Hello friends, here’s yet another very late reading wrap-up post for you! I’ve been super busy this month with touring and everything, but hey, at least I managed to get this written ahead of my June wrap-up, which is more than can be said for March/April.
May was a fairly mixed bag for me in terms of books I liked and didn’t like, but those that I did like I loved, so hopefully you might feel inspired to give them a go!
1. A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin – ★★
I read this short story collection right at the start of the month, so I don’t remember it well at all, but to be honest, it was quite forgettable anyway. I picked it up for 80p as part of Penguin’s Little Black Classics collection, mainly because the title appealed to me and I liked the idea of the 1890s deep-south city setting (I really love the whole French influence in those kinds of settings, and the themes of glamour vs. poverty that it inevitably brings), but it didn’t really make an impact on me. I enjoyed the title story, but the others kind of washed over me and I just wanted to get through it so I could start something new.
2. Beauty Tips for Girls by Margaret Montgomery – ★★★★★
From one of my least favourites to one of favourites of the month. This only came out a few months ago and as far as I’m aware, has received very little press attention. It’s a damn shame really, because this was honestly one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. I loved the combination of different writing styles – from magazines articles to letters to just straight-up prose – that gelled together wonderfully to form a clear portrait of the three female protagonists and their struggles with the media, body image and mental health. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me groan at society, but most of all it made me go “oh SNAP!” and fall a little bit in love with this up and coming Scottish author. GO AND READ IT IMMEDIATELY.
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – ★★★★
After buying my first tablet (oh hey there, 2015) and downloading the Kindle app, I discovered the heavenly realm of free eBooks. I thought it would be a great way to try out all the classics I’ve always wanted to read but felt scared to spend money on in case I didn’t get on with them. However, I was confident I would enjoy The Secret Garden as I have always loved the film, so I made it my first ever Kindle read. I thoroughly enjoyed it; the best way I can describe it is it felt like a big cuddly, literary blanket. There were so many insightful passages, and coupled with the warm, fuzzy imagery of the Yorkshire moors, gardens and friendly wildlife, it made for a really lovely, quick read.
4. Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir – ★★
This was another disappointing read. I’ve had Butterflies in November on my TBR for quite some time so didn’t miss my chance to pick it up when I saw it in Oxfam a few months ago. However, despite the build up…it just fell flat for me. It started off fun, and I enjoyed the whole whimsical style, but on the whole it felt like a case of “style over substance” – the quirkiness never wore off, and the plot never really developed. It was just the protagonists endlessly driving and seeing random things and accidentally killing wildlife, all told in a ramblingly quirky style that quickly became tiresome. How did it end? I don’t even know. It petered out and I remember nothing.
5. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan – ★★★★★
As you might remember from my last wrap-up, I am a biiiiiiig fan of Kirsty’s, so when her new book, The Gracekeepers, came out this month, I was excited beyond words. I went along to her Edinburgh launch and I had a truly lovely evening – there was free cake, cookies and wine, and best of all, I got to have a nice chat with Kirsty. I’d had a particularly bad day and she really helped put a smile back on my face. It’s always heartwarming to learn that one of your favourite writers is also an extremely lovely, wonderful person! The Gracekeepers was unlike anything I’ve ever read before and it totally swept me away. I loved the whole influence of Scottish folklore, and I’ve always loved the sea and all the mythology surrounding it, so the combination of these two magical elements was a winner for me. I also did a little dance of queer happiness at the ending (no spoilers!). Although it’s been over a month since I read it, The Gracekeepers is still fresh in my mind and I think about it a lot; it sounds weird, but when I was feeling seasick on the overnight ferry to Amsterdam a few weeks ago, imagining that I was a performer sailing on the Excalibur made me feel a lot calmer. I cannot wait for Kirsty’s next book, A Portable Shelter, which comes out in October! /end fangirl rant…
6. Under My Skin by James Dawson – ★★
I don’t read that much YA, but after reading the blurb for this book on Goodreads, I decided I had to give it a go – psychological horror about demon tattoos? Yes please! However, I found it to be a bit of a let down. While I liked the premise and enjoyed the possession storyline (don’t worry, you know that’s what’s going to happen from the blurb), I found the execution to be cringeworthy. Despite the author’s supposed experience of working with teenagers, the portrayal of his adolescent characters was so unbelievable, especially given that they were meant to be seventeen years old. It was mainly the way that they spoke that had me squirming – it felt like a really incorrect, exaggerated portrayal of the Tumblr generation. On top of this, it really irritated me how far from reality the school setting was – it was waaaaaay too Americanised (no uniform, “jocks”, “band kids” etc.), which is ironic given that Dawson apparently taught in a British secondary school. I was willing to let my imagine run riot with the magic and horror elements of Under My Skin, but for the setting? I couldn’t suspend my disbelief quite as much (or at all, to be honest; it was really that unsubtle). Sorry James Dawson.