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.
Eek, is it really almost Halloween? It feels like I just put up the Halloween decorations. Probably because I did just put them up. I have never been good at decorating for holidays.
This week on the blog, I’m talking all about my recent reads. In October, I had three 5-star reads. That’s practically unheard of. On the flip side, I had three 2-star reads, which is so rare for me. I’m usually too nice and just give everything three stars.
My top read of the month was an upcoming January release that completely blew my mind. I’m going to apologize in advance, because I am going to be talking about this memoir for the next year at least.
So keep scrolling to see my reviews and, as always, let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments!
October Reading List
Good for a Girl
Lauren Fleshman is one of the most-decorated distance runners in the United States. In Good for a Girl, Fleshman tells of how she fell in love with running as a girl and shares her own running journey. Yet, Good for a Girl isn’t just a memoir. It’s a powerful look at how competitive sports are designed for men and boys and routinely fail female athletes, leading to injuries, eating disorders, and mental health issues.
Let me just warn you that Good for a Girl will be making ALL of my top lists in 2023. I was blown away by Fleshman’s fantastic memoir. I love how she was able to take her personal experience and expand it to a larger narrative about women in sports. It makes me so angry how badly our society has failed women of my generation with our obsession with weight and thinness. Yet by bravely addressing these issues, books like Good for a Girl make me hopeful that we can make the world a better place for my daughters. I’m going to apologize in advance, I am going to be talking about this must-read book for the next year, at least.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Penguin Press. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The Family Game
Up-and-coming novelist Harriet Reed is ecstatic to be marrying Edward Holbeck. Although he’s been estranged from the Holbeck family for years, Edward’s engagement sparks the family to want to draw him back in, especially since he’s the heir to the family fortune. What seems like a lovely family reunion turns dark when Harriet is given a tape confessing to a murder. Now the game is afoot, and Harriet isn’t sure what part she is expected to play.
It took me an entire week to read The Family Game, and not because of its length; I disliked it that much. Although Steadman’s thriller has plenty of action, the story just rubbed me all the wrong ways. For starters, Harriett has this weird fascination with her father-in-law that’s downright creepy. Even worse the glaring plot holes and illogical motivations had me wanting to chuck the novel across the room.
The Ink Black Heart
The sixth entry in the Cormoran Strike series has the private investigator and his partner Robin involved in another twisted case. When Edie Ledwell, co-creator of the popular cartoon The Ink Black Heart, shows up at their door terrified of an online troll, Robin doesn’t think they can help him. After Edie is killed, Robin and Cormoran try to uncover the stalker’s true identity.
First off, I read this book knowing all about J.K. Rowling’s transphobia controversy, and I will say that the media incorrectly portrayed the premise of The Ink Black Heart as completely mirroring Rowling’s own experience. The cartoonist Edie Ledwell is not trolled because of transphobic remarks but instead because some close to her obsessively hates her to a fanatical extreme. If the same story was written by any other author, I don’t think critics would have batted an eye.
Caveats aside, The Ink Black Heart was way too long. Rowling could have easily cut out at least a quarter of the story. Since a dark humor cartoon is central to the case, you have to delve into the bizarre meanings of the creative work, which was a bit annoying but not as bad as The Silkworm. Also, the narrative heavily involves online activity and reading strings of chat messages get really old really fast.
To be honest, the real reason I still read this series is for the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Strike and Robin. For how long the book is, Rowling rushed the beginning, jumping straight to a miscommunication that resets the relationship at maximum romantic tension. Just like any series, Rowling keeps adding drama to maintain a high tension, resolving nothing but developing the characters a little more.
From the Backlist
A Fine Balance
In 1975, the Indian government declares a state of emergency that forces a widow to take in a student boarder and two tailors fleeing caste violence and seeking work. In a deep examination of human nature, Mistry presents a character-driven story that completely draws you in while explaining the larger political landscape that affects them on an individual basis. Bleak, yet beautiful, Mistry’s epic novel explores the fine balance between hope and despair.
I’ve put off A Fine Balance for almost a decade, intimidated by its length. What a mistake. The tale is such an enveloping enjoyable read that you almost wish it was longer. Don’t get me wrong, the tale is far from joyful – a depressing dive into endemic poverty, caste violence, and racism. Yet, the power of the writing is simply awe-inspiring.
More Than a Body
Lindsay Kite & Lexie Kite
An eye-opening examination of how are beauty-obsessed world has failed generations of women. Although body positivity has helped some women, body image issues will not go away until we realize that you are not defined by your body. The Kite sisters show how deeply ingrained objectification of women is in our society and in our own minds and help you discover that you are more than a body.
I’ve struggled with body image issues my entire life, and More Than a Body spoke to me on a deeper level than I ever expected. An entire generation of women, myself included, have been brainwashed into viewing ourselves as objects. If you’ve ever avoided an activity because of your appearance or thought that your life will be perfect once you reach your goal weight, this is the book for you.
Critically speaking, the writing could have been better and the chapters were abysmally long. Also, the target audience is middle-class white women. The authors strive to be inclusive, which will annoy some readers for being too politically correct and annoy others for speaking for those they shouldn’t. However, the powerful message gives so much food for thought that I’m already planning to reread it.
Gods of Jade and Shadow
In a small town in 1920s Mexico, Casiopea Tun is too busy working as a maid to enjoy the Jazz Age. When she accidentally unleashes the Mayan god of death, she must accompany him on a cross-country adventure to help him reclaim his throne where failure will cause death and success will make her wildest dreams come true.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s historical fantasy is an evocative atmospheric read full off gorgeously penned supernatural vibes that is vivid without being scary. Although the story is firmly Young Adult in topic, the author takes a more mature reflective tone with nuanced messaging. Instead of fawning all over the handsome god of death, Casiopea’s love story is based on growing respect and trust. Overall, I enjoyed the book and was impressed with its unique feel.
The Book of Essie
Meghan Maclean Weir
The stars of a conservative Christian reality tv show, the Hicks family is thrown for a loop when their youngest daughter Essie becomes pregnant. As they quietly try to arrange a marriage, Essie secretly pulls the strings to direct her family toward Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with his own secret. As Essie uses an exclusive series of interviews with journalist Liberty Bell to reach out to her estranged sister, she must decide how far she is willing to go for her freedom.
The Book of Essie is an addictingly binge-worthy read with its ripped-from-the-headlines style in which you can spot elements of real news stories pieced together. Although the twists are predictable and you could probably guess the ending from the beginning, you still won’t be able to put down this dishy read. Mixing conservative Christianity with reality television, The Book of Essie centers around a girl sick of hypocrisy and willing to risk anything to burn it all down.
Emily Ley wants to remind mothers that it’s okay to want more from your life. Full of journalling prompts, Growing Boldly helps women find themselves again and helps them dream big and achieve. Although I’d enjoyed some of Ley’s previous books, Growing Boldly was more religious than I prefer: every page was dripping with Bible affirmations and cliche inspirational quotes. While I like the idea of the book, in execution there was lots of style but not a lot of substance.
Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Every day we make a multitude of decisions that will affect our wealth and well-being, yet we constantly make terrible choices. Economists Thaler and Sunstein discuss how individuals, corporations, and governments can design systems that will nudge people toward better decisions without forcing them.
Although I loved the overarching concept of Nudge, the book was terribly long and extremely boring. I was so bored that I eventually gave up at around 10 hours into the 12-hour audiobook. Unfortunately, Thaler and Sunstein get stuck in the details, droning on and on about the minute details of Medicaid Plan D. While I will never recommend this book to anyone, if you do feel a need to try this overrated bestseller for yourself, be sure to get a physical copy so you can skim sections.
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 next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in October?
What books did you love this month? Which books can you not wait to read? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book List to Enjoy:
I laughed when I saw that you are currently reading “Speed Reading”. Too many books and too little time!
Great reviews! I’ve added Good For A Girl to my TBR list. Thanks!
Cheryl Westlake says
Verity by Colleen Hoover. I started this book months ago couldn’t make it past pg. 100. My 2nd attempt was last, still a no go. I threw it in the trash! The over-the-top sexual content was so pervasive I couldn’t get past it. I needed a shower for my soul and eyes. However, I did give her another chance and read All Your Perfects, still sexual content but a great read.
I cannot wait to read Good for a Girl! I am wondering if you’ve read Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. One of the best books I’ve read!
Yes, Lessons in Chemistry was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!
Hi, interesting mix of books. I’ve gone down a bit of a Siegfried Sassoon rabbit hole after watching Benediction. I reread his Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and found a different biography of him (by John Stuart Roberts) and I was really interested in his relationship with Robert Graves so I got a biography of Graves (by Miranda Seymour) and he is a fascinating and hilariously terrible guy and I just finished that.