The Monthly Round-Up: April

April was a good reading month for me, although I continue to feel slightly stressed by how many books I keep buying when I can realistically only read one a day, and that’s peak performance. One day I will literally be crushed by a pile of unread books falling on my head. But until then, I shall keep recapping what I’ve read each month, just because it’s fun.

  1. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
    Excellent fictionalised account of the Borden murders; it’s suitably creepy and made me think of Shirley Jackson, which is obviously a good thing.
  2. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
    It took me three attempts to get going on this but, once I did, I really enjoyed it. The creation of the lost city of Weep by Taylor is exquisite and beautiful.
  3. A Book for Her by Bridget Christie
    Christie is a comedian who’s made her name by talking about feminism on-stage. The book doesn’t contain anything particularly new or world-changing in terms of feminism, but it’s engaging, sometimes funny and often striking.
  4. Patchwork by Ellen Banda-Aaku
    A short but really compelling book set in Zambia, about a young girl and her difficult relationships with both her parents. I recommend it.
  5. Watchmen by Alan Moore
    Having bought the complete edition a year ago, I finally read it. I think it would have been nicer to read a year ago when a new Cold War didn’t seem quite so likely…
  6. The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
    My obsession with Jackson continues. I think this is my favourite of her lesser-known novels (by which I mean everything apart from We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House). It’s about a weird family who believe the world’s going to end, and they’ll be safe as long as they stay in their massive house.
  7. Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
    Weirdly, Amazon sent me an email about this and described it as a ‘thriller’, which I think is a bit of a misnomer, but it is an excellent story of an autistic girl with a horrible childhood behind her. That made it sound really depressing but it isn’t.
  8. Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
    The start of this YA about teens spontaneously combusting was brilliant. It tailed off a bit towards the end, but it’s very wrong and weird and what’s not to like about that?
  9. Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marçal
    An interesting analysis of economics with an emphasis on how women are excluded from economic analysis.
  10. The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
    This is now my pick for the Baileys Prize; it’s very long but really absorbing. It also isn’t as much about horse racing as the title and cover would lead you to believe.
  11. The Jungle by Pooja Puri
    This is a YA novel about the refugee camp in Calais. Some of it is very hard-hitting; there were parts of it that I didn’t find as convincing, but the author has presumably done a a lot more research into this than I have.
  12. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Surely the most talked-about book of the year so far, THUG is as good as I’d been led to believe. I’ll be reviewing it for Fourth and Sycamore and trying to invent new adjectives because I’m pretty sure they’ve all been used already.
  13. Saga Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan
    Reading Saga is all very well until your four year old daughter climbs onto your lap and says “can I read your book with you, Mummy?” It’s not exactly child-friendly (yes, robot penis on page 3, I’m talking about you) but it is brilliant.
  14. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
    Why does Jeff Zentner hate me so much? His first book, The Serpent King, made me cry a lot, but Goodbye Days had me choking up all the bloody way through. It’s really lovely and good grief, the dude can write. But be prepared: it’s really, really sad.
  15. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
    At times witty, at times touching, this is about Indian immigrants in Cleveland. It’s very much character-based rather than heavy on plot, but that’s no bad thing.
  16. Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood by Hollie McNish
    Brilliant mixture of journal entries and poems, I really wish I’d had this really honest depiction of motherhood when my daughter was a baby; it would have helped me a lot when I was feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. Not because it offers any advice, but because it makes it clear that noone knows what they’re doing.
  17. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
    I really liked this collection of short stories, many of which were either very weird or very disturbing or both. The running theme is to satirise the concept of women being dismissed as “difficult,” and it works beautifully.
  18. Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield
    Once again, Lisa Heathfield decides to make me cry with a beautiful but tragic YA. She is mean.
  19. Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
    I received a lovely proof copy of this from My Kinda Book and was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I haven’t been enjoying YA contemporary novels as much recently, but this story of a lottery win and how it affects the girl who buys the ticket and the boy she gives it to really grabbed me.
  20. The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
    Disappointingly short, but an interesting story of environmental disaster and its consequences.
  21. The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
    I felt like I had to read this because I’m using an extract from it with one of my classes for revision, and it really shames me when they ask me about a book and I haven’t read it. This went on a bit but was essentially a charming depiction of 1970s England. I mean, I assume it is; I feel it necessary to point out I wasn’t alive then, so it’s hard to know.
  22. The Beauty, Volume 1 by Jeremy Haun
    I liked this weird graphic novel about the consequences of pursuing beauty at all costs. It’s clever and reasonably disturbing.
  23. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
    A companion novel to the lovely My Name Is Lucy Barton, this is more like a collection of short stories, focusing on the residents of the town Lucy left behind. It’s a lovely read.
  24. The Women Who Shaped Politics by Sophy Ridge
    This was completely fascinating, taking in Queen Mary, Margaret Thatcher and the Suffragettes, as well as unfortunately giving me nightmares by ending with Theresa May. I learned a lot from reading this, particularly about the first female MPs and the discrimination faced (and still being faced) ever since.
  25. October is the Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson
    A bit of a letdown – I was intrigued by the idea of YA Scandi-noir, but this was a little too slight to fully engage me. It was also far more sexually explicit than I would think was okay in YA. I am basically a Victorian though.
  26. Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan
    Confusion reigned at the beginning of this as I was under the impression it’s YA and this is clearly not the case. That aside, there were things about this I really liked; the space-set sections and the creation of a futuristic utopian society were fascinating, but the romance didn’t really grab me.
  27. Relativity by Antonia Hayes
    I was surprised by how much I disliked this book, but I think the blurb is quite misleading and if I’d had an idea of what the secret at the heart of the story was, I wouldn’t have read it at all.
  28. Fall in One Day by Craig Terlson
    An intriguing YA, set in 1970s Canada, about the disappearance of a teenage boy and the lengths to which his friend goes to get him back.
  29. We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
    Having adored The Basic Eight and hated Watch Your Mouth, I didn’t know how this would go. It was enjoyably quirky and strange, and I love Handler’s style.
  30. Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
    This collection of stories was lovely and I’ll be trying to convince my boss to let me buy a load of copies for teaching next year. I really liked how the writers, representing a wide range of racial backgrounds, told stories that were relatable but unique. A really good collection.
  31. How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
    Nice but not particularly ground-breaking look at literary heroines. I liked how the author intertwined her own life with her literary reflections though.
  32. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
    I had mixed feelings about Redgate’s previous book, Seven Ways We Lie, but this YA about acapella, set in a performing arts school, was really fun and I raced through it.

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