Two thousand, One Hundred and Seventy-Two Pages. Three short stories, a collection of three short stories, seven novels, and a graphic novel I say that February was a great reading month for me.
Written by Will Leitch
I read How Lucky mostly because I wanted something fun and light-hearted. Not to mention the cover sparked real joy in me. I happen to love blues and greens. Cut to I’m 50 pages in and anxiously trying to solve the mystery of who kidnapped a young woman in broad daylight. An only witness is a man suffering from a debilitating disease and unable to speak. This wasn’t exactly the fun, light-hearted read I anticipated; however, it was a tremendously fun ride.
Written by Charmaine Wilkerson
Y’all, I have been sleeping on this novel for a year now! Seriously. It was my BOTM for Feb 2022, and I’m just now reading it.
Black Cake is a story that spans multiple generations, following its characters from the Caribbean to London, New York, and Los Angeles. We are introduced to Byron and Benny Bennett, whose mother, Eleanor, has recently passed away and has a secret left to tell them. Despite being close growing up, the pair have been estranged for years, so this reunion comes packed with anger, resentment, and fear. Through recordings left by Eleanor, the siblings learn of their mother’s past, culminating in an extraordinary payoff.
This was my first 5 out of 5 for the year. Well, a new read that was a 5 out of 5. And I highly recommend it.
Written by Kay O’Neill
Aquicorn Cove was the perfect beach read. I took it to the shore and enjoyed taking this graphic novel alone. The art and story are impeccable, introducing us to Lana, a young girl who returns to their sleepy fishing village with her father. Unfortunately, the village has been abusing the natural resources of the water, which in turn has endangered not only the aquatic life but the land itself.
What I love about this story the most is that while it’s presented for a young reader, I believe that adults can also make certain connections to the story. This story introduces climate change, showing the dangerous impact of exploiting our natural resources. It also introduces LGBTQ+ themes that are appropriate to introduce to kids. Not in the creepy way that some graphic novels have recently.
The Indigo Girl
Written by Natasha Boyd
After spending four days in Murrells Inlet, I read The Indigo Girl, a historical fiction about Eliza Lucas Pinckney.
Set between 1739 – 1744. We are introduced to a 16-year-old Eliza, who has been left in charge of her family’s three plantations on the rural South Carolina coast. With the pressure of not failing her father and family, Eliza sets her sights on harvesting indigo. I love this line from the Goodreads summary, “Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalists, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal.” This line encapsulates the story.
While a fictional take on Eliza Pinckney, the author drew inspiration from historical documents and letters pinned by Eliza herself. Also, with this story set in South Carolina, I tried to find the Wappoo Plantation where this story takes place. However, it is no longer there and is apparently a housing development in West Ashley.
This is my first Yoko Tawada read. Three short ghost stories are presented in this Storybook ND collection. Each story in this novel is named after streets in Berlin and set in this popular German city.
Kollwitzstrasse, Majakowskiring, and Pushkin Allee are all unique stories. While these tales are billed as supernatural ghost stories, humans encountering spirits, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were reading from the perspective of a ghost. I guess it’s up to interpretation.
Written by Andrew Sean Greer
Less, written by Andrew Sean Greer, started so strong! A queer novelist about to turn 50 is invited to his ex-boyfriend of nine years’ wedding. Because he couldn’t say yes to that, he decided to say yes to events worldwide. This felt like Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes mixed with queer themes, yet, more lighthearted. I loved this book. Well, until the chapter Less Indian towards the end of the novel. I don’t know what happened. Everything just felt so flat. And the conclusion felt convoluted.
Do I like this book? Yes.
Will I read the sequel that came out last year? Yes.
But I do hope that in the sequel, the ending of this novel does an about-face.
On Valentine’s Day, I decided to treat myself. Compiling six short stories/essays written by Sally Rooney. Along with a short story from another Irish writer, Naoise Dolan, and a short story by Otessa Moshfegh. Look, I love the work these three incredible writers produce.
Written by Naoise Dolan
Published September 23, 2020
Commissioned for Port Issue 26, Mother’s Friend packs a punch within its twenty pages. Treasa flees Dublin running from her abusive ex-boyfriend, assuming the name of Theresa.
“In Dublin I’d been Treasa, but in London I was Theresa. I was always trying to be easier for other people. It made me more difficult for myself, but that didn’t matter.”
I found this story to be raw, real, and gut-wrenching at times. I felt for Treasa/Theresa and would love to spend more time with her. Dolan has a book coming out later this year. I do wonder if she’ll make an appearance. Granted, that might be wishful thinking.
Even If You Beat Me
Written by Sally Rooney
Published in the Spring of 2015 in The Dublin Review
Published in The Dublin Review No. 58, Spring of 2015, Even If You Beat Me is an essay by Rooney regarding her time as an international debater. I found this essay to be completely fascinating, mostly because I don’t know much about Sally Rooney’s life besides her being a brilliant Irish writer.
I don’t know how to explain this essay other than that. But I encourage you to read it if you like her work.
Written by Andy Weir
Artemis had the potential to be a new favorite; however, this one was, unfortunately, a dud for me. I liked the concept. I loved that it was set on the moon; however, the characters felt like caricatures instead of characters with actual substance. I also felt like the main character Jazz was a carbon copy of Mark Watney from The Martian. The character was just presented as a female. So, this one didn’t impress me.
Written by Ottessa Moshfegh
Published in the Paris Review
2023 might be the year of the short story for me. This was another win. The Weirdos, written by Ottessa Moshfegh and published in The Paris Review, is easily one of my new favorites.
“I’m gonna be sort of James Dean, like I just don’t give a shit, but sad, you know?”
The Weirdos introduces us to an unknown narrator whose boyfriend is struggling but is a working actor who is also the manager at a crappy apartment complex—naturally, being a Moshfegh piece, it’s satirical, harsh at times, real, and gross at moments.
The Writing Retreat
Written by Julia Bartz
Y’all, this one was good. I stayed up all night reading it!
The Writing Retreat introduces us to five female writers selected to attend a month-long writing retreat by an elusive writer, Rosa Vallo, at her remote home Blackbriar Estate. These five women will write daily, critique one another’s work and compete for a publishing contract.
The stakes are high.
Of course, we have the subplot where two of the women, Alex and Wren, are former best friends, and as the story unfolds, we learn what happened to drive them apart. Add in spooky elements, a creepy estate, and naturally, one of the women goes missing, and it was a nice mystery with twists and turns that kept me guessing.
Which of these have you read, and what are your thoughts? Let me know.