April Reading Wrap-Up

(All links on book titles will take you directly to the Goodreads page for that title. I love keeping track of what I’ve read on Goodreads, but if you want a full synopsis (without spoilers) you can also find that there. If you chose to purchase selected book, Goodreads will have an Amazon link available, but I would also encourage you to search instead for the book from your favorite local, indie, thrifted bookseller option if that is something you want to do!)

It’s been a quiet month. We celebrated Easter at home, something I’m fairly certain I’ve never done in my entire 26 years. We always, always, always spent Easter lunch at one grandmother’s house and usually spent Easter dinner at the other grandmother’s house. Instead, this year we spent the day at home. Can I confess something? It was kind of nice. I cooked a whole ham, made noodles from scratch, mashed potatoes, hot rolls. The whole shebang. We watched church on the television and worshipped on our couches, and it was nice. My son is finally old enough to put things into baskets and take them back out, so we did a small Easter egg hunt in the front yard.

Of course, like the rest of the world, I miss my family and friends, but it’s a little comforting that I can spend this (indeterminable) period of time at home with my family doing the domestic things we consider important and not feel guilty for failing to extend myself outside of the home. That’s exhausting for me, and while this time can be emotional and exhausting in other ways, this feels like a welcome reset.

Now, let’s discuss what you’re all here for: books!

Once again, I completed 8 books this month– it’s not the worst ever. I was also able to work in an audiobook, so I’m happy about that. Trying to be more intentional about audiobooks going into May, so we’ll see if I’m able to do that again in the coming month.

Data Breakdown

By Genre:

  • Nonfiction: 2
  • Fiction: 6
  • Audiobook: 1

By Star Review:

  • ✪✪✪✪✪ : 1
  • ✪✪✪✪: 4
  • ✪✪✪: 2
  • ✪: 1

April Superlatives

Favorite Read: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Most Likely to Recommend: Evvie Drake Starts Over

Most Quotable: L’art de la Simplicite

Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen

Most Fun:  I Owe You One

Late to the Party: Alex and Eliza (I guess?)

Favorite Instagram Post:

The Books

  1. I Owe You One, Sophie Kinsella
  2. Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell
  3. The Room on Rue Amelie, Kristin Harmel
  4. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson
  5. Alex and Eliza, Melissa de la Cruz
  6. L’art de la Simplicite, Dominique Loreau
  7. The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen, Lisa Gungor
  8. Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes

I Owe You One, Sophie Kinsella

“Family bloody first. I’m not saying Dad was wrong, I’ll never say that, but maybe I’m starting to see ‘family’ differently. It’s not just the people you share genes with; it’s the people you share loyalty and friendship and respect with. It’s the people you love.”

I Owe You One, Sophie Kinsella

Considering my devotion to anything Jenny Colgan writes (as well as how much I enjoyed One Day in December when I read it in March), I thought maybe I would delve into the genre of contemporary romance a little more deeply this month. I read Confessions of a Shopaholic a few years ago and really liked it (I remember wanting to watch the movie really badly after finishing but not wanting to rent it, for whatever reason). This is actually a book I had checked out from my library once before and not gotten around to reading, but I grabbed it again on an impulse before my library closed last month.

I really liked this book! I’m not going to provide a synopsis just because you can find one so easily, and I’d rather spend my time talking about Fixie, the protagonist. Fixie is actually named for the fact that she compulsively fixes things, but she can’t fix her own life and that is so annoying! I spent so much of the book annoyed because she couldn’t just tell people to leave her alone and she allowed basically EVERYONE to walk all over her. It was beyond frustrating. I think maybe that was the point (it made the conclusion all the more enjoyable), but it was a lot for me! I cannot relate to that, and it was hard to watch things happen to her.

Still this is a good book, and it’s FUN. Also, there’s a love triangle. You should read it.

Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell

“‘Stories,’ she says, ‘are the only thing in this world that are real. Everything else is just a dream.’”

Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell

I hadn’t read a thriller for a quite a while, and this domestic version quietly brought me back to the genre! I mean, I read My Sister, the Serial Killer and Give Me Your Hand last February (as in, FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO) and I’m pretty sure those are the last ones I read. No lie.

Maybe this month was a disappearance month? I read this and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, both of which feature a good disappearance. There are a few disappearances in The Room on Rue Amelie, also. Except they are thrillery, they’re just depressing. That’s it, I quit.

Anyway. Short summary. Ten years before the setting of the book, Ellie Mack vanished. She was a 15-year-old, beautiful and intelligent. She had a wonderful family and a great boyfriend. There was no reason she would have wanted to run away– and yet, she was gone. In spite of the fact that local authorities seem convinced Ellie ran away from home (due to the absence of a body), Ellie’s mother, Laurel, remains loyal to her belief that this cannot be true.


The Room on Rue Amelie, Kristin Harmel

“But if we want to defeat darkness, we must find our own way to the light. We have to follow our hearts and accept the danger.”

The Room on Rue Amelie, Kristin Harmel

In case you’re eager to read a full review of this book, you can find my review here.

This is the story of fictional Ruby Benoit, an American living in Paris with her new husband when war comes to the city in 1939. As Germans occupy Paris, the various characters of the novel step in to do what they can during a time of fear, oppression, and injustice.

I liked this book, but not enough to say I loved it. There’s a good love story, and references to all of the necessary and important WWII key points and buzz words. If you are someone who loves The Nightingale, The Alice Network, or Lilac Girls, I think you might enjoy reading it! It’s a perfectly good WWII novel, just has some stuff competition in that subgenre, if you know what I mean.


A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson

“But sometimes remembering isn’t for yourself, sometimes you do it just to make someone else smile.”

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson

…This might have been my favorite book of the month. As I’m writing this (April 18th, jsyk), it definitely is.

Pippa is a high school senior who aspires to be an investigative journalist and just happens to live in a town with a giant murder mystery in its recent history. It’s not so much a mystery, as someone has been accused of and has (in the eyes of the community and local legal system) definitely committed the murder: Sal Singh, the boyfriend of the missing Andie Bell. Andie’s body was never found, so after a few years, she was legally declared dead. Unfortunately, Sal was discovered in the woods having committed suicide just a few shorts days after Andie’s disappearance and cannot, therefore, share his side of the story. Pippa makes the investigation of Andie’s disappearance her senior capstone project with the goal of hopefully proving Sal’s innocence but definitely revealing the truth of what happened that night five years before.

I loved this book. Pippa (or Pip, as she is referred to most of the story) is a fantastic character; she’s like a modern Nancy Drew with a real backbone and undeterred hunger for justice. She’s a good girl (due, read the title) who never misses a deadline, loves homework, and appreciates school work. I promise you, though, she isn’t boring, and she’s funny. In addition, the supporting cast of characters is great, too. There are so many secrets revealed, and the plot moves so quickly. If I didn’t have a toddler, I would probably have stayed up at night reading, but who has that kind of energy?

I haven’t read a good young adult mystery in years, and I’m so glad I found this one. Thanks to my library for buying this per my request!


Alex and Eliza, Melissa de la Cruz

“‘And at last, the lonely young man who belonged to no one finally belonged to someone, forever, and the practical girl who would not settle for less than a love story for the ages found the lifelong romance she had yearned for all her life.’”

Alex and Eliza, Melissa de la Cruz

Okay, so anyone else still have a Hamilton (the musical) hangover? Just me? Cool.

I could talk at length about my love for Hamilton, but I am embarrassed by how little I knew about Alexander Hamilton prior to seeing the musical two summers ago. I mean, I knew he was a founding father…that’s it. That’s all I knew. Of course, I researched diligently following the musical, but I also bought a few fictional books (this one, My Dear Hamilton, and The Hamilton Affair) to read for fun in accompaniment to my biographical binging. Yes, I know that Chernow has that phenomenal biography, but also it’s MASSIVE. I may get there eventually, but I can say with certainty that it will not be this day, or this month, or even this year.

About a year ago I read My Dear Hamilton, and I enjoyed it but also felt that it was moderately slow. This was not slow, but I also caught myself constantly wondering how many liberties were taken with the story. The Eliza in this story and the Eliza from My Dear Hamilton felt like such different people. Of course, this meant I had to continue researching. I found this interview with Melissa de la Cruz from No Apology Book Reviews and immediately was glad that I had. As I was reading, I definitely felt that this had a fairy tale feel, and after reading this review it seems that was intentional. Honestly, I don’t hate that vibe; it’s kind of neat to think of a Prince Charming Founding Father. This is a really great play on historical fiction for that reason. I do think it’s important, though, to understand that de la Cruz very purposely exaggerated and created elements of their relationship to emphasize the romantic angle of the historical marriage.

I’m not a big young adult reader; it’s not always my favorite, and it’s usually pretty trope-y, but I did like this book. Not an inordinate amount, but I think it could be really enjoyable for the right reader!

L’art de la Simplicité, Dominique Loreau

“Just as each of our cells contains the genes of all the rest, so each moment is a reflection of every other moment in our lives.”

L’art de la Simplicité, Dominique Loreau

I did not like this book.

Frankly, I don’t even want to recommend it to people, except that I know there are people who probably would like it. This is a self-help book (ish) in the style of Marie Kondo. How do we make our lives better by simplifying the material and environmental influences on our bodies, minds, and time? It was an interesting idea, and I actually found I liked the audiobook of Marie Kondo’s The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. Thus, when I saw this ARC (from several years ago, oops) sitting on my shelf unread, I figured it could be a good departure from my other reads. It might even provide some useful tips for this quarantine time!

I will say, to the credit of the author, there were several quotable moments in this book. That was part of the frustration– I would read one paragraph that annoyed me to no end, only to highlight a line on the following page. She’s clever.

Let’s get down to business: I thought not only that it felt basely composed of a million different mantras, but it was also (to be honest) rude and moderately simplistic. The very concepts at the core of this book assume that every individual is of an identical circumstance and possesses the same opportunities. It speaks of diet and bodily health in a way that I found troubling, and it makes the presumption that we are all capable of the same routines and behaviors based on time and monetary resources. Instead of reading as helpful, the tone is more haughty and condescending. I gave this one star. It’s not for me. Not me type of book, and not my type of life.

But hey, just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it won’t be for you.

The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Ever Seen, Lisa Gungor

“I used to believe there was some line between what is sacred and common, miraculous and mundane. My perspective had to shift to see that actually all of the bushes are burning, the entire world is ablaze.”

The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen, Lisa Gungor

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but it definitely wasn’t what I got.

I want to write an entire review about this book because I think it’s so powerful and can be an incredibly important text for many people, Christian or otherwise. You may be familiar with Gungor, the band most well-known for their album Beautiful Things (released in 2010). You may even be familiar with the controversy of their faith as investigated in the Christian media several years ago. It’s likely, though, however familiar you are with these elements of Lisa Gungor’s life, you still won’t know the entirety of the story. This is a narrative of her own life, her faith journey, her humanity and her experience as a woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a musician.

The Gungors (namely Lisa, as this is her story) have a very nontraditional belief and approach to Christianity. It’s pretty important that you know that before reading. If you are someone who can’t handle reading about others’ beliefs without getting judgmental or angry, you shouldn’t read this. Here’s what I found most compelling: it’s easy to forget that everyone has a different experience in their spiritual journey. Not everyone has been treated by the church the same way; there are deep hurts that organized religion has created in other people’s hearts, and we can’t assume that this isn’t the case.

I think it’s time we stop creating this culture where doubt is a scarlet letter. It’s okay to question, and it’s okay to look for answers. I’ve felt this way before myself, that it was evil of me to have questions in regards to the story I had been told about God, and it felt wrong to seek understanding. What I found in my longing was that God does not bring a spirit of confusion, but he brings a spirit of peace. Whatever confusion I experienced wasn’t created by him, but his peace made it possible for me to discover my beliefs at their core, separate from my parents or my peers or my training. When I knew why I believed what I did, I could cling to them with a new ferocity.

We need to stop thinking that everyone will experience God in the same way, and I think this book emphasizes that fact. There are definitely things that Lisa Gungor believes that I do not, but that doesn’t mean that I should immediately discount her. We can still learn from one another, and I think that’s what I learned, essentially, from this book.

There’s so much more to it. I think one of the most beautiful elements of this book was her description of motherhood, and the way she comes back to this narrative as a common thread in her story (even when she leaves chronological story-telling, which you know I don’t mind) was fantastic and telling.

I really, really liked this because it MADE ME THINK. I think everyone could benefit from reading this book, BUT if you don’t like thinking and you don’t like non-traditional storytelling, maybe just don’t read it.

Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes

“You’re twenty-two, twenty-three, time is sort of infinite. It’s like a pool where you can’t touch the bottom.”

Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes

Oh, Evvie Drake.

I read a lot of fiction that focuses on female protagonists. For whatever reason, Evvie stands out to me. She’s kind of complicated, but she also could serve as an everyman very easily.

Also, full disclosure: I had a crush on Dean from the get-go. He’s very much my type, and because of that I was able to ignore the fact that he shares a name with my least favorite Gilmore Girls boyfriend.

Quick synopsis, no spoilers: Evvie Drake is leaving her husband when a phone call arrives telling her that he has been in a car accident. Shortly after, her husband dies (This is not a spoiler; it’s in the first three pages). The rest of the book occurs one year after Evvie’s husband’s death as she struggles to battle guilt and seeks to find a purpose. What does she do now? How does she live knowing what she does about her marriage?

I really liked this book. Evvie has to make decisions about whether or not to invest in people, be vulnerable and honest with those she loves, and open herself up to new experiences. More than anything, she has to decide to make decisions for herself, something she never did before. I’m not giving anything else away.

This is a great book with great characters, as well!

April, you came and went in a flash. Let May linger a little longer, okay?
GOODREADS 2020 CHALLENGE UPDATE AND CLOSING REMARKS

According to my Goodreads update, I’m one book ahead of schedule! I think that’s the first time this year that I’ve been able to say that at the conclusion of a month, so woo-hoo! I currently sit at 31/90 books completed.

Keep reading, people. I’ll do what I can to keep up over here.

Until next time, happy reading!

One thought on “April Reading Wrap-Up

  1. I’m glad to hear you were able to enjoy the kind of holiday available to us right now! I have to admit, there have been aspects of being stuck at home that I’ve enjoyed as well.

    I agree with you about WWII fiction being a difficult subgenre to stand out in! So many books are set in this time period, it takes a pretty interesting hook to even get me to pick one up.

    Like

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