Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Books We Read in May

May was a pretty prolific reading month for me - I read 8 books. It helped that I had no evening commitments during my work trip to Denver so I did lots of reading in the evening during that trip. 

My reads:

These were my favorites! Dinners with Ruth is a memoir about the friendship between NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg and RBG. They were both trailblazers in their respective fields so it was an inspiring read. I've already told you about A Heart That Works - it was a heart-breaking, cry-inducing read. Their son was Will's age when he died so it really hit home for me. Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club is J. Ryan Stradal's latest book. He writes books set in Minnesota as he grew up here. They have a kitschy vibe to them but I like them! Trigger warning for infertility. There are other triggers but it would be a spoiler to share, so if you are a sensitive reader, do some research. If We're Being Honest has been on several summer reading lists. It's a debut novel about a family gathering for the patriarch's funeral. It's a character driven novel about family secrets. Symphony of Secrets is the sophomore novel by Slocumb who is now known for writing "musical thrillers." I don't know that thriller is the right term to use, though, but it is suspenseful. This novel is about scores of music that were stolen from a black composer. I didn't like this as much as his debut but still enjoyed it. Lastly, Romantic Comedy is an excellent romance that will make my best books of the year. It's mostly set on an SNL-type of show. Much of it takes place during the pandemic but I thought that aspect was handled really well. 

These were less successful reads for me. Vita Nostra is a book I never would have read if it wasn't chosen for book club. I struggled through this book and ultimately did not give it a rating on goodreads because I am not the intended audience for this book. I'm looking forward to our book club discussion tonight, though, as some in our group loved it. Happy Place is Emily Henry's latest romance and probably my least favorite of her 4. As an enneagram 1, I found the plot of the book completely unrealistic/unbelievable. I can not imagine breaking off my engagement AND NOT TELLING MY BEST FRIENDS. There were other plot lines that didn't work for me either. I had a great exchange with Stephany, who is an enneagram 9. She liked this much more than me as she could relate to the protagonist.

The boys' reads:

Paul's reads stand out the most this month (Will reads the same books over and over so nothing new/novel there). First off, this was our favorite picture book. It has some Spanish mixed in. We read this so many times and Paul has asked for a copy for Christmas. It's about a handsome cat that is walking around with 9 kittens (gatitos in Spanish). There is some counting in the book and lots of humor. I could read this one over and over again. The cat has such swagger!

Now for the less successful read. We've been slowing working our way through Stuart Little. We both enjoyed it until the final 3rd of the book. This is a spoiler, but the book was published in 1945 and it seems like there should be a statute of limitations on spoilers for books? Skip ahead if you don't want the ending spoiled. In the book, Stuart is looking for his bird friend, Margalo. I assumed, since this was written for children, that she would be found. But she wasn't! It ended so abruptly and was so very dissatisfying. Also the book did not age well as there were references to smoking/cigarettes. Here's Paul's review which he dictated for my goodreads review: "That's it? All that and he doesn't find Margalo? You've got to be kidding me. Fiddlesticks." 

What chapter books have your kids enjoyed? The classics we've read haven't been super successful (Socks, Stuart Little, Mr. Poppers Penguins). What was the best book you read this month?


  1. Given your review of the latest Henry book, I will probably give it a pass. However, I have found all of her books unrealistic and pithy, so I am probably not the best audience for this type of writing (I think I am a enneagram one as well if that matters). I am okay with a little bit of stretching the "I hate you then I love you but I can't tell you" romance novel but come on. Hard pass.

    I read a lot of three star books in May, but my favorites were probably The Overnight Guest, I Will Find You or You Could Make This Place Beautiful. Two of those are thrillers, which probably somehow indicates what kind of mood I was in... I also read Dinners With Ruth fairly recently and really enjoyed it! What strong and wonderful women and how nice to have such a good friend.

  2. I am with you on Stuart Little. I read the book to my kids a few years ago and was like: what?! That's it?! Very disappointing. I also didn't *love* Charlotte's Web. It was fine, I can see why it was a classic...but not my fav. My kids really liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox (but some of Roald Dahl's other books were more of a miss for us). We all loved Heidi, but it has some OLD language and could be a bit of a slog.

    I read Me Before You on a plane recently and read it in one sitting. It wasn't my favourite book ever, but it was gripping enough that I didn't want to put it down! (But I don't think I feel any need to read the other books in the trilogy).

  3. I don't have kids, but as an adult, I re-read Stuart Little and found it much less substantial than I had as a kid. I too had the "that's it?" reaction.

    I've mostly been re-reading this month (still love "The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches"), but I really like The Kaiju Preservation Society, and A House with Good Bones, by T Kingfisher (slightly creepy but such good writing).

  4. The book I finished on Friday is called Sidle Creek and it is written by my actual local friend- Jolene McIlwain! Her son was my student several years ago and she is an accomplished author, but this is her first big book publishing. It is a collection of short stories about the fictional place Sidle Creek— but Sidle Creek actually very much resembles the area we live in. She mentions several local landmarks/areas in the book. It was not an easy read- as some of the stories are very hard to digest. They focus on the grit and perseverance that exists in the people who are often seen as simple minded/red neck in Appalachia. I really enjoyed the book, despite some of the heaviness, and Jolene’s publisher actually asked ME to host an event at our local library to discuss her book with her. I feel honored!

    Your comment about the content in some classic books reminded me
    of Welles’ reaction to some of the classic Disney movies. When we watched Pinocchio, he was appalled at the smoking and drinking that the little boys were doing!

  5. I just finished Yellowface and it was so, so good! I also really loved Fleishman is in Trouble. Both excellent reads.
    Disappointing about the Emily Henry book! I was looking forward to reading it. I will report back!

  6. I really WANTED to love lakeside Supper Club because I adore his other books, but it just did not do it for me, and I tried t make it work. I liked Happy Place, but I am not the giant Emily Henry fan that everyone my age seems to be LOL.

  7. Oh! Chapter books-- LOVE The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes and Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff and of course Wonder by RJ Palacio

  8. My May started out strong reading a whole bunch on the flight to Austin, but then after that it faded away fast. Our month has just been insane. I've basically had to choose between workouts, walks or reading most days, and I've been choosing workouts, followed by walks, and then sadly reading tends to come in last, or not at all many days. I have still been slowly working through Outlive by Peter Attia which is not a fast read- lots of science talk, etc. However, last week according to my tracker, I didn't really read at all! I've had some other future related/ trip planning things I've been sorting through in bits of spare time as well instead of reading (and there haven't been large amounts of spare time, period). Ivan will be away for almost a week starting this weekend, so I'm actually kind of excited to maybe have some more downtime for a few days when he's not around. That sounds bad, haha, but I just mean when he's here, we may end up watching a show or going for a walk together or something in open windows of time. I'm hoping with the hot weather, I will be able to snag a few sessions of sitting on the deck or just reading more before bed this week. School gets out soon too, so I'm hopeful maybe things will just slow down a tiny bit, anyway.

  9. I took Gata Guapo out of the library on your recommendation! I was very amused with myself when I went to pick it up and the librarian was a bit surprised when I took out a picture book!

    I didn't love Happy Place, either. I'm glad I'm not alone. It seems like folks really adore Emily Henry and I wish I loved her like everyone else!

  10. Hee hee! I like Paul's review of Stuart Little.
    I wish I could have tagged along to your book club discussion of Vita Nostra! I'm curious to know what other people liked about it. I still think it was confusing, but I was definitely engrossed in that book.
    I don't usually read romances, but I might try the Curtis Sittenfeld. I read a book of her short stories and really enjoyed that. Symphony of Secrets also sounds really good.

  11. We need more Paul reviews of the books he's reading, hahaha. "Fiddlesticks!" I love a good, snarky reviewer. ;)

    Yes, our opinions are different with Happy Place but I like that we could have a good discussion on it anyway! I don't think I would have waited that long to tell my friends I was going through a breakup, especially if the person was integral to my friend group, but Harriet had some extreme unhealthy enneagram 9 tendencies, haha. I could relate. =/

    My favorite books in May were The 1619 Project, We Are Not From Here, and Happy Place.

  12. My daughter loved the 'My Father's Dragon' books. I'm not sure how old your son is.

    Older books certainly have a different sensibility. Have you read 'A Little Princess'? Spoiler alert (I think it was written in the early 20th century) - In the book, Sara's father dies, believing he has been betrayed by his best friend. Sara is left penniless in the boarding school where she was once the richest girl. She is starved and treated horribly. In the end, her father's friend turns out to be the wealthy man who lives next door to the school, and he rescues her. The key to the story, though, is that she forgives him for his (unwitting) part in her father's death, and the book does not shy away from that. In the movie versions, her father is alive, and she spends her time wandering the hospitals trying to find him, which of course she eventually does. SO DIFFERENT THAN THE BOOK! I feel like they didn't think little kids could manage the father's death when they made the films, and perhaps that is right, but it ruined the story for me.

  13. Interesting reads! The highlight is Sharp Objects by G. Flynn. I breezed through it but parts of it were disturbing.

  14. I have been reading quite a bit but it’s rereading the low country boil series bc I love to revisit books I’ve read before.

    Paul’s review of the book, LOL!!! I read the end of books sometimes to make sure I want to read the whole thing, Michael and I had a WHOLE conversation about this and what’s the point of reading of you know the ending and honestly, Paul’s reaction is so how I feel if I don’t like a book ending that sometimes I just have to make sure it’s worth my time! This might be a trait I can attribute to being an Enneagram 7 :D

  15. I never read Stuart Little, but thanks to his fantastic review, I never will. :) I mean, seriously? I will take a closer look at your favorite reads - I suspect we have very similar taste in books. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Isla loved the magic tree house books, the laura ingalls wilder books,ivy and Bean, sophie the mouse, the princess in black. Dahl books were horrible. Ummm... she went on a boxcar children streak. Even some babysitter club books. She loved Wonder. Thw Watsons Go to Birmingham.