I am happy to report, April was a much better month again in the book department. Quite a few of the books I read landed four rose ratings. Which, thank goodness. If the year continued on like March’s month of disappointments, I may have hit an early reading slump this year.
In other fun book related developments, I created my first Story Highlights on my instagram. Featuring a fun template every month to showcase my top and worst picks. Hopefully that feature will lure more fellow book lovers to my blog. No matter what, I’m proud of that accomplishment because it took FOR-EV-ER. (Yes, I said that in Smalls from The Sandlot voice. I do every time.)
April’s Top Pick: Beat the Reaper – Josh Bazell
April’s Dud: Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler
Landline – Rainbow Rowell (3 Roses)
I am surprised to say there is actually a Rainbow Rowell book I didn’t absolutely adore. The entire premise of Landline with a magical phone was kind of hard for me to get behind. My biggest gripe was none of the characters seemed super fleshed out and the little we do know about Neal is that he’s Grumpy McGrumperson. Yet, Georgie can’t let him go. Can anybody tell me why since every description of him was actually kind of negative?
Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin (4 Roses)
Do not read Giovanni’s Room if you don’t want to be completely devastated. It was written in 1956, but it still hits home. Dealing with themes of shame, passion, and hiding one’s true self. I have always heard that James Baldwin liked to write great American tragedies. Between David and Giovanni, all the elements are there. You feel every single emotion, rather than being an impassioned viewer. This book is on many critic’s top lists and I can now understand why. It’s a heart wrenching but beautiful LGBTQ story.
Beat the Reaper – Josh Bazell (4 Roses)
Let’s start with a disclaimer: this book is not for everyone. Beat the Reaper is full of dark humor and more than a little violence. Which should be expected with a plot line featuring a former mafia hitman, who is now a doctor in the witness protection program. Normally, that’s not something I stomach very well, but Bazell writes it in a way that is easy to read. When I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was incredibly fast paced and engrossing. The intercut story between present day and flashbacks, brings an edge of suspense to the story. I laughed out loud multiple times because of the sardonic and sharp-tongued dialogue. (PS – I read this because it’s going to be a movie starring Sebastian Stan. Go figure.)
You know when a book is literally everywhere on must-read lists and you simply can’t connect? It’s a major disappointment to put it mildly. I wanted to like The Merry Spinster so bad based on it’s premise: classic fairy tales with a dark and feminist spin. When finished, I didn’t have much to rave about. Ortberg has lots of fans, but I felt the writing was very lacking. If I’m being honest, the stories felt like bad retellings of stories we already know. A lot of the endings felt abrupt and left me scratching my head. However, the one thing I was a fan of was the vagueness and interchangeableness of gender and gender roles.
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (4.5 Roses)
How did it take me this many years of my life to pick up Fahrenheit 451? Bradbury’s tale of censorship, the cyclical nature of humans, and using entertainment to numb ourselves is dystopian literature at it’s finest. I now can say with certainty this deserves every bit of praise as a classic. I’ve been finished with this book for weeks and I am still hit with how powerful the metaphors, symbolism, and allegory are. Reading this novel in our current climate made it hit home even more. If you haven’t seen the trailer for the movie starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon on HBO go do yourself a favor and watch it now.
Something Like Happy – Eva Woods (3.5 Roses)
Grab your tissues if you plan to pick up this book, it had me all-out sobbing at multiple points. Focusing on the 100 Happy Days project that went viral a few years ago, we meet Polly and Annie. Two women who are living very different lives. Through loss, grief, and ultimately friendship – Something Like Happy reminds us all that the good and the bad go hand in hand. I found this book 10x more inspirational and motivating than any actual self-help book I’ve picked up. The only reason this book didn’t receive 4 roses, was the “manic pixie dream girl” is central to the narrative and I’ve become more aware of that trope in recent years.
Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler (2 Roses)
The cover that was millennial pink before that was a trend. Every bookstore prominently displayed Sweetbitter for years. When Starz announced they were turning the book into a tv series, I finally got around to it. I don’t think I’ll be watching the show though now. Sweetbitter nails the camaraderie of working in a restaurant – how coworkers become a screwed up family of sorts. Danler proves her love of food and wine in the lush, descriptive passages. That’s where my positive feelings end. If I had to describe Sweetbitter in one word, it would be superficial. Everything about the book felt flat and above the surface. There’s not much plot to speak of and all of the characters are lacking in any kind of substance. I read through almost 400 pages and don’t think I could tell you anything of importance about her.
Emergency Contact – Mary H.K. Choi (3.5 Roses)
This is very clearly a young adult novel and at times because of that the usual melodrama struck and left me removed. If you can get past that, which you should come to expect in a YA book anyways, you’ll enjoy it. Emergency Contact is a cute feel-good romance. I really liked all the characters and their awkwardness, even the secondary ones which were slightly more caricature like, but still enjoyable. At the end of the day, the message of finding your person – the one who enjoys and remembers your quirks and faults (their “folder” on you as the book calls it) and loves you more for those reasons is something I am sappy and love.
Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes (4 Roses)
Will other people enjoy Year of Yes as much as I did? I am not sure. I do know that many of the things Rhimes talks about are exactly what I needed to hear at this point in my life. Rhimes is one of the most successful women of the last decade and in her quasi-mixture of self-experiment and memoir, she discusses many of the things women grapple with on a daily basis. Hearing that it’s okay not to do it all and that you don’t have to follow the same plan as everyone else from someone so powerful made it all feel okay. At times, it does feel rambly and self-indulgent. I probably wouldn’t have rated this as high if I hadn’t read it in the right moment, I’m thankful I picked it up.
You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero (2 Roses)
I officially give up with self-help books. I’ve always side eyed them and my recent foray into a few reminded me why. Everybody hailed You Are A Badass as different and worthy. The advantage is the “cool” wrapping with use of bad language. In the end, it’s the same drivel. In fact, it contains all the same non-original advice that the genre makes it’s money off of. I was fuming more times than I can count. The chapter on money almost had me throwing the book across the room. Sincero buys an expensive car that is well out of her budget, knowing it’s an unreasonable choice, but explains that it fits into her vision of the life she wants to live. The whole chapter tells readers to pretend they are already actually living that life and it will happen. What kind of reckless advice is that?
Have you ever read a book and the time period you read it during had more of an impact on your opinion of that book?
P.S. – If you couldn’t tell, I’m also a huge movie fan. Recently I shared 13 comedies from the 2000s I think are way underrated.
Until next time,