May was a very in-between month with 6 books. Considering the number of things going on, including the beginning of two graduate courses, I’d say that’s not too bad.
Let’s take a look:
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman – 4* – (May 2)
(This IS the Goodreads review)
I enjoyed this more than the other Neil Gaiman book I read (Ocean at the End of the Lane). Imagining how his upbringing would be provided for – from food to teaching various information and skills – was interesting and he had a unique group of acquaintances. The other-worldly elements weren’t too over-the-top for me and I found it to have a fair amount of hope despite the graveyard setting.
Prior to this book, I knew little of Sylvia Plath except that she was a revered writer and that she committed suicide. This book was about her life during a more hopeful time when she was young and excited to be in New York, exploring fashion and men and career options. But even then she was plagued by difficulties, perhaps exacerbated by her demanding internship. Whatever the case, she was a lot more complicated than the cursory jokes made about her sticking her head in an oven.
As a standalone book, I give this 4*. The action is in-depth and there’s plenty of action. It built on the well-established history of the main characters and there were times that I was afraid it was going somewhere obvious, but it avoided that path.
BUT… as a continuation of the series, I can give it only a 2* review at best. Lisbeth was simplified, dumbed down, and turned into a babysitter. There was a lot of repetition of series history, I suppose for the “benefit” of the readers, but it was done in ways that made no sense (ex. information shared between characters that clearly already had that information because they were both there when it happened). There were scenes that felt forced as if the author were trying to prove he’s gritty enough to be worthy of taking over the series – but they fell flat. It came across as bad fan fiction. I don’t know if I’ll read another by this author in this series.
A WWII novel with a young widow in the employ of her dead husband’s rich aunt, a mystery involving the death of the “crazy” cousin who was locked in the attic, and a possible haunting… That’s my kind of book! I’m not sure what it says that I found the motivations of some of the unlikable characters more believable and sympathetic than some of the supposed heroes, but I did appreciate that this book said it involved ghosts and it didn’t back away from the premise. There was no attempt to explain the paranormal element away with science or some other rational conclusion, unlike another recent paranormal book I read that let me down. I’ll look for more books by this author.
The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts & Hauntings: The Ultimate A-Z of Spirits,Mysteries and the Paranormal- Theresa Cheung – 4.5* – (May 30):
(This IS the Goodreads review)
Admittedly, I didn’t read every word, but I read quite a bit. I’m using it as research for the fiction I’m writing and it provided some great ideas. No doubt I’ll go back to it more as it’s intended, as a reference book instead of going cover to cover.
As a reference guide, I think it’s probably quite useful. There are in-depth explanations and see-also references for a wide range of entries ranging from cultural to religious to scientific. However, it’s worth flipping through at random to find the biographies and hauntings you wouldn’t know to look for otherwise. These are where I found the most value for my purposes.
Going into this, I knew very little about Gloria Vanderbilt:
- rich family
- designed jeans
- Anderson Cooper’s mother
- son Carter committed suicide
- husband died
Admittedly, those last two things I knew only because of Anderson. Reading this book, a collection of emails between mother and son as they explored her history and their relationship, showed what a fascinating woman she is on her own. Her life is amazing and at 92, she doesn’t give much indication that she’s slowing down. The style was intimate (despite the medium used being emails) and it’s shocking how frank she’s willing to be, not only with her son but ultimately with the world.
I have three reading goals this year:
- Read 50 books: – I finished 6 in May, for a total of 28. According to Goodreads, that put me 8 books ahead of schedule.
- Complete the PopSugar 2016 Reading Challenge: There are 40 categories, and I’ll count no book for more than 2. I also decided not to count re-reads (unless the category specifies it must be a re-read). Numbers below are new/add’l categories completed.
- January – 4 (blue cover, murder mystery, set in Europe, takes place in summer)
- February – 3 (culture unfamiliar with, translated to English, library)
- March – 10 (autobiography, political memoir, graphic novel, over 600 pages, satirical, guaranteed to bring joy, poetry, finish in a day, NYT bestseller, under 150 pages)
- April – 2 (road trip, published in 2016)
- May – 4 (YA bestseller, recommended by someone you just met, written by celebrity, protagonist with your occupation)
- (Total = 23)
- Read at least 3 classics from new-to-me authors: I did not.
Diversity? Two memoirs, which is unusual for me.
Star ratings: I base this on the flat stars Goodreads displays in list-view, not the quarter-star system I assign in my reviews.
- 5 stars: 3 books (1 re-read)
- 4 stars: 14 books
- 3 stars: 9 books
- 2 stars: 2 books
- 1 star: 0 books
- 0 stars: 2 books (both books I started and abandoned)
- January – 1608
- February – 1420
- March – 2521
- April – 1258
- May – 2197
May was much better than April! In June, I’d like to read over 2000 pages and finish two VSI books, including the one on my currently-reading shelf. I’d also like to finish the short story book I started reading months ago. It will be a reach with classes and preparing to move again, but it’s good to have goals!
Happy summer reading!