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?
I think I’ve finally settled into our fall routine of school and soccer (which all four of my kids play). The cooler weather has also made it easier to spend lots of time outdoors – pickleball at the park, camping in the backyard, and bike rides galore. I even finally joined a local rock climbing gym, something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but wasn’t fully ready to commit to.
For September, I had a great mix of books – from thought-provoking new releases, exciting 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
Coming off her hit bestseller, Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell returns with another gorgeous historical fiction novel set in Renaissance Italy. When her sister dies, Lucrezia de Medici unexpectedly marries her late sister’s fiance, a man desperate for an heir. As Lucrezia ponders her new husband’s nature – whether he is a kind sophisticate or a ruthless politician – she begins to suspect he is planning to kill her.
Maggie O’Farrell is a gorgeous writer, painting a striking portrait of Lucrezia’s life. Highlighting the constrictions of life for medieval women, The Marriage Portrait‘s plot was slow to build, but the descriptive writing was captivating to read. An excellent read for anyone who loves literary historical fiction.
Former poet laureate Dorothy Moy has always channeled her dissociative episodes and mental health into her work. When her daughter starts showing similar behaviors and remembering items from the lives of past ancestors, Dorothy worries she’ll lose custody. So she undergoes an experimental treatment to alleviate inherited trauma, becoming intimately connected with the past generations of women in her family.
Jamie Ford’s premise is an ambitious undertaking, but he succeeds in giving each time period a distinct feel. Quickly, you’ll become attached to each character’s short story, which was a bit depressing when you realize that each ancestor’s story will end badly, hence the inherited trauma. Dorothy’s timeline was not as intriguing as the rest since she was a foil to dive into the accumulated weight of trauma, but overall the story makes you stop and think.
Gabe and Pippa love their perfect little cottage on the edge of a sleepy coastal town. Yet the tall cliffs bordering their property are a magnet for jumpers. Usually, Gabe talks them off the edge, until one woman falls to her death. Was she jumped or was she pushed? When Pippa realizes the victim was Amanda, the wife of Gabe’s former boss, she begins to question everything about her marriage.
Hepworth is the queen of domestic thrillers and her latest book on marriage and murder is a bit more focused on marriage than murder. Chronicling the ups and downs of Pippa and Amanda’s marriages, Hepworth hits all the hot topics – love and passion but also mental illness and infidelity. While not as suspenseful as some of her other thrillers, The Soulmate is still an enjoyable weekend read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
After spending a lifetime as deadly assassins for The Museum, four women are given an all-inclusive vacation to celebrate their retirement. Once the network’s most prizest assets, Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie are being cast aside now in favor of younger more tech-savvy individuals. When they realized they are being targeted for assassination, the four women turn against their organization and prove that killers of a certain age can still be deadly.
Killers of a Certain Age was just as silly as the cover implies, much to my disappointment. No deeper narratives for nuanced characters here. Just backstories and character development that never scratches the surface, leaving you with a cozy mystery that might make you chuckle but won’t leave a lasting impression.
Two and a half years after her husband’s death, Natalie Fincher feels like everyone is just expecting her to move on by now. Yet, Natalie isn’t sure she even wants to be who she used to be. When someone starts leaving her sheet music of her husband’s favorite songs, Natalie unexpectedly finds herself enjoying life and opening up to new possibilities.
After loving her debut (Dear Emmie Blue) and being disappointed by her sophomore novel (Eight Perfect Hours), Lia Louis finds her stride again with a sweet love story with nuanced characters. Louis handles Natalie’s widowhood with care, showing the complicated process of grief and giving her a gradual path toward a second love that starts with friendship. Although this feel-good romance has no steam, the characters are very British, so there is lots of swearing in their casual banter, which I don’t mind but some readers might not enjoy.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
This debut novel from Abi Daré highlights the coming-of-age story of a Nigerian woman. All Adunni wants to do is get an education so that she can craft her own future. When her father sells her as the third wife to a local man, Adduni runs away to the city, only to become an unpaid domestic servant to a wealthy family. Yet, Adunni finds that no matter her circumstances, she can still speak out for herself and all the other girls just like her.
I’d been putting off reading The Girl with the Louding Voice for two years because I knew it would be depressing. It is hard to read about Adunni’s traumatic experiences and to realize the second-class status that women hold even today. Yet Daré ends her inspiring novel on a hopeful note, highlighting Adunni’s indomitable spirit and reminding you that you need to use your voice for change.
Sarah J. Maas
After spending a year of hard labor for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is taken before the Crown Prince. He wants Celaena to be his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she’ll be granted her freedom after four years of service. As Celaena trains with the gruff Captain of the Guard and catches the eye of the Crown Prince, she must use all her strength to fight off her competitors and all her wits to discover who is murdering contestants.
I was completely hooked by this fantasy bestseller with its fun premise and a deliciously stereotypical love triangle. The addition of a magic element partway through was a little rough transition, but Mass set up enough hints and political intrigue to fill out a full series of books. My biggest complaint was that Celaena was crazy confident all around but was surprisingly girlish and giggly at the same time. Although Throne of Glass was a YA novel, my understanding is that as the series advances, the stories venture more into adult fantasy territory.
Ever since the start of his career as a stand-up comedian, Jerry Seinfeld has saved all his material and ideas on big yellow legal pads. Scouring through all his old material, Seinfeld has picked out the best of the best, letting you see the evolution of his craft through the decades.
Is This Anything? is literally just random jokes scribbled on notepads. Although Seinfeld writes a few short introductory paragraphs at the start of each decade, there are no segues between jokes, just raw material strung together. Some of the jokes are hilarious. Some of the material makes you cringe. If you do decide to pick this one up, I recommend listening to the audiobook since Seinfeld narrates it himself.
Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Hand, Ashton, and Meadows collaborate to write a snarky and not very historically accurate portrayal of Lady Jane Grey, who was the Queen of England for nine days. To secure the throne for Jane instead of his half-sister, a dying King Edward marries Jane off to a stranger, Gifford. But when Gifford turns into a horse, Lady Jane sets off with him on an epic adventure to save England.
At first, I had a difficult time getting into this extremely snarky young adult novel. Yet, the more I accepted its utter silliness, the more fun I had. The trio of writers brilliantly removes the Catholic-Protestant battle and replaces it with a battle between the supporters of Eðians, people who can change into animals, and those who think this is pure wickedness. With a Monty Python feel and plenty of magical shenanigans, My Lady Jane is a quirky lighthearted read. I particularly recommend the audiobook version.
Admiral William H. McRaven
In 2014, retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven gave a commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin listing ten lessons he learned as a Navy SEAL that helped him overcome challenges. Now expanded into a small book, McRaven gives timeless advice to inspire readers even during their darkest moments.
Using anecdotes from his Navy SEAL training, McRaven’s inspiring little book gives examples of overcoming obstacles – enduring, finding joy, accepting unfairness, etc. By the nature of such books, some readers will find Make Your Bed awe-inspiring and life-changing and others will see it as inspirational, but forgettable. Coming in at under 2 hours, the audiobook version felt more like a long podcast than a book and is definitely worth a read.
In our content-driven world, everybody is now a writer. Handley teaches you how to choose your words well so you can write engaging copy that communicates exactly what you want to say. With useful tips, Handley goes beyond grammar to help you improve your craft.
Everybody Writes is a great down-and-dirty book on writing. Handley talks about the mechanics of writing (grammar, etc) but more importantly about what you should be writing. Instead of the formal writing you learned in English Class, Handley teaches practical modern writing used in copywriting and online articles.
On their honeymoon in Bora Bora, documentary filmmaker Erin and investment banker Mark discover something in the water that will change their paths forever. While scuba diving in the middle of the ocean, the couple comes across a duffel bag of cash likely from illicit activity. Could this sudden wealth help them have a secure future or break up their marriage entirely?
Having read Something in the Water, I can tell you that it is an excellent conversation starter. What would you do in this scenario? As I was telling my husband about the plot, he commented, “This sounds like a really great book!” Except, it’s not. It’s a five-star premise with great twists but poor execution. Mostly, the novel is an endlessly dragging Crime and Punishment style internal monologue of a woman debating her morality and her constant fear of being caught.
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 September?
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 Lists to Enjoy: