Reviews: April Adult Reads Part 1

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Half of my adult reads for the month of April 2017 ~ I had to break it up this month because there are so. many. books! Part 2 will come next Sunday 4/30/17. 

These are listed in order of date finished……..as always, there is a disclosure telling the source of each book and as always, no affiliate links.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books – March 7, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

OPINION: 5/5 (would give 10/5 for cultural importance if I could!)

BEST BOOK OF 2017. Not just “so far in 2017” but this should just BE the best book of the year! I’m giving it that label for 1) timeliness 2) writing style 3) having magic doors that in no way during the book feel magic – they read as border crossings (making magic seem not magical IS magical in literature) 4) being so right and true about so many different areas of life. Life, death, love, marriage, friendship, oh and of course immigration, migration and the refugee crisis. I will return to this book many times in the future to re-read the countless quotes that hit home for me. This is an incredibly fast read and is NOT a political tome. One of my favorite things about the book was Hamid’s writing style and his ability to make sentences into entire passages – I adore when writers flaunt the “shoulds” in writing and just do what works for the book. I may possibly feel this way due to my own disdain for following writing rules. Hmmm. BUT, if that’s the case, then it would also be an amazing book to use in writing classes to teach that rules don’t make high literature, stories do. Right? Because this book is high literature and is being touted as one of the best and most timely all over the place – rather than have lowly me try to do it full justice, please see these interviews and articles:  New York Times ~ The Atlantic ~ The Guardian ~ NPR

This was one of my March Book of the Month Club selections. I pay for the subscription.

The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik (Zaffre – April 6, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

Sofia Khan is just married. But no-one told her life was going to be this way . . .

Her living situation is in dire straits, her husband Conall is distant, and his annoyingly attractive colleague is ringing all sorts of alarm bells.

When her mother forces them into a belated wedding ceremony (elopement: you can run, but you can’t hide), Sofia wonders if it might be a chance to bring them together. But when it forces Conall to confess his darkest secret, it might just tear them apart.

A book to make you smile, laugh and cry, this is the story of a mixed-race marriage and a mixed-up family, for anyone who’s ever struggled to balance their pride with their principles, or stuck around to try to mend a broken heart.

OPINION: 4/5

Hilarious and heartwarming…..or maybe heartbreaking? The ending left me conflicted about whether to be sad or hopeful for Sofia…..hoping that means we get another Sofia book soon! I loved the diary-style writing and the richly development characters and relationships in this book ~ those two things don’t often go together but Malik managed it! My only regret is that I didn’t read the first book in the series (Sofia Khan is Not Obliged) before this one, although this stood alone just fine. I just would have been able to enjoy more of Sofia’s story if I read them in order! I look forward to seeing future books from the author.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press – April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan’s baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

OPINION: 3/5

I’m a big fan of this author, especially the Rosato & DiNunzio novels. Due to that, I’ll read whatever she writes and am willing to overlook a lot of flaws that I would downgrade unknown authors for. This book was highly readable and filled with suspense, which kept me turning the pages and wanting to find out what happened next despite the highly unbelievable plot twists and action scenes. I’m all for suspending disbelief and just enjoying a story, which is what I definitely did with this one……released all semblance of reality and went along for the ride.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White by April Ryan (Roman & Littlefield – December 15, 2016)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

In her first book, The Presidency in Black and White, journalist April Ryan examined race in America through her experience as a White House reporter. In this book, she shifts the conversation from the White House to every home in America. At Mama’s Knee looks at race and race relations through the lessons that mothers transmit to their children. As a single African American mother in Baltimore, Ryan has struggled with each gut wrenching, race related news story to find the words to convey the right lessons to her daughters. To better understand how mothers transfer to their children wisdom on race and race relations, she reached out to other mothers–prominent political leaders like Hillary Clinton and Valerie Jarrett, celebrities like Cindy Williams, and others like Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, whose lives have been impacted by prominent race related events. At a time when Americans still struggle to address racial division and prejudice, their stories remind us that attitudes change from one generation to the next and one child at a time.

OPINION: 4/5

Incredibly important nonfiction book on race and motherhood in America, leaning more heavily toward race. NOT a quick memoir or a light read. Ryan’s acknowledgement and celebration of the importance of mothers is woven throughout the entire book, especially single mothers and especially Black mothers. There is extensive research evident and a vast number of personal interviews quoted directly within the book, from figures such as President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Cory Booker and Wes Moore (a favorite author of mine) among many others. I had a few issues with some repetition of content (almost as if each chapter were a stand-alone essay) but I won’t let that take away from the importance of the message and content. Ryan’s analysis and condemnation of the n-word (both -er and -a endings) is very thorough and includes insight from sources both for and against the right for Blacks to use the word. Whites, obviously, are banned from its use regardless of ending, tone or intention. The chapter about “the talk” is reminiscent of the coverage Michael Eric Dyson gives the topic in his “Tears We Cannot Stop” – heartbreaking and vital for everyone in the US to know about. The coverage of the city of Baltimore was very interesting to me, as the only other knowledge I have of the city comes from Wes Moore’s book “The Other Wes Moore”. This book is recommended reading for all.

I checked this book out from the public library. 

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile (Penguin Books, February 6, 2014)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Charley Bordelon, an African American woman and single mother is struggling to build a new life amid the complexities of the contemporary South.

When Charley unexpectedly inherits eight hundred acres of sugarcane land, she and her eleven-year-old daughter say goodbye to smoggy Los Angeles and head to Louisiana. She soon learns, however, that cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley struggles to balance the overwhelming challenges of a farm in decline with the demands of family and the startling desires of her own heart.

OPINION: 5/5

I loved this book so much, and didn’t want it to end. Charley is an incredibly complex character who keeps you rooting for her, despite her all-too-human imperfections……..love is complex, adult parent-child relationships are hard, grief is brutal, and all mothers feel like they aren’t doing enough for their children. Charley’s brother Ralph Angel is desperately unlikable, but Baszile managed the almost-impossible of eliciting just a tiny bit of sympathy for him just when I wanted him GONE from the story. The setting of the tropical cane fields of Louisiana was perfect – both foreign and all-too American, as Charley experienced the southern racism her father had been so desperate to flee in his youth. Highly recommend this book.

I purchased this book at a local bookstore.

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner (Little, Brown & Co – April 25, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

The discovery of long-buried secrets brings three generations of women together to Cape Cod for the summer homecoming of a lifetime.

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: on the cusp of thirty she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and her father’s hard-won admiration. But with one careless mistake at work, Marin suddenly finds herself unemployed and alone. Before she can summon the courage to tell her parents, a young woman appears, claiming to be Marin’s half-sister. Seeking answers, Marin agrees to join her on a soul-searching journey to Cape Cod, to meet the family she didn’t even know she had.

As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s beachside B&B, it becomes clear that her half-sister’s existence is just the first in a series of truths that will shake Marin’s beliefs–in love, and in her own identity–to the core. Filled with shocking revelations, heartfelt romance, and resilient women banding together against the most unexpected twists of fate, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotionally resonant page-turner, and a delicious escape for any season.

OPINION: 4/5

Beach read alert! “The Forever Summer” has all of the qualities I require for addition to my “beach read” list ~ a group of women, family, a beach, an old beach house, a charming beach community, some sort of romance, some sort of drama, and a little sadness to cut the sugar factor. This is the time of year I look forward to all winter long – the release of the next installments from my favorite “beachy” authors ~ Elin Hilderbrand, Jane Green, Mary Alice Munroe, Jill Mansell, and many more. Jamie Brenner has officially been added to this list! This book brings some added complexity that make “The Forever Summer” much more than fluff, and the grief storyline (not spoiling it!) will definitely tug at your heart and make you wipe away tears. Sure, there are a few “really?” parts, but I’m the queen of suspending disbelief and rolling with a storyline, so I was able to shrug those off and enjoy the intent of the author. Highly enjoyed this book, and look forward to many more books from Jamie Brenner! And I will also be going back and reading “The Wedding Sisters” because somehow in the rush of 2016, I completely missed it. Go ahead and order this one and stick it right into your beach bag for the summer.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.


Find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of my picture book reviews are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

One thought on “Reviews: April Adult Reads Part 1

  1. Pingback: Reviews: April Adult Reads Part 2 | The Loud Library Lady

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