February Books 2023

Chaos here!

February is the month of love and passion (according to some people).  I, personally,  love reading, so I of course made some time to get through a few more books and comics.  Now, I would love and adore sharing my most recent readings with you.  I am hoping you just might find a book to love from the several listed here.

Books will be rated on a 1 – 5 star scale with 1 being bad and 5 being excellent.  If you enjoy what you see and don’t want to wait until the next book post, please follow us on Goodreads.  We’ll stay consistently updated there before compiling our month’s reading and thoughts here.

The comics I have read will also be included at the end of the post.  Those will just be listed and not officially reviewed.  However, if you ever want to hear about any specific comic in particular or want my thoughts, don’t be afraid to ask.  I enjoy discussing everything I read. 

Let’s go!

Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature by Zibby Owens – 2/5 Stars

Zibby Owens reflects on her life’s journey.  Here she will give special focus to the highs of love and the lows of loss.  

This memoir opens with Owens discussing the first time she ever cried during a book, and uses that to open up about the impact that her parents’ divorce had on her.  That is the last time that Owens really uses literature in a meaningful way during her memoir.  Despite literature being one of the big L’s in her title, she mostly just name drops different books that she happened to read during points in her life or that others might have been reading around her.  Knowing many of these books, I can see some of the connections she may have hoped to make, but she never makes them herself and never delves into the impact the books had on her life.  The naming of literature could be completely removed from the memoir with almost no impact.

As for the exploration of Owens’ actual life, I was a bit torn.  She had no problem opening up about her life, but so much of it felt shallow.  Owens faced a lot of tragedy and loss, which she readily shares, but at the same time I’m left asking, “why does it matter?”  Loss and grief are important, but without any deeper analysis or message, I’m left wondering why hers deserves more attention than anyone else’s and why hers deserves a book.  Maybe I just struggled to empathize with her since she often came off as a bit whiny and overly dramatic while actually having a lot of privilege and support in her life.  She gives a few paragraphs of lip service to the advantages she has, but mostly oscillates between woe-is-me and I sure earned all these good things in my life.

Overall, Owens’ book felt very me-centric.  Her parents’ divorce impacted her greatly, but she doesn’t explore how her divorce impacted her children.  In fact, she never mentions her first husband or their divorce, let alone how it might have affected her kids.  This is just an example of how while supposedly being very open about her experiences, the narrative feels very controlled and geared towards how Owens wants to display it.

If you want to read a list of books and hear someone whine about first-world problems, or want to read about someone’s hardships despite knowing many others in less-advantageous positions also suffer, then this might be the book for you.  Honestly, I can’t really recommend this one unless you’re already a fan of Zibby Owens’ other work (I came into this one blind to her past).

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch – 3.5/5 Stars

Carey and her younger sister, Jenessa have spent years living in a secret camper hidden away in the woods.  Their mother abducted and hid them away a decade ago, but now that life is over.  Their mom has abandoned them, and they must reintegrate into society.  Part of that process will involve learning to live with their father, a man their mother warned them about all these years.  The girls must learn new ways of survival unlike any they’ve experienced so far.

This book is all about pulling at the emotional heartstrings.  Most of the direction and plot points won’t be too surprising, but the core of the books is more about Carey’s transition back into society, her discovery of what family is, and her slow acceptance of her past.  While staying quick paced enough to entertain young adult audiences, the book does a good job of delving into Carey’s character and motivations.  

The novel’s handling of both teenage drama and heavy topics of abuse can feel a bit discordant at times since it feels like Carey has bigger issues to worry about than boys or popularity.  However, in reality, teens are going to worry about teen issues even when faced with more serious problems, so I understand Murdoch writing her story the way she did.

There are a bunch of characters introduced throughout the novel (family, friends, doctors), so many of them stay a bit more two dimensional, but that is also understandable for a young adult book.  Too much character work on side-characters might have distracted from the story’s main goals.   

If You Find Me is a story that will definitely tugs at many readers hearts as they pray for some healing and peace for these abused girls.  It is a solid story that should keep readers going through it quickly.  I would recommend it for readers who can handle children in tough situations and who are interested in characters working through trauma.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers – 3.5/5 Stars

Margot Davies returns to her small home town of Wakarusa, Indiana in order to care for her ailing uncle, a man who is like a father to her.  The move throws her status quo and makes life a bit rocky to begin with, but it’s only further complicated when a 5 year-old girl is abducted nearby.  An unspeakable act in its own right, but also one that reminds Margot too much of the unsolved abduction of her childhood best friends many years ago.  With nobody else seeing the connections, Margot must now add solving a mystery to her ever growing list of responsibilities.  What truths are out there to be found, and are there those who would prefer they stay hidden?

Despite all the good there is to this book, I feel compelled to warn that the ending is very abrupt and unsatisfying.  It honestly feels like a chapter or two simply disappeared as mysteriously as the young girls from the novel.  While ambiguous endings are nothing new, this one felt especially egregious and frustrating.  

Outside of the ending, this is a solid mystery novel that should check all the right boxes for those who enjoy the genre.  Margot is a likable character, who is trying to balance life and her quest for answers and  justice.  However, there is enough doubt, twists, and red herrings sown in to keep readers questioning what is really going on and what is Margot simply looking for connections that may not be there.

The mysteries and the revelations around them are mostly pretty interesting and well paced.  Some were more obvious but plenty of others were genuinely surprising.  Overall, the narrative kept me going and interested in what would happen next.  

I would be interested in reading more by Ashley Flowers, but I would definitely hope for a better ending in any future novels.  All Good People Here would be great for mystery lovers, those interested in either disappearance cases or small town culture.

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson – 4/5 Stars

Tress lives the simple life of a window washer, one where she happily collects cups, experiments with recipes, and chats with Charlie, the boy who has captured her heart.  However, when Charlie is sent away to find a bride and then taken captive, Tress decides to leave her normal life behind in order to reunite herself with her love.  This adventure will bring her in contact with pirates, magic, and a world of strange spores.

Tress is a fairy tale-esque story set in a world where people sail sand-like spores instead of oceans made of water.  These different colored spores all react differently to water and dictate the world that has been built up around them.  As usual, Sanderson does a great job of crafting and delving into the world he creates.  He clearly spent a lot of time thinking about how his spore system would work and fleshing it out.  If you’re a fan of world-building, it’s hard to go wrong with Sanderson.  The man loves delving into the magic and science of what he’s writing (get ready to learn a bit about how cannons and projectile weapons work).

The actual story itself is fun and playful.  Tress is one hundred percent a mary-sue type character but she is at least endearing and her adventures are interesting.  Enough happens to warrant the length of the novel and there are enough twists, turns, and character beats to keep readers engaged.  

Sanderson also makes a lot of use of his narrator to get information to readers and to provide side narrative/points of interest.  The narrator does his best to be very witty and funny, with a lot of winks and nudges at the readers.  Sometimes those antics can come off as a bit eye rolling, but overall they work, and it should be clear that Sanderson is having fun with his writing, which can be enjoyable to see in its own way.

This novel is set within Sanderson’s Cosmere universe, with plenty of references to his greater saga.  While readers unfamiliar with Sanderson’s greater body of work might be left with a few questions, the allusions shouldn’t act as too much of a barrier.  Anything important to Tress is explained and the rest can usually be waved away with a simple, ‘yep, people from far off places have different experiences and words for those experiences that I may not get totally.’  This story easily stands on its own.  

Tress of the Emerald Sea is a quick and fun read that should hit right for lovers of adventure and fairy tales.  The unique world adds to the experience and the writing itself is delivered in a mostly witty and playful manner.  Perfect for those who love sweet adventures centered around likable characters. 

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay – 4.5/5 Stars

In a remote cabin, Eric, Andrew, and their daughter Wen vacation far from their normal lives.  Then, four strangers arrive with warnings and a choice.  The family of three must make a terrible decision.  The fate of the world may depend on them, and the strangers are here to “help” them understand the gravity of this situation, and the importance of potential sacrifices.

The Cabin at the End of the World is an intense and gripping read.  The story is told through the eyes of several characters, each of whom are well characterized and unique in their mindset.  No matter which perspective the story is shared through, readers will be itching to see what’s next and trying not to flinch at the reality these characters face.  

The novel’s premise of force captivity and the threat of possibly deranged strangers is great, but the bigger questions presented are just as interesting.  Where do we draw the lines on things such as faith, rationality, fear, sacrifice, love, and safety?  Tremblay keeps the action going and the threats at full force, but he remembers to center everything around the humanity of his characters and the choice that they are offered.  How do they react and change as the world around them feels as if it’s falling apart?

The ending might not be everyone’s favorite, but the journey there is well worth the trip in my opinion.  If you can stomach some gore, darkness, and intensity, I definitely recommend checking out The Cabin at the End of the World.  It’s a unique thrill ride that holds no punches and will have readers racing to the conclusion.

Comics Read:

  • Ben Reilly: Spider-Man by J.M. DeMatteis
  • Fantastic Four vol. 10: Reckoning War Part I by Dan Slott
  • Fantastic Four vol. 11: Reckoning War Part II by Dan Slott
  • Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit by Samira Ahmed

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