March 15, 2024

What I Read in February 2024

I read another seven books in February, which I was thrilled with in a short month. At fifteen books cumulatively, that puts me exactly on track to hit my goal of 100 books by December 31. Great! And I had a solid mix this month of fiction and non-fiction, which makes me feel like I’m learning and not just relaxing 🙂

Can’t recommend these three books enough!

5 stars:

House of Glass, by Sarah Pekkanen: Stella is an attorney who is assigned to serve as the advocate for 9-year old Rose, who seemingly witnessed the murder of her nanny Tina. Tina was having an affair with Rose’s dad Ian, and got pregnant just before her death; Ian and his wife Beth are now in the midst of a messy divorce, with a big custody battle for Rose. Rose, meanwhile, has been mute since Tina was killed – so it’s Stella’s job to figure out the best custody arrangement for Rose. However, she makes it her unofficial job to also figure out what happened to Tina, and seemingly everyone is a suspect. This was quite a suspenseful page turner, though I didn’t really love any of the characters; even the protagonist, Stella, was rather unlikable and hard to root for. There were a lot of sub-plots about Stella’s own childhood, having witnessed the death of her mother and becoming mute for a long time, and they didn’t add as much to the story as you might think. The whole book was incredibly dark, and while it started slowly, the pace picked up as it went and made it hard to put down. Overall, really enjoyable, but not Pekkanen’s best.

Before It’s Gone: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change in Small-Town America, by Jonathan Vigliotti: I LOVED this book and have been recommending it right and left. Jonathan is a CBS News reporter who is frequently sent out to cover “natural disasters” that are, in fact, due to climate change. In this book, he recounts the personal stories of people he met through his reporting, and builds a strong case for why the devastating effects of climate change are not far off but are in fact already occurring. The entire book is very compelling and easy-to-digest, even as it teaches readers the science of why this is happening. As someone who lives in the wildfire-prone foothills of Colorado, where the devastating 2021 Marshall Fire destroyed over 1000 homes in my town, this hit very close to home, and helped me see the bigger picture: that this wasn’t a one off and we need to take action NOW. The book is divided into four sections – fire, water, air, and earth, and my only complaint is that a few stories didn’t fit their section as well as I would have liked (e.g., the “air” section had a lot of content about a flood in Montana, which would have fit better in the “water” section rather than in discussions of tornadoes). Overall, a fantastic book that I wish everyone would read.

Cultures of Growth: How the New Science of Mindset Can Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations, by Mary C. Murphy, Carol Dweck (Foreword): I love Carol Dweck’s research on Mindset, and so was thrilled when I learned her protege was extending that research to look into how mindsets shift within organizations. While the original research implies that a growth or fixed mindset is a personal trait and somewhat fixed to the individual, Mary Murphy’s research proves that mindset is actually fluid based on the circumstance- so we need to learn how to adapt ourselves and our environment to get the best results. Murphy gives the why and how of creating a “Culture of Growth” rather than the “Culture of Genius”, and the book is filled with inspiring examples from businesses, schools, and other organizations. If you liked Mindset, you will LOVE this book, and I consider it a must-read for any team leader.

4 stars:

The Rom-Commers, by Katherine Center: Emma wants to be a screenwriter, but instead, she’s stuck in Texas taking care of her dad, who suffered an accident years ago and now needs round-the-clock care. But then an unexpected opportunity arises – to work alongside famous screenwriter Charlie – so she moves to LA for six weeks to work on a new rom com movie with him, while her younger sister cancels her own summer internship to take care of their dad. Unfortunately, Emma arrives to find that Charlie is a jerk who doesn’t even want her there… and he HATES rom coms. This is a sweet grumpy-sunshine romance, and has a fun cameo from Center’s last book. There are a lot of great lines and funny humorous bits, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but this just wasn’t my favorite book by Katherine Center; the burn was a little too slow, and I didn’t really love either character (endearing though they may be). That said, Katherine Center’s books are SO good that I think I may have set my expectations too high! It was still a good, fun read.

Ladykiller, by Katherine Wood: Abby and Gia are best friends who grew up in very different circumstances – Gia, a rich heiress, and Abby, the daughter of Gia’s family chef. When they were 18, they spent a summer at Gia’s family house in Greece, and a tragedy occurred; however, what exactly that tragedy was is kept a mystery for more than half the book. Meanwhile, the plot is told in present day (through Abby’s POV) and one month earlier, through a book manuscript Gia has been writing about her current time in Greece at the mansion, with her new husband that Abby warned her not to marry. I loved the back and forth between the two POVs, and the opulent setting made me yearn for a vacation to the Greek isles myself. Although this was a page turner, I found the ending somewhat disappointing, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Like Mother, Like Daughter, by Kimberly McCreight: Katrina and her daughter Cleo have had a fraught relationship since Cleo became a teenager; now, as an NYU college student, Kat is downright overbearing. But when Cleo shows up to their Brooklyn brownstone for dinner with her mom, and finds the food burning on the stove and her mom’s shoe on the ground – with blood on it – she calls the police and sets aside her own angst to investigate what happened to her mom. As it turns out, her mom has a lot of secrets Cleo didn’t know about. The book is told through two timelines – Cleo’s in present day, looking for her mom, and Kat’s, starting about a week before she goes missing. I liked this, but didn’t love it; the last third or so was pretty engaging, but before that, I was mostly finding the characters annoying with their inability to empathize with each other’s perspectives. The plot was really complicated, and while the author did a good job providing a bunch of red herrings, it was a little unbelievable to me that SO many things could all come to a head at once. Overall, I liked this, but didn’t love it.

3 stars:

Better Left Unsent, by Lia Louis: This was a little slow, but grew on me over time. Millie is a 30 year old receptionist who had her heart broken by a coworker, Owen, two years ago. She’s been struggling to get over him, when one day, all of her draft emails get sent to the entire company. Problem is, Millie uses her drafts to write things to people she’d never say to their faces – like a snarky note that someone’s breath was bad, or an angry diatribe that they made a racist remark in a meeting, or… missives telling Owen she’s still in love with him. The premise was cute, but I thought the fallout lasted way too long, with Millie obsessing over them for weeks after everyone else had seemingly moved on. Millie’s immaturity was a bit frustrating at times, and while there was romance in this, it was much more of a coming of age novel as she learns to get comfortable in her own skin.

Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.


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