Looking for a new book? Check out everything I read in April 2023 ... from thrillers to romances to dystopian fiction and more, there's a little something for everyone here!
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
April ended up being a very bookish month. My husband and I planned a last minute trip to San Antonio that just so happened to coincide with the San Antonio Book Festival. It ended up being the perfect weekend getaway!
I chose many of the books I read this month based on who was going to be at the festival, and it was so wonderful hearing the authors discuss their work. There were actually sooo many amazing authors, that I had to make some hard choices while planning my schedule (lol). If you live in Texas or are curious about San Antonio (a really cool city), definitely check it out next year!
This was a very busy month of reading. I finished ten novels, plus one book of poetry, and listened to three audio books. Phew! My favorite books this month were The Family Izquierdo and Little ... two completely different books, but I'd give both five stars!
Did you read anything interesting this month? Make sure to let me know in the comments!
Books I Read in April 2023
I've included links for all of these books on Bookshop.org and Amazon so you can easily find them, as well as my ratings for each book (one star is lowest / five stars is highest).
Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht
Very Kelly Is Not a Mystery is the second book in the Vera Kelly series! In this book, Vera loses both her job and her girlfriend in one day. Heartbroken and struggling to make ends meet, she decides to put her ex-CIA skills to use and become a private detective. She soon finds herself tracking a lost child through the foster care system, visiting the Dominican Republic for clues about his family, and dodging dangerous characters ... all while searching for a new romance.
I loved this book, and I highly recommend this series, especially if you enjoy mysteries, historical fiction, and complex, but lovable characters ... I can't wait to read book three! Vera has her struggles, but this is a feel good story. I enjoyed getting to know Vera better, as well as the intertwining of the mystery, her travel to the DR, and her awkward attempts at romance. Plus, the vintage setting and clothing details are so fun!
The Old Place by Bobby Finger
If you're a fan of Southern literature, then you'll love The Old Place! In the novel, prickly former schoolteacher Mary Alice is a few months into her forced retirement, and she's still struggling with what exactly to do with herself. She's rekindled a friendship with her neighbor Ellie (they were friends until their sons died, one after the other), and the annual picnic is coming up, but it's not enough. When Mary Alice's estranged sister shows up on her doorstep, bringing staggering news, a terrible secret Mary Alice has kept for a decade threatens to upend her life and send shockwaves through her small Texas town.
This was such a great read! I loved the small town details, and the painful family dynamics kept me hooked. While Mary Alice's actions make her difficult to sympathize with (she's a real piece of work), I found myself drawn in by her and the book's other characters (each of whom is facing their own challenges). And I loved the idea that it's never to late to make a big change in your life!
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
If you're craving a dark, post-apocalyptic tale, check out Oryx and Crake (the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy)! The book centers on Snowman, who was known as Jimmy before a devastating plague upended humanity. Snowman may be the only human left and as he struggles to survive, the story alternates between his lonely present and his difficult past, slowly painting a picture his best friend Crake and the beautiful Oryx, as well as the powerful corporations and their uncontrolled genetic engineering projects that led mankind on a downward spiral.
I read this Oryx and Crake when it first came out (almost 20 years ago!), but I wanted to finish the series and I couldn't remember whether I had read the second and third books. So I decided to start over and refresh my memory by listening to the audiobook. It was read by Campbell Scott, who did an excellent job as the lonely, depressed Jimmy! This book is very bleak, and many of the past events are quite dark and disturbing. I wouldn't recommend this novel if you're looking for something lighthearted or uplifting (lol), but if you're a fan of dystopian fiction, you'll definitely enjoy it!
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
After finishing Oryx and Crake, I started The Year of the Flood, book two in the MaddAddam series. This book takes place before and after a long-feared waterless flood has destroyed most of humanity. The story focuses on two characters: Ren, a trapeze dancer locked in a an upscale sex club; and Toby, who has barricaded herself in a luxe spa. Neither can stay locked away forever, but they're unsure of what to do next.
Although it's second book in the series, the events in The Year of the Flood take place alongside (rather than after) Jimmy's story in Oryx and Crake. Like that book, Ren and Toby's stories alternate between the past and the present, painting an even more detailed picture of their flawed world. I really loved getting a different (female) perspective on the waterless flood / plague! The book also takes a deep dive into the God's Gardeners, a strange group that's one of the religious sects mentioned in Oryx and Crake. I listened to this book, and the narrator did a great job, although the songs were pretty goofy, and I found myself fast-forwarding through some. I'm planning to start book three in this series, Maddaddam, later this month!
Woman Without Shame: Poems by Sandra Cisneros
Looking for a book of poetry filled with heart and humor? Then you'll love Woman Without Shame! It's been 28 years since author Sandra Cisneros published a book of poems, and this collection chronicles her journey as a woman and as an artist through bluntly honest and frequently humorous meditations on memory, desire, love, and her path toward self-awareness.
I always feel like I should read more poetry than I do. It's definitely a weak spot in my reading, and Woman Without Shame was such a pleasant surprise that it will surely inspire me to change that. The heartfelt, often raw poems cover a variety of topics, including self acceptance, ageism, sex, and romance, as well as Cisneros' life as an artist. There was also plenty of humor, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once!
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Dominicana tells the story of Ana Cancion, a fifteen-year-old living in the Dominican countryside. When a man twice her age proposes, Ana finds she can't say no. After a hasty marriage, she leaves behind her close-knit family and everything she knows to become a housewife in New York City. Ana's new life is miserable and lonely, and she hatches a plan to escape, but her husband's younger brother Cesar convinces her to stay. When her husband returns to the Dominican Republic for business, Ana has more freedom and takes English lessons and spends her days with the free-spirited Cesar, all while imagining a different kind of life in America.
Angie Cruz's How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water was one of my favorite books last year, so I knew I had to read more of her work! Dominicana is such a powerful coming-of-age story. The circumstances Ana faces are truly heartbreaking, but she always perseveres, and I alternately found myself angry and cheering her on as she survives and thrives, growing from a sheltered teen immigrant into a confident woman. I also loved the story's many historical references (it's set in the 1960s).
Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera
If you enjoy family dramas, then you'll love Neruda on the Park! In the book, Luz and her mother Eusebia follow radically different paths as gentrification encroaches on their beloved, predominantly Dominican neighborhood in NYC. As Eusebia ropes her close-knit community into an increasingly elaborate (and dangerous) scheme to stop the construction of new luxury condos, her daughter Luz (a career-driven lawyer) starts a romance with the building's handsome white developer. Meanwhile, Luz's father is secretly remodeling their home in the Dominican Republic and dreaming of retiring.
There are so many layers to this wonderful book! I loved the strong mother-daughter relationship, romance, neighborhood characters, social commentary, and the unexpected twist at the end. Luz's struggles were also very relatable, and the tension between the characters kept me turning the pages until the surprising twist at the end.
What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez
In What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, it's been twelve years since thirteen-year-old Ruthy went missing after track practice, and her family is struggling. Ruthy's older sister Jessica is juggling a new baby with her career, her younger sister Nina is a recent college graduate stuck working at the mall, and her mom has never gotten over Ruthy's disappearance. One night, sleep-derived Jessica is watching Catfight (a raunchy reality TV show) when she spots a red-haired woman named Ruby who bears a striking resemblance to her long lost sister. After becoming increasingly convinced that Ruby is really Ruthy, Jessica and Nina plan a road trip to the Catfight set. When their mother catches wind of the scheme, she joins them, bringing her holy roller best friend along.
I loved this book! It's full of heartbreak and humor, and the family dynamic felt so realistic. The sisters and mother are often at each other's throats, but there was also so much love, and it was clear that they'd do anything for each other. Each character experiences / copes with Ruthy's loss in different ways and faces different challenges, and I thought the multiple viewpoints (along with lots of flashbacks) added so much to the story.
The Last Karankawas by Kimberly Garza
The Last Karankawas is striking portrait of a tight-knit Mexican and Filipino American community in Galveston, Texas! The book centers around Carly Castillo, whose grandmother insists they're descendants of the Karankawas, an indigenous group that was once considered extinct. Carly longs for a life outside Fish Village where she grew up, while her boyfriend can't imagine living anywhere else. As the ferocious Hurricane Ike gathers off-shore, each of the books many characters must make a difficult decision: whether to hunker down or flee the storm.
The Last Karankawas is a poignant snapshot of life in Fish Village / Galveston (and other Texas towns)! It's a novel that reads like a collection of interlinking stories, and there are many characters, each connected to Carly in some way (a diagram at the front of the book is helpful for keeping everyone straight). I loved the book's strong sense of place, resilient characters, and the way its central theme (facing the storm or leaving, both figuratively and literally) impacted the characters throughout the book.
Ciao for Now by Kate Bromley (Out 6/6/23)
I received an advance copy of Ciao for Now from NetGalley / Harlequin Trade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
If you're searching for a romantic book that will transport you to Italy, look no further than Ciao for Now! Violet Luciano's thirties are rapidly approaching as she dreams of finishing design school and working in fashion. A coveted internship lands her in Rome, but shortly after arriving, she spills coffee on (and destroys) a grumpy stranger's laptop. She soon discovers that the handsome stranger is her professor's son Matteo. As Violet and Matteo are thrown together throughout the summer, their animosity (and chemistry) grows, and Violet finds herself increasingly distracted from her goals. She has to decide whether to say to ciao to Matteo or ciao to a shot at her dream job.
Ciao for Now was such a cute, lighthearted book ... it would make the perfect summer beach read! I loved the fun enemies-to-lovers trope, I found myself rooting for Violet to make her fashion dreams come true, and Violet and Matteo had amazing chemistry. The Roman setting also added many wonderful details to the book and definitely made me want to travel there!
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Craving a novel crawling with creepy suspense? Then you'll love The Turn of the Key! When Rowan Caine stumbles across an ad for a live-in nanny at a historic Scottish Highlands home, it was too good to pass up. But nothing is quite as it seems: the girls aren't the model children from the interview; the home's smart technology is constantly malfunctioning and its many cameras track her every more; she's alone with the children for weeks at a time (a mysterious handyman is her only adult company); and Roman has her own secrets. As her dream job turns into a nightmare, Rowan knows she's made mistakes, but she's not guilty ... at least of murder.
I listened to the audio book version, and the narrator was truly amazing! The tension was so palpable that it was almost impossible to press pause and break away. This book is very clever, too ... Rowan is writing to a lawyer from prison and slowly reveals what happened. You know that one of the children has been murder, but not which one, and as the story progresses, the suspense builds and multiple surprising twists are revealed (right up to the very end). Loved it!
The Family Izquierdo by Rubén Degollado
A tight-knit family is struggling with misfortune in The Family Izquierdo. Their beloved patriarch has had a emotional breakdown and is dying; the oldest son Gonzalo's marriage is falling apart; and a daughter fears her nightmares are real and becomes a shut-in. After Gonzalo finds a strange object in his parent's backyard, the Izquierdos consider it proof that a jealous neighbor has cursed them. Faced with a troubling past and uncertain future, the family's love for each other, along with a divine presence, comforts them and helps them carry on.
This is such a heartfelt book! It's told as a series of interconnected stories, and each one paints a deeper picture of this multi-generational Mexican American family as a whole, as well as their individual struggles. Parts of the book are very sad, but there's plenty of humor too, and you really feel the family's immense love for one another. I enjoyed the Spanish interwoven throughout (definitely learned some new words!), and I thought the bittersweet ending was perfect.
Little by Edward Carey
Little is an unforgettable tale of an orphan who (against the odds) transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud! Tiny, strange-looking Marie, who is born in a Swiss village in 1761, becomes an eccentric wax sculptor's apprentice after her parent's deaths. He soon sweeps her away to Paris, where they meet a bossy widow and her quiet son, and together they create a sensation with their wax heads featuring the likenesses of Paris' most famous citizens. Eventually, the talented Marie befriends a princess and is called to Versailles to become her tutor. Outside the palace walls though, a revolution is brewing, and the mob is demanding heads!
This is such a unique and special book! It wasn't on my radar until recently, and I didn't know much going in (it's basically a fictionalized account of the life of Madame Tussaud's life ... with quite a few liberties taken). My heart broke for Marie. The odds were stacked against her, but she never gives up, and the book is ultimately uplifting. I also loved all the drawings interspersed throughout the book. One of the best books I've read this year so far ... it's perfect for fans of historical fiction or anyone searching for a one-of-a-kind tale!
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Guys read romances too in The Bromance Book Club! Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is on the rocks after he discovers that his wife has been faking it in bed. After he loses his cool, his wife asks for a divorce. Gavin's pride is hurt, and he finds himself turning to an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top athletes and businessmen. With the help of a steamy Regency romance, the men coach Gavin on saving his marriage, but it will take more than a few grand gestures to win back his wife.
This was such a fun book ... perfect if you're looking for a romance with a twist or a lighter read! The story alternates between Gavin's and his wife's perspectives, and I found myself rooting for them. This book would make a great beach read, and it's part of a series, so you can continue the romance all summer long ... I'm looking forward to picking up the next book soon!
And that wraps up April. Definitely a great month of books ... I hope you found some ideas for your next read! Have you finished any of these books, or did you read anything that you'd recommend? Let me know if the comments!