With more activity options for my downtime, and a very busy work schedule as we moved towards the end of term, my reading rate slowed considerably in May. I only managed to complete five books – half the April total! I’m still ahead of schedule for my planned 60 books this year, though, so I’m quite happy with that.

Dubray Books. A Fatal Grace

First up this month was an oldie, A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny, the second of her murder mystery novels set in the fictional Canadian village of Three Pines. Regular readers will know that I started the Louise Penny series out of curiosity when it was announced that she was collaborating with Hillary Clinton on a new novel, and I wasn’t quite sure what I made of the first title in the series, Still Life. I enjoyed this second one more, and think I’ll keep reading – each book seems to follow the same characters but focusses on a different one each time. I think they’d make good holiday reading – enjoyable but not too taxing.

Next, I finished John Hattie’s seminal educational work, Visible Learning, which I’d been listening to on audio book. If you’re an educator and you haven’t read this, I’d recommend it highly – it’s a meta-analysis of many studies on the impacts of various educational interventions and is absolutely fascinating. There’s a whole series of spin-off titles to keep you busy too!

I then read another oldie, The Likeness by Tana French. The second of French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, I really enjoyed this one. I love crime fiction, but nothing too graphic or gruesome, and these novels suit me nicely. I’m sure most French fans will already have read these, but if you came to her more recently, it’s well worth going back to these early works.

The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls

My final two books of the month were The City of Tears by Kate Mosse and Mona Eltahawy’s The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, and I read them in tandem – the former as bedtime reading and the latter for daytime, or ‘downstairs’ reading! I really enjoy Kate Mosse’s historical fiction, and The City of Tears (which I bought in an actual bookshop – Midleton Books – as soon as they re-opened!) is the second book in her Burning Chambers series, set during the religious upheaval in France and Holland during the 1500s. The book follows the journey of Minou Joubert into her adult life and middle years, and I’m already looking forward to the third book in the trilogy and solving the tantalising mystery hinted at in the prologues of both this one and The Burning Chambers!

The Seven Necessary Sins is a provocative feminist text in which Eltahawy examines the various attributes traditionally frowned upon in women or from which women have been excluded, such as ambition, power, profanity and lust. It’s a fascinating and occasionally uncomfortable read, and rather like Emma Dabiri’s excellent What White People Can do Next, left me wondering if we are in fact wasting our time as women trying to fight our way into a patriarchal system designed to exclude us, when perhaps we should instead be starting from scratch and developing entirely new societal structures that include all voices. Food for thought, indeed.

My first book of June is the final part of Lisa McInerney’s Cork-based trilogy, The Rules of Revelation. I loved The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles, and while The Rules is not quite as hectic and intense as its predecessors, it’s the story of a different Cork and doesn’t disappoint. I have eight books on the to-read list, and many more on the to-buy list (note to self: libraries are open; you can’t afford a second mortgage!), but Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light is so huge I’m afraid it may take me a month to read it once I start!!! 875 pages…

As always, recommendations are very welcome!

I try to support independent bookshops where possible, especially in the current climate. My local, Midleton Books, is now selling online (if they don’t have what you want, they’ll order it), and I also buy from O’Mahony’s Books and Vibes and Scribes. Not as small or independent as these, but still Irish, Dubray Books also offer an excellent service. Readers from outside Ireland will have their own favourites, no doubt!