May Reading Recap: A Bit of Blue Sky in May Gray
In Los Angeles, the month of May is dubbed “May Gray” because of the gray skies that appear every morning. The gray dissipates by midday and leaves us with the typical blue skies and sunny weather we get most days in LA.
For months I have lamented the fact that I can’t go into a library to browse for books. My reading life has been a colorless swath of melancholy since Covid overturned normalcy. This month especially has been tough both because we moved to a new apartment (exciting! But also, moving sucks) and because of the overlap of regular students and summer school students crammed into my schedule (exhausting). I lacked the bandwidth and the time to pick up any stellar literature.
Then without fanfare, on May 17th the library was open again. Driving between our new place and the old apartment, I suggested to Mark that we drop in and see if we can find a good book. We found five books to borrow and five books to buy for 50 cents apiece. In the half hour we spent there the gray skies of May were crowded out by sunshine: the hope and joy of new books.
Nevertheless when looking back on this month of reading, you can see I went for easy reads because I was worn out. Reading serves many purposes, and this month it served the purpose of being a respite from the tired tedium of packing boxes, too many stops to Home Depot and Target, and eating out so much I couldn’t wait to cook for myself. (Um, what?)
Another blue-sky moment of the month: we adopted two cats! Uma and Olive, a mom and kitten duo, graced our home two days ago. We already love them so much.
Okay, now about the books.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
I began this YA novel audiobook based on a recommendation of Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, What Should I Read Next podcast). It was … okay. It seemed a little too saccharine for my taste. Instead I began listening to The Unseen World by Liz Moore, another Anne Bogel recommendation, a YA novel that was more intriguing, and a little darker.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 💫
Christy and Todd: the College Years
1. Until Tomorrow
2. As You Wish
3. I Promise
In these three novels, the saga of Christy Miller and Todd Spencer continues. I read these in high school back when I belonged to a conservative Christian youth group, and the books fit that culture completely. Christy and Todd attend Rancho Corona in Southern California, a small Christian liberal arts college. They are getting closer and closer to marriage while making decisions about their majors and careers, growing in their relationship with God, and finding how to build closeness as a couple yet still remain pure (oh boy).
Reading about these characters now is like going back in time and seeing that whole born-again lifestyle in a new way. I’m finding not only the problems that made me rethink my beliefs and how I engage with religion, but also the value of certain practices and beliefs within their evangelical Christian ideology. Reading this series has been a helpful way to process my experience in youth group and understand it in the context of my life experiences since then.
I also enjoy Christy’s best friend Katie, a character with whom I identified back in high school, given her opinionated and spunky nature. (Plus we both have red hair!) Robin Jones Gunn has a knack for creating relatable characters who encounter problems that lead to personal growth, and I’m a sucker for well-developed characters.
I recently found out that Robin Jones Gunn has extended Christy and Todd’s story further into The Marriage Years and The Baby Years. I need a little break from Christy and Todd, but I will definitely come back for more!
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Finally I break the ice on my classics reading challenge with the easiest category: a children’s classic. This tattered copy comes from a Little Free Library, and it managed to stay in one piece through the entire reading of it.
I saw the movie decades ago without having ever read the book. The movie follows the book very closely, so I found out.
The book, however, is boring. For too many chapters Mary is sneaking into the garden and enjoying the garden and getting stronger and more rosy-cheeked as her health improves and the garden grows. And that’s it for a while.
Burnett could have been an early psychologist had she not been an author. The secret garden is an analogy for depression, and she finishes the book with a moralistic lesson that mere thoughts can be either your death or your life, depending on the types of thoughts you choose to dwell on. She’s not wrong, otherwise talk therapy wouldn’t work so well, but she comes off blaming, saying if you “let” bad thoughts in it can be as damaging to your body as scarlet fever. You have to have “courage” to supplant the bad with good, and then a healthy life is yours. The story is charming and the idea has merit, but good grief, lighten up on these characters, they’re kids after all!
It was worth the read, but I didn’t love it.
Maids by Katie Skelly
This was a total impulse borrow from the library: a graphic novel about the true story of two sisters who murder their employer, a wealthy matron, and her grown daughter. That’s not a spoiler--it says so right on the (back)cover. The artwork is creepy, makes you double-take, and used both gore and spiritual aspects of the horror genre. I read the whole thing in one evening. Chilling and entertaining, but also sobering when you think that it actually happened.
What have you been reading lately? Share in the comments below!
And happy reading.