While last month, my desire to read came in peaks and troughs, in May I found my rhythm and alternated between multiple books at once. I used to be a strict one-book-at-a-time reader, but lately, I feel like I’m getting through my TBR faster as I pick and choose according to my mood. One day, I fancy a short light-hearted read, another a dense historical fiction to truly get lost in. Overall, I enjoyed 11 books and discovered a few new favourites along the way. So, without further ado, here are my bite-sized thoughts on the books I read in May.
*The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
This book was so much fun! ‘The Bromance Book Club’ is exactly the kind of heart-warming content I needed after a succession of melancholic, gloomy reads during the latter half of April. It was fast-paced and engaging from the outset, and I flew through it in just a few hours. Gavin’s quest to salvage his marriage sees him receive an induction into a book club full of guys trying to learn something from romance novels. Too often, romance novels are disregarded and looked down upon as trivial. Yet, in this book alone, they lead to discussions of toxic masculinity and how it is important for men, as well as women, to open up. Yes, the ending is predictable, but it by no means detracts from the enjoyment of the book. This was pure entertainment, and I look forward to reading the sequel!
*The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
‘The Dutch House’ is a slow burn, yet incredibly immersive. Patchett spins a true family epic that digs realistically into false memories, what it’s like to look back on places and people as an adult; a meditation on growing up, forgiveness, and mistakes. A spellbinding book with subtle mystery that anyone who loves family sagas will enjoy. You can read my full review for The Dutch House here!
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
‘The Martian Chronicles’ is a chronological set of short stories tied around the theme of Earth’s colonization of Mars, but it is really about the human condition. Bradbury delivers a sharp slap to the face of racial prejudice, aggressive colonisation, disregard of the environment, and the faults and failures of humanity as a whole. He would no doubt be shocked to see the same conditions existing in the 21st century. Perhaps more shocked that we are yet to send any humans to Mars.
While I enjoyed Bradbury’s lyrical, satirical, and witty prose, for a short story collection, it felt so long. I found the first few stories featuring the Martians enjoyable and intriguing. However, once the Martians went offstage and an endless series of characters from 1950s America replaced them, my interest died more quickly than the Martians themselves. Nevertheless, he is an excellent storyteller, and think I would enjoy his longer works of fiction!
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
In the final book of the Winternight Trilogy, the courageous young Vasila Petrova traverses the convoluted world of court politics and religion as she fights for her place in the patriarchal world. Arden masterfully blends history and myth as she takes us to the historic Battle of Kulikovo in 1930 between the Rus and the Tatars, marking the spiritual birth of the nation of Russia. Meanwhile, she plays with fairy tales and folklore, walking the line between whimsical and dark.
For me, ‘The Winter of the Witch’ is the best book of the trilogy. Much like the Harry Potter series, Arden goes from introducing us to a magical land emanating warmth and rich history to a dark, brutal, and fantastical finale brimming with terrifying demons and haunting imagery. I loved following Vasya’s journey from a curious child to a brave, stubborn, fearless woman as she gradually realises the full potential of her powers.
I’ve not loved a book series this much in a long time. ‘The Winter of the Witch’ left me utterly speechless. It’s bittersweet to finish this trilogy, for I would rather it never ever, but what a beautiful ending Katherine has given us.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabreil Garcíá Márquez
‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is unlike anything I have ever read. Set in the fictitious town of Macondo, this is a sweeping multi-generational saga that follows the Buendía family whose essence was the heart of the village from its formation to its fateful end. In this novel, García Márquez intertwines a meditation on the history of an independent Colombia, merging several hundred years of events into an allegorical description of the evolution of Macondo.
‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is the hallmark of magical realism. García Márquez keeps the narrative realistic while also having characters or events break the physical rules of our actual universe. The supernatural and the surreal suffuse each page, bestowing a mythical dimension upon the most prosaic of encounters. While beguiling occurrences captivate the reader’s imagination, the characters react to them as though nothing were out of the ordinary. As García Márquez puts it, this literature turns reality upside down and shows us what hides beneath.
This is a book that demands a second reading, so packed with intricate details, allusions, and historical references. As Harold Bloom put it, “every page is rammed full of life beyond the capacity of any single reader to absorb… There are no wasted sentences, no mere transitions, in this novel, and you must notice everything at the moment you read it.”
‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is a book of magic, love, death, revolution, futility, sadness, and one that I will never forget.
*The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Nora Seed has hit an all-time low. After losing her cat, her job, and is full of regret, she takes her own life. However, she suddenly finds herself in the Midnight Library – a point between life and death – and learns that she has an opportunity to live as if she had done things differently. She had felt like she had let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.
Dune by Frank Herbert
I always make the same mistake with audiobooks: listening to something other than non-fiction or Stephen Fry’s narration of Harry Potter will never go down well.
I understand why ‘Dune’ is deemed a classic. It laid down the building blocks of science fiction, creating a vast and complex system of spatial politics and civilisations. Indeed, it is a masterpiece of world-building. However, be it down to the narration or the prose itself, I simply didn’t enjoy it. I found the plot to drag, struggled to connect with the characters, and that final paragraph? I have so many problems with that section alone. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued to see the upcoming film adaptation (with Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides!).
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Chilling, clever, and unpredictable, this is the darkest story of ambition I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Maurice Swift is a charming, handsome young man who will stop at literally nothing to make his way to the top. Across multiple decades, changing continents, and shifting perspectives, the novel gradually exposes the true nature of this master of manipulation. Maurice’s insatiable hunger for fame and fortune leads to destroyed reputations, ruined lives, and devastating secrets to be revealed. Through smart, darkly humorous dialogue and prose, Boyne has masterfully crafted an unforgettable character who made for an immensely unsettling but compelling novel.
In university, plagiarism is painted as the sin above all sins, something to avoid at all costs. Since then, I double-checked my work ten times over, and even after submitting my essay, paranoia would eat away at me. ‘A Ladder to the Sky’ made me feel just as paranoid.’ Boyne’s ability to make me feel at once uncomfortable but completely gripped validates his sheer talent for storytelling.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)
‘Convenience Store Woman’ is a quick, quirky, and satirical story about one woman’s life working at a convenience store. Keiko takes the job while at university in an attempt to calm her parents’ worries and fit in with the world around her. However, 18 years later, she is still there. She is deemed as a misfit and socially inept, but Keiko, meanwhile, is perfectly content and relishes the job’s routine. The convenience store has become her life, to the point that she mimics the mannerisms of her co-workers to appear ‘normal’ and the sounds of the workplace infiltrate her dreams.
I’ve noticed many people draw comparisons between Keiko and Eleanor Oliphant. Yet, while I could connect with Eleanor, Keiko simply felt distant and detached. Nevertheless, packed into this short book is a powerful social commentary on conformist culture and captures Japanese society’s strict gender norms.
*The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
With an endorsement from Bernardine Evaristo and a mention on the ultimate source of literary recommendations, The High Low podcast, it would have been wrong of me to not have read this.
Through masterful storytelling, ‘The Vanishing Half’ tells the story of twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white. This book captured me from the very beginning, and Bennett touches upon so many significant themes without ever being preachy. Read my full review for ‘The Vanishing Half’ here.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
If I’m honest, I found ‘Throne of Glass’, my first book by Sarah J. Maas, quite slow and I didn’t love it. But, Im still on board! More than anything, I’m disappointed in the lack of face time devoted to the tournament in which Calaena must fight the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land for her freedom. Also, there’s a lot of commentary around how ruthless an assassin Calaena is, however, we rarely see her do anything assassin related. Rather, repetitive descriptions of her beautiful dresses and appearance dominate the narrative alongside scenes of her flirting with the prince and her guard. It reminded me a lot of ‘Shadow & Bone’ in this sense: where is this badass assassin they keep mentioning?
Disappointment and familiar tropes aside, the story did pick up towards the end. I’ve heard this is the weakest book in the series, so I can see my ratings being higher as I go along. Plus, I did appreciate Celaene’s adoration of books, music, and porridge: she’s speaking my language there.
Have you read any of these books? What are you planning on reading in June?
Need more reading inspiration? Here are the books I read in April!
*Kindly sent for free via publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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