Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
Since things are opening back up again in Utah, you’d think that my reading numbers would have slowed down, but you’d be wrong.
Although I’ve been able to go out more, I’m still keeping the kids at home as much as possible. Which means plenty of time around the house for me to read.
May has been an interesting reading month for me. I was able to fit in a few new 2020 releases, with mixed results.
After that, I went a bit crazy on the nonfiction front – picking up all the self-improvement, business, and parenting books I could find.
To top it off, I finally embraced the DNF and gave up on several books. Usually, I feel an intense need to finish every book I start, but my relaxed stance in May allowed me to not waste time on some less-than-stellar reads.
May Reading List
Book About a Controversial Topic – In Mexico, bookstore owner Lydia is charmed to meet Javier, a man who shares her taste in books, only to find he is the local drug lord. When her husband exposes Javier’s secrets, the wrath of the cartel falls upon her family. Lydia and her son Luca must flee from his wrath – all the way to American soil.With all the controversy surrounding this book, I was curious to see how I felt. Right away, Cummins captures your attention with a gripping tale of Lydia fleeing for her life. From start to finish, I found the story mesmerizing, as Lydia and her son become migrants, attempting to reach refuge in America.
In all, I found nothing wrong with the book, though it is nowhere near “The Grapes of Wrath of our time.” The real controversy lies in the publishing industry itself. The lack of diversity makes it hard for “own voices” stories to be heard. This leads to very valid concerns about the industry only wanting “trauma porn.” The terrible marketing job for this book didn’t help at all.
Happy & You Know It
To make ends meet, Claire accepts a job as a playgroup musician for wealthy New York City moms. As she gets to know her employers – Whitney the up-and-coming social media influencer, Amara the new stay-at-home mom, and Gwen the old-money experienced mom – Claire learns these picture-perfect moms are far from perfect and loves them more for it.I had mixed feelings about my May Book of the Month selection. I loved that each of the mothers struggled with motherhood in the same ways I do. However, I also hated each and every one of the characters at times for being such idiots. While I enjoyed reading it, nothing about the story really stood out to me, and I’ll easily forget I ever read it.
A Long Petal of the Sea
Tile With Five Or More Words – Fleeing the Spanish Civil War, Victor Dalmau marries his brother’s widow Roser out of necessity. Starting over in Chile, Roser and Victor find a way to make work a marriage neither one wanted. Although I loved how much history I learned from this multi-generational family drama, the narrative felt too emotionless and didn’t produce any connection with me. The slow plot made this a struggle for me to finish.
Party of Two
Newly arrived in LA, lawyer Olivia seems to have found the perfect man, until she realizes he’s a US Senator. Although they have a wonderful time dating in secret, can they survive the media scrutiny after they take their relationship public? In Party of Two, Guillory had plenty of opportunities to take the plot deeper but decided to stick with surface-level problems instead. If you are looking for a bubblegum story with some steam, you’ll be fine with this book. However, if you want some substance, then I’d skip this one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Berkley through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
One Day in December
It’s love at first sight for Laurie when she sees a man at a bus stop one snowy day in December. Having missed their chance, Laurie searches for him for a year before finally meeting him – as her best friend’s new boyfriend. After loving The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, Josie Silver has become one of my new favorite authors. Her novels give you a nuanced approach to how complicated love is for realistically flawed people. I devoured this story in a day, and I can’t wait to see what Silver writes next.
Self-Improvement Book – Can you have it all? Laura Vanderkam thinks you can, as long as you plan for it. Vanderkam’s productivity book has you break down your week into its 168 hours, and show you how to make the most of them. With plenty of statistics to test your assumptions about how we actually spend our time, Vanderkam will convince you that you have more time than you realize. A great read for all, but especially helpful for women trying to balance career and family.
Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire
Popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker has a new motivational book out aimed at helping women to stop people-pleasing and instead become unabashedly who they want to be. Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire was a mixed bag for me. The underlying Christian drama (Hatmaker’s support for the LBGTQ+ community) will likely make this quite controversial in conservative Christian circles. For me, it was just annoying. Although I was disappointed it wasn’t as funny as Of Mess and Moxie, I loved some sections of the book. She hit the nail exactly on the head when talking about body image and choosing our dreams.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Did you know you carry around a slot machine in your pocket? Cal Newport explains why we are so addicted to our phones and how these master distractors are affecting our lives. Newport urges a 30 day digital declutter, a break up with your smartphone so that you can realize how much it is controlling you. I found Newport’s plan a bit on the extreme end, though it’s likely rather effective. Instead, I think I’m going to ease into digital minimalism with Catherine Price’s How to Break Up with Your Phone, which covers the same topic but in a much more down-to-earth fashion.
How to Break Up With Your PHone
It’s the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch at night before falling asleep. The smartphone has become a ubiquitous part of our modern lives, and maybe it’s time for that to change. Cathrine Price has a realistic 30-day plan to help you break up with your phone. More relatable than Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, Price eases you into your phone breakup by helping you slowly use mindfulness and planning to your advantage. Special thanks to Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner for recommending this one to me.
Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come
Clever Title – Realizing that her extreme shyness and social anxiety were limiting her, Jessica Pan set out to tackle her nightmare scenarios: talking to strangers, traveling solo, and doing stand-up comedy. As an introvert myself, I related heavily to her social anxiety. While I’m not quite as shy as Pan, I do struggle talking with strangers or even replying to emails and texts. This memoir started strong with a hilarious story about the Queen but then quickly fizzled out to an okay read.
I love hearing about people’s crazy experiments, and Jen Hatmaker has a doozy. Realizing how “rich” she is compared to most of the world, she chose to go to extreme minimalism in 7 categories. She only ate 7 foods, wore 7 pieces of clothing, shopped at 7 stores. Of all her books I’ve read, this one was by far the preachiest of them (she is a preacher after all), heavily discussing her views on religion and social and economic issues.I listened to the audiobook and was immediately disappointed to find that it was not narrated by Hatmaker. Her fun interjections and tone was lost when narrated by someone else. In all, I would have preferred a physical copy. Then I could have skimmed the more self-righteous sections.
Do It Scared
DNF – Riding the popularity wave of personality types, Ruth Soukup expounds on fear archetypes – the ways that we process and handle our fears. To start the book, Soukup encourages you to do a free fear assessment on her website. I took the quick and easy assessment, curious to see my results. Only to find that an email address was required! That was limit. I’m so tired of books that are just pushing you to subscribe to their email list. Nope. Not going to happen. I already bought the book (or borrowed it from the library). Just give me my results!! After that, I ended up skimming the rest of the book and was not impressed with what I saw.
Thinking Like a Boss
DNF – For women wanting to start or expand a business, Kate Crocco teaches women how to let go of their limiting beliefs and reach their true potential. Recently, I can’t seem to get enough of business, productivity, and mompreneur books. Going in, I was expecting something like Girl, Wash Your Face, and instead got You Are a Badass. I’ve come to realize that I absolutely hate mindset books. Just think it and it will come true is not a philosophy I stand by. With no relatable personal stories, I felt like Crocco was lecturing at me instead of inspiring me.
The Collected Stories
Arthur C. Clarke
DNF – My dad lent me this collection of short stories by acclaimed science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. However, I only managed to get through about 150 pages before I gave it up. Not because I didn’t enjoy it. Clarke is a brilliant writer which is apparent in his short stories. I just have so many other things to do and read, that I wasn’t in the mood to read his entire collection. Before returning it, I did do a quick reread of “The Nine Billion Names of God,” one of the best science fiction short stories ever written.
One of the best perks of being a book blogger is receiving advance review copies (ARCs) of upcoming book releases from publishers.
At the beginning of each month, I cover all the new book releases coming out, and the June 2020 book releases are right around the corner. Here’s a peek at the June releases I’ve already read.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back in April to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in May?
What books did you love this month? Which books did you hate? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book Lists to Enjoy:
Terra W says
May for me….
– 18. New York Times #1 Best Seller – “The Ocean at the End of the lane” by Neil Gaiman
– 19. Based on a True Story – “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
– 20. Genre You Don’t Usually Read – (Dystopian) – “VOX” by Christina Dalcher
– 21. About a War – “Schindler’s List” by Thomas Keneally
– 22. Bottom of Your To-Read LIst – “We Need to talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver
Oh my word. All of these books I’ve either read or want to read! I just realized I’ve never mentioned Schindler’s List on my blog. That will have to change. It’s such an amazing story.
Terra W says
my sister in law was getting rid of books years ago… So I was happy to snag it! yet… it’s been sitting on the book shelf this whole time! Happy to have a theme to sneak it in this year! 😀
It’s been a busy May!
30. The Remains of the Day—incredible writing, but very stream of consciousness. I admit to skimming!
31. The Memory Police—dystopian and weird.
32. Daisy Jones & The Six—Thanks for your recommendation! Loved it.
33. The Book Thief—took me a minute to get into it, but then it grabbed me. Tissues needed.
34. The Sun Down Motel—what a ride! Great story-telling. Couldn’t put it down.
35. The Giver of Stars—could have been a little shorter with some tighter editing, but great story, and wrapped up with a happy ending bow.
36. Good Girl, Bad Girl—sucked me right in, and I can’t wait for the sequel!
Started A Little Life but got bogged down in the philosophy and detailed history of the four characters (not sure yet if it’ll be a DNF), and so started The Broken Girls, looking for something a little faster paced. After reading The Sun Down Motel, I’d expect nothing less!
Hi Rachael! My May books were:
-“Where the Forest Meets the Stars” by Wendy Vanderah
-“The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black
-“The Overdue Life of Amy Byler” by Kelly Harms (my favorite of the month!)
-“Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls” by T Kira Madden
-“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
-“Flights” by Olga Tokarczuk
Happy reading to you!