I forgot to share my monthly books in April! I must have been distracted by the spring blizzard that brought us almost 18 inches of snow on April 15. Since I have some catching up to do, I’m sharing all my April and May 2018 books today.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This book has major buzz as an Oprah Book Club pick, and for good reason. The writing is on point and the pacing is fantastic. I just wanted to keep flipping pages to find out what happened. I have a problem with the character development, though. The story centers on a newly married couple that experiences a tragedy that keeps them apart for years. The couple struggles to maintain their connection, and yet I found that the author didn’t do enough to set up their connection in the first place. It was written as though their marriage was doomed to fail from the beginning, which made the conflict less interesting to me. In addition, the characters were not equally likable to me. Although they both had faults, I only found one of them to offer very much to root for. Despite these criticisms, the book is well worth reading and discussing. It would make a fabulous book club pick. Well done, Oprah.
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER was a recommended on What Should I Read Next?, one of my favorite bookish podcasts. It’s basically a romance novel about a book-obsessed Englishwoman, and I was totally into it. Pure enjoyment that won’t make you think too hard.
For Every One by Jason Reynolds
I got to see Jason Reynolds present at the Stepping Stone Theater in St. Paul this month. He is one of the most intriguing speakers I’ve ever listened to. Unfortunately, I was number 308 in the line to meet him, so I ducked out on that opportunity. I did buy this book, though, a poem that was originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. It’s a letter to dreamers, especially those that feel stuck. It’s a quick read that creatives should keep on their desk every time the doubts creep in.
The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony
Some nonfiction is overly focused on facts and statistics. THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER, in contrast, is focused almost entirely on storytelling. Wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony shares his experience caring for wild elephants on the Thula Thula reserve in South Africa. I listened to the audiobook, and the reading was a bit overdramatic for me (it’s hard to tell if it would come across that way when reading the book). For example, despite living on a nature reserve, the author is continually astounded to run into wildlife. Still, Anthony is an engaging storyteller, and wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy getting to know the elephants.
I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin, curated by Raoul Peck
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is a collection of James Baldwin’s writings curated by Raoul Peck, the director of the film of the same title. The book’s intent is to use Baldwin’s existing work, including his private notes, to achieve a goal he didn’t finish in real life: creating a work linking the lives and accomplishments of MLK, Malcom X, and Medgar Evans. This book did not accomplish that feat for me, but Baldwin’s writings make it worth reading nonetheless. They are just as relevant today as they were decades ago.
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
Alright, I love motivational books and there is some good motivation in here. There is also some suspect advice. Don’t buy really expensive things you can’t afford. Just don’t. Believe the universe will provide you with the best parking spot, always, but understand that the universe doesn’t revolve around you. Never use the word “rill” instead of real. This book would have been better for me if the author had acknowledged that a lot of the things the “universe” was providing for her were related to her economic privilege at this phase of life. Snarkiness aside, if you can weed through the breezy tone and keep your head on your shoulders, you’ll find some nuggets here.
Middle Grade Fiction
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis
Jupiter Storm by Marti Dumas
Young Adult Fiction
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore
WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS left me with mixed feelings. It’s beautifully written, but the plot developed so slowly that I never wanted to pick it up. I loved some of the characters and know that trans representation in literature is important (one of the main characters is transgender). McLemore did her characters justice. I had questions about the magical realism, which was used inconsistently, and it was ultimately unclear to me what were the motivations of the story’s villainous trio of sisters. I wish the two beautiful main characters had been written into a different story. I received a copy of WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS from the publisher as part of a Goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
After compiling all of these reviews, I’m realizing this was a rough reading month in some spots! Hopefully I’ll be back with much less cynicism in June!