Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether or not I recommend them.
September, can you please stay a little longer?
After the never-ending summer break of 2020, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my September. All of my kids are back to school, the weather has cooled off somewhat, and I’m just feeling rather happy.
Not that everything has been perfect. A massive windstorm blew through Utah, knocking down plenty of trees and fences, canceling school for a few days.
Yet, even though my reading numbers are way down, my blogging time is way up. That’s the thing about being a work-at-home book blogger. Even if I manage to get free time, I always have to balance reading books and writing about them.
Here’s a quick look at my September reading, with my advice on which books to read and which to skip.
September Reading List
In the Midnight Library, there are two books – one book for the life you’ve lived and one for the one you could have lived. After attempting suicide, Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library. Now she must decide which book to choose from. What if she had made different choices? Would her life have been any better? All of us have regrets, and by allowing Nora the possibility to redo her life, Haig does a brilliant job showing how we can never predict the outcomes of our choices. A thoroughly enjoyable read that intimately talks about the pain of depression and second-guessing has on our life.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Viking through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
One day, a mother in Nigeria opens her door to find the dead body of her son. Starting with Vivek Oji’s death, Akwaeke Emezi slowly unravels the explanation of why and how he died. Born to a distant Nigerian father and a loving Indian mother, Vivek has always struggled with his identity. He feels closest to his cousin Osita, who struggles to understand his cousin’s crisis. Exploring otherness and identity with sharp social commentary, The Death of Vivek Oji was such a talked-about book that I included it in my Fall Reading Guide.
However, I struggled with this one. It’s very much literary fiction – jumping timelines, switching narrations, and foreshadowing galore. The crux of the book is about understanding your identity – gender identity, sexual orientation, and racial identity are all explored. However, after one too many explicit descriptions, I decided that this one just wasn’t for me.
At an exclusive French ski resort, the shareholders for the up-and-coming social media company Snoop must decide on an offer of a billion-dollar sale. One person doesn’t make it back to the lodge after skiing, and then things go from bad to worse when an avalanche hits threatening them all. Would someone be willing to resort to murder to get their way? I read this modern-day Agatha Christie mystery in one sitting because I found it gripping from start to finish. Now, I can’t wait for ski season to start.
In the fifth book of J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series, Private Investigator Strike takes on the cold case of a mother who mysteriously disappeared forty years ago. Meanwhile, his trusty colleague Robin Ellacott is going through a messy divorce while struggling with her feelings for Strike. Currently, Rowling is embroiled in a Twitter controversy over transgender comments, which has spread to her chart-topping book. Many critics are blasting Troubled Blood as a transphobic story about a cross-dressing serial killer while others are claiming such critics haven’t read the book.
So how controversial is Troubled Blood? In my opinion, not nearly as much as it’s made out to be. Though the story is definitely not unproblematic, it’s really no worse than the earlier books in the series. If it had been published a year ago, almost no one would have batted an eye. Yet seen through the light of her recent comments, critics are pulling apart every little detail looking for connections. Given that the serial killer is not even a main focus, being too obvious a suspect, I think the book’s controversy is being pulled out of proportion. Yet, should you separate the art from the artist? That’s a debate for another time since this review is already long enough.
Aside from the controversy, how is the book? Long. At over 900 pages, Troubled Blood is a massive undertaking that should have been edited down to a more reasonable length. If you are in it for a thrilling mystery, you’ll be disappointed. The central cold case proceeds at a steady pace throughout, with plenty of red herrings but no exciting climax. Not even a slow-burn, the mystery was simply background noise. Honestly, the only reason to read Troubled Blood is for the will-they-or-won’t-they aspect of the relationship between Strike and Robin, which I enjoyed more than in any other book in the series.
Six years after a fight ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when her ex-best friend Drue Cavanaugh begs Daphne to be her maid-of-honor. No longer a shy side-kick, Daphne is now a confident plus-size influencer and a weekend in Cape Cod is too tempting to pass up. With a little steamy romance, a little mystery, and a whole lot of woman finding confidence in herself, it’s the perfect beach read for those looking for a light story. Although I didn’t love it, I can see why Big Summer was on the New York Times bestselling list for so long this summer.
Should you have it all and be the perfect version of you or should you ignore what others think and do whatever? Kendra Adachi implores you to take a third path – the lazy genius way. By being a genius about what matters to you and lazy about what doesn’t, Adachi promises to help you avoid overwhelm and discover a better way to life. Having read so many minimalism/productivity/girl power books recently, I feel like I’ve read every argument under the sun about living your best life. However, Adachi surprised me with a new take on the topic, combining the best advice in a unique way, always emphasizing the importance of doing what’s best for you.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook & Multnomah through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the 50 States Reading List. As a young idealistic lawyer, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice defending the most desperate of clients. One case, in particular, stands out: Walter McMillian, a young man on death row who is obviously innocent. Stevenson inspires his readers to consider how compassion is needed for true justice to be served. An exceptional read, Stevenson will help you realize how unjust our justice system is.
What happens when a white person’s assumptions about race are challenged? The normal reaction is defensiveness, which Robin DiAngelo calls white fragility. Unpacking why whites are so fragile, DiAngelo shows how much this defensiveness hinders cross-racial discussion. I’ve been trying to increase my understanding of racism in America (and in myself) by reading up on the topic, including DiAngelo’s controversial book. It’s a book about racism written by a white person to a white audience, so it’s bound to be controversial.
I definitely didn’t enjoy this book and disagreed with many of her opinions. However, her point is an important one to internalize – as a white person, I need to understand that I am not exempt from racism just because of fill in your favorite excuse here. By losing the defensiveness and being willing to open up and see how I can improve, I’ll then be ready to fully listen when I read more about racism.
Next Book in a Series. After winning honors at the Institute, Darrow finds his standing in Gold Society at risk when he is outmaneuvered by friends and enemies alike. The only way he can see to bring down the Golds and allow the sons of Ares to rise is to start a civil war. The second book of the Red Rising trilogy will keep fans happy with nonstop action and political machinations throughout its almost five hundred pages.
The third book in the Red Rising series picks up after Darrow’s betrayal at his triumph. Darrow must pick himself back up and turn what remains of the Sons of Ares from terrorists into a conquering army. After disliking the rushed nature of Golden Son, Morning Star felt perfectly paced. Although he later went on to add more books to his original trilogy, Pierce Brown wrapped everything up so perfectly in this book that I don’t feel the need to continue when the next book fast forwards the story a decade.
L. M. Montgomery
Reread a Childhood Favorite. Every girl should be required to read the adventures of orphan Anne Shirley who uses all her imagination and spunk to win the hearts of everyone around her. She’s the girl every girl wishes she could be. Rereading this childhood classic, I found it just as entertaining as an adult and loved every minute of it.
Book You Haven’t Read by an Author You Love. If you love watching Downton Abbey, you’ll want to check out Kate Morton’s debut novel. At 14, Grace Hadley becomes a housemaid at Riverton House, a grand estate in England. Looking back at her life, Grace tells of her connection to the glamourous Hartford sisters, Hannah and Emmeline, and the events that lead up to a shocking suicide of an up-and-coming poet. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed *most* of Kate Morton’s historical fiction novels (Yes, I’m looking at you, The Clockmaker’s Daughter), and her debut novel did not disappoint.
Twice a year, I purchase a stack of books to help me be a better blogger. Someone somewhere listed John McPhee’s Draft No. 4 as one of their favorite books on nonfiction writing, so I thought it would help me become a better writer. What a waste of my money. McPhee’s book is a collection of essays about writing, but mostly it’s just McPhee reliving the glory days of his career – name dropping his articles and colleagues left and right. Except I’d never heard of McPhee or anyone he mentions in the book. A couple of good writing tidbits are scattered here and there, but unless you are a big fan of McPhee’s work, I would highly suggest skipping this one.
If you are looking to learn web design, Duckett has the must-read book on HTML and CSS. With gorgeous full-color pages, Duckett starts from the very beginning, ensuring that absolute newbies to coding will understand where things stand. Block upon block, he builds up until you are can code an entire website. A great starting point, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and even went on to purchase a CSS course, as I am excited to dive deeper into coding my website.
I have no idea which of my blogging friends raved about this finance book, but they must have been Australian because it turns out The Barefoot Investor is an Australian-specific financial guide. I’m surprised my library even has a copy. Although the specifics of Pape’s financial plan will only benefit Australians, his overarching advice is universal: seek out low-fee banks and funds; divide up your money to ensure savings, renegotiate your rates, and plan for a successful retirement. If you are an Australian looking for financial advice, this book is great. Else, I would suggest finding a more applicable personal finance book.
One of the best perks of being a book blogger is receiving advance review copies (ARCs) of upcoming book releases from publishers.
At the beginning of each month, I cover all the new book releases coming out, and the October 2020 book releases are right around the corner. Here’s a peek at the October releases I’ve already read.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back in October to see which ones I read.
What books did you read in September?