Hello, fellow readers! It’s been awhile since I’ve had a month fly by so fast, but between having family in town for a week and spending four days in Ann Arbor I feel as if March wrapped up before I even got started. Somehow, I did manage to fit in some good March reading, even if by last week my brain was fried.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray
Publication date: February 5, 2019
IndieBound, Amazon, Powells
Bri Jackson is a 16-year-old who loves one thing above all else—rapping. Her mind is constantly flowing with words, how they rhyme, and can be linked together with rhythm. Unfortunately, with a dead father and recovering drug addict mother, Bri has to focus on things in life that most of us never think twice about. Like will there be heat or electricity in their apartment? Will they have to go to a food giveaway to get something to eat? Will her aunt finally be killed for her gang activities? All of these things are in play in Angie Thomas’s new novel, On the Come Up. I loved her debut, The Hate U Give and this novel works in the same way—shows me a side of America and a way of life I never experienced AND keeps me engrossed until the last page.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami: Review to follow
The Secretary by Renée Knight
Published by Harper
Publication date: February 12, 2019
IndieBound, Amazon, Powells
The best way I can describe The Secretary is to call is a thriller-lite. As in, you’ve never read a thriller mystery before and you don’t want to be too scared. The premise is a secretary who swaps her values and principles (not to mention her family) for her boss’s approval. Think The Devil Wears Prada, but set in England and at a grocery store chain. Kind of loses the sexiness when you’re talking lettuce not Chanel.
Christine is the steadfast secretary who runs Mina’s life while ignoring her own. Mina is not a good person and Christine turns a blind eye to bad behavior and, potentially, some illegal behavior on Mina’s part. Which is why I called this lite reading—what goes wrong is pretty tame and doesn’t create tension. It’s legal, but without unexpected twists. It’s only at the very end that things go off the rails in a way that is unbelievable, given the characters as they’ve been presented. Put it all together and you have a staid novel with an ending that, while dramatic, doesn’t fit.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews: The first of my spring reads and it did not disappoint. Review to follow
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum: Dark novel about Muslim women living in Brooklyn. Review to follow
Waiting for Bojangles by Olivier Bourdeaut, Regan Kramer
Publication date: January 7, 2016
Waiting for Bojangles is the first English translation of a well-known French author. The synopsis of this light novel about an eccentric family of three includes the words “zany” and “madcap”. I should probably have focused on those words rather than the description because neither are qualities I find entertaining and they both accurately describe this nutty story about a mother, father, and son who exist in a world unlike any I’ve ever read about. Silly veers into slapstick so if you like Jerry Lewis’s style of comedy, then you’ll love this novel. I don’t like, so was annoyed more than anything.
Otherwise Engaged: A Novel by Lindsey J. Palmer
Published by Skyhorse
Publication date: February 26, 2019
I know people who really loved Otherwise Engaged and I might have been one of them except for a plot point that kept me from finishing the book. The novel is about a woman whose fiancé writes a novel that is basically an account of life with his last girlfriend. It gets published, becomes a huge hit, and old girlfriend shows up. All of that works except that the author includes numerous sections of this guy’s novel and they are so dreadful I could not keep reading. There is no world where this book would have been published or where this woman wouldn’t have said, “I love you, but this book needs work.” If the fiancé’s novel had been halfway palatable I would have kept going because it sounds like the kind of chick-lit I love. As is I had to bail at 25%.
If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura, Eric Selland
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: March 12, 2019
Somehow this month I decided to try first time English translations of two foreign authors and sadly, neither worked. If Cats Disappeared from the World is a Japanese bestseller about a man who finds out he has a week to live—until he meets the Devil who tells him if he eliminates one thing from the world entirely he’ll gain another day. Immediately, my negotiating brain kicks in and thinks, ‘One day? No. If I’m eliminating something from the world it’s worth at least a week.’ After that thought comes the fact that I could survive for years by just eliminating things I dislike or don’t care about (I’m looking at you crows, pigeons, coffee, Brussels sprouts, cheesecake, SUVs, cigarettes). But that would be my book, not this one. Instead, the novel is a mix of fatal humor and reconciling the past before we die—neither one done enough to really evoke any emotion. Despite the lovely cover, this odd little book left me thinking something was lost in translation. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
How was your March reading? Any great books I need to know about?