What I Read In April
April was a big month for my DNF list. Just like last month, I read a bunch of books that were solidly meh, and I had a hard time getting into most of them. I’m not sure if that’s the books, or me having a lot going on in life right now — more likely it’s a combination of the two.
The Wild Robot Escapes – Peter Brown
I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first (The Wild Robot). Part of that is the novelty of getting to know the characters in the first book. This is a wonderful continuation of Roz’s story, and her journey find her son and get back to their home. While it’s cute and entertaining, there are also valuable messages hidden along the way. Through Roz, we explore the meanings of feelings and kindness, and also what family means, including what adoption is. These books are unique and well done.
And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Frederick Backman
For the Read Harder category: A one-sitting book In typical Backman style, this novella is vivid, touching, and SO SAD. It’s only a one hour listen on audio and the narration is well done. I enjoy his writing because it makes me think, not only to figure things out in the story, but after the story is finished I’m usually left contemplating life on a deep level!
Point of Retreat – Colleen Hoover
For the PopSugar category: The next book in a series you started This sequel to Slammed, is not nearly as good as the first, which I found. The first book was unique and emotionally powerful. This one was a sweet continuation of Layken and Will’s story, although it was super cheesy. The storyline felt rushed, and the writing is super simple. The one redeeming quality is that I like the characters, and the new ones we meet in this book are great additions. Everything ties up too neatly here, and goes well into the unrealistic realm. But it was a fun read and I’ll probably continue with the third book to keep up with these characters because I like them.
Heart Berries: A Memoir – Terese Marie Mailhot
For the PopSugar category: A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you This memoir inspired an entire post of its own. The reasons I didn’t like this memoir are reasons others love it. It’s clear to me from reading other reviews, that this is one of those books everyone reacts to differently based on life experience. The stream of conscious style writing is raw, in a frantic pace, which matches the authors mood and behavior. Her words are sparse and powerful. She is obviously writing from an open wound. That doesn’t work for me. It feels like Mailhot is exploiting herself at times, perpetuating stereotypes, and glossing over areas of importance.
What Remains of Me – Alison Gaylin
Without the setting of Hollywood, this thriller wouldn’t have been as easy to buy into. It’s a perfect background for these characters, who all have secrets and not always good intentions. It’s a sprawling story with two alternating timelines, one in 1980 and the other in 2010, which together tell us the history of Kelly Lund and her dysfunctional family and friends. The mystery is a slow burn, with lots of turns. I thought I had it all figured out 30% in and while I was on the right track, I had no idea what was to come! At times this felt more like a true crime book than a fiction novel. It’s a great twist on the “who done it” murder mystery style, and reminds us that nothing is ever quite as it seems.
Future Home of the Living God – Lousie Erdrich
For the Read Harder category: A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author I listened to the audiobook even though I own a physical copy because I couldn’t get into it reading on my own. The author narrates, her voice is dreamlike and truly brings Cedar to life. I wanted to love this book, but all I can say is: it’s super weird. I’m not sure if it went over my head, or I wasn’t supposed to figure out what was going on, or what… The book is written as a journal Cedar is keeping for her unborn baby, so she’s speaking directly to the reader. In this dystopian universe, evolution is moving backward and pregnant women are being rounded up for unknown purposes. It’s a compelling concept and I did want to finish, to know what happens to Cedar and her baby, but something was missing and I just couldn’t figure out what.
Force of Nature – Jane Harper
For the PopSugar category: A book set in a country that fascinates you (Australia) My only super great read of the month! I was hesitant to read this because I loved The Dry so much, I didn’t think this one could come close, and thankfully I was wrong! I will admit I liked the storyline of The Dry better, however the writing here is just as solid. Harper does a beautiful job of melding a traditional thriller with contemporary literary fiction. And here we have another twisty plot about human nature. A group of co-workers go on a survival retreat and one doesn’t come back. People are complicated, especially when it comes to family, and that is at the center of all these work relationships. The descriptions of the Australian wildlife are vivid and it all comes together to create a fully immersive reading experience.
Celine – Peter Heller
For the Read Harder category: A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 I can’t say for sure how much of my distaste for this book came from the audiobook narrator. The story was compelling: a daughter searching for her father who went missing 20 years ago (and was declared to have been killed by a bear) seeks the services of a senior citizen private eye. The story was interesting enough that I continued listening to find out what happened, although I only liked one character, Gabriella. The PI and her husband travel to Montana and Wyoming, attempting to solve the cold case. Their travels throughout the west are NOT realistic (I live in Bozeman, MT) There are quite a few inaccuracies regarding Yellowstone and Montana, and it perpetuates misconceptions and stereotypes about this part of the country and the people who live here.
DNF List (Books I started by didn’t finish)
Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder
For the Read Harder category: An assigned book you hated or never finished I hated these books when I had to read them in school. I thought maybe as an adult I’d appreciate them more. Nope. The part where they’re buttering a pig and the girls are playing iwht the bladder? BLECH
Fools Crow – James Welch
This was for my local book club. I started, but couldn’t get into it and I got to feeling overwhlemed by the pressure to push through it and attend the meeting. So I quit because I don’t want reading to feel like that!
Educated: A Memoir – Tara Westover
This memoir is getting rave reviews but I just wasn’t feeling it. Again, I blame the audio book narrator. Memoirs that aren’t read by the author often lack authenticity. I may try this one again later in physical form.
This Girl – Colleen Hoover
The third in the above mentioned Slammed series. I probably shouldn’t count this as a Did Not Finish, because I barely even started it. I didn’t have much of a desire to continue this series, but I ordered it because I’d passed the previous two on to a friend’s 15 year old daughter and I wanted to give her the last one. I read about 10 pages and realized it was one of those sappy re-telling books, where it just gives over the previous books and tells the same story from a different character’s point of view. No thanks.