It’s May–so that means it’s time to discuss all of the books that I read in April. And we all know that I have great taste in books, right? I mean, I may choose to read some stinkers–but you can trust me if I tell you that a book I read was good or not. So obviously I can’t be trusted to give you book advice unless I’ve actually read it. Luckily, I have read all of these books, so you can trust the mini-reviews.
Let’s get started:
Naked Human by Christopher Poindexter is a collection of poems. I didn’t know this going into it since I was reading this as part of a “#FreakyFriday” challenge on Litsy where people exchange “favorite books” lists and read each others’ favorites. I wish I had done more research before selecting this book. The recent trend in poetry baffles me–in that most of the “poems” are just single sentences structured to kind of resemble poems. And a lot of modern poets all proclaim to be unique individuals with unique thoughts–but they’re all the same and all the topics are the same and it’s all so angst-y. Yeah. Most of these poems are much longer than Instagram-ready single sentences that Amanda Lovelace or Rupi Kaur try to pass off as poems, but that’s not a great qualifier for the quality of a poem. Mostly, I found these poems to be full of undeserved angst about a life that any number of young, self-proclaimed “Bohemians” could have lived. Harsh? Maybe.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman made me happier to be reading a new month’s worth of books–and was another #FreakyFriday book. I’ve always loved when I picked up a Neil Gaiman book, and I’d been meaning to read this one for a while. And it delivered. This was a heart-breaking story (in all the best ways), filled with magic, whimsy, fairytale style adventure, loss, grief, family, and friendship. And just like any other Neil Gaiman book, you’ll want to read it in one sitting. I highly recommend this one for any reader. You definitely won’t be sorry that you spent less than 10 bucks for this paperback–and if you do, what the hell is wrong with you?
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling was passed to me by JoJo (the missus). She didn’t rave about it, but said it was “worth a read” and “fun-ish”. Full disclosure–I am not a Mindy Kaling fan. I’m not a Mindy Kaling hater, either. I simply didn’t know a lot about her (other than she’d been on The Office and The Mindy Project–both of which I’ve never seen), so I had no opinion either way. I just knew she was the “pretty T.V. lady” that everyone likes talking about. Having said that, this book was a lot of fun, in my estimation. And I loved the messages that we’re all flawed, but don’t have to be traumatized by that fact, that hard work creates confidence, and loving yourself enough to feel deserving of the things you work hard to have. All in all, it was fun, quirky, and a quick read to beat a reading slump. And it will definitely make you more “woke” about women’s issues–especially women of color.
This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp is a novel about a school shooting that takes place in Alabama, and the book unfolds over the 54 minutes of the shooting event. I have to say that I found the author to be a completely capable writer, producing an exciting, thrilling, compelling page-turner. I couldn’t help myself flipping pages, wanting to know how things would turn out. Having said that–this book could have been about almost any other subject, and I wouldn’t have felt guilty for reading it. The subject/plot of a school shooting came off as being totally sensationalized and exploited in order to sell books and quickly elevate an author’s name. The shooter himself comes off like an evil genius from a comic book, and every character has an horrendously tragic back story. Upon beginning the book, all I could think was this author doesn’t seem to know anything about American high school culture. And then I realized that the author is actually from the Netherlands. Made sense after that. I also learned that she is a huge advocate for diversity in publishing (which is freaking awesome), but it did explain why there was “forced diversity” in this high school set in Alabama–of all places. Ultimately, this book came off as exploitative and forced–and triggering on so many levels. A subject such as school shootings should be treated with more respect, solemnity, and should be based in reality–not how one sees (or wants to see) the world. However, this book seems to be very divisive–from what I could see on Litsy and Goodreads–so at least it’s starting a dialogue.
The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III is one of the few books/stories that I’ve read that fall within the “bizarro” genre. Look–it’s not my genre. I don’t enjoy erotica/graphic sexual situations and overt/gratuitous violence in books or movies. Bizarro generally usually has both, so that’s why I avoid it. But this book was pressed upon myself and JoJo by my stepfather, who happens to enjoy bizarro. Upon opening this book, I realized by looking at the author’s photo that I had encountered a story of his before that my stepfather had asked me to read several years ago. So I wasn’t hopeful that I would fall in love with this short book. Regardless, I gave it a chance and tried to be open-minded. I can definitely say that it was creative and well written–and the idea of a different universe/dimension inside of a person was kind of cool. But I just can’t recommend that anyone goes and picks this book up–unless you’ve read bizarro before and loved it. Ultimately, I find this genre to be ridiculous–and this book is no exception. But points for creativity and deftly executing the idea.
A Hell of a Woman edited by Megan Abbott is an anthology of female noir short stories. From Girl Fridays to Femme Fatales to Tomboys, to Hothouse Flowers to Madonnas to Girls Next Door….tons of female character tropes abound in this collection. I’m not a real big fan of noir, so I have to make that disclosure. However, if you like strong female leads, excellent writing, and creative stories from a lot of very good writers, this is a book for you. One of my personal favorites out of all of the stories was “The Big O” by Vicki Hendricks. The lead character was female, of course, and she was more than a little crazy and demented. However, female noir is not about the virginal little lady overcoming all of the odds, but instead, a strong female character not afraid to go after what she wants, regardless of the cost, in order to get the result she wants. Also, queer women and women of color were represented strongly in this collection, which was very nice to see. There’s definitely something for everyone here.
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick took about 50 pages to get into before I was committed to finishing. However, once Ms. Kendrick hit her stride, I could not put the book down unless I absolutely had to–for like, ya’ know, sleep. While some may find it odd that a 32-year-old actress has written what is essentially a memoir, Anna Kendrick has lived a lot in the theater, television, and movies. There are plenty of inside Hollywood stories to prove that. The book is nothing if not brutally honest, endearing, laugh-out-loud funny, and highly relatable–and so much fun to read. I highly recommend this book for anyone that loves Anna Kendrick. Or laughing. Or both.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is a perfectly acceptable mystery/thriller–and Ruth Ware knows how to write. However, I found that this one had painfully slow first and third “acts” that took enjoyment away from the overall story. When I started out, all I could think as “when is it going to get good?”. By the time I was one-hundred pages into the story, I was getting very involved in the story. It reminded me a lot of Murder on the Orient Express…except on a boat. That’s definitely not a bad thing. However, the mystery is solved and the big plot points laid out about one-hundred pages from the end. After that, it’s really hard to care about how the book ends. In fact, the big “twist” at the end is just not that shocking. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but 100-150 pages could have been trimmed off to make it a more effective story.
The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is an important collection of short stories covering every topic that falls under feminism–and is still a hot-button issue today. Which is surprising, seeing that Perkins-Gilman passed away nearly a century ago. This was another #FreakyFriday pick that my buddy for that reading challenge chose. I think that this collection of stories is very important for everyone to read, and anyone that is heavy into classics will really enjoy this collection. However, it just wasn’t for me. It was a chore to get through the mere 226 pages, and it felt more like homework than enjoyable reading. I’m not a huge classics fan, so take that with a grain of salt. It was just a bit too “flowery” at times, and the stories often didn’t give a true feeling for characters or their situations. And, honestly, all of the stories seemed to be repetitive. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that one shouldn’t pick it up and give it a chance.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was a mindfuck from beginning to end–and in the most enjoyable way. On Litsy, I said that it was equal parts 12 Monkeys and The Time Machine…and I believe that to be high praise. If you’re like me, you might have trouble following all of the complexities of the plot in the beginning, but Crouch is astounding at explaining complex scientific concepts in a way that the layman can understand quite easily. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, or ruin this book for anyone–but basically, the book explores the common human thought of “What if I hadn’t chosen the life that I chose?” In the book, the main character has a chance to find out the answer to that common quandary. The 340 pages in this book flew by as I tore through this book, excited to find out what would happen. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2018! I highly recommend you get a copy immediately! Above, I mentioned The Time Machine and linked to the movie…but you can get the classic H.G. Wells book FOR FREE here.
Not Tonight, Josephine by George Mahood is another of my favorite books of 2018. This was a suggestion from my friend and fellow book club member, Margie, to read for May’s book club. And she picked a great book. George Mahood’s “travelogue” about an 8 month road trip across the U.S.A. couldn’t have been more charming if it tried. So funny, so witty, and so much fun. For me, as an American, it was also extremely fascinating to read about my country through a Brit’s eyes. God love him for being so kind, too! I’ve placed his entire catalog in my To-Be-Read pile, and I suggest you do the same. But definitely start with this endearing charmer. George Mahood can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads….like most authors, actually. But he’s actually an interesting and funny one to follow! I highly recommend making everything in your life about his books and social media!
The Candy Cane Cupcake Killer by Livia J. Washburn is a perfectly serviceable cozy mystery. It has a solid plot, believable characters, delicious sounding food, tons of recipes for the reader, and all the coziness one would expect with this genre. I had started to read a different book after Not Tonight, Josephine, but just couldn’t quite get into it. So I picked this one up to “cleanse my palate” and read it in a day. I don’t know if that’s a way to make people want to buy this book, but to me, devouring a book in a day means that it was highly readable. Cozy mysteries get a bad reputation from readers and critics, being called “formulaic, predictable, and repetitive” sometimes. However, nothing is more fun than a good cozy mystery, a warm blankie, your fur baby, and a mug of your favorite drink. It just makes for a nice, quiet evening–and, in my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Until next month…