May Book Reviews

For me, the lockdown of 2020 seen me consuming a healthy array of novels, life-stories, fantasy fiction, and glorious memoirs.  Following on from April’s book club, the month May seen me reading a total of 10 books!  Being furloughed meant I was able to race through my ever-growing TBR list (giving me a great excuse to add to it, which I wrote about here and here).

In May, I indulged in some truly amazing non-fiction highs, such as East Of Croydon by Sue Perkins and Jog On… by Bella Mackie.  When there are highs, however, there must also be some lows.  These not-so-great reads included The Mystery Of Henri Pick and the over-hyped Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan.  I am a firm believer in getting through the bad books to truly appreciate the good.

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As always, follow me on Goodreads for every day up-to-date book findings and reading progress.

Follow me on Instagram also for updates and to view my ‘books 2020’ highlight.

This post contains affiliate links and gifted items.  The latter clearly marked ‘GIFTED’.

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Jog On: How Running Saved My Life – Bella Mackie (2019)
Read via Kindle 

Guardian journalist and author Bella Mackie is my running muse.  Her debut book, Jog On: How Running Saved My Life, is definitely one of my favourite non-fiction reads this year.  A love-note for beginner runners, seasoned veterans, and everyone in between, it’s core ethos is to find yourself a passion and thus never get off the ride. 

Rooted in science and extensive research, Mackie’s Jog On is a concoction of memoir, motivational handbook, information booklet, and real-life experience cultivation.  This multifaceted publication is the bible for joggers, sprinters, fair-weather runners, and even those who prefer to watch their racing on the television.  

 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis (1950)
Read via Audiobook

In my April Book Club post, I discussed the idea of finally investing in the fantasy land of Narnia.  I have never read the series in full – only snippets and certain books.  One of the stories I have already spent a great deal of time with however is The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  The protagonists’ Lucy, Edmond, Peter, and Susan are like archaic school friends and it felt so good to be with them again.  

For this re-visit, I opted for the 2006 BBC Radio 4 Dramatised Adaptation. Coming in at just under two hours, this audio gave the story a new depth and meaning.  The emotions, thoughts, and feelings of the Pevensie children and the voices of Aslan and The White Witch were brilliant.  I had serious chills throughout.  I would highly recommend it. 

 

GIFTED: Private Means – Cree LeFavour (2020) 
Read via Kindle 

Private Means by Cree LaFavour is one of two books gifted to me via NetGalley in May.  An advanced reading copy (ARC) is always exciting – even when it may evoke unfamiliar feelings of uneasiness and confusion like Private Means did for me.

The reader of Private Means is forced to become a voyeur – closely watching a nuclear, wealthy family begin to fray at the seams.  The bright young things have finally flown the nest; the family dog has vanished and so has the flirtation, adoration, and familiarity of love between mother and father.  This frustrated, privileged married couple compete in adultery and commit domestic abuse while keeping secrets, masturbating, exhibiting greed, and also excessive wealth.

An odd read which seemingly doesn’t end in a resolve, Private Means leaves a lot to unpack.   One thing is for certain however, this book is the hottest mess you can imagine.  

 

GIFTED: The Tales of Beadle the Bard – J. K. Rowling (2008)
Read via Audiobook

The first time we hear of The Tales of Beadle the Bard is at the very beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Dumbledore is dead (spoiler alert) and leaves Hermione Granger his annotated copy of The Tales of Beadle the Bard – a collection of fabled stories – in the hope that she uncovers the power of The Deathly Hallows.  A storybook of the same name was then published in 2008 by J. K. Rowling.  The book contains the story of Babbity Rabitty and her cackling stump as well as the Tale of the Three Brothers.

Fun and simple, these stories are scribed as Beadle the Bard would have told them and they are followed up with ‘notes’ written by Dumbledore himself.  These extracts, found at the end of the tales, explain the themes, history, and messages behind each short story.

Audible gifted me the audiobook version of The Tales of Beadle the Bard, which is narrated by the likes of Evanna Lynch, Jude Law, and Noma Dumezweni.  As a Harry Potter buff, I loved it.  A really easy read.

 

East Of Croydon – Sue Perkins (2018)
Read via Audiobook

Not only is Sue Perkins a barrel-of-laughs presenter but also a fantastic storyteller.  Her moreish travel diary/comedic memoir, East Of Croydon, is definitely a train to jump upon if you can.

Weaving family anecdotes between funny encounters and heartbreaking times; Perkins’ non-fiction journey is honest, fast-paced and truly eye-opening.  East Of Croydon is inspired by her ‘The Ganges’ BBC1 series and sees her traveling throughout different parts of India and South Asia.  There are encounters with mosquitos and dangerously high altitudes, stories of chopped off toes, the shame of privilege, and pig lollipops plenty.  

Perkins allows us a glimpse into a world that doesn’t wear Westernised rose-tinted glasses.  She laments and flails while always being brutally honest.  Her opinions and anxieties are deep-rooted with fact and experience, making East Of Croydon a truly phenomenal read.  Every moment of this book is real.

 

Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths – Bernard Evslin (1967)
Read via Audiobook

Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths by Bernard Evslin is a broad spectrum journey. Covering the basics from Zeus to Pandora, Atlanta to Artemis, and Perseus to Theseus, Evslin’s comprehensive guide to Greek Mythology is succinct and spectacular.  Easy to thumb, pick up and drop back in, these greek myths are brimming with comedy and a wealth of insight.  A great starting point for beginners. 

 

Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle – Luke Jennings (2018)
Read via Audiobook

Cold, calculating, and wickedly sharp, the literary depiction of Villanelle is even greater than her television portrayal.  Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle is the basis to the BBC/Hulu Killing Eve show, but with excessive glamour and even more gruesome murders.  

Luke Jennings’ first Killing Eve novel gives us a deeper insight into the life of British Intelligence agent, Eve Polastri as well as a thorough backstory to Russian assassin Oxana Vorontsova.  The reader is led into understanding why Villanelle and Eve become entwined and obsessed as well as seeing red flags and foreshadowing appear before their very eyes.  

Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle truly is chick-lit-meets-spy-thriller in the most lavishly interesting way possible.  You need to read this book.

 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins (2020)
Read via physical copy

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the first Hunger Games novel from Suzanne Collins in ten years.  Set decades before Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark’s birth, Songbirds and Snakes tells the tale of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow’s first year mentoring a girl from District 12 The Hunger Games.  Broke and starving, Snow battles with morals, expectation, and love to put his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird through hell and back. 

Big and bulky, Songbirds and Snakes is mainly made up of description, background information and little action.  I would almost say that Collins has used this book as a scene-setter and a re-introduction to the world of Panem.  Could this be a springboard for better things to come? 

While it may not be the Hunger Games spin-off we were looking for (perhaps due to focusing a truly detestable character) the floodgates have been opened.  Perhaps old favourites Cressida, Johanna Mason, or Finnick Odair will be getting a reboot?  Songbirds and Snakes may not have been spectacular but it is a gateway to more.  For that, my 14-year-old self is grateful. 

 

Exciting Times – Naoise Dolan (2020)
Read via Audiobook

After loving the likes of Normal People and Conversations with Friends by Irish author, Sally Rooney, I was advised via a parade of praise that Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan would be right up my street.  While possessing a similar coming-of-age form and centering around relationships, I believed the hareem of critics to be categorically wrong.  Exciting Times was not in the same lane as a Sally Rooney novel. 

Characters were detestable and depthless while the story itself simply teetered around the protagonist not being liked enough by her older boyfriend (who wasn’t her boyfriend) and then not being able to be with her girlfriend because she refused to break up with her said-older boyfriend (who wasn’t her boyfriend).  I would never say that this novel was completely pointless, but I did miss its USP.  Upon finishing, I felt empty and slightly frustrated – what did I gain from reading this?

On the whole, the novel was clunky and awkward and not witty nor smart.  Exciting Times was simply anything but.

 

GIFTED: The Mystery of Henri Pick – David Foenkinos (2020)
Read via Kindle

This was the second of two books gifted to me via NetGalley this month.  Unfortunately, much like the ARC copy of Private Means, The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos also missed its mark.  Translated from French to English, The Mystery of Henri Pick follows a publisher and a failing author who make the executive decision to publish a rejected manuscript found in a library filled with unpublished novels.  

The book follows a plethora of characters in the aftermath of publication.  These include; a librarian and her mundane marriage, a widow and her jilted daughter, a money-struggling journalist; a failed author, and his attempts to write from the bed, and of course the mysterious Henri Pick.  As the sleepy town begins to wake up, the same question is on everybody’s lips: who was the real Henri Pick?

Personally, I was not interested in finding out who Henri Pick was.  The novel was neither gripping nor interesting; there were too many diverse secondary plots which feebly bled into the main plotline.  Let us just say I am not holding out for a second book.

2 thoughts on “May Book Reviews

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