May Wrap-Up // 2022

April was one of my slowest reading months and then I turned around and read a TON in May! 😂🤷🏼‍♀️

I was so excited for all the Summer Reading Guides that came out, and my TBR list grew by a mile! I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few of the books already, and if they’re any indication of my near reading future, I’m excited!

What was your favorite read this month?

May By the Numbers:

  • Total Books Read: 16
  • Audiobooks: 2
  • Five Star Reads: 4
  • Debuts: 8 (50%)
  • Published in 2022: 10 (63%)
  • Nonfiction Reads:  7 (44%)
  • By Women Authors: 12 (75%)
  • Books by BIPOC Authors: 5 (31%)
  • Diverse Books: 5 (31%)
  • Goodreads Challenge: 57/125 (46%)
  • 12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months: 5/12 (42%)
  • Nonfiction Challenge: 4/12 (33%)
  • Unread Shelf: 9/24 (38%)
  • EIWTB Challenge: 11/12 (92%)
  • A to Z Challenge: 20/26 (77%)

Favorite Book of the Month:

* Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow – I loved this family drama that follows three generations of women who try to navigate through their individual and collective abuses, trauma, and racism. It’s set in Memphis which has a complicated history with race and the city becomes a character in the story as well. I loved how each individual woman stands out as a characater unto herself, and also contributes to the impact of the overall story. Stringfellow’s writing is poetic and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough; I had to know how this story resolved itself. I’m excited to read something more from Stringfellow!

Honorable Mentions:

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – Ward masterfully alternated chapters between stories from her childhood and eulogy-like chapters about five men her community lost when they were far too young. With tenderness and compassion, Ward paints a picture of growing up in a system that always seems to be stacked against you. These young men (one of them was the author’s own brother) fought their circumstances and tried to overcome poverty, drugs, and gangs, but as is all too often the story, the odds didn’t work in their favor. Late last year I read The Yellow House and while it also opened my eyes to a very different life than I have known, this one left a much bigger impact. I feel like I will find myself reflecting on this one for a long time.

🎧 Book Lovers by Emily Henry – Emily Henry did it again! She was an author that I had to warm up to, but I think I’m all in now – hook, line, and sinker! She captures the genre of romance so well – a genre I wouldn’t say is one of my favorites – but somehow, Henry has shown me that these stories can be a great escape. The build up between Nora and Charlie was perfection, and I absolutely loved the cozy small town setting. This could be the book of the summer, and if you need something fun for vacation (even if you’re staying home and just want something fun), throw this one on your list! (And for the exactly zero people who asked for it, here’s my ranking of EH’s books: People We Meet on Vacation, Book Lovers, Beach Read, and A Million Junes.)

* The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements – I might be a little slow to the party, but the reuniting of JLo and Ben was the very first time that I had ever heard the concept that some Hollywood set-ups may be fake. That romances could be used as a sort of publicity stunt to get certain celebrities or movies some additional press buzz. I was a little shocked at first, but then it made perfect sense to me. Hollywood is fake…why wouldn’t they orchestrate this too? The View Was Exhausting followed this very concept – a mutual agreement between Win and Leo to come together for publicity purposes whenever necessary. The fans love them…but have no idea it’s all staged. This was a great book to kick off my summer reading. Almost immediately I was invested in Win and Leo. I also loved them together and wanted to see how this story would work itself out. For a book that isn’t very long, there was a point where I was somewhat bored and wanted the story to move along a little quicker. Overall though, I couldn’t put this one down!

🎧 * Speak by Tunde Oyeneyin – Tunde is an absolute ray of sunshine; she’s (one of) my favorite Peloton instructors, mostly because she radiates joy. This book is very much the same as being clicked in on her rides – motivational, inspiring, and fun. Tunde has a very interesting past (that I knew nothing about) and I loved learning more about her history. She is a champion of her people and I find that I like her even more (is that even possible?) after having listened to this one on audio!

Notable Nonfiction:

Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation by Erika Krouse – Erika Krouse is an accidental private investigator. She lands a job investigating the Univeristy of Colorado’s football team when several women come forward alleging they had been sexually assaulted by several football players/recruits. Through her investigation, it is established that CU had a very toxic culture surrounding their football program. The univeristy seems to have been complacent in some of the things they let slide and I was absolutely fascinated with this part of the book. It gave me Missoula (written by Jon Krakauer) and Beartown vibes. The part of the book that didn’t work as well for me was the memoir aspect. While I get that Krouse included it because this whole story sort of struck a personal chord with her, it just wasn’t as well developed as the rest of the story. Her flashbacks stole away the momentum of the story and I found these parts to be a little to slow for my taste. I also wasn’t totally sure why Krouse made the decision to be so vague and not just name CU and the players and coaches by name. The case is old and quick Google searches bring up all the participants of this story, so I would have preferred her to be more straightforward in that aspect. Regardless, this was a book I couldn’t put down. As a native Coloradoan and a former collegiate athlete, the familiar landscapes and athletic references made this story feel very personal.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen – Parkland has been sitting on my shelf for awhile now, and unfortunately, the past week’s events was finally the push I needed to pick it up. I know it would have read differently had I read it before the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Had I read it before, I would have felt more hope, as the kids of Parkland were incredibly inspiring and showed they were so much wiser than their years. If anyone could start a movement and promised the United States that Parkland would be the last mass shooting, it was those kids. Sadly, we know now that their #neveragain goal has fallen short – though by no fault of theirs. It felt like these kids were addressing the top concerns and it felt like they gave reasonable calls to action, but for whatever reason, as was demonstrated once again last week in Texas, we are no closer to having any more answers when it comes to gun control. Now is the time to pick up this book if you haven’t, and now is the time to help join the March For Our Lives movement. (Also, if you haven’t watched this video by Emma González – now X González – please do! And then watch this one, too!)

Super Gut: A Four-Week Plan to Reprogram Your Microbiome, Restore Health, and Lose Weight by William Davis – For years now, I have been in an almost constant state of bloating, had unexplained weight gain regardless of my dietary choices, and abdominal pain. I really don’t know if Davis presents me a solution to my problems, but I did order a test he suggests in this book and it came back abnormal. After spending a near fortune with a funcional medicine doctor last year, this one test gives me more hope than all the work I did with the FM doctor. Don’t get me wrong – I think all of it is valuable information, but I have more answers now than I have for a very long time. I think I’m going to try Dr. Davis’ protocol in this book and see if it can’t help me even more!

* Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon – I was unaware of Molly Shannon’s background and the opening chapter of this book was devastating. From that traumatic experience (no spoilers!), Molly was motivated to work hard and be successful. She learned early on that making people laugh made her feel good and gave her a sort of control she felt she had lost as a young girl. I really enjoyed the chapters that recounted some of her famous Saturday Night Live skits and found myself looking them up on YouTube just to relive them. This is a quick read – I read it in an afternoon – and I’m glad to know more about Molly Shannon. It gave me a little nostalgia too, and I wish she was back on the screen making people laugh again!

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and BReak Bad Ones by James Clear – I don’t know…with all the hype this book has gotten, I think I had higher expectations. It didn’t feel very revolutionary to me and I found myself skimming the main ideas. There was a part of me that thought this could be put to good use with graduation seniors and/or teams because those are times where I think the step-by-step goal creating process would be pretty beneficial.

Historical Fiction:

* The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams – I literally never gave a single thought to the massive efforts behind creating dictionaries, so that aspect of this story was incredibly fascinating to me. While it was quite interesting how words were chosen, the more telling storyline was the aspect that “male” words were included much more quickly than “feminine” words. It’s not a new concept that men and their wants and desires have trumped women’s since the beginning of time, but in this book, my attention was captured! This was my favorite part of the story. I really enjoyed the characters too, but it was a book that demands the readers’ patience, attention, and focus. That many put off some readers. You definitely need to give it at least 100-120 pages before deciding if it’s for you…I personally found that the pace picked up pretty quickly after that.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez – File this one under “Yet Another Historical Event I Never Learned About”! Inspired by true events, Perkins-Valdez takes us to Montgomery, Alabama in 1973. Civil Townsend is a new nurse and purposely chooses to take a job at a family planning clinic. She believes that women should have agency over thier bodies, but she is shocked when she realizes that girls as young as eleven are being given birth control. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the atrocities she will uncover that are happening to young, poor, and Black families during this time in history. This story broke my heart and reminded me why we have to continually seek out history other than just what we’re taught in school. There were so many parts of this story that reminded me of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; and in fact, that would make a wonderful nonfiction pairing with this book. My only complaint is that I felt a little distant from the characters. I wanted to connect with them more emotinally. I also didn’t love the romance aspect, but can easily look past it because it didn’t influence the story that much.

A Little Bit of Everything Else:

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James – You want to know what St. James does well? She creates atmospheric, creepy reads that make your bones shiver! I appreciate her well-crafted stories that make it easy to keep turning the pages. I also enjoy the paranormal element she always seems to include. Having said all of that though, this isn’t my favorite book of hers. It will be hard to top The Sun Down Motel for me; however, this one is still worth the read if you’re looking for a quick and spooky read!

* How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu – This was an interesting book, to say the least. It’s sort of a connected short story collection – each chapter can stand alone, but in the great context of the book, it meanders in and out of the same theme – of a global pandemic. It was dystopian and murky and also so very realistic given what we’ve been living through the past two years. It started off very strong – I couldn’t put it down – and slowly lost its momentum for me. By the end of the book I was sort of skimming; however, I’m glad I read it and gave it a chance because it gave me A LOT to think about!

* The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale – I figured the world of ballet was pretty competitive, but I was unaware just how much! In The Ballerinas, the Paris dance scene is dark, demanding, and demented. Delphine, Margaux, and Lindsay have been part of the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet since they were young girls. As the culmination of their training crescendos, there will be secrets they each carry with them for a lifetime. Told in dual timeslines, the threesome has reconvened years later and the layers of deception are slowly unraveled. While this synopsis looks fast on paper, it felt like a very slow-moving story; in my opinion, the book suffers due to this pace. The author bogs the reader down in overdeveloped prose. The final reveal wasn’t as explosive as I thought it would be and the conclusion of the book felt clunky.

* The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith – Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself – if a book’s description mentions grief at all, I take a chance on the story (especially grief over a mother). But not every book can be good just because it’s a topic I gravitate to, and unfortunately, this one left me a little bored and underwhelmed. I kinda thought the dad was rude and I thought the daughter was immature. I hated how it ended. Overall, this one just wasn’t that great to me.

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