What I Read: April 2019

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Another semester is done and in the books! It’s a good thing because it really cut into my reading time.

Here’s what I read in April:

  • Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
    A surprisingly calming and meditative book about how messy the world is. No surprise that we feel anxious all the time, given that we live in a garbage fire. Matt Haig presents essays on anxiety (and related topics) along with lists and observations that are poignant and often funny. This is definitely not self-help (that’s a compliment), but it will make you feel a little less alone on this planet.

 

  • Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
    When your brain can’t think anymore, an Hercule Poirot mystery is just what it needs. I’ve already forgotten the entirety of the plot, but I enjoyed reading it. It was like a cup of tea on a rainy day.

 

  • Adele by Leila Slimani
    I loved Slimani’s previous novel, The Perfect Nanny, which is why I grabbed this one from the library. It’s tough to read about someone who is ruining her life because of her sex addiction, but I appreciated Slimani’s depiction of what the depths of addiction really look like. It’s not sexy in the slightest; it’s tragic.
  • Proust and the Reading Brain: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf
    Human brains were never meant to read. That is, our brains didn’t evolve to read; we simply invented reading out of pure ingenuity. And what a wonderful invention that was! I love nonfiction that tells a good story humans, history, and brains. This is a great intro to reading and what wonderful things it does for us and our brains.
  • The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah
    I generally love Sophie Hannah’s books without reservation. This was my least favorite in the series, though. It’s still worth reading if you are committed to reading the whole CID series (as I am). But I wouldn’t recommend it as a starting place. It’s sort of an odd book about a comedian (who doesn’t really seem to be funny) who may or may be targeted by someone who may or may not be murdering pairs of friends. The ending was cartoonish.
  • Our House by Louise Candlish
    I adore family psychological thrillers set in England. This one might be the best I’ve read in that sub-genre for a long time. After separating, Fiona (Fi) and Bram Lawson agree to take turns living in their family home (rather than having their kids moving between house and flat). Everything is going swimmingly until Fi comes home early one day and discovers that Bram has sold the house, taken the two million pounds from the sale, and fled. Subsequent chapters shift between Fi’s story (as told to a podcast) and Bram’s story (as told in what might be a suicide note). I picked up on a few twists early, but the ending was stunning and perfect. I stayed up really late finishing this one.

So that’s April 2019. My favorite book for the month was Our House by Louise Candlish.

Happy reading in May!

What I Read: March 2019

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I can’t believe another reading month is behind us. Here are the seven books I read in March 2019:

Family Trust by Kathy Wang–Stanley Huang is dying. The question now is who is going to inherit his fortune? His second wife or his children from his first marriage? Complications ensue when Stanley’s family begins to suspect he doesn’t have any money at all. Good family saga, set in Silicon Valley, about a Chinese-American family coming to terms with their own mortality.

My Pitch: If your rich dad is dying, hurry up and visit. 

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The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman–I think Lolita is a masterpiece, but I’m conflicted about that opinion because it’s a book about a grown man who assaults a child. Can I love a book about something so horrific? I haven’t found a satisfactory answer yet, but I am glad I read this nonfiction book about Nabokov and the true story that inspired Lolita. Sally Horner deserves to be remembered in her own right.

My Pitch: Sally Horner deserves her own crime podcast.

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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar–Jonah Hancock is an unhappy widower and merchant who has come into possession of a mermaid corpse. That coveted mermaid leads him to the lauded courtesan Angelica Neal, a woman he dearly wants to make his wife. Set in the late eighteenth century, this historical novel is excellent from beginning to end.

My Pitch: Mermaids are always bad luck.

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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones–Adam and Emily are the perfect couple, but Adam’s mother Pammie is the mother-in-law from hell. I guessed the twist ending–and it’s a bit contrived–but it’s still fun to read about all the ways Pammie inserts her monstrous self into her son’s marriage. I read this over Spring Break, and it was perfect for vacation. It didn’t tax my brain in the slightest–and that’s a compliment!

My Pitch: Don’t forget: You are marrying his mother too.

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The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump by Michiko Kakutani–I’ve read enough of Kakutani’s New York Times book reviews to know that she’s cranky. Rightfully so, given the era we’re living in. I agreed with almost everything she says here about truth (and the lack of it in civic discourse), but it felt more like reading a blog post that summarized the state of world affairs. The writing is elegant, and I do hope she writes more books.

My Pitch: The death of critical thinking is the death of reason is the death of truth. Good luck, us.

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As Long as We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney–Matt and Marie are happily married with two grown daughters. While on a mountain hike, Marie falls off a cliff while taking a selfie. Matt looks increasingly suspicious, especially after police discover his first wife died under mysterious circumstances. I guessed the twist on this one too, and while the plot is pretty unrealistic, I appreciated the author’s attempt to make the characters believable. Enjoyable read.

My Pitch: Never marry a guy who is a sandwich shop salesman.

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Come With Me by Helen Schulman–Amy Reed works for a Bay Area start-up. Her boss is a Stanford whiz-kid who has figured out how to explore multiverses. With this software, Amy can finally see how her life would be different if she’d made different choices. I liked the book just fine, but I was deeply disappointed by how little of it is about the multiverses. It’s really just a book about a marriage on the rocks. I think it’s been pitched wrong.

My Pitch: You’ll mess your life up in every iteration of the multiverse, so just chill out. 

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My favorite book of March was The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar.

Happy reading in April!