What I Read in May 2023

Hi friends! Now that it’s June, it’s finally feeling like spring in North Carolina. May was not my favorite reading month but I did cross of a couple of newer releases that had been on my TBR!

PINEAPPLE STREET by Jenny Jackson – 3.5 stars

I had pretty high hopes for Pineapple Street based on some of the rave reviews I’ve been seeing on the Internet. While it is not as offensively bad as Every Summer After, I don’t get the hype. Pineapple Street is about the three young women in Stockton family: the eldest child Darley gave up her career and trust fund money to raise a normal family with her husband Malcolm; Sasha grew up middle-class in New England and never feels like she fits in the old-money Brooklyn Heights family she married into, and baby of the family Georgiana may be making a mistake getting involved with someone she shouldn’t be. It didn’t grasp me immediately and I found it too slow to be an escapist read (though maybe that’s just my mental state right now). While the author was inspired by real-life trust-fund babies doing good with their generational wealth, I was still skeptical about how these annoying kids completely change and become likable overnight (or in a single chapter). Perhaps, more solid and steady character development would’ve convinced me?

WE ARE NEVER MEETING IN REAL LIFE. by Samantha Irby – 3.5 stars

Both We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Wow, No Thank You had been on my TBR for years (a borrowed physical copy of the latter has been staring at me for the last two years). These personal essays are authentic and true to Samantha Irby: vulnerable, self-deprecating, absurdly funny and full of wit. She has a way with words where you want to listen to her talk about the most mundane things. I laughed out a lot but I also got spacey quite a bit listening to it so that’s the explanation for the star rating. For Wow, No Thank You, I may try jumping between the audiobook and the paperback.

BIOGRAPHY OF X by Catherine Lacey – 4 stars

Biography of X is one of those books, like The Phantom of the Opera, which create a world grand enough to convince you that this is the reality. As titled, Biography of X is a biography of X, written by X’s widow except this book is a work of fiction, and X is a fictional character. X was an enigma with many talents and secrets, and X’s widow felt compelled to write about all of her discoveries from her investigative research to refute another biographer’s work. Lacey is ambitious with her writing and pulls it off. The alternative reality she creates is idealistic (Vietnam war didn’t happen; implementation of universal income & salary cap on corporate CEOs) and dystopian (the US divided in ways reminiscent of Handmaid’s Tale though not identical). Biography of X was a solid read that kept my attention! FYI this “Biography” includes a lot of visuals (though not necessary for understanding of the plot).

THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL by Sarah Cypher – 2 stars

Recommend by the publisher of debut novel Fatimah Asghar’s When We Were Sisters, The Skin and Its Girl sounded right up my alley but unfortunately it did not work for me. I actually received the advanced reader copy via NetGalley a while back but could not get into it. I gave it another try on audiobook via my local library after the book was published, and honestly wish I had DFN’ed it because I listened to more than half of it begrudgingly.

The Skin and Its Girl is told by a girl born with blue skin facing a big life decision (moving to a new country with her partner) talking to her great aunt who has passed way, recounting the history of the Rummani family from their origins in Palestine to the present-day generation living in America. It often did not make sense as the narrator would recount events during which she was not present including first-hand experiences of her great-aunt (like..what?!). I expected poetic storytelling but it left me confused and frustrated.

MEET ME AT THE LAKE by Carley Fortune – 3.5 stars

Though Every Summer After did not live up to the hype for met last year, I had to read the new Carley Fortune book! Meet Me At the Lake takes place at a lake resort Fern Brooksbanks grew up on and which she inherited from her late mother. Finding herself back at the resort (which she promised to herself she never would) and dealing with the precarious financial state of the resort all while grieving makes every day a challenge for Fern. An artist she befriended intensely almost ten years ago, Will returns to the resort as a successful businessman as he had offered Fern’s mom of his help before her passing.

The first half of the book had me invested! I give credit to Fortune for expertly setting the scene and premise again with her sophomore novel. There are quite a few likable characters in the book as well as real challenges and heartaches. Unfortunately, Meet Me At the Lake also annoyed me like Every Summer After towards the end. I will spare you the details to avoid spoilers and in case you actually like the ending but I’m going to leave it as Will not being the big catch the book makes him out to be, his sister being annoying (IN MY OPINION), and some blurred lines. All in all, a decent, quick-read!

INTERIOR CHINATOWN by Charles Yu – 4 stars

Willis Wu is a “Generic Asian Man.” Sometimes he play different roles and there are roles he aspires for like the “Ethnic Recurring” or the highly coveted “Kung Fu Guy.” Nonetheless, he is and always will be Generic Asian Man, just like his father and the others in his community aka Chinatown SRO (Single Room Occupancies). You see Willis Wu playing his role in Black and White, a procedural cop show featuring a Black cop and a white cop. You learn about the backstories of his parents and their early days in America.

This book was weird and confusing from the beginning to the end but I’m not mad about it! The TV screenplay format is innovative and intentional; and it achieves its goal of mirroring life in what feels like a hamster wheel. The writing is satirical and clever, humor balancing out the dark reality.

P.S. I’m currently reading Lisa See’s new novel Lady Tan’s Circle of Women!

P.P.S. Latest wedding planning update here!

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