This Month Had No Theme – An April Reading Wrap-up

I’m painfully behind on my reading reflections by at least two months worth of books. April turned out to be a fantastic reading month which is helpful considering my reading languished in May.

Below I start with a (probably unfair) review of a harmless YA book and then lead into my top reads for the month:

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote SunriseThe Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a sweet story about a young girl and her “hippie” father trying to outrun the grief of losing a mother and two daughters in a car accident. This book is kinda like if you gave the movies Little Miss Sunshine and Captain Fantastic a G-rating and then stuck them in a blender. Our protagonist Coyote is funny, and shrewd but earnest, with a big heart for all the travelers that end up on their bus.

A few niggling details kept this from being a 4-star for me. For one, many of the side characters felt flat and somewhat inauthentic, written purely to demonstrate just how big our protagonists’ hearts are. They didn’t feel like real, multi-faceted people with complex emotions and concerns but instead, were written as poster-children for whatever issue they were written to represent. I was particularly annoyed with Salvador’s character (and by extension, his family) who, although he’s never actually given an ethnicity, is probably modeled after Mexican culture. Which isn’t inherently bad, but just demonstrates how white writers default to Mexican culture as the stand-in representation for all Hispanics and Latin Americans. As a Central Floridian (where Coyote ends up meeting Salvador), I would have liked to see something a little more realistic considering Cubans and Puerto Ricans account for a huge makeup of South and Central Florida demographics.

Am I getting too nit-picky? What I’m trying to say is this: Dear White People, Latinos are (and I cannot stress this enough) not.all.the.same.

OK so speaking of Florida…Florida is just not that big. At the beginning of the book, Coyote is in Naples (Side note: Floridian here, again. Hi. Why Naples?!) when she gets news that propels her on her cross-country road trip. After convincing her father, Rodeo, to drive all night (something like 12 hours, he later claims) they end up in Tampa. I imagine, he’s just exaggerating – by A LOT. It takes less than 3 hours to get to Tampa from Naples. Regardless, Geimhart makes it sound like it takes them 2 to 3 more days just to clear Orlando, Gainesville and finally the rest of the state. Again, Floridian here: From Orlando, I’ve driven to Savannah, GA in five hours and Asheville, NC in nine. A simple Google Maps search could have cleared this up.

Finally, Geimhart just couldn’t decide where or how to end this book. He stretches the climatic ending over at least 4 chapters and the epilogue over 3, languishing over details and getting every standby character he can think of to participate or speak up with a couple of throwaway lines. This construction guy that just showed up? This cop? The goat? It’s all hands on deck. I would have preferred a much quieter, introspective moment.

A younger, less discerning reader might not notice or be bothered by these kinds of discrepancies. But, I couldn’t help it – they tainted my reading experience. “The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise” is warm, sweet and has a lot of heart. It made me chuckle and smile. Coyote has a great relationship with her father and I loved the platonic friendship she develops with Salvador. But, overall, this book felt clumsily put together.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future AssassinAmerican Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A deeply moving and disturbing collection of poems from the perspective of post-2016 election. These poems examine race, America, manhood and the political climate after Trump’s inauguration. This was bleak at times but poignant and a wonderful collection with plenty of reread value.

Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need to KnowMarvel Absolutely Everything You Need to Know by Adam Bray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought the gorgeously illustrated Marvel Powers of a Girl by Lorraine Cink and Alice X. Zhang and was curious to pick up “Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need to Know,” another book co-written by Cink. This was a great companion read in the days leading up to the premiere of Infinity War: Endgame. And, it’s wonderful primer for anyone interested in Marvel and their vast array of comic characters across a variety of story lines.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel PowerThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super cheeky and cute, Squirrel is a great way to get young female fans interested in the comic book genre. Squirrel Girl is funny, fearless and self-aware. The tiny-printed asides at the bottom of every page will illicit a chuckle from Marvel fans and newbies alike.

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just can’t get enough of Murderbot, the anti-social sentient combat robot who’s trying to uncover the past. And, I’m even more thrilled to learn that Wells intends on writing a full-length novel. I appreciate when a sci-fi book’s plot and characters are stronger than it’s setting and Wells does a really great job of letting her characters shine. And, in this book, she expands her universe to include even more robotic characters that might be friend or foe.

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I forgot how or why this ended up on my audio loans list on Hoopla but boy am I glad it made it there. This was gorgeously written (and wonderfully performed on audiobook) with characters that felt so tangible to me, I wanted to reach into the book and touch them. It’s hard to sum up the overall premise of the book which covers a lot of themes following a young woman’s personal journey in 1930’s New York City.

Although this book feels far-removed in time and place, there’s something about the the setting, the characters and their hardships that feel so familiar and real.  I was completely invested in Katey Kontent’s journey and completely lost in Towles glittering descriptions of 1930s New York.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley StartupBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had no intention of reading this book. I thought I had a good idea about the situation. I had read headlines and a few articles. I had watched the implosion of Theranos at its later stages from a distance in trade magazines. But, when my fellow reading friends kept harping about this book, I decided to finally pick it up.

Carreyrou took what I thought to be your garden variety white-collar crime and turned this into a jaw-dropping page turner. Although dense with detail, intrigue and bat-shit craziness, this was still readable and totally compelling.

That’s it for April! Tell me how your month went and how your reading for the year has been going. Find me on Instagram and let’s talk books. Or leave a comment below (but who actually does that anymore?!)

 

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