Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What I Read in May

 

Uhhh, I had no social life to speak of in May... & that was just fine by me! For the most part, I spent all my spare time reading. You'd think I'd be more inclined to read in the winter, when I'm cozy at home & it's gross outside, but actually, nice weather gets me reading more. I love grabbing an iced coffee & cracking open a book on the patio at my favorite coffee shop, or taking a beer & a book onto my back deck - which is why I made it through an astounding eleven books in May, with some serious highs & lows. So tell me: What have you read lately? What are you reading next? Here's my May list:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This one's been on my to-read list for a long time now, but it just seemed so... heavy. A book about military-occupied Nigeria & post-9/11 America? And yet, it's also one of the most beautifully written books I've ever had the honor of reading. I feel as though I know Ifemelu & Obinze, as if they are close friends who I've known all my life; I care about them, I care for them, I want the best for them, I want to know more about them. This is an incredible novel about blackness (African, American, & otherwise), about life as an immigrant, about the challenges of poverty & wealth - & about the struggles unique to each of those elements that are, somehow, still universal, relatable, & human. This is one of the best books you will ever read. ★★★★★(x100)

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

This book started out great. From the very first chapter, it was totally taken in. Couldn't stop reading. I recommended it to a friend before I was halfway through! And then… it changed. The book's brief synopsis - a family tragedy brings together estranged sisters, who end up investigating their older sister's long-ago disappearance - doesn't come close to hinting at the level of violence, gore, & misogyny within the pages of this novel. I love crimes & thrillers, even of the super-messed-up variety à la Criminal Minds, but this book is just too much. The detailed, gratuitous descriptions of violent rape & murder are, to put it mildly, incredibly disturbing. ★☆☆☆☆

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

I picked this one up on a whim at a local book warehouse (60% off!). It takes place in the aftermath of a seemingly random act of violence, when Dr. Amelia Emmett was shot in her office by a student who she had never taught or even met; he committed suicide & left her to die. Ten months later, Amelia is back & work with a new grad assistant whose thesis topic is... her shooting. I thought this book, Rader-Day's debut, was well-written & compelling, though it could've been about 25% shorter, & the main character, Amelia, could've been 75% more likeable. Unfortunately, the long-awaited ending was a bit too convoluted to be entirely satisfying. ★★★☆☆

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso 

I looked past this book's terrible title because I thought the founder & CEO of Nasty Gal might be an interesting voice on the topic of getting shit done. Alas, I was sorely disappointed. I couldn't help but think that Amoruso, a self-proclaimed "badass bitch," could only wax poetic about her youthful shenanigans - including stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise - because she's a pretty, white woman who's now also a millionaire. This book was a lot of empty platitudes about inspiration & working hard, built on repetitive reminders of how much money Nasty Gal brings in & how different & awesome Amoruso is. She writes, "It’s not cool to get drunk on your own success," but I wish she'd taken her own advice. ★☆☆☆☆

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

A coworker recommended this series to me... in part because it's written by her friend! It's a murder mystery novel in the vein of Mary Higgins Clark-style stories, but with an added element: It focuses on Brooklyn's Hasidic Jewish community. I'm fascinated by Hasidim, so this quick, easy read shared an interesting (if unsurprising, for me) look into the insularity of the ultra-Orthodox. It's told from the perspective of 22-year-old reporter Rebekah Roberts, a secular Jew, who's never met the Hasidic mother who abandoned her at birth. I immediately got on three library waiting lists to borrow the sequel! ★★★★★

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han  

This is the sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before, a YA romance novel I devoured in April (see my review), & it's possible that I liked this one even more than the first. It's an honest, refreshing, & surprisingly feminist look at growing up & facing real-life high school dramas & tragedies, with a "This is totally happening in every high school in the country" plot line narrated by the naive but feisty Lara Jean. As she navigates first love, second love, & friendships lost, I couldn't help but think, yet again, how much I don't miss being a teenager - but that I really enjoy reading about them. I'm looking forward to the third book in this trilogy. ★★★★★

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

My interest in cult-like religions continues! At Christmas, a very smart Secret Santa sent me the actress's memoir, which I then temporarily lost in my boyfriend's overflowing bookshelf. Remini, who grew up in Scientology, famously left a few years ago & took the LAPD to task for not trying hard enough to find Shelly Miscavige, the missing wife of the church's powerful & volatile leader. I like Remini's brash Brooklyn attitude & her refusal to conform to either Hollywood standard's or Scientology's, though because I'd already read Beyond Belief, much of this felt redundant to me. ★★★☆☆

Is It Evil Not to Be Sure? by Lena Dunham

I know I'm supposed to hate Lena Dunham, but I just... don't. Her writing sounds like my writing; her brain looks like my brain; she feels familiar in a way that makes me say, "Oh, you, too? Thank goodness." This "book" is a cop-out, though, a collection of entries from Dunham's journal from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2006. I enjoyed the peek into her mind, but it seems ridiculously self-important to publish something like this & call it a book. Each entry - sometimes mere snippets of sentences - could be a whole story or TV episode of its own. I wish there'd been more to it. ★★☆☆☆

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

I knew within two pages that this was going to be a book I enjoyed. Riley's sister, a teenage violin prodigy, committed suicide when Riley was just 2 years old - or did she? After their father dies, Riley begins to uncover family secrets that indicate that her sister may still be alive. But what, exactly, has she been running from all these years? Even though I guessed all the plots twists long before they were revealed, this was still exactly the sort of character-driven page-turner I love. I look forward to checking out this author's other books. ★★★★★

Run You Down by Julia Dahl

This is the second book in the Rebekah Roberts series, which I started at the beginning of the month. I was so impatient to read it that I went ahead & bought it on Kindle! In it, journalist Rebekah Roberts is asked to report on the seeming suicide of a young mother whose husband doesn't believe she went willingly. Soon, Rebekah's family's own story overlaps with that of the victim, & she finds herself reconnecting with long-lost family as she tries to get to the bottom of the murder. I confess that I didn't like this book as much as its predecessor - the story was a little bit more far-fetched & convoluted - but I like Dahl's writing style enough that it was still an enjoyable read.   ★★★★☆

The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel 

You may recall that I read two of Blaedel's books in April, & now I'm devastated because this is the last of them that's been translated into English! This novel is book two in the popular Danish author's Missing Persons series, & it's another impeccable murder mystery. Its focus is the disappearance of a teenager named Sune, who, in the opening scene, witnesses a gruesome crime & goes into hiding in the woods. His case is investigated by detective Louise Rick & her partner-turned-boyfriend Eik, though soon, nearly everyone she loves becomes a part of the case, too, as one crime leads to another leads to another & everyone else in town seems to be a suspect. More English books, please, Sara Blaedel! ★★★★★

Comment to tell me what you're reading! Then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

Please note that my "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but please also don't judge me too harshly for including them. 

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