May Reading Wrap-up

Thursday, June 01, 2017
I have had yet another amazing reading month! In May I've managed to read TWELVE books (I'm mostly done with the thirteenth book) and one audiobook (I'm working my way through my second very long audiobook). The books I read included two illustrated non-fiction, one short story collection and nine novels.

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson - ★★★☆☆, 3.5/5
I have wanted to read something by the much praised Jeanette Winterson for months and when I read the description of this book I knew I'd like it and so I bought it from World of Books which is amazing for very cheap books - until you get a book that is so dirty and ruined... The book follows a fictionalised version of the witch trials and superstition surround Pendle - aka. the Pendle witches which if you are from the UK you will probably have heard of this place as being psenunomous with witches and magic.

I've watched a couple of documentaries about the Pendle witches and the trials and some of this does follow what actually happened but it's mostly fiction. It follows the rural community and the Demdike/Device family during a time when King James 1st England is all about hunting witches and banishing demons from Great Britain.

The writing is just gorgeous, it's liken to a river composed of words although don't think it's all women being accused and being set free as the community has come to it's senses...no, it's very dark and does contain rape, child abuse, torture and alchemy, dark arts and magic potions. I read this book in one day as it was gripping and beautifully disturbing.

White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi - ★★★☆☆, 3/5
I adore the cover, it's just perfection and I know I should have waited until autumn and winter to come around again to read this but I didn't want to wait - I've been reading a lot of books that would be perfect for October recently! I've heard great things about this book and the author in general so I wanted to give it a go.

It follows Miranda/Mimi and her family as she struggles with a mental illness called Pica where she wants to eat items such as chalk which is something that has affected a lot of women in her family. She seems to become worse after the death of her mother in Haiti.

The main story follows the family, specifically Mimi in this aftermath of the mother dying, how to look after the B&B and the secrets in the family and with the house. I thought it would be similar to The Upstairs Room which I read last month and it is in the sense that the house holds onto people and there are secrets related to the house but the rest isn't similar at all. It's much more of a growing up, coming of age and family secrets focused story as well as being very disjointed - there aren't chapters, sometimes you don't know who's perspective you're reading from and the story doesn't seem grounded in a way. I think I'm an intelligent individual (I have a first class BSc hons degree, granted not in english literature or language) but to be honest, I think the underlying themes and imagery were lost on me and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

*What We See In The Stars by Kelsey Oseid - ★★★★☆, 4/5
I've been lucky enough to receive a few e-books from the unusual publisher, Ten Speed Press and this one is another that is beautifully published. I love anything to do with the moon or stars and the stunning illustrations of this book instantly drew me in - it would make a lovely little coffee table book or as a gift as aesthetically it's divine.

This short illustrated non-fiction book focuses on the main constellations and stars such as the zodiac signs and it explains a little history about them, for example, many of the stars names and origins are from greek mythology as well as arabic cultures, the latter point I didn't know. I do love the illustrations but I think they could have been a little more detailed to match the information and I think it would have been great to see some larger or full page illustrations as they are so gorgeous! I was a little disappointed as it seemed to have a few sentences that were just copied from previous sections over and over and it felt a little info dumpy to me whereas I think it could have been more engaging, fun and more interestingly presented than it was. However, I did love the later sections on the moon, space and the planets!

The Tent by Margaret Atwood - ★★★☆☆, 3/5
There are a few authors that I definitely want to read something from including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood, the latter I ticked off my list this month when I read her short story collection, The Tent. The cover is just stunning and it's a beautiful little hardback book.

Some of the stories are incredibly short and others are a little longer but all of them are quite obscure, unusual and...very different to everything else I've read. The writing is so easy to follow, it's a quick book to get through and my favourites stories include: Voice, Orphan Stories, Salome Was A Dancer, Our Cat Enters Heaven, Three Novels I Won't Write Soon, The Tent and my fave, Take Charge. It's not for everyone but I loved it on the whole. I wasn't as enamoured by this collection as I thought I would be but I want to read more of her work!
*The Good People by Hannah Kent - ★★★★☆, 4/5
Another e-book from Netgalley and I've wanted to start it for ages but it's a little longer than the other books I've been reading recently at 400 pages, whereas the other books so far in the month have been less than 300. I think this is her second novel, I have the first Burial Rites and now I need to read it ASAP!

The book is set in Ireland in the early 1800's within a small rural, poor community where tragedy and poverty seem to be just an established part of life but everyone gets by as they can and they have their kin and friends to rely on. It mainly follows the lives of Nora, Nance and Mary as well as Nora's grandson, Michael over what seems like a year or so throughout which there are numerous tragedies and hardships that they have to deal with. Each of the three women have problems of their own but they become intertwined as they try to cure Nora's grandson of this mysterious affiliation he seems to have which they think has been caused by fairies, the good people. In terms of the rural community setting and the fairies/folktales, it reminded me a little of The Hidden People which is a book I read last month.

I adored the writing, it's so atmospheric and bleak, you feel like you are there with the characters as they trudge through life wondering when it's going to get a little easier. There are some disturbing, heartbreaking and extremely bleak moments in this book around hardship, friends turning on each other, death and distrust in the small tightly knit community.

I finished the book in around three days as I didn't want to put it down, I wanted to know what happened to Michael and the other characters. It was unusual, sad and depressing quite frankly at times but there was still a little hope in various characters and in me, that there would be a happy ending and I think the ending was a happy as it could have been considering what happened in the book. Then at the end, you find out that all of the actual events where based on a completely true story...

*Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J. M Sullivan - ★★★☆☆, 3/5
I adore Alice in Wonderland, it was one of the favourite animated films growing up (I probably shouldn't admit this but I haven't read the original book...) so anything related to Alice in Wonderland and I'll want to check it out. This book seemed like an interesting take on Alice in Wonderland, or should I say Wanderland.

The book follows Alice and her sister as they struggle to survive in what seems like a dystopian America where a zombie virus/plague has swept the world and a cure if trying to be found - yes, it does sound incredibly cliche and nothing new.

The writing is incredibly easy and quick to follow, although I did find that Alice's dialogue was so cheesy and the relationship with the love interests, to me, was really corny and very typically YA which I'm not a fan of. However, leaving the corny relationships and cheesy dialogue aside, the world and the other darker characters was so interesting and engaging, especially related to the monsters and scientists involved. Yes, it's not the most original mashup and the twists were predictable but it was entertaining and I'd be interested to read the rest in the series. I think it would work amazingly well as a YA dystopian movie!

*Random Illustrated Facts by Mike Lowery - ★★★★☆, 4/5
This gorgeous little e-book is just what it says on the cover - a stunningly illustrated short non-fiction about a selection of categorised random facts including everything from animals...lots of animals, food, historical figures and many more. There were some facts that I knew and there were others that I had no idea about, for example, did you know that fish scales are added to some lipsticks to give a shimmer effect (I hope that isn't true for the lipsticks I own); also did you know that the front tiny pocket of jeans was originally used for pocket watches.

I love this little non-fiction book as it's so interesting and one of the most visually appealing books I've read this year (along with What We See In The Stars) - I'd definitely recommend it for yourself or as a quirky gift! It's not released yet, it will be available on the 31st October this year so there is a while to wait but the wait will be worth it.

*Hero Risen by Andy Livingstone - ★★★★☆, 4/5
I read the first two books in this series last year, I posted my reviews which you can check out (Hero Born/Hero Grown) and I loved them so I definitely wanted to read the third book as it was available on Netgalley this month. I can't say too much about this book as it's the third book and I'd hate to spoil it for those who haven't read the first two.

It follows Brann (no, not that one) and a group of friends who happen to be a gang of well meaning misfits, thieves, former slaves and fighters as they go on an adventure of revenge, I don't want to say anymore as you need to read the other two books! I love the writing style, it's so quick and easy to follow but also wonderfully descriptive and immersive to the point that I genuinely care about what happens to the main characters.

This book is a little more brutal that the other two and each book seems to have influences from various cultures. For example, the first seemed to be inspired by northern european and viking cultures, the second on roman and greek and this third book appears to take inspiration from south american and aztec cultures. I like the world, characters and the ending although I think my favourite book is definitely the first but I'd definitely recommend this action packed but endearing trilogy.
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett - ★★★★☆, 4/5
Last year I started reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series which is a whopping 41 books long but thankfully it's split up into manageable mini series within such as the death series - Reaper Man is the second book in the death series (Mort is the first which I read last year).

This book doesn't really follow on from the first but it involves some of the same characters which I love! It follows Death as he finds out that he might die some time soon and in the meantime no one is dying and it follow the wide spread ramifications as well as a weird bee/hive like creature invading the city. The wizards in this book were my favourite part, they were so comic and funny as well as being very british. I like the story as a whole, it flitted around to various characters and stories but comes together in the end and I LOVED Terry Pratchett's amazingly whimsical and sarcastic writing style as well as the world but it wasn't my favourite book so far.

*History In An Hour - The Russian Revolution - ★★☆☆☆, 2/5
This is my third History In An Hour audiobook and it was a little disappointing, mainly because I knew most of the information already as it ties into the Stalin audiobook and because I've been to Russia. The narrator was a little boring but I think you'd get much more out of it if you didn't know much about the Russian revolution.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson - ★★★☆☆, 3/5
This is the second Shirley Jackson I have read, the first was Dark Tales and this book has had so many amazing reviews from prolific writers such as Neil Gaiman so I definitely wanted to give this a go. It took me a couple of days to read, it was very quick and very sinister as the previous Shirley Jackson book I read was.

It follows what remains of the wealthy and unusual Blackwood family after a mysterious, deadly tragedy that killed most of their family as well as the judgmental and frankly awful people in the village around their stately home. It is very unique, very Shirley Jackson and very sinister, dark and deals with the worse side of people.

I enjoyed it but as with the Dark Tales, it was a little underwhelming but that might just be because I had such high hopes and because her work is very highly praised that I was expecting an incredible masterpiece. I would recommend it and I'm glad I read it as it was interesting, atmospheric and compelling however I think some of themes were a little lost of me (however I think some books can be analysed to death and it ruins the enjoyment of the story).

*Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab - ★★★★☆, 4/5
This book is the sequel to This Savage Song so I can't say too much as some of you might not have read the first and I don't want to spoil it but it follows on from where the last book finished with our two kick ass protagonists, August and Kate.

I adored the first book as it was not only very quick and easy to read with a unique writing style and endearing characters, of Henry, August and Kate but the monsters in these two books are so unique! I love the action in both books as well as Kate and Augusts relationship which does become a little more romantic in this one (just a little bit!). Even though it's 470 pages, I read it in just over two days as V.E Schwabs writing is like a tardis, it transports you to another world and time so that when you return, you don't realise the time that has gone by! I'd definitely recommend the first book and the sequel, although that ending...I wish it was different *I'm not upset or anything*. It isn't out yet but it will be realised on the 13th June.

*Blameless by Claudio Magris (translated by Anne Milano Appel) - ★★☆☆☆ - 2.5/5
I was kindly sent a copy of this book from Yale University Press a while ago but it wasn't scheduled for release until the 6th June in the UK so not long to wait now! It's a newly translated novel from 'one of Europe's most revered authors' and is a story about one mans obsessive collection of instruments of war and death as well as the individual who is cataloguing and curating an exhibition/museum of the items, Luisa and her life/memories.

The novel sounded unlike anything else I'd read before as it deals with such dark topics and the way it is structured, telling the story of each object in the museum is something I haven't come across before and it made a difficult novel more easily consumed.

The novel doesn't have the nicest cover, in some places it was quite unusual as well as very dark and if I'm brutally honest, it was dull and boring at times but thankfully the very short chapters helped so much. Having said that, there were some amazingly quotable lines within this novel that I adored. The topics vary so much in this book as well as mentions about everything from general musings on life and relationships, thoughts on war and instruments of war and quotes for other sources/books to mentions of slavery, death, smells, cacti, nazis, London and collecting items for the museum. I am glad I read it but oh boy, it was definitely a slog to get through for me personally! Thank you to the lovely people at Yale University Press, I just wish I'd liked it more but sadly you can't love every book you read!

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these 12 books? 

16 comments

  1. Some fab recs here - I can't believe you've read 12 books!! More than me in a year ha ha x

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  2. You always read the best books and you've given me loads of recs x

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  3. How fabulous that you are getting through so many books! I only wish I had the time

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  4. Great recommendations and I can't believe how many you got through in May!

    Gemma x | flutterandsparkle.com

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  5. I am impressed you have read so many books wow!

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  6. I need to start reading more again, I miss reading so much, but with college, work and a child I barely get a minute - but I need to over summer!

    Erin || MakeErinOver

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  7. You're really inspiring me to read more. So many amazing picks here. I need to start reading again as I did enjoy it so much x

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  8. Sounds like some really interesting reads!

    Cass | CassandraMyee

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  9. I need to do some more reading. I told myself I would this year but I'm not doing well so far. Some fab suggestions! X

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  10. You are making me realise I need to read more!

    www.EmmyWritesAbout.com

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  11. So many good recommendations!! I'll need to give some of them a try!
    Chantelle x
    The Girl In The Tartan Scarf

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  12. I must say I'm slightly envious that you find the time to read so many books! I love reading but sadly rarely have the time anymore! I'm currently re-reading Discovery of Witches trilogy in anticipation of the adaptation to TV x

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  13. I haven't read any of these books but I'm currently reading 'The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and The Secret History of Wonderland'.

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  14. I love these posts, they give me a kick up the bum to read more!

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  15. I'm loving podcast atm so will see if I can find any of these to listen to x

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Feel free to leave me a comment, I read all of them!

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