February 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

February 15, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 35

February 2018 Books to Read

This is technically supposed to be a “Read it, Skip it” post, but my February reading was so good that I didn’t actually finish any books I’d recommend you skip! However, I did include a couple February books I DNF’d to account for the skip it portion.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Read These

And, don’t forget my favorite novel of 2018 so far, An American Marriage, which I already reviewed!

All the Castles Burned by Michael NyeAll the Castles Burned by Michael Nye
Fiction – Debut (Released February 13, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Turner)

Plot Summary: Owen Webb, a scholarship student at the prestigious Rockcastle School (a private day school for boys) embarks on an obsessive, dangerous friendship with Carson Bly, the son of a wealthy and absent father.

My Thoughts: All the Castles Burned was such a pleasant surprise for me (because it had not come recommended by someone who had already read the book…i.e. it was a risk that paid off!). It’s a classic coming of age story with some dysfunctional family drama, some “outsider enters the realm of the wealthy” dynamics, a foreboding friendship, a father/son angle, a touch of romance, and basketball. You can feel the tension simmering and you know things will explode at some point. It’s just a matter of when and how. The writing is stellar, especially for a debut, and I highlighted often. While basketball does play a significant role in the story and there is occasional overkill on the details of the game, basketball’s role in the story is similar to baseball’s in The Art of Fielding. I’d recommend this one for fans of Shadow of the Lions (my review) and Unraveling Oliver.

It’s like a part of being a fully formed human didn’t exist in him. […] Or if it was like carving a Halloween pumpkin, cutting and scraping out the inside, only to take a knife and cut a smiling face into the surface and place a lone candle inside to shine that deceptive, grinning light.

Sunburn by Laura LippmanSunburn by Laura Lippman
Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: February 20, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon
Source: Publisher (William Morrow)

Plot Summary: When Polly and Adam meet at a bar in tiny Belleville, Delaware in the 1990’s each is merely passing through. As they become more enamored with each other, they discover both are keeping secrets.

My Thoughts: For new readers, I’ve had a dicey track record with thrillers lately, but Sunburn is a thriller that I actually liked a lot! But, I was more confident than usual because it was recommended by Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sources) and Megan Abbott, one of my few trusted thriller authors. Sunburn is an unconventional love story where essentially everyone is messing with everyone else. There’s not a single character who is 100% likable or trustworthy (take note if dislikable characters tend to bother you!). The first half focuses on peeling back the layers of the characters (i.e. it’s not super fast-paced) and had me wondering who exactly was pulling the strings. Then, the action picks up in the second half. I’m still mulling over whether I buy the ending in the context of these characters, but all in all Sunburn kept me quickly turning the pages even while sick with the flu!

The goal is never the man. Never. Men are the stones she jumps to, one after another, toward the goal.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamaraI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Nonfiction – True Crime (Release Date: February 27, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Harper)

Plot Summary: McNamara, previously a true crime writer and blogger at TrueCrimeDiary.com, investigated the unsolved crimes of a 1970’s-80’s serial rapist (approximately 45 rapes per the FBI’s Wanted poster) and murderer (approximately 12 murders per the FBI’s Wanted poster) that she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known as the EAR for East Area Rapist).

My Thoughts: The best true crime books put themselves on another tier by telling the story in a compelling, engrossing way and avoiding getting bogged down in overly dry details. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark does just that. It’s up there with The Stranger Beside Me (but not quite approaching In Cold Blood) in the true crime genre for me. The story is just as much about McNamara and her investigation as it is about the Golden State Killer, who came to dominate her life before she died unexpectedly while writing this book. Many sections are pieced together from her notes and interview recordings, but it doesn’t destroy the flow of the book at all. In fact, it adds more poignancy to the story. The story of the Golden State Killer is chilling and I found I couldn’t read this book at night…but isn’t that what you want out of true crime?

He attacked in different jurisdictions across California that didn’t always share information or communicate well with each other. By the time DNA testing revealed that crimes previously thought to be unrelated were the work of one man, more than a decade had passed since his last known murder, and his capture wasn’t a priority. He flew under the radar, at large and unidentified.

Skip These

I didn’t finish a single February book I didn’t like (that’s the goal, so yay!), so I’m going to share my DNF’s (aka did not finish) and a few thoughts about each one here.

Great Alone, Glass Forest

The Great Alone
 by Kristin Hannah (February 6, 2018)

I know I’m probably in the minority on this one, but I DNF’d it at 37%. I enjoyed the Alaska setting, but I got kind of bored. And, I was incredibly frustrated with Cora’s decision-making…I couldn’t stomach reading any more of it.

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson (February 6, 2018)
At the 14% mark, this dysfunctional family novel was fine (but no more than that). But, I just kept thinking about other books I was excited to read. I’ll pick it up again if any of my Go-To Recommendation Sources say it’s awesome.

What have been your favorite February 2018 books?

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35 Responses to “February 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)”

    • Sarah Dickinson

      You know, she hasn’t been a huge winner for me either, but I keep thinking I will like her b/c everyone else does. I liked The Nightingale well enough, but it didn’t blow me away like it did others.

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    I like how you’re grouping reviews for the month because it gives a lot of information in one shot. I may try doing that at some point.

    You’ve definitely convinced me to read Sunburn. I tend to like books with unreliable characters, so it sounds great. Hopefully, I can get to it before too long. I’ve been waiting on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark because I want to listen to it and am even more eager for its release after reading your review.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Thank you – just trying something new b/c I’m sick of writing long reviews and have so many other types of posts I want to try! But, they’re not getting the pageviews I thought they would…at least yet.

      Oh yes – then you’ll like Sunburn. There’s not a reliable one in there.

  2. Tara

    YAY! I’m so excited to hear that both All the Castles and Sunburn worked for you; I’ve been waiting to hear your thoughts, so now I’ll add them to my list! What a great reading month, so far!

  3. Elena

    I wasn’t really impressed with The Nightingale so I haven’t been itching to read another Hannah book even though this one has been everywhere on the world wide web.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I felt the same…liked it fine, but it didn’t blow me away. I keep thinking I’ll love her since everyone else does, but it doesn’t pan out that way. And – yes – this one has gotten tons of hype…and some people I usually agree with have loved it 🙂

  4. Kim@Time2Read

    I’ve heard a lot of less than stellar things about Kristin Hannah’s latest. I’ll probably still read it though—or at least start it. I’ve read several by her and enjoyed them; some more than others.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve heard mixed things…some have loved it…others not. I’d give it a shot since you’ve liked her in the past..you may be in the love camp!

  5. Catherine

    Our thinness is alive and thriving with The Great Alone. I DNFed at 90%- which is insane but I was so sick of the it I didn’t care what happened. And then, last night, I thought I really should finish it and OMG- it was so overwrought and unbelievable. I’m furious. Just yuck.

    My favorite book is also my first 5 star: Song of a Captive Bird. Gorgeous writing about the first female poet to be published in Iran and her life. Stunning.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Haha!! I’ll take thinness too!

      I’m glad you went back and finished it. Would rather count it since you got to 90%, right?!

      And thrilled you found a 5 star read! Doesn’t sound like anything I can handle right now, but glad you loved it!

  6. Kate @ Parchment Girl

    I’m sorry to hear The Glass Castle was a DNF. That’s the next novel on my TBR stack. I think I still have to give it a go…hopefully I’ll like it better than you did! I can’t wait to read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I need to request a copy today…

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Susie at Novel Visits liked it, so maybe you will too 🙂 And I didn’t think it was awful, just wasn’t looking for another okay book at the time.

  7. Shea

    I am so intrigued by All the Castles Burned, and it’s one I haven’t yet heard about. I will have to add it to my list. I’ve read so many mixed reviews of the Kristin Hannah book lately that it’s making me want to read it just to figure out where I fall in the spectrum. I loved The Nightingale by her but felt totally meh about Magic Hour, and those are the only two I’ve read of hers.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I liked Nightingale fine, but not commensurate with all the hype. This book is definitely different than Nightingale. Much slower paced at the beginning. Try it and see where you fall!

  8. renee

    We’re on the same page about Sunburn overall and I also DNFed The Glass Forest for the most part although I did a quick skim to the end to find out about 1 character. I’m halfway through I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and it’s made my heart race on several occasions! It’s absolutely creepy and scary and I may never leave my windows open again in the summer! Such a well written book. Love the combined post you’ve done here, I’m still trying to whittle my review length down

    • Sarah Dickinson

      So creepy and scary, right?! Not a good one to read when my husband was traveling! But the writing was super engaging I thought and one of my tops in true crime.

      And – thank you – just playing around with review stuff these days!

  9. Madeline

    I have The Great Alone and have to start it soon or the library will want it back. I liked “The Nightingale” but didn’t love it (I read it about the same time as “All the Light We Cannot See” which I liked a lot so perhaps it got a bad comparison).

    I will be checking out All the Castles Burned and a couple of others that were new to me.

    Thank you!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I was right there with you on Nightingale! Will be interested to hear your thoughts on Great Alone..people seem to be love/hate on this one.

  10. Michelle

    Whew. You are making me happy I decided to skip the latest Kristin Hannah novel. There was something about the synopsis which did not appeal to me, but I was finding myself wavering as more and more people started raving about it. Now that you weighed in, I can remain strong and focus on everything else!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Ha! I felt the same – premised sounded blah, but people were raving, so I gave into the pressure. Stay strong!

  11. Madeline

    OK, I just finished The Great Alone and am sitting in a puddle of tears. It was frustrating but brilliant. The characters weren’t on the page, they rose up and spoke into my ear. Their struggle for survival, in so many different ways, was amazing and humbling. Only my second 5* of the 30 read this year.

    I have to go sit in the dark for a little while. Yes, perhaps the end was tied up in a bow, but whoa, that was some double knot.

  12. Amanda

    I think I’m the only person that still hasn’t read the Nightingale so I know I’ll skip her new book.

    I love that you’re not finishing the books you don’t like! I need this determination. Will definitely add Sunburn and All the Castles Burned to my TBR

  13. Holly Bond

    I really enjoyed The Flight Attendant! I haven’t read any of these others. The Great Alone just didn’t appeal to me for some reason (I loved The Nightingale). I do plan to read Sunburn at some point and the true crime novel looks fascinating! Great post!

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