May Wrap Up

My May reading felt a bit all over the place! I read a mix of genres and only had one five-star, which is unusual for me! I read 15 books for a total of 4,905 pages and an average rating of 3.82.

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Siren Queen is arguably my favourite book of the month. It is certainly the one that has stayed with me! It is such a difficult book to talk about because there is a lot to unpack. It is historical fiction with a strong element of magical realism and some romance. It shines a light on Hollywood and there are a lot of powerful metaphors. The atmosphere that Nghi Vo creates is unlike anything else that I have ever read! If you are someone who wants to have the magical system explained to you, I think I would skip this one. The magic is just there and that is how the world has always been, so we don’t get a ton of explanation as the reader. I thought that was the perfect choice for the tone of this story, but I can understand how that would be frustrating for some readers.

“The night was expected to bring tragedy.” So begins one of the most highly-anticipated thrillers in recent years.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in New Jersey, four teenagers working late at the store are attacked. Only one inexplicably survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, more teenage employees are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive.

In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who’s convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller who must delve into the secrets of both nights—stirring up memories of teen love and lies—to uncover the truth about murders on the night shift.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you are looking for a fun, popcorn thriller, The Night Shift might be a good one. I loved the whole setup, and the opening scene, which is set at a Blockbuster in 1999 and we read about an attack on the employees. We then jump into the future where a similar attack has occurred. We follow a few perspectives, and I actually appreciated them all. I will say that the FBI detective was 8 months pregnant with twins and doing things I didn’t think would be possible, but I tried not to focus on that. I also wish we got more flashbacks to 1999! Also, I predicted the killer very early on- we needed more red herrings. That said, this was a page-turner and I felt invested, so it was a good way to spend an afternoon by the pool.

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute. If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Book Lovers was my first book from Emily Henry, and I have to say that I was pretty disappointed. I was promised a rivals-to-lovers story, which this definitely isn’t. I would hesitate to even call this a romance! The romance was secondary to the sister story, which was something I had no interest in and ultimately felt frustrated by. I think Emily Henry was trying to play with common romance tropes. which was an interesting idea, but it ended up being more telling than showing. The banter at the beginning was great, the conversations about the publishing world were interesting, and the end was cute, but I just never felt invested and I truly think we needed to have Charlie’s perspective.

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Be warned, I might soon be falling down a T. Kingfisher rabbit hole! Nettle and Bone was my first book by the author and I quickly fell in love with her writing and her sense of humour. Nettle and Bone takes on some heavier themes (domestic violence, in particular) and handles them with care while also adding some lightness. I am not someone who loves quest stories where the main character is on a journey and meets different characters along the way, but this one worked for me! Maybe because it was only 256 pages and the characters Marra meets are so unique- one is a possessed chicken! However, I do wish it had leaned into the horror just a little bit more!

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Lessons in Chemistry had a moment on Bookstragram- it was everywhere! I just had to give in to the hype and I ended up enjoying this one. However, as time has gone on, it is not a book I have thought about at all, even though I should, in theory. It takes on some heavier themes, and there is a sexual assault scene early on that I think is important to be aware of. There are also moments of grief. I think the way this book is spoken about and the cover can lead the reader to believe that it is a lighter story than it truly is. That said, I think it was handled well. I loved Elizabeth as the main character and following her two timelines. Reading about her cooking show was the most interesting aspect for me. One thing I am unsure about is the fact that the dog had a perspective and felt almost humour. It was charming in its own way, but it really took me out of the story.

Exiled to a far-flung island by the whims of the gods, Medusa has little company except the snakes that adorn her head instead of hair. But when a charmed, beautiful boy called Perseus arrives on the island, her lonely existence is disrupted with the force of a supernova, unleashing desire, love, betrayal . and destiny itself.

Filled with glorious full-colour illustrations by award-winning Olivia Lomenech Gill, this astonishing retelling of Greek myth is perfect for readers of Circe and The Silence of the Girls. Illuminating the girl behind the legend, it brings alive Medusa for a new generation.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I think you read Medusa for the vibes and the illustrations more than anything. I enjoyed the reading experience more than I enjoyed the actual story itself. It was what you might expect from Medusa retelling and I think I just wanted more. I found this surprisingly slow-paced for such a short read. I did love that Medusa named each of her snakes and that they had their own personalities- that was fun to read!

Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past. 

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have a full review of Every Summer After if you want to hear more of my thoughts, but just know that this is a very messy romance, and I loved it. It takes place in two timelines, one when Percy and Sam first meet and then every summer throughout their teenage years, and the other 12 years later when they no longer speak. Half of the book reads more like YA, so know that going into his one. I think that fans of the friend-to-lovers trope will love this book! It is the perfect summer read!

Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the town of Lucille.

Bitter’s instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren’t willing to settle for a world that the adults say is “just the way things are.” Pulled between old friendships, her creative passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn’t sure where she belongs – in the art studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Bitter is the prequel to Pet, which was Akwaeke Emezi’s first YA novel and one that I absolutely adored. I am a huge fan of prequels, so I loved seeing Bitter as a teenager and learning more about the revolution that happened in the town of Lucille before the events that took place in Pet. I think many people will relate to Bitter and her struggles with both wanting to join the revolution but also fearing for her safety. The themes of the power of art are always something that I appreciate. I think you could easily read this book as a standalone!

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, which is a series I am co-hosting a read-a-long for! If you have been keeping up with my wrap ups, you will know that I have been having mixed feelings about this series. I loved the first one, the second one was just okay for me, and I had some series issues with the third book. I am so pleased to report that In the Labyrinth of Drakes is by far my favourite in the series, so far! As it is the fourth book, I cannot say too much, but I appreciated the direction this one took and it felt like more of the adventure story I was expecting from the other novels.

When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Lady for a Duke was my first historical romance, and it won’t be my last! It doesn’t hurt that it was written by Alexis Hall, an author who I adore. This was such a sweet friends-to-lovers romance between a duke and his childhood best friend who he thought had died during the Battle of Windsor. Viola is a trans woman and she is such a great character! She has so much compassion and the chemistry between her and Justin was fun to read about. There were also some hilarious side characters, which I have come to expect in Alexis Hall’s romances. I will say that the pacing wasn’t always perfect and I don’t think it had to be almost 450 pages, but I did enjoy myself!

Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn’t seem to like her either.

Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they’ve made more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made each other and the team better. Because girls do belong in STEM.

In her YA debut, Alexene Farol Follmuth, author of The Atlas Six (under the penname Olivie Blake), explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty. With an adorable, opposites-attract romance at its center and lines that beg to be read aloud, My Mechanical Romance is swoonworthy perfection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Did you know that Alexene Farol Folluth’s pen name is Olivie Blake and that she wrote The Atlas Six? I had no idea! My Mechanical Romance is her first YA novel. and I thought it was really great! I think that any young girl with a passion for STEM will feel so seen by this book. Follmuth does a great job of balancing the romance (which was really sweet!) with some more serious topics like the discrimination women in STEM face, family issues, the stress of applying to college, etc. This book had me watching robot competitions on YouTube!

The Enchanted Garden behind Elliana Allbright’s perfume shop draws people of all ages with its fragrant flowers and lush greenery. But when the magical serenity is interrupted, it’s up to Ellie to sniff out a killer.Ellie’s life has blossomed in Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense, a custom-made-perfume store. Her skills with aromas and botanical essences–some from her very own garden–seem almost…supernatural. Her perfumes can evoke emotions, bring about change, or simply make people happy. Customers are flocking to the store to buy her wares or just to sit in her beautiful garden, sip tea and enjoy homemade cookies.But she smells trouble when she learns that her part-time assistant Josie is dating her ex. And before she can tell the young woman to beware of his charms, she finds Josie dead in the Enchanted Garden. Now the prime suspect in Josie’s murder, Ellie must search for the real culprit in Josie’s past–because it’ll take a miracle to nip this problem in the bud….

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I have decided that 2022 is the year that I embrace my love for cozy mysteries! I fell in love with the cover of Daisies for Innocence and then I fell in love with the story. It follows the typical cozy mystery storyline but there is a sprinkle of magic to it. Plus, there is also a cat AND a corgi, so what more could I ask for!? Another plus for me is that there are only three books out right now, so it is definitely a shorter series compared to what I have come to expect from the genre.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras.

But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Okay, I finally read If We Were Villains and it ended up being my one five-star read of the month! I don’t know what it is about dark academia and morally grey, pretentious, unlikeable characters that work for me but it just does. I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as I loved The Secret History, but it could just be that I read that one first. There were a lot of Shakespeare quotes throughout this book, which was a bit overwhelming, but they really highlight the kind of characters we are following. I love that instead of parts, it is told through different acts and that each act is set in the present where we are following Oliver as an adult at the end of his prison term. The ending is divisive but I thought it was brilliant and I found myself on Reddit reading everyone’s theories. I love when books create conversations like that!

In every person’s story, there is something to hide. . .

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck.Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning-it just happens that one is a murderer.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The synopsis for The Woman in the Library is very deceiving and I was completely surprised by where this book went. I think that is a conscientious choice by the publisher in an attempt to not reveal too much, but I think it can be disorienting as the reader. This is actually a story within the story and the main storyline about a murder in the Boston Public Library is a novel that is being written by an author who we never meet but we get to read letters that they are receiving from someone who is fact-checking their manuscript. The author is Australian and is unable to do any research in Boston due to the pandemic, so they have someone from the city helping them. I hope that isn’t too confusing! The book goes in some interesting places, but know that very little of it is actually set in the library.

Sexy, driven rapper Danielle “Duchess” Nelson is on the verge of signing a deal that’ll make her one of the richest women in hip hop. More importantly, it’ll grant her control over her life, something she’s craved for years. But an incident with a rising pop star has gone viral, unfairly putting her deal in jeopardy. Concerned about her image, she’s instructed to work on generating some positive publicity… or else.

A brilliant professor and reclusive royal, Prince Jameson prefers life out of the spotlight, only leaving his ivory tower to attend weddings or funerals. But with the Queen’s children involved in one scandal after another, and Parliament questioning the viability of the monarchy, the Queen is desperate. In a quest for good press, she puts Jameson in charge of a tribute concert in her late husband’s honor. Out of his depth, and resentful of being called to service, he takes the advice of a student. After all, what’s more appropriate for a royal concert than a performer named “Duchess”?

Too late, Jameson discovers the American rapper is popular, sexy, raunchy and not what the Queen wanted, although he’s having an entirely different reaction. Dani knows this is the good exposure she needs to cement her deal and it doesn’t hurt that the royal running things is fine as hell. Thrown together, they give in to the explosive attraction flaring between them. But as the glare of the limelight intensifies and outside forces try to interfere, will the Prince and Duchess be a fairy tale romance for the ages or a disaster of palatial proportions?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have such mixed feelings about American Royalty. I really loved the setup and was fascinated by Dani and her career and passion for her skincare line. I love romances following celebrities, especially when there is a focus on the effect that the media can have on someone. That was certainly a theme in this book and I appreciated that aspect. However, the romance itself wasn’t y favourite. Danie and Jameson don’t actually meet until 30% into the story and then their romance takes place over the course of three weeks. Jameson was a complete jerk at the beginning and I just didn’t by his complete shift in personality. This is an example of when characters have sexual chemistry (definitely “lust-at-first sight”) but not an emotional one. That said, I loved the writing and the drama, especially with the royal family, had me turning the pages. I just don’t see how this relationship would work in the real world and some of the storylines I was more interested in had no closure.

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15 thoughts on “May Wrap Up

  1. I also read Bitter in May and it was one of my favorite reads so far this year! Though, personally, I preferred it over Pet and think of it as its own story. I liked Pet well enough though.

  2. I just requested Nettle & Bone from the library yesterday after seeing another rave review, I’m excited to see what the hype is about. Sadly I didn’t like My Mechanical Romance at all but glad you did, I think actually being a mechanical engineer myself made me a harsh critic of that one.

  3. Great reviews! I wish I could read 15 books in a month. You must show me your ways. I completely agree with you on Book Lovers. I feel there is too much hype around Emily and her books. I have yet to really like one of her books. But definitely adding a few of these to my TBR list.

  4. I also read Nettle and Bone this month and really loved it! While I had some issues with the pacing and ended up giving it 4 stars, I loved the characters and particularly the voice and overall vibes. It’s exactly the kind of style I loooove in books so now I’m super curious to read more by the author!

  5. I’m so glad you finally read If We Were Villains and loved it! I agree I love reading peoples theories about books with endings like that – honestly thats something that really draws me to a story, the potential for more or just for people to really discuss it!

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