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.
Why does September seem to fly by every year?
The cooler September weather has me spending so much time outdoors, and I am loving every minute of it.
This month, I did an epic paddleboard trip to Shoshone Falls, a women’s only bike event with my best friend, and started playing soccer again. My husband and I began playing tennis together and we even introduced the kids to pickleball, which is tennis with an easier learning curve.
Plus, since my kids are in school during the day, I get plenty of blogging and reading time.
For September, I had a great mix of books – from recent thrillers, upcoming releases, and some literary bestsellers from my backlist. I always enjoy my reading more when I read through a variety of genres. It spices it up, don’t you think?
As always, let me know what you’ve been reading lately. I could always use more book recommendations!
September Reading List
On their annual girls’ trip, Emily and Kristen are having the time of their lives in Chile. On the last night, Emily comes back to the hotel to find Kristen with a dead body. Kristen claims she killed him in self-defense. Except, the same thing happened last year to Emily. As Emily’s guilt over the cover-ups reaches a boiling point, Kristen makes a surprise trip to visit her and Emily has serious doubts about their friendship.
After a long streak of less-than-satisfying thrillers, We Were Never Here was just what I needed to read this month. The story starts off with a bang as lightning strikes twice with Emily and Kristen’s disastrous trips abroad. Bartz did just enough to keep up the suspense through the middle of the book as Emily begins to question Kristen’s motives. Although the ending was on the predictable side, I thought We Were Never Here was an all-around fun thriller to read.
Qian Julie Wang
When Qian was seven years old, her family immigrated to the United States. As her parents struggled to cope with the transition from respected professors to “illegal” sweatshop laborers, Qian tries to find her place in a new world. Highlighting the dichotomy of coming to America for free speech but being afraid to speak, this moving coming-of-age memoir really brought home the reality of the immigrant experience in the US.
When the reaper comes to collect him at his own funeral, Wallace Price, a soulless lawyer obsessed with all the wrong things, finds himself taken to a small tea shop tucked into the mountains. Given one week until he needs to pass on, Wallace decides to live as much as he can in the next seven days with the help of the kind tea shop owner.
Many readers are going to love Under the Whispering Door, raving about the profound truths conveyed through wry humor and quirky characters. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. To me, Under the Whispering Door felt like it was trying too hard to be meaningful. The tongue-in-cheek humor just isn’t my style, so I decided not to finish this one. If you liked Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People, you’ll likely love TJ Klune’s September 2021 book releases. Else, I’d skip this one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tor Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In an imagined modern resurgence of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, BBC news producer Tessa spots her sister on the security footage of an IRA robbery. Suddenly Tessa’s world shifts as she is confronted with the fact that her sister is in the IRA. Asked to act as an informant, Tessa must decide where her loyalties lie, what she is willing to do for family, and how to balance the needs of a sister with those of her newborn son.
Picked as Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick in April, Northern Spy has all the building blocks for a thrilling spy story. Instead, Berry opts for a slow character-driven novel that spends most of the time in Tessa’s anxiety-ridden thoughts, mostly about her baby. The author missed the chance to really make you think about how terrorism from one viewpoint looks like heroism from another.
Also, I was disappointed that there was no author’s note reminding American readers that the violence-ridden Northern Ireland she depicts doesn’t match with the actual political climate of Northern Ireland today.
In the sequel to last year’s must-read YA fantasy, These Violent Delights, Shanghai is on the brink of revolution. To prevent her cousin from usurping her position, Juliette knows the best way to protect Roma is to make him hate her. Thinking that Juliette murdered his cousin, Roma is on the warpath as a new monstrous danger emerges in the city just as the conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists comes to a head.
In the sequel, Gong steps back from the monster aspect of the first story to almost exclusively focus on the will-or-won’t-they aspect of Roma and Juliette. Then once the two inevitably get together, the plot rushes through the ending, attempting to tie up all loose ends quickly. In all, Our Violent Ends was your typical YA sequel, delivering more of the same story, which will keep fans happy, but failing to add any more depth to the narrative.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon & Schuster through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
When the love of her life is about to marry her stepsister, Evangeline Fox strikes a deal with the Prince of Hearts. In payment, he demands in payment three kisses, to be given at his time of choosing. After the first kiss is given to the Prince of the North, Evangeline realizes she’s trapped in a deadly game with an immortal, one that will either end in her happily ever after or completely break her heart.
Set after the events of the Caraval books, Once Upon a Broken Heart picks out a new resourceful heroine and brings back the bad boy you love to hate, or is it hate to love? Critically speaking, the story isn’t nearly as good as Caraval, lacking originality and spending too much time in Evangeline’s head. However, preteens and Caraval fans won’t care and will gobble it up.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
After serving a prison sentence for a cruel crime, Nadja Kulka wants nothing more than a quiet, ordinary life. When Laura, Nadja’s friend and the wife of her boss, kills her lover, Nadja finds herself dragged into covering it up. As the plan to bury the body in the woods falls apart, Nadja realizes she has unwittingly set herself up as the perfect scapegoat for the murder.
After loving the uber-creepy Dear Child last fall, I was ecstatic to read Hausmann’s latest. I shouldn’t have been because it was the most confusing book I’ve read all year. Nadja’s story is interspersed with a past timeline of a man having an affair and letters from an unknown sender. It took about 100 pages for the stories to make even an ounce of sense, but by then I was completely put off. It pains me to say it, but Avoid Avoid Avoid is my advice.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In the 7th book in the Green Rider series, Sir Karigan G’ladheon is making her way back to Sacor City after her eventful mission to the North. Although plagued by nightmares and self-doubt after being tortured, Karigan must continue to risk all for king and country as the Second Empire makes a final bid to attack the kingdom.
Fantasy isn’t generally my genre of choice, but I got hooked on the Green Rider series after the birth of my youngest, reading all six (gigantic) books in about a week. I’ve heard that this is the penultimate book in the series, and I have to admit that I am just as hooked now as I was when I started. In Winterlight, fans of the series will be pleased as Britain keeps up a constant stream of action while diving into the psychological toll of Karigan’s many adventures. While the loose threads from the other books are mentioned, the focus is on Karigan and King Zachary taking on the Second Empire.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from DAW through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book details the life of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner who even shook hands with Hitler at the Berlin Olympics. Shot down in the Pacific Ocean in 1943, Lt. Zamperini managed to survive on a life raft for 47 days only to be found by the Japanese. Lt. Zamperini’s resilience will amaze you as he struggles to survive life as a Japanese prisoner for almost three years. Hillenbrand’s superb writing brings Zamperini’s tale to life while also helping you understand the historical context. A fascinating read for anyone who loves to read WWII history and memoirs.
Shortly after World War II, a real estate mogul buys The Dutch House, a lavish estate outside of Philadelphia. This purchase changes everything for his children, Danny and Maeve – driving out their mother, and leading to Cyril’s remarriage and their exile from the house by their stepmother. A captivating study of the bond between siblings, The Dutch House shows the dangers of obsessive nostalgia and fascinates with Patchett’s signature style.
In an award-winning piece of literary fiction, Maggie O’Farrell imagines the life of William Shakespeare’s wife. Since almost everything about her is forgotten to history, O’Farrell has free reign in imagining Agnes as a fierce and misunderstood woman, who marries a poor Latin tutor, the son of a disgraced businessman.
While flashing back to Agnes and William’s past, the crux of the story focuses on the death of their son Hamnet, showing the endless depths of grief of a mother who loses a child and imagining how Hamnet’s death influenced Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet, written just four years later.
Hamnet is a slow enveloping read which focuses more on atmosphere than plot. O’Farrell consciously chose to never mention William Shakespeare by name, which I thought was an interesting omission. I loved the lyrical narration which keeps you slightly removed from the story, but readers who don’t love literary fiction will probably find Hamnet overrated.
Fleeing an abusive husband, Claire Cook has spent months planning the perfect escape only to have her plans dashed at the last moment. A chance meeting at the airport results in Claire switching tickets and identities with another woman. When Claire’s original flight crashes, everyone thinks she’s dead. Now is her chance to remake herself as Eva. But Eva had her own secrets. Although The Last Flight begins intensely, the suspense quickly burns out and you are left with a ho-hum read that bores more than thrills.
James Patterson and Bill Clinton
Right after evidence is revealed that President Duncan could be a traitor, he goes missing. With a terrorist group threatens to infect all internet devices in the US, the President must take to the field to stop them while finding the traitor in his own cabinet.
Although it was a New York Times bestseller when it was released, I thought the President is Missing was just an average political thriller, with overdone characters and a retread plot. At first, it was interesting seeing Bill Clinton’s perspective come through but quickly the endless political rants became rather annoying.
Emily has found the perfect man in Adam and is ready to tie the knot. Yet one thing stands in the way of their union – Adam’s mother. Pammie is determined to be the only woman in her son’s life, and you’ll be shocked to discover how far she is willing to go to eliminate the competition.
This psychological thriller, a Reese Witherspoon book club pick in 2018, didn’t live up to my expectations. As a narrator, Emily drove me crazy with her desperation and willingness to overlook all the huge red flags flying everywhere. The concluding twist was excellent, but the lead-up was entirely mediocre.
Amanda Eyre Ward
When Charlotte Perkins wins a Mediterranean cruise, she convinces her grown children to come along hoping to reunite her estranged brood. Can these four adults find common ground among the sights of Europe, or will family drama and past secrets continue to drive them apart? After only a few chapters, I found myself so frustrated by the choppy writing and annoying narrator that I decided it wasn’t worth my time.
Marina Keegan had her life ahead of her when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in 2012. As her graduation essay entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” went viral, Marina’s family found themselves morning her tragic death, killed days earlier in a car accident. This collection of stories, essays, and poems was published by her family post-humously. Although I enjoyed the title essay, the rest of the book fell flat for me and I doubt it would have ever gotten much attention if she hadn’t died at such a young age.
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 October to see which ones I read.
What books did you read in September?