Saturday, October 3, 2020

Wrap Up: September 2020


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Reviews Of Books I Read In September


I started September by rereading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, which is the second book in The Hunger Games series. I love this series because it’s unpredictable and action-packed, but I don’t love the sequels as much as the first book. I think the beginning of the second book has too much summary. It feels a bit directionless. Once the characters get into the Hunger Games arena, the plot becomes focused and brilliant. Now I really want to reread the third book. This series is addictive.


I decided to give up on Bunk: The Rise Of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young. I read 100-something pages and then couldn’t take anymore. It’s a fascinating topic, but the writing style is too dry and academic for me. I have no desire to go back to college. I will happily take recommendations for similar books, though.

For some reason, I was in a rereading mood in September, so I picked up Number The Stars by Lois Lowry, which was one of my favorite books when I was a young teenager. It’s about two ten-year-old girls who live in Nazi-occupied Denmark. I can confirm that it’s still a well-written novel with realistic characters and a (mostly) believable plot. I enjoyed the reread. It’s weird rereading childhood favorites because this book was a lot more intense in my memory. I was terrified for the young characters when I was a middle schooler. When I reread the book, I realized they weren’t in as much danger as I remember. The adults were in danger, but they tried to keep the kids out of their plans. I thought the kids were more involved. It’s weird how I misremember books. It’s a harrowing story, though. I recommend it.


Then I accidentally read Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Yes, I accidentally read a 300-page book. It showed up in the mail, and I had insomnia, so I decided to read a few pages. Then it was suddenly morning, and I’d finished the book. It’s so good! I wish it had been around when I was a teenager. The main character, Darius, is a chubby, pimply loner with depression. That was me as a teen! I didn’t know I was main-character-worthy. Anyway, Darius travels to Iran to meet his grandparents for the first time ever. While he’s there, he makes friends, discovers a talent for soccer, and reevaluates his relationship with his parents. There’s no romance. I loved it. It’s sweet, quiet, and nerdy. Please pick it up if you like contemporary YA.


Vox by Christina Dalcher made me feel kind of “meh.” It’s a dystopia about a scientist who is trying to help stroke patients regain their lost language skills, but she lives in a world where women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. The book borrows a lot from The Handmaid’s Tale. Sometimes it felt like I was reading fanfiction. The worlds are extremely similar. I like that the main character has complicated feelings about the men in her life. She loves them, but she’s endlessly angry that they won’t speak up for her when she can’t speak for herself. I was more interested in the beginning of the book than the end. It turns into a thriller at the end. Most of the world’s problems are solved easily. I don’t like dystopias that blame the government for every problem. What about the ordinary citizens who put that government in power and helped it abuse people? Are they going to sit quietly while their lives are upended? I doubt it.


I loved The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It has atmospheric writing, creepy mansions, ghost children, and a biographer who is trying to uncover the secret past of a famous author. The middle is a bit saggy and repetitive, but I didn’t care because it has all the scandalous twists of a great gothic/sensationalist novel. The end surprised me. This is a hard book to discuss without spoiling it. There are many, many plot twists. If you’re a Jane Eyre fan, you need to read it ASAP. It would also make a great Halloween book. It’s spooky without being horror. I will pick up more of the author’s work for sure.


Baby Brooklyn and I read Pet The Pets by Sarah Lynne Reul. It’s a book with flaps to lift, of course. I like this one because it has more purpose than the other books we’ve read. It teaches kids empathy and how to observe pets to figure out what they need. It’s short and interactive enough that Brooklyn wants to read it every day. The illustrations are adorable.


I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara is true crime. The title pretty much tells you the plot. I have mixed feelings about this book because I see so much missed potential! It’s a fascinating story about an amateur detective’s quest to find a serial rapist. Unfortunately, the author died while writing the book. Her research partners pieced the story together from her notes and published it. There is some brilliant writing, but because of how everything came together, it feels scattered and unfinished. That sucks. I wish the author had been able to finish it. It would have been epic. I don’t think this book is the next In Cold Blood, but if you like true crime, it’s worth reading.

As soon as I finished I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, I watched the documentary series that was made about the book. I like the documentary more than the book. It fills in the gaps. Definitely watch it if you get the opportunity.


I don’t know what to say about American War by Omar El Akkad. Just . . . OMG, this novel. It’s a dystopia about a young girl who is growing up in a refugee camp after the Second American Civil War forces her family out of their home. The girl is eventually recruited to be a child soldier. As you can probably tell by the plot, the book is relentlessly bleak. I eventually switched to the audiobook so I could do other things while listening instead of just reading and wallowing in the characters’ misery. (The audiobook narrator is Dion Graham, who is a great voice actor, by the way.) One of the reasons the novel is depressing is because the characters feel plausible. There are no good guys or bad guys. There are just a bunch of average guys clinging too stubbornly to their ideas. The ending is not happy. It’s not an easy book to read, but it’s beautifully written with a lot of thought-provoking observations. If you like dystopias and can tolerate “heavy” books, check this one out.





Best Books Of September

1. Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

2. Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield





Most-Viewed September Blog Post



1. Can’t Wait Wednesday: September 2020 Book Releases

2. Top Ten Tuesday: Illustrated Blue Nature Covers

3. Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read In Fall





September Bestsellers

Here are the books that people bought on Amazon or Book Depository last month after seeing them on Read All The Things! (Don’t worry, the link-tracking robots only tell me which books people are buying, not who is buying them. That would be creepy.)


1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2. When The Sky Fell On Splendor by Emily Henry

3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng





September Life Snapshots


1. No news for you. My September started with somebody leaving the gate open. Apparently, my dog escaped from the yard, walked down the street, stole the newspapers from EVERY SINGLE DRIVEWAY, and brought them all back to my yard. Maybe the dog wanted to become a well-informed citizen? I don’t know, but returning an armful of stolen—and slightly soggy from dog spit—news to your neighbors is not an ideal way to begin your day. I’m starting to suspect I’m the annoying neighbor that people complain about . . . .

2. No books for you. Baby Brooklyn is 19 months old and already spoiled by book mail. She assumes every box that shows up is for her. I bought myself a few books for Nonfiction November, and she got excited when I told her there were books in the box. Then she cried when I carried it upstairs without opening it. I felt like a jerk. I guess I should be happy that I’m raising an itty bitty bookworm? The moral of the story is always get books for Brooklyn.

3. Maybe Facebook for you? I’m thinking about making a Facebook page for this blog. If you have a blog, does it have a Facebook page? Do you get traffic from it? I hate Facebook because it’s full of ads and racist ex-friends from high school, but maybe bookish Facebook is nice?

4. Also, maybe democracy for you? My fellow Americans, please make sure you are registered to vote. Then make sure you actually vote.


All The Things!

Number of unread books on my shelf = 56 books.
I’m currently reading = Beasts Of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang.



What did you do in September?


  1. I'll have to pick up Darius the Great. It sounds so nice! Vox was a DNF for me. It was so cis-centered and I expect more from today's feminist sci-fi.

    My wife and I are voting today because we're lucky enough to live in a state that allows anyone to vote by mail. Otherwise she wouldn't be able to vote in person because trans voter suppression is real. So I don't subscribe to the "if you don't vote you don't get to complain" sentiment at all. We have too many friends in states where they can't vote by mail, and not everyone can attempt it in person due to safety issues or mental health.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed your Catching Fire reread! I've only ever read the Hunger Games books once, and I remember loving the first book, liking the second one, and thinking the third was ok. I feel like the second one definitely improves once they're back in the Hunger Games!
    And I've always wondered about starting a Facebook page for my blog! The thing that puts me off is it would have to be connected to my personal Facebook account where people I know in real life follow me. I always feel weird about my real life acquaintances reading my blog!

  3. Your dog story and your Brooklyn story are the best. Love hearing these!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  4. Oh my I haven't been on your site in a while but I LOVE everything you did with it! Your monthly wrap-up kind of makes me want to do something similar, as it's just so cozy to read! And yes, get to voting, everyone!

  5. How cute that Brooklyn loves book mail. Fantastic! Your dog story is hilarious.

  6. I'm glad you enjoyed Darius The Great! I have been doubting to read it so much. The plot doesn't really speak to me, but everyone loves it. I might just have to accidentally pick it up too :)

  7. I actually really liked Vox - I listened to the audiobook. I love that Brooklyn is so into books! Just like my niece - I always get her a stack of books for Christmas and birthdays.

  8. Darius the Great sounds perfect for me - I definitely identify with sad teenager stories. I started Vox for my book club but decided not to finish it. Loved the concept - terrifying - but it did feel like a much weaker version of Handmaids Tale and I saw lots of negative reviews. I hope you have a great October! I turned in my ballot today. Here's to good news in November.

  9. September was a bit of a washout as I have little motivation to read anything except non fiction and I miss my horror books!

    Yes to the importance of voting-then you are legally allowed to complain about everything going on for another term of office, whoever wins!

  10. I vaguely remember liking Catching Fire more than The Hunger Games, but my memory is fuzzy. It's been so long. I'm sorry Vox was "meh" for you. It turned into more of a thriller than I expected when I read it. It definitely has nothing on The Handmaid's Tale, but I remember that was what originally drew me to the book. I think too many people expected it to be similar and were disappointed to find it wasn't. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I am glad though you loved The Thirteenth Tale. I really enjoyed that one as well.

    I will have to give American War a try. It sounds really good.

    Your poor dog! He just wanted to have a little adventure and be helpful. :-)

    I keep watching the mail to see if my ballot is arriving, but no such luck yet. My husband and I have already agreed we will be voting right away and driving our ballots to the Registrar of Voters Office ourselves. It's what we usually do, although we don't rush to vote.

    I hope you have a great week and month of October, AJ. I hope you are enjoying Beasts Of Extraordinary Circumstance.

  11. Lol! Your dog is awesome. He just wanted to make extra sure that you're caught up on all the news.

  12. LOL, love your dog, that is so funny. I do have a Facebook page for my blog. I'd say it gets a little traffic to my blog, but not as much as I'd like. But I try to keep it up. I agree with your assessment of the Hunger Games series. I like the first and second book, but the third one I didn't enjoy as much, I think because there weren't really any actual "Hunger Games" in it. I still need to read the new one that just came out. Hope you're having a good October!
    Lisa Loves Literature's End of the Month post