April Wrap Up // 2023

Every single month I think life is going to be a little bit slower than the one before…and every single month, I’M WRONG! 😂 April was no exception with a ton of out-of-state volleyball trips and in-state track meets. Also, there are a ton of end-of-the-school-year banquets…and suffice it to say, reading has been on the backburner for most of the month.

I didn’t have a single 5-star read this month, so in order to pick my favorites, I went with the only nonfiction book I read and the fiction book I think will stick with me the longest.

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

I’m super conflicted about this one, so let me start with the things I liked: a.) I loved the time period and setting. 1915 in the undeveloped Wild West of Montana was a great backdrop for an atmospheric read! b.) I really loved the characters. They were well-developed and I was rooting for their success despite everything stacked against them. There was a feminist vigilante aspect to the story that I really enjoyed. c.) The opening of this book is one of the best I’ve ever read! It was intense and immediately hooked me. I wanted to know what was in that trunk…and I was invested! d.) The writing of this book is amazing. LaValle paints a picture in his readers’ minds. Somehow he manages to say a lot with very few words. The short chapters kept me flying through the pages, and I just really loved his writing style. Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much detail about the things I didn’t love without getting into spoilers, but let me say that I’m not sure the big reveal worked for me. It left me a little confused andI had to do some additional research (other reviews and a podcast) to determine if I understood. In the end, I liked it more than I didn’t. And perhaps most importantly, this a book that absolutely took me by surprise…which is hard to find. For that reason alone, I appreciate the story and I would definitely read this author again!

Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond

Many of the arguments and solutions presented in this book are things I have to take at the author’s word. I’m not as well researched or educated in the matters of poverty, taxes, and/or solutions, but that was also what made me like this book so much. Desmond explained the various arguments in digestible and easily understandable bits, and then presented solutions that made sense and even seem easily doable. This book humbled me, and mostly frustrated me. If Desmond’s solutions are actually attainable, poverty could quite easily be eradicated…so why aren’t we exploring them? Unfortunately, poverty is a systemic issue that our society continually turns a blind eye to, so the real question is: who is benefiting the most from these tax laws and policies that don’t extend a helping hand? The quick and easy answer: the rich. But we all have a hand in this problem, and Desmond’s book offers insight into ways to help be a part of the solution. My only criticism is that Desmond really brushed over the long-term effects that stimulus checks and government help may impact our economy now and in years to come. While they provided a well-meaning short-term benefit to many Americans – kept many from homelessness and allowed people to continue to be able to put food on the table – the fact of the matter is, we’re starting to see the bad side of those bailouts through raised prices and massive inflation. I would have liked some insight into the negative side of some policies instead of only being shown the good. In that way, this book wasn’t exactly fair and balanced, so the reader will need to be able to get that insight elsewhere.

The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters

When Claudine’s neice, Nicole, disappears from her home in Lagos, Nigeria, Claudine immediately heads there to unravel what exactly happened to her. What follows is a slowburn mystery that also tackles socioeconomic hierarchies, generational trauma, cultural isolation, and dealing with familial pressures. While many may think the slower pace was a turnoff, I really enjoyed the deep dive into Nicole, the nigerwives (a real group of women that exists to support foreign women married to Nigerian men), and the dissolution of Nicole’s marriage. Set against the backdrop of Lagos, I was completely engrossed in Walters portrayal of Nigerian culture within this city. I do think the book is misrepresented as a thriller – as mentioned above, it’s more of a literary mystery, so don’t head in thinking this one is a quick and easy read. The chapters are long, but because of that, we really get a deeper character study into Nicole and those around her.

Drowning by T.J.Newman

I suppose it was a wise decision to NOT read this one when I flew back from my daughter’s volleyball tournament, but you know I’m a true bookstagrammer because I’m mostly upset at the missed photo opportunity! Anyway, I was enraptured the entire time I read this one. I literally felt my blood pressure rise during some of the scenes, and I felt like I couldn’t take a breath when the water would rise in the plane! Suffice it to say, this takes the word “thriller” to a whole other level! I can totally see this being the hit of the summer!

The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar

I went in completely blind on this one…so I had the waves of doubt but also interest…and eventually I kept reading it because there was enough there to keep me going. I don’t know that this is a book for everyone – trigger warnings abound! – but I found the meditative writing capturing. The journey to motherhood isn’t always over-the-top happy for people and there are various reasons for that. But hormones are a weird thing and they have a wayof complicating our thoughts and feelings. In addition to all of that, Molnar wrote from a female perspective and she really nails some of those thoughts and feelings about being happy a new life is coming, but also reminiscient about the life that will be left behind. In my experience, women give up quite a bit, and Molnar also portrayed that quite well. After the baby is born (“Button”), the protagonist definitely gets thrown into postpartum depression and it’s sad to watch her spiral. She gets some help from her husband, but the days feel endless as she has had to give up her job in order to care for her baby. I won’t say this book is for everone and I don’t see it being very popular, but it hit me at the right time. Now that my kids are 15 and 17, it reminded me of how hard those first few days and weeks really are – especially with the firstborn and you have no idea what parenthood is like. It’s a slow novel even though it’s only 200 pages, but it gave me so much to contemplate and appreciate about a time that feels so long ago in my own life.

The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton

I’ve read all of Cleeton’s Cuba series, so there wasn’t any doubt that I’d read this one too. Cleeton has a way of finding events and building a story around them that totally fascinate me. What I love about Cleeton more than anything else is that each of her books feel new and fresh and interesting. This story takes place on a ship, the SS Morro Castle, that sailed from NYC to Havana and back during one week in 1934. On its return trip, just outside of New York Harbor, the captain has died and the ship goes down in flames. Sadly, this aspect of the story is kind of an afterthought – probably ¾ of the book is over before this historical event even happens. I would have liked more and I will probably have to google to find out more information about the ship’s demise. However, the story beyond that was fun and I really liked the mystery element that Cleeton introduced. I really enjoyed the characters and the various secrets they were hiding and thought Cleeton wrapped it all up nicely. Once again, Cleeton writes a book that would pair nicely with your vacation/summer reading plans!

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay

This was absolutely a compelling read. I loved the four different perspectives of the book, and I really wanted closure for the mystery of what happened to Miranda Larkin. I finished it several days ago and have had time to sit with my thoughts, and as I sit down to right this review, I realize that it’s already faded from the forefront of my mind. This one just isn’t going to have the staying power for me, and I think it’s because it’s truly a story that’s been told a thousand times already. I literally saw a Dateline last week that was nearly identical to the plot…that’s how not unique it was, so here are my final thoughts: If you just enjoy great writing, this would be a great book! If you want a unique storyline that hasn’t been done before, don’t feel bad about skipping this one!

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

From the premise, there is a lot to love here: a behind-the-scenes look at how Saturday Night Live-like show is produced, and a meet cute between a handsome male rockstar and a mildly attractive writer for the show. Because this book is divided into three sections, it was easy to tell which sections worked for me and which ones didn’t. Unfortunately, I only really enjoyed the first one (a fascinating look at how a weekly, live comedy show is produced). The second section (80 loooooong pages of emails back and forth during COVID – NO, THANK YOU!) and the third section (rockstar + writer finally start dating) just weren’t strong enough to save the book for me. I found myself mostly bored and speed reading because I have loved Sittenfeld’s books in the past. I really thought it was going to come together in a more powerful way. Choosing to have Covid be such a focal point of the book was not compelling to me, and I think I’ll firmly plant myself in the camp that every novel moving forward does NOT need to incorporate this aspect of recent life. It’s also predictable and boring. Lastly, I felt like Sittenfeld really felt the need to insert her political viewpoints every chance she got. It literally added nothing to the story and felt extremely forced. Also, out-of-date since most of this book took place five years ago. Overall, this just felt like a poorly executed attempt at a cute, fun, summer read.


12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months:

I didn’t read any books for this challenge this month!

2023 Nonfiction Challenge:

I didn’t read any books for this challenge this month!

A Journey to Three Pines:

I didn’t read any books for this challenge this month!

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