Looking for a great book? Check out everything I read in May 2023 ... from romances to literary fiction, dystopian tales, thrillers, and more, there's a book here for everyone!
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May was an interesting month of reading! I read 13 books (including 4 audiobooks), and I wrapped up two series (Vera Kelly and the Maddaddam Trilogy). These two series really couldn't be more different, but I've loved them both! I also read three romances this month (a lot for me), a few thrillers, and some excellent literary fiction.
I've found myself listening to more books lately! Audiobooks are perfect for making long walks more exciting and boring (but necessary) work more fun, plus they're a great way to tackle that ever-increasing TBR list! I typically listen on Scribd (get 60 days of Scribd for free!) or the Libby app (you can connect it to your library card, which is brilliant!).
My favorite book this month was When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East! Quan Barry is such an amazing writer, and this is a truly unique book. It's an epic tale set in Mongolia that's sort of a cross between a family drama and historical fiction. You can read more of my thoughts on this wonderful book below.
New Book Alert ... summer is (almost) here, and a number of the advanced copies I've read recently are coming out this month! I loved (and would recommend) all of these books:
- If you're looking for the perfect summer beach read, you'll love Ciao for Now, a fun rom com which comes out on June 6! (Read my review.)
- Looking for a thriller? What the Neighbors Saw is one of my recent favorites, and it's being released on June 20. Don't miss this book if you enjoy thrillers / suspense ... I couldn't put it down! (Check out my review.)
- If you're a dystopian fiction fan, then you'll love The Memory of Animals, which arrives in stores on June 6! I couldn't wait to read this new book by one of my favorite authors, and it didn't disappoint. (Read my review below.)
Have you read anything noteworthy lately? Make sure to let me know in the comments!
Books I Read in May 2023
I've included links for all of these books on Bookshop.org and Amazon so you can easily find them, as well as my ratings for each book (one star is lowest / five stars is highest).
Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister
If you're searching for a thriller with an unusual twist, check out Wrong Place Wrong Time! In the book, Jen stays up late waiting for her son Todd, who is late for curfew. Just after spotting him walking home, she's shocked when she witnesses him stabbing a stranger. Jen has no idea who the man is or why her son killed him, but Todd's future is shattered when he is arrested. When Jen wakes up the next morning, she discovers it's now the day before the murder. The next morning, she wakes up two days before the murder. As Jen keeps moving back in time, she knows she'll find the reason for the crime in the past, and she must find a way to stop it.
I listened to this book on Scribd, and I enjoyed the clever storyline and book structure, and the narrator did a good job. It felt a little long to me though, and there were so many characters to keep straight that I found myself getting confused and rewinding more than once (a peril of zoning out while listening to audiobooks!). The ending was okay, and the epilogue had a clever twist, but it involved a minor character. So once again I was confused about what exactly happened. If I could have a do over, I think I'd read this book on my Kindle, which would hopefully make things a little easier to follow.
Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese
Looking for a quirky romance? Then check out Two Wrongs Make a Right! Jamie and Bea's first meeting is a disaster, and they couldn't be more wrong for each other. But when their friends trick them into going on a date, they decide to take revenge and pretend they're falling in love. Bea and Jamie soon discover that playing lovers is easier than they thought it would be ... maybe their friends weren't so off the mark!
This cozy romance is a reimagining of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I really enjoyed the characters, and they had great chemistry. The enemies to lovers and fake dating tropes were also fun, and the author does a good job of weaving in Bea and Jamie's neurodivergent and mental health / anxiety issues. That said, if you're a romance fan, you know that most books have a very predictable breakup (and make up!) near the end, and this one felt a bit forced to me. I also thought the writing was overly whimsical and flowery, but they may just be me!
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Does fake dating always lead to love? Find out in Take a Hint, Dani Brown! PhD student Dani Brown is laser-focused on professional success. And while she enjoys the occasional roll in the hay (what better way to relieve career tension?), she has no time for romance. Dani thinks she's found the perfect friend-with-benefits in Zafir, a big, broody security guard and former rugby pro. So when a video of Zaf rescuing Dani during a fire drill goes viral (#DrRugBae), Dani convinces him to fake a relationship in public, while she seduces him in private. The only problem is that Zaf is a hopeless romantic with a huge crush on Dani (and a few issues of his own).
This is the second book in The Brown Sisters series (I read the first last year), and it was such a fun read! I thoroughly enjoyed the fake dating and friends to lovers tropes! I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a great job with the (very lovable) characters. Dani and Zaf have great chemistry (I definitely found myself rooting for them), and the book is quite steamy! I will say that I'm more of a rom com kind of gal, so some of the language is a littler dirtier than I personally prefer, but that won't stop me from reading the next book in the series!
Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman
What happens when a lawyer finds herself under house arrest? Find out in Ms. Demeanor! Jane is a valued member of her law firm until a prudish neighbor (whose own past isn't exactly squeaky clean) spies her having sex on her building's rooftop. After the cops are called, and a judge sentences her to six months of home confinement, Jane is suddenly jobless and her life is turned upside down. Soon her doorman mentions that she's not the only resident wearing an ankle monitor, and Jane strikes up a friendship with fellow white-collar criminal Perry. Does her house arrest have a silver lining?
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book with interesting premise, fun cast of characters, and lots of humor! I really felt for Jane, and I loved seeing how her life transformed during her time at home, as well as how her relationship with Perry (and with her family and the book's other characters) developed. If you're looking for a light summer book (that's not a typical romance), this novel would be an excellent choice!
Vera Kelly: Lost and Found by Rosalie Knecht
A favorite sleuth is back in Vera Kelly: Lost and Found! In this book, Vera and her girlfriend head to California for an emergency visit to Max's estranged family. Max's wealthy parents are divorcing, and her father, who is engaged to a much younger woman, has become involved with a cult. Max hasn't seen her family in years, and tensions soon boil over at a family dinner. When Vera wakes up the next day, Max is gone, and Vera must put her private detective skills to use as she tracks her down. When Max turns up at an unlikely destination, Vera must decide how committed she really is to saving to the woman she loves.
This book was the perfect ending to the Vera Kelly series! I've really loved Vera, and it was interesting to see how she grew and came into herself over the course of the three novels (read my reviews of book one and book two). I would definitely read more books about her if they were available! This story, which features Vera's most personal and difficult mystery yet, was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. I loved how the book delved into her past (while setting up her futures), and tied up some loose emotional strings.
When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East by Quan Barry
Estranged twins go on an epic quest in When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East! Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama (a spiritual teacher who may have been born anywhere in Mongolia), a young monk Chuluun and his twin Mun (who has rejected the monastic life they once shared) join a small group on a journey across their homeland. As they traverse Mongolia's vast landscape from urban Ulaanbaatar to the Gobi Desert and the ancient capital of Chinggis Khaan, Chuluun and Mun (who can hear each other's inner thoughts) face questions of faith, brotherhood, and love, and their relationship is tested.
It's hard to adequately describe When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East ... this beautiful book is unlike anything else I've ever read, and I absolutely loved it! It's one of those stories where you can immerse yourself in the characters and learn something new at the same time. I don't think I've ever read a book set in Mongolia before, and this novel is full of fascinating historical details. At its core though, the story is about the brother's evolving relationship, and their questions around faith. If you read Quan Barry's previous book We Ride Upon Sticks (another book I recommend!), you'll recognize her dense writing style, although the subject matter is very different.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
MaddAddam concludes Margaret Atwood's popular dystopian trilogy! After rescuing Amanda from the violent Painballers, Toby and Ren return to the MaddAddamite cob house, where they're joined by the quasi-human Crakers. Snowman is recovering from an injury, so it falls on Toby to preach the Craker theology. Toby and Zeb have become lovers, and he is searching for Adam One (the founder of the God's Gardeners). We learn more about Zeb's history, and how he broke from that pacifist religion years ago to lead the MaddAddamites against the destructive CorpSeCorps. This ragtag group forms unexpected alliances as they prepare to fight off a Painballer attack.
This is the final book in the MaddAddam trilogy (check out my reviews of books one and two), and I think it's a satisfying conclusion! I have to say that whenever I try to describe these books, the plots sounds a little off-the-wall (lol), but when you're reading these books they don't seem all that far-fetched. I think it's mostly that the strange names Atwood gave everything (CorpSeCorps, God's Gardeners, Crakers, Pigoons, etc.) can come off a bit goofy. That said, this book ties together the loose threads from the previous two books and answers many questions. I really enjoyed the changing relationships between the characters, along with the evolution of the Crakers.
Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry
A newly retired policeman's life takes a turn in Old God's Time! Tom is settling into a quiet retirement at his new home overlooking the Irish sea. He leads a solitary life, catching occasional glimpses of his eccentric landlord and the single mother who lives next door, and enjoying fond memories of his wife and two children. But when two former police colleagues turn up with questions about an old case, Tom finds himself forced to face his painful past.
I picked this book up on a whim, and weeks after reading it, I'm still torn about my feelings. This is very grim book. Topics covered include suicide, murder, drug overdose, and child abuse, and the story becomes increasingly dire as it progresses. The writing is also incredibly dense (it's my first book by this author, but apparently he is known for this). You're immersed in Tom's inner monologue, and his mind never shuts off! I found my self getting lost in his train of thought at times. The other thing about this book is that nothing is what it seems, and it's often hard to know what is real and what is a dream or figment of Toms's imagination. This is definitely not a light read, but you enjoy challenging books with dark themes, give it a go!
Arch-Conspirator by Veronica Roth
I received a complimentary copy of Arch-Conspirator from the publisher / publicist.
Immerse yourself in a dark vision of the future in Arch-Conspirator! In this creative reimagining of a classic tale, Antigone's parents (Oedipus and Jocasta) are dead, the planet is in ruins, and humanity's survival depends on the Archive, a repository for dead people's genes. Antigone's uncle Kreon has claimed her father's throne and invited Antigone and her siblings to live in his mansion, but she doesn't want to live in a gilded cage.
Arch-Conspirator is an imaginative retelling of the Greek tragedy Antigone, set in a dark, dystopian future where women have a lack of body autonomy. This short novella is quick, but enjoyable read that closely follows the original story. The book is just over 100 pages, so it doesn't go very deep into character development or world building, and I was definitely left wanting more! Tip: If you're not well-versed in Greek mythology, check out the classic book Mythology by Edith Hamilton ... it's a really helpful companion!
Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
The Bromance Book Club strikes agains in Undercover Bromance! Avid romance novel reader Braden Mack, considers himself an expert in love, yet he hasn't met his own match. Meanwhile, sous chef Liv Papandreas has a dream job at a hot restaurant. Unfortunately, the celebrity chef owner is a nightmare, and after Liv confronts him for harassing a young hostess, she's promptly fired (and black-balled in the industry). Liv wants revenge and reluctantly turns to nightclub owner Mack for his assistance. Mack vows to help Liv take down the toxic chef and to find a way to her heart, but she's determined to put out any sparks before she gets burned.
After three darker books, I was ready for something lighter, and Undercover Bromance fit the bill! This is the second book in the Bromance Book Club series, and I'm officially a fan. This is such a fun series ... I love the humor, the feminist male characters, and how the books lovingly poke fun at romance novel stereotypes. This is an enemies to lovers story, and Liv and Mack both have a protective shell that slowly cracks as the book progresses. I enjoyed their chemistry, and the fact that many of the characters from the first book also reappear. The #MeToo aspect is a tougher sell. It's an odd fit for what is essentially a rom com, and Liv has some explaining to do for her own toxic behavior.
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
Stranger's lives unexpectedly intersect in Invisible Girl! Saffyre Maddox has been seeing child psychologist Roan Fours for years. So when he ends their sessions, she feels abandoned. Saffyre soon finds herself secretly following Dr. Fours around, learning more about him (and his supposedly perfect family life) than she expected. When Saffyre disappears on Valentine's Day, Dr. Four's secrets vanish with her. Meanwhile, thirty-something teacher Owen Pick, who is suspended from his job following accusations of misconduct, gets sucked into a dark incel forum. The Fours family, who lives across from Owen, find him more than a little creepy. Is he responsible for Saffyre's disappearance, and how does she connect them all?
I'm slowly working my way through Lisa Jewell's catalogue, and I loved listening to this twisty book! There are many characters here, and the story is told from a multi-person perspective. Each character is so well developed though, that it was easy to keep them straight. I found it hard to predict the ending (there were so many potential suspects), and I thought Owen's arc was handled well (although maybe a touch too optimistically). The audiobook's narrator did an especially great job capturing the youthful, yet mature qualities of the two teens (Saffyre and Josh, the Four's son).
The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller (Out 6/6/23)
I received an advanced copy of The Memory of Animals from the Netgalley / Tin House.
An experimental vaccine may be humanity's last hope in The Memory of Animals! With the world battling a fast moving pandemic, marine biolgist Neffy signs up for a vaccine trial. As life outside the hospital's windows descends into chaos, Neffy and the other volunteers are forced to confront the mistakes that led them there. When Neffy befriends Leon, another volunteer who created a controversial machine that helps users to revisit their memories, Neffy soon withdraws into her past. As she visits memories of her childhood, a recent love, her obsession with octopuses, and the mistake that ended her career, the lines between the past, present, and future blur ... leaving Neffy is unsure who to trust, whether she can forgive herself, and how she can move on.
Claire Fuller is one of my favorite authors, so I couldn't wait to read her new novel! It's hardly surprising that many authors have written about pandemics over the last few years. Some books I've enjoyed, and others, not so much! The Memory of Animals is one of the most thoughtful pandemic books I've read. The story has many layers, and while it's not an action-packed book, there's a creeping aura of suspense that propels you to keep reading. There's more going on than Neffy realizes, and she's a complex, yet sympathetic character. I also found it interesting how the volunteers were completely isolated from the disaster that was happening outside the hospital's windows, yet they couldn't escape the immense loss. One final, surprising twist made for the perfect ending!
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
Escape into the lives of New York's wealthy one-percenters in Pineapple Street! The Stockton's are a well-connected, old money family living in an elite Brooklyn neighborhood. Oldest daughter Darley has traded in her inheritance and job for love and motherhood, but she may have given up too much. Sasha led a middle class life until she married the Stockton's son, and she wonders if she'll always be a social climbing outsider in their eyes. Georgiana, who is the youngest, alternately spends her time partying, working for a non-profit, and falling in love with a man she can't have. How will the close knit family react to a series of crises?
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's a slow moving, character-driven story (something I typically enjoy), but it's all about rich people's problems (which I don't really care to read about). I gave into the hype surrounding the book, and I was also curious because I'm familiar with Brooklyn Heights (the neighborhood where the Stocktons live). The book is a well written and enjoyable read (until you start analyzing). It's unclear whether the author is skewering these clueless rich people (it doesn't come off that way) or if she's ultimately sympathetic toward them (cringe). Also, my mom's name is Georgiana! She was a teacher though, and definitely not part of the 1%. I found it jarring that the book's most clueless character shares her name.
And that wraps up my May recap ... I hope you found something new to read! Have you finished any of these books, or did you read anything this month that you'd recommend? Let me know if the comments!