May Reading Wrap Up
This month I have read SO MANY books. Partly due to new releases I have been incredibly excited to get my hands on, and partly due to being completely determined to dent that pre-existing TBR of mine which – at the start of January – was over 50. (I’ve read five of them since the new year. It’s not going quite as well as I’d hoped). I also had several DNFs this month, for various reasons, which I’ll try and explain in this blog post as well. So, go and make yourself a cup of tea and get ready to hear about all the amazing books I’ve read in May!
TW: books in this wrap up include mention of drugs, eating disorders, and mental health difficulties.
I read a LOT of contemporary in May. First up was a book from my TBR – The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting by Holly Bourne. I love Holly’s Spinster Club trilogy (they’ve made it to my beside bookcase, I love them so much) but I haven’t read any of her earlier work. The Manifesto… felt very Mean Girls in places, and definitely took me on twists and turns throughout. The thing about Holly Bourne is that her books are so relatable and so real – so much so that in this one, there were things I knew were about to happen and I was squirming as I read it. But those things absolutely needed to happen and to be discussed through the novel. If you’re a Holly Bourne lover and yet to get to this one, you should rectify this asap.
I followed this with Leah On The Offbeat which, from the second I finished Simon Vs, was one of my most hyped pre-orders so far this year. And it didn’t disappoint! It was exactly what I expected, and I really enjoyed reading it. I don’t think I loved it as much as Simon Vs or Upside of Unrequited, but I am absolutely 100% here for a f/f love story and a main character who isn’t a size 8 and doesn’t feel bad because of it. I now fully expect a Leah film to match Love, Simon. Make it happen, Hollywood!
This next book has been the one I have been most excited about this year – I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman. Firstly, if you haven’t read Solitaire or Radio Silence, you need to go and read those immediately. Then, you want to get your hands on IWBFT. IWBFT is a dual narrative story all about fandom. Angel is a massive fan of The Ark, a boyband taking the world by storm. Jimmy is one of the band members, adored across the globe. And as we read on, their paths cross…
Massive shout out to Alice Oseman for yet again having fantastically diverse rep. Angel is Muslim, Jimmy is trans, and the rest of the cast are from a whole range of backgrounds and experiences too. Alice made a really great few videos about writing rep that is an experience that isn’t your own, so if you might be interested in how to do this for your own writing, then definitely check out her Youtube channel.
Next up I caught sight of I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan in the library, and picked it up. This was a really powerful read, exploring ideas of extremism and radicalisation. It took me a while to get in to, but once I was in I needed to find out more about these characters and what was going to happen to them. I did enjoy this book, but I’ve also recently read someone’s MS which covers these topics and I found that more emotionally draining than this one. I know that the point of every novel isn’t to punch you in the emotions, but I felt like while I Am Thunder was powerful, there were opportunities to really wreck my feelings that weren’t taken.
After this I picked up a read recommended to me by one of my students, and that was Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen. It was a light, easy read contemporary all about Petula coping with a change in family dynamics whilst also being thrown in to the company of Jacob at her art therapy class (which she hates). This novel was a sweet look at first love, managing your mental health after a traumatic event, and friendships.
Then I moved on to a book which has been on my TBR for about a month or so, thanks to a bookseller friend who loaned me her ARC, and that was the mind-blowingly brilliant Clean by Juno Dawson. I loved meeting Juno at YALC last year, and as soon as I heard about Clean I knew I wanted to read it (also because when I was at uni I never got to reading Junk as it was the final week book, and I figured I was probably missing a pretty important book in the pantheon of YA).
Clean was fantastic. I actually couldn’t bring it to work for reading time because I knew I’d lose all track of time and anything around me. Lexi was such a compelling, flawed character and when I finished it I just sat there in full book hangover mode wishing I could stay there with Lexi and her life and experiences. She makes some pretty terrible decisions, but Juno writes her so well because we sympathise with her, we see how she feels, and we’re in her corner despite her choices and actions. If you take one book from this wrap up to add to your TBRs immediately, make it Clean. (And for a wrap up that also includes an Alice Oseman book, that is high praise indeed!).
After this I read Countless by Karen Gregory. Countless is all about Hedda, a girl with an eating disorder who discovers she’s pregnant. The novel charts her journey from first discovering she’s pregnant, to deciding she will keep it and eat enough – battling her ED, who she calls Nia, for the rest of the pregnancy – through until after the baby is born. This book was difficult to read at times, but beautifully written and compelling and genuinely full of heart. I went to the shop and picked up her latest book, Skylarks, not long after finishing Countless.
Finally this month I read another book from my eternal TBR – The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh. This story is a retelling of 1001 Nights (I think!) and follows Shahrzad as she volunteers to marry the Caliph of Khorasan, who every night takes a new bride who is then killed at dawn. But Shahrzad is determined not to be one of those girls. She is there to exact revenge for his killing her best friend, one of his previous brides. But as she gets to know he Caliph, her opinion begins to change…
I loved this book. It transported me to another world, with a main character who is focused and determined to achieve what she wants, who can present as unafraid despite being constantly in fear of her life. I wasn’t expecting as much romance as there was in this book, but it didn’t feel forced or there for the sake of it; I really felt like it added to the characters and their depth and their place in the story. I was so addicted when I finished, that I immediately loaned my copy to a friend and hunted down the sequel, The Rose And The Dagger, in all of the bookshops within reasonable driving distance until I found it. Don’t try and find a book you need immediately on a bank holiday, everyone. It’s not the one.
I’ve also DNF-d two books this month. The first was sadly They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera. I wanted to love this book so much, but unfortunately it didn’t hook me enough, so I donated it to the school library so it can find some love there. The second was Thornhill by Pam Smy. This wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying the book, but it’s split narrative between written narrative and picture narrative, and I struggled not having it all written down. I don’t read graphic novels or illustrated novels really at all, so unfortunately I didn’t get on with Thornhill. If you enjoy illustrated or graphic novels though, I would definitely give this book a try, as it seemed really mysterious from the parts that I read.
Audiobook-wise, I’ve just be re-listening to Good Omens (no surprises there) and been dipping in and out of the audiobook of Big Magic, which I read the hard copy of earlier this year.
Wow! I’m exhausted. I can’t believe I read so many books this month! Who knows where we’ll be by June’s wrap up…
What have you read this month? Have you enjoyed any of the books that are in my wrap up? Let me know!
Happy reading / writing!