May 2023 Wrap-Up

May 2023 Wrap-Up

Welcome back to my monthly wrap-up! I know that some of these books may be listed for sale on the website, but I want to keep my reviews honest. We may not have the same taste in books and I encourage you to check them out regardless!

I read eight books this month: five physical books and three audiobooks. Let's go!

The Longest Race - Kara Goucher

⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | audiobook | synopsis here

My Review: This was a very interesting audiobook about Nike and the world of professional running, told from the perspective of one of the women who knows it best. Kara Goucher writes a personal, unflinching account of her career, focusing on her time at the Nike Oregon Project with coach Alberto Salazar. I learned a lot while listening, mainly because I don't know anything about professional track and field/running.

This is a story that is all too common among female professionals; I am always looking to listen to and support another woman's story. I appreciated the detail Kara goes into in her memoir - it's clear a lot of time, effort, and heart went into constructing her book and telling her story.

I think this is an important read for anyone in the sport world, especially Nike loyalists. I would recommend, however, that you pick this up as a physical/digital book over the audiobook. Normally, I'm a big fan of authors narrating their own works -especially memoirs - but you can tell that Goucher isn't really in her element here. The narration is a little stilted and emotionless and came off more like a student reading their essay aloud in class than an emotional recount of one's life. I still really enjoyed this book, but would recommend you read it yourself.

content warnings: sexual assault, sexism, body shaming, eating disorders, emotional abuse, infertility

How Far the Light Reaches - Sabrina Imbler

⬤⬤⬤⬤◕ | audiobook | synopsis here

My Review: Absolutely delightful. This book reminded me of In the Dream House, another favorite of mine, in a number of ways, yet it was still so unique and poignant. I adored the educational aspect of this book; each essay was a treasure of fascinating information about different oceanic inhabitants. These facts were woven together expertly with elements of Imbler's own life. Some of the best metaphors I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

I think everyone can find something to relate to in this book, even if you are not queer or deeply identify with Imbler. This is a book on the human condition and how it can be seen in the natural world. A quick and easy read, and I would highly recommend the audiobook (Imbler narrates it themselves and does a great job).

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue - V.E. Schwab

⬤⬤⬤⬤◐ | hardcover | synopsis here

My Review: This is my first V.E. Schwab and I'm already so excited to read more from her. I loved so much about this book: the dual timelines were well-executed, the characters were likeable and complex, the prose was delicious, and the love story was endearing. I had heard mixed reviews about this book so I wasn't sure how I would feel, but I had a really great time. I understand why some people dislike this one and I echo the points made about a lack of diversity among the characters (don't tell me Addie goes 300 years and only meets one Black person). This one comment, however, was not nearly enough to mar my overall experience.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who thinks the synopsis sounds good. It may seem long at first glance but it never felt a drag to get through and I could have easily read another 100-200 pages of this story. What a delightful read.

content warnings: suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, death

The Spectacular - Fiona Davis

⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | e-ARC | synopsis here

My Review: Thanks to Dutton and NetGalley for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feedback are my own.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book but I was pleasantly surprised! The Spectacular does a great job of teaching readers about the Rockettes and their history, and includes a lot of interesting facts and information I didn't know before reading. I would say this book is a mystery first and a historical fiction second, which is opposite from what I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

I liked reading about Marion's struggles and personal growth being a woman in the 50s, which was realistic and therefore extremely frustrating. I liked her as a character a lot, but some aspects of the story didn't work as well for me as I wished. The romance was sweet at the end but very insta-lovey and too full of poor communication for me to get invested. In addition, the scenes with the police officers didn't feel all that realistic (not in terms of their ineptness but in terms of their communication and information sharing with Marion and Peter).

Overall, I think people will enjoy this book if they love mysteries or historical fiction. I haven't read any books about Rockettes, so that was an interesting niche to me as well. Will definitely be on the lookout for more Fiona Davis in the future!

content warnings: sexism, murder, death of parent

The Only One Left - Riley Sager

⬤⬤⬤〇〇 | e-ARC | synopsis here

My Review: Thanks to Dutton and NetGalley for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feedback are my own.

I almost really really liked this book. There was so much about the setup to The Only One Left that I really liked. Gothic vibes, big ole house on a cliff, a Lizzie Borden-style murder, slow burn. Check, check, check. Our woman of interest, Lenora, had big Hector Salamanca (from Breaking Bad) vibes, and the way her character was written left the door open to a lot of misdirection, potential lying, and tense situations, which I really dug. Before the twists started, I was poised to give this book a 4 to 4.25 star rating.

But once the twists started, they just. didn't. stop. Holy contrivances, Batman! Just because I can guess the twist (which I did), doesn't mean you wrote your book poorly, and it sure as hell doesn't mean you should add in four or five more twists just to make SURE I was surprised at least once. I started rolling my eyes instead of gasping. It was just too much; it almost circled back around to being entertaining again, but not in a good way. I absolutely hate it when every character has to be involved in the mystery/inciting incident somehow. Some characters can just be characters.

What a disappointing final 20% to an otherwise great book. Giving it three stars because I did enjoy it most of the way through. You'll probably like this if you're a Sager fan, or if you love books with plot twists *you'll never see coming*.

content warnings: murder, suicide

An Immense World - Ed Yong

⬤⬤⬤⬤◔ | hardcover | synopsis here

My Review: I have told a lot of people that this book is like the Planet Earth TV series in literature form, and I really think that's the best way to describe it. I learned so much while reading, more than almost any nonfiction book I've read this year. Yong is a wonderful author and is so thorough, yet readable. It takes a great amount of work to convey the senses through text, and I think he did a fantastic job. I could easily see this book being turned into a miniseries.

An Immense World is certainly not light reading. While Yong succeeds in breaking down complex topics and ideas into digestible chunks of information, this isn't exactly a beach read. At times I felt the pace was a little slow, and I occasionally felt like I was drowning in new concepts..

If you're willing to get down an dirty with a dense but beautiful text about some new and familiar animals, this is absolutely the book for you.

content warnings: animal cruelty, animal death

When the World Didn't End - Guinevere Turner

⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | audiobook | synopsishere

My Review: This book is HARD to read (or, in my case, listen to). The descriptions of Turner's sexual abuse as a child are unflinching and nauseating. Please be in the right headspace when giving this one a go.

I love reading about people's experiences in different religions, cults, or extreme lifestyles. I've read Educated, Unorthodox, Going Clear, The Glass Castle, etc. I liked the first part of this book more than the second, as it focused more on living within The Family and her experiences there. I found the second half interesting as well, but it felt a little more disjointed.

This is one of the few books I've listened to where I would highly recommend the print version more. The audiobook doesn't do a good job of differentiating what is happening at present and what is pulled from one of Turner's diaries, so it can be difficult to follow at times.

Overall, I really liked the style of this book and the choice Turner made to write it from her perspective as a child without any adult retrospective or insights. If you're into the same genre of nonfiction/memoirs I listed above, I think you'll like this one too.

content warnings: sexual assault, adult/minor relationship, child abuse, domestic abuse

The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien

⬤⬤⬤〇〇 | audiobook | synopsis here

My Review: I feel like such a literature fraud when I say that I didn't really enjoy this book. I won't go so far as to say that this series isn't good or well-written, because that's blatantly not true. Tolkien's writing style and my reading preferences just didn't jive, and I am so disappointed to say that.

At the end of the day, the pacing was just too off for me to find the plot enjoyable. I felt like Tolkien would too often grind the plot to a halt to jam excessive worldbuilding that ultimately did little to bolster my enjoyment of the novel. I acknowledge that he's a master worldbuilder; I just don't like how it was introduced in the narrative.

That's my big gripe. The characters are lovable (though apparently it would kill Tolkien to add in a single woman or person of color, but okay), and the audiobook I listened to was a superb soundscape I found on Spotify that I could not recommend enough. Overall, just not my cup of tea; I'll stick to the movies.

content warnings: violence, death


What was your favorite book you read this month? Let me know!

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