June 3, 2020

What I Read in May 2020

May was a big month of reading thanks to quarantine – as with April, I read 12 books this month! That puts me 4 books ahead of schedule on my goal of reading 100 books in 2020, which is the first time in several years I’ve been ahead of my goal. Now, the challenge will be to keep up this level of reading (which I truly love) even as I start socializing a bit more.

In spite of all those books, only one five-star book though!

5 stars:

Anna K: A Love Story, by Jenny Lee: Love love LOVED this modern teenage take on Anna Karenina! I was really impressed by how the author translated the classic book to a Gossip Girl-like setting, while keeping so much of the original story intact. This was a really interesting read and I would definitely recommend it!

4 stars:

Untamed, by Glennon Doyle: At first, I really hated the sanctimonious tone of Doyle’s writing. She seemed to always use more words than needed to describe something, and in a very impressed-with-herself way, which reminded me a lot of Brene Brown. But about midway through the book, though the tone didn’t change, I started really enjoying and respecting the messages in each vignette, particularly those around parenting. I’m a little torn on this one – sometime I hated it and didn’t know why I kept reading, and other times I found it beautiful. On the plus side, it’s a series of short essays that all stand alone, so you could certainly pick and choose certain ones to read and skip ahead if you didn’t like one in particular.

Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston: This had been recommended to me for a while, but I put it off because I didn’t think I’d be able to relate to a gay male rom com (being neither gay nor male). Dumb of me! Of course human feelings for each other are universal, and I loved the plot, which reminded me of American Royals (which I LOVED). My only complaint would be that the way the romance blossomed seemed a bit far fetched, and the ending was overidealized and saccharine. I’d still totally recommend it!

The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes: At first I didn’t love this book (the first third was a bit slow), but as it went on, I got more and more into it, and by the end I couldn’t put it down. It was hard for me to tell exactly what time period it was set in (I knew that the small town was more behind the times than a big city might be), but I loved reading at the end that the horseback librarians of Kentucky really existed and this was in part based on what they did!

The Accidental Empress, by Allison Pataki: I visited the Sisi Museum in Vienna last May, and have had this on my reading list ever since… but just finally got around to it. Although I had known Sisi’s life story from the museum, it focused more on her time as empress; this book was phenomenal at helping me understand what it was really like to become a queen and empathize with all that she went through. Although I was annoyed with Sisi at times for not standing up to Sophie, I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book that this was a product of the time and how much women were able to advocate for themselves. The main thing I didn’t like about this book was the intros to chapters, which foreshadowed her Hungarian coronation, which just didn’t fit at all; I ended up skimming over them. Outside of that, though, I really enjoyed the novel and have found myself thinking about it since! Looking forward to reading the sequel, Sisi, soon.

The Lost Husband, by Katherine Center: Another sweet rom com I read pretty quickly! I wanted something a bit lighter after Accidental Empress, and this definitely fit the bill. Although this wasn’t my favorite of Katherine Center’s books, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and highlighted a few insights along the way. I’m surprised to see that of all Katherine Center’s wonderful books, this is the one that’s being made into a movie?? However, now that I see it just came out a few weeks ago, I’ll probably try to watch it 🙂

The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory: After finishing The Lost Husband, I had originally planned to turn my attention to something harder hitting… but couldn’t resist another light read. I ended up staying up till midnight and finishing this in one night! Though I think that was less because this book was amazing, and more that I was in the mood for some levity. This was one of those Sophie Kinsella-like books where you have to ignore the fact that if the heroine just said what was on her mind / asked for help, the entire conflict would go away. It was still a cute read, but I was frustrated how juvenile the main premise was. I would still try another book by this author though!

3 stars:

Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth, by Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith, Ellen Van Oosten: Although there was a lot of content that was interesting and compelling (including some great visioning exercises), I found that it so seemed to target those who are professional business coaches that it was a turnoff to the other intended audiences. (My book club agreed with me on this.) Although the PEA / NEA acronyms were quite simple, for whatever reason, I had a lot of trouble remembering what they stood for / what they actually meant, and I had to keep flipping back – and again, the rest of my book club said the same! Something about the style in which this was written made it seem rather dry and repetitive rather than insightful.

Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano: I started this in February but accidentally didn’t finish before it was due back to the library! It was disappointing to have to read it in two chunks, but I mostly remembered and picked up where I left off. While the premise was fascinating, I was less impressed with the actual plot – it meandered quite a bit without being consistently compelling. I was not nearly as interested in the coming-of-age story as much as the aftermath of the plane crash and how it affected Edward and his family.

The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult: When asked about my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult is always my first pick. I have loved every single book she has ever published… unfortunately, until this one. I picked this up SO excitedly, but even 100 pages in, I just hadn’t connected with the characters or the story. The transitions between present day and flashbacks were jarring, and I found it very confusing to figure out where in time we were at any point. Meanwhile, other reviewers were spot on that a lot of the Egyptology read like a textbook. Normally, Picoult provides enough technical detail for context in the story and to help understand the characters’ perspectives; in this book, it felt like she blended a novel with a textbook. I thought she did a much better job providing us the right level of detail with the death doula work, and perhaps even with the quantum physics (though that too could have been a little lighter), but the Egyptology was far too detailed and really detracted from the story. This felt to me like a case of trying to cram too many subjects into one book, with the result that the reader couldn’t get invested in any of them fully. I eventually got more invested in the characters, but this was by no means a book I couldn’t put down (which is normally the case with Picoult’s books). I was also rather disappointed in the cliffhanger ending – I see what Picoult was trying to do (allow the reader to imagine for themselves what comes next), but it felt like a huge letdown to not find out what happened. To me, the whole story had been building to one obvious conclusion, but it was disappointing and unsatisfying to not see it actually wrapped up. Overall, this was decent, but nowhere near Picoult’s normally masterful storytelling that is informative and thought-provoking but also fascinating and compelling.

The Heir Affair, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I absolutely loved The Royal We, so I was really excited to get an advance copy of this sequel from NetGalley. Unfortunately, this fell terribly prey to the problem many sequels have: not giving enough backstory from the first book. There were so many oblique references to “what happened with Freddie”, but the authors didn’t bother to catch the reader up on what exactly they was – which I certainly expected given that this sequel wasn’t published until five years after the original. The Heir Affair picked up exactly where the Royal We left off, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember the nuances of what happened in the Royal We. So disappointing! It took me about half of this book to mostly figure it out, and it was only then that I started enjoying this novel. Three stars for taking so long to get into.

The Bride Test, by Helen Hoang: Read this in one night. It was really sweet, but the two main characters didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Esme, in particular, was written as much more stilted and awkward than she needed to be. While I understand she would have a cultural / language barrier, the chapters that were told from her perspective still didn’t make much sense to me.

Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.


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