Welcome to The Lit Lounge, a cozy spot for book lovers like you and me! I’m eager to share my reviews and thoughts on the latest books and audiobooks I’ve read and listened to. Take a seat, relax, and enjoy finding your next favorite read in our warm environment. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s explore the wonderful world of books together!
The April Reading Rambles of Xine
Are you one of those people like me who love to read, but often find themselves stuck on which book to choose? Fear not, as there are reliable tools available to aid in this decision-making process. The reading challenge lists from PopSugar and Book List Queen are helpful but they only go so far in helping you work through your libraries. Enter pickerwheel.com, a website that can randomly select a book from your own list of titles with just a single click.
I recently gave this website a try, and I must say, I was impressed with the results. The first book that was selected for me was none other than The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor, an audiobook that I had purchased a few months back but couldn’t recall why. Despite this, I was thrilled to give it a listen and discover what it had in store. Now when I have to select my next book to read – I won’t dread making the decision as much.
The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor is a historical fiction novel set in Austria in 1938 and Los Angeles in 1989. The story follows Katie Nelson, a magazine writer, as she investigates a letter from her philatelist father’s stamp collection that leads her on an international journey to solve the mystery of the lost letter. The more exciting story takes place in Austria in 1938, around the time of Kristallnacht. This storyline was riveting, and I wanted to learn more about Kristoff, Elena, and their work with the stamps and the resistance efforts. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the male narrator very much, but I found the female narration for Kate dry. Overall, I thought the story was good but not great; it took me a little while to get into it. I give it 3 stars for having an exciting premise, but the execution fell short for me.
Chinua Achebe is a lyrical and evocative storyteller who can create vivid, believable characters who leap off the page. In Things Fall Apart, the protagonist Okonkwo is a complex and fascinating figure whose struggles and flaws are compelling and tragic.
I struggled to get into the rhythm of reading this book, the first of three books in his African trilogy. Moreover, Achebe’s portrayal of traditional Igbo society is insightful and thought-provoking. He explores the customs, beliefs, and values of this culture in great detail, showing how they are intimately connected to the daily lives of its people. Through his descriptions of rituals, celebrations, and everyday interactions, Achebe paints a rich and immersive portrait of a world familiar and alien to Western readers.
At the same time, Achebe is not afraid to confront some of the darker aspects of Igbo society, such as the practice of human sacrifice and the rigid gender roles that limit women’s agency. He also explores the impact of colonialism on the Igbo people, showing how their way of life is disrupted and ultimately destroyed by the arrival of European missionaries and administrators.
I highly recommend Things Fall Apart to anyone interested in African literature or who enjoys well-crafted stories exploring complex themes and characters. While the book can be challenging, it is a rewarding and deeply satisfying read. 4 Stars.
The Bookstore Sisters by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alice Hoffman’s The Bookstore Sisters is a heartwarming novella about two sisters who run a small-town bookstore. The story is filled with nostalgia, humor, and heart, and the characters are well-developed and relatable. The story’s strengths lie in its exploration of family relationships and Hoffman does an excellent job of depicting the complexities and challenges of these relationships. In addition, the story celebrates the power of books and the joy of reading. The bookstore itself becomes a character in the story, and its presence is felt throughout the novel. This is a wonderful tribute to the role that books and bookstores play in our lives. It’s also the primary reason I choose it.
However, the book may not be for everyone. Some readers may find the pacing slow at times, and the plot may not be action-packed enough for those who prefer more fast-paced stories. Overall, The Bookstore Sisters is a lovely and engaging novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven stories and appreciate the power of books. While it may not be perfect, it is still a worthwhile read and deserves a rating of 3.5 stars
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is a captivating short novel that explores love, loss, and grief. The book is divided into two stories, “Kitchen” and “Moonlight Shadow,” both emotionally charged and thought-provoking. Yoshimoto’s writing style is simple yet elegant, and the translation by Megan Backus maintains the beauty of the original Japanese prose. The characters are well-developed, and their experiences feel genuine, making it easy for readers to empathize with them.
The story of “Kitchen” revolves around Mikage, a young woman who has lost both her parents and finds solace in the kitchen. She is relatable, and her struggles with loneliness and finding a place to belong are poignant. The other characters, Yuichi and his mother, also bring depth to the story, and their relationships with Mikage are heartfelt. “Moonlight Shadow” is a slightly darker story that explores the theme of death and how it affects the living. The main character, Satsuki, struggles to come to terms with the sudden death of her boyfriend and finds solace in a young man named Hiiragi. The story is haunting and moving, and the way it is intertwined with the first story adds depth and complexity to the book. Kitchen is a beautifully written and emotionally engaging book worth reading.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is a humorous and engaging read, perfect for fans of fantasy and mythology. The story follows the life of Charlie Nancy, who is struggling to cope with the death of his father, a notorious trickster god known as Anansi. When Charlie discovers he has a brother, he sets out on a journey of self-discovery that takes him to the world of gods and magic. One of the best things about Anansi Boys is Gaiman’s writing style. His prose is witty, lyrical, and filled with clever wordplay that will keep you entertained throughout the entire book. The characters are also well-developed and endearing, particularly Charlie, who is relatable and sympathetic.
The audiobook version is also a joy to listen to. Narrated by Lenny Henry, the audiobook captures the humor and playfulness of the story, and Henry’s performance brings the characters to life in a way that is both entertaining and engaging.
My only complaint about the book is that the plot can be meandering at times. However, this is a minor quibble, and overall, I found Anansi Boys to be a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. If you’re a fan of fantasy or mythology, or if you’re just looking for a fun and engaging story, I highly recommend giving this book a try.
This month has been filled with plenty of great reads, as I’ve managed to finish five books that I’d rate four stars or higher. However, I did encounter one book that wasn’t quite as impressive and earned a three-star rating. I am way ahead of schedule in my Goodreads Reading Challenge, having completed 54% of my intended goal of 59 books.
Currently, I’m diving into Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, a thrilling non-fiction account of four women who played pivotal roles in the Civil War. Plus I am working on finishing up The Personal Librarian, a historical fiction novel about Belle da Costa Greene, a woman who worked as a librarian at the Morgan Library in New York City during the early 1900s. I can’t wait to see how both of these books play out, and I have a few others on my list that I’m eagerly anticipating as well.
Thanks for joining me in The Lit Lounge this month! I hope you found some great new books to add to your reading list. Don’t forget to share your own recommendations in the comments section below. I can’t wait to see what you’re all reading next! Until next time, happy reading!