Monday, May 31, 2021

May Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by for a paper or test, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 2019, and 66 books in 2020). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks because I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have at least two hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening this year. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in May:

  • Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy - I have read/ listened to some of Julie's other books so I thought I'd grab this one. I don't know why, but this one just rubbed me the wrong way a bit. Maybe it was the fact that my grandma recently went through another round of cancer, chemo and the like (so it hit too close to home) or maybe the teenage angst was a bit too real (teenage girl "playing with" and taking for granted the emotions of her best friend who loves her). I did appreciate the author taking a different route with the characters (instead of the main character, Alice, who has cancer and has been given one year to live, being super sweet and loved by all, she can be a real "b word" and doesn't seem to be dealing with the terms of her life and death in a nice, cookie-cutter way), but it was very hard to root for Alice when she was just plain mean at points. Don't get me wrong, it felt real, but I was having a hard time connecting with her (which was eye-opening... maybe I hold people to an impossible standard - like they should grieve or act the way I think they should). I wouldn't say I hated this one, it just wasn't my favorite book of Julie's. I would give it a 7.5 out of 10.

  • Alone Together: Love, Grief and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 by Jennifer Haupt - I saw this pop up on my Hoopla app and I was intrigued. Not only was this a collect of poetry, essays and interviews about the time of COVID-19 {which I would say we are technically still living through}, but the proceeds from the book went to help independent booksellers - how awesome is that?! The book contains pieces from more than 90 authors. Many of the stories/ poems/ essays were short, but I found myself enthralled in just about every single one of them. I think because this time in our lives is so recent that everything the authors were saying still felt raw and right at the surface. I found myself nodding 'yes' or tearing up remembering those exact same emotions I had felt. Some of the topics were deep and others were light, but all of them were heartfelt. I realize I am "young", so when I say something like "I've never lived through a time such as this" might not mean much, but I still thought it was pretty powerful to have all of these writers share what life was like for them. It was insightful to hear how differently folks were impacted by this pandemic. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Art of Making Memories by Meik Wiking - I had this book favorited for a while and decided it was time to download it. As I've mentioned, I have a TERRIBLE memory (thanks to fibromyalgia and "fibro fog"). I loved listening to this book (from the CEO at the Happiness Research Institute). It was short, but the ideas were awesome. I've never really thought about what makes a moment turn into a memory, but what they've found all made sense. For example, firsts often make memories, so we should try new things (whether it's an activity, a food, a place to visit, etc) or the fact that when we engage more senses memories tend to stick better. Love that there were tips throughout the book on how to put the ideas into practice (and even suggestions on how to break a year into different tangible ways to make and solidify {happy} memories). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim - A friend mentioned this book a while back (normally when folks post about books I screenshot it for when I need a suggestion on something to read/ listen to) so when I noticed it in the "New" section of my Hoopla app I grabbed it. Although this was a novel, I appreciate that it opened my eyes to a world I know very little about - the life of an immigrant. This was the story of a mother and daughter, switching back and forth between both perspectives (and two different times - the last 80s and 2014). I really liked how the two stories fit together (obviously they would, I mean it's a mother and daughter, but to see how people experience things completely differently is always eye opening and a great reminder to not assume how I see the world is how others see/ experience it). I won't give anything away, but I sort of loved the way the story concluded. Everyone has a story to tell, a life they lead, and although we may know nothing about it, we should treat others with all the respect and love possible. I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.

  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune - A friend had said this was their favorite book of the year thus far, so once it FINALLY became available I had to snag it. They mentioned it was like Harry Potter (which, shocker, I have never read any of the books or seen any of the movies) mixed with Umbrella Academy, so I wasn't sold, especially since I'm normally not a Sci Fi sorta gal, but I downloaded it anyway. I mean, they said it was like a Pixar movie in book form, so I had to give it a shot, right?! OH MY GOODNESS, they were 100% right and I LOVED it (and am now rethinking my avoidance of Harry Potter ;)). The story is heartwarming, weird, funny, compassionate, heartbreaking, courageous, love-filled and everything in between. I will say I read it from an LGBTQ+ perspective so the "magical" kids were even more impactful and meaningful for me, but even if you took it "at face value" it's still an amazing story. This is definitely one I will be buying a physical copy of (and recommending to everyone - kids and adults alike). The world needs more people willing to stand up for those who need it most. I pray I can be part of the solution (and that you'll join me). I would give it a 10 out of 10. 

  • The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune - Since I loved The House in the Cerulean Sea so much, I figured I'd try out another one of the author's book and my Hoopla app had this one available. I will be honest, I didn't love it as much, but that could be because I am normally not a huge superhero fan. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the queer coming-of-age story of a fanboy with ADHD, but I felt like it was pretty predictable and I never really got lost in the story itself. I definitely didn't hate it (and when the sequel pops up on the app I'm sure I'll give it a listen), but it wasn't as amazing as the previous book I read of his. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, May has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you've read lately? 

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