May 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I feel like 2020 is just divulving into chaos…why can’t we all not be idiots and replace violence with love? Anyways, I will avoid everything crazy going on and focus on my reading this month. I had a pretty good month, reading 12 books (including two rereads).

I’m also starting a big reread for the Harry Potter Series, and I’m hoping to tackle one of those books per month. It’s strange, because I haven’t read Harry Potter since the final book came out (which tells you how long that’s been), so it’s great to reread it as an adult (because I was probably like 14 when the last book came out).

Also, my lowest book rating is two stars, and I think I’ve gotten better at gauging whether I’ll like a book before I read it, so it’s decreasing the one stars. Okay, well, let’s get into it.

2 Stars

  • The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben (released March 2020)
    • I’m not exactly sure why I couldn’t get into this book, but I found it so boring and slow-moving until maybe the last chapters. There were several things I thought lessened my enjoyment. There were a lot of conflicts and mysteries introduced (like a missing girl, a boy found in the woods as a child, government corruption), but never did the stakes feel high. I never felt like none of it was important. Every time I thought the conflict would rise and I would be invested, a twist defused the situation. There was also a lot of time spent on side plots (like Hester’s romance), that I could not care at all for. The ending was decent, I will admit, but a book’s conflict should build slowly over the course of the book, not be thrown in at the end like an afterthought.
  • Frozen Girl: The Discovery of an Incan Mummy by David Getz (released 2018)
    • This book presented a really interesting story, and one with pictures. I loved learning about the science of examining a mummified body, and learning a bit about the Incan culture. I did not appreciate the deep-seated bias of the writer, however. Getz was willing to condemn the horribly behavior of the Spanish who came in to take over the Incan empire, but downgraded the reality that the Incan empire enslaved many civilizations around them. In fact, he even tries to justify human sacrifices, trying to paint it as beautiful and spiritual. I have no problem with an author presenting a biased opinion, I just dislike it when it’s in a children’s book which can inform perceptions of impressionable minds. I certainly will not be giving this to a child to read. However, for the most part, this book was well-written.
  • The Magicians (The Magicians #1) by Lev Grossman (released 2009)
    • Where to start with this book…I went into this novel hoping for a darker, more adult version of Harry Potter. However, the result of this book was just plain depressing. The characters were foolish at the best of times, and none of them were really likable. Quentin as a protagonist was so frustrating, and many of the pain caused to everyone was their own fault. There was also a lot of vague ideas of magic (like magic is caused by pain and emotion), but the magic never felt substantial and real to me. I did like the third part of the story, after the students graduated and went on a dark adventure, but the ending was just plain depressing. I found myself on one hand not caring when anyone died and on the other hand feeling incredibly sorry for the world. However, the descriptions were beautiful and the story very sensory.

3 Stars

  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty (released 2014)
  • The Land That Time Forgot (Caspak #1) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (released 1918) (reread)
    • I have read this book twice now. The first time I gave it two stars, as I found the main narrator annoying and unbearable. However, upon second read, I found myself enjoying this book slightly more, especially since the story is enjoyable and it is a fun adventure. However, it does take half the book just to get to the “land that time forgot,” which does make the beginning feel a bit unnecessary.
  • The Deep by Alma Katsu (released March 2020)
  • The Jade Dragon (Death in Shanghai #1) by Garrett Hudson (released 2017) (indie)
    • There is a lot to like about this book. Being a fan of this era in Shanghai history, I loved the complex understanding of the many dynamics influencing Shanghai in the 1930’s, like the conflict between nationalists and communists, the influence from European countries, and the trouble concerning Korea and Japan. I knew much about this topic before reading this book and I loved the deep dive into the complex issues. For the mystery itself, it kept me intrigued until the ending. It wasn’t exactly anything that felt totally new, but the setting made it interesting. My one main concern with the book is that the characters weren’t that interesting. In fact, when the murderer was revealed, I had to ask, “Who are that again?” Just none of the characters stood out as real, making the incredibly beautiful setting slightly less impactful. The protagonist similarly was really confusing to me. He was foolish to the point of endangering himself and everyone else, and yet everything miraculously turned out for him. I found there was this weird dichotomy between a cozy mystery and a darker thriller. I wouldn’t have minded if this book went either way (darker or lighter), but it kept switching back and forth which really confused me about the tone. However, it was a good enough book to make me enjoy it, despite its weaknesses.

4 Stars

  • And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily #1) by Tasha Alexander (released 2005)
  • The Jungle Book (The Jungle Book #1) by Rudyard Kipling (released 1893)
    • This book tells the story of Mowgli, born and raised in the jungle, but then goes on to other short stories and poems containing similar themes (or mentioned in Mowgli’s story). I have seen several adaptations of this book, including the Disney version, and even so I really found depth in this book I haven’t found in other adaptations. There is this perfect combination of childlike fantasy and serious reality. The animals have personalities, and often make decisions as people would. However, Kipling also has a deep understanding of the dark realities of nature. I really enjoyed this book.

5 Stars

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling (released 1997) (reread)
    • I love this series, and this is the one which began it all. It’s great to reread it now as an adult because I notice so many things I missed as a child. I’m really looking forward to rereading the rest of the series.
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London (released 1903)
  • Marley and Me by John Grogan (released 2005)
    • Anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog will relate to this book, and that includes me. I loved it. The narrative was entertaining and moving, and even with the simplest stories I was drawn into the life of Marley. It’s a sweet tale, and one I admit I cried and laughed for most of. It’s one of those books that speaks to a deeper part of your heart if you’re a dog lover, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m really happy with the books I read last month, and a lot of the lighter reading was nice during this darker time. Have you read any of these books? What books did you read last month? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

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