May Book Reviews


The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

I recently saw a tweet that referenced book lovers feeling like they have failed when an unread hardcover on their shelf comes out in paperback - hilarious because it’s TRUE. The paperback release of The Book of Longings spurred me to read my Book of the Month from last May.
Even though I have loved every book I have read by Sue Monk Kidd, I was hesitant to grab this one because of the religious material - a story about Jesus’ wife, which he could very well have had, and the author’s note definitely gives evidence it was highly likely. Let’s just say I have a lot of side eye for religion and I am an agnostic. But, it might be better going into it that way than as someone who has deeply held beliefs.
It reads beautifully as the historical fiction it is, and gave me similar vibes to reading Circe, which I loved. Ana is just as indelible and her story is a beautiful tribute to strong women invisibly shaping history, working against the patriarchy - an unexpected surprise for a book about the beginnings of Christianity.
“All shall be well… I don’t mean that life won’t bring your tragedy. I only mean that you will be well in spite of it. There’s a place in you that is inviolate. You’ll find your way there when you need to. And you’ll know then what I speak of.”

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Many thanks to Random House for the advance digital copy of Malibu Rising. The latest from Taylor Jenkins Reid is THE summer novel to read.
How does TJR do it? With every one of her books I just fall so easily into the story and when I look up, hundreds of pages have flown by. This novel harkens back to her older books, with romantic and family drama taking center stage, and no narrative devices employed like Evelyn or Daisy. A great multiple POV of characters that quickly wormed their way into my heart. I felt so much anger and sadness, hope and happiness, on their behalf. There is a lot to unpack about the repercussions that echo from our family dynamics, and there are several passages about motherhood that were so clearly written from the author’s heart.
The crazy 80s vibe was a trip, and I felt such a strong sense of time and place: miniskirts, aquanet, coconut suntan lotion, Heather Lockear, surfer culture, fried clam sammies and sand stuck everywhere. I just loved it. I also love how she wove Mick Riva into her last three books. The 60s with Evelyn Hugo, 70s with Daisy Jones and 80s with the Rivas - are the 90s next?! Whatever the time frame or place, California or not, I am here for it and will snatch it up ASAP.
“June knew that her children had found a previously undiscovered part of themselves that day. She knew that childhood is made up of days magnificent and mundane. And this had been a magnificent day for all of them.”

We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

OK y’all, I think I am going to call it: I do not like true crime books about murder. Not that I I am squeamish or have the heebie-jeebies about it - I mean, The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite books of all time!
For me, these books seem to either drag on with red herrings, too much detail, or the author’s personal story. And in some cases I can see why that is a draw, and why many people enjoyed I’ll be Gone in the Dark. But... I didn’t like that one either.
We Keep the Dead Close was only interesting to me when the author expounded upon the idiosyncrasies of Harvard (women had different diplomas until 1999!) and the rampant misogyny. I could read a book that focused on those type of things, fascinating stuff I can’t understand with a quick Google search. It’s also morally conflicting, consuming someone’s death as entertainment.
So, yeah, the thing about murder investigations is that you can easily Google how things went down, but you can’t tell me a whole story about the inner workings of Harvard, or THERANOS, or a guy faking an orchestra from a quick internet search. (The last two referring to two of the crime-y types of books I actually enjoyed: Bad Blood and Sounds Like Titanic.)

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig

House of Salt and Sorrows was this month’s pick for my #evergreenreaders book group, and I had mixed feelings about this gothic YA fantasy, inspired by Grimm’s 12 Dancing Princesses.
What worked for me: the world building and spooky prose. Craig creates a lush and sinister atmosphere that was transportive. I am also a sucker for a slowly building sense of foreboding, and was definitely creeped out by many of the scenes that bordered on horror.
What didn’t work for me: the reveal of the villain and their machinations was intriguing, but it comes so late in the text that everything felt rushed and confusing as I turned the final pages. It became hard to suspend my disbelief and the explanation seemed highly convoluted, unearthing more questions than answers. It would be interesting to go back and re-read knowing the ending, but I don’t think I am that invested.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Recently I was striking out with audiobooks... Well, that is certainly no longer the case! I’d compare the experience of listening to Zauner as a mashup of Kelly Corrigan and Ruth Reichl. YEP - total GOATs. I received Crying in H Mart as part of my first editions subscription from Third Place Books - but since I cannot resist memoirs read by the author on audiobook, I also got a copy from libro.fm. This is the first time that I’ve had both mediums of a book and it was perfectly serendipitous.
Listening to Michelle tell her story was so real and raw, I teared up multiple times. I think most women can relate to the complexities of the mother daughter relationship, which is usually fraught at one time or another, and I empathized so much throughout the evolution of their relationship.
I also learned so many new things about traditions and food! It is a feast for the senses, and listening to Michelle talk about food was transcendent. If I was only taking in the print version, I might have glazed over the many, new to me, words involving her Korean heritage. I am so glad to have the print copy to look back at and see on paper. The way that food is so intertwined with family, traditions, memory and love is powerfully illustrated in her prose.

“There was no one in the world that was ever as critical or could make me feel as hideous as my mother, but there was no one, not even Peter, who ever made me feel as beautiful.”

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially the audiobook. And thank you so much to Third Place for putting this on my shelves with my other favorite books.

Yearbook by Seth Rogen

Oh my GAWD, this book was such a hilarious ride and I didn’t want it to end!!
I’m definitely a fan of Seth Rogan's films and his Twitter account. So, when I heard about his new book, and that so many people read their own parts in the audiobook (from his family members to Billy Idol), I snatched it up from libro.fm ASAP.
Obviously, his delivery is fantastic and I was laughing to the point of tears at least a dozen times. But, I also loved the poignancy that breaks through the hilarity of his childhood stories, and the love he has for his friends and family radiates through his words. He’s just a really lovely human, unabashedly himself.
Personal favorite bits that I can’t wait to rehash with my husband after he reads it: Seth’s dad’s sock organization, the Mohel, meeting George Lucas, Kanye, Steve Wozniak, Barack Obama’s press conference, and his flawless hot take on Twitter / anti Semitism.
This is totally going on the all time favorite audiobooks list. I hope he writes more volumes!