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Get yourself something to drink and find a comfy seat because this might take a while. February was a fantastic reading month. I somehow found my groove and managed to read 10 books. Seriously…10 books. Who even am I? That never happens!! Ranging from 3 stars up to 5 stars…it was a good month. I have a couple of standouts as well that I am STILL thinking about! Ok, lets check out these books!
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
First up we have Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. Also known as the woman who made me fall in love with Magical Realism. After reading Other Birds last year I knew I had to seek out all of her books and devour them. The first one that caught my eye is an older title…2014 I think. Lost Lake was all things magical realism and I adored it. She is one of the most atmospheric writers and creates settings and characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. Other Birds still has my heart as my favorite but Lost Lake was still a solid 5 star read for me.
The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.
That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.
It’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.
Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.
One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Can they find what they need before it’s too late?
At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.
Sink by Joseph Earl Thomas
Next up we have Sink by Joseph Earl Thomas. This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. I had set a goal for 2023 to read more memoirs and biographies so I was excited to read this. I honestly don’t read a ton of memoirs but this was definitely unlike any that I had read. This was a hard read in that it dealt with a lot of abuse to a child. Pretty much all of the abuse you can think of. Having said that…it was beautifully written and I really enjoyed reading his story.
Stranded within an ever-shifting family’s desperate but volatile attempts to love, saddled with a mercurial mother mired in crack addiction, and demeaned daily for his perceived weakness, Joseph Earl Thomas grew up feeling he was under constant threat. Roaches fell from the ceiling, colonizing bowls of noodles and cereal boxes. Fists and palms pounded down at school and at home, leaving welts that ached long after they disappeared. An inescapable hunger gnawed at his frequently empty stomach, and requests for food were often met with indifference if not open hostility. Deemed too unlike the other boys to ever gain the acceptance he so desperately desired, he began to escape into fantasy and virtual worlds, wells of happiness in a childhood assailed on all sides.
In a series of exacting and fierce vignettes, Thomas guides readers through the unceasing cruelty that defined his circumstances, laying bare the depths of his loneliness and illuminating the vital reprieve geek culture offered him. With remarkable tenderness and devastating clarity, he explores how lessons of toxic masculinity were drilled into his body and the way the cycle of violence permeated the very fabric of his environment. Even in the depths of isolation, there were unexpected moments of joy carved out, from summers where he was freed from the injurious structures of his surroundings to the first glimpses of kinship he caught on his journey to becoming a Pokémon master. SINK follows Thomas’s coming-of-age towards an understanding of what it means to lose the desire to fit in—with his immediate peers, turbulent family, or the world—and how good it feels to build community, love, and salvation on your own terms.
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak
Next up we have an absolutely amazing thriller. Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak was a book that I had seen all over Bookstagram. It had so much hype surrounding it that I was a little nervous going into it that it wouldn’t be as great as I’d hoped…I was wrong. This was an absolutely incredible thriller that kept me guessing the entire time. The twist at the end…yeah…I didn’t see that one coming! If you are a thriller fan definitely check this out. This was such a quick read…partly because it does have illustrations scattered throughout and partyly because I couldn’t put it down!
Mallory Quinn is fresh out of rehab when she takes a job as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.
Mallory immediately loves it. She has her own living space, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.
Then, Teddy’s artwork becomes increasingly sinister, and his stick figures quickly evolve into lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to wonder if these are glimpses of a long-unsolved murder, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force.
Knowing just how crazy it all sounds, Mallory nevertheless sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy before it’s too late.
River of Wrath by Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor
I was beyond ecstatic to receive this book. I had the pleasure of being a part of the book tour for River of Ashes and was so thrilled to be asked to join the tour for River of Wrath. River of Ashes was one of my favorite reads of 2022 and definitely one of my top thrillers. I am SO happy to report that River of Wrath was JUST as good as River of Ashes. All of the spine-tingling action coupled with Louisiana charm. Such an amazing read! I am beyond ready for book 3!!
Leslie Moore is struggling to get through her last semester at St. Benedict High. Even her relationship with her boyfriend Derek is falling apart. But after receding floodwaters from the Bogue Falaya River expose the bones of a woman, Leslie becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer.
Sightings of an apparition haunting The Abbey send Leslie and her friends back to the scene of the horrors from last Halloween, but no one is prepared for what they find.
After a stranger—the handsome Luke Cross—arrives in town, another girl goes missing, and the sheriff suspects the newcomer is hiding something. Leslie believes the Devereaux family is connected to everything going wrong in St. Benedict. And she means to uncover the truth, no matter the cost.
Not all secrets can be kept silent. Some eventually find their way home.
The Wilder Women by Ruth Emmie Lang
Oh, hey, another Magical Realism story…don’t mind if I do. The Wilder Women by Ruth Emmie Lang was such a fabulous book. It was the perfect blend of magical realism, family, and mystery. It was another that just oozed with atmospheric vibes. It was also full of adventure and definitely had elements of being a “quest” novel which apparently is something else I love! Just loved this book and definitely recommend!
Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.
Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…
When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.
Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?
But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Next is The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner. The more I think about this book the more I love it. I originally gave it 4 stars…but I think I am going to have to up it to 5 just for the fact that it wont leave my brain. One of the reasons that I loved it so much is because I want to go mudlarking and find lost apothecary bottles. The term “mudlarking” was a new one for me…never heard it before! I have memories of searching through the mud for lost treasures but I never knew it was an actual thing. I am such a huge history buff so the idea of finding something with such a connection to the past is just amazing to me. I have found what I want to be when I grow up…professional mudlarker. This book was excellent and I am SO excited to share that Sarah Penner’s next book, The London Seance Society was included in the March Book of the Month selections. It is currently en route to my house! (If you haven’t tried Book of the Month you can click my link and get your first book for $5!)
Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.
Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Im not quite finished thinking about this book quite yet. I *think* it is safe to say that this was my favorite book of the month. It was just such a beautifully written, heartbreaking, and moving story about a mothers journey. A mothers journey to find her stolen children in the aftermath of slavery. Set in the Caribbean, River Sing Me Home follows Rachel as she searches for her 5 remaining children. Oh this book tugged at my mama heart something fierce. Such bravery and anguish that Rachel dealt with. If you love historical fiction, please give this book a read! It was wonderful. 5 big beautiful stars!
Her search begins with an ending.…
The master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathers his slaves and announces the king has decreed an end to slavery. As of the following day, the Emancipation Act of 1834 will come into effect. The cries of joy fall silent when he announces that they are no longer his slaves; they are now his apprentices. No one can leave. They must work for him for another six years. Freedom is just another name for the life they have always lived. So Rachel runs.
Away from Providence, she begins a desperate search to find her children—the five who survived birth and were sold. Are any of them still alive? Rachel has to know. The grueling, dangerous journey takes her from Barbados then, by river, deep into the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She is driven on by the certainty that a mother cannot be truly free without knowing what has become of her children, even if the answer is more than she can bear. These are the stories of Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. But above all this is the story of Rachel and the extraordinary lengths to which a mother will go to find her children…and her freedom.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
Next up we have The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi. This is her adult debut and it was incredible. This book was full of gothic vibes and felt like it walked the line between fantasy and reality. Lots of vivid details and absolutely beautifully written. I will say I figured out the twist ahead of time but it didn’t zap my enjoyment of the book. If you love gothic vibes and big mysterious houses then definitely check this one out!
Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after—and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.
But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.
Combining the lush, haunting atmosphere of Mexican Gothic with the dreamy enchantment of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is a spellbinding and darkly romantic page-turner about love and lies, secrets and betrayal, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive.
I’ll Take Everything You Have by James Klise
Next up we have I’ll Take Everything You Have by James Klise. This is a historical noir novel set in 1930’s Chicago. This is a queer coming of age story with a dark side. 16 year old Joe is in Depression Era Chicago trying to earn some money for his family. While he does find some connections to the queer community, he also finds himself tied up with the dark and crooked underbelly of 1930’s Chicago. This had all of the lingo and charm you would find for that time period…I definitely felt transported to the 30’s! I enjoyed this one but it wasn’t my top read of the month. 3.5 stars for me.
In the summer of 1934, Joe Garbe arrives in Chicago with one goal: Earn enough money to get out of debt and save the family farm. Joe’s cousin sets him up with a hotel job, then proposes a sketchy scheme to make a lot more money fast. While running his con, Joe finds himself splitting time between Eddie, a handsome flirt on a delivery truck, and Raymond, a carefree rich kid who shows Joe the eye-opening queer life around every corner of the big city.
Joe’s exposure to the surface of criminal Chicago pulls him into something darker than he could have imagined. When danger closes in—from gangsters, the police, and people he thought were friends—Joe needs to pack up and get lost. But before he can figure out where to go, he has to decide who he wants to be.
I’ll Take Everything You Have is a vivid portrayal of queer coming of age in Depression-era Chicago, and a timeless story of trying to make your future bright when the rest of the world is dead set on keeping it hidden in the dark.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
I told you I am in the process of seeking out and devouring ALL of Sarah Addison Allen’s books. Garden Spells was next on my hit list so to speak…and it was so amazing. It game me major Practical Magic vibes and I loved it. It had all of the elements of magical realism that I love along with some serious cottagecore vibes. I also may have discovered a new favorite character…a lovely old lady who has a fondness for the “male posterior”. She was a riot and reminded me so much of my grandmother…she was such a dirty old bird and I loved her for it! I believe this is the first of two books so I will definitely be seeking out the next. Loved The Waverly family!
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it….
The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.
A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants–from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys–except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.
When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down–along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy–if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom–or with each other.
Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….
Eyes on March
I am so excited for March you guys. I have some incredible books lined up. I just received my pre-order of Immortality: A Love Story…felt like it took forever to get here. Anatomy: A Love Story was one of my faves from 2022 and I have been waiting for this sequel for so long! Hoping to dive into it today.
I am also ecstatic to get my next Book of the Month Box…as I mentioned, The London Seance Society is coming and I can’t wait to read it! I also added two extra books because I lack all self-control with books…and I had a free book credit…so…I couldn’t NOT add extra books…right?
How was your reading for February? Did you read any new faves? What do you have lined up for March? Drop me a comment, I would love to chat!
If you missed my January Wrap- Up you can find that here!