What I Read in September 2019
At first glance, September looks like a dud of a reading month for me. I finished ten books this month, as opposed to twenty-one in August! That’s a big difference, until you compare page numbers (not that I’m actually counting them!)
I read a couple poetry collections last month, and some middle grade novels, all of which are super host. This month I read two of my longest books of the year, so that’s where the difference comes in! And out of ten books this month, four of them were Five Star Reads, which is a great ratio.
What I Read in September: Book Reviews
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
I finished Garden Spells and went right to the library to grab this follow up! I was expecting it to pick right up where the other left off, but I really like that it starts almost ten years after GS ended. While the novel is about the Waverly family and their legacy in their small town, each main character has their own journey and moment to shine. Magic is more prominent and defined in this novel, which added so much to the story. Allen’s writing is sensory and emotional. Overall it’s a fun read, perfect for fans of contemporary fiction and magical realism.
In One Person by John Irving
Read for the Country Bookshelf Reading Challenge category: A book by an author over 60 This novel is a stunning accomplishment, I don’t think anyone but Irving could pull it off. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by John Benjamin Hickey who gives our protagonist/narrator Billy the exactly right personality with just a little bit of snark. This story is wonderfully Irving. His characters are flawed humans, making poor choices and suffering the consequences, just as happens in real life. He pushes his characters to extremes, and his books all have a “weirdness” that is unique to him.I highly recommend this one for Irving fans, and readers of literary fiction, historical fiction, and/or LGBTQ+ issues.
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Read for the PopSugar challenge category: A book about someone with a super power In a world that has super heroes and super villains, Danny is a teenager in a boy’s body, who has always felt he was truly a girl. He’s lived in shame and fear until now. It’s a total fluke that Danny was near a firefight that killed Dreadnought and the dying super hero passed his powers on. The powers just happen to make the recipient into their “true self” and now Danny is a girl on the outside too!None of that is a spoiler, it’s only the very beginning of this fascinating story. Overall this was a super fun read, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel. I recommend it for readers of YA fiction and fantasy, also those interested in LBGTQ+ issues, and of course fans of super heroes!
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Advanced copy from NetGalley, expected publication October 15, 2019 (you can pre-order here) Elizabeth Strout is a phenomenal story-teller. Even her side characters have depth and backstory. This is a collection of stories about every day life. They’re all about connection and community, and human nature. Olive is older now. She’s still a bit crochety, but she’s trying to be a better person, and she has a lot of love to give. The writing is rich and emotional. Strout’s characters are ordinary yet fascinating at the same time. Their stories are woven together here in the same moving way as the first book. If you haven’t read Olive Kitteridge first, you definitely should. If you have, you will love this one. I highly recommend both for readers of literary fiction and short stories.
Slated: Blurred Borders Book 1 by Alexis Sands
This is an Own Voices novel, about a protagonist, Sloane, with Borderline Personality Disorder. I don’t have much knowledge of this diagnosis, and while I could understand that the character’s behavior was driven by her diagnosis at times, I didn’t understand exactly how and I think I would have had more compassion for her if I’d understood better. With that being said, I think anyone who has dealt with this diagnosis or similar symptoms will connect with Sloane. The writing is solid, it’s a compelling story and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fast paced easy read. There is A LOT of sex, a lot of very steamy, graphic sex. Some of the phrasing is a little cliche – I suspect it’s difficult to write erotica without cliche – but for the most part the sex is well written and female empowered. Readers of erotica will enjoy this one, as well as fans of Own Voices fiction.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Read for the Country BookShelf Reading Challenge Category: A book over 500 pages Book Four in the Cororon Strike series, written by JK Rowling under a pseudonym. This series gets better with each book! I put this one off because it’s so long, but I shouldn’t have. The suspense is strong all the way through and it never felt long or slow, the mystery never got stale. The writing is atmospheric. The author is so skilled at weaving together multiple plot lines, and creating tension between characters that is palpable. Overall, such a great story and I can’t wait for the next book! Recommended for fans of mysteries, thrillers, and Private Detective stories.
Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs
Advanced copy from St Martin’s Press, published October 1, 2019 Maybe Burroughs is getting tired of writing, or is running out of material for essays. This collection felt forced. He squeezes at least one line into every essay about being a witch. If it weren’t for that, these would be interesting pieces on their own. He is intuitive and clairvoyant. Call it that. That’s interesting. But to connect every story to “because I’m a witch” got annoying by half way through. His writing here is still classic Burroughs, with his snark and judginess and pessimism. It’s just not as sharp. And having read his other collections, I can’t recall him ever claiming to be a witch before, or talking about casting spells on people. Maybe I missed something.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
This is an important book, and it is very bleak. Kushner’s writing is mind-blowingly atmospheric and it reads like non-fiction. This is not a redemption story. It’s an assumably accurate portrayal of the prison system in the U.S. There’s so much going on in this book in terms of race, class, societal expectations, gender norms, and the danger of labels. It’s a powerful book for sure. I found it confusing at times because the timeline jumps around, as does character view point. But I can see how a liner storyline doesn’t exactly fit the circumstances of the characters. There’s a lot of looking back and connecting the dots. I’m not sure who I would recommend this novel to. Readers of true crime, even though its fiction. Those who can handle unrelenting despair, and/or are interested in a realistic portrayal of the prison system.
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
This is a brilliant novel. It took me a while to get into it, then I was totally engrossed. It’s an unconventional love story involving four people. Rooney perfectly captures the complexities of relationships and the nuanced types of love we experience throughout life.Rooney’s writing is sharp and genuine. Her ability to create such memorable characters is unusual. I highly recommend this for readers of literary fiction as well as non-traditional love stories.
Horror Stories by Liz Phair
Advanced copy from NetGalley, expected publication October 8, 2019 (you can pre-order here) This book cracked my heart open in the best possible way. It’s not a linear memoir about becoming a rockstar. It’s a collection of skillfully written essays about being a human who just happens to also be a rockstar. The stories are moving in every way, sometimes I laughed out loud, sometimes I almost cried. As with her songwriting, Liz’s prose is emotional, raw, and honest. She perfectly captures what it’s like to be a women who doubts herself at times, who owns her sexuality at other times, and who in general just wants to love and be loved. This is a must read for her fans. It will also be enjoyable for readers of memoir and personal essays.