March 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

March 15, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 39

March 2018 Books to Read

 

My March reading has so far been pretty similar to February! I’ve liked most of what I’ve read, but there isn’t a runaway standout. I did get let down by two trusted authors, which always makes me a special kind of sad, but overall a solid month!

In addition to my March 2018 Books to Read, stay tuned for my full review of Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (coming a week from today).

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Read These

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Dutton Books)

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: I’m an unapologetic fan of The Bachelor and am fascinated by all the behind-the-scenes drama. So, I’m almost the perfect reader for this book (my downfall is that I already know a lot of this stuff from reading Reality Steve). Kaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, what happens to the couples after the show ends…and, a history of dating shows (which should have been edited out). This best part of the book are the excepts from contestant Sharleen Joynt‘s journal she kept during filming…she clinically picks apart the psychology of the show while she’s in the middle of it. She’s brilliant and her take is articulate and well thought-out. Kaufman doesn’t really dish on contestant-specific gossip (who’s hooking up with whom, etc), but raises the overall curtain to reveal Oz. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it.

Everything is just so designed for romance, I can see how if you were single, didn’t necessarily know what you were looking for, couldn’t tell a deep connection from a superficial one, and were somewhat naive, hopelessly naive and not very cautious, you could fall in love. The focus is so on it all the time. You’re constantly prompted to talk about him, what you two share, how it makes you feel, how seeing him with the other girls makes you feel. There is no escape. – from Sharleen Joynt‘s journal

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. It’s been compared to the TV show Gilmore Girls and I’d say that’s true with the story’s premise (single mother from a wealthy family trying to raise her daughter differently than how she grew up, but not totally disconnecting), but not at all in character or style. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). She’s uncomfortable with her family’s wealth, but her guilt doesn’t stop her from taking advantage of the benefits that come with it. The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). However, the ending is perplexing to say the least. I’m still not sure what happened and it will probably annoy readers who don’t like things left open-ended. P.S. – there’s an entertaining, kooky grandmother…always a plus in my reading!

As she sat across the table from this Republican lobbyist lunatic, she thought of what her mother had said of marriage: Anything, anything, anything would be better than this. That’s how others viewed her current situation as a single mother, she realized. How else to explain their rationale in matching her with such maniacs? They saw her and Emma as incomplete, stray people, a free-floating fragment; the goal was to make them whole and anyone, anyone, anyone would be better than no one.

Tangerine by Christine ManganTangerine by Christine Mangan
Fiction – Literary (Released March 20, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Ecco Books)

Plot Summary: Alice Shipley can’t figure out whether to be relieved or unsettled when her college roommate (Lucy Mason), who she hasn’t spoken to in over a year after a deeply disturbing incident, shows up on her doorstep in Tangier, Morocco, where she’s living with her new husband (John).

My Thoughts: Told in dual perspectives, Mangan’s debut novel is the story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind. Tangerine is a very specific type of book that I generally adore (and I did in this case!), but that probably isn’t for everyone. It’s kind of a page turner, but not in the traditional sense. It’s taut with emotional and psychological tension, but doesn’t have much action until the second half. Mangan generates all this tension through her writing style, which reminded me of Tender (my review), Sunburn (my review), and Based on a True Story (Spoiler Discussion). For virtually the entire book, I questioned who to trust, which kept me turning the pages, and the Moroccan setting makes the story even more enigmatic. P.S. – Don’t be fooled by this cover. It reminds me of Paula McClain’s Circling the Sun, which is straight-up historical fiction, but Tangerine does not read like historical fiction at all despite the 1950’s time period. 

Tangier and Lucy were the same, I thought. Both unsolvable riddles that refused to leave me in peace. And I had tired of it – of the not knowing, of always feeling as though I were on the outside of things, just on the periphery.

Skip These

Flight Attendant by Chris BohjalianThe Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released March 13, 2018)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Publisher: Doubleday)

Plot Summary: When Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant, finds her hook-up (Alex Sokolov) from the night before dead in a Dubai hotel, she questions whether she killed him during a blackout and, if not, wonders who did.

My Thoughts: Chris Bohjalian has been a reliable standby for me in the thriller department for the past few years (The Guest RoomThe Sleepwalker), but I think he stumbled with The Flight Attendant. I was initially interested in finding out what happened to Alex and what would happen to Cassie. How would she handle being questioned about Alex’s murder (given she makes terrible decisions most of the time)? Would she be charged with murdering him? But, as Alex’s story is gradually revealed, I became incredibly confused. Why he might have been killed is convoluted, yet it felt like white noise to me. That side of the story isn’t developed well at all…to the point that I didn’t really care. However, Bohjalian did a great job bringing the life of a flight attendant alive, which I enjoyed. Bohjalian has written a book a year for the past few years, which is a lot. I feel like he might’ve churned this one out too quickly…at the expense of quality.

She hoped her small joke would make him smile, but the truth of it made her cringe. It wasn’t merely the acknowledgment of her drinking; it was the reality that she was poisonous; she always risked diminishing the people she loved or might someday love. Too often she forced them to make the same bad choices she did or forced them from her life. Best case, she forced them to care for her.

Girls Burn BrighterGirls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6, 2018)
DNF at 13%

This novel about female friendship set in India got a decent amount of publisher hype. I had trouble getting into the characters initially and my mind kept wandering. I felt like I was viewing the story from an airplane window at 50,000 feet instead of feeling immersed in it. Since then, I’ve heard it’s an incredibly brutal story, which I just don’t have in me right now.

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this month?

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March 2018 Books to Read (and Skip): Bachelor Nation, Laura and Emma, Tangerine, The Fight Attendant, and Girls Burn Brighter. #reading #bookreviews #book #bookish #bookworms #booklovers #booklist

39 Responses to “March 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)”

  1. Shea

    I just added Tangerine to my list after hearing about it on a podcast, and your review makes me even more intrigued. Laura and Emma sounds up my alley too although I’m not sure how I feel about things left hanging at the end–I don’t need a super tidy ending, but I don’t like too much left up in the air either. Your comparison of Laura to Eleanor Oliphant though makes me want to give it a try–I loved that character.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      There is an ending to Laura & Emma – it’s just I didn’t know how to interpret it. It’s not clear what exactly happened. And I liked the character of Eleanor, but didn’t like the book overall for other reasons.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Then I think you’ll like this! It does sort of speak to reality shows in general!

  2. Susie | Novel Visits

    We definitely agree on both Laura & Emma and The Flight Attendant! I’m glad you liked Tangerine. It sounds like the sort of book I’d like, so think I’ll give it a try soon. You’ve convinced me that I need to read Bachelor Nation. I’d love an inside glimpse into the show.

  3. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I’ve been seeing Tangerine everywhere. Probably because (I think?) it was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’m glad you liked it. Lots of people have been including it in haul posts, but I haven’t seen many reviews.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I didn’t realize that! I normally don’t do well with award books, but this must be an exception!

  4. Kay

    I’m still very interested in Tangerine – it’s the setting of Morocco that has me hooked. I just finished reading The Broken Girls by Simone St. James and liked it very much. Probably too Gothic for many, but I was well pleased with it. Review in a week or so.

  5. Amanda

    Bust about The Flight Attendant! I realized I’m still behind a book for Bohjalian so maybe I’ll read the Sleepwalker first and catch up to this one in a while. I really want to read Tangerine! Maybe I’ll have to break my book buying moratorium and pick this up for Spring Break.

  6. Allison

    Laura and Emma sounds right up my alley, though I don’t usually like endings that are too ambiguous.

    I’m not a Bachelor fan at all (I might have watched one season) but I’m weirdly intrigued by this book.

  7. Amy Sachs

    Laura and Emma sounds right up my alley! I hadn’t heard of it before. Glad to see you liked Tangerine! I can’t wait to pick it up.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Me too…I’d been hearing such great things about it pre-publication. But, also know some other bloggers who didn’t like it either.

  8. Madeline

    I’m really looking forward to Tangerine.

    I can’t decide if Bohjalian’s back list is worthwhile delving into or not. I loved The Guest Room. Sleepwalker: not as much. I have The Flight Attendant on hold and although I was really looking forward to it, general consensus agrees with you.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I liked his backlist more than his recent stuff 🙂 Loved The Double Bind, some of his historical fiction, and Close Your Eyes Hold Hands.

  9. Andrea

    Totally agree on your assessment of Laura and Emma, especially being similar to Eleanor! Yeah, I’m hearing Girls Burn Brighter is not worth the hype. Might push that down the TBR.

  10. Beth F

    I’ve never seen the Bachelor, so I’ll likely skip that. I have Girls Burn Brighter for a freelance assignment, so I’ll be reading that. The other three are on my list (we’ll see which I actually get to).

  11. renee

    Great picks! I still need to get to Tangerine, I’m still in my romance reading kick though…meanwhile all my ARCS are piling up

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Haha – do what you need to do! Sometimes it’s nice to take a break!

  12. Tara

    You know I completely agree with you on Bachelor Nation and Laura & Emma; I’m hoping to get to Tangerine soon, but there are so many exciting new releases coming – GAH!

  13. Michelle

    I am reading The Flight Attendant right now. The first few chapters sucked me right in, but now that she is back on US soil I am finding it a bit redundant. I’ll stick with it because now I have to find out the what and why, but you did warn me that it is not his best and I am tempering my expectations.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I liked it in the beginning…then went downhill. Will be interested to hear your thoughts!

  14. Kim Kolk

    None of these really grab me.
    I have liked all the books I’ve read so far this month, but the one that has really made an impact on me is a nonfiction book, Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge.

  15. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I legit can’t wait to read Bachelor Nation. I got it out of the library today and I am hella excited — I’ve watched several seasons of the show and enjoyed them thoroughly, and I totally want to know more about how the sausage gets made. Secretly I suspect that I’d be an amazing Bachelor producer if I were, like, entirely amoral.

  16. carrie

    I completely agree about the flight attendant. I read it this month too. i just didn’t care about anyone in the story.

  17. Stacie @SincerelyStacie

    I’ve only watched a few seasons of The Bachelor because I can’t stand all the drama. But, a local guy (Chris Soules) was The Bachelor so I watched that season and we all know how that turned out. So, I would be intrigued to read this book and see behind the scenes details.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Oh yes! I watched his season! And I did see the news about the car accident…sad 🙁

  18. Arianna

    Just finished Girls Burn Brighter…it’s not the easiest to read, no. I don’t think it was a waste of time, it was a good story, but I don’t know if I would have chosen to read it knowing what I do now. Not sure if I’d recommend it…and yeah, you have to be kind of ready for the brutal. I don’t think I was prepared enough.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve heard the exact same thing from others who actually finished it. I just didn’t have that in me at the moment…

  19. Kris Bauers

    Excellent list, thank you!! Spring Break is right around the corner and Tangerine is on my list! I just finished, The Secret Life of Mrs. London which is about the WIFE of famed writer Jack London. Charmian London, was a trail blazing feminist, and a woman caught in a tricky love triangle. It is such a great pick for Women’s history month. I couldn’t put it down! I found it here, http://www.rebecca-rosenberg.com

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Tangerine is a great vacation book! Good atmosphere for that! And Mrs. London sounds super interesting too – I love the “from the wife’s perspective” novels!

  20. Bryan G. Robinson

    I just picked up Tangerine at the library at the recommendation of another blogger. I’m glad to see she’s not the only one who liked it. 🙂 I’m looking forward to it.

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