What I Read in May 2021

Confession time: I did not complete all my reading challenges in May. Not even close.

I started well, but gradually lost interest in reading anything, let alone the books I had on my TBR – the ones I was “supposed” to read. I struggled for a while, and then wondered why I was even trying. This was a challenge I set for myself, correct? For my own enjoyment? So why feel guilty about giving it up? In the end, I did just that, and it was a relief to give myself permission to just not read unless I felt like it. Unsurprisingly, I completed fewer books than any month this year so far. So what did I read?

I read 4 books, comprising 3 genres, for a total of 983 pages, thus meeting only one of my three general reading challenges for the month. For an explanation of my 2021 Reading Challenge, see my post here. My average rating for the month was 3.75.

Here’s a breakdown of how I did with the remaining six challenges. (Spoiler alert: not very well.)

THE CHALLENGES

  1. ONE FROM MY SHELVES

Down to Earth
Helen Dillon
Genre: Non-Fiction/ Gardening
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This one only landed on my shelves this month, via a Lifeline Book Fair, but I’m counting it.

Helen Dillon is a celebrated Irish gardener and garden writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed her breezy style, sense of humour, and non-pretentiousness. She freely admits her own gardening failures and mistakes, many of which I identified with. And in the midst of my reading slump, this was one of the few books I was interested in opening.


2. ONE FROM MY KINDLE

Murder Ahoy!
Fiona Leitch
Genre: Crime/Cosy Crime/Humour
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I was looking forward to this one, having enjoyed Fiona Leitch’s books before. However, it was a disappointment. There is some fun to be had in the setup and main character, a crime writer employed by a cruise ship to help run a murder game, but beyond that, not much else to recommend it. My main problem, and it’s a big one, is that the solution to the murder, and the identity of the murderer, were obvious to me from the moment the crime was committed. I kept thinking there was going to be a surprising twist. But after reading to the end, I discovered that I had got everything right first go: murderer, motive, and how they did it when they seemed to have an alibi. The clues were just too obvious, and everyone, including the professional policeman on board, kept taking something at face value that no one would in real life. I don’t expect cosy crime to be fiendishly plotted, but this one fell quite a bit short. And unlike last month’s novel by Ruth Ware, in which I also guessed the solution pretty early, the prose, characterisation and atmosphere were not good enough to fill the gap.


3. ONE MIDDLE GRADE

Sadly, no. I had one picked out, but didn’t even open it. I’d still like to read it some time, so we’ll see.

FAIL



4. ONE FROM THE LIBRARY

Book Art Studio
Stacie Dolin, Amy Lapidow
Genre: Non-fiction/ Crafts
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I borrowed this because I was going to a workshop on making journals, and I thought I’d get a little inspiration. And inspiration is just what this book offers. I am fascinated by hand book binding, and there’s lots of it here, but also plenty of ideas about materials, styles and covers. It also gives instructions for several techniques, but I feel I would need to watch someone, or even better, have a session with an instructor, to really grasp how to do some of these things. However, I can imagine that if you already had some experience, this would be a great resource. And the workshop? Well, it was a huge amount of fun, but we only did the pages and a few embellishments. This Saturday, we’re doing the binding. Can’t wait to try it.


5. ONE GROUP READ OR BUDDY READ

Oh dear, I have let down my buddies on Goodreads who are working through The Expanse novels and novellas by James S.A. Corey for our Science Fiction Series of the Year.

Sorry guys.


I was supposed to read Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) but I only got 40% through it before the slump set in. I don’t know if it’s the novel or me, because I loved the previous 3 books in the series. I do want to finish this, maybe in June. And then I’ll try to read #5!

FAIL


6. ONE THAT MEETS A RANDOM CHALLENGE

Nope. I had a challenge all ready, and a choice of 3 novels from my shelves that would meet it, but I didn’t open even one of them.

FAIL


OTHER BOOKS I READ IN MAY

The Night Hawks (Ruth Galloway #13)
Elly Griffiths
Genre: Crime/ Detective thriller
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

After loving The Stranger Diaries by the same author last month, I was excited to find this in my library. And I read it quite quickly, before the May reading slump arrived. But I didn’t enjoy it very much. Perhaps it’s my own fault. After all, this is #13 in a series, and I haven’t read any of the others. (My library doesn’t have them). For this reason, I feel compelled to give it an extra half star.

But it just didn’t hit many of the right buttons for me. One thing it did well, like the other Griffiths book I read, was the atmosphere. It is set on the wild east coast of England, and I felt I was there for many of the scenes. Another plus was that the main character is an archaeologist, a profession I find interesting in itself.

But it is with the main character that I started to have problems early on. She is just so passive. She is the head of her department at the University, and seems well-respected in her field (not to mention that apparently she has helped solve at least 12 other crimes, yes?). And yet, she lets people insult her and walk all over her. She keeps thinking of things she “wants to say” in response to their rudeness, and they are perfectly legitimate things, and often even amusing, but she never says any of them. Not once.

Likewise, she lets a man she doesn’t like climb into her car without invitation, and then drives him to where he wants to go! I might add, he’s one of her subordinates, and not threatening in any way. I found myself asking, “Is she like this in all twelve previous novels?” Because if she is, why would anyone want to read them? She’s infuriating, and this completely spoiled the book for me.

Some of the other characters are interesting, and the plotting and solution were quite good, if not brilliant.

But as for Dr Ruth Galloway? I have no desire to meet her ever again.


So there you have it – my 4 books for the month. I met 5 challenges out of 9, so I suppose that’s a pass, but I’ve hardly covered myself in glory, have I?

As for this month (June) I’ve made a decision. I’m not going to try to catch up or even set a TBR list, except to try to get back to The Expanse.

Instead, I’m letting myself read whatever and whenever I feel like it. And then, at the end of the month, I’ll see if I’ve met any of my usual challenges. Could be fun, right? What if I just do whatever I want, and meet all 9 purely by chance? What if I somehow don’t manage to meet any? If nothing else, it should be an interesting experiment.

Is there anything you particularly want to read in June?

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