Reading has always been my escape, well, as long as I can remember anyway. But like a lot of readers I've talked to recently, falling into a story has been harder than usual for me during quarantine.
That got worse here at the end of May with police violence leading to protests that became riots. My low-level restless anxiety and imagination full of what-ifs whipped into something larger and harder to ignore. I know a lot of creatives are struggling similarly, with creation as well as consumption of art. I'm managing slow forward progress on my writing still, and am hopeful I can pick up my pace again when the school year ends here in a couple of weeks.
Despite my struggles, I still read eight books in May, and I really liked six of them.
I read three books written by friends and colleagues: Gidion's Hunt by Bill Blume, Chasing the Dragon: A Sherlock Holmes Romantic Mystery by Alexandra Christian, and The Reckoning by DM Taylor.
I've read other books by Alexandra, and I know from being there for some of her readings that her work is clever, sexy, and spiked with humor. Chasing the Dragon: A Sherlock Holmes Romantic Mystery was no exception. Her imagined love story for Sherlock Holmes plays beautifully in the known world of those stories while bringing Alexandra's strengths into play. I hope she writes more in this universe!
Bill and I have been on panels together at conventions for a few years now, but I hadn't yet read any of his work. Gidion's Hunt was sweet in a wholesome sort of way, especially considering that it's a story about a teenaged vampire hunter. I loved the family relationships and it looks like Bill has a great foundation for future books in the series in this first volume.
DM Taylor is a writer I know from Instagram. The Reckoning is a time travel thriller with elements of women's fiction. I enjoyed it quite a bit! It took me a little longer to read this one because I read it as a Kindle edition, and I'm suffering from screen-time overload right now, which is making me prefer paper and audiobook reading to ebooks.
I also read three graphic novels this month. Graphic novels can be read quickly, often in a single sitting, and the combination of art with narrative really works to suck me in when my attention is scattered. The Sixth Gun, Volume 3: Bound really pleased me. I read the first two in this series last month and loved the way this volume took the focus to Gord and deepened his backstory. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series!
Newprints and Endgames by Ru Xu were passed my way by my thirteen-year-old daughter who loved them. She's a huge fan of Blue, the main character, and I can see why--she's so forthright, scrappy, and determined. Unfortunately, the storytelling disappointed me in that the narration pulled back from hard emotional moments, avoiding conflict that the story really needed.
The second volume in particular felt rushed, like two books worth of story had been crammed into only one. Still, it evokes a Little Orphan Annie feel in a wonderful steampunk setting and there's a lot to recommend them, especially to younger readers.
My last two reads were disappointments. I'd been looking forward to reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I loved the cover and the premise of a secret society surrounding story and books intrigued me. I had positive memories of The Night Circus, so thought I might enjoy another book by the same author, but it really just didn't grab me at all. All atmosphere (gorgeous, beautifully rendered atmosphere) and no substance. Too light on plot and characterization to keep me, especially under current circumstances.
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse was my First Monday Classics Book Club choice for the month and it was a slog for me. I kind of had a feeling it was going to be, just remembering the kinds of people who touted its praises back in my undergrad years--almost exclusively entitled young men I didn't like all that much. But, still, I tried to go in without bias and give it a go.
I found some beauty and insight in the text, but was left with the overall yucky feeling that I get from reading literary representations of male academics having midlife crises which they overcome by having affairs with far younger women.
There's nothing for me in a story like that. I can't sympathize with the main character, and often can't sympathize with the young woman either because she's a manic pixie dream girl or a complete cypher. Maybe this one was the first novel of this type? I don't know. But it didn't feel innovative or interesting. I've seen this story many times and it's irritated me every time.
Luckily I'm finishing May in the middle of two good books I'll tell you about in June: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey and The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theater by Alex Matsuo.
What did you read in May? What's next on your list? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.