May 2021 Reading Update

I had another great reading month in May! I intentionally watched less junk TV and read more whenever I could. It helped that I had a long weekend away (my first plane trip in 14 months!) and lots of time to read poolside! I read so many books that I LOVED this month, and I listened to some audio books as well. This month I read:

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – I LOVED this book! When I heard about it (on a podcast), I knew I would like it. Then I started reading it, and the e-book version was 1,100 pages long and it started slowly and I thought I would never get into it, much less finish it. But soon I was invested in the life of Addie LaRue. She was a young woman born in France in the 1690’s who didn’t want to get married and be owned by a man. So she traded her life with the devil and then lives a sort of invisible life for centuries. The story alternates between what happens to her in her early life after the deal, and her modern love story in 2014 in NYC, with Henry, a lovely character with his own demons. This was such a fun mix of realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and magical realism and I loved the author’s creativity. Such an interesting read!
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – Another book I LOVED! I hadn’t read Ng before, but I did love the TV series based on her other book Little Fires Everywhere. In this book, the story follows the a Chinese American family in the 1970’s in the suburbs of Ohio. The children, Lydia, Nath, and Hannah, are the only Chinese children in town, and they face a lot of prejudice and microaggressions. Most of the story revolves around the fact that Lydia is missing from the first page of the book, but no one knows what happened. As the stories continues, and flashes backwards, we learn that Lydia’s father, who is Chinese, and her mother, who is white, have high expectations that their daughter we reach all the goals they didn’t Her mother wants her to be a doctor and her father wants her to be popular. The siblings have typical, complicated sibling relationships and everyone in the family leaves so much unsaid. This was a bittersweet, sad, family story that, though set in the 70’s could be about today. I loved the way the author developed each character, and how realistically flawed they all were.
  • Wreckage of My Presence: Essays by Casey Wilson – I have loved Casey Rose Wilson ever since I discovered the Bitch Sesh podcast, where she and Danielle Schneider break down Real Housewives episodes every week! I enjoyed this because Casey is funny and self deprecating and honest and real. She shared some silly acting stories, some sad family stories, and some funny memories. Listening to her read it was as fun as the podcast! And I started watching one of her shows, Happy Endings, because of her love for her costars.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I vaguely remember hearing about this book last year, and knew that I couldn’t read it while we were in the thick of our very real COVID-19 pandemic. This book, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, takes place before, during, and after a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world. It was sad and scary and entertaining, to read about the best and worst of humanity during the worst of times. While there were some slow parts in the book, there were also some parts I couldn’t read fast enough and I was sad when it ended.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny – I have heard Louise Penny’s detective series mentioned on multiple reading podcasts, so it’s been on my TBR for a few months. I finally decided to dive in to the first book and I enjoyed getting to know Detective Gamache and all of the characters in the small Canadian village of Three Pines. There were a LOT of secondary characters in this story, which made it feel crowded at times, but I still appreciated the lead up to the reveal of the who the murderer was and was had happened.
  • Hush-Hush by Stuart Woods – I haven’t read a Woods book since December, and I found a few available through my library. Just now I realized that I skipped one, so I will have to go back. I try to read the Stone Barrington series in order, just because some of his personal life changes slightly in between books. I don’t know why I love these books so much – they are graphically violent and nothing that I would hope happens in real life. But for escapism, I enjoy the fast-paced, rich-life adventures that Stone and his friends always find themselves in. What regular people can travel from NYC to Paris to NYC to London to NYC to Maine and back again in the course of a week or two, all while being stalked by Russian mobsters? It’s good fiction!
  • Choppy Waters by Stuart Woods – As soon as I finished the last Woods book and realized I had skipped this one, I had to go back and read it immediately. Thank goodness for library e-books readily available! What I enjoyed about this story was it was less about Stone Barrington’s wealthy adventures, and more about the president-elect, Holly Barker, is sometimes girlfriend. As the FBI and CIA fought to protect Holly from a fanatical group out to kill her before her inauguration, there was some fund undercover work, some hiding, and some fake-out scenarios to get the bad guys. I love Holly’s character and appreciated how she was in this entire story, instead of a chapter now and again.
  • Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan – The Currently Reading podcast recommended this as a good YA to listen to on audio. I’m so glad I followed that recommendation, because the audio version was beautiful! This was a unique story, told in four parts. The first part was old fashioned fairy tale and I almost gave up because it was not what I was expecting. Luckily it was short and I loved the main sections of the story. It begins in Germany in 1933, then moves to Philadelphia in 1935 and then SoCal in 1942, and ends in NYC in 1951. Each of the three parts felt so separate, yet the author did a beautiful job of finding the connections. The ending was sweet and the story was light-hearted despite the challenges each character faced. I highly recommend anyone who loves YA books or this author listen to this story!
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – I remember loving this YA mystery as either a child or a new teacher, and I randomly decided to read it again this month. There are a number of wacky characters, brought together to solve a murder mystery, with a lot of word-play clues. From the first set of clues, I remembered bits and pieces of the story, which is shocking since it was so long ago when I last read it and I rarely remember details! This was a fun read, thought it felt old and I’m not sure that any kids today would find much excitement in the low-tech details.
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave – I loved this book, which I picked for my May Book of the Month Club selection! Hannah has only been married to Owen for about two years when their entire world unravels. Just as Hannah is learning to deal with her surly teenage stepdaughter, Owen’s company gets raided and he goes missing. Throughout the entire book, Hannah and Bailey, her stepdaughter, work to solve the mystery of what has happened to Owen, and all that they don’t know. This was such a fun read that kept me interested from beginning to end.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott – I believe I saw this book referenced during a photo challenge this month, which made me take it off my shelf and reread it after many years. The first time I read this was when I was an English teacher, diving deep into the study of writing and teaching writing to young adolescents. This time I picked it up hoping for some inspiration or direction for my own personal writing. There were some nuggets I appreciated that drove me to draft some junk first drafts (one of the nuggets), to write about my childhood (another), and a reminder to be open to ideas from anywhere. What I was thinking when I began was that I wanted to work on my own fiction writing, but where I am now is thinking about the art of memoir. I’m curious to read other memoirs and essay collections for writerly inspiration.
  • No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez – I loved this book because it was my favorite kind of mystery- fast-paced, with the reader getting only some of the clues at a time, so it was hard to piece together the story or to know what was right or wrong or where we would end up. When Cassie stops to help with a couple fighting on the side of the road, she has no idea what kind of mess she will bring into her life. Everything that follows is a race to save lives and figure out the truth.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – I love David Sedaris’s writing for the laugh out loud, self-depricating stories! I haven’t read one of his collections in over a decade, so even though this is older, I enjoyed it. Sedaris bought a beach house for his family, then filled this book with mostly humorous stories about him and his middle-aged siblings, their aging father, and their childhood memories. While there are some sad points, his humor shines through and always ends on a high note. His fitbit obsession was remarkable and I’m curious if he still aims for a minimum of 7 miles of walking every single day!
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I loved this bittersweet story of Louisa Clark, who after losing her job ends up working as a caretaker/companion for quadripalegic Will Traynor. As they get to know each other, Louisa learns the simple and complex challenges that Will faces every day, while Will inspires her to see and do more with her life while she has the chance. Have tissues ready when reading this!
Me Before You: A Novel
  • When She Returned by Lucinda Berry – I have no idea where I heard about this book, but I enjoyed it as a fast-paced mystery that was perfect for a poolside reading experience! The story jumps from the present, when Kate returns after an 11 year disappearance, and the past, when we learn what happened to Kate. I love a story that involves mystery, a cult, and multiple narrators, and this had it all!
  • Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare – It took me awhile to get into this book, because the main character narrates in broken English. When the story begins, Adunni is a young girl forced to marry at age 14. After that sad beginning, we follow Adunni as she fights to be able to get an education, fights for her freedom, and works to find and use her own voice. As the story moved on, I enjoyed the characters more and more. I enjoyed learning a variety of facts about Nigeria, although many of them were quite sad or disheartening, especially about human trafficking, and the young girls who are forced into servitude.

Fiction: 13

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 3

Female author: 13

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 9

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: Tarana Burke, Stuart Woods, Nora Zelevansky, and more!

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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