As we knew it would be, May was even more packed than April. Sebastian was training for his half-marathon (which he successfully completed!), we celebrated multiple family birthdays, ate delicious food at a food truck festival, and went on several excursions. We spent a day and a half in Maastricht, visited a friend in Aachen, took a day trip from Aachen to the quaint town of Monschau, and toured a historic village/open air museum. We’re surprised we managed to read at all on top of all that!

Books & Audiobooks

Fool’s Errand – Robin Hobb
As usual this was a re-read for Maraia and a first read for Sebastian, and while Maraia was happy to go back to her very first Robin Hobb book and read it again with all the knowledge from the other series, Sebastian even considers it his second favorite Hobb book after Ship of Destiny. For him adult Fitz was much easier to bear than his rather stupid younger self and it was also great to meet the other characters from the Farseer trilogy again. Compared to the Liveship Traders trilogy, the story was rather simple, but Sebastian appreciated the mystery aspect that came with the search for Prince Dutiful.

West Cork – Sam Bungey & Jennifer Forde
This was the first podcast we’ve listened to together and since we usually enjoy crime novels and thrillers a lot we thought this true crime story could be a good choice – and it didn’t disappoint. The case was interesting and while some parts unintentionally made us laugh (like the super annoying prime murder suspect) and other parts were really hard to understand (either because the recording was poor or because Irish accents are quite a challenge) the producers definitely did a good job telling this story – though we had wished for some kind of conclusion even though we had never really expected one since the West Cork murder case is still unsolved.

Six Four – Hideo Yokoyama
We read this book back in 2016 and loved it, despite the fact that it’s not your typical, fast-paced thriller. Instead, the author takes his time and slowly builds what ends up being an absolutely fascinating case. We reread it as part of a readalong hosted by Sebastian and another blogger, in honor of its publication this year in German. It was even better the second time around, and we both added another star to our ratings.

Terror – Ferdinand von Schirac
This 1.5-hour audio drama was perfect for our drive to Aachen since it had the perfect length and was also interesting enough to keep us awake while driving. The story was basically a murder trial that dealt with the question of if it is the right decision to sacrifice a few lives to save the lives of thousands, and what made it so fascinating was that every point of view felt logical and convincing, which made it next to impossible to give one final answer to that difficult moral question. We also liked that this audio drama was a bit interactive by giving its listeners the possibility to choose between two endings, depending on if they find the defendant guilty or innocent.

Illuminae – Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman
We both loved the first installment of the Illuminae Files trilogy when we read it for the first time, but sadly our re-read with the audiobook version turned out to be quite a disappointment for us – which surprised us a lot since we had heard a lot of good things about the narration. But right from the beginning we had the impression that the narrators didn’t really fit the characters (mostly because they sounded much too old), there were way less sound effects than we had hoped for, and while in the print version it was easy to skim the censored parts or the time stamps etc. it was just super annoying to listen to these things since it always sounded as if there were errors in the recording. Fortunately the second half was more interesting, but we’re both convinced that this book works much better in the print version.

Hangman – Daniel Cole
Ragdoll, the first book in this series, was one of our favorite thrillers last year, so we were looking forward to the second installment. It doesn’t quite live up to the first novel, but it was still an addictive read, and we’re already looking forward to more. The ending is a bit confusing, though, and we both went back to read the prologue to see if we’d missed something. Hopefully things will be explained a bit better in the next book.

The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn
We’ve seen a lot of mediocre reviews of this book, but we were both impressed. The author drew on his own experience with depression to write his main character, and it shows. We did guess some of the twists, but the ending still managed to mostly be a surprise. Our only complaint, really, is the excessive amount of alcohol the main character drinks throughout the book. That’s one of our least favorite tropes, and we see it all too often.

Im Netz des Spinnenmann („Abducted“) – T.R. Ragen
This was another book I tried from the Prime Reading library and I’m glad I did since it turned out to be quite a suspenseful thriller. The story was good, the characters likable and while I definitely didn’t need the romance parts I’m sure I’m going to continue the Lizzy Gardner series some day.

Codex („The Codex“) – Douglas Preston
I’m a huge fan of the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child but I think this was the first book I read from only one of these authors. I expected some adventurous treasure hunt in the jungle and that was exactly what I got. The author used some clichés for sure but the story was always entertaining and never boring, so I’m happy to have found out that Douglas Preston apparently is also a good storyteller on his own.

A Girl Like That – Tanaz Bhathena
This isn’t a pleasant book to read, but I do think it has an important story to tell about rape culture, bullying, and double standards for boys and girls. It was painful to watch how Zarin, one of the main characters, was treated her entire life. (It’s hard to say how exaggerated this was, as I’m not familiar with the cultures portrayed in the book.) However, I didn’t like the entirely negative portrayal of both the city Jeddah and every Muslim character in the book. According to the author’s bio, she lived in Jeddah during her childhood, so I understand that she’s writing from her perspective as a non-Muslim ex-pat. But she seriously couldn’t find even ONE single positive thing to say about the city and the people living there?

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis
My thoughts on this book are conflicted. I I absolutely adore the main character, Tiffany Sly. She’s bold, she speaks her mind, she doesn’t let herself be bullied into following orders blindly, and she has anxiety and OCD. Like Tiffany, the author is black and has anxiety, so the representation is of course great. I also appreciate that there issn’t any romance in the novel! However, it also has a long list of weaknesses that I was only able to look past because of how awesome Tiffany Sly is.

What If It’s Us – Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
This book is undeniably cute. Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera are great at writing characters, and it was easy to tell who influenced which character. I particularly enjoyed the friendship between one of the main characters and his best friend. I also found myself laughing time and time again while reading, and I loved all of the Harry Potter references. However, as much as I enjoyed the book, I was also disappointed. I think this would have worked much better as a short story, as there is essentially no plot outside the romance. I guess I expected more from such accomplished authors. The ending is also unsatisfying, which is a completely letdown after so much buildup.

A Dead Djin in Cairo – P. Djèlí Clark
This a mystery short story set in a magical version of Cairo, and really enjoyed it. It’s available for free on Tor.com, so I recommend checking it out! My only complaint is, not surprisingly, that it’s too short. I hope we’ll see more from these characters and this world.

Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
After giving up on the unabridged version, I thought the shortened manga version might be easier to manage. And it certainly was. Unfortunately, I still found it a drag to read. So much is crammed into 400 pages that I was constantly confused as to who the characters were and which roll they played. (I learned only at the end that there was a character guide, which would have been helpful.) I couldn’t tell anyone apart – this was my first manga, so I’m not accustomed to the art style or the lack of color in the illustrations. I also didn’t like Dantés at all. I understand that he feels betrayed, but the things he does in the name of revenge are just as bad as the things done to him. He destroya so many lives, and there was one thing in particular that completely ruined him for me. I honestly don’t know what people see in this book. However, I’m glad that I now know what the book is about, and I feel good about the decision to not force myself through the 1300-page version.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman
I was nervous to reread this, as it was one of my favorite books of 2016, and I didn’t want that to change. I needn’t have worried, though. I was immediately drawn back into the story and characters. I love this book so, so much, and I really can’t recommend it enough. I relate deeply to Francis, and I take comfort in reading her story. Also, for those of you who avoid YA due to the obligatory romances, this book is one of the rare exceptions.

The Prince and the Dressmaker – Jen Wang
This is such a delightful graphic novel. The art and the dresses are gorgeous, and the story is surprisingly deep for such a short book. It’s sweet and heartwarming, and it sends a clear message that who you really are is worthy of being loved.

Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie
Although I liked the first book in this series, it took me a while to get into the story. I didn’t have that problem with Ancillary Sword, so I was able to enjoy it right away. I’m starting to really love the fact that there’s only one gender pronoun in this society. It’s interesting to see how my brain automatically assigns a gender with some characters (based on their actions) and doesn’t even think about it with others.

TV Shows

   

  • SUITS: We’re done with season 7 now, and even though it isn’t our favorite, it’s hard not to enjoy watching Mike, Harvey, and co. take down their enemies.
  • THE BIG BANG THEORY: We’re sad that this hilarious show is over for the season, and we can’t wait for the next one!
  • DESIGNATED SURVIVOR: We watched this at the beginning of the month and are both finding it hard to remember what happened, but we’re sure we enjoyed it as always.
  • STROMBERG: We’re finally on the last season! Maraia won’t be sad to say goodbye 😂

   

  • PEAKY BLINDERS: This show comes highly recommended by Asti, so we thought we’d give it a try. We like it more than we did after the first episode, but it’s certainly not a favorite. The characters are undeniably fascinating, but it’s hard to actually root for gangsters. We do want to continue the show, though. Eventually.
  • THE KILLING: We watched and (partially) enjoyed the American version of this show last year, and now we’re watching (or re-watching, in Sebastian’s case) the original Danish version. It’s interesting to see the direct parallels between the two, as well as the differences. This one is definitely more detailed.
  • BROOKLYN NINE-NINE: Every time we watch an episode, we’re grateful that this amazing show has been picked up by NBC. Considering how progressive it is, it’s honestly a surprise it lasted as long as it did at Fox.
  • 13 REASONS WHY: We started season 2 while in Aachen but have only managed to watch two more episodes since getting home. So far we’re wondering why it was necessary to continue after the first season.

Was your May as busy as ours?
What were your highlights of the month?


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