May 2020 Book Recap & Ratings {Reading Wrap-Up}

2020 books

Happenings Since May…

So much has happened since May and it is hard to believe it was just a couple of weeks ago. You can read more about what I have been doing to incorporate more diverse reading and listening through podcasts and audiobooks in my recent blog posts HERE & HERE.

In addition, I have been trying to find a posting rhythm again on here, basically since March…I didn’t realize how much my daily routines added to my ability to accomplish all the little things. Being home with the kids has thrown that all to the wind and there is not any sense of order coming anytime soon so I think I need to find some new routines!

Finding A Balance:

I am also trying to find the right balance about sharing what I am reading and learning while also keeping up with all my ARCs I have been sent to review. I never want to be unaware of what is going on around me, but I also feel terrible when someone has sent me a book I signed up to review and it hasn’t happened yet. Thank you for being understanding as I figure out how to find balance in this area.

These monthly book recap posts take me forever to put together because I like to include all the details and links for easy access. But I am always very satisfied when they are done, so I will continue even if they are sometimes a few weeks late… May was a great month of reading and didn’t want to skip sharing these titles with you all because there are some good ones!

*In this post I share links to these books on both Amazon and the LibroFM Bookstore Link which allows you to make the decision as to how you purchase them. The LibroFM Bookstore Links are not commission based but allow you to purchase the book from your choice of independent bookstores and as either hard copies or audiobooks. You can read more about it in my FAQS section HERE

Reading Highs:

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My very favorite books of the month were Hidden Valley Road and 28 Summers. They are about as far apart on the reading spectrum as you can get but I was fully immersed in both and had a hard time not thinking about them when I wasn’t reading or listening.

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Some of my very favorite “easy reading” authors release books each spring. I eagerly await their new titles each year and this year did not disappoint! All of these authors know how to share tales of family, friendships, and the highs and lows of life in such a nuanced and totally enjoyable manner. I can’t do too fluffy but sometimes I just want to read a book that I can curl up with and get lost in.

Reading Lows:2020-06-15_0003Both The Knockout Queen and All The Broken People were highly anticipated spring reads but ended up falling a bit short for me.

What I read in May:

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Robert Kolker

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

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Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

I listened to Hidden Valley Road through LibroFM and wow, what a powerful and heartwrenching story.⁣ It is an incredible balance of one family’s contributions to the treatment and understanding of schizophrenia, while also sharing the impact it had on these individuals over the decades. ⁣

“The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease. With clarity and compassion, bestselling, and award-winning author, Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.”⁣

Liz Moore

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

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Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

Long Bright River was one of my first 5-star reads of 2020 and as soon as I finished I knew I wanted to read another Liz Moore book. Her writing is just gorgeous, her characters multifaceted and her storylines are nuanced and rich.

The Unseen World is a slow burn character-driven novel that takes us into the worlds of David and his daughter Ada. This family drama has many levels and takes on the coming of age of Ada and the slow and painful path towards David’s struggle with dementia. It’s powerful and a perfect example of what makes us human and our connections with one another. It definitely took concentration and wasn’t an easy read, but it is one I will never forget.

Kristan Higgins

Always The Last to Know by Kristan Higgins

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Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

I look forward to Kristan Kiggin’s early summer releases every single year and this year was no different. Like all of her books, Always The Last to Know had so many unique relationships, and each was relatable in its own way- marriage, sisterhood, friendship, parent/child, and more. The multiple points of view gave four nuanced perspectives to this heartfelt and riveting family drama.

I’m a huge fan of Kristan Higgins- her writing is full of complexity but light and funny at the same time, they are just the perfect reading balance. This was definitely a favorite of hers and I highly recommend it.

Abbi Waxman

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

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Amazon Link 

Abbi Waxman is quickly becoming one of my very favorite contemporary fiction authors. Her writing is the perfect mix of being entertaining and also relatable and emotional.

“Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures. Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.”

It was so enjoyable and relatable to see Jessica and Emily learn more about themselves and one another along their journey together. The alternating POVs which shared the differing mother-daughter perspectives and added so much to the storyline. With wonderful punches of humor, Waxman simultaneously explored the complexities of parent/teenager relationships in our contemporary world.

Tara Brach

Radical Compassion by Tara Brach

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Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

While I have read quite a few “self-help” books, I had never learned much about the practice of RAIN. I got a lot out of this one and recommend it to anyone that is processing harder emotions.

“In this heartfelt and deeply practical book, she offers an antidote: an easy-to-learn four-step meditation that quickly loosens the grip of difficult emotions and limiting beliefs. Each step in the meditation practice (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) is brought to life by memorable stories shared by Tara and her students as they deal with feelings of overwhelm, loss, and self-aversion, with painful relationships, and past trauma–and as they discover step-by-step the sources of love, forgiveness, compassion, and deep wisdom alive within all of us.” 

Rufi Thorpe

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe

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Amazon Link |Bookstore Link

I love a good coming of age story and I had high hopes for The Knockout Queen. I can appreciate a story with angsty teenager POVs and I love that Thorpe incorporated so many timely and important topics without being preachy (bumped my rating up a star for this alone) but unfortunately, this one just did not work for me. I found the stereotyping to be uncomfortable at times and the writing was quite choppy. Overall, I missed a connection to these characters which were surface level at best and this is one of those times when I think length could have added a lot more to the overall storyline (this one clocks in at a little less than 300 pages).

Leah Konen

All The Broken People by Leah Konen

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Amazon Link 

All The Broken People has a solid 4.35 rating on Goodreads, which is quite impressive. The writing was fantastic by debut author Leah Konen, but what lost me is definitely what many people LOVE about this style of reading. I struggled with the believability factor and my inability to connect with any of the main characters and therefore was just not invested in the storyline. It was well written, it just wasn’t for me!

Emma Straub

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

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All Adults Here: A Novel” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

Do you follow any online book clubs? While I follow quite a few, Read With Jenna has been the only one that has not led me astray. Her selections are sometimes ones that I might not have picked up on my own, like Nothing to See Here,  and then end up being total hits, and I love that aspect of it.

I have enjoyed Emma Straub’s writing in the past, both The Vacationers and Modern Lovers were 4 star reads for me but the general reviews are pretty polarizing for both.   These are all totally character-driven novels so if you are looking for fast-paced, these might not work for you. All Adults Here follows the path of quirky and intriguing characters and addresses a multitude of social issues.

“Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.”

Robyn Harding

The Swap by Robyn Harding

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Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

I first read Robyn Harding last year with her 2019 release The Arrangement and it was totally outrageous and also super fun to read.⁣

I am NOT a book snob. While I love to read to learn and connect, sometimes I also like to read for pure entertainment, and her books are perfect for this! 🙌⁣

This one revolves around a trio of female characters, Low, Freya, and Jamie whose lives become interconnected and the drama ensues when three definitely proves to be a crowd. I love a good domestic thriller and this has the perfect balance of secrets, lies, and plenty of twists and turns which kept me intrigued until the very end. ⁣

Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

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Amazon Link | Bookstore Link

“Being privileged doesn’t mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle…When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”

-Ijeoma Oluo

One of the most important things we can do is take the time to understand one another and often the more we know, the more we connect as human beings. While we might not all have the same challenges, when we get where someone is coming from, it opens the door to not only supporting each other but moving towards a future of inclusion.

This book was so eye-opening and her writing is direct and to the point while also being approachable. So You Want to Talk About Race started off my deeper dive into racial divides and understanding in our country, and it was a great place to start.

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On Ocean Boulevard by Mary Alice Monroe

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Amazon Link | LibroFM Bookstore 

On Ocean Boulevard is book six in The Beach House series and reconnects us with Cara and her niece Linnea. I loved the emphasis on strong women, each in very different stages of life.

Just like with the rest of this series, On Ocean Boulevard is the perfect mix of beach life, romance, and facing life’s challenges that come along the way. I love how she is able to interconnect the beauty of the world mixed with the complexities of our relationships with those around us and with ourselves.

I always feel like I have just reconnected with old friends when I pick up these books and while I am sad when they are over, I look forward to seeing where Monroe takes us in her next installment.

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28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

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Amazon Link | LibroFM Bookstore Link

I listened to 28 Summers through the LibroFM ALC program (an advanced listener audiobook reviewing program)and it was everything I ever wanted in a fiction audiobook. I have been a fan of Elin Hilderbrand since the mid-2000s and will never forget exactly where I was when I read some of her first novels, hello The Blue Bistro!!

Like almost all of her books, 28 Summers is set in Hilderbrand’s beloved Nantucket. While I have never visited, over my years of reading her books I can picture it so clearly it feels like I been there. I love that she always incorporates local businesses and landmarks that help set the scene and also bring you back to her past novels.

The characters are multifaceted and while it is a total beach read in its accessibility factor, the plotlines were quite nuanced. It does have elements of infidelity which could be off-putting to some readers but I did enjoy that the characters were imperfect and while you might not agree with all of their choices, you get to know them and learn more of the “why”.

This book made me laugh and it also made me cry, which doesn’t happen a lot for me with reading, LOL. It definitely had some scandal and also some elements of hope. All in all, it is one I won’t forget and I highly recommend it.


Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps support this blog at no cost to you. In addition, whenever possible, I will be including the LibroFM bookstore link alongside any other referral links. This allows you to purchase the book from your choice of independent bookstores.

 

I so appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts or feedback below! Please email me at genthebookworm@gmail.com to connect further.