Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
Is it spring already?
I might not have gotten in quite as much skiing as I wanted, but I can’t say that about my reading. Well, I could because I want to read all the books, but I did have a good reading month in March.
This month I got through six new and upcoming releases and eight titles from my backlist. I’m trying my best to get my 2022 reading challenge finished early, so I’ve been focusing on books that fulfill those prompts.
Just keep scrolling to find out which 2021 bestseller I loved, what March celebrity book club pick I thought was overrated, and what April release I think everyone needs to read!
March Reading List
The Home Group is a selective group of celebrity clubs where the rich and famous can party in private and then sleep it off in one of the luxury suites. As a group of celebrities descends for the opening of the pinnacle of The Home Group’s resorts on a private island, the company employees are pushed to the breaking point and bad behavior and deadly secrets lead to an explosive weekend.
I thought Reese’s March book club pick was overrated, which is disappointing because I loved Ellery Lloyd’s debut novel, People Like Her. The first half of the novel drags as it tries too hard to impress you with the exclusivity of its resorts. Even when the action picks up in the second half, the lack of character development makes for a forgettable read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harper through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Looking for a fresh start, Jess moves into her half-brother’s Paris apartment only to find him missing. The longer Ben stays gone, the more Jess begins to question his living situation. Jess can tell the neighbors know more than they are telling, making each one a viable suspect.
I adored Foley’s bestseller, The Guest List, so I was very excited to see what she had in store for her latest thriller. Similar to The Guest List, the narrative switches viewpoints between Jess and each of the neighbors. Although the revealed twist halfway through was unexpectedly clever, all of the characters were extremely unlikable and the entire plot was too over-the-top for me to really enjoy this thriller.
Simone St. James
In 1977, two men were murdered with the same gun but the prime suspect, the eccentric Beth Greer, was acquitted at trial. Searching for a story for her true-crime blog, Shea Collins decides to interview Beth, in a mansion that may be haunted. The deeper Shea dives into the truth, the more she worries she is being manipulated by a cold-blooded murderer.
The Book of Cold Cases gripped me at the start with its perfect blend of ghost story and cold case mystery. After the big halfway reveal, the combination fractured and the story lost all of its tension. Instead of keeping up the edgy suspense, the second half of the story just explained the truth of the cold case (with no hint of the supernatural) and then jumped into an overly ghost-filled finale. Although its five-star beginning turned into a three-star end, I still think that The Book of Cold Cases is worth a read for anyone who wants an enjoyably spooky read.
Take My Hand is inspired by the true story of government overreach in the forced sterilization of poor Black girls. In 1973, Civil Townsend is excited to use her new nursing degree to make a difference in the lives of her African-American community in Montgomery, Alabama. However, Civil is shocked to find her first patients are two young Black girls (ages 11 and 13) on birth control and begins to question the ethics of her work.
Instead of being based on a true story, Take My Hand is inspired by one, giving Perkins-Valdez free reign to dive into the psyche of how the nurses would have felt in this horrible situation. Although forced sterilization is a depressing topic, Take My Hand is not a depressing book. Powerfully personalizing the entire scenario, the story focuses on Civil’s struggle: her feelings of culpability, her desire to help the family.
I was most impressed with how Perkins-Valdez showed the friction between Civil and the family, their gratitude at her for helping and caring, but also the common tendency to overreach when charity begins to feel like a Savior complex. Take My Hand is a thought-provoking historical novel that informs you while keeping you gripped by an emotional story and would be an excellent choice to read this Spring.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Jennifer E. Smith
After the unexpected death of her mother, singer Greta James has a mental breakdown on stage and the viral footage threatens to ruin her career. Adrift in her career, Greta agrees to go with her father on the Alaska cruise he had booked for his fortieth wedding anniversary. When she meets a charming historian, Greta finds herself set on a path of healing.
I thought my friend had recommended this on Instagram (she hadn’t) so I’m pretty sure I picked this book from Book of the Month because of its memorable cover. Which was about the best thing about the book. I found the story to be extremely cliche: the love story lacked chemistry and the father-daughter struggle lacked depth. There was a really tender moment at the end of the book at Greta’s concert, but I would only recommend The Unsinkable Greta James to readers who like sappy contemporary fiction.
Liv Reese wakes up in a New York City cab and nothing is like she remembers. Strangers are living in her brownstone, her phone is missing, and her hands are covered in blood with the message “Stay Awake” penned all over them. Two years ago, she was a successful writer in a new relationship. With the news talking about a crime scene with “Stay Awake” scrawled in blood, Liv must run from a crime she doesn’t remember.
The publisher’s description is toting Stay Awake as a complex thriller, and I have to say I think it was a bit too convoluted for my taste. Liv is suffering from a condition that makes her memory reset every time she falls asleep which at times made for a great unreliable narrator but at other times just felt too unbelievable. I honestly suggest skipping this summer thriller.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
In Piedmont, North Carolina, Jade and Lacey May are mothers who just want the best in life for their children. After an altercation ends in a shooting, Jade’s son Gee grows up without a father. Meanwhile, when Lacey May’s husband goes to prison, she must do whatever it takes to provide for her three daughters. When a county initiative to bring kids from the west side of town into a predominantly white school on the east side, Jade and Lacey May find themselves at odds leading to choices that will last decades for their children, Gee and Nicole.
What’s Mine and Yours is extremely literary, playing with structure in unfortunate ways. The disjointed narrative jumps all over the place, from Jade and Lacey May’s backstory to Gee and Nicole in high school and finally Nicole as an adult. You get a chapter told from almost every character’s perspective, even the inconsequential side characters. The disjointed storytelling meant the narrative was always meandering and so the story didn’t keep my attention for long.
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
Years of American withdrawal from the world stage have left a power vacuum that its enemies have been more than happy to fill. After a series of terrorist attacks, novice Secretary of State Ellen Adams, under the administration of her rival, must unravel a deadly global conspiracy.
Taking a page from her husband’s book, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton teamed up with acclaimed mystery novelist Louise Penny in a gripping political thriller that showed up Bill’s collaboration with James Patterson in every way. With believable characters and plenty of political machinations, State of Terror perfectly blends Clinton’s unique political insight into a Tom Clancy-esque plot that was a joy to read.
At only 36 years old, Dr. Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Suddenly, he found himself thrust from the role of a neurosurgeon to that of a dying patient. Coming face-to-face with his mortality, Kalanithi decided to write his memoir and wrestle with the question: “What makes life worth living in the face of dying?” Easily one of the best memoirs of recent years, When Breath Becomes Air is a look at the heartbreaking decisions Kalanithi faced as he contemplated a life without a future.
When running a business, it can seem impossible to decide which of your numerous problems to tackle first. Mike Michalowicz, the author of Profit First, demonstrates a simple system to help you prioritize your business’s needs inspired by Maslov’s hierarchy of needs.
Although I loved Profit First and use it in my business, I was skeptical of Fix This Next. Listening to the audiobook, I was underwhelmed by his newest business strategy and thought it sounded like cliche managerial nonsense. Then I actually sat down to implement it, and I was blown away. It showed some glaring holes I should fix first before I go on to my next big steps.
Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond tells the true stories of eight families from the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee. All of these families are barely scraping by, having had to spend almost all of their earnings on rent alone. Each frequently faces eviction and an unknown future, causing a cycle with far-reaching consequences that is nearly impossible to break. Based on years of fieldwork, Evicted is a piercing examination of extreme poverty and eviction in America today.
Grieving from the recent death of her nonverbal autistic son, Olivia retreats to a Nantucket beach to take stock of her life. On Nantucket, stay-at-home mom Beth is rocked to discover her husband’s infidelity. As Beth tries to find herself again, she begins to write a story about a boy with autism, a boy who seems a lot like Olivia’s son. A sweet, albeit sappy story, Love Anthony does an excellent job portraying autism from lots of different angles yet doesn’t exactly wow with its character development.
Sitcom writer Georgie McCool knows her marriage is struggling, but she can’t pass up the chance to pitch the pilot show she’s been dreaming about for years, even if it means missing Christmas. While he’s away, she finds that calling Neal on the landline results in her talking to a younger version of her husband in the days just before he proposed. With the time-traveling communication messing with her head, Georgie recalls her courtship with Neal and ponders what to do about her marriage.
I only picked Landline up because Rainbow Rowell and I share initials (and I did not want to read Rick Riordan). I was absolutely hooked by this contemporary fiction about a struggling marriage. I liked that there weren’t any major infidelities or issues between Georgie and Neal. It was just life getting in the way and a failure to communicate. Landline was just the blend of love story and reality of marriage that will speak to anyone who has been married for over ten years.
To explain why she is the “most famous hermaphrodite in history,” Cal Stephanides dives into his Greek-American family’s history. Immigrating from a tiny village in Greece to Prohibition-era Detroit and eventually the shores of Michigan, three generations of the Stephanides family are swept into the pull of history while hiding a shameful family secret – a genetic trait that turns Calliope into Cal.
I must admit, I struggled with Middlesex. Eugenides narrates the entire story through Cal, sometimes speaking as if he witnessed his grandparents’ lives, which I found odd. At times, the generational story was fascinating but I feel like the book was trying too hard, making it overly verbose and symbolic. I can see why some people would love this Pulitzer Prize winner, but I did not.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
What books did you read in March?