I read… a lot of books in September. More than I thought I’d read… this month seemed to drag a little, so maybe that’s why? It also helped that the temperature dropped, which inspired a lot of nights curled up in bed or on the couch with a book and a hot drink… oh, and football is back, which means I need something to do while Dave’s attention is captured by the TV and the fantasy football app on his phone.
Big Summer – Jennifer Weiner – Knowing that summer was going to begin winding down, I picked up this book because the cover looked fun and beach-read-y, and I wanted a beach read while it was still hot and sunny outside. I definitely did not expect this story from that cover. I hesitate to even start summarizing, because the book starts with a seemingly-unrelated prologue, has a twist where it pulls an abrupt genre-switch a third of the way in, then ends with an outstanding reveal. I hopped over to Goodreads to read some reviews when I was done with it, which confirmed my suspicions that this is either a book you love, or a book you hate… I think it’s because of that genre-hop; if you start out with a certain set of expectations for Big Summer, it probably won’t meet them. I enjoyed the book, but it’s refusal to follow a formula could be a turn-off for others.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman – I’m a sucker for Reese Witherspoon (who isn’t?). Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was the first book ever picked for Reese’s Book Club, which I am way late to game on. I found the blurb intriguing and started the book — and almost put it down, but kept going. Let me get this out of the way: in the beginning, Eleanor is an absolutely grating narrator. I kept reading because I realized this was on purpose, and yes, she does get much, much better throughout the story, but it was difficult putting up with her for the first couple of chapters. Other than that, it’s a wonderful book, and beautifully written — a little heavy in places, but balanced with humor and wit. There were a few passages that made me tear up, and others where I laughed out loud. You’ll find yourself cheering wildly for Eleanor — especially if you’ve ever felt left out, different, or lonely — and finish with your faith in human kindness restored.
Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes – I picked this up after Big Summer left me still longing for a beach read. Evvie Drake Starts Over is the novel equivalent of a Hallmark movie, which I mean in the kindest, most generous way possible… except it’s better than a Hallmark movie, because the characters behave like actual adults and talk to each other about their problems instead of creating vast amounts of petty drama. It is still basically a romantic comedy, to be enjoyed in one fell swoop with a bucket of popcorn? Oh, yes. But it’s a well-written, charming rom-com, one where you’re never yelling at the screen for the characters to stop acting like bratty children. I also loved the setting in small-town downeast Maine, which reminded me of my early college days in Portland.
Say Yes To The Duke – Eloisa James – My mom started reading historical romances when I was in junior high. She’d leave a stack of them around the house, and I started picking them up and reading them in high school (to make fun of how formulaic they are, of course). Fast-forward a few years and I’m driving her to the library so that we can meet Eloisa in person and have her sign our books… I don’t bother with other historical romances much anymore, but I’ll always read the latest Eloisa James. She writes really fun, well-written, character-driven romances that always satisfy.
The Jetsetters – Amanda Ward – Again, I’m a sucker for Reese Witherspoon, and that nice yellow “Reese’s Book Club” sticker is what did me in here. The Jetsetters is a good book, but it’s not really a lighthearted read (which is what it looks like you’re getting on the cover… apparently, this was my recurring theme in book choices this month). Some of the writing lends itself to more lighthearted moments, but then you feel a little bad for laughing, because all of the characters need serious amounts of therapy. I think this is one of those books that you immediately dislike and discard, or keep going… I liked it, but I’m not sure I loved it.
Near the end of the month, uninspired, I dipped into some YA. I’m not the biggest fan of YA novels, honestly. I think the language and storytelling in YA tends to be a little too straightforward, and the “heavier” novels require too far a suspension of my disbelief to be enjoyable (by which I mean I can’t actually believe the narrator is a teenager… and everything just gets more and more far-fetched from there). Every so often, however, I pick up a YA novel or two since they’re easy reads for me.
The Selection – Kiera Cass – I really enjoyed this one… because it’s ridiculous. The Selection is, easily, the literary equivalent of candy. It is completely predictable, the characters are uninspired, the love triangle is forced. This book is a vanilla ice-cream sundae covered in leftover, reheated hot fudge-sludge (however, the label on the can reads “gourmet European melting chocolate”), with way too many angst-sprinkles on top, and it is delicious. The Selection is something you’d read off of fanfiction.net back in the day, written by an angst-ridden 15-year-old girl whose parents won’t let her date. It’s great.
Matched – Ally Condie – I remembered a friend (now an English teacher with a doctorate in education, who specializes in YA literature, multiculturalism and diversity) reading this in college. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it. See my paragraph above where some YA novels require too far a suspension of disbelief for me to enjoy them… the protagonist of Matched, Cassia, doesn’t think or behave like any 17-year-old girl I’ve ever met, cold-blooded dystopian society or not. She’s basically a robot — there’s a lot of words thrown around, but none of them come with feeling attached, and we hardly ever see Cassia act strongly on her supposed emotions. I couldn’t bring myself to care about Cassia, or her (supposed) love triangle with two equally uninteresting boys, or her family, or her world… or anything else in this book, really. There was absolutely no tension to what little story there was; it plodded along mercilessly until the end, where the author seemed to spectacularly run out of words at the same time she ran out of what could only generously be called plot points. I won’t be bothering with the sequel.