Everything I Read in February 2024.

Everything I Read in February 2024

Oh my! This month, I somehow managed to read twelve books. I am not entirely sure how that happened but I was definitely in peak homebody mode this month. Plus a few long flights and airplane reading. I read a lot of fiction and listened to quite a bit of non-fiction. Generations was far and away my favorite book of the month, but it is a lengthy listen (I think it was something like 17 hours long?). READ IT though — I learned so much and truly enjoyed all 17 hours. I also really loved the two more literary books I read this month (Homebodies and The Rachel Incident). Thrillers were a mixed bag. There were 7 this month, and a few were disappointments. But hey! You win some, lose some… right? I can’t complain, it was still overall a very delightful month of reading!

PS – Check out everything I read in January, don’t forget my searchable library page, and most importantly! Tell me what you’re reading in the comments section!

Everything I Read in February 2024

Literary Fiction

Homebodies, by Tembe Denton-Hurst

I loved this book, mostly because it made me feel so many things.

Mickey is a young Black woman, working in media. Her job can be tedious and she isn’t getting to write the stories she wants to write, but she has a supportive girlfriend and a fun, vibrant life that comes from her flashy job. When she finds out that she is being replaced, her whole world is upended. She takes to Twitter, posting a letter that outlines the racism she’s experienced as a Black woman working in media. When the letter is met with silence (even from her girlfriend), Mickey unravels and retreats to her hometown. There, she settles into a quieter life at her grandmother’s house (save for a flirtation from her ex), able to reflect and start to heal from the trauma that has come with working in the industry she loves – that doesn’t love her back.

Just as things start to slow down a little and Mickey has caught her breath, things are upended again. When a scandal erupts at her old company, her letter is suddenly getting a lot of attention. Suddenly, everyone wants to talk to her. She is thrown into the spotlight and forced to make hard decisions. Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

The Rachel Incident, by Caroline O’Donoghue

I really loved this one too. Not as much as Homebodies but still very good! I think this one is perfect for fans of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow or even A Very Nice Girl (but I liked it so much more than A Very Nice Girl!). We have a young and messy protagonist but we also see her as a functioning adult (and she manages to be endearing vs. annoying!). Rachel has fallen in love with her professor, Dr. Byrne. Dr. Byrne is married, with a glamorous wife. It’s a harmless crush, really. Rachel and her best friend James decide to throw him a launch party at the bookstore they work at. James is helping her to seduce him. Things do not go as planned and on the night of the party, something happens that alters their lives forever (and entwines Rachel, James, Dr. Byrne, and Deenie).

I don’t want to give anything away but this is funny and dramatic and a really excellent “friendmance,” which you know I firmly believe we need more of! Chaotic but in a good way and I absolutely LOVED the last few chapters. Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Thrillers

First Lie Wins, by Ashley Elston

I had been seeing this one all over Instagram and was very excited to dive in. It did not disappoint: a fast-paced plot that feels more action/spy novel (or Mr. and Mrs. Smith) than thriller. Evie Porter is a nice Southern girl with a job at a gallery and a handsome boyfriend. Except (as it usually is with these types of books!) Evie is not who she says she is. She’s an agent working for a mysterious boss known only as Mr. Smith. She has no idea who Mr. Smith really is or who his clients are, she just follows orders. He’ll give her an identity and a mark; every case is different. Except this case feels different.

Evie’s mark, Ryan Sumner (and their life together!) is all she’s ever wanted. Alas, after a major misstep with her last mission, Evie can’t afford to make any mistakes. And when a new woman comes to town, claiming to be Evie’s real identity, all bets are off. What is happening? Is there anyone she can trust? A cat & mouse game ensues and all bets are off. This kept me guessing the whole way through. I really enjoyed it, gobbling it up in just a couple sittings! Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

I’m a Fan, by Sheena Patel

I was a little bit torn on how to review this book. I did not find it (at all!) enjoyable to read. In fact, I like dark and twisty but this took it a little too far into the territory of being upsetting vs. suspenseful? It’s unhinged, with a very messy narrator and you know I hate a messy narrator! Still, it’s literary and weird and it made me feel things (and any book that makes you feel things should be taken seriously!). So I gave it a B because it is well-written and very smart, because it tackles race and class in such a sharp way, because it’s a sharp, smart book in general. But the relief I felt upon finishing it was tremendous. I was so happy to move onto something else.

The book opens with the unnamed narrator telling us that she stalks a woman on the Internet who is sleeping with the same man she is sleeping with. Neither woman is married to him; he also has a wife. This woman is an influencer type, with a seemingly perfect (albeit shallow) life. She is referred to only as “the woman I am obsessed with.” The man is referred to only as “the man I want to be with” and he is not a good man. For much of their “relationship,” she is only allowed to email him, never text. It’s clear that he is a horrible person yet our narrator takes every little crumb she can get. The book felt like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Super unsettling and upsetting. I hated it but I also appreciated it? Overall Score: B // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Everyone Who Can Forgive Me is Dead, by Jenny Hollander

Nine years ago, Charlie Colbert witnessed a terrible event at her graduate school, known as the “Scarlet Christmas.” To this day, she still can’t make sense of what happened, but we know there is more to her story than what she told the police. Of her original friend group and everyone involved, Charlie is the only one who hasn’t spoken publicly about that night. She’s also distanced herself from the people who were once her best friends. Now, all these years later, she has rebuilt her world and risen so far in life! She is the editor in chief to a major magazine and engaged to publishing royalty: Tripp Goodman West.

Her life is perfect and she wants to keep it that way. But everything she has worked so hard for is threatened to come crashing down when news of a film adaptation of the horrible tragedy occurs. She cannot let the adaptation happen and has to decide how far she’ll go to prevent the film from being made. I liked this, but did not love it. I think that for me, the story just felt too similar to The Luckiest Girl Alive (but not as good/a little bit slower). It didn’t help that I didn’t like any of the characters except one (who was only really introduced to us at the end of the book). It’s worth the read but wasn’t my favorite. Overall Score: B // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Only if You’re Lucky, by Stacy Willingham

Our main character Margot has just finished up her freshman year of college. It’s been an uneventful year, mostly hunkered down as she grieves her best friend who died right before they were supposed to start college together. When larger than life, glamorous Lucy Sharpe takes Margot under her wing and invites her to live together, it feels like a lucky break. Life is going to get exciting again, and Lucy begins to feel like she finally has close girlfriends again. She is coming out of her shell and finally having fun, feeling like she belongs. Things get messy when a boy from Margot’s past shows up. Messier when he is found dead. And even messier when Lucy disappears.

This is a slow-burn thriller. Not a lot happens for the first 70% of the book. It is still good, but a bit slow. I liked this but did not love it (my expectations may have just been too high; I felt disappointed as Willingham’s other two books were A and A+ level!). Besides being slow, I thought the ending was dumb and a little bit lazy. I am giving it a B+ only because if I hadn’t had such high expectations from Willingham’s other books, I might have enjoyed it more. Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

The Fury, by Alex Michaelides

Lana Farrar is a reclusive ex-movie star, who keeps her circle very very tight. Every year, she invites her nearest and dearest to her private island in Greece. As one does. England is gloomy, making Greece the perfect escape. Only this year is different. There is a murder. The book opens with us not knowing who was murdered or who did it, just that there was a murder as well as few different betrayals. There’s Lana’s second husband and Lana’s son, Leo. There is her best friend, Kate. Her other best friend Elliot (our narrator). And then of course Lana’s assistant and the groundskeeper. Who would make such a betrayal? (And who dies?)

This is one of those books where I want to tell you more but I also don’t as anything I say could be a spoiler. So I will just tell you that I enjoyed this and would recommend it. The dreamy setting would make it a great beach read. Greece is one of my most favorite places in the world, so that didn’t hurt either. But what I liked most about the book was that it felt creative vs. other thrillers. It constantly kept me guessing – it is a very twisty book with an unreliable narrator. But again, I won’t say anything more as I don’t want to spoil the twists. Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Never Saw Me Coming, by Vera Kurian

OK, this book is fun! And a bit unexpected. Chloe Sevre is a freshman at a college in DC. She is an honor student, she’s beautiful and popular. She also happens to be a psychopath. Her days are spent exercising, going to classes and parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman (a boy from her past who did something terrible to her when she was young). Chloe is a part of a special program at her college; an unusual clinical study of psychopaths. Students like her who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions… but want to learn and grow and live productive lives in society. Their moods and movements are tracked, and every week they meet with a famous psychologist.

Things seem to be going great for Chloe until a student turns up dead in the psychology building. And then another. Chloe slowly realizes that someone is targeting the students in her program. The tables are turned and in addition to killing Will, she now must race to catch a serial killer before it’s too late. To do so, she must learn to trust two other psychopaths from the program (but can you ever really trust a psychopath?). This was fun, unique, and a total page turner. I loved it! Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

End of Story, by A.J. Finn

Sebastian Trapp is a reclusive mystery novelist who lives in the Bay Area with his beautiful second wife Diana, and overly protective daughter, Maddie. His longtime correspondent is Nicky Hunter (an expert in detective fiction). When Sebastian invites Nicky to stay in his home and tell his story (not a spoiler but Sebastian is sick and has a life expectancy of just three months), the offer is irresistible. But is this a good idea? Sebastian has his own real life (potentially muderous) mystery. Twenty years earlier in 1999, Sebastian’s first wife and teenage son each vanished. From different locations, never to be seen again. Nicky finds herself drawn in, determined to get to the bottom of what actually happened that night.

When a corpse appears in the koi pond outside their home, the stakes get even higher. I wanted to love this but only liked it. I had really been looking forward to it (I loved The Woman in the Window!) but found the first 75% to be sleepy — nothing was happening and there were so many names and personalities to get to know. But the ending really blew me away, which made it worth the read. Just know going into this that it’s worthwhile, but going to take a while to get there. Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Romance

The Paradise Problem, by Christina Lauren (out 5/14/24).

This is a fun one, perfect if you need something escapist. (I felt I needed a home run – and an escape – after being let down by a couple thrillers!). It was described to me as Succession meets Pretty Woman, so I was immediately intrigued. Anna Green has a heart of gold but she is a bit messy. She’s a starving artist with pink hair, just let go from her job as a grocery cashier. During her time at UCLA, she had married Liam “West” Weston so that she could live in inexpensive family housing. She had thought she was divorced. Turns out, she didn’t read the papers and she is actually still very much married to Liam. She also has no idea that Liam is actually one of the heirs to the Weston Foods conglomerate (though Liam has no interest in working for the family business).

Meanwhile, Liam has a big family wedding happening on a private island in Singapore. His family thinks he is still married, and his inheritance depends on him staying happily married. His family has insisted that Anna attend, meaning that Liam must wrangle Anna (conveniently unemployed) and beg her to join him at this wedding. Ten days in paradise, what could go wrong? You know that I don’t read a lot of romance but I loved this one. Christina Lauren never disappoints! It isn’t out until May but is completely worth the pre-order. Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Non-Fiction

Generations, The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents, by Jean M. Twenge

The longer title of this book is Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents–And What They Mean for America’s Future. It was one of the best books I have read in ages, and I’ve been telling anyone who will listen to read it! I chose to listen to it via audiobook, which was mostly great except they often reference PDFs (and the narrator reads out several lists which can be tedious). It is long (approximately seventeen hours!) but so worthwhile.

It goes through each of the current generations and is really just so helpful whether you are looking to better understand your parents’ generation, yourself/your own generation, or the younger generations. Also, it walks us through individualism and technology and how both of those things have changed generations bit by bit. It also debunks certain myths and offers helpful explainers for other things (such as why millennials and Gen Z-ers are generally more depressed and anxious than other generations). I loved this book so much and found it to be absolutely fascinating. Highly, highly recommend! Overall Score: A+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Hidden Potential, by Adam Grant

I really, really love everything that Adam Grant writes (and says!). His podcasts are always my favorite, same goes for his TED talks. And this book is fascinating, maybe even more fascinating than his podcast, which says a lot. I listened to it which I highly recommend as it has a great “cast” of interviewees and the story telling is so good. Honestly, I find this book worth listening too just for the story telling. But really, it’s for anyone who wants to be a little bit better in their field. It really challenges our assumptions about talent and what it takes to improve, grow, and succeed.

There are slews of stories about people with innate challenges who overcome those obstacles to become the top at their field. There’s also a ton of practical advice. Things like being more like a sponge to absorb (but also filter out) all the information you come in contact with. With getting comfortable with discomfort. It’s part interesting story, part practical framework to improve and grow. He puts such a huge emphasis on character (vs. innate talent) and walks us through ways to build the character skills to unlock our own potential. I loved this. It’s a quick read or listen, but hugely impactful. I have a feeling I will probably want to listen to it again in six months! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

February 2024 books

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15 Comments

  1. Laura:

    Always one of my favorite regular posts! Definitely adding a bunch of these to my list. And because I have found some great recs in the comments over the years- my favorite read from Feb was To Name The Bigger Lie by Sarah Viren. It’s a memoir that’s also half thriller, While Sarah is working on a book about her personal experience having a formative teacher who made some problematic teaching choices, that can only be objectively looked at now that she’s many years older, someone files charges against her wife for sexual misconduct at the university they both teach at. Sarah can’t imagine these charges are true, but it all leads to a very interesting examination of human’s relationship with truth. (And we do get a resolution to the misconduct charges)

    3.1.24 Reply
    • I am so happy you love these posts – I love writing them!!! That book sounds fantastic, thank you for sharing.

      3.2.24 Reply
  2. Katie:

    I am reading First Lie Wins for a book club, I don’t think I would have picked it up otherwise but I am enjoying it!

    My favorite reads of the month were Lying in Wait by Liz Nungent (side note – Grace, have you read Strange Sally Diamond?? You absolutely must, if not! Your kind of “messed up”. Same author), Leaving by Roxana Robinson, and One in a Millennial by the lovely Kate Kennedy! Good Material by Dolly Alderton was a bit of a let down, but I still enjoyed the reading experience.

    3.1.24 Reply
  3. Rachel Fowler:

    Really enjoy reading your reviews. Would find it helpful if you could comment on whether you were reading advanced copies and the release date.

    3.1.24 Reply
    • I’m so sorry – I usually do that! Just forgot this time, I guess. The only book this month that was an early copy was the Christina Lauren. It’s out 5/14!

      3.2.24 Reply
  4. Jasmine:

    Added the two lit fics and romance to my list, thanks! Only read three in Feb because it took me two weeks to finish Our Missing Hearts. Hadn’t read anything about it beforehand and was not expecting a dystopian world, had trouble getting into it. Then had to read something fun and picked The Idea of You and loved it! Just a fun, quick read. And then back to sad with Lily and the Octopus. Don’t recommend if you have a sick pet. And now reading Nora Goes Off Script and enjoying it so far!

    3.1.24 Reply
  5. Lauryl:

    Ooh lots of fun books to add to my list this month — thank you! My reading list was long-ish for me, but very focused on the ACOTAR series. I finally started it at the end of January then read the next four quickly. The second and third books were great, and even though it was totally smutty, I liked the last one, too. I bought the next series (Throne of Glass I think?), but I’m giving myself a break before starting to get in some non fantasy. The other books I read this month were very hit or miss, so I am looking forward to the Rachel Incident which I just started!

    The other books I read in February are…

    – A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (2/5⭐️)
    Unfortunately I didn’t love this book. I’ve really enjoyed other books from Bryson where he struck a balance between genuine and sarcastic, but this book he just seems grumpy and like he thinks he’s better than his hiking partner and all of America. Also funny this was written before cell phones became popular and attached to everyone’s hands nonstop – he has to be horrified by the state of things now! I did enjoy the descriptions of the AT, and it makes me want to hike (for like an hour), but overall this isn’t my favorite.

    – Being Henry: The Fonz by Henry Winkler (4/5⭐️)
    This was a really fun memoir! I was too young to know Henry Winkler as the Fonz, but I have grown to love him on favorite shows like Arrested Development, Parks and Rec and Barry so this was a really interesting read to hear how all of these phases of his life fit together. Henry also struggles with dyslexia and used that to as fuel to write 39 (!) children’s books in addition to continuing to work in the entertainment industry even in the lean years. This was a fun listen – I recommend!

    – Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby (2.5/5⭐️)
    This was just okay for me. Sam is definitely funny, but I’m possibly too much of a prude to enjoy some of these stories. I did like all the Chicago/Midwest shoutouts, felt similar to experiences I’ve had. It sounds like this book is quite different than some of her others, so I’d give them a shot.

    – Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll (2.5/5⭐️)
    This book was a miss for me. There were multiple storylines and perspectives, and it was really hard to follow and disjointed in the way it jumps around. The beginning setup talking about a serial killer with 35 murders, and then this book oddly felt like a letdown by only focusing on 4-5. I also didn’t feel like the final storyline was one that deserved any more attention than those earlier in the book. Anyway, just not the book for me, but it does have a great title and cover.

    3.2.24 Reply
    • Thank you so much for such a thorough recap! I wasn’t a huge fan of Bright Young Women either!

      3.4.24 Reply
  6. Helen:

    I was disappointed with both Only if You’re Lucky and The Fury. The first was just bad, I liked the way The Fury was structured but it fell flat for me. Like you, I read a lot of thrillers but I’m finding good ones harder and harder to come by. I still keep going back for more though!

    3.4.24 Reply
    • AGREE!!! I liked The Fury because it was creative but Only If You’re Lucky was a massive let down!

      3.6.24 Reply
  7. Molly:

    Hi Grace!
    First, I read, Our American Friend, that you recommended and really enjoyed it!
    Second, I read, Pretty Girls, by Karen Slaughter. Oh my gosh, I wish I wouldn’t have picked it up. I only did because it was the book club pick. How you described, I’m a Fan, as being “a little too far into the territory of being upsetting vs. suspenseful” I thought this book was like that. It was too graphic/horrible and just made me sad and worried. For anyone who hasn’t read it, its a book about a serial killer and its very descriptive with the rape/murder scenes, I thought it was violent just to be edgy and did not care for it.
    I also read, You Again, because Becca recommended it on Bad on Paper, and loved it!! Its a rom-com enemies to lover trope set in NYC and was great! I really did laugh-out-loud at parts and it contained great sexual tension.
    Currently reading, Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld and really loving it. I live right outside of Cincinnati so its a treat to read streets/restaurants/landmarks referenced.

    3.6.24 Reply