March: Book Reviews

I read a lot of books this month, but hardly anything seemed to be really recommendation worthy, so this month’s list is a bit leaner.  What was the best thing you read in March? Share your recommendations!

Best Fiction of the Month: Mr. Fox

I’ve been meaning to read Helen Oyeyemi’s work for a while, and was really happy to have started with this novel. It’s a literary cat-and-mouse retelling of the Bluebeard fairytale, with Mr. Fox a well known writer of slasher books where the women are always killed on his pages.  A woman named Mary Foxe begins writing him and the two create a long distance collaboration on writing stories together that don’t involve murdering women…. but is Mary real? What is ‘real’, anyway? The stories-within-the story are wonderful, and Oyeyemi’s clever handling of the language and the characters sucked me in right away. This isn’t a breezy beach read, but if you are looking to get sucked into a novel and be thinking about it even when you aren’t reading it, then I think you might like this one.

Best Nonfiction: The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris 

I confess that I didn’t love this book, but I completely understand why it’s a bestseller and cropping up everywhere- it’s sort of like Eat Pray Love and A Homemade Life: Stories from My Kitchen Table combined into one. The structure, of a woman’s memoir of divorce, depression, and finding herself through baking and Paris, is interspersed with recipes, excellent quotes, and beautiful photographs; making it feel very immersive and covering up the haphazard structure. But my biggest problem wit this book is I couldn’t identify at all with the author’s perspective, even though it should have been pretty easy for me- I kept getting tripped up by her relentlessly lousy self-esteem that bordered on self-obsession, and it coloured everything. But hey, that’s a gorgeous cover and it sure looks pretty on Instagram.

Currently Re-reading: The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje is one of my favourite writers, and my first introduction to his work was this novel – this gorgeous, lush, heartbreakingly beautiful novel.  The story focuses on the intersection of lives of four people after the end of WW II, and how they are grappling with loss and how to move forward — if moving forward is even possible. There is another Ondaatje novel that I love, In the Skin of a Lion, which also has the story of two of these characters from before this book, which is an excellent companion piece. But it’s The English Patient that I suspect will still be treasured and read a couple of hundred years from now, by people whose great grandparents have yet to be born.

The One I’m Recommending to Just About Everyone: M Train 

I loved M Train even more than her far-more-famous Just Kids. M Train is a wonderfully crafted collection of Smith’s thoughts and reflections on so many subjects –  cowboys, dreams, coffee, travel, secret societies, what makes a home, the nature of being alone – and yet deftly weaves them together into a stunning tapestry that never feels contrived or ridiculous, despite the fact that her life is pretty bloody extraordinary. A friend recommended the audiobook version, as Patti Smith reads it herself in her hallmark new Jersey accent, and I agree- it’s fantastic.

Looking for book reviews from the previous months? Check them out here.

Did you read anything amazing lately? what about a craft book you are currently loving? I’m always on the hunt for new books t take out of the library!

16 comments

  1. Jacey   •  

    After seeing your review of Station Eleven I decided to finally check it out from the library (like you, even though I’ve heard lots of great reviews, I generally don’t go for post-apocalyptic fiction). It was amazing. I still think about it everyday and I might go as far to say as it was life changing…in some ways good but other ways maybe not so much because now I have to really resist the urge to stockpile food and water…

  2. Melanie   •  

    I’ve made note of Mr. Fox and may go back and reread The English Patient. Our book club just discussed Did You Ever Have a Family, by Bill Clegg and I can recommend that. A story told through different characters, some in first person, some in third, that centers around a tragedy. The central characters were beautifully drawn, and the emotions were palpable. I just finished for the first time The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I had someone to discuss it with. It doesn’t need description by me, other than to say in some respects it doesn’t seem so far-fetched….

    • Anjula   •  

      I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale earlier this week and I am still stunned. It brings up emotions that are gut-wrenchingly familiar and disturbing even though it is “so far-fetched” or not…

  3. Stefanie   •  

    I say my best March read was the audio collection of Beverly Cleary. I was highly entertained and loved how her writing caught the personalities of children.

  4. Melissa   •  

    I am so happy you featured Michael Ondaatje! He’s been a favorite of mine for a long, long time. His poetry is glorious as well. I heartily recommend the Cinnamon Peeler.

  5. Stephanie   •  

    M Train is magical! I read it first, then listened to the audiobook on a roadtrip and it was even more amazing (and I am not generally an audiobook person). Patti is a treasure. And you are the second person in as many days to recommend The English Patient, which I have never read, so I think I need to get on it. I am in the middle of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, and so far it’s terrific: librarians saving ancient manuscripts from being destroyed by Al Qaeda. And I am in the early stages of Moby Dick. Also never read it and I am not getting younger. It’s glorious. And I can use it as a doorstop when I finish. Love the book reviews, Julie–thanks for doing them!

  6. Heather   •  

    “I kept getting tripped up by her relentlessly lousy self-esteem that bordered on self-obsession, and it coloured everything” ooooh boy sounds like Eat Pray Love too *rolleyes* (can you tell I hated it?)

  7. Heather   •  

    I’m just finishing up A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. Excellent and maddening.

  8. Kim   •  

    I also love The English Patient. Might have to look for the other book of Ondaatje’s that you recommend.

    Right now I’ve just picked back up a little poetry book that my dad gave me a few years ago, Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings. Takes me some time to work through it as I can’t read more than one or two at a time in order to give myself space to mull the poems over, but I’m enjoying it so far.

  9. Barbara   •  

    Thanks for your reviews!

    Just finished ‘The Eight Montains’ from Paolo Cognetti (original title in Italian: Le otte monte, I have read the Dutch translation). I really loved this. It’s about the lives of two boys/men, one from the city and the other from the mountains.

  10. Barbara   •  

    The book by Patti Smith looks intriguing.

    I read The English Patient in grade 12 for a school book-report, and will never forget how it changed the way I thought about books. I read a lot as a kid, often stuff beyond my years, but I can still remember how certain passages made me feel and the images they evoked, more than 20 years later.

    The best book I’ve read recently is Dragonfly Song, by Wendy Orr (she wrote Nim’s Island). The story is set in the Bronze Age, on a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. The main character is a girl who survives incredible hardships, despite the hostility of her community. The descriptions of their way of life and the characters are fantastic, and I love how parts of the story are told in verse.

  11. Kelly J. R.   •  

    The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Set in Alaska, each chapter is from the perspective of a different teenager and slowly you learn the connection of how all of their lives are intertwined. It’s a very weird title for a book so don’t let that turn you off.

  12. miss agnes   •  

    I finished Cover Her Face in March, an old P.D. James I had read before but totally forgot. I need to plan a trip to my local library soon. Or I might read some of my own books. I love re-reading favorites.
    I read the English Patient years ago after the movie came out. I went to see it three times then. And I cried every single time. You’re right, it is a true classic.

  13. Natalie   •  

    I read I Am Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout in March (in something like 3 days) and I would so recommend it! I love stories that introduce me to a story of upbringing that is different than mine, and this book did so beautifully.

    I picked up the English Patient at a library book sale last year, and I might need to move it up on the to-read list!

  14. Alicia   •  

    I haven’t been very active on blogs lately but I love that you’re doing book reviews and have added most of these to my list! I’ve been currently obsessed with reading everything by David Mitchell, the best I’ve read recently was The Bone Clocks, but I’d also read Cloud Atlas a while back and liked it, too. I’ve also recently gotten into Neil Stephenson, I enjoyed Seven Eves very much (very sci fi, very involved, but the ending felt a little rushed) and am currently in the middle of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. which has more of a fantasy feel, dealing with magic and time travel.

    • Julie   •     Author

      You know, I haven’t read any David Mitchell, but have been meaning to for years- thanks fro the recommendation! I’ll put him on my book radar.

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