Wednesday, May 31, 2023

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, 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 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since 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 two-ish 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. 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:

  • Bliss(ters) by Gail M. Francis - I actually started this audiobook last month but didn't get a chance to finish it until May. I had downloaded it on my Hoopla app because I love the idea of thru hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and think hearing about other people's experiences is super fascinating. I will probably never do it myself (hiking from the Mexico border to the Canadian border is a HUGE undertaking), so I guess I'll have to just live vicariously through them for now ;) Hopefully this doesn't come across as rude, but this was sort of hoe-hum. As I'm sure you can imagine, hiking 20ish miles a day for MONTHS (2,600+ miles) can get pretty monotonous, so I totally understand that every story isn't about something monumental, but I guess I also didn't really get drawn in from this author (which is why I probably took longer to finish it). There was nothing 'bad' about the book, I just wasn't as eager to keep listening and find out what was next. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon - I saw this on my Hoopla app and was super excited. I really like Molly Shannon and the fact that she's also the one reading the audiobook I knew I had to grab it. I had NO IDEA about her past and was sort of shocked. I don't want to give away any of her story, so you'll have to read (or listen to) it for yourself, but let's just say this is another HUGE reminder that you don't know what sort of battles someone is facing (or had to in the past). [Not to mention, it makes me stop and think about people who come across as the strongest/ funniest/ etc... Most seem to have had it tough.] I laughed, I cried, I gained even more respect for this woman, mom, comedian, actress. It was like a look behind the curtain and I was enthralled. I appreciate her willingness to share hard pieces of her life with complete strangers (because although it felt like we were just sitting down for a coffee and chat, I now know A LOT about her whereas she doesn't know me from Eve). I love memoirs and this one definitely gets two thumbs up from me. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Solitaire by Alice Oseman - I had listened to a few of Alice's other books, so this one popped up on my Hoopla app as a recommended title. I figured I'd give it a listen. I appreciated the trigger warning at the beginning, giving folks the heads up as to whether they may want/ need to avoid this story due to some of the topics and themes discussed. For some reason though, I never really got into this one as I have with this author's other books. Maybe it's because I was multitasking a bit while listening (doing some cleaning and chores around the house), maybe it just wasn't my jam. It was sort of like there were a lot characters and we weren't getting a deep enough dive into any of them, more just surfacey with too many people. I noticed when I was grabbing the link that most commenters gave it rave reviews, but, hey, not every book is for every person, so just because it didn't strike a chord with me doesn't mean it's not a good book. I would give it a 5 out of 10. 

  • Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer - I don't remember how I acquired this book, but it's been on my "to read shelf" for quite some time. With my broken ribs (due to my violent cough), I wasn't walking on my lunch break like normal, so I thought I'd read for an hour instead. I have enjoyed all of the books I've read by Jon in the past, so assumed this would be the same, and it was. This author does his research... like legit! In the author's notes he mentioned how he took THREE YEARS to just do the research portion for this book. I'll be honest, I don't know as much about the Mormon religion, so all of the history and research was very helpful (at least for me). I have quite a few friends who are LSD (some who have left the church and some who are still very active) and although this story centers around a violent murder, I walked away with more understanding of the religion in general. I find learning about other people's faiths very fascinating. I would say, though, that although some folks spin this as a "true crime" type book, there is a lot of history included, so if you are expecting this to only be about the crime you may be bogged down (or even bored) with all of the background of the religion. PS I also realize that there are fundamentalists in all religions and just because there are some who justify violence with their religion this does not make the religion violent. I don't think this book was trying to say that Mormons are murderers. (I also found out that there was a series on Hulu created based on the book, so I think the hubby and I will watch it soon.) I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera - I didn't realize there was a prequel to They Both Die at the End, so when I saw it in the Teen section of the Hoopla app I knew I needed to listen to it. #RealTalk - most sequels (and prequels) never seem to be as good as the original in my opinion, so I went in with lower expectations, but I'm happy to report I was wrong. This is the origin story of how Deathcast came to be (or at least when the program was first released). I know, I know, I'm normally not a sci-fi type fan, but this is an interesting premise. (Deathcast is a service you can sign up for where a program actually knows the day you will die and someone from the company calls you that morning to give you the heads up. They don't how or the exact time, but the idea is you would be able to live the day knowing it would be your last day on earth.) The book takes place over a span of 24 hours and although in the back of my mind I kept telling myself "yeah right, this would never happen" I had fully bought in, hook-line-and-sinker. Although you know the ending from the title (just like the original) and some of the story is a bit predictable, you still hope there might be a different outcome. No matter, I still enjoyed it and will continue to read anything this author releases. I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Deaf Utopia by Nyle DiMarco - I saw this book in the memoir section of my Hoopla app and I was excited to download it. (#RealTalk - I didn't know anything about Nyle before this audiobook, but he won a season of America's Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars.) I don't know much about the deaf community, but I am always intrigued to learn about people different from me so I was stoked. I actually learned the fingerspelling alphabet in preschool and still know it to this day (and have actually used it to roughly communicate with a few deaf folks). I've gotta say, I really enjoyed this book. Not only did I love learning about a community I do not have much interaction with, but Nyle is not "just" Deaf he LOVES being deaf. It was awesome to learn about his experiences (he is actually the fourth deaf generation in his family) as well as sense his pride for his community. There was a lot I never thought of before (and it showed me the ableist biases that had unknowingly crept into how I perceive others and the world around me). I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Nowhere for Very Long by Brianna Madia - I saw this one on my Hoopla app and thought I would give it a try. I'd be lying if I said "vanlife" has never crossed my mind, so I'm always down for hearing personal stories from folks who have done it (and aren't just sharing the highlights that you see on social media). Apparently this author has a large following on IG, but I don't follow her so didn't know any of her backstory. I appreciate that the book dove into the not-so-fun parts of living more of a nomadic life. Not only the nitty gritty stuff like having a difficult time finding places to park/sleep or having to dig holes to go to the bathroom in nature, but how it was also trying on her partner. After hearing her story (obviously it is only one of many) I don't think I would thrive living in a van full time. Don't take that as this book is a downer or anything like that, just that I feel it gave more of a realistic take and one that made me question a bit more of the true ins and outs of van living. I definitely don't think I am as adventurous or confident in myself to be able to "rough it" without a homebase for very long. I mean, if I needed to, I am sure I could make it work, but I don't think I'd be living my best life if it went on for more than say a month. Even if you've never thought of living in a van, this author's storytelling ability (not to mention her honesty, rawness and bravery) will draw you in. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera - Because I had listened to another title by this author recently, my Hoopla app popped this book up in my "suggested" section (I've gotta say, I'm glad it suggested it, because I don't think the cover would have grabbed my attention when scrolling). I am always down for a YA story so I eagerly downloaded it. I liked how the story went between two timelines - past (the beginning of the main characters' relationship) and present. It is definitely a book that will pull at your heartstrings. There were parts where I was laughing out loud and other parts where I was holding back tears. The characters were messy and complex, but relatable (even though at times they seemed a little bit more put together than most teenagers I know). I appreciate that the author tackled topics like grief and mental illness. I don't think there's been a book this author has written that I haven't enjoy (so hopefully there are more to come!). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Running with Raven by Laura Lee Huttenbach - Seeing as I was going to be able to start running (I had broken a couple ribs due to a violent cough and was forced to take about four weeks off), I thought I'd look for an inspiring running story to get me back in the "mood" and this one seemed to fit the bill. Raven is a guy who lives in the Miami South Beach, FL area and runs 8 miles on the beach, rain or shine, EVERY SINGLE DAY. He started his running streak in 1975 and as of the time this book was written in 2017 he hadn't missed a day. I loved hearing not only about him and his eccentricities, but also about his motley crew. Raven gives everyone who run with him (they had to finish the complete eight miles) a nickname and welcome them into his circle. His memory is like an elephant because he seems to be able to remember not only the runner's nickname but also their given name, birthday and all kinds of other interesting facts about them (and at the time of publication, there were over 2,600 people on the list of Raven Runners!). I have never attempted a run streak (my body needs rest), but I absolutely give props to those who can conquer goals like this. If I'm ever in the Miami area and Raven is still running, I hope to pop in for a jog! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, May has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

No comments: