April Reading Roundup

Welcome to my reading roundup for April. I read nineteen books in April, which is a record for this year. I was so close to reading twenty, which I would have loved because it’s a nice round number, but finals got in the way. So nineteen it was. Four of those books were in Braille, and two of them were nonfiction books. I finished a few series I was reading, continued with others I’m in the middle of, started a couple new series, and of course read some stand-alone books.

 

Like my other reading roundup posts, I’m keeping these comments as spoiler-free as possible. Also, these books aren’t necessarily in the order I read them because I’m keeping books in the same series together.

 

Okay, let’s dive right in.

 

First, I continued the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket. I read the next four books in the series this month: The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, The Miserable Mill, and The Austere Academy. I decided to reread these because a friend recommended I look at The Reptile Room to see how Lemony Snicket keeps up the tension when the characters are happy, to help with a problem I was having with one of my own projects. I’m not sure it was all that helpful, because I don’t have a narrator pointing out that the kids’ happiness was going to be short lived because guess what, Count Olaf is back. But it was helpful that it got me started thinking about writing things more. So that was good. I also really liked The Reptile Room, because I really liked Uncle Monty as a character, and I liked how the kids were able to figure out how to stop Count Olaf. I enjoyed The Wide Window, but it felt very similar to The Reptile Room except the kids weren’t happy ever. The formula was the same. Also the completely useless adult thing was getting kind of old. But things picked up in The Miserable Mill and the Austere Academy because things were slightly different, even though in general they followed the same format. In The Miserable Mill, Count Olaf’s plan is really creepy and almost works, plus the kids have to use each other’s skills to solve the problem. And in The Austere Academy, the Baudelaires finally make some friends. On the whole, I enjoyed these four installments in the Baudelaires’ unfortunate adventures, and I’m looking forward to continuing the series in May.

 

Next, I finished my reread of The Hunger Games series with Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. My feelings on this book pretty much remain the same. Katniss has very little agency until the last third of the book. She spends most of her time in and out of the hospital, traumatized and depressed, and I mean it’s definitely understandable, but it’s not the Katniss we’ve come to know and love, and it makes for a slower book—and not in a good way. And as for certain character deaths and certain character behavior, let’s just say that the movie made it make more sense and did it well, but the book didn’t and argh!

 

Next, I read Smek for President by Adam Rex. This is the sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday, which I read in March. This book was really fun, and it worked well as a follow-up to the first book. It did a good job dealing with the consequences in the first book. Tip’s mom is trying to actually be a mom now, and Tip doesn’t want to take it, and J.Lo is having some problems with life on Earth. So Tip and J Lo head off to New Boovworld, the aliens’ new home on one of Saturn’s moons. Yes, Slushious the car is back, with some awesome improvements to make her spaceworthy. Once on New Boovworld, Tip and J.Lo become embroiled in a presidential election, which is a new thing for the aliens. Oh, and the current president, Smek, arrests J.Lo for his actions in the previous book, and that complicates things a bit. This book definitely wasn’t as good as the first book, but it was a pretty good sequel and I had a lot of fun reading it.

 

Next, I finished the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery with the final book, Rilla of Ingleside. After the last few books in this series, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. This book focused mainly on Anne’s youngest daughter, Rilla, as she takes care of a baby whose mother died and whose father is fighting in World War I. Rilla’s older brothers are also away during the war, and this book is a really interesting perspective on the home front during World War I. I really enjoyed it, and I was glad that this series had a good finale. Best thing, is you really didn’t have to read the preceding books to appreciate this book, so if you’re interested in this book but don’t want to slog through Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, and Rainbow Valley, you can definitely skip them and still read this book.

 

Next, I read The Counsel of Mirrors by Michael Buckley, the grand finale to the Sisters Grimm series. This was a solid final book, but I have to say something wasn’t quite right about the ending. It left me feeling a bit let down, like after eight books I expected something more, but I still really liked it. This was a great, fun series, and if you like whacky twists on fairy tales, I definitely recommend the whole series.

 

Next, I started The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. I read the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. This was a really great read. The three Drew children are on holiday in Cornwall with their family, and when they find an ancient map in the attic, they’re drawn into a search for the holy Grail. This book has some awesome bad guys, some great chase scenes, some actually helpful adults who still let the kids do stuff, and a healthy dose of Arthurian legend. It sort of reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia in its tone and the premise of kids on vacation in the country in England and fantasy adventures ensue, but the similarities stop there as far as I can tell (it’s been a while since I read the Narnia books so I might be wrong). This book was fast-paced and a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed the siblings’ interactions, which definitely felt real to me, and it’s not often that you get to see kids just naturally playing together in fiction. I really liked this book and I can’t wait to get the sequel from the library (whoever has it now, please hurry up).

 

After that, I read Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, which was fabulous and beautiful. It was written like a fairy tale, and I guess there are some pretty great illustrations, but I can’t talk about those. I got the audiobook, which is narrated by Jim Dale, who narrated the Harry Potter books. Liesl & Po is about a girl, Liesl, who escapes from the attic where her evil stepmother has locked her up and journeys across the country with a ghost named Po to lay her father’s ashes to rest at her childhood home, where her mother is buried. Along the way, she meets up with Will, a former alchemist’s apprentice who ran away because he mixed up some boxes and lost the most powerful magic in the world. The story is set in a sort of victorian setting, but the sun has gone out and everyone is starving and it’s pretty dystopian. There’s also a really great cast of characters. This book is definitely aimed at children, but it’s beautiful and sweet and also gripping from start to finish. I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend checking it out.

 

Our April book club book was Slauterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (full title: Slaughterhouse Five or the Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death). I read this once before for my Theory of Comedy class, when I was a sophomore in college. Not only was that about seven years ago—*shudders*—but I also read the whole book in a day because class. Still, I really enjoyed it then, and this time, with the luxury of reading it in a week instead of a day, I enjoyed it even more. It’s hard to describe Slaughterhouse Five. It’s really the life story of this guy Billy Pilgrim, but Billy Pilgrim is “unstuck in time” and so the book isn’t told in chronological order. It sounds confusing, but it works, trust me. The focus of the book is on Billy’s  experiences in World War II,  particularly his time as a prisoner of war in Dresden and the allied firebombing of Dresden, but there’s so much more to the book than that. I really enjoyed the simple, straightforward writing-style, and the characters were really interesting. I also enjoyed the science fiction elements of the book and how you could read them either as straight-up sci fi or as Billy’s PTSD or, how I prefer to read it, as sci fi that represents PTSD. Genre and symbolism aside, this was a great book.

 

I was getting into finals time, so to justify my crazy reading habits when I should have been studying, I read To End a War by Richard Holbrooke. We read half of this book in my negotiation and diplomacy class, so I decided to read the rest of it so that I had the best understanding of the crisis in Bosnia in the 1990s and the Dayton Accords that I  could. It served me well on my final, too. To End a War is Richard Holbrooke’s account as the lead U.S. negotiator to bring peace in Bosnia. The book was really interesting, but it was also a bit long and pretty dense at some points.

 

Next, I read Gregor the Overlander, the first book in Suzanne Collins’ Underland Chronicles series. Gregor and his little sister Boots fall through a grate in their apartment building’s laundry room and wind up in an underground world populated by giant cockroaches, rats, and bats, and people who believe Gregor is the chosen one mentioned in an old prophecy. Gregor is pretty sure the prophecy is ludicrous and there’s no way he’s chosen for anything, but these people know where his missing father is and being the chosen one might just help Gregor find and save him. And so Gregor and Boots set out with a band of underland humans, cockroaches, spiders, bats, and one traitor rat to rescue Gregor’s father and save the humans from the evil rats. If this sounds crazy and gross, it kind of is, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s actually a really fun, fast book. I became seriously  attached to the cockroaches. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

 

Next, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It felt like it was trying to tackle all the major teen issues you can possibly think of, and so it didn’t handle any of them particularly well. And the ending was kind of a train wreck.

 

After that, I finished the Wrinkle in Time series with An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I really liked this book, but I felt like I was missing half the story, and it turns out I was. Even though this book is included in the Wrinkle in Time books, it really is also the conclusion to another series about Meg’s children, which I haven’t read. So I’m going to go read those books and get back to you on how I feel about this book after that.

 

Because finals time is never ending, this month I also read 3D Negotiations: Powerful Tools to Change the Game in Your Most Important Deals by David A. Lax and James K. Sebenius. I really liked the structure of this book, that it went through each of the three dimensions of deal design and then went through them in more detail with lots of great examples. We read the initial chapters, which were more of an overview, for my negotiation and diplomacy class this semester, so I read the rest of it while studying for my final. I’m glad I did, because the examples really helped me understand the concepts better. It was pretty long—or at least it felt that way because ugh finals. But it definitely went more in depth than Getting to Yes, and if you’re interested in negotiations and want that depth in your understanding, this is a great book.

 

Then I read the next Maximum Ride book, Fang, by James Patterson. Honestly, this book was pretty much a complete mess. Like everybody was a jerk to everybody else and it made no sense and what was that ending!? I don’t know why I’m still reading these books, but I want to find out what’s going on with Angel, so I will probably push on. But they have gone seriously down the tubes.

 

My brother gave me the fourth book in the Giver series, Son, by Lois Lowry for my birthday, and so I read that next. I was a bit disappointed in this book, unfortunately. The first third was absolutely great. It was about Claire, a girl in the same community where Jonas lived in the Giver. She is the biological mother of the baby in The Giver, and she figures out who her son is and she’s sneaking around trying to spend time with him and planning how she can get him away from the nurturing center and escape with him. But then the second third of the book hits, and Claire gets bonked on the head in a storm and gets amnesia, and we have to watch her slowly remember what happened to her, and it really slowed down the book. The last third of the book suffered from the fact that it was trying to tie all four books in the series together, and so we almost completely lost the thread of Claire’s story, and the main focus of the plot became her son Gabriel. The ending was satisfying, and I think it was a good conclusion to the whole series. But it wasn’t very strong as its own book, and I have to admit I was really hoping to see what happened to the community after Jonas left it. Just saying, it would have been cool.

 

Finally, I rounded off April with the next book in the Inkworld series, Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. This was a good book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Inkheart. Instead of characters coming out of the book, the characters went into the book, which felt more familiar to me. Also it was just too long and slow, considering what was happening, and no spoilers, but I’m just going to throw it out there that necromancy is generally a bad idea. Can we all get behind this please and stop trying it?

 

And that’s it for April. Now that I’m done with finals and started the first of my summer internships, I’m planning to read more, write more (  I hope), and of course post more, so stay tuned.

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