April Book Report

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You guys… I’ve fallen behind on my reading goal for 2017 ! 5 books behind to be exact. Growing a human has proven to be hard work, but now that I’m out of the first trimester I’m hoping that I get my energy back and will be able to hold my eyes open for longer than 10 minutes once I start diving into a book! I’ve got a lot of fun books on my to-read list and I’m excited to get into them. Let’s talk about my April reads:

House Rules by Rachel Sontag
★★☆☆☆ | Memoir (audiobook)

“Rachel Sontag grew up the daughter of a well-liked doctor in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago. The view from outside couldn’t have been more perfect. But within the walls of the family home, Rachel’s life was controlled and indeed terrorized by her father’s serious depression. In prose that is both precise and rich, Rachel’s childhood experience unfolds in a chronological recounting that shows how her father became more and more disturbed as Rachel grew up.”

WHAT I LIKED: I love memoirs, and something about interesting family dynamics tend to draw me in. I grew up in a very healthy family environment, but reading about an unhealthy situation helped me to learn a little more about people who come from backgrounds like Rachel’s.

WHAT I DIDN’T: I really enjoyed the first half, which was about Rachel’s childhood. I was intrigued by all the stories told and was hooked the whole time. But when Rachel was high school age and older, the story just seemed repetitive. Nobody really does anything different to change even though Rachel really wants to do something about her situation. It fell flat for me.

TRY THIS INSTEAD: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
★★★★☆ | Dystopian Fiction (book club)

“Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…”

WHAT I LIKED: The writing style was so intriguing. The plot moved fairly slowly, but it didn’t feel that way because of the way that everything was described. Some people categorize this book as science fiction, which isn’t a genre that I would gravitate toward, but because of the way it’s written I was pulled in. The overall idea of the book is scary and fascinating. I’m excited to watch the Hulu series coming out soon!

WHAT I DIDN’T: This book only lost a star for me because of the ending. It’s very open-ended. I don’t normally dislike that, but there are a million different ways that it could have ended up and that felt off-putting to me. The other girls in my book club agreed. Other than that, highly recommend.

READ THIS IF: You want to try a unique dystopian read or want something you can discuss with friends.

Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider
★★★★★ | Christian Memoir

“Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, Notes from a Blue Bike takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike. Entertaining and compelling—but never shrill or dogmatic—Notes from a Blue Bike invites you to climb on your own bike, pay attention to who you are and what your family needs, and make some important choices.”

WHAT I LIKED: Everything. This book was easily five stars for me. Tsh’s writing style is very personable and never pretentious. Her stories are definitely entertaining and compelling – exactly like the description says. I will definitely be reading more from her!

WHAT I DIDN’T: Nothing. 🙂

READ THIS IF: You want to shake up your family life, you need to simplify, or need an extra shot of faith in the everyday.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
★★☆☆☆ | Fiction (re-read)

“It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth — and ultimately her life. Read her diary. Enter her world. You will never forget her.”

WHAT I LIKED: I will say that this book is interesting. I read it in junior high or high school and remember enjoying it, but there isn’t a ton that I liked about it as an adult. Like I said in my review of House Rules, dysfunctional stories intrigue me and that is definitely the case with this one.

WHAT I DIDN’T: This story is very cliche and not very believable to me, to be honest. It is set in the 60s and 70s and the culture at the time was very different, but not much spoke to me reading it this time around.

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani
★★☆☆☆ | Historical Fiction (audiobook)

“In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.”

WHAT I LIKED: The only other book I’ve read by Trigiani is The Shoemaker’s Wife, which I completely fell in love with. This is another sweeping novel, but based on the lives/stories of Loretta Young, Clark Gable, and the others in their circle. The setting of the golden age of Hollywood was fascinating. The love story was heartbreaking. The writing was consistent.

WHAT I DIDN’T: This book only gets two stars from me for a reason. While there were aspects of this book that I loved, in the end it was just okay. It was very long and felt as though it could have been cut shorter or moved along more quickly. There isn’t a ton of conflict that kept me interested. It was hard to focus on it sometimes.

TRY THIS INSTEAD: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

About Leah Van Ert

Leah is newly wed to her high school sweetheart and is a church secretary by day and blogger by night. She firmly believes in spending a little extra on high-quality cuisine, sleeping in, and the healing power of a good cup of tea. She currently lives in central Wisconsin where she was born and raised (and, yes, the stereotype is true - we really do love cheese).

  • Completely agree on The Handmaid’s Tale. I was completely entranced and LOVED the book, right up until that last chapter. I hate it when that happens!

    • YES. I’m glad I’m not the only one! Too many loose ends. Have you been watching the show now?

  • Ohhh Go Ask Alice. I actually own this book and have read it a half-dozen times, probably. But I agree, the older I get, the more ridiculous it seems.

    I have The Handmaid’s Tale on it’s way to me via Amazon! I can’t wait to read it.

    Also yessss it’s so hard to read the first trimester, I hated it!

    • I remember really enjoying it as a 12/13-year-old, but yeah… it definitely fell flat for me this time! Oh well. It happens!

      Handmaid’s Tale is cwazy. But so good. I’ve been watching the Hulu series too and it’s great! I would recommend that when you’re finished too.

      • Yes, I definitely want to watch it after I read it!


        • AHHHHH. Did you love it or hate it?!

          • I equal parts loved it and was terrified. I’m watching the series now and it’s even more terrifying haha.

  • Have you picked up Tsh’s latest book, At Home in the World? I am reading it now and LOVING it! It makes me miss Notes from a Blue Bike! Her podcast, The Simple Show, is really great too!

    • Yes! I have it sitting on my to read pile right at the top. Her podcast is one of my new favorites. I’m listening to all of them from the beginning.