The reading challenge I set for myself in April was a TOTAL FAIL. Sigh. I did read a lot of great books, but my plan to go back and finish books I’d tried to read and quit was….maybe not that great a plan?
Two readerly goodies that I’m excited about and that may be relevant to your interests because FREE BOOKS. (Disclaimer: I tend towards being a book collector more than a book reader, and both of these free book opportunities are probably not helping with that… I am supposed to be reading the books I own before buying or borrowing this year, maybe that self-given challenge is going to fail too? #sorrynotsorry #freebooks!)
#1 Do you know about Amazon First Reads? If you’re a prime member, you get a free new release kindle book each month. I have an Amazon account, but we shop and buy and have Prime on Matt’s account, so I don’t get any Amazon emails, and missed out on quite a few free books when we first signed up for Prime. I’m finally in the habit of checking the Amazon First Reads page at the beginning of every month and choosing my free book. They have 6 to choose from, and there’s almost always one (or more!) that sound really good to me. There are several great choices this month, I chose this one, which sounds delightful.
#2 Have you heard about the free audiobook summer program at Audiobooksync.com? This is for you if you enjoy YA or have a teen in your life whom you’d like to encourage to read more. SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens (aimed at getting teens to read, but open to everyone). Beginning April 26 2018, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. You have to download the overdrive app (that’s where the books are stored once you download them), but it’s easy and FREE and they have a great variety of interests represented over the course of the summer.
(This isn’t a sponsored post – not that I’m against sponsored posts, a blogger has to make a living, and the links below are all my affiliate links as always… Both of these programs are free, I’m not receiving compensation for sharing them – I just thought you’d be interested and I love to share!) Now on to my…
Book Nerd Failure Confession: I’m not afraid to quit a book I’m not enjoying, but I have a stack of books that I thought I’d quit because my attention span was spoiled by the internet, or because I tried them on audio and they weren’t a good listening fit for me. So I checked out a giant stack from the library, all books reader friends have loved and encouraged me to go back to, and gave myself the challenge of finishing them.
Guess what? I read ONE of them. ONE. It took me FOREVER to finish it, and then April was nearly over. I picked up 2 or 3 more (and drove around town with one in the car for a week), but… I’m thinking maybe I quit because I didn’t like them? It’s like I thought we were just on a break, but now it seems I need to break up with them forever. Sorry books. Maybe I’ll put a list at the end of this post and let y’all tell me if there are some I’ll be sorry I missed?
In spite of my fail, I managed to read 13 books this month (thanks, audiobooks!). Read on for quick reviews of the books I did manage to finish this month (and to chime in on the books I’m breaking up with!), including a mystery series I’m loving on audio, a Christian book from a new-to-me (and super helpful) perspective on Jesus, two heart-breaking non-fiction books, a fun read-aloud and the one book I managed to go back and make myself finish.
Quick Book Reviews: April Reads
The Opposite of Everyone tells the before and after story of Paula, one of the most interesting characters from Someone Else’s Love Story. You don’t have to have read either book to enjoy the other, but it’s a fun overlap if you’ve read both.
I enjoyed Paula Vauss, even though we have next to nothing in common, as she’s a tough, crass, very successful, powerful attorney. Paula’s perfectly controlled adult life is broken into by secrets from her past, a childhood spent a step away from vagrancy and then in foster care. I really enjoyed watching the secrets Paula learns about her past inform and enlighten the memories of her childhood we see in flashbacks. The flashbacks included lots of tough material, but with beautiful redemptive themes. The flashbacks also contain a lot of stories from the Hindu tradition, Paula’s mom was obsessed with Hindu mythology (her birth name is Kali). I wasn’t really sure what the point of that was (it is a MAJOR theme), but in the end you see they were there for a reason, I am fascinated by how the author used those stories to tell her story. Joshilyn Jackson was a professional narrator before being published, she does a fantastic job reading her books, so I recommend this on audio.
When Deidra Riggs recommends a book, I listen. This is the book she puts at the top of a list of suggested books for white evangelicals. It is provoking, challenging, and world-expanding. As a white woman, this books is not written to or for me, but I needed to read it. Howard Thurman is a trustworthy teacher on my journey to re-center my view of Jesus as an outsider, a member of an oppressed people group, a minority, citizen of an enslaved nation. These are wise words, and I will likely need to re-read them.
This short, beautifully written, heart-wrenching memoir, told in the form of a letter from the author to his son, is a must read. It’s depressing, challenging, hard to read, and as a white Christian mother to a black child it broke my heart in multiple ways and for so many different reasons.
Another book not written for or about me, but I needed to read it. This is one man’s perspective, but I want to learn about slavery, the history of Africans in the USA, the civil rights movement, and our current race relations from the perspective of those who are oppressed and directly affected. The writing here is SO GOOD, Coates uses words so beautifully it makes me want to put away my keyboard and never try to write again.
An amazingly well-written (Roxane Gay can WRITE, her words come alive), brutally hard to read memoir. This book is both terrible and wonderful, challenging me to re-think how I view my own body and relationship with food, but also to consider what this journey is like for women of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
I listened to this (the author’s narrationof her own story is arresting), and had to take breaks because it was affecting my mental health in negative ways. It is a brutal story, told with brutal honesty. I’m glad I read it, but also glad I finished and don’t have to read it again (though I’ll for sure read the author’s other work, I need her voice and wisdom). Trigger Warning: There’s a description of sexual assault (I skipped most of it, so I’m not sure how graphic it is, but judging from the rest of the book, I’d guess very graphic), as well as multiple toxic/abusive sexual and relational situations.
This month I found myself needing something light and fun to intersperse between the hard and heavy reading. I found my answer in Amelia Peabody. I flew through the first 5 books in the series this month, narrated wonderfully by Susan O’Malley (I heard there are multiple narrations available, be sure you get O’Malley’s.)
These short cozy mysteries are a delight, featuring the adventures of a strong-willed, ahead of her time Victorian Egyptologist, her soulmate in life and Egyptology, and eventually their hilarious prodigy son. After number 5, I’m making myself take a break (because I had other audiobooks I was waiting on come off hold, but also to make the series last), but I’ll definitely go back to Amelia’s world.
I was inspired by a conversation on one of my favorite podcasts to get back into reading aloud before bedtime. We did this all the time when Luke was in elementary, but when we stopped homeschooling, I also stopped reading aloud, I’ve let audiobooks do the reading for my younger two. I missed the experience and routine of reading together, and my boys have LOVED it (even Matt stops what he’s doing to listen in.)
This was our first, a book mystery with a bookish scavenger hunt, rooted in it’s location of San Francisco, with a fun family and just enough danger to make it interesting, but not too much for bedtime. Lots of the chapters end on cliffhangers, which makes it hard to get enough sleep, but also lots of fun: I would shut the book and the boys would all yell, “NOOOOOOO!!”
And last: The book it took me nearly all month to finish, causing me to fail my own challenge.
If “Quiet British books about older people, commonly described as CHARMING” were a genre, it would be near the top of my list of favorite genres, so I expected to love this book. But I started and stopped it repeatedly over the last 2 years, first as an audiobook and then on kindle/paper. I chose it as my first book for my April challenge to finish books I had quit in the middle of…and then found myself once again not reading at all because I wasn’t jazzed about reading this… Now that I buckled down and made myself finish, it is a charming book, and I like where the story lands. But it is SLOW, and it took a good long while for Major Pettigrew to grow on me. I did end up liking him, and many of the other characters, but for the first half of the book I found all the characters distasteful (except Mrs. Ali), and I hated Maj P’s son until the very end.
So: A good book that I did not actually enjoy reading that much, until the end, when I quite liked it.
I also read the third in the fantastic Veronica Speedwell series, which I loved but have gushed about here already, and listened to a book of poetry. Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise is wonderful, but I don’t have a review so much as a recommendation: You really should listen to her read her own work if you can, the laughter and tears in her voice bring the words alive.
I guess that was a pretty successful failure of a month, right?
May is looking to be a super busy month, I’m starting a new job and graduating a kid from high school on top of all the usual end-of-the-school-year shenanigans. My original plan was to indulge my love of children’s lit and YA this month, usually quick and easy and fun reads (bonus: I own at least 10 middle grade or YA books I really want to read but haven’t gotten around to, starting with one I’ve been meaning to read for years.)
But my Overdrive account is already stacked with grown up goodies. I already started listening to a book I want to finish before the movie comes out, and hopefully will get around to to a delightful sounding Russian historical fiction-based-on-reality, and a well-reviewed biography.
And I still feel a little tempted to try to finish some of the books from my quit-but-think-I-should-finish list.
I’m pretty committed to sticking with (and have already picked up where I left off) Station Eleven (I don’t love post-apocolyptic stories, but the Shakespeare element makes me want to stick with this) and The Good Girls Revolt (which expired before I got very far in, I didn’t quit this one, I forgot to request it again). I’m on the fence about The Night Circus (too creepy for me on audiobook, maybe I can actually read it?) and Amerikanah (which is going to be a movie starring my beloved Lupita, but I just did not connect to the main characters). And here’s the list of books I returned to the library this week, because every time I picked them up, I thought, “UGH.”:
OH MY GOODNESS there’s a theme. Can it be a coincidence that all three of these are set during WWII? The book world loves that era of history as a setting, and I just DO NOT.
What do you think? Am I going to be super sad if I don’t go back and finish any of these books?
I’d love to hear what you read in April, and what you’re reading now!
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