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.
Let’s play a game. Does this September reading list reflect a month’s reading or just half a month’s reading?
Last week, I had breast reduction surgery (finally!). Being a super-organized individual, I scheduled a whole month’s worth of content in advance, so that I could focus on my recovery. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this sentence now a week before my surgery.
I’m hoping to read a lot during my recovery, so if I feel up to it, I might update this post with my latest reads. However, I had such a good reading month in the first half of September that you probably won’t notice the difference.
My September goal has been to wrap up most of my 2023 reads. I’ll still have a few more to read, but I’m trying to get myself ready for all of my end of the year coverage.
And I read my first 2024 release this month! I hated it, but it was fun to start in on a new crop of books.
I hope you had a fun reading month in September. I’ll let you know how my surgery went in a few weeks after I’ve recovered enough to feel like myself again.
September 2023 Reading List
The summer before heading to college, Maya became infatuated with Frank but their rocky relationship ended with Maya’s best friend suddenly dropping dead in front of him and Maya has always suspected Frank did it somehow. While trying to kick a prescription drug addiction, Maya is shocked to see a YouTube video of another woman dropping dead in front of Frank. Returning to her hometown to search for answers, Maya tries to remember the blank spaces in her memories of that summer and finds clues in her deceased father’s book.
Normally I enjoy the thrillers chosen by Reese’s Book Club pick, but I was bored by The House in the Pines. Although Reyes paints an atmospheric scene, Maya’s memory gaps make for a slow confusing retelling that doesn’t keep you gripped. One of my biggest issues was that Maya is painted as an unreliable narrator, Though everyone else in the story seemed to, I didn’t doubt Maya at all, making the big reveal feel unsatisfying.
In Paris near the end of the First World War, Pauline Deng discovers that her uncle is arranging a marriage for her back in Shanghai. For help, she searches for her cousin Theo, a translator for the Chinese Labor Corps near the front. In the French countryside, Pauline finds shelter with Camille, a French woman entangled in a love affair and planning to escape her abusive marriage. When Pauline and Camille’s paths cross, they must make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives.
The Porcelain Moon is worth a read just for its informative look at the contribution of the Chinese Labor Corps during World War 1, a lesser-known historical event. However, the storytelling itself fell flat with a predictable plot and one-dimensional characters. The disjointed timeline didn’t help either, feeling more stilted than seamless. While I appreciated the deeper themes of identity and misogyny, the narrative stayed surface-level, never provoking an emotional response.
R. F. Kuang
Although June and Athena went to school together, Athena has found major success as an Asian-American novelist while June struggles to get a foot in the door, probably because she’s just another basic white girl. When June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she impetuously snatches up Athena’s unfinished work. Publishing it as her own, June rebrands herself as a racially ambiguous Juniper Song and becomes an instant bestseller. Yet as the truth threatens to come out, June must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her secret.
Yellowface is a bitingly clever look at the hypocrisy of the publishing industry, and our society in general. Kuang’s satire was over-the-top and yet nuanced at the same time, hitting on so many deep themes – gatekeeping, racism, plagiarism, reverse discrimination, and cancel culture, just to name a few. Using June as the first-person narrator, Kuang leads you into June’s morally grey mindset, forcing you to consider what your own thoughts are on the topics discussed.
Twenty-two-year-old Olivia is spotted on CCTV camera entering a dead-end alley and never coming out again. When Julia is assigned the missing persons case, she must balance the frantic family’s desperation with her own failing marriage and struggling daughter. But someone knows Julia’s darkest secret, blackmailing her to frame someone for Olivia’s murder.
A slow burn police procedural, Just Another Missing Person gets off to a slow start with multiple points of view that don’t mesh well. Around the halfway mark, McAllister adds an interesting twist that amps up the intrigue level. However, the lack of character development made the ending lack much punch, making this thriller mostly mediocre.
Twenty-six-year-old Lucy Young is tired of her career, love life, and flatmates, none of which are coming anything close to what she imagined. When she stumbles upon a wishing machine, she makes a wish to skip to the good part of her life. Suddenly, Lucy finds herself a married 40-year-old with two kids living the life she imagined. Did she skip ahead or just forget? And if she could go back, would she?
The Good Part is a heartfelt romance reminding you of the value of all your experiences, both good and bad. Completely overwhelmed by being a working mom, Lucy struggles with impostor syndrome, finding she can’t magically jump into a more mature life. For it’s in the living of our lives that we have become who we are today. While I enjoyed the deeper themes of Cousen’s novel, I found Lucy annoyingly immature, which was supposed to be funny but I found it more irritating than anything.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from G. P. Putnam’s Sons through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
At the end of her freshman year of college, Margot rashly agrees to become roommates with Lucy Sharpe, a larger-than-life girl in her freshman dorm. Having spent the last year reeling from the death of her best friend, Margot is desperate to have someone to bring her back to life. Living in a cheap house next to a fraternity, Lucy quickly becomes the ringleader of Margot, Sloane, and Nicole. But by midyear, a boy from next door will be dead, Lucy will be missing, and Margot and her roommates will be hiding secrets of their own.
Having loved Willingham’s previous two thrillers, I was completely disappointed in Only If You’re Lucky. Most of the novel is a mind-numbingly slow tale of drunk college girls. So much so that I ended up skimming the middle portion of the book. At about 70% through, the story picked up with a few good twists. But by then I really didn’t care anymore.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
MSNBC news anchor Katy Dur recounts a lifetime of chasing news. Her parents Marika Gerard and Bob (now Zoey) Tur gained fame and wealth as helicopter journalists covering such events as O.J. Simpson’s car chase before losing it all. At times her childhood was magical, but her abusive father’s unpredictable behavior left her with a complicated relationship, even before her father transitioned to a woman. Telling of her own rise from local reporter to foreign correspondent and eventually news anchor, Tur ponders on the roles and responsibilities of journalists.
After writing about her work on Trump’s 2016 campaign in Unbreakable, Katy Tur’s latest memoir felt more like a rough draft. Rough Draft focuses on three themes: Tur’s relationship with her father, her adult life and career, and her thoughts on journalism. Yet the themes didn’t intertwine well making the memoir feel rather unresolved on all fronts. I wish that Tur had waited another 5-10 years to add a few more chapters and a little more introspection.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Emmanuel Acho, former NFL player turned sports analyst, takes on the hard questions that many white Americans are afraid to ask but need to know to be more informed. Based on his hit YouTube series, Acho presents each topic as a way to help people increase their understanding and change their behaviors to help end racism in America.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man is an excellent beginning primer on race and racism in America. Acho patiently discusses both basic topics and deeper concerns such as white privilege, and reverse racism. An approachable reading, Acho’s book is a good starting place, full of recommendations on how to deepen your understanding.
Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize for this memoir, detailing Spiegelman’s interviews with his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor. Often published together, Maus was written as two separate graphic novels. In the first edition, Vladek recalls his life as a Polish Jew, trying to survive as the restrictions became tighter and tighter, moving to the ghetto, and then going into hiding. In Maus II, Vladek and his wife Anja are both sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. A must read, Maus brilliantly tells not only a horrifying tale of the Holocaust but also shows what the author experienced as a child of the survivors.
Elizabeth George Speare
In 1687, Kit Tyler is marked with suspicion as soon as she arrives to live with her aunt and uncle in colonial Connecticut. The Puritans don’t know what to do with a vivacious girl from Barbados. Torn between trying to fit in and wanting to be herself, Kit befriends an old Quaker woman. But the colonists’ prejudice and distrust lead to Kit being accused of witchcraft in this enjoyable Newbery Medal-winning historical fiction story.
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 List to Enjoy: