Wondering which book to read next? In this month’s Books On Your Radar, BookSparks’ founder Crystal Patriarche raves about the books (shows and movies, too) that she loved this month. As an ultimate bookworm who reads across all genres, and devours all kinds of content across platforms, she definitely knows how to spot a great story. Here are the newest books (and shows) she says should definitely be on your radar.
Feature image credit: @lifeinlit
What to read and watch in April:
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
New York Times best-selling author Mary H.K. Choi is known for pushing the boundaries of young adult fiction—and this comical yet deeply emotional story about two estranged sisters doesn’t disappoint. Jayne and June, once thick as thieves, moved from Seoul to San Antonio to New York together—but now they want nothing to do with each other. That is, until June gets cancer, and they have to decide how far they’ll go to save one of their lives—even if it means swapping identities. CP’s bottom line: If you have a sister, you’ll cringe (because you see yourself being totally mean to your own sister), laugh, and cry your way through this fantastic novel. Content warnings: eating disorders, sex, language.
Landslide by Susan Conley
As if being called a “story you won’t forget” by Judy Blume isn’t enough, Landslide was also a Good Morning America and New York Times Editor’s Pick, and called one of the Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2021 by The Medium. Set in a remote Maine fishing village, the story centers around a mother, Jill, after her husband is hospitalized from a fishing accident across the border in Canada. Left to look after her teenage boys—”the wolves”—she seeks a way to balance disaster and strength to bring her family closer together by means of communicating via social media, sex-positivity talks, and old fishing tales. CP’s bottom line: My daughter is currently adulting at college so I’m home with my two teen boys (13 and 17) and so this book could not have been more timely or relatable for me. I found myself crying and laughing and needing this book so much right now. Even if you are not a mom or a mom to boys, this is a beautiful, superbly written novel.
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
After Word War II, Don and Mimi Galvin were living the American Dream in Colorado with their 12 Baby Boom children. During this time period, there seemed to be an established script for a family in America: they must have aspiration, hard work, and domestic harmony. But behind the scenes it was more like a nightmare, with their lives plagued by psychological terror, violence, and abuse. CP’s bottom line: This one has been in my TBR pile for some time (likely since Oprah picked it). Finally after seeing one of my clients rave about it on Instagram, I decided it was time. It’s heavy: literally and figuratively. My arms got tired holding it as I read – the pages were even heavy/thick. No matter, because as soon as I would put it down to take a break, I kept picking it back up again to read about this fascinating family. It reads like a novel, but it’s a true story and is full of history and research and heartbreak. Highly recommend but be in the mood for a heavy read and clear your calendar because you won’t want to put it down. Content warning: mental health, sexual abuse.
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
This bold edgy debut has a breath-taking cover to match, and was named a 2021 most anticipated by Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Hello magazine, Oprah.com, Bustle, Popsugar—the list goes on and on. It centers around a secret apothecary shop in eighteenth-century London. The store attracted a specific audience of women who would seek out Nella’s concoctions to use against oppressive men in their lives. However, one vital mistake left a mess for years to come. This story will take you on an adventure of sisterhood and revenge with every page turned. CP’s bottom line: After seeing this book everywhere, I’ve added it to my list and the opening pages have sucked me in. I love a good book that can transport you into a totally different time and place.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
At thirty years old, Ruth abandons her fiancé, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father is erratically lucid and her mother is lucidly erratic. As Ruth’s father loses his memory, her situation turns comical and she learns to find the humor in grief. I couldn’t put down this book; and apparently either could the folks at NPR, O Magazine, Vogue, Esquire and Entertainment Weekly—all spots naming it a best book of the year. CP’s bottom line: One of my favorite things I’ve done during quarantine is re-reading some of my favorite books. This is one of them. I love this book so much. The voice, the clip at which the story unfolds, and the wit and humor wrapped around a heartbreaking story of loss as the main character deals with her father’s dementia. It’s a heavy book but feels light and hopeful.
We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida
In this gorgeous emotional story about female friendship, Eulabee and Maria own Sea Cliff. They understand every nook and cranny of their oceanside San Francisco town. Despite knowing everything about the town, one day they witness a horrible act with different sets of eyes. While Eulabee and Maria disagree on what happened, Maria is suddenly kidnapped. Her disappearance shakes the town and unveils unspoken truths about the time’s changing landscape of San Francisco. CP’s bottom line: This is my first Vendela Vida book and after I finished, I immediately ordered her other books. I think that says it all.
A Game of Cones by Abby Collette
When Crewse Creamery, the ice cream shop Bronwyn “Win” Crewse’s family has owned for decades, is restored to its former glory, Win couldn’t be more thrilled. But then a big city developer threatens the shop’s livelihood, and a killer with a frozen heart takes him out—and Win is the one to stumble across the body. Now, with one of her closest friends as the prime suspect and a power-hungry aunt trying to take over the creamery, Win has to help save the day in this charming first book of a mystery series. CP’s bottom line: This is my first introduction to this author, but now I’m a fan—and it’s also part of Booksparks Spring Reading Challenge!
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers
The Secret Circus in Paris is a wondrous world of magic for Cecilie Cabot in 1925. That all changes when she embarks on a dangerous love-affair. Many years later in 2014, the fiancé of Lara Barnes disappears on their wedding day. So, she looks to her great-grandmother’s journals for answers. In the journal lie family secrets and the trick to reveal a family curse that may be tied to her fiancé’s fate. This is a whimsical magical story, set in two gorgeous timelines: Jazz Age Paris and modern-day America. CP’s bottom line: I get to pinch myself because I’ve had the pleasure of working on two books by this author. This book will transport you and make you a fan as well!
Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly
Georgeanna, Jemma, and Anne-May are all trying to survive in the era of the Civil War. Told from three separate accounts detailing what it was like to be a war nurse and what it was like to run a plantation, the fates of these three women are put to the test. They must risk family and face danger in order to come out of the war with freedom. Kelly knows how to intricately create and weave multiple stories, as seen with her million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls. CP’s bottom line: This is a great break from all the (incredible) World War II historical fiction that’s been getting the spotlight lately and is equally beautiful and compelling. I can already see the movie version of this one.
Set in the 19th century, Hailee Steinfeld steps into the life of budding writer Emily Dickinson. Dickinson uses her outsider’s perspective to explore society, gender, and familial constraints for a woman in the 1800s. CP’s bottom line: At first I wasn’t sure I was down with the edgy and alternative music and vibe here, but after a few episodes I was hooked. Each episode dives into a specific poem and now I love all the nods to modern times while still telling the story of the great poet. Highly recommend.
This tender story follows a Korean-American family that moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. CP’s bottom line: Everyone should watch this beautiful film.
Kid 90 is a documentary all about young Hollywood starlets growing up in the 1990s. The stories are told using hundreds of hours of footage captured by American Actress Soleil Moon Frye. It’s nostalgic, eye-opening, funny and insightful—you may find yourself revisiting some favorite shows of your youth after watching it. CP’s bottom line: I had major flashbacks to my own journals and diaries and phone calls with boys and road trips with friends, plus it was fun to see all these stars before they were truly famous. This also ended up being a reflection on the mental health of teens and reminds us all to check on our friends. Content warnings: sex, drugs, sexual assault and suicide.
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