Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
Wow, time flies when you’re having fun reading ALL the books!
October has been a spectacular reading month for me. I kicked off the month with a visit to the neighboring library system in Ogden, Utah. I’ve had a library card there for a few years, but I’ve only ever used it for audiobooks.
I finally went into the main branch, and they had rows upon rows of brand new releases just sitting on the shelf for me to read! Books for which my library has at least 6-month waitlists. I filled my bag up with some recent thrillers and rushed to read them all in the 1 week checkout period.
After that, I was off to Oregon for an epic week-long road trip across the state. We explored the Columbia River Gorge, hit up Powell’s City of Books for some additional reading material, hung on at the beach in the rain, hiked through the Redwoods, and visited Crater Lake National Park.
In all, I finished three e-books, two physical books, two and a half children’s audiobooks, and one children’s read-aloud. Which just means I have lots of books to review for you.
As always, let me know what you’ve been reading lately. I could always use more book recommendations!
October Reading List
A Slow Fire Burning
When a young man is murdered on a London houseboat, police investigate his troubled one-night stand, Laura. Yet, Laura is not the only damaged one in Daniel’s life. Between his grieving aunt and famous uncle, his nosy houseboat neighbor, and his mother’s elderly neighbor, everyone has secrets to hide.
With multiple points-of-view and unlikeable characters, A Slow Fire Burning is an overly complicated slow-burn mystery that’s not nearly as good as The Girl on the Train but at least better than the nightmare that was Into the Water. I didn’t mind the story, but I think the lack of suspense will irritate many readers.
Apples Never Fall
It should be the golden years for Stan and Joy Delaney now that they’ve sold their tennis academy and settled into retirement, so why aren’t they happy? When they welcome a bleeding stranger into their home, her arrival begins a cascade of events. Now Joy is missing, and the four grown Delaney children wonder if their father might have done it.
I adored Liane Moriarty’s latest domestic thriller. I was completely invested in the complicated relationships between the Delaney family members and did not see the big twist coming. However, I can understand why Apples Never Fall is getting mixed reviews. At almost 500 pages, the story is longer than it needed to be, especially the excessive denouement, and if you don’t like the twist or the characters, you’ll feel like you wasted a big chunk of your time.
The Guilt Trip
Three couples at a destination wedding in Portugal find themselves torn apart in this story that’s more soap opera than thriller. Rachel and Noah were best friends in college teetering on couplehood, but now Rachel is married to Jack and Noah is married to Paige and the four are still extremely close. At Jack’s brother’s wedding, the over-the-top bride, Ali, rubs everyone the wrong way and Rachel begins to wonder if Ali isn’t more calculating than anyone realizes.
The Guilt Trip is a story built on rumor, innuendo, and the suspense of who’s sleeping with whom. While I enjoyed the characters, the story mostly just winds its way slowly until the dramatic climax, which was a bit overdramatic for my taste.
The Disappearing Act
Up-and-coming British actress Mia Eliot heads to Hollywood to get her mind off her recent shocking breakup. While auditioning, Mia does a favor for another actress which turns into much more of a hassle than she expected. Yet, the next time they meet, Mia swears that Emily is a completely different woman, and no one believes her. My surprise pick for the best psychological thriller of 2021, The Disappearing Act knows exactly when to hold your suspense and when to pivot with an engaging story that keeps you guessing.
The Golden Couple
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Rogue therapist Avery Chambers promises that she can fix any problem in 10 sessions with her unconventional methods that have stripped her of her license. After cheating on her husband, Marissa Bishop is willing to do anything to save her marriage to Matthew. As Avery looks deeper into the seemingly perfect couple, she finds that there is much more going on than any of them suspect. With a compelling story and plenty of twists to keep you guessing, fans of the thriller duo will love their new psychological thriller, coming out in March 2022.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The Younger Wife
Tully and Rachel find themselves thrown for a loop when their father announces he is divorcing their mother with dementia and marrying a woman younger than both of them. As they dig deeper into Heather’s secrets and confront their own issues, comments from their mother make them suspect that their parents’ marriage may not have been as idyllic as they thought. Knowing the wedding will end in blood, The Younger Wife is an addictive domestic thriller that keeps you engaged as you play amateur detective, judging the reliability of the narrators and deciding who you think is guilty.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
One Night on the Island
On the cusp of turning thirty, dating columnist Cleo is sent on assignment to a remote Irish island to marry herself. Instead of solitude, a mistaken double booking forces Cleo to share the cabin with Mack, an American photographer mourning the end of his marriage, while they wait a week for the next ferry.
Romance isn’t generally my genre, but I found Josie Silver’s previous books, One Day in December and The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, to be sharp and nuanced in a way most romances are not. Sadly, One Night on the Island didn’t reach the same level. Although the characters are mature and the writing is easy to read, the romance felt tired and predictable.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Ballantine Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Fire the Haters
After years of working as a personal finance blogger and coach, Jillian Johnsrud knows both the joys of creating content online and the dark side: trolls and critics. In Fire the Haters, Johnsrud helps creatives learn to set boundaries, silence their inner critic, and know how to handle online criticism.
First let me say, that having blogged for years, I can tell you that the advice in Fire the Haters is spot on. Unfortunately, Johnsrud under-utilized the power of stories to illustrate how her advice can be applied in real life, which would have fully rounded out this very short read (under 200 pages).
As it is, Fire the Haters would be an excellent book to hand someone in the midst of such an online crisis. Nothing can truly prepare you for the pain and anger you feel the first time you are attacked online, but advice like this can help you know how to appropriately react, for it does get easier with practice.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Without a Hitch
Mary Hollis Huddleston and Asher Fogle Paul
When her boss’s florist company gets bought by Dallas’s premier boutique event firm, Lottie Jones finds herself thrown into the thick of planning million-dollar weddings. With the possibility of a promotion when a new office opens in Atlanta, Lottie throws herself into the job, even if it means planning her ex’s wedding or flirting with the cute but cynical photographer. The character development in Without a Hitch is lackluster, but the hijinks are at least entertaining in this cutesy Southern romance that has absolutely no steam at all.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harper Muse. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
Technology reporter Sarah Frier gives an in-depth look at the social media giant Instagram. When creating Instagram, founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger wanted to blend art and technology. From its founding days to its explosive growth and purchase by Facebook, Frier shows how Instagram became an unlikely success story that has changed how we perceive social media.
As a blogger, I found Instagram’s history and push-and-pull with Facebook interesting, but I think some readers will find the story dull since there is no inherent drama in the telling. Frier does raise some thought-provoking philosophical questions about how social media shapes our world but leaves it to the reader to consider what, if anything, can be done about them.
Good Morning, Midnight
Left behind when a worldwide crisis strikes Earth, aging astronomer Augustine finds himself all alone in an Artic observatory with only a forgotten little girl for company. Having run from responsibility all his life, Augie struggles to adapt to caring for Iris while being completely cut off from the world. Meanwhile, a group of astronauts returning from a mission to Jupiter are frightened when all communication with Earth ceases. Slow and enveloping with a focus more on feelings than plot, Good Morning, Midnight is a literary look at the desperate need for connection in a post-apocalyptic world.
On the order of the Emperor, Paul Atreides, the heir apparent of the House of Atreides, and his family take control of the desert planet Arrakis, the source of the most sought-after commodity in the galaxy. But power like that breeds many enemies who will stop at nothing to take over Arrakis. Mixing politics, religion, and mysticism with a whole lot of adventure, Dune is a class of science fiction all its own, sending you on an epic journey in this renowned science fiction novel.
After hearing positive reviews of the movie, my husband and I decided to go see it with my parents. I first read my sci fi loving dad’s battery paperback copy of Dune as a teenager and had forgotten so much of the story that I rushed to reread the book before I went. By the way, the movie was excellent, staying true to the book while impressing you with awe-inspiring visuals. Even my father was impressed, and that’s saying something.
Upon rereading the novel, I was as captivated as ever by the complicated political intrigue throughout the story. However, whether you like the book or not will depend on how well you enjoy the heavy dose of mysticism and philosophy that slows down the plot and gives it such a unique feel.
The Lost City of the Monkey God
For centuries, rumors have been told of a tremendously wealthy lost city in the heart of the Honduran jungle. In 2012, using advanced lidar technology to map the jungle terrain, a team of scientists found not one, but three ancient cities buried in the jungle. Preston’s first-hand account details the search for the lost ruins – exploring unspoiled wilderness and finding evidence of a vast unrealized culture – and the horrifying disease that strikes the explorers afterward. Although The Lost City of the Monkey God was an interesting and informative read, the book never really captured my imagination.
R. O. Kwon
Blaming herself for her mother’s death, Phoebe Lin enters the elite Edwards University and meets Will Kendall, who quickly falls in love with her. Phoebe’s guilt and grief lead her into a secretive extremist cult with ties to domestic terrorism. Can Will stop her from going too far? I could not get into Kwon’s novel; the storytelling was so dry and emotionless and the timeline was all over the place that I quickly decided it wasn’t worth my time.
Aru Shah and the End of Time
When her classmates call her out for exaggerating, Aru Shah takes a dare to light the cursed Lamp of Bharata at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture her mother runs. When the lamp releases the Sleeper, an ancient demon set on awakening the God of Destruction, Aru finds herself on an epic quest to save the world.
The Aru Shah series is the equivalent of the Percy Jackson books, but with a female protagonist and Hindi beliefs and mythology. You get the same snarky teenage wit which drives me crazy, but I know kids love. I wouldn’t recommend it for adults to read unless you enjoy middle grade fiction. However, I think it’s a great series to buy for your kids.
Because of Winn-Dixie
The summer Opal and her father, the Preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the local Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. Quickly, Opal (and everyone else) falls in love with the enchanting stray with a big smile. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal breaks out of her shell, befriending both children and adults in her new hometown. Mixing deeper themes about life with charming childhood antics, Because of Winn-Dixie is a classic children’s book perfect for a read-aloud.
Stanley Yelnats’s life is cursed all thanks to his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. When he gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, he finds himself at Camp Green Lake. Under the eye of the ominous warden, the boys are required to spend each day digging holes in the dry lake bed, looking for treasure. Instead, Stanley digs up the truth of his past in this silly children’s story full of dark humor. I found Holes to be better suited to older children. When I read this book aloud to my children, my older two (10 and 8) enjoyed it, but my 6-year-old completely lost interest.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
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 November to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in October?
What books did you love this month? Which books did you hate? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book Lists to Enjoy:
Connie Faulkner says
My October reading: The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Bear and the Nightingale, World War Z full cast audiobook (on your recommendation), Project Hail Mary (loved loved loved), The Tenth Muse, The Invention of Wings (backlist). Currently reading Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen and Driftless. I am on the wait list for Dune—12 weeks to go! Crying in H Mart and The Lincoln Highway are also on my TBR list. I enjoyed Olive Kitteridge very much—hope you do, too!
Oh wow Rachel, really enjoyed reading your letter! One of these days I’ll get to those redwoods.
I’m doing pretty good with my reading this year. Last year I overreached and had 100 books as my goal & did not make it. This year I went for 50 books & I am almost there! I’ve completed several books that fall into categories on your list. The list is so fun!
I just finished Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout. It was such a pleasure to read. The physical book itself had such a nice aesthetic. Nice size, not too long & a lovely cover with White Tulips (a tie in to the story) and bold title and author’s name on front and crisp apple green color on back. It’s the little things The story was quintessential Strout. Something so simple yet brilliant about her writing. There is nothing better than opening a book and immediately being pulled in. I can only compare her to fellow Pulitzer winner Anne Tyler. Wonderful stories about intimate human relationships. In this case, we have Lucy Barton (of My Name is Lucy Barton) reminiscing in a sort of flow of consciousness about her life and more specifically about her first husband William. I would recommend reading My Name Is Lucy Barton first, although I guess you do not have to, but it is referenced often and that way you’ll better understand who the narrator Lucy is. Lucy is often speaking directly to the reader and then as the book progresses we get dialogue between Lucy & William and there are many Oh William! moments and hence the title. I could go on about this book, but will say, I think I liked Oh William! better than My Name is Lucy Barton. Oddly enough I read Olive, Again before I read Oliver Kitteridge and then went backward. I’d initially picked up Olive Kitteridge and had not finished it. Not sure why. All Strout’s books are good, but I do feel they might be best enjoyed by “older” people. The stories just seem like they’d be more relatable at middle age. This book just flowed, with some short paragraphs, rather than formal chapters. A real page turner for me. I read in two days, but could have almost read in one.
I just finished The Dry. Not sure why I had not read it before. Not my main genre, but I had read The Survivors (last year?) and liked it. The Dry was Jane Harper’s debut and what a debut! They are similar in that you have two story lines: a present day crime and one that may or may not be linked from the past. In both I also felt like the setting is practically a character in and of itself. So good. Set in Australia, for those not familiar.
These are my two most recent reads, but I started the month off with The Turnout by Meg Abbott. Excuse me, but that was a really weird book. Kind of out of the box for ReadwithJenna. I heard the author on a podcast and liked her, but this was my first time reading her and I found the book to be kinda gross and depressing. It’s fun to kind of mix things up though & this was an appropriate way to kick off the month of Halloween, I guess?!
Also read Sankofa, which was Reese’s pick for October and thankfully really liked it. I am not always a fan of many of her choices, but have found that recently I’ve liked a few. I thought the writing was really good in this one and it was an interesting story. I purchased my copy from BOTM, so it was fun to begin reading at the scheduled time.
Calling all Hayley Mills fans! See, now I really am giving away my age. Her biography Forever Young came out and it was really good. It can get a little “listy” as it very meticulously lists acting credits of hers and her fathers and other actors work, but it was so good hearing about her days working with Disney. I just love all those early Disney films of hers. Especially The Parent Trap & Pollyanna. Those are my “go to” feel good movies. This was a very honest, heart felt book and a must read for fans. It ends rather abruptly though.
For a break I could not resist reading Mary Kay Andrew’s feel good story The Santa Suit in October. Cute story. I swear it was a Hsllmark movie in book form. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. It was kinda refreshing. I liked her book The Newcomer. This was only my second time reading her. It’s a short & cheesy in a cute way book.
I read my first Amor Towles! The Lincoln Highway was so good!! I almost thought I was not going to read it, bc I picked it up after Sankofa, which was such an easy read for me & The Lincoln Highway was so different. It is a completely different pace. It is a “real” book. Not that Sankofa isn’t, but I think we get a little spoiled sometimes with these shorter, faster paced reads & The Lincoln Highway felt like it was going to be a little tedious. I am so glad I stuck with it. I loved it. All the characters grew on me. What a great storyteller Towles is. Now I want to backtrack and read his other books. I loved the continuation of the Today show interview that Jenna Hager did with the author. I find Towles to be really interesting and likable. I also purchased a copy of Rules Of Civility. He mentioned that there is a tie in between a couple of characters in these books.
Lastly I read my first Lisa Jewell book, The Night She Disappeared. It was okay. I think I figured out whodunnit about 20 odd pages in, but it was written well enough that it kept me engaged. I suspect her books may be pumped out “formula” reads, but I should not judge, since I have not read others and I know this can be a good and comforting thing if people are fans of a particular author.
So, there you have it. October was a good and varied month for me. I don’t think I have those in the order I read them. I remember The Dry was a big help bc I was floundering for a bit. You know that awful finished one book, but can’t quite get into the next one moment; despite having lots of great options. I’m kinda there again now, at the beginning of November!
I have my eye on The Family (rumored ReadwithJenna pick) and Still Life (rumored GMA pick) as my possible November BOTM selections.
I am going to be sure and leave plenty of space toward the end of the month for Diana Gabaldon’s latest Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone. I’ve ordered a signed copy from The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. A splurge for me, but I am such a fan & although I have copies of all the other books in the Outlander series, they are all used books. So I decided to treat myself. Her books are notoriously thick, so I’ll be sure and leave some wiggle room in my reading for this one!
Happy reading to all. I hope my tedious “Me” list will inspire somehow. Rachel I love seeing what you are reading.
I love this! I have The Dry on my shelf right now and I desperately want to read it, but I have a few books I *ought* to read first so I can finish my reading challenge. Since I’m the one who hosts the reading challenge, I probably ought to finish it. Thanks for the advice on The Turnout. I was debating whether to read it, but you’ve convinced me it’s probably not for me. I tried Olive Kitteridge, but couldn’t get into it. Maybe I’m just too young for it still.
Gosh I apologize ahead bc I may have posted my long reply twice! It looked like it had not posted. Oops, hope not. That’s what I get for being so long winded. I get carried away about books.
Anyway I just wanted to add, that there is a book between My Name Is Lucy Barton and Oh William!, called Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout.
I’d forgotten that one & was reminded by Ann Patchett who has Parnassus Books in Nashville. She mentioned it on her IG feed.
Also in regard to the Monkey God book, it brought to mind, River of Doubt (Teddy Roosevelt in the Amazon) and another title: The Lost City of Z. Both are very good.
Bianca P says
I am so happy I found your blog. “Tired of wasting my time on overrated bestsellers, I started a book blog to help others find more great books to read.” – right-on! I am always looking for underrated novels or self-published authors. There are soooo many fantastic novels out there! And they don’t have to be on Oprah’s Reading list (lol). Thanks for sharing these recommendations and I look forward to checking out “The Golden Couple.” It kind of reminds me of a book I just finished by Marlene Bell called “Scattered Legacy”. The protagonists, Annalisse and Alec’, have “the perfect life” as a sexy globetrotting couple, but, little do they know they are about to become involved in a much darker story. This is a “vacation gone wrong” crime fiction that really delivers on all fronts. I have always loved the “Who Dunnit” modern crime shows and novels (IE “Bones”). If you get a chance definitely check it out and I would love to know what you think! Happy reading
Terra W says
– Fantasy – “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman
– A sequel – “After You” by Jojo Moyes
– Recommended by a Librarian – I changed this one to “True Crime” and read “Columbine” by Dave Cullen
– Psychological Thriller – “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins