April Preview

We’ve made it to April now, wow. Which reminds me of the saying: “April showers bring May flowers.” Or are your flowers already out? I took the photo at left yesterday when I went bicycling; see the snowy mountains? The trees don’t have their leaves yet, but it’s starting to warm up here and we could get into the 60s later this week. I’ve already raked the yard for a spring cleanup and I hope things turn green soon.

Meanwhile a lot of new books are coming out this month, which we should discuss. Among others, there’s new ones by Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Kostova, Randy Susan Meyers, David McCullough (a collection of his speeches), and even some long-lost unpublished short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. I’ve whittled down my list to five or so new titles coming out to watch for, so let’s get started.

First off, I’ll look to get my hands on Omar El Akkad’s dystopian debut novel “American War,” which is set in 2074 and recounts the outbreak of a second American Civil War between the North and South and its catastrophic aftermath.

Many are raving about this terrifying saga, which the New York Times’s reviewer Michiko Kakutani calls “powerful” and one that “creates as haunting a post-apocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy did in “The Road” (2006), and as devastating a look at the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in “The Plot Against America” (2004).” These are certainly strong words from the often dour Kakutani, and so I hope to get to the book right away, especially since I really liked Ben Winters’s slightly similar alternative history novel  “Underground Airlines” from last year.

Next up, I got to go with Elizabeth Strout’s new novel “Anything Is Possible.” Although I wasn’t overly thrilled with her last novel “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” which this one is a sequel to, I’m still a big fan of Strout’s storytelling and have read most of her novels.

Apparently in this new one, “Strout reveals specific details of the horrible circumstances in which Lucy and her siblings were raised, as recollected by some of the inhabitants of Amgash, Ill., and the surrounding communities,” so says Publishers Weekly. It interweaves a dozen or so characters and is similar in format to her well-known novel “Olive Kitteridge.” I hear it’s good, so I will not miss it.

I’m also curious this month about M.L. Rio’s debut novel “If We Were Villains,” which is said to be a page-turning literary thriller, similar in nature to Donna Tartt’s novel “The Secret History.” It’s set at a Illinois college specializing in Shakespeare studies, and follows a group of college students whose passions and insecurities over time escalate to murder; uh-oh. It’s said to be an exploration of friendship and seems to be rife with obsession, betrayal, and the words of Shakespeare. I liked “The Secret History” so I think I will probably like this one as well, which is getting strong ratings on Goodreads. Apparently the author is pursuing Shakespeare studies in London so hence her idea for the novel likely came from there.

Next I’m interested in Vaddey Ratner’s new novel “Music of the Ghosts” about a woman who returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She comes to meet a man who wrote to her, claiming he knew her father at a Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared 25 years ago.

Similar in themes to her first novel — “In the Shadow of the Banyan” — Ratner’s new story is said to be a “tragic odyssey of love, loss, and forgiveness in the wake of unspeakable horrors,” says Publishers Weekly. Gulp, count me in. I had planned to read the author’s first book but then didn’t get to it. But now I want to read both, even though reading about the Khmer Rouge genocide totally scares me. The author is a survivor from the regime in Cambodia, who now divides her time between Southeast Asia and Washington, D.C.

Lastly in books, I’m tempted to pick up Frederik Backman’s new novel “Beartown,” probably because I haven’t read him before and he’s such a popular author after “A Man Called Ove.” I shoved the “Ove” story onto my husband — hint hint don’t be a curmudgeon — and he liked it. And I’m sure I’ll see the Swedish movie of it sometime. But for now, maybe I’ll get onboard with Backman’s novel “Beartown.”

It’s said to be about a tiny community deep in the forest that is hoping its junior hockey team can win the national championship and bring the place glory, but then a violent act occurs, which leaves a young girl traumatized and the town in turmoil. Hmm. Apparently the story is dark at times but also poignant. Will it be my first Backman read?

As for movies in April, there’s a few that look promising. I’m a sucker for anything having to do with anthropology, archaeology, and explorers so “The Lost City of Z” — based on David Grunn’s 2009 book about British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared along with his son while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s — is right up my alley.

British actor Charlie Hunnam, who starred in the TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” plays Percy Fawcett, and Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller are in it as well. It’s an adventure tale based on a true story that seems to have all the elements; what more do you need?

Also the movie adaptation of Dave Egger’s 2013 novel “The Circle” is one I will likely see. It stars Emma Watson as the lead character who finds her dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to find out later that the company’s invasive agenda goes way overboard. Tom Hanks plays the company’s director, and the late Bill Paxton makes an appearance as Emma’s father. (So sorry for Paxton’s recent passing.) The storyline slightly reminds me of “The Firm” — remember that one? — though this one is more about privacy issues in a modern world gone technologically crazy. It’s creepy stuff that doesn’t seem too farfetched from reality.

Lastly for those interested in nature documentaries, photography, and wild animals there’s Disneynature’s “Born in China,” which looks pretty amazing for its cinematography, subject mater, and scenery. It follows the stories of three animals families: notably a panda mother and her cub, a golden monkey and his baby sister, and a mother snow leopard struggling to raise her two cubs. I’m sure it’s a film worth viewing and I’d especially like to see the footage of the elusive snow leopard. Apparently if you see the movie opening weekend, Disneynature will make a donation on your behalf to World Wildlife Fund to benefit the wild pandas and snow leopards, which is an added plus.

As for new albums in April, I’ll pick Sheryl Crow’s upcoming one “Be Myself.” I’m a fan of her early albums and songs (such as “Leaving Las Vegas” and “If It Makes You Happy”) so I’m a bit curious what this new one will be like. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like a return to her pop days, but hopefully it won’t be too pop-py, if you get my drift.

What about you — which upcoming books, movies, and music are you looking forward to this month?

 

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26 Responses to April Preview

  1. Carmen says:

    In April I will be reading Kostova’s latest novel, which will be my first from her. I’m about to finish West of Sunset about Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood. Earlier this year I read The Beautiful and Damned and about 50% of Tender is the Night before putting it aside. In May or June I will be reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, so I’m having a Fitzgerald year. The short stories by him that you mentioned would be a nice addition to my reading theme.

    All three movies sound exciting, so I will most likely watch them when they come out for rental. I’m still trying to go through all the movies from last year that I was planning to see. So far I have watched about 75 movies from 2016 and reviewed about 30 or so of them. I can’t believe there were so many great movies last year. Typically I can only mention about 20 very good ones any given year.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Carmen: you really are having a Fitzgerald year. I like your theme. You’ve also seen a ton of movies. I agree there were some really good ones in 2016. I’ve slowed a bit in my movie watching, but still should see Fences.

      • Carmen says:

        I have Fences in my queue but I want to get some lightweight movies out of the way first. BTW, I just finished Jackie and wasn’t as taken as you were with Portman’s performance; the script left much to be desired, it made for snappy dialogs and rather shallow characters as a consequence.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    Happy April! It is still cold here on Long Island New York and it does not feel like April.

    American War sounds so good. I tend to like these sorts of books. The subject also seems timely. Perhaps 2074 is further in the future then the plot needs to be set 🙂

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Brian, ha I agree … a civil war could seemingly happen before 2074. Hopefully it wont, and things won’t be like American War but I’m geared up to read it. I hope your spring warms up there on Long Island. We saw some snowflakes today, good grief.

  3. No flowers yet here, but getting slightly less greyish out. There is hope. 🙂

    Charlie Hunnam seems to be in a lot of movies this year, well, at least one other next month, a new King Arthur movie. I know my wife and a group of her friends are planning to make a ladies’ night out with that one.

    As for what I’m looking forward to, I really haven’t thought about it yet. In May, I know I’m looking forward to the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Other than that, I don’t know what else is on the radar.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Bryan, it’s still a bit grey here too. Hope you get some green there soon.
      The movie for King Arthur would make a fun ladies night out. I don’t know of this Charlie Hunnam yet, but I hope to see his upcoming movies. Ahhh Guardians of the Galaxy — people are starting to talk about that. Enjoy your week.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    Almost all our trees have leafed out and my front yard looks amazing. I sent a photo to my sister in MI and my niece in CT and they were so jealous. Your photo made me think of the book I am reading now: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, about a trek into the Alaskan wilderness in 1885. I am liking it!
    I am totally excited about the new Elizabeth Kostova because I loved her first novel, The Historian. American War sounds like one to check out. Again we seem to be having a great year of new fiction coming out.
    I want to see The Circle, though I will probably read the book first.
    Happy Spring!

    • Susan Wright says:

      You should put the spring photo of your yard on your site — so we can all be envious. I would love to read the Eowyn Ivey book; a friend I know really loved it. I will wait to hear what you think of the new Kostova book. I read The Historian too. Some parts I really liked and other parts seemed wildly long, but she seems a great storyteller. So many good things to read; I’m a little overwhelmed. But I think I’d like to read The Circle to before it comes out. Hmm

  5. Vicki says:

    The view from your photo must be amazing in person!

    I love Sheryl Crow too.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Vicki,
      Yes the views near the foothills here are often amazing; so glad to get out there on a sunny day. I’m glad to hear you like Sheryl Crow too. The truth is: she rocks!

  6. I felt exactly as you did with Lucy Barton. I’ve loved Stroud’s other work, though, so like you I’m hopeful for the new book.

    Readerbuzz.blogspot.com

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Deb, good to know I’m not alone about not loving the Lucy Barton book. But I won’t give up on Strout either. Hopefully we will compare notes on the new one — once we read it. Enjoy your week.

  7. Naomi says:

    I think I’d try anything by Strout after reading and loving Olive Kitteridge last year. I haven’t read the Lucy Barton one yet, though.
    For some reason I seem to like books about the American Civil War, so American War sounds intriguing… this is the first I’ve heard of it.
    I haven’t read anything by Backman yet, either, but from what I’ve heard of his other books, Bear Town sounds quite different. I’ll be curious to hear more about it!
    I like it when they make movies out of books that sound good to me, but that I probably won’t ever get to!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Naomi, yeah I agree, Strout is always an author whose new books I always like to get. I too am interested in the U.S. Civil War, so I’m very curious about this new novel, which I hear is quite dark. (Just a warning for all.) So many books to get to this spring, I hope to get to Beartown but who knows. 🙂

  8. Rachel says:

    Amercan War interests me the most of the books on your list. I forgot about The Circle. I meant to read it and then never did. I may try to read it before the movie comes out.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Rachel, Yes the two books you mention: American War and The Circle are the two novels I definitely hope to get to this month. I never did read The Circle either when it came out a few years ago, but the premise sounds interesting. Let’s compare notes on it, ha.

  9. I’m very curious about American War, but want a couple other bloggers to vet it first!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Susie, thanks for stopping by. Yeah it sounds like the book will be a harsh look on life — so I’m waiting for the right time to start it. Gulp.

  10. I am really excited about American War. I’m very picky about which new fiction I read but that one is at the top of my list for spring (once I make some progress on my preexisting review stack).

    I’m also excited about The Circle. I didn’t read the book, mostly because a lot of reviews said it was a bit of a slog, but the plot looks amazing and I think it will be great as a film. Plus, I will watch anything with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Yeah I agree Kate, both American War and The Circle are high on my list this month. Though I’ve just picked up The Sense of an Ending since the movie adaptation of it is in town here. Looks like a short read in time for the film.

  11. Ti says:

    Interesting casting for The Circle. I enjoyed that book. I don’t think I see Watson in the lead but she’s a good actress.

    American War. Why have I not heard about this one???? I think I just saw WAR and tuned it out. I’m not a fan of war books but war in 2074? Hello! I have to get a copy.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Ti, yeah I thought you might be interested in American War. I’ve heard it’s quite dark so I’m gauging when I will read it. I’d like to read The Circle before I see the movie; it is interesting that Emma Watson got the role. She’s on a tear this spring with Beauty and the Beast doing so well.

  12. Catherine says:

    Have you had a chance to read the new Ratner yet? I’m really curious about your thoughts. I read and am mulling my review. I’ll just say this- I did not like it as much as In the Shadow, which I loved. Not sure if it’s me right now or the book.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Catherine, I’m on the waiting list for the Ratner book at the library; now I’m wondering should I read her first book first? Sometimes I also wonder: is it me or the book? Such as when I finished Exit West; my mind wandered during the reading, and I thought is it my week … or is this book just not grabbing me? hmm

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