May 2020 Reading Recap

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, Laura talks about all the books she read in May of 2020 (spoiler alert, it's a lot!) 
Find lots of good books to read this summer on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide. 
Follow Laura on instagram @library.laura 

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I learned how to knit socks this month, and was delighted when they matched the spine of one of the books that I was reading, Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool 

What I Read in May 2020

The Veronica Speewell series by Deanna Raybourn: I read the first three in the series this month. These include A Curious Beginning  (#1), A Perilous Undertaking  (#2) & A Treacherous Curse (#3).  I decided to start reading the series because the author was featured on Anne Bogel's Stay at Home Book Tour this spring. I read the first book before watching the author talk so I could have some context, and then continued on with books two and three. Raybourn's talk is delightful! These books are set in 1880's London. Veronica is a feisty lepidopterist (butterfly hunter) who has a knack for landing herself in the middle of murderous situations that she and her associate Stoker must solve. I enjoyed the first and third books more than the second due to some of the subject matter.

First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5) By Jasper Fforde: I've been working my way through the Thursday Next series on audiobook and thoroughly enjoying the experience. This installment was quite convoluted in places due to Thursday Next meeting up with some of the fictitious renditions of herself inside the BookWorld. But a fun and rollicking experience overall.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: I bought this Pulitzer-prize-winner at Carmichael's Bookstore in Lousiville, KY on my trip to meet Anne Bogel in March. It was supposed to be for our April bookclub but that's been interrupted thanks to the pandemic. So I didn't get around to actually finishing it until May! I am very glad I have read this book, but I will honestly say this is one of the most difficult books I've read in recent history. Whitehead tells the tale of escaping slaves taking a real-live railroad to flee the South. They face many horrific circumstances, heart-rending loss, and barriers along the way. I was familiar with this part of our nation's history from studying it in school, but those lessons were age-appropriate for younger audiences. This book opened my eyes to more of the atrocities, as Whitehead did not shy away from gruesome realities. It also engaged my emotions and sympathies, giving me characters with stories to love and root for.  This is also my Unread Shelf Project 2020 pick for May, which was to read a backlist title.

 Christmas Night, 1776 Christmas Night, 1776 by C.A. Gray: I recently started reading and reviewing some ARCs or new releases through a service called Book Sirens. This was the first book I read through them. It's a short and sweet time travel / historical fiction tale. We have a young boy and his two friends who meet a time-traveling magician. They get sent to meet George Washington in 1776, the night they are crossing the Delaware. The series is called Kairos Makers, and centers around pivotal moments in history. This book is akin to the Magic Treehouse or Magic Attic Club books I devoured as a kid. I enjoyed it, and my childhood self would have liked it very much as well.

The Slug Queen Chronicles by S.O. Thomas: The second book I read through Book Sirens. The blurb describes this book as "a creepy magical middle-grade adventure that calls our modern day fairy tales into question." I usually avoid books categorized as creepy, but this one was an exception. I still didn't read it at night in case my imagination got the better of me. But I enjoyed it quite a bit! Cricket must rescue her brother from the fantastical creatures and navigate many magical barriers to her quest along the way. I loved the artwork, too!
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai: You may recognize this title from my conversation with Eden @ponchospages in episode 6. Eden loved it and recommended that I read it. I read it on Kindle and devoured it so quickly! It was beautiful and my only complaint was that I finished it so quickly. The next week I also read it on audiobook because I hadn't had enough of Hà's story yet. This free-verse prose novel tells the story of a young girl and her family fleeing South Vietnam following the Vietnam war and settling in Alabama. A touching and beautiful story of loss and belonging.
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool: Eden was reading this book when we recorded episode 5 and I had it on my unread shelf. This seemed like a good moment to go ahead and read it! I did really enjoy this book. However it wasn't as perfect of a fit for me as Moon Over Manifest was. Navigating Early tells the story of a boy named Jack who ends up leaving Kansas to attend a military boarding school in Maine. He meets Early, a boy with autism and savant knowledge of the number Pi. They end up on a dangerous and transformative journey through the woods of Maine. It's wonderful middle-grade historical fiction.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: this Newbery award-winner was one of my favorites when I read through a bunch of Newbery books a few years ago. I was looking for comfortable middle-grade fiction the middle of this month, and this book came to mind. I re-read it by listening on audio and throroughly enjoyed it again. I don't often re-read books, but when I do I enjoy the experience of seeing the same story again with new eyes. I noticed some details I missed the first time and the plot was still interesting the second time. A good choice if you like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle because it features prominently as the protagonist's favorite book.

Tuesdays At The Castle By Jessica Day George (Castle Glower #1): I found this book on this list by Anne Bogel of re-readable middle grade fiction that adults will also enjoy. If you've hung around me for any length of time, or listened to episode 3 of the podcast, you know I like a good middle-grade book! So this list caught my eye. Looking over the books mentioned, there were several I'd already read, a few that don't interest me, and then Tuesdays at The Castle. I read the summary and immediately checked it out from the digital library. I also sent it to my sister, who actually finished reading it before I got a change to finish the book. We both loved it and plan to continue the series!

Big Summer by Jessica Weiner: This book was my first read on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide (SRG) 2020 list. I listened to it on audio and finished it in just a few days. I was in a hurry because it's a popular title, but I also very much wanted to know what happened!! From the cover and synopsis I didn't realize that this book was listed as Mystery. I would have assumed it was more chick lit / women's fiction...which it is up to a point. But there are some pretty big twists and turns that definitely land it in the mystery category. I found it a though provoking read in terms of friends, family, body-image, and being an instagram influencer or consumer of social media. If you're going to read this, I would suggest staying away from reviews and summaries until you read might find out details you'd rather avoid!!  (Also --spoilers--content warnings abound here: emotional abuse, death of a friend, loss of a parent, divorce, infidelity, drugs/alcohol, sex, bullying, bulimia, body shaming...)

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas (Elemental Trilogy #1): At first I thought this was a book Ryan had put on hold at the library, but then I realized that it was my friend Corrine who had told me she liked this series several months ago. So I had listened to the audiobook! It's a YA fantasy and the first in a series. I enjoyed the dynamic between Titus and Iolanthe and their story is chock-full of adventure, magic and cunning creativity. If you want friends who are battling fiercely to protect each other and their realm, this is for you! If you've ever dreamed about being able to jump right into another world through a book or fly on a magic carpet, this is for you.  Bonus points for part of the book being set at Eaton College for bringing solid British vibes alongside a fantasy universe.

 The Demon King The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Seven Realms #1): This is one of the books Ryan suggested I would like when we talked back on episode 7. I checked it out on audiobook and it did not disappoint.  I enjoyed the audio narration, the world-building, the characters, and the plot. I'm excited to continue on to the rest of the series.
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary: Beth O'Leary's next book, The Switch is on the SRG and is set to release mid-August. Seeing this, I decided to read The Flatshare first since it's already out. I was delighted by this romance. The premise is that Tiffy is leaving a toxic relationship and needs a place to live. With a low budget, she has only a few options, the best of which seems to share a flat with Leon, who works nights and sleeps days, since she has a traditional 9-5 schedule. There's nothing to worry about because they will literally never see each other. Or so they think! You may know that my husband and I dated long-distance before we were married and much of our relationship grew over emails, texts, notes and phone calls. So when Tiffy and Leon start leaving post-it notes around their flat and their friendship starts to develop, my heart was warmed! (I also told my husband about this book and he's since listened to the whole thing on audio in two days. We had fun discussing the characters like they were friends of ours.) There are so many things to love about this story. I was especially proud of how the author treated Tiffy's ex-boyfriend situation and the amount of personal growth achieved by Tiffy as the story carried on. She has literally the best friends in the entire world! And the romance is sweet (albeit rather open-door) and develops wonderfully. I highly recommend this if you enjoy romance or are looking for a fun summer read that still manages to address difficult topic matter with grace. (content warning: emotionally abusive romantic relationships, sibling in prison, gangs, trauma/flashbacks)

Wrap Up: 

According to my reading journal, that means that I officially read 15 books in May.  I've been converting audiobooks into page numbers based on how they are listed on Goodreads, so including all book types my page count for the month is 4,836 pages. They were broken out as follows:

  • audiobooks: 5
  • kindle books: 6
  • owned books: 2
  • eARCs: 2
  • and all 15 of these books were fiction

 That brings me to a total of 71 books and 21,206 pages for all of 2020 so far.

Currently Reading:

 The Little Women The Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Ryan and I watched the 2019 re-make of The Little Women a few weeks ago. We both thought it was lovely and very well done. About half-way through the movie we both realized that we had never seen another film remake or read the we were genuinely surprised by the course of events! The movie version we watched also is told in flashbacks, so the timeline was a little disorienting if you're not already familiar with the story, which further fueled my desire to read the book and see for myself. I've been really enjoying it so far. Since I'm home currently thanks to the virus, the industriousness and contentedness to be in one's home is a message I think I needed to hear right now. I also dearly love Jo and her passion for telling stories. I cried real tears when I discovered Beth's fate during the movie. A lovely story all told.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk M.D.: I borrowed this book from a friend months ago and have been side-eying it ever since. Because the subject matter is more difficult, it's not a book that I want to read lots of just for fun. The chapters I have read, however, have been super interesting and informative. I'm learning so much about how bodies work and about the progression of medical treatment in the area of mental health. I definitely plan on continuing to read this, and feeling the pressure of eventually needing to return it to my friend is helping motivate me. My friend Jewel also had this book out from the library and was reading it, which was the push I needed to finally start the book. I think she's further along than I am? We've enjoyed discussing what we are learning.

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas (Elemental Trilogy #2): The sequel to The Burning Sky, which I am also currently enjoying on audio. The Perilous Sea was interesting because the story started from the beginning and then end in alternating chapters and worked us toward the revelation of what happened to get us from start to finish. I'm engrossed (cue doing more dishes so I can continue finding out what happens!)

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: In light of current events, I decided it was time for me to pull this book off my unread shelf and read it. I'm already very interested in the sci-fi time travel element of this book, and the history (like what I said about The Underground Railroad earlier) is something I feel the need to learn more about. We have a Black woman in 1970's who keeps mysteriously getting pulled back in time to help a boy in 1815 and following years. It's a dangerous proposition for her to go back, because it's not safe to be a black woman in the South at that time. I am only a few chapters in but I'm already sure it's been a good decision to pick this book up. When I posted on Instagram that this was going to be my next read, a friend mentioned that the graphic novel adaptation of this book is also excellent, so you can find that here.

What did you read this month? Did you have a favorite? Please tell me in the comments, I'd love to hear about your books!


  1. So many good reads!!! I read Jasper Fforde years ago, but you've reminded me how fun his books are.


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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