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For the Love of Reading: February 2024

Let’s take a look back at what I read in the month of February.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Women are afraid of being raped and murdered all the time and sometimes that’s more important to talk about than protecting male comfort levels. Or as someone named Jenny Chiu tweeted, “Sure #NotAllMen are misogynists and rapists. That’s not the point. The point is that #YesAllWomen live in fear of the ones that are.”
This book was discussed at an event for women elected municipal officials that I attended recently and I remembered that I had meant to read it years ago. Of particular note is that this was published in 2014, before the 2016 election, before the reversal of Roe v. Wade, before women saw the truth of just how little we are valued in this country. It resonated with me on a deep and personal level and, while I found it infuriating, I was also comforted to know that many other women feel the way I do.

White Houses by Amy Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While this reads like a memoir, it is actually a fictional account of the relationship between Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt. There has been much speculation about these two women’s feelings for each other and Bloom ultimately tells a love story of passion, devotion, and understanding. Narrated in the first person by Hick herself, we see Eleanor through her eyes. as a dedicated partner to FDR, as a fierce advocate for human rights, and as a nurturing friend and caregiver to so many. Hick’s voice is tough and unflinchingly realistic at all times, whether describing FDR and his shortcomings, her impoverished and abusive childhood, or her own sexuality. The writing is lovely and engrossing and I was utterly captivated by the story.

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am glad to have read this book and learned about Ellen and William Craft and their remarkable escape from slavery. There are many stories told about the Underground Railroad, but this young couple used disguise and deception in a unique and daring way: Ellen passed as a young white man traveling with William as her slave. They went by train and boat, risking everything, to obtain their freedom. The narrative nonfiction style is suspenseful and I was gripped by the story despite knowing the eventual outcome. Even in the North, the couple was not safe and they eventually went to England, where they lived for many years before returning to America. It’s a tale of incredible courage and determination, enduring love and devotion, and I highly recommend it.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a charming and heartwarming story about the family we create when we’ve lost everything. Set in and around an aquarium, with a giant Pacific octopus interspersed as a narrator, it’s a bit of a fantastical tale but I honestly didn’t mind since Marcellus was sarcastic and grumpy in all the best ways. Are there too many implausible coincidences? Yeah. But did I mind? Not in the least. Reminiscent of A Man Called Ove and recommended for those who enjoyed that book.

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I always claim to be someone who doesn’t really like mystery thrillers. And yet every time I start one I can’t put it down so perhaps I need to rethink how I feel about this genre. First Lie Wins is full of all of the usual tropes: an unreliable narrator, twists that you aren’t supposed to see coming but usually do, dual timelines, and fake deaths. And yet it’s still extremely compelling, highly entertaining, and not without a surprise or three. Recommended for anyone who enjoys a good game of cat-and-mouse.

After Annie by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful and moving portrayal of grief after the death of Annie, a young wife and mother of 4. Quindlen’s account of how this grief impacts each of Annie’s children, her husband, and her best friend, is simple and profound, and the things she doesn’t say are as poignant as the things she does. It’s not easy to absorb the confusion and sadness experienced by everyone who loved Annie but it is a heartbreakingly honest and achingly human study of the process and the beginning of acceptance and recovery from loss.
I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I didn’t know it was possible to find a book both infuriating and hilarious until I read this collection of vignettes about racism as it is felt every day by Black people in America. Whether in a store or a restaurant, the work place or just minding your own business while walking down the street, Ruffin tells stories that are horrifying but sadly not surprising and she does so with brilliant and scathing humor. Did I find myself feeling shocked? Oh, yes. But was any of it truly surprising? Not at all. Highly recommended for anyone trying to further their journey into understanding the pervasiveness of racism.

As always, I hope you find something on this list that you want to read.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I agree completely with your review of Remarkably Bright Creatures. I listened to it and thought the best part was the voice of the octopus!

    I also have similar feelings about thrillers. They feel like such a guilty pleasure to me because I usually speed through them but always feel like they’re not high-quality books for some reason.

  2. Excellent reading month! I have added a couple of these books to my TBR list! Thank you!

  3. I also really liked After Annie, Carole. I enjoy hearing about the books you’ve been reading, and I always appreciate your reviews. XO

  4. Ryan and I have had the discussion about why women tend to assume men are rapists and misogynists but I’m not sure I explained things very well. I bet I could give him “Men Explain Things to Me” so he might have a better understanding. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Looks like a great month of reading Carole. I loved Marcellus! I also enjoyed White Houses a lot. As usual, I’ve added some titles to my TBR list. Thanks!

  6. I just finished reading JA Jance’s Blessings of the the Lost Girls and found it hard to put down. Our book club’s next book is Untold Power about Edith Wilson; have you read it?

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