May Reading Wrap-Up 2020

Friday, June 05, 2020
March and April were fairly disappointing reading months but thankfully May was a fantastic reading month in terms of the number of books I read, the range of genres and my ratings. The genres ranged from LGBT romance, fantasy and non-fiction to classics, thriller/mystery and YA. I was able to read 15 books in the month of May which included one book over 500 pages. My favourite books from the month include: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, City of Light, The Guest List, The Life of Leonardo da Vinci and River of Teeth.

There were a few reasons I read so much this month: lockdown, bank holidays, less work than normal, shorter reads/audiobooks and readathons. I took part in two readathons in April including the Medieval-a-Thon and the Asian Readathon. I have tried to take part in a few readathons over the past couple of years but I've never really stuck to the challenges but I completed so many of the challenges for the Medieval-a-Thon which I'm very happy about!

*I Left The House Today by Cassandra Calin (144 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a book high on your bookshelf ★★★
The first book I finished in May was a comic from Netgalley all about the author's thoughts, everyday life and the struggles that most of us can relate to as women (and humans in general). I absolutely adored the simple but hilarious illustrations throughout the comic and how relatable it was. The short and easy comic had me snort laughing a few times because it was just so relatable, funny and very entertaining. I would highly recommend it as a quick and funny comic that I think we all need at this time!

The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon (111 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a book with orange on the cover ★★★
The next book I finished was another super short but equally as enjoyable read from one of my favourite book series - The Bone Season series. I've read the first three books of the series and I was missing the world (I've wanted to re-read the first book for a long time but I don't typically re-read books) so this novella was perfect. We follow Paige, the main character in the series, as she initially joins her gang and tries to prove herself. It was an incredibly quick read but I throughly enjoyed being back in this gritty, vivid world filled with clairvoyants, ghosts, an oppressive government, power play between gangs and more. It is book 0.5 in the series so you can read it before the other books but it's equally as entertaining if you've already read the series too.

The Gentleman's Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (512 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a book with green on the cover ★★★★ 
I finally finished a book over 500 pages! One of my monthly reading goals is to read a book over 500 pages but for the past couple of months, I haven't been able to complete that goal. However it was a very easy goal for April because this book was very entertaining, super quick and an easy, enjoyable YA read. We follow Monty, the bisexual son of an earl, as he gets into all kinds of trouble with his best friend, Percy, who he has a secret love for. However, their rakish lifestyle ends in an ultimatum as they are both sent to the continent, along Monty's sister, to learn about European culture before they have to settle down. However, it doesn't go quite to plan as highway men, disgruntled dukes, secrets, alchemists and pirates interrupt their journey which leads to revelations, love and a very entertaining romp across Europe.

One of my favourite things about this read, along with the mysteries, secrets and shenanigans, was the dry, sarcastic and sometimes self deprecating humour from Monty - I loved his character. I also loved the relationship between Monty and Percy as well as how feisty Felicity, Monty's sister, was. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to fly through this book along with how vivid, action packed and also heartfelt it was. It brings up more difficult topics such as abuse, physical violence, homosexuality being a criminal offence, racism and injustice which made it a more heartfelt read than I thought it would be but it is also filled with entertaining sarky humour and loving friendships too. Overall, it was such an action packed, fast paced read featuring LGBT characters and I highly recommend it, especially if you're looking for a quick and easy escapist book.


A Gentleman's Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee (128 pages)
 Medieval-a-thon - romance ★★★
After reading and loving The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, I had to carry on with the series and read the next book which was a novella following on directly from the ending of the first book so naturally I can't go into the plot but I will say that we follow the relationship between Monty and Percy. Their relationship was one of my favourite aspects of the first book and I loved both characters  in this read. It was a super short, quick, easy and entertaining read; however it was frustrating at times and it was much more expensive than I thought it should be considering how short the book was.


Pines by Blake Crouch (audiobook) Medieval-a-thon - a book you have high expectations of ★★★
Within the month of May I discovered that there are quite a few books on Kindle Unlimited that have free narration included - I can't be the only one who didn't know that audiobooks were available on Kindle Unlimited. The first I listened to was Pines by Blake Crouch which is a well loved mystery thriller series with horror and sci-fi elements. I've heard amazing things so it was a book that I had high expectations for but sadly it didn't quite meet my expectations.

We follow Ethan, a secret service agent, as he tries to find out what has happened after he is involved in a car accident in the small town of Wayward Pines. He slowly remembers more about himself and why he is in Wayward Pines (to find two of his colleagues who have gone missing) but he uncovers more questions and mysteries within this secretive small town community.

The premise is very different to what I would typically read but it was definitely an interesting and intriguing read from the beginning which made me want to keep listening to uncover the mysteries. The narration was easy to follow, if a little robotic, and it made me want to listen to more audiobooks as I used to listen to so many with my BookBeat subscription. However, while it was an intriguing and easy listen, I found the actions of the characters, especially Ethan, very odd and unrealistic which kept taking me out of the story. I also really disliked the main character and found his behaviour very unusual and annoying. Overall, I did like the mystery and it was an incredibly easy audiobook to follow (great if you listen to audiobooks as you do other things, as I do) but it left me very disappointed/annoyed and I won't be carrying on with the rest of the series which is unfortunate as I had high expectations for this read/audiobook.


City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker (241 pages)  Medieval-a-thon - a book beginning with the letter 'C' ★★★★
Moving onto one of my favourite non-fiction books of the month, all about a period of French history I hadn't been aware of before, named 'the affair of poisons' which is as scandalous, murderous and intriguing as it sounds! I've wanted this book for years, the paperback version is utterly gorgeous and I'd so glad that I purchased it as I loved this gruesome, darkly interesting and macabre but captivating  book that read more like a noir drama than a non-fiction read.

We follow numerous individuals throughout the period between 1677 to 1682 from King Louis XIV, his ministers and his many mistresses to abortionists, poisoners, con-men, police officers, aristocrats and criminals. The documents were almost destroyed in a fire and Louis XIV at the time wanted the documents destroyed so we almost didn't know about this time period but thankfully the police chief kept his personal notes on the events, individuals involved, their crimes, torture and sentences so we have a fantastic record of that time period. It tells the story of the first police chief of Paris and his successes, reforms and struggles as well as a web of poisoners, criminals and mistresses that sought more influence, power and wealth, through whatever means necessary.

There were so many aspects of this book I loved from the gorgeous cover, short chapters and macabrely interesting topics to the vivid individuals, thoroughly researched information, easy writing style and the tone of the book which was much more of a drama focused, story-like read instead of a dry non-fiction book. If you can read about topics such as abortion, torture, murder and crime, to name a few, then I cannot recommend this read enough about a period of French history that Louis XIV would rather have been forgotten.


The Guest List by Lucy Foley (381 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a scary book ★★★ (3.5)
I have been in the mood for mystery reads and some Agatha Christie style books recently so I had to buy The Guest List which has been compared to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - I adored the TV show adaptation. Within The Guest List we are taken to a remote Irish island for a wedding as friends and family meet for the first time in years. We follow the perspectives of numerous people at the wedding from the bride, the wedding planner, family members and guests over the period of a couple of days. We get in insight into each individual including information about their past, their relationships and issues they are currently dealing with such as problematic relationships, self harm, abuse, bullying, body issues and revenge.

We flip between the various individuals as well as the day before and the day of the wedding so the timeline tells us what will happen after the wedding but we don't know which individual has been murdered. The mystery around trying to decipher which guest is the murderer and which is the victim was very intriguing as there were many suspects. The mystery element as well as the remote, isolated setting were my favourite aspects of the book and made me want to keep reading. I also adored the tone as it was very tension filled (due to the fraught relationships) and very eerie/creepy (thanks to the vivid and atmospheric setting). I think that if you are looking for a very quick, easy and page turning mystery thriller then look no further.


Britannia by Peter Milligan (158 pages)
Medieval-a-thon - a book under 300 pages ★★★
I only read one graphic novel in the month and it focuses on a period in history that I love to read about - the roman occupation and invasion of Britain. We follow a roman soldier, Antonius Axia, as he is posted to the far reaches of the Roman Empire to Britain where he faces grief, monsters and strange gods. I loved the cover and initial few pages but the art style then changed dramatically and I didn't love it - although it is very detailed. I liked the time period, the pagan/druid gods and the general storyline but sadly I didn't love it on the whole. I would recommend checking it out, only if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.


The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (288 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a book with your favourite colour on the spine ★★★
I adore fantasy and one of my all time favourite fantasy authors is Terry Pratchett and his discworld series! I've read around seven of the books in the series already but I thought I'd read the first in May. The discworld series is split into mini series so you don't need to read the first book and it is generally advised to not start with The Colour of Magic as it isn't the best book in the series. Unfortunately I definitely agree as it was my least favourite book from Terry Pratchett although it has dragons so there is one positive.

We follow the very beginning of the discworld as the world, gods and general principals are explained which made it feel like a very different book to the others in the series. Also, another difference is the breaks in the book which doesn't happen with any of the others I've read. While I liked the general story and being back in the topsy turvy discworld, it felt off and I couldn't get lost in it as I normally would with his books. I definitely wouldn't start with this book if you are interested in the series (start with Mort instead) and I don't think I'd recommend it sadly, unless you want to read every single book in the discworld series as I plan to.


100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell (402 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a tall hardcover ★★★
Another non-fiction read is all about incredible women from various countries and time periods, some of which are very familiar and others I had never heard of before. Firstly, let's take a moment to appreciate the utterly gorgeous cover. The book dedicates between two - five pages to various women from ancient history to the modern era and for numerous accomplishments such as poetry, bravery, intelligence, artistic abilities and so on. I have such mixed feelings about this book as I did love the cover, the layout and how books like this highlight women who should be household names (especially those that helped during the first and second world wars) and sadly aren't.

However, I've read a few books like this already and this one is my least favourite. I think I would only really recommend it to an older teenage audience as the writing style is very...forcibly humorous, for want of a better explanation. It isn't for children due to the language used but it is too flippant, jovial and juvenile for adults, in my opinion. I really wish this book had a more adult tone and sense of humour as I think it could have been fantastic but sadly it wasn't what I wanted or expected, in terms of how the information was written and the tone. I think I'll donate this book to my local high school or library.


The Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Giorgio Vasari (119 pages)  Medieval-a-thon - a pristine book ★★★★
I've been in a book buying mood throughout lockdown so I have treated myself to quite a few cheap e-books and non-fiction reads, one of the latter is this utterly gorgeous clothbound non-fiction read all about Leonardo da Vinci. The book is split into sections, from an introduction to Vasari and his work to Leonardo's life and the original translated biography of Leonardo by Vasari in 1550 and 1568. All of the non-fiction reads I've purchased or been kindly sent from Thames and Hudson have always impressed me with the attention to detail and quality and this one is no different. It's a beautifully published read with a clothbound cover and gorgeous illustrations. I am aware of various aspects of Leonardo da Vinci life as I watch far too many documentaries (who am I kidding, there's no such thing) but I wasn't aware of the author Vasari or his work. I loved reading not only more about Leonardo and Vasari but reading a translated biography from the 16th century about the famous artist too. I would love to see Thames and Hudson publish more biographies in this style based on Vasari's Lives of the Artists.


The Ghosts Of The Citadel by Jen Williams (83 pages) Medieval-a-thon - a book with a dragon on the cover ★★★

One of the books I found to be the most difficult when it came to choosing the books I needed for the readathon was 'a book with a dragon on the cover'. I adore fantasy but I don't own any with a dragon on the cover, apart from The Goblet of Fire but I didn't want to re-read an over 500 page book this month so I opted for a novella. In The Ghosts of the Citadel we follow sellswords Wydrin and Sebastian as well as Lord Frith as they enter the ruined citadel in search of treasure but they find more than they bargained for...namely a dragon. I liked the setting, the typical fantasy creatures and the generic quest-style mini adventure but I just didn't click with it unfortunately so I won't be continuing on with the series.


River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (114 pages) Medieval-a-thon - start or finish a duology ★★★ (3.5)
One of the final books I finished in May was a very unusual but much loved novella all about a plan constructed by the US government to introduce hippos into the country as a source of meat but things go very wrong from there...who'd have guessed. We follow Winslow Remington Houndstooth as he gathers a group of dangerous individuals for a perilous job, to release a hoard of feral hippos. I adored the Louisiana setting of the book, the gritty almost Wild West feel and the utterly bizarre inclusion of hippos and their owners. It is an unusual read as well as being very short but it is very entertaining, I loved all of the frankly rather strange characters, the adventure/betrayal and the vaguely LGBT relationships.


The Best Girls by Min Jin Lee (18 pages) Asian Readathon ★★★
Moving onto the second readathon I started in May, the Asian Readathon, which involves reading books written or set in Asian countries - I've been reading Japanese fiction and non-fiction recently so it wasn't difficult but I didn't read nearly as much as I'd hoped. The first book was a very short and sad story by the American Korean author Min Jin Lee. We follow a Korean family who are desperate for a son, even though they have three daughters and we see a glimpse into their struggles economically when one daughter makes a terrifyingly sad decision. The story was very quick and so upsetting, especially the last page! 


Burning Roses by S.L Huang (160 pages) Asian Readathon ★★★
The second book I finished for the Asian readathon was another tor.com novella - I've read a few of them over the past couple of months and enjoyed them overall. We follow two middle aged women, Rosa and Hou Yi, as they join forces to stop the sunbirds from destroying the countryside. It is a quick and interesting read with two unusual characters and an age (middle aged women) that I haven't read from the perspective of before. I liked the overall story and the fairytale/folktale elements from red riding hood and goldilocks but I found myself losing interest vey quickly unfortunately.


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

*gifted

13 comments

  1. Wow you've managed to read a lot of books. They all such like really interesting books and I love Terry Pratchett stories.

    www.thekellydianereport.co.uk

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  2. I read The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley recently and was a bit underwhelmed but I'm still tempted to read The Guest List! xx

    Tiffany x www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

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  3. Oh wow you have read loads of great books xx

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  4. 100 Nasty Women of History sounds like an interesting concept but I might try one of the other similar iterations of the idea that you've read instead!

    Jasmine xx

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  5. I haven't read any of these but congratulations on finally finishing a 500+ words book. I've been seeing so many read-a-thins mentioned recently, I really want to try one next month x

    Sophie

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  6. I really want to read The Guest List x

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  7. Oh wow you've been reading a lot! I'm still working my way through the Harry Potter books

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  8. Oh wow they all look so good! I have actually been reading more which I have been loving :)

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  9. These sound like some great recommendations, honestly don't know how you able to read so many. I am still stuck on Harry Potter books

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  10. I downloaded The Guestlist last week on my Kindle so gonna start that this week xx

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  11. The Guest List is definitely something that it would read Heather! John x

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  12. I’ve not heard of any of the books you mention so I’ve been able to add some to my tbr list.

    https://littlemissmelanie.com/

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  13. The Guest List sounds really interesting - going to add it to my list now!
    Em x

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

If you would like to contact me, email: heathernixon4@gmail.com