April felt like a pretty good reading month to me, especially because of how much I loved Breathe and Count Back from Ten. The reviews for that one and my other five-star read of the month are below, as well as every other book I read in April. Have you read any of these? Let me know!
After seeing all the hype around Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez, I was so curious about this one.
The story follows Olga, a Puerto Rican wedding planner for the elite in New York, as well as her brother Prieto, a politician who’s working to help Puerto Rico but has angered a lot of Puerto Ricans throughout the past few years.
The story moves along pretty slowly at first, but the payoff is worthwhile. I had a lot of mixed feelings toward the two main characters at times, but I was rooting for them the entire time. I also felt that the ending was appropriate and satisfying.
Content Notes: emotional abuse, internalized homophobia, blackmail, drug abuse, conversations around HIV and AIDS, dead parent, parental abandonment, sexual assault (not “shown” but it’s clear it happens and is talked about afterward)
I read Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp on the Netgalley app ahead of its April 5 release. This book is, as the title mentions, pretty heartbreaking during a lot of moments. In that sense, it’s not an easy read. There were a lot of emotional, heartbreaking moments, and the characters seemed to hit obstacle after obstacle.
The two main characters were both carrying so much grief and guilt that weighed on them in so many ways. There were so many characters throughout the whole story that carried a lot of pain and continued to pick themselves up again. What made this story poignant was how real it felt. The place and characters felt real to me, which made me feel so much love for them.
I enjoyed the love story element and appreciated that there was a happy ending. I loved how much the two main characters grew and learned and overcame by the end of the story.
Content notes: deportations, dead parents, parental abandonment, violence from parent
I was able to read a digital advanced copy of Breathe and Count Back From Ten by Natalia Sylvester thanks to Netgalley, and it’s definitely a new favorite!
This young adult novel is about Verónica, a Peruvian girl with hip dysplasia living in Florida with her parents and younger sister. When there’s an opportunity to try out to be a mermaid at a local attraction, she knows her parents won’t approve and that her body will be able to handle it.
Not only was this story super cute. It also had so much wonderful representation that I’d been craving. The story’s main character is a disabled Latina, an immigrant with immigrant parents, has a love story element, and has a theme of body autonomy. It was so much fun to see her love story play out and to see the love interest be so understanding and even neutral about her disability. Watching Vero become comfortable with him was so heartwarming.
I appreciated the details that weren’t neatly resolved by the end of the book, but also was grateful to see the hint of hope and growth for the characters. And I was proud of Verónica for standing up for herself and understanding she knew her body best.
I seriously can’t express how much it meant to me to read this book, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Content notes: sexual assault (unwanted groping, comments), sexism, ableism
Everything Is Spiritual: Who We Are and What We’re Doing Here by Rob Bell is only the second book I’ve read by this author, and I definitely enjoyed this one. While I do enjoy his writing style, I wish he would include chapter breaks in his books. It’d be easier to know where to pause between reading sessions.
I very much feel like I read this book at the right time. A lot of the questions Bell wrestled with felt familiar to me, and I appreciated his honesty about those struggles. I appreciated reading about where his journey has taken him and the questions he continues to ask.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow is a young adult book with elements of magical realism. The story follows Tavia and Effie, sisters and best friends living in Portland, Oregon. Tavia is a siren but keeps that a secret from most people she knows, since mostly everyone in this world is afraid of sirens. Meanwhile, Effie spends most of her free time swimming and feels insecure about her dry skin. She usually tries to blend into the background.
I loved the friendship between Tavia and Effie and how much they trusted each other. It also made perfect sense why there were certain details they weren’t sharing with each other at times.
This story weaves together fantastical elements with aspects of racism from our own society and creates a gripping story. At the same time, this story is about two best friends coming into their own and learning to be themselves. And that’s the thing I really enjoyed about this one!
Content notes: violence, racism, dead parent
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo is a punch to the gut. It’s about an everywoman living in Korea who experiences misogyny over and over and about the way it impacts her psychological well-being.
It’s a pretty short and direct book, with very straightforward language. I saw the ending coming, and it infuriated me/broke my heart/made me feel absolutely exhausted and ready to go to war at the same time. I get why it has been so renowned and has had such an impact.
If you’re looking for a feminist work of fiction, I definitely recommend this one.
Content notes: misogyny in the workplace and home, inequality and sexism in the workplace and home, mention of miscarriage, mention of abortion, sexual harassment, sexual assault, alcoholism, depiction of pregancy and labor, mention of hidden cameras in bathrooms