This was an absolutely delicious month of reading. So many books that I just loved – truly, there are 8 books on this list and I would recommend each of them. Especially Black Cake which was probably my favorite read of 2022 so far… we made it our podcast book for the month, I hope Becca likes it as much as I did! Beautiful Little Fools was a close second – I love anything Gatsby and this was such a clever reimagining of it. There was some fun YA, two audiobooks (they both felt more like performances than just being read to), and then She Regrets Nothing and In My Dreams I Hold a Knife were perfect, unputdownable distractions.
What’s the best thing you read this month? I loooove your recommendations – tell me what books you’ve loved in the comments section!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BEAUTIFUL BOOK CLUB PAGE.
Every month I update it with everything I read – it includes every book I’ve read in the past seven years. The best part is that you can filter + search by genre. Now you can also filter by GRADE to find exactly what you’re looking for or just peruse my top picks. If you’re feeling like you need even more book recs, check out last month’s list. And of course my big post of everything that I read in 2021.
Everything I Read in February 2022
Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson
This book. Wow. I loved it so much. The storytelling. The characters. The plot. Just unputdownable. Benny and Byron are estranged siblings. But when their mother dies, everything changes. Their mother leaves them just two things: an eight hour voice recording (and a stipulation that they must listen to the whole thing together, in the presence of their family lawyer… and a black cake (a traditional Caribbean dessert; now I must figure out where to get some!). In listening to the recording, they learn about a headstrong girl named Covey who grew up in the Caribbean (the island is never specified), and loved to swim. Secrets emerge about Benny and Byron’s family, and everything they thought they knew about their mother (and father) is challenged. Spanning the sixties through modern day and addressing everything from race to the forced adoptions that happened in the sixties and seventies, it is fascinating.
The characters were so real, the story was incredible… I couldn’t put it down. I cannot recommend this book enough, I honestly can’t think of a single friend or family member that won’t absolutely love it. (This went to my mom the second I finished it – that’s my mark of a really good book!) Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A+
Beautiful Little Fools, by Jillian Cantor
This book was so so wonderful. I will read anything about Jay Gatsby / The Great Gatsby and loved this retelling of the story; this time, putting the women front and center. It came highly recommended by Ashley Spivey (whose book recommendations I always adore) and I loved the idea of putting a feminist spin on an old classic. I thought it was incredibly creative and just brilliantly reimagined. The story is told from the perspectives of Daisy Buchanan (no introduction needed- she once thought she’d marry Jay Gatsby but married philandering Tom Buchanan to save what was left of her family after a terrible tragedy), her best friend Jordan Baker (a pro-golfer with a secret that could destroy her), and Catherine McCoy: a suffragette who has moved to New York City with big dreams (and an older sister who is trapped in a bad marriage).
Also involved in the narration: the detective who is investigating the murder/suicide of Jay Gatsby and George Wilson… convinced that things aren’t quite as simple as they look. A diamond hairpin is discovered in the bushes of Gatsby’s estate, causing all three women to fall under suspicion. They each hold their own secrets (and their own relationships with the hair pin). Without giving anything away, in this version, Gatsby is kind of a creep! I absolutely loved this. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A
Mouth to Mouth, by Antoine Wilson
This was a fun little book. If you have a trip coming up where you want to read a whole book on a flight, this would be a good choice. It’s smart and fast-pacedIt was pitched to me (by an Instagram follower) as an art world thriller, but I wouldn’t really call it a thriller… more, suspenseful fiction? I really liked the storytelling structure: the narrator is a writer who tells us someone else’s story as it was told to him. We never learn the narrator’s name (or even very much about him) but one day he is sitting at the airport, waiting for his flight, when he runs into an old classmate… Jeff Cook. Jeff is clearly living a very glamorous life – he’s well dressed, flying first class, etc.
He and our narrator sit down in the first class lounge and Jeff proceeds to tell him a wild story: one day he was out for a run when he saw a man drowning. He saved his life, and then later, out of curiosity, tracks down the man – only to find out that it is Francis Arsenault, a famous Beverly Hills art dealer. Through a series of events (Jeff applies for a job at Arsenault’s gallery), Francis takes Jeff under his wing, teaching him everything he knows – all the while (or at least so it seems) never recognizing Jeff as the man who pulled him from the water and revived him. The men’s lives continue to intertwine, resulting in a dramatic ending. I really enjoyed this one and will be thinking about it for a while. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A-
A YA Treat!
Castles in Their Bones, by Laura Sebastian
This book is such a treat (and it is a trilogy!), perfect for fans of American Royals or The Selection. The kind of YA that everyone will enjoy. Beatriz, Sophie, and Daphne (the names are even similar to American Royals, ha!) are three princesses, raised in the arts of deception, violence, and seduction… trained from birth to be assassins. Their mother, Empress Margaraux has a plan: to marry off each of the sisters to princes in the neighboring kingdoms, create chaos in each kingdom, and ultimately seize the three kingdoms for herself… using the princesses to do it.
It took me a little while to get into it (so many names, kingdoms, characters, etc) but once I did, I could not put it down and found myself staying up late to tear through it. The final 50 pages are especially good – I couldn’t put it down and am now on edge, waiting for the next one to come out. This is such a fun book, I really enjoyed it!! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A-
Gossip Girl for Adults?!
She Regrets Nothing, by Andrea Dunlop
Oh wow, this book is a trainwreck, in the best way possible. I saw TIBAL raving about it (and Andrea Dunlop is a favorite of mine), and thought it must be new. It is actually a few years old but such a treat. You feel so much secondhand anxiety for the characters.
When Layla Lawrence is orphaned at just 23 years old, her cousins show up at her funeral. The only thing is, she didn’t even know she had cousins! There’s Liberty who is 5 years older, plus the twins – Leo and Nora… living a glamorous life in New York. Turns out, Laila is from an incredibly wealthy Manhattan family but Laila’s father had become estranged from his parents and moved to the midwest before Laila was born. Laila up and moves to New York, living with her cousin Nora…but all that glitters is not gold. She makes every possible mistake, recklessly social climbs, and relentlessly pursues the lifestyle she feels she was so unfairly denied. Again, a trainwreck in the best way possible: I could not put it down! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A-
A page-turning thriller
In My Dreams, I Hold a Knife, by Ashley Winstead
I read this book when I really needed a distraction (Russia had just invaded Ukraine). Something unputdownable that would hold my attention, as I just can’t read “serious books” when the world feels like it is on fire. This delivered. 7 students at the elite Duquette (a fictional Duke?) University were thick as thieves. Until one (beautiful, confident Heather) was murdered, and another (her boyfriend Jack) was accused of the crime. This is a common thriller theme, but I really enjoyed this!
The 5 remaining friends return to Duquette for their ten year reunion. The story is told from Jessica Miller’s perspective. She’s always felt invisible and not good enough, with some narcissistic, sociopath tendencies (so we have another favorite thriller trope – the unreliable narrator). When they arrive at the reunion, they’re immediately confronted by Heather’s little brother. Once a skinny freshman, he’s all grown up and has dedicated his life to figuring out what happens. The friends are forced to confront what happened. Secrets come out. It’s told in dual timelines (then and now) and like I said, completely unputdownable. This is your perfect read in a day thriller… Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A-
What I Listened To This Month
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
This book came so highly recommended by so many (with the primary recommendation being to listen to it as Tom Hanks narrated it!). I am glad I listened as I think I would have read this book pretty slowly (it’s definitely a slower-moving read) whereas having Tom Hanks talking to me for ten hours is something I just gobbled up. This is one of the times you really appreciate a book in audio, as Tom Hanks doesn’t just read it, he performs it!
The Dutch House is the story of two siblings, Danny and Maeve… spanning five decades, taking us all the way through their childhood through late adulthood. As children, they suffer horrible loss (twice!) and they find themselves unable to let go of the past (or maybe it is the past that will not let them go). The story follows them from their beautiful child home (The Dutch House, a lavish, mostly glass property outside of Philadelphia) and back again. It is horribly sad at times, wickedly funny at others… and overall a wonderful story about love, loss, and embracing the things we cannot change. I loved it. Truthfully I don’t know if I would have loved it as much in paper form (I appreciate literary fiction but don’t always enjoy it?) but I absolutely adored it in audio form. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A
The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris
- Overall Score: B+
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photography by Laura Saur.