May 2021 Reading Wrap-up

Another month is gone and I’m amazed that 2021 is already almost halfway over. Time is seriously flying by so quickly! This month I read 11 books, which wasn’t great considering I’m on summer break with not that much to do. However, already in June I’ve read quite a few books, so I’m assuming I’ll read quite a few books next month.

Now let’s get into the reviews!

1 Stars

Book Cover
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (released 2005)
    • I know this is probably a very unpopular opinion, because most people seem to love this book, but it honestly just wasn’t for me. Alaska is one of the least likeable love interests I have ever read in fiction. In fact, most of the “friends” Miles makes are pretty horrible. At first I thought the book was going to be somewhat of a moral lesson (if you hang out with horrible people who do nothing but drink, do drugs, and destroy things, nothing good will come of it). However, no lesson was really learned and the characters felt at the same place at the end of the book as they did at the beginning. Later on, I wondered if the point of the story was how different people cope with grieving (no spoilers!). And yet the theme of grieving doesn’t come in until about 50 pages from the end of the book. Also, there is this hipster feel in the book of searching for deeper meaning in life (Miles with his obsession with famous people’s last words, Alaska with her interest in books), and yet there was no substance to deeper understanding of anything. If I could sum up this book in one sentence: life is shit. I mean, yeah…but I read books to understand deeper things than the obvious, and this book’s flourishings of depth seemed to merely cover the fact that its a boring, pointless book.

2 Stars

  • Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History–Without the Fairy-tale Endings by Linda Rodriquez McRobbie (released 2013)
    • I like the premise of this book, of telling real life, darker stories of princesses different than the happy Disney Princesses. However, while there were parts of this book which were interesting to me, I was pretty disappointed overall. It didn’t help that the book starts with a introduction condemning all Disney princesses as being pathetic and ignoring all the moral lessons the Disney princesses teach little girls, like to be kind and strong. Like, I would prefer being Mulan any day than being Wu Zetian. However, I wanted to give this book a chance, so I continued reading. And some of the stories were interesting enough, though many of them were based more on legend or rumors than actual history, which kind of defeated the purpose of “real stories.” I also found McRobbie seemed to excuse the princesses’ bad behavior (like poisoning people) because they were forced in a man’s world to do anything to survive, and yet any prince was condemned for the same behavior. Poisoning somebody is bad even if you’re a woman, just for the record. It’s not a bad book and I enjoyed some of the stories, but it wasn’t as great as I was expecting.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (released 2017)
    • I really liked the beginning of this book, especially having to do with Aza’s obsession with bacteria and becoming infected with rare diseases. I suffer from anxiety myself (of course, mine is nothing like hers), so I could understand how she felt many times. I also enjoyed her friendship with Daisy, both its highs and lows. Saying that, the ending concluded nothing and the whole fugitive billionaire plotline felt in the background and pretty pointless as the story continued. There is really no plot and, like most of Green’s books, there is a surface level of philosophical examination of life and nothing below the surface. It wasn’t a horrible book, but pretty pointless by the end despite some interesting characters.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale (released 2007)
    • I loved the premise of this book! Being a massive fan of Jane Austen, I appreciated how Jane say the ideals in the novels to be an impossible reality in our world, but still struggled with finding something real. I liked the idea of going to an “austenland” place to pretend to be living in the early 19th century for several weeks, realizing reality is more difficult to find. Saying that, this book failed at so many things. I have watched and enjoyed the movie adaptation of this book, but this book took itself too seriously. Jane is constantly objectifying and jumping from man to man. Unlike in the movie, where I felt the love interests built well, in the book I never felt like Henry was a real character, just idealized. This was disappointing as the whole point of this book is for Jane to find something real. And yet by the end I wasn’t convinced that it was real. I liked the other quirky characters, but for the most part I didn’t like the romance.
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (released 2019)
    • I really loved the premise of this book and the beginning: a psychologist with his own traumatic past tries to unwind why a successful painter murdered her husband and has not spoken one word since his death. I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery, and Theo, the psychologist, attempting to figure out what happened. However, I did not care at all for half the book focusing on Theo’s relationship with his wife, even if it was tied into the plot in the end. Also, the plot twist was completely ridiculous and, while I suspected both Theo and Alicia (the painter) were more than they appeared, I found the ending twist unraveled everything interesting about the previous tension of the mystery.

3 Stars

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (released 2012)
    • I feel like most people have a strong hatred for this book or a strong love for it, but for me I feel somewhere in the middle. There were some things I thought this book did very well, and other things I thought were underdeveloped. For example, the different ways of coping with cancer (or pain in general) was exceptionally done. Hazel copes by pushing people away, terrified if she dies those she loves will be hurt. Even so, she is able to overcome this and fall in love. Augustus is the opposite, living every moment to the fullest and often coping with his pain through humor. However, there is one beautifully written scene where he breaks down in tears and can’t see the humor anymore. I did really enjoy Isaac’s character as well, another example of a character coping with cancer in a different way. Saying that, the romance felt underdeveloped to me, as did Hazel and Augustus outside of their basic personalities. I found them more of personifications of different ways of coping, as opposed to real, fleshed out characters. I also was never sold on them actually being in love, and considered their romance more of them caring for the other because no one else really understood them. Also, I did not care at all for Hazel’s favorite author’s elements. I kept looking for meaning in including it, but all I could figure out was that it was supposed to help Hazel stand on her own as opposed to be obsessed with a fictional book. It wasn’t horrible, but the author additives felt a bit unnecessary to me, if at times amusing. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I didn’t love it.
  • The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (released 2018)
    • So, where do I start with reviewing this novel? The premise was absolutely brilliant, playing with a typical murder mystery and making it truly unique. Being that this book is completely based on a shifting and mysterious timeline where the protagonist relives the same day in different bodies to solve a murder, it certainly was intriguing. However, unfortunately I found that the book failed in delivering through on a tightly written, provoking novel. There were way too many characters (both characters in the world and characters like Aiden), making it a difficult story to follow. This was made even worse by the confusing and intermingling timelines. Even more frustrating was the lack of clues. I’m the type of mystery reader who likes to pick out clues as a story continues and, when the solution is revealed, feel satisfied that, even if I didn’t figure it out, everything was brought together in the end to create a solution which made sense with the clues. Unfortunately with this mystery, things were simply revealed, giving no opportunity for the reader to figure things out. Don’t even get me started on how atrocious and silly the plot twist at the end was. Interesting premise and I enjoyed aspects of the story, but overall I felt like it could have been a much stronger book.
  • The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis #1-4) by Marjane Satrapi (released 2003)
    • I feel like I’m in the minority here when I say I had mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the idea of telling a memoir through the medium of a graphic novel. The art, while simplistic, is very pleasing to the eye, simple and evocative. I really enjoyed the backdrop of revolutionary Iran from the perspective of one, average girl. There are also some pretty hard-hitting, emotional moments where you really feel for the characters, like people dying. Saying that, the world information is often given to the reader in massive chunks, with no background information (due to this being a graphic novel). I knew little to nothing about this era in Iranian history going into this book, so I felt lost several times trying to understand the political climate of the country within which this story takes place. I also found the parts when Marjane was not in Iran, when she went to live in Austria, to be pretty boring. There were hints of her struggles to fit it, but mostly it was her going to school and making friends. For me the first 140 pages were exceptional, and then after that the story was just average. I still enjoyed the drawings, and I liked the conclusion, but the middle portion of the books were a bit slow to me. This novel is an interesting, provoking read, despite its flaws.

4 Stars

  • The Troop by Nick Cutter (released 2014)
    • If I rated this book on whether I could handle it, I’d definitely give myself one star. Worms festering inside people…hell no! For the record, I am a reader who can handle a lot. Graphic serial killer true crime books, totally fine. Monster books where bodies are torn apart, that’s just light fun. But psycho kids torturing animals and worms infesting inside humans, just nope. While subjectively this book was exceptionally written with complex characters and great horror, it was pretty traumatizing for me. I still feel like something is crawling up my leg, and being hungry will never quite be the same to me. I think what makes this book such great horror is how realistic it actually is. There are horrible people in the world, and infestations inside human bodies are a real thing, if somewhat uncommon. Everything in this book stands firmly without the range of reality, making it all so much more disturbing seeing a troop of boy scouts stuck on an island where worms infest human hosts. If you are looking for a truly disturbing horror, I highly recommend this book. For me, you couldn’t pay me to read it again.
  • Stories of the North by Jack London (released 1968)
    • This is a collection of short stories by the author of White Fang and The Call of the Wild. Like all of London’s stories, these focus around the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska and the brutal survival conditions there. The only one I had read before picking up this collection was “To Built a Fire,” which is London’s best known short story. Many of the stories center around themes of the cruelty of man and nature and the hardships of living through bitter winters up north. I really enjoyed all the story stories, despite none of them shying away from horrific twists.

5 Stars

Book Cover
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (released 1908)
    • This book is very strange, and I absolutely loved it. It is jam-packed with references, so I was happy to read the Ignatius Press edition because it has footnotes, which explain all the references (as well as the ending). The ending is especially crazy, focusing on Christian theology as opposed to a moral story which fills most of the book. I found the story hilarious. It is about a policeman who enters undercover into an anarchist group, only to discover more than he imagined. Part mystery, part comedy, part theology, it makes for an insightful but complex read.

Have you read any of these books? How was your reading last month? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Anne

17 thoughts on “May 2021 Reading Wrap-up

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