February was a slow reading month. I got into a bit of a slump after finishing a couple of really great books towards the end of the month. COVID also hit my house this month (everyone is fine) and although I didn't get it, it did make my brain space for reading somewhat limited. I'm got very into heavily revising H&L this month and it has been a challenge!
💩 = Hot Garbage 😢 = I shed a tear 😭 = I ugly cried
🍆 = Some steamy scenes (Rated R) 💎 = A gem
💘 = Warmed my heart 👻 = Scary! 🤢 = Gross
😍= Swoon-worthy love-story 🚩 = Red Flag!
The Herd by Andrea Bartz ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
The Herd is the first of two female friendship-based thrillers I read this month. I love a good thriller, but the plot where the married couple looks perfect from the outside, but secretly the husband is a raging sociopath is getting old. Luckily, this book was not that at all. It follows this group of female friends, one of whom (Eleanor) runs a female-only co-working space called The Herd. They all are tangentially involved in The Herd, but then on the night of a big announcement, Eleanor goes missing. The other girls work to uncover what happened to her.
I enjoyed this book. I thought it did an interesting job talking about female friendship, ambition, and competition. The reveal wasn’t super surprising, but it was fine. I was more interested in the overall dynamics between characters and peeling back the layers of ambitious women.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
This book was not long, but it could have been even shorter. Not much happens. A family is on vacation at an Airbnb, when the power grid goes out, including the cell towers. Then the owners of the Airbnb show up in the middle of the night and want to stay because strange stuff is happening. More strange stuff happens, there a really loud noise, flamingos land in the pool, their kids are getting sick. Clearly, something (like the end of the world level) is happening, but we don’t really know what. Alam does an amazing job building unease, but I felt like it went nowhere.
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
This book is by the same author as The Kiss Quotient, which I thoroughly enjoyed last year. Again, the main character in this book is on the autism spectrum, although this time it’s the male lead (Khai) instead of the female lead. The story starts with Khai’s mom trying to find him a bride in Korea. She meets Esme, who is a maid, and decides she’s perfect and offers her the chance to come to the United States to meet (and hopefully fall in love) with her son. However, Esme has a son of her own, but she keeps that a secret because she doesn’t want to ruin her chances of moving to America. Esme comes to the States and lives with Khai and a very sweet, very cute romance follows. Khai is just the kindest man and so is Esme. They are both so pure. It will warm your heart.
You are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
The second female-centered thriller! I liked this one slightly less, maybe because I had recently finished The Herd. It felt like it moved a little slow and I really didn’t like the main character, Shay. Shay seemed too gullible and kind of boring. I did like Cassandra and Jane and honestly would have probably liked the book more if their schemes had been the central focus. It left me feeling kind of meh!
From Blood and Ash by Jennifer Armentrout ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
This book is hot garbage. But it was my kind of garbage. I feel like hot garbage books are much more subjective. Like if something has objective literary merit, even if it isn’t for you, you can still see why it’s good. If it lacks literary merit, it has to be very specifically the book for you. From Blood and Ash was everything I want in a fantasy romance. It is not short, but I read it in a single Sunday and enjoyed every minute of it. It follows Poppy, who is The Maiden. The Maiden is this girl who is not allowed to leave the castle, she’s constantly veiled, and isn’t even really supposed to talk to people. Why is she the Maiden? What does the Maiden do? Honestly, it’s unclear. There’s a ceremony that she’s central to, but she doesn’t know much about it. There are like 16 types of creatures that are all various forms of vampire or werewolves (kind-of?). I’m not going to explain them, because I didn’t understand them. There’s a whole lot of very confusing world-building going on. I didn’t understand much of it, but it didn’t matter.
Anyway back to the story, Poppy is very innocent and also bored, so she sneaks out to this den of iniquity and ends up in this room with this stranger, and they heavily make-out, but she’s wearing a mask. Then she gets a new guard and guess who it is? The man she made out with. Then like murder and drama and chaos happens. I won’t spoil it, but we all know where this is going.
Now for my hot take. This book is The Selection by Kiera Cass. Do they have anything in common on the surface? No. But their vibes are identical, and I will die on that hill. If you aren’t familiar The Selection follows America Singer as she competes in a competition to marry the prince (aka The Bachelor, but make it royal). It is a very sweet YA romance trilogy with no magic. From Blood and Ash is a very steamy adult fantasy book. Let me list some of the similarities.
The novels both largely take place in a castle with a wall around it. There is a threat that sometimes comes over that wall and invades the castle.
Both America and Poppy are secretly make-out with their guards.
The “adults” in the castle (the king for America and the duke guy for Poppy) are totally sketchy d-bags
Both America and Poppy have close relationships with their maids
America and Poppy have similar personalities. They are both feisty. They both hate authority. They both love gardens and wearing pants.
Honestly, they felt so similar that I feel like you could have changed a few names and a couple of plot details and I would have believed this was the new Selection book. I would have been like, Kiera Cass added vampires? Cool.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so hard while reading a book. Like ever in my life. This book was 350 pages long in my ebook and I cried for at least 300 of those pages. And when I say cried and I mean I was audibly sobbing through this whole book, to the point where I was swollen the next morning on nights I read it. It was actually really hard to rate because it was just so sad. If you are looking for a good cry book, this is it. If you aren’t, do not read this. It follows Lydia Bird in the months after her fiance dies in a car accident on the way to her birthday dinner. She finds that if she takes a sleeping pill she can visit this alternate reality where he is still alive. This book broke my heart again and again and again. I almost didn’t finish it, because I was like this may be too emotionally traumatic for me. It was truly an emotional colonic.
I do have one major gripe with how they tied up the second reality plotline. A facetime call?!? If you’ve read it, you know what I mean. But besides that, I don’t have much to say except that it broke me.
The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
I’m an Emily Henry stan. I’m starting a club. I’m the president. I loved Beach Read, so much I read it again this month (it’s not included in this list, because it’s a reread). I decided to pick-up another Emily Henry book, this time one of her YA books. I was wary of it because I’m often not a fan of time travel. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but I do hate The Time Traveler’s Wife with an unyielding fervor and it has tarnished all time travel books for me. Anyway, I liked this book. It tells the story of Natalie, this high school senior who starts to see strange things as she graduates and begins her final summer before college. Then this dream-ghost who she called Grandmother shows up and tells her “You have three months to save him.” Then she meets Beau, who is part of all this strangeness and she quickly starts to fall in love with Beau. Beau is a gem! When he told Natalie that his life dream was to have a front porch, I was like “if Beau doesn’t get his front porch, Emily Henry, I’m canceling the fan club.” I just want this boy to get his porch! The ending is confusing. I didn’t totally get it, but I was mostly okay with it. I think it was supposed to be kind of mysterious, but it didn’t totally make sense.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladston ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
This book is stunning. Stunning! It is a science fiction romance. It is very much set in a science fiction world, but I don’t think non-science fiction readers should be intimidated. It is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read. It’s another time travel book (for someone who dislikes time travel books, I sure do read a lot of them). It follows two agents in this time war, Red and Blue. They are on opposite sides of the war and constantly sabotaging each other’s plans. Then they start to exchange letters and they slowly fall in love. The book is told in narration, then letter, then narration, then letter. These letters are beautiful. Truly, one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read, it just happens to be set in this crazy world with like regeneration pods and six-legged wolf aliens. If you love a good love story or you love beautiful prose, you need to read this. It’s so so so good.
84, Charing Cross Rd. by Helene Hanff ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
This book is just a little nugget. It’s a nonfiction book that is a collection of letters between this woman in New York and this vintage book store in London from the 1940s through the 1960s. It’s very simple but very sweet. Essentially, it’s about friendship. I feel like it’s the perfect quarantine read when the world feels too ugly and impersonal. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it a must-read? Probably not. But it was nice.
These are books I DNF (aka books I did not finish). Books that I include in this category are books for whatever reason, I decided just weren’t for me. I typically try to read at least 20-25% of a book before quitting on it. If I’m not enjoying it, I’ll head to the Goodreads reviews and see if things really pick up or if I’m better off abandoning it.
Anxious People by Fredrick Backman: I've heard so many good things about this book and this author. I tried to like this book, but it just wasn't for me. I read 25% and truly hated it.
Crush by Tracy Wolff: I read Crave last month and gave it a one-star rating, but for some reason, I tried to read the sequel. I got through like five chapters before I was like, why am I doing this to myself? In those initial chapters, we find out Grace is a gargoyle (which was just too much for me).