didn’t love. Maybe I’m too old to relate to the characters but I just didn’t care for it. I wanted to know about the falling out of the parents than I wanted to know about whiny Abby and spoiled Savvy. But again, maybe I’m just not the target audience for this one. 3/5 stars.

7. Game Changer, Neil Shusterman. This is an intense YA novel about the affects of your actions on the world around you. And whoa are the affects strong here. I could see this book being a great topic for discussion in a high school English class. I read a review that talked about the idea of “white savior” and I could see that. But I still think it’s worth reading by lots of youth. 3.5/5 stars.

That’s it for January folks. Whatcha been reading?

Review: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

I like thrillers. Specifically domestic thrillers. I have read all of Riley Sager’s novels, and most of Peter Swanson’s. (They’re my two favorite thriller writers who consistently surprise me in their texts.)

Imagine my surprise when The Last Flight by Julie Clark came along. This is her second novel, and I’ve read her first one also, called The Ones We Choose. These two books could not be more different. I enjoyed both, but, Julie Clark, I’d read any thriller you write after The Last Flight.

I’ve read tons of these books and it’s hard to surprise me. But The Last Flight was a terrific surprise. Julie Clark seamlessly blended the lives of two women who seemingly meet at the airport by chance.

I don’t want to reveal any more.. because.. spoilers. But if domestic thrillers are your jam, do yourself a favor and pick up The Last Flight by Julie Clark. You won’t regret it.