My Month in Books: What I Read April 2020

Due to being in lockdown, I’ve turned to books as a way to escape. In this post, I discuss each book in April that I read as well as my brief thoughts about them. Overall, I had quite a good reading month. Not just in terms of number of books read but I read a couple new favorites. Keep reading to find out what I read the past month.

Check out my reading wrap-up for March 2020.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

The first book I finished in April was the second (and final?) book to the Six of Crows series. Typically I don’t find that I enjoy subsequent books in series more than the first one. However, with Crooked Kingdom I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than the first. The first was still a good read, but I didn’t think about it much after I finished it.

With Crooked Kingdom, the plotline was a lot more interesting to me and we got to delve even further into the characters we all know and love. I still think it’s the characters that make this series so special, but with this installment I also enjoyed the plotline.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

The next book in April I read was another sequel to a series. Lair of Dreams is the second book in the Diviners series and I absolutely loved the first one. This one however was a bit of a disappointment to me. While the writing and atmosphere was still great like the first book, I was very bored for a large portion of the book. We also followed some new people and I didn’t care for them/their storylines at all. Ling and whole sleepwalking sickness just wasn’t interesting to me and this book was focused on those.

If I just rated the book from a level of engagement, it might be a 2 stars but because the writing was still really good and we got a lot of cute Evie and Sam moments, it bumped up the rating for me. Not a bad book and actually from videos/reviews I’ve seen this is some people’s favorite book of the series so far. So perhaps I’m an outlier.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale was the third book in April that I read. This book mixes fantasy, fairytales and Russian culture in such a beautiful way. I had a feeling I was going to like it, but I loved this one even more than I thought. It just felt so atmospheric, like I was reading this in the middle of a cold winter storm.

I didn’t do a ton of research about this book before picking it up so I thought it was a standalone. Turns out there are more books in this series and I can’t wait to give them a read also.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Sadie by Courtney Summers

The next book in April was Sadie. I’ve heard this is about podcasts and true crime, and as someone who is a fan of true crime podcasts I knew I had to read it. Also, I heard the audiobook was done really well so I decided to consume it that way. I am happy to confer that the audiobook was fantastic.

You felt like you were listening to someone interview people, with background noises, shuffling, etc. It felt like real people and even the perspective of Sadie was done well. I’m not sure if this book would’ve packed the same punch if it wasn’t for the fantastic audiobook. But I did find myself enjoying the story as well and the thought the ending was well done. While it isn’t the most complex or out of this world book, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of listening to it.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I decided to switch it up so a book I read in April was a non-fiction memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama. She promoted this book a lot and I’ve seen and heard about it everywhere but never felt the desire to pick it up until recently. Since she narrated the audiobook I decided to listen to it. Ultimately, I was just lukewarm about it.

Michelle Obama has always seemed like a really amazing, intelligent woman and I admire many things about her. But ultimately I felt like a Barack campaign book some of the time. Additionally, and I know this may be controversial, I feel like her mention of race (particularly of others’) was really weird and unnecessary much of the time.

As a POC, I understand how race/racism affects your life. However, she’d just mention that a random person she had an encounter with was white or black and I was waiting to see if it had any significance to their interaction/the story and it didn’t. And all in all, the book didn’t leave me feeling much afterwards.

Rating: 3/5 stars

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

It’s always interesting to read the source material of a movie you’ve seen. If I Stay was a movie I saw years ago and honestly it wasn’t a favorite movie of mine or anything, but I saw this was available on Libby and decided to read it. It’s hard to compare a book and a movie because they’re two different mediums. But if I had to choose I think I prefer the movie.

That may be influenced in that I saw the movie first thus connected to the story that way first. That’s not to say the book was bad, in fact I really enjoyed it. I wrestled with the rating for this one and at first put 4 but after thinking about it, maybe it’s closer to 3 or 3.5. This is a serious decision, people.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Holes by Louis Sachar

Going from my last read, I read another book that I’ve seen the film adaptation. Holes is one of my favorite Disney movies, I absolutely adore it. Thus, this book had some big shoes to feel. I have to say that this is a middle grade book, which isn’t a genre I tend to read or enjoy. But I’m also not the target audience.

It was okay, I definitely think the changes (like aging up the characters) made the movie better. I think the movie made the different facets of the story better to understand and see the connections with the story. Ultimately, the base story in the novel is still good but I love the depiction of it more as a film.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

This is the book that got me into a thriller mood in April. The Turn of the Key is a murder/mystery book that has ghosts, creepy kids and a haunted house. Sounds like a cheesy horror movie, right? Well, with thrillers you have to expect a certain level of cheesiness or melodrama. Thankfully, I didn’t get that with this book until towards the end when some of the twists started unraveling. Some of them caused eye-rolls and others were just fun/entertaining.

I wasn’t super surprised by some of the reveals. The bulk of my enjoyment came from the daily happenings in the house. The setting was really well developed and the writing was engaging and easy to understand. All good things, overall I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is a romance book. I’m not a fan of romance. But I was in the mood to read a Taylor Jenkins Reid book and the premise sounded intriguing. It deals with fate, destiny, life choices, all things that are contributing to my current quarter life crisis. But ultimately, this fell super flat.

The main character was kind of dumb and self-destructive, which is a relatable trait but it was in a way that didn’t even make sense and just felt like a way to move the plot forward. We had the token, quirky black friend who was more of a caricature than an actual person and the bland love interests (including one who really abused his position) who were practically interchangeable. Overall, this one had promise but to me wasn’t executed well.

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

My next book in April has been on my TBR basically since I found out about it. It’s the second book from Erin Morgenstern who wrote The Night Circus, an amazing book. The premise seemed great, the cover is gorgeous, all good things? Let me first say, this wasn’t a bad book at all. But I just struggle to even summarize what happened because for me there were no clear stakes or plot.

This is one I think can benefit from a physical reread and perhaps I’ll be able to understand it more. The writing was gorgeous, as I expected, but I just can’t even really say much that happened. Also, I felt that the relationship between the MC and his love interest wasn’t developed very strongly at all and when it clicked that they were “in love” I was confused wondering if I missed any parts where they’d connected.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Although I didn’t enjoy the second book in the Diviners series much, I knew I’d continue with the series. And I am glad I did. This one was amazing. Sure, I still had to read about Ling (*eye roll*) but I also got to read more about my favorite characters: Evie, Sam, Memphis and Theta. Plus, this storyline/mystery was a lot more interesting. The only subplot I didn’t care for much was Mabel’s, but even that was as boring as I found the sleepwalking in the second.

This book was entertaining, lots of cute moments between the characters. I love reading books with ensemble casts and groups of friends. This one had just that and I loved seeing them engage with one another more. Can’t wait to read the last book in the series.

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Next up was the Queen of the Tearling. I haven’t heard much about this book on Booktube and some of the reviews I did hear were quite mixed. So I had overall average expectations going into this one. I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I found it to be really entertaining and the main character had a strong personality without being overbearing or annoying, which can be common in YA protagonists. This is a series I plan on continuing.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

If you’ve seen some of my previous posts, you might know that I lived in Barcelona. Due to the current state of the world I had to return and I’ve missed living in Spain a lot. So the next book in April that I read is set in Barcelona. It’s about a boy who finds a book and he realizes that someone is trying to erase the existence of that book’s author by destroying every copy of their book.

The premise was interesting and the book executed it well. It was awesome reading about Barcelona so many years ago and comparing it to my recent experiences there. The characters were well-rounded. If you’re into historical fiction but want something outside the WWII setting, this one is a must-read.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is about a famed writer who hires another writer to document her life before she dies. Its an idea I’ve seen come up more and more in books. It’s basically a book within a book as the author tells tales and at first we aren’t sure if they’re real or not.

I was really excited about this book and it started off well but I found myself getting disinterested as time went on. That said, it’s well written and lots of people enjoyed it, so I’d still recommend it. There was just something that didn’t fully click for me.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Finally got my hands on another thriller book in April. The synopsis of this book gave me Pretty Little Liars vibes, so I was definitely intrigued. Basically, a woman returns to summer camp as an instructor 15 years after three of her friends disappeared and were presumed dead. Creepy stuff starts happening and she wants to find answers. Like I said, there’s a certain amount of melodrama present in thriller books, usually at the climax, and that definitely happened here. But it’s part of the genre.

I really loved this book. It was fun, engaging, many of the twists weren’t predictable but still made sense. Sometimes authors will throw out twists just to shock the reader but don’t weave in things to show they planned the twist with care. That’s not what this one felt like. Definitely made me feel like I was watching PLL at summer camp and as a former fan of that show, it made for a great reading experience. Plus, the main character wasn’t an alcoholic, so that was a nice change. There were some gripes that I had with the book but they didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

So conflicted with this one. In the beginning, I thought it could be a 4 or 5 star read for me. New York, theater, discussion on women’s sexuality, female friendships, etc. However, the first and second half of this book felt so disconnected that it could’ve been two different stories. Plus, the issue that drove the conflict of the story seemed so forced, contrived and unrealistic.

As I continued reading, it was more like a 2 star read to me. The first half of this book is what kept this on a more neutral rating but I was just so disappointed in the direction the story went. If it continued to focus on the theater, the MC’s life in NY as she discovers herself that would’ve been amazing.

Rating: 3/5 stars

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Normally I don’t like covers like this, but this one really intrigues me. We Are Okay is a YA contemporary that takes place on a college campus with flashbacks to the MC’s life in high school. I went into it expecting a slow paced character portrait that discusses how to deal with grief. Unfortunately, I was disappointed and bored with most of it.

There were many lines that I felt were very strong and I could relate to. I was looking forward to seeing how her friendship was effected by her grief but was disappointed to find that there was a romance between them. While I think LGBTQ rep is important, I think it would’ve been stronger if it was just their friendship and love wasn’t involved.

Additionally, I didn’t feel the connection with the two characters as friends or lovers. Besides the intentional awkwardness in their current-day reunion, I didn’t sense any chemistry between them. Their relationship was just bland and underdeveloped, which made their romantic storyline harder to connect with.

Rating: 2/5 stars

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Mermaids are real. Or at least I wish they were (and secretly hold on to the possibility). The next book in April I read is about sirens, siren hunters, mermaids and all of that mythical goodness. It’s very, very loosely based off of The Little Mermaid but a lot darker. This one had mixed opinions, but I really enjoyed it. I thought it was entertaining, the writing was crisp and it was well paced. It’s definitely a cute YA book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

If you are a writer, you’ve probably heard of (and read) this book. Finally I got my hands on this book (thanks again, Libby) and it was cool. To be honest I just wanted to read the parts that directly related to writing. I don’t have many thoughts on this one, it’s a short read and gives insight on some writing philosophies to one of the most successful writers of our time.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Remember I said I looked forward to continuing this series? Well, I did later in the month. I picked up the second book in the series and listened to it on audio. I think I may have liked it even more than the first one! Although there were some characters I didn’t care about or didn’t know who they were, I think it was well done.

Kelsea is a very interesting character and I liked seeing her relationship with the guards. The magical elements were more present in this book and it definitely added to the drama. One thing I saw as a critique of this book is confusing/inconsistent world building and I do agree with that. When and where the world takes place is still unclear to me. However, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Lovely War was the next book in Arpil I read. And I think it might be my favorite? During this time I had DNF’d (did not finish) a lot of books and was quite frustrated with my reading. But I’m so glad I got this one to take me out of an impending slump. It’s a historical fiction (which I love) romance (which I don’t) but it also was comedic and sad. Even as someone who dislikes romance, I found the relationships sweet.

We follow two couples in this book and I definitely have a preference for a clear favorite. Both instances are definitely insta-love, which I really dislike, but it worked for the kind of narrative that the book was told in. I love reading historical fiction and getting a glimpse into our world at a different time. The characters were endearing and it was well written and researched. Plus, it really made me want to get into Greek mythology more.

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I saw the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for my birthday last year and I absolutely loved it. I already loosely knew what the story was about, but it was great seeing it live. Also, one of the songs embodies my writing WIP (affectionately nicknamed as Project Sunflower) so I knew I had to read the source material sooner rather than later. The verdict? I absolutely loved it.

Again, I already knew the basis of the story, but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of it. It was moody, atmospheric, nicely paced and written and overall just a fantastic read. I don’t really buy physical books right now but once I start, this is definitely one I’d love to have a hardcopy of.

Rating; 5/5 stars

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Another book in April that I read also was because I wanted to read the source material of a work. Truth be told, I wasn’t a huge Peter Pan fan growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but it wasn’t one of my all time faves. So perhaps going into this book already with a feeling of indifference affected my rating. All in all, it was a cute, simple read but I don’t have many thoughts or feelings towards it – just like the movie.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer

Next up on my April monthly wrap up is the first ARC (advanced reader copy) I’ve received from Netgalley. If you didn’t know, it’s a website where you can request to read and review books prior to publication to help with the marketing of the book. So I’m really thankful for receiving this book but of course my opinions are completely my own. I heard about this book because I watch the author’s Youtube channel where she documents her writing journey and also discusses books. The premise of this sounded interesting. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’d hoped.

I believe that the synopsis of the book didn’t accurately portray what the story was. Not to say what was described didn’t happen, just to me it felt like it would’ve been a darker, harder hitting YA contemporary when it more-so read like a YA contemporary romance with a bullying plot. I’m quite a critical reader, so perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue for others and I’d still recommend those who like YA contemporaries to check it out. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The next book in April was The Shadows Between Us. This was on my TBR for a couple of months so I was excited when it was finally available on Libby. However, I also didn’t love this one. Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining and I didn’t think of DNF’ing it, it just wasn’t that special to me. The writing was good, the characters were OK (some I liked more than others) but once I finished reading it, I didn’t think much about it. I would read more from this author in the future.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The next book in April was Beartown. Let me just get it out of the way, I loved this. Trigger warning, as it deals with sexual assault. This is a topic that I am a very passionate about and interested in. I especially appreciated the exploration of sexism and toxic masculinity within sports culture, because it’s a problem. The sport in question here is hockey, which I have no clue about but it didn’t take me out of the story. I also wanted to read this because a story I’ve been brewing deals with similar themes.

I loved how the author dealt with the subject matter and overall it was just well written. I felt like I knew exactly what Beartown was like, who the characters were and even the townspeople. That being said, I did find out after finishing it that it’s part of a series. I don’t think I’ll continue, because the part of the story I was interested in was wrapped up nicely in the first book.

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Yeah, no… We’re still using sexual assault as a device to give the character emotional complexity and an “interesting” backstory in 2020? We’re still okay with toxic masculinity, sexism and abusive tendencies in love interests because they’re so hot and good in bed in 2020? Big no.

Rating: 1/5 stars

Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Heard about this book when attending a virtual writer livestream/panel. This is a YA book about a teenage assassin, which I know is a popular trope but I haven’t read many books that feature it. Plus, the reviews of this were all really good, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I was a little underwhelmed with this book. Since I hadn’t heard much hype around it, I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t feel that connected with the storyline or the main characters. In fact, my favorite character was the main antagonist.

But I will repeat that I’m a very critical reader (do I even LIKE reading??) so I can definitely understand all the great reviews out there. So I’d still suggest giving this one a try. This is the first in a series, which I’m not sure yet if I’ll continue. But I would be interested in reading other works from this author.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

The last book in April perhaps may be my favorite. I received an e-ARC of this book from Netgalley thanks to the publisher, so thank you! This book is set to release in late August. I heard about this author/book when watching a writing panel she was on. The book sounded interesting and the cover is pretty, so I gave it a shot. And I’m so glad I did!

This is a fantasy book filled with magicians, a circus and interesting characters. In my Goodreads review, I mentioned that it’s like a mashup of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Phantom of the Opera, the movie Now You See Me and a bit of Caraval. Basically, it was amazing. I thought the writing was great, the characters were intriguing and I am very excited to read the sequel, which I know won’t be for a while.

I really hope this book gets a lot of hype once it’s released.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Wrap Up

Favorite book (this is really hard because I have several I could put for this category): Where Dreams Descend

Least favorite book: The Deal

Books read: 29 (Even typing this number doesn’t feel real. This is a mix of both ebooks and audiobooks).

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