What I Read in March
March was the month of the two star book. The majority of what I read this month was “solidly okay” and that’s about it. The up side is I marked off a lot of categories for my reading challenges!
A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley
For the PopSugar Reading Challenge Category: A book you were given as a gift or borrowed from someone. My sister-in-law, who doesn’t read much non-fiction, lent me this book after reading and loving it.
I may have liked this more if I hadn’t listened to the audiobook. It was a double whammy of simple, superficial writing with an unskilled narrator. Saroo’s story is interesting and inspiring, yet it comes across as naive and didn’t motivate me to feel much. The writing is the exact opposite of what one is taught in every writing class: “show don’t tell.” Instead this writing tells and tells and tells, with hardly any showing, there’s no emotion in this book. He puts his adult, processed thoughts and feelings into himself as a 5 year old child and it doesn’t come across as genuine. There was a lot of potential here and it fell short.
The Breakdown – B.A. Paris
The last 80 pages are the best part, so if you’re considering quitting, keep going! I wasn’t necessarily planning to quit, but I was rolling my eyes non-stop at the plot and characters. The whole idea that Cass disobeyed her husband by taking the short cut home late at night, then doesn’t fess up to it, was lame and the whole book is built around that so I wasn’t sold from the beginning. It’s a pretty generic thriller, but it’s good enough that it kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. I was annoyed by Cass one minute and rooting for her the next. Definitely worth reading if you want something quick and easy!
Slammed – Colleen Hoover
For the PopSugar category: A book about death or grief A Young Adult novel with a lovely story of family, death, grief, love, and everything in between. It was short and compelling, an easy breezy read. The Avett Brothers’ lyrics woven in throughout was a nice touch, it gave the story a true uniqueness. The poems the characters wrote were great ways to get to know them better, and added to the emotional depth of the story. Overall, a highly enjoyable read. A week after finishing it, I was still thinking about the characters so I ordered the sequel and am halfway through!
Alligator Candy: A Memoir – David Kushner
For the PopSugar Category: True crime This is an incredibly powerful memoir. Kushner tells his family’s story, starting with the murder of his 11 year old brother in 1973, when he was only four. I like how he looks at his memories, along with his family’s, along with the facts of the case, all from different angles as he tries to piece together what he actually remembers versus what he knows because he’s been told. He also thoroughly looks at how the community helped his family through the tragedy, and explores how this is a common factor in healing after loss. Part true crime, part family history, part personal journey, this book packs a serious emotional punch. It’s graphic in parts, yet it’s absolutely necessary. The writing is raw, Kushner is completely transparent as we witness his mission to discover the truth of his brother’s death and struggle to parent his own children without fear.
Rainbirds – Clarissa Goenawan
For the PopSugar category: A book with a weather element in the title I chose this book based on the cover, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised my reading experience was a bummer. I’m still in love with the cover, but baffled by the novel. Something feels off about the writing in Rainbirds. The story is set in Japan, all of the characters are Japanese, and there are many references to Japanese culture, yet it reads like it’s trying to be an American novel, and it doesn’t mesh. The writing is simple and flat. Ren is a totally apathetic, weak main character. He’s supposedly devastated by his sister’s death yet he comes across like a shrugging adolescent, drinking beer and waiting for someone else to tell him what to do. The story line is interesting and has a ton of potential, which kept me reading, hoping things would turn around. But there are a lot of different threads to the story that don’t make sense and when “bombshells” are finally revealed, it’s so nonchalantly that they fail to make an impact.
Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan
For the While I Was Reading Challenge category: An audiobook with multiple narrators I’m not sure why this book felt so long, but I think it’s because I wanted to stay in this world for as long as possible. Part mystery thriller/part historical fiction, this novel follows Anna from age twelve through her life and relationships. Egan perfectly captures the dusky murky sense of old New York and the world of organized crime in that era. Anna’s story is fascinating and inspiring yet sad. I was rooting for her the entire time, even though I didn’t always know what that meant. I only knew I wanted her to thrive and get what she wanted. With different narrators to represent the characters, it’s easy to follow when point of view changes and makes the story even richer than it already is.
The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
For the PopSugar category: A book with an LBGTQ+ protagonist This is a phenomenal novel. The writing is gorgeous, almost magical. The story line and presentation are unique. The four siblings around whom the story revolves were each told their death date by a fortune teller as children. We follow them through their lives as they carry this information and process it in their own way. Each sibling is fascinating in his/her own way as well, I had so much compassion for them and the people close to them. While it’s an intriguing plot which makes for a great reading experience, the novel has some pretty deep themes. It explores not only family and loyalty, but the concept of destiny and whether we create our own fates. It made me think a lot about whether I would want to know the date of my death in advance (I wouldn’t) and whether or not that would make me live my life differently. And if so, why? For a literary novel, this one packs a punch in a lot of different ways. I highly recommend it!
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump Whitehouse – Michael Wolff
For the PopSugar category: A book with an ugly cover I decided to read this purely out of curiosity and found it solidly okay and generally interesting, but dry and repetitive. It didn’t reveal anything I didn’t already know in a general sense, but it gave a lot of details I didn’t know which solidified my suspicions and opinions. The book spans November 2016-August 2017 of the Trump Campaign/White House, with an epilogue in October 2017. Reading this in March 2018, the first 2/3 felt irrelevant. There are too many names to keep straight, most of which aren’t in the news anymore. The Trumps and General Kelley are the only ones still in the White House (I think) who are prominent in the book. It feels like Wolff used a ton of unnecessarily big, complicated words and phrases to make the whole thing come across more intellectual, when it fact it’s a lot of gossip and heresy. Granted it’s interesting and important stuff if it’s all true. I’m glad I read this but I think listening to the audio book would have been a better experience.
Only Child – Rhianna Navin
Human beings are complicated, especially when faced with crisis. This is emphasized even more when observed by a six year old. When we first meet brave little Zach, he is in his classroom closet, hiding while there is a gunman loose in his elementary school, although he doesn’t know what’s happening at the time. Because our narrator is six, the writing and language is simple. The reader is responsible for putting things together based on what Zach sees and hears around him in the months after this tragedy, and I liked that. However while the story is sad, I didn’t feel much emotional connection with Zach, maybe because he doesn’t quite understand what’s going on around him. Perhaps this is also timing, as current events have elicited such reactions for me, and since this is fiction it feels more distant. It was a fast easy read, though obviously not upbeat.
Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
Read for PopSugar category: A childhood classic you’ve never read I don’t recall ever hearing about this book as a child. I have a feeling if I’d read it, it would have stuck with me! I didn’t know much about it going in and was expecting something magical, along the lines of A Wrinkle in Time. That was NOT the case. This is a powerful, moving story about friendship, childhood, loss, and family. It was a quick read, the audiobook was very enjoyable.
Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo
For the PopSugar category: A book with song lyrics in the title This is an incredibly powerful novel that brings a lot of important questions to the forefront when it comes to love and marriage, family and culture. A married couple who can’t conceive are pressured by their family and culture to do what it takes to make it happen. Despite loving each other fiercely, they are forced to decide whether they will betray the other in order to have a family. The audio book narration is emotional and fully engrossing. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if I’d read it on my own due to pronunciation and cultural references. I laughed out loud in parts and was near tears in others.
How To Build A Girl – Caitlin Moran
For the PopSugar category: A book recommended by someone else doing the PopSugar 2018 Challenge. This is a wonderfully bizarre blend of Almost Famous, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, except with a darkly hilarious hyper sexual teenaged girl for a protagonist. Maybe I should have been shocked and appalled by Johanna’s behavior, instead I was cheering for her! Moran writes with raw honesty and dark wit. Johanna is snarky and fierce, yet insecure and gentle. It makes sense when she creates an alter ego as whom she can seek to destroy that weaker part of herself, while at the same time hold down a job that makes money for her family. I am recommending this one to almost all my female friends!
My DNF List (books I started but didn’t finish)
When Dimple Met Rashi – Sandhya Menon
I made it about twenty minutes into this audio book and couldn’t take it anymore. The narrator sounds like a middle aged women, and the character is a teenaged girl so it was weird. Plus she pronounced words oddly and it got super annoying.
Dune – Frank Herbert
This is less of a DNF and more of a timing issue. The audio book is a full cast production with lots of sound effects. On one hand that makes it enjoyable to listen to, on the other hand it takes a lot o concentration to follow the story. I may try reading a physical copy at a another time to see if that is an easier experience.