What I Read in February

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Another month gone, another 10 books read - & it was another round of good ones! Let's cut right to the chase, shall we?

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

When your seemingly perfect sister dies & your parents think it's your fault, how are you supposed to move forward with your life? Julia, the teen daughter of Mexican immigrants in Chicago, is mourning the sudden & tragic death of her demure older sister, Olga, while also arguing incessantly with her traditional, hardworking, & old-fashioned parents about her lifestyle, a stark departure from their expectations of her. This is a beautiful YA novel about family, cultural expectations, & finding yourself, even through the most difficult of times. ★★★★★

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

This is the third in the Cormoran Strike series, & it takes a completely different tack than its predecessors. Whereas past books feature Strike, a London PI, taking on hired cases, this time, the case is closer to home: His partner, Robin, has received a package containing an amputated leg. Together, they investigate possible suspects, all men from Strike's complicated past, & try to solve the case before the perpetrator strikes again - at Robin herself. This was my first time listening to an audiobook, & I love the British reader's voice, including his Strike voice - which was very Hagrid-esque. ★★★★★

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach 

This was a very difficult read. With his wife's permission, Lukach tells of her psychotic break(s), which seemingly came out of nowhere & upended their perfect life together. Guilia, previously a beautiful, put-together ad exec, was hospitalized when she began insisting she was in communication with the devil; during the course of her recovery, she repeatedly attempted suicide. It's a beautifully written story, raw & real, but it's also unbelievably painful - & terrifying, when you think about how quickly the mind can bend & break. ★★★★★

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

The full title of this book is My Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store. That says it all, doesn't it? Flanders is a personal finance blogger who did a year-long experiment in minimalism & thoughtful buying. I read it in the hopes that it would jump-start a change in my own habits - & I think it has. Post to come! ★★★★★

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book was so hard to get my hands on! I've been on the waitlist for ages & once borrowed the Catalan version - oops. Now a blockbuster movie, Wonder is the story of fifth grader Auggie Pullman, who was born with a serious facial deformation & is entering public school for the first time. Understandably, he & his family are worried about what that will entail. What follows is a moving & really lovely YA story of bullying, resilience, friendship, & family. ★★★★★

The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio

This was a short story written as an accompaniment to Wonder, a missing chapter of sorts - one of three of them, in fact. I loved that Palacio went further in depth from the point of view of Wonder's bully, Julian, giving us a sense of how he has become the bully he is to Auggie, including parents who serve as enablers & his own senses of fear & denial. A surprise lesson from his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, teaches Julian the true impact of his actions toward Auggie. ★★★★★

Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin

This book was not at all what I expected, but what a beautiful surprise. It's told in poetry in prose, the unlikely love story between Ronit, an Israeli teenage girl, & Jamil, a Palestinian teenage boy, whose fathers are both doctors &, to an extent, colleagues. It's intended to be a modern-day Romeo & Juliet & even quotes some of Shakespeare's original. Though it lost me a bit in places - almost too prosaic for my liking - it was a really lovely look into the minds of would-be enemies turned lovers, fighting the odds the world has set against them. ★★★★☆

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Mannn, this book. Though it was a slog, length-wise, it was an absolutely gripping one. Author Ann Rule was friends with Ted Bundy. They met while volunteering together at a crisis hotline, & though Rule believed her charismatic, friendly colleague couldn't possibly be violent, she did send his name to the police as a potential suspect when she realized he matched much of their criteria in the search for a local serial killer. Rule, a journalist who was working with police on this case, was stunned when her friend was arrested & tried, & she continued to write letters to Bundy years into his incarceration. Eventually, she did come to accept his guilt. ★★★★☆

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

This was a simple & uplifting non-fiction read about the Danish concept of hygge, which most closely translates, in English, to "coziness" - but which is, in reality, so much more. The author, himself a Dane, is also the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute - what a job! I wish I'd read this book sooner - say, in November, when winter first began to set in, but it still came at a good time, right when Cleveland winter is grossest & most depressing - a Danish how-to on happiness in times of cold weather & beyond. ★★★★☆

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

I first learned of this book when I saw author Angie Thomas of The Hate U Give speak at the Cleveland Public Library in mid-February. Haitian author Zoboi writes a bit of her own background into this YA novel about Fabiola, who leaves Haiti with her mother - but her mother is immediately detained at the border, leaving Fabiola alone with a family she barely knows in Detroit, a new & different environment that's nothing like the American dream she expected. ★★★☆

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

This is not your average celebrity memoir; this is the gold standard of celebrity memories. I didn't know much about Union before reading this book, aside from the fact that I liked her in Bring It On, & I was excited that she (briefly) lived in Cleveland when the Cavs acquired her husband, Dwyane Wade. I was drawn to her book when I saw it getting high reviews from friends, & now I wish I'd tracked her down in the CLE to try to be BFFs - because this book is amazing, & so is she, tackling topics like racism, rape, & more. ★★★★★

Comment to tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

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