In My Library Tote: April Book Reviews and Recommendations

Do you participate in reading challenges? I've been doing Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2018 Reading Challenge so far this year, and I also created a little Spring Reading Wishlist to check off a few books I've been meaning to read this season. While I would read regardless of such challenges, it's nice to have a little direction so I don't get lost in my endless to-be-read list. Here are my April reads, many of which come from these little challenges.

{what I read in april}

{Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie} I read Dear Ijeawele both for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge ("a book you can read in one day") and for my Spring Reading Wishlist. This short book, which was originally a letter written to Adichie's good friend upon the birth of her daughter, packs considerable wisdom into its 60-some pages. Her advice is smart, funny, and encouraging; perfect for any parent, relative, or teacher who wants to empower young women and instill feminist values in all children. My rating: 4.5/5 stars. 

{Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish} I mentioned this book in my April Favorites post, so obviously this one had an impact on me. I encourage any parent raising more than one child to read it, and I found it especially helpful since I grew up as an only child. In my opinion the best parenting books are those that have practical, actionable advice rather than vague theories, and this one is cram-packed with the former. I highlighted and bookmarked the heck out of this one. My rating: 4/5 stars. 

{The Leavers by Lisa Ko} I've been wanting to read this book for a while, so I put it on my Spring Reading Wishlist. It's the story of Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, and her son Deming. She works in a nail salon, and one day she goes to work and never returns. Deming, eleven at the time, is eventually adopted by two white college professors who hope to give him everything he needs. What struck me most about this book was the underlying theme of living two lives. Polly leaves China and comes to the US and has Deming, but often thinks about how her life would be different if she had stayed in China and married Deming's father. With Deming, the "two lives" idea is a lot more literal. When he was with his mom, his name was Deming Guo and he lived in the Bronx where they struggled to make ends meet. After his adoption, he is renamed Daniel Wilkinson and lives comfortably (financially, at least) in a small college town in Upstate New York. His life is spent trying to reconcile those two lives, and trying to figure out where he fits in. I thought this was a unique, well-written story. My rating: 4/5 stars. 

{Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown} This is the second Brene Brown book I've read, and this one resonated with me a lot more than Daring Greatly did at the time I read it. To me, Braving the Wilderness should be required reading for our current world and political situation. I listened to this one on audio, but if I had a hard copy I would have worn out my highlighter. She conveys the message of staying true to ourselves and our ideals--bravely putting ourselves out there--but at the same time being vulnerable in our encounters with others. As someone who has both enjoyed a heated debate with someone whose opinion differs from mine, and has tried to avoid such a debate at all costs, I think Brene Brown offers a better, more authentic way. My rating: 4/5 stars. 

{Far From the Tree by Robin Benway} Grace has always known she was adopted, but it's only after she makes the painful decision at 16 to give her own child up for adoption that she learns that she has biological siblings as well. Maya, Grace's biological sister, sticks out as the only brunette in a family of redheads. Her parents always did everything to assure her that she's part of the family, but she's always felt a little different. When her parents' marriage starts to fall apart and her mom's drinking problem worsens, she finds comfort in her relationships with her newfound siblings. Joaquin, the older brother of the bunch, has spent his life in the foster system and was never permanently adopted. He keeps himself guarded but opens up to Grace and Maya. This excellent YA novel gives a unique perspective on adoption and the foster care system, and explores the many roles and definitions of family. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

{Lab Girl by Hope Jahren} This one felt like a good fit for my Spring Reading list, so I listened to it on audio, which Hope Jahren narrates herself. There are definitely authors who aren't meant to narrate, but Jahren is not one of them. Her voice is soothing and heartfelt, and I enjoyed listening to her. Lab Girl is a memoir of her life as a scientist, but she goes beyond the scientific and discusses friendship, her childhood, and everyday life in the lab. This one was a bit off the beaten path for me--I've never been very interested in science--but I'm glad I listened to it. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

{Elmet by Fiona Mozley} I chose Elmet as "a book nominated for an award in 2018" for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, but now I can't remember what award it was a finalist for. Cathy and Daniel live in the woods with their father in a house they built. Aside from the fighting the father does for money, the family lives in relative peace until the man who owns the land their house occupies starts coming around and threatening their security. What I liked about this was the setting; Mozley's descriptive language made Elmet, the woods where they live, feel like a character in itself. However, the actual characters I felt could have been a bit more developed--I was left with several unanswered questions in the end. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

{Red Clocks by Leni Zumas} This one was on my Spring Reading Wishlist; I'd heard it discussed on a couple of book podcasts I listened to and the concept intrigued me. It's set in a dystopian American future that seems eerily plausible in today's political landscape, in which abortion is completely outlawed, along with in vitro fertilization and adoption by single parents. It's told from the perspective of four women: one desperately trying to conceive a child legally as a single woman, another, a mom of two who feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, a third who has removed herself from society to live in the woods as a healer, and last, a high school student who is horrified to find herself pregnant. While I thought the idea of the dystopian future was well executed, I struggled to connect to any of the characters. For me this one was good, not great. My rating: 3/5 stars. 

Have you read anything good lately?

Linking with Show Us Your Books and Modern Mrs. Darcy. 


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  2. I learned a lot from Siblings without Rivalry and I might be due for a re-read actually. The Leavers and the first book both sound wonderful!


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