Hi, friends! Thanks for joining me today; I’m so glad you’re here 💙. Today, I’m sharing my February 2022 Wrap-Up. Despite being the shortest month of the year, I finished nine books in February (❗), which might be a personal record for me! This month had it all: massively disappointing one-star reads, definite 2022 favorites contenders, and everything in between. Keep reading to see what I got up to this month!
What I Read in February 2022
Almost everything I plan to read this year is part of my 2022 reading challenge. You can check out the complete list of prompts and my selections ･ﾟ✧here✧ﾟ･.
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
The first book I read in February 2022 was Genevieve Gornichec’s 2021 debut, The Witch’s Heart. This is a Norse Mythology retelling about the Mother Witch, Angrbdoa. She is forced to live in hiding after refusing to tell Odin the content of her prophecies. In the forest she now calls home, Angrboda starts a family with the trickster god, Loki. As she raises her children, Angrboda’s visions begin to return. She must decide whether she will defy Odin and use her powers to stop the terrible future she has foreseen. The alternative? Sit idly by while the gods destroy each other — and take all the nine worlds with them.
I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. The Witch’s Heart has so much going for it: the writing is gorgeous and reads like the folktales that clearly inspired the novel’s content. The heartwarming scenes of idyllic family life and heartbreaking scenes of love and loss sent me on an emotional rollercoaster in the best way possible. Genevieve Gornichec has quickly landed on my radar of authors to watch, and I will almost definitely be picking up whatever she publishes next. As for my recommendation, I’ll repeat what I said in my initial Goodreads review:
If you like mythology retellings and you enjoy feeling things with your whole freakin’ heart, then The Witch’s Heart is definitely for you!
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Next, I read Sally Rooney’s 2021 Goodreads Choice Award for fiction winner. This is essentially a slice-of-life novel about two twenty-something best friends and their various relationships with each other and the men in their lives. Alice is a wealthy, reclusive novelist who lives in a remote coastal town in Northern Ireland. She just started dating blue-collar, emotionally distant Felix. Alice’s best friend, Eileen, is an editorial assistant in Dublin. Eileen is dipping her toes into a no-labels, no-strings-attached, open relationship with her childhood crush, Simon. That’s it. That’s the story. All that connects these two circles are a handful of emails exchanged between Alice and Eileen.
If you haven’t read my mini-rant about this book on Goodreads, let me bring you up to speed. Throughout reading Beautiful World, Where Are You, I sensed that Sally Rooney might actually be a pretty good writer. The problem is that the scenes in which her writing talent shines through and the scenes in which she presents thought-provoking and/or relatable ideas are few and far between. And, just like Batman and Bruce Wayne, they never appear in the same place at the same time. Upon finishing this novel, I was struck with what I think is a pretty apt comparison. Sally Rooney is just John Green for grown-ups. Whether you think that’s a compliment or a caution probably says a lot about your chances for enjoying this book.
If you’re looking for an easygoing slice-of-life novel that’s light on the plot but addresses compelling and relatable concepts, then Beautiful World, Where Are You might be for you.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
The next book I read in February 2022 was Yangsze Choo’s 2013 historical fantasy. Our protagonist, Li Lan, is asked to become a ghost bride for the wealthy Lim family. The offer is tempting; her widower father is drowning in debt, and she has no other marriage prospects to speak of. Becoming a ghost bride would guarantee her a life of comfort. However, it would also require Li Lan to spend her nights in the spirit world with the deceased Lim Tian Ching. Li Lan’s unwilling visits to the afterlife become increasingly frequent and prolonged. Eventually, she discovers the truth about Lim Tian Ching’s death, her father’s debts, and even her own long-deceased mother.
My experience reading The Ghost Bride was simply lovely. Yangsze Choo describes even the most practical settings of her novel with such ethereal detail that the living world often feels as magical and mysterious as the spirit world. Her love and knowledge of Malaysian and Chinese traditions shine through in her writing. In saying that, Li Lan was a bit of a blank slate, and I wish she had more agency. However, I won’t complain too much because it meant we experienced the otherworldliness of the afterlife right alongside our protagonist.
If you don’t mind a bit of fantasy with your historical fiction and you want to read about traditions and the melding of cultures in post-colonial Malaysia, then The Ghost Bride might be for you!
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Next, I read Patrick Radden Keefe’s 2021 Goodreads Choice Award winner for History & Biography: Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. In this brilliant and thorough peek into the folks behind the making and marketing of OxyContin, PRK analyzes three generations of the Sackler family. Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler were the original three brothers. Their interests primarily lay in marketing pharmaceuticals (and using philanthropy to distract from their various conflicts of interest). Richard Sackler is Raymond’s son. Richard is proud to take credit for spearheading the efforts that resulted in OxyContin’s commercial success. He’s less inclined, however, to say these efforts had anything to do with the addiction crisis that followed. Lastly, you have David Sackler, Richard’s son. David now carries the family torch of not-so-plausible deniability, carrying on his father’s legacy of shameless victim-blaming.
This was my first five-star read of the year, and I think that speaks for itself. Still, I’ll elaborate. Patrick Radden Keefe does an incredible job of chronicling the events that preceded the Opioid Crisis. He also calls the Sacklers out on their lies and rebuts any new arguments their lawyers might try to cook up. In reading many of the family’s own words, it becomes painfully apparent that even before OxyContin’s launch in 1996, for the Sacklers, the cruelty was the point. You can read more of my thoughts in my Goodreads review.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive and surprisingly readable investigation into the family that manufactured a public health crisis that continues to ruin lives, then Empire of Pain is definitely for you!
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Finished on February 16, 2022
Rated 1.0 out of 5 stars
Read for Prompt #29 of my 2022 reading challenge: A different book by an author you read in 2021.
The next book I read in February 2022 was the sophomore release from the author of The Silent Patient. Here, Alex Michaelides returns to writing thrillers with the added Greek Mythology and psychology that made his debut novel unique. However, The Maidens differs from The Silent Patient in that our psychotherapist protagonist is also an
(atrocious) armchair detective. Mariana Andros is determined to expose her niece’s college professor as a killer after three of his students are murdered. These female students were part of Professor Fosca’s elusive club, known as The Maidens. Mariana only hopes she can prove Fosca’s guilt before he strikes again.
Oh, the highs and lows of book reading. I went from my first five-star read of the year to my first one-star read ever. The Maidens beats out Sarah J. Maas’s House of Earth and Blood and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, both of which earned 1.5 stars. If that’s any indication of the quality of this book… 🙄 The plot is nonsensical, the characters are insufferable, and Alex Michaelides’s writing treats the reader with less respect than Lemony Snicket does in A Series of Unfortunate Events. I won’t rant here, but check out my Goodreads review if you want to read more of my thoughts. Be sure to check with your doctor before doing so; it’s salty af.
If you think you like “dark academia” and you enjoy getting plot whiplash from all the twists and turns in your mystery/thriller novels, then The Maidens might be for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Finished on February 20, 2022
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
Read for Prompt #42 of my 2022 reading challenge: A book that features two languages.
This book probably needs no introduction, but just in case you’ve been living in a sietch for the last year or so, I’ll explain. Dune is Frank Herbert’s 1965 Hugo Award-winning, genre-defining, classic science-fiction novel following protagonist Paul Atreides. Paul’s journey begins after his father is murdered by a rival family attempting to seize their fiefdom. This sets him on a course that will change not only his own life but the lives of everyone on the desert planet Arrakis. Through visions, Paul foresees the terrible future that his involvement in Fremen politics will bring. But will he be able to stop it? Is it already too late?
Friends!!! This. Was. Incredible. Unless another book knocks my socks off so hard they end up in orbit, I can predict that Dune is going to end up being one of my most surprising reads of the year. I expected to like Dune, sure. I even expected to really like it. But I did not expect to have such a good time reading it that I blasted through this 800+ page book in one weekend. Even back in 1960, Frank Herbert knew what was up. This book tackles climate change, xenophobia, and colonialism while empowering its women characters and deftly avoiding a white savior narrative. If not for the moderate but still unnecessary fatphobia and some inconsistent character motivations, I would have easily given this book 5 beautiful stars. Regardless, I’ll definitely be reading the sequel: Dune Messiah.
If you like high-concept science-fiction with diverse influences and meditations on relevant and timeless topics, Dune might be for you!
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
The next book I read in February 2022 was Ingrid Persaud’s 2020 novel, Love After Love. The romance aspects of this novel were perhaps not as pronounced as some might like to see for this prompt, but I’m happy I read this. Love After Love tells the story of widow and single mother Betty Ramdin and her son, Solo, in the years after Solo’s father dies. Looking for some additional income and wanting to help out a friend, Betty invites her co-worker, Mr. Chetan, to live with her and Solo. Over the years, the trio forms a new, unconventional kind of family. But just when Solo is glad to have a father figure back in his life, he learns a secret that changes his understanding of family.
Love After Love is not an easy read. Despite Ingrid Persaud’s lively and endearing narration (which she infuses with a bright and lovable Trinidadian accent), some heavy subject matter is covered here. From internalized homophobia and sexual repression to intimate partner violence and child abuse to self-harm and even suicide, she leaves no trauma stone unturned. Love After Love may not be perfect, but it discusses several profound themes with empathy and respect. Persaud even adds in some laughs along the way. Make sure to review the content warnings (I list them in my Goodreads review) before picking this one up.
If you’re looking for a touching book about found family, love, life, and death, then Love After Love might be for you.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Next, I read Laurie Frankel’s contemporary family novel: This Is How It Always Is. In this work of semi-autobiographical fiction, the Walsh-Adams family learns to reckon with what life looks like when the youngest child, Claude, decides he wants to be a girl. Throughout Claude’s childhood, parents Rosie and Penn navigate the dilemmas of encouraging and supporting Claude while simultaneously protecting them from the less-accepting folks in the outside world. Everyone will have to make sacrifices; everyone will learn to stand up for Claude. Perhaps hardest of all, Rosie and Penn will realize that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t insulate your children from ignorant people forever.
This Is How It Always Is was not a perfect book. Most of the characters (except Claude, naturally) don’t grow or change throughout the story. The pacing alternated between being rushed and completely stalling out. The plot, while beautiful, was definitely stretched a bit thin over 330 pages. However, it has a helluva lot of heart. Claude is perfect, and I love them to pieces. I sympathize with Rosie and her struggle to protect her child. I wish Penn was my dad. And, did I mention, I love Claude to pieces!!!!!! It’s hard to put into words how excellent this book is, but I think this picture of me right after I finished reading captures it pretty well.
If you’re looking for a heartfelt novel that explores gender identity in the context of an entire family (and has a happy ending❗), then This Is How It Always Is might be for you!
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
The last book I finished in February 2022 was Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel: The Other Black Girl. When I first heard this book described as “The Devil Wears Prada meets Jordan Peele’s Get Out,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Get Out. I just resent that black and brown people can’t make horror now without getting compared to Jordan Peele. It’s derivative and serves nobody. But friends, that comparison fits this book to a tee. From the cutthroat, backstabbing office politics of The Devil Wears Prada to the unnerving, something-ain’t-right-here vibe of Get Out — Zakiya Dalila Harris nailed social horror on her first try.
If that sounds even remotely interesting to you, look no further. This book is best enjoyed when entered as blindly as possible. Half of what makes The Other Black Girl so enjoyable is the impending sense of dread and mystery that lurks just below the surface of every scene in this novel. The other half of what makes this book great is the spot-on distillations of life in a time of increasing social injustice and what it’s like to be a Black Femme in today’s corporate culture. Um, hi, Miss Harris, have you been spying on me? Because I think you co-opted some of my actual experiences into this novel, and I want an emotional refund. Thanks.
If you’re looking for a suspenseful novel that will get under your skin without giving you nightmares, all while discussing important themes about social justice, The Other Black Girl is definitely for you!
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Okay, technically, I finished The Sun Down Motel in March, not February. But I didn’t want to forget what I had to say about this book, so we’re talking about it now. Thanks for being cool about it. The Sun Down Motel is Simone St. James’s 2020 paranormal horror novel about two women, separated by time and space but united by DNA, and one creepy, run-down, probably haunted motel in upstate New York. In 1982, Vivian Delaney vanished from her job as the night clerk at the Sun Down. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since. In 2017, Vivian’s niece, Carly Kirk, decides the best way to find out what happened to her aunt is to travel to Fell, New York, and retrace her steps.
Retracing Vivian’s steps apparently involves: reading newspapers from 1982, living in the same apartment as Vivian, and, perhaps most terrifyingly, getting the same night job that Vivian had. I had some issues with St. James’s writing, and Vivian was the only character I cared about. That said, I still enjoyed the book overall. It’s definitely creepy, and it leans into the horror aspect much more than The Other Black Girl. Fortunately, it never compromises the atmosphere and tension that make this genre so addicting. Also, like The Other Black Girl, you should go into this book as blind as possible. So I’m just gonna leave it at that. 🤐
If you like to play armchair detective and you ain’t afraid of no ghost, then The Sun Down Motel might be for you!
What I’m Currently Reading
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
My first classic of 2022 continues my recent foray into the world of Russian LIterature. Last year, I read War and Peace and Crime and Punishment. I also wanted to read Doctor Zhivago in 2021, but I just didn’t get around to it. As with last year’s Russian classics, I’m reading the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation.
Currently, I am just past the one-quarter mark, and I am enjoying it. I don’t feel quite as attached to any of the characters at this point as I did with, say, Natasha or Andrei (or even Old Man Bolkonsky, for that matter) in War and Peace. Hopefully, Yuri and Lara will start to grow on me. If nothing else, I am thoroughly intrigued by the political and philosophical backdrop of the Revolution!
Want to check out Doctor Zhivago for yourself? Support a local bookstore (and this blog!) by purchasing it on Bookshop.org.
What I Want to Read in March 2022
- Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (continuing)
- The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
- The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis
- Jade City by Fonda Lee
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
- Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson
Wrapping Up the February 2022 Wrap-Up
And there you have it! This is everything I read in February 2022. My favorite book was either The Witch’s Heart or Dune. My most disappointing read was Beautiful World Where Are You. I won’t even dignify The Maidens by ranking it here.
What about you? Let me know your favorite book from this month and what you’re most excited to read in March.
I’ll be back soon with a new book review, so keep your eyes peeled for that! Since you made it this far, here’s a hint for what’s coming up.
Four score and twenty years ago, our protagonist used to be somebody — multiple somebodies. And it takes about that long for this book to do anything interesting with her character in this book.
As always: thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon. 💙
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