April Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month
My very favorite books from April!
Here are my six favorite reads of the past month. There's suspense, memoir, science fiction, and historical fiction here. If you read or have read any of these, I'd love to hear what you think!
I'd love to hear: what are some of your recent favorite reads?
01 The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
This was my favorite read of the month!
Kate Quinn makes the urgency of World War II code breaking come alive through the stories of three young women and their interconnected destinies in The Rose Code.
The Rose Code is a wonderfully spun historical fiction story of three very different women who answer the wartime call to England's top-secret Bletchley Park in order to break the military codes of the Axis powers.
I love a World War II story about strong women making a difference, but I admit that I was curious about how even a historical fiction storytelling master like Kate Quinn could craft compelling storytelling around the potential tedium at the heart of code breaking.
Quinn offers plenty of interpersonal conflict, romance, suspected double-crossing, and details of life within both timelines, and in her hands, the descriptions of code-breaking mechanisms and the detailed, complicated, elusive process of figuring out messages were captivating.
For my full review, check out The Rose Code.
02 A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
Willingham's debut, the thriller A Flicker in the Dark, offers an unreliable narrator haunted by her father's decades-old serial killing--and her horrifying suspicion that recent disappearances are somehow connected to her past.
The summer Chloe Davis was twelve, six girls went missing in her rural Louisiana community. By the end of that summer, Chloe's father had confessed to the crimes of killing those girls, was convicted as a serial killer, and was put in jail for the rest of his life.
When a local young woman goes missing, Chloe fights her rising panic. As another girl disappears, this time one she's tenuously connected to, and when she realizes that aspects of the disappearances echo those of her childhood, the psychologist wonders if she's imagining connections to the crimes of decades earlier. Is there another killer who preys on young women, one paying homage to the twentieth anniversary of her father's heinous crimes? And what is Chloe going to do about it?
Willingham made me suspect everyone, and while I'm sometimes frustrated by an unreliable-narrator setup, Chloe's swirling mind suited the story and allowed for uncertainty before the denouement.
Click here for my full review of A Flicker in the Dark.
03 Nightwatch on the Hinterlands by K. Eason
In Eason's science fiction mystery, an unlikely pair who get on each other's nerves work together to determine who is responsible for a puzzling murder and other strange occurrences that threaten their world.
In K. Eason's science fiction mystery Nightwatch on the Hinterlands, a templar, Iari, and a spy, Gaer, have built a somewhat formal working relationship. Neither is quite sure where the other's loyalties begin and end, nor are they intimately acquainted with the other's history or personal motivations.
They begin to forge a stronger bond (despite how irritating they each find the other), but there's no time to waste, because high-stakes danger is quickly building to a crisis point around them.
Searching for the truth leads the unlikely duo on a search to uncover who is controlling a riev that shouldn't have been capable of killing, but did--and they're led to someone with nefarious goals that go much farther and are much more elaborately imagined than one isolated killing.
I think this was because of personal timing and my reading-during-vacation distraction circumstances, but I did have ongoing trouble following the logistics and political machinations and motivations here.
It didn't matter, though, because I was most invested in and engaged by the interplay of characters--particularly the grudging friendship and grumpily built but rock-solid loyalty between Iari and Gaer. And I was wholly charmed by the rievs (former battle robots) who mysteriously show sentience and surprising preferences for personal pronouns, and who are set on reinventing themselves in drastic fashion.
Click here for my full review of Nightwatch on the Hinterlands.
04 State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
This suspenseful collaboration between Clinton and Penny kept me on the edge of my seat through heart-stopping political conflicts, betrayals, suspicions, and discoveries.
A new United States administration has been sworn in after a period of upheaval and upset. The shift has made for strange bedfellows—and a prickly partnership between our main protagonist, Ellen Adams, former multinational media conglomerate head and new secretary of state, and the president, a politician Adams has long criticized.
Then a hastily sent, coded message comes through to an underling in the Oval Office--and it seems linked to violent terrorist attacks that soon begin taking place around the world. Who sent the message and why, and who is responsible for the attacks?
I loved how Clinton and Penny made me question the loyalty and intentions of almost everyone in State of Terror while still making me feel invested in the story, Adams's family, and the ins and outs of the various complicated political conflicts, double-crossing players, grave American dangers, and immense potential worldwide effects.
For my full review of State of Terror, please click here.
05 Going There by Katie Couric
Going There shines through Couric's insider peeks at the media world, playful insights about famous people and behind-the-scenes dynamics, and her vulnerability about difficult periods in her own life.
I listened to Katie Couric's memoir Going There, in which she traces her media career from its modest beginnings to her present-day fame; she mentions a few dalliances with notable figures in her youth; and she explores her steady determination and how it led her through the zigzags of her life.
She takes us through falling in love with her first husband Jay Molner, having their two daughters while she and Molner were frantically building their careers, and the horrible loss of Jay to advanced colorectal cancer before she and he had been married a decade.
The behind-the-scenes looks at professional decisions and network dynamics were particularly interesting. I also loved the casual name-dropping of famous people in Couric's circle. I did find the personal, passing sharing of others' intimate details jarring, however (regarding lascivious moments with Larry King, Neil Simon, etc.).
For my full review, check out Going There.
06 Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
Wang's memoir illustrates her family’s gritty determination in the face of extreme poverty and the many ups and downs of their immigrant experience in the US.
In Chinese, the word for America translates as "beautiful country." But when Qian Wang and her family arrived in the United States from China, her parents were no longer respected professors, but struggling sweatshop workers, undocumented immigrants who had to remain unnoticed as they fought to earn enough to survive.
Wang takes the reader through the family's extreme poverty upon their arrival in New York City, their constant, gnawing hunger, her highly educated parents' excruciating, menial jobs (in a sweatshop, sewing factory, the cold, purpled hands they suffered after rolling sushi for endless hours, and others), and how she learns to take her own initiative—and risks of drawing attention—to ensure her own educational and intellectual challenges and advancements.
For more books you might enjoy, check out Six Fascinating Books about the Immigrant Experience.
And for more more MORE memoirs I've loved that you might want to try, check out the Greedy Reading Lists Six Illuminating Memoirs to Dive Into, Six Illuminating Memoirs I've Read This Year, Six More Illuminating Memoirs to Lose Yourself In, Six Foodie Memoirs to Whet Your Appetite, and Six Powerful Memoirs about Facing Mortality. Or simply search "Memoir" in the Bossy search bar you can find on each page of this site.
For my full review, check out Beautiful Country.