February TBR!

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I’m going into February hoping to maintain the same reading momentum I had in January. It was hard to put together a stack of options this month since I had a lot of January releases I still wanted to pick up. I ended up going with a mixture of ARCs, older books, true crimes, and buddy reads this month. I’ve even got a little bit of romance in there!

I didn’t put the chunk that is DUNE in this stack, but know I am continuing to read it through this month and I’m down to a little less than a quarter left! I’ve also managed to already check THE BAIT, ALL HER LITTLE SECRETS, and FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCK ‘EM DEAD off my TBR! Next on my list is to tackle the first novella in DIFFERENT SEASONS, read a few stories from A DEADLY AFFAIR, and debate between MANHUNT and THE PERFECT RUIN for my next main read.

I certainly don’t think I’ll get to everything in this stack, but I’m looking forward to choosing new books to fall in love with from it!

What are you most excited to read this month?


DUNE (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert: Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for….

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THE BAIT by C.W. Gortner & M.J. Rose: A year after THE STEAL, Ania Throne is determined to take back what the Leopard stole from her. Together with her lover and partner, Jerome, she stages a spectacular heist during the Venetian Carnival, to lure out the treacherous mastermind they unmasked. She’s willing to risk it all—until her revenge takes a dangerous twist that could cost her what she loves the most.

Jerome Curtis has given up everything for Ania. She needs his help and he’s fallen head over heels for the world’s most eligible jewelry designer. But when their daring scheme to catch the thief who escaped turns on them, he’s targeted for a crime he never wanted to commit—and he has to find a way out fast.

From a glamorous costume gala to the winter canals of Venice, Ania and Jerome must confront the choices they’ve made and bait a new trap to catch the Leopard, before the Leopard springs his trap on them. This time, the stakes are personal, but with more than diamonds on the line, can they escape the bait or will it separate them forever?

This book is available to buy from: Amazon


ALL HER LITTLE SECRETS by Wanda M. Morris: Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all: an Ivy League law degree, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney in midtown Atlanta, great friends, and a “for fun” relationship with a rich, charming executive—her white boss, Michael.

But everything changes one cold January morning when Ellice goes to meet Michael… and finds him dead with a gunshot to his head.

And then she walks away like nothing has happened. Why? Ellice has been keeping a cache of dark secrets, including a small-town past and a kid brother who’s spent time on the other side of the law. She can’t be thrust into the spotlight—again.

But instead of grieving this tragedy, people are gossiping, the police are getting suspicious, and Ellice, the company’s lone black attorney, is promoted to replace Michael. While the opportunity is a dream-come-true, Ellice just can’t shake the feeling that something is off.

When she uncovers shady dealings inside the company, Ellice is trapped in an impossible ethical and moral dilemma. Suddenly, Ellice’s past and present lives collide as she launches into a pulse-pounding race to protect the brother she tried to save years ago and stop a conspiracy far more sinister than she could have ever imagined…

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD (Finlay Donovan #2) by Elle Cosimano: Finlay Donovan is―once again―struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


DIFFERENT SEASONS by Stephen King: This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method.”

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


A DEADLY AFFAIR by Agatha Christie: Love can propel us to our greatest heights . . . and darkest depths. In this new collection of Agatha Christie short stories, witness the dark side of love—crimes of passion, games of the heart, and deadly affairs. This pulse-pounding compendium features beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, master of charades Parker Pyne, the enigmatic Harley Quin, and the adventurous Tommy and Tuppence, all on the ready to solve a tantalizing mystery.

In “The Face of Helen,” a night at the Royal Opera could reach a deadly crescendo for a woman caught in a dicey love triangle; “Finessing the King” delivers a curious ad in the personals that could mask sinister intentions; who’s in danger of getting stung in “Wasp’s Nest” depends on rounding up suspects and solving a murder—before it even happens; and more tales that make for essential reading that Christie fans old and new will simply love to death.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


MANHUNT by Gretchen Felker-Martin: Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics―all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.

Manhunt is a timely, powerful response to every gender-based apocalypse story that failed to consider the existence of transgender and non-binary people, from a powerful new voice in horror.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


THE PERFECT RUIN by Shanora Williams: A brutal tragedy ended Ivy Hill’s happy family and childhood. Now in her twenties and severely troubled, she barely has a life—or much to live for. Until the day she discovers the name of the woman who destroyed her world: Lola Maxwell—the mega-wealthy socialite with a heart, Miami’s beloved “first lady” of charity. Accomplished, gorgeous, and oh-so-caring, Lola has the best of everything—and doesn’t deserve any of it. So it’s only right that Ivy take it all away . . .

Little by little, Ivy infiltrates Lola’s elite circle, becomes her new best friend—and plays Lola’s envious acquaintances and hangers-on against her. But seducing Lola’s handsome, devoted surgeon husband turns into a passionate dream Ivy suddenly can’t control. And soon, an insidious someone will twist Ivy’s revenge into a nightmare of deception, secrets, and betrayal that Ivy may not wake up from . . .

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


THE DOOMSDAY MOTHER by John Glatt: At first, the residents of Kauai Beach Resort took little notice of their new neighbors. The glamorous blonde and her tall husband fit the image of the ritzy gated community. The couple seemed to keep to themselves—until the police knocked on their door with a search warrant. Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had fled to Hawaii in the midst of being investigated for the disappearance of Lori’s children back in Idaho—Tylee and JJ—who hadn’t been seen alive in five months.

For years, Lori Vallow had been devoted to her children and her Mormon faith. But when her path crossed with Chad Daybell, a religious zealot who taught his followers how to prepare for the end-times, the tumultuous relationship transformed her into someone unrecognizable. As authorities searched for Lori’s children, they uncovered more suspicious deaths with links to both Lori and Chad, including the death of Lori’s third and fourth husbands, her brother, and Chad’s wife. In June 2020, the gruesome remains of JJ and Tylee were discovered on Chad’s property, and the newlyweds were arrested and charged with murder. And in a shocking development, horrifying statements revealed that the couple’s fanatical beliefs had convinced them the children had become zombies–a belief that may have led to their deaths.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


BROKEN HEARTS (Fear Street Chiller #4) by R.L. Stine: There’s someone out there, someone who kills on Valentine’s Day. Josie and Melissa are scared—especially when they receive threatening valentines. Then the murders begin. Who is sending these horrible valentines to the girls of Shadyside High? And who will be the next to die?

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


COME WITH ME by Ronald Malfi: Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence–and her ghost–Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.

Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


ALL THE RIGHT REASONS by Bethany Mangle: Cara Hawn’s life fell apart after her father cheated on her mother and got remarried to a woman Cara can’t stand. When Cara accidentally posts a rant about her father online, it goes viral—and catches the attention of the TV producers behind a new reality dating show for single parent families.

The next thing Cara and her mother know, they’ve been cast as leads on the show and are whisked away to sunny Key West where they’re asked to narrow a field of suitors and their kids down to one winning pair. All of this is outside of Cara’s comfort zone, from the meddling producers to the camera-hungry contestants, especially as Cara and her mother begin to clash on which suitors are worth keeping around. And then comes Connor.

As the son of a contestant, Connor is decidedly off-limits. Except that he doesn’t fit in with the cutthroat atmosphere in all the same ways as Cara, and she can’t get him out of her head. Now Cara must juggle her growing feelings while dodging the cameras and helping her mom pick a bachelor they both love, or else risk fracturing their family even more for the sake of ratings. Maybe there’s a reason most people don’t date on TV.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


THE CHRYSALIS by Brendan Deneen: Welcome to the dark side of suburbia.

Barely employed millennials Tom and Jenny Decker have to grow up fast when they lose their cheap Manhattan apartment. Leaving “the city” is hard, but the blow is softened when they stumble upon a surprisingly affordable house in the suburbs.

For Tom, the bills, the mortgage, and Jenny’s unexpected pregnancy add up to terror. He’s not ready for this kind of responsibility.

Then he finds the thing in the basement. It makes him feel like a winner even as it scrambles his senses. A new job soon has him raking in the big bucks–enough that Jenny can start making her entrepreneurial dreams come true.

The Deckers’ dream home conceals more than one deadly secret. As Tom’s obsession with the basement grows, Jenny realizes that to save her family, she must expose everything. Before it destroys them all.

No one ever really wants to grow up…but sometimes behaving like an adult is the only way to survive.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


THEY ALL FALL DOWN by Rachel Howzell Hall: Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico, with six strangers—an ex-cop, a chef, a financial advisor, a nurse, a lawyer, a young widow.

Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses—and all seven strangers harbor a secret.

Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents keep them suspicious of each other, as one by one . . .

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


DON’T CALL IT A CULT by Sarah Berman: They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. The more secretive those connections are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult.

Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labor. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a global organization run by Keith Raniere and his high-profile enablers (Seagram heir Clare Bronfman; Smallville actor Allison Mack; Battlestar Galactica actor Nicki Clyne). Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman unravels how young women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities found themselves blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. With the help of the Bronfman fortune, Raniere built a wall of silence around these abuses, leveraging the legal system to go after enemies and whistleblowers.

Don’t Call It a Cult shows that these abuses looked very different from the inside, where young women initially received mentorship and protection. Don’t Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM’s rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world. It explores why so many were drawn to its message of empowerment yet could not recognize its manipulative and harmful leader for what he was—a criminal.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


AS THE WICKED WATCH (Jordan Manning #1) by Tamron Hall: When crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas to take a job at a television station in Chicago, she’s one step closer to her a dream: a coveted anchor chair on a national network.

Jordan is smart and aggressive, with unabashed star-power, and often the only woman of color in the newsroom. Her signature? Arriving first on the scene—in impractical designer stilettos. Armed with a master’s degree in forensic science and impeccable instincts, Jordan has thus far been able to balance her dueling motivations: breaking every big story—and giving voice to the voiceless.

From her time reporting in Texas, she’s sure she has covered the vilest of human behaviors, but nothing has prepared her for Chicago. You see, Jordan is that rare breed of journalist who can navigate a crime scene as well as she can a newsroom—often noticing what others tend to miss. Again and again, she is called to cover the murders of black females, many of them sexually assaulted, most brutalized, and all of them quickly forgotten.

All until Masey James—the story that Jordan just can’t shake, try as she might. A fifteen-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot, Masey has come to represent for Jordan all of the frustration that her job—with its required distance—often forces her to repress. Putting the rest of her workload and her (fraying) personal life aside, Jordan does everything she can to give the story the coverage it desperately requires, and that a missing black child would so rarely get. Three young boys are eventually charged with Masey’s murder, but Jordan remains unconvinced.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, Jordan believes, and he’s hiding in plain sight.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


THE VIOLENCE by Delilah S. Dawson: Chelsea Martin appears to be the perfect housewife: married to her high school sweetheart, the mother of two daughters, keeper of an immaculate home.

But Chelsea’s husband has turned their house into a prison; he has been abusing her for years, cutting off her independence, autonomy, and support. She has nowhere to turn, not even to her narcissistic mother, Patricia, who is more concerned with maintaining the appearance of an ideal family than she is with her daughter’s actual well-being. And Chelsea is worried that her daughters will be trapped just as she is–then a mysterious illness sweeps the nation.

Known as The Violence, this illness causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bouts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. But for Chelsea, the chaos and confusion the virus causes is an opportunity–and inspires a plan to liberate herself from her abuser.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository


Disclosure: A huge thank you to Tor Nightfire, William Morrow, Inkyard Press, Minotaur Books, St. Martin’s Press, Del Rey, and Bethany Mangle for sending me free copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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