My September Reading Wrap-Up

September was a challenging month, between getting COVID on vacation, getting back to work, family health issues, and just generally easing into fall. I love summer so this time of year is always a bit sad for me.  I’m gradually taking down my garden and pulling out my warmer clothes.  Of course there are bigger issues happening right now with the weather – I’m thinking of all those affected by recent hurricanes. 

September was about taking care of myself, really.  I’ve been having some neck and back issues, so I’m working on my health by exercising and meditating every day (on the advice of physical therapy). I’ve joined an online fitness group for women over 50 (called Be Healthy Enough), and that’s got me working on balancing my usual walks with stretching and strength training. I’m also paying more attention to my posture. 

My reading was pretty light this month. Here’s what I read in September:

  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop
  • Heartstopper Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman (graphic novel)
  • Ever After Always by Chloe Liese (audio)
  • Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour (audio)
  • The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh
  • A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson
  • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (audio)

My favorite reads: 

Top of the list is A Town Called Solace, and that makes me happy because I love Mary Lawson, so I had high expectations.  This novel about a very small Canadian town just skirts the edge of being sentimental (I have a weakness for great small town stories).  It’s told from the point of view of an elderly woman, a young girl, and a man in his thirties.  All of them struggle with emotional and mental health issues, and they connect with each other in various ways over a period of about 30 years. There are some small town tropes in this novel but the characters and story are rich enough to overcome that (I suggest pairing this book with Book Lovers for a fun look at small town sentimentality).

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, and Heartstopper isn’t exactly aimed at my age group, but it’s a beautiful book. My sister recommended the show on Netflix, which was fantastic, and I was afraid the graphic novel might not be as good after seeing the show. At first glance, the illustrations seem simplistic, but the book is every bit as moving as the show and only makes me appreciate the show more.

Written in Red was recommended to me by A Dance with Books and was a nice surprise.  A lot of urban fantasy feels tired to me, but the world and characters in this book were just different enough to keep me reading. It was a great travel read – dark but entertaining. I admit there’s something about werewolf stories that always appeals to me (I have the newest Mercy Thompson novel on my e-reader, which I’m looking forward to digging into).

I picked up Yerba Buena on the recommendation of the Washington Post, and really got into this story of a relationship between two young women in Los Angeles.  One of them endures abuse and the murder of her first love as a teenager, and the other is just struggling to find her place in the world.  This is a very character-driven novel — not a lot happens in it, the characters just grow, develop their careers, have unsuccessful relationships, etc.  I also liked that it showed the part of Northern California I just visited (a place I love but only see as a tourist, not a resident) in a very different light. I don’t think everything about this novel worked (Emilie’s passivity was maddening at times and I didn’t think her Creole background was explored sufficiently) but I appreciated the themes of the book and the depth of the characters.

Disappointing reads:

Disappointment is a matter of expectations, so while The Sentence by Louise Erdrich and Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel were good books, they didn’t wow me – though I’d be happy to hear you felt differently! 

The Sentence lacked the punch of Erdrich’s other books (I loved The Night Watchman and The Round House, among others).  It’s interesting to see authors writing about COVID and Trump and George Floyd, but it felt too recent for me, and also too meta – Louise herself and the bookstore she owns are characters in this book.  It felt like more of a recounting of recent events than a cohesive story, though I did love the main character and her husband.

Sea of Tranquility felt very slow-moving for such a short novel.  Time travel stories don’t always work for me, and this was one of them. If you’re someone who loves stories that involve complicated knots in time, you’ll enjoy this one. It reminded me a bit of David Mitchell’s writing, which is a good thing. But I didn’t love it. There wasn’t enough character development for me; I liked the novelist character quite a bit but the others didn’t resonate.

On the blog:

I didn’t post much this month, but I did write about my 20 Books of Summer, How to Give Up Plastic, and reviewed The Fortunes of Jaded Women.

Books for challenges:

I may not have read any books for challenges this month. September felt like the right time to ease up and just go with whatever popped up from the library. 

What I’m reading now:

I’m reading Wise Gals by Nathalia Holt, which is nonfiction about the women in U.S. intelligence during World War II and the creation of the CIA.  I’m also reading The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair (a recommendation of Zezee With Books), and I’m close to finishing The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews.

What’s coming up:

I have two ARCs to read in October.  The first is The Belle of Belgrave Square (the sequel to Siren of Sussex) and the second is When We Had Wings, a novel about World War II written by three authors, including Ariel Lawhon, who wrote the fantastic Code Name Helene.

Added to my TBR: 

A lot of authors I love have new books coming out this fall: Celeste Ng, Kamila Shamsie, Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, Barbara Kingsolver, and Elizabeth Strout. 

Things that made me happy this month:

Giving into a chocolate craving, I made these brownies that were super easy, dense and fudgy. If you’re looking for a good baking cookbook, I really like BraveTart. Speaking of which, I’m happy about the return of British Baking Show and Abbott Elementary, and very much enjoying She-Hulk.

That was my September! How was yours? Let me know if you read something great.

  9 comments for “My September Reading Wrap-Up

  1. October 1, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Hope you’re fully recovered now, and that’s still a decent month’s reading!

    • October 3, 2022 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks Liz, I appreciate the good wishes! It was a good month of reading, just that one was a very short novel and one a graphic novel that read very quickly.

  2. October 1, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    Hm, your reaction to the Sea of Tranquility has me questioning whether I’ll enjoy this. I’m not a great fan of time travel…

    • October 3, 2022 at 6:35 pm

      I think time travel is kind of love it or hate it. For me, the mechanics of it kind of make my head hurt. I don’t mind it in a book like Kindred or Doomsday Book, where it’s more a vehicle to put someone in the past. I wanted to like this one more than I did.

  3. October 2, 2022 at 3:41 am

    Hope you’re feeling better, I too managed to catch covid. Thought I’d get more reading done but my concentration was shot. I have ‘Sea of tranquility’ on my shelf so good to read your thoughts on that (I loved station eleven). Also recently read ‘The night watchman’ so don’t feel I could read any Erdrich for a while but will add that to my list.

    • October 3, 2022 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks Adrian – I’m a little relieved to have gotten COVID so it’s not so scary anymore, but I wish it hadn’t been on vacation. I loved Station Eleven too. This one lacked the character development and was more concept-driven, which will work for some people but less so for me.

  4. October 3, 2022 at 9:09 am

    Sorry you had some disappointments in the reading department, as well as your health issues. I hope that self-care takes care of things.

    I did read some great books this month – Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen is so wise and consoling, I recommend it to anyone who struggles with health in any way (which really has to be everyone). I’ve been discovering books by Chaim Potok, an author I’d long heard of but never read, and enjoyed my third novel by him, Davita’s Harp. I also enjoyed the second book in the Wolf Den trilogy, The House with the Golden Door, a followup that didn’t disappoint.

    Wishing you all the best for October!

    • October 3, 2022 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks Lory, your recommendations sound great! I have the first of the Wolf Den trilogy on my TBR based on your review, so I’m glad to hear the second one didn’t disappoint. I read The Chosen many years ago, my father was a big Potok fan. It would be interesting to revisit his books.

  5. October 7, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    Sorry to hear health issues marred your September, and hopefully the meditation is helping. I also loved A Town Called Solace and have been meaning to read more by this author but life has gotten in the way so far. Yerba Buena also appeals to me.

    Best wishes for a healthy October filled with good reads!

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