03 May 2014

Last Month in Review: April 2014

I've not done much reviewing lately, so once I tackle this easy post of last month's reads, I may try to be disciplined and write a review or two of books I actually completed some time ago.  How was your April? It feels around here that winter is finally behind us.  Yesterday was actually warm enough to wear flip flops, so I reckon that means it safe to get my snow tires removed from my car.  Two years ago I did that in March and naturally we had a few major snow storms immediately following.

Anyhoo, these are the books I read.  Let me know if you've read and/or liked any of 'em.  And let me know what books you were digging last month, too.

1. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman.  Pretty nifty book, with various international locales. Not sure I liked it as much as I liked his novel on journalism, The Imperfectionists, but it was still quite good.

2. Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch.  Another pretty nifty book.  Not to sound like a broken record, but I don't think I liked it as much as his first book translated into English, The Dinner.  But if misanthropic, unreliable narrators are your thing, this book will totally be your jam.

3. Guests On Earth by Lee Smith.  Audio book performed by Emily Woo Zeller.  Eh.  I thought this book had tremendous potential: set in the 1930s and '40s, a gentle sanitarium outside of Asheville, NC, and with Zelda Fitzgerald as a minor character.  I was pretty disappointed.

4. 'Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma.  Colorful, rich, multigenerational story set in Trinidad.  Reviewed here.

5. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern.  This YA features non-traditional protagonists: a girl with cerebral palsy and a boy with OCD.  Both are debilitating in completely opposite ways. I loved this book. Review here.

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (ebook) . This is a rare case where watching the Divergent film prompted me to read the second book in the series.  I'd read Divergent some time ago and thought it was perfectly fine, but it didn't interest me enough to plunge immediately into the second book.  For some reason, I emotionally connected with the film in a way that I didn't with the book.  Lots of folks have been down on Tris (the protagonist in the trilogy) because she's not Katniss, but frankly I do not understand why the world thinks we only need one kind of female role model. I'm Team Katniss AND Team Tris.

7. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  This YA book was a re-read for me, and if possible, I liked it even more than I did the first time around. I purchased the ebook for this one because I couldn't find my ARC and I was in the mood to read it NOW.

8. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum.  I still don't quite understand where the title comes from.  It's the story of a British man married to a French woman and it contains many of the usual tropes.  He fucks up and falls in love with another woman. His wife finds out about it right around the time he thinks he wants to start over with his wife. Pretty good for a light summer read, and Maum wrote convincingly from the husband's perspective. I won't review this one.

I also read 65-150 pages from several other books that won't pub until August/September for my work reading, including Amy Bloom's Lucky Us, Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, Thrity Umrigar's The Story Hour, Marilynne Robinson's Lila, and Lisa Howarth's Going Away Shoes. With luck, I'll finish at least three of them because I'm smitten with what I've read so far and report on them for next month.  


  1. I think I definitely need to reread Eleanor and Park, just because I read it for a readathon which meant all at once, which was fine because, come on, it's Rainbow Rowell, but I feel like I maaaybe didn't get it's full effect. (I say this because everyone seems to want to marry it whereas I only like it a lot, so I feel like I must have missed something rather than it being a preference thing. So yeah.)

    I haven't read the Divergent books, but HELLS YEAH girls don't only need one role model! Girls need MANY role models, of all shapes and sizes and feelings and personalities, and they need to not be set up against each other as if they're bound to be enemies. We do not need to be enemies, ladies!

    I am on a massive comment leaving roll today, so sorry for this MASSIVE comment. I'll try to calm down!

    1. Laura, that's the way I feel about Attachments. Pleasant enough, but not my favorite. And I read it in fits and starts on vacation one year, so I should give it another try.

      Most people seem to be anti-Tris because she shows a lot more vulnerability and fear than Katniss does. Personally, I think there's room in my world for her.

  2. I didn't like the Koch book as much as The Dinner, either. It was uneven, and I didn't think the structure he chose (telling us about the character's death up front) worked as well as if it had been a surprise to us.

    1. The structure didn't bother me so much as I just felt like, tone-wise, it was just like The Dinner without being quite as good as The Dinner.

  3. I've been too-ing and fro-ing about reading Divergent and seeing the film, but I wholeheartedly agree that if anything we need MOAR female rolemodels, and they should be different. If anything, the criticism that Tris isn't Katniss is the perfect motivation for me to finally read the book because who wants to read a story about a similar-seeming girl embarking on a similar-seeming adventure?

    E&P *sob* I really want to give this a re-read but I was such a wreck when I read it that I don't know if I can actually do it.

    1. I noticed so many more things about E&P on this read because I wasn't always racing to see how it would end. It's such an excellent YA.

      Tris vs Katniss: well...it is kinda of a similar-seeming adventure, but I think the leading ladies are quite different. The world building isn't as complete in Divergent as it is in Hunger Games, though. I say watch the movie and then decide whether you want to read the book or not. (I know, it's shocking to recommend that.)

  4. I'm so jealous that you got to read the new Rachman already! I think even if it's not quite up to The Imperfectionists, I'm just so excited that he is writing and publishing new books. :)

    1. I know others who thought this one was better than Imperfectionists, so never fear. Maybe I'm the minority on this one. It should be out soon, though, so you don't have to wait long.


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