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Thank goodness for spring and for light! Here in Washington we’ve had some sunshine, but it’s still pretty darn cold. Staying light into the evenings and getting lighter earlier and earlier are always welcome balms to my soul. March has been a busy month, so I’ve not read as many books as usual, but the four favorites I’m sharing today are all books I really liked and feel confident many others will too.
Next month, I’ll be on a trip at the end of the month, so will either do April late or combine it with May in one big post towards the end of May. It depends on how crazy things are when I get home and I suspect they may be crazy. In the meantime, my reviews show up earlier on Instagram. And now, in order of publication…
My Thoughts: 𝗣𝗜𝗡𝗘𝗔𝗣𝗣𝗟𝗘 𝗦𝗧𝗥𝗘𝗘𝗧 by Jenny Jackson is the story of a very white, very privileged, very wealthy, very WASP-y Brooklyn Heights family, the Stocktons. Tilda and Chip have three grown children, daughters Darley and Georgiana and son Cord, newly married to Sasha. Alternately narrated by Sasha, Georgiana and Darley, the reader comes to know the entire family and their inherent flaws developed over generations of inherited wealth. Only Sasha has lived a different kind of life.
𝘗𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵 is not without action or plot, but it’s chiefly a snarky, character-driven story and one I thoroughly enjoyed. There were many, many times it was difficult to like the three Stockton siblings, especially the women who called their new sister-in-law GD behind her back. (Short for gold digger.) Yet, both had a budding self-awareness and compelling stories that made them more human. Their brother? I was less sure about him. And, poor Sasha? So kind, so forgiving. I wanted to shake her! Debut author Jackson developed the perfect balance in her entire cast of characters. Just when I felt repelled, she’d lure me back in with their kinder sides and potential for growth.
In the end, this was a book I could not put down. It was A LOT of fun. Who doesn’t love the rich behaving badly, or in this case a whole rich family behaving badly?! The ending was a bit neat and tidy, but still, if you’re looking for a great Spring Break, beach or vacation read, you need look no further than 𝘗𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵! Grade: B+
Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books for an ARC and finished copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: You know that feeling when a book sneaks up and takes you completely by surprise? That’s exactly what I got from Krystle Zara Appiah with her debut novel, 𝗥𝗢𝗢𝗧𝗟𝗘𝗦𝗦. As always, I’d hoped this would be a book I enjoyed, but I had no expectation that I’d love it as much as I did. If I’d known more, I might not have been so surprised. 𝘙𝘰𝘰𝘵𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 has so many elements in my literary sweet spot. At its heart this is the story of one woman’s life, but with that comes a family story, a love story, a story of two different cultures, and a journey through motherhood.
This is Efe’s story, but as the book begins, her husband Sam has just discovered that Efe has left their home in London and flown to her sister in Ghana. She’s left behind Sam and their four year old daughter with no explanation, and she won’t take Sam’s calls. From there the story moves back nearly 20 years to high school when Efe and Sam first met. It moves forward chapter by chapter revealing the hearts of its characters and the complex relationships surrounding Efe.
I don’t want to tell you any more than that. It would be a shame to give too much away. Where this book went took me completely by surprise and I’m glad for that. If you liked 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘓𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘙𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘕𝘢𝘱𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘰 or 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘙𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘸𝘢𝘺 this will be a book that resonates for you. Obviously, I highly recommend 𝘙𝘰𝘰𝘵𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 and am confident it will be among my Best Debuts of 2023! Grade: A
Thanks to Ballantine Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: When I was a young reader 𝘓𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘞𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯 was absolutely my favorite book. I read it over and over. I longed to be part of the March clan; I wanted a bevy of sisters to share every secret, dream, and hurt with. So, I was excited to read 𝗛𝗘𝗟𝗟𝗢 𝗕𝗘𝗔𝗨𝗧𝗜𝗙𝗨𝗟 by Ann Napolitano, a very loose retelling of 𝘓𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘞𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯.
In this, it was the Padavano family of sisters at the heart of the story. Born within only a few years of each other, Julia, Sylvie, Cecelia, and Emeline took on some of the qualities of the March sisters, but this was an entirely new story. Deeply embedded in all their lives was a troubled man who in various ways affected all their hearts. That’s about all I’m going to give you because you know the basic story and I don’t want to give anything away. I do want you to know that I loved the time spent with these sisters. It definitely brought back some of those same feelings I had as a kid.
Napolitano alternated the focus of each chapter between the two eldest sisters and the man in all their lives. She did a wonderful job putting a completely original spin on a classic, and kept me on my toes throughout, wondering how everything would playout. The one thing I’d have liked to see a little different was the rigidity of a couple of the characters. It drove the story, but sometimes felt a little inauthentic. Still, I loved this book! It’s one I highly recommend and am confident will be loved by almost all. Grade: A
Thanks to The Dial Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: 𝗪𝗔𝗡𝗗𝗘𝗥𝗜𝗡𝗚 𝗦𝗢𝗨𝗟𝗦 by debut author Cecile Pin was one of those books that was so much more than I’d expected. Hers is a beautifully told story of three siblings who fled Vietnam for Hong Kong after the fall of Saigon. Their parents and four younger siblings were to follow, but their boat sank, leaving 16-year old Ahn in charge of her brothers, Thanh and Minh. Strangers in a strange land, the three are eventually relocated to the UK where they struggle to build lives entirely different from those they’d long dreamt of.
What made this book so special was the way it was told. Most of the time the story unfolds from Ahn’s perspective, but along the way we also hear from one of her lost siblings, and an unnamed narrator that seems to have a stake in Ahn’s life. On audio, these voices felt especially poignant, eerily real. The book shone a spotlight on the difficulties of being an immigrant, of trying to adapt to an entirely different culture, of struggling to fit into a new place where many don’t want you.
I was so impressed, so haunted by 𝘞𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘴 that I already can’t wait to see what Cecile Pin does next. She’s set a high bar! Grade: A-
Thanks to MacMillan Audio and Henry Holt & Co. for advanced copies of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Which have been your favorite books of March?
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