You never know what you’ll get with March, at least in the Pacific Northwest, where I live. There could be a blizzard, or I could comfortably wear sandals. Each day is a surprise. Thankfully, this March had decent weather and some excellent reads. I also watched and listened to some great stuff, so stick around to see what I enjoyed last month.
What I Read
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang
Athena and June are writers whose careers are going in different directions. June’s first novel wasn’t very successful, while Athena is literature’s new darling. Her work is beloved, and she just signed a deal with Netflix. While celebrating with June, Athena dies, leaving behind her newly-finished manuscript. June takes the draft, decides to do some editing, and presents the book as hers. What follows is a timely story about representation, creativity, and who can tell what stories.
Yellowface isn’t a thriller, but it’s most certainly a page-turner. The tension builds slowly as June’s lies start to unravel. I found her panic and sense of entitlement fascinating, as well as the behind-the-scenes look at publishing. I know Yellowface will be toward the top of my 2023 favorites list, and I can’t wait for readers to pick it up.
Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy of this book. It releases on May 16.
Vintage Contemporaries by Dan Kois
Emily and Em are quick friends when they meet in the early ’90s. Emily is loud and rebellious, and Em is a bookish woman finding her way in publishing as an editor. Em also befriends Lucy, a dear friend of her mother’s, and helps bring Lucy’s books to life. These two friendships are the foundation of Vintage Contemporaries, a novel set in New York City during 1991 and the early 2000s.
As a reader who loves books about books and stories set in NYC, I’m the ideal audience for this novel, so I thought I’d love this one. While I do like it, I think it’s overstuffed with storylines. In addition to the novel’s two primary relationships, Dan Kois addresses housing rights, police brutality, and workplace harassment. The last topic seemed like an afterthought instead of an organic part of the story.
Despite my issues with the book’s occasional lack of focus, I loved Kois’s take on female friendship, specifically the intergenerational bond between Em and Lucy. I also enjoyed the honest look at how relationships change and evolve as people’s lives get more complicated. Patient readers who are looking for books about complex women and the bonds between them will appreciate the heart of this tale.
The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson
Henry Kimball is working as a private investigator when Joan enters his office. She was one of his students when he taught high school, and now she’d like to hire him to ascertain whether or not her husband is having an affair. As Kimball starts working on the case, he realizes Joan is much more complicated than he initially assumed.
Peter Swanson is one of my go-to mystery writers; this book reminded me why. His stories are always fast-paced, exciting, and feature twists I don’t see coming. The Kind Worth Saving is the sequel to Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing, which I haven’t read. Since I enjoyed this book so much, I want to go back and read the first one.
My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin
It’s 1998, and Isabel is finishing up her senior year of college at a prestigious East Coast university. Early on in the novel, she has a sexual encounter with a date that leaves her wondering whether what happened between them was assault or just awkward. As she processes what happened, she begins an affair with a creative writing professor who fills her with praise and acknowledges her talent.
This story is set at the time of the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal, and the novel does an excellent job of using that background to explore relationship dynamics two decades before the #MeToo movement would do the same thing. I love campus novels and stories with messy relationships, so I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see what’s next for Daisy Alpert Florin.
Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiney
Games and Rituals is a hilarious, sharply written short story collection that made me laugh repeatedly. The first story is about a group of employees at the DMV, while a story with a more serious tone reveals how a woman found out her husband is seeing someone else. One of my favorite stories is about a woman and her husband who get roped into helping his ex-wife move. I really liked this book and was disappointed when it ended.
Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy of this book. It releases on April 18.
What I Loved
DOCUMENTARY: Bono and the Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman
U2 has been my favorite band for nearly 20 years, so it’s no surprise I loved this documentary with Bono and the Edge. It’s set in Dublin, and Letterman talks to the guys about how they started the band, what was happening in Ireland at the time, and their music’s impact on the world. The doc also includes scenes from an intimate acoustic concert performed by only the Edge and Bono. This film reminded me why I love this band so much.
MUSIC: Songs of Surrender by U2
This album contains 40 rerecorded, stripped-down songs from throughout U2’s career.
TELEVISION: Daisy Jones & the Six
Like many readers, I loved the Daisy Jones & the Six book by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It’s written as an oral history, so I knew it would translate beautifully to the screen. This 10-episode series has its flaws, but I did enjoy it, especially the music. It was fun to hear this fictional band come to life.
TELEVISION: Next in Fashion season 2
I don’t watch much reality TV, but when I do, I like lighthearted shows that champion creativity and star people who actually like each other. Those attributes are exactly what I got with season 2 of Next in Fashion, hosted by Tan France and Gigi Hadid. Each episode features a different challenge in which designers sketch and sew an outfit (or more). I know very little about fashion, but I do know this show is a lot of fun. (This second season is much better than the first.)
TELEVISION: Ted Lasso season 3
I love Ted and his group of friends. I’ll miss this show when I get to the last episode.
What did you read and enjoy this month? Is there anything I should read or watch in April?