My interest and love for reading came surging back in the month of May. And I mean surging like an angry bull totally hell bent on running through that person (me) waving, arguably stupidly, that red flag. I read 7 books in May. Seven! A couple of which I was able to finish in just two days each. It’s unbelievably ridiculous for me. If someone told that version of myself from the beginning of this year or even just the one from April (the same version who had not lifted a single page nor read a single paragraph… sentence… a word) about this accomplishment, I would have told that someone insane.

I’m not exactly sure if this is the most I have read in such a short amount of time but this is certainly the most enjoyable reading time I have found myself immersed in. The first time in a very, very long while that I loved reading books and despite not being able to do anything else that I set out to do in May as I was too fixated and too lost in different and magnificent worlds through books, I am incredibly happy. I would also very much like to say I am proud of myself but it feels like there’s some bit of finality in doing so and I am hoping to continue the reading habit—I read for 29 out of 31 days!—I have established from May into the rest of the year.

And so, below are all the books I have read in the month of May and my thoughts on each of them.

I feel like I have to put up a warning that this is going to be quite a long post before anything else. I never know how to condense my thoughts better. I’ll give free hugs if you read until the end, heh. If you have any book recommendations, as well, please leave it in the comments! I’ll be glad to know.

All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Read: April 28 — May 09Goodreads: 01, 02, 03Rating:   |    |  

So the book that commenced all the reading in the month of May is A Discovery of Witches that then turned to a whole week and a half of just reading the entire trilogy about Diana Bishop, a historian and a witch, and a vampire named Matthew Clairmont. I really enjoyed the first book and I wrote a separate book review about it (at least I pass it off as a book review but frankly, I was just rambling; I know, she reads one book and suddenly she’s a book critic?!) but I found the other two books less enjoyable.

The second book, Shadow of Night, decreased the excitement and fondness I had for the story and the characters from reading the first book and then the third book, The Book of Life, made everything… gone. I wouldn’t say that they were bad reads. I enjoyed some parts throughout the two installments but I found most of the other parts lackluster. The Book of Life, particularly, overall left no impressions and did not stir any feelings whatsoever from me to warrant a solid opinion where I could say whether the book was a bad read or not, if that makes any sense.

The premises were exciting. The type of adventure and grandeur of an “Us-Against-the-World” trope of romance which I like to read and gush about. I just thought that Shadow of Night was a let down in that it focused more on opening up new sections and branches of the story while waving off some parts that felt was supposed to be the main focus from the premise. Things went with a long, sometimes roundabout, narrative as well that the impacts and the connection of the storylines were just lost in the amount of it. While The Book of Life, for me, was a mixture of unnecessary and dragging. Often, I was wondering with a bit of irritation, if all the things were important and helpful in the overall story. Often I ended up with a big no for an answer.

Maybe I was being unfair by asking the story to be something else and thus failing to appreciate what it actually offers? Possibly. Maybe I was stupid and didn’t get the point? Big fat chance, yes.

I did like the character of Matthew for all the three books. I think my intrigue of him and his story was what primarily pushed me to finish the series despite all my qualms and boredom about it. Also, I did like the final confrontation that happened in The Book of Life. I thought it was well delivered.

Overall, I guess I just didn’t like how the story and the story-telling went but I was entertained and finishing the book series spurred my reading for the month. There is a fourth book in this series but it focuses on another character so I won’t be reading it. I did watch the tv series based on this trilogy, A Discovery of Witches (TV Series), and really liked it—I binged it in like two days.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Read: May 09 — 10GoodreadsRating:

The next book that I read was The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. Do you have something that makes you truly happy? One that if you really think hard about it, you realize there’s nothing imposing or uniquely special about it but somehow it absolutely makes you feel good and happy? This book is one of those things for me and I am so glad that I discovered it from one of Anika's book reviews in her blog Chapters of May.

This book made me laugh. I love our main character/narrator’s humor. She’s snarky and witty and I love that it was all written in a way that doesn’t seem like her quirkiness is actually a cover-up for a lack of an actual personality or something that makes her supposedly one of a kind, fitting for being a female lead in a romantic story. She just is and I found her absolutely loveable. But what made me really enjoy and love this book is that it was so kilig (Filipino word for being elated or exhilarated for something romantic but like with more oomph to it; no English word could ever compare) being so cute and charming. I was half blushing like the absolute twit that I am and half pathetically damning the world about why nothing romantic ever happens to me.

The Unhoneymooners is a hate-to-love story with a pretend lovers trope thrown in. We follow Olive Torres and her nemesis, Ethan Thomas, going on a honeymoon trip after being the only two survivors of food poisoning in her sister’s wedding.

Yes, there are cliches but I think the characters' dynamic and charms perfectly makes up for it. I absolutely loved Olive and Ethan’s banter, for one. They’re both funny when flirting bantering with each other. And I love that their progression from being nemesis to lovers felt like a natural connection.

The only thing that I didn’t like is that the last part (we can call it “drama” without spoiling anything) was too rushed. I felt like there are a lot more things that could have been explored. I would have liked to read about Olive growing on her own more because there was a tackling of it among the drama but was very, very short. I guess it would have made for an even longer story but I wouldn’t have minded at all. The end just felt too sudden, especially the epilogue. I thought that maybe a chapter or two could have made everything more seamless and then then epilogue, while I did like it, would have made for a bigger impact or impression than it did.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Read: May 12 — 13GoodreadsRating:

In this book, we follow two authors named January Andrews and Augustus Everett. Both are stuck and dealing with a writing slump and the polar opposites of one another from their writing styles—January is a romantic HEA writer and Augustus is a novelist with a 100% chance of killing every last one of his characters—to their very core as human beings. They end up as neighbors and, as great rivals do, challenge each other with a bet where the one tries the other's genre to get out of each of their writer’s block.

First, I love characters who are authors. Be it in television or movies or books. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is but I find them and their work fascinating and so, Beach Read having two characters who are authors? I couldn’t dig in any faster. Second, I was looking for another romance book with similar tropes after finishing The Unhoneymooners and found Beach Read as one of the highly recommended on Goodreads. Perhaps it was because of that that I was expecting the same tone in Beach Read, only to be surprised by this book’s own flavor and charms.

Beach Read has a more serious and melancholy tone which really surprised me at first as I was expecting the book to be well in the depths of the romantic comedy genre. Don’t get me wrong, it still has its own brand of clever humor and swooning romance. But I liked that there was a balance of romance and developments that’s independent but binds together very beautifully. Basically, what I’m saying is that there’s a lot of self introspection which I love and made for deeper connections, more impressive characters.

The writing style and the characters kind of reminds me of John Green’s. It doesn’t help that the male character is named ‘Augustus’ as well (okay? okay) though Emily Henry’s style and characters are less… pretentious as, I honestly think, Green’s tends to be. For example, Green and Henry’s male leads both have peculiar habits—Green’s Augutus has the unlit cigarette while Henry keeps leaning against things. I found Green’s to be strange but feels like it was just written for the sake of it, to tell you that hey, here’s an appealing character. Like marketing. Henry writes it in a way that was as odd and curious and striking as Green’s but more rooted that aids in making the character and his personality and story more definitive.

This book easily became one of my absolute favorites. I laughed. I cried. I went to a bit of existentialist mode a few times. I devoured every single page of this book with my utmost attention and heart. It was tender in both of January and Augustus’ romance and the other conflicts and resolutions with each character’s individual stories. I thought everything was heartfelt. All the topics and story arcs were discussed in a genuine and natural voice that even the harsher topics and context were properly explored without a foreboding of heaviness or being burdensome. I love that the story didn’t shy away from dealing with a bit of harsher topics, too.

Everything, its tenderness and genuineness, made me feel good. I was made to shed tears of catharsis and left with room only for inspiration and warmth.


Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Read: May 18 — 20, 23GoodreadsRating:

My thoughts about this book have changed a lot over the course of just two months. I found it very enjoyable in May but after reading Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series a month later, I thought less of the things that I liked in this book. And now in July, I’ve learned new insights about parts that I missed in reading this book.

In May, I also discovered Booktube. There was one video that reviewed Serpent & Dove that rubbed me off the wrong way. I thought the video and the comments and jokes (from the creator and the viewers) were too mean, too mocking that I decided to read the book to try to prove the review wrong. I had a good time, it turned out. And I’m not just saying that so I can say my “mission” was successful.

While I think Serpent & Dove lacked some world-building and character depth, it was an easy and enjoyable read. I thought that it had potential.

I liked the magic system in the story. The humor in this book was poor but maybe it was just not my style. I thought the female lead, Lou’s characterization was faulty, especially when she’s written to be feisty or being forward while in a very conservative society or setting. I cringed every time. Her frankness was a bit off-putting. It seemed unnatural and trying too hard but I liked the side characters like Coco and Ansel. I also liked Lou and Reid’s chemistry for the first half of the book but wished for a way better development in their romance. I also thought that the battle at the end… how it went was just ridiculous. Big titty liddy, there are no words.

It’s a story, basically. Although not one that thoroughly impressed me nor one that made me particularly care much for anything—and I’m an absolute fangirl who hungrily needs someone to root for, especially in a book. There’s still a story to listen or read about and I couldn’t understand the dismissiveness, the prevalent cancel culture in the comments and tone of inferiority from the booktube video I saw. I firmly believe that an audience should always be generous and meet a story for whatever medium halfway like this post I found on Tumblr says. Serpent & Dove is a good example of that. I had to buy some of the cliches, the cringe, and other gears to fully digest the story and hopefully appreciate it and enjoy myself.

Now, after another step on expanding my library from reading other books, I found the strengths that this book had weaker. I kept comparing it while reading Throne of Glass and thought the two were very similar, with Mahurin’s book like a bad fanfiction. And I could swear that when I read this in May, the Goodreads recap had a line that went something like “fans of Sarah J. Maas will enjoy this” but written in a way that Mahurin wasn’t confident enough to stand on her own strengths and had confidence in her own book. It was weird.

Most importantly, I learned the problematic parts of the story that I didn’t catch when I read it and that this booktube review brilliantly points out.

So, I changed my rating to a tad bit lesser than my initial rating. One is allowed to change one’s mind but I still want to honor that enjoyable time I had in May. Like Jesse says at the end of her review, one is still allowed to enjoy and appreciate things so long as you don’t make excuses for the bad and problematic parts. The important and correct way is recognizing these issues and continuing to educate ourselves and challenge the works (and in effect the artists) to be better.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Read: May 23 — 26GoodreadsRating:

And finally, the last book I read in May was another book I discovered from watching another booktuber (can you tell I love watching booktube now?), a Romeo and Juliet re-telling entitled These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.

This book follows two heirs of rival gangs, Juliette Cai of the Scarlet Gang and Roma Montagov of the White Flowers Gang. It’s set in 1920s Shanghai with a mystery involving a monster that Juliette and Roma have to uncover before it kills and destroys their city, especially their own respective gangs.

I say that this is a “retelling of Romeo and Juliet” but only going by what’s said on the premise because I seriously cannot remember anything from learning Shakespeare for that one school year in high school. I most probably did not do the required reading, so all callbacks and connections and influences of the Shakespeare play except for the names (Juliette gave Roma a cover name of ‘Mr. Montague’ in one chapter and I was so proud I caught it heh) are all lost on me. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed reading These Violent Delights.

I really liked the world-building in this book. The author effectively described both the details and the atmosphere encompassing the characters and the setting vividly. I’m not very good at imagining settings yet, mostly because I’m not so familiar with most terms with my very limited vocabulary but These Violent Delights still paints a very good imagery be it with details or the emotions which I very much liked and appreciated. I could very much feel the energy of the city and the other settings, the character relationships, and etc. It also very much helped create the richness which I think is one of the strengths this book had. There is actually a lot that’s going on in this book. But it didn’t feel as such, more like, as I said, richness.

There’s a very good and intriguing backstory between Roma and Juliette, as individual characters and as with their romance. The side characters also have their own individual, interesting and captivating narratives and I love them with all of my heart. Marshall and Benedict are my boys, Kathleen is my queen. Although, I have to say that Kathleen’s story is one I did not understand until yet another booktuber pointed it out in his reading vlog—to no fault of the author; it’s yet another prime example of me being stupid and not fully paying attention. I thought it was just some out of the world soap opera drama of swapping daughters (god knows how much tv dramas in my country badly play that one out) but now after learning what it actually was—Kathleen is a trans character—it just makes her character even more significant and I love her and Chloe Gong more for it. There’s actually a handful going on in the plot too, conflict wise but everything was joined together seamlessly.

What I loved most is that it felt tangible. This is gonna sound stupid but I like it when my fantasy when set in a real world like Shanghai isn’t too… fantasty. These Violent Delights plot, the way it was all told felt as such. The only downside for me is that the addition of the monster in the story felt too… over the top. What the monster does for the plot and conflict was perfectly fine but the fact of it being a monster in this tangible story-telling was sometimes out of place. Everything else was great. The ending was just mean—the fact that I have to wait for the next book to know what happens next.

But, also, this is not really important but the image of terrifying and tense and cruel gangs was also lost on me because of the use of the word “gang” or “gangster” and I blame the too many shows (mostly Korean comedy dramas) that use them as the funny sort. The image of which is permanently engraved in my brain, apparently.

And those are the books I read in May! Last month, I was able to finish Red Queen (I’m not to fond about it) and the Throne of Glass book series (I’m raving about it the good, fangirl way) and I’m thinking of doing a separate post on it. We’ll see. Truthfully, posting reviews like this one makes me insecure and my impostor syndrome just flares up. It’s why I also took a month writing this blog post.

But, ah, I finished it anyway, yeah? *proudly pats my own shoulders*

Hey! You reached the end! Thank you, thank you so much. You’re awesome and here’s your free hug as promised! Again, if you have any recommendations, I’ll be glad to hear them. What are you currently reading?

No comments: