Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – February 2024

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February was a rough month all around. Between getting COVID (for the first time–I suppose I’m lucky in that) and a collection of books that were almost great…but not quite, I’m ready to leave the month behind.

Of course, my reading slowed while I was sick and many of these were light enough to get me through, so they were a success in that way.

As March begins, I’m picking up a few hefty books that I’ve been looking forward to. Here’s to brighter (and healthier!) days ahead!

Print and E-Books

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Hello Stranger

Author: Katherine Center
Source: St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Publish Date: 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Sadie is a portrait artist, struggling to find her footing. When a freak accident leaves her with face blindness, the timing couldn’t be worse; she’s just about to have her big break in a national contest. She’s desperate to find a way to work around these new limitations. Never mind that she can’t trust her own perceptions, and she’s having fantasies about her vet and a neighbor in her building.

While not my favorite of Katherine Center’s (Sadie was a little immature), this was creative and an interesting exploration of a condition I knew nothing about (and I do love a good book-prompted rabbit hole!). I also loved her author’s note at the end about why we read romance. I related to her words about hope and anticipation–which is why I think I (and many readers) have been leaning into romances and up-lit more than ever before. This provides plenty of both.

You, Again by Kate Goldbeck

You, Again

Author: Kate Goldbeck
Source: Book of the Month Club
Publish Date: 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

When Ari and Josh first meet, they hate each other. Things don’t get much friendlier over their next couple of encounters, years apart. Until finally, they run into each other one more time and something clicks: friendship. As Ari struggles with the end of her marriage and Josh struggles with a failed dream, they find comfort and support in one another. Can they risk their friendship when they start feeling more?

This one had a slow start through the years of encounters and enmity, but it was faster moving once the friendship began. Your feelings about it may depend on your trope preferences; enemies to lovers isn’t my favorite, but friends to lovers is. As characters, these two also weren’t my favorite–Ari is abrasive and overdramatic, while Josh is a little dull. The chemistry came together in this, but overall it was uneven. The overall tone and struggles of the characters may resonate more with younger readers (Gen Z).

Who We Are Now by Lauryn Chamberlain

Who We Are Now

Author: Lauryn Chamberlain
Publish Date: August 8, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Rachel, Clarissa, Dev, and Nate are best friends, fresh out of college and excited about the dreams and possibilities that life holds for them. The one thing that seems certain is their friendship. But over the years they will each make choices that pull them apart, back together, and apart again, until they ultimately have to decide: are their friendships in the past, or are they for life?

I love a good friends from college story, and this one definitely had its moments. At the same time, I would have liked a few more flashbacks that established the closeness of the characters, beyond their shared college house and parties. This also would have helped with shaping each of their personalities, which felt a bit distant throughout (one of them in particular). I liked this, but I didn’t quite get the emotional resonance I look for in a friendship story.


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2024 Books to Read & Skip - February Reviews

Audiobooks

The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose

The Mystery Guest

Author: Nita Prose
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Publish Date: 2023
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

Molly is the Head Maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, a role she adores. She is exacting and takes extraordinary pride in her work. When famous mystery author J.D. Grimthorpe dies during an event at the hotel, Molly knows that her gift for details will be the key to figuring out who killed him. As she reflects on her childhood connections with Grimthorpe, and the days leading up to the murder, Molly’s meticulous mind might just reveal more secrets than the identity of the murderer.

I didn’t read The Maid, which preceded this novel, but I felt this stood alone just fine. Molly is a delightful character, and while this didn’t blow me away, it was a pleasant, cozy mystery with a lighter tone than I’m accustomed to in my mystery reads.

Anna O by Matthew Blake

Anna O

Author: Matthew Blake
Narrators: Dan Stevens, Hannah Curtis, Sarah Cullum & Christine Rendel
Publish Date: January 2, 2024
Genres: Fiction, Mysteries & Thrillers

Benedict Prince is a sleep doctor who specializes in crimes committed during sleep. He–along with the whole of England–has long been captivated by the Anna O case. Anna is a young woman who has been a sleep ever since the murder of her two friends–a murder it seems she committed. Ben is sure he can finally wake Anna and get to the truth. But the truth may be more complicated than it appears.

Between the jumps in time, the multiple narrators, and the convoluted storylines, this felt like a bit of a mess. It may have been the audio format–I found it tough to track characters and motivations (though Dan Stevens is always an excellent narrator). The condition known as “resignation syndrome,” in real life only seen in Sweden in children of asylum seekers, was a clever premise and was something I hadn’t heard of before. Unfortunately, the story built around it didn’t quite land (though again, it might be more successful in print).

What have you been reading lately?

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2 Comments

  1. I’m with you, a first time covid person in February. There were days that the only thing I could do was read. But mostly it was all about sleeping, right?

    Thanks for sharing what got you through the month, Allison …

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