What I've Been Reading in April

April showers, am I right?

It seems Spring 2022 is making a good case for being remembered by ginormous thunderstorms the size of half the country and more inclement weather than we'd choose to welcome.

The books I have read in April, however, plead a different story - to be remembered by adventure and travel and awesome April vibes, one a lot more fun to remember.

Those April showers added an element of realism to my time spent with the McCourt family, for example, with the soundtrack of rain going pitter-patter as the depressions in my yard overflowed with accumulated rain like the overflowing shores of the River Shannon in Limerick, Ireland, from my first finished book in April. 

Those April showers nourished the lush gardens I visited during a month-long girls trip to Italy this month with my besties inside The Classics Community via my fourth finished book.

Those April showers nourished the marshlands, which, in turn, nourished my new friend Kya in my second finished book.

See what I mean?

Grab a cuppa caffeine and sit with me a minute while I share with you What I've Been Reading in April.

Book 1 

Okay, okay, okay. Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-Winning Memoir was technically started in February (because, you know, St. Patrick's Day). I read it with my friend, Heather, from The Classics Community - maybe you remember meeting Heather here? Long story short, the two of us set out on this adventure together, not knowing what to expect, and I finished it earlier this month. I can honestly say that neither of us regretted a moment we spent with the McCourt family in Ireland. The memoir, which read like fiction, is an account of the author's childhood in Ireland up until he returned to America as a young man and it is written in the same vein as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series in that it is from a child's perspective (which matures throughout the book). The family was desperately poor, continuously malnourished, suffered great losses, and yet the author somehow managed to continue to make us laugh with his Irish sensibilities, clever turns-of-phrases, childish perspective, and light look at his life that comes from the knowledge that he survived. I loved that the McCourt family, even in their extreme poverty, created bright spots that the author remembers fondly - like living solely upstairs "in Italy" half of the year because when the River Shannon flooded, so did their downstairs. This book is very perspective-giving and shows the importance of family, community, and caring for one another's needs - even if you don't feel you have anything to give. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention two things. First, the book may be triggering to someone that has experienced extreme poverty. Second, while the first half of the book reminded me of the Little House books in being told from a childish perspective, that voice changes as young Frank does. As he matures, so do the memories he shares in his memoir. While the humor remains intact throughout, the latter half of the book may become more offensive as the author's innocence is replaced by knowing and experience.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book 2

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one of those books that tends to pop up everywhere you look. After having been on the waiting list at the library for months, when my turn finally came to check it out I was not in the mood. I tried to get into it with the best of intentions last year, but I knew several pages in that it would have to wait. Last month in The Classics Community, a couple of my friends brought it up and let us know it was being made into a movie. Once I heard that, I scoured local listings in the Facebook Marketplace for an inexpensive copy (because again, the wait list at the library was looooonnnnngggg) and was elated to find a hardbound copy for $5 nearby. With the hearty recommendations inside The Classics Community urging me to dive in and the movie's release date only a few months away, I began Where the Crawdads Sing for the second time. And this time, I was hooked.

Remember in Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum's character, Ian Malcolm, said, "Life, uh, finds a way" in the first movie? That certainly rings true within the pages of this beautiful story of resilience. I think a lot of times we do not do hard things because we tell ourselves we "can't." The truth of the matter is, when "can't" isn't an option, we find a way like Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park. Like Kya did in Where the Crawdads Sing. Like you and I can when we face our own hard things.

This is a beautiful story of overcoming, of the importance of community, of the devastating effects of abandonment, assault, poverty, & prejudice; of the impact we have on others - for good, or bad.

I devoured this book and then mailed it to Kristen so she could do the same as part of our Book Swap inside The Classics Community this month. It was that good.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book 3

I am new to Georgette Heyer. I had never even heard of her until Pretty Literate's first Virtual Book Club last year (which still meets via ZOOM on the 3rd Thursday of the month, 7pm Central). And when I looked her up, I admittedly grimaced. 

There. I said it.

I could not reconcile the cheesy, almost dry heave-worthy covers with what the bookish people I respected thought of her. (I'm looking at you, Lynda and Deborah.) I finally broke down and read one of her novels (which I'll be sharing inside The Classics Community in June!) and absolutely fell in love with this author, so much so that I suggested Cotillion to my neighborhood Book Club for our book this month. (BONUS: It qualified as one of my two books this month for the 22 in '22 Reading Challenge - a book I've never read by an author I already love. Score!)

Cotillion kind of had a homey feel for me. It centered around Kit and her gaggle of male {sort-of} cousins. Having grown up with a score of cousins myself, these family relationships were what felt homey to me. Their easy relationships, their shared memories, their older relations that wanted them to behave a certain way, all made me remember fondly my cousins of old and the shenanigans we always seemed to gravitate toward when we were together. And I loved that!

Part shenanigans, part Austen-esque, Cotillion was a book that my neighborhood book club unanimously agreed we were glad to have the memory of in our heads, but we did not actually enjoy the process of reading of it. (Don't shoot me, Lynda and Deborah. We all relate differently to what we read, right?)

Kitty is not the cleverest of heroines (and don't we love a clever heroine?). She begins schemes that she hasn't the faintest idea how to conclude. She relies heavily on one of her male cousin's thoughts on just about everything, except when it counts. On those, she flies solo, gets into scrapes, and is relieved when he saves the day. You know, because he's a man and obviously is smarter and better able to save the day. {insert eye roll} 

If I changed my perspective from expecting a clever heroine to having a hero, I would maybe have enjoyed the act of reading Cotillion more. Since I do not plan to reread it, that's a moot point for me, but hopefully a good tip for you.  

My two cents: Skip Cotillion and join us inside Pretty Literate's Monthly Book Club here.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️


Book 4

If you want one book packed with all the April vibes, this one is it.

If you want a book with a month in the title for the 22 in '22 Reading Challenge, this one is it.

Elizabeth von Arnim's The Enchanted April is the ultimate Aprily, spring-break, beautiful, fragrant book. It is a women's retreat. A place of peace and rest. And that is why I chose it for our April book in The Classics Community. 

The Enchanted April introduces us to the four main characters as they are introduced to one another. The one thing they each feel they desperately need is to get away for awhile. They need rest. Refreshment. Peace. Beauty. Solitude. And each of their hopes for achieving that rests in sharing a rented castle in Italy. (Yes, please!) The reader quickly discovers that there is a character for each of us to relate to - kind of like the old television show The Golden Girls. As the women get to know one another, misunderstandings, large personalities, and personal preconceptions set the stage for laughable interactions that subtly whisper into the reader's ear the importance of not judging a book by it's cover.

Arguably one of the most memorable characters in The Enchanted April is the castle's lush gardenscape. As the novel progresses, each of the ladies blossom like the flowers in that fragrant garden.

The Enchanted April is a must-read spring book, one our Monthly Book Club members absolutely LOVED.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book 5

Okay, first let me say that I had never heard of the book or the author before Netflix suggested watching the series to me last month. Knowing my husband would be zero percent interested in watching it, I began the series on a Friday knowing he had a working weekend ahead of him and I had nothing but time and a big, caring heart for the plight of the poor. By Saturday afternoon, not only was my husband coming into the room to watch portions of the show he was overhearing, but I had already ordered a hard copy of the book. By Sunday, I had finished the series on Netflix and could not wait for the book to arrive.

Which took a minute and, being a serial reader, by the time it arrived I was already off on other adventures (see Books 1-4 above).

By the time it moved up in my TBR queue, I was ready for it.  

Maid is a survival book on steroids and I say that because Land's book is a memoir straight outta the author's real life experiences as a single, uneducated mother in today's world and, as such, her story is so real, so relatable, so perspective-giving that it deserves (in my opinion) a thoughtful read-through, even if you watched the series on Netflix. Truthfully, I recommend the Netflix series first because it tells the author's story in a chronologically easier-to-understand way than the book. 

But then read the book because it fills in so much of Stephanie's story, like chinking on a log cabin.

I learned so much from this one-two punch inside the world of poverty that I wanted to share my main takeaways a little differently than I normally do. 

The book was filled with:

  • inspiration - How often do I want to throw in the towel when Plan A goes amiss?
  • tenacity - Never give up on your dreams.
  • perspective - You can ALWAYS choose happiness; it is a matter of perspective, so choose to switch the narrative in your head.
  • hope - There is ALWAYS a way out of your current circumstance, no matter what your current circumstance may be.
  • connections - We weren't made to fly solo. Ask for the help you need, whether from family, friends, or other. And take the time to really SEE the people you connect with through the course of your day - every single day.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book 6

I recently shared 50+ books I crowd-sourced for April's National Humor Month and being someone that both loves to laugh and takes people up on their recommendations, the hubs and I narrowed down our selections from that list to the handful of audiobooks available through our local library. We had two day-trips lined up this month and since we've never shared an audiobook experience together, we thought there was no better time than the present. Current availability combined with the titles that most struck our fancies further narrowed our choices until we ended up with David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. At just under 6 hours, Me Talk Pretty One Day is a quirky, clever collection of short stories from the author's life that, as he read the book to us, felt amazingly like attending a stand-up comedy show. I laughed out loud more times than I can count, but my husband was in stitches most of the time.

When we finally discovered why the author chose such an odd and unforgettable title, we had tears in our eyes. And I don't mean that merely figuratively. We were also literally 😂.

Seriously, if you give this a listen only for the last portion of the audiobook - the part when he lives in France and tries to communicate in French - it will be worth it.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Book 7

Jan Karon's Light from Heaven was, well, heavenly. Ninth in the Mitford series, Light from Heaven packed all of the reasons why I love and cherish Mitford into this one (final?) book. It was uplifting and encouraging, precious and real. We said goodbye to old friends and hello to new ones. Mitford proper, as a city, was not a main character in this ninth novel as it has been in the previous eight, and it was so exciting to be in a new setting - like a breath of fresh country air. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the farm setting, it seemed to renew both Tim and Cynthia, giving them new focus, new ideas, new ministry, new family...

Light from Heaven was a beautiful story of brokeness, forgiveness, and (most prominently) faithfulness - especially in the unseen and unheralded things we do in obedience rather than recognition.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book 8

This little gem by American author Stephen Crane (author of the more widely known Red Badge of Courage) is a short story and a super-quick read, but one that I would gladly recommend. Succinctly, it is a story about the struggle to survive and I don't mean that figuratively because it centers around the handful of men who managed to scramble aboard a lifeboat when their ship sank at sea. As a fan (nay, lover) of The Walking Dead television series, one thing that I appreciated about The Open Boat was the continuance of civilized society - no de-evolution of society, no dog-eat-dog mentality. The men knew their best bet on survival laid in working together and they sought to do that by upholding the rank and order they had aboard their ship.

As the men fought the sea for their survival, I couldn't help but wonder how I would react in the same situation. How do I respond to life's curveballs now, on dry ground? What do I do when Plan A fails? What is my response to struggle?

The Open Boat, while small in stature, was large on perspective. It was an encouragement to me to dig deeper and deeper when everything around me seems hopeless. To learn to pivot. To make lemonade out of lemons.

PL Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Now it's your turn.

What have you been reading this month? Share your top recommended titles in the comments.

Have you read any of my April books? Let me know what you thought of them below in the comments and see which are my top 3 (plus a bonus book!) on this Pretty Literate Live with my special guest, Mirah from The Classics Community.



1 comment

  • Well, I’ve read three of the same books, I love how you described the ones I read too; Angela’s Ashes, Where the Crawdads Sing and Me Talk Pretty One Day.
    I’d heard of AA but had never read it until I met my blind date;) it was so cleverly written, I still think of how he looked at situations/circumstances he and his family went through- through the eyes of a child with such innocence. I just wanted to take him and hug him and take care of that kid.
    Where the Crawdads Sing- I wanted to do the same for Kya, that girl was so strong to live her life and she didn’t even know it. She just thought survival and survive she did.
    Me Talk Pretty One Day, I loved the pet stories! I have a Great Dane- I could completely relate to those stories! Luna is my girl and one of her front paws completely covers one of my hands, they may be called a gentle giant, although I have no idea why. Their tail whips back and forth and flogs you, and when they step on your foot you may as well be a cripple because they’re so heavy (mine weighs about 125 lbs), she leans into you, tries to sit on your lap, and when she comes in for a hug on her hind legs her head is over mine (I’m 5’7”). I love my dogs!
    And these were GREAT books!


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