What to read in April 2024

Open book in front of a stack of hardback books on wooden table with a turquoise background.

I’m sad to report another DNF (did not finish) this month. On the plus side: I know why I didn’t connect with the book. More on that in a moment.

For anyone just joining us, I’m following two book clubs this year. One is hosted by my local library and the other, a neighborhood group. The library picked The Maid by Nita Prose. The neighborhood group selected American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

Both books are popular and won awards. The Maid was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Ned Kelly award for International Crime Fiction as well as a Goodreads Choice award. American Dirt is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and an Oprah Book Club pick.

That’s where the similarity ends.

The Maid by Nita Prose

Book cover for The Maid by Nita Prose. Read cover with a key hole that shows an image of a maid's leg.

Book description from Kobo.com

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

My Take

I listened to this audiobook in October 2023 so I didn’t reread it. But I enjoyed the book, despite the unreliable narrator. Once I got used to the fact that Molly wasn’t who I thought she was, things were fine. The book is tongue-in-cheek, though. Molly doesn’t understand what is going on around her, which makes for some unusual misunderstandings. Several characters take advantage of Molly, but overall the book shows the positive side of humanity.

Whether the second book on this month’s list fell into that category or not, I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t make it past chapter five.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Book cover for American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. A blue cover with a yellow bird emblem on it.

Book description from Kobo.com

Lydia lives in Acapulco. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while cracks are beginning to show in Acapulco because of the cartels, Lydia’s life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. But after her husband’s tell-all profile of the newest drug lord is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and Luca find themselves joining the countless people trying to reach the United States. Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

About this book

My Take

The book opens with the massacre of a family. Everyone but the mom and her young son are gunned down by cartel members. From that point on, the woman and her son were on the run. I have no clue how far they got because I quit reading.

To be clear, it wasn’t due to the writer’s ability or quality of the prose. Even the plot made sense, at least what I read of it. It was the feeling of helplessness that those five chapters brought to my heart that made me put the book down.

Yes, there are terrible things happening in the world. Yes, we need to help others who’ve been caught in desperate situations. But to willingly immerse myself in something so depressing? No. I couldn’t do it.

After I put the book down, I did a little research. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the book, which I won’t get into. It’s easy to find it if you are interested.

What I will say is that a reader needs to know why she is reading a book. I was looking for a pleasure read, one that I hoped would let me escape into another world. This book does not fit that category. It does tell the poignant tale of a woman struggling to save herself and her son. Maybe I’ll go back and read this someday. Maybe not.

But being true to what I need right now outweighs endorsements by Oprah and the New York Times.

What am I listening to?

I’m still on a listening hiatus. Mostly because the books I want have VERY long wait times at the library. On my friend Tracey’s recommendation (who has not steered me wrong yet!), I picked up A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. After devouring that in three days, I started and finished A Court of Mist and Fury in five days. I made myself wait to start the third book in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin. I’m rationing my reading like I used to ration giving candy to my kids when they were little.

These are definitely books that let me escape. While they are fantasy books set in a world that doesn’t exist, they touch on themes such as social inequality and the discovery of one’s true self. The different worlds intrigue me as well. I can’t visit Prythian, but it’s a reminder that there are a lot of places on Earth I have yet to explore. Maybe this is a sign I need to do some traveling!

Warning: There is a lot of violence, language and sexual content. Personally, I think she could have removed the sex and the book would be just as good. Just my opinion.

Until next time…