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.
For over a year, I’ve shared a list of my recent reads on my blog every month. And every time, it’s been incomplete.
Every month, I read several advance review copies (ARC) sent to me by publishers and authors so I can review the book ahead of its release date.
However, I’ve never included these ARCs in my monthly reading lists until now.
So for the first time, take a complete look at every book I’ve read so far in May 2021.
May Reading List
Ashley C. Ford
A coming-of-age memoir about growing up a Black girl with an incarcerated father and the path to truly understand and overcome our origins. While Ashley idolized her father she barely knew, her life was shaped by her mother and grandmother. As she ages, she eventually learns why her father is in prison and must reconcile her own identity with her family’s past.
Although the book is marketed as Ford’s relation with her father, it’s really about her relationship with her quick-tempered and emotionally detached mother. Ford is an excellent writer and she does an excellent job convey the emotions and thoughts that influenced her decisions. However, I would have loved for her to consider why her mother and grandmother made the decisions they made.
For me, Somebody’s Daughter was just shy of being phenomenal. The pacing was a bit off: Ford delves so much on her experiences as a very young child, then rushes through her college years. Similarly, Ford fails to ponder how her experiences connected to what other women and girls, especially Black girls, face. In all, Somebody’s Daughter is an interesting memoir without a memorable message.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
When her niece’s roommate is gruesomely murdered, Mariana, a therapist still grieving her husband’s tragic death, returns to Cambridge University, her alma mater, to investigate. Quickly, she suspects Edward Fosca, the charismatic professor of Greek tragedy and leader of a secret society of female students called The Maidens. With a convoluted plot that has gaping holes and contrived characters, The Maidens strained to keep even a semblance of realisticness. If you loved The Silent Patient, you can try this one, just don’t get your hopes up too high.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celadon Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Even though her husband Hayden helps out, successful lawyer Nora Spangler feels likes she carries an unfair share of the domestic burden. When they consider moving into an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora finds a group of high-powered women with extremely supportive husbands. While helping with a resident’s wrongful death case, she learns how far these women are willing to go to get some help at home.
Chandler Baker’s “Stepford Husbands” thriller just missed the mark for me. Although the premise is spectacular, the execution is lacking. The slow burn mystery developed too slowly, without much action and too much predictability. Moreover, Nora’s husband Hayden was underdeveloped, which fails to give you a strong counterpoint to Nora’s side of the story. Despite the poor delivery, Baker’s message of gender inequality comes through strongly, making you stop and think about the dynamics of modern marriages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Just in time for summer comes a touching novel perfect for fans of Five Feet Apart or A Man Called Ove. When Lenni, a dying 17-year-old girl, meets Margot, an 83-year-old woman awaiting heart surgery, at the art room of a Glasgow hospital, an unlikely friendship blooms. Together, they decide to make 100 paintings to celebrate the 100 years they have lived between them. Cronin’s debut novel is heartwarming and sweet, playing on your emotions as it weaves between grief and joy, loss and love, and all the things that make up a life.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harper. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes a World War II novel about a young couple caught between two warring armies. Emil and Adeline Martel come from a long line of Ukrainian farmers of German heritage. In March 1944, as the Soviet army marches on Ukraine, they must decide whether they want to again live under Stalin’s regime or retreat with the hated Nazi army.
The Last Green Valley is based on a true story, which makes it an inspiring tale but doesn’t offer the nail-biting action a truly fictional story might. The slower pace and heavy-handed focus on Emil’s religious transformation made chunks of the story drag. Yet, I was fascinated reading about the harsh realities of living in Eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th century. I don’t foresee The Last Green Valley ever becoming a bestseller, but it’s a story worth telling and will do well with those who love World War II historical fiction.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing and through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
When Minnie meets Quinn at a New Year’s Eve party, it’s clear they have nothing in common except being born at the same time in the same hospital. Quinn is a privileged party boy who has been handed everything in life while Minnie is a hard worker struggling with the realities of life. As they keep encountering each other over the next year, they realize maybe their differences make them fit together better.
Although I don’t read romance often, the “random meetings over time” trope gets me every time. This Time Next Year had everything I like in a romance: it’s a cute love story without any steamy scenes. The characters struggle with their prejudices and finding their identities independent of a partner. A light read that would be perfect if you are in the mood for some holiday fluff.
At first, no one gives a second thought about the death of ninety-year-old Peggy Smith. Until her bookshelves are found filled with crime thrillers all dedicated to Peggy. When a gunman breaks into the flat to steal a book and an author is murdered, Peggy’s friends team up with Detective Kaur to investigate.
Although the second book in a series, I read it as a standalone and didn’t feel the least bit lost. However, The Postscript Murders is about the kind of book you’d expect from its hideous cover – a cheesy cozy mystery about armchair detectives with little to no character development and a mystery that didn’t make complete sense.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
I am a sucker for any and all business and productivity books, so I was intrigued by Joe Sanok’s promise to help you create the schedule you want. Constant hustling will just lead to burnout, and Sanok is dead on that you need to combine rest and slow down with focused sprints to be your most productive and happier.
Unfortunately, Sanok is a terrible storyteller, miserably failing to connect his personal anecdotes into larger concepts and completely lacking in transitions between anything – topics, chapters, even paragraphs. The occasional pieces of decent advice are obscured by boring scientific statements, pointless tangents, and cliché personality tests. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins Leadership through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
When you think of castes, India’s strict caste system likely comes to mind. In Caste, Wilkerson argues that America has its own hidden caste system, a hierarchy that has influenced the United States both historically and currently. On top of race and class, Wilkerson points out that our understanding of caste systems must also change if we are to better ourselves as a nation.
I’m not at all surprised Caste has spent almost a year on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Wilkerson does an excellent job methodically breaking down how caste systems work and why the United States perfectly fits the criteria. Comparing and contrasting the US to India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson will give you plenty to think about in her eye-opening book.
D. Eric Maikranz
Serial arsonist Evan Michaels’s life changes when he stumbles into a church while evading the police. There he meets Poppy who is just like him: they are both reincarnationists. They can perfectly remember their past lives. Soon Evan is introduced into the secret society of reincarnationists and must pass a test to join their ranks.
The Reincarnationist Papers is being adapted into the sci-fi thriller Infinite on Paramount+ this summer, so I was excited to snag a copy. The Reincarnationist Papers is dreadfully boring. Almost nothing happens in the entire book. Maikranz spends his time discussing the past lives of the reincarnationists and how their ability affects their philosophy life (most opt for lots of sex and drugs). I hope the movie will take the interesting premise and change everything else from the book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blackstone Publishing. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
What does it take for an underdog to win? Malcolm Gladwell examines situations in which weaknesses are actually strengths and how are perceptions influence how we think of success. Gladwell is always an author that makes you think, and David and Goliath is no exception. I don’t think I’ll ever think about affirmative action, the Civil Rights movement, or class size the same way again. Despite its exceptional writing, the book was nearly as tightly woven as I’ve come to expect from Gladwell’s bestsellers.
After a recent breakup, Jules Larsen accepts a house-sitting job at an exclusive Manhattan building, the Bartholomew. Her conditions: she can’t have visitors, must stay at the apartment every night, and must leave the neighbors alone. When another house sitter disappears, Jules begins to wonder if the ghost stories about the Bartholomew are true and if she might be next. Although it had a good twist, Lock Every Door developed too slowly for my taste and I struggled to engage with the characters. In all, it was a middle-of-the-road thriller that doesn’t stand up to his latest books.
Largely forgotten and believed to be a work of fiction, historians in the 1980s finally proved that Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was Harriett Jacobs’s memoir of her life as a slave. Told in a brilliantly clear and compelling narrative, Jacob shines the light on the hypocrisy and sexual abuse inherent in master-slave relationships. Eventually, Jacobs escapes, living in hiding in an attic for seven years before moving to the North. Written as a plea to Northern women against the ills of slavery, Jacobs’s memoir is fascinating and a must-read classic.