April book club reviews

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April had so much potential, particularly with easter and lots of time off to read. But at the end of it all, I ended up in a reading slump, with lots of DNF books and motivation at an all time low. The problem this month has not been the motivation to read, but finding books that actually pulls me in. The celebrity book club books didn’t exactly help matters as there were a lot of misses in the bunch. Even some of my most anticipated books fell short of expectations.

I’m starting to find more downsides than benefits to reading the celebrity book club picks. I have not had one single book club have consistent good picks in the 4 months I’ve been reading them all. And as a major mood reader, I’m finding it hard to have the choices lined up for me. I finished all the book club picks early this month because I abandoned so many of them. And I think that needs to be the rule of thumb, don’t push yourself into a reading slump or force your way through books that are not doing anything for you. Your time is precious, be selective of what you spend it on. I think I might cut out a few clubs after 6 months, but we’ll see.

For now, here’s how April went…

Oprah’s bookclub: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

One of my most anticipated, the one I had marked on my calender and bought the day before Oprah even announced it as her 100th pick, and it fell short.

This book is a “modern” retelling of little women.
And while it’s set in the 80’s and 90’s spanning all the way to 2008 – the book reads more like it’s the 50’s. Maybe it’s the little women trope that’s hard to modernize? I don’t know. But it feels old.

It is also told in the third person, but it also does alternating chapters between the three MC’s. Which let me ask, is the point of doing when you’re not even writing in the first person? It’s not giving us a different perspective! Not really anyway.

The absolute best, I repeat BEST way the alternating chapters were used was that at one point we see the Sylvie calling Julie and Julie telling her that William has left. The next chapter we see Julie getting a note from William saying that he’s leaving and walking out the door. And the next chapter we see William walking out the door and down the street.
Because of the alternating chapters, it got to tell this part of the story backwards, as if it was something shocking that we needed to drag out. But it wasn’t, it was pretty predictable.

The third person narrative just made me feel so disconnected from this story that I didn’t care about any of them.

Also at one point Sylvie compares her falling in love with her sisters husband with her other sister being a lesbian. Saying they had “similar stakes” and I don’t even know what to say about that, except no, that’s not the same. But whatever.

I was so so so excited for this book because I loved Dear Edward sooo much! But this didn’t do it for me. I came a quarter in before my interest waned, and halfway I started skimming until I finished it. In the end it felt a little pointless. But it also kinda made me want to read little women. ⭐⭐

Reese’s book club: Romantic comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

A three part romantic comedy minus the comedy. (If you’re asking my sense of humour). This is a rare occurrance for the Reese book club, chosing an author twice – the first book by sittenfeld was “You think it, I’ll say it” a collection of essays I found absolutely brilliant!

This book is about Sally, a comedy writer for a show called “the night owls” or TNO. (A show that is most definitely based on SNL).

Part 1 – one week in 2018, Noah, the musical guest is also the host (which is rare, just like on SNL). Noah writes a skit and gets help from Sally to tighten it up. We sit through pitch meetings, editing, table reads, rewrites, set, costume and live show. And while this is a comedy show, having the skits explained during creation wasn’t particularly funny to me. But somehow the writing is so good that it’s compelling and it keeps you going.

Part deux – set in early 2020 covid times, Noah reaches out to Sally through e-mail (may I remind you, this is 2 years after the show!) and they start an online penpal relationship.

Part 3 – they pod together and the story does a “realistic” version of a romantic comedy which was crazy stupid love comedy (think the scene where Emma Stone is tripping over Ryan Goslings abs, but sober) and then going to the toilet to shit.

It may sound like I didn’t like this book, but Sittenfelds writing to me is so engrossing that I can’t put it down! I binged it, lost sleep and snuck pages in the work toilet. What is this magic? I can’t explain it. But I like it.

The “you dropped my hand” was so very All too well (10min version) and I loved it. I loved the indigo girls references and their cute banter. It’s quick witted, which is hard to be and write. It also touches on a real subject which is how society’s beauty standard makes perfectly normal women feel inferior and undeserving. I recognize Sally’s behavior and thought process even though I hate to admit that. And getting over that is a difficult thing to do, if at all possible. I love how she uses the term lamp shading. In acknowledging it but not having a resolution for it. It’s still important to acknowledge that it’s there.
I loved this book because it felt like taking a step back from the noise and just focusing on human connection again. Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that what we all need? ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Good Morning America’s book club: Dirt Laundry by Disha Bose

When I saw that there was a thriller on the list I was very excited, because thriller/crime books are a staple for easter in Scandinavia. But this didn’t exacly go as planned.

I ended up with a DNF at 15%
I realized that if I don’t even care who killed her because she was an excruciatingly horrible person with no redeeming qualities, why would I keep reading?

Also one little part that offer me from the beginning was some repetitive telling of things I felt had no reason to be repeated.
F.ex: (page begins) SOMETIMES, LAUREN SMOKED a cigarette out in the back garden. (Then a page of her history with smoking. Leading to the next page) THE ONLY PLACE Lauren smoked was in the garden.

WE GET IT she smoked in the garden!!!!! (AND WHY IS IT capitalized like that in the beginning of paragraph sentences? It feels like it’s yelling it to me!) haha was her smoking spot super important to the story? I don’t know. And I don’t care.

Read with Jenna: Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

Let me preface this by saying that environmental sci-fi isn’t my preferred genre. I tried, but ended up with a DNF at 20%
There was just nothing holding my interest here. A camp in the norths neverending winter, a rich guy escaping his heritage through teaching and a bunch of “pleasure workers” in the midst of it all. Theres probably some deep meaning here about the important things in life, what we are willing to sacrifice and what we aren’t, but I’m just not interested enough to find it.

Moving on.

Diverse spines: The house of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson

I read and reviewed this in February when it was Reese’s book club pick and landed on three stars. Here’s what I said back then:

It’s the 50’s and two young black women live parallell lives that will intersect through the house of Eve.
Ruby grows up poor in Philadelphia, but she’s bright and talented and works hard towards a scholarship to break out of her family’s inherited poverty. One day she falls in love with Shimmy, a naive jewish boy and the future she has planned is up in the air when she finds herself pregnant.
Eleanor is better off than Ruby, but still finds herself lower class than many others in Howard University in Washington. Eleanor falls in love with William and also becomes pregnant, but struggles with fitting in with his family of a higher social standing.
This book is as much about love and circumstance as it is about the challenges of black women in 50’s America. And that’s a good thing! The author does well in balancing both historical and fiction. (Which is great for me, since I don’t particularly love the genre.)

At the same time, this book feels surface level. This is not a character development type novel, which is a shame, because there’s certainly room for it. Secondary characters feels like pawns with no depth, stereotypes to use to push the story and the main characters into action or emotion. This usually feels flat to me, in a way the world isn’t. I like to understand the motives of the antagonist as much as the protagonist.
The story feels very much like a story and it’s one you can see coming a mile away. This isn’t the twist and turn book it’s sold to be, like their lives will intersect in mysterious ways. No. Is it still a nice story? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes. I enjoyed it just enough without being wowed by it. ⭐⭐⭐

Belletrist: A likely story by Leigh McMullan Abramson

I’m a little disappointed in the Belletrist pick, they usually pick very interesting books and this just felt outside their usual progressive choice.

It’s a book about writing books. A DNF at 25%.
These characters were a bit whiny and shallow and I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities. This priveleged “I want to be a bestselling writer too because my dad is!” pouty thing isn’t working for her.
Example: she is giftet a bunch of new hardcover books for her birthday, and because shes a snob that doesn’t read James Patterson she goes to throw the books away, but donates them to a street vendor instead. Ungrateful and entitled she wishes she had gotten a birkin bag instead. Lol, no I can’t.
And in the end (I read a spoiler even though I didn’t need one to know this) both her and her dad are awful humans, so I’m glad i didn’t waste my time.

Amerie’s book club: If I survive you by Jonathan Escoffery

This book was also a Belletrist pick last year, and is more in the lane of what I expect from Belletrist. I didn’t read it back then, but I’m happy Amerie chose it even though its not new and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

This collection of short stories that tie together to tell a story about being a third culture kid.

I really appreciated the athors musings on the experience of trying to be put into a box different from the one you know. How you try to fit in in different environments by trying to bend your language, looks and feelings. These are emotions I think few people think of or have, so they may be hard to relate to, but if you do, it feels like home. One that is very difficult for third culture kids or half kids with identity crises to find. I definitely found it, and at the perfect time. As I was being pointed out as too white to be able to understand the brown struggle. As if white people accept me into their white midst without a sideeye. Discrimination against third culture kids come from both side of the fence. If you ask me, it’s twice the price to get to know two cultures intimately, but also twice to struggle to be chewed up and spit out by them both. I liked that this book felt like a solid place to hang out in the middle.

Aside from that, short story collections will always have some stories that are five stars and some that don’t connect with you at all. This one was no different. So I landed on a four. I’d definitely read more from this author. (Also I wanna give bonus points for a cool cover!) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Books that matter: The human origins of Beatrice Porter and other essential ghosts by Soraya Palmer

An exciting debut, with an impossibly long title.

I was sceptical going in, then pleasantly surprised and really engaged and then suddenly I ended at a DNF at 25%.

Here’s the thing. This book, I believe is actually quite good, the problem for me was the structure – or should I say lack thereof. Jamaican folktales is something I really wanted to read about, and in parts that was really cool. The writing is also good, but the narrator didn’t work for me. Supposedly a mischievious unborn younger child? I dont know. I stopped caring about 70 pages in and I dropped it. I tried picking it up again a few times, but there was nothing to hang my hopes on. Unfortunatly.

My favorite april book club read:

This month was hard. I desperately want to like every book I open, but sometimes the material just doesn’t connect. Please give the books a try if you think it sounds like something you might like, our tastes are different, so even though it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it wont for you. I ended up DNF’ing 4 books!!! One I had read previously. Two I liked, but at the same time they didn’t really do it for me. And then I had my absolute favorite of the bunch: Romantic comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld. I ate this up in two days. I’m tagging Sittenfeld as an auto-buy from now on!