February 2023 Wrap-Up

This was a decent reading month.

This was not a decent writing month, however. Aside from writing blog posts and Instagram captions, I wrote nothing creative or fictional. My goal was to finish editing Dark Swan and like, two short stories, but imposter syndrome was high this month.

On the plus side, I finally got the cover concept for That Slow Awakening (still no release date, arg), and it is gorgeous. And I started drafting ideas for book 3, which has been plaguing me for an entire year (a lot of which is due to the long delay on Awakening‘s editing and release). No ideas for a year, but now I know exactly how the big showdown is going to go, have a general idea of how they are all going to get there, and also am working on how everything is going to end.

This month I read 18 books: 6 books, 11 audiobooks, 1 graphic novels, for 6,396 pages.

I also finished the first leg of my Tortall Reread, where I wrapped up Beka Cooper’s Trilogy. You can find the reviews here: Terrier, Bloodhound, and Mastiff.

To the books!


Only two five-star reads this month, both nonfiction works that are just incredible.

I’m not a huge music person, but Shine Bright made me want to be one. It is about the Black women who made pop what it is, both in its origins, its near past, and today, and how until recently Black women in pop have been shuttled off into the sidelines despite being the ones who literally did the damn thing. It’s Black joy and triumph and heartbreak and history, and I listened to so much music because Smith’s breadth and depth of knowledge is so stunning and her writing is so captivating.

How to Read Now is on the other end of the spectrum, being more a series of essays on writing and reading, and how marginalized writers write versus how white writers write, and how various readers read things. Castillo makes so many strong points on how we read, how we take in the world through the written word, and how what white readers talk about books by BIPOC authors tends to boil it down to identity and not what the book is about. It’s about how we can’t read things at face value, how context matters, and how the argument of divorcing the art from the artist just does not work. This book is so good.


While I give the trilogy itself three trees, I rate each book individually as four. Yes it makes no sense whatsoever, but I’m looking holistically. I mention this in my (very long) reviews, but I think that the Beka Cooper trilogy is the weakest of the Tortall series. The tone shifts so drastically from book to book, beloved characters from the first book are squandered, and every attempt it makes to stand on its own is hobbled by forced tie-ins to Alanna’s time. On the other hand, while I enjoyed Terrier less this time around, I actually liked Bloodhound and Mastiff (HUGE GASP, IYKYK) better! Sacrilege!

I’m going through a little nonfiction kick right now, if you can’t tell. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a stunning work by Walter Rodney, and while it was written 50 years ago, not enough has changed or improved in that time. Some of My Best Friends is a collection of essays on lip service, representation, racism, justice and the limits of good intentions by Tajja Isen. While some of the essays sparkled, others were overly academic and dull, providing a mixed bag that I overall recommend reading. And I’m Glad My Mom Died is…wow. Honestly, the title didn’t turn me off, and I’m grateful that McCurdy really opened the conversation on abusive mothers without excusing or forgiving her for her actions. Lots and lots of triggering things, so if you want to read this one, be in a good headspace.

Camp Zero took me a hot minute to get into, and was not at all what I was expecting. There are three POVs, some done better than others (I liked White Alice’s the best), and the build was better than the ending, honestly. And it had such a binary view of the world and morality, which felt…weird.

Strange Beasts of China made me realize that I definitely need to read more Chinese science fiction! While some translation choices felt very Anglicanized (at least…I think so?? I dunno), I really enjoyed this story of a “failed” cryptozoologist turned writer uncovering the stories and truths of the fantastic beasts who live in her city. These beasts looks almost exactly like humans—and indeed, the line between human and beast is often blurred, with one looking more like the other.

Forest for the Trees started off on what must be the worst opening of all time, with the heroine talking about earning food through exercise. I was just about to DNF and jettison this thing into the sun, but it got better. It was a little clunky in places, but it wormed its way into my heart despite its flaws.

So Many Beginnings was probably my favorite four-star read of the group. It is such a delightful Little Women retelling/remix. Jo is finally given the ace rep she so rightfully deserves, Amy is not as annoying as she was in the original, Beth is sickly but an accomplished seamstress, and Meg is stolid and yet determined to find love. They’re on Roanoke Island in the middle of the Civil War, and have escaped from slavery to live in the freed colony—the politics and realities of which are handled very nicely (even if there were a lot of modern phrases used). The March family is determined to put down roots, as their mother knows that family is resistance and freedom, all wrapped together. Overall, a cozy yet realistic retelling that brought so much joy to my heart, although I felt like the time jump was both too drawn out and not long enough?

For such a generically historical fiction cover that gives signals of vanilla with a side of vanilla, A Caribbean Heiress in Paris was…surprisingly spicy? Yes, I hate the fact that I used spicy to rate the sex-content of this book, but this is the world we live in and I also hate it here. Anywho, it was enjoyable and fun and all about inheritance and booze and arranged marriages and being Black and a woman and a business owner in a world built for white people and also about the long-stretching legacy of slavery in the British Empire (and beyond!). I’m not a huge fan of instalove, and this was…real instalovey. Aside from that, though, it was good!

I feel like Huda F Are You? pairs very nicely with the Mean Girls: The Musical‘s song “Where Do You Belong?” It’s about realizing that wearing hijab and getting good grades does not, unfortunately, a personality make, and about figuring out who you are when you are actually a pod person pretending to be a human person. I related to this so hard, and I absolutely adore Fahmy’s drawing style. It’s technically YA but also very appropriate for MG readers, too, and is great for folks who don’t really have a “thing” that slots them neatly into a clique (and also for realizing that people are complex and not just one thing).


Our Missing Hearts was relevant and timely, even if it feels on the surface to be a bit over the top. It captures the increasing wave of anti-Asian hatred, the ways the US government has destroyed families by stealing stealing and rehoming, renaming and integrating them into white society. And also this book really nailed the book bans—the “oh no, we don’t burn books here” type of book banning that runs the gamut from outright illegality to the preemptive removal from shelves. But it just felt like it was missing something that I can’t put a finger on.

On the other hand, Flying Angels was absolutely missing something. It was a masterclass in writing minimally, and this felt like a very polished rough draft that needed a whole lot more fleshing out, or at the very least, a reduction of either time-scale or characters with POVs. There is so much crammed into 260 pages that it’s both impressive and not fully realized. This was my first Danielle Steel novel, and while I have long-admired Steel’s professionalism and dedication, I don’t think she’s someone I’m going to read again.

And here I’m going to um, talk about two books that are both beloved on Booktok that I did not love.

I can definitely see why Our Wives Under the Sea is so popular—the melancholy, the beautiful writing, the distance and ache between Miri (who is kind of a nothing character, despite being so deep inside her head) and Leah, the then and now POVs, the beautiful rush of the ocean and the darkness of being trapped underneath—and yet while it continued to build and build and build in the end everything just dissolved and didn’t quite land. Which I understood was the point of it all, but I’m tired of literary fiction where everything is disconnected and everyone is going through some stage of disassociation and no one communicates or says anything. And I’m tired of character driven literary novels where the lead is a blank slate reader self-insert.

Aw man, I wanted to love The Davenports a lot more than I actually did. As a glimpse into the lives of elite Black families in 1908 Chicago, this book is fantastic! Overall, it was enjoyable, but it reminded me of American Royalty in a way that I just can’t put my finger on, and that indescribable feeling dampened my overall enjoyment. While I liked the way that each of the leads (Olivia, Helen, Amy Rose and Ruby) had their own goals and desires (which each bucked against the expectation that they marry a wealthy man for a strategic alliance to their family), there was just something that was missing for me, and it’s something that has been missing in a lot of the YA books I’ve read lately. I think this is more of a me not the book issue.

Other Media

I pounded through a lot of podcasts this month. In addition to continuing with my absolute favorite, You’re Wrong About, and new-favorite Sounds Like a Cult, I started listening to a couple more.

American Hysteria is You’re Wrong About concentrated, and it is fascinated with current American folklore and panics and I love it. If Books Could Kill takes a hard look at incredibly popular pop-science books who’s poor science has driven American culture and decision-making, and if it takes hard shots at Malcolm Gladwell, well, I’m not complaining. This podcast pairs very well with How To Read Now.

I’m also listening to Hugo, Girl! which takes a feminist look at past Hugo award winners. I’ve only listened to a couple of the earliest episodes, and let’s just say that their Ender’s Game one (the first one!) is a BANGER. Two other bookish podcasts I enjoy (that also pairs well with How to Read Now are Breaking the Glass Slipper and Our Opinions Are Correct, although both examine pop/nerd culture in general, not just through bookish media.

In other, other media news, I also was forced to watch the literal worst movie in the history of the world: Asteroid vs Earth. Forget physical torture, watching this movie was mental agony. I kinda want to break down its awfulness in a blog post, but that would require watching it again and I do not have the strength.

What were your favorite reads this month?

2 thoughts on “February 2023 Wrap-Up

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