April 28, 2017

What I Read (in March) and April!

I mentioned on Monday that I've been in a bit of a reading rut this month, so I guess it's a good thing that I never managed to post my March book recap (even though I had the post written).

I'm not too sure where this rut came from. I started two books last month that I just couldn't get into. I listened to the audiobook of this month's book club pick but I really don't know what I want to read next. Suggestions are welcome!

Here's a look at what I've been reading:

Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach - I normally don't enjoy travel writing but this book was brilliant. Alice Steinbach was a journalist for the Baltimore Sun who spent time traveling the world, learning things...taking a literature course about Jane Austen in the village where she grew up, taking a cooking class at the Ritz in Paris, learning to fold origami in Kyoto...Every chapter brought her story to life and I felt like I was learning these things with her myself. I loved this book and was sad to learn after I finished, that Alice passed away in 2012 but I'm glad I discovered this book and that her stories have been immortalized through these pages.

13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro - I finished this book wondering what on earth I had just read. This book made no sense. The author, who grew up at the address the book is named for, wrote this story based on a collection of letters and mementos found in a box in the apartment of an older woman who died alone. Without any family, her belongings were supposedly left to the other tenants of the building. When I learned this, I found the book to be incredibly invasive and presumptuous. It was overly sexual - even going to far to suggest that the main character's father may have made a sexual attempt at her in his grief following her brother's death. The author used real names and addresses in this novel which really bothered me given that the entire story was made up and shed the characters in poor light. Aside from all of that, it was poorly written, had weak character development, characters that did nothing to drive the story, and a ridiculous element of time travel that made no sense. I kept reading for the simple fact that I rarely start a book without finishing it but this was an absolutely terrible book.

The Girls by Emma Cline - This was our book club pick last month and I didn't like it at all.  The book starts in the present day and finds Evie Boyd looking back on her past when she was part of a cult who, as she reveals in bits and pieces, killed people. Only, she never actually joined the cult, she spent a few nights on this ranch and got absorbed in their sex- and drug-fulled tendencies, still going home to her mom's whenever she wanted and, when the plot's climax is finally delivered two chapters from the end (after you've wondered what in the world she's getting at), you find that she wasn't even present for the event that the book really centers around and leads up to. In the end, this book is about a rich girl whose parents didn't spend as much time paying attention to her as they should have, who spends a summer dabbling in some risky behaviors with people who seem less like a cult than a bunch of girls living on a ranch, obsessing over a guy trying to get a record deal. I understand that the "event" was probably pretty traumatic to Evie in the aftermath but this book fell flat for me, particularly as the entire book led up to an event that the main character wasn't even part of.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain -  This is the second book I've read by Paula McLain and I'm surprised by her portrayal of the characters she writes. I've read both The Paris Wife and now this, both of which fall into the historical fiction genre featuring real women, yet she makes them so unlikeable, I find it hard to understand why she would even write about these women in the first place. I don't find the lead character, Beryl Markham, as insufferable as Hadley Richardson in The Paris Wife but in both books, McLain portrays these women in such a negative light. Rather than portraying Beryl Markham  as a pioneer and a trailblazer, she was made out to be a victim of bad decisions and you're led more to learn about her indiscretions -sleeping around with friends' lovers, having torrid affairs with seemingly every man at arm's length and then suffering from the social snub of British colonial high society. Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, the first female horse trainer (and a champion one at that), yet these were relatively insignificant components of the book. Instead of highlighting her accomplishments and the difficult path she carved, this book focuses on her personal life, and mostly her sex life, in a way that doesn't truly depict the path that Beryl Markham paved for women.

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman - I've shared my love for Fred Backman before. While I didn't love this book as much as "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry" and "A Man Called Ove," it was still a beautiful spin-off of "My Grandmother..." that brought me to love a character I found insufferable in that book. "Britt-Marie Was Here" picks up shortly after "My Grandmother" ends and finds Britt-Marie learning to be on her own for the first time in a very long time. As with all of Backman's books, this one left me with a smile on my face and a reminder to appreciate the little things in life. 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh - I hadn't heard of this book before we selected it for this month's book club. When I learned that it was a thriller, I wasn't too excited about reading it. I haven't been a fan of some of the "hot" thrillers of the past few years but this was a strong exception. There were so many twists in this book, and each time one came, I thought I had figured things out, only to be floored yet again. The book is narrated by three different characters, and the audiobook had two different voices, which I liked. The book was a little bit longer than I would have liked so overall, I gave it 3 stars, but I definitely recommend it as a good beach read heading into summer!

Have you read any of these? What did you think?
What have you been reading lately?

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