What to read in April

I’m having 3 ketamine treatments for depression this week and that means I can’t have caffeine or my ADD meds and that means I’ve spent a fair amount of time drifting around the house wondering what it was I was doing, or frantically looking for my phone while it was in my own hand and this is why this post may or may not make sense, but let’s try, okay?


So if you’re already a member of my book clubs then you probably already got some weird ass emails from me but just in case you missed them or are an honorary member or haven’t joined yet (JOIN US) then here are my book selections for April:

If you’re a Fantastic Strangeling you’ll be getting a gorgeous copy of The House is on Fire by Rachel Beanland. Historical fiction at its finest, based on the true story of the infamous 1811 Richmond theater fire, the worst urban disaster in US history at the time told from the perspective of four people whose actions during the inferno changed the course of history. How have I never heard of this, y’all?

And if you’re a member of the Nightmares from Nowhere Book Club you’ll be getting the terrifying and fantastic Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang. Long description: A piercing, darkly funny debut, Natural Beauty explores questions of consumerism, self-worth, race, and identity—and leaves readers with a shocking and unsettling truth. Short description: BEAUTY CULT.

No worries if you haven’t read last month’s books because there are no rules to book club but in case you want to discuss I’ll open up a thread on the Nightmares from Nowhere facebook page for Lone Women and a thread for Once Upon a Tome on the Fantastic Strangelings facebook page, and if you don’t do facebook I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments below.

Need more than two books to get you through the month? Same. And April has quite a few I really liked:

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell – Like if The Great British Bake-Off and Agatha Christie had a baby.  A good comfort murder mystery.  (Yes, that is a real thing.)

House of Cotton by Monica Brashears –  An eccentric novel exploring the aftermath of the American plantation and what it means to be poor, Black, and a woman in the God fearing south.

Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer’s Guide to the Universe by Philip Plait, PhD  – On this lively, immersive adventure through the cosmos, Plait (beloved astronomer and personal friend) draws ingeniously on the latest scientific research to transport readers to ten spectacular sites, from our own familiar Moon to the outer reaches of our solar system and far beyond.

Hestia Strikes a Match by Christine Grillo – A slyly funny and subversive story of a woman looking for love and friendship in the midst of a new American civil war in 2023.

Night Terror by John Kenn Mortensen – This art book by Danish cult illustrator is reminiscent of Edward Gorey but with slightly less humor and a whole lot more bizarre terror.

The Unlikely Village of Eden by Emma Nadler – a thought-provoking and hopeful memoir about learning to adapt when raising a child with a rare genetic condition.

Happy reading and thank you for supporting your local indie bookshop!

17 thoughts on “What to read in April

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Wonderful book suggestions!
    Thinking warm positive thoughts for your treatment session.

  2. I haven’t joined the book clubs because I already have 40 books in my house that I haven’t read and I can’t control myself in bookstores BUT I’m noting all the suggestions and will surely pick them up eventually.

  3. Re: “A good comfort murder mystery. (Yes, that is a real thing.)” I agree!

    I also read Hestia Strikes a Match. It wasn’t for me. So it goes.

  4. I also have adhd. I spend 70% of the time wandering around my tiny house, losing everything, all the time!!!!! I wish nothing but good things for you.

  5. I need to quit my job so I can read books all day but then I couldn’t afford to get the books and life is a vicious cycle without end.
    Also I have a cold.

  6. I just recently learned about the Richmond Theater fire. I attended an event about the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe in Charleston, SC (although he never admitted ever visiting Charleston) and learned that he widely claimed that his mother had died in the fire, when in reality she had likely died a few weeks before. How wild!

  7. Good luck this week and in the weeks to come. I wish I could help you through this the way your blog has helped me through some dark anxiety weeks.

    Thank you for the great book suggestions. I’ve added more to my storygraph tbr list, which is at least safer than an actual teetering tower of books looming over my bed as I sleep.

  8. Regarding The House is on Fire, I’ve never heard of the Richmond Theater fire either. That fire took place in 1811. Exactly one hundred years later, in 1911 in Manhattan, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 young immigrant women. I’d heard of that fire and read a book about it too (can’t remember the title, too lazy to find it).

  9. My thoughts on ONCE UPON A TOME:

    I loved this book so much it was like sinking into a warm bath. Funny, charming, smart…all the things I needed.

    I loved the idea of Smaugs (dragons who collect lots of things) and Draculas (who are very specific in their needs) and it was nice to have a word for what I am because I collect fairy tales, illustrations, pulp fiction, horror comics from the 50s and every copy of Alice in Wonderland I see.

    I loved how many new words I learned…Ichorous, becankled, escritoire. I was feeling bad for not knowing a lot of words but as I’m writing this spellcheck is telling me it doesn’t know “ichorous” or “becankled” either so maybe it’s not just me.

    I loved seeing how they got their books, especially since as a new bookstore we don’t deal with book runners or buying collections but I was so jealous of the idea of going in to paw through other people libraries. Literally the first thing I do at an estate sale or visiting a friend is to go to the books because that’s how I can tell if we’ll be friends…by the types of books you have.

    I loved the stories of ghosts and cursed books and I really would like to read everything bought during “Oliver’s smut phase”.

    I DESPERATELY want to go visit all the forgotten book cellars where they keep the forgotten stock. It is a visceral need.

    My only point of contention was the author advising that if a library had a bunch of books on exorcisms you should flee, because honestly I would buy all of those books. I guess, add that to my smaug list…books about exorcisms. Who knew?

    My thoughts on LONE WOMEN:

    The terrible and wonderful thing about horror is that the mysterious nature of the genre lends itself to be interpreted in so many different ways and so if you totally disagree with me on my thoughts you are just as likely to be right as I am. YAY FOR THOUGHT-PROVOKING AMBIGUOUSNESS!

    Okay, I loved this book so much for so many reasons.

    I loved everything I learned about the historical aspects of homesteading and pioneering and the black farming community of Lucerne Valley and mining and lore and so much more.

    I loved how complicated the characters were and how I both loved and sometimes wanted to punch them and how they grew by leaning on one another. I especially loved how the author explored the fact that communities rely on each other but how easy it is to turn on each other when fear enter the picture. In particular, how the Montana community seemed like they relied on each other but eventually you saw that fear of scarcity or otherness caused so many to move toward shunning and violence and hate.

    The first time I read the book I thought it was about vengeance and judgement but mostly about shame, and what a burden it can be to have secrets which if shared might be celebrated or at least more easily carried by those you share your secrets with, but reading it a second time I think it’s more about acceptance. When Elizabeth was accepted and celebrated she became an incredible friend and ally, but it’s more than that…it’s about accepting Sam’s preferred gender and Bertie and Fiona’s love and Adelaide’s secrets and the fact that we are all flawed but that by seeing other people’s struggles it makes us better. Like when Adelaide said, “My suffering helped me forget yours.” Amen. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own struggles in a way that almost gives us permission to ignore others, but without that empathy we can’t grow and our world becomes so small.

    And it’s about second chances. You could see Adelaide’s second chance to make things right with Elizabeth and Joab’s second chance to change and how Adelaide gave even Mr. and Mrs. Reed the opportunity to have a second chance, which she squandered. I think that’s such an important lesson and I love that these flawed characters had the chance to find out who they really were under it all, for better or worse, and how we saw what had shaped them and how hard it was to make the hard decisions.

    One of my favorite parts was when Joab was with Sam and you could tell that Joab was thinking he’d have to murder Sam to keep his secret but instead he gratefully lets Sam show him “the world” through all the wonderous stories Sam had collected and how later Joab mailed letters to Sam about the world that he saw afterward. That decision to let Sam live changed everything for Joab and lead to an amazing friendship instead of another murder even though it would have been easy for Joab to justify it since stopping would mean truly recognizing what he had done to his brother and to so many others. It was a stark contrast to the Reeds who became stranglers after murdering their own child. They could have recognized they were on the wrong path and changed but that would mean admitting what monsters they’d been and they couldn’t do that. In the end, we are the choices we make and those choices make us who we are.

  10. How can there be no definition of becankled?! I need context. And possibly slimmer ankles, but I may be reading too much into this. Or is it a witch’s curse? Personally I like the phrase “undulating flangele”, but that doesn’t seem to be on the internet either, so perhaps I made it up. Hmm, let’s blame 5G!

  11. Being on vacation was 99% awesome and 1% “well, shit, I don’t have the bandwidth to open Jenny’s blog.” I’m so excited about these recommendations – especially the one about the Richmond fire! Mainly because I live in Richmond and never heard of it as we are a terrible community in promoting our own non-politician type people (I blame NOVA).

  12. The game has a number of stages, and each one adds a new, more complicated layer to the back rooms. Each level has a different look, layout, and set of risks.

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