April Reviews

Things got crazy this month in the reading department- a whopping nine books. I think it was a combination of spring break and then a light load in terms of grading while we state tested the children. Or maybe I just said "screw you world" and read whenever the hell I wanted.  

Sam Byers
320 pages 
This book centers around Daniel, Nathan and Katherine's friendship during a transitioning times in all of their lives. Katherine, a single girl with an eating disorder, is still trying to cope with her break up with Daniel, who has since moved in with a woman. Their mutual friend Nathan is just out of a mental hospital and trying to find his way in the world. Meanwhile, there's an outbreak of a Mad Cow sort of a disease and people are shunning meat- it's an interesting parallel.

Verdict: There were parts I really enjoyed, but there were also some really tedious parts. I did like the cover, though (people with cow heads).

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Maria Semple
352 pages
Ha! I love this book. It's fun, it's quirky, it's a little random. Bernadette is a recluse from Seattle who ends up promising her daughter a trip to Antarctica if she gets perfect grades. She does, and while preparing for the trip Bernadette ends up disappearing. Along the way are parental disputes at the daughter Bee's school, issues at Bernadette's husband's office (Microsoft), and a house that is literally falling apart. It's a wonderful satire that is told primarily in an epistolary format. 

Verdict: It's not perfect, but it's a great, quick read that would do wonderfully sandwiched between two tougher books, or by a pool.
Colum McCann
320 pages
This novel is about two men making a transatlantic flight, Frederick Douglass, and a senator from the nineties who's trying to help bring peace to Ireland (as well as several women that are essential to the stories). Eventually, in true McCann fashion, there are connections made between the stories, the most obvious the fact that they've all journeyed across the Atlantic. 

Verdict: I enjoyed this book, although not as much as Let the Great World Spin. Each story is so well-crafted and McCann takes such care in creating their sections as stand alones, but also as just a piece of a puzzle. 
Ways of Going Home
Alexander Zambra
160 pages
This novella starts off with an earthquake temporarily displacing a neighborhood, and the friendship the young narrator makes during it with an older girl. She asks him to spy on her uncle, who lives on the same street. He, of course, becomes infatuated with her, which continues for years. At that point the lines between narrator and writer become blurred- there is a fictional story based on the narrator's life. 

Verdict: I thought the simple prose juxtaposed the more complicated framing device well. It's definitely not the best novella I've ever read, but I think Zambra was ambitious in terms of what he wanted to cover in the pages he allotted. 

The Burning Air
Erin Kelley
336 pages
This was a book that was sent to me from Penguin- you can read my more in-depth review of it here

Verdict: If you like typical mysteries you'll probably enjoy it. I don't particularly, unless they are more literary and well-done (which this one is not).

The Handmaid's Tale 
Margaret Atwood
392 pages
I also wrote about this novel here

Verdict: This is easily one of my top ten favorite books, so of course I think everyone in the world should read it. 

Harley Loco
Rayya Elias
320 pages
I received this book from Penguin and wrote an extended review here.

Verdict: I thought it was an edgy, honest, interesting story of addiction and passion. 

Virgin Soul 
Judy Juanita
320 pages
I know, I'm sounding like a broke record; here's the review here

Verdict: It started off fairly slow, but once the Black Panthers and more radical politics entered the novel I was much more interested. 

Write Like This!
Kelly Gallagher 
237 pages
I read this text about helping students become better writers for work- I'll spare you the long synopsis. Basically, Gallagher discusses different real-world type writings along with strategies to support them. Some were maybe a little lower-level, I thought maybe were more appropriate for middle school. 

Verdict: Definitely a useful text for secondary teachers. I definitely plan on implementing some of the tools provided next year (who knows, maybe this year, if I have time in the next four weeks).

Month total: 2,757 words


  1. Kelly Gallagher is my educational crush! I think he looks like a cuter version of Richard Geer. I saw him speak a few years ago, and I ended up really close to the front. Cue the drooling. I don't know if it's his grasp of teaching, his passion about English, or just his good looks, but I was charmed. (I also think Steve Carell is good looking, so I guess I have weird celeb crushes. I'm not a freak, I swear!)

    I read a whopping 3/4ths of one book this month. I could blame it on the fact that I moved but I did have a 10 hour flight that I could have used to finish the book. Instead I watched movies. The book really stinks. Still trying to trudge through it though.

  2. I'm also a big fan of The Handmaid's Tale, and really enjoyed Where'd You Go, Bernadette too. Have you read Semple's first novel - This One is Mine?