Everything I Read in February 2023.

The Social Climber, by Amanda Pellegrino | Everything I Read in February 2023

This was a very good month of reading. There was one miss but the rest I’d recommend. I finally finished listening to Spare! Long but I’m glad I read it. I read some heartwarming books and I read some thrillers. Ten books, including two advanced releases that are each in my eyes an absolute must pre-order (No One Needs to Know and Happy Place).

Sidebar: pre-ordering is great! You get fun mail later, and it helps support your favorite authors (sending a signal to publishers and retailers that the book has high demand). My favs this month (besides those two) were definitely Remarkably Bright Creatures, The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post and The Social Climber. Leave the World Behind was also pretty special. I wish more literary thrillers like that existed. Don’t forget… these reviews (and hundreds more) are all saved to The Library; where you can search and filter by genre and grade. Tell me in the comments what books you loved this month!

Everything I Read in February 2023

Spare, by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex

There is a part of me that doesn’t even want to publish a review of this because it is so polarizing and frankly– though I was curious to read the book, I don’t care enough about any of the royals to get into a heated debate about Harry, Meghan, the monarchy, etc! That being said, I mostly enjoyed this. I say mostly as all the war stuff was a little dry/long for my taste, I found myself listening to it with the speed turned up. I have never been a big follower of the royal family (I did not get up early to watch either royal wedding and I knew little about Princess Diana’s death). Still, I was curious.

I think we have to remember that this is Harry’s story. It’s not meant to be an unbiased recounting of what happened, it’s his story. The one thing that icked me out a bit was that he was telling his family members’ stories–without them really being able to refute it or share their own stories. Still, overall I enjoyed getting to know Harry a little better, hear about his childhood and growing up as a royal etc. I definitely recommend listening to this one. Overall Score: A- // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org.

We Deserve Monuments, by Jas Hammonds

I don’t particularly love YA but wanted to read this one as it came so highly recommended (and was a part of Target’s book club). I also liked that it was a queer love story between two young Black women; a perspective that is very different from my own. Overall, I really enjoyed this — besides the love story there is also a wonderfully heartwarming family story. Parts felt very young but that’s when you kick yourself a little and say “duh, that is what you get when you are reading YA!” So, it feeling young isn’t a valid criticism, and if I had a teenage girl in my life I would give her this book. (So if YOU have a teenager in your life, get her this book!)

Avery Anderson is seventeen years old when her life is uprooted: her mother moves their family back to her hometown of Bardell, Georia to care for Avery’s terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. Mama Letty is hostile and doesn’t want them there. As Avery struggles to get to know her grandmother (and unravel some family secrets), she befriends her next door neighbor Simone and Simone’s best friend Jade. The girls become extremely close, fast… and Jade and Simone’s friendship blossoms into romance. The book is heartwarming at times and rife with drama (family secrets, homophobia, racism) at others. Overall Score: B+ // Order from Target.

The Perfect Marriage, by Jeneva Rose

This is… just not a good book. The plot is entertaining enough (I read it in a day!) but I’d say you can skip this one. The writing is awful. The writing was so awful that I thought maybe it was a plot device, but it wasn’t. Also, the ending went totally off the rails for me. There were so many plot holes… I just… felt really annoyed at the end. Skip this.

The book alternates perspectives between husband and wife, Adam and Sarah Morgan. Sarah is a powerful defense attorney, absolutely killing it with her career (but less so in her marriage as she is always at the office). She’s the best int he business. Adam is a struggling writer, tired of Sarah’s long hours, yearning to start a family. But Adam has a secret, his mistress Kelly. One morning, Kelly is found dead (in the bed at Adam and Sarah’s lake house). And all signs point to Adam as the killer. Sarah agrees to be her husband’s lawyer and get him out of this mess. As Sarah puts aside the hurt and goes into lawyer mode, secrets come out from all sides.

If you are bored and on an airplane and this is all there is to read, go for it. Otherwise, there are just too many great thrillers out there! Overall Score: B- // Order from Amazon.com or Bookshop.org.

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Loved. It came highly recommended in the comments section of my best books of 2022 post by several of you, and I can see why. I picked it up after The Perfect Marriage (woof!) because I needed a winner after that book. And oh, this is a winner! It is a treat of a book and I really think that if you are having a tough time with work or feeling stressed, this would be the perfect book to reach for as it’s quite heartwarming and a little bit magical. Perfect for fans of Lessons in Chemistry and/or A Man Called Ove.

Tova is a retiree working the night shift at the aquarium. Her husband has died and she is a bit bored; the job gives her purpose. She leads a bit of a sad existence, still thinking daily of her son Erik who vanished thirty years ago at age 18. It is at the aquarium that she makes an unlikely ally, Marcellus. Marcellus is a giant (curmudgeonly!) Pacific octopus with a penchant for escaping from his tank and wandering the halls of the aquarium, late at night. He has thoughts… not just thoughts… articulate, brilliant thoughts. You will fall in love with this wickedly smart, albeit sardonic octopus. And the story is just so good!

This book feels like a warm hug. It is about family, unlikely friendships, love in surprising places, and so much more. I devoured it in just a couple sittings as I just fell in love with the characters. Overall Score: A+ // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post, by Allison Pataki

I adored this book, gobbling it up in just a few days. A reader had recommended it to me, telling me that it felt like a real life Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Marjorie Merriweather Post was the heiress to C.W. Post’s Cereal Company (that she later helped to grow into the General Foods empire). The book begins with her childhood, growing up in humble Battle Creek, Michigan. Her father is sick and hospitalized, and from that, discovers cereal and winds up building an empire. Marjorie goes from gluing labels onto cereal boxes in the barn to becoming American royalty. We watch her grow up and marry (four times!), with never a dull moment along the way.

There are the houses and parties, her time abroad living in Russia as wife to an ambassador. Surviving multiple wars and a depression, hosting numerous presidents, collecting Russian art, amassing millions, building beautiful homes (Mar-a-Lago!)and becoming the wealthiest woman in America. It’s unputdownable and such a fun read (you’ll fall in love with Marjorie!) but you also feel as though you’re learning a lot as it is a true story. Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org

Maame, by Jessica George

I just loved this book. It is heartwarming, with wonderful characters. Truly, a treat. I wasn’t sure if I would like this one. It had been blurbed by so many of my favorites and I’d seen it all over Instagram, but I wasn’t sure! I have talked about my disdain for books where the protagonist is a messy twenty-something. In this case, we have that but she’s also such a lovely person (who you really root for and feel protective of!).

Maddie is 25 years old, living in London. While her peers are all going on dates and at happy hour, she is still living at home as her father’s primary caregiver (he has advanced stage Parkinson’s). She’s mistreated and undervalued at work (where she’s also the only Black person in meetings), and feels like she’s missing out on all her firsts. Meanwhile, her mother spends most of her time in Ghana and her brother moved out years ago and is deeply unhelpful. When her mother returns home, Maddie moves out and decides she is going to start living. Going to happy hour, dating, finding her way, and having friends! But when tragedy hits her family, she finds herself in a deep depression.

This is a story about love, family, friendship, and finding your way… while tackling other important issues like racism, sexuality (specifically: bi-erasure), and female pleasure. I fell in love with Maddie and think you will too. Overall Score: A- // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org

The Social Climber, by Amanda Pellegrino

TW: disordered eating. Okay, I absolutely LOVED this book. It has such a nice twist, plus all of my favorite things: rich people drama, a cut-throat social climber, AND a religious cult. It started out a little rocky for me (I had a hard time with the writing at first, I am not sure why!) but once I got into a groove, I could not put it down. I woke up early one morning just to finish it; I had to get to the ending!

Meet Eliza Bennett. She’s working for a New York PR firm, has a killer bod (that she kills herself to maintain), an enviable designer wardrobe, and an even more enviable fiancé: Graham Walker, a blue blood from Vermont. As the days count down to her wedding, secrets from Eliza’s past begin to come out. Secrets that she doesn’t want anyone to know. Alternating between her college days (where she wasn’t the glamorous woman she is today, attending an evangelical Christian college) and present day in New York, it’s unputdownable. I really enjoyed this one, gobbling it up in a mere 24 hours. Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org

Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam

Let it be said that this book is excellent but it is not a beach read. That being said, it is a rare book: a literary thriller. It was a National Book Award finalist, a Read With Jenna book, and it’s going to be a film (starring Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke!) My love of thrillers is no secret, but this one felt special as the writing is really really good. It’s a slow burn. It builds and builds and builds. It’s also interesting that it was written in 2020, but before the pandemic.

Amanda and Clay flee Brooklyn for a long weekend to get away, renting a beautiful house in the Hamptons. Just as they are relaxing with their two children, getting settled, enjoying the house and its beautiful pool… an older Black couple (Ruth and G.H.) shows up, telling them that its their house. A blackout has taken over New York and they have nowhere to go. Clay and Amanda agree to Ruth and G.H.’s plea offer to discount the rent. The couples struggle to understand if they can trust each other. But soon things devolve into something darker (and more mysterious) than either couple could imagine.

I loved this book. I read it on vacation though and would just say, it’s not a vacation book. Save it for a cozy night, tucked in at home… somewhere you feel safe. That is all I will say! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org

Two very good pre-orders!

No One Needs to Know, by Lindsay Cameron (out 5/9)

Lindsay Cameron is quickly becoming one of my favorite thriller authors. (This one is not out until May, so if you have not read it yet, order her other book Just One Look to tide you over — that is one of my favorite books!). Lindsay Cameron just does wealthy, Upper East Side (and messed up/dark) so well. This one felt like a mashup of Big Little Lies and Gossip Girl… I read it in a day!

The book follows three women living in the same neighborhood. There is Poppy, the wealthy and beautiful socialite whose husband doesn’t want to have sex with her; Heather, the outsider who will do anything to give her daughter a better life than she had; and Norah (my favorite character), the managing director of a bank who can’t seem to balance motherhood and work. The one thing these women have in common is that they are all using the same anonymous forum where they confess their darkest secrets and desires… think Reddit meets Nextdoor, maybe? When the site is hacked, their secrets come to light. But also, a death… and subsequent murder investigation. Meanwhile, there are other little plots happening. The cut-throat race to get into high school. An affair. Drama and drug use amongst the tween set.

This was a very fun read; I couldn’t put it down! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org.

Happy Place, by Emily Henry (out 4/25)

I had been saving this book for vacation! Even though I am not a big romance person, I will always read whatever Emily Henry writes, and I think this one is my favorite of hers! Henry has such a knack for writing non-cheesy romance novels with complex, relatable characters you can’t help falling in love with. This one had a new trope: a couple who is broken up pretends to still be together for the sake of their friends.

Harriet (Harry to her friends) has an enviably close group of friends from college. Every summer, they spend a week up at their friend Sabrina’s house in Maine, but this is the last year as Sabrina’s father is selling the house. The six friends (all coupled off) retreat to the house, determined to have one last great trip together. But things are amiss… some friendships feel more strained, and Harry and her fiancé Wyn broke up five months ago, but are pretending to be together for the sake of their friends.

I found myself feeling really frustrated and sad for a lot of the book because you see that Harry and Wyn are clearly so perfect together but are getting in their own way. Alternating between their younger years and present day, we see them fall in love, drift apart, and begrudgingly reunite for the trip. But will they find their way back to each other? You have to read it to find out. I LOVED this book! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. Laura:

    Ooo I can’t wait to add many of these to my TBR list! This post is one of my favorite regular features.

    I am currently treading Killers of a Certain Age- four women friends who are also trained assassins start out on what’s supposed to be a retirement trip but then things go sideways and they have to go back into work mode! So far very fun. Fans of the Thursday Murder Club series will love.

    If you enjoyed A Man Called Ove I highly recommend Under the Whispering Door. It’s a lovely story of self discovery that, ironically, happens after death. Very sweet and heartwarming.

    The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is another one about found family, finding purpose and creating one’s place in the world. With a little romance and magic thrown in!

    3.2.23 Reply
    • Thank you SO much for the recommendations!!! The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches sounds right up my alley.

      3.2.23 Reply
      • Laura:

        I absolutely LOVED The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. I started it not expecting much and it stole a spot in my heart. How fun to see it recommended here!

        3.2.23 Reply
  2. Meredith:

    Marjorie Post’s home Hillwood in Northwest DC is absolutely worth a visit – especially in spring or fall, the gardens are amazing!

    3.2.23 Reply
  3. m:

    I also really loved Leave the World Behind. It’s an intelligently written, slow burn novel that is just so creepy and transportive. I kept wondering what I would do in that situation.

    3.2.23 Reply
  4. Kate:

    Anything compared to Evelyn Hugo has my interest, I loved that book. No one needs to know sounds so good & can’t wait for Emily Henry’s new one! I’m currently reading “Really good, actually” by Monica Heisey.. enjoying it so far, very funny

    3.2.23 Reply
  5. Rae:

    I think I’m alone in disliking Remarkably Bright Creatures! I just didn’t love the characters (except for Marcellus – kind of wish the whole book was his POV) and I was frustrated by many of their choices. I felt like the plot was driven by poor communication and the book could have ended half way through if anyone had bothered to actually talk to each other. (I also disliked Lessons in Chemistry for similar reasons, actually!)

    3.2.23 Reply
    • KP:

      While I liked (but didn’t love) Lessons in Chemistry, you are not alone with Bright Creatures, Rae! I had similar feelings about this book, so many frustrations, and did not find the characters appealing, except Marcellus (I listened on audio, and Michael Urie’s narration added to the appeal) and Ethan who I’d liked to have gotten to know better. Cameron was REALLY tough for me to root for… Glad so many people enjoyed this book, though I was not one of them.

      3.3.23 Reply
  6. Isabela:

    OMG this is so good. So many new books to put on hold on Libby and pre-order on Amazon. Very excited.

    3.2.23 Reply
  7. Cy:

    Thanks for all the fun recs! I just finished “ The House in the Cerulean Sea” , I would guess it’s considered YA. So charming and magical, I think you would really like it. I was just wondering, do you keep all your books? I read mostly on my kindle, but also real books. I just don’t have the space to keep them all.

    3.2.23 Reply
  8. Lucy:

    Always add your A picks to my library holds. I just finished A Woman is No Man and really enjoyed it. Also, please add A Place For Us to your list if you haven’t read it. It is my very favorite book (right above Hearts Invisible Furies) of the past 5 years. Thank you for the recs!

    3.2.23 Reply
    • I’ve just added A Place for Us to my cart – thanks for the rec!!

      3.4.23 Reply
    • Hadley:

      I absolutely love The Heart’s Invisible Furies, putting a A Place For Us on hold right now.

      3.10.23 Reply
  9. Lydia Claire Brooks:

    I’m reading one of those books that I can’t stop telling people about – STEALING by Margaret Verble. It’s about a half-Native/half-white girl who gets sent to a government “school” in the 50s, and her family’s fight to get her back. It’s fiction, and told from the perspective of the girl. The writing is spare and beautiful and I was hooked from page 1 – I can’t recommend it enough.

    3.2.23 Reply
  10. Sally:

    Thanks for these recs!! Your monthly book roundup is always a favorite post!

    I recently read and really enjoyed Damnation Spring, set in the 70’s in a PNW logging town where the livelihood of many families in the town is threatened by environmentalist groups concerned about the dwindling Redwood population. The environmental debate is so fascinating, and the backdrop of this small, quirky town with mostly heartwarming (but some unlikeable) characters made for such a good story. It’s long, but I honestly didn’t want it to end!

    I love a messy family drama and really enjoyed It All Comes Down to This, about three sisters whose own lives are falling apart around them, grappling with their mother’s recent death, and her surprising last wish that they sell the family beach house in Maine.

    Lastly, I recently finished and loved If I Survive You, a collection of short stories about a Jamaican family in Miami and their experiences as immigrants.

    3.3.23 Reply
  11. Jasmine:

    Adding the Social Climber to my NYPL list! Already have Maame and Remarkably Bright Creatures on hold. I’m so bummed though, I was 3rd to get Black Cake after months of waiting, but they canceled my request! So now I’m back to being 38th.
    I read Leave the World Behind last year and hated it! Disliked the writing (did we need two pages of groceries) and the characters weren’t particularly likeable. Just goes to show we can have similar likes and some very different ones!
    I finished Cloud Cuckoo Land yesterday and phew! I struggled to get into it, some passages were really long and didn’t know how they’d all come together. I finished the last 20% in one sitting though, which is what I’d recommend doing for this one. I read on the subway for 20-30mins at a time, but I think this one really needs 1-2h dedicated chunks of time. Also read Maybe in Another Life by TJR, and really liked it. Next is One Italian Summer.

    3.3.23 Reply
    • Oh man! Black Cake will be worth the wait.

      So funny you hated Leave the World Behind! I love that we can have a thoughtful discourse here and agree to disagree. You are so right about Cloud Cuckoo Land, you can’t just give it 20 min at a time, you need big chunks!!!

      3.4.23 Reply
      • Hadley:

        I have a distinct memory from THREE YEARS AGO of finishing Leave The World Behind, slapping the book shut and going UGH!

        3.10.23 Reply
  12. Frieda:

    “Leave the world behind” really sounds like a thriller I actually want to give a try (usally it’s not my genre).
    I really enjoyed “Nora goes of script” by Annabel Monaghan, a light-hearted romance novel that discusses the genre of romance novels (and films) within the story. That’s a fun twist and I found it very well written. And on the textbook side, I really loved “Smelling to survive” by Bill Hansson about the sense of smelling in humans, animals and even plants. Mind blowing!

    3.3.23 Reply
  13. Cathy:

    Wow, you had a great reading month! I read the new Jane Harper last month, Exiles, as well as the new Deborah Crombie, A Killing of Innocents. The other books I read were meh. Adding some of yours to my list!

    3.3.23 Reply
  14. Lauryl:

    I just finished Rebecca Makkai’s “I Have Some Questions For You,” and it was excellent. I’d also describe it as a literary thriller (like the one you mention above). It’s about a girl who went to a boarding school at the time a classmate was murdered and her rediscovering the story and case as an adult. She’s an unreliable narrator which makes it a much more interesting story. And the way the author wove in current news topics/themes was brilliant – me too, people being incarcerated after questionable investigations, women not being believed for their stories. Highly highly recommend! (I also highly recommend her book the Great Believers from a few years ago if you haven’t read – I think it won or was nominated for a Pulitzer and was so well written)

    3.4.23 Reply
  15. Lynn Clarke:

    Great list!! I’m in the middle of Free Food for Millionaires – same author who wrote Pachinko – long book, but a great read so far!!

    3.4.23 Reply
  16. Vicky:

    I do enjoy Emily Henry but I loved people we meet on vacation from her and liked all her other ones. Did you feel like this new one was really different from her others/was it your favorite our of her adult romances?

    I love reading your recommendations! You have a great way of describing plots without giving too much away 🙂

    I’ve been in a bit of a book slump at the moment! I’m reading Bandit Queens which I am enjoying so far– definitely worth looking at!

    3.7.23 Reply
  17. Tiffany:

    I always save your book review posts till I have time to really dive in, check out Goodreads, and add them to my library list. While I’m excited about some of these, especially the new releases, I wish I had gotten to this review sooner as I just read The Perfect Marriage and completely agree with you and your review: so many plot holes, bad writing, and a ridiculous ending; I’m bummed I wasted my limited reading time on this one!

    3.14.23 Reply