What I Read: September and October 2017

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October is a month that always seems to fly by for me. The weather, the football, fall break, and then for our family, zooming into birthdays (three!) and Halloween activities at the end of the month.

And thus, I’m just nuts. So here are two months of book reviews I needed to catch up on!


Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – I listened to about half of the audiobook of this on a trip in July, and finally managed to finish it in September. (I tend to neglect audiobooks for podcasts!) The narration was good, and it was fun to listen to the Australian accent. This was Moriarty’s first book. It doesn’t have the great mystery aspect of her other books, although it does lay out a dramatic event in the beginning and then backtrack to get there. The story of adult, triplet sisters trying to make it through their everyday lives really is riveting. As with most of Moriarty’s works, a good beach read or chicklit with substance.

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz – Professional cook and baker Lebovitz moves abroad to Paris, and recounts his adjustments to life in the City of Lights (and the city of tiny kitchens and refrigerators). Lighthearted and wry, with great recipes. I really want to try his Chicken Mole.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo – Stay with Me is Adebayo’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s gloriously lyrical and a peek into Nigerian culture. It’s also the story of a marriage: Yejiede and Akin see themselves as a modern couple in 1980s Nigeria; they want a child, desperately, but they don’t want to go to the cultural norm of polygamy. So Yejiede is aghast when a woman shows up and is introduced as Akin’s second wife.

The anguish Yejiede goes through, mentally, bodily, to have a child and then beyond, is fleshed out in this short novel. The military coup that takes place reflects the battle of the marriage. I know that sounds dramatic, but whatever. I thought it was a great book by a young talent.

Reading People by Anne Bogel | review by Jessie Weaver

Reading People by Anne Bogel –  I’ve really enjoyed discovering more about my personality in the last several years. I feel like I understand myself; some of the oddities I’ve always thought were quirks no one understood turn out to be pretty normal for an HSP INFP. (That would be Highly Sensitive Person, and INFP is my Meyers-Briggs type.) Anne’s first book outlines several personality frameworks, making them easier to understand and filling in with personal stories and anecdotes. This book is really one-of-a-kind, and I thought it was super helpful and interesting! If you’re at all interested in personality typing, you really should get yourself a copy. I especially loved digging into the cognitive functions of Meyers-Briggs, which I don’t know a lot about.

(I was provided with a copy of this book from Anne’s team at What Should I Read Next, as a former guest of the podcast.)

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian – It’s almost strange how much the story lines of this book and Rabbit Cake are basically the same: the mother is a sleepwalker and disappears, presumed dead; two daughters with a large age gap and a father are left behind to sort things out. But where Rabbit Cake gives us a quirky ride with the younger daughter, Bohjalian presents his dark tale through Lianna, the older daughter. Bohjalian is such a great, intense writer that I will pretty much read anything he publishes. But this was definitely not my favorite of his. This and his last book (The Guest Room) both have a heavy focus on sex, which I didn’t enjoy. Lianna isn’t very likeable, and I didn’t feel invested in her story. I need some likeable character, and I didn’t find one here. This was a solid three stars for me: good writing but the story line didn’t grab me.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – When I was starting this post, I tried to figure out why I had what looked like a gap in my October reading. I knew I had abandoned two books, but it still seemed like a long time! Then I realized it’s because I had read this book again. The first time, I listened to it on audio. And please let me tell you, it’s 100% worth it to find the audiobook. (It’s on Hoopla, if your library uses that service.) Jen reads it herself, and her asides to the listener and voice quivers when she reads something touching made me feel like she was reading it just to me. But because we were going to talk about it in a new book club, I wanted to highlight up a paper copy. I reread it in hard copy, and it’s one I think I will go back to many times. I love her thoughts on parenting, marriage, extended family, Jesus, and food. As a mom to four wild things, it helps to hear someone whose been through the trenches and made it out alive and slightly sane.

So recommend this. Let me know if you read or listen to it!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham – This YA novel gives us two stories: that of Rowan, a 17-year-old biracial student who finds a skeleton buried in her backyard, and Will, a 17-year-old in 1921, who has to face the intense segregation that seems to be coming to a boil in his city of Tulsa. It’s a quick read with a thought-provoking story, super relevant, and brings to light a historical event I think most of us had no clue about. Worth the read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – Ng (Everything I Never Told You) again writes about family drama in a way that sucks you right into the story. The wealthy Richardson family (two working parents and four stairstep children) has everything going for them except the outlandish behavior of the youngest daughter, Izzy. When Mrs. Richardson rents out a house to a single mother and teenage daughter, Izzy seems to find a place to land, while the new neighbor, Pearl, finds her place at the Richardson home. All this sets up the real part of the story – the family members having to choose sides about a court case that hits them all close to home.

The first 100 pages are a little slow to get going, but the payoff is well worth it. (And I loved that this took place in the 90s, when I was in high school – it helped make the children extra-relatable for me.)

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner – At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to follow the story lines in this novel, Meissner’s latest. There was a present-day character. There were women on the ship of war brides. There was Annaliese’s war story. There was Simone’s war story. And these all seemed to be sprinkled through, going back and forth in time. And – oh yeah – there were ghosts, too.

But it does come together in a very interesting and readable premise. While the ending is kind of odd, it was all certainly fascinating and something different. If you want a shake of the supernatural with your World War II drama, you might like this book. Meissner is a new author to me, but I’m definitely going to check out some of her backlist.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – I realize what I am going to say here is going to be a Super Unpopular Opinion, so please stop reading if you can’t handle that.

I loved The Fault in Our Stars. I really liked Green’s book Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I thought Green did an excellent job portraying OCD through his main character. But I didn’t buy the romance at all. I didn’t understand why they liked each other. I felt basically nothing for either of them. The most interesting relationship is definitely between the main character, Aza, and her best friend, Daisy.

Suffice to say, I was pretty disappointed in this one. I think that’s allowed. Just didn’t fill my expectations of a Green novel.

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So with those 1300 words, that was my reading for September and October. You can log this post as a novel on your GoodReads. 😉 What have you been reading lately?

Books We Both Love

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This week on the What Should I Read Next? podcast, Anne talked to a couple who wanted to read some books together and talk about them. It was a fun listen. And it made me think about those books that my husband and I have both loved.

I honestly never thought there would be books that Mr. V and I would have in common 10 or 15 years ago. (We started dating 15 years ago this fall! Holy moly!) Mr. V loves science fiction and fantasy. I used to read a lot more Christian fiction and chick lit, with a lot of memoirs and some contemporary fiction bestsellers thrown in. This is not to mention that Mr. V is a mathematician with science interests, and I was an English major with a travel bug.

But as we’ve aged, we’ve both broadened our horizons a little bit. I am no longer scared by scifi. We both read a thriller here and there. And if a book gets great buzz, no matter what it is, one of us will probably try reading it.


Here are some of the books that have hit the sweet spot as ones we both loved.

The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir – I was a little more lost at some points than Mr. V (lots of math and science and botany …), but the overall story was so well-told that I could get over the science and love Mark’s tale about being the lone man left on Mars.

Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh Howey – I probably never would have picked up this self-published, post-apocalyptic book; but Mr. V urged me to read just the first part (I think it’s only about 30 pages) and see if my mind wasn’t blown. It was. Here, a generation has grown up inside a silo, and people are sent outside only as the ultimate punishment. But things start to go bad … and the people of the silo have to decide how to continue on. Note: I did find that the second book in the trilogy, Shift, was a little too much for me, and I didn’t read the third, Dust. Mr. V did, and he liked them, but not as much as Wool. 

Station_Eleven_Cover

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Mr. V read this closer to when it first came out in 2014; I just read it this June. My immediate reaction was to scold Mr. V for not making me read it IMMEDIATELY after he was finished. He told me it was good, but obviously didn’t tell me I would love it. Another post-apocalyptic story with vivid characters and several interesting plot lines. It will definitely be in my top books I read in 2016!

passage-300-450-1

The Passage by Justin Cronin – Mr. V always says that the school librarian at the time pressed this book on him, telling him it was about “vampires, but not teenage vampires kissing.” I think it’s a pretty apt description. Really, The Passage is more about a science experiment gone wrong, and the humans struggling to survive in the aftermath. We both adored this gargantuan novel, although I was glad Mr. V warned me there was a short section about 150 pages in that would get a little boring, but the facts were necessary. If you can get through it, the rest is absolutely riveting.

[You can see the theme here. I read the books Mr. V tells me to. I have rarely read anything first and made him read it. See: exception below.]

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow is one of the books I’m always recommending to people, because I think its themes of religion, sexuality, and language are so interesting set in this sci-fi story about interplanetary travel. I nagged Mr. V until he read it, too – probably the only time ever I’ve read a sci-fi book before him. He enjoyed it and went on to read the sequel, which I actually have not read.

Some other books we’ve both read and enjoyed:

How about you? Do you and your partner share any books?