February 2022 Wrap Up

I only had four books planned for the month of February and I winded up DNFing one of those books because after 100 pages I just wasn’t invested in the story or any of the characters. I winded up reading a lot more than I planned for this month and each of them was a good and memorable read. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite for this month since there are three books that are tied in my top for February. Those books are Ellen Outside the Lines, Under One Roof, No Filter and Other Lies, and Lakelore. I had picked a favorite as of yesterday but then I winded up finishing Ellen Outside the Lines and that one ties with Lakelore. I actually hugged the book once I was done reading it which means it’s an automatic 5 stars.

You can click the links in the titles to see my full review of the books. Some reviews are to come next month.

No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado

You should know, right now, that I’m a liar.

They’re usually little lies. Tiny lies. Baby lies. Not so much lies as lie adjacent.

But they’re still lies.

Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.

Except it’s all fake.

Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the facade.

But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.

But it might already be too late.

A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries 2003-2020 (Diaries #2) by David Sedaris

There’s no right way to keep a diary, but if there’s an entertaining way, David Sedaris seems to have mas­tered it.
 
If it’s navel-gazing you’re after, you’ve come to the wrong place; ditto treacly self-examination. Rather, his observations turn outward: a fight between two men on a bus, a fight between two men on the street, pedestrians being whacked over the head or gathering to watch as a man considers leap­ing to his death. There’s a dirty joke shared at a book signing, then a dirtier one told at a dinner party—lots of jokes here. Plenty of laughs.
 
These diaries remind you that you once really hated George W. Bush, and that not too long ago, Donald Trump was just a harm­less laughingstock, at least on French TV. Time marches on, and Sedaris, at his desk or on planes, in hotel dining rooms and odd Japanese inns, records it. The entries here reflect an ever-changing background—new administrations, new restrictions on speech and conduct. What you can say at the start of the book, you can’t by the end. At its best, A Carnival of Snackery is a sort of sampler: the bitter and the sweet. Some entries are just what you wanted. Others you might want to spit discreetly into a napkin. 

The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient #3) by Helen Hoang 

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this new New York Times bestselling romance by Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves. 

Flowers Grow on Broken Walls by Farena Bajwa 

Flowers Grow on Broken walls is a unique collection of poems and prose that talks about healing and finding yourself in a world that constantly tells you that’s who you shouldn’t be.

The poems/story goes over our everyday human emotions; from being heart broken and questioning our self-worth in a world of judgment and scrutinizing social media, to finding ourselves and appreciating those really important in our lives – especially our inner, true selves. It is story that is everyone’s story at one point or the other.

The collection displays a raw and honest portrayal of an artist who cannot help but create something beautiful in the midst of the ugliness she has been put through, and who continues to hope against all odds, as she lets go of what she has been told is important and finds herself in one truly is.

The story that starts with heart ache ends with healing, it starts with rejection from someone but ends with self-acceptance, which is the only way for true healing.

The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change by Michelle MiJung Kim 

Waking Up to Our Capacity to Transform Ourselves and the World 
  As we become more aware of various social injustices in the world, many of us want to be part of the movement toward positive change. But sometimes our best intentions cause unintended harm, and we fumble. We might feel afraid to say the wrong thing and feel guilt for not doing or knowing enough. Sometimes we might engage in performative allyship rather than thoughtful solidarity, leaving those already marginalized further burdened and exhausted. The feelings of fear, insecurity, inadequacy are all too common among a wide spectrum of changemakers, and they put many at a crossroads between feeling stuck and giving up, or staying grounded to keep going. So how can we go beyond performative allyship to creating real change in ourselves and in the world, together?
 
In The Wake Up, Michelle MiJung Kim shares foundational principles often missing in today’s mainstream conversations around “diversity and inclusion,” inviting readers to deep dive into the challenging and nuanced work of pursuing equity and justice, while exploring various complexities, contradictions, and conflicts inherent in our imperfect world. With a mix of in-the-trenches narrative and accessible unpacking of hot button issues—from inclusive language to representation to “cancel culture”—Michelle offers sustainable frameworks that guide us how to think, approach, and be in the journey as thoughtfully and powerfully as possible. 
 
The Wake Up is divided into four key parts:

Grounding: begin by moving beyond good intentions to interrogating our deeper “why” for committing to social justice and uncovering our “hidden stories.”

Orienting: establish a shared understanding around our historical and current context and issues we are trying to solve, starting with dismantling white supremacy.

Showing Up: learn critical principles to approach any situation with clarity and build our capacity to work through complexity, nuance, conflict, and imperfections.

Moving Together: remember the core of this work is about human lives, and commit to prioritizing humanity, healing, and community.
 
The Wake Up is an urgent call for us to move together while seeing each other’s full and expansive humanity that is at the core of our movement toward justice, healing, and freedom.

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore 

In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake – but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.

Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist by Sesali Bowen

From funny and fearless entertainment journalist Sesali Bowen, Bad Fat Black Girl combines rule-breaking feminist theory, witty and insightful personal memoir, and cutting cultural analysis for an unforgettable, genre-defining debut.

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Sesali Bowen learned early on how to hustle, stay on her toes, and champion other Black women and femmes as she navigated Blackness, queerness, fatness, friendship, poverty, sex work, and self-love. 

Her love of trap music led her to the top of hip-hop journalism, profiling game-changing artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, and Janelle Monae.But despite all the beauty, complexity, and general badassery she saw, Bowen found none of that nuance represented in mainstream feminism. Thus, she coined Trap Feminism, a contemporary framework that interrogates where feminism and hip-hop intersect.

Notes from a Trap Feminist offers a new, inclusive feminism for the modern world. Weaving together searing personal essay and cultural commentary, Bowen interrogates sexism, fatphobia, and capitalism all within the context of race and hip-hop. In the process, she continues a Black feminist legacy of unmatched sheer determination and creative resilience.

Bad bitches: this one’s for you. 

Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1) by Ali Hazelwood

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new steamy, STEMinist novella….

A scientist should never cohabitate with her annoyingly hot nemesis – it leads to combustion.


Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn….

As an environmental engineer, Mara knows all about the delicate nature of ecosystems. They require balance. And leaving the thermostat alone. And not stealing someone else’s food. And other rules Liam, her detestable big-oil lawyer of a roommate, knows nothing about. Okay, sure, technically she’s the interloper. Liam was already entrenched in his aunt’s house like some glowering grumpy giant when Mara moved in, with his big muscles and kissable mouth just sitting there on the couch tempting respectable scientists to the dark side…but Helena was her mentor and Mara’s not about to move out and give up her inheritance without a fight.

The problem is, living with someone means getting to know them. And the more Mara finds out about Liam, the harder it is to loathe him…and the easier it is to love him.

To listen to Sadie and Hannah’s stories, look for the novellas Stuck with You and Below Zero, coming soon, available first on audio!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin 

Richly emotive and darkly captivating, with elements of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and the imaginative depth of Margaret Atwood, Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin conjures a community in which girls become wives, wives become mothers and some of them, quite simply, disappear.

Vera grows up in a small town, removed and isolated, pressed up against the mountains, cloud-covered and damp year-round. This town, fiercely protective, brutal and unforgiving in its adherence to tradition, faces a singular affliction: some mothers vanish, disappearing into the clouds. It is the exquisite pain and intrinsic beauty of their lives; it sets them apart from people elsewhere and gives them meaning.

Vera, a young girl when her own mother went, is on the cusp of adulthood herself. As her peers begin to marry and become mothers, they speculate about who might be the first to go, each wondering about her own fate. Reveling in their gossip, they witness each other in motherhood, waiting for signs: this one devotes herself to her child too much, this one not enough—that must surely draw the affliction’s gaze. When motherhood comes for Vera, she is faced with the question: will she be able to stay and mother her beloved child, or will she disappear?

Provocative and hypnotic, Alexis Schaitkin’s Elsewhere is at once a spellbinding revelation and a rumination on the mysterious task of motherhood and all the ways in which a woman can lose herself to it; the self-monitoring and judgment, the doubts and unknowns, and the legacy she leaves behind.

Three O’Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio

A coming-of-age novel—a heady union of Before Sunrise and Beautiful Ruins—about a father and his teenage son who are forced to spend two sleepless nights exploring the city of Marseilles, a journey of unexpected adventure and profound discovery that helps them come to truly know each other.

Antonio is eighteen years old and on the cusp of adulthood. His father, a brilliant mathematician, hasn’t played a large part in his life since divorcing Antonio’s mother but when Antonio is diagnosed with epilepsy, they travel to Marseille to visit a doctor who may hold the hope for an effective treatment. It is there, in a foreign city, under strained circumstances, that they will get to know each other and connect for the first time.

A beautiful, gritty, and charming port city where French old-world charm meets modern bohemia, father and son stroll the streets sharing strained small talk. But as the hours pass and day gives way to night, the two find themselves caught in a series of caffeine-imbued adventures involving unexpected people (and unforeseen trysts) that connect father and son for the first time. As the two discuss poetry, family, sex, math, death, and dreams, their experience becomes a mesmerizing 48-hour microcosm of a lifetime relationship. Both learn much about illusions and regret, about talent and redemption, and, most of all, about love. 

Elegant, warm, and tender, set against the vivid backdrop of 1980s Marseille and its beautiful calanques—a series of cliffs and bays on the city’s outskirts—Three O’Clock in the Morning is a bewitching coming-of-age story imbued with nostalgia and a revelatory exploration of time and fate, youth and adulthood. 

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass 

 Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.

Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.  Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.

Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.

February 2021 Wrap Up

I waited till the last minute to see if I could finish one last book yesterday or today but figured that might not happen. I read some pretty great books this month and wanted to share those with you all. Reviews to come for several of these books, the links in the titles will take you to reviews for those books.

Jingle Jangle: The Invention of Jeronicus Jangle: (movie Tie-In) by David E Talbert, Lyn Sisson-Talbert

A delightful middle grade story based on the Netflix holiday film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey! A holiday tale set in the snow-covered town of Cobbleton, Jingle Jangle follows eccentric toymaker Jeronicus Jangle (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker) whose fanciful inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when a betrayal by a former protegy (Keegan-Michael Key) leaves Jeronicus withdrawn and down on his luck, it’s up to his bright and adventurous granddaughter, Journey (newcomer Madalen Mills) — and a singularly magical invention — to save the day. From the imagination of writer/director David E. Talbert and producer Lyn Sisson-Talbert, featuring original music by John Legend, Philip Lawrence, Davy Nathan, and Michael Diskint. Jingle Jangle reminds you that anything is possible…if you believe. 

The Genome Odyssey: The Promise of Precision Medicine to Define, Detect, and Defeat Disease by Euan Angus Ashley

Since the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, the price of genome sequencing has dropped at a staggering rate. It’s as if the price of a Ferrari went from $350,000 to a mere forty cents. Through breakthroughs made by Dr. Ashley’s team at Stanford and other dedicated groups around the world, analyzing the human genome has decreased from a heroic multibillion dollar effort to a single clinical test costing less than $1,000.

For the first time we have within our grasp the ability to predict our genetic future, to diagnose and prevent disease before it begins, and to decode what it really means to be human.

In The Genome Odyssey, Dr. Ashley details the medicine behind genome sequencing with clarity and accessibility. More than that, with passion for his subject and compassion for his patients, he introduces readers to the dynamic group of researchers and doctor detectives who hunt for answers, and to the pioneering patients who open up their lives to the medical community during their search for diagnoses and cures.

He describes how he led the team that was the first to analyze and interpret a complete human genome, how they broke genome speed records to diagnose and treat a newborn baby girl whose heart stopped five times on the first day of her life, and how they found a boy with tumors growing inside his heart and traced the cause to a missing piece of his genome.

These patients inspire Dr. Ashley and his team as they work to expand the boundaries of our medical capabilities and to envision a future where genome sequencing is available for all, where medicine can be tailored to treat specific diseases and to decode pathogens like viruses at the genomic level, and where our medical system as we know it has been completely revolutionized.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.

Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.

Exquisitely terrifying, beautiful, and strange, this fierce gothic fantasy will sink its teeth into you and never let go. 

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos

Audrey and Clare may be twins, but they don’t share a school, a room, a star sign, or even a birthday. Ever since their brother Adam’s death, all they’ve shared is confusion over who they are and what comes next.

Audrey, tired of being seen as different from her neurotypical peers, is determined to return to public school. Clare is grappling with her gender fluidity and is wondering what emerging feelings for a nonbinary classmate might mean. Will first crushes, new family dynamics, and questions of identity prove that Audrey and Clare have grown too different to understand each other—or that they’ve needed each other all along? 

Magic Mutant Nightmare Girl by Erin Grammar

Holly Roads uses Harajuku fashion to distract herself from tragedy. Her magical girl aesthetic makes her feel beautiful—and it keeps the world at arm’s length. She’s an island of one, until advice from an amateur psychic expands her universe. A midnight detour ends with her vs. exploding mutants in the heart of San Francisco.

Brush with destiny? Check. Waking up with blue blood, emotions gone haywire, and terrifying strength that starts ripping her wardrobe to shreds? Totally not cute. Hunting monsters with a hot new partner and his unlikely family of mad scientists?

Way more than she bargained for. 

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

A broken world.
An overwhelming evil.
A team of warriors ready to strike back.


Talin is a Striker, a member of an elite fighting force that stands as the last defense for the only free nation in the world: Mara.

A refugee, Talin knows firsthand the horrors of the Federation, a world-dominating war machine responsible for destroying nation after nation with its terrifying army of mutant beasts known only as Ghosts.

But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front to Mara’s capital, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? What secrets is he hiding?

Only one thing is clear: Talin is ready to fight to the death alongside her fellow Strikers for the only homeland she has left . . . with or without the boy who might just be the weapon to save—or destroy—them all. 

I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

A sweet and funny debut novel about falling for someone when you least expect it . . . and finding out that real life romance is better than anything on screen.

Emma is a die-hard romantic. She loves a meet-cute Netflix movie, her pet, Lady Catulet, and dreaming up the Gay Rom Com of her heart for the film festival competition she and her friends are entering. If only they’d listen to her ideas. . .

Sophia is pragmatic. She’s big into boycotts, namely 1) relationships, 2) teen boys and their BO (reason #2347683 she’s a lesbian), and 3) Emma’s nauseating ideas. Forget starry-eyed romance, Sophia knows what will win: an artistic film with a message.

Cue the drama. The movie is doomed before they even start shooting . . . until a real-life plot twist unfolds behind the camera when Emma and Sophia start seeing each other through a different lens. Suddenly their rivalry is starting to feel like an actual rom-com. 

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

CeCe Ross is kind of a big deal. She and her girlfriend, Silvie, are social media influencers with zillions of fans and followers, known for their cute outfits and being #relationshipgoals.

So when Silvie breaks up with her, CeCe is devastated. She’s lost her first love, and now she can’t help but wonder if she’ll lose her followers as well.

Things get even messier when CeCe meets Josh, a new boy in town who is very much Not Online. CeCe isn’t surprised to be falling for a guy; she’s always known she’s bi. And Josh is sweet and smart and has excellent taste in donuts… but he has no idea that CeCe is internet-famous. And CeCe sort of wants to keep it that way.

But when CeCe’s secrets catch up to her, she finds herself in the middle of an online storm, where she’ll have to confront the blurriness of public vs. private life, and figure out what it really means to speak her truth.