A little late on this one, but I read some great books in February so I didn’t want to miss out on sharing! I’m linking these books to Bookshop.org, a wonderful website that makes it super easy to order books online while supporting local, independent bookstores. Your order contributes to an earnings pool that is then distributed to independent bookstores – even ones that don’t use Bookshop.org. It’s a really fantastic site with a great mission that will appeal to anyone who loves books and reading, so I hope you’ll consider ordering through them!
Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton:
I was a little disappointed by this one! I really loved Dolly’s first novel, Ghosts (my review here), and had heard amazing things about her memoir, so I guess my expectations were pretty high, but it didn’t really work for me. It chronicles Dolly’s life up to now (she’s in her mid-30s, I think) – her drunk escapades in college, her close friendships, her relationships, finding herself in her career, and other related topics. It felt to me like so much of the book (the first half) was dedicated to her drunk college “adventures.” And for me, it felt like listening to anyone talk about their drunk college adventures…boring and pointless. I just didn’t find it interesting and maybe it’s because the drunk partying I did in my younger years (such as it was), wasn’t profound or formative for me. The rest of the book I thought was better, but overall just not my favorite. I still love her though and will be super excited to read anything she writes next…I just hope it’s another novel!
Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir:
I LOVED this. 5 stars across the board! This is somewhat similar to The Martian, except this time it follows more of an Everyman (vs The Martian, which followed a NASA astronaut) – 8th grade science teacher Ryland Grace. Ryland wakes up on a spaceship with no idea how he got there or what’s going on, but as it turns out (not a spoiler, this is the basic plot), he’s been tasked with saving the world. I loved this book and unfortunately, to tell you why would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, I just can’t remember the last time I cared so much about a character. I was SO invested in what was happening and what would happen. It was a fun, suspenseful, entertaining ride, full of humor and heart. I was absolutely dying to know how things would shake out and the book surprised me with lots of twists and turns. I wish I could say more but it would be a spoiler, so read it before it gets spoiled for you! It actually was spoiled for me, unfortunately, through some podcast or article I happened upon that ruined one of the surprises, but obviously I still loved it!
Early Morning Riser, by Katherine Heiny:
This was such a good one! Early Morning Riser was recommended by Annie B. Jones as well as Michelle of @michellereadsbooks, two trusted recommendation sources, and I really enjoyed it. It follows Jane, a young teacher who moves to a new town and begins dating Duncan, a man who is pretty much known around town for dating…everyone. From there you’re introduced to a quirky, fun cast of characters who become a part of Jane’s world, and we follow her story as life takes its twists and turns. This had Gilmore Girls vibes to me (though I say that as someone who has never even watched the show) – that cozy, small town atmosphere where everyone sort of knows everyone’s business. You grow to care about these characters a lot, and I liked that while the supporting characters really did come to life, the author didn’t really veer away from Jane as the person around which the action orbits. If you like books about “found family,” I think you’ll love this!
The Maid, by Nita Prose:
I loved this! It was kind of like Eleanor Oliphant meets Knives Out – a cozy, locked room-esque murder mystery starring a main character who sees the world differently than most. Hotel maid Molly finds a dead body in one of the rooms she’s cleaning, which kicks off a murder mystery that she finds herself smack dab in the middle of. Molly is a unique character – she has trouble with social cues and interpreting the actions and words of others, and it leads her to be taken advantage of at times. As the same time, it makes her a really interesting character and very different from most that you read about – which I found really refreshing. I liked Molly a lot because she was clever, funny, principled, dedicated, and saw things differently. It was interesting to see the world through her eyes and also painful at times to see how people were taking advantage of that. I felt really invested in seeing how the story would play out, and it was also nice to see Molly grow and change throughout. I also liked the other characters (and hated a few!), so the supporting cast was strong, I thought. It was a fun cozy mystery with various elements that made it different from the usual, and I really appreciated that.
Vladimir, by Julia May Jonas:
This was a really compelling literary novel that again, felt pretty different from what I’ve read in the past – which I really like. It follows a female English professor whose husband, also a professor, is in the throes of a Me Too investigation at their college. At the same time, she develops a crush on a new, younger professor, Vladimir. So we’re there with her as she deals with the investigation into her husband and the reaction of her students and fellow faculty members, the fallout in their marriage (which was open), the reaction of her adult daughter, as well as the growing obsession she’s feeling with Vladimir (who is also married). It’s a very psychological book, almost claustrophobic – you’re very much inside this narrator’s head and hearing all of her thoughts, some of which had to do with her aging body, her looks, her writing…really a lot that she’s dealing with and thinking about. I thought the take on the Me Too situation was interesting, as we’re getting it from inside this character’s head – where their marriage was open, and the women were consenting adults, so her take on it is pretty different from that of the college community and the students. I found this book to be a good mix of plot and thoughtfulness, and it’s the kind of thing where I feel like I could read it again and get even more from it.
The Nothing Man, by Catherine Ryan Howard:
This was such a page-turner! It was highly recommended by both Sarah from @sarahsbookshelves (who did a great podcast interview with the author that prompted me to finally pick this one up) as well as Meredith from the Currently Reading podcast. I could not put it down. It follows a woman who was the sole survivor when a brutal serial killer murdered her entire family when she was a child. He went on to become known as The Nothing Man. In present day, she has written a book about her experience, and guess who happens to pick up a copy? The Nothing Man. And now he’s determined to finish the job he started that night. So yes, you know the whole time who the killer is…and yet the whole time, you’re still on the edge of your seat dying (hah) to see how it will all play out. So it was a really unique premise and definitely a must for anyone who likes true crime (I actually don’t, but still really enjoyed this). I’m looking forward to reading more from Catherine Ryan Howard, and if you haven’t you should definitely listen to Sarah’s podcast interview with her!
Stay Awake, by Megan Goldin:
This was basically 50 First Dates or Before I Go To Sleep, as a thriller. The main character has that type of amnesia where every time you go to sleep, you forget everything from a certain point – which for her is two years ago. So every time she wakes up, she thinks it’s this particular day two years ago…but actually, her life is completely different. So she’s kind of running around in a state of confusion the whole time, and following notes she’s written on her hands to herself. I actually liked this book and read it really really fast, because I was dying to know what would happen, and I didn’t find it all that repetitive which is always an issue with an amnesia book like this. The thing that drove me nuts is there was this HUGE, GLARING plot hole that I STILL do not understand, and I am just dying for someone else to read this book and tell me if I’m missing something, or if not, what the heck the deal was with that! So if anyone does read this, get in touch! This one comes out in August.
On Animals, by Susan Orlean:
I listened to this for book club and it was my first Susan Orlean book. It’s a collection of her essays about animals, some of which I think had been published before as articles in The New Yorker or other places, and maybe some new (I didn’t look into it too deeply as it was all new to me). At first I was like meh because I thought it was just going to be essays about her own relationships with animals. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. Some of the essays covered really interesting topics that I would not have thought I would be at all interested in (taxidermy?!), but through her writing, lo and behold – super interesting! Some of my favorites were the one about animals in movies (so interesting!), one about bunnies, and one about this woman who has a ton of tigers in New Jersey. Again, none of these are topics I was remotely interested in, but I’m telling you, these essays were super interesting. One of the girls in my book club pointed out that the book wasn’t at all preachy – Susan Orlean keeps chickens, but she’s not a vegetarian. It was refreshing that she didn’t appear to have an agenda with the book. Some of the essays covered hard topics, like the one about the tigers but especially one about those lions that are kept in “sanctuaries” for people on vacation to come to take pics with – it was really sad because that only really works while they’re babies, and then once they grow up no one knows what to do with them. There was also one about orcas and of course if you’ve seen Blackfish you know how sad the mere mention of that documentary can be. But many were just interesting and even the ones that contained sad info weren’t meant to be screeds against anything. Not that that would be bad, it just wasn’t that type of book. I never would’ve picked it up if it weren’t for book club, which is my favorite thing about book club!
That’s it for February, and now I need to get back to reading because I’ve barely read anything in March, and the month is somehow almost over!
Early Morning Riser was my favorite book of last year. I loved the setting of Boyne City, Michigan because I know the area well and was completely charmed. You’ve got me wanting to read Vladimir now. Sounds very intriguing!