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[Short Reviews] February Reads – Part 2

Chalk full of mystery/thrillers and emotionally hard-hitting historical fictions, this month’s reading was unquestionably effecting. I’ve read a variety of works from short stories to novellas to even (gasp!) a sports memoir, set from a total of 13 different countries. While I haven’t made a dent into my reading challenge, I’ve certainly made progress on filling my reading map!

To see Part 1 of this month’s reads, click here!

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead: Never in a million years did I think I’d read a sports memoir! Recently divorced and in a rut, Colson Whitehead takes a $10,000 stake and assignment from the online magazine Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker, a daring move for an average home player, but for Colson Whitehead, the making for a hilarious adventure into the Poker underground. (5 Stars)

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis: Raised in a small town in Ohio where sexual abuse is considered the norm, Alex Craft makes it her personal mission to make the guilty pay, provoked by the release of her sister’s murderer three years ago… until Jack Fisher gets in her way. I loved how their relationship was built on friendship, rocky at the start but gradually becoming more vulnerable as Jack’s pure intentions were made clear. But, not all stories come to a happy ending. Some require tissues – this is certainly one of them. (4 Stars)

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen: An affecting collection of short stories with an extra wide-range of perspectives on the Vietnam War, from the Vietnamese refugee in America, struggling to understand a new culture, to an American war vet, trying his best to understand his daughter who identifies as Vietnamese. These are their struggles, their successes, and most importantly, the stories they have to tell. While not factual, Nguyen’s work exposes the thousands upon thousands of lives touched by the war, and the memories they carry. (5 Stars)

Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez: A poignantly written account of the Peruvian conflict during the 1980s as experienced by three very different women, a guerrilla effecting change, a photojournalist exposing the truth, and an indigenous woman raising her family in a world of chaos. Intense and hard-hitting, each of its 120 pages will leave an impression not easily forgotten. (5 Stars)

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The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant: Sometimes you need to read something happy, and for me, that something is always a middle grade novel. After her parents die in a tragic vacuum-cleaner accident, Anastasia is taken in by her long-lost great-aunties, but turns out their “authentic” Victorian mansion is actually an abandoned asylum for the criminally insane… and even worse, her aunties aren’t who they say they are. Part Roald Dahl, part Lemony Snicket, Holly Grant takes you on a whimsical, laugh-out-loud adventure, complete with a magical escape and an egging mystery just begging to be solved. (4 Stars)

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley: Ditto on the tissues. I made the grave mistake of listening to the audiobook at work, and well, there were more than a few tears. Aza suffers from a mysterious lung disease, unable to breathe on most days, it’s as if she’s drowning in a sea of air. One day, after a particularly bad spell, she glimpses a ship in the sky, even hears a distantly familiar voice calling her name… but is it real? Or is it another side effect of her medication? You be the judge… but soon after, something goes terribly wrong, and after the most heartbreaking scene I’ve ever read, Aza is completely lost to our world. Navigating a new world in the clouds known only as Magonia, Aza can breathe for the first time, but after the euphoria fades, she’ll find herself caught in the midst of an unimaginable war, and even worse, a sea of lies. The first book of the series, it’s only the start to an incredible new journey! (4 Stars)

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough:  After meeting a handsome stranger at the bar, Louise gets the shock of a lifetime when she discovers he’s her new boss! Of course, the drama heats up when she not only meets his beautiful wife, Adele, but the two become friends. A love triangle in the purest fashion, Behind Her Eyes plays the long-game, keeping you in chase while saving the biggest punch for last – an OMGOMGOMGOMG ending that you will not stop talking about! (5 Stars)

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: Set in a small rural village in Chechnya during the early 2000s, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted by Russian soldiers and her home burned to the ground. Rescued by their neighbor Akhmed, he takes her to the nearby hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, reluctantly agrees to help. A celebration of the connections we make throughout life, as well as the transcendence of humanity throughout wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was a surprising read that ended in happy tears. (5 Stars)

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: From their creation to their future destruction, Gaiman breaks it down for us in this who’s who of Norse mythology. A huge fan of Neil Gaiman, I had very high expectations for this one, but it read a little too watered down for my tastes in an almost childlike tone. Still, for fans of mythology, it can’t be beat. (3 Stars)

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney: Read directly after Behind Her Eyes, The Girl Before was destined for disappointment. Told by two different perspectives, inter-chronologically, both Emma and Jane have suffered a traumatic loss before moving into a modern, minimalistic home that has no shortage on rules. Long story short, Jane quickly discovers that Emma was killed in the home in which she now lives, but can she uncover the truth before it happens again? Riddled by daddy issues (because a girl can’t be sexual without one) and a tangled web of lies centered around a millionaire egomaniac, the ending was far too predictable, not to mention the author’s abhorrent use/non-use of quotation marks. (3 Stars)

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella: It’s been a few years since I’ve read a Kinsella romance, but even so, I expected more from her long overdue release of My Not So Perfect Life. Katie’s always dreamed of living in London, but as a junior member of a branding firm that’s an hours commute from her shared apartment, her reality includes a brief escapade into the art of dumpster diving. Applying the “fake it ’til you make it”, Katie’s story is all about making the imperfect perfect for you. (3 Stars)

** This month I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy as part of her Quick Lit Series. Be sure to check it out! **

What have you read lately?

 

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11 thoughts on “[Short Reviews] February Reads – Part 2

  1. Oh, my gosh…I’m listening to the audio version of Behind Her Eyes and I am DYING to find out what’s going to happen; I’m about three quarters of the way through! I enjoyed the new Kinsella, but I used it as an in-between book to get a break from more serious fare; I try not to expect too much from these “fun” books. You did a ton a reading in February! Hope March is off to a great start!

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  2. Wow. You REALLY got a ton of reading done in February! I love these short reviews– but it’s definitely putting me to shame. I appreciate the variety in your reads! The Refugees and Norse Mythology are both on my TBR. I really enjoyed reading A Gathering of Magic and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan this month. So many great books, so little time…

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