February 2023 in Books

Not Pictured: 1 Audiobook. I now see a flaw in my picture plans.

Something crazy happened this month. I listened to my first (new) audiobook. I’ve listened to Harry Potter in audiobook form, but it was more of a background music/comfort thing. When I got my current job (over 8 years ago), I knew I would be driving a lot so I tried out an audiobook. I immediately returned it to the library because I could not get myself to pay attention. I don’t remember the book, I know it was a mystery, but I would have to rewind several times because I missed something. I switched to short podcasts instead. If I missed something, it was no big deal. Everyone kept talking about “I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy and a few people had said the audiobook was fantastic. I’ve burned myself out of podcasts so I downloaded this book to give it a try. I might be onto something – this might be my audiobook niche. Memoirs. I’ll report back since I get a 30 day free trial with audible.

Now I come to the highly controversial topic: Can audiobooks be added to a “read” list? My opinion is that yes, you can include it. I have an English Degree so I feel like my word should have a lot of weight. Telling people that audiobooks “don’t count” really puts people off reading. There are some people where reading just doesn’t click with them so they never read. Listening to audiobooks lets them enjoy a book without reading the book. But they’re still enjoying the book so let them have this enjoyment, okay? Don’t let semantics get in the way of letting people enjoy things.

Despite listening to a book, I feel like my book count is really down. That might just because one of my best friends, Jordan, is already 18 books into her yearly goal. GO JORDAN but also I hate you <3. I want to blame Hogwarts Legacy for coming out but how many times will you guys let me blame a video game for my lack of reading? I swear, I’ll hop back in the saddle. Or whatever that phrase is.

Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby

My Rating: 3/5 stars
I don’t know what I thought this book would be but this was not it. I think that this book finally convinced me that I don’t like short story compilations. That’s also not what I thought this was, despite the fact that it says it’s short stories. I was sucked in by Cassandra – from Greek Mythology – and the mention of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the back. I am very easy to sway, clearly. The problem with short story compilations is that no matter how good the good ones are, the bad ones just destroy it. There were a good amount of very good stories in here, but there were even more that just fell short. The book was pushed as “feminist” but I didn’t see that in most of the stories. Just because a story is about a woman doesn’t mean that it’s a feminist story. I understand that many of these stories were meant to make the reader uncomfortable (such as Mr. Adams @ Mar Vista talking about a softball game after a school shooting where we’re in the brains of the opposing team who does not give a single shit that there was a school shooting for this other school OR An Apology of Sorts to Jane where we get to read, in detail, about killing an animal). Although, all in all, I actually really enjoyed the good stories. The good stories are REALLY good and the bad stories are just kinda meh. This is probably the best short story compilation I’ve read – but I haven’t really enjoyed one before. Marcy Breaks Up with Herself was one of my favorites. A Few Normal Things That Happen a Lot is an important story to read and since it’s the first one, it made me say “HELL YEAH, FUCK THE PATRIARCHY”. It’s terrifying to walk down a street alone. Even with my “scary dog” persona that I think stops bad people from wanting to kidnap me, I’m terrified. I have made many phone calls just to have someone on the phone with me until I get back to my car. This has been my entire life. I know when there’s anyone behind me or across the street or in front of me or looking down on the street from their apartment. Woman cannot afford to not know our surroundings. This story really amp’d up my feminism and then it was just squashed in the stories after (although Jerry’s Crab Shack: One Star is HILARIOUS). I stand by my 3 stars because there were so many good GOOD stories. If you’re a fan of short stories, give this one a go.

Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swensen #13) by Joanne Fluke

My Rating: 3/5 Stars
SHE ISN’T ON A DIET IN THIS BOOK!! I’ve now read 13 books in this series and most of them have Hannah on a diet, despite her owning and working in a bakery. Honestly, I’m shocked she doesn’t have diabetes since I think she only eats sugar and drinks coffee. But I will absolutely take this win. I’m tired of Hannah’s constant diets. I do have another question. I’m 13 books in (which is a few years in the series) and you’re telling me that Mike and Norman are still okay with casually dating Hannah? No way. I know that once the triangle gets smashed to bits, a big chunk of the story will be gone but this has gone on long enough. This book had an interesting plot. As with some of these books, the murder doesn’t come in for almost 150 pages, which always grinds my gears. JUST GIVE ME A DEAD BODY!!! In this book, we finally get to meet the professor that ruined Hannah’s life and made her want to move back home. She’s mentioned this man in the past 12 books, without getting too detailed, other than she had a relationship/affair with him. I have to say, I’m underwhelmed. What a douche canoe. Maybe it’s because I’m 34 years and his bullshit wouldn’t work on grown ass Lauren, but 20 year old Lauren? Possibly would have fallen for his crap. He’s so wrapped up in himself… And so are all the ladies in town 😉 Anywho, the fact that Hannah is so chill about him seemingly not knowing who she is just doesn’t sit right with me. I know every man who wronged me (tell me you’re a Scorpio without telling me you’re a Scorpio) and if he didn’t recognize me, I’d set him on fire. Kidding. Kind of. This book made me realize that Hannah is a bit of a Mary Sue (I know, how did it take me this long). She’s ~cool girl~, which is probably why Mike and Norman are cool with just casually dating her. It’s easy and there’s no one else in town either of them want to date anyway. I did figure out the murderer right before it was revealed (I’m so smart) but I did figure out the motive early on (I’m SO smart). One thing I want to say is that Bill is a shit cop. He gets handed a scam on a silver platter and it takes Hannah, a regular person, to be like “lol this looks too good to be true dum dum”. This entire town would literally blow up without Hannah’s guidance. (see, Mary Sue).

Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1) by Katee Robert

My Rating: 3/5 Stars
I’m sorry, what was the plot again? Listen, I love a spicy book. But I like a spicy book that has plot with a little bit of spice, not a book that has ALL THE SPICE and a tiny bit of plot. The bummer about this book is that the plot would be really good if it was fleshed out and made the number 1 priority in this book. That’s why my rating is higher. If you’re good with 90% spice with 10% story, this book is for you! I genuinely liked the retelling and idea of Persephone and Hades. This story is a little more human and gives Persephone a little more of a voice and power. I’m a fan of her standing up to Zeus and the status quo. I’m not a huge fan of where Demeter was during this (or at the end). I’m almost curious enough to read a 2nd book but I likely will not. The kink felt super forced and cringe. Almost like the author simply read 50 Shades of Grey and said, “Yes, this is correct” and ran with it without knowing what she was really writing about. While we’re here, can someone tell me where this resurgence of Persephone and Hades came from? You have A Touch of Darkness (LOVE) and Lore Olympus (LOVE LOVE LOVE) and others I’m sure I haven’t heard of or read. It seemed like suddenly, everyone is obsessed. If you don’t already know, I have a Persephone arm tattoo. It’s my biggest, boldest one. I finished it sometime in 2014(ish?). Until recently, I’d have to explain who Persephone was (sometimes Hades too). Apparently not everyone went through a Greek Mythology obsession as a kid (… and now). When we learned about Greek Mythology in school, I LATCHED on. I thought it was extra cool cause I’m Greek so this was like learning my history (right?). My Thea bought me a ton of Greek Mythology books to help out my obsession. I’ve always been fascinated with Persephone’s story so I’m a huge fan of all of these coming about but let’s not just focus on a sexual story. I get it. They’re the King and Queen of the Underworld and Hades doesn’t sleep with everything that breathes (*coughs*Zeus*coughs*). They do “naughty” things. But like, give me a story. It’s probably why I love Lore so much.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Rating: 5/5 Stars
HOLY. SHIT. I have no words about this. Early in the month, my mom and I were in a bookstore, where she caught sight of this book title. Her mouth immediately formed into a deep frown and I heard her tsk. I get it. Her mother was a wonderful woman. She herself is a wonderful mother. How could anyone say something like that about their mother? After reading this book, all I can say is that I’m glad Jennette’s mother is dead too. I had read many articles that covered some of the abuse that she endured. At one point, I thought, “I’ve read all these articles, why should I even read the book at this point?” LET ME TELL YOU. The articles ain’t got nothin’ on the stories in this book. Every time I heard one thing, I thought “this has to be the worst in the book, right?”, it just got worse. I won’t go into details. There’s articles for that. I was a little too old when iCarly came out, so I missed getting to know the Samantha Puckett character but I knew her face and I knew she had a butter sock (what?). The way that Jennette writes her story really draws you in. You want to hear more. You want to hear how she survived this. You want to hear what happened. There were a few romantic relationship based stories that I found myself in and it made me want to hug everyone in their late teens/early 20s because it sucks and it’s hard and I promise it gets better. Having an abusive mother behind your relationship is even worse. Not having someone to turn to. My mom helped me when shitty guys broke my heart. I knew I could talk to her when I was hurt. I had a woman I trusted to help show me the way. Jennette didn’t have that. When Jennette was in a relationship, her mom hurled insults at her. The rawness and honesty in this book is impeccable. It took Jennette years after her mom died to understand that she was abused (no, it’s not normal for your mother to shower you when you’re 18 and even less normal for your mom to check your private parts for cancer regularly). We, as outsiders, can understand that it was abuse clearly. I hope that if anyone is in a similar situation as Jennette was is able to see that there is hope and there are people there to help you.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quote: “What use is rearranging the furniture if you burn the house down doing it?”
You know those light and easy books you read to kickstart your reading again? This is not one of them. You absolutely have to keep your wits about you. This was a unique murder mystery where you get to inhabit 8 bodies within one day in order to solve a murder. You already know who’s going to die (Evelyn Hardcastle) and when. You just don’t have the who. Each person you inhabit has a different perspective on the murder and a relationship to the victim – along with everyone else in the house. Along the way, you also learn of a 20 year old murder that happened at the Hardcastle Estate. A murder within a murder. There was a lot of murder, actually. A ton of twists and turns and “be careful who you trust”. As a whole, our narrator is far too trusting. I was almost wishing this was a video game that let me chose who I trusted and who I didn’t because let me tell you, I would have made way better choices my dude. I absolutely didn’t figure out the murderer(s). The book kept me on my toes and made me want to read each individual line with a magnifying glass, just to make sure I didn’t miss something. I felt anxious a lot of the time because at the beginning, you’re not sure what’s going on. You’re still putting pieces together. Like our narrator, I so desperately wanted to know what the hell was going on. The author really put me into the narrators scared and anxious shoes. Despite all this, the author makes some good jokes that helps you to take a deep breath and remember that you’re not actually trapped in one day and in eight bodies trying to solve a murder. I would say the only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars is that I don’t care much about the narrators personal story. I’m here for the murder mystery party, not for his why. His story was a bit of a distraction to me. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the… people who put this together. They’re really stupid.

I keep a small notebook with me while I read so that I can write down any notes. I tend to write these reviews at the end of the month so these are points I want to make sure to mention (or just my rambling thoughts since I want to make sure these are spoiler free). I typically write ~2 pages. This book got 4 solid pages. I wrote down all my thoughts, which were going a mile a minute. It’s funny to read back over notes on mystery books because I try to predict what will happen and ahhahahahahahaha I was so wrong the entire time.

Have you read any of these books? Have I convinced you (or not) to read any of these? What was your favorite book to read in February?

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