April Book Drought and Reading
I didn’t think I’d finished terribly many books in April, but looking back finished more than I thought–just almost none of what I planned. The books I assembled at the beginning of the month wound up being overwhelmingly heavy in theme and tone, so this both slowed me down and caused me to insert some fluffy, unplanned reads to give me a break while keeping my momentum going–that’s a thing other people do, right?
The books I finished this month where Monster, Home Fire, The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, Evicted, Pachinko, Queen of Hearts, Salvage the Bones, Crenshaw, My Life On the Road, Meaty, and The Female Persuasion. The last three of those are on audio. So for April that’s 2742 pages read and 31 hours, 55 minutes listening. For the year, 11,344 pages and 146 hours, 18 minutes listening. Time well spent, I think.
This month was, however, an utter failure for #theunreadshelfproject. While four of those books were ones I already own (and I bought but immediately read Home Fire so we’re counting it), Amazon gave away something like eight books for free for International Book Day and I purchased Miss Burma during Independent Book Store Day. So we’re deeper into the red on the unread books. But still–five! I read five books I own. I may never catch up but it is fun trying. One should always have goals.
I came across Monster in a list at the library about books for Black History month, in a If-You-Liked-The-Hate-U-Give-You’ll-Like-This list. I would agree that it makes a good flight pick along with Dear Martin and The Hate U Give. The three books consider similar themes and provide alternative sides to a similar experience. Unlike the other two, however, Monster is the story of a teenager who wasn’t killed by police, but rather has been accused of felony murder for allegedly participating in a robbery gone wrong that left a man dead. The book is written in first person narrated by Steve Harmon, the child accused of the crime–however, in order to cope with what is happening, Steve presents it as if he is writing a film for one of his classes. The entire book reads like a screenplay. This unusual device works, providing the remove Steve need to tell his story while still giving the reader a sense of what is happening around him. Frankly, it also makes the book incredibly quick to read relative to the page length–I think I finished it in under two hours. The book won the first Michael L. Printz Award (best book in teen literature), ALA Best Book honors, Coretta Scott King honors, and was a finalist for the National Book Award when it was published. It was a powerful book, even more so for the unexpected gut-punch in the last few pages. Just when I thought I could breathe, Walter Dean Myers delivered one last visceral blow that was true to the book and true to how black boys are treated in this country. It’s not an easy read but one I recommend.
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy
I’ll admit that I was hoping for an adult Westing Game –this wasn’t that. (Though it’s probably being unfair to hope for another Westing Game.) This was a fun little diversion–a thriller set in the midst of a highly dysfunctional family after the patriarch dies. (I guess novels set in well-functioning families don’t typically produce enough plot to merit books?). Jacobs had a knack for presenting most of the characters in fairly well-rounded ways–even the minor characters weren’t flat or simply plot devices. As a result I managed to sympathize with almost all of the characters–even the bad actors and hate everyone at some point–kind of how I feel about real people. No one is perfect, everyone has their own internal motivations, and someone is always going to make a choice that I disagree with. Though the sub-title of the book is “A Novel In Clues” and the book is about a mathematician, absolutely no math background is necessary to enjoy this book. It wasn’t the best thriller but it was a diversion when I needed one and may be worth checking out if mysteries are your wheelhouse. Though there’s a fair amount of death, there’s no gore.
Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts is being billed as Grey’s Anatomy in book form. This is….accurate-ish. There’s less going on in Queen of Hearts since Martin is working with less space than a Grey’s Anatomy season and the drama is (mostly) in the past, just come to revisit Zadie and Emma. They’ve had a good run with relatively little drama since their intern years in medical school a decade ago, but that doesn’t make a good book. Enter stage left, Zadie’s McDreamy from her first intern year, bearing secrets for what really happened ten years ago. The book was deliciously fluffy and dramatic, had some mystery elements (what really happened that year?), but stayed pretty well in the popular fiction lane. I was bothered twice by body-shaming comments made about people who were overweight. This wasn’t surprising giving that Martin is herself a doctor and health professionals often seem particularly prone to assuming size is indicative of health, but was disappointing and distracting. It also ended a bit too neatly (which is not the same as happily) for me–I think Martin could have left a few loose ends hanging and it would have felt more true to life. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a fluffy, plot-driven beach read, Queen of Hearts is a good one.
That’s it for my late update. You reading anything fun for May? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Header Photo Credit: Liv Bruce