And just like that, we are done with one-third of the year. Goodbye, April, and hello May! Time does fly fast. Here in the Philippines, the heat is picking up, literally. With every passing day, the thermometer is getting higher. The summer heat has been very pervasive this past month and with the threat of El Nino looming, I am not expecting any reprieve this May. Summer used to be my favorite season but with heat as oppressive as we have been experiencing lately, I am inclined to change it to colder, even damper seasons.

Anyway, how about you? What is your favorite season? How about where you are? I hope you are doing well. I hope that the following months will be brimming with nothing but good news and blessings. But before I can bid April goodbye, I am sharing my book haul for the month. At the start of the year (every year really), I resolved to read more and buy less. I guess I can tick this resolution off already as a failure. Why are there too many good books out there? Without more ado, here is my April 2023 book haul. Since I have acquired way more than I thought I would, I will be splitting my March 2023 book haul update into three. The first part will feature books originally written and published in English by American, Irish, and English writers only.

Title: The Marriage Portrait
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publishing Date: 2022
No. of Pages: 333

Synopsis: Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her own obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?

As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty. Until then, for all her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.

Full of drama and verve with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life and offers an unforgettable portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.

Title: The The Good Terrorist
Author: Doris Lessing
Publisher: Grafton Books
Publishing Date: 1986 (1985)
No. of Pages: 370

Synopsis: A hugely significant political novel for the late twentieth century from one of the outstanding writers of the modern era In a London squat a band of bourgeois revolutionaries are united by a loathing of the waste and cruelty they see around them. These maladjusted malcontents try desperately to become involved in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence. Only Alice seems capable of organising anything. Motherly, practical and determined, she is also easily exploited by the group and ideal fodder for a more dangerous and potent cause. Eventually their naive radical fantasies turn into a chaos of real destruction, but the aftermath is not as exciting as they had hoped. Nonetheless, while they may not have changed the world, their lives will never be the same again… (Source: Goodreads)

Title: A Clergyman’s Daughter
Author: George Orwell
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 2000 (1935)
No. of Pages: 297

Synopsis: Intimidated by her father, the Rector of Knype Hill, Dorothy performs her submissive roles of dutiful daughter and bullied housekeeper. Her thoughts are taken up with the costumes she is making for the church school play, by the hopelessness of preaching to the poor and by debts she cannot pay in 1930s Depression England.

Suddenly her routine shatters and Dorothy finds herself down and out in London. She is wearing silk stockings, has money in her pocket but cannot remember her name. Orwell leads us through a landscape of unemployment, poverty and hunger, where Dorothy’s faith is challenged by a social reality that changes her life.

Title: Life Among the Savages
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1997 (1948)
No. of Pages: 241

Synopsis: Shirley Jackson, author of the classic short story, “The Lottery,” was known for her terse, haunting prose. But the writer possessed another side, one which is delightfully exposed in this hilariously charming memoir of her family’s life in rural Vermont.

“Our house,” writes Jackson, “is old, noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books.”

Children who won’t behave, cars that won’t start, furnaces that break down, a pugnacious corner bully, household help that never stays, and a patient husband who remains lovingly oblivious to the many thousands of things mothers and wives accomplish every single day – these pages are blissfully crowded with the raucous and rendering voices of Jackson’s extraordinary family living a wonderfully ordinary life.

Title: The Rum Diary
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
Publishing Date: 1998
No. of Pages: 204

Synopsis: Begun in 1959 by then-twenty-two-year-old Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary is a brilliant, tangled love story of jealousy, treachery and violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. Exuberant and mad, youthful and energetic, The Rum Diary is an outrageous drunken romp in the spirit of Thompson’s bestselling Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell’s Angels.

Title: Nothing to See Here
Author: Kevin Wilson
Publisher: ECCO
Publishing Date: 2019
No. of Pages: 254

Synopsis: Lillian and Mdison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal, and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, more than ten years later when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust one another – and stay cool – while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her – urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet 0 a most unusual story of parental love.

Title: Hello Beautiful
Author: Ann Napolitano
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publishing Date: 2023
No. of Pages: 383

Synopsis: William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him – so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.

But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations.

An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic Little Women, Hello Beautiful is a profoundly moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.

Title: When We Fell Apart
Author: Soon Wiley
Publisher: Dutton
Publishing Date: 2022
No. of Pages: 353

Synopsis: When the Seoul police inform Min that his girlfriend, Yu-jin, has committed suicide, he’s sure it can’t be true. Min, the son of an American father and Korean mother, who always felt “too Korean” to fit in during his childhood in Califonia, has recently moved to Seoul in the hope that exploring his Korean heritage will help him find a sense of purpose. And when he met Yu-jin, a local university student, little did he know that their carefree relationship would set off a chain of events with tragic consequences for them both.

Devastated by Yu-jin’s death, Min throws himself into finding out why she could have secretly wanted to die. Or did she? With a controlling and powerful government official father, and a fraught friendship with her alluring and destructive roommate, So-ra, Yu-jin’s life was much more complex than she chose to reveal to Min. And the more he learns about her, the more he begins to doubt he ever really knew her at all.

As Yu-jin’s story – a fraught exploration of selfhood, coming-of-age, and family expectations – collides with Min’s, the result is an engrossing page-turner that poses powerful urgent questions about cultural identity, family bonds, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.