September Reading Wrap-Up: Loves, Likes and “Meh’s” to skip

I definitely didn’t read as much as normal in September, with my kids finally going back to in-person school, I was doing a ton more driving (hello Miami life!) so I listened to a lot of podcasts and got trapped into a spiralling anxiety about the upcoming election, so I looked for a little escapism! I also fell into a bit of a reading slump, so tried to choose some palate cleansers to get me back into a happy reading place again.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was my favourite book of the month for September. A non-fiction book by a young DREAMer journalist, this is a must-read if you want to open your eyes to the humanity and suffering of undocumented people in the US. Villavicencio’s deeply personal story of her own experiences and trauma, is woven with the stories of people from vastly different communities across the US. The author’s eye for detail and quirks, and her dark humour, kindness and empathy make this a must-read despite the heavy subject matter. It made me want to be a better human. 4.75/5

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
I really struggled to get into Transcendent Kingdom because it was such a different book than I expected, having read Gyasi’s first book, Homecoming. Homecoming is a hugely ambitious, sweeping tale of how slavery affected two families from Ghana over multiple generations, taking us right into the present day. Transcendent Kingdom however is the inner life story of Gifty, a young neuroscientist and the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, who loses her brother to opioid addiction and then has to deal with her mother’s severe depression. Once I got over my resistance to the story not being what I had anticipated, I read it quite slowly, and really savoured every page. Gyasi is a genius, and her writing is so beautifully insightful and poetic. If you love really thoughtful, personal literary fiction (I’m still amazed it’s not autobiographical) you’ll love this. 4.5/5
Trigger Warning: Themes of addiction

Intimations by Zadie Smith is a super-short little book of essays written during Covid-19, and specifically the quarantine/lockdown period in NYC and London. It’s kind of amazing that we’ve been living in this time long enough for a BOOK to actually come out while we’re still going through it, but that’s where we are right now! I think pretty much anything Zadie Smith says or does is wonderful as she’s one of my icons, but this really connects especially poignantly given current events. I actually listened to the Audible version which is narrated by Zadie herself, while on the school runs, and kept rewinding and slowing it down so I could better process her incredible thoughts and message. I’m already planning another listen. A must. 4.5/5

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup is a dark, disturbing Scandi police thriller that you must read if you’re looking for something seriously spooky this October. The author created The Killing, which should tell you all you need to know about the mood of this book! I won’t give too much away about the plot, but thriller fans will be more than satisfied with The Chestnut Man! 4.25/5
Trigger Warning: child abduction and abuse

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker is another solid thriller I read this month. Don’t Look for Me is the gripping story of a mother, Molly, who appears to have abandoned her family on a dark and stormy night in the middle of the countryside, following the death of her youngest daughter. The story flips between Molly’s viewpoint and that of her older daughter’s, and is a lovely twisty psychological suspense novel. Finishable in a single sitting if you’re motivated! 3.5/5
Trigger Warning: Death of a Child

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier might have suffered slightly in comparison to The Chestnut Man and Don’t Look for Me, which I read first, as all three of them have some kind of theme of kidnapping or abduction, so I felt a bit emotionally numb by the time I reached it! Little Secrets is the story of Marin Machado, whose four year-old son disappears from a crowded market, and whose life falls apart in the aftermath of her disappearance. When she discovers her husband is having an affair with a twenty-four year old, she decides to seek revenge. 3.5/5
Trigger Warning: Child abduction

Grownups by Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes has been one of my favourite writers since I was in my teens, but this isn’t one of her best unfortunately. A family saga which rotates around three siblings and their dysfunctional marriages and children, this kind of just didn’t really go anywhere or impart any real message. I still enjoyed reading Grownups because I think Keyes writes families and family dialogue so well, but I didn’t whip through it at the same speed I usually would, and there wasn’t as much humour as I have come to expect with this author. 3.25/5

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson is technically a YA novel, but can definitely be read and enjoyed by adults, as it doesn’t feel all that YA (aside from of course the obligatory unnecessary romance which does nothing to move the plot forward). If you’re looking for a chilling, atmospheric read leading into Halloween, this is a good bet. The Year of the Witching is a fantasy novel set in the fictional Puritan community of Bethel. Imanuelle is the child of a mixed-race relationship which ended with her father being burned at the stake and her mother placing a curse on the village. I loved the witchy vibes! 3.75/5

American Royals and American Royals II: Majesty by Katherine McGee
The American Royals books ask, what would America be like if George Washington had been made King after the War of Independence, instead of President? And more importantly, what if he had really hot, young royal descendants trying to find love in the present day? It’s silly, entertaining rom-com fun that won’t tax your brain. Someone will definitely be making a movie any day now! 3.5/5

My Meh’s of the Month

One by One by Ruth Ware
I was really looking forward to this new release, but the plot was so far-fetched (including the most ludicrous tech company concept ever) that I quickly got bored. 2/5

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
I ordered this as my September BOTM, and eagerly awaited its arrival, but despite the fact that the vast majority of online reviews for this book LOVED it, I found it overly saccharine, and was distracted by the writing style. I seem to be in the minority though, so if you’ve loved Backman’s works before, give it a try. 2.5/5

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
I’ve never seem the movie, but didn’t love this magical realism novel about modern day kind-of-but-not-really witches as I found the story too slow to develop. 3/5

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