February 2020 Reads

I was in kind of a reading slump in January, but some travel combined with weekend downtime combined with my students’ book clubs coming to an end made it possible for me to finish ten books this month! Check out what I read in this post. Be sure to leave a comment at the bottom with your thoughts on these books or any recommendations for future reads!

Stats

Number of books read: 10 📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘

Print books: 8 📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚

Audiobooks: 2 🎧🎧

Kindle books: 0

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars books: 1

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 star books: 5

⭐⭐⭐ 3 star books: 4

⭐⭐ 2 star books: 0

1 star books: 0

😍 Favorite book: No Exit

☹️ Least favorite book: The Boxcar Children

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

the forgotten girls by sara blaedel book cover honeybeejoyous

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐💫

Read from January 26, 2020 – February 2, 2020.

Louise Rick is acclimating to a new job in a new department and she has high hopes of being able to crack missing persons cases that have been unsolved for too long. Her first case is a doozy. When a woman turns up recently dead in the woods, Louise does some sleuthing and uncovers her identity — and her death certificate from thirty years ago. The plot thickens when Louise uncovers this dead woman had a twin (who was also issued a death certificate thirty years ago) who may still be out there. As Louise works to uncover what happened at the Eliselund mental institution so long ago, she’s forced to confront her own painful past.

I picked up The Forgotten Girls on a whim after reading the back cover synopsis. It didn’t quite live up to the hype I created in my head from the compelling back cover, but it was a good story. Since I went in totally blind, I was kind of expecting a thriller more in the vein of what I usually read, but I did not realize that I was getting a Scandinavian crime novel largely revolving around the personal narrative of the detective. Because there was so much focus on Louise, the mystery itself didn’t quite get the attention I was hoping for, but the book was very well written and got me invested in the character of Louise Rick. I’d definitely think about picking up another Sara Blaedel novel, but this time I’d go in knowing more about what to expect.

Content warning for rape throughout this book. Both mentions and fairly graphic descriptions.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

the bone garden by tess gerritsen book cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from January 27, 2020 – February 6, 2020.

Julia Hamill is digging in the garden in her Massachusetts home and finds human remains that date back to the 1830s. This leads her to a friendship with a grumpy old neighbor and into a story of the past. In Boston in 1830, medical student Norris Marshall is accused of brutal murders he did not commit and enlists the help of poor seamstress Rose Connolly to prove his innocence and find the truth.

Historical fiction isn’t my first favorite genre, but I picked up The Bone Garden because it sounded like a thriller told through multiple timelines (which, if you know anything about my reading habits, you know I’m a sucker for). However, while the present-day part of the synopsis was what drew me in, I actually found those parts largely unnecessary and even distracting from the main plot. I’m not entirely sure why they were included at all and I think this novel would have been stronger is Tess Gerritsen had allowed it to stand solely as a historical fiction novel. That said, I still enjoyed the story, especially because of the characters. I was very invested in both Rose and Norris and I cared about their fates and wanted them to find the truth together the whole time.

Content warning for graphic descriptions of old timey medical procedures including bleeding, autopsy, amputation, and more.

**Read as an audiobook**

Find this review on Goodreads here.

No Exit by Taylor Adams

no exit by taylor adams book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read on February 8, 2020.

Darby is driving home from college to visit her dying mother when a blizzard causes her to pull over at a rest stop to wait out the storm. There are four other travelers stopped at the same rest stop and they settle in for the long haul. What could have been a cozy get together where strangers become best friends drastically changes tones when Darby catches a glimpse of a child locked in a crate in the back of one of the other traveler’s van. Now she knows she’s snowed in with a kidnapper, but has no idea which of her fellow travelers might be the criminal. As the story progresses and Darby tries to get to the bottom of the mystery to save the child, she learns that everyone has more secrets than she’d ever guess.

I packed this book when I went on vacation and I read the whole thing on my short flight to Florida. No Exit kept me turning the pages and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. The story was action-packed and full of twists, some of which were satisfyingly predictable and others which I didn’t see coming in a million years. I loved rooting for Darby and I genuinely never knew how the story would end, right up until the last page. If you like action-packed, white knuckle thrillers, I think you’ll like this one. I especially recommend it if you liked Final Girls by Riley Sager.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

the stars beneath our feet by david barclay moore book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from February 7, 2020 – February 12, 2020.

Twelve year old Lolly Rachpaul is angry and he’s sad. His older brother was killed in a gang-related shooting a few months ago, his dad doesn’t come around as much as he wishes he did, and he’s feeling pressure to join a “crew” like his brother was in. He finds his only solace when he breaks out his legos and focuses on building and creating. Lolly is faced with a choice, a fork in the road of his life — he can either follow the path of the older brother he loved and admired, or he can build a new path for himself that will take him in another direction. The Stars Beneath Our Feet is the story of Lolly’s journey as an adolescent boy in Harlem grappling with the weight of the world on his shoulders and the power of finding community and using creativity.

I really enjoyed listening to this story. It was obviously incredibly different from the details of my life, but I think anyone can relate to the themes of community and creativity, as well as the feeling of feeling lost in the world as a middle schooler. David Barclay Moore did an incredible job putting the reader into Lolly’s world, helping the reader feel Lolly’s emotions, and see from his perspective. This was a poignant, powerful novel about choice and taking charge of your own life. It’s a little too old for my students just now, but I definitely think some of them will love it in a year or two.

**Read as an audiobook**

Find this review on Goodreads here.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

the holdout by graham moore book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from February 10 – February 13, 2020.

10 years ago, Maya Seale was the lone holdout on a jury otherwise convinced of a guilty verdict. In hard-fought deliberation, her convincing arguments caused the jurors to unanimously acquit the man accused of murdering his fifteen year old student. Now, Maya finds herself in a hotel room at the jury’s reunion (put together by a crime podcast) with the dead body of one of her fellow jurors at her feet. She knows she didn’t do it, but all the evidence points to her. Will she once again be able to sway everyone to her side? Or will she be at the mercy of 12 jurors just like herself?

I really enjoyed this book. Once again, the story told through interwoven timelines sucked me right in. This was such a unique concept of a story and caused me to ask questions I had never thought about before — what does happen to jurors on infamous cases? How do they go on with their lives? Do they ever regret their verdicts? The jury and its verdict played a major role in Maya’s life, even 10 years later. This was a great book and I highly recommend it, especially if you ever read and enjoyed The Westing Game. The plot isn’t really similar, but they gave me a similar vibe.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

Salsa Stories by Lulu Delacre

salsa stories by lulu delacre book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from January 6, 2020 – February 14, 2020.

I read this book with one of my book clubs in my fourth grade classroom. A girl named Carmen Teresa is given the gift of a blank book for the new year. She decides to fill it with the stories of all her family and friends gathered to celebrate the holiday. This collection of short stories tells about food, community, and kindness.

I really liked this book and my students have been enjoying it too. I think many of them see themselves reflected in these stories and most of them have never read a short story collection before.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

the gifted school by bruce holsinger book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from February 2, 2020 – February 18, 2020.

In the wealthy Colorado town of Crystal, a new public magnet school for “exceptional learners” and “profoundly gifted students” is announced. It’s the talk of the town and, of course, every parent thinks their child is destined to be admitted to the school. Parents will stoop to any height for their child and The Gifted School chronicles the story of five families and the lengths they will go to in order to get their children ahead.

I had seen Bruce Holsinger’s novel compared to Big Little Lies (which I absolutely adored) and I definitely see the comparison. Both novels show the darker underbelly of posh suburban school communities and both are told from multiple perspectives. However, Big Little Lies tends toward the darker side, while The Gifted School remains in safer territory. What kept The Gifted School from being a favorite of mine is largely the characterization. While I felt invested in all the stories and connected with several of the characters, I had difficulty buying some of them, especially the children. Children are hard to write and I think Holsinger just missed the mark a tad on some of the dialogue and inner monologues of the kids. In addition, the ending gets a bit moralistic and preachy about the themes. I think it would have been much stronger had the author allowed the reader to come to their own conclusions about the novel’s themes. However, I think the story is well told and it kept my interest easily, despite its length. I would definitely recommend this book if the synopsis intrigues you.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

Bicycle Mystery (The Boxcar Children #15) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

the boxcar children bicycle mystery by gertrude chandler warner book cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from January 10, 2020 – February 25, 2020.

The Aldens decide to go on a trip to visit a relative by bicycle. Along the way they meet a dog. There’s no sign of who he belongs to or where he came from, but he’s good company along the way. They work together (and with all the friendly people they meet on their trip) to solve the mystery of where he came from and get him back to his owners.

I read this one with one of the book clubs in my fourth grade classroom. This was my lowest group and I think they really enjoyed this book. I picked a boxcar children mystery because there are SO MANY of them that I figured if they like this one, it opens the door to tons more books for them. It was a simple but nice story. A bit outdated of course, but overall it was enjoyable for me and the kids.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

The Lighthouse Mystery (The Boxcar Children #8) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

the boxcar children the lighthouse mystery by gertrude chandler warner book cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from January 10, 2020 – February 25, 2020.

The Aldens spend a summer living in a lighthouse where they meet all kinds of people, including a boy who always seems angry. They work together to solve the mystery of this boy and try to befriend him.

I read this book with one of the book clubs in my fourth grade class. The kids really enjoyed it and I think I managed to get them hooked on mysteries, which is exciting! This story was definitely outdated, but we enjoyed reading it anyway.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

Pie by Sarah Weeks

pie by sarah weeks book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from January 10, 2020 – February 25, 2020.

Aunt Polly makes the best pies in the country and everyone is clamoring for her top secret pie crust recipe. When she passes away, she causes quite the stir by leaving her recipe to her fat white cat Lardo and by leaving Lardo to her niece Alice. The story that ensues is full of way more twists and turns than you’d expect and is a heartwarming story about friendship, family, love, being true to yourself, and eating pie.

I read this book with one of the book clubs in my fourth grade class, but I think this is honestly a great read for anyone. I was seriously surprised and delighted by a number of the plot twists.

Find this review on Goodreads here.

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