September has been such a tease of a month. I’m ready for cooler weather– open windows and breezes and sweaters and being able to drink hot coffee in the afternoon without feeling like you were destined for heatstroke. Heck, I’d take snow at this point honestly; I’m done with summer! It’s ninety degrees in Missouri today, and I’m miserable. But, anyway.
I read 11 books this month! Honestly, I’m on such a roll right now, and it feels great. I feel nothing but gratitude for this development, and I don’t even know who direct it toward honestly, but that doesn’t negate the feeling. It’s more than just the books, you know? They’re a symbol that I’ve been able to take this time for myself and process/escape/think. Books are always more than just books.
- Nonfiction: 3
- Fiction: 8
By star review:
- ✪✪✪✪✪: 2
- ✪✪✪✪: 6
- ✪✪✪: 3
Favorite Read: The Lager Queen of Minnesota
Most Likely to Recommend: The Lager Queen of Minnesota
Late to the Party: The Martian
Most Quotable: I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening)
Favorite Instagram Post:
- Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen ✪✪✪
- Finding Dorothy, Elizabeth Letts ✪✪✪✪
- Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Halpern, ✪✪✪
- I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), Beth A. Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland ✪✪✪✪
- The Lager Queen of Minnesota, J. Ryan Stradal ✪✪✪✪✪
- The Things We Wish Were True, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen ✪✪✪
- The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Amy Reichert ✪✪✪✪
- The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes ✪✪✪✪
- The Martian, Andy Weir ✪✪✪✪
- Introverted Mom, Jamie C. Martin ✪✪✪✪✪
- The Bookshop on the Shore, Jenny Colgan ✪✪✪✪✪
Rabbit Back Literary Society is maybe the weirdest thing I’ve ever read? If not weirdest ever, it’s definitely the weirdest thing I’ve read since college. I didn’t hate it, but I was…unsettled by it. It’s a book I wish I could return to Amazon simply because it makes me feel uncomfortable when I see it in my Kindle library. I think discomfort was the goal, so in that it definitely succeeded. I will say, though, that this book was one that seamlessly incorporated magical realism– that’s a hard thing to accomplish well, and I was impressed by that. Some people love weird books; if you’re that person, you will likely love this one.
I have long been obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. It was my first favorite movie* and as soon as I could read chapter books I found L. Frank Baum’s book and immediately loved it. Finding Dorothy was a combination of the life of his wife Maud Gage Baum (fictionalized account) and the story of The Wizard of Oz hitting the big screen. This wasn’t a five-star read for me mostly because it was sloooooow. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a slow novel, but honestly, this wasn’t one of those times. It just felt like plodding through, even though I did love the story. It just wasn’t enough of a pay-off in the end. Still, if you love The Wizard of Oz, I think you should look into reading this one– historical fiction is my jam, after all, especially when it’s based around someone I already love. It had a similar feel to Saving Mr. Banks, if you liked that (I did).
Confession Time: I’m pretty sure I started reading Sh*t My Dad Says when I was in high school (insert emoji of the monkey hiding his face here). The plus side of this book’s format is that when I picked it up this month I didn’t really miss a beat. It’s anecdotal, and each chapter is basically just a story of Justin Halpern’s experiences with his father, capped at the end by several humorous paternal quotes. There were numerous times I laughed out loud, but it wasn’t amazing for me. I should also say that it isn’t really my type of book, so that may have effected my overall opinion, but I can definitely see why others might love it.
I avoid politics like the plague. Yes, I know they are super important. Yes, I know I need to contribute and understand the political climate around me. I just hate all the vitriol people bring to the table when politics are introduced. I hate the ill-formed opinions broadcast on Facebook by distant friends and relatives. I don’t like when people I find otherwise charming and kind reveal their political nature to be more akin to that of a threatened animal, so I generally just try to avoid the whole thing. This book, I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), is a big deal because it provides counsel on how to approach politics gracefully; how can we broach the subject in kindness and respect? Why don’t we? What about the current American political system is, frankly, broken? And even more so, how can a Christian approach politics without ceding the virtues of their faith? This is good and important, and if I had a million dollars I would send a copy to every one of my Facebook friends, just for good measure. I will say, briefly, that I don’t listen to their podcast (Pantsuit Politics), but this book was heavily recommended by other podcasts and newsletters that I do subscribe to. Maybe I should consider listening to their podcast, because I have already admitted that the political aspect of life overwhelms me; it would be nice to have a guide help me through.
If you have yet to read J. Ryan Stradal, then I exhort you to do so at your earliest convenience. He is AMAZING. He’s not shallow, but he’s also not too heavy. His writing has such a familiar tone, but it isn’t overdone. I read Kitchens of the Great Midwest in January I believe, and I was a big fan. I maybe loved The Lager Queen of Minnesota even more than his debut. There are so many elements that made this delightful for me: the portrayal of American Midwest attitude (and it’s so accurate, it kills me), the family drama (for which I am a total sucker), and the sister relationships featured within (I never had a sister; I love reading about them). The plot development was, for me, perfectly paced; I even loved the conclusion. I thought it was both satisfying and not over-written. This is really good stuff.
The Things We Wish Were True was such a letdown for me. I liked it, sure, but I was disappointed primarily because I LOVED When We Were Worthy, Whalen’s most recent publication. And when I say LOVED, I mean five stars and blabbering recommendations to basically everyone I know. This had that domestic noir feel to it that is so popular, and there was a little suspense (but also a fair dose of predictability, tbh). It’s a neighborhood drama bordering on thriller. I think another problem I had with this one was that there were just too many narrators. I couldn’t get attached to any of them simply because we were dealing with so many different perspectives. Oh, also, it’s Southern! I do love that.
I have said many times before that I have a very specific adoration for books about food and books about books. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake was a sweet (ha, see what I did there?) book from the perspective of a chef and owner of a failing restaurant. It had the feel of one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, in the way that fate pitted our poor narrator against love. A rivalry ends a perfectly good love affair…or does it? Go read this, it’s light and fluffy and sweet and all the things that a romantic comedy should be. Also the love interest is British–I think that’s compelling enough.
I made a fatal reader error: I read Me Before You before the film (which is good, and I encourage everyone to approach adaptations in this method), and I loved it. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning and was beside myself in grief at the end. I remember this experience vividly. HOWEVER. These memories were pushed to the side when I watched the film–they blocked out the reading experience for me until I really delved into my conscious memory to find it. I approached The Girl You Left Behind in kind of a blasé manner simply because I forgot how much I enjoyed my first experience reading Jojo Moyes. This was a great book! Easily 4 stars, probably leaning to 4.5. I’m particularly a fan of those books that jump eras (“dual time-frame narrative” to quote from another reader’s Goodreads review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/389878402?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1) and I do think this one did that beautifully. I found the current eras story a bit more intriguing than the historical narrative, but I think I might be in the minority opinion regarding that. I liked it a lot– historical fiction fans and contemporary readers alike could enjoy this.
Ah, The Martian. I didn’t think I would ever read this book because I don’t like Science Fiction (come to find out, I do like Science Fiction, I just don’t like labels). So I watched the film with my husband. Once. And then twice. And then three times. The third time, however, we watched this because I coerced Coach Lowrey into listening to the audiobook based on the encouragement of other readers, and he ADORED IT. So he insisted we watch the movie– I can tell you that he spend the entire time writhing in anger at the changes they made between the book and movie, so I knew it was essential that I read it soon. Coach Lowrey is not a self-proclaimed reader, and anything he loves I read. This was a great, great book…even if you don’t find space or science particularly interesting! I’m a bit frustrated, simply because I’m pretty sure I would have given this five stars had I read it before watching the movie. Ah, well.
Introverted Mom is a gem. I am not going to say much because it did receive a full review from me (Introverted Mom Book Review), but if you fit into the niche ideal audience for this type of book, it is well-worth your time.
Oh my, I’m about to blab. It cannot be stopped. JENNY COLGAN IS A STAR. I love her. She is the greatest little chick lit writer of our time, and I’m willing to stand by that. I’ve expressed my love for this type of book many a time, but golly. I could just sink into her books (happily) and never escape, I think. This is the sweet story of a young, single mother at the end of her rope in the busy city. She’s living in an apartment that’s too small with a silent little boy (whose father is charming, but ultimately unreliable), no money, and no real friends. An opportunity arises for her to accept a position (with housing) in the Scottish countryside. It’s a big move, yes, but that’s exactly what she needs. Enter a love interest, some adorable children, Scottish traditions, and Loch Ness lore. Oh, also, she loves books. So, there you go. It can/should also be said that this is a companion piece to The Bookshop on the Corner, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to read them together (except that you will want to because they are both just darling). Please read asap as possible (in the tradition of Michael Scott, of course).
That’s September! Looking forward to a beautiful season of fall reading with you all. Once again, nothing but gratitude to the bookish universe and readerly community. Happy reading, my friends!