Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Books I Read in April

What's that you say? It's May 21st? Why am I talking about April? Who really cares anyway? Look, I know I'm behind. It's just, that stretch at the end of April through the first two weeks of May is super killer in academia. It's just been busy. But! Nothing can stop me from recording here my little reflections about ALLLLLL the books I read. These posts give me life. I love tracking my reading and recording my reflections here (and on Goodreads, and now on IG too...), even if no one else cares.

Anyway, despite being incredibly busy, and also despite making another audio book app transition (I've abandoned Scribd, which I talked about on my IG stories, but if you missed that one, I'll maybe do a post all about it sometime, because I'm sure you all care very much), April was a pretty good reading month for me. A few classics, a few hot titles, and some stuff somewhere in between. Let's dive in, shall we?

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

I've never had a goal to read Dickens' complete works, but I keep coming back to him, so I may manage it anyway. What to say about this one? It's not my favorite, but also, really, really good. I really loved Little Dorrit (even if I never fell in love with her love interest, especially considering the father/child relationship they start off with... ew). If I were ever to write a paper about this book (not likely), I would be most interested in focusing on the minor character of Tattiecoram, because that whole servant situation is just begging for some analysis. Also, found this one interesting to read so closely following The Way We Live Now (by Trollope) because they both involve financial scandal and suicides. I suspect something was going on in Late Victorian England to inspire this coincidence, but I confess I don't know my British financial history well enough to confirm. Anyway. If you like Dickens, you'll probably like this one.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I read this one for my local book club. It's a sci-fi thriller, and it was good enough that as soon as I finished it I recommended it to my husband, and he loved it. It's not, like, life-changingly good, but it was enjoyable for what it was. I thought I had the plot figured out from pretty early on, but there was one twist that caught me by surprise. I still feel a bit conflicted about the ending. Also, I must confess, if there is such a thing as the multi-verse (which I'm pretty open to), this is NOT how I see it working. But what do I know? I will say, the thing I appreciated the most about this book was the emphasis on relationships and family as being far more important than any level of career success. That was nice. If you like sciency thrillers, this is probably a good pick for you.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I had to read this one just to see what all the fuss was about, and in general, I quite liked it (though not quite as much as the positively glowing reviews I've read). It was character driven (very nicely crafted characters, mostly), but also had a murder mystery thread through-out to give a little punch and suspense. There was plenty of beautiful writing, descriptions of nature, poetry, all things I tend to like. But the way it ended! I mean, don't get me wrong, the ending was foreshadowed all the way through so it didn't surprise me so much as... make me feel really conflicted. We're discussing this one with my book club on Thursday, and I'm so glad because I need to talk about this with someone. I just can't decide how I feel about it. Anyway, while I think it might be slightly over-hyped, in general I do recommend this one. It's quite good, and I will be very excited to read anything Owens writes in the future.

The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias

Oh, look at me, plugging along with my financial books. This one was very hit and miss with me. Parts of it were ridiculous (all his advice on budgeting... some of it was so stupid), and other parts of his advice got too specific to be helpful (everyone should invest in timber!!! Really?!?!?). It started being very overly basic, but then moved so quickly through big jargony words that I often got lost. All that complaining is to say that it's far from perfect, but I actually think there is a lot of great stuff in here, and I'll probably revisit this one some time (in paper, not audio) to let some of these terms and concepts soak in better.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

I've been interested in reading this one for a long time. It was tradition in our family to watch the movie every year around Easter, and whenever I love a movie inspired by a book, I always want to read the book. Plus, there's a scene in Anne of Green Gables where she gets in trouble for getting so caught up in this book that she doesn't do her school work. If Anne found it so wonderful, of course I'd want to read it! Alas... it did not live up to expectations. This one is emphatically joining the small but select group of stories where the movie is better than the book. Okay, the book actually had some interesting details that the movie missed out on. It really is quite a bit more focused on Christ's life than the movie is, and Ben-Hur actually spends most of Christ's ministry following him around like a disciple. So that was cool. But pretty much everything else was worse. Basically, this one takes an extremely patient reader to work through the dense and meandering prose. I consider myself a fairly patient reader (I've read War and Peace! I read Dickens for fun!), but this one pushed me over my limit. In general, feel free to skip this one, but if you've never seen the movie, you absolutely should watch it! It's a cinematic gem of epic proportions!

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

I picked this one up partly because my virtual book club is discussing the whole Narnia series this month, and partly because I told myself last year that I was going to re-read the whole series myself. I'm just apparently doing it very slowly, and out of order. Anyway, this one is fantastic. I'd forgotten about so many of the adventures in here (the magic book! the sea people!), and in general it was just really, really good. Maybe I'll start doing these read alouds with my son. He's probably old enough.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

I've been itching to get my hands on this since it came out in January. This is the third installment to the The Winternight Trilogy, which is a historical fiction fairy-tale retelling series set in Russia. I read the first one a while back, and was a bit confused by it. It's not like any fairy-tale retelling I've ever read, but the series has really grown on me. This third one cemented it for me, though, and I really, really love it now. It's just so much more substantial than your usual fairy-tale retelling. The historical part of it is so interesting (she includes so many details, and this third book ends at a real historical battle), and the writing is just really good. I won't say the series is perfect, but I would say there is plenty of meat here for a good book-club discussion (lots of themes around feminism and faith that make it really good). And there is a romance, but it's not a very traditional romance. If you come to these things for a good satisfying romance, you might be disappointed. I'm still not sure how I feel about the way this romance played out, but I found everything else so good that I think it's totally worth your time. I highly recommend the whole series.

Okay, there you go. My April recap. It was a really good reading month, but my May is shaping up to be even better, so I'm excited to be back in a couple of weeks to talk about all the books I've read since then. But for now, have you read any of these? If so, what are your thoughts (especially about Crawdads)? I'd love to know!


  1. Hey, I just read a Blake Crouch book, as part of my quest to read a book from every shelf of my local library. (I have not gotten very far.) I had never heard of him, and there he is! I read _Pines_ and thought it was OK. I didn't know I was reading a SF book until pretty far it; the cover had me expecting more of a thriller.

    I read Tobias in my youth. I vaguely remember him as fairly good on principles but weak on specifics. And I thought he was amusing. I may have actually read the sequel, The Only Other Investment Guide You'll Need or something. I remember him bragging about going long on peanut butter or toilet paper or something when he stocked up at Costco.

    1. Wow, reading a book from every shelf in the library is quite a goal! Also, yes Tobias is obsessed with buying in bulk. Which is fine. I just don't think that's necessarily the budgeting cure-all that will save everyone from debt and give us the wealth we need, right? Anyway, thanks for reading!