(All links on book titles will take you directly to the Goodreads page for that title. I love keeping track of what I’ve read on Goodreads, but if you want a full synopsis (without spoilers) you can also find that there. If you chose to purchase selected book, Goodreads will have an Amazon link available, but I would also encourage you to search instead for the book from your favorite local, indie, thrifted bookseller option if that is something you want to do!)
In an unexpected twist, May went by rather quickly. In the final days of May, it seems our nation has been ignited in the fight for an end to systemic racism, and I’m not ignoring that with this post. I want you to know that my voice isn’t the most important one for you to hear right now, and I’m working on a post to share soon that provides you with some helpful and influential resources from Black authors and leaders because now is absolutely the time to highlight their perspectives, not my own.
For now, let’s talk about May reads.
I’m proud of the reading I was able to get done in May! I finished ten books, one of which was an audiobook. Maybe this is a sign that summer means I have more reading coming my way? I’d love to look at the reading stats per month once I finish 2020 and see if there are trends during specific seasons. Remind me of that in 6 months, okay?
- Nonfiction: 2
- Fiction: 8
- Audiobook: 1
By Star Review:
- ✪✪✪✪✪ : 3
- ✪✪✪✪: 5
- ✪✪✪: 2
Favorite Read: All Things Reconsidered (OUT THIS WEEK, GO BUY IT!!!!!)
Most Likely to Recommend: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Most Quotable: All Things Reconsidered
Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: The Dutch House
Most Fun: The Tale of Despereaux
Late to the Party: The Tale of Despereaux (like, almost twenty years late to the party)
Favorite Instagram Post:
- The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank
- Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
- The Simple Wild, K.A. Tucker
- All Things Reconsidered, Knox McCoy
- The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins
- Hymns for a Mother’s Heart, The Daily Grace, Co.
- The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
- Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
- My Very ’90s Romance, Jenny Colgan
“I worried that maybe what I missed most I’d never have again…”The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing,
I started this month with The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing simply because I had walked past it a billion times and had no idea what it was about. I bought this book for the same reason– the mass market paperback version I own sat on the shelves of my favorite used bookstore for years (?) and finally I just thought, “Ok! Stop haunting me with your silent, short red spine. I’ll read you.”
So I did.
I liked this book a lot! It has over 130,000 ratings on Goodreads, so apparently many people wanted to read it. It’s overall average rating is 3.33, but I liked it more than that.
It’s a coming-of-age story, and I love those. It’s vaguely comedic as it follows Jane through her adolescence into adult life. She finds love, she loses it. It’s not lighthearted, I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. It’s realistic in tone and subject. She experiences loss and grief, and she changes paths in her life in terms of career and romance.
It’s not fast-paced, it’s not thrilling. Still, it was an enjoyable read and never felt as though it stayed past its welcome (books do that sometimes). For me, this was a calming narrative to read.
Maybe my favorite thing is probably an element that seemed random to other readers. Mid-book, ish, the perspective changes to a completely different character: Jane’s downstairs neighbor. It is only for one chapter, but I loved it. It felt refreshing, and it provided a break from Jane’s sometimes complex daily happenings.
I gave this four stars and have few reservations in recommending it.
“The story we are told of women is not this one.”Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies has been on my radar for quite some time. Over a year ago, I picked it up and read the first thirty pages (but that was as far as it went). I didn’t have any specific books I felt like jumping into after The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, so I asked my husband to grab a book off the shelf, and this is the one he chose.
It took me quite a while to get through it. I don’t know why. It’s not a particularly long book, but it does move a bit slowly. That isn’t a complaint or criticism, because I think it actually suits the story.
Lotto and Mathilde (the main characters, lovers/husband and wife/living legends among their friends) are both incredibly memorable characters. The first half of the story is written from the perspective of Lotto– an heir who spent his adolescence and (very) young adulthood as a playboy until falling for Mathilde and, in a frenzy, marrying her. Lotto is considered to be a genius by most, including Mathilde, but no one knows the extent to which Mathilde creates that image of genius. He is virtually helpless, having spent his entire life cared for and catered to in his priviledge.
Mathilde, whose perspective occupies the second half of the novel, is infinitely more interesting. In my humble opinion, of course. She’s a fighter and a survivor, and she commits her life to maintaining the image of Lotto.
It’s a book about marriage, about the love and the misunderstandings and the sacrifices. It’s good, but it’s very literary. So be on the lookout for that if you aren’t someone who appreciates a book that feels…important. Also, the characters aren’t likable, which has never bothered me. But it does some people!
“Life up here may be simple but it’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. Water runs out; pipes freeze; engines won’t start; it’s dark for eighteen, nineteen hours a day, for months. Even longer in the far north. Up here it’s about having enough food to eat, and enough heat to stay alive through the winter. It’s about survival, and enjoying the company of the people that surround us. It’s not about whose house is the biggest, or who has the nicest clothes, or the most money. We support each other because we’re all in this together.”The Simple Wild, K.A. Tucker
PEOPLE LOVE THIS BOOK. As soon as I shared that I was reading it on Instagram, people lost their minds raving and recommending it. And all that only after I had posted a few book stacks in which people recognized the spine and encouraged me to read it soon.
I’m not often/always a fan of romance. I love Outlander, but who doesn’t? My reading tastes often lean a bit more toward the historical or the literary; it’s more rare that I pick up a book clearly in the Romance genre.
I liked this a lot, but I didn’t LOVE it. It was good! It reminded me of being in Alaska a few years ago and how much I loved the way it felt separated from the rest of the world. It reminded me how things felt there on our brief week-long visit, and I did feel nostalgic. I fell in love with Jonah (love interest) and Wren (long-lost father), but I didn’t love Calla (the main character). Maybe that’s why it didn’t have the emotional pull for me, I didn’t find Calla terribly relatable or complex– sorry. Still, the plot was sweet and the story was good! It has a great sense of setting, and you care about what happens to these people. I’d recommend it!
LET’S GO. I’m ready to briefly rant and rave, so buckle your seatbelts and settle in. Yes, okay.
If you haven’t heard of The Popcast with Knox and Jamie, YOU SHOULD HAVE BY NOW. I’m sorry for the capital letters, but I feel that strongly. I don’t say this lightly: it’s my favorite podcast of all the podcasts I listen to. I don’t even think you have to love pop culture to love them– they are so charmingly conversational and relatable, and I really love having the podcast going in the background of anything I do during the day. Go for a walk? I’m listening to The Popcast. Doing dishes? I’m listening to The Popcast. Playing Little People with my son on the floor? Listening to The Popcast.
Okay, so. In all his benevolent goodness, Knox McCoy offered some amazing additives if you preordered his book, such as the ebook at time of preorder, some chapters on audio, and bonus interviews and other content.
It’s so good.
Here’s a little bit of where I’m coming from: Knox McCoy and I are basically personality twins. He has no knowledge of me, but I’ve called him that on social media frequently enough that he’s probably tired of seeing it, but it’s true. He is also an Enneagram 5 (except that he has a 4-wing, and I have a 6-wing), and when I hear things from his perspective, it’s literally like they are coming from my own brain. Like McCoy, I also grew up in an evangelical Christian community and struggled to figure out what my faith looked like outside of that specific faith setting.
So, when I read a book about reconsiderations and how thoughts and opinions have changed over time, I love that. It feels like my own narrative! A story of my own life!
One of my very favorite things about this book is that he is able to seamlessly incorporate fun, pop culture-adjacent content along with serious things, like family and faith. Much of it discusses how Knox had to reconsider his faith and what his relationship and belief in God looked like when he reconsidered it outside of his upbringing. It’s really, really good. I’m not kidding!
If you’re an audiobook user, I think this is a no-brainer. While I myself read this as an ebook, I think that the audiobook will be phenomenal when it releases later THIS WEEK.
“‘It’s like you’re Hansel and Gretel. You just keep walking through the dark woods holding hands no matter how old you get. Do you ever get tired of reminiscing?'”The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
My friends– there are not enough books out there about brothers and sisters.
I now have many siblings, five of which are step-siblings that I inherited when my parents remarried after I was in college. I have one younger brother who went through it all with me, my whole entire life, and he is my first friend. We are really close because it was just the two of us all those years, and I rarely see that relationship reflected in literature. Thank you, Ann Patchett.
I felt such a strong affinity with Maeve; her protectiveness over her brother is something I have felt much of my life. He is my friend, of course, but my mom often accused me of trying to “mother” him because I wanted to make sure he was always taken care of. The loyalty between Maeve and Danny was something I understood and felt deeply.
Beside my personal connection to the characters, it’s simply a great novel. We know that Ann Patchett is a fantastic author; I read Commonwealth two years ago, and loved it. I personally felt this one was even better.
You should know, though, that it isn’t necessary plot-driven. The richness is in the characters and the setting (I mean, the setting practically is a character), and it moves slowly but so beautifully. I felt things so strongly while reading, and…
I cried. I don’t do that.
So there you go, five stars, read it, the end.
Hymns for a Mother’s Heart
This is a devotional from The Daily Grace, Co. that I have been working on for a few months.
A few things from the get-go: you probably have to be a mama to read this book, because it’s very strategically created and written for mothers. Each entry includes a hymn at the beginning, followed by a one-page to one-and-a-half page devotional, which is then followed by two prayer sections and one note section.*
*I know that was a run-on sentence. PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE.
I thought this was a great devotional for mothers, particularly because I love hymns and I love poetry (songs read a lot like poetry, in my opinion). They are not long entries, and they are compellingly relatable. It’s a short devotional, under 90 pages, but I am not the greatest at reading devotionals daily. So, you know, it took me longer than it needed to.
It’s aesthetically delightful, and you should definitely look at their website and Bible studies because they are all quite beautiful.
“If the people who were supposed to protect you played so fast and loose with your life . . . then how did you survive? Not by trusting them, that was for sure. And if you couldn’t trust them, who could you trust? All bets were off.”The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins
Let me take a quick second to say that I loved The Hunger Games trilogy when it first came out (I even reread it; I’ve made very apparent that I don’t do that often), so I was super embarrassed when this book came out and exploded all over Instagram before I even knew it was a thing. Literally didn’t even know it was happening!! That’s all, I was embarrassed, the end.
It couldn’t have been better timing, either, because my husband and I had just finished re-watching the movies and I’d been heavily considering a rerun when this was published last month.
So, of course, I bought it basically immediately. Because it took me by surprise, I had virtually no expectations for the book, other than to say that I am always wary of prequels/sequels that come out much later than the original series for a variety of reasons that don’t need to be recorded here.
Quick synopsis: this prequel follows Coriolanus Snow as he receives a mentorship for the 10th Annual Hunger Games of Panem. The Snow family legacy is in dire straights, as they’ve expended their riches; Coriolanus is the only hope for the family, and he hopes to achieve prestige through his showing as a mentor in the arena. He receives his assignment: he will be the mentor for Lucy Gray, a colorful girl from District 12. What follows could only be described as complicated as Coriolanus wrestles with the ideas of tradition, love, and control.
So…I really liked this book. It was different because of the perspective (I mean, it’s flipped the perspective from a District 12 tribute seeing the Capitol and horror of the Hunger Games to that of a Capitol student seeing a tribute from District 12 enter the arena and potentially bolster his own reputation) and because it informs much of what became the Hunger Games as we know it. The victor treatment and the actual execution of the games in the original trilogy is very different than it appears here. I don’t want to give anything away, but I do think it’s a fun read for anyone who liked Suzanne Collins’s original series.
“’Once upon a time,’ he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.”The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
HOW HAVE I NEVER READ THIS BOOK?!
It was published in 2003, which would mean I was in third grade. I don’t know how I missed this.
It’s such an adorable, darling little book about a mouse (a tiny mouse with huge ears) who must be brave as he seeks to save his love: a princess. It’s so, so cute and totally uplifting and the perfect children’s chapter book to read in the middle of national chaos and a pandemic.
The structure and method of storytelling was also interesting for a middle grade novel; I generally find those to be pretty traditional in terms of narrative, but this one jumped from one character to the next in a way that made each one lovable and relatable. Of course, we had one true hero (I’ll let you guess just who that is), but the rest of the characters were memorable and charming in their own ways. If you’re an adult, it’ll probably take less than 2 hours for you to read it. It would also be a perfect book to read out loud or with your kiddos!
“What I mean to say is, we had been considerable. Had been loved. Not lonely, not lost, not freakish, but wise, each in his or her own way. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand; lowered their faces to tabletops, making animal noises. We had been loved, I say, and remembering us, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.”Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
This is going to be difficult to talk about not because it was terribly emotional for me (it wasn’t) but because I found it confusing. It takes quite a bit of vulnerability for me to admit when I don’t understand something, so there you go.
I should also say that I chose to read this as an audiobook after seeing it featured on many of the best audiobook lists. I genuinely think that’s the reason this one was so confusing for me to read because I listened in bits, then had to find the motivation to listen to this instead of listening to things I wanted to hear more (like podcasts). It took over a month to listen to, and it’s only 7 hours long.
This book is written in a very unique manner. It mixes historical excerpts with almost-theatric dialogue. There are SO. MANY. CHARACTERS. and the vocal performance on the audio is fantastic (how can it not be, with the voices of Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Ben Stiller and others on the cast list?) but I had a hard time marrying the cast of passed-on souls with the story of Lincoln mourning his son. There’s just a lot going on here.
I can’t say that I liked it, but I also felt like the actual text DESERVED at least three stars because I appreciate and respect the structure. In the future, I may return to this as a traditional book.
YOU KNOW that Jenny Colgan is very close to my literary heart. She was the first author in the Romantic Comedy/Contemporary Romance genre that I genuinely fell in love with (read Little Beach Street Bakery; you’ll love her, too), and I have made it a personal goal to read her entire backlog because her books just make me happy.
I returned to my Thriftbooks addiction at the beginning of quarantine in March and picked up a few different older Jenny Colgan books, this one included. You MUST read the Author’s Note at the start of the book; it is really funny, I thought, and it also includes Colgan’s recognition of the fact that many elements of this book are simply outdated. That’s definitely true. It was written in a time pre-computers (for the most part), and the characters aren’t even that familiar with cell phones. There are a few problematic bits in regards to sexuality and body-shaming, and while that’s not acceptable, I do tend to expect that from texts written more than 20 years ago. I’m not excusing it, but I do think it merits a warning before you start reading.
Because I still enjoyed reading the book itself (Holly was a bit of an annoying character, but she was definitely memorable and a bit more carefree and reckless than other characters I’ve seen in Colgan’s work), I gave it three stars. It was a very quick read, as well.
G’bye, May. Let’s do this summer thing.
GOODREADS 2020 CHALLENGE UPDATE AND CLOSING REMARKS
According to my Goodreads update, I’m four books ahead of schedule!
I mean, WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?!
I’m really proud of that progress considering I spent the majority of this month trying to catch up to my goals. It was a good month. I’m currently sitting at 40 books for 2020.
Until next time, happy reading!