Worth the Read? April Reading Roundup

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Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books we’ve been reading lately and whether we recommend them.

Welcome to our new monthly series Worth the Read. At the end of each month, I’ll be wrapping up my monthly reading with a list of all the books I read. I often talk about books on my to-read list, so now it’s time to see what I thought after I read them. Each month, I’ll break down my monthly reading list for you so you can know which books I found worth the read, and which books I wish I had skipped.

Let’s break down the numbers on my reading this month. In all, I finished 13 books this month:

Another month of reading down, and while my numbers have dropped from previous months, I was able to get in quite a few books. 11 fiction and 2 nonfiction. 

In my list, I have eight new 2019 releases, one 2018 bestseller, two classics, and two older books I’d never read. Only one book was a re-read.

I read 10 books from the library, I owned one book, and read 2 advance review copies on my Kindle app. This month, I reached a high of five overdue library books, though I currently am only down to one. Luckily my library doesn’t do overdue fines. As a result of an injury, I didn’t go to the gym much, so I didn’t listen to any audiobooks this month.

But you didn’t come here to read about the numbers. Let’s get down to the book recommendations. Keeping reading to find out which books I loved and which I felt weren’t worth the read.

May 2019 Reading Roundup →

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My Monthly Reading Roundup

The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King

The Good Neighbor
by Maxwell King

After a decade of broadcasting Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Fred Rogers became a cultural icon and a fierce champion of early childhood development. In the first full biography of his life and one of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award winners, Maxwell King details Fred Roger’s life and his drive to create the best children’s show he could. Combining teaching kindness and inclusion with best practices by child development experts, Roger’s was a force for good in this world and will always be remembered fondly. Don’t expect any scandalous revelations about Rogers. While not a saint, Rogers was one of those truly great men who lived his life exactly as he seemed. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like biographies

 

Book cover for Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee
by Jeff Zentner

Earlier this year, I fell in love with Jeff Zentner’s style in his first two Young Adult books, both tearjerkers that make you cry. So I was excited to pick up his February 2019 book release, despite the hideous cover and awkward title. High school seniors and best friends Delia and Josie are the hosts of Midnite Matinee, a campy late night horror movie show on the local public access station. With graduation looming, both girls have decisions to make. Josie must decide whether to stay and pursue the show with Delia or move on to bigger opportunities, while Delia is looking to find the father who abandoned her. 

Sadly, the story never really came together for me. Although I sobbed through his previous books, Zentner failed to connect emotionally in this novel. The kitschy nature of the show, the MMA fighting boyfriend and the less than witty teenage banter all felt like distractions. What you see is what you get – a book with an awkward title that will be forgotten quickly.

Verdict: Skip … read his other books instead

 

Book cover for Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I think we’ve found the frontrunner for best book of the year. Already snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s company to become an Amazon miniseries, Daisy Jones and the Six is making waves this spring. After her highly successful novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid is back with an addictingly fun read about the rise and fall of a fictional 70s band. With sex, drugs, and rock and roll, you’ll feel like you’re watching a biopic on VH1 – but one that is extremely well-written. Selected by Book of the Month club for March, Daisy Jones and the Six will quite possibly be the best book of the entire year. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … top 2019 new release so far

 

Book cover for It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

It Can’t Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis

Just so you know, Sinclair Lewis is one of my favorite authors. He has a number of great books satirizing the hypocrisy of America’s middle class. However, with the start of the Great Depression, Lewis needed a new topic to right about. It Can’t Happen Here depicts the rise of a political demagogue to the Presidency of the United States. With surprising accurate parallels to Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, Lewis’s novel has hit a second wind recently. However, the parallels don’t extend very far. In the novel, a dictatorship is set up within a week of inauguration and America’s complacent citizens just let fascism steam roll them. Not nearly his best work, I would definitely suggest you read 1984 or Brave New World instead if you want a classic dystopian novel.

Verdict: Skip … unless you really love classics or Sinclair Lewis

 

Book cover for The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power
by Naomi Alderman

What if all women suddenly developed the power of sparking electricity with their hands? How would that ability change the balance of power in the world? Naomi Alderman does a good job of setting up this dystopian scenario. Her narrative follows a number of individuals who see opportunity in the shifting times and manage to change the world, but not always for better. While I thought the story was well-written, I just couldn’t quite fall in love. Yet, I can fully understand why others would. Just be warned, there is quite a bit of language and violence is this story.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like dystopian fiction

 

Book cover for The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles

The Oedipus Cycle
by Sophocles

Way back before the dawn of time, Sophocles was a Greek playwright famous for his tragedies. Of all his surviving works, he is best known for his three plays about Oedipus – Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. In case your Greek references are a little rusty, Oedipus was a man who, without realizing it, murders his father and marries his own mother. Of the three plays, Oedipus the King and Antigone are worth reading; they are the epitome of Greek tragedy. On the other hand, Oedipus at Colonus is completely forgettable and adds no value to the series. Remember, plays are easier to read than novels, making them the perfect short classics to read if you need to something quick for our 2019 Reading Challenge.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like classic plays

 

Book cover for The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls
by Chris Bohjalian

I tried to read The Sandcastle Girls back in February for my 2019 Reading Challenge and I just couldn’t get past the first chapter. However, since it had been recommended by a friend who I I know has excellent taste, I wanted to try again. Chris Bohjalian’s historical fiction novel describes the horrifying genocide of Armenians during World War I. Recent college graduate Elizabeth Endicott travels to Aleppo, Syria, with her father to deliver aid to the Armenians. Living at the American consulate and working in the hospital, she comes in first hand contact with the suffering Armenians. There she befriends Armen, a young Armenian engineer whose wife and daughter were killed in the forced march across the desert. Overall, the story is good and extremely informative about an oft-forgotten part of history. However, be aware that the story is extremely slow building so this book is definitely not for everyone.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you don’t mind a slow build

 

Book cover for The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

I’ve heard great things about Jane Harper’s novel The Dry, so when I saw her name among the list of February 2019 book releases, I knew I had to read her newest novel. Way out in the Australia outback, brothers Nathan and Bub Bright find the body of their brother Cameron on the edge of their ranch. Did Cam end his own life walking out into the desert or did someone end it for him? More a character study than a murder mystery, The Lost Man looks at the secrets a family keeps combined with a fascinating portrayal of life in the outback. 

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like books

 

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable
by Soniah Kamal

Soniah Kamal’s retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice is set in modern-day Pakistan. At the biggest wedding their small town has ever hosted, Mrs. Binat is determined to snag husbands for her five daughters. Though Jena seems to have caught the eye of an eligible young man, the wealthy Mr. Darsee is clearly unimpressed with Alys and her siblings. Soniah Kamal was spot-on when she noticed the similarities between Victorian England and modern day Pakistan. Unfortunately this means the story translates over without much change, and, therefore, doesn’t add anything new in the retelling. Read more →

Verdict: Skip … unless you really like Pride and Prejudice

 

book cover A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

A Girl Named Zippy
by Haven Kimmel

Nicknamed “Zippy” as a kid for her energetic nature, Haven Kimmel was born in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana, (population 300) in 1965. While her life is quirkier than most, Kimmel’s simple memoir of her childhood accurately paints a picture of a small town Midwestern life. If I hadn’t been reading this for my neighborhood book club, I definitely wouldn’t have finished it. While many reviews found it witty and humorous, I did not particularly find it amusing. 

I will note that there is quite a bit of violence against animals – some that she just happened to witness, some that is part of growing up on a farm, and some that could happen to anyone. If you are terribly sensitive, don’t read the book. However, it shouldn’t be condemned for the fact she grew up in a different era or lifestyle than you did. 

Verdict: Skip … unless you really like memoirs about growing up

 

Book cover for The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street
by Yara Zgheib

Yara Zgheib hits the emotions hard in her debut novel. Professional dancer Anna Roux is plagues with uncertainties. In attempt to take control, she starts controlling her eating and eventually weighs only 88 pounds. Admitted to a treatment facility for her anorexia, Anna meets other brave women fighting their own battles with eating disorders. Once you get past the formatting (short disjointed paragraphs and heavy use of italics indicating thoughts and dialogue), the raw emotion of the story draws you in as you see into Anna’s struggles with her disease. A great reminder of the power of mental illness and the awful toll anorexia takes on the body. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like raw emotional reads

 

Upcoming Releases

One of the best perks of being a book blogger is receiving advance review copies (ARCs) of upcoming book releases from publishers.

At the beginning of each month, we cover all the new book releases coming out, and next week will be our list of May 2019 new releases. So as not to ruin all the good stuff from next week’s list, here’s a peek at the May releases I’ve already read.

Book cover for The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Book Cover for Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman
book cover Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

 

My To-Read List

What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this month. Be sure to come back for the May Reading Roundup to see which ones I read and what I thought.

Book cover for Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Book cover for Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Have you read any of these books? Let us know what you think!

Worth the Read? Find out now. May 2019 Book recommendations

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8 Comments

  • Reply CJ | A Well-Read Tart May 1, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Oh, man! You mentioned so many books I am interested in! I remember loving Antigone when I read it in high school, and Oedipus is a classic. The whole “let’s try to avoid a prophecy” theme in THE IMMORTALISTS reminded me a lot of the story of Oedipus (of course, without the whole incest thing).

    Thanks for the notes on UNMARRIAGEABLE — I’m interested in reading this one since I’ll read most P&P derivative works, but it’s a bit disappointing that there’s not much added to the original story. I kind of like that sometimes, but I also don’t. I’ll probably still read it at some point, though. 🙂

    Definitely still want to read THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET. I’ve never battled anorexia, but I appreciate books that address the severity of mental illness. And, I will NOT be reading the ZIPPY book–I cannot stand violence against animals, so thanks for pointing that out. That’s an automatic pass for me.

    • Reply Rachael May 2, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      I don’t regret reading Unmarriageable, I just felt like I didn’t get anything out of it. It modernized the story a bit, but didn’t really give me anything more to think about. I still had fun reading it because The Pride and Prejudice story is one of my favorites.

      • Reply CJ | A Well-Read Tart May 8, 2019 at 7:41 am

        Agreed –I read a lot of “meh” P&P retellings/adaptations, but I enjoy them no matter how crappy they are, just because P&P is at the base of them, lol.

  • Reply Dara May 1, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    I like Chris Bohjalian – too bad it’s slow to get into!

  • Reply Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins May 2, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Yes! I’m super keen to read a few of these, especially The Power. Bummer to hear that Unmarriageable didn’t quite make the cut – I’m actually studying P&P adaptations at the moment, and that one was on my list. I’ve heard The Dreamers is fantastic too, can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

    • Reply Rachael May 2, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      If you studying P&P adaptations, you really should read it. I just felt it didn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the original story.

  • Reply Kelly May 2, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    I am super excited to have stumbled upon a copy of The Lost Man by Jane Harper at a local rummage sale! I can’t wait to read it, and am also really looking forward to Sing, Unburied, Sing!

    • Reply Rachael May 8, 2019 at 4:25 pm

      What a great find. I hope you like The Lost Man. I just started Sing, Unburied, Sing, and it’s off to an interesting start, to say the least.

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