April Book Reviews | On the Daily EXPRESS

4/10/18

April Book Reviews

|
It's another second Tuesday of the month and I have another round of book reviews for you all today! As usual, I had a few I really loved, some in the "meh" department, and some that were a complete waste of time, so read on for my thoughts on each of the titles below:

Fiction:
Go: A Coming of Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro
Basic Plot: Sugihara is a high school age boy who was born and raised in Japan, but he has Korean parents and citizenship, though no one can tell that by looking at him. This is the story of his struggle with racial prejudice coupled with the usual teenage challenges of dealing with parents, friends, and dating.
My Verdict: Recommend-ish...I only recommend this if the subject matter sounds interesting to you. This book was eye opening for sure: I was completely ignorant of this sort of racial prejudice against Koreans in Japan prior to reading the book. The main character was well developed and I came to care about his circumstances throughout the book, so props for that. The book was pretty short and did hold my interest well enough, though the storytelling was a little scattered at times, so I didn't love that about it. Also, there was a lot of violence. That's not my favorite thing to read about, but it left me wondering how much of that is part of the actual culture (e.g. is it really acceptable for teachers to beat students like that?) vs. specific to the character and his hot temper. So it was a solid read with unique subject matter that made me want to learn more, but it's definitely not going to be for everyone.

The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson
Basic Plot: Vera decides to open up a food truck, but due to unfortunate circumstances she can only park it near the top restaurant in town, owned by the hottest (in terms of looks and skills) chef in town. Their paths inevitably cross and sparks fly in various ways.
My Verdict: Recommend! This was just a really fun, cute, well played romance. I will especially recommend this if you're into cooking, cooking shows or consider yourself a foodie in any way.  The meal descriptions and food as foreplay was a really fun, unique element in this book. Every I meal I ate the week I read this book seemed really boring compared to what they were making in the book. No real complaints for this one, and I definitely want to read the follow-up book by the same author about a couple of the other other characters in the book.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Basic Plot: Five high school kids get detention and one of them ends up dead. Someone has to be guilty and it's quite a ride uncovering the lies and secrets that everyone involved wants to hide.
My Verdict: Highly Recommend! The Amazon description for this book compares it to Pretty Little Liars meets Breakfast Club. I've never watched PLL, but the Breakfast Club comparison is valid in that detention is involved as well as a mixed group of kids from different high school cliques. (Popular Girl, Brainy Girl, Jock, Stoner, etc.). But the entire book isn't set in detention...the Main Event just happens there. It was a really fun read that keeps you guessing and develops each character well enough as the story is told through their alternating perspectives. Even though I'm a little tired of alternating perspective storytelling, I didn't mind this one because it all went in chronological order. It didn't skip around from past to present. Not much else to say on this except it's a perfect Spring Break/Beach Read or just an anytime read when you want a book gets you engaged quickly in the story. I expect this one to end up as a movie or TV show!

The Dry by Jane Harper
Basic Plot: Aaron Falk returns to his hometown in rural Australia after he learns about the death of a childhood friend. The friend allegedly killed himself and his family members, but Aaron doesn't believe things are what they seem and gets involved in the investigation, which ends up digging up difficult parts of his own past as well.
My Verdict: Recommend. This book had a lot of hype so I decided to set an expectation that I wasn't going to like it, I just wanted to know what the fuss was about. That worked out well for me. I did end up liking it and it held my interest really well as Aaron followed the clues to solve the mystery of what happened to his friend, along with dealing with other parts of his past. There were a couple of upsetting parts for me, as I'm very sensitive to violence against children. On a scale of 1 to Kite Runner, the graphic nature of the violence was maybe a 4/5, but still, you've been warned. All things considered it was a solid, entertaining read for me.

Trespassing by Brandi Reeds
Basic Plot: A man who is a private jet pilot goes missing, leaving his wife and daughter behind. The wife attempts to unravel the mystery of his disappearance (is he dead or did he deliberately leave?) and uncovers secrets along the way, all while questioning her own sanity (due to a family history of schizophrenia) and dealing with her precocious 3 year old.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. Ugh. Classic case of Main Character Unrealistically Dumb. Add to that a hefty helping of Main Character's Child Incredibly Annoying and this one was tough to finish. There were pages and pages of the main character debating with herself about what may or may not have happened with her husband or what she did or didn't see and I found it repetitive and boring, not suspenseful in the least. I finished it to see what ultimately happened with the husband and that was entirely disappointing as well.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Basic Plot: This is not a plot-driven book so much as a family saga over several generations. The story begins in the 1700s in the Gold Coast of Africa where the slave trade affects everything from tribal wars to the life your family will lead for generations to come.
My Verdict: Recommend-ish...As with Go, I would only recommend this if the subject matter sounds interesting to you. This book is highly rated on Amazon, so clearly a lot of people love it. I personally did not love it. I did think it was an impressive work and fascinating piece of historical fiction and I learned a lot. However, it was often confusing and frustrating. It's confusing because each chapter has a new narrator, and each narrator lives in a different era of time, one or two generations after the previous narrator. But all the narrators are related back to two women who are blood relatives, one who was sold into slavery and one who was not. So we learn what impact that outcome (slavery vs. life in Africa) had on a family for generations to come. I just found it confusing trying to figure out the relationships of the characters and keep them all straight because there were so many, plus all the time hopping wasn't always easy to follow. The frustrating part was that sometimes I'd just be getting into a character and his/her story, and abruptly the chapter would end. I wouldn't figure out what happened to the character until their descendant made a quick reference to them two chapters later, at which point I've forgotten some details about how or why I was invested in the character to begin with. Some parts were really s-l-o-w and I wondered if I'd even be able to finish the book, others were more engaging. All in all I'm glad I read it for what I learned, but again, I just didn't love it.

Nonfiction: (Audiobooks)

Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
I'm sad to say I really did not like this book. Normally I enjoy Ellen's humor and when I'm having a bad day, pulling up her pranks from her talk show on YouTube are a surefire way to boost my mood. But this book was just too silly and pointless for me. It was funny-ish in parts, but mostly just rambling and nonsense stuff. I can't even tell you what the book is about, because the book is about nothing. It's a hodgepodge of Ellen's humor but it came across as though it were narrated by Dory from Finding Dory (scatterbrained), and that didn't work for me in an extended format like this. It was moderately entertaining at times, but once I realize there was absolutely no point, I was counting down the minutes until it ended.

The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes
This falls under the category of, "Books I wouldn't have chosen myself...but I'm glad I read it." My sister-in-law recommended this to me and found it very insightful as a boy mom (she's a mom of four boys). And indeed it was. It's easy for me to be in tune with and aware of pressures that women face in society from each other, from social media, from men, etc. But I haven't previously given a lot of thought to the different and similar pressures that men face. The author breaks down the different "Masks" mean wear to cope with these issues. The book had some interesting insights on issues such as why men are more likely to commit suicide than women. I do recommend this if you're raising boys yourself or if you live with a man and want to look at the world through his lens.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
This book was mentioned in the previous book I read and the reviews were outstanding so I decided to give it a go. The author is an FBI hostage negotiator turned business consultant and he shares his top strategies for negotiating a deal of any kind. He gave lots of personal experiences and very specific suggestions for everything from negotiating a salary to a car price to a hostage release (naturally). It was a pretty interesting book. I don't know how often it will be useful in my life right now and it's not something I'd call a "must read" depending on where you are in life, but overall it was worth my time.

Current Reads + Up Next:
On the Nonfiction side I'm currently reading Sapiens thanks to Rachelle's strong recommendation. It's very long and I'm just about halfway through and I do find it really interesting. I was reading it alongside Homegoing and it was actually rather complimentary to what I learned from that book. After I finish this I've already downloaded and plan to read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains and My Story by Elizabeth Smart.

On the fiction side, Kristen and I are going to read Rhythm, Chord and Malaykhin and welcome anyone to read along with us! We're hoping this one is a little more enjoyable than some of our past selections! Ask Him Why is also on my TBR list, and I'm thinking about reading Force of Nature after that. All three are by authors I've read in the past so I'm hoping to enjoy these almost as much as their other books.

Thanks for stopping by today and let me know your thoughts on any of these you've read or others you think I should read! And just a reminder that I'm traveling on Spring Break this week so I'll be a bit behind on participating in the book link up community. But I always get great recommendations from them (e.g. One of Us is Lying was a hot book last month), so check out Steph & Jana for the link up if you're looking for more suggestions!

CONVERSATION

36 comments:

  1. Love these post, happy you are enjoying Sapiens, yes it is soooo long. I'm still not done. One of us is lying was so so good and after I'm done with my current books I will pick Rythm, Chord... to read along with you guys.


    xo
    Pinksole

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! Glad to have you read with us! Let us know if you'll be posting a review on May 8 so we can link to you too. :)

      Delete
  2. I always look forward to your book reviews, I pin them and then when I need a book go back and choose from your list. This review did not disappoint! Once I'm done reading the current book I am struggling to get through I want to read "One of Us is Lying" I seem to have a penchant for books with the word 'lie' in the title, lol! It sounds like I'd love it!
    xo,
    Kellyann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, a few months back every book I read had the word "girl" in the title. They all start to sound the same! If you liked The Breakfast club I think you'll like "One of Us is Lying." :)

      Delete
  3. I just added One of Us is Lying to my library wait list. I can tell by the description it has that Breakfast Club vibe you mentioned but clearly it's way darker. I'm in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a perfect description. Hope you enjoy it!

      Delete
  4. Your scale of "1 to Kite Runner" made me laugh, but I totally get that :) I did enjoy The Dry and hope to get to Force of Nature one of these days. I loved Homegoing, but I understand completely how it could be frustrating. I do remember constantly turning back to the family tree at the front of the book so I could keep the storylines and families straight. And there were definitely chapters that I wanted to continue to see what happened to the characters! I don't read a lot of thrillers/mysteries because for whatever reason I usually don't end up liking them, but I keep hearing good things about One of Us is Lying so maybe I should give that one a try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you got the Kite Runner reference. :) I was not prepared for what happened in that book and I'm still upset about it to this day!

      Delete
  5. I just added One of Us Is Lying to my TBR list! I thought I had already read it, but I must be thinking about another book. I tried to read The Dry, but just couldn't get into it! Are you on Goodreads?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can definitely understand why you didn't get into the Dry. It's not really fast-paced or something that grabbed me right off the bat.

      I do have a Goodreads account but I don't really use it. :/ I mainly look there if I need a recommendation or to get some additional reviews/compare notes with what Amazon has to say about a book!

      Delete
  6. Hmm, the Masculinity book sounds interesting. Thinking about it, I can't think of any book or article that doesn't talk about masculinity as better than/in opposition to feminism, so if this book does that I will be SUPER into it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hm, it really didn’t have any kind of comparison to feminism at all. Not sure it would be what you want!

      Delete
  7. I laughed at your scale of 1 to The Kite Runner, haha. I want to read Rhythm Chord and Malykhin with you guys!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! Glad to have you join us! I think we'll try to link everyone who read along with us in our posts. :)

      Delete
  8. It sounds like Ellen's book is good to read here and there, and not all the way through. I do really want to read One of Us Is Lying - hopefully soon. That first book, Go, sounds great! I hadn't heard of it before.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would skip Ellen's book entirely, but if you really love her maybe you'd like it in parts more than I did. :)

      Delete
  9. i am so glad you liked The Opposite of You! i didn't love the second as much, but it was still okay. i totally agree about One of Us is Lying, it should be a tv show or movie. i agree with everything about homegoing - i would just get attached to a character and then they'd be gone! or we'd get the smallest bits in the next chapter, and that bummed me out. the dry is my next book club book so fingers crossed i like it. and fingers crossed we both like the MZ book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to know about the follow up to Opposite of You! I probably won't reach for it any time soon. And yes to the Homegoing frustrations. I tried thinking of the stories separately (as some suggested here and on Amazon reviews, I believe) but that frustrated me too because none of the stories were complete in and of themselves.

      Delete
  10. I LOVED Homegoing. I absolutely 100% agree with your review, though.

    I loved The Dry and One of Us Is Lying as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you understand where I was coming from on Homegoing!

      Delete
  11. I had to rethink Homegoing and read each story as their own, I got a headache trying to reconnect them back do their ancestors and trying figure out who was related to whom.

    I am currently reading Pachinko, which talks about discrimination faced by Koreans in Japan, and like you, I had no idea this happened!! I am going to ad Go to my list too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah! I just started Pachinko this week and I am really liking it so far! Amazon kept recommending it to me after I purchased Go.

      And I really did try to separate the stories within Homegoing. That helped somewhat but also got frustrating since the stories were not complete within themselves.

      Delete
  12. I referenced the family tree at the beginning of Homegoing like it was the Bible, and that helped. That book is still sitting with me.

    I'm reading the second Aaron Falk novel right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm embarrassed to say that even the family tree confused me, but maybe now that I've read the whole book it will make more sense. Can't wait to see your review on Force of Nature!

      Delete
  13. I read One of Us is Lying this month too, and loved it! Definitely kept me guessing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did guess the main culprit in One of us is Lying but there were so many other good twists along the way. It didn't take away from the fun at all.

      Delete
  14. I love historical fiction and putting the pieces together of the story as I read so I am definitely putting Homegoing on my 'to read' list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, can't wait to see what you think of Homegoing!

      Delete
  15. I loved The Dry - my favorite kind of book, a mystery wrapped up with a really good backstory of the main character. I have read Force of Nature, which isn't quite as good, but still enjoyable. I'm hoping there are eventually more published in that series!

    And I am very curious about One of Us Is Lying - I've seen it around a few places, but your review makes me want to pick it up soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll be interested to see what you think about One of Us is Lying! And good to know not to expect quite as much from Force of Nature!

      Delete
  16. Always love your book reviews! I get most of my recommendations from you and my aunt actually. I think the Opposite of You sounds right up my alley since you know I'm a big foodie! One of us is Lying is on the list now too. Thanks for doing what you do Gina <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really think you'll enjoy both of those! Hope you'll keep us updated on your Insta story or blog if you read them!

      Delete
  17. Here from SUYB! :) I really really want to read One of Us Is Lying, The Opposite of You, and Homegoing. :) I JUST finished reading Rhythm, Cord...! It was really good I thought, it's only my second Zapata, but I enjoyed it well enough for sure. :) Excited to chat about it with both of you next month! :) The Mask of Masculinity sounds really really interesting. Adding it to my TBR. :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just getting started on Rhythm Chord and so far so good! Will keep you posted next month! :)

      Delete
  18. Read "The Opposite of You" thanks to you and it was a cute, fun read. Really enjoyed it. Now I'm back here because I need to find a new read ;) Thanks for all your awesome reviews.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks so much for the nice comment, Lilly! I'm so glad you liked Opposite of You! Let me know what you read next!

      Delete

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I sincerely appreciate each and every one and always do my best to answer questions promptly!