The September 2020 Wrap-Up

This Month was a really good reading month. I read a large quantity of books at sixteen books, and I felt like I read a high quality of books as well. I found several books that I would have classified as five-star books, and The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will probably be on my top ten list at the end of the year. (What You Wish For stands at chance at being a top ten book as well.)

The Stats:

  • Books Read: 16
    • Library–4
    • Kindle–4
    • Hardcopy–8
    • Audio–
  • Re-Reads: 1
  • Goodreads Challenge Progress: 131/200 (17 books behind schedule)
  • New Books vs. Backlist:
    • New Books: 10
    • Backlist: 6

The Books:

I started this month with a horror novel.that was low on actual horror and high on mexican gothicatmosphere. Mexican Gothic is truly well-named as a gothic novel. It seems like a standard haunted house mystery at periods throughout the book, but ultimately the truth about what is going on is way stranger than a standard haunted house trope. This one really appealed to me in its gothic nature and atmosphere (Wuthering Heights was a favorite of mine as a teenager), but also has a strong lead character in Noemi, and I really appreciated reading about her.

The next book I read was one that was really buzzy when it first came out.  It was a Read all-adults-herewith Jenna and seemed to be all over Bookstagram. I love good family dramas, so I was looking forward to trying it out. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like it was a “good” family drama. Instead, it was kind of blind. There were five or six competing characters, all dealing with major drama, but many of them were completely flat characters other than their “major drama.” I really only found one or two characters that I was interested in, and many of the storylines were either dropped or not worked well into the flow of the narrative. I was interested enough to keep turning pages to find out the ending (and to try and figure out why so many people loved it), but I was really disappointed.jesus and john wayne

The next book I read was Jesus and John Wayne. This book is a history of how evangelicalism became intertwined with Christian nationalism. For Du Mea, much of the centering of that history is through the embrace of a toxic masculinity that looks much more like movie star, John Wayne, than the biblical picture of Jesus Christ. This was a really good read. I felt like, at times, Du Mea was a little too negative about evangelicals, but her sources and history correspond well to other histories that I have read. I really struggle with books about evangelicalism because I come from an evangelical background, and I have struggled to separate the truly biblical from the cultural in my own faith. This was helpful.

all i ask

Next, I read All I Ask, a romance where two old friends reconnect in a romantic way thirteen years after loosing contact. The romance really does a great job of building, but around the 75 percent mark, the author makes a turn towards the melodramatic. It totally lost me when it did that. It ended up ruining what had been a good book in my eyes.

a rogue of one's own

The next book I read was a much better romance. A Rogue of One’s Own is the second in the League of Extraordinary Women series. Historical romances set in England and the women’s suffrage movement combine to make this one sparkle. I really enjoyed both the hero and heroine, and I think I enjoyed this one as much as I did the first one. Part of me wishes I had went back and re-read the first book in the series before I read this one, but I can always go back and re-read later. After all, a third book in the series is coming out next year.

stand up yumi chung

The next book I read was heavily influenced by the Currently Reading podcast. One of their hosts was raving about the middle grade novel Stand Up, Yumi Chung!, and later, when i went to the library with the kids, I saw it sitting on the shelf. After trying (and failing) to get my children to pick it up, I decided to pick it up myself. I found it to be a delightful story about an immigrant family, and one that I’m probably going to try to push on my children again later on. I had also forgotten that I enjoyed the simpler stories of friendship (without romance) that are so often a part of Middle Grades but get left way behind in YA fiction.

The WhydahNow that it’s September, I am having to read with an eye towards what my children are going to be reading for their school days. My 13-year-old is interested in pirates, so when I came across The Whydah, I picked it up. It tells the story of a pirate ship, a ship wreck, and the recovery of that ship almost 300 years later. There are informative sidebars about pirates, so there’s a great deal of learning to be had. My only complaint? Now, I want to visit the Whydah pirate museum to see the artifacts for myself, and it’s a 17 hour drive from my house. 

The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a very unconventional murder mystery. It has a littlevelyn hardcastlee more than a touch of science fiction embedded in it, and it’s really better to go into the plot blind. So, I won’t say anymore about plot here (even though I did in my weekly wrap-up). I will say this will probably be on my list of top ten books at the end of the year. Also, as soon as I finished it, I went back and purchased an audiobook copy for my husband because I thought he’d really like it too (and i wanted someone else to talk about it with!).

hemlock mountainThis also ended up being the perfect month to re-read a book with my younger two children. I had used The Bears on Hemlock Mountain when homeschooling my older two children, but never got around to using it with my younger two. It’s barely longer than a picture book, yet, it was a really fun read to have with my little two.  So glad that we got to visit it.

The next book I read was 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me. Thisseminary couldn't teach collection of essays is aimed as pastors who learned a bunch of academic stuff in seminary but didn’t learn some of the practical aspects of ministry as an occupation. I am not called to pastoral ministry, but found the title appealing, so I found myself reading it. The advice is solid, but the formatting of the book, where each chapter devolves into numerical lists of advice, gives the book a feel of a series of blog articles. It’s really unappealing and I felt like it was beneath the intent of the book.

all the devilsThe next book was All the Devils are Here. This is the sixteenth book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache book, and it is so good. She takes the action away from Three Pines in this book and moves it to Paris,  This ends up being a great move as it allows her to spotlight Armand’s relationship with his son, Daniel, and to examine more of Armand’s family history. We also find out the corrupt people and organizations are not just endemic to Canada, but maybe just to mankind in general. I always admire how Penny expresses her thoughts and her interactions with other works of literature, paintings, etc. in her novels and this one was no exception. I missed the residents of Three Pines and Inspector Lacoste, but it was a really nice book, and it kind of shook up the series a little bit.

Next, I found Devolution on the library shelves. It’s been on my radar since it came outdevolution because the description sounded so “me.” I had also seen that it was an Amazon best book of the month. That always piques my interest a little bit. The hosts of the Currently Reading podcast both had read it and really liked it too, so I was excited to start reading it. There are very few things more satisfying than a good horror book, and this was a good horror book. It also had Bigfoot in it, and it has been a long time since I’ve read a book focused on Bigfoot. Also this book is told as an after-the-incident kind of report/”true crime” style story, and I love those kinds of faux documentary style books. It purports to be based on interviews and the diaries of a woman livening in a small, commune-type community. So much fun!!

59 memory laneNext, I picked up 59 Memory Lane as a 99 cent Kindle deal and decided to quickly put it into my rotation of reads.  I don’t really know how I pick the books that I end up reading.  It just seems to happen. This book is a little bit women’s fiction with both young and elderly main characters, a touch of romance, a touch of family drama, and a touch of magical realism. It was a fun read, definitely worth the 99 cents I paid for it, but perhaps not the most skilled novel I have ever read. I also felt like she left a lot of loose ends, and some of the ways she attempted to tie up plot lines left more to be desired. It’s not a perfect book, but it was sweet and I cared about the characters. In the end, that’s a big part of what I want from a book, so it was a successful book for me.

The next book I evaluated for the kids for school was Hiroshima. This Pulitzer prize winninhiroshimag piece of journalism follows the stories of six survivors of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The stories are varied, but they all paint a common picture of the hopelessness the people felt in the face of the tragedy. This book was a little dark and sometimes very descriptive of the physical effects of bomb. As a reader, I found that the names were both foreign and similar enough to be confusing. When I teach this to my teenagers, I am going to have my teens make a page with each character’s name on it and a running description to give them a little frame of reference.

what you wish forI went back to a favorite author for my next pick with What You Wish For. This is a romance/women’s lit pick that I got at the library. I had initially planned to purchase the book, but then several of my trusted reviewers gave the book fairly negative reviews, so I waited for it at the library. I wish I had went with my first impulse and purchased the book because I loved every minute of it. I may still purchase it to read again. My trusted reviewers who didn’t like it thought it was over the top and the characters were caricatures. There might be a little truth in it, but it was mostly joyful. It also reminded me that we can’t protect ourselves by locking ourselves away from everything that makes us fearful. Beautifully done book!

I knew, as soon as I could preorder it, that I would read Escaping Dreamland this fall. Charliescaping dreamlande Lovett just has a beautiful, wonderful way with words. This is a beautiful, nostalgic novel. It’s about the classic adventure type series that many of us read as children, and it’s about the inspiration for writing and creating stories.  It’s just a wonderful read. . . . It’s also a book you need to be patient with if you pick it up. The first 40-50 pages are slower paced and a little disjointed as we’re getting introduced to different perspectives and characters.

So, those are the books for this month. What have you been reading? Do you have any good books for my TBR for October?

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