May 2020 Wrap-up

Welcome to my May wrap-up! May still sucked for the world, but it did suck a little less for me, mainly because school has picked up again. I mentioned before that I’m unlikely to feel productive unless people expect things of me, so having obligations to fulfil this May has been a relief.

The downside, though, is that I’m way behind on blogging, because it takes me awhile to adjust to change and re-establish routines, but also, much to my surprise I haven’t done so poorly in terms of reading! I was able to read 17 books this May, which isn’t bad at all.

Here’s what I read this month:

2020-05 Wrap-up

Here’s a breakdown of my reading per genre:

  • 5 (29.4%) Literary Fiction
  • 7 (41.2%) Romance
  • 2 (11.8%) Mysteries
  • 2 (11.8%) Nonfiction (Memoirs)
  • 1 (5.9%) Fantasy

This brings my reading total to 90 books out of my goal of 100 this year, which is fantastic! I’m thinking of adjusting my goal to around 120, which is 10 more than I’ve read last year.

I’ll start my rundown by talking about my progress on various reading plans, then I’ll wrap up with the books that disappointed me, surprised me, and my favourite reads of the month. Note: Titles link to my reviews.


API-Inspired Reading

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – ★★★★☆ – This is a stunning debut novel about the Vietnam War, family, sexuality, and grief. Vuong is primarily a poet, and it shows in the exquisite writing. The only reason this was a 4-star read for me is because I usually prefer more plot in novels, and I felt that this read more like a memoir. I would still highly recommend this, though.

The Poppy WarThe Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – ★★★½ – The Poppy War is an Asian-inspired high fantasy novel, which follows the orphaned protagonist Rin as she makes her way up the elite military academy and later as she struggles to survive the war with a stronger neighboring country. It’s often billed as a grimdark fantasy, but I felt that the psychological consequences of the dark elements (like the war) weren’t explored in-depth, so these events came off as a little flat and cartoonish. Still, I was thoroughly entertained by this book, and I’m definitely reading the next one in the series.


#ReadingWomen Challenge

I was able to read two of the 12 books I intend to read from the list of previous Women’s Prize winners. You can find the details of the challenge here.

On Beauty

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2006 Winner) ★★☆☆☆ – On Beauty follows two families, the Kippses and the Belseys, and the years-long feud between them. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Zadie Smith, but unfortunately this book wasn’t for me. I almost DNF’ed it because I detested the dialogue in the first part. It got better during the next two parts, when Smith’s commentary on academia, gender, race, and class became clearer, but even then her points felt preachy. I’d only recommend this if you’re already a fan of her style, or if you like long, sprawling novels like Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had.

Bel Canto

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2002 Winner) – In this novel, a group of high-profile guests, including diplomats, politicians, and a famous opera singer, is taken hostage by a rebel group in an unnamed Latin American country. It follows as the changing relationships between kidnappers and hostages over a period of months. I’m not sure how to rate this one. On one hand, I found it difficult to suspend disbelief of the plot, but on the other hand, Patchett captures something very powerful in her story—namely, the idea that human connection transcends the boundaries of race, class, age, and gender. Very mixed feelings, so I probably need to think on this more.


Books that Disappointed Me

The Keeper

The Keeper by Jessica Moor – ★★★☆☆ – I was highly looking forward to The Keeper because it was marketed as a ‘literary thriller’, but I found that it’s really more of a character-driven murder mystery. It follows the investigation of Katie Straw, whose body was found in the river in an apparent suicide, and it also follows the stories of the women in the shelter that Katie works with. Despite its exploration of domestic violence, I felt that the mystery portion dragged, and none of the characters’ struggles really felt real to me.

The Heart's Invisible Furies

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – ★★★☆☆ – Buddy read with Emily @ Literary Elephant. This novel follows Cyril as he takes us through the events of his birth to the end of his life. It’s a coming-of-age story as well as an exploration of the violence against queer individuals in a conservative Ireland. Despite the glowing reviews for this one, I found the dialogue was unrealistic and most of the characters one-dimensional. It’s a shame because I really wanted to love this.

Beach Read

Beach Read by Emily Henry ★★★½ – This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, but sadly this didn’t live up to my expectations. The premise of Beach Read is that January, a women’s fiction writer, and Gus, a literary writer, were going to try writing in the other’s genre for their next book. I expected more discussions on literary vs. commercial fiction in this one, but it turns out that this is more about the characters working through their issues together. While I did definitely enjoy it, it wasn’t the 5-star read I was expecting it to be, and it just felt a little too… earnest? for a romance. This is likely better shelved as women’s fiction.


Books that Surprised Me

Love Literary Style

Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie ★★★★☆ – I picked this up while waiting for Beach Read to come out, thanks to a review by Melanie @ Grab the Lapels. Its premise is very similar to that of Beach Read—a writer of highbrow literary fiction falls in love with a budding romance author. While the characters in Beach Read were better fleshed out than the characters here, I loved the discussions on the publishing world in Love Literary Style. I’ll review both books next month.

Fix Her Up Getaway GirlFix Her Up & Getaway Girl by Tessa Bailey – ★★★★☆ – I LOVE TESSA BAILEY. Tessa Bailey is the queen of dirty talk. I didn’t even realize how much I needed dirty talk in my romance until I read these two Bailey books. If you like your romance steamy and explicit, I would 100% recommend her.


My Favourite Book This May

My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell – ★★★★☆ – My Dark Vanessa is a deep-dive into a woman’s mind as she’s being groomed by her professor and the aftermath of their ‘relationship’ on her life. Relentless, disturbing, and harrowing, this novel was not easy to read but an important one, especially in the discussion of understanding the aftermath of abuse. I did find that it dragged in the middle, which is why it only gets four stars from me, but that’s only a minor quibble. Full review to come.


Other Posts This Month

Weekly Wrap-ups


Well, that’s my May. While I was able to read a number of books, I feel meh about what I read, probably because I didn’t have a 5-star read this month (compared to last month, where I had four 5-star reads). Oh, well. I was also more distracted this month than last month, so there’s that. Hopefully June is better.

What’s your overall impression of your reading in May? Let me know in the comments!

23 thoughts on “May 2020 Wrap-up

  1. Looks like another great month of reading!!! Seventeen books in a month is awesome! I laughed out loud at this part of your “On Beauty” review: “I’d only recommend this if you’re already a fan of her style, or if you like long, sprawling novels like Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had.” Safe to say I will pass on that one.

    It looks like we had felt similarly about Beach Read!! I definitely want to try Love Literary Style and the two Tessa Bailey books now. Your comment about the importance of “dirty talk” made me realize that actually-sexy dirty talk was missing from the last two romance novels I read hahah.

    I’m looking forward to your review of My Dark Vanessa!

    1. HAHA RIGHT! I was trying not to be shady but you get what I mean. 💅

      It’s really a shame that it didn’t live up to the hype! Maybe it’s just not my kind of romance. Tessa Bailey is fantastic. To be honest, the characters were just okay for me, but I gave Fix Her Up an extra star just for the excellent dirty talk. And Getaway Girl has MUTUAL dirty talk. It’s perfection.

      Thanks for looking forward! 🙂

  2. Looks like a great reading month! Too bad there were no 5 star books, but then again, I find these are quite rare. Very tempted to pick up My Dark Vanessa, I’ve seen so many positive reviews!

  3. Wow, that’s a lot of books, very impressive! I loved your breakdown of how you did and didn’t enjoy each book and I look forward to your reviews! In regards to The Poppy War, I find that the aftermath of the war is dealt with a lot better in The Dragon Emperor, as I know the first book is more plot than introspection.

    1. Thanks, Rabeeah! ☺️ Oooh, I’m glad to hear that! I have the second book waiting for me and it makes me more eager to dive into it. I’ve been hearing that the second book is even better and I’m hoping that means more introspection, like you said.

  4. imfullybooked

    Looks like a great reading month, even though you had no 5 star reads. 90 books in 5 months is absolutely fantastic. You’re going to smash that reading goal! 🙂

  5. Wow 90 books is amazing! Ugh so sorry you didn’t like On Beauty, I was looking forward to it… White Teeth was good but not great… we will see. Great reading month!

  6. How in the world did you balance 17 books plus school plus piano lessons plus taking care of Cat?! I would have collapsed. And a lot of those are not short books, either. Because you’re reviews are so thorough, I feel like you have this completely honed skill that helps you go so fast. Impressive!

  7. Literary Elephant

    Ooh, what a great reading month! And you are SO on top of your reading goal for the year, that’s incredible! I’m very excited to see that My Dark Vanessa was your top read of the month, I’m planning to read that one soon. And looking forward to your Beach Read / Love Literary Style comparison!

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