I read 15 books in April. Some were super shiny gems! Some were just OK pebbles good for tossing into a pond.
I really wanted to love this book about Oona, a girl who wakes up in a random year of her life every New Year’s Eve. It starts in the early 80s, at a New Year’s Eve party in her friend’s basement, when she’s….18? I think? About to turn 19? I can’t remember, but because we start the book with her as a sprightly young thing, we get to suffer through her freaking out each time she wakes up as a much older version of herself when she’s internally still a young adult.
I should have known that I wouldn’t like this because “time travel” tropes NEVER WORK FOR ME. Probably because I’m a dumbo who just can’t understand and/or follow along but the whole time I just wanted to know: why. Only her mom and one other character in the book know that this happens to her and they try to protect her from doing stupid shit but I just could never really get a good feel for anyone in the book and thought that Oona was actually quite unlikeable but I don’t think that was the intention. I’m not just saying this because I stan Korea but the best fucking character in the book was the Korean American guitar teacher she has in one of the timelines and that plotline is just completely tossed aside. Good job, Margarita Montimore. Dumbo.
Oh also she’s super rich because of time travel / stock market, etc.
Cool cover, tho bro.
2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
My heart is aching at the very memory of reading this tragic, heartwrenching, poetic, violent, painful, sweet book written as a letter from a Vietnamese American son to his mother, who cannot read. I’ve seen a lot of people complain that it lacks a plot, but it’s literally about…life. It’s a book of personal reflection. This is a tough one to explain because it’s SO EMOTIONAL and left my face slick with tears multiple times. If you want action or a neatly packaged plot-climax-closure, then skip this.
But if you’re looking to feast upon some exquisitely crafted turns of phrase while having your heart fisted because you’re a glutton for punishment, then don’t just pick this book up, but grab the audio to really elevate the experience, as it’s narrated by Vuong himself.
One review on Goodreads summarizes my thoughts perfectly: “The author didn’t write this book; he opened his heart and just let it bleed all over the pages. Reading it cracked mine open and turned me inside out.”
OMG my sinuses are burning just thinking about the emotional journey this one took me on, lol ugh help.
3. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett
Maybe the best book I read in April? I kept putting this one off because I think I assumed it was going to be some dry, historical fiction but then I FINALLY read the synopsis (only after hearing someone rave about how the audiobook is narrated by Tom Hanks) and I thought, “OK. Maybe.”
HOLY SHIT, WHATTA RIDE. I cared so deeply for the brother and sister that this book revolves around. It’s from the POV of the younger brother, Danny, and spans the course of five decades, with THE DUTCH HOUSE firmly at the center. The Dutch House was the name of the grand estate Danny and Maeve’s father purchased for the family in the suburbs of Philly, but the mom hated the house and one day, seemingly out of the blue, leaves the family. The dad eventually remarries a woman who seems to be more into the house than him, and then eventually kicks out Danny and Maeve. They, Maeve especially, spend most of their lives obsessing over the house, and it becomes a habit for them to park their car outside of it and just…watch.
So many things about this book immediately called to mind my grandparent’s house, which Corey and I affectionately called “Gillcrest” or “116” to the point where I have often thought about getting the numbers 116 in a heart tattooed on me somewhere. And the relationship of Danny and Maeve was so real and pure, it made me so happy that Corey and I are talking again because this book probably would have destroyed me otherwise.
(I’m crying right now, lol.)
This was a solid 5 stars for me. Reading it along with Tom Hanks (when I do opt for audiobooks, I usually have the book too so I can read along) enhanced the experience because I could picture everything in my mind, like watching a movie so thank you Tom, for elevating Ann Patchett’s beautiful story to the next level. I love this book so much and I don’t often re-read things but I think this one deserves to be read more than once for sure. MAYBE AS A BUDDY-READ WITH HENRY!?!?!?
4. The Upstairs House – Julia Fine
Oh this was a weird one!! A story-within-a-story and also one of the most creative and interesting takes on the haunted house trope that I’ve experienced (haunted house tropes are my faves but I have read some really shitty ones!). This is a giant metaphor for post-partum depression and I thought it was executed skillfully and thoughtfully. It’s told from the perspective of Megan, who has just given birth to her daughter, and almost immediately she becomes haunted by the ghost of Margaret Wise Brown, a children’s book author. I loved this! Some of the chapters in the book were about Margaret’s relationship with poet/actress/socialite Michael Strange. I didn’t realize it at first because I’m an uncultured dumbass, but both of these women were real, not fictional, and the author’s note at the end even encourages readers to explore more of their works.
If you go into this expecting a legit horror story, you’ll likely be disappointed. But I thought it was poignant, candid, and laugh out loud funny at times. Julia Fine is a wonderful writer and this really worked for me. Maybe because I can remember how fucking nuts I felt after having a baby.
5. The Honey-Don’t List – Christina Lauren
Sometimes I need to break up all the hard, emotional reads with a nice, light, quirky romance, and Christina Lauren books always seems to do the trick. Nothing revolutionary here, just a good, entertaining novel about the unraveling of a famous DIY couple’s marriage and their assistants (Carey is the wife’s assistant and James is the husband’s) trying desperately to keep everything from publicly imploding. Of course, Carey and James are like oil and water, AND OMG NOW THEY HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER, GROSS.
It was cute and light and perfect for what I needed at the time.
6. The House In the Cerulean Sea – T.J. Klune
Why did I put off reading this book for so long?!?! Oh, I know why – because I mistakenly thought it was middle grade. IT IS NOT. This is the purest, most magical, precious adult book about FITTING IN and FOUND FAMILY that has ever been written, I am not kidding. It was charming, sweet, funny, sad, JUST PERFECT.
It’s about an orphanage of misunderstood magical children and the caseworker who is assigned to spend a month there and basically write the report that will determine the future of the orphanage and the children.
My friend Sadishika called it “Umbrella Academy but make it wholesome” and I can see that! I mean, I gave it five million stars, so…
(Also, Henry read it before me and kept saying, “WHERE ARE YOU IN THE BOOK? WHERE ARE YOU NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO MY FAVORITE CHARACTER WAS? WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE?” Henry really liked it, lol.)
7. Foolish Hearts – Emma Mills
This is totally YA but I enjoyed it so much! Apparently it’s a retelling of Midsummer Night’s Dream but I am not well-versed in Shakespeare so probably even the most blatant nods were lost on me. However, I really liked the protagonist, Claudia, and really rooted for her. It just gave me all-around good, swirly feelings and actually kind of made me miss high school a little bit too.
Someone on Goodreads recommended it for “ppl who would kill Voldemort in a fuck, marry, kill game” so do with that what you will.