September 2021 Reading Wrap-up

In September I read 1,915 pages across five different books. It was an average reading month. One of the books I would consider great, two were good, one was average, and sadly, one was bad. I completed my to be read list so that means next month I get to read a book of my choice instead of one that was pulled out of the TBR jar. Here are my thoughts on the September books!

I really enjoyed this installment in the Stranger Things books. Max was already one of my favorite characters and this just made her feel a little bit more relatable. (I still think Robin is the character I relate to the most by the Rebel Robin podcast.) We really get to see Max develop through this story and we get to see how her relationship with Billy got to point it is at and why they are so tense with one another. The reader also gets to immerse themselves into Hawkins as that has not been done in any of the previous books, it feels like home in a way. This book was fast paced but I would not say thrilling, I almost wanted to binge read it, but I stood my ground and kept my read a book in three days going. The plot might throw some readers off, but I thought it added more to season two as we got to see it through another set of eyes.

The characters of this novel were amazing and well developed. Throughout my time reading this, I was thinking of actors who could play them in a film. (Anya Taylor-Joy for Camila, by the way). I will be thinking about them for a while. The setting was very well fitting for a story such as this one. The writing was poetic, but it dragged and seemed to go on for ages. I would really recommend this to fans of Pat Conroy. This plot was interesting, and I was wondering how it would end and what would happen, but the writing just wore it down for me. (I did the audiobook for this one).

The characters were not anything new to the genre, if you have read any other recent young adult fantasy than you are more than aware of these traits. The setting of an English manor is always one that piques my interest and if you like gothic or classic British literature then you will probably enjoy this setting. The writing was fast paced and easy to read. The plot was something new but just was not done properly, there was not enough building or foundation on the magic system. An average read.

I did enjoy this read. The characters did annoy me at times but overall, they were well written, and I can see that sometimes just committing to someone is hard for some people. I like that we did get both women’s perspectives to see what Jake was trying to choose between. I don’t think these characters were likeable, but they were real. Elin Hilderbrand can paint a beautiful setting and really immerse you into it. The writing was fast, but you never truly felt like anything was left out. I don’t think this needed to be a forbidden romance but then it wouldn’t be as exciting, would it be?

Kya is an unforgettable character, and, in a sense, we really grow with her throughout the story and become connected with the marshlands that she calls her home. In my head I can see the shack and have a perfect picture of what the marsh and the small beach community look like. This is a science and English lover’s dream of a book; beautiful writing yet that sense of biology and learning about the ecosystem. The plot is unique like our main character and had tropes that I love. There were some things that I thought were random and some lose ends that I found that did not tie together nicely but I cannot discuss that here as there would be spoilers. Overall, this was a good book to end September with and I look forward to future books that the author might release.

The overall average for the rating of the September books are a 3.5 out of 5 stars!

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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ Book Review

The golden boy, Chase Andrews, of a small, coastal North Carolina town is found dead in the marsh that surrounds the community. In the marsh resides, the Marsh Girl, or Kya. The townspeople think that Kya is feral and wild. She cannot be put in with modern society. All of that is wrong though. She had learned almost everything she knows from the land around her and is a budding biologist even though she has only attended one day of school in her life. She is desperate for love and a family after all those close to her have left her behind to fend for herself. Kya is not truly the monster that society sees her as.

Kya is a character that will be hard to forget. I truly have not read any other story that has a character even close to being like her. It’s truly interesting to see how one develops being out in the wild with slim human contact. I have read real life cases of children being raised by animals and how some can develop to learn to speak and write and then some are nonverbal for the rest of their lives. Now, that’s not the situation for Kya as she had lived with her parents and siblings for seven years for her life but much of her life she was on her own and fending for herself. Reading this however, there is a suspension of disbelief as it is hard to believe that a seven-year-old child could make do with no family and out in the wild.

Obviously for me, a book set in the Carolinas is always fun as that is where I am from. Barkley Cove, North Carolina is the fictional town where this novel takes place. I wish we had a more precise location of where it would be located as North Carolina does have quite the coastline but it’s about an hour from Greenville. The dialect was spot on throughout the book, sometimes I struggle with how dialect is written in books but this one really hit the nail on the head for how we, Carolinians, speak. This is a knit pick and most probably would not pick up on it, but it seems like Asheville is the only city that characters really go to. Asheville is a good six hours inland so it’s hard for me to believe they would go that far when there are places like Charlotte, Fayetteville, Raleigh, and Wilmington that are much closer.

One of the lines in the book says, “written so often in biological phrases blended with poetic descriptions,” I think that is the perfect way to describe the writing that Delia Owens has presented the reader in ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’. The writing is immersive and really gets you into the story. It was never too much, and it was not too little either.

The plot in this is very fascinating and unlike any other that I have read. It really hits a lot of the boxes that I like, dual timeline, Carolina setting, and midcentury. I was trying to solve the mystery of the book throughout and was kind of let down by how it played out. There are still some loose ends there. I was not a huge fan of the poetry aspect, either, I have nothing against poetry but just felt like it was randomly thrown in. As stated in the character category, the reader will need to have a suspension of disbelief as some of this is hard to believe that these events could really happen. However, I emotionally felt attached this book and was having real outload reactions to what I was reading and felt strongly about the points that were taking place inside of the plot. This plot was like non other, and I do not think that I will forget it. There is so much that I could say but I think this is a good book to go into having a little bit of mystery around it.

Kya is an unforgettable character, and, in a sense, we really grow with her throughout the story and become connected with the marshlands that she calls her home. In my head I can see the shack and have a perfect picture of what the marsh and the small beach community. This is a science and English lover’s dream of a book; beautiful writing yet that sense of biology and learning about the ecosystem. The plot is unique like our main character and had tropes that I love. There were some things that I thought were random and some lose ends that I found that did not tie together nicely but I cannot discuss that here as there would be spoilers. Overall, this was a good book to end September with and I look forward to future books that the author might release.

4 out of 5 stars.

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’28 Summers’ Book Review

In 1993, Mallory Blessing inherits a home, on Nantucket, from a beloved aunt. Her older brother wants to host a guys weekend at the house but that results in all the guys leaving except one, Jake. Jake and Mallory spend the rest of Labor Day weekend alone and agree to be “same time, next year’ lovers with one another. This goes on for the next, you guessed it, 28 Summers.

Flashforward to the spring of 2020. Mallory is terminally ill and asks her son to call a phone number that is in a hidden envelope. The number belongs to Jake McCloud who is married to the woman that is likely to be the next president of the United States. The son thinks this must be some kind of mistake, but little does he know of the secret life that his mother has been having.

The characters were the highlight of this but also the downfall as well. Is that not strange? They were so realistic and developed throughout the novel. I mean, hopefully they would be as we did experience the majority of their lives alongside them. Mallory is obviously the main character here, even ahead of Jake. This is made clear towards the last quarter as we get less and less Jake and get ‘chapters’ at his wife’s perspective instead of his. I don’t think this is a mad thing as we get to see both women and how different they are from each other, but I think we still should have had more Jake towards the end. Now, here is why they were the downfall. It might just be because cheating frustrates me, I just don’t get why these two could not get together. Later, in the more recent years it makes sense as Ursula, Jake’s wife is a famous politician, but before that when they’re all young and out of college. Why could they not just start a relationship? I think it is really immature from both our main leads.

Elin Hilderbrand does a great job at making the reader visualize Nantucket. I have never been, but I did not have a hard time at all picturing the little beach cottage and then the island in my head. I also liked how the majority of the characters were from Baltimore as that is an important place to me. Shoutout to the University of South Carolina representation as well!

Early on the writing felt as though we were reading a gossip column but later, I felt as though it got more like a novel, more personal. Again, Hilderbrand is a descriptive writer, but she does not go on and on and I really appreciate that. This was fast paced even though this is over four hundred pages, which is huge for a romance novel! I was shocked how fast it went by, sometimes I did not believe that I had read eighty pages. Quick and fun read.

I think that I gave enough of my thoughts on the plot in the character category. I just don’t understand why this was considered a forbidden romance at the start. I feel like if they really did truly love each other as much as they seemed to, then they would just come clean and become a couple. It just really bothered me. I do not know if it was pride of immaturity that they would not do it, who knows. I do like that we went through this much time with the characters as most romance books last only a week or month but here, we went through three decades, pretty amazing.

I did enjoy this read. The characters did annoy me at times but overall, they were well written, and I can see that sometimes just committing to someone is hard for some people. I like that we did get both women’s perspectives to see what Jake was trying to choose between. I don’t think these characters were likeable, but they were real. Elin Hilderbrand can paint a beautiful setting and really immerse you into it. The writing was fast, but you never truly felt like anything was left out. I don’t think this needed to be a forbidden romance but then it wouldn’t be as exciting, would it be?

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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‘A Treason of Thorns’ Book Review

England has six great and magical houses. Burleigh, being one of those houses. The house belongs to the Sterling family. Violet’s father was arrested for treason as he tried to free the house from the king’s rule. Leaving Violet as the last in the Sterling line. She has the chance to complete her father’s mission or do as the king says and let it be.

Violet was like any other seventeen, they’re always seventeen, year old young adult, fantasy heroine. She was immature and selfish at times but again, we have to remember that she is a teenager and that comes with the territory. I just felt like she did not change or grow throughout the novel, she was rather stagnant and that can be said for the side characters as well.

I always enjoy an English setting. This book never states when it explicitly takes place but I would say sometime in the 1800s by the art that is inside of the dust jacket. I could be wrong though. Again, that could have played a lot into the plot by giving us a time period and letting the readers imagination of that time add more to the story.

The writing was fast paced and this was an easy read. It is obvious this book does not take place in modern times so I wish that the dialogue did not have a modern twist to it but that did not really take anything away from the story; just a personal thought.

The plot that is given to the reader is a fascinating one. It is unique the only thing that it could truly remind me of is ‘Time Keeper’ by Tara Sim. I had so many questions thought and that results on not enough world building and not enough knowledge on the magic system that is at play here. It would be more understandable if this was the first book in a series but it is not, this is a standalone novel. There just needed to be more information for the reader to get a better understanding of this universe.

The characters were not anything new to the genre, if you have read any other recent young adult fantasy than you are more than aware of these traits. The setting of an English manor is always one that peaks my interest and if you like gothic or classic British literature then you will probably enjoy this setting. The writing was fast paced and easy to read. The plot was something new but just was not none properly, there was not enough building or foundation. An average read.

2 out 5 stars.

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‘The Secret History’ Book Review

A friend is murdered and that is how our story begins. A group of college students are inspired by the stories and lives of the ancient Greeks. Things get taken too far, they feel as though they are superior to everyone else in their small Vermont, college town. They are destined for great things to be remembered as Achilles or Hercules. One sin leads to another and another.

The characters, wow, just the characters. They are so well written. At first, I was scared that I would get this character list confused but that I did not do. Your favorite is constantly changing throughout the book until you realize that they are all morally gray, none of them are amazing people but they all have some kind of logic behind their actions. The fact of how developed these characters are, are the highlight of ‘The Secret History’.

Everyone seems to love the atmosphere of this book. I think it is fitting for the plot but it was not anything that stood out to me. A small New England college town, its quaint and I think a good setting for a mystery novel but I was not amazed by it.

Tartt’s writing is like Pat Conroy’s but throw in some Stephen King into the mix as well. At first, I was like this writing is amazing and so poetic but then it just got tiresome. This book could be half the link than it actually was. It is wordy and just felt overall too long and that is the biggest downfall for me. If you are a fan of the other two authors that I mentioned, though, you might find this writing enjoyable.

This plot instantly intrigued me but as the story just went on and on I got bored with it. The first and last quarters are the best. Yes, we need the in between but it was just tiresome reading through wordy paragraphs that I think the author just wanted to sound intelligent. I get it, we’re in a fancy college town and these students are supposed to be top notch. Now that I think about it, maybe this writing was intentional. The twists did shock me, some times they were predicted and some times they were not, but I never felt any real emotion towards them. The plot would have been much more enjoyable if the book was shorter.

The characters of this novel were amazing and well developed. Throughout my time reading this, I was thinking of actors who could play them . (Anya Taylor-Joy for Camila, by the way). I will be thinking about them for a while. The setting was very well fitting for a story such as this one. The writing was poetic but it dragged and seemed to go on for ages. I would really recommend to fans of Pat Conroy. This plot was interesting and I was wondering how it would end and what would happen but the writing just wore it down for me.

3 out of 5 stars.

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‘Runaway Max’ Book Review

A somewhat prequel to Stranger Things, we will get to that, all about our favorite skater, Max. This story shows what Max’s life is like before she moves to Hawkins and then what her first months in Midwest, Indiana are like. We really get to know her more as a character as she is the main character in this novel and not a side one like on the Netflix series.

Character development is the high point of this book. If you have not seen the show then this would be irrelevant for you and I think for this installment in the books you have to see the show to enjoy the book. Max is a new side character in Stranger Things 2 but in this book she is the main character, it is at her point of view. We get to learn so much about her especially, and then her step brother, Billy. I think it would be awesome if we get more of these books that are from the point of view of side characters and during the events of the show because we get to learn their thoughts and then see what they are doing in scenes that they are not included in. I really hope we get more of these. I cannot wait to read Rebel Robin.

The previous Stranger Things books all take place outside of Hawkins in such places as Bloomington and New York City. This one actually takes places mainly in our beloved small town in Indiana. I loved that we actually got to read something in Hawkins as it just makes the book feel all the more like Stranger Things. We do get some scenes that flashback to Los Angeles and San Diego but those are necessary for the character building and I enjoyed those as well as it helps show why Billy and Max are the way that they are.

The writing in this really felt like the reader was hearing Max’s thoughts. I could truly see this being Max’s perspective. Sometimes it is hard to translate that coming from a show or movie and then making a book adaptation but the author does a fantastic job here. It was easy to read and fast paced. The chapters did get longer towards the end but it was never a hassle to get through them.

The plot is where this might fall short for some readers. This book is advertised as a prequel to Stranger Things but it’s really a few flashbacks before the fall of 1984. I would consider this a contemporary to season two as we are mainly seeing the events of season two, of the show, through Max’s eyes. This might be repetitive to readers and they might find the book as a waste of time as they had already seen these events play out.

I really enjoyed this installment in the Stranger Things books. Max was already one of my favorite characters and this just made her feel a little bit more relatable. (I still think Robin is the character I relate to the most by the Rebel Robin podcast.) We really get to see Max develop through this story and we get to see how her relationship with Billy got to point it is at and why they are so tense with one another. The reader also gets to immerse themselves into Hawkins as that has not been done in any of the previous books, it feels like home in a way. This book was fast paced but I would not say thrilling, I almost wanted to binge read it but I stood my ground and kept my read a book in three days going. The plot might throw some readers off but I thought it added more to season two as we got to see it through another set of eyes.

4 out of 5 stars.

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‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ Book Review

The body of Vivek Oji is left on his mother’s doorstep in southern Nigeria. After that our story unfolds, of who Vivek was and what lead to his death. A family, who is not certain if they are raising their son properly. Friends, who want to support their friend but do not know if they should speak up. It all leads to the death of Vivek Oji.

Each character in this is well developed and they do not all feel like the same person. We are seeing Vivek’s life from those around him. I was particularly drawn to the characters of Juju and Osita, I think they were the most developed of the lot. The parents were well written as well but I did not connect with them as much as I did the younger characters.

The Nigerian atmosphere was interesting as it is one that I have not read before. This year I have read more books set in Africa and I have enjoyed getting to learn about another culture even if it is not always through pleasant events but that is history and society.

The writing was flowy, easy to read, and it was quick paced. However, this book has no real set time line. I usually like that in stories but I do not think that it was executed properly in, ‘The Death of Vivek Oji’. I was was often getting confused of when a scene was taking place as it was all within a short time frame. The book would also randomly change from first to third person with no real rhyme of reason.

Our main themes in this book were coming of age and dealing with grief. We follow Vivek and his friends as they go from teens to young adults. Those are crucial years for finding out who you are. Sometimes we are not always pleased with who we are because of the society around us and want to change but sometimes we just want to stop caring what others think and just live, I think that is so important to do what is best for you even if it is putting a lot at the line. The other side of things is the dealing with the grief of losing someone. Chika, Vivek’s father, wants to forget that all of it happened, burry it deep inside himself. He goes and does things he has never done before, things he is not proud of doing. While Kavita, the mother, wants to dive head first into it and find out why this happened. She wants to find out what went wrong and why her son died because of it. It is interesting how we all, as humans, handle different situations differently.

This is a coming of age story, finding out who someone is as they do as well. We see where this path takes them, and those around them, as a person. The characters were all well developed. The setting was interesting in seeing a non westernized culture. This was a quick read and did not take a lot of time and I never felt bored while reading it. The themes were hard hitting and important to read about it. This book was an average read. It was not bad but it did not really hook me either.

3 out of 5 stars

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‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ Book Review

This was an interesting read. My classic of this cycle of books was Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This book had lots of good things about it and I would say only one downside that isn’t a major issue.

First and foremost I think the main plot or theme of this book is how trauma can impact a person and cause them to go into an endless cycle if they do not get the proper care. Now, this is set in the late 1800s where women did not get that care and were blamed for their issues or blamed for crimes committed against them. One thing that I find interesting is that a man wrote this novel, I think there are hints of feminism throughout the novel and how hypocritical Victorian society was to women. I wonder if there would be more of an outrage if a woman published this book in 1890 or if she would even be able to find a publisher for it at all.

Now that I have finished, there was a lot of foreshadowing and symbolism throughout the story. I won’t go into too many details about it as I do not want to spoil the book. Those are two of my favorite literary devices and I think they were well used in this story.

My one and only complaint is in the middle part of the story it seemed to drag. The start and end were quick but the middle just had really long and tedious sections that I didn’t feel like were necessary for the development of the plot.

I really liked that Wessex was the setting as this book takes near and around the same place that my family came from even though this is set roughly two hundred years after they were there. I thought that this book gave a good look into Victorian times as often we see London during that time period and not the smaller towns in England. The plot was fascinating as it was calling out the societal standards of the time. I need to research on how this book was received when it was first published over a hundred years ago. This book used plenty of literary devices and is a good example of what classic literature is. It did get stagnant at times but I think overall that this was a good read.

4 out of 5 stars.

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‘Path of Destruction’ Book Review

Des lived a rough life, the son of a miner, that was the life destined for him; to be just like his father. Des has always dreamed of escape, to see the galaxy. He finally gets the chance when he gets into serious trouble and has to go on the run. He gets sent to war, he joins the ranks of the Sith army to fight against the Republic. All his talents show in this field and the higher ups know that he is destined for far greater things as the role in the Sith empire. Des does not believe the teachings he is given at the Sith academy and goes against it all to find his on role in the galaxy.

Karpyshyn knows how to develop a character and that is obvious from this book and others that he has written. He really shapes the character and shows that there is reason behind each of their actions and that it is not just random and on a whim. Everything has a reason and every action has a consequence. That makes the characters real even if they do reside in an alien universe.

Each Star Wars book shows us a new planet, in this one we see a planet that we have seen in the author’s previous work of, ‘Ravan‘. I love how each planet has it world’s building and some even have their own species or race of people. It is really interesting to see how diverse the universe is. Another thing that I love is how each of the books in this saga build off one another even though you don’t have to read every book to get an understanding, but for me it is just so much fun getting to see connections between previous books that are by different authors.

I love the trope of how the villain became the villain. I think it just interesting to just see how their minds work and just the mental aspects of it all. I think it mainly falls into the life situation, how a person was raised, and that really all impacts how they turn out to be as an adult. I think in Star Wars, all the people who become villains have their reasons why and its not just because they were born evil or something like that. They all have their building on why they are the way that they are.

This might be one of my favorite Star Wars books yet, but Drew Karpyshyn is my go to for Star Wars books. I loved the trope of giving the backstory to the villain and then the pairing in this, I really shipped them. I will be continuing this trilogy, but do not expect reviews for the other books as they will be spoilers for this one. I have a reading vlog coming out on Tuesday at nine o’clock, eastern standard time, for those of you who would rather hear my thoughts than read them!

5 out of 5 stars.

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‘The Book of Lost Friends’ Book Review

Our story starts out in Louisiana in the year of 1875. Lavinia is the daughter of a plantation owner, her half, illegitimate sister is Juneau Jane, and then lastly there is Hannie who is the former slave of Lavinia. The three have set out on a quest that sends them to the wild frontier of Texas. Lavinia’s father has gone missing and they have to find out who the plantation and other lands that the Gosset family owns, will pass down to.

In 1987, the same Louisiana town, Benny Silva has moved in as a first year teacher. From living all over the United States she has a hard time understanding how hard the lives are of her students in this poor southern town. She tries to connect them all with the history of the old planation right in their hometown.

I connected more with Hannie as a character than I did with Benny which is kind of funny as a I live in a time closer to Benny’s but it might be because I am closer in age with Hannie than I am Benny. I just felt like the 1875 chapters had so much more emotion to them. I really cared about what would happen to all of the characters. They all developed and changed throughout the novel. That’s not to say that our more modern counterparts were dull, they were absolutely well written as well.

America was at a really awkward stage at this point in history. Well, maybe the whole world was. Technology was rapidly being invented and changing as we had the industrial revolution take way in cities, the old world was becoming the modern world. In America, however, we were just getting out of a civil war. Tensions were still looming (and still are, if you ask me.) and it was not necessarily a safe place, especially for three female travelers like we see here. No one really writes in this time period, at least in American history, you will find a ton of books set in England during this time period but that is a different story. I really think this is an interesting time in our history and that it should be written about more, I applaud Lisa Wingate for doing so.

As I talked about the characters, the plot had a different impact on me. I preferred Benny’s plot to Hannie’s. I think it was just because the digging and the researching of Augustine, Louisiana’s history. As most of you know, I love to research the history of my local area and my family. The plot with Hannie however is powerful and one that I will not forget, it just made me so emotional, this whole book made me feel that way, especially at the very end. Just seeing the stories of different people and knowing that people in real life lived lives so similar to these characters, it breaks my heart. One of the main plots is that slavery separated so many families, mother’s from their young children, and just tearing these families apart. It is so hard to put into words how it feels to read that and to know that it is not fiction. This book really opens the eyes of the reader to the history of our country and that we cannot change the past but we can make the future better so we do not go back and make those same mistakes again.

I did not want to put this book down, I actually had my biggest reading day of the month, around 150 pages read. I was wanting to know so bad how the two plots would really connect. If you are a fan of ancestry, history, and even the game Red Dead Redemption, then you will enjoy this book. However, I think that everyone needs to pick up this book. It is so powerful and moving. It will definitely stick with the reader. I am so glad that I picked up this book on a whim at Target. I can only hope that you will pick up ‘The Book of Lost Friends’.

5 out of 5 stars.