The fifth month of the year turned out to be my worst reading month yet with only 7 books read. I’m still on track to read my 100 books by the end of the year, but I need to pick up the pace a bit more so I can stay ahead rather than just being ‘on track’.
I think my downfall this month was checking out five books from my local library that were mostly nominees for this year’s Women’s Prize and so weren’t the shortest books ever. Don’t get me wrong, they were great reads – but they were also quite slow and lengthy.
I think this summer is going to be made up of shorter books and page-turning summer romances to fit with the warm weather and adventures.
But without further ado, here are the reviews and ratings of the seven books that I read in May.
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
A book that asks: Is there life after the internet? Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.
My rating: ★★★
I can also be a ‘no one’ included in this title as I personally, won’t be talking about this book very often. I had seen Jack Edwards rave about this book on his YouTube, so naturally picked it up when I seen it in my local library. It was ok and talked about how we live in a world of social media and the things that we are now so accustomed to that would have been mind-blowing before the birth of technology. I’m glad I picked this up in my local library and didn’t pay for it, that’s all I can say about this one.
The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed, in large friendly letters, with the words: DON’T PANIC. The weekend has only just begun…
My rating: ★★
Ok. This is another one picked up in my local library (as are the next three books in my list) and I was immediately drawn to it because it’s a classic. It’s almost embarrassing that I’m owning up to never having read it before May. However, I almost closed this book, never to return about 50 pages in, and it’s quite a short book. But I persevered because I thought, well there must be a reason that this is so iconic and continued on to be a series of books and so it must get better. But no. I feel generous giving this book 2-stars, but since I did finish it, it earned another star from myself. It was just confusing, I didn’t find it funny, it was hard to keep up with, there were so many different odd characters and universes that I didn’t know what was happening at any point. Now I know that I won’t be going anywhere near the science fiction section ever again.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave? Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain. Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.
My rating: ★★★
I was recommended this book by someone in Waterstones, and had seen it all over my Instagram and TikTok feed so was very excited to see it in my local library. However, I’m not the biggest fan of slow-burner type books where nothing really happens and it took me quite a while to get into this book and finish it. I would say that there are beautiful paragraphs in this book and it deals with important topics surrounding mental health but it just didn’t have me gripped and rushing to recommend it further.
The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
Alethea Lopez is about to turn 40. Fashionable, feisty and fiercely independent, she manages a downtown boutique, but behind closed doors she’s covering up bruises from her abusive partner and seeking solace in an affair with her boss. When she witnesses a woman murdered by a jealous lover, the reality of her own future comes a little too close to home. Bringing us her truth in an arresting, unsparing Trinidadian voice, Alethea unravels memories repressed since childhood and begins to understand the person she has become. Her next step is to decide the woman she wants to be.
My rating: ★★★★★
Now this book I would recommend in a heartbeat. A very clever book full of wit yet also harrowing tales of domestic violence and abuse, Lisa Allen-Agostini writes the story of Alethea so well making the reader laugh, cry and feel so much despair and hope at the same time. Told in the Trinidadian dialect, it really does transport you to that location and you can feel the characters come to life through the pages. If you read any of the books in this list, read this one. A sure contender for the Women’s Prize for 2022.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
It is 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs. This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows. In the centre of the tavern, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree. This tree will witness their hushed, happy meetings, their silent, surreptitious departures; and the tree will be there when the war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to rubble, when the teenagers vanish and break apart. Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada Kazantzakis has never visited the island where her parents were born. Desperate for answers, she seeks to untangle years of secrets, separation and silence. The only connection she has to the land of her ancestors is a Ficus Carica growing in the back garden of their home.
My rating: ★★★★★
Another slow burner of a book that I would probably rush to give a mediocre three-stars. However, this nominee for the 2022 Women’s Prize gets no less than a five-star rating from me. This book tells the story of a couple born on different sides of a divide that fell in love and had to seek refuge in the UK, bringing up their daughter who has no idea of the history and country of where she came. The only link is the fig tree in her back garden that also spent time in both countries. I found the divide between religions relatable given that I come from Northern Ireland, and the importance to look into the past and see where you came from and how things have changed in that time. This story was told so beautifully and even with a narration from the fig tree throughout, kept me engrossed the entire time.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing. 3) Joshua Templeman. Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.
My rating: ★★★
After some heavy reading about domestic violence, war-torn countries and a terrible time in the sci-fi world, it was time to pick up some light hearted reading from my shelf and read The Hating Game. It’s been on my shelf longer than I care to admit, but I have seen that it has recently been made into a movie starring Lucy Hale, so was expecting great things. However, great things I did not experience. It was so very predictable, very raunchy and I would go as far to say that 50 Shades of Grey had more of a storyline than this book. Not one to read on the train beside strangers which I had to learn the hard way.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel
2009. Berlin. Two art students arrive from New York, both desperate for the city to solve their problems. Zoe is grieving for her high school best friend, murdered months before in her hometown in Florida. Hailey is rich, obsessed with the exploits of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears and wants to be a Warholian legend. Together they rent a once-magnificent apartment from eccentric crime writer Beatrice Becks. With little to fill their time, they spend their nights twisting through Berlin’s club scene and their days hungover. Soon inexplicable things start happening in the apartment and the two friends suspect they are being watched by Beatrice. Convinced that their landlord is using their lives as inspiration for her next thriller novel, they decide to beat her at her own game. The girls start hosting wild parties in the flat and quickly gain notoriety, with everyone clamouring for an invite to ‘Beatrice’s.’ But ultimately they find themselves unable to control the narrative and it spirals into much darker territory…
My rating: ★★★★★
This was my Books That Matter book for the month of May and I loved it. It follows two Americans that have moved to Berlin which was very cool for me to read since I had recently been to Berlin and knew exactly how to imagine the different areas and locations they mentioned. There’s murder, there’s mystery, there’s weird landlords and there’s partying. This book also spurred an epiphany as the tagline from this book is ‘Every night you miss in Berlin is a night you miss in Berlin’ and it made me think about how I live like a 50 year old in London, never going out drinking and socialising with my friends and it’s about time I changed that because when am I going to be 25 in London ever again?! So if you want an ‘aha’ moment like this, read this book. Another thing to add is that this book was a 4-star read right up until the last page. What an ending.
Ps. if you want to see what I got up to in Berlin, here’s my vlog: