There’s a local radio station that always brags about how they play anything. Here at The Arcanist we read anything. Our book selection this month is eclectic. However, after our Magical Short Story Contest, I’m noticing that we’re a little light on the magic this month.
My books this month include two debut novels and one new to me author. It’s always so exciting for me to get to know a new writer’s work. I make a lot of my reading choices off of book reviews and general buzz so I rarely go into a book blind. With each of these I tried to keep away from reading about the books before I finished so that I could make up my own mind.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Yejide and Akin have been married four years without a child, before Akin’s relatives pressure him into taking a second wife. Yejide knows that the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which she finally does at a cost greater than she could have imagined. As the novel progresses, the lies that Yejide and Akin have told each other are peeled back layer by layer, each one testing the idea that love is enough.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
When the financial crisis hits, Charles Wang loses it all — his cosmetics empire, his cars, the Bel-Air mansion, even the tuition money for his two youngest children’s schools. This is how the Wangs find themselves on an epic road trip across the country to the oldest daughter’s house in Upstate New York.
The novel is full of vivid characters, both tragic and hilarious. Through it all the family’s genuine love grounds this sprawling novel and gives heart to an absurd premise.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Yeong-hye is normal in every regard, until the nightmares begin. The dreams, full of bloodshed, cause her to renounce meat, eggs, milk, any and all animal products. This choice disrupts her marriage and sparks a struggle between Yeong-hye and her family as their attempts to force her to eat meat become more and more desperate. Everyone who has read The Vegetarian describes it to me as “disturbing.” Do not read it right before bedtime like I did.
This month, my books have seemingly no throughline. I’m reading some nonfiction, some classic sci-fi, and some fantasy. It’s all over the place. I guess that makes sense because April in Pittsburgh is all over the place, too. Yesterday, I had shorts on. Today, jeans, a hoodie, and a winter jacket.
Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale and Stan Redding
Catch Me If You Can is the story of con artist and master forger Frank Abagnale, who managed to commit more fraud before the age of 21 than most hardened criminals are able to pull off in a lifetime. You may remember this title from the hit movie it spawned starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, but I must say that the book is quite different and well worth a read or a listen. It’s absolutely insane what Abagnale was able to pull off with a bit of confidence and some Pan Am checks.
1984 by George Orwell
Ah, 1984. Believe it or not, I was supposed to read this novel back in seventh grade. But I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t, too. I strongly think that if I would have been forced to read this (they tried), I wouldn’t appreciate it at all. Now, all these years later, I’m sitting down with it. 1984, to me, is a novel that I already know the entire plot of. One that I thoroughly understand the message behind even though I’ve never read the whole thing. It’s how people that never have watched Star Wars must feel. This month, though, I’m changing all of that because it’s pretty outrageous that I’ve never finished it.
Magic Kingdom for Sale — Sold! by Terry Brooks
A few months back, I had on my list a novel called Wizard at Large. That book is the third in Brook’s Landover series. I was going to just say screw it and start with Wizard at Large, but then I couldn’t. There was something stopping me from reading the series out of order. So, I grabbed Magic Kingdom for Sale — Sold! to kick off the series properly.
April is a beautiful time of year. It’s just warm enough out to go for a run without the winter gear, the sporadic, gentle rains are just enough to keep the trails passable, and all my favorite haunts have already set up their patio seating, as if knowing how well my reading list pairs with a strong cocktail (or three).
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
The latest in the Cormoran Strike series of mysteries, Galbraith, a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, picks up exactly where Career of Evil leaves off, with our two principle characters battered, bruised, and emotionally estranged from one another. However, the two do not have long to convalesce. A series of bizarre events that culminates in a murdered cabinet minister with force private detective Strike and his now-business partner Robin Ellacott to confront a decades-old cold case, a government scandal, and their own feelings toward one another. Part whodunit, part social criticism, and totally entertaining, Rowling proves that Robert Galbraith is a name that will stand out in the annals of crime fiction.
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Astray by Tomohiro Chiba and Hajime Yatate, illustrated by Kouichi Tokita
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise (all you anime nerds out there, join me in a victory squeal). As such, I’ve made it a point to read as much Gundam manga as I can get my hands on, and it only felt appropriate to begin with the Astray books. Sure, the characters aren’t hyper-complex, and the plot runs the risk of over-familiarity, but, like all great manga, it features tremendous artwork, and the message that not all strength comes in the form of violence, but from strength of character and resolve. If you’re curious about just how good “kid’s stuff” can be, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Astray is a good place to start.
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Upon first reading this somewhat lesser-known novel by Murakami, I was a little confused, more than a little impressed, and totally entertained. What begins as a love story unfolds into (what has become) a classic, Murakami-esque mystery, one that, true to form, will keep you reading well into the wee hours. Murakami’s descriptions regarding the emotional labyrinth that is romantic love have all the cutting beauty of a poet, coupled with his innate talent for taking the minutiae that constitute daily life and making them mythical and essential.
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