Books I Read April and May 2018

by - Monday, June 18, 2018

Get ready for a post with many, many book reviews!

April and May were both pretty solid months of reading. I read 14 books and several of them were outside my typical genres, as part of some reading challenges I'm doing this year.

With exception of a handful of books, most of these were excellent (4-5 stars on Goodreads).

April-May books 2018

April Books

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
This read like a fictional crime procedural, and I mean that in a good way. The plot was so engaging that even though you know right away in the book who is lighting the fires, the story is captivating because the entire time police and fire officials are running into dead ends trying to catch the arsonists. I spent the whole time wondering when they were going to get their big break and then how things would play out in the trial. Highly recommend.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
I read this after watching the movie so it was easier to for me to picture the scenes in my head, but I sort of wish I had done it in the reverse. I think I actually enjoyed reading it more than I enjoyed the movie because I thought the movie was only so-so.

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller, Ken Armstrong
This book made me feel a lot of things: scared, angry, sad, furious, angry, angry and more angry. It's hard to say a book about a serial rapist (and the botched police work that led to this situation) is a "good" book, but this book was extremely well-researched and well-reported. I have a lot of thoughts about this book that I can't really articulate well in a short review, but I'd say this book is certainly worth reading, and I would not recommend reading it at night when you are home alone.

Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier
Is it wrong for me to give a YA sci-fi novel five stars on Goodreads? I devoured this book and the other two in the series in a couple of days. I picked this up as part of the book challenge that I'm doing (the category was the first book in a new-to-you YA series) and I'm so glad I did. The story was fast and fun and followed an ordinary girl as she learned that she had inherited a very recessive family gene that allows her to time travel. Of course there's a set of good time travelers and bad-guy time travelers and the teenager in this book has to figure out which is which. The first book ends in a cliff hanger so I immediately got books two and three from the library so I could finish the full story. These books were so different than what I normally read, and I enjoyed them immensely.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
I've been thinking a lot about some of my more creative projects lately -- my blog, other writing projects, etc. Someone recommended this book as a good way of opening up thinking about creative work. I thought it was an OK read. There were parts I liked and parts I didn't. I didn't love it like some, but still found one or two interesting takeaways.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Riot's Read Harder Challenge, and there were a lot of graphic novel categories. This book knocked out all of them so it was a winner in my book. The book itself was the sweet story of an Indian teenager living in America who dreams of learning more about her mom's home country. When she finds a magical pashmina, she's whisked away to India in her dreams. The illustrations in the book were gorgeous and made it fun to page through and follow the girl's journey.

May Books

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
This book was full of characters that all sort of sucked. The title made it sound fun, but siblings Alice and Paul were both so whiny and dysfunctional that I almost couldn't buy it. I ended up liking their half-sister Eloise the best and she was supposed to be a horrible, pretentious snob. Parts of the book were amusing, but overall I felt kind of meh about it.

Bloodstains with Bronte by Katherine Bolger Hyde
This was a good ol' fashioned whodunit mystery. A guest at a murder mystery dinner turns up dead and all the suspects had to have been in the house that night. Lots of people have motive, but obviously only one of them committed the crime. While I thought the ending was a bit predictable, I enjoyed following the fast-moving twists and turns of the plot.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This book took me forever to get through and at parts I thought it was extremely confusing. It was a book club book, and if it hadn't been I'm not sure that I would have finished it. I liked the concept -- the main character gets reincarnated again and again and you see how crucial decisions impact different phases of her life. But while I thought it was promising, it was a slow moving book.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
This book had a slow build, but man then it really sucked me in. Kristin Hannah has quickly become one of my favorite authors. This story about how a family tries to band together after the patriarch's death worked so well because of the way Hannah creates this in-depth very real characters that you empathize deeply with. This isn't necessarily a fast read, but it's a really good read.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
I'm pretty sure about 3/4 of the time I was reading this book, I couldn't believe that a fraction of the stuff Westover lived through was actually true. Every time she wrote about how her brother abused her, breaking her wrist or shoving her head in the toilet, and how her parents didn't believe her and did nothing to stop it, I was appalled. The fact that this girl, who grew up in an abusive, survivalist family, somehow managed to break free and build a place for herself in the "regular" world, while earning her PhD along the way, is honestly pretty incredible. Definitely go read this book.

The Night She Won Miss America by Michael Callahan
I picked this up on a whim from the library, and I'm really glad I did. I will say, the takes a turn for the very odd about 3/4 of the way through, but the first part, which focuses on the 1950 Miss America pageant and the contestants involved is a really fun read. This story is very, very loosely based on the story of the 1937 Miss America pageant winner that fled right after she won to be with her new boyfriend and tried to give up her title. Obviously this book takes a lot of liberties with that story and imagines a much more involved disappearance. It's a fun, fast read. Highly recommend if you're looking for something a bit different.

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  1. I think I read one book this past month! I'll check some of these out -- probably the first one. Arson sounds like a great topic for hot summer days. ;-)