May 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I can’t believe May is over already. To think I was still in school at the beginning of the month AND the official launch of this blog! So, welcome to my first wrap-up! I read so much more than I expected. There are some in-depth reviews on my blog, but I want to share some brief thoughts about the other books I read this month. I read ten books, so this might be a little long, but here we go!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first book I finished this month was The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I wrote a review of this book here. This thriller was a strong start to my month. I gave this five stars because I thought the cast of characters were well developed and also because Foley has a way of leaving little hints in each chapter until Foley reveals the ending. I read this book so quickly and just had to know what happened next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next book I finished was another thriller – Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. I also wrote a dedicated review for this book, which can be found here. I gave this book four stars because I never knew what to expect, and the social commentary Sager provides is exactly the type of thing I want to read. The only reason this wasn’t a five-star read is that I wanted to see some more development of the relationships between characters, and our main character ignored some major red flags early on. Overall, still such a fun time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third book I finished this month was a group read with some friends –  Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick. Since I did not write a dedicated review for this book, I will talk a bit about it here. This book follows Ilya, who leaves Russia to come to Louisiana for a year of high school. In addition to navigating a new school and a new culture, Ilya is leaving behind his family. Their lives have been turned upside down because his brother, Vladimir, has been arrested for and confessed to murder. This book is both heartbreaking and complicated. Sometimes characters are unlikable, but I also think they are very realistic. I usually don’t enjoy reading from a teenage male POV, and there were some awkward, cringey moments, but the story is still powerful. I gave this four stars. cw – drug use/abuse, murder

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The last book I posted a dedicated review for is A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight. You can read it here. I gave this 3/3.5 stars. I was initially nervous about this book because I thought it would be a typical legal thriller. Still, the plot has a lot to offer and has some serious domestic thriller vibes. As two seemingly unrelated mysteries start to converge, I found myself unable to put this book down. I enjoyed jumping between Amanda’s and Lizzie’s POVs and slowly learning about both of their lives. I also really loved to hate one character in particular. Some things didn’t work for me, though. I didn’t really understand why most of the couples would have even married each other in the first place. I also found myself having just to accept some things without much development.

The next book I read in May was a nonfiction called The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin. This book documents the history of vaccines and the rise of the anti-vaxx movement. Mnookin writes in a way people without a science background can understand, and I greatly appreciated it. It is also incredibly enlightening when it comes to the ways the media allows misinformation to spread. I don’t like giving star ratings to nonfiction, but I do highly recommend this book – just maybe not right now. It is a bit frustrating.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next book I read was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. This book is a Pride & Prejudice retelling that takes place in modern times (think yoga instructor Jane). I am a sucker for Austen retellings. I enjoyed seeing how Sittenfeld updated certain aspects of the story for a modern US setting. She also chose to end by talking about Mary. In both the original and this retelling, the other characters don’t understand Mary and are mean to her. I’m not too fond of that in both cases, but Sittenfeld gives us a little more about her after the story, and I think that might be a way of giving her a little kindness as the author. I appreciate that.

I do want to note that I do have some concerns about this book. Sittenfeld includes both black and trans rep in her writing. While I get that they are probably trying to use these characters to both challenge the conservative beliefs the older Bennets hold and to tackle tough issues, I can’t help but get the feeling that her attempt at representation might have reduced the characters to simple plot devices. Some of the writing felt very late 90s – early 2000s, and it was weird to read some of these sections.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While reading Eligible, I also listened to the audiobook for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This is a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy and tells the origin story of President Snow. You might know that there has been a ton of mixed reviews for this book. I am here to add to the confusion. I rated this a true three stars because I didn’t care either way about this book. I actually decided to DNF this book before picking it up again a few days later. For me, the pacing was a huge issue. I think the exciting and interesting plot points were breezed through while the less interesting things seem to drag on forever. I also don’t think the social commentary was as sharp as the original trilogy. It could have been more.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next, I picked up a short story collection by Oscar Wilde called The Happy Prince and other Stories. This is a collection of five short stories, each of which had appealing qualities. The connections between these stories are pretty clear; each story deals with themes of privilege, selfishness, and using your privilege to help those who are less fortunate. It was a wholesome read, and I gave it four stars. My favorite stories from this collection are “The Selfish Giant” and “The Devoted Friend.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My next read was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. When we were growing up, my brother loved the Percy Jackson series, but I was a bit older and never really got into the books. With the excitement of the upcoming TV series, I decided I would finally give them a try. This first book made me regret not picking them up sooner. I won’t say a lot because I want to have a blog post talking about my feelings over the whole series, but I do want to say that Riordan creates an immersive, fun world with interesting connections to history, dyslexia representation that is important for the target audience to see, and fantastic environmental commentary.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My last read for May was the audiobook for Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix. This book follows the employees of Orsk furniture store (think Ikea) as they try to figure out who is breaking and destroying merchandise at night. When spooky occurrences start to become horrifying, they realize they might not be dealing with regular vandals. I had such a fun time listening to this book while playing Animal Crossing. It was a fairly quick listen but full of excitement and scares. It also makes you think about your relationship with buying items and consumerism. If you don’t already know or can’t tell, this is the type of content I eat up! Four stars!

Just like with my June TBR, if you’re still here, thanks! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What did you read in May? Let’s talk in the comments! Also, if there are other blog posts you’d like to see from me in June, let me know!

May 2020 TBR

TBRs

I’m only a week or so late, but to be fair, I’ve been finishing my last semester of my Master’s program 🙂

My TBRs are usually made up entirely of backlogged books but since renewing my Book of the Month subscription and having so many Libby holds, I’ve changed up my process a bit. If I’m expecting a hold to come in, of course, that takes priority and I try to read my BOTM selections either in that month or the next. I only like to put four or five books on my list each month so I don’t feel bad when I don’t make it through everything on my list.

That being said, here are my five selections for this month:

My first three books are from BOTM.

My April BOTM pick is The Guest List by Lucy Foley. This is a thriller about a wealthy couple having their wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. Everything is perfect except for the weather and the guests. When someone winds up dead, we are left to figure out both who is dead and who killed them.

I’ve already read this and I’ll post my thoughts on it a little later but the reason I chose this book is because I’m a sucker for a murder mystery. I like the uncertainty, the misdirection, and the creepy vibes. I recently read The Line That Held Us by David Joy and was in the mood for another thrilling read.

I chose Lock Every Door as my May BOTM add-on. This is another thriller but instead of a creepy island, this one takes place at the Bartholomew apartments in Manhattan. Our main character, Jules, has a job as an apartment sitter in this mysterious, high-profile building. But there are a lot of rules – don’t talk to the residents, don’t have any visitors, and don’t spend the night away from the apartment. When apartment sitters begin to go missing, Jules has to solve the mystery.


I chose this book for some of the same reasons that I chose The Guest List; I love thrillers, but I have also read and enjoyed Riley Sager before. I read Final Girls quite a while ago loved the writing and general plot. I also own The Last Time I Lied but haven’t got to it yet. I *probably* should read that one first but *shrug.*

My last BOTM pick is Kimberly McCreight’s A Good Marriage. This is a thriller (are we sensing a theme?) about Lizzie, a woman who works at a law firm. She gets a call from an old friend asking for help. He is in prison but has discovered that his wife is dead. Lizzie is left to determine what happened and slowly discovers that the marriage might not be as good as it seemed.

I’m excited to read this book because I don’t usually read a lot of legal thrillers. I think this might be a good way to branch out within the genre. We’ll see how it goes!

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick is a literary fiction novel about a Russian boy, Ilya, who comes to Louisiana for a student exchange program. He is leaving behind a chaotic life; his brother has been arrested for murder and Ilya is not convinced he did it. Now Ilya must try to put the pieces together while living in another country.

I am reading this book with a group of friends so I’m not really sure what to expect. It still has mystery/thriller vibes though and is sure to fit well with the rest of my TBR this month. This is a debut novel for Fitzpatrick and I am excited to see where this book will take me.

The last book I have on my list for this month comes from my TBR envelope. It’s called The True Story of Hansel and Gretel and is a historical fiction retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in the final months of WW2. Two children are left behind by their father and stepmother; they must assume the names Hansel and Gretel to disguise their Jewish heritage. They eventually stumble upon the house of an old, eccentric woman who takes in the kids. She must protect them from a new German soldier who moves into the nearby village.

I really enjoy reading historical fiction from nearly any time period. I think this book will offer an interesting perspective because it is a Hansel and Gretel retelling. Paring the fairy tale backdrop with such a devastating time in history might make an interesting dynamic but I do see room for some issues. We will see!

So, that’s all I’m officially planning to read for this month.I’m hoping I can get through this and maybe pick a few more from my TBR envelope at the end. Let me know what you’re reading this month or if you’ve read any of these before!